Wednesday, 28 April 2010

An Alternative Vote the Alternative Vote system.

Let's have a county-based list system.

Take my own county of East Sussex for instance.

In 2005 it returned 8 MPS
4 Labour
3 Conservative
1 Libdem

The total share of the vote, however, was:
CON 40%
LIB 26%
LAB 25%

The county could return eight members for Sussex distributed according to the votes cast. If we multiply the percentages to the number of seats (8) we get the following decimals.

CON 3.18
LIB 2.10
LAB 2.03
GREEN 0.44
UKIP 0.21

For each whole number a party makes, they get a Member of Parliament.

Then whoever has the largest remainders get any remaining members.

For instance, here the Conservatives win 3 seats, Liberals and Labour two each. But the Greens get the one remaining seat as their ".44" is larger than the decimal numbers of the other parties.

Surgeries could be held in different parts of the county over the course of the Parliament

This system would retain a politically relevant geographical link while providing a more 'proportional' result.

I'm not wholly in favour of reform, but a system like this might be the best of a bad bunch.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


27/01/10 - 5km, 37 minutes (8.1km/hr)
29/01/10 - 6km, 42 minutes (8.6km/hr)
01/02/10 - 6km, 43 minutes (8.4km/hr)
04/02/10 - 7km, 48 minutes (8.8km/hr)
07/02/10 - 9km, 64 minutes (8.4km/hr)
09/02/10 - 4km, 25 minutes (9.6km/hr)
27/04/10 - 1½km, 10 minutes (9km/hr)

Did you miss the list?

Well here it is, again! Had a morning run. Could have made it 3km but I just thought "mmmm naaah". I had already succeeded in my objective of breaking the ice, this being the first thing faster than a walk I had done in eleven weeks.

So that the blog doesn't get cluttered, I will post each individual score as it happens without recourse to the list. That said, I will post the full list at arbitrary time intervals (perhaps once a month), cause it just looks so neat, and will hopefully show a smooth progression from now until next April, which is when the next Brighton marathon should be.

A friend of a friend of mine recently completed the London Marathon in 3:38 hours. A cousin of a friend of mine finished the Brighton Marathon in a similar time. I am under the impression that both these people took their training pretty seriously. As I too intend to take things fairly seriously I think 4 hours would be a good benchmark for me. Though I've never ran even close to 26.2 miles I shall train with this 4 hour mark figure at the back of my mind. That essentially means 42km ran at 10.5km/hour. Which is a very long way off at the moment.

I expect my next run to be on Thursday morning, and my unambitious aim then will be 3km at a nonstop, leisurely pace.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


Am now nice and red after a leisurely walk through Brighton and Hove today.

Not nearly as 'red', however, as the Trade Unionist & Socialist candidate for Brighton Kemptown, veteran campaigner Dave Hill.

I was approaching Churchill Square from the west via the sidestreets, as I merrily chewed away at a pot of pasta. As I got near, I saw a small congregation of men and women gathering outside the back of the Ann Summers shop. They were chatting with eachother and tying together bundles of red balloons, each balloon bearing the number '£1 Billion'. I watched for a minute or so until they moved off in the direction of Churcill Square itself.

Naturally, I followed them. We arrived at the open area where North Street meets Western Road. There was a Pro-Gaza protester present, and men handing out copies of the Socialist Worker, whose front page bore an unflattering picture of BNP leader Nick Griffin, accusing him of being a Nazi. These two groups, Pro-Gazaists and Socialist Worker distributors are common guests in this part of Churchill square. However, there was also a third group, with a long banner encouraging people to 'Vote Dave Hill, Trade Unionist & Socialist candidate for Brighton Kemptown'.

And it was to this third group that the flock of red balloons flew. A crowd built up around the area and Dave Hill emerged with a loudspeaker. And there it started. A tirade against the bankers, each £1 Billion balloon representing £1 Billion which the government had used to 'bail out the bankers', as the emotive phrase had it. From the side came a man dressed as a banker, with a pillow for a paunch and photocopied monopoly money buldging out of his pockets and sleeves. Then came three men in suits, each with a mask representing one of the main three party leaders, Clegg, Brown and Cameron.

What followed was not so much politics put pantomime, the banker being ridiculed as greedy and the other parties as all the same. All seemed to care more about the banker than the working class man or woman. Dave Hill would shout out a question, the audience would echo a hefty Yes or No, as the question warranted. Is the banker greedy? YES! Are the three main parties all the same? YES! Should we have to bail out the bankers! NO!

