If Only

Last weekend, I went to see “If Only”, a play by David Edgar about the politics surrounding the formation of the coalition and a subdued appeal for the political parties to rediscover their identities; identity destroyed by triangulation.

If Only

Triangulation is a political strategy used mainly by social democratic parties and the US Democrats, of moving to the right and forcing your opponents to differentiate themselves by moving further to the right. It’s extremely cynical and extremely dangerous. However, if it’s just about winning, it clearly worked for a number of years for the Labour Party, isolating the Tories under the leadership of Major, Hague, Howard and Duncan-Smith. The danger in this strategy is that many of those who genuinely agree with the policies abandoned have no-one to represent them in the national political debate; the left in society become politically voice-less. A further danger is that neither the acolytes of triangulation nor their supporters believe in what is being said and promised by politicians, it reinforces the slur that all politicians are liars by making it the truth. …

BCS EGM 2010

I actually got the BCS EGM last Thursday. I think it important, as is IT professionalism in the UK, but I am not sure that last week was a beacon for the values most of us would hope for. The meeting’s atmosphere was a nexus of CPSA annual conference, “back to the future” and “The History Man”.  I tweeted that it reminded me of Camden Labour party which I was a member of during  the 80’s, but that’s deeply unfair. While local Labour Parties and conference have been known to over indulge in the procedural, it was much more reminiscent of CPSA. The Camden party that met around the Finchley Road area  in the early ‘90s was one of the most politically educated and broad based branch parties I have been to; almost certainly helped by the fact that no faction had a majority.

So first matter of debate, a 50 minute point of order on whether the President of the Association, Elizabeth Sparrow should chair the meeting. Her right to cast discretionary proxies was also challenged. This sort of stuff is deeply unattractive to the non-aligned, although I am not sure how many of them there were. I know that I went to listen to a discussion on the future of the BCS and IT professionalism in the UK and had not made up my mind on how to vote, although I was predisposed towards supporting the leadership and the transformation programme. I don’t need to know more about stitching up meetings, and I am not sure the BCS Leadership do either.

Now, given that the first motion was a no-confidence motion in the Board of Trustees, I think it questionable that since the President is a member of Board that she should have chaired the meeting, or certainly the debate on that motion however the rules make it clear that if present the President shall chair the meeting, and so she did.

Having been deeply impressed by the opening scene from the TV series of Malcolm Bradbury’s “The History Man”, I have a theory that the academics present from their organisations and trade unions bring a ready and handy knowledge of proceduralism to the table, one that (some of) the business people find themselves lost in. Everyone needs to remember that there is a debate around ideas of substance, and that rule No. 1 is that,

Those ideas with membership support will win in the end

So what was the debate about? I am still not sure. It seems that it boils down to two things,

The transformation programme, which is about establishing the BCS, or the “BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT” as the premier guardian for IT professionalism in the UK, and maybe elsewhere needs greater financial transparency than it has today, although the first speaker, Ken Olisa, against the requisitioned motions presented a long list of financial reports made to the Board of Trustees. I think some people’s expectations of where we can go are unreal. We will never have the right to determine who can practice in IT, and I question whether its right that lawyers and doctors have this privilege. I also think it important that professionalism is defined in an accountable way; it’s not good enough to allow adequacy and standards to be defined by employers through their hiring policies.

The transformation programme does not need to suppress volunteerism within the society.

This is a complaint made by many of the speakers in favour of the motions of no-confidence. (Is it true that the Leadership have replaced the bottom up doarchy based committee of specialist group leaders with an appointed Board with the powers to manage the membership of the specialist group leaders.) This argument is partly about money as well, as the BCS leadership is accused of insufficient investment in the specialist groups.

One speaker suggested that it’s not possible to do both, and the unspoken question is whether its possible to build a member organization that defines and encourages professionalism in today’s world without selling out in conflict of interests between individual practitioners, their employers and the public interest.

Another thing all members need to consider, is the huge numbers of thought leading computer and software engineers and IT practitioners who find the whole professionalism debate irrelevant and are members of no organisation, preferring corporate honourifics or second degrees as their badges of quality.

