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 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,


How democratic is the UK in 2022

How democratic is the UK in 2022

The 2022 version of the Economist’s Democracy Index is out, and I am surprised to find that the UK remains classed as a Democracy and maintains its position as 18th in the World. I last looked at this in 2018 and wrote quite a long article, being surprised at how few Democracies are defined as such by the Economist and how, if the US was classed as a flawed democracy, the UK was not. Democracy is,

Government by consent expressed through free and fair elections and under the rule of law without favour.

The Economist’s index measures over five classifications and sixty questions. The five classifications are Elections (with 12 questions), Government (14), Participation (9), Culture (8) and Human Rights (16). The article looks at theirs and my scoring in each category.

In summary, I believe that, on “Free, fair and meaningful elections”, the UK’s score is serious damaged by the existence of the House of Lords and FPTP votin. There is an inadequate regulation of election finance laws with recently weakened independence for the regulator and an inequality of access to the press and media.

On Functioning of government, I mark the UK down on a weak democratic control of the Government, and no basic human rights law. In the UK, the Government controls the legislature and not the other way around.

On Civil Liberties, I am concerned about the lack of social rights and the limited access to judicial review, there is a serious crisis of confidence in the police, racism is rife within the nation expressed both economically and in terms of relations between minority communities and the state and the government always over-reacts to public order outrages, and is inciting the political atmosphere to pass even more regressive laws.

I talk about the importance of the recommendations of Gordon Brown’s Commission on the constitution of the UK. I commented on the Commission's report in an article, called, New Britain, New Britcon [also on Medium]. The Commission ducked the issue of proportional representation which would be another means of ensuring that the legislature, i.e. Parliament held the government accountable and not the other way round.

Some of where we disagree is about methodology, some of it is values based, but there is a big difference in our scores and the issues I raise need to be addressed by the Economist in their methodology and by the rest of us in terms of building and/or defending a democratic state.

Even Norway’s democracy, the Economist’s No. 1, can be improved.

There is considerably more detailed critique overleaf, including three diagrams. Use the "Read More" button ...

Johnson’s defence splurge

Johnson’s defence splurge

Boris Johnson as accelerated the financial conclusions of his government’s defence review, which may have been originally over influenced by Dominic Cumming’s cyberpunk fantasies about the future of war. Everything Johnson says in this announcement is of little value, what Starmer says is important and his questions need to be answered, particularly “Where’s the strategy?” It’s a shame he makes it sound like a failure in management theory. Without answering that question, we are in danger of creeping back east of Suez, or am I already too late to worry about this, and being dragged into wars against Iran or China. Interestingly, Johnson by alleging that the decline in expense and capability has been going on for decades unskilfully avoids the immense damage that Cameron/Osborne’s 2010 review did to the capability of the armed forces. The rest of this article looks at the need for a threat analysis, the wisdom of strategic alliances, defence spending as an incubator, the military's fixations on shiny things, and concludes with an appeal to oppose new war's East of Suez.

Venezuela: what does Amnesty say?

For those that think the UK Government has the right to tell Venezuela how it should run itself, here are Amnesty International’s reports on Venezuela and the UK.

They make an interesting read, criticising Venezuela on the grounds of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest & detention, human rights defenders, independent justice system, prisoners of conscience, international scrutiny, enforced disappearances, impunity, detention, right to food and health, women’s rights and refugees.

The UK report picks out Legal, Constitutional & Institutional affairs, the Justice System, Counter-terror & security, Torture and other ill-treatment, Surveillance, Northern Ireland – legacy issues, Sexual and reproductive rights, Discrimination, Right to life, Refugees’ and migrants’ rights, violence against women and girls and the arms trade.

Neither list is pretty but the freedom of speech and international scrutiny/legal, constitutional & institutional affairs are surprisingly equivalent and the Amnesty report on the UK raises several vulnerabilities of the UK people as a result of austerity, so its questionable that the Tories questioning the legitimacy of Maduro on the grounds that he’s oppressing his people.

The Venezuela presidential election is conducted, it would seem by one of the best e-voting systems in the world, with what IT security experts require, paper receipts and control audits. The opposition conceded.

It is quite bizarre that the leader of the opposition declares himself the acting president and that this is recognised by other states, not to mention foolhardy, there’s a

Maduro may be a shit, but he is not the only Head of State to be so, and the poverty of its people has as much to do with the illegal sanctions employed by the USA as it does to the any kleptocratic, corrupt instincts in the Venezuelan ruling party and he was elected in free and fair elections.


The Amnesty report on the UK does not mention Philip Alston’s, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights report on the UK, covered by me on this blog here… .

I posted this with a spelling mistake in the title, bother! Here is the wp SURL and here is a SURL …

How democratic is the UK?

While writing and thinking about Labour Party governance, I asked myself the question how does one measure democraciness?  My reading for that article pointed me at two data sets that allow one to answer this question for Nation States. These are the Polity IV index and the Economist Information Unit’s Democracy Index. The key white paper for Polity IV is, CONCEPTUALIZING AND MEASURING DEMOCRACY Evaluating Alternative Indices, by MUNCK & VERKUILEN, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2002 and the Economist defines its methodology in this paper, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy by Laza Kekic dated 2007 which lists their 60 attributes of democracy.