He then suggested how the £178 billion (there must have been 178 balloons in total) should be raised, the £178 billion which had been borrowed from the public to resolve the banking crisis. First, he suggested, we should scrap Trident! One man behind me disagreed with this, and from the looks of the audience it seemed most were just enjoying the spectacle rather than being particularly interested in Socialism. Many shoppers and young people had been caught unaware in all this and stood as if they were watching a Punch and Judy show. The only difference being there was only one Punch (Dave Hill) and four Judys (Clegg, Cameron, Brown and the Banker).

Early on during the fifteen minute talk an official from Churchill square had come over. He was a manager rather than a bouncer and his presence there seemed only to serve as a subtle reminder that this was private property and anything too 'out of hand' would not be allowed to continue.

It did not get out of hand though. There was absolutely no feeling or threat of violence or disagreement. At the end of the talk they even gave the balloons out to passing mothers and children, and young men who should have known better. I did not take a balloon myself - I have my own principles contrary to their own, and I would have felt a great shame in taking one of their balloons.

There isn't much of an appetite for socialism in Brighton. Obviously I very much support their right to campaign, as I would for any party (even the really nasty ones, not that they are standing in Brighton & Hove anyway). However, you only have to look back to the 2005 result for Brighton Kemptown to see that the two socialist candidates only polled 276 votes between them out of nearly 40,000 cast. Sure this time around the socialists have a 'bogey man' in the shape of the banker, but I can't see this making any real difference.

After a bit more walking I took the train to Hove, where I walked down George street. Though I was pretty amused to see a man in a shirt bearing the words 'REMEMBER MY NAME - you'll be screaming it later' I did not see any canvassing going on. However, I did manage to stumble across the Hove Labour campaign headquarters, where the windows were almost entirely blocked up with posters. I also saw a poster for the Independent candidate Brian Ralfe, who came 9th out of 9 in the 2005 Hove election getting only 51 of the 45,000 votes cast. Well, his position is bound to shoot up three places this time, as there only 6 candidates for Hove this time around.

And it's fairly certain that Mike Weatherly will be the winner amongst them. Simply put, the swing required from Labour to Conservative for Hove to fall is half a percent. It's still pretty difficult to predict how the next eleven days of the campaign are going to pan out, but the political scene would have to be shaken several times harder than it has been of late if there were to be any possiblity of a party other than the Conservatives winning in HOVE.

I predict that the Tories will breach 20,000 votes in Hove and hold a majority over labour of about 4,000.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


declining standards in grammar and argument on this blog have been duly noted. I'll try to check through my bloggage in future before actually posting and ensure there are no lazy typoes or unfinished sentences. And yes, normally I would have left the word 'sentences' out there for humorous effect.

Am in Essex at the moment visiting Sago. Should be back in Brighton tomorrow evening. Either going to meet some friends or watch the first debate. Personally I can't see why I can't do both, like I managed to end up doing last week. On a flipside my parents will be back before I am, having had to drive up to Calais from Italy. They will be sailing today.

Am still thinking what to do with my life - will get back to you shortly on that one.

Sunday, 18 April 2010


What an event! I only wish I could have ran in it myself. Such a colossal mass of human strength streaming through the streets. 12,000 runners, £3,000,000 raised.

There has been some confusion among my friends as to when or why I pulled out of the marathon. Indeed, on meeting Captain Feld this morning at breakfast he asked why I wasn't in the race, expecting that I would be doing it today. I don't think he was teasing me either!

Well here's what happened:
8th February - last run, feeling on walk back that I had left too short a gap between it and the previous run - calve injury develops

about a week later - recover from injury just in time to get a chest infection, probably caught during all that running I did during, what was, a bitterly cold winter

Doctor orders me not to run, although in reality I would have pulled out anyway, due to the fact that I had missed out on crucial training weeks and could not get myself up to marathon strength in time for the big day

(Mind you, looking at some of the stragglers at the back of today's run, I'm sure I would not have been the only one who had not prepared adequetly!)

Without going into the details of diagnosis, I'm basically fine now, and the Doctor says I can run again

so I will, probably on Friday morning as I have a pretty busy schedule up until then, including going up to Essex for two nights (yah!)

