Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Other Reckonings - 31st May 2009

  • Charlotte Gore thinks Liberal Conspiracy still has some way to go before it is the British answer to DailyKos.
  • Constantly Furious has had enough of the drip-drip of the expenses scandal and writes an open letter to the Telegraph.
  • Mark Wadsworth hearts Andy Marr.
  • Dizzy has a mind boggling tale from the family court.
  • And, just because I am so pleased, another mention for Douglas Carswell and his enthusiasm for electoral reform.

ICM Poll filtered through our rotten electoral system

There is a lot of excitement in the Lib Dem blogosphere today about the ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph which polled General Election boting intentions and which shows the Conservatives on 40%, Lib Dems on 25% and Labour on 22%.


I urged caution about this last night and stick by that but it does give me the oppotunity to demonstrate something that is particularly relevant given the current talk of electoral reform that is now high on the political agenda.

I fed the percentages into the UK Polling Report Swing Calculator and discovered the following:


Yes, that's right, you aint misreading it. Despite the fact that Labour is 3 percentage point below the Lib Dems, on these figures they can expect to get more than twice as many seats as the them. TWICE AS MANY. So if this really happened, a quarter of those voting would vote Lib Dem and yet they would only get 11% of the seats. Whereas Labour would only get 22% of the vote but would get 28% of the seats.

Remember this the next time you see a senior Labour politician try to obfuscate the issues around electoral reform. the truth is that they don't want it because there is massive partisan advantage built into the current system.

We need a citizens convention to decide on proper constitutional reform. It needs to be taken out of the hands of politicians so that the partisan advantage is removed from the decision and it can be done purely on the basis of what is fair and right for the country.

Helping out with Iain Dale's election results coverage

I have offerred to help Iain Dale out with his election coverage on Sunday 7th June. He has asked for volunteers from different parts of the country to ask as correspondents for his Play Radio UK shows on Friday 5th from 9:00am - 4:00pm and Sunday 7th from 6pm - midnight. I will report from Bracknell on the Sunday evening for the show.


If you are a blogger or just want to get involved, I believe Iain is still looking for volunteers so go to the post above on his blog and see how you can.

I have also put an advert for these in my sidebar to help keep it publicised.

Douglas Carswell - Changing his mind on electoral reform

My favourite Conservative MP Douglas Carswell may just have cemented his place in my political heart for good with his latest blog post "Electoral reform - why I'm beginning to change my mind". Here are a couple of snippets:



How best to ensure our MPs face proper competition?
Part of the answer is to hold open primaries and allow a recall mechanism. Since publishing Direct Democracy; an agenda for a new model party, and then making the case on Newsnight and Radio 4 the other week, I suddenly find everyone is talking about primaries and recall.   
Yet perhaps the surest way of having political competition would be to have multi member constituencies too?


The multi members system that they have in Ireland would retain many of the advantages of our existing system – while exposing all MPs to genuine competition. 
There would still be a constituency link. You’d still vote for individual law-makers. You’d still produce working majorities in the Commons. Yet there would be choice and competition between law-makers. Indeed, competition would be within parties, as well as between them, giving us a more authentic spectrum of representation. 
Best of all, why not combine multi member seats, with open primaries to decide the list of candidates? Now that would be a genuinely open source way of doing politics. 
If you are a free market Conservative and you’re still not convinced, ask yourself this: If in 7 out of 10 Parliamentary constituencies there was a local supermarket or restaurant monopoly, we would expect there to be a poor service and high level of customer dissatisfaction.  So why do we tolerate such a system when it comes to deciding how we are governed? 
Conservatives need to apply the principles of choice and competition to our politics, not simply our economy.


What a breath of fresh air. A Conservative who understands how the current system stymies the will of the voter and actually links free-market principles to the electoral system!

Go Carswell!


Gordon Brown - pathetic performance on Andy Marr's show

I have just finished watching Gordon Brown on Andrew Marr's show. Anyone who followed me on Twitter will have seen how frustrated and annoyed I got as the interview went on.


As Iain Dale points out, he didn't answer any of the questions however Iain seems to think it was an impressive performance and I can see what he means from a technical politician perspective (i.e. Marr could not really lay a glove on him) but the overall impression Brown gave off was woeful in my opinion. At one point he even said about MPs expenses "It doesn't matter how it happened."! How can it not matter and how can someone who thinks that possibly be part of the solution?

What the nation needs at the moment is leadership and Gordon did not do this. He was evasive about MPs expenses. He claimed it was nothing to do with him and insisted that the had been trying to sort the system out for years. Mendacious bullshit in my considered opinion. He has been trying to block the release of this stuff for years and all of the so called "reforms" that he was puffing about today have come to naught. He still doesn't get it either. He seems to think that electoral reform is a fringe issue and that there are much more important issues like votes at 16! Don't get me wrong, I think doing that would be a good thing but is it really more important than re-enfranchising millions of people whose votes currently do not count at all due to accidents of geography under the First Past The Post system.

He also tried to claim that the MPs expenses scandal actually reinforces the need for the First Past the Post electoral system!? His warped logic seemed to be something to do with the ability to kick out individual MPs at an election. This completely misses how hard it is to do this under FPTP and how any voters who wish to vote for the party of the errant candidate and find themselves forced to vote for another party to kick that candidate out are also disenfranchised for that election. Single Transferable Vote would solve all this but Marr did not even put this to him and Marr surely must know that? If he doesn't then someone else needs to be doing the interviewing.

Towards the end of the interview he said that a panel would be convened to look at all these issues and come up with proposals but when pressed it transpired that it would be formed of government ministers. When Helena Kennedy in the post interview sofa bit tried to press him to agree to a Citizen's Convention on these issues he just batted it away and said "wait and see what they come up with" with a big smirk on his face. This. Man. Is. Incapable. Of. Fixing. The. System.

After David Cameron's rather will o' the wisp proposals on reform that seem to promise nothing earlier this week it must surely be becoming clear to people that the only party who are serious about change are the Lib Dems. Indeed Andrew Rawnsley is now on board and writes about electoral reform in today's Observer. Here is a snippet:


A minority of Labour politicians are sincere on this subject, but Labour as a party is completely untrustworthy on electoral reform. It flirts with the idea when it is in opposition or becomes afraid that it is about to lose office. As soon as it has power, Labour forgets its promises.

Only one of the main parties has been a consistent and persistent advocate of a democratised House of Lords, a reformed Commons, fixed-term parliaments and the rest of the menu of truly sweeping constitutional reform. That party is the Liberal Democrats. They have also, incidentally, come out of the expenses scandal much less sleazed than either Labour or the Tories.


