Tag Archives: election

Jury Service for Politicians

The results of biggest two latest elections (the EU referendum and the US election) has brought me to two key conclusions:

  • The general public is no longer intelligent / informed / clever enough to decide on complex political issues
  • Anyone that is egotistical / arrogant / selfish enough to want to be a politician should automatically be barred from being one

Now those two things make the current system of electing represented officials difficult, so I have a solution for that:

  • Members of the public should be randomly selected to be an MP in a similar way to the way jury service is done

Let’s be honest, most of us feel that a random selection of people could hardly make a worse job of things than our current MPs are doing, while with enough civil service support the people could learn enough about the issues to make informed decisions – the kind of decisions they can’t make during an election.


– – –

So I’m joking about the above, but only half joking. I do think that these two recent elections have seen a shift in the democratic process and how information is shared, understood, accepted or rejected by the electorate. I think, not just because I don’t like either of the two results, but because of how both campaigns, from both sides, were run, that something might well need to change.

How they were the same

Obviously the two elections were for different things with different protagonists, however there were a number of similarities.

One of the first is that general commentators discounted what turned out to the final result, “don’t worry, this could never happen.” In fact that line was being repeated right until the count, in both cases, showed that actually it just had. Some of that is due to the inaccuracies of the poling (joke: for people voting in the US election the polls were wrong; for those voting in the EU referendum it was the Poles that were wrong!), but much of it is due to the natural bias of the commentators (me included) meaning that they just couldn’t believe it would happen, instead of analysing the facts.

Another similarity is the way the voting patterns were split by age – in both cases the older generations voted in the final result, while the younger generations were on the losing side.

However, some of the commentary I’ve seen today would suggest that it was the split by educational level that was more influential – those with lower educational attainment voting for Brexit and Trump.

From what I can see, the biggest similarity is that a very large proportion (a majority of those that voted) used their vote as a vote against the ‘establishment’. In the EU referendum it was the establishment of Europe and the fact that most of the major politicians were supporting it. In the US Hilary is seen as one of the most establishment figures and her very experience for the job counted against her as she was seen as one of ‘them’.

Now, I would argue that the result of that anti-establishment vote has produced a worse result for those that wanted a change. In the UK what we’ve done is handed even more ‘power’ to the Tory government that can now claim a mandate for almost any right-wing policy they want claiming that it’s what the ‘people want’, without the checks and balances that the European parliament provided, or as they’ve tried to do, without any checks and balances from the British parliament. While in the US they have elected a man that has shown less than zero interest in the rights of the ‘common person’ so far as he has ridden rough-shod over people to run his businesses.

It’s here now

I was angry after the Brexit vote and while anger is easy to understand it’s not going to solve anything. What we may to do is accept.

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I don’t agree with the moves to block the triggering of Article 50 in the UK. I don’t want us to leave, but I think it is more important that we respect the result of the vote. Nor would I agree with any blocking or disrespect of Trump becoming President (I don’t like the #NotmyPresident hashtag).

That doesn’t mean that we should ‘do’ something, but that something isn’t to be bitter and reject the results. I’m not saying that I know exactly what we should do, but just being angry is the wrong thing.

The Causes

For a while the narrative amongst the Remain voters was that the Leavers were misguided, that they didn’t understand the ‘real’ issues, that they were only ‘protesting’ and didn’t mean it. In a similar way most commentators didn’t believe that Trump would be elected as those people that were claiming that they would vote for him would somehow wake up or come round and realise their mistake before the actual election.

Maybe now is the time to accept that some people really do feel that these choices are the best way forward. Maybe they voted with conviction after looking at the options and actively made this choice. Maybe the alternatives presented to them they considered to be worse for them.

We may have to consider the possibility that these results were active choices by people.

For the EU referendum vote I strongly believe that the Remain side made a huge mistake in not clearly demonstrating the benefits of the EU (that could be a separate post of its own), but what they didn’t do was address the concerns of the people who were against Europe. It would seem that for both elections there was quite a strongly divided electorate and in both cases both sides really only talked to their own ‘team’. Certainly the losing sides failed to understand that there was real anger – and I mean real, even though it may not be ‘justified’ that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real to those that felt it – and therefore failed to even attempt to address it.

