Friday, 20 June 2014

Labour's Problem: Miliband Too Easy to Take the Piss Out Of

What's Wallace (Ed Miliband) up to now? Offering everyone in the country an owl? No, just repackaging the current government policy of compulsory unpaid work for the long term jobless (with the loss of benefits for refusal) and ending up with compulsory training for young people out of work (with, again, loss of benefits for refusal). Is that what employers are really crying out for?

Of course, the problem is that such a policy is too easy for the opponents of Labour to take the piss out of because it's so inconsistent with their previous young job guarantee scheme policy, and the attacks on the current (very similar) government provision - not to mention it being a very un-Labour policy.

But worse than that; is is a policy that won't even be remembered next week, partly because it has no legs, but mostly because it was overshadowed by more piss taking after the Labour press twitter account was "hacked" (by which they mean the password was not strong or obscure enough) and announced that it was now Labour policy for everybody to "have his own owl". The Huffington Post getting in there first with the response above, and others also putting the boot in.

The Labour front bench often get rolled out saying how good a response they're getting about Ed Miliband on the doorstep, but the problem is nobody believes them; and it's because they're aren't getting that response (other than from a few die hard Labour voters). The polls have Miliband miles behind Cameron, and that's a big problem in a general election year. It's too easy for the Conservatives to shrug it off, just ignoring what the Labour representatives have to say on Ed, and keep banging on about their long term economic plan which, at least, the public believe is something that exists, even if they don't like it.

If Nigel Farage is the ultimate teflon politician, then Ed Miliband has a knack of mud sticking - from the bacon sandwich incident to pretending to be mates with the leader of the Labour group on Swindon council, despite not being able to remember his name (even when prompted). He even wildly overestimated the amount an average family spends on their weekly food shop, before admitting he didn't know how much he spent! Just to cap it all off, in a poll out yesterday Miliband scored a personal approval rating of minus 39, two points lower than Nick Clegg (yes, you read that correctly), whilst David Cameron is in positive territory!

I'm not sure the country can see Miliband as PM because it's far too easy to attack him, and those attacks tend to stick. When it comes to the election, it might just cost Labour.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Poor Cricket, But Within the Rules

Today, England batsman Jos Buttler was run out by the bowler, Sachithra Senanayake, at the non-striker's end. The bowler had entered his "delivery stride" and then stopped to turn around and take the bails off the stumps at his end because Jos Buttler was backing up by about a foot (at the time that the bowler halted his bowling action).

This kind of play is, at best, thought to be against the spirit of the game - and it's actually not permitted by the laws of cricket. It is, however, allowed by the ICC's general playing conditions for One Day Internationals.

MCC Law (42.15) states;

The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over.
If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible.

Whereas, ICC Standard ODI Match Playing Conditions modifies that law;

Law 42.15 shall be replaced by the following
The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over.

So don't try it in the league on Saturday.


Friday, 16 May 2014

The European Elections Tactical Voting Guide

Next week, the elections to the European Parliament take place across the European Union. Here in the UK polling will be held on the traditional Thursday. As with all elections where you can only choose one candidate (or in this case, party) you might want to consider how your vote will affect the outcome of the election, and perhaps choose a candidate that isn't your first choice in order that another doesn't get elected. That is tactical voting!

In a normal First Past the Post election it's usually fairly obvious that only two candidates have the possibility of winning, and in order for your vote to make a difference you should vote for the candidate that you dislike the least - if you see what I mean.

In the European Elections, should you wish to vote tactically, it is much harder to work out who you might want to lend your vote to in order to stop someone else, because each constituency has multiple seats and runs on a party list system. Basically you have to try to work out who is in the running to take the last seat available, and choose between them when you place your cross next to your chosen party. Be aware that if your first choice party is likely to comfortably win a seat anyway, your vote is only useful to that party if they are close to winning a second (or third) seat, which is likely to be that last seat to be decided.

Anyway, what I am going to do is make some predictions about the distribution of seats in each constituency, and then try to identify the two (or more) parties that will be fighting over the final seat in each. Using such information, you can decide if you are going to vote tactically and, if you are, for whom.

South West
I'm starting down in the South West, because that's where I'll be voting. There are 6 seats. Labour will more than likely regain their one seat in 4th or 5th place, which puts the Greens out of the picture, meaning that either UKIP or the Conservatives will be fighting it out for the last MEP. Most likely result is 2 each for UKIP and the Tories, and 1 seat each for Labour and the Lib Dems.

West Midlands
In the West Midlands there are 7 seats. On the face of it there doesn't look to be a close enough battle for that 7th MEP for there to be any choice in tactical voting. Tories will get 2 seats, 1 Lib Dem, and at least 1 for UKIP and Labour. UKIP should comfortability pick up the final seat, but Labour might just steal it from them - but be careful if your a Lib Dem supporter, because lending your vote to Labour might result in that final seat being a fight between Labour and the Lib Dems instead. My prediction is 2 seats for UKIP, and Lib Dems hanging on ahead of Labour.

