Tuesday, 26 April 2011

More No2AV Drivel (Telegraph edition)

Robert Colvile

Want an example? Let’s invent a seat called, say, West Borsetshire. It was held by the Tories for ages, taken by Labour in 1997, and recaptured in 2010. There is, however, a strong Lib Dem presence, so any of the three parties could theoretically win it.
Now, let’s assume (taking the minor parties out of the equation) that Tory and Labour voters would probably tend to put the Lib Dems as their second choice, and Lib Dem second preferences would divide a bit more evenly. As a Tory candidate, one of your main priorities, under AV, would be to make sure the Lib Dems finished third, so that you got enough of their votes to take you over 50 per cent. If Labour were eliminated first, and all their votes given to the Lib Dems, the chances of keeping your seat would be far lower.
You can change the specifics, and the names of the parties, but the point remains – under AV, the order in which the candidates are eliminated can matter hugely, to the extent of determining the result. That turns the ballot into a species of game theory, in which party strategists come up with freakishly complicated scenarios that could deliver victory.
To vote to create such an outcome would require a Conservative voter to vote Labour 1st, Con 2nd. This would then push Labour up the vote, knocking the LDs down. Of course, it could also mean that if enough Conservatives did likewise, then Labour would secure a majority.

Quite simply, this just isn't going to happen, and it's yet another bit of No2AV drivel.
The consequence – in Australia, at least – has been the emergence ofparty voting cards, in which your chosen party asks/instructs you to list your voting preferences in a particular order, to maximise its chances in that constituency. Under AV, such cards would almost certainly become a common sight in British campaigns – further increasing the sway of politicians over voters.
You'd think he'd read the actual article he linked to. It says nothing about tactical voting and everything about preference voting. In other words, Big Party A cuts a deal with Small Party B that Small Party B asks its voters to put B first, A second, they'll give them something in return. It's about saying "these guys are a bit like us" to their followers. It has no effect whatsoever on tactical voting and certainly doesn't fit Colville's dumb as a pile of rocks example.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Ming Gets it Wrong on AV

From the Telegraph:-
Sir Menzies told BBC’s Radio 4 that he believed the public disagreement between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg was part of a deliberate move by the Prime Minister to appease those who feared that the Coalition partnership had become to close.
It's got nothing to do with that. Cameron is opposing AV because it has the potential to put his party out of business in the long term, and cause quite a lot of damage in the short-term.

And because there's really little good reason for FPTP, he has to resort to the same combination of personal smears, scaremongering and confusion that the No campaign uses.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed how often the Conservatives and the official No campaign (despite being disconnected) seem to use the same themes about AV at the same time?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

AV: The Major Attack

Has there ever been a dirtier campaign waged in British politics?

When the country “desperately needed to get rid of that [Labour] government” in 1979, they were able to elect Margaret Thatcher, he said.
“We also remember 1997 and I think we know in 1997 the country needed change. Again it was a decisive result,” he added. His criticism came as a surprise because Mr Cameron is close to Sir John Major and occasionally uses him to support specific policy ideas.
The funny thing is that if we'd had AV in 1992, the Conservatives might have lost the election to a Lib/Lab/SNP coalition. The result of the Conservatives getting another parliament was that people were really fed up with them by the time 1997 rolled around, and that as a result of 1992, voted far more tactically to make sure that they got the Conservatives out.

So, the Conservatives might have had 5 years of the likes of Kinnock, Hattersley and Ashdown running the country, and within 5 years, back in power for another decade or so. 
Incidentally, I think that the Major government was one of the best this country has had. It might have had a load of backbench sleaze, but actually delivered some good, steady economic growth.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

So, why did Cameron do a deal, then?

From the Torygraph:-

Adopting the Alternative Vote system would do "permanent damage to British democracy," says David Cameron.
Perhaps David Cameron would like to explain why he was happy to do a deal with the LDs that included a vote on it, then?

Just... WOW

The report was published on Parliament’s website after a Freedom Of Information request by anti-nuclear ­campaigners.
Much of the most revealing information, entire pages in some cases, was blacked out to prevent the ­secrets from getting into the wrong hands.
But in what was described as “a schoolboy ­error” the technique used by MoD staff to censor the ­document was easy to reverse. The bunglers turned the text background black – making the words unreadable – but crucially left them in place. That meant anyone wanting to read the censored sections just had to copy the text.

Not often I link to the Daily Star here, but they found the boob (pun intended) and deserve the credit.

Seriously, a document about the safety of nuclear submarines was redacted by someone who had so little knowledge of obfuscating documents that they didn't know about the "copy and paste trick"?