The left needs to take some blame for this – and not just during these election cycles, but over the last 20 years or so. The view that multiculturism, gender equality, open borders etc etc are good things just hasn’t got through. These are the issues that have been roundly rejected, yet are the basis of much of left-wing politics.

Another key cause has been how the media and social media have been used. The reporting that someone said something, with limited, if any, fact checking by the mainstream media and the spread of memes and conspiracy theories on social media have greatly affected how people have received and processed the information they needed / wanted to make a decision.

Finally, I genuinely think that the current state of capitalism is a key contributor to this situation. What most people are angry about is the loss of their jobs, or the fear they will lose jobs. That we are not as affluent, as a society, as we once were or as we were promised we would be. They have been looking for someone to blame and the ‘others’ become an easy scapegoat. Yet it isn’t European or Syrian immigrants (in the UK) or Muslims (in the US) that have caused this. Instead as a society we have allowed spiralling salaries and the profit at all costs culture – and most of the costs are the workers and their jobs, or if not their jobs then their salaries.

A Trump win may be the best result

Having thought about this all day I do believe that a Trump win is possibly the best result from last night. Not for a moment did I want him to win, or support anything he has said through the election. But I’ll explain my two key reasons for thinking this:

If he had lost, and his supporters had lost, then the rhetoric of the final few days of the election would have immediately resulted in ‘a fix’ being called. If Clinton had won almost half of the US voters would have felt they had been cheated yet again by the establishment and I dread to think how that anger and disappointment may have been expressed. On top of that the Republican dominated Congress would feel obliged to restrict and hinder President Clinton as much as possible.

However a Trump in the White House might not be as bad as he was on the election trail. I’m still pretty sure he’ll be terrible, but I suspect that a combination of his lack of experience will mean he will need to rely in advisors and his ego will mean that he’ll actually want to be a popular president.

This may just be a vain hope, but we can just hope.

– – –

Caveat – I’m not a professional commentator, in fact I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about. This is just a rant in the aftermath of what, to me, is a truly shocking result. I’d be happy to hear more thoughts…


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Tax savings?

I saw this on Facebook the other day and I thought that it was a nice counterpoint to my election rant.

It’s quite long, but it’s worth reading:

“For those of you reciting the ‘Tories defend the rich’ argument, read this. It’s worth it, I assure you.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100…
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.
So, that’s what they decided to do..
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball.
“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20”. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.
So the first four men were unaffected.
They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men?
The paying customers?
How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?
They realised that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they
subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.
And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33% saving).
The seventh now paid £5 instead of £7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% saving).
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% saving).
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% saving).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.
“I only got a pound out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got £10!”
“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a pound too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”
“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I got only £2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.”

Obviously I saw it on Facebook, so I can’t vouch for its accuracy, or that it was even originally posted by the professor (or even if he is a professor).

However, it’s one of those things that ‘feels’ true, so let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that it is. And if it is, then it a good (it somewhat over simplistic) explanation of the tax system and of tax breaks.

However, it has some major flaws and the biggest, in my eyes, is why the bartender (the Govt) would offer a reduction in the drink prices when it wasn’t needed.

All the men were happy with the original situation (in this simplistic view). The richer men may have paid more, but they got the benefits of that – the beer, but also the company of the other men (in real life this is the health and education system that provides them with healthy and educated workers, as well as transport that allows them to get to work, etc etc). The reduction in the beer price proportionately is in favour of the poorer men, but will always ‘materially’ be in favour of the richer men.

So why offer a reduction at all?

Why not use the money to provide a better service (free peanuts or crisps for example)? Or, and here’s where we need to break out of the analogy, offer the poorer men a way to earn more and therefore to contribute more for their beer?

My response is simplistic, but so is the original example. But it’s not the way the tax breaks are split out that angers people, but that they are offered in the first place.

*It doesn’t have to be men of course, again I’m just quoting the original example.

