PR in Wales

PR in Wales

I wrote, nearly two years ago, welcoming the change on the composition and size of the Welsh Senedd, [or on Medium] and was pointed today at what they’ve become. While using the d’Hondt method  i.e. the generally preferred counting method for PR for the new and much larger constituencies, they propose that there are no top up members. The mathematical purpose of the top-up members is to ensure proportionality and the higher the proportion of top up members, the closer to proportionality one gets. It is usual for the top up members to be elected based on a party vote.

The Welsh system proposes to have 16 constituencies each electing six members of the Senedd, meaning a quota and thus a wasted vote of 14.29% and a requirement that the constituencies are of equal size.  I wonder what the impact of abolishing the top-up members will be. Perhaps I’ll build a model.  …

Keep the red flag flying (on workers rights)

Keep the red flag flying (on workers rights)

In an article entitled, “Keir Starmer seeks to reassure business over Labour’s worker rights pledges”, the FT reports on the pressures being put on Keir Starmer to weaken Labour’s promises made in “A new deal for working people.”

It should be noted that this is what happened to the Blair opposition, which caved on Trade Union rights but held the line on the minimum wage. Sadly the value of the minimum wage became an internal political football within the Labour Party and at the moment the promise in “A new deal …” has been eroded to the point that it is less than the current law (for adults).

Labour summarises its plans as legislating for decent, safe, secure and fair work, critically, re- introducing day one rights for tribunal access, and the abolition of zero hour contracts and fire and rehire. They also plan to update trade union legislation so it’s fit for the modern economy, repealing some of the Tories petty and vicious legislation, strengthening Union’s rights of access to workplaces and workers, and establish a single enforcement body to enforce workers’ rights, which will include national minimum wage violations. Labour also plan to legislate for a structure of fair pay agreements negotiated with the Unions across industry.  

What are employers afraid of?

In order for the economy to be internationally competitive, goods and services need to be better than or cheaper than the alternatives. It’s not possible to have a high wage economy while being cheaper than others, so let’s choose being better. In most companies and public sector organisations value is created by employees. Successful companies need to attract and retain talent. Staff are the collective memory of the organisation. I have met and worked for some shocking managements; day one rights of access to tribunals should be a right, everyone should have access to the law, only bullies need fear this and for equality cases, day one access exists today. The only organisations that would fear this all those who as a matter of policy abuse their staff.

This is only one prerequisite for international competitiveness, the UK needs an immigration policy nice and compassion decency indignity and one that recognises the great talent may be born elsewhere. Another requirement is to minimise barriers to trade;  the simplest way of doing that is to rejoin the EU’s single market.

My experience is primarily in what are considered to be high knowledge industries i.e. Information technology and banking, but it is clear to me, that all organisations require commitment and talent. All organisations should welcome a legislative backing for a floor on decency. Those that want to behave well, if only to attract and retain workers will no longer need to fear being undercut by those that don’t.

The business lobbyists should lay off and welcome “A new deal …” …

On Referenda

On Referenda

I attended UKiCE’s webinar on referendums. It is available on You Tube, or at sli.do and they said in publicising the event, “The tumult that followed 2016 led many politicians and commentators to conclude referendums and UK politics don’t mix. The 2019 Conservative manifesto explicitly pledged not to waste time on more ‘acrimonious referendums’. But are they really off the agenda? Debates in Scotland and Northern Ireland would suggest otherwise. Contention continues to surround state-wide and national votes, whether on Scottish Independence or Net Zero, this panel discusses whether there is still space for referendums and direct democracy in the UK.” This blog article, highlights some contributions and adds some of my thoughts; they’ll be please to know I shall be having a think.

The panel consisted of its Chair: Joelle Grogan, UKICE, Joseph Ward, University of Sheffield,  Matt Qvortrup, of Coventry University and Meg Russell of University College London’s constitutional unit.

Russel’s first contributions criticised the 2016 referendum on the grounds that there was no plan for parliament’s role after the vote. It’s an important part of Ms. Russell’s thinking.

Qvortrup argues that a referendum is an effective people’s veto which I think he thinks is a good thing. He also argues that it may be a useful tool when changing the rules.

Ward argues that the Brexit referendum was repurposed by some. The debate amongst academics and others of good faith is to seek to determine if referendums can play a role in democratic decision making. The 2016 referendum was designed to overrule parliament which it effectively did; this is why Russel’s thinking about the need for a plan and a common understanding of the role of the referendum in making policy and law.

They discussed, particularly in the light of the Irish referendum on abortion, the role that referendums can play in determining both politics i.e. governance, and policy. They argued that the Irish abortion referendum may have been called because of the constitution but was in effect a policy vote. It was noted that referendums are becoming more common at local government level; referendums are required if raising council tax above a certain threshold and required to change the governance model.