And he concludes with:


If you want to maximise the chances of securing serious constitutional reform, then the party to vote for is the Lib Dems.


Amen Mr Rawnsley. You won't get proper change from parties with such a vested interest in the existing system. Full stop.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

If the latest poll is right, Brown is finished

According to the latest ICM General Election voting intention survey for the Sunday Telegraph that I have just seen on Con Home shows the Conservatives on 40%, Lib Dems on 25% and Labour on 22%.

Now I should be careful here. We are in the midst of a major crisis of confidence in politics with all parties and many politicians affected. This poll could be a rogue or an outlier. As Mike Smithson would I am sure say we need to wait to see if the poll is corroborated by others.

However, if it is proven to be roughly right by further polls and/or the election results on Thursday then Brown is finished. Despite the practical difficulties in getting rid of him, his colleagues will have no choice. His colleagues will have to find a collective back bone and a way will have to be found to get him out.

Nick Clegg is spot on about "Golden Goodbyes"

Nick Clegg has been rightly very quick to condemn the "Golden Goodbyes" as he has coined them available to MPs who stand down from the House of Commons. Apparently MPs are entitled to pay-off worth up to a year's salary (over £64K) on retirement from the House and resettlement grants worth tens of thousands of pounds which are only available to MPs who stand down at a General Election. It's no wonder all the 13 MPs who have announced they are standing down are hanging on in there to the General Election. I think once the public understands that the extra few months service could cost them all this extra money there will be a big backlash.


Given the feeling out there at the moment the authorities would be wise to change these rules ASAP. If they don't the clamour for MPs to stand down right now will grow louder. Such calls are already being made in my own constituency of Bracknell where after his now infamous meeting with his constituents Andrew MacKay announced he was standing down a week ago and these parachute payments will surely only make the calls more strident.

It is good to see the Lib Dem leader taking a strong position on this issue. I feel this will resonate well with the public. I think it is clear now that of the 3 leaders, Nick Clegg is taking the initiative in this crisis. Hopefully his ideas for the 100 days to save democracy plan will now gain some traction.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Other Reckonings - 29th May 2009

  • Anthony Barnett questions David Cameron's reforming credentials.
  • Devil's Kitchen extrapolates from the current crisis that a General Election is the only way out.
  • Paul Waugh from off of The Evening Standard questions if Cameron has handled this crisis well.
  • Malcolm Clark from MVC posts about a rallying call for PR from Peter Tatchell.
  • And Jennie Rigg aint happy with Cowley Street's web design standards.

This could be the only chance

I very much hope that the current political situation results in fundamental change in our political system. God knows we need it. However, the problem is that because of our uncodified constitution and the top down nature of our system, any change has to be agreed to by a majority of MPs. And unfortunately Turkey's will not usually vote for Christmas.

I have thought for years that we need a propotional system of elections for the House of Commons. But because a new system would mean a good number of them would not be re-elected MPs under it they would not vote for a referendum on this. I have always found this incredibly frustrating because it seems to go against natural justice that MPs should be the final arbiters of the system that elects them. I feared it would never change for this reason.

Things have fundamentally changed in the last few weeks. 13 MPs have already announced that they are standing down at the next election. Before the next election there are predictions that at least 200 could have announced that they are also not standing. This gives us a unique opportunity as perhaps a third of the Commons will not have a vested interest in the existing system.

They would be doing their country a great service for the future if they were to honestly listen to the arguments and re-enfranchise the millions of people whose votes currently don't count.

We may never get a chance like the next few months could yield again.

Mark Reckons writes for Guardian datablog

I have written a piece for the Guardian Datablog today.


It describes the details of my safe seats/MPs expenses correlation work that I have posted about here previously.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

BBC Question Time Live Chat - 28th May 2009

It's back to the usual time for BBC Question Time today and hence the Live Chat on this blog will start at 10:30pm.


I am really looking forward to tonight's episode which features Caroline Flint, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan (famous for having torn Gordon Brown a new one!), Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Jo Swinson (go Jo!), Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and French businessman Pierre-Yves Gerbeau.

You can also follow people's comments on Twitter via the #bbcqt hashtag (you can also follow me here on Twitter by the way - I will try to join in the tweets too!).

Liberal Democrat Voice also always have an open thread for BBC Question Time which is usually posted just before the start of the programme.

The chat has now finished for this week. You can see what we said in the re-run below.

We will be back next week, please join us and in the meantime I will be on Twitter during the week if you want to follow me for more political microblogging!


Why are only junior MPs standing down?

There are already 11 MPs who have said they will step down at the next election as a direct result of the expenses scandal. How many more there will be is anyones guess. I have heard estimates of 200 or more potentially. The next House of Commons could have the highest new intake of any in history at this rate.


David Hughes has raised an interesting point though on the Telegraph Three Line Whip blog. He is asking what about the big fish and he has a very good point. None of the MPs who have announced they are stepping down were in Ministerial or Shadow Ministerial positions. Andrew MacKay was an adviser to Cameron but most of the public would not have heard of him.

What about Hazel Blears or Alistair Darling, Jacqui Smith, Geoff Hoon, Tony McNulty, Andrew Lansley, Oliver Letwin or Alan Duncan. These people have all been accused of what seems to me quite dodgy behavour around expenses but it is looking like there may be no consequences for them beyond having to pay the money back.

I suspect the reason is that there is a sort of compact (probably unspoken) between Brown and Cameron that neither will push this for fear of opening the floodgates and seeming to lose control and potentially many Ministers and Shadow Ministers for if an MP is forced to stand down at the next election they can surely no longer serve on the front bench.

I think as there are more and more MPs forced to stand down the public will start to ask why the political minnows are the ones sufferring and the large fry seem to be getting away with it. This is surely going to be unsustainable.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Update to MP expenses scandal and safe seats correlation

Further to my previous posts from a week and a half ago here and here which looked at the MPs who had been implicated in the expenses scandal by the Telegraph and seemed to find a correlation between the safety of the seat the MP held and the likelihood of being involved, I have gone through the data again using the latest available list from the Telegraph. The link to this is here although it changes daily and may well be out of date by the time you read this (although I have saved it locally myself). The source data about the MPs is from the 2005 election and from Keele University here.


The last time I did the work a week and a half ago only 94 MPs had been implicated. As of today there are 243 so there is more data to work with.

