October 20, 2011

The ‘Hints’ Dropped by our Central Banker, Mervyn King

Posted in Politics, The Global Economic Crisis tagged , , , , , , at 1:24 pm by David Gould

For those who don’t know, Central Bankers are an understated lot.  King’s former US counterpart, Alan Greenspan sent world markets into a tailspin in 1996 merely by mentioning “Irrational exuberance and unduly escalating stock prices.”

In such light, and surely exceeding his remit, Sir Mervyn’s quotes are compelling reading. Last week, he told the world:

This is the most serious financial crisis at least since the 1930s, if not ever.

So which is the scarier King, Stephen or Mervyn?

This week in Liverpool, The Telegraph reports:

All of the emergency stimulus measures employed to support European banks and the eurozone had simply “bought time” for world leaders to address that fundamental imbalance, Sir Mervyn said in a speech in Liverpool last night. “So far, that time has not been used to deal with the underlying imbalances, or the weaknesses in bank and sovereign balance sheets,” he said. “Time is running out.”

But what’s this imbalance?

“In the end,” he said, the only answer to debt problems was for countries to “adopt compatible policies so that they can credibly service their internal and external debts.” Western economies must also become more competitive, he said. Meanwhile, China and other emerging economies must increase their domestic consumption. Unless these imbalances were resolved, the West would suffer ever-larger debt crises, he warned.

So how does China spending their money rather than lending it cheaply to a heavily endebted West help us?

I also wonder if Mervin kept a diary as Labour’s spending on surveillance databases, aircraft carriers and £500 a month Housing Benefit played Russian Roulette with our economy?  What did he know?  Usually when people are prevented from saying things in public they vent more in private.


April 27, 2011

The increasingly desperate Tory push to keep the worst electoral system in the world

Posted in Democratising Britain, Politics tagged , , , , at 2:25 am by David Gould

On Conservative Home, Rupert Myers creates a hypothetical AV election:

On election night, the first round results come in:
Conservatives: 28%
Labour: 24%
Liberal Democrats: 19%
English Defence League: 15%
Tom Barnaby ‘Keep Midsomer Safe’: 14%

Tom Barnaby has massively eroded the support bases of both the Liberal Democrats, and the EDL, but is eliminated from the contest in the first round. A breakdown of the second preference votes shows that a record breaking 99% of all second preferences of Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, and EDL candidates went to Tom Barnaby. Tom Barnaby, the first/second choice of over 99% of the constituents of Midsomer, is eliminated in the first round.

So, we are led to believe that only 14% of voters would put Tom Barnaby first yet 85 out of 86% would put him second.

Not 3rd, 4th or 5th.  2nd.

Also, rather conveniently for Rupert, neither the Greens, UKIP, BNP nor any other independent bother to stand.

Now if a result like this has ever happened, feel free to let me know.  I’d put the odds at less than 1 in a million.

But here’s the amusing bit.  Under FPTP, he would have come last too.  In all probability, at least half all of his voters would have voted tactically, reducing his vote to single figures.  And since he sounds like a right wing candidate, he may well have split the Tory vote and let the Labour candidate in.

March 15, 2011

Hawaii adopts AV

Posted in Democratising Britain, Politics tagged , , , , at 2:14 am by David Gould

Hawaii says Yes!
NOtoAV is fond of saying only Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have AV and Fiji is abandoning it (for a miliary coup/dictatorship).

Yeah well, almost every country but the US, Canada and Britain have abandoned FPTP, blame our democracy 1.0 for not offering more choice and Hawaii just adopted AV.

June 16, 2010

The real reason Diane Abbott was promoted on to the Labour leadership ballot?

Posted in Politics at 11:26 pm by David Gould

Anyone studying Cameron might realise that he perfectly out-manoevred Labour for the centre and was only denied victory by a combination of the bias in the electoral system and (no matter what others have said) tactical voting effectively for a hung parliament. FWIW, I’m happy with the coalition and made £150 from a £100 bet. 😉

Portillo made an interesting comment on the last This Week that the coalition has centre ground completely covered and that Labour have absolutely nothing to attack. Their strategies of:

  1. Attacking ‘LibDem’ cuts… fails because everyone knows their overspending caused them.
  2. Attacking instability of the coalition…  just makes it look like the Coalition are doing a great job holding it together for the sake of the country.

