Monday, 28 February 2011

Total Perspective

Let's put things into perspective:



Enough said.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

What unites the Conservatives, the BNP and the Communists?

Note: this is the first in what I think will be a series of questions which will have a one line answer.


Answer: their opposition to AV of course!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Big Society found alive and well in Libya

Mr Cameron's been a bit down lately. What with the economic problems, bungled evacuations and all. But he needn't worry because I have some good news for him. Are you ready? Wait for it...

The Big Society has been found alive and well in Libya!


The sharper eyed amongst you might have noticed how Mr Cameron has spent most of the past year looking for the Big Society which, despite being a key Cameron policy, no one has been able to find. Part of the problem may have been the inability of Mr Cameron to give a clear description of the missing Big Society.



The lack of a clear description has hindered search parties as they tried to find the Big Society. For example, John Harris went to Stourbridge to see if the Big Society could be found there but he didn't have much luck.

But at last the search is over. The Independent's Catrina Stewart has been to Tobruk and I think (although she doesn't realise it) that she's found where the Big Society has been hiding. Here's a bit of the article which leading experts (e.g. me) have described as "exactly matching the Big Society's description":
Protesters have formed civilian committees tasked with restoring some normality to Tobruk. More than 20 groups are charged with securing key installations, distributing food, collecting looted weapons, helping businesses reopen and much more.
... 
Other committees are working with émigrés in neighbouring Egypt to bring in medical and food supplies, while banks reopened for the first time yesterday since the protests began. Radio Free Libya, a local station, has appealed to protesters to return the weapons seized from the police during the clashes last week. About 90 per cent of the weapons – mostly rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles – have been returned, Abubakir Hussein Zaki, a prominent dissident, said. These are now being redistributed to security guards and the military in preparation for defending against a new crackdown.

So, there we have it. The Big Society in action. Maybe after we've finished rescuing the Britons and oil trapped in Libya we could see about persuading the Big Society to come back to Britain. I'm sure Mr Cameron will be most pleased. Though he might be disturbed that it now looks a bit like this:


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Alternative Vote: Update

Here's a few awesome links from the Yes campaign to celebrate my first work in the Guildford phonebank yesterday:

First up there's the wonderful ARGHtoAV-o-matic which comes up with adverts for the No campaign. My personal favourite is:

There's also a brand new A to Z of rubbish arguments from the No campaign...

And there's also this:

And finally a diagram about the "miserable little compromise" quote which has been doing the rounds:
And since when did people believe anything Clegg said anyway?

P.S. In case anyone thinks this is negative campaigning, this is what negative campaigning really looks like:

Monday, 21 February 2011

I'm proud to be a Lib Dem

This is a piece I've written for the Stag which should be published shortly.

I’m proud because the Liberal Democrats are in government doing things which no other party would have done. We’ve got 64% of our manifesto implemented which means things like taking a million of the lowest paid out of tax altogether by increasing the tax threshold to £10,000 and creating a new Green Investment Bank to help create new jobs and new industry. Things like the pupil premium, which means £430 extra funding for the poorest pupils in the country- funding which will help them get the teaching they need at the most critical stage of their lives.

Or there’s the huge advance for gay rights where they will finally be allowed to get married and a possible end to the archaic prejudice which means that gay men aren’t allowed to give blood.

We’ve also stopped innocent children from being locked up in detention centres where they were traumatised and suffered physical abuse. Thanks to the Lib Dems, child detention has been abolished.

There’s the biggest reform of the political system in 80 years, the scrapping of New Labour’s attacks on civil liberties and much more. None of these would have happened without us in government.

You may be angry about tuition fees - I’m angry myself. I think the wrong decision was made and most of us in Guildford do too. But fees aren’t just what we’re about. Despite the negative media coverage, we are changing Britain for the good. That’s what we are about and that’s why you should support us and be proud to do so.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

This is what the No campaign call a debate

This is crossposted from the Yes to Fairer Votes website:

This is what the NO campaign call a debate
At 5.30pm on the 16th February I received a call from the No Campaign stating that “seeing as I hadn’t provided a speaker for the AV debate taking place in Sheffield on the following day, could I please bring down some Yes literature?” This is the first notice I had received confirming that any debate would be taking place, and indeed the first time I had been offered the chance to have a speaker. I politely declined the offer.

Not only is that not enough time to find a debater to match the seasoned, professional likes of David Blunkett and Jane Kennedy, but I did not like nor agree with the terms of this “debate”.

The Yes campaign has repeatedly invited the No Campaign to open, honest and independent debates.

This “debate” was none of these things. Billed as “free, fair and impartial” the debate was organised by the No Campaign who had sole control over both its venue and tickets. Indeed, the process of applying for a seat actually involved communication with - and being vetted by - the No Campaign. Moreover, the debate was only advertised on the NO2AV website and in anti-AV literature (my Grandma read about it on a NO2AV leaflet). The local and regional Yes Campaign had not been invited and as Katie Ghose reported last week,

even the national Yes to Fairer Votes office had not received an invitation - and that includes the letter NO2AV now insist was sent in mid-January.

The next day, concerned that attendees of the “debate” would be misguided over what was essentially a No rally, I organised for a group of the Sheffield Yes Campaigners to have a presence outside the debate. The venue, although far from central, was easy to spot due to the NO2AV signs on its gates and the NO2AV clad volunteers waiting to greet anyone going in. Not really the markings of a “fair and impartial debate”.

On arrival, our local Sheffield volunteers were confronted by the central No campaigners who were relentless in their determination to get us inside and thus legitimise the debacle. Again, we politely declined their invitations.

As we informed the No team, we will not endorse this kind of No set-up. We will however welcome the opportunity to participate in an impartial debate held by a third party. In fact, we are happy to donate our time and money to ensure this happens.

I explained all this to Bernie Keavy from Hallam FM. Keavy had been asked to act as chair by the No campaign, a position he retracted once aware of the false pretences under which the debate had been advertised. Kennedy subsequently took up this position, leading the “debate” which has been described as having a “heavily stage-managed feel”.

The night as a whole has set a precedence for the NO2AV “debate” tour. We can expect a series of rallies organised, controlled and manipulated by those from the No Campaign. However, given that there were nearly as many people outside as there were inside the hall, and given that the majority of those entering the debate revealed they were already No supporters, this need not be a cause for concern. Instead, I propose we forget this No farce and focus on working positively with neutral third parties to host the serious debate on the referendum that our voters need and deserve.

