You Deserve Better

About Last Night…

Last night we had the main Uxbridge and South Ruislip hustings, organised once again by the Hillingdon Chamber of Commerce. It was a relatively sparse event, with maybe 80 people in the audience, something of a shame given the size of the constituency but a reflect of how disillusioned people are with politics. I wanted to talk a little bit about last night and what some performances indicated. I don’t intend to spend much time at all on my own performance largely because much of what I said has fled my memory, but the time I got to listen to the other candidates is still fairly clear. So here’s some of what I remember of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip hustings. Steve Tuckwell Those who have read my page before will know that I do not hold Steve Tuckwell in particularly high regard, and yesterday’s performance from him did nothing to change my opinion.  He interrupted repeatedly, often completely pointlessly. For example when I said that inflation was 24% over the past 5 years he interrupted to say that it was 2% now – this added absolutely nothing to my point, nor did it contradict anything that I was saying, it’s clearly just a talking point that he has been blindly told to repeat without context. I have a chart demonstrating this (see across).  The recent figure of 2% only takes into account the last 12 months, but focusing only on that ignores the huge impact that the years of extreme inflation have caused, and this is a price that all working families will be paying for decades. In short, the figure of 2% might be technically true, but it is highly misleading to try  to  distract people from the  fact that prices have in fact risen by nearly 25% in 5 years. Tuckwell also repeated his claim that Hillingdon Hospital is fully funded. This is a falsehood – whether it is a lie or him failing to understand what most people define “fully funded” to be, I genuinely don’t know.  I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is just  clueless, but the weight of evidence about just how much he has spread falsehoods on behalf of the Conservatives make me believe that he knows precisely what he is doing. For the avoidance of doubt, the hospital is not fully funded.  It has the funding it needs to carry out the  establishing works – site clearance, installation of utilities, etc, but the actual build costs have been deferred to the next Parliament or beyond. This means they are not fully funded, because the likelihood is that there will be no Conservative government to hold to account for such promises, so in essence the commitment has been handed to the next government, likely Labour. This is not full funding a projects.  This is deferring the problem until someone else fixes it for you.  I can predict exactly what this is going to look like, though.  Tuckwell is hedging his bets, working on the assumption that he is going to be voted out, and he is starting to lay  the groundwork for claims that “the hospital was fully  funded when I left, why is it not fully funded now?”  The answer is that it is not fully funded. It has never been fully funded. The fully funded status of this hospital is identical to the 40 that were promised by Boris Johnson in 2019, none of which have ever seen the light of day.  This is not “fully funded” by any rational definition, because “fully funded” means that the money is in place, and that the works will happen regardless of changes in  government.  People will eventually start remembering the lies, and I am fairly certain we are near that  point in Uxbridge – enough is enough. Interestingly, although he repeatedly commented about being a hard working MP who has put the constituency  first, Tuckwell was very reluctant to highlight any of his voting record in Parliament. This was perhaps not too surprising give one audience member had to remind him that he had in fact voted against calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Aside from that, Tuckwell has also voted to suppress the school safety report that would allow parents to be aware of whether their  children’s schools were built using RAAC, a substance now known to be crumbling far faster than anticipated.  Definitely not an action in the interests of local people, and something I sincerely hope he is ashamed of. At the Uxbridge and South Ruislip hustings last year, Tuckwell claimed not to be Boris Johnson. I ask you, is this an improvement? Danny Beales Beales once again made it very difficult to say anything negative about him, because he remained calm, answered points rationally and generally came across as very statesmanlike. I will say this, however.  An audience member asked him what his views on Proportional Representation are, and he said that he supported them.  I pointed out that in that case he was in the wrong party, because Labour’s 1997 manifesto included a commitment to Proportional Representation, which they reneged on, and their 2010 manifesto included a commitment to Alternative Voting (not Proportional Representation, but a step in the right direction).  We Liberal Democrats fought hard as a party and secured a national referendum on electoral reform with Labour’s preferred system as the one that would replace the archaic First Past The Post system we currently have, and half of their MPs at the time campaigned with the Tories against the system, meaning the referendum ultimately failed.  Labour are absolutely not the party of electoral reform, to the extend that they have kept any promises to reform our broken voting system out  of this manifesto, which is arguable the best opportunity we have ever had as a country to push for real, lasting change to our politics. This is a truly sad state of affairs for Labour because