The panel considered questions of thresholds and super majorities. It was observed these were the  most frequent reason for referenda to fail in countries other than the UK. Russell in one of her contributions stated that democracy needed more elements from citizens and the citizens assemblies is one way of achieving that. It fascinates me that academia is coming to the conclusion that collective discussion is necessary for effective decision making and yet the trade unions are regulated to prohibit such collective decision making; strike decisions and the election of senior officers and executive committees must now take place using individual postal ballots. These laws were not installed in order to improve the democracy of the unions, but designed to achieve a specific outcome, that have reduced militancy and weakened solidarity.

The question of information and knowledge amongst the electorate was considered, and it was felt that citizens assemblies were potentially an important way to build confidence in the process. A lack of confidence has been exacerbated by the fact that both EU referenda have been called for reasons of party management and not as exercises in democratic consultation.

Qvortrup stated that the election laws for the Brexit referendum had been adhered to, this is not correct. The vote leave campaign over spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in a breach so egregious that the High Court determined if the referendum had not been advisory they would have demanded it be rerun.  Russell reinforced the need for effective regulation of referendums, especially with respect to social media. Those who are seriously addressing the question of secret campaigning and fake news have much to offer.

During the panel, both Ward and Russell made reference 2 the UCL constitution units Independent Commission on Referendums report. The landing page makes reference to a blog article on the constitution units website.

Looking at the UCL CU’s report on referendums, I need to reconsider my views. The report is clearly of the view that referenda can play a role in politics and ask people like me to raise my eyes.

I am of the view that Issues cannot be isolated; there are stories of some Scots voting for the UK to leave the EU because they thought that it would accelerate the support for Scottish Independence.

It is my view that referendums only polarise, and with a large electorate, a close vote will not obtain a loser’s consent; I therefore believe that referendums may need super-majorities, although why should no-change be embedded in this way.

In terms of mediating between sides of a debate, Parliaments can compromise; everyone’s second best might be more supported and thus more democratic than the choice between everyone’s first  .

The panel’s arguments make me think about the role of Citizen’s assemblies, and timing of referenda and assemblies and thus their role in the process.

To conclude, here are two quotes from the UCL CU’s “Report of the Independent Commission on Referendums”

… referendums have an important role to play within the democratic system, but how they interact with other parts of that system is crucial. They must be viewed as co-existing alongside, rather than replacing, representative institutions. They can be useful tools for promoting citizen participation in decision-making, but they are not the only, or necessarily the best, way of doing so.

And

Wherever possible, a referendum should come at the end, not the beginning, of the decision-making process. It should be post-legislative, deciding whether legislation that has already passed through the relevant parliament or assembly should be implemented.

While the UK has what is in effect a unicameral legislature, with no legal checks and balances, elected by first past the post, I think that referendums are not the first question for democratic reformers.

It’s not possible to have a single vote amongst multiple options that is not gameable. i.e. that provides people with the motivation to vote for other than their first preference although in some cases, people have a dislike stronger than their preferences as it seems the Tories are about to find out. People such as this will always have difficulty in expressing their wishes in a voting system. See also Multiple choice voting systems by me, on my wiki.

 …

Good news for Labour

Good news for Labour

A short comment on Thursday’s by-elections. Labour won them both, with huge swings from the Tories. In both cases, obtained a plurality of votes. Everyone is quite excited about what that means and watching the Tories fight like weasels in a sack will be fun if we didn’t need the ultra-rightists to be defeated.

Here is Professor John Curtice commenting, and for interest, I took the poll results from today’s politico.eu who run a poll tracker and plugged the results into electoral calculus. They predict the results as follows, a Labour Majority of 290, (I have not reproduced the Northern Ireland line, where 18 MPs will be returned with none being members of the British parties).

And here is the Map, check out where you live, if you make one yourself, the map is interactive, and we can see that there are only six Tories from the big cities,

 …

Data-driven campaigning: how and why do political parties do it?

Data-driven campaigning: how and why do political parties do it?

I attended a lecture last week, it was advertised by its conveners on twitter. The lecture was videoed and I am expecting the video to be posted on Youtube. I’ve made some notes, some about what the lecturers said and some about the thoughts they provoked.  I try to offer some value on this blog, however much of this article is reporting the views of the three lecturers;

The lectures argue there's little to worry about; I disagree and quote the ICO and the DCMS select committee to back up my thoughts. They suggest that Gen-AI is not yet in use and suggest that Fake News does not have much effect. i suggest that Fake News reinforces prejudice and drives out reasoned policy analysis. I conclude that there are common practices that need better regulation. Regulation's weakness is based on powers and accountability in the case of the Electoral Commission, a lack of will in the case of the ICO and a lack of resources and independence in the case of ONS. I hope there’s enough of what I say to be worth the read. Please use the 'Read More' button to view the complete article which is about four pages long ...

National Service, really?

There has been a buzz in the press about the potential need for the UK to reintroduce national service due to the increased threats to UK security on the continent of Europe. Wow this will excite certain trotskyists i.e. those who support workers militias, but this is unlikely to happen for two reasons.

