Saturday, 26 February 2011

Bad PR for Bahrain's PR agency...

 ‘The really ethical PR agency', a new protest group targeting the unacceptable face of the PR industry, was born today, in a protest this morning against Bahrain’s PR agency, the British firm Bell-Pottinger, at Bell-Pottinger’s HQ on High Holborn. Here is TREPRA’s 1st communiqué, that we handed to passers-by and to B-P employees (one of whom stopped to congratulate us and to tell us, “I agree with you”!), outside B-P’s HQ:

 

Bell-Pottinger needs to stop trying to spin the unspinnable…

The Bell-Pottingers of this world need to wake up: the world is changing. As tyrants fall across the Middle East and North Africa, it becomes more and more clear that it makes no sense for Britain to 'lead the world' in representing the last ones standing. So, we in 'The really ethical PR agency' urge B-P to drop its business-relationship with the murderous Bahraini regime; but also to pre-emptively take the same step with regard to all its other tyrant-clients.
For in the new, more democratic, cleaner world that is starting to emerge, there will be no place for dinosaur companies that try to spin the unspinnable: autocracy and government-sponsored terror and murder. A new breed of ethical PR agencies is starting to emerge. In the future, the only PR agencies that will be taken seriously are ethical ones, who only take clients with clean hands. For no-one will believe a word that the front-men for murderers and dictators say. . .
We urge B-P to drop the briefs that they are holding for dictators, before it is too late. (Otherwise, we in 'The really ethical PR agency' will dog them until they do.)
Because, at the end of the day, it isn't just that we are ashamed that it is _British_ companies who the Gulf autocrats turn to to spin for them, when they commit terrible crimes (though we ARE ashamed, for Britain, of this). It's that, at the end of the day:

REPRESENTING DICTATORS WHOSE HANDS ARE BLOODY IS JUST REALLY BAD PR...

 The really ethical PR agency, Spring 2011.                        thereallyethicalpragency@yahoo.co.uk

 

DROP THE BAHRAIN BRIEF, B-P!

______________________________

The protest today was covered by PRWeek, the industry’s in-house mag. It went straight in at number one story on their website!!   J

Here is the story:

http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/1057005/Bell-Pottingers-work-Bahrain-Government-spotlight

After you have read it, do read the 1st comment to the story, by someone called Stuart Bruce, of Wolfstar PR agency:

http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/1057005/Bell-Pottingers-work-Bahrain-Government-spotlight/#comment Very interesting, well put. Lord Whatshisname, boss of B-P, clearly hasn't got a leg to stand on in his 'defence' of B-P against our criticisms - what he said to the PR Week reporter surely goes against the PR industry's own code of practice, without a doubt.

This is exactly why B-P and their ilk give themselves a bad name over accounts like that they have with Bahrain. And why no-one can believe a word that they (or those that they are clients for) say, any more…

 

--
Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
http://rupertread.net
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT gmail.com]
WHY NOT FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER?: twitter.com/GreenRupertRead

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Green Party House of Lords candidate selection

The Green Party is currently selecting who to nominate from within our ranks for House of Lords. Unlike other Parties, we do this democratically.

Greens! Here's a few reasons why you might want to vote RUPERT READ (that's me! ;-) for the House of Lords selection:

Experience:

  • An elected Councillor living in my own mostly working-class ward.
  • One of the top Green bloggers: The only Green in the Top 10 ‘Total Politics’ Councillor blogs: www.rupertsread.blogspot.com .
  • A key player in the team that has seen Norwich Greens reach such heights of success over the last decade.
  • Green Party’s candidate in 2009 Norwich North byelection. We achieved the highest-ever Green byelection result.
  • Green Party’s candidate in 2009 Euro-elections: we in Eastern-Region achieved the highest vote-increase anywhere in the country outside SE, and came within 1% of getting me elected.
  • Hugely-experienced media performer; many times on national TV and radio.
  • Effective communicator – look for instance at my supporting statement in the candidates’ booklet. I know how to reach people.
  • Reader in Philosophy at University of East Anglia, where I work closely with the world’s leading environmental scientists.
  • Eight published books, including the popular Philosophy for life.

Experience directly relevant to the Lords:

  • Worked directly with the late Lord Beaumont (the previous Green peer), including succeeding in bringing his bill on reducing aviation levels onto the floor of the Commons.
  • Learned much about the House of Lords while successfully ‘prosecuting’ Hugo Charlton (in a Green Party tribunal) for his attempt to bypass Party procedures and seize a peerage for himself, the last time the Party was offered one…

As a Green Lord, I would prioritise:

  • Working closely with our MP, Caroline Lucas, as I have already for some years, looking to exploit opportunities to achieve legislative change (and pro-Green publicity) in the interests of the country and the Party.
  • Transport: I was ultimately responsible (as the Greens’ voting rep. on the ‘Joint Highways Committee’) for the introduction of 20mph speed-limits in significant areas of Norwich, and would work hard to push genuinely sustainable transport policy in the upper house.
  • Constitutional reform: I would actively campaign for the abolition of the Lords, and for a reformed upper house to have a direct responsibility for the well-being of future generations.
  • I would be a full-time working peer.
[p.s. Comments are enabled! Feel free, all.]

