Once again people are talking about “those who voted for a coalition” completing over-looking the fact that nobody did – they all voted for the candidate of their choice or (far too often and very sadly) decided that they wouldn’t vote at all.  It is tempting to assume that these are people who are abrogating their responsibilities as good citizens but we should spare a thought for those who, after long and hard deliberation, decide that they are not prepared to endorse any of the available  candidates.

Anyway, just for the record, I reproduce below a blog I put up shortly after the election in 2010. It may be of interest so here it is.

I want to try to find the answer two questions. Who actually determined the outcome of the last general election which was to result in a coalition? Who actually determined the candidates who became MP’s?

Before looking at some answers, the following may be of interest.

650 seats were contested meaning that to hold a majority a party needed 326 seats. No party contested all of the seats: by a remarkable coincidence the three main parties all fielded 631 candidates.

10,703,754 people voted for the Conservatives giving them 306 seats (47.1%) and 36.1% of the votes.

8,609,527 people voted for Labour giving them 258 seats (39.7%) and 29% of the votes.

6,836,824 people voted for the LibDems giving them 57 seats (8.8%) and 23% of the votes.

If we convert the ratio of votes cast to seats Conservatives should have had 234 seats, Labour 189 and the LibDems 150 with the remaining 77 going to the other parties (who actually gained 22). These ‘others’ included the Nationalist Parties of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales plus one member for the Green Party. This would have resulted in a coalition but it would have included the Labour party rather than the Conservatives (assuming that the LibDems would have felt happier being in coalition with Labour rather than Conservative).

Out of an electorate of 45,597,461 the votes counted were 29,687.604 (65%). There were a further 303,867 votes but these were on ‘spoiled papers’.

Now to look at who determined this outcome. To start with I decided to look at any seat won by one of the three main parties where the majority was less than 2,000. That is, of course, an arbitrary figure and I later realised it was the wrong one to choose but I decided you might like to share my thought processes.

65 seats fell into that category – 10% of the total. Here are the figures.

  • Seats won by Conservatives with Labour in second place: 20 with 17.567 votes.
  • Seats won by Labour with Conservatives in second place: 18 with 18,680 votes.
  • Seats won by Labour with LibDems in second place: 9 with 6,630 votes.
  • Seats won by Conservatives with LibDems in second place: 7 with 4,848 votes
  • Seats won by LibDems with Labour in second place: 5 with 7,141 votes.
  • Seats won by LibDems with Conservatives in second place: 4 with 3,061 votes.

As you can see, these continue to support the view that some voters have far more power than others. Conservatives beat Labour 20 times with a total majority of 17,567. Had ‘voter power’ been equal, the 18,680 majority in favour of Labour would have produced 21 seats and not 18.

The only plausible difference would have been for Conservatives to have gained 20 more seats thus avoiding the need to enter into a coalition and so all we need to consider is the most marginal 20 seats. These include the 4 seats taken by the LibDems where the majorities were 3,061. The other 16 seats would have had to come from Labour so we can discount 2 of the results. The majority in the other 16 seats was 15,073.

So there we have it, 18,134 voters determined that we should have a coalition (not that they would have thought about it in those terms, of course. Nobody – but nobody – voted with the intention of creating a coalition). Interestingly, it would not have mattered for what other candidate this group voted (or none). Take those votes away from those 4 LibDems and 16 Labour candidates and there would have been a Conservative government, albeit with the tiniest imaginable majority.

In percentage terms 0.62% of those who voted actually made a difference. If you prefer, this is 0.04% of all those entitled to vote.

Now for question number two. In the best case scenario, a candidate is chosen by a democratic vote. My best research seems to indicate that party membership in any constituency rarely exceeds 200. Since that may be a bit low, we will work on 500. 500 people in each of the 20 marginal seats where the result of the last election was determined involved in selecting their candidate means that only 10,000 selected those 20 MP’s and I suspect the figure to be far lower than that and I could choose many examples of events that fuel that suspicion.

The selection of Gloria de Piero as Labour PPC for Ashfield (following the announcement that Geoff Hoon was standing down) was mired in controversy. This is not a problem confined to the Labour Party. As the Daily Mail reported in February 2010, the relationship between the Conservative Association in Surrey East and David Cameron became somewhat strained over the matter of selecting a candidate.