Beggars belief. Really, it does.

B3TA AV Challenge

There's a few crackers in their challenge here, But I've included a couple here.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Cost of AV Elections

From The Telegraph:-
The Conservatives have claimed that the cost of a British general election to taxpayers will triple to almost £300 million under AV.
That's odd, because according to Hansard, Mark Harper, Parliamentary Secretary (Political and Constitutional Reform), Cabinet Office on 4th April 2011 said:-

Based on the information set out in the Parliamentary Elections (Returning Officers' Charges) Order 2010, the estimated cost of the conduct of the UK parliamentary election in Great Britain which was held under the first past the post system on 6 May 2010 is £82.1 million. This figure takes into account the reduced costs of holding the UK parliamentary election on the same day as local government elections. The estimated cost of the 2010 UK parliamentary election in Northern Ireland was £2.5 million. The overall figures will be finalised once all claims from acting returning officers in Great Britain and the chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland (who are statutorily responsible for running the poll) have been received and finalised. The estimated cost of holding a stand-alone UK parliamentary election across the whole of the UK under the first past the post system is £92.1 million.
The features of a general election using the alternative vote system would broadly be the same as under the existing system: for example, in terms of the provision of ballot papers and polling stations. However, it is not possible to quantify with certainty what the extra cost of counting votes under the alternative vote system would be: this will be dependent to a significant extent on the preferences expressed by voters.
If you're going to lie about the costs of AV, it's probably best to check that one of your own Ministers hasn't already said something that blows your claim out of the water.

Friday, 15 April 2011

In light of the YouGov Poll

What I would say to anyone who is blogging about AV, don't waste too much energy on the BNP attacks, or what the No campaign is saying.

Focus on getting the message out about how people won't have to tactically vote, how the seat will be a candidate that most people are at least reasonably happy with. That's how to win this.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Royal Observer comes out against AV Reform

A major royal observer, is urging people to vote against AV reform.

"If AV goes through, it's entirely possible that Prince William could have a terrible bollock-tearing accident with a combine harvester, ending the lineage, and causing the country to be descended into the sort of Communist Hellhole depicted in 1984".

Mr Tory Boy of the NO2EndingOurGripOnPower campaign says that he has strong evidence for this, despite everyone else considering it to be nonsense.

"Furthermore, the arrival of AV will lead to a direct attack on our planet by Ming the Merciless, the US defence computers becoming sentient and Gozer the Gozerian trying to take over the earth."

Sportsmen Come out Against AV

From the Daily Hate
Major sporting figures, including James Cracknell and David Gower, are urging people to vote ‘no’ in the May 5 electoral reform referendum.
They insist that the principle of the winner being the person or team that comes first must apply to Britain’s voting system as much as it does in sport.
Right. So, do we decide who wins a cricket game or a rowing race by asking the crowd which team they want to win? No, we don't, do we? We have a contest, based on rules, and the winner wins, regardless of how popular they are. So, trying to apply sports analogies to electoral systems is just monumental fuckwittery.

Really, is this the best that the No2AV camp have got? I suspect it is.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Sun Says... on AV

Today's Sun poll shows that although there is already a majority against it, opposition is greater once the details are spelled out.
So let The Sun explain again why AV is such a risk.
It would mean dumping our traditional first-past-the-post system for a mind-boggling set-up where losers could become winners.
Mind-boggling = a system that Australians manage just fine, and is a variation of STV which lots of countries manage just fine
It could open the door to extremists. It would end strong party government and usher in permanent coalitions. 
It would spell the end of strong policies and condemn us to half-baked compromises. 
No, it won't open the door to extremists. It might open the door to the sort of parties that aren't liked at dinner parties, but hardly extremists. The only way extremists can win is if the majority of people want extremists, unlike FPTP where extremists could win with around 1/3rd of the vote (if the mainstream parties split).
As for "strong government", well good. Strong government does some downright fucking stupid things because they can, because they have enough careerist footsoldiers that even if they get some rebels, will still win. And to paraphrase Mark Wadsworth, compromise would actually be good as rather than wrenching from one government to the next, we'd see government shift slightly at elections. Most of Europe runs just fine on coalitions (except Belgium which has its own unique problems about being two peoples).
It would squeeze out conviction politicians in favour of duds whose only talent was for clinging to office.
Oh, get real. There's maybe half a dozen MPs I'd count as conviction politicians: Kate Hoey, Frank Field, John Denham and IDS (more suggestions welcome). The rest are careerist little bastards doing anything to climb the greasy pole of power.
In fact, AV is more likely to give you conviction politicians, because people don't have to climb the party ladder for years, don't have to keep their nose clean with the grandees. They can just appeal to the people on a policy forum and if enough people like them, can get elected. That's how the One Nation Party shook things up in Australia, standing on the sort of ticket that Sun readers would quite like (anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism).