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#Green Solar Panel Success

 
 
 
I am so proud of having been a small part of this (the renewable energy on Council buildings success): this is a real achievement that will make a big difference to people's lives in Norwich:
 
Green Party City Councillors expressed delight that the Council has supported Green Party plans for a major new investment in renewable energy.
Tuesday night's budget meeting voted in favour of the plan to spend £250,000 of an otherwise unused £5 million capital fund on renewable energy generation on council buildings. The move could lead to solar panels being installed on the roof of City Hall and other public buildings in Norwich.

Green Councillors were also successful in proposing £12,500 to increase the activity of the council's planning enforcement service, and the same amount to purchase and install more than 50 new grit bins, some of which could be bought by businesses and community groups as part of a new scheme.

The ruling Labour Council's "holding budget" was passed, paving the way for a consultation programme this summer to identify £2.35 million savings for the remainder of the coming financial year, and £12.2 million over the next 4 years.
The proposer of the Green Party amendments, Councillor Stephen Little said: "The renewable energy fund will go a small way to help the council tackle the twin challenges of climate change and government-enforced cuts to public sector funding and jobs. The money we're using would otherwise have been sitting in the council's bank account unused, but now I hope it will be put to good use providing clean energy and much needed regular financial income for the council."

Leader of the Green Party Councillors Claire Stephenson commented on the consultation to come: "This is only the start of a very tough project for the whole city. My colleagues and I will be working to ensure that no decision is taken in the coming months without the deepest possible consultation, with the council taking all views into account. It is also vital that the process takes place openly, with all relevant information made available to residents and councillors in a place and form in which they can access it."
 
--
Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
http://rupertread.net
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT gmail.com]
WHY NOT FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER?: twitter.com/GreenRupertRead

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Why is the media madly growthist?

This superbly intriguing exchange between @Medialens and Larry Elliott is a must-read for any #green:

The way that Brown helped #Gaddafi visavis Megrahi sowed the seeds for the current massacres

 
Let's stop backing dictators!
 
Away from the view of journalists, Gaddafi is attacking his own people ferociously in Libya, to try to win back control over towns and cities which have been freed by acts of incredible bravery. It is time the international community acted decisively: at a minimum, we need a no-fly zone over most of Libya now, to stop Gaddafi bombing and strafeing his own people. This is what the many former Libyan diplomats who have resigned from the Libyan government are saying. The world needs to act on this now!
   Meanwhile, I wonder if Gordon Brown is (now) regretting having taken the extensive actions that he did and his government did, as we now know (http://politics.caledonianmercury.com/2011/02/08/megrahi-revelations-show-yet-again-that-gordon-brown-just-didn%E2%80%99t-get-devolution/), to get Megrahi the Lockerbie bomber released back to the care of Gaddafi. These actions by the British government basically sent Gaddafi the message loud and clear that all that Britain cared about was making money with Libya, not justice and the rule of law, let alone the fate of the oppressed Libyan people themselves. The heartrendingly unprecedentedly savage treatment that Gaddafi is now meting out to his own people who are daring to stand up for their freedom was in effect given the green light in advance by Britain, as soon as Brown started helping Libya to get Megrahi back.
    It is time for Britain to decisively change course, and abandon its support for Middle Eastern and North African rulers (including also those of Bahrain, Djibouti, Yemen plus of course Israel) who fire on people. This process might be helped along if Brown (and Blair, who initiated the process of making friends with Gaddafi and who played a role it seems, according to the Wikileaks cables, in the dubious freeing of Megrahi: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/221905?CMP=twt_gu) himself were to speak out, expressing regret that the last government didn't take a far stronger line against the oppresive, murderous Gaddafi.
  At the moment, the signs that the British government is contemplating a serious change of course are limited, to say the least. Yes, Britain has now stopped certain arms exports to Bahrain (and Libya: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/crackdown-on-arms-exports-to-bahrain-2219269.html ) - but recall that just a week before the Bahrain uprising began, William Hague was in Bahrain in effect pledging our support to the autocrats there, warmly shaking their hands, pushing for more economic and trade links, and making a few gentle noises about 'reform' to cover his tracks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12413552 . Meanwhile, we have the astounding situation that LibDem peer Emma Nicholson is in Yemen to conduct trade talks, during the uprising there: http://www.sabanews.net/en/news236113.htm & http://www.sabanews.net/en/news236123.htm . I can find no record of Nicholson speaking out about what the government there is doing to its people (see e.g. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/protests-continue-in-yemen-algeria-and-morocco-as-strikes-banned-in-egypt-2220133.html ) right now. This really is a quite appalling, though not unexpected, state of affairs.
    The British government needs to wake up. The world is changing. It is simply no longer acceptable to be complicit with the violent and provocative repression of peaceful protests abroad - or, indeed, at home...
    Which brings us to the latest appalling event: Cameron's trip to the MidEast to see dictators to do business with them and sell them arms. I kid you not: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/21/cameron-cairo-visit-defence-trade?CMP=twt_gu . A cleverly arranged PR opp in Cairo, and its off to Kuwait to sell arms etc. to a genuinely autocratic regime...
    You couldn't make it up.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Looking back at the #UEA public lectures

Myself chairing a debate between Tom Greaves and Angela Breitenbach:

#Libya freedom banner



This is the banner of the Libyan people, rising up against Gaddafi and his murderous acolytes.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Rise up like an Egyptian

This is very inspiring: an interview with the man who wrote this bible of #Tahrir Square. A key text for many in the successful Egyptian revolt: a guide to how to win, non-violently. Non-violence works!http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00ym9ls/Broadcasting_House_20_02_2011 Go 13 minutes in, and listen.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Britain in trade talks with #Yemen?!!