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Election thoughts

I was very quiet on social media about my politics in the run up to the election and since the result, however I had a little rant on Facebook last night and I think it’s worth repeating here:

The fact that other countries don’t do it [social welfare] as well as we do is no argument for us to be less caring. Some people can’t look after themselves …, others could with just a bit more support.
However, the economic situation has been
dramatically overplayed too. Labour did not ruin the economy – the global situation did. And while Labour could have made a few better decisions in the good times they didn’t cause the bad times. Nor have the Tories saved us – again the global position has improved. In fact many economists believe that the Tories have slowed down the UK’s recovery.
However, perhaps the biggest issue is that while people may have a couple of quid extra in their pockets the long-term costs – to the country and individuals – will be much higher. A two-tier health service that will need private payments to get the level of care we now take for granted; higher university fees; a lack of social care ‘insurance’ for those that fall on bad times; lower minimum wages; less tax paid by the rich (therefore increasing the tax burden on the rest of us).
I’m sorry I think the “look after ourselves” mentality is both worrying and very, very wrong. And Labour’s biggest mistake was not messing things up last time, but not explaining that properly this time.

Rant over, smiley swimming stuff again from now on.

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Life decision made – I’m gonna be an MP

I’ve been watching a lot of the election coverage with interest – partly because of a natural interest in politics, but mainly because of a deep seated conviction that I could do better than most of the muppets that appear on my TV screen every day.

So I’ve decided… I’m going to become an MP.

Obviously not at this election, possibly not from the next one, but I will do it – it is now my new ambition and I am deadly serious about it.

As you can see, I’ve got some fairly strong political ideas / ideals (Basic income for all and I know how to stop radical extremists…). It’s now just a question of working out how I can best to fit these views into the current parliamentary structure, or if I need to try and stand as an independent.

It’s going to take some big changes to life and work (I hope I can still swim – Parliamentary Channel Relay Team anyone?), but I can no longer sit around and let other people do this important work that I feel I can do better.

As soon as I have got my head around a more concrete plan I’ll let you know. In the meantime, watch this space…


No I’m not – it was an April Fools! 🙂


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What’s happening to Basic Income?

I’m certainly not an expert in politics and would never claim, neither political philosophy, or the workings of politics and the parties. Both interest me, but I’m very much an outsider looking in.

However, I posted the other day about the Basic Income. It’s a policy I have privately endorsed for a long time and something that the Green Party in the UK appeared to add to its manifesto for the upcoming election.

Then it dropped it (read about here in The Telegraph). Or did it (a comment on Reddit)?

To be honest I don’t know what the exact answer is. I can understand how and why other politicians (and the newspapers that support the existing system) would challenge the Green Party and suggest that these policies have been dropped, or should be. But I don’t want to get all ‘conspiracy theory’ on you.

I wouldn’t expect it be adopted just yet no matter who has it on the manifesto, or which party wins at the next election (or which collection of parties as I expect it to be a coalition again). This is an idea that is radical enough to need time to sink into the human consciousness, to need time to percolate through and become a mass movement for its introduction.

So given that, at this stage all I want is for it be debated and discussed.

I don’t even know if I *want* it introduced, because I don’t pretend to understand all the ramifications yet. So I just want it fairly and maturely debated (unlikely I know, but we can dream).

Anyway, on politics, here’s a good article in the Guardian about voting for what you want – not what is the lesser of evils.

– – –

Back to swimming / running nonsense again soon, promise.

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Nelson Mandela’s Aquatic Election

I love it when translations go wrong – if you search around on the internet then you find loads of them. My personal favourite is when I was on holiday in Italy and the menu offered:

“Panna cotta with wood sauce” – yum!

However, I think tonight’s may go into my top two.

I was in the gym and they have a few TV screens on permanently with the sound off, so they show the subtitles. This evening I was there during the news and of course the Mandela sign language interpreter was the main story. However as part of it the subtitles claimed that:

“Nelson Mandela won South Africa’s first aquatic election following apartheid.”

(If you’re not sure, I think they mean democratic.)

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