I won't try anthing too fancy obviously - just a 3km jog, literally getting on my feet again
not that I have been entirely off my feet anyway - Yesterday I took a mammoth walk through London, starting at Victoria Station, then to Westminster, then to Leicester Square, the National Portrait Gallery and Foyles, and then up to Oxford Circus before turning East, taking lunch in Holborn before walking all the way to Canary Wharf, from where I took a tube back to Victoria, my feet now dead

and this morning I took a fairly long tour of the seafront marathon route, walking from my house two thirds of the way to Portslade and then down to the Marathon finishing line well past the pier

needless to say I took the bus home, though it was a hardly a direct route as there were not many places to cross from one side of the seafront road to the other

I was not jealous of the marathon runners, but nor did I pity them. Nor did I pity myself. I will be in their shoes in a years time and Friday will mark the start of that, and hopefully a return to those good old days where I posted a new running time every few days.

A little anecdote from London. Was walking down Petticoat Lane. I saw a van pull up to a building and a Bangledeshi man taking some luggage out of the back of the said van. I thought to myself "settling in here? good luck. I'm sure you'll feel right at home [as the entire street is basically Bangledeshi]". It was then that I saw that the building which the luggage was actually being taken into was a luggage store! I laughed pretty hard. Because, let's face it, how often do you see luggage being loaded into a luggage store like that?!?!


I hadn't forgotten

I should clarify that my previous post isn't an attack on the Lib Dems. It's an attack on those people who unthinkingly jump on whatever political cause is easiest to support without really giving any real thought to it. If I want to attack the Lib Dems it will be after a thorough study of their politics. I have downloaded the three party manifestoes

As for my prediction? It's veeeery interesting at the moment, but I don't think the increase in Liberal Democrat support will i) be as acute on polling day as it is now or ii) result in that many more seats. It's still concievable for Liberal Democrat support to roll down to 2005 levels, though I do think it's unlikely they'll stumble any lower than that, as I had been suggesting might happen before all this post-debate polling.

I think I'm not alone in saying I never expected this at all. Still, if it turns out to be good for democracy I won't argue!

Friday, 16 April 2010


I hate bandwagonism in whatever form it takes.

How many of these people who have joined the group 'We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!' have ever held a real political conviction in their life?

I supported McCain on Warwick radio in 2008 in a direct protest against the witchunt Obamaism which seemed to be circulating at that time on campus.

And I shall do the same this time around. If any of my friends come out in support of the Liberal Democrats I shall not get them an easy ride. There is no 'easy politics'.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hysteria is a dish best served with volcanic ash

I have enjoyed watching Sky News lately. It makes good background viewing, particularly when they show scenes from the campaign trail. They go into quite a bit of depth, even showing the name of the constituency and the size of the majority of whichever party won in 2005. e.g. Battersea, LABOUR MAJ 336.

However, this most recent news story is a shocker, partly because it isn't actually news at all. Ahem, the 'news' story which seems to be taking up most of the airtime (you will excuse the pun) is the volcanic explosion in Iceland that has led to the decision to suspend all flights in Britain. Fair enough, not much more to report. Well, you'd think so. Yet Sky seem to have a correspondent permanently based in the 'eerily quiet' Manchester airport. The BBC have gone even further - they claim to have correspondents all around the country "and will bring us any developments as and when they occur".

Worse still when they have to fill up the time interviewing gormless members of the public. To be fair to the 'public', most of them have spouted fairly rational responses, somewhere along the line of 'there's nothing much we can do about it and it isn't anybody's fault'. This tends to surprise and disappoint the news reporters, who comment on the 'philosophical' nature of these comments. At least they haven't used the word 'stoic' yet, as if to conjour up the nation's indomitable spirit like they seemed to do during the snows of January.

Even the weather forecast has coverage of the 'Volcanic Plume', but that's fair enough - it might actually affect the weather. Except it won't. Not really. Because the plume is safely nested above the weather system, which is precisely why the flights aren't going ahead - most commercial airliners fly abouve 30,000ft to avoid being under the weather system

Tonight's political debate gets some coverage too, thankfully. I will be watching it tonight with some of my friends over pizza and beer.

But why is the airline thing the top story? Excuse me for being an extremist bastard, but I think the debate which could determine who governs our country for the next five years is a little more important than a bit of dust, albeit the sort of dust that will clog airlines. 

One of the main features of the closure of UK airspace is that it "has never happened before". Well, neither have the primeministerial debates.

"The disruption is even worse than the days after 9-11"
Well it would be, because you can't get much worse than all the planes in the country being grounded.
Apart from planes crashing into buildings.

Hopefully I won't have to see too many more pictures of parked aircraft at Heathrow. We saw enough of that during the strikes.

Still, I'm sure this'll make it's way onto NewsWipe.