This seems to come from some sort of parallel universe...
 
What on Earth is going on here? How utterly insane, how sickening, for our govt to be talking this way while Yemeni protesters are being killed by govt-backed thugs...

A new proposal for a green future… How House of Lords reform should really be done


Introduction: House of Lords reform is next

Now that it is certain that the AV referendum will take place on May 5, coinciding with local election day and elections in Scotland and Wales (incidentally, this date is one which I first broke to the nation, scooping the BBC and everyone else: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/av-referendum-to-be-announced-next-week-held-in-may/ ), it is a good time to reflect on the strange beast that is the House of Lords, that almost scuppered this referendum (albeit not without some good reason!: see http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/michael-wills/house-of-lords-is-right-to-challenge-coalition-on-where-we-vote ).

There is of course a lot to be said for the House of Lords, at least as compared to the conduct of many of those who have won election to the House of Commons! In respect of this latest example, for instance, it is clear that in some respects they have intelligently improved the bill that will allow the AV referendum to go ahead, in particular by loosening the tightness of the strictures on constituency size.

But in the end, one thing is inescapable: the method of selection of the Lords – essentially, patronage – is just fundamentally unacceptable in a modern democracy. We need to have a House of Lords candidates for which are picked in some other, better way: either by election via proportional representation (which is Green Party policy, and seems likely to be the route that the Coalition chooses), or by lot (selection, that is, via the so-called ‘Athenian option’, argued for by OK’s Anthony Barnett: see this intriguing review: http://telescoper.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/the-athenian-option/ ).

Once the AV referendum has been won (or lost – please let it not be lost! #Yes2AV !), then the burden of constitutional reform will switch to the question of the House of Lords. This is not a ‘long-grass’ issue – Clegg and others in his Party are determined to make progress on it, and rightly so. It is in this context that I have been working on this issue.

For I think that we need to broaden our sense of what can be achieved in House of Lords reform. It is not enough merely to democratise the upper house; we ought to seize this opportunity to rethink its raison d’etre. Especially as, if we have elections for the Lords, there will be a greater need to distinguish the Lords more radically from the Commons. One way to do so would be to give it a new purpose, besides just being a revising chamber. And that is the purpose of this ‘thinkpiece’: to suggest such a new purpose.

A new, ‘green’ purpose for the upper house; and how best to select candidates for it

What if we were to make the House of Lords into the House of the Voiceless? A place where the interests of non-human animals and of future people (see my http://www.opendemocracy.net/rupert-read/last-refuge-of-prejudice ) were, by oath, the first concern of the senators (if such is to be their new names)?

This would of course actually fit particularly well, if the selection of all or some candidates for this chamber were to be done by lot. (You could for instance select most of the senators making up the new Upper House by PR, and the rest, those designated specifically perhaps as ‘guardians’ for the voiceless, by lot: that would be a ‘hybrid’ upper house that could achieve the tasks of revising legislation and of protecting voiceless people/beings, in tandem. See below…) For then it would make great sense, to think of those selected as being given a special vocation (as jurors have, in another context) to voice the concerns of the voiceless.

The idea that I had some years ago (here is one of the first places that I started to write it up: http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2008/10/safeguarding-future-generations.html), a proposal that I have been developing in my philosophical work recently, and that I have been speaking on in various fora (see http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2011/01/guardians-for-future-talk.html , and http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_W5PrTdY3Jko/TTdrP14adxI/AAAAAAAAAfU/hrdjZXsSlIg/s1600/programme_25feb2010_draft.jpg ), is specifically that all or (perhaps better still) some portion of the new upper house should be constituted by ordinary citizens selected by lot to represent powerfully the voices of the voiceless, in the deliberations of the nation. I recently offered evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (on which Green Party MP Caroline Lucas sits: see here for my evidence: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmenvaud/writev/esd/esd12.htm), along these lines.

It would be interesting to know what readers of Rupert’s Read think of this idea (or rather, more strictly speaking, of this phalanx of related ideas, for there are obviously various different ways in which the basic impulse here could be implemented, as I have already implied).

For those without time to visit the links, here is the idea is in a nutshell:

From the House of Lords to the guardians

Plato said we should be ruled by guardians. Habermas and other deliberative-democratic philosophers of course abhor the anti-democratic sentiment permeating Plato’s proposal, and rightly so. But… what if the guardians were selected democratically, for example by sortition? And: what if their deliberations became a high-profile model of what deliberation in a democratic society could be?