I have posted the results below but first I just want to again caveat all of this. I am not a statistician and I know that we don't have all the data yet. If you read through the comments on the previous threads you will see some people say that there are problems with the approach or method and that things like confounding variables are not taken account of. There are also some comments from people who think the approach is OK. I accept that my approach is fairly blunt and is by no means to final word, however I have had a number of queries from people asking if I have done an updated version of this as the previous one is now well out of date, hence the new post.

Right, here are the results:

The median number is now 287.7. It has drifted back towards the median from 262.4 previously.

The graph now looks like this:


There is still an increase in each quartile but it is less pronounced than previously. There is still quite a stark difference though between the bottom and the top quartile with the top having almost twice as many as the bottom and now with more source data to work from.

One of the objections previously was that the Telegraph were bound to focus on the most newsworthy MPs first, but almost 3 weeks on that effect must surely have dissipated as they ran out of newsworthy ones. I certainly found myself doing this update wondering who a lot of the newly added MPs are. I hadn't heard of lots of them!

Right, I think this is the last time I will post on this now. I think I have found an interesting effect albeit with potential problems. I have had a few e-mails from people asking for the source data and I will respond to these soon but with this latest data (I held off responding because it was quite out of date by the time the requests started). Anyone else who wants it, please e-mail me at the e-mail address at the top. I would like to see others take this forward and also for someone to come up with a decent way of analysing this effect once all the data had been released. I will be interested to see what other people can find about this.

STV is the one for me

Since I posted this yesterday I have been further deliberating on the merits of just focusing on debating the principle of proportional representation as opposed to specifically pushing for Single Transferable Vote (STV).

There have been others posting about this subject and I had a lively debate with Jennie Rigg on her blog yesterday too. I seem to be in a minority in what I suggested yesterday and most Lib Dem bloggers seem to think that it is vitally important to push for STV. As I mentioned previously my problem is that I have a lot of trouble trying to get my non-politically minded friends to even listen to me about this, let alone properly engage with what I am saying. I distinctly recall spending 10 minutes a couple of years ago explaining the First Past the Post system, its advantages and drawbacks, and why I thought STV was better. The person concerned is University educated and very intelligent but a few months later she asked me "What was that about again?". She couldn't remember what I had said. I think the problem is that some of the arguments are fairly arcane to all but the politically obsessed.

However the more I have been thinking about it, the more I am persuaded that specifically arguing for STV is the way forward. I have come across too many examples in comments on blogs, twitter and in the MSM making criticisms of "PR" that just do not apply to STV (mainly it puts all the power in the hands of the parties whereas STV does the exact opposite). In some cases I suspect people who have a partisan stake in the existing system are deliberately obfuscating the issue (as David Cameron did in yesterday's Guardian) but I am sure there are many who just do not know what STV is and genuinely think that all PR systems require party lists.

So I am coming on board the STV train. That doesn't mean that I will not still be behind Alan Johnson's calls for a referendum but whenever I mention it I will point out that the PR system I favour is STV. The Referendum 2010 campaign is also calling for one but they are remaining generic for now.

The debate is only just starting and we need to be ready to rebut all the canards and nonsense that will be thrown at us. It is clear to me now that all Cameron was doing yesterday was trying to hijack the reform debate so he can neutralise the threats to his personal and parties ambitions. That's fair enough as it is his job but we should go for him now and should not allow him to paint himself as the change needed. He isn't. Lib Dems are the true reforming progressives and people need to understand that if they really want to change the political system in this country, the quickest way to achieve it is to back us.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Political Twitterers!

I have spent some time today trying to find more political people on Twitter to follow. I have been actively using it for a few weeks now and it is great for keeping in touch in pretty much real time with what is going on with like minded people.


The problem I have found is in trying to find politically active/interested Twitterers to follow. I cannot find a central repository of this information. There is a Lib Dem Tweets section on Lib Dem Blogs which is very useful and I have joined this (and mined it for potential people to follow!) but that is only a subset of Lib Dem Twitterers and doesn't cover any of the other parties, or non-affiliated people.

I am already following some non-Lib Dems by trial and error but I would prefer a better way of finding them so, I thought I would start this thread as a place where Twitter users who fit the profile above (i.e. interested in and Tweeting about politics) could add their details and handle (in the comments below). I will be happy to follow you and please feel free to follow me. Also, perhaps others who read this thread and are politically inclined might follow you too.

I am @MarkReckons and you can follow me here: http://twitter.com/MarkReckons


UPDATE: Some people seem to think this is a good idea and there are a few handles appearing already. Please follow them if you are a political Twitterer! To spread this further, perhaps Twitterers could RT this tweet I did earlier:

RT @MarkReckons If you are into #UKPolitics, please add yr Twitter handle to the comments here for increased followage: http://twi.cc/49AI

Video of Bracknell MP Andrew MacKay's meeting

Look Mum, I'm on the telly! Well, er OK a web clip courtesy of GetBracknell website.


This is footage of some of the questions from Andrew MacKay's meeting on Friday that I blogged about on Saturday and includes some of his responses and the reaction of the audience.

I am the chap at the front of the balcony who asks the second set of questions.




It was following this meeting that Mr MacKay decided to step down (after a call from Mr Cameron who one suspects had been tipped off about the real feeling in the hall).


Debating different forms of PR

I am conflicted at the moment.


Jennie Rigg and Mark Valladares have both pointed out that Alan Johnson's favoured form of electoral reform to be put to a referendum at the time of the next election is not the best form of PR. Mr Johnson favours the AV+ system as recommended by the Jenkins Comission in 1998.

They both point out problems with AV+. Jennie mentions that it does not remove safe seats which is true, some will remain although I believe there will be less of them and at least each candidate has to get 50% of the vote. Mark points out that it is likely the top up lists used for this system will have the problems always associated with party lists. They both say that STV is the way forward.

The reason I am conflicted on this (and hence why I mentioned Mr Johnson's idea this morning without unpacking the specifics of the PR system he suggests) is because I fear there is a risk that this golden opportunity could degenerate into a debate between different PR systems which will just confuse and turn off non-political people (i.e. 90-odd percent of the country).

I also favour STV and am on the record numerous times on this blog advocating it. However, if it came to a choice between retaining FPTP or going for AV+, I would go for AV+. I think it is right that others are raising this question and I can understand where he is coming from when Mark says:


Amidst the sea of people applauding Alan Johnson for proposing a revisit of the recommendations of the Jenkins Commission, I feel the need for a raft for those who wish to blow a raspberry.


However, I have waited so long for an opportunity like this that I would rather stick to the principle of arguing for PR now rather than get drawn into the details. Once the political momentum is with a referendum and it looks like it is going to happen then I think that is the time for the merits of AV+ vs STV to be debated more. We don't all need to sign up right now to a specific system.