It seems that commentators have forgotten the reason the UK abolished national service is that the army no longer wanted the responsibility and cost of turning unwilling volunteers into effective soldiers and this is an even bigger problem in the Air Force and Navy.

still from “Carry on Sergant”, no copyright assertion found using tineye

Second reason is that this is a problem caused by governments, specifically Tory governments. Cameron’s defence review in 2010 cut all three forces and delayed numerous procurement/re-equipment programmes. We note that Cameron’s 2010 review was so bad, that he had to do another one in 2015. I commented mainly on the nuclear deterrent, but in this article, I argued [and on Medium] that a weak conventional defence makes nuclear escalation more likely and identified significant failings in all three wings of the armed services.

Johnson’s review of 2021 was an attempt to reposition the UK armed forces so better support Johnson’s vison of a post-Brexit global Britain. In shorthand, the Navy won the review with a promise to double the number of non-carrier surface warships over the coming decade. To pay for this the British Army is now the smallest it’s been since Napoleonic time;  beyond the manpower statistics this has been shown as its  ammunition stores are insufficient to enable the UK to be a constant ally to Ukraine.

For the British Army the last thing it needs is the additional work in training unwilling and often ill-educated recruits.

 …

We can do better than supposed sensibleness

We can do better than supposed sensibleness

Martin Wolf, the Chief economics correspondent at the FT, just before Xmas published a piece of clickbait, entitled, "Britain won’t rejoin the EU for decades — if ever", with a tag line, “The sensible approach for the UK is to seek a closer and more co-operative relationship with Brussels”. He starts with an alleged piece of mystic folklore, that one can’t cross the same river twice, which stripped of its source and supposed wisdom of its age is clearly nonsense. Of course, you can cross a river twice and anyone that commutes from Canary Wharf to Westminster does it twice a day.

This rest of this article, overleaf, article looks at what Wolf said, refutes the arguments, exposes the lack of evidence and concludes that it's a failed project and that failure and the prospect of rejoining cannot be suppressed.

Pipe dream or inevitability

Larry Elliot wrote a piece of click bait in the Guardian on why since Britain is not a basket case, it should not rejoin the EU. He also argued that the growing strongman nationalism, and racism amongst some member states is a reason for avoiding the EU.

I wrote a reply which I shortened and offered to the Guardian, and was eventually published on Another Europe’s  web site. I have also posted a copy on my Medium blog, outside the paywall.

I argued that the economy was in a poor state, certainly worse than it might have been and quoted the OBR and my “Remain” article, from this blog, posted in 2016 that the 4% growth underperformance was about where the forecasters had predicted.

I pointed out that his investment successes were selective good news, and only talk about yesterdays driving technology. He like most seem to fail to recognise that we have already missed the boat on renewable energy manufacturing.

I conclude by arguing that the UK is not inoculated from the racism inherent in authoritarian rule. It must be fought not avoided, starting by the repeal of Tories immigration laws.

I really conclude by stating that rejoining the EU is an inevitability not a pipe dream. …

Living with the Troubles

Living with the Troubles

I went to the IWM on Friday and visited the "Living with the Troubles" exhibition. I was 14 when the Government sent in the Army presented as protecting the civil rights marchers from a sectarian and violent police force and 43 when the Good Friday agreement was signed; I lived in London, also working in government buildings for much of that time. This exhibition though is about NI and the experiences of those who lived there and participated in, or tolerated and survived the Troubles. The article allows me to reminisce, consider the poverty and sectarianism of the time. I finished watching a contemporary video, consisting of landscapes and quotes, which shows that despite nearly 40 years of an “absence of war" the sectarianism behind the politics is not over and peace and co-existence yet to become the reality. The Good Friday agreement entrenches the sectarian divide into NI’s constitution. It maybe that this settlement has reached its end but the video suggests large elements of the population may not yet be ready to move on. Our hope must be with the young, noting that the census results of 2021 have 50% of the population being under 40. Sadly, the old men of violence and the ultra-expressive sectarians seem still able to recruit to their cause. Let’s hope that the young can over come this and build a political leadership interested in inter-community peace. For more, Read More ....

A party with socialists in it

A party with socialists in it

Over a year ago, I read Simon Hannah’s book, “A Party with Socialists in it, a history of the Labour Left.” I found it fascinating, informative, and well-paced. I read the 1st edition, which unlike the later edition is missing the final chapter on the 2019 election and the fall of Corbyn. I made some notes; this article is an effective if personal review and includes some comments from my memories and family diaries. It covers, post-war defence issues and Bevan, Wilson’s National Plan together with his fatal intra-party compromise on the 1st EU referendum, Bennism, his near mysticism and the Falklands War, the influence of Trotskyism, my views on Labour's lost youth, the continued factionalism and the weaponisation of party democracy, and the conflict between workers control of the factories (and offices) and a national plan. I was glad to be reminded that a central demand for socialists is worker's control of industry, and I muse on how to achieve that while also implementing a national plan.

The book reinforces questions of why, if a left winger, we still bother with the Labour Party? This disgraceful catalogue of the behaviour of Labour’s right wing over the decades just reinforces the question as to why we persist.

This article is seven pages long, and wordpress has decided that it won't display the whole article on the front page. To see the whole thing, please use the "read more" button ...