Where on Earth are Labour going to position themselves? Authoritarian? Pro-debt crisis?

Now bear in mind that there’s a Labour leadership debate going on: a completely different race with different positioning required.

But candidates can’t go back on the early leadership positioning, they’re stuck with it.  So whilst they’d need to take some serious and possibly unpopular positioning in order to gain the edge over the other white, ex-special advisor, middle-aged Oxbridge candidates, positioning yourself against the ultra-left Dianne Abbott is a lot easier.

May 30, 2010

Was the Telegraph right to print the David Laws story?

Posted in Politics at 8:34 pm by David Gould

I must first declare my biases.  I am still feeling extremely sympathetic towards Mr Laws.

To feel compelled to keep your sexuality private is bad enough but then to have it plastered across the front pages of every newspaper in the country whilst damaging the coalition that you and many of your friends are so thrilled about… it’s almost unbearable to think about.

Putting that aside though, I want to look at the moral and legal implications.

The Telegraph made the accusation that Laws paid “more than £40,000 to his long-term partner”

Here is what the rule says:

PAAE must not be used to meet the costs of renting a property
a partner or family member (including a spouse
or civil partner);

As you can see, the rule itself makes a big hash of defining what a partner is.
Why did it not say “a spouse or civil partner or family member” or “a spouse or civil partner or partner or family member”?

It is badly drafted, like much legislation of that era.

The legal definition of spouse is still evolving, including this partial definition:

(b) was it an emotional relationship involving lifetime commitment?
(c) had the relationship been presented to the outside world?


“what matters most is the essential quality of the relationship, its marriage-like intimacy, stability, and social and financial inter-dependence.”

Mr Laws was clearly not in a relationship satisfying (c). It seems unlikely that the relationship satisfied (b) or the second definition either.  That would be for the Parliamentary Standards Commission to decide.

The rule is clearly designed to stop MPs and partners conspiring to claim rent where MPs would otherwise be staying in a London home rent-free.

Mr Laws has paid the money back even though he might be entitled to it.  He has resigned even though he may have respected both the letter and spirit of the law (or rules, this is not a criminal matter).

There are many other questions about this case.

1. Would Mr Laws’ partner have let him stay rent-free?

2. Did Mr Laws, to a reasonable standard, ensure that all the financial transactions were properly declared?

3.  Were The Telegraph tipped off about this ‘story’?  Was Alastair Campbell involved and was this why Mr Laws refused to appear on Question Time?

It seems to me that The Telegraph has a duty of care to respect people’s privacy, not to mention a duty of care to their reputations, careers and the governing of this country in a difficult time.

The article states:

The Daily Telegraph was not intending to disclose Mr Laws’s sexuality, but in a statement issued in response to questions from this newspaper, the minister chose to disclose this fact.

The first clause is disingenuous – how could the Telegraph accuse Mr Laws of paying more than £40,000 to his long-term partner” without leading to disclosure of his sexuality?

The Telegraph continues:

“I’ve been involved in a relationship with James Lundie since around 2001 — about two years after first moving in with him. Our relationship has been unknown to both family and friends throughout that time,” it read.
“James and I are intensely private people. We made the decision to keep our relationship private and believed that was our right. Clearly that cannot now remain the case.

In other words, Mr Laws felt harassed to make this disclosure.

Did The Telegraph take reasonable steps to check its story and prevent harassment of Mr Laws?  It seems unlikely.

May 19, 2010

Why the Human Rights Act means we can’t deport Abid Naseer

Posted in Politics, War on Terror at 11:59 pm by David Gould

The HRA simply allows breaches of the European Convention of Human Rights to be adjudicated in Britain rather than Brussels. The ECHR was arguably British to begin with and we were the first signatory in 1953.
So scrapping the HRA makes no difference – we would also have to leave or be expelled by the ECHR.

The ECHR has a prohibition on torture. As we all know, the Labour administration was complicit in extraordinary rendition – the act of getting round one’s anti-torture laws by flying people to another country and having them tortured there.