The Referendum 2010 campaign is taking this approach and it is worth taking a look at what they are saying. It is similar to Mr Johnson but they just talk about PR in a generic sense.

David Cameron, Electoral Reform, Turkeys and Christmas

Electoral reform is now at the top of the political agenda. As part of the crisis that the political system now faces, calls for a radical overhaul of the constitution have been very loud indeed.

Alan Johnson the Health Secretary joined the debate yesterday with an article in The Times calling for a referendum on electoral reform to be put to the electorate and to coincide with the next General Election. It seems that his argument is winning support both within the cabinet and the Parlimentary Labour Party. Part of Mr Johnson's thesis is:


The adoption of AV+ (a proportional electoral system originally devised by the Jenkins Commission in 1998 by the late Roy Jenkins) would shift the political focus currently concentrated almost exclusively on a few swing voters in a handful of marginal seats. It would end the perversity of the party with the most votes nationally forming the opposition rather than the government, as has happened twice since the war.


I absolutely agree that it is dreadful how our existing "First Past the Post" electoral system causes all political parties to focus on a very small minority of "swing voters" in marginal constituencies hence allowing the winner of General Elections to be decided by a few tens of thousands of voters. Reform of the electoral system to a proportional system would completely transform the political landscape and would genuinely mean that every vote counted towards the end result. The benefits of this approach would be immense and would reenfranchise great swathes of the electorate whose votes are currently wasted.

Clearly David Cameron has sensed that proper electoral reform is quickly gaining traction as an idea and has leapt in to try and halt the debate. In a wide ranging article in The Guardian as part of their "A New Politics" series he argues for all sorts of reform including reducing the power of No 10, "seriously considering" the option of fixed term parliaments, boosting the power of MPs and curbing the power of the executive. All of these are welcome measures and (if implemented properly) would certainly help to improve our system of Government.

However, when it comes to the biggest reform of all and the one that would yield the most results in terms of improving democracy and empowering the electorate, i.e. a more proportional electoral system, Mr Cameron has this to say:


A Conservative government will not consider introducing proportional representation, as many participants in A New Politics have demanded. The principle underlying all the political reforms a Conservative government would make is the progressive principle of redistributing power and control from the powerful to the powerless. PR would actually move us in the opposite direction, which is why I'm so surprised it's still on the wish-list of progressive reformers. Proportional representation takes power away from the man and woman in the street and hands it to the political elites. Instead of voters choosing their government on the basis of the manifestos put before them in an election, party managers would choose a government on the basis of secret backroom deals. How is that going to deliver transparency and trust?


This strikes me as clangingly at odds with the rest of what Mr Cameron is arguing. He claims that PR will move power from the electorate to the political elite but at the moment a government can win 55% of the seats in parliament on 35% of the vote (Labour did this in 2005) so how is this empowering the voter? Great swathes of voters under the current system needent bother voting as their choice at the ballot box makes no difference to the end result. As for his argument about secret backroom deals by party managers, well that doesn't stand up to scrutiny either. Currently, this sort of thing happens anyway within the party of government as we effectively have an elective dictatorship headed by the Prime Minister. At least with a proportional system, any attempt to push legislation through will be under more scrutiny whether this is through a coalition or a minority administration. Laws and measures will be better as a result of being properly debated. At the moment the government can largely pass whatever it wants and just whip its troops through the relevant lobby without having to win the argument and convince other parliamentarians of its case.

I would not expect Mr Cameron to be in favour of PR. If the polls are correct, he is likely to become the next Prime Minister and under the current electoral system could find himself with a decent sized majority on a minority of votes. He is still a young man and is probably hoping to get at least two terms as Prime Minister to be able to govern the country according to his principles and along the lines that previous administrations with the ability to legilslate unhindered by the need for full scrutiny. Mr Cameron's best hope of this sort of untrammelled power is to do exactly what he is now doing. He is a canny enough politician to know that there is a clamour for change and he has to address it so he is positioning himself by offering some changes (and they are important ones). But without proper electoral reform his other measures are merely tinkering at the edges.

My view on this is that if Mr Cameron is so sure of his arguments then he should back a referendum campaign and then campaign against it. That is the way to win his argument properly. At the moment he is trying to prevent the argument from being taken to the people of this country so that they can decide and if he gets his way there will not even be a referendum. One has to ask oneself why he does not want a referendum on this, after all he is keen enough to have one on the Lisbon Treaty. On that issue, suddenly the views of the electorate are desperately important.

There is another very important point that I think needs to be made here too. The MP Expenses scandal that has dominated the political scene for the last two and a half weeks has come about directly as a result of MPs deciding the rules about how they are paid and remunerated for their time. It has been shown over the last couple of weeks that they cannot be trusted with this and politicians of all parties are now calling for the decisions about how MPs are paid to be decided by an external panel. MPs are only human and it is perhaps not surprising that left to their own devices they would come up with and support a system that was to their advantage even when it was against what was in the public interest.

There is a direct parallel between this and the electoral system. Exactly the same principles apply to this as to MPs expenses and salaries. By the status quo of a desperately unfair electoral system being allowed to remain, most MPs benefit. Most MPs are in very or relatively safe seats and as long as they toe the party line can expect to be in parliament for many years, often decades. However, if a new electoral system was brought in, suddenly quite a lot of MPs may find that their positions were not as secure as they were before. There would be more democratic accountability and their chances of remaining in a safe seat for their entire career would be diminished.

The phrase "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas" is often used about this subject and it is spot on. As I said, MPs are only human and it is unsurprising that many of them are opposed to electoral reform as it endangers their personal careers. If I worked in a company with 645 other people and was given a vote on changes that would make my job less secure I would find it difficult to vote yes to that.

This is why the choice should be taken out of the hands of MPs. Just as with their expenses and their salaries they cannot be expected to do what is in the public's best interests when it comes to the electoral system. It needs to be put out to an external scrutiny panel.

And the best external scrutiny panel is the one made up of the electorate of the United Kingdom.