So there we have it. In this much prized democracy the vast majority of us have no say in which party will take power and even less when it comes to the people who grace the green benches in the House of Commons.


Freeing England from the grip of Scottish MP’s

Rodney Willett:

Well worth spending a few minutes reading this.

Originally posted on The English Parliamentary Party:

There are moves afoot in various areas to solve the problems associated with Scottish MP’s voting on matters English in a simplistic way: deny the Scottish MP’s the right to vote in matters which concern only England.

The appeal of this is that it is extremely easy and can be put in place at no cost in a short time scale. The first of these is a very good reason for choosing this route. The second, however, appears typical of the sort of short-term thinking so frequently found in all governments but especially (or so it seems) in this government and even more so in the thinking of our Prime Minister.

This would be of no consequence except that the proposal is demonstrably deeply flawed – despite the fact that many seemingly intelligent people have endorsed it.

It is deeply flawed for a simple reason.

There is no purpose in…

View original 761 more words

A Parliament for England

Let’s Google “English Parliamentary Party” and see what we come up with.

First up: the English Democratic Party. They call themselves “the official democratic Party of England” but I cannot see who gave them the right to call themselves that. They have just issued a news release in response to the result of the vote in Scotland.

Here is a flavour of what is said on their web site: “The English Democrats commiserate with the Yes campaign and the Scottish National Party and Alex Salmond on the disappointing result of the Scottish Independence Referendum. They should however be congratulated on an excellent campaign against all the lies and propaganda and dirty tricks put up by the British Political and Media Establishment. The abiding memory for the People of England of the Scottish Referendum will be the sight of senior “British” politicians demonstrating again and again and again that they have no interest in properly representing English interests, England or the English Nation and every intention of selling us down the river.”

Now, I don’t know about you but that really is a turn off for me. However, let us move on a bit. ‘Robin Tilbrook, the Chairman of the English Democrats said:- “It is now England’s turn to be heard and the English Democrats have every confidence that the People of England will reject the shabby deal concocted by the Unionist Westminster elite in a conspiracy against English interests. This was rushed through for the purpose of subverting the democratic process in the Yes/No Scottish Referendum after the same gang had refused to allow the Devo-max option to actually be put on the ballot paper. The Westminster elite has shown itself to be utterly self-interested, dishonest, undemocratic and unfit to run our country. So far as England is concerned the English Democrats call upon all those who care about England to block the implementation of “Devo-max” until exactly the same is offered for the whole of England as a national unit.’

Here I admit he says a couple of things with which I agree although I still find the tone tasteless. The question is, “would I be prepared to join this party?” and I fear that the answer, having explored their web site is, “no”. You may care to check it out for yourself.

Next up (we are on page 2 now because there are lots of lists of parties which ae of no great interest) is the English People’s Party. These have a WordPress blog site (and there is nothing wrong with that – this is a WordPress blog site) but the last post was dated May 9 last year. I think we can safely say this is not the way to go.

On to page 4 and we find the BNP which (and I hope you agree with this) should receive the least possible publicity. Next item takes us to a group calling itself Progressonline. Good name and it says some interesting things – but they all date back to 2011 or earlier. Oh dear, oh dear.

Page 5: nothing. Page 6: England’s Parliamentary Party (silent since 2008). Page 8: nothing and the same for 9 and 10. Enough. We can draw a conclusion here.

There is no viable group capable of uniting the people of the four nations in a way that they need to be united in order to establish a four-nation federation which – at least in my view – is the only sensible and doable way forward following the Scottish vote and the wild promises made by politicians of all colours: promises made with no reference to the view of the electorate of these four nations.

So we need to create one.

So we have.

Here’s the link – – but it doesn’t take you to anything more than a few ideas that need to be thrown around and thought about. That’s where you come in, if you want to.

What Next?

What Next?.

Time for a federal UK?

This is bravado – it has to be since in a few days time there will be a referendum ion Scotland that may change everything. Or not, of course. Except that it will – it really can’t help itself. Anyway, here is a proposal for you to think about.