I suspect what Justice Mitting said was politically inspired and designed to rock the coalition. His hands were not quite so tied as he implied. He could simply have agreed to the deportation and had his ruling quashed by the Law Lords (which is now called the Supreme Court).

It is also worth noting that the police investigation was massively botched. This is the one you may remember Bob Quick resigning for after his notes were photographed by a photojournalist. Amazingly, the Manchester police did not know they needed evidence to hold the suspects longer than 14 days.

So, the options are:
1. Scrap the HRA and get expelled from the ECHR, or
2. Don’t botch the investigation/prosecution, don’t encourage extraordinary rendition, and minimise the problem by working under the HRA, working towards convictions and using control orders where necessary.

In my opinion, even weak control orders are effective. Most terrorists may be stupid but they’re still not going to trust their big attack to someone who’s obviously being watched by MI5. And if they do, they’ll be stopped.

Keystone cops aside, Abid Naseer, whilst under surveillance, is of no great threat to this country.

Having said that, there is a clear distinction between deportation and extraordinary rendition. An independent appointee could be trusted with the facts and arrange safe passage, fake papers & monitor the situation.

The HRA and ECHR didn’t stop our own Govt aiding in extraordinary rendition and lying about it for years. They have not been punished – indeed one of the main instigators is favourite to become the next Labour leader. The prohibition on torture would be much more useful if Minsters were subject to prompt investigation (by the House of Lords), had to testify under oath and faced prison for breaking the prohibition.

To me, the way forward is clear. Work within the HRA until we have a constitution which provides better protection.

I found this article one of the better ones.

May 11, 2010

FPTP, AV and STV aren’t the only electoral systems

Posted in Democratising Britain, Politics at 9:07 am by David Gould

What do we want out of an electoral system?

1. Governments that can govern, guaranteed

2. No governments with dangerous majorities, guaranteed

3. A free and fair election for all (except possibly the BNP)

4. Fair representation for all viewpoints (except possibly the BNP)

5. The electorate help to choose the candidates, not just the political parties

6. Every vote counts

7. All reasonable views are represented in the House of Commons.

8. A system which is easy for the public to understand and which doesn’t benefit from tactical voting

I hear you ask “is this even possible?”

Yes, it is – and there are at least 2 ways of doing it.

Note that FPTP (our current electoral system) provides none of these. AV only provides #6 and #8. AV+ arguably adds #7. Most forms of PR fail #1 and #5. STV however, only fails #1 and what I recommend is adapted from it.

What is STV?

To the voter, Single Transferrable Vote is exactly the same as AV – you simply rank your candidates in order of preference. To the vote counters however, STV is a lot more complicated.

Here is a nice Flash animation which explained it for British Columbian voters (MLAs are their version of MPs).

Believe it or not, STV produces governments in which parties polling above ~3% win seats roughly proportional to their national vote share. It is used in Ireland, Australia & local/regional/European elections in the UK.

Here are some common arguments against STV:

It allows extremists eg the BNP to gain seats

This is more false than true. Whilst the 2010 results under full PR would have given the BNP 12 seats, STV isn’t full PR and would probably have given the BNP zero seats. Their obnoxious leader, Nick Griffin, came third and probably would have come third under STV too – as few voters would give him a 2nd or 3rd place ranking.

MPs don’t have a direct connection to their voters

Whilst true about list PR, this is completely false regarding STV. Voters would have 2 MPs, much the same way most of us have 2 councillors. If you don’t like your MP, under STV you will at least have one you prefer to deal with. And bad MPs are much easier to get rid of. One could argue that having 2 MPs means they dodge responsibility for you and your area. But really, they already do that and MPs have almost nothing to do with local government anyway.

STV produces weak minority governments and sometimes deals are done that don’t reflect manifesto commitments

This is true. Although manifesto commitments are frequently broken under FPTP, even honourable parties have to do it under STV. Majority governments would require more than 50% of the country to vote for them and that almost never happens. Under STV, we would see the current situation of uncertainty and deals behind closed doors happen all the time.