A broad range of people have launched a campaign this week for a referendum on PR to coincide with the next General Election. Please see my previous post here for details and how to get involved.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Electoral Reform - Referendum 2010 campaign launched

I received the following e-mail today from Malcolm Clark of "Make Votes Count":



Dear Mark,

We have already been active on this for the past week (and thanks for all the letters and emails already despatched to MPs and to the press), but today the public campaign is officially launched.  A broad range of civil society organisations and individuals have come together to call for a referendum on the day of the next general election to change the way we elect our MPs.

http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/referendum2010

- launch letter in The Observer: signed by a range of leading figures from across the cultural, academic, political and civil society worlds. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/24/letters-mps-expenses

 - accompanying article and editorial in The Observer.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/24/mps-expenses-commons-reform

 - campaign webpages  http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/referendum2010 and http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/article.php?id=153

 - campaign blog - which includes key facts, myth-busting, and all the latest reaction in the media, on the blogs, and beyond.

http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/blog/archives/referendum2010/index.html

 Our message is simple and strong: real change, not just new faces. An end to safe seats and seeming jobs for life for some MPs.  Remove the power that MPs have to decide how they are elected ... and give that to the voters instead.  Bring in greater accountability for those who represent us; and greater choice at the ballot box in the first place.

 At the next general election, we want to give voters the chance to register their feelings twice: once to get rid of a tainted MP; and once to get rid of a rotten system and change things for good. One vote to elect a fresh face to represent them; and one vote (in a nationwide referendum) to bring a fresh start to politics.

 Elections affect all of us; this campaign is about all of us. We want your vote to count the same wherever you live and whoever you are. A list of influential people may have been necessary to launch the campaign and get media coverage, but now it is your turn to star.

 What you can do:

 1) Show your support for the campaign - add your name to the list of signatories. Send us a quick email (malcolm@makevotescount.org.uk) with your name and postcode; or sign online in a few days time when the main campaign website goes live. Names will be published on that campaign site. If you'd rather sign anonymously, just indicate that.

 2) Promote the campaign to others - via word-of-mouth, email, facebook and twitter (use hashtag #ref2010).

 3) See our previous update for letter-writing and emailing we need you to do to your local MP and also to several Cabinet Ministers and newspapers. http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/opus26470.html

 4) Give a donation to MVC to enable us to more quickly push this campaign forward and get the messages out to more people.

http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/donate.html

 5) Keep on spreading the word about the positives of PR elections in general; especially that your vote counts in the European Parliamentary elections on 4 June.  See our dedicated website http://www.eurovotescount.org.uk

Best wishes on this sunny - and hopefully significant - day,

Malcolm

Malcolm Clark

Director, Make Votes Count


I am fully behind this campaign and feel it is the best way for the public to have their say in what should happen.

If you agree, please get involved as Malcom suggests!


Mark Reckons - Blogging will be light for a couple of days

Just to let you know that I am off to see the folks for a couple of days so blogging will be light to non-existant until Tuesday.



Independent on Sunday - safe seats and expenses scandal correlation - 2 mentions

The only papers we get delivered here are the Independent on Saturday and Sunday (I read the rest online).


Having gone through the IOS this morning I was very pleasantly surprised to see two references to the correlation I seemed to have uncovered between the safety of an MP's seat and the likelihood of having been involved in the expenses scandal which I detailed here.

The first is in a piece entitled "Politics: The only way is up" where thay have asked various of the great and the good to give their views on what needs to change. One of the questions asked is "Would electoral reform improve perceptions of MPs' probity?" and Vernon Bogdanor, the constitutional expert and Professor of Government at Oxford replied:


Yes. Many of the worst abuses have been committed by MPs in safe seats. Primary elections would ensure that MPs were chosen by a wider group than the small unrepresentative cliques who often now act as an electoral college. In the long run, the single transferable vote method of PR would give every elector the chance to combine a vote in a general election with a vote in a primary election.


He is clearly referring to my apparent findings at the start of his answer and using it as part of an argument for moving to Single Transferable Vote exactly as I did.

The second reference is in regular commentator John Rentoul's comment piece entitled "If Esther's the answer, the question is wrong". In it he argues that having lots of independent MP's in parliament after the next election would not solve the problems and investigates other potential ways to improve things. A paragraph towards the end says:


Some of these ideas are good. Some of them even appear to be connected to the expenses issue. It would seem, for example, that MPs in safe seats have been more likely to make questionable claims than those in marginals. But is electoral reform the answer? It is claimed that voters in multi-member constituencies can choose between candidates of their preferred party. So they can, but has that made Irish politics spotless? And if we had fewer MPs, that would just mean The Daily Telegraph ran the story for 14 days instead of 16.


So he uses my apparent findings but then questions if electoral reform is the answer. I think the answer is yes but at least the debate is happening now! As I already blogged, Ben Bradshaw quoted my research in an answer on BBC Question Time on Thursday.

This proper debate is exactly what I had hoped for and it is nice to see my work contributing to it in some small way. I will certainly keep blogging about reform and I hope others will too, both for and against. It is the first time I can remember proper reform being debated so widely. My findings are still preliminary but I think they speak to a wider feeling that there is something very wrong with our current system and things need to change radically if politics is to once again properly engage people in this country.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

+++ My local Bracknell MP Andrew Mackay is standing down+++

I just heard on the Radio 4 news that my local Bracknell MP Andrew Mackay is standing down at the next election.


Frankly, after last night's meeting that I blogged about here it was inevitable. He has claimed that it was after a conversation with David Cameron but the meeting must have been a contributing factor to his decision.

I linked earlier on today to a story posted on Liberal Burblings about the fact that Mr MacKay's wife was challenged about them double claiming second home allowances 3 years ago on a radio show and she hung up on the questioner. I think this could have been the nail in the coffin for his political career as I mentioned earlier. This seems to have been brushed over but if this story is true then it calls into question his entire defence in this scandal that he did not know there was anything wrong. I had been giving him the benefit of the doubt on this up until now and even said that I believed him on this on Iain Dale's phone in show last night.

I would still like to know if he was aware of what his wife seemed to be three years ago.

UPDATE: I had included a section here originally that I am now unsure about so I have removed it. I may post about it later. I know this is bad blogging etiquette but this is an important story that is affecting a real man's career and I think I was a bit hasty and want to think about it some more.

James Graham is spot on about Jo Swinson

James Graham did an extremely good post today about the treatment of Jo Swinson MP by The Daily Telegraph regarding the suggestions that she submitted receipts for make-up and other cosmetics. He describes their treatment of her as mysoginstic and he is spot on. He also rightly points out that it is bollocks anyway but they have worded the article cleverly to make it seem like she has done what they imply.


There's no point in me repeating what he has said as he has taken the words right out of my mouth so please read his post here and then have a look at the letters he has sent to The Telegraph, the BBC (who picked up the story and effectively republished it with embelishments in a full Flat Earth News styley) and The Guardian who really should know better than this.

Please visit his blog and post your comments of support if you agree with his analysis. And if you have time write some letters! A line has to be drawn now. The media is starting to think it can rip into all MPs for anything at all, even effectively fabricated stories and expect no comebacks.