My Campaign Leaflet

As you probably know by now, my campaign is not a particularly well-funded one.  We don’t have the backing of wealthy donors with extremely deep pockets, nor are we gifted large amounts of cash by trade unions.  So we have to be very frugal with the money we spend on campaigns.  To that end, I designed my own campaign leaflet and had planned to make use of the free Royal Mail delivery available to all candidates.  I had the artwork signed off by my agent and then Royal Mail, and I was ready to deal with the 47,000 copies that I had ordered. Unfortunately the printer contacted me yesterday to say that they would not be completing my order, so Uxbridge & South Ruislip will not be getting my leaflet.  To say I am disappointed is a huge understatement. But I thought that even in the absence of a physical copy, I can at least share the final design with you as a reader of my website. So here you are, in all its glory:

Even More Economic Ineptitude

This would be a much less wasteful thing to do with money than what Reform UK have in mind. Reform UK are on the move, but unfortunately it’s just another example of them wanting to play at politics without any real understanding of what they are doing.  I am referring to this “manifesto” which has surfaced in recent days on Twitter.  This particular image was shares by a self-declared stand-up comedian, but most of his recent political posts seem to be serious (or at least that looks like it was the intention).  The image in question is this one: Let’s go through claim by claim to see what makes sense, what doesn’t (most of it) and what is just so wrong it isn’t even in the right ballpark. Authenticity First of all, this is not an authentic manifesto. During an election campaign, all materials published by a party  are required to have an imprint on to show who has been responsible for making the claims.  This document lacks any such imprint, meaning it has the same impact as parody.  Nevertheless, several Reform UK candidates seem to be treating this as though it is real, so I will do the same.  Importantly, though, if this is official party policy, they have messed up by not including an imprint. Notwithstanding this crucial omission, I suspect that this is actually a sanctioned document by Reform UK.  I assume the missing imprint is deliberate to allow them plausible deniability if they actually get success, essentially giving them a “Get Out Of Promises Free” card.  So if you are reading this document and thinking “I like that a political party is promising these things” remember that they aren’t.  They are taking you for a fool, and they deserve your contempt for that and numerous other offences. Increased Personal Allowance Nothing wrong with this headline figure as a concept except to say why £20,000 is their chosen figure (minor gripe) and how they intend to pay for it (major problem, as this would cost a huge amount of tax revenue).  My back of envelope calculations suggest this on its own could cost upwards of £200 billion a year, on its own dwarfing the total cost of the whole manifesto stated as £141 billion. Scrap VAT on Fuel Bills and Lower Fuel Duty This seems like a reasonable solution until you realise that the reason why fuel bills are so high is because the free market allows energy companies to charge a high price for their product. Scrapping VAT on energy bills would have a short term benefit, but market forces would react to the reduction in price by nudging prices higher.  In a  few short years we would likely be back to the same issue again, but this time we would all be paying high energy prices and there would be no tax revenue to compensate us.  Worst of both worlds. The right solution is to either price regulate, nationalise the energy companies or introduce a competing publicly-owned supplier that can directly affect the prices offered by the remaining private sector companies. Reduce Corporation Tax to 20% No indication why reducing corporation tax would be a good idea, though it is of course interesting to note that Reform UK Ltd – a corporation – would directly benefit from such a tax reduction.  In reality, small companies rarely pay anywhere close to the 25% rate due to the number of allowances and reliefs they have available, and any income they generate which is paid out as salary is already an  allowable expense. Corporations do not need a lower rate of tax except to directly benefit their shareholders, not their employees. Freeze Non-Essential Immigration This is another costly measure that will likely cause us more problems than it solves, but even if successful, the question has to be raised of “who decides what is non-essential?” At the moment, it would wholly be Nigel Farage, as he seems to be the sole decision-maker for Reform UK, and frankly I wouldn’t want him making any such decisions on behalf of the country. Immediate Deportation for Foreign Criminals This  might as well be renamed “Catch and Release”. If we arrest someone in the UK and sentence them to a jail term, then deporting them back to their parent country is just setting them free instead of jailing them because they have not been sentenced to jail in that jurisdiction.  People would be free to come to the UK to commit whatever crimes they wanted, safe in the knowledge that if caught they would just be sent home again.  I can’t even begin to state what a terrible idea this would be for justice. This is one of those policies designed to sound like it would save money, but in reality all it would do is create a two-tier justice system where ironically the foreign criminals would have far better treatment than native British criminals. New Housing Again, no issue with this in principle as we need more housing. But again, it’s a good idea, but with no costings or even quantified goals. Life Skills in Schools and Scrap Student Loan Interest Sensible policies, but again no indication of who would get to pick the life skills being taught.  As such, the default is Nigel Farage getting to decide on curriculum content, which frankly should terrify anyone even if they actually like him – one man absolutely should not have that much power. In terms of scrapping student loan interest, it’s a start, I suppose.  But the lost interest has to be paid for from somewhere, and there’s no indication of where this will come from. Farming There’s talk here about increasing the farming budget, but not what would be done with it, increasing our food production without any sort of acknowledgement that we don’t grow all our own food because we actually like the food that we import, and subsidised agricultural apprenticeships.  Nothing wrong with this last one necessarily, but