Anyway at the end of the debate, Gerry Fisher, a past president moved a 6 month adjournment, to allow a dialogue to occur, a dialogue with a no-confidence motion on the table. This was almost quite clever. It is a procedural motion, so the proxies can’t be used. Any dialogue would take place with the threat of no confidence in the Board of Trustees on the table. This might have passed if it had been voted on. I hadn’t expected to hear Citrine quoted at a BCS EGM. Unfortunately for the dissidents, unlike Parliament and the old Labour Party Conference, General Meetings are not sovereign. The BCS meetings like most civic society meetings must advertise their agenda to the membership, so they can mandate representatives, cast their proxy votes or decide to attend. The meetings can then only debate and vote the published agenda.  Sovereign meetings have a duty to obey the law which is why most organizations have protections built in to ensure that ultra-vires actions aren’t taken. In the case of the BCS, only the meeting’s presiding officer can adjourn the meeting, and since she choose not to, the meeting tried to proceed to a vote. This also provoked some points of order, specifically about the proxy form’s quick vote process. It was far easier to mark the ballot paper with an I agree with the leadership vote than to support the meeting requistioner’s motions. Those who find this offensive to their democratic values need to get out a bit more. Although while researching links for this article I came across a reference to Kate Losinka, a one time President of the CPSA in the 1980s trying to prohibit branch officer’s recommending of votes, which just goes to show how long this sort of shit has being going on.  This might be seen as a second attempt to rule the proxies out of order, but this was stamped on.

The votes in the meeting were finally cast and collected, and the Electoral Reform Society were sent away to count the votes. These have been published at the BCS page.

The Special Resolution, to increase the threshold at which EGMs can be convened was withdrawn after a series of anti-speeches including one that listed the thresholds of what might be considered peer organisations who all have similar EGM requisition thresholds, currently 50 members. I suggested that the threshold wasn’t the problem, there were many more problems and that any rule changes on EGMs needed to take on board electronic signatures and clearer meeting standing orders and have a clearer procedural resolution process. A member from the floor asked the top table to withdraw the motion, and they agreed (It might have been interesting to see if the proxies would have stayed loyal to the leadership on this issue, but I think a chance for all to rethink is a better one for the Society and the profession.)  I’d like to think I helped, but I think the killer speech was the list of other organisations and their rules.

One of the things I found interesting is just how hard it is to find links for the 70s/80s references I made in the first part of this article. Here’s what I got in the end;

  • From Humble Petiton to Militant Action, a history of the CPSA and its fractious internal politics. It doesn’t mention me.
  • The site of PFLCPSA, the CPSA’s version of private eye. This one does.
  • IMDB’s “The History Man”
  • Citrine’s ABC of Chairmanship, from Amazon, published by the Fabian Society , this is a 1982 imprint, first published in 1952.


For all your tomorrows…

I don’t need Ed Balls and Peter Hain to tell me how to decide to vote tactically, and I don’t need Tony Blair to tell me to vote for the party I believe in. I have never before voted for the winning candidate in a general election; I have just lived in Tory areas. I was quite excited when I voted in Camden but since that was 1982, (I think), I still didn’t vote for the winner. This year, I hope I will since I plan to vote to return Joan Ruddock  to represent Lewisham Deptford.

In the viral video,where, Cameron sings “Common People”,

the penultimate image is the statement,

It’s been a while since they were in power.
But there’s a reason for that.
They fucked the country before.
Don’t let them do it again.

Too true, I rember the ’80s. Some people are trying to suggest that it’s not enough to oppose the Tories, unfortunately for them it’s my vote and I remember the mess they left the country in. They are still only looking to serve the interests of a minority, so they’ll have to try and do so with out my vote.  Gordon Brown, once released from the straight jacket of Sky’s Leader’s debate, spoke from his heart at Citizens UK,

and reminded me, and many of us, the reasons we have always supported Labour and are on the left of the political spectrum.  Gary Younge, in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free”, reinforces this in an article called I hate Tories. And Yes, it’s tribal.