I attended Andrew MacKay's meeting and I think his position is now untenable

I attended Andrew MacKay's meeting in Bracknell yesterday along with about 400 other constituents.


It was a very enlightening meeting. Beforehand I was asked by a radio interviewer what I thought and I stated that I felt he should stand down as an MP (as I have blogged about previously) but that I was interested to hear what he had to say.

There was an interesting vignette just before I entered the hall when a local constituent was trying to enter the hall with a camcorder and the man on the door was telling him that this would not be allowed. When both myself and the man queried why the response was that the instructions were to not let anyone in who was going to film it and that the media had been invited to do this. Peter Henley (BBC South's Political Editor) was right behind us and pointed out that the media actually weren't allowed to film inside the hall. I think this was a measure of how concerned Mr MacKay and his supporters were about what was about to transpire. As it turned out, the chap persisted and was eventually allowed to take his camcorder in and filmed the whole thing (I was sitting next to him).

The meeting got off to a shaky start when the Chairmen of the proceedings (David Osborn, former Rector of Bracknell) stated that we could of course expect "transparent honesty" from Mr MacKay and large parts of the audience broke out into derisive laughter. This must have been very embarrassing for a Member of Parliament of 25 years standing.

Mr MacKay gave a 10 minute speech where he outlined what had happened from his perspective. Here are the main points from my contemperaneous notes:

  • He apologised "profoundly" for dragging the constituency into the expenses furore.
  • He said that he took a "tough line" on MPs expenses. However I noted as wrote this that he voted against transparency last year.
  • He said that as he submitted his claims to David Cameron's scrutiny team he had "no knowledge" of what was to come.
  • He resigned because he thought he would be a distraction to what the Conservatives are trying to do.
  • He said that he did not hide from the media.
  • One of his main lines of defence was that he had "voluntarily" submitted his claims to the scrutiny panel and that he had spoken to the Daily Telegraph after his resignation and they said to him that they had not been going to run a story on him about this. He seemed to think that this fact was somehow in his favour. It is worth unpacking this a little bit. His claims that the submission was voluntary seems disingenuous. All Cameron's advisers had to submit them, if he had not done he would have surely been sacked so it was in effect compulsory. Also, just because the DT had not twigged the significance of Mr MacKay and Ms Kirkbride's situation does not seem to me to be any sort of defence.
  • He said that he had taken advice from the fees office and they had not pointed out at all that there was any problem. A familiar defence from MPs caught up in this and cuts no ice with the public now. Why didn't HE think it was wrong?
  • Finally he announced that he would put himself up for readoption by his local party in order that they could decide if following this scandal they still wanted him to stand but he insisted he would fight to remain as the MP and candidate. At this point, to me it seemed like he was pleading for his political life and it was not an edifying sight.
After this the meeting was opened up to questions/comments from the floor. There were far too many to list here but they were overwhelmingly negative about him and angry. Here is a flavour:

  • One person stated that he did not wish to be represented by a thief.
  • Another accused him of fraudulent behaviour.
  • There were several questions and comments about why he did not live in the constituency. He did not have a good answer for this.
  • Several commenters stated that he had damaged or ruined the constituency.
  • I asked him how he responded to a poll on the Get Bracknell website where 65% of respondents (out of 628 votes) had said he should step down. His response was that was not the reaction he was getting from other people he had spoken to. I have to say though that the feeling from the hall seemed to me that more than 65% of people were against him.
  • A former metropolitan Police Officer read out excerpts from the Green book on parliamentary expenses and concluded that Mr MacKay's actions based on that were fraud.
  • One audience member quoted an e-mail exchange he had had with him where on the 12th May Mr MacKay had stated that anyone caught up in the scandal should lose the party whip. This was of course just before Mr MacKay himself got caught up in the scandal. the questioner than said: "So mr macKay, should you lose the whip". For me, this was the question of the night and Mr MacKay was all at sea. He did his best to get out of it and did so by not really answering.
And on, and on it went. There were a few positive comments but most of them still questioned his judgement and went on to say that he had let them down.

One contribution that sticks in my mind was from an elegant lady with a cut glass accent who described herself as dyed in the wool Conservative. She eulogised about how good he had been for Bracknell and that she would vote for him and support him if he wished to stand again but that for the good of the party he should step down because she feared that he had lost the support of the constituency. I felt that this was possibly the most devastating comment of the evening for Mr MacKay.

In the end I started to even feel a bit sorry for Mr MacKay. The barage was almost relentless and he cut a diminished figure as the meeting went on. He kept on standing up and replying but many of his responses were simply re-statements of his previous comments and he rarely dealt with the substance of the questions put to him.

However, what sympathy I had with him soon evaporated after the meeting when I saw his contributions on the media. He was trying to claim that the feeling of the meeting was with him and that 75% percent or more of the audience were with him. Clearly, that does not reflect the way I saw the meeting from where I was sitting. Watch this clip from BBC News where Mr MacKay is being interviewed by BBC South's Political Editor Peter Henley:




The gentlemen who interrupts Mr MacKay during the interview is absolutely right. He was misrepresenting the view of the meeting and another voice off camera later on points out that despite calls from the floor, the Chair of the meeting (David Osborn, the former Rector of Bracknell) refused to take a show of hands to gauge support towards the end.

In this piece from Sky News, Victoria Gatenby says that is is disingenuous for him to claim that he had the support of the meeting and that support is ebbing away from him, even amongst Conservative activists and that the feeling is he is unlikely to be reselected:





There has been further reaction to this story across the media and internet.

Here is the BBC News report on the meeting.

John Hicks from Radio Bracknell in a detailed and balanced review of the meeting thinks that the reaction within the hall may have signalled the beginning of the end for Bracknell's MP.

An article in the The Independent about the meeting and its aftermath quotes one of the comments from the floor that I also recall: "I have no wish to be represented by a thief".

This thread on the Conservative Home website (a site for Conservative grassroots activists) demonstrates the depth of Mr MacKay's problems. The majority the more than 40 comments at the end of the blog post are saying that he should stand down or be sacked.

Peter Henley, the BBC South Political Editor (who is an excellent and prodigious user of Twitter) tweeted this morning: "Tories saying MacKay is toast after last night. But spinning that Cameron wants to get in clean skins". He also tweeted to me that he is now off for a holiday. I don't blame him. I bet political editors across the country are totally knackered now!