I have decided to examine the Economist’s methodology to see if it can be used to help understand the democraciness of non-Nation State entities. However, I went through the questions and scored the UK according to my own judgements. The rest of this article looks at the Economist’s methodology and my findings about the UK’s democracy. …  …

Eternal vigilance

I have been pointed at China’s Social Credit Scoring plans via two routes. The first is this extract published at Wired from Rachel Botsman’s book, “Who can we trust”. This details the Chinese Governments plan to build a social credit scoring scheme, but the sources and incentives are horrendously comprehensive, including their leading match making agency. (It’s taken me some time to read this article, an I have bookmarked and annotated it in my diigo feed.) Worrying things about the Chinese scheme is that voluntary participation becomes mandatory; while rewards and incentives are at the forefront of everyone’s mind today, control and punishment is planned, in the Chinese case in the short term they are talking about foreign and domestic travel restrictions but as I note, the countries leading dating agency is one of the surveillance agencies. There is also talk of social investment loans (helicopter money) which become available on the basis of social scores.

The second route was an article on Medium by someone who got banned from AirBnB. He pointed at an article on Buzzfeed, “A Chinese-Style Digital Dystopia Isn’t As Far Away As We Think” where a series of regulatory decisions in the USA seem to be paving the way to something similar, a powerful illustration that the argument that surveillance is OK if it’s private sector is horrendously false.

One worrying aspect of the proposed Chinese system is that your reputation is as good as that of your friends and we have idiots trying to replicate it with peeple, and reading up on that has started me worrying about Linkedin and its competitors and we all know we should get off facebook.

The wired article came before machine learning and massive scale AI became a hot topic, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens to social credit scores when they let rip with the application of machine learning. The automated derivation of reputation scores also raises issues of safeguarding, libel and context. Safeguarding and libel laws require the machines to tell the truth, in fact safeguarding may require machines to hide the truth. Context requires a level of nuance that we are unsure if machines will ever have, but even if they get there, justice and judges must remain human and the code must be open; China’s & Facebook’s is not!. The GDPR gives data subjects rights, perhaps its time to revisit the seven principles.

Of course in the UK, we have our very own examples of machines and data sharing getting it wrong. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary has suspended the intra-government and some of the other immigration data sharing as a result of the backlash on the Windrush scandal. (I wonder if this I an excuse to look again at the DPA Immigration Exemption clauses.) Much of what is happening in China and the USA is also happening in the UK, it’s just that the surveillance agents are the US owned datenkraken and the British State have legalised the hacking of their data streams.

What’s happening in China is terrible, but our governments are following suit! The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. …

Power in Iran & the UK

A couple of years ago, I found this picture, illustrating the relationships between organs of government in Iran. I we struck by the similarities between it and the UK.

On revisiting it over the last few weeks, I am less enamoured of the similarities. Originally I saw the Queen & Iran’s Supreme Leader as equivalent and the UK’s Premier & the Iranian President as equally the equivalent positions. The Guardian Council is the House of Lords and we should note that the Assembly of Experts is elected.

If you study the diagram and look at the powers appointment of the Supreme Leader, we can see that the British Premier is more powerful as all those appointments are made in the UK on the so-called recommendation of the Prime Minister.

At least the Iranian President is directly elected and the Supreme Leader indirectly so.


I think I might create dot graphs of the two governments. …

Privacy & compliance, reprised

I have had a look at the changes in Law, and thus the potential changes in data protection strategy since I first wrote about the conflicts between privacy, compliance and law enforcement.

The US courts have been siding with citizens and their privacy rights, the ECJ has been doing the same. Parliament has been going in the opposite direction, although the Supreme Court has declared the Data Retention laws to be contrary to Human Rights Law and should we actually leave the EU we will find obtaining an “Adequacy” agreement harder than we’d hope as the EU Parliament, Commission and the EU Data Protection Supervisory board focus on the rights of privacy from Governments. This will be a significant problem if the ECJ strikes down the model clauses and binding corporate rules.

I briefly touch on the fact that the European Laws are meant to be implementing the globally agreed seven principles of Data Protection, of Notice, Purpose, Consent, Security, Disclosure, Access and Accountability and that in a rights based jurisdiction, these rights must be protected from the Government as well as from Corporates.


The language has developed since 1980 but these principles were agree by the OECD in 1980.

I conclude the article by saying,

Today, under EU law, the lawful purpose would seem to be more flexible, cross border transfers are more restricted, and may become more so, and the EU is more concerned about nation state compliance; it’s what you’d expect from a political entity consisting of states and the children of people surviving fascist or Stalinist rule.

This political heritage should be remembered by those that see these laws merely as a business burden, …

No safe space

No safe space

I made a storify after the election, and its terrorist disruption about the, mainly Tory response in blaming the internet. I don’t make the point that the Northern Ireland “troubles” were pre-internet but I do talk about the Tories, and May’s instinctive response is to censor and silence dissidents. I also point to Amnesty International’s critical report on the UK’s surveillance laws. I transferred this to the blog, as at the original date of publication, once Storify announced they were abandoning their service.


PASOKisation in Britain

PASOKisation in Britain

The once mighty PASOK has been reduced to the smallest Party in the new Greek Parliament. In 2009, it won 44% of the popular vote and formed the Government; earlier this year, it won a under 5%. Its decision to join the New Democrat led coalition in 2010 had led to a split, with much of the left of PASOK leaving to support its eventual replacement, Syrizia. PASOK has been killed by its own austerity policies and walking away from the hopes and causes of their political base.  …