I’d also like to thank those Labour MP’s and councillors I have spoken to over the last six weeks reminding me that in the Labour Party, I meet people who will work with me to build a better society.

In order to be able to vote in Deptford I have left Hampshire East where there has been a boundary change, which means that my house has moved from an impregnable Tory seat, into a more marginal Tory/Lib Dem constituency. The Guardian writes it up on their web site here…, and there’s a largish Labour vote to squeeze. I am not a huge fan of Adam Carew, the LibDem candidate, but I know what I’d do if I was voting there.  The Tory can be beaten here.

The Daily Mirror has published a guide on how to vote for those of us to whom stopping the Tories is our main priority.  It is mine.

However, I have been drawn back into a small level of political activism through the campaign to stop the Digital Economy Bill.  In my blog article, called “Get your own facts”, I argued that supporters of internet freedom should ask their candidates what they think and make up your own mind.  ORG have offered you the chance to find out what your candidates think on digital freedom, their web page is currently at http://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/disconnection. It’s crucial that you do. If the DE Bill is your priority, use the ORG tool to find out what your candidates think, although it’s probably a bit late now, or go and ask them. While some Lib Dems are arguing that their’s is the only party to offer repeal, it is my view that the 23 Labour MP’s who broke their whip to vote against the 3rd reading and the 20,000 campaigners have had an effect on the Labour Party who are beginning to listen, (like so many issues, a bit bloody late) and both the Green Party and the Pirate Party have better policies than the Lib Dems whose manifesto is actually silent.  Find out what your candidates think, understand the electoral arithmetic in your constituency and cast your vote accordingly. But remember, it was the Labour rebels who were & remain the true friends of internet freedom. The Lib Dem frontbench at no time opposed technical measures and disconnection and is still talking about curtailing piracy.

If you want a hung parliament, it’s a similar process, understand your  constituency electoral arithmetic, and vote either Liberal Democrat or Labour, which ever has the best chance of winning, unless you live in Brighton Pavilion, where voting for Caroline Lucas, the Green Party candidate may lead to the Greens getting their first ‘Westminster MP’. I feel that Parliament would benefit from having a Green Party presence, their best chance looks to be  Brighton Pavilion, where their leader, Caroline Lucas is standing. If I lived there, I’d be really torn.

If you want a fair voting system, again understand the constituency electoral arithmetic, and vote either Liberal Democrat or Labour, which ever has the best chance of winning, unless you live in Brighton Pavilion, where you should consider voting Green.  The Liberal Democrats want a proportional representation voting scheme, as occurs in most of Europe, Labour propose a new voting system to ensure every MP has the support of the majority of voters. There’s room for a compromise here, and as a Labour supporter, I want a truly fair voting system, if that means coalition governments from now on, then so be it….I have had enough of single party majorities, even my own.  Some people, Ed Balls, thats you that is, argue that coalitions mean that politics occurs behind closed doors, all I can say is that one party government does the same. Many of the Labour Government’s worst mistakes were made inside committee rooms to which to few party members, supporters and voters were invited. I think multi-party government will put the compromises, and the points of contention in front of the people and deals will have to be in the open.

If you don’t like the Mirror’s guide, check your seat at the Guardian’s election page, which I quote because it’s actually got estimated voting numbers, and the Guardian’s guide to tactical voting. …

A week’s a long time in politics

The Bill becomes an Act

Just over a week ago, the Digital Economy Bill got its 3rd reading, and according to “Computing” got its Royal Assent  on the 9th April. I watched the 2nd & 3rd reading debates on parliament.tv with Tweetdeck open. Others have commented on how helpful having crowd sourced commentary was, which I have to agree with and also how disappointed they were that most MPs weren’t in the chamber to hear the debate. Twitter certainly enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the debates, which were rather spoiled at the end by the tiny vote in favour of the Lib Dem amendment and then against the 3rd reading. On the good side, I have been pleased to ‘meet’  some new twitter correspondents, however I had to turn it off at work for the rest of the week. Unlike contracted musicians with royalty based earnings, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid and I found it too distracting. …