Another interesting point that I have just read on Liberal Burblings is that according to a clip on "Have I Got News for You" last night, Mr MacKay's wife Julie Kirkbride was challenged on a local radio station 3 years ago that they were double claiming allowances and she put the phone down. This could be the final nail in the coffin of this story because it makes Mr MacKay's defence that he did not know it was wrong look increasingly shaky.

I await with interest what the consequences of last nights meeting and this new relevation will be.

If you wish to contribute to the debate locally, please go to this blog-post on Bracknell Blog and place a comment there.

UPDATE1: I almost forgot that I called into Iain Dale's (Conservative blogger and former PPC) politics phone in show on the internet based Play Radio UK last night. I outlined my feelings from the meeting and also got some interesting information from Iain that the re-adoption meeting is likely to only feature one candidate (Mr MacKay) and that it will be a take it or leave it affair. I had assumed that other candidates would also be put forward but I bow to Mr Dale's greater knowledge on these things than me! The show can be listened to online here. I am on from about 47:00 minutes until about 54:30 although I spend the first minute trying to find a better signal and being accused by Iain and Donal of calling them from the toilet! Scurrilous!

UPDATE2: I have changed the title of the blog post (from "I think Andrew MacKay's position is now untenable" to "I attended Andrew MacKay's meeting and I think his position is now untenable") to make it clear that I attended the meeting as I think this is an important detail.


Friday, 22 May 2009

Mark Thompson - "More or Less" safe seats expenses analysis

Well I have just listened to my interview on "More of Less". I thought I came across OK.


They cut loads of what I said out including me mentioning the name of the blog so I thought I would post this entry so anyone searching for Mark Thompson in Google Blog Search or coupled with More or Less will have a chance of finding me (and not as Tim actually mentioned get only results about the director general of the BBC)!


If you were listening, please let me know what you think and if you missed it is broadcast again on Sunday at 8:30pm.

I will do a fuller post about my experience going on national radio for the first time soon.

1:30pm today, I am on Radio 4's "More or Less"

Just a reminder that I make my national radio debut on Radio 4's "More or Less" presented by Tim Harford today. The programme starts at 1:30pm (repeated on Sunday at 8:00pm).

They interviewed me regarding the story I broke recently about the apparent correlation between how safe an MP's seat is and the likelihood of them being implicated in the expenses scandal that I posted about here and here.

As the programme is about numbers, they wanted me to focus mainly on the numbers and maths behind what I discovered, but assuming they don't cut it out, I did manage to stray onto the politics of it all briefly!

So if you want to hear what I sound like then please tune in to hear me or listen again/podcast it.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Ben Bradshaw uses "Mark Reckons" research on BBC Question Time to argue for electoral reform

Well that was a surreal feeling!


During a question about electoral reform on BBC Question Time just now, Ben Bradshaw the Labour Health Minister seemingly speaking in favour of electoral reform used the argument that there is a correlation that shows the safer the seat, the more likely the MP has been involved in the scandal. I can't get the exact quote until it appears on iPlayer and I can transcribe it.

What he said is almost verbatim what I have said on this blog from the work I did last week although in my case I have caveated it because it is not definitive and more work needs to be done. There were no such caveats from Mr Bradshaw! The relevant posts if you haven't seen them are here and here.

When I posted this stuff a few days back I had no idea that within a week government ministers would be using it to argue for electoral reform. It is more than I could have imagined. I think this demonstrates how far the political ground has shifted and I am more convinced than ever that now is the time for supporters of electoral reform to argue their case as strongly as possible.

Please blog, tweet and post about this wherever you can to keep the debate going. I personally favour Single Transferable Vote but any change to a more proportional system where there are no safe seats is worth looking at.

Also, have a look at the campaign that the Electoral Reform Society launched earlier this week. They are campaigning for a referendum to be put on the ballot paper to coincide with the next General Election. We need to get behind this too.

We will never get a better opportunity than right now to effect change.

BBC Question Time Live Chat - 21st May 2009 - 9:00pm Start!

Early start for the BBCs Question Time Live Chat today. The programme starts at 9:00pm today instead of the usual 10:35pm. I guess the BBC are capitalising on the intense public interest in the expenses scandal.


Should be a very interesting edition with William Hague who is always good to watch, Martin Bell the former anti-sleaze MP, Ben Bradshaw the government minister who yesterday called for electoral reform on The Daily Politics and Marta Andreasen who is treasurer and a candidate for UKIP. It is not yet clear who will be batting for the Lib Dems.

The chat is now closed. Please stop by on future Thursdays during QT though to join in. You can see how this week's chat went by replaying it below.


+++ Lord Rennard to step down as Lib Dem Chief Executive +++

I have just received an e-mail from Chris Rennard (which will have gone out to the whole party). He has announced that he is stepping down for family and health reasons.


He has been a great asset to the party and this is very sad news but it is probably for the best in the circumstances.

The candidates for Speaker should all go on a special BBC Question Time

Frank Field has a piece in the Telegraph today where he sets out his stall for his imminent entry to the race for Speaker of the House. Other candidates are also positioning and manoevering as I writ this.


I think Mr Field would make an excellent reforming Speaker although as I blogged about yesterday, I fear that Brown would do everything in his power to stop him. But because it is a secret ballot, Brown might actually be limited in what he can do.

We are in unchartered territory now. Previously the candidates for Speaker have been unable to openly campaign for the position but this time they will be required to publish manifestos and it is vital that their plans are scrutinised. They cannot afford to get this appoinment wrong.

I think one thing that all the candidates should commit to is appearing on a special edition of BBC Question Time. That way they will be able to face the public and put their case for what they intend to do.

I know it goes against the form for these things but politics is in a desperate state at the moment and the public really needs to start feeling like the political classes are listening to them again.

Calls for constitutional change and electoral reform grow

Interesting piece in The Independent this morning where the great and the good give their views on what needs to happen now to repair the political system. Several of them are calling for electoral reform and all of them accept that there needs to be constitutional change.


It is also worthy of note that Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) spends much of his contribution saying that he thinks that a strong link will be found between abuse of the expenses system and safe seats. He did link to my post on this yesterday in a post on his blog where he called for the voter to be the outside regulator.

Patrick Wintour reports in The Guardian today that many MPs and a number of cabinet ministers are pressing for full constitutional reform including potential electoral reform for the House of Commons. I can only hope that after many long years, this issue is now properly addressed. I feel that radical reform is now the only was that the political classes can show that they understand the depth of anger in the country.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Lib Dem Blogs needs our help

Ryan Cullen has put this message up on the Lib Dem Blogs aggregator website today:



You may have noticed that today the site was down for a large period of time. Unfortunately I can no longer maintain LibDemBlogs on my current hosting package and due to financial constraints I can no longer personally afford to carry on upgrading the hosting.