Introducing Ideal-Majority STV (IM-STV)

IM-STV is exactly the same as STV except that it guarantees small majorities for the winning party by introducing a ‘winner’s bonus’. It necessarily reduces representation of the opposition parties although they remain proportionately represented within opposition (unlike FPTP/AV/AV+). Most importantly, it will be obvious that any of these opposition parties could receive the winner’s bonus next time round and thus all parties have a fair chance to form the next government (again unlike FPTP/AV/AV+). Our political system might need minor adjustments to incorporate this but the media couldn’t easily ignore smaller parties.

How big a majority do we want?

I believe all British Governments should have a majority of at least 1 (John Major started with a majority of 21 but ended up with a minority of 9). Having a majority less than a 20 generally means you need support from other parties. Majorities above 60 can be abused and should be rare. Labour’s majority in 2005 was 66.

With IM-STV, you can guarantee a specific majority/minority (perhaps set by an independent committee) or, as I’ve done, make it dependent on the mandate.

What determines a mandate?

Is it the overall % of vote that determines a mandate? Or is it how much the winning party wins by?

It’s a bit of both. The following is a bit mathematical – feel free to skip over it to the table below.

Under PR type systems, usually the winning party polls lower and wins by a smaller majority as more people vote for the smaller parties. The winning party invariably polls at least 20%.

By trial and error, I’ve determined that if you divide their total % of vote by 10, add the result to one third of the winning margin and add that to 48%, we provide the winning party the ability to deliver their manifesto based on the mandate given by the electorate.

The following exaggerates the majorities of recent elections as, under this IM-STV system, voters would have voted differently and the elections would probably have been closer. However, in last week’s 2010 election, the Tories polled 36.1% and won by 7.1%. If they’d have achieved this under an IM-STV system, this would be a good result and, as such, the Tories would be awarded [(36.1/10)+(7.1/3)+48 =] 53.97% of seats or a 46 seat majority.

Here’s a summary of how the last 5 elections would have come out, again slightly exaggerating the majorities:

Year Winning Party Poll result % Margin of victory % ‘Ideal’ % of seats ‘Ideal’ total seats* ‘Ideal’ majority* FPTP majority ‘Ideal’ LibDem Seats^ FPTP LibDem seats
1992 Tories 41.6 7.2 54.56 353 54 21 90 20
1997 Labour 43.2 12.5 56.49 365 78 179 83 46
2001 Labour 40.7 9.0 55.07 356 60 165 90 52
2005 Labour 35.3 3.0 52.53 339 26 66 105 62
2010 Tories 36.1 7.1 53.98 349 46 -20 107 57

* based on 647 seats

^ projected as STV isn’t 100% proportional. Taken mostly from winning party but some from 2nd place party

How are the bonus seats determined?

The seats are awarded to “best near-winners” ie those candidates for the winning party who lost by the smallest amounts. At this point, there are 2 options:

1. The seats are ‘taken away’ from those who would otherwise have won under STV.

2. The seats are granted in addition to those who won.

The second is arguably fairer but the first is more practical.

The only disadvantages of this system are that there is a small bias against independents (less than FPTP/AV/AV+ though) and boundaries would need to be redrawn. On the latter point, there is one last advantage of using this system – it dramatically diminishes the effect of unfair boundaries and hence would provide another huge advantage in the near term.

Opportunities to change the electoral system come along once in a lifetime and have a huge impact on the future of the country. We have the worst electoral system and AV would be the second worst. Whilst I think STV has major benefits over all the other systems, IM-STV addresses the main problem with STV and is clearly better than the others.

March 26, 2007

War on Freedom has moved!

Posted in Politics at 3:38 am by David Gould

Please update your bookmarks to http://www.waronfreedom.net/.

And. as of 19th May 2010, resurrected. 🙂

December 17, 2006

The Murky Career of Dame Elisa Manningham-Buller

Posted in War on Terror at 3:26 am by David Gould

Amusingly, the newspapers have started to assume that “a good day to bury bad news” means the bad news is probably worthy of further investigation.

The Daily Mail decided to link Dame Elisa’s resignation with an apparent exclusive that Haroon Aswat’s bomber friends were “photographed and recorded on several occasions”.