Still, there seems little case for substituting guardians for normal elected representatives, for decisions which can be made about us, by people who represent us. But… what about cases where the people, the beings who ought to be heard in or even to be making the decisions have no voice -- even over matters which are life or death matters for them?

Future people are the most obvious case of such people. I propose therefore powerful guardians for future people / guardians of the future / guardians of future generations, either to take the place in our system of the royal assent, or to occupy part of the role of the upper house in the course of House of Lords reform.

Their most fundamental powers, besides standard revising powers, would be, on my proposal:

a) To veto in whole or in part new legislation that threatened the basic needs and fundamental interests of future people / of the voiceless.

b) To force a review, on petitioning, if appropriate, of any existing legislation or of administrative decisions that threaten the basic needs and fundamental interests of future people / of the voiceless.

Conclusion: A path to a green future, via constitutional reform?

Everyone is agreed that our current democracy is failing to achieve a green future. Why not seize the moment offered by House of Lords reform, and consider some much more radical version of such reform than the Coalition is currently intending? Perhaps then, the time is ripe for thinking about helping to achieve a green future, by creating a new role, that of guardians, who would, in the context of radical reform of the upper house, become and then be an intimate part of our democratic institutions…

For after all: The people who would rule, if we simply move to selecting candidates for the upper house by PR elections, or by lot, without altering the raison d’etre of the upper house, are only the people (in fact, the adult, registered-to-vote, not extremely-infirm etc. people) who are alive now. But surely, ‘the people’ ought to be thought of in a far more temporally extended manner. Does a people only exist as a momentary time-slice? Surely not. A people, a nation-state, a community, a society, is something extended over time. It extends into the past, and extends indefinitely into the future.

Burke, in a passage clearly forgotten by supposed c/Conservatives in UK and USA for 30 years or more, says that society is a contract between the dead, the living and those unborn (with no limit specified on the generations ahead)... He is right…

It is clear that we need Lords willing to radically reform or to abolish themselves, if we are to achieve Lords reform, 100 years on from the Parliament Act. But I think, with ecological crisis looming or upon us, it is also high time to think about how such radical reform of the upper house can be dovetailed in with institutional reform to try to help assure a greener future.

Maybe undertaking such thinking would even make the Lords more willing to accept their own exit, in the service of a greater good…

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Friday, 18 February 2011

Why the "Vote #No2AV to spite Nick Clegg" meme is 100% mistaken

There is an obvious reason for being unimpressed with the current efforts of the 'No To AV' side in the referendum campaign to turn the referendum into a popularity contest concerning the LibDems in general and Nick Clegg in particular (see e.g. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3cd7b944-3937-11e0-97ca-00144feabdc0.html & http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1357379/Alternative-Vote-Nick-Clegg-power-years.html ). Namely, that it is the most short-sighted and dirty form of personality politics to try to get people to vote against a seminal proposal for constitutional change -- the reform of our electoral system, the very heart of our democracy – so as merely to be able to give one in the eye to our unpopular Deputy Press Minister.

But there is also a much less obvious – a hitherto-unnoticed -- reason for being unimpressed with these efforts, and with the rash of media stories that continue to accompany them (see e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12462662 ). Namely, that there is good reason to believe that it is simply false to claim that AV will benefit the LibDems.

That may seem a very surprising claim. For everyone, from the BBC and Peter Kellner (see http://broadleftblogging.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/av-is-a-game-changer/ ) to Nick Clegg himself, is assuming that the LibDems will benefit from AV. It was an assumed past of the script in the recent Newsnight special on AV (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/fromthewebteam/2011/02/wednesday_16_april_2011.html ). And after all, haven't the LibDems in the past suffered a good deal from the 'wasted vote' argument, which AV would put an end to? Wouldn't they get lots of 2nd preference transfers from Tory and Labour voters, thus increasing their haul at the next election, or at least stopping the rot that their haemorrhaging support is creating?

There are two reasons why these assumptions are mistaken:

1) In general terms, First Past the Post (FPTP) suppresses the vote of LibDems in places where they are weak (where they are perceived as a 'wasted vote') – but it artificially bolsters their vote in places where they are already strong (where they benefit from tactical voting). What does this mean? It means that introducing AV would (ceteris paribus) increase the 1st preference LibDem vote in places where they are weak – places where they have no chance of winning – and decrease their 1st preference vote in places where they are strong – where at present they benefit from tactical votes, without which (in many cases) they would not win. ...They might even score a higher vote tally overall, but its distribution would work against them winning (or even holding) seats. Their vote-share would be up in places where it was useless to them, and down in places where it would have been useful to them. Ceteris paribus, AV will cost the LibDems seats.

2) But of course, in the specificities of our political situation under this Coalition government, ceteris is not paribus. For the first time ever, there will be large-scale deliberate anti-LibDem voting, at the next General Election. There will for instance be many Labour (and Green, and Nationalist, etc.) 1st preference voters who quite deliberately do not put the LibDems down as their 2nd or 3rd or even 4th preference…because they are so disgusted with the LibDems' betrayals. (Many may well rather place Tory ahead of LibDem in their preference-ordering, for the Tories at least have not gained a reputation as turncoats and opportunists.) People looking to give Nick Clegg one in the eye at the next General Election will have ample opportunity to do so, under AV. They can deliberately put the LibDems bottom of their preference-list (or simply leave them off it altogether).

