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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 07:48pm on 17/07/2011
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 02:03pm on 04/06/2011
I've lost my copies of Only You Can Save Mankind and Johnny and the Dead. Anyone borrowed them from me years ago?
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 04:55pm on 27/04/2011
Musing on Ben Parker's blog post, I came up with an interesting thought experiment about the AV/FPTP debate.

Parallel run the next set of elections, letting people vote twice, once under AV and once under FPTP. Announce the results under AV, and the results under FPTP. Then in every constituency where the outcome was different, let everyone vote for whether or not they wanted the candidate elected under FPTP, or the candidate elected under AV, in a straight fight between the two candidates.

I think, trivially,[1] that the majority would vote for the candidate elected under AV over the candidate elected under FPTP when these were different, because that's what AV does better at finding. Which suggests to me AV is a better system for finding the people we want to represent us.

[Not to mention that it's better for increasing information on voter preferences, avoiding tactical voting, etc etc etc. Let me encourage you all once again to read Prof Gowers' fabulous article on AV]

[1] assuming conservation of voters - if you suddenly got lots of people turning up to vote the second time who were too apathetic to vote the first time then things might jump around a bit.
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 10:39pm on 11/04/2011
I have just finished reading Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging (and the first sequel), at the recommendation of a friend's daughter. I usually really like trashy teenage fiction, even when it is basically no more than soppy romance and chick lit, so I was surprised to find myself really frustrated and annoyed at it. Cut for spoilers )
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 07:33pm on 26/03/2011
I have marched. It was awesome. It was exhausting. There were students, and teachers, and NHS staff, and firemen, and social workers, and medics, and theatre people, and disabled people, and... hundreds of perfectly ordinary yet unique and awesome people, all giving up their time because they believe (as I do) that what they do makes the world a better place. It was both amazingly inspiring (because the world has people like that in it, and we can come together and be heard) and petrifying (because this is what's at risk, and it's bright and brilliant and good)

[If you were hoping from anything from me that requires more brain power than this LJ post, it's not going to happen until tomorrow afternoon. I have to cook a roast dinner for four now, and run Sunday school tomorrow morning. Ah, life, always busy, always fun.]
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 08:07am on 18/03/2011
I know other people's dreams are dull, but I had a great sort-of-anxiety dream last night.

In real life, I really want to go to the Alcester contra dance, but I didn't want to strong-arm my parents into it too much, so was going to leave it and see what we all felt like on the day. Then Nicky texted me last night to ask if I'd be going, and strongly hinted it was going to be a sell out (which I'd have realised if I'd thought about it for more than 6 seconds)

So I had a dream where I was at the hall for the contra helping everyone to set up, and trying to buy four tickets, which I managed. Then I had the strangest realisation that this was just an anxiety dream and I hadn't actually bought any real tickets and solved my problem. Upon realising that, I 'woke up', desperately hoping that the laws of physics would bend and let me really have bought tickets by my strange out-of-body experience and sheer power of will, and was utterly surprised to discover I still had the tickets, slightly dog-eared but definitely there. I was well chuffed!

Sadly about 10 minutes later (having gleefully shown the tickets to all the family) I woke up again. Wow, dreaming's weird if you think about it too much, and the brain is turtles all the way down.
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 11:11am on 24/02/2011
I've been thinking about the AV referendum, and one of the things that I've been pondering is why people might be against AV.

[livejournal.com profile] andrewducker posted a link to the arguments people are using against AV, and I think it's fairly clear Paperback Rioter is right, and they are mostly rubbish arguments.

So what might actually change under AV, and why might people think that was bad? I think there are [ETA] two three major things:

1) Some people under the current system cast their vote for a party they are fairly certain can't win in their constituency. It's hard to estimate how many votes this is (well, it's easy but lengthy, as there's lots of constituencies in the UK) but 6% of people voted for a party that didn't get a single seat, and I'm sure some of the lib dem voters are in areas where the battle is tory/labour[1], so guessing it's about 1 in 10 voters seems approximately right.[2]

Moving to AV effectively gives these people a vote that counts. Now, putting my cards on the table here, this is the major reason I'm in favour of AV. Every election I am faced with stressing about whether or not to vote for the party I actually want to support, or whether to be pragmatic and pick the best of two evils. So far I've tended towards idealism, on the grounds that maybe everyone is just like me and if we all wake up and vote idealistically the Good Guys will get in[3]. But it would clearly make me more comfortable to have a voting system where I can say 'this is who I want to vote for, but pragmatically A are better than B'

I'm not sure what we can say about these non-pragmatic voters as a group. But I am sure that lots of right wingers probably see them as a group of greens / socialists / lib dems / communists / respect / unions / 'people who will want pretty much anyone, especially labour, before the tory party, except possibly the BNP'[4]. From that point of view, enfranchising these people with a meaningful vote is something that will make your party less likely to win. Now, there's an idealistic question about whether it's better to make democracy more democratic even if it means you're less likely to get the government you want running the country. And I think it is quite common, and even defensible, if not very politically correct or palatable, to actually not want some people to have the vote. I'm not a big fan of democracy myself - I think there are lots of things that if we put them to a straight referendum the Bad Guys would win them (gay marriage, the death penalty, europe) - so I'm glad that we have an elected body of clever people to keep us from our own excesses. Which means I do think that there is a defendable position saying 'look, if a grown adult genuinely wants to cast their vote for the Lincolnshire Independance party I want them as far away from influencing the outcome of this election as possible', (which is more subtle and idealistic than 'this system makes us less likely to win so it's bad', although the two things probably get muddled up)

And if you want to keep these people disenfranchised while on paper giving them the vote, FPTP is much better than AV.