Danny Beales – Labour

Returning to Uxbridge & South Ruislip once more and again hoping to be your next MP is Danny Beales.  Beales stood in the by-election last year, which I have already said was one of the biggest open goals for Labour in history, given the previous MP had resigned in disgrace, the Conservative candidate – Steve Tuckwell – was monumentally unsuited to the role and lying repeatedly about what he would do as MP, and the Conservatives were at a historically low level of support.  Nevertheless, he contrived to lose the ballot marginally. I would argue that skipping most of the hustings events probably didn’t do him any favours, as that showed a contempt for the electorate that really didn’t sit well with people.  Nor did starting out pro-ULEZ in full support of Sadiq Khan then changing to anti-ULEZ when Tuckwell weaponised ULEZ as a campaigning tool.  Generally I thought he was a very good speaker and would have been a good statesman, but his political stances were clearly poorly thought out and he simply wasn’t committed to the electoral process. Will definitely be interesting to see whether this changes in the General Election campaign. It is worth mentioning that Beales has been very unfairly lambasted by the Tories as “not local” (as have I, incidentally, which is absurd as I live about 3 minutes from the constituency border).  To my mind this is not a fair criticism.  Beales was born and raised in Hillingdon, and his work has taken him across London to Camden, but he is clearly still a local to the area.  This is clearly a desperate ploy by the Tories to denigrate other candidates in the area purely based on their post code rather than a) whether they know and love Hillingdon and b) whether they would do a good job for the area.  It is also worth remembering that their former MP, Boris Johnson, famously spent almost no time in Uxbridge to the point where it was joked that he didn’t even know where Uxbridge was. Labour’s Policies It is worth remembering that Beales is a Labour candidate.  That means that he is inextricably linked to the Labour leadership.  That means that  a vote for him is a vote to: Keep most things exactly as they are. Labour has been very clear that they are not offering any  radical changes to anything and will keep most of what the Tories have brought in, including the restrictions on the rights to protest and strike, both of which are fundamental to a society which values the people who make up the country. Retain the existing First Past The Post election system which guarantees that most votes are wasted and does not allow true representation in  Parliament. Continue demonising the people who most need the benefits system, e.g. disabled individuals. Leave the tax system largely unchanged, allowing the ultra wealthy to continue paying a tiny fraction of what the average family pays as a marginal rate. Allow continued exploitation of the UK’s oil and gas reserves despite very clear evidence that renewable energy is cheaper. There are plenty of other complaints about the Labour Party, but my summary of them is that they have very deliberately set themselves up as a caretaker government while the Tories are out of power.  They are not bringing anything radical or even necessary to the table, but instead are fishing for right-wing votes that would normally go to the Conservatives. Frankly if you want change, Labour is not the party for you.  If you look at the chaos and suffering of the last 14 years and think “more of that, please” then maybe, though honestly I would argue that you are probably better suited to the Conservatives or even Reform if that’s the case. In short, Labour are not what the UK needs. We will almost certainly get a Labour government next if we look at the polls, but if you want to vote for the good of the country and not just vote for the winning party, you will need to look elsewhere. Such as:

What Uxbridge and the UK Needs

Hopefully this image says it all.  Uxbridge and the UK as a whole needs me, or at the very least people like me.  People who care, people with integrity and people who want to make the country better for all of us. Let’s have a look at some of the things that I want to achieve. Fairer Elections Right now, elections are essentially designed to be unfair.  I wrote a blog post recently explaining how the current system almost guarantees that at least half of votes are wasted, and usually considerably more than that. In an ideal world, every vote should matter.  After all, we have 650 seats in the  Commons, which means that each MP should represent around 0.15% of the current population.  That’s a lot of potential for nuance, but right now such nuance is not just discourages but outright impossible.  In fact, this inability to allow nuance is precisely why the Conservative party has become so dominated by a radical right-wing element that very few people in the country actually support. The Liberal Democrats are the largest party in England that supports Proportional Representation.  This is a fundamental change to our electoral system to make your votes count and to introduce nuance into our political system that currently cannot get in. Fairer Taxes Right now the tax take for the UK is the highest is has ever been, but many ultra wealthy individuals have managed to get away with paying very little tax, often across multiple generations. This comes from a very long-standing tradition for the  political right that wealth trickles down, so looking after the wealthy indirectly looks after everyone else.  Trickle down economics has never worked anywhere except to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. For society to improve, we need to make sure that everyone pays their fair share of tax and that the burden for paying tax doesn’t hit the poorest in society the most. Fairer Healthcare At the moment, if you can get a GP appointment via the NHS, you are very lucky.  If you can get an appointment with an NHS dentist, you  are beyond lucky.  When the NHS was founded, the stated intention was to provide healthcare from the cradle to the grave without any up front costs.  Nothing about that indicated having to wait weeks just to see a doctor, months to see a specialist or years to get life-improving but technically non-urgent treatment.  But that’s the reality we now face.  Our healthcare service has been persistently decimated in terms of staff and required funding, and frankly we all deserve better. In particular, we in Hillingdon deserve a world-class hospital rather than one that is falling apart. Our current hospital has plans to renovate which have been   approved, but approval absolutely is not enough, especially since the country was promised 40 new hospitals and has so far received none. Fairer Environment Regardless of our socio-economic status, we all use the environment one away or another.  We all breath the air and drink the water, so it is horrible to see the forces of unchecked capitalism taking a stand against environmental protection.  It has become normal for water companies to simply dump raw sewage into our waterways almost whenever they feel like it, and they have a track record of awarding their directors huge bonuses and their shareholders huge dividends whilst doing so.  At  the other end of the spectrum, these same forces have turned large parts of the legislature against things like clean power generation, despite the fact that right  now renewable energy is by far the  cheapest form of electricity generation available and we live in one of the most reliably windy places on Earth. We all deserve laws that are designed to protect the precious environment and preserve it for our children and successive generations.  Instead we are embarking on a huge expansion of fossil fuel extractions which is both needlessly expensive and highly polluting. And of course we are allowing water companies to pump sewage into our rivers. Fairer Everything You’ll see that there’s a theme for what Uxbbridge and the UK needs, and that’s a fairer deal. I could go on at length about what we need, but I honestly can’t do much better than suggesting that you read the Liberal Democrat position.  We stand “For A Fair Deal” for a really  good reason – it’s what the whole country is crying out for. We aren’t looking at  improving things only in the short term until the Conservatives get back into power.  Instead we want to make meaningful long-lasting changes that make the UK a fairer, kinder, better society for everyone. So what does Uxbridge and the UK need?  People like me in Parliament.  So I reiterate, on 4 July, cast your vote for me:

More Tory Lies

We are only a few short hours into the General Election campaign and the Conservatives are already lying to you.  Their central campaign team has produced a flyer which is rife with misrepresentations and outright lies.  Here’s my take on it, complete with my marking for each of the claims: Tackled inflation, cut workers’ taxes and increased the  state pension The idea that the  government has tackled inflation in any meanningful sense is an egregious lie.  All they have done is wait for the highs of 2022 to fall out of the  current inflation figure, which looks at the change between now and a  year ago.  If you look at the  cumulative impact of inflation over the last 5 years you see a rather different story: This shows that an average bundle of goods as represented by CPI is close to 25% more expensive now than it was 5 years ago.  Frankly this is an absurdly high level of inflation, so being proud that they have slowed it down to “only” going up by 2.3% now shows just how little they have to be proud of. The workers’ tax claim refers to the National Insurance cuts announced this year and last.  For someone earning £35,000, the cuts this year amounted to around £450, or less than £10 per week. Certainly not enough to offset  the mammoth increase in costs due to inflation. The state pension has been “triple locked” for decades, meaning it grows at the highest of price inflation, average earnings inflation or 2.5%. The Conservatives have maintained that triple lock, but claiming credit for this  is essentially claiming credit for not doing away with a long-standing guarantee – hardly worthy of inclusion at the top of their  supposed achievements. Reduced taxes on investments This is simple not true unless you are a landlord, where the capital gains tax rate has been reduced by 4 percentage points.  For anyone investing normally in anything other than property, the rates are unchanged. Record amounts of funding into our NHS This one is misleading rather than an outright lie.  In pounds and pence terms, more money has been paid into the NHS, but this includes things like the PPE contracts that wasted huge amounts of taxpayer money, and ignores the fact that the NHS is still critically underfunded for what we need it to do as a country. It is also worth remembering that the Conservatives promised 40 new hospitals, none of which has materialised. Reformed education Genuinely not sure what reforms they are boasting about here. Most of these recent “reforms” have been to ban certain forms of sex education, but that largely seems to have been to appease the anti-trans movement more than anything. Aside from that, there have been a few changes in labelling, but no major reforms to education as a whole. Prioritised energy security and family finances in our approach to Net Zero Considering their “approach to Net Zero” has largely been to pretend that there’s no need for Net Zero, this is an utterly laughable claim.  Coupled with the fact that renewable energy is currently cheaper than fossil fuels to produce, the idea that they have prioritised energy security and family finances would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious a problem. Full funded increase in defence spending to 2.5% of GDP Questions must be raised as to why such spending was below 2.5% to begin with.  The answer is that the Tories lowered the amount of defence spending, so this return to 2.5% is nothing to boast about, just undoing the cuts they imposed for years. Invested more in local transport There may be isolated exampled where this is true, but there is not a single additional bus route near where I live or work that could be attributed to this supposed investment.  I wonder where you would have to go to actually find one. Set out a comprehensive plan to reform our welfare system This is nonsense. They have demonised disabled people and reformed the system such that non-doctors would have the power to make decisions as to whether someone is fit to work or not, but this is not positive reform, it is just a barbaric attack on those who already struggle in society. Immigration Immigration might be coming down in a very specific short-term measure, but in reality there are more immigrants than ever before and still a huge number of Channel crossings, many of which  end inn loss of life because our government has been too callous to  open up asylum application centres in France. Ensured the next generation grows up smoke-free I’ve marked this one as questionable, because the policy likely won’t achieve that result.  People too young to buy cigarettes legally will likely do so illegally rather than stopping smoking, so this ban on purchases is very unlikely to create a smoke-free UK. In addition, this says nothing about people living in a house where someone is legally able to continue buying cigarettes.  In such a case, that individual can still be subjected to a large quantity of second-hand smoke even if they do not partake themselves. This policy is oddly restrictive of personal liberties for the Conservatives, but it is clear that it will not achieve the stated aim of ensuring that the next generation grows up smoke free.  If they wanted to do that, they would need to ban  smoking  altogether and find a way to enforce the ban, which would itself require a vast investment into the police and justice services that they have assiduously avoided.

Did Your Vote Matter?