Emily Wilkie is the Sheffield Yes! Coordinator.

Lib Dem gain and why it's good news for Guildford

On Thursday the Lib Dems in Shropshire gained a council seat from the tories. Despite a strong campaign by Labour who hadn't stood in the ward last time, Andrew Bannerman increased his share of the vote to 41.8% with a 5.7% swing.

This is good news for us, not just because of the gain in itself but because of what it tells us.

It tells us that we can still win seats against the tories despite Labour trying to sap away our support and that our vote remains solid where it counts. I don't know what this means for places where our main opponents are Labour but it is very promising for Guildford. Here our main opponents are also the tories and the result in Shropshire shows that, with work, we can gain votes against the tories without losing support. Labour intends to run a stronger campaign in the borough council elections in Guildford this year and the fact that our support held up against a Labour insurgency is a very good sign. If we can pull off the same here we can expect to get the four seats we need to end tory control of the council.

As for why this is, my guess is that people are unwilling to back a party which hasn't bothered to stand in the seat before against an established candidate and party that have been working there for a long time - Labour probably isn't helped by its record in government being still fresh in the memory. This enables us to keep our normal support with only minimal losses whilst being in coalition and a good campaign can win us support from what I might characterise as mild tories - people who vote conservative because they thought they were the more sensible choice and that the Lib Dems were too left wing but are themselves not core conservative supporters.

All this points to us doing well in Guildford and in other council seats up and down the country. We will probably face a challenge against Labour but it should be no mean feat to flip several tory council seats.

As the old party mantra goes, where we fight, we win. If we fight hard in Guildford we are capable of winning and we will win.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Why the BBC (and others) are wrong

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
I was watching The 10 O'Clock News Live tonight on channel 4. As part of it they had a supposed debate about AV. For the No campaign there was a former Tory minister and for the Yes campaign you had Sally Bercow. Bercow proceeded to butcher the arguments for AV and even went as far as to claim that no one was particularly enthusiastic about it. Well I, and thousands like me, would beg to differ. If we were apathetic then why did you have thousands of people on the streets demanding electoral reform as far back as the 8th of May last year?



Or why did we see thousands of people turn out again just a few days later?

Since last summer thousands of people have been campaigning for AV up and down the country - I happen to be one of them and in Surrey we've been going from strength to strength.

So, thoroughly disheartened I switched over to BBC 1 to watch This Week. Here we had Mr Andrew Neill baldly state that both the campaigns had only just had lacklustre launches this week and that no one really cared about it. This is wrong as, though the No campaign has indeed only just launched (and launched with spectacular lies about the cost of AV), the Yes campaign has, by contrast, been up and running since the summer. I know this since a) I joined a local campaign group just after May, b) because my girlfriend spent the summer holidays campaigning with the North London group and c) because I've been campaigning since September and distinctly recall our official launch being the 25th of November when we held lots of bonfire night related events.

In short, it pisses me off that the media continue to completely ignore the grassroots of both the No and Yes campaigns whilst making insulting statements about what we think - and let me tell you, I have yet to meet a single campaigner out of thousands who isn't enthusiastic about the referendum. Nor does it please me that they keep on getting morons from inside the Westminster bubble to talk about AV instead of official spokesmen for both the Yes and No campaigns.

I get the distinct impression that the media are trying to talk down the importance of this referendum and to completely ignore the real arguments over AV. Well, let me tell you something, it's not going to work. Even if I have to pour a bucket of purple paint over Mr Neill to do it, we will make sure that they take notice of us and let people judge the evidence for themselves.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

We've got our referendum!

Last night the bill to enable the AV referendum to take place on the 5th of May was passed and given Royal Assent. What is now the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act provides for the referendum to take place on the 5th of May without a minimum turnout requirement. Furthermore, the result of the referendum will be binding. If we win the referendum AV is automatically implemented, no more delays, no more arguments, no more filibusters.

This morning some Yes campaigners celebrated the legislation passing - by turning Trafalgar Square purple:

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Legacy of Yes to Fairer Votes

As you may know, the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign, who are trying persuade people to vote 'Yes' in the AV referendum on the 5th of May. They're doing well at the moment, with a recent poll giving the Yes campaign a 10 point lead and I fully expect us to win the referendum provided we keep up the good work.

However, even if we lose I still think this campaign will have achieved something. In Surrey about 20 people (including myself) formed a local Take Back Parliament group (TBP is the campaign which organised, amongst other things, two massive protests in London during and after the coalition negotiations.) When the AV referendum was announced TBP joined the Yes to Fairer Votes coalition. As a result, we now have a thriving local group who meet at least once a month (our next meeting will be held this thursday at the uni). We call ourselves Surrey Fairer Votes and have already held two successful street stalls with the hope to achieve much more between now and the referendum.

We all know each other pretty well now and there are new faces at each meeting and, furthermore, the central campaign has helped us set up a phonebank in Guildford which should really help us step up our game.

But my point is that we're not alone in this. My girlfriend, for example, was involved in the North London campaign over the summer and is still friends with her fellow campaigners despite having now moved to work on the campaign in Lincoln where she's now at university. Up and down the country the referendum has motivated thousands of people who care about fairer votes to form grassroots organisations which are being tied together through the national campaign. We're not politicians (well, I am, sort-of, but I'm one of the rare exceptions to the rule), we're ordinary people who care about democracy and who want to change the broken system that we have at the moment. And because of the campaign we're getting to know each other and form contacts. After the referendum, even if we lose, those networks won't just wither up and die. They're established now - a powerful grassroots organisation has been created throughout the entire country and it will keep fighting, win or lose.

I have no doubt that this organisation, self-led and democratic in nature, will continue to grow after the referendum. No matter what it ends up calling itself, it will endure and I have no doubt it will prove a potent political force in the future, campaigning for voting reform and a better democracy. Opponents of change beware - if we lose the first battle we will keep on fighting, and if we win it will spur us on to even greater triumphs. Your days are numbered.

Holy crap, I'm a politician

Well, it's official. I'm now one of those slimy political bastards you'd do well to avoid - whatever you do, don't trust a word I say. And that includes that last statement. And that one as well. And that, and this, and oh bother I've confused myself.