First – if Scotland votes “No”.

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, on 01.01.2015 the House of Commons becomes the English Parliament and in it sits the existing English MP’s. Excluding the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office they take over the entire structure of government in Westminster and Whitehall. So far no costs have been incurred.

It is up to the Scots, the Welsh and those in Northern Ireland to decide what they do with their elected MP’s.

We then create a Federal Assembly to whom the MoD and the FO report. I suggest this should contain 74 members: 64 elected by the English Assembly from their elected members, 5 for the Scots, 3 for Wales and 2 for NP. That is on a basis of one member per million of the national populations (rounded UP for the smaller nations and DOWN for England). Again how the other nations appoint/elect their members would be up to them. This assembly meets as required in the HoL chamber and takes over the entire structure of Mod and the FO. Still no great cost.

Some matters should be dealt with on a federal basis but are presently not in either of those two departments. Those functions could be transferred – the border control from Home Office to the MoD, say, complete with the Border Agency. Still no great cost.

There may be a few other institutions that would have to work with the federal assembly but the only one I can think of is the Bank of England.

Meanwhile all the four national assemblies from that date have equal powers including the power to raise whatever taxes they like. Call it devo-max for all. Each would contribute as needed to the federal coffers (and I can see some interesting arguments between the four as to the level of each contribution) but how they raise that is up to the national assemblies.

I am, of course, assuming that the Welsh and those in Northern Ireland would welcome this move.

Second if Scotland votes “Yes”.

Much as above. Scotland would be invited to become a member of the Federation known as the UK from day one and would probably accept. If, however, they refused then it really is the end of the road with them. All that belongs to the UK is brought south and a proper border with all the usual controls is created and the Federation has only three members – and that federation would tell Scotland what was on the table – there would be no negotiations. There would be no purpose in them. Meanwhile, the possibility of Scotland joining the UK as a new member should remain on the table.

What’s not to like? It’s simple, it offers what most people seem to be saying they now want and it would not cost a great deal nor would it add any further to the required civil service/bureaucracy.

Am afterthought: I would be even happier if the federation elected to leave the EU.

The Smallest Competent Authority revisited

Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil: in its worst state, an intolerable one. (Thomas Paine)

This is what I wrote in March 2011.

Having entered the seventh decade of my life I often find myself becoming very cross with those who are running our country. Indeed, the whole process which once seemed so reasonable now seems awful – mendacious, self-serving and (most importantly) grossly inefficient. Over the years I have come to believe the following statements:-

It is beyond the wit of man properly to govern the sort of complex, multi-layered society in which we, in the UK, now live (or we aren’t as clever as we think we are!).

The form of representative democracy that we have in this country no longer works in the best interests of the people as it fails to meet the needs of many members of the electorate and has handed too much power to central government – as opposed to parliament – and to innumerable unaccountable bodies.

If, as seems likely, the problem is one of scale then the solution is to reduce the size of problems until they are small enough to be understood. Small problems, analysed as close to the source of difficulty as possible, with decisions being taken at as local a level as possible are far more likely to result in sensible decisions being made. Put it another way: all decisions should be taken by the smallest competent authority accepting that that could be anything from a town or parish council to the a multi-national authority such as the U.N.

* * *

After that blog appeared, I received a very interesting email from Marek Kubik which included the following.

“From reading your more recent blog posts I see you’re a fan of local governance. Breaking down the problem into smaller chunks and making it easier to solve. I can see the logic behind this, but I also didn’t see consideration for the potential pitfalls; namely:”

He then lists three points which I would like to take one at a time. The first is this:

“Centralisation is arguably better for efficiency (as one amalgamated office for say, the treasury is more efficient and cost effective to run than a separate one in every constituency).”

My first reaction is that this is not always true. Clearly where the requirements are identical in all respects (such as all the branches of a chain of opticians) and there are no local variations, savings can be made by centralising design and purchasing. However, that is generally not true when it comes to governance. Areas are different: they have different needs, different local suppliers and there is likely to be a difference when considering what the people of the area need and want. This is true even within the NHS. Every hospital has (or I assume has) a stand-by generating plant. Should they all buy the same model or even from the same supplier? I would argue that the answer is ‘no’. For a start, not all hospitals would need the same size of generator – so there can be no ‘best’ manufacturer to cover the entire range. Secondly is the question of the proximity of a service facility: If you are the western end of Cornwall you do not want to rely on a service engineer coming from, say, Bristol.