I gave a speech this week on Proportional Representation for Make Votes Matter, and it got me thinking about whether your vote mattered in the last election.  I suspect that the chances are that it didn’t no matter where you are, who you voted for and who won purely because of how the odds work. So, here are just a few of the ways that your vote was wasted.   Your Candidate Didn’t Win Under the current system, if you make the cardinal sin of voting for a candidate that doesn’t win, that vote is wasted by design.  Your candidate doesn’t get any political power as a result of coming second or third in the ballot, so a vote for a candidate that doesn’t win is essentially thrown in the bin. This discourages you from voting for a candidate that you don’t think can outright win, thereby shoring up the de facto two-party system that we have been dealing with for centuries. Your Candidate Won Comfortably Congratulations! But did your vote matter? Arguably this is the case that most people probably assume makes their vote matter, but I would argue that it’s not quite  that straightforward.  Imagine a two-candidate race where the winner gets 80% of the votes and the loser gets 20%.  In this case, it is obvious that the  20% of votes for the loser were all wasted, but what about the 80%?  In this case, the winner actually only needed one more vote than 20%, which for all intents and purposes is the same as 20% for a large enough ballot.  once that total is achieved, all further votes for the winner are also wasted – a candidate doesn’t become more of a winner if they win by 80% or 0.8% of the electorate.  This means that in this example, three-quarters of the votes for the winner are also wasted, meaning that if you cast a vote for the eventual winner, you only had a one in four chance of it actually mattering. Your Candidate Narrowly Won In this case,  your vote likely had the most impact.  If the example above actually had the winner with 40% of the  vote and the  runner up with fewer votes but still rounding to 40%, that means that every vote for the eventual winner was important.  Conversely, all other votes were essentially ignored by the system, so even in this example of a very narrow margin of victory 60% of the electorate’s votes would be ignored by design. A Real Example Looking at the 2023 by election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the results were as follows: At first glance, this might look like it was only worth voting for Steve Tuckwell, but this is essentially what the system is deigned to do – to make it feel like only voting for the winner matters.  But it is important to remember that this seat came very close indeed to flipping to Labour, which would have meant that votes for Steve Tuckwell were wasted and a proportion of votes for Danny Beales were the only ones that mattered, at least from the perspective of deciding an MP. Even more importantly, this vote was almost as close as it is possible to get, and it still meant that only 44% of votes cast actually mattered. By design, at least 50% of the electorate is disenfranchised using the First Past The Post system, which is horrible for democracy. What About Short Money? Short Money is the consolidation prize for voting for a party where the candidate didn’t win in your area.  Assuming the party returns at least one MP nationally, Short Money is awarded to them in proportion to the number of votes they received in all elections across the country, and it is designed to help the MPs to pay for things like research that the government has access to as a matter of course.  In essence, it is designed to allow parties that don’t form a government to at least have a fighting chance at representing their constituents, even if the government shuts them out of all major decisions. This means that  even a wasted vote for electing an MP is useful to the party that candidate stood for, as long as the party managed to win at least one seat in all 650 constituencies. It’s not perfect, but it means that you can still vote for the party that you prefer even if they have no chance in your area.

Resignations on the Horizon?

In case you have been living under a rock or on the moon, you will no doubt have seen the news this week that the recent drama about the Horizon Post Office scandal hit the screens and forced the government into action.  Sadly, their action has been the same as always, trying to pin the blame on someone – anyone – else. Right now, their two targets are Keir Starmer, who was directing the Public Prosecutions Service at the time when the sub-postmasters were prosecuted, and Ed Davey, who was Post Office Minister as part of the coalition government at the time. Was it either of their faults? No, definitely not. Was this the fault of the Tories in government? No.  I am not writing this to assign blame to them, but instead to step above petty blame games and talk about the real culprits. Fujitsu At the heart of this scandal is the Horizon software, which was essentially a cash reconciliation programme installed in sub-branches of the Post Office in the 1990s.  This software was developed and ultimately installed by ICL Pathways Limits, now part of Fujitsu, a large technology company with a pretty strong reputation. Unfortunately, it seems that there was a flaw in the software.  For those of us with experience of developing software, this is probably not a surprise – every IT project has bugs, they are essentially unavoidable.  However, in this instance the software bug made it appear as though cash was disappearing from sub-branches.  I don’t understand the specifics enough to go into details, but these seem to be agreed facts. There also seems to have been some delay over the development of the software, which likely put more and more pressure on the coders to rush the job.  To cut a long story short, though, the error seems to have originated from Fujitsu, so when the error was discovered they should have indemnified both the Post Office and the falsely accused Sub-Postmasters.  That is what I would expect from a company that released a product which caused harm.  This is not saying that they shouldn’t also be subject to fines or sanctions, but rather sets out the bare minimum they should do for rolling out a product which caused so much harm. There is some speculation that Fujitsu were given preferential treatment because their staff included the husband of our current Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, and given the other cases of Tory corruption we have seen in recent years, this wouldn’t surprise me. The Post Office As I understand it, this is where the true blame lies.  The Post Office management were aware of the issues as early as 2000 and didn’t report them back to MPs.  They proceeded with charges that they knew – or reasonably ought to have known – were false, and in doing so ruined the lives of over 900 sub-postmasters.  These were their staff, they absolutely had a duty of care to look after them, and given these hundreds of people were not guilty of stealing from the Post Office, they absolutely deserve compensation. The Post Office management needs to be investigated for ignoring the issue from 2000 to around 2013, when they finally obtained an assessment from Second Sight (which itself was wrong, as it concluded that the software was fine but the Post Office’s procedures were flawed).  This means that for 13 years they had information from sub-postmasters that the software had a major flaw and for 13 years they ignored it. Post Office Ministers? If after reading this you still think that the Post Office Minister might still be to blame, here’s a list of such ministers since Horizon was installed: (Thanks to Christopher Hope for collating the data on the terms and names of the various ministers) The obvious question to ask is “what makes Ed Davey special out of this list?”  Why is so much ire being directed at him (as well as Keir Starmer) as though this was his personal failure rather than the 19 other ministers with the exact same duties?  Look into the source of said claims and I expect you will find a Tory donor desperate to create news that will keep his friends in power for a little longer. It won’t work. We see through the lies, and the British people will likewise see through the lies when they are presented with unbiased facts.  Change is coming, and this might well be the last ever Tory majority government.