Just as I close off this blog post BBC news are showing an 'empty' lobby at Glasgow airport. 8 minutes into the news and they're stil not talking about the debate. I just switched to Sky News. They're showing
 a diagram of how the ash came into the air and how it intends to travel, as if it were some plague.

Oh, and sky are doing a special two hour report tonight from 8pm-10pm called   BRITAIN GROUNDEDB

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I love it how the manifesto front covers for the Labour and Conservative parties are completly different. I'm not sure what the Liberal Democrat one will look like, but if they're still searching for something distinctive in the eleventh hour (for they are due to publish the manifesto tomorrow) I should suggest the smiling head of Nick Clegg on the body of a Liberal Democrat eagle. All with a default white background. Or perhaps just an upsidedown purple question mark on a yellow background. Actually that would look too much like a peversion of the UKIP logo. Has anyone seen that television advert lately for DREAMS, or some other bed company - the first few seconds show a large pound sign falling onto a bed. The brash opening music and pound sign reminded me of UKIP's hilarious unsubtleness. That said, I look back with strange fondness at William Hague's campaign to "keep the pound". I put it in quotes so that you can imagine it being said in his ridiculously drawn-out Yorkshire accent.

Went for an afternoon walk in Brighton today (I returned from London yesterday afternoon) and was surprised at the sheer number of posters for the GREEN party seem to have in their houses. There were one or two Labour posters but no Libdem or Tory posters to be seen. There are several explanations for this IMO.

1) The Greens have been handing out more leaflets than the other parties.
2) The Greens haven't had a chance to offend anyone as they aren't tarnished with the 'parliamentary party' brush that Labour and the Conservatives have. Thus people can put their posters up without fear of recrimination.
3) The Liberal Democrats came fourth in 2005 - Brighton Pavilion (the constituency I was walking in) was not an area of spectacular Liberal showing.
4) They are good posters. They are A4 sized but carry a simple message 'VOTE GREEN'. The green background makes them fairly distinctive and, of course, fit in ideally with the party name.
5) I have walked through areas with a high proportion of students. And for some reason there are indeed a lot of students in Brighton.

Of course there's also the more basic and, perhaps, more important reason why there are so many green posters out there. And that's that they have a lot of support.

Consider the implied results for Brighton Pavilion (2005)

Labour: 17162 (37.5%)
Conservative: 10639 (23.2%)
Green: 9457 (20.7%)
Liberal Democrat: 7414 (16.2%)
Other: 1115 (2.4%)
Majority: 6523 (14.2%)

If I didn't include this seat on the 'three-way marginals' in my previous post, it's because I had filtered through seats where Labour was first, the Liberals second and the Tories third. Here, however, the Greens are the third party. I'd say the Labour vote can decrease anywhere within the range of about 10%, and that the Tory vote can go up within a similar range. However, I also suspect the Liberal vote to collapse and for the Greens to benefit most from this. Thus, and it's a big thus, this could be a reeeeally interesting 3-way contest.

And it's right on my doorstep! Literally!

(Well, not literally. I actually live around 100 yards into Hove, but it's fair to say most of my daily activities go on within the city of Brighton.)

If you're not particularly interested in the general election, tough. I'm going to be writing about it for the next three weeks and three days.
If you are particularly interested in the general election, specifically the scene in Brighton, then this guy's blog will provide come good comment, although it's clear where his sympathies lie. I shouldn't complain though - without enthusiasts, of whatever political shade, there is no politics to actually write about.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Ménage à trois

Sorry for lack of posts recently. Have been in London, which I shall have more to say about later.

Well, the election campaign is finally upon us. I'd like to be able to say something like election fever is gripping the nation, but it's really more like a light sniffle, with the occasional cough. That is not for want of media coverage, mind you - only wars have recieved more coverage than this campaign.

Below is a list of 'special' seats - seats where, based on the likely national swings, there is a chance of a very close result between Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Derby North
Edinburgh North and Leith
Edinburgh South
Hampstead and Kilburn
Norwich South

In these seats, Labour came first, the Liberal Democrats second and the Tories third. For each I have provided the implied 2005 share of the vote along with the projected national swing, for which I shall use the current change in the vote implied by the polls


Derby North 2005: LAB 40%, LIB 31%, CON 26%
Prediction: LAB 34%, CON 32%, LIB 28%

Edinburgh North and Leith 2005: LAB 34%, LIB 29%, CON 19%
Prediction: LAB 28%, LIB 26%, CON 25%