Right, let's start again. Last night I went to the Guildford Lib Dems' constituency office for an interview. As a result, I have been approved as a council candidate. The election is in May and in the meantime I get to act all pompous and spend my spare time campaigning in our target seats. Much yayness.

There is of course an ever so slight chance I might not win a seat this time round as there are only so many winnable seats and obviously those who've been working in those communities longer and who have more time to dedicate should take preference for the party's resources. However, there is no reason why I shouldn't win and my goal is to a) scare the life out of the tories wherever I end up standing and b) turn an unwinnable seat into a solid Lib Dem seat for the next council election. Above all, I'll be helping to make sure that everyone in Guildford has the opportunity to vote for a Lib Dem candidate. The reason this is so important is because the Lib Dems are the only party capable of taking control of the council from the tories. The tories have 27 seats and we have 21 so we only need to gain four seats in order to get rid of them.

You might ask why I'm so against the tories running the council. The reason is simple, they're useless. For example, last year they closed the Age Concern Riverside Centre for the elderly when they're still spending money on the council newspaper About Guildford which essentially acts as a propaganda device for whoever runs the council. If About Guildford were scrapped the money saved could be used to reopen the Riverside centre and bring back a service which many elderly people relied on. As it happens, the Lib Dems on the council proposed this along with other ways to protect frontline services but the tories ignored them. As a result people in Guildford are suffering when the council could very easily remedy the situation. That's why I think the tories are unfit to run the council and why I intend to do everything I can to oppose them.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

On Egypt

Despite the media and western governments turning their attention away, the protests in Egypt haven't gone. They're strengthening if anything. As the Independent reports, the protesters have left Tahrir Square and spread out to occupy the surrounding streets as well. They're also occupying the street outside the People's Assembly building. Meanwhile, workers across Egypt have begun to heed the protesters' calls for a strike. The spirit of democracy is live and kicking in Egypt.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the US and Europe where governments, always hesitant in the first place when it came to the protests, have now moved to a position of supporting Mubarak continuing in power until his term expires - in short, giving the regime plenty of time to dig in and frustrate any meaningful attempts at reform.

But why is this? Why is it that those who were so supportive of the revolutions against communism in eastern Europe in the 80s are now so lukewarm in support of secular, pro-democracy protests in Egypt? Why are western governments content to ignore reports of police using live ammunition against protesters in the New Valley area of Egypt?

Unfortunately, the answer is a cultural prejudice against the muslim world. There remains in most quarters a deep set belief that the Middle East isn't ready for democracy, that muslims will only vote for extremist organisations such as Hamas and that the best thing for the west is that right wing dictators remain in power to keep the perceived threat of Al Qaeda at bay. Come on, admit it. Deep down, you write off the Middle East as a backward place or at least did hold that attitude until recently. I know that I did. And being the moron that I am, I didn't even think to question it. Didn't even think to question the assumption that we were supporting the good guys against Islamist extremists who would otherwise sweep into power and repress women. Well, I, and the west, is wrong.

The majority of the population in the Middle East is under 30. The young people leading these protests don't want theocratic states, they don't want to exchange a secular dictatorship for a religious one. They don't want to oppress women, or homosexuals, they just want to be able to run their own countries without external interference. They just want the right to say what they like without being imprisoned and tortured. They just want to have economies where the wealth isn't hoarded by the elite while the poor starve. In short, all they want, is to live lives not that dissimilar from ours.

Already organisations like Fox News are claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the protests in Egypt, and that the departure of Mubarak would let them create an Islamic state. This is nonsense. The Muslim Brotherhood is by far the most moderate Islamic political party in the Middle East and are committed (publicly at least) to a democratic state. People in this country tend to make the assumption that Islam and democracy are incompatible when in fact a basic tenet of the original Islamic Caliphate was that the Caliph only held power with the consent of the Shura or the community/will of the people - in short, exactly what the same basic premise of democracy is. This myth we peddle to ourselves is wrong and we should confront this prejudice head on. The people of Egypt have the right to self-determination. We demand it for ourselves so who are we to try and deny it to them?

The irony, of course, of the entire western diplomatic view of the Middle East is that it is counter-productive. The US and Israel, for example, fear a democratic Egypt in case the people vote for an anti-Israeli government. But this is short sighted. Besides the basic fact that the Egyptians are perfectly entitled to pick whichever government they want, there is also one fundamental lesson that history teaches us: democracies do not make war on one another. They may disagree and have disputes with each other but they do not go to war.

In contrast, whenever we have backed "safe" and "friendly" dictators, it has always back-fired on us. Look at Iraq prior to the First Gulf War when the US supported it in its attempts to eradicate the Iranian government. Look at the Shah of Persia who had an army better equipped with British made tanks than the British army itself.

In each case, the dictators we initially supported alienated their own people and either turned against us (as Saddam did) or were overthrown by a people who were hostile to us precisely because of our support for the dictator (such as in Iran).

We should stop being so hypocritical and support democracy. If we'd done that in the first place we probably wouldn't have to worry about Islamic extremism and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East now.

The Egyptian people deserve our support so we should stop pussy-footing about and give it to them.

New Labour's assaults on civil liberties are on the bonfire of history

The aborted foetus of the National Identity Register, which would have been the heart of ID cards and the database state, is quite literally to be incinerated. The hard drives and back up tapes containing the data of the initial applicants to the ID card scheme will be shredded and then incinerated. This will be followed with long overdue moves to remove innocent people from DNA databases and other measures to restore civil liberties.

It's about bloody time. Civil liberties is one of the issues which I, as a lefty, can never and will never forgive New Labour for. It's not that they were deliberately malicious, it's that they simply didn't care about liberty or understand it's importance and sacrificed it on the alter of political expediency. Still, that era is over now, and I can go about my life without having to worry quite so much about what kind of inaccurate data about me might be stored on which government databases.

Also, as a lefty, I sincerely hope that the Labour party will support these reforms (that odd little word which is causing the beeb so many problems at the moment) and accept that they made mistakes in the past. Not only would this bring them political dividends and help bring former members back into the fold (though I, for one, am  never going to touch them with a barge pole), it would also be right. We do not need a society where the government spies on its citizens and deprives them of their rights and privacies at the drop of a hat for that is the first step on the road to a police state. What we need is a society where all the mainstream parties accept the importance of our ancient freedoms and liberties which date back to Anglo-Saxon times. So here's to the Coalition for getting something unequivocally right for a change and here's to the hope that Labour will show some sense for a change and support them.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

So-called AV Myths

A little bird has directed me towards a new page on the NO2AV campaign's website. It's called Busting the Myths of AV - an amusing title given that the Yes campaign has done nothing but tell the truth so far while the No campaign has done little other than spread lies and misinformation. So, I've decided to post a list of all their Mythbusters and then explain why each one of them is false.