5 Parliamentary Anachronisms

No, I am not doing an article bashing the Conservative Party, or at least not with that as the sole focus.  Instead I wanted to cover some of the oddities of Parliament that stem from tradition rather than any reasoned process.  As such, here are some of the weirder parliamentary anachronisms that we can see today. Minimalist Architecture In somewhere like the Palace of Westminster, it is hard to believe that the phrase “minimalist” could accurately apply to any part of the building.  Nevertheless, the heart of our democracy, the debate chamber in the House of Commons, is woefully undersized.  At the moment the UK has 650 elected Members of Parliament.  Some of those do not take their seats, so the actual number of active MPs is a little below that, but the capacity of the debate chamber is well below that level, around 427 seats.  This is why many of the well-attended debates see Members cramming into the chamber, with a significant number of elected officials reduced to standing to watch the proceedings. Oath of Allegiance I mentioned above that some seats are not filled at all.  This is mostly due to the fact that the elected representatives of Sinn Fein do not take their seats, entirely because they will not swear the oath of allegiance.  This is wholly understandable, as the oath is a personal declaration of intent to follow the orders of the monarch of the UK, while the whole purpose of Sinn Fein as a political entity is to separate Northern Ireland from the UK.  Such an oath would directly contradict their party’s stance, so they refuse. Incidentally, it is not possible for an MP to either draw their salary or speak and vote in debates until they swear the oath, so that means that the current system specifically excludes representation for anti-monarchists. The Mace If you see a large ceremonial mace in front of the Speaker’s chair  and wonder “what is that for?”, this is the section for you.  This isn’t a table decoration or a paper weight, instead it is the symbol of the Crown in Parliament.  By tradition, the monarch is not allowed to set foot in the House of Commons, so instead the Mace is present.  Bizarrely, this means that any debates or decisions made without the Mace being present are not valid and will not be recorded in official proceedings. When Parliament is prorogued (brought to a temporary close) the Mace is removed, symbolically withdrawing the authority of the Commons to make any decisions.  The Mace is returned at the Opening of Parliament. Member Behaviour One of the odder things about Parliamentary process is the way that MPs refer to one another.  In short, naming another MP is taboo.  Addressing another MP directly is likewise not permitted.  Instead all comments are made to the Speaker and any referrals to active MPs is made by referencing their constituency (e.g. the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip).  This is intended to increase the decorum of debate by stopping MPs from outright insulting one another, but I think it’s fair to conclude that Prime Minister’s Questions demonstrates that the quality of debate is woeful. Voting At the cry of “Division” by the Speaker, the Commons officially enters a closed state for voting for a motion.  This is a literal reference, in that the lobby doors used to be physically locked to ensure that MPs didn’t vote multiple times or that outsiders weren’t called in to cast a vote they shouldn’t have. You might think that in this modern era of connectivity, there would be a move towards using that for votes so that more business could be done.  Sadly not, the division is still counted by the MPs present physically walking through one of two side lobbies, casting their vote by tapping their membership card onto a scanner (a recent upgrade to each corridor having its own set of counters who would report back after a manual count). This is one of the more egregious anachronisms for various reasons.  First, it is not particularly friendly to disabled MPs or those dealing with a new child to force them to physically move through a voting lobby.  Secondly, it is grossly unfair to restrict MPs who cannot be in Westminster from voting.  This is less of a problem for a London constituency as it is for one of the outer Scottish regions, which might be seven or eight hours away from Parliament. This is an area which could easily be modernised for the good of the country. A modern electronic voting system would be very simple to set up, and would reduce the time needed for divisions from 20 minutes or so to under a minute.  With an app-based voting system and biometric protection, MPs would be able to cast their vote from anywhere in the world, allowing them to spend more time in their constituencies.