Trade Union in Voting Against Things that Would Hurt Trade Union Shocker

From The Graun
The Royal College of Nursing has overwhelmingly backed a motion of no confidence in Andrew Lansley's handling of the NHS reforms.
Delegates at the RCN conference in Liverpool voted 99% in favour of the motion as the beleaguered health secretary struggles to persuade the public of the merits of his health reforms.
The simple fact is that trade unions only really survive when you have monopoly, or close to monopoly provision. Once you have open competition, unions will always get wiped out because non-unionised businesses are more competitive. Lansley's reforms mean a quite rapid decline of the union.

The 1% of delegates are basically turkeys voting for Christmas.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

What Now, Cam?

From the BBC:-
The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a government attempt to overturn a ruling that prisoners should get the vote.
It has given Britain six months to draw up proposals for changing the law.
It now has to decide how to reconcile the opinion of MPs, who voted in February by a large majority against giving prisoners the vote, with the demands of the court.
I don't particularly mind if prisoners get the vote, But I am going to enjoy seeing europhile MPs like Cameron trying to explain how to fit the square peg of "we won't yield any more power to Brussels" into the round hole of "oh yes you will, matey".

Monday, 11 April 2011

Cameron on AV

From the BBC

He said: "It's a system - AV - so undemocratic that you can vote for a mainstream party just once, whereas someone can vote for a fringe party like the BNP and it's counted three times...
"It's so unfair that the candidates who come second or third can end up winning."
Results of the first round of voting in the last Conservative Leadership Election:-
First Ballot: 18 October 2005
David Davis6231.3
David Cameron5628.3
Liam Fox4221.2
Kenneth Clarke3819.2
Kenneth Clarke eliminated

So, the result of that election was that David Davis was elected leader, right? Oh, no.

You see, for some reason, people could vote more than once for a Conservative leader (with candidates being removed in each round) and candidates who come 2nd or third can end up winning.
Yet Cameron hasn't stood down for being elected in such an undemocratic manner. This makes him a hypocrite.
As for the "people who vote for the BNP get multiple votes", this is just lies, designed to scare you. You get 1 vote. The choice you get is like someone in a pub asking you if you fancy some nuts and saying "I'll have dry roast, or salted if they don't have them". When you get salted, how many packets of nuts do you have? You don't have two, do you?

NHS Cuts

Half of planned NHS job cuts will fall on clinical staff putting patient care under severe strain, a nursing leader has warned

go on...
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said it was a "myth" the Government was protecting the frontline against cuts.
Evidence shows some hospitals are axing hundreds of nurses, while others are downgrading nursing jobs by using less-qualified healthcare assistants instead.
The union has identified almost 40,000 NHS posts across the UK that face being lost - up from the 27,000 it reported in November.

Come on...
The RCN has said it expects patients to suffer as services such as family nurse partnerships and talking therapies for depression are closed.
Bazinga! If you read this far in the reprinted PR release, you find the real facts rather than the headline scare. Vague "axing hundreds of nurses" becomes concrete as a couple of services. And the best they can find are "family nurse partnerships and "talking therapies for depression". Not cancer or heart attacks.

What's a "family nurse partnership". From the DoH website:
The FNP is a preventive programme for young first time mothers. It offers intensive and structured home visiting, delivered by specially trained nurses (Family Nurses), from early pregnancy until the child is two."
FNP is often delivered through Sure Start Children’s Centres in many areas
Sounds close to five-a-day co-ordination to me. Yes, I think we'll do without that, thank you. 

Ian Gilmore

From The Express,
In fact, so many parts of the body can be damaged by alcohol that it can become a difficult public health issue to communicate. All the evidence is that the best way to reduce consumption is through price and most experts agree this is best done by minimum unit price.

How did alcohol ever get labelled as a "public health issue", when it so clearly isn't? It's a private health issue. Drink too much and you damage your body, not mine. That's not the same thing as things like people not getting vaccinated, where the effects of their actions affect others, which we could genuinely call public.

And yes, lots of people drinking use lots of NHS facilities. While I don't get so lashed up that I need to go to A&E, collectively, drinkers more than cover it. So, Dr Gilmore, kindly go back to treating us, and remember you are our servant, not the other way around.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Penitent Dave

It's sad to see David Cameron indulging in the usual lefty political claptrap of apologising for the past sins of the nation, especially over Kashmir which was never going to end happily. Some people there want to be in India, some in Pakistan. Drawing that line when it came to independence was tough.