MYTH - MPs would need to secure at least 50% of the vote under AV
THEIR REALITY - The AV system being offered in May makes the ordering of preferences optional. Most voters would not work their way through ballot papers, exhausting every preference. Therefore a large number of MPs would win with less than 50% of the vote. Research has shown that ‘more than 4 out of every 10 MPs would still be elected with the endorsement of less than 50% of the voters’ (Rallings and Thrasher).

ACTUAL REALITY -  First of all, AV means that MPs would need to secure the support of at least 50% of the voters. Secondly, yes, voters do not have to use all their preferences - this is a good thing as it doesn't force people to give any support at all to any parties they dislike. If a voter has no preferences left by the final round of counting (an unlikely occurrence as the counting would be unlikely to last longer than two or three rounds) then the voter has effectively abstained from the final round. Just as we don't count people who don't vote in FPTP elections when working out percentages, nor do we count people who didn't vote in the final round when working out whether a candidate got over 50% of the vote.


MYTH - AV would tackle jobs for life
THEIR REALITY - AV would make no difference in nearly 300 safe seats where the sitting MP has 50% of the vote, or is close to it. And AV will actually create new safe seats where some voters’ second preferences consistently protect one candidate (e.g., third place Conservative voters supporting a Lib Dem). So-called safe seats aren’t necessarily that safe anyway. Michael Portillo famously lost his seat despite holding 58% of the vote in Enfield Southgate, and Lembit Opik was booted out of Montgomeryshire in May, despite holding 52% of the vote.

ACTUAL REALITY - So according to them, that would mean over half the country would no longer have safe seats. But aside from that there are two key points they don't seem to grasp. The first is that if an MP enjoys the majority support of their constituencies then of course they'll retain their seat - AV just makes it easier for people to vote for the party they want (strengthening them over the course of one or two elections) without dividing what is frequently the anti-incumbent vote. Secondly, they appear to contradict themselves here. If "so-called" safe seats aren't that safe then surely that cancels our their first point? And aside from that, when we talk about safe seats, we mean seats that haven't changed hands since the Second World War - and those are precisely the kinds of places where it will force MPs to actually earn the support of the voters. Though ultimately, we're not claiming that AV will abolish safe seats completely. What we are claiming though (and this is an accurate claim) is that it will make MPs work harder for your vote and reduce the number of MPs with jobs for life.


MYTH - AV would end elections being decided by a handful of swing seats
THEIR REALITY - Elections will always focus on the most competitive seats – political parties will always put their resources into the seats they are most likely to win – and as we have already explained, AV wouldn’t get rid of safe seats.

ACTUAL REALITY - Hang on, didn't they just say that over half of seats would no longer be safe under AV? There's an obvious fail in logic here as 300+ seats deciding the outcome of the election is still far better than the current one. So, in reality, this claim is in fact one made by the Yes campaign - and the No campaign has very kindly just reinforced it for us. 300+ seats deciding the outcome of the election vs. just a handful? I think I know which one I'd pick.

MYTH - AV will end wasted votes
REALITY – There will always be winners and losers in any contest. Even in a seat won with 51% of the vote, can we really describe the other 49% of ballots wasted? Moreover, AV will increase the real ‘wasted’ votes: spoiled ballots. In Australia, where they use the alternative vote, five times more ballots are spoiled and thrown away than the UK.

ACTUAL REALITY - Here they're deliberately misunderstanding what we mean by "wasted votes". When we say wasted votes, we are referring to the situation where if you vote for a minor party, instead of for a main one which you may dislike, your vote has no chance of making a difference. So under the current system (in Guildford for example) you can either vote Lib Dem or Conservative, and be able to influence who wins, or vote for say UKIP or Labour and watch your vote potentially let in a candidate you utterly despise. Under AV you'd be able to vote for the party you really support as well as being able to vote tactically to try and keep the candidate you dislike the most out. You will also note how the No campaign references Australia but - in case the kangaroos and funny hats don't give it away - Australia isn't the UK. In Australia you are forced to vote (something, by the way, which the No campaign were previously implying would happen in the UK under AV) and are forced to use all your preferences. Under those circumstances, is it really surprising that more people choose to show their discontent by spoiling their ballots?


MYTH - AV would eliminate the need for tactical voting
THEIR REALITY – AV wouldn’t eliminate tactical voting, it would reinvent it. Under AV, the challenge comes in working out the order in which candidates are eliminated, and ordering your preferences accordingly. For example, in a three way seat where both Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in danger of coming last, a Conservative might be tempted to give their first preference to Labour, for fear a Labour elimination would mean a hefty vote transfer to the Lib Dems. As Dr. Roger Mortimore from Ipsos MORI puts it, “under AV there is a real incentive for tactical voting.”

ACTUAL REALITY - I don't think we've ever made this claim though we might well have claimed that it eliminated the need for forced tactical voting. Under AV you no longer need to vote red to keep the blues out, or vote blue to keep the yellows out. The example they use is flawed as it assumes that people will cast their second preferences in a certain way when in reality, the introduction of AV in other countries has always been followed by a change in voting patterns. However, a voter could indeed attempt to try and second-guess how others will vote (just like under the current system) but this doesn't mean that that guess will be right. Essentially, here we have a claim that we've never made along with an inaccurate counter-argument.


MYTH - AV is a proportional electoral system
THEIR REALITY - AV is not a proportional system. In three out of the past four British elections AV would have produced more disproportionate results than First Past the Post. And in landslide elections, AV would have dramatically exaggerated the winners’ majority. For example, in 1997, Tony Blair would have had a majority of 245 MPs under AV, despite only getting 43% of the vote.