Edinburgh South 2005: LAB 33%, LIB 32%, CON 24%
Prediction: CON 30%, LIB 29%, LAB 27%

Hampstead and Kilburn 2005: LAB 37%, LIB 34%, CON 24%
Prediction: LAB 31%, LIB 31%, CON 30%

Norwich South 2005: LAB 38%, LIB 30%, CON 22%
Prediction: LAB 32%, CON 28%, LIB 27%

Watford 2005: LAB 34%, LIB 31%, CON 30%
Prediction: CON 36%, LAB 28%, LIB 28%

Basically, if the projected share of the vote between the 1st and 3rd parties is anything less than 10%, it will be really interesting. Though the result may not be politically significant in itself, I am pretty interested in the mathematics of it all.

A special mention goes to Ealing Central and Acton, the notional 2005 result of whose is as follows:
CON: 12655 (32.8%)
LAB: 12561 (32.6%)
LIB: 11468 (29.7%)

I did not mention as part of the previous list of seats as it is unlikely to be so close this time round, the projected result being something like CON 39% LAB 30% LIB 27%

Friday, 2 April 2010


Bought a packet of Nestlé Milkybar White Chocolate Buttons. They're pretty nice, if you happen to like white chocolate. Which I do, along with milk chocolate and orange chocolate, but I've never been so keen on the really dark, bitter stuff, whose strength can be guaged by their purity percentage. My mother says the 70% stuff is pretty good for you, at least, in comparison to milk chocolate. And she may be right, but it's a sort of false economy. If you happen not to like it and it's still fairly bad for you, just not as bad as the other stuff, then there really is no point eating it at all.

Mind you, the 70% chocolate is a taste of paradise when compared with the even stronger stuff. Sometimes we would get 85% chocolate - whose black, almost purple surface made it appear as if there was no milk in it at all. I did once try a 99% Peruvian chocolate (though I was in Birmingham, not Peru). It basically tasted of chalk.  

And before you ask the tiresome old question 'how do you know what chalk tastes like', let me remind you that you don't need to have eaten something to have some idea of what it tastes like. Other senses assist us - we know what chalk smells like and have some idea of its texture. Smell and taste are pretty much the same thing, and half of our culinary sensations relate to texture - why do some people prefer crunchy peanut butter to the smooth equivalent? So no, I have not eaten chalk. But I doubt most of you have ever worn rose-tinted glasses - yet I am sure you can imagine what the world would look like through them? Well, I am sure too that you can imagine what chalk tastes like.

Returning to the opposite end of the chocolate spectrum, Milkybar Buttons, I was rather amused by the little 'Story time' segment on the back of the packet.

"The MILKYBAR Kid loves riding Sunny the horse. They go everywhere together and have lots of fun. Sometimes Sunny runs very fast. How fast can you run?"

You may have gleaned from the blog post title that the main reason I found this little snippet of advice amusing is the remarkably lazy and patronizing transition from a brand-related interest story to that unsubtle stab of a fitness tip. 'Cause let's face it - in case you have forgotten that you are stuffing yourself with little white discs of lard and sugar it's worth reminding you that you should try to fit this gluttonous activity within a healthy regiment of impulsive, obsequious and harshly competitive exercise. "Go on you sook! Run faster!", said by an Austrlian loudmouth for extra effect.~~

In case you found my explanation above too abstruse here's a summary. I have no objection to junk food companies having health advice on the back of their food. There's nothing wrong with enjoy Cadbury's Dairy Milk as part of a balanced diet or Smoking can cause lung cancer. But at least such messages are to the point. They aren't preaching to you, they're just succinctly supplying a simple statement. They're not trying to sneak information into your brain. And if pictures of damaged organ tissue happens to put you off smoking, so be it. At least it's honest. But turning a very short story into a subliminal instruction "how fast can you run?" is frankly shocking and desperate. And I doubt it will really work either. I might have written a blog post about it, but I don't feel any particular compulsion to go for a run. At least, no more than usual.

Still, maybe I'm just old fashioned. In twenty or thirty years time it will be perfectly normal for sweet packets to take on the role of teacher/parent/sports instructor.

As for my weekly election prediction? Well, once again it's the same as last week. Some are saying that the public will, near the end of the campaign, marginal voters will sway to whichever party has the lead at the time, in the hopes that it will produce a decisve result - a majority government. However, I think it's fair to say that the electorate have a mind of their own and won't alter their voting patterns simply to comply with the statistical curiousity that a governing party needs exactly half the seats in Parliament to form a majority.