The key point here is that, relative to AV, it is FPTP that maximises the seats that are gained by unpopular parties, parties that are seriously disliked by a majority. Because AV requires that you assemble a majority of voters' preferences in order to win. This is demonstrable for example in relation to Council elections in this country: there are many seats that the BNP have won under the present system that they would without doubt have lost under AV: for the second and third and fourth preferences of voters voting for mainstream/non-fascist parties would in very many cases have transferred against the BNP. In seats where it is not obvious who to vote for in order to stop the BNP, FPTP is the system of choice for the BNP. Which may well partly explain why the BNP, somewhat understandably, is calling the AV referendum a conspiracy against the BNP... (See http://isupportav.co.uk/2010/11/the-bnp-are-campaigning-against-av/ )

The LibDems now may start to suffer the same fate… They presumably did not anticipate, when they put their eggs in the AV basket, that they would end up not merely losing votes but losing second and even third preferences too, because of becoming objects of such dislike that Cleggmania has turned into the search (among the #No2AV forces) for how to turn the AV referendum into a referendum against Clegg… What is interesting is that the LibDems still don't seem to have woken up to this fact. The fact that, if they are widely disliked, they will be even worse off under AV than under FPTP. (One's surmise is that they haven't woken up to it, because to do so would be simply too painful – as they would then realise that they have boxed themselves into a truly terrible corner, in this referendum campaign: If they lose it, they will be perceived to have lost the one thing that they really wanted out of the Coalition; but if they win it, they will actually suffer at the next election, as a consequence…)

But what of the academic / polling studies that also tell us that AV will benefit the LibDems? Some of these studies, rashly, simply ignore the second point that I have made! They work, that is, on the basis of what voters' second preferences were last May (thus ignoring that the LibDems will now be garnering many less second etc. preferences, and will garner even less, probably, by 2015 – this is to miss my point (2)). Some studies assume that first preferences will remain the same under AV, thus simply ignoring the first point that I have made! And even the best of the studies that I am aware of (using British Election Survey data: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/markdarcy/2010/10/av_study_reveals_some_surprise.html http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/parlij/gsq042.pdf), which ostensibly at least takes into account my point (1), does not go far enough in undermining the assumption that those who voted (say) LibDem at the recent General Election actually do have LibDem as their 1st preference, that those who voted Labour actually do have Labour as their 1st preference, etc. etc. . Because they do not take into account that some voters who are taking part in an FPTP election will in effect have been primed by the circumstances in which they are answering the survey questions in most cases into thinking that their first preference should remain the same, and that AV will only affect their lower preferences. (Or at least, that many voters will not have given any deep thought to clear 1-n pure preference orderings beforehand, orderings unaffected by questions of who is likely to win, because they never needed to.) That assumption, as we have seen, is much worse than rash -- it is manifestly false. It is falsified by the existence of large-scale tactical voting, under FPTP. When people actually get to understand AV and to think of it as their actual voting system, then first-preference-votes change more, and continue to change over time.

A case-study for this is what has happened in Australia. There, AV has allowed smaller Parties (and independents) that are not thoroughly disliked by a majority to build up their votes. This is how the Green Party vote has grown in Australia, to the point where the Greens have won a number of seats in the Upper House (elected by PR) through being able to build up their credibility through scoring decent numbers of first-preference votes (through AV) in the Lower House (and thus scoring well enough to be taken seriously, in opinion polls as well as actual elections). And the Aussie Greens have now won their first seat in the Lower House, through second-preference-transfers under AV…

Meanwhile, the closest equivalent to the LibDems in Australia, the 'Democrats', declined under AV, to the point that they have now collapsed altogether…

The key point that one has to understand is that AV changes people's ability to expresses their preferences, and (most crucially – this is my point (1) above) that AV can change quite drastically how people vote ON FIRST PREFERENCES too. This point would quite possibly help the LibDems under PR -- but it will hurt rather than help them under AV. In some cases (as has happened in Australia) it will lead to them being overtaken on 1st preferences by what are currently the 'minor' Parties. And this effect will increase over time.

The big question about the effect of AV on election results then is how the abolition of tactical-voting and of 'wasted vote' arguments (an abolition that AV very largely, thankfully, effects) and the drastic reduction in safe seats that it will simultaneously bring about will (over time) affect the first-preference votes of the LibDems -- and (differentially) of the various smaller Parties. This question, the 'experts' and the LibDems themselves seem largely to have ignored. Most unwisely…

The conclusion, then, is clear. If you are one of those people who is worried about voting for AV because you don't want to do the LibDems a favour, then you need worry no longer…

It is the Right (including the worst elements of tribal Old Labour) who are campaigning against AV, and pouring money into the opposition to it. Anything that is seen as bad by the dog-ears of Labour and by the Tories and the Taxpayers Alliance and the BNP surely has to be a good thing… If the AV referendum passes, these people will be spitting blood. But the unexpected conclusion of my analysis here is that passing AV will in reality be one in the eye for Nick Clegg, too… For when it actually comes to the 2015 election, Clegg's Party will, for the reasons I have explained, lose seats, not gain them, because of AV. In sum: It is time to dump the 'Vote #No2AV if you want to give Clegg one in the eye' meme, not only because it is puerile and small-minded, but also for the even more important reason that it is simply 100% factually mistaken.