ACTUAL REALITY - No shit Sherlock. Of course AV isn't a proportional system - nobody has ever claimed it is. However, it can produce more proportional outcomes than our current system and, as for the fallacious claim above that it would produce wildly more disproportionate results, they are just guessing at random as to how people would have voted under AV. This is just nonsense. You can not in anyway make accurate predictions about AV using first past the post results. The systems are completely different and any such predictions will be wildly flawed. However, just so I'm not left out, here's my crazy prediction about AV - under AV Margaret Thatcher would have lost the 1983 election and thus Tony Blair would never have become leader of the Labour party in the first place. Is that claim inaccurate and based purely on speculation? Yes. Is it any different from the claim made by the No campaign? No.



MYTH - AV would end negative campaigning
THEIR REALITY – You only have to look at Australian politics to know this isn’t true. Here’s the verdict of the commentator, Tim Colebatch, on last year’s election in Australia: “A negative campaign, where the leaders stood for less than ever before, and insulted voters’ intelligence more than ever before. Both sides asked us to vote against their opponent, rather than giving us reasons to vote for them.”

ACTUAL REALITY - Again with the Australia references. But yes, you do get negative campaigning under a two party system - which is precisely what compulsory ranking of all candidates produces. This is why it's a good thing that our version of AV won't have compulsory ranking of all candidates. Perhaps we should let the No campaign go away and try again?


MYTH - AV would increase voter turnout
REALITY – In Australia, turnout fell dramatically after the Alternative Vote was introduced. They ended up making voting compulsory. There are also more than five times as many spoilt ballot papers in Australia than in the UK.

ACTUAL REALITY - I'm surprised they're wheeling this argument out again as it's already been comprehensively debunked. As Osmond Chiu says "Preferential voting was introduced in Australia at a federal level by a conservative government in 1918. In 1919, the first general election where preferential voting was used, turnout was 71%. The federal introduction of compulsory voting in 1924 only occurred after the 1922 federal election where turnout declined to 59%. If there was a clear link, turnout would have significantly declined in 1919. Beckett's conclusion that AV leads to a decline in voter turnout draws a long bow from no clear evidence." It's also lazy of them to use the "five times as many spoiled ballots" claim twice and I've already debunked it above.


MYTH - AV would help smaller parties
THEIR REALITY – Hardly. Not a single constituency has been identified as likely to fall to a small party under AV. One study in Wales suggests Plaid Cymru could even be wiped out, losing all 3 of its current seats. As Professor K.D. Ewing and Dr. Graeme Orr found, “a small party is unlikely to win any seats under AV.”

ACTUAL REALITY - AV doesn't immediately help smaller parties, but what it does do is encourage more people to give them their first preferences and then at the next election more people will be likely to consider voting for them instead of viewing them as a no hoper. This would let them get more votes, which would let them get more votes, etc. This, of course, assumes that they actually have widespread appeal beyond a very small segment of the electorate. If you want one example, look at parties like UKIP and the Greens. They get large numbers of votes in european elections but far less in national ones. This is because voters aren't stupid. They'll vote for a party if they think their vote will count - this is why the current system excludes minor parties by making it near impossible for them to get seats whilst AV will include them. As for the claim about Plaid, it's BS. I read the study and it can only produce that outcome by relying on some unfounded assumptions.


MYTH - AV shuts the door on extremists such as the BNP
THEIR REALITY – No extremist party (including the BNP, National Front and BUF) has ever won a seat under the current system. While AV would not make it easier for extremist parties to win seats, they would gain more influence – BNP second preferences alone could swing at least 35 seats. Fringe parties could expect their first preference vote to be higher than it is now, giving them more support and legitimacy. And mainstream politicians would pander to the extremists to try and win their second preferences.

ACTUAL REALITY - Maybe I'm being stupid here, but I thought the point of democracy was to let people have their say? Much as I despise them, people who support the BNP have as much right to have their say as I do. If, god forbid, the majority of the people ever support them then they would be entitled to be in government (though if that happens don't expect me to stay in the country). However, the BNP are more likely to get elected under FPTP because if the anti-BNP vote is split it would feasibly be possible for them to win on a mere 25% of the vote whereas under AV that would be far less likely with the rest of the voters ranking the BNP last and stopping them from getting in.

Incidentally, the No campaign's admission that fringe parties could expect their first preferences to be higher just goes to show that their previous complaint that AV didn't help smaller parties is nonsense. Also, mainstream politicians still pander to the BNP  under FPTP (Phil Woolas anyone?) but I imagine that the vast majority of politicians will have the decency to keep their hands clean from such filth no matter what system we use.


MYTH - MPs would need to secure at least 50% of the vote under AV
THEIR REALITY - The AV system being offered in May makes the ordering of preferences optional. Most voters would not work their way through ballot papers, exhausting every preference. Therefore a large number of MPs would win with less than 50% of the vote. Research has shown that ‘more than 4 out of every 10 MPs would still be elected with the endorsement of less than 50% of the voters’ (Rallings and Thrasher).

ACTUAL REALITY -  First of all, AV means that MPs would need to secure the support of at least 50% of their supporters. Secondly, yes, voters do not have to use all their preferences - this is a good thing as it doesn't force people to give any support at all to any parties they dislike. Furthermore, this does not matter as it would be very rare for a count to go to more than four rounds - therefore the fifth preferences probably wouldn't need to be taken into account. Or, if you're voting for a main party which is likely to win on first preferences alone, then you might decided not to use your second preference as it is unlikely to make a difference. Essentially, their argument doesn't stand up at all.


MYTH - AV would tackle jobs for life
THEIR REALITY - AV would make no difference in nearly 300 safe seats where the sitting MP has 50% of the vote, or is close to it. And AV will actually create new safe seats where some voters’ second preferences consistently protect one candidate (e.g., third place Conservative voters supporting a Lib Dem). So-called safe seats aren’t necessarily that safe anyway. Michael Portillo famously lost his seat despite holding 58% of the vote in Enfield Southgate, and Lembit Opik was booted out of Montgomeryshire in May, despite holding 52% of the vote.

ACTUAL REALITY - So according to them, that would mean over half the country would no longer have safe seats. I'd call that "tackling jobs for life". But aside from that there are two key points they don't seem to grasp. The first is that if an MP enjoys the majority support of their constituencies then of course they'll retain their seat - AV just makes it easier for people to vote for the party they want (strengthening them over the course of one or two elections) without dividing what is frequently the anti-incumbent vote. Secondly, they appear to contradict themselves here. If "so-called" safe seats aren't that safe then surely that cancels our their first point? And aside from that, when we talk about safe seats, we mean seats that haven't changed hands since the Second World War - and those are precisely the kinds of places where it will force MPs to actually earn the support of the voters. Though ultimately, we're not claiming that AV will abolish safe seats completely. What we are claiming though (and this is an accurate claim) is that it will make MPs work harder for your vote.