My suspicions about Dame Elisa were aroused when she timed her speech (about 1600 terrorists in Britain who MI5 weren’t arresting for some unspecified  reason & giving up our rights) to precede Blair’s recent offensive on ID cards.

MI5 have a surveillance database very much like the ID database Blair is trying to build ie a series of identity numbers which link to your records in other databases.

Now, Manningham-Buller was appointed just after the Govt started talking about ID cards in July 2002.

She was not a universally popular choice. In particular, question marks remain over her management of the highly dubious official account of the Lockerbie bombing.

Blair promised to re-open the Lockerbie investigation, but broke that one too. The Libyan, Megrahi, who was one of two prosecuted is looking set for a retrial after, amongst other things, a Scottish former police chief testified that the CIA planted evidence incriminating Megrahi.

On the fateful Pan-Am 102 flight, the dead included Major Charles Dennis McKee, one of America’s top spies, and 4 other members of his team who were trying to co-ordinate a rescue of American hostages in Lebannon.

Pan-Am hired their own private investigators headed by none other than former Mossad agent Juval Aviv, upon whom the lead assassin “Avner” is based in Spielberg’s 2005 film, Munich (you can’t make this up).
Aviv uncovered a plot involving the Iranians, the Syrians and a drug-dealing CIA unit…

Time magazine cover story – Pan Am 103, Why Did They Have to Die?

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December 4, 2006

7/7 “mastermind”, Haroon Aswat, extradited to the US!?

Posted in War on Terror at 8:13 am by David Gould

Haroon Rashid Aswat, who was widely touted as being the ringleader for the London bombings, is being extradited without facing charges in the UK.

Security sources told newspapers the alleged Al Qaeda planner had up to 20 conversations with Khan and another of the bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, one just hours before the blasts.
It is thought that British-born Aswat entered the UK through Felixstowe, Suffolk, two weeks before the attacks, and left on a flight from Heathrow hours before the carnage.
He was later arrested in a raid at a religious school, or madrassa, in Sargodha, wearing an suicide bomb belt and carrying £13,000 in cash.
A senior Pakistani source told The Times newspaper: “We believe this man had a crucial part to play in what happened in London.” — Daily Mail, 21/7/05

Whilst the British Govt were seemingly unconcerned about questioning Aswat, he was arrested in Zambian where he told questionners that he had formerly been a bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden himself.

In the “narratives” that the terrorised public were fobbed off with, Aswat is mentioned only briefly and not by name: “The press reported later that a known extremist figure and possible mastermind left the UK shortly before the bombings. There is no evidence that this individual was involved.”

So why the apparant cover-up?

Respected anti-crime publication, New Criminologist, along with both French security agents and an FBI agent, verified ex-Justice Dept and terrorist expert John Loftus’ claim that Aswat was an MI6 asset.

The US started chasing Aswat back in 1999 because of his attempts to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, but were told to keep off by the UK.

“This is the guy [Aswat], and what’s really embarrassing is that the entire British police are out chasing him, and one wing of the British government, MI6 or the British Secret Service, has been hiding him. And this has been a real source of contention between the CIA, the Justice Department, and Britain. He is a double agent.

The CIA and the Israelis all accused MI6 of letting all these terrorists live in London not because they’re getting Al-Qaeda information, but for appeasement. It was one of those you leave us alone, we leave you alone kind of things.”

Exactly the same thing David Shayler said, incidentally.

Is Al-Qaeda’s apparent #2 man in Britain innocent and somehow didn’t know that 2 of his contacts were planning the London bombing – even though he phoned one of them from South Africa on 7/7?

Or is Aswat guilty of being involved with the London bombings? Are we sending the only person we can hold to account for the sole Fundamentalist attack on the mainland out of our jurisdiction?

Why would we do that?

The only possible reason is that the Govt and security services want to bury him under the carpet because they have some awful secret to hide.

Is it merely what we already know, that British Intelligence paid Al-Qaeda to assassinate Gadaffi, and seemingly funded them in Kosovo as well? Or is there something even more damning?

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