[An earlier version of this piece has been published in slimmed down form at http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/02/18/two-reasons-why-libdems-might-not-benefit-from-av ]

My #Yes2AV letter in today's INDY

The NOtoAV campaign are trying to turn the AV referendum into a referendum on Nick Clegg's popularity. This is obviously a petty and cynical way to treat a constitutional question of huge importance, but there is another reason, less obvious, why it is wrong. Namely, that actually Nick Clegg's Party will not benefit from AV. Under AV, you no longer need to vote tactically, and can give your first preference to whoever you want to win. The Lib Dems may gain votes in areas where they are weak, under AV, as they will no longer be perceived as a "wasted vote" in those areas. But they will lose first preference votes in areas where they are strong, as people will no longer be compelled to vote for them tactically in order to cast a vote that is not "wasted".

Losing votes where you are strong loses you seats, whereas gaining votes where you are weak does not.

Councillor Dr Rupert Read, Green Party

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Correspondence with GuidoFawkes on #AV

In response to my piece criticising Charlotte Vere, earlier today. Read UP from the bottom to the top, to follow the correspondence:

 

 Guido;
It will not lead to pandering to the BNP because, for the reasons I have explained below, which you seem surprisingly reluctant to debate or to acknowledge, the BNP will be WORSE off under AV than under FPTP. AV is probably the worst of all possible systems for Parties (such as the BNP) that genuinely deserve the descriptor, 'extremist', that is, Parties that are hated by a majority of the population. The BNP will be seriously hit by AV (especially if AV later gets introduced into Council elections). Again, that might have something to do with the fact that, as apparently you did not know when this correspondence began, the BNP are virulently opposed to AV, and claim (not without some reason) that it is a conspiracy to stop them ever getting elected...
 Rupert.
 
On Thu, 17 Feb 2011 15:40 +0000, "Guy Fawkes" <guido.fawkes@order-order.com> wrote:
AV...will lead to pandering to extremist parties like the Greens and BNP by mainstream politicians.

On Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 3:32 PM, Rupert Read <rupertread@fastmail.co.uk> wrote:
yes, but he DOESN'T want AV! he wants PR. those are the facts. 
 
 
On Thu, 17 Feb 2011 15:10 +0000, "Guy Fawkes" <guido.fawkes@order-order.com> wrote:

Nick Griffin wants electoral reform.

On 17 Feb 2011 15:00, "Rupert Read" <rupertread@fastmail.co.uk> wrote:
> dear Guido;
> (1) The BNP are AGAINST
> AV: [1]
http://isupportav.co.uk/2010/11/the-bnp-are-campaigning-against-av . AV would be disastrous for the BNP, because the BNP
> only get elected under FPTP when people don't know who to
> tactically vote for to beat them. Under AV, lower preferences
> combine against them and invariaby would defeat them.
> (2) You can call us Greens 'extremists' if it floats your boat, but it would
> be helpful if you were to address the substantive point I make:
> that Vere is tacitly and pretty-disgracefully misrepresenting
> Greens as closet-BNP supporters. Which is just ridiculous: there
> is virtually no overlap between Green and BNP support, virtually
> no overlap whatsoever between our policies and politics (which
> can't be said for example of the UKIP-BNP nexus, where there is
> quite a bit of common ground.).
> best, Rupert.
>
> On Thu, 17 Feb 2011 14:25 +0000, "Guy Fawkes"
> <guido.fawkes@order-order.com> wrote:
>
> I think it would be a disaster if extremists like the Greens
> and BNP benefited from AV.
> Ask yourself why the Greens and BNP are in favour of AV?
> Because they know it will boost their chances.

Hague's rubbish arguments against #AV: a point by point response to his letter to the faithful today

From: "William Hague" <bulletin@news.conservatives.com>
Date: 17 February 2011 
Subject: Help us win the AV referendum
Reply-To: "William Hague" <support-bxu6bu1b2c8xdzau6cew7aajhzx59q@news.conservatives.com>

Conservative Party logo

 

Dear_________,

Without your help, Britain's traditional voting system could be ditched for something that is unfair, expensive and allows candidates that finish third to win elections.