MYTH - AV would end elections being decided by a handful of swing seats
THEIR REALITY - Elections will always focus on the most competitive seats – political parties will always put their resources into the seats they are most likely to win – and as we have already explained, AV wouldn’t get rid of safe seats.

ACTUAL REALITY - Hang on, didn't they just say that over half of seats would no longer be safe under AV? There's an obvious fail in logic here as 300+ seats deciding the outcome of the election is still far better than the current one. So, in reality, this claim is in fact one made by the Yes campaign - and the No campaign has very kindly just reinforced it for us. 300+ seats deciding the outcome of the election vs. just a handful? I think I know which one I'd pick.


MYTH - AV will end wasted votes
REALITY – There will always be winners and losers in any contest. Even in a seat won with 51% of the vote, can we really describe the other 49% of ballots wasted? Moreover, AV will increase the real ‘wasted’ votes: spoiled ballots. In Australia, where they use the alternative vote, five times more ballots are spoiled and thrown away than the UK.

ACTUAL REALITY - Here they're deliberately misunderstanding what we mean by "wasted votes". When we say wasted votes, we are referring to the situation where if you vote for a minor party, instead of for a main one which you may dislike, your vote has no chance of making a difference. So under the current system (in Guildford for example) you can either vote Lib Dem or Conservative, and be able to influence who wins, or vote for say UKIP or Labour and watch your vote potentially let in a candidate you utterly despise. Under AV you'd be able to vote for the party you really support as well as being able to vote tactically to try and keep the candidate you dislike the most out. You will also note how the No campaign references Australia but - in case the kangaroos and funny hats don't give it away - Australia isn't the UK. In Australia you are forced to vote (something, by the way, which the No campaign were previously implying would happen in the UK under AV) and are forced to use all your preferences. Under those circumstances, is it really surprising that more people choose to show their discontent by spoiling their ballots?


MYTH - AV would eliminate the need for tactical voting
THEIR REALITY – AV wouldn’t eliminate tactical voting, it would reinvent it. Under AV, the challenge comes in working out the order in which candidates are eliminated, and ordering your preferences accordingly. For example, in a three way seat where both Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in danger of coming last, a Conservative might be tempted to give their first preference to Labour, for fear a Labour elimination would mean a hefty vote transfer to the Lib Dems. As Dr. Roger Mortimore from Ipsos MORI puts it, “under AV there is a real incentive for tactical voting.”

ACTUAL REALITY - I don't think we've ever made this claim though we might well have claimed that it eliminated the need for forced tactical voting. Under AV you no longer need to vote red to keep the blues out, or vote blue to keep the yellows out. The example they use is flawed as it assumes that people will cast their second preferences in a certain way when in reality, the introduction of AV in other countries has always been followed by a change in voting patterns. However, a voter could indeed attempt to try and second-guess how others will vote (just like under the current system) but this doesn't mean that that guess will be right. Essentially, here we have a claim that we've never made along with an inaccurate counter-argument.


MYTH - AV is a proportional electoral systemTHEIR REALITY - AV is not a proportional system. In three out of the past four British elections AV would have produced more disproportionate results than First Past the Post. And in landslide elections, AV would have dramatically exaggerated the winners’ majority. For example, in 1997, Tony Blair would have had a majority of 245 MPs under AV, despite only getting 43% of the vote.

ACTUAL REALITY - No shit Sherlock. Of course AV isn't a proportional system - nobody has ever claimed it is. However, it can produce more proportional outcomes than our current system and, as for the fallacious claim above that it would produce wildly more disproportionate results, they are just guessing at random as to how people would have voted under AV. This is just nonsense. You can not in anyway make accurate predictions about AV using first past the post results. The systems are completely different and any such predictions will be wildly flawed. However, just so I'm not left out, here's my crazy prediction about AV - under AV Margaret Thatcher would have lost the 1982 election and thus Tony Blair would never have become leader of the Labour party in the first place. Is that claim inaccurate and based purely on speculation? Yes. Is it any different from the claim made by the No campaign? No.


MYTH - AV would end negative campaigning
THEIR REALITY – You only have to look at Australian politics to know this isn’t true. Here’s the verdict of the commentator, Tim Colebatch, on last year’s election in Australia: “A negative campaign, where the leaders stood for less than ever before, and insulted voters’ intelligence more than ever before. Both sides asked us to vote against their opponent, rather than giving us reasons to vote for them.”

ACTUAL REALITY - Again with the Australia references. But yes, you do get negative campaigning under a two party system - which is precisely what compulsory ranking of all candidates produces. This is why it's a good thing that our version of AV won't have compulsory ranking of all candidates. Perhaps we should let the No campaign go away and try again?


MYTH - AV would increase voter turnout
REALITY – In Australia, turnout fell dramatically after the Alternative Vote was introduced. They ended up making voting compulsory. There are also more than five times as many spoilt ballot papers in Australia than in the UK.

ACTUAL REALITY - I'm surprised they're wheeling this argument out again as it's already been comprehensively debunked. As Osmond Chiu says "Preferential voting was introduced in Australia at a federal level by a conservative government in 1918. In 1919, the first general election where preferential voting was used, turnout was 71%. The federal introduction of compulsory voting in 1924 only occurred after the 1922 federal election where turnout declined to 59%. If there was a clear link, turnout would have significantly declined in 1919. Beckett's conclusion that AV leads to a decline in voter turnout draws a long bow from no clear evidence." It's also lazy of them to use the "five times as many spoiled ballots" claim twice and I've already debunked it above.


MYTH - AV would help smaller parties
THEIR REALITY – Hardly. Not a single constituency has been identified as likely to fall to a small party under AV. One study in Wales suggests Plaid Cymru could even be wiped out, losing all 3 of its current seats. As Professor K.D. Ewing and Dr. Graeme Orr found, “a small party is unlikely to win any seats under AV.”