Here is the second. “Letting my engineering background shine through, a local based government system could be considered sub-optimal from a systemic point of view. The sum of local optimums may be worse than a single global optimum. By this I mean if every local community only looks out for and funds itself, the poorer communities will struggle most. Under a centralised system the taxes from the funding can be coordinated that the wealthiest constituencies can be redistributed to the poorest. I guess I’m talking about the concept of ‘the greater good’ here, and that is something that I guess depends very much on your political philosophy as to its relevance.”

Here I absolutely agree in that Marek hits on a problem that would arise unless it were to be properly addressed. My preferred solution (at the moment and very much work in progress) is that all income related taxes and property taxes should be collected on a local basis – both personal and business – whilst VAT, Customs and Excise and other taxes should be centrally collected. In this day and age of computers that should not present any administrative problems (but would, of course, if the IT is unreliable). One of the functions of central government would be to administer a levelling grant to local areas based on a formula taking into consideration a range of factors (each area’s average income, population, etc). Incidentally, at this stage I am deliberately not defining what I mean by ‘a local area’ as that is a complex subject requiring more consideration.

Marek’s third point was: “Re-emphasis on localism could potentially detract from national unity. This sounds like a very authoritarian statement from someone like me (I’m slightly left of centre and slightly libertarian on the political compass), but what I mean here is a danger of different laws and legislation being ratified in different parts of the UK. So, to take an extreme example, one liberal area supports and legalises full rights for gay marriage, and a very conservative one overturns and outlaws it.”

Yes, but that is the whole point. To put it bluntly, what is localism? Looked at on a global scale, were there a global authority which pronounced on, say, gay rights I would hazard a guess that there would be more against such rights than for. Whether or not that is true, I would be most upset – I am also a libertarian but swing wildly between left and right as I go from subject to subject – if gay legislation ion this country were to be reversed as a result.

All of which assumes, of course, that if the local authority is a major tax raising authority it will be taken more seriously by the electorate – but that again is another subject.

* * *

Reading through that piece again today, I remain convinced that central decision making far from what we have come to call ‘the coal face’ is at best inefficient and at times utterly wrong. This is true, I believe, in all walks of life, not just the government. There are two problems with it. The first is that the information from said coal face to the decision maker will have passed through a number of hands and some of those hands (if not all) will have an agenda. They may not even realise that they have one but everyone has one even when they honestly do not realise that they do. Indeed, then it is even more dangerous. Anyway, it means that the person who has to take the decision takes it on false data.

Then there are the distortions in the command as they travel back down through the various layers of managers and administrators, each layer will want to see how these instructions fit with their working practices and will seek to amend or even reverse certain parts of the instruction before passing it on.

And we wonder why each and every decisions seems to result in extra cost, a number of (often expensive) unexpected consequences and not very much actually changing in the intended direction. It is, I feel, reasonable to say that these costs are greater than the so-called savings that may or may not be achieved by centralisation.

One final thought which I do not intend to pursue here. Some of us have been discussing a reverse flow of tax. In other words local collection and the amount that filters trough to what would (in essence) be a federal central government would depend on the relative wealth of each locality. This is work in progress,

Hamas and Israel

Should the UK become involved in the conflict between Israel and Hamas or in the conflict between ISIS and various other groups in the middle east?

It is often said that a government’s prime duty is the defence of the realm. Even that is not as simple as it sounds. As good a place to start is to consider the concept of the ‘just war’.Three such ’causes’ have, since Roman times, been cited as reasons for declaring war: invasion, breaking a treaty and damage to or theft of property.

The UK’s military have been in action continuously since the second world war. In my opinion few of these actions could be described as ‘just’ on that basis. Indeed, only three spring to mind: Korea, Kuwait and the Falklands. Of these only the third involved one of the UK’s possessions. Was there any moral justification for the other interventions?