Perhaps we should try to revisit history, to imagine the events that would have unfolded in various countries had we not been there? Rollback to "Britain takes over India", remove it and play it forward. Does India now have railways or democracy?

But most of all, I don't believe that a generation should apologise for long-before generations, nor do I believe it's particularly sincere. There's a time when it's appropriate, like Willy Brandt kneeling before the Warsaw Uprising Memorial in 1970. He was apologising to people, most of whom had remembered those times, as had Brandt himself. And that was for some the actions of a regime that's hard to find much good to say about.

Very few Indians would now remember the time before Independence, and my feeling is that India is a nation looking forward, perhaps a nation that will be one of the economic giants of this century. To drag up old guilt seems unhelpful.

NHS Choose and Book (2)

So, I follow my letter from the NHS. Go to the C&B website. Find a hospital that suits me and then call up.

I get a nice lady on the phone who first tells me that my hospital of choice doesn't actually do what I need doing on the NHS. O... Kay. So, what do they have? Well, I get some options, which are quite a while away, but if I want I can go to another hospital that's outside the area, but I have to call them myself.

I then have to get a password (why?) to enact this transfer so that when I phone the other hospital outside the area, they can then pick it up.

So, I've not only had a letter, with no reference number, which I then have to call someone, and to actually get an appointment, have to get a password, call someone else and so on.

And here's the thing: I know how to build the process and software so that not only could you have the person I call booking it anywhere, I could make it even more efficient by just printing some codes on the letter and letting me do the whole thing online.

Honestly, Choose and Book cost something like £200m and it's all at a near semi-manual stage. They're at the sort of point with software that the private sector were at 15 years ago. There's absolutely no reason that the whole process they're talking about can't be done via internet, or allow for national searching and cross-booking with the technologies that are available like web services for a fraction of this cost.

God knows how many times my experience is being duplicated. How many nice ladies are being employed instead of it just being done via the internet, and how much does that take out of the budget for clinical care?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

NHS Choose and Book

I had myself a regular sight test. Vision is at normal Steve Austin level, but I need to have myself some extra glaucoma tests. So, the opthalmist tells me she's going to refer me, I don't have to do anything else.

Today, the letter from the NHS arrives. Name, address, and some instructions which basically say:-

  1. Go to the NHS Choose and Book website
  2. Find a hospital I like the look of
  3. Phone a number during office hours.
Why can't I just book it? Print a code on the letter, let me enter it and just pick the date and place? Wouldn't that be more convenient for me and cheaper for the NHS?

How much did this system cost the NHS?

Royal Occassions

A London hotel is inviting guests to be treated like royalty - with their own personal chef, butler and a chauffeur-driven limousine - to mark the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
For authenticity, does the chauffeur have twice the legal BAC when he takes you out from the hotel?

NHS Reform: They're going to blow it, aren't they?

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. Sun Tzu
Amongst most of the rubbish of the current Conservative government (little change from Labour except some miniscule "cuts" which are really just waiting a decade for inflation to catch up), there was one genuine ray of hope: NHS Reform.

It was a ray of hope from 2 perspectives. Firstly, I have serious, personal problems with the NHS. It is, like most agents of the state, a bad servant. It has no contract with you, and little source of redress. You take what it offers you, and you'll like it. This has resulted in me personally having to resort to Google to diagnose a serious illness because the GPs I saw barely gave a shit. They didn't treat me constantly coming back with a problem in the manner that a private sector provider would, of escalating the issue.

Secondly, I believe that we need people to see that the best model is often public funding with private provision. Once done with the NHS, we could say "look at how much better the NHS was after we reformed it, now, what's the argument against doing the same for schools?". We know it works because we already do the same thing with food for the poor, prescriptions and NHS spectacles.

I really thought it was going to happen because Lansley had caught the socialists and producers off-guard. The Conservatives had promised to protect NHS spending which meant that no-one had looked too closely at the manifesto. I figured that by the time they would be able to organise themselves against it, we'd have lots of private options and they'd be working for hospitals where they'd be expected to deliver for patients and get a ticking off if they got a bit lippy.

Sadly, Dorrell's stupid intervention is likely to kill it. Putting hospital clinicians, public health experts, councils and nurses on the commissioning boards is simply going to lead to them protecting their own, which is existing NHS hospitals. They'll wreck public choice by loading it up with so much bureaucracy that there will be little room for innovation. At worst, Lansley now has to pause, giving the producers the opportunity to regroup, mount a new defence and put enough spanners in the works of reform that it won't go far enough.