ACTUAL REALITY - AV doesn't immediately help smaller parties, but what it does do is encourage more people to give them their first preferences and then at the next election more people will be likely to consider voting for them instead of viewing them as a no hoper. This would let them get more votes, which would let them get more votes, etc. This, of course, assumes that they actually have widespread appeal beyond a very small segment of the electorate. If you want one example, look at parties like UKIP and the Greens. They get large numbers of votes in european elections but far less in national ones. This is because voters aren't stupid. They'll vote for a party if they think their vote will count - this is why the current system excludes minor parties by making it near impossible for them to get seats whilst AV will include them. As for the claim about Plaid, it's BS. I read the study and it can only produce that outcome by relying on some unfounded assumptions.


MYTH - FPTP gave us the expenses scandal
THEIR REALITY – The expenses scandal had nothing to do with the electoral system and everything to do with a lack of openness. MPs were able to get away with it because their claims were kept secret. Policy Exchange found that “MPs’ expenses over-claims were statistically linked to length of service but not to the safeness of an MP’s constituency, as is often supposed.”

ACTUAL REALITY - Here they are attacking yet another argument that we've never really made. However, it's pretty obvious that if an MP is in a safe seat, and know they will win it come what may, they're going to be far more likely to stick their snouts in the trough than an MP who has to fight hard just to hang on to their seat.


MYTH - No country has adopted FPTP since 1945
THEIR REALITY – First-past-the-post is used by 2.4 billion people in 50 countries around the world. Only Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia use AV to elect their MPs. And six out of ten Australians want to go back to FPTP, while Papua New Guinea has only held one AV election and Fiji has made plans to scrap AV.

ACTUAL REALITY - We do use this argument and it's accurate. All the countries that use FPTP only do so as a result of historical pressure (such as the UK). Every single new democracy since 1945 has rejected AV. Three of them did start off with FPTP but quickly changed it for better systems. Only three countries use AV in national elections though plenty (such as the USA and the UK) use it for non national elections and most of the countries that don't use AV or FPTP use something far more proportional. The majority of Yes campaigners would prefer something more proportional than AV but we support it because it's still tons better than FPTP. And when it comes to Australia, it's not surprising that they want to escape compulsory preference AV (I'd want to escape it as well) but that's not an accurate comparison with the AV system we'd be using. As for Fiji, the reason they want to scrap it is because they've got a military junta which didn't like elections giving them results they didn't like - I'm not sure how that's an argument against AV but clearly it must be if the No campaign are using it.


MYTH - Party leaders are elected by their members using AV
THEIR REALITY – The Conservative leader is elected by members who choose between two candidates as presented to them by MPs. Labour uses an electoral college to choose its leader. Members can express an order of preference but are in a minority within the college, making up only 33%.

Electing a Government is a very different business. The benefit of our current system is that it gives the people power to choose their Prime Minister and Government, and kick them out if they don’t do a good job. Under AV they would surrender that power to the politicians.

ACTUAL REALITY - Labour uses AV to elect its leader, it's just who's allowed to vote that's fucked up. The Conservatives don't use AV per se but they use a system that functions in pretty much the same way. Now we also see the No campaign wheel out the argument that FPTP gives us strong government and lets us kick them out if they don't do a good job. That is a lie.

First of all, we don't elect a Prime Minister, his party chooses him - this would be no different under AV. Secondly, under AV people would be far more likely to a get a government which actually represented them. Thirdly, only three times in the past half century have voters been able to kick out the government e.g. replacing a government with a majority from one party  with a government with a majority from another party. The problem with FPTP is that it allows parties to win 100% of the power with a very small share of the vote. Labour retained a huge majority in 2005 despite only getting 34% of the vote.

Quite simply, FPTP is broken. It only ever works at all in a two party system and we are no longer in a two party system. AV is not the best solution but FPTP is the worst of both worlds. Under AV people will have more say in who runs the country and that can only be a good thing. It is not surprising, therefore, that the No campaign is run by washed up former politicians and millionaire donors who are terrified of losing their power.

I urge you to check out the Yes campaign for more information on why you should support it.

Monday, 7 February 2011

CUBE DX-9

Charlie Brooker has an absolutely brilliant article on the Guardian's Comment is Free. You should go and read the whole thing but here's a highlight to tantalise you:

Here's an idea: get Ed to seal himself inside a featureless metal cube and insist on conducting all political business from within it. And vow never to be seen in public outside the box. No nerdy face for us to judge, no wet mannerisms to chortle at. Nothing to get a glib critical foothold on. Just cold, blank steel. Ditch the name Ed Miliband and insist on being referred to as "CUBE DX-9" instead.

CUBE DX-9 wouldn't speak, either. It would communicate exclusively via typewritten messages, each about the length of a fortune cookie prediction, which would come whirring out of a tiny slot on its front. Crucially, these would be brief, gnomic proclamations about sensitive issues that would a) be open to interpretation and b) provoke intense debate. And once any debate had started, CUBE DX-9 would refuse to be drawn into it. CUBE DX-9 never clarifies its position. It simply issues a contentious statement, maintains an enigmatic silence, and trundles away, leaving argument in its wake. Did I mention CUBE DX-9 has wheels? Well it does. It also has an ear-splitting siren that goes off whenever someone tries to touch it.

Guido Fawkes really is a f***ing prick

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Paul Staines, who blogs as Guido Fawkes, really is a cunt. Sorry for the strong language but he really is such a twat that I think it's justified. The reason that I say this is because, in addition to the raving right wing nutters who hang out in the comments and such delightful behaviour as the spreading of false rumours about William Hague that resulted in his aide being forced to resign, today he saw fit to post on his blog the following, charming picture:

Now, I'm not one of these humourless morons who sneers at political cartoonists, or even one of those who refuses point blank to laugh at black humour. But this failed attempt at a political cartoon is not witty, is not funny and is not clever. Yes, clearly the humongous figure is meant to be Alex Salmond, and I assume "Get tae fuck" is some sort of attempt to poke fun at his Scottish accent and possibly his manner. But really, attempting to make a joke out of a terrible tragedy that devastated the lives of hundreds of people is pretty piss-poor. And what's worse is that the "joke" isn't even funny in the slightest. This is nothing more than a humourless hack trying to substitute shock value for humour and it is the height of bad taste and insensitivity for Mr Staines to post it on his blog, especially given that he would quite happily tear into anyone who dared to make jokes about, say, pissing on Margaret Thatcher's grave. Not that pissing on her grave would be acceptable of course, but at least it is a somewhat amusing notion to lefties like me whereas bad jokes about mass murder aren't funny at all.