Many were triggered by human rights atrocities of one sort or another. These always pose a problem for me: such intervention demands that the UK chooses one side over the other and often, with hindsight, it seems that the wrong side was chosen. The classic case of such a decision was the Vietnam War and it is much to Harold Wilson’s credit that he refused to be drawn into that conflict despite huge pressure from the US.

Guilt comes into this too. In places we controlled when we ran an empire, we drew lines on maps that bore little reference to the people living in those areas – especially in Africa. Those who took control in the middle east after the first world war and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (which, of course, included the UK) repeated those mistakes: they also drew lines (almost literally in the sand) which took little account of traditional boundaries. To be fair, in all these cases those boundaries were very fluid and fluidity is something that the so-called developed world finds difficult to accept.

There is also a sense of guilt over the creation of the state of Israel. Any group which retains a religious loyalty which transcends national boundaries can be seen as being a threat to governments (even when they are not) and the Jews have been a convenient target for regimes that wished to divert attention from their own actions. It is perfectly understandable that a significant number of Jews would decide that the only escape from anti-Semitism was to create their own homeland.

Thus the creation of a Jewish state in the middle east came into being. You can argue about the rights and wrongs of the creation of that state but the fact is that it was created and, very importantly, it was recognised as being a bona fide state by the United Nations in 1948. Israel created a focal point for inter-group tensions in that part of the middle east and many were not happy to accept the (democratic?) decision of the UN and vowed to destroy Israel and all the Jews living therein.

This is central to many of the problems in the middle east as I see them – which does not mean that I am right. We, the west, think in terms of democracy. They, the people of the middle east do not. They do not respect the ballot box (although many living there world wish it to be otherwise): they respect power. We have ample evidence of that. Following free and fair elections held in places such as Egypt (usually greeted with joy on all fronts) matters begin to turn sour when the new, democratically elected government proves less powerful than the leaders of some of the ‘parties’ that lost at the election.

It is as if, in May 2015, Red Ed were to win the election and the new leader of the opposition (shall we call him J?) succeeded in persuading enough members of our armed forces and or police to mount a military coup. It is impossible to imagine that happening in the UK, isn’t it? Are we sure? If things weren’t working (remember the three-day week, the piles of rubbish in the streets, unburied bodies?) then there could be enough tension for violence to break out and if Red Ed could not restore order and J could . . . We have ample evidence that this scenario, so alien to us here in the UK, would be the norm in parts of the middle east with the possible exception of Israel.

As an aside: to make matters worse, faction A sees that faction B has broken a treaty or damaged property and so the retaliation becomes a just war. But that retaliation also breaks that treaty or damages property and so now faction A sees this as a just war.

To return to the main argument: we have decided that this time we really do know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Let us assume that in this case it is the Israelis who are the bad guys because the have used dis-proportionate force against the people of Gaza.

What can we do? Well, we could stop selling things to Israel (including arms). Assuming that this so weakens Israel as to make it impossible for them to continue action again Gaza (and there is no point in doing it unless that can be achieved) we have now given Hamas the opportunity for which they have been waiting – an Israel weak enough for the forces of destruction to go in and annihilate or evict the Jews: mission accomplished – no more Israel. Only there are a lot of Jews who do not live in the UK and over whom we have no control. It is inconceivable that they would just stand back and watch this happen. Is that sort of action against Israel really likely to bring peace and stability of the middle east?

If you agree with me that it is not, you would also probably agree that we would not be able to clear the first hurdle (making Israel weaker than Gaza) but there is one thing we would achieve. Our government would no longer be on speaking terms with the Israeli government and any influence we might have had would then be lost. (This point was made by Dr Sarah Woolaston MP on letters to some of her constituents and it is, I think, a very valid point despite the reception it received).

So, as far as I can see, there is nothing we can do to make matters better other than to try to help with any peace proposals should our help be sought.

This is NOT to say that I condone the way in which the Israeli have been used. It is NOT to say that I am unmoved by the appalling sights coming our of Gaza. The amount of force used by Israel is terribly wrong and I cannot see that it can do anything other than harm. Frankly I despair of the situation but I am prepared to accept that if I had as a neighbour a regime that was intent on wiping me and mine off the face of the planet, I might well behave just as badly. Wouldn’t you?