2) Secondarily, there are some people who do vote pragmatically, ie they vote for one of the two parties they think have a chance of winning even though they would prefer to vote for a less popular party. I think these are the great unknown - we can see how many people vote non-pragmatically, because they turn up counted next to the Pirate Party, but as far as I know there isn't very good data on how many people were voting pragmatically and would vote differently under AV. [That surprises me, as it seems an incredably interesting and incredably topical question, and you'd think someone would have done a poll to try and quantify it.]

Anyway, with no numbers, that just creates a lot of fear, uncertancy and doubt that under AV everyone will leap out of bed on polling day, and think 'oh, I've always wanted to vote for the monster raving loony party, now I can do it without wasting my vote' and we will see a huge swing towards fringe parties who aren't actually very good at running the country.

I can see how if you were one of the current major parties a voting system that might encourage a giant swing away from you probably doesn't look like a good thing. But that gets back into 'I don't want to give the people what they want, I want to give the people what's best for them, which is me'. A valid position, but one worth being honest about.

I think I don't actually think this will happen. I think a lot of people honestly think the middle of the road parties are best, and don't secretly want to be ruled by Peace or the Communists. Also, even for those pragmatic voters that are about to jump to their True Love under AV, I think they will jump in too many random directions to actually rock the boat. And also I think if it did happen it might be a good thing. A parliamentary term isn't very long. Give the people what they want, teach them that their vote can make a huge difference (not necessarily a good one) and maybe people will become more engaged with politics.

3) Finally, first past the post is a system that's better for ideologies / political positions that don't tend to split, and AV is better for those that do. If you have the Blue party versus the Crimson party, the Scarlett party, the Maroon party, and the Pink party, then first past the post is going to work better for the Blues, whereas AV is more likely to get a red party in power.

Now, you could argue that political positions with a tendancy to schism into lots of parties should be gently skewed against by our voting system. You could say that if they can't even play nicely together and agree when they're just working with people who broadly agree with them, they're not going to be very good at running a country without falling out and disagreeing and and generally bickering a lot.

I think (although I haven't thought very hard) that political positions that involve the government Doing Stuff [5] are by their very nature more likely to schism than ones that want the government to Butt Out and let the free market do its thing. Because if your policy is 'Give all the forests to the free market' there is fundamentally less room for dissent than 'Manage all the forests ourselves', as that will inevitably lead to the question 'how'.

So moving from FPTP to AV probably means we're more likely to get parties in power whose supporters have historically been split under FPTP. And these might be more left wing.

So there we go, the main three reasons I can think of of why people might actually be against AV. These don't seem to be the debates people are having though.

[1] I can be sure because I'm one of them ;-)

[2] If any of my intelligent readers wants to actually work this out, then I'd be very interested and very grateful.

[3] This is not the place for a diversion on the relative Goodness of the Good Guys.

[4] Lots of these non-pragmatic voters are actually BNP, UKIP, the Christian Party, so it's very unclear whether they're actually more left wing or more right wing. Again, I'd love to see someone do the maths. But my gut instinct is that the right is right and there are more lefties in the non-pragmatic pool.

[5] I wrote 'left wing' positions originally, but then you get into the whole liberal v's socialist thing again.
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 09:55am on 09/04/2010
Well, we're off to Scotland! Which might mean I stop having 'he-ey, we're going to Ardgo-ur' stuck in my head!
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 09:42am on 23/02/2010
I know it's because of the winter olympics, but I am excessively pleased to come back from ski-ing and find ski-ing themed LJ :-D
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posted by [personal profile] atreic at 08:56pm on 26/01/2010
A thing which has not happened to me before happened when I was panicking about my Bardcamp packing.

A chap knocked on our door and said he was doing the Coventry Household Survey. Now, I'm sceptical about doorstep callers, but you'd have to be a really intense scammer to make up a list of quite so many odd and tedious questions, and as a government stato I feel I ought to support random slightly uninspired surveys. I can't complain there's never any data if I personally go out of my way to avoid giving them data.

I have a feeling that their survey of Coventry will be horribly skewed to 'Coventry people who are at home and bored enough to answer surveys at 10.30 in the morning', a subset who I don't think are very representative of the rest of us. Anyway, the survey is also on line here, so any Coventry citizens reading this might want to consider filling it in. It's very keen on finding out if you're happy / content / sleep deprived / stressed, so I think filling it in 4 hours before