A new VPS hosting solution would cost nearly £300 a year to run. In the past it has been suggested that I charge a fee to each blog which is aggregated for pushing traffic to their sites. With 218 active sites each paying around two pounds these costs could be covered. I know that times are tough for most people so I won't introduce a "pay-and-display" scheme. However what I am doing is asking for donations to keep the site alive.

Until I can afford to purchase the new hosting it will not be possible to display any new posts.


If you make use of the aggregator, either as a blogger or otherwise, please visit the website and consider giving a small amount to help keep it going. There is a paypal option on the site and I know some people are sending cheques.

Other Reckonings - 20th May 2009

  • Transform summarises a new Centre for Policy Studies report on drugs as "Prohibition doesn't work, so let's have more prohibition!"
  • Malcolm Clark from MVC lists the great and the good who have called for electoral reform in the last few days.
  • Tony Sharp worries about the consequences of letting the Speaker dictate terms for parliamentary reform. Surely this is a job for his successor?
  • Cicero's Songs thinks that a constitutional convention is the only way now to sort the mess out.
  • And Skipper senses a "Quiet Revolution" underway.

I'm going to be on Radio 4's "More or Less" this Friday!

I have just been called by Radio 4's "More or Less" presented by Tim Harford and they have asked me to be a guest on this week's programme! They want to talk to me about the story I broke recently about the apparent correlation between how safe an MP's seat is and the likelihood of them being implicated in the expenses scandal that I posted about here and here.


As the programme is about numbers, they want to focus mainly on the numbers and maths behind what I discovered. It is being recorded tomorrow and will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 1:30pm in the afternoon this Friday 22nd May.

So if you want to hear what I sound like then please tune in to hear me or listen again/podcast it.

Right, I'm off to phone my mum!

UPDATE: I've just discovered that it is repeated on Sunday at 8:00pm too.


Eight things I hate

Constantly Furious who always seems to be angry about something or other has tagged me with the "Eight things I hate meme" which is apt given his perpetual state of rage. He seems to think that Lib Dems never get annoyed about things. Well here is my attempt to prove him wrong:



1) The fact that to try and work out what the quickest and cheapest train journey to somewhere is has become all but impossible. I am sure it never used to be perfect under BR but there are now about 50 different companies you can book journeys through and not only do they all give you different information and contradict each other, but if you wait 5 minutes and go back to the same company, they even contradict THEMSELVES! Who the hell thought it was a good idea to split it all up so you can now never find out who is repsonsible? Actually I know. It was the last Conservative government in a final act of spite before they fell into political oblivion.

2) Homeopaths. Take your anti-scientific, placebo emulating, useless sugar pills and shove them where the sun don't shine.

3) Anti MMR campaigners. Congratulations by the way to all those dogged campaigners who still believe that one flawed and completely discredited study 11 years ago trumps all subsequent properly scientific studies that show absolutely no link at all between MMR and autism. You have now succeeded in causing the worst outbreak of measles in many years. The worst example of this I have seen recently is Jeni Barnett the LBC radio hostwho I can only describe as an idiot who spent 45 minutes spotuing pseudo-scientific nonsense and screeching down and insulting anyone who disagreed with her. I blogged about this disgraceful episode here.

4) The First Past the Post electoral system. How can a system that shuts out most small parties thus depriving a substantial proportion of the electorate of any parliamentary representation and that allows a government to get 55% of the seats on 35% of the vote be considered fair or democratic?

5) The War on Drugs. This has been going on for 40 years. It clearly does not work. There are about 500x more heroin addicts in the UK now than there were in 1971 when the misuse of drugs act was brought in. the current system maximises harm and criminalises people for what is essentially a public health issue. And yet when anybody tries to question the current system they are bayed at from politicians and the media that they are "soft on drugs" and emotive arguments that don't actually engage with the questions are mustered against them. Hence most politicians are terrified to go anywhere near the subject.

6) Big Brother. I know CF also listed this but he is bang on. What had the potential in series 1 to be an interesting sociological experiment (indeed that's how Endemol first tried to sell it) quickly degenerated into what it is now. A bunch of ecomaniacal, attention seeking idiots scratching each other's eyes out for the chance to get their boat on the box for an extra few seconds and thus score the front cover of Sleb magazine. No talent, no redeeming features and no shame.

7) Marmite - nuff said

8) Windows Vista: This is a long one so you might want to stop reading now!
- It is so slow. I am certain my current Vista machines (work and home) are both slower than my previous XP machines even though the hardware in both cases is significantly better. It still amazes me how speed considerations just seem to go out of the window for OS and application developers. I don’t want to have sit there for 5 minutes waiting for a load of unnecessary services to load up. I also don’t want to see a spinning blue circle for 20 seconds after I invoke Windows Explorer. I just want Windows Explorer! The worst example of this is clicking CTRL-ALT-DEL. Even this can take 15 – 30 seconds to bring up the low level menu. This is supposed to be a shortcut to the low level of the OS!
- Windows Explorer seems to choose the style and fields available for my view all by itself. Sometimes it will go for thumbnails, sometimes lists. I have tried forcing it to always be “details” with the fields most useful to me (filename, size, attributes, date modified) for all folders but this does not work. I have lost count of the number of times I have to turn off “Artists”, “Album”, “Genre”, “Rating” and “#”. It seems to assume every folder is to be used by a 13 year old child cataloguing their mp3 collection. Even folders that do not contain any mp3s. Beyond frustrating.
- UAC is just intrusive and as far as I can tell in my case pointless. However I have been warned it is a bad idea to turn it off so I put up with it.
- I have reminders of things like “Div X update” every time I want to run Windows Media Player but when I say “OK” there is no update available and I am unable to turn this off.
- The “All Programs” section of the windows menu is worse than in XP.
- Silly things like changing the name of “Add/Remove Programs” to “Programs and Features”. Why!!? It just confuses long time users of Windows. I still have to think every time I need to do this now, “what is it called again?”. Unnecessary cognitive overhead.
- Loss of up arrow in Windows Explorer. This is such a stupid omission.


I now tag Oranjepan and Norfolk Blogger.

Why I think Frank Field should be the next Speaker and why he won't be

I think Frank Field should be the next Speaker of the House of Commons.

Reasons why he should be:

1) He is extremely independent.
2) He is fiercely intelligent.
3) He has the courage to stand up against the government and has proved it time and again.
4) I can't remember a time when I have seen him state a position that was not eminently sensible.

Reasons why he won't:

1) Gordon Brown hates him