On May 5th, there's a nationwide referendum on whether to replace the system of First Past the Post with the 'Alternative Vote' - or AV. The Liberal Democrats demanded this referendum as part of the Coalition agreement - but the Conservative Party are actively campaigning for a 'No' vote. Here's why:

  • AV is unfair. With First Past the Post, everybody gets one vote. But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would get their vote counted many times, while other people's vote would only be counted once.
 RR: This is nonsense. It is like saying that if you go to a restaurant, and find that your preferred dish is not available because it wasn't popular enough, then you shouldn't have the chance to have a 2nd preference. AV is STV for single constituencies: It could equally well be named STV. Each person has only a SINGLE Transferrable Vote. (It is also worth noting, seeing as Hague gratuitously mentions the BNP here to try to smear the #Yes2AV campaign, that the BNP are campaigning FOR FPTP and AGAINST AV: http://isupportav.co.uk/2010/11/the-bnp-are-campaigning-against-av/ . This isn't surprising: because the BNP will suffer badly under AV, which is the worst of all electoral systems for extreme Parties hated by the majority of voters, as explained here: http://oneworldcolumn.blogspot.com/2011/01/from-alternative-media-to-alternative.html .)
  • AV doesn't work. Rather than the candidate with the most votes winning, the person who finishes third could be declared the winner.
 RR: Yes, of course, the person who finishes 2nd or 3rd ON FIRST PREFERENCES could become the winner - IF they get enough transfers from other candidates. That is exactly HOW AV works. So, for example, David Miliband got more 1st preferences than Ed Miliband in the Labour Leadership election. But Ed won more transfers, and so came out the eventual winner. What this shows is that there were a lot of people who _didn't_ want David to win, whose first preference was for Balls, Abbott, or Burnham. If the Labour leadership contest had been conducted via FPTP, then those people would have been forced either to tactically vote for Ed (thus being deprived of the ability to express their actual 1st preference) or would have risked 'wasting' their vote. AV ends those kinds of painful betrayals of democracy, and facilitates people expressing what their actual preferences are. (It therefore also, crucially, allows smaller Parties over time to build up their 1st preferences until they become contenders to actually win. This is how the Green Party has grown in Australia - see my recent letter in PROSPECT magazine, on this: http://broadleftblogging.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/av-is-a-game-changer/ .)
  • AV is expensive. Calculating the results is a long, complicated process, which would cost the taxpayer millions.
 RR: Actually, AV would be barely any more expensive at all than FPTP: see http://www.spectator.co.uk/alexmassie/6702255/another-rotten-argument-against-voting-reform.thtml. The very small additional cost - basically, the extra staff time to count the more complex ballot papers on election night - is surely a price worth paying for democracy. (Of course, it would be much cheaper to dispense with elections altogether - this seems to be the ultimate logic of this particular 'argument' of the No2AV side...)
  • No-one wants AV. Even the 'Yes' campaigners don't actually want AV - they see it as a convenient stepping stone to yet more changes to how we vote.
 RR: Well, it is certainly true that there are a good number of Yes2AV campaigners who would in the longer term want PR, myself included. But the question before voters is what stance to take IN THIS REFERENDUM. The Green Party's preferred policy is PR: but AV is our second preference, above FPTP!... Hague is trying here to make the best as we see it the enemy of the good. His argument fails:  just because AV is not perfect is no reason to vote for a worse system (FPTP) on May 5th! Given the alternative on offer, I DO want AV. (Also, we need to bear in mind that there are plenty of ordinary voters out there, and some members of the Yes2AV campaign, who DON'T want PR, and who do want AV. The AV referendum is about AV - let's not let Hague distract with irrelevant remarks about PR.)

_______________________________________________________________

 

Thank you,

William Hague's signature

William Hague
Foreign Secretary

Comment on William's message on the Blue Blog

 

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Vere's latest smear: Ugly #No2AV rhetoric

This exchange ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12491641 )

between the excellent Jonathan Bartley of #Yes2AV and the spinning sneering smearer Charlotte Vere of #No2AV was on the BBC this morning.  As you’ll see if you watch it, in the course of a general swipe at ‘minor Parties’, Vere comes pretty close to suggesting that Green voters' second choice is likely to be…the BNP! Specifically: The ‘example’ Vere gives of how AV is ‘unfair’ (!) to large Parties and partial (sic.) toward small Parties is of a voter whose first preference is Green and whose second preference is BNP and so on...

          She's a repeat offender regarding this sort of thing, as Greens know from her often-dreadful campaign against Caroline Lucas in Brighton, and as anyone knows who follows for instance the seemingly-endless string of misrepresentations on her twitter-feed in the course of this AV referendum campaign.

          The truth of course is that there is very little demographic intersection between Green and BNP voters  (See Pat Dade’s work in Cultural Dynamics, for confirmation of this; the geodemographic profile of the BNP is, for illustration, quite similar to that of Tea Party supporters in the States - who are hardly like to be Green-leaning!: http://documents.campaignstrategy.org/uploads/campaignstrategy_newsletter_66.pdf). Potential BNP voters are proportionately more likely to vote Conservative (or UKIP, or indeed Labour) than they are to vote Green. Not, presumably, the kind of fact that Ms. Vere, a Conservative, likes to broadcast… So, on live TV, she smears small Parties in general and the Greens in particular (perhaps she is still smarting at having been beaten by one?), instead…

         

 

 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

#BigSocietyFail:The cynical Big Society lie

Yesterday, I went to a massive #nocuts rally at Norfolk County Hall, and then watched Simon Hughes MP on television saying that there 'of course' have to be cuts to voluntary services at a time of large-scale government cuts. That kind of apologia really does make a complete nonsense of the Government's alleged 'Big Society' agenda.
The reality is as follows: The government is forcing through big, rapid cuts. It is trying to target most of those cuts onto areas where public outrage at the cuts will not be too rapid or drastic. One obvious target has been local government (in complete contradiction with the government's alleged 'localism' agenda): local government is a soft target, because money that goes to local government does not go direct to citizens, and so central government can always shift blame onto the local governments themselves. In the most cynical of ways, this latter is what Eric Pickles, the Local Government Minister, has now been doing for several months.
As a local Councillor, I know only too well how dependent many vital voluntary services / NGOs / etc. are upon local government to stay alive. The voluntary sector, these services, these groups, are in many cases now being slashed or driven to the wall, as local Councils desperately seek to make ends meet.
What the Government has perpetrated here really is a sickeningly cynical exercise. For it is nothing more nor less than a sick joke to talk about the 'Big Society' while creating conditions that you know will result in a severe reduction of the voluntary sector's ability to cope and to do good things.
And precisely this is what Westminster has done. It is the opposite of joined-up government, and it is, in my view, both a stupidity and a disgrace.
 
http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2011/02/the-cynical-big-society-lie/ [This, my new piece on BGS, doesn't pull its punches...]

Monday, 14 February 2011

My 'guardians' talk next week

PHILOSOPHY AND PUBLIC POLICY: MAKING AN IMPACT

Seminar 2: Friday 25 February 2011

Programme

 

10.30am

Tea and coffee

10.45am

Welcome and introduction

11.00am

Should we promote patriotism in schools?

Dr Michael Hand, Institute of Education, University of London

12.15pm

Guardians of the basic needs of future generations: A modest Platonic proposal?

Dr Rupert Read, University of East Anglia

1.30pm

Lunch

2.30pm

Policy and the future of the family

Professor David Archard, Lancaster University

3.45pm

Plenary discussion

Tea and coffee provided

4.30pm

Close

 


Abstracts

David Archard (Lancaster University)

Policy and the Future of the Family

Within modern Western liberal societies there is an increasing diversity of family forms. Law and policy can make a significant difference to which forms flourish and which do not. Conservative defences of the traditional nuclear family are set against the liberal, or libertarian, tolerance of familial diversity. Philosophy can contribute to this debate on the future of the family by means of both a conceptual analysis of what counts as a family and an outline of those normative principles by which families and the proper limits of family policy should be evaluated. I shall say something about how to define the family, and about the limits, if any, to the tolerance of family forms within liberal societies.

Michael Hand (Institute of Education, University of London)

Should we promote patriotism in schools?

If patriotism is love of one’s country, the attempt to promote it in schools must count as a form of emotional education. Emotional education is defensible insofar as it consists in offering pupils good reasons and effective techniques for fostering or suppressing particular emotions. The question is whether we are in a position to offer pupils good reasons for loving their countries. I set out an account of the rationality of emotions in general and of love in particular, then identify two benefits and one drawback of patriotic attachment. I argue that there is room for reasonable disagreement on the desirability of patriotism and that we therefore ought not to promote it in schools but rather to teach it as a controversial issue. (My research on patriotism in schools, which had an empirical as well as a philosophical component, has received extensive and frequently hostile media coverage. I will conclude with some reflections on media coverage as a form of research impact.)

Rupert Read (University of East Anglia)

Guardians of the basic needs of future generations: A modest Platonic proposal?

Plato said we should be ruled by guardians. Habermas and other deliberative-democratic philosophers of course abhor such autocracy. But what if the guardians were selected democratically, by sortition? And what if their deliberations became a high-profile model of what deliberation in a democratic society could be?

Still, there seems little case for substituting guardians for normal elected representatives, for decisions which can be made about us, by people who represent us. But what about cases where the people who ought to be heard in or even making the decisions have no voice -- even over matters which are life or death matters for them?

Future people are the most obvious case of such people. I present here therefore a broadly Habermasian case for powerful guardians for future people / guardians of the future / guardians of future generations, to take the place occupied in our current political system by the royal assent.

 

Saturday, 12 February 2011

AV contains FPTP within it: a new argument for #Yes2AV

As a #Yes2AV supporter, I am sometimes asked this question:
'Will there be an option, in AV, to just vote for one party when not wanting any of the others in at all?'
The answer is YES. Under AV, if you simply place a '1' next to your favoured candidate (rather than a cross), then you are voting as if it is FPTP (the current system), and that is completely allowed.
In fact, there is a very important point here: It really is unnecessary for FPTP-lovers to oppose AV at all. FPTP is 'contained within' AV. FPTP-supporters can simply vote using a '1' instead of a cross, and could lobby for everyone else to do so too. There really is no need and no reason for them to oppose the new system...
It would just be nice if they were to let those of us who would like to rank candidates by preference to be allowed to do so... It is really rather illiberal of them to stop us from doing this, when we are perfectly happy for them NOT to list candidates in preference order (below '1') if that is their preference...
1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: February 2011 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Rupert's Read

22. 23. 31. 32.