On top of that, Mr Staines is just generally a piece of shit which probably explains why his blog is so crap[*]. Don't worry though, I'm not going to ruin your day by describing in detail some of the other idiotic things he's put on his blog.

[*] - Disclaimer: I'm not saying that my blog is any better than his and he certainly has more followers than I do (there's no accounting for taste) but what I am saying is that it would be pretty hard to write something shittier than his. I mean, come on, I've seen Holocaust jokes from BNP members more sensitive than that "political" cartoon.

[UPDATE] Apparently, Guido did once run a cartoon of people dancing on Thatcher's grave. In that case, I apologise for misjudging him on that particular point. On everything else, my argument still stands.

Huzzah for the University Technical Colleges

One of the things I'm really excited about at the moment is the forthcoming introduction of University Technical Colleges. The aim is to have 20 of them up and running but 2012 with up to 40 eventually being established.

In brief, these are establishments for students aged 14-19 which will focus on more vocational style education with a heavy emphasis on science, engineering, technology and mathematics. They're to be sponsored by universities, FE colleges and local businesses in addition to state funding, which should help improve the educational system.

Anyone who wants to will be able to choose to go to one of the new UTCs which I think is a great idea. To put it simply, some people aren't quite as interested in the more academic side of things and want to learn in a hands-on, practical environment. As it happens, I'm one of them. I can and have done academic learning but I learn a lot better when I can see things put into practice and actually develop my skills through hands-on work rather than from text books. UTCs will provide a great alternative to those who don't want to go to grammar or secondary schools and instead want to focus on learning skills which interest them and which will be of direct value when they enter employment.

The concept of a technical college is an old one which has never been successfully implemented in the UK before but which is widespread in Europe. Germany, in particular, has a very strong technical education system which is one of the reasons for their success in engineering and the sciences.

If we want to have a balanced, high-tech economy, one which does not depend on the City and the parasitical wealth leached off of financial transfers then we need an education system which can provide technically skilled and adept individuals. As an engineering student I wish these UTCs had been around when I was at school and I envy the youngsters who will be lucky enough to attend them. I fully support this scheme and look upon it as something which the Coalition has got absolutely spot on. The UK and our economy will be all the stronger for the establishment of these UTCs and I think that everyone who cares about our position globally in the sciences and engineering can be very optimistic as a result.

A Vision for a New Britain: Part 2

Political Reform

It is my firm belief that nothing in this country can significantly change for the better without two key obstacles being removed. One of these is our political system.

Our political system is an obstacle due to the way that it fails to represents what the people actually want. Roughly 65% of the votes go to Labour and the Conservatives between them which translates into roughly 80% of the seats in the House of Commons. However, over 80% of constituencies haven't changed hands since the Second World War and only 6% of voters decide the outcome of the election - that is to say that the 6% of the electorate who make up the "swing" voters are the ones who decide which party wins a majority in the Commons.

The obvious problem with this is that it encourages the political parties to target those 6% at the expense of the rest of the electorate. This is why on almost every major issue the two main parties have very similar positions (once you strip away the spin, of course). For example, all the main parties officially agree that drugs are bad and we must make sure that they stay illegal and rigorously enforce laws criminalising drug taking and dealing (apart from when the drugs in question are tobacco and alcohol of course). But the problem with such a position is that about 40% of the public support legalisation either of some drugs or all drugs - you don't have to agree with that view yourself, but it does illustrate how the will of a substantial part of the electorate can be completely ignored without any negative repercussions for those ignoring them.

The other problem with our system is that it forces voters to confine their votes to the big three parties because of the perception that no other party can win. This of course makes it harder for minor parties to make their voices heard and thereby enforces the status quo.

The simple solution is to change the political system.

Now, there are two ways in which the success of a political system can be measured. The first is that it delivers strong government and the second is that it represents the will of the people. We currently use first past the post (FPTP) and the main argument people make in its favour is that it provides strong government. This, of course is nonsense as an inherent part of FPTP is that it only delivers firm government in two party environments. This was the case in Britain during the 1950s when the two main parties took 98% of the vote between them. Now, however, they get only 65% between them and the vagaries of FPTP means that they can still get a huge majority with only 34% of the vote (such as Labour in 2005) or that neither can get a majority, leaving us with a hung parliament (such as we have now).

Given that there is no system which could fulfil the first requirement in this country, we must look for a system to fulfil the second requirement. This inevitably means proportional representation or PR.

So, let me describe how I see our political system in the future.

The House of Lords has been abolished and been replaced by a Senate of around 300 members. Elections for the senate take place every four years but only a third of the senate is elected in any election i.e. a third of the senate is elected at one election, another third at the next election and the final third at the election after that. Each Senator is elected for a ten year term after which they are forbidden from standing again. This allows them to vote according to their consciences as they do not face having to gain party support in order to  run for re election. The constituencies for the senate are regional and use open-list PR - allowing voters to vote not for a party but for a candidate. The new senate performs the same role as the House of Lords which it replaced but now acts with a democratic mandate in the name of the people.

Meanwhile, the House of Commons is now elected using the single transferable vote (STV) with the country divided up into county sized constituencies electing anywhere between three and six MPs each. Communities are kept together and boundary changes are a rare occurrence. Voters have the right of recall and can be confident of having an MP who they support should they need to seek help whilst the MPs are still linked to a constituency of a size which they can properly represent.

The House of Commons itself is almost unrecognisable. Proportional representation (thanks to STV) means that coalitions are the norm with parties routinely including in their manifestos a section on their minimum policy requirements for going into coalition. Politics is more representative of the people as well, with any petition which garners 100,000 signatures being debated in the Commons (provided the petition refers to an actual issue which has not been debated previously in the current parliament). Furthermore, lobbying is now far more transparent with an official register allowing the public to see who the lobbyists and what their vested interests are. But an equally radical change is the new limits on donations to political parties, with state funding providing a level playing field for all political parties, large and small. And one of the minor changes which has made things far easier for voters is the switch to weekend elections making it far easier for people to vote.

The new politics is far more representative than the old politics and has caused a new re-alignment which has seen all the main parties lose votes to the formerly ignored parties such as the Greens and UKIP. The voices in government are far more diverse and every shade of public opinion is now represented at a national level. People can once more feel safe in the knowledge that their votes are not wasted and have confidence in the way the country is run.