North West
This really is a done deal. 8 seats, but the BNP's Nick Griffin took the last seat in 2009 and they're very unlikely to get that kind of support again. All things being equal, the Greens should pick up that last seat, meaning 3 Conservative, 2 Labour, and 1 each for UKIP, Lib Dems, and the Greens. The only possibility is Labour out polling the Tories overall, and therefore possibly taking a 3rd seat, but that is likely to be at the expense of the Greens rather than the Tories themselves.

North East
Back down the other side of England now (we'll get to the nations later on since other parties are involved). Just 3 seats here. Labour and the Conservatives will keep 1 each. UKIP and the Lib Dems will be fighting it out for the final seat. If you're a Labour voter then your MEP is safe, so you might want to think about putting your vote to better use. If you're a Conservative then although your MEP should be returned comfortably, they haven't got too many votes to play with!

Yorkshire and the Humber
Similar to the North West as the BNP won the last seat here last time out, and they won't this time. Greens are pushing for that final seat, but more likely it will be a fight between the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP to gain a 2nd seat. The party who finishes 1st will certainly gain another seat, the party who finishes 2nd might just about be able to edge out the Greens, but the party who finishes 3rd will have to settle for just the one MEP. Lib Dems in moderate danger of losing their MEP - Greens and 2nd place party to benefit if they do. No tactics here, just vote for your first choice!

East Midlands
This is nailed on. 2 Conservatives, 1 Labour, 1 UKIP, 1 Lib Dem. Only possibility is a Lib Dem collapse that let Labour or UKIP get a second seat.

East of England
The East has 7 seats, and actually this is a close battle between Labour, Conservatives, UKIP and Greens for the final three seats - so one of these parties will lose out. Last time it was the Greens, and if I'm honest it probably will be again. Result: 3 Conservatives, 2 UKIP, 1 Lib Dem, 1 Labour. Likely that the Conservatives will be most at risk of losing their 3rd seat to the Greens.

Change on the 2009 result in London's 8 seats will be unlikely, as the next closest party was the BNP, and they were half of the total needed to get a seat. Boris is still a very popular mayor, and that probably will transfer to the Tories not losing any seats (there would need to be a 5,000+ vote swing to Labour). So Conservatives 3, Labour 2, Lib Dem, Green & UKIP 1. Tactics are pointless here.

South East
Home of Nigel Farage and Dan Hannan (remember him?) the South East has a massive 10 seats. Unfortunately that makes things very complicated. Currently 4 Conservatives, 2 UKIP, 2 Lib Dems, 1 Green, 1 Labour. The likely change is Greens overtaking the Lib Dems to take a 2nd seat (and the same away from the Lib Dems), but UKIP may do well enough to pick up a third seat which could deny the Greens their bonus. Both Labour's 1 MEP, and the Tories 4 MEPs are safe unless UKIP do spectacularly well.

The Conservatives actually won Wales in 2009. Such a repeat is unlikely, but so is any change in the 4 seats up for election. Labour, UKIP, Conservatives, and Plaid Cymru to share equally. Closest other party is the Lib Dems, but they won't trouble the incumbents this time.

Scotland is always interesting. Despite the void of the centre right and Nigel Farage's assertion that UKIP will get an MEP, the numbers don't really stack up. 6 seats, and lets assume the Lib Dem vote collapses in favour of the SNP and Labour, as it has done in elections since 2010. The SNP and Labour should be fighting it out for the 6th seat vacated by the Lib Dems. No reason for the Tories to lose their seat, indeed there is an outside (and I mean outside) chance that the Conservatives might just do enough to pick up the last seat themselves, sharing the 6 seats with Labour and the SNP. If UKIP are to get a seat they will have to almost triple their 2009 share, and the Scottish Greens start from a closer mark anyway.

Northern Ireland
No surprise that Northen Ireland is different from the rest in terms of parties. Perhaps what is a surprise is that the voting system is completely different! Northern Ireland's 3 MEPs are elected by Single Transferable Vote, which means that there's no such thing as tactical voting because you can rank all the candidates (not parties) in order of preference. In practice, because no party expect to have more than 1 MEP elected, all the parties only put up one candidate. Nevertheless, I suspect that there will be no change from 2009, and Sinn Féin, DUP, and Ulster Unionists will all return 1 memeber to the European parliament.

So there you have it. That's my guide and I hope it will be helpful to you all. One thing to note though. Despite UKIP possibly coming 1st nationally in share of the vote, there will only be minor changes in seat allocations. The Conservatives will lose seats, and Labour and UKIP will gain seats, but the proportional system won't allow any one party to gain a majority.

Perhaps that's why turnout will struggle to reach 35%, especially in regions that don't expect any seats to change hands; but if you've read through this, you will probably go and vote. Make your vote count, because if turnout is low then your vote will count more than ever!


Monday, 12 May 2014

I Have a Problem

I just won't ask for help with anything. I'd rather work all night and all weekend to get something done, than let someone know that I'm struggling. Strangely, I'm pretty good at delegation and management, but if someone else wants to take the lead on a project then I also won't complain. I also will take on tasks where nobody else can or wants to do them.

What does this make me? A leader or the led? A team player or self-centred? Perhaps I'm all these things, or perhaps none. Is this very blog post about me admitting and dealing with a problem, or just attention seeking and looking for sympathy? The truth is I don't really know.

What I do know is it probably affected my degree because I'd never asked my tutor for help, and that's from someone who was an elected officer - a welfare officer, nonetheless - who was constantly telling students to ask their tutor for help. I made it my business to know the rules, the regulations, and the procedures. As such, I didn't need someone else to advise me on the possible avenues open to me. I was already empowered with the information, but I never took action.

To quote Alice in Wonderland, I often give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it. If I find myself in these situations, then surely others do too. By the very nature of such people, they - like me - are very unlikely to come forward and ask for support. I would even tell people how well I was doing, especially when I got a good mark on an assignment, but I just wouldn't talk about my work when I was struggling.

So here is my plea. Do you know someone who sounds like they've got themselves into the same situation as me, whether at work, school, university, or just in life? Perhaps you've always thought, "oh they're all right - they usually do fine". If the answer is yes, or even maybe, then go and talk to them and ask if you can help. Often all that is required is for someone to take the lead for them and mention the elephant in the room; after all, they already know there is a problem, they just don't want to tell anyone!



Saturday, 26 April 2014

Both the Left and Right Love Having Enemies

Who would have thought I'd manage to write an article that simultaneously slags off the hard left and hard right of politics. Both the left and the right love to hate people; enemies are how they make political capital, and how they get the public on their side.

You'd think the connection would be that they hate each other (and they do) but actually they have a common enemy that trumps all that. The establishment.

It is at this point that I roll out that video that John Cleese did as a party political broadcast in 1987, for the SDP Liberal Alliance (now the Liberal Democrats), which neatly explains the "advantages" of extremism ... so here goes (from about 1m20s in);

So you see what I mean. Enemies are what the extremes of politics love, because it makes them feel good. Right now those groups are having something of a revival because of the events of the last few years - the recession (the right blaming the Labour government and the left blaming the bankers) and the expenses scandal (both left and right picking on the establishment) - and the brand new reasons for hating the same old enemies.

Since the BNP are becoming increasingly irrelevant, the new popular (I know I'm using that term loosely) hard right are everyone's favourite xenophobes, UKIP. The reason for their upturn in fortunes is because they have purposely placed themselves in the anti-establishment camp, saying you can't trust the Westminster elite, or the "chattering classes" as Mr Farage likes to put it. Even their recent poster campaign [pictured left] was aimed at those very chattering classes to get them chattering.

Of course the big National Lottery style pointing finger is there to put some fear into your heart, and hate of eastern Europeans into your head. The aptly named Hope not Hate organisation put together a different version of the poster, replacing the text with "1 in 7 UK companies are set up by immigrants, and who's jobs are they creating?" It could be yours!

As I have written in a previous blog, there are not a finite amount of jobs in Britain. If that were the case then there wouldn't be a record number of people in work at just over 30 million, including a record number of women.

If the populist right are xenophobes, then the hard left are just deluded. Having spent a number of years in student politics, I know the left are pretty good at just making up whatever facts they want in order to suit their argument. You've probably heard that one about the Atos disability allowance assessments, and how 32 people a week die after being told by Atos that they are fit for work. I mean, look ... if you are just going to pick numbers out of the air then at least make them believable. I personally think Atos were doing a terrible job at the assessments, but I highly doubt that 10% of the 300 people a week that were rejected for disabled living allowance, were terminally ill and died soon after; and anyway, where have those stats been recorded? Nowhere!

Here's another little graph for your perusal. This was posted to facebook by the hard left Occupy movement. It is clearly not based on any actual statistics, nor does it purport to be so, but it is based on a fantasy of how the author (Jason) would like to think the world is like. If it wasn't for his enemies, that rich establishment, would anyone listen to what this guy had to say?

Clearly there are plenty of people in the world who work hard for their wealth; Lord Sugar and Richard Branson just to name two. I would say those that work hard equals about 99% of the bit that says luck, and luck (ie winning the lottery and so on) equals the remaining 1%. The rest depends on your definition of "merciless exploitation of the working class" because if the working class had so much money between them that half the rich people in the world are able to exploit them, then the working class can't be that poor ... unlike the poor fantasy of the person who made that pie chart!

I get the sentiment, but this kind of over the top propaganda (for want of a better word) is exactly why movements like Occupy are easy to laugh off for the political elite. They may well get some short term support, but anyone who actually thinks about what they hear and what they read will quickly realise that they're being fed misinformation.

This is precisely the problem. You can't call out UKIP for campaigning on misleading information, and then do exactly the same yourself - and vice versa. If you're going to win round those all important don't knows in a campaign or election then you have to get real statistics to back up your arguments. A bit like the rules of Wikipedia, what you write on there has to have reliable third party sources or it's liable to be deleted. Think of the electorate like Wikipedia moderators - they will be checking your claims to make sure they're true. Only the few will take you at face value.

Hate your enemies because you have the evidence to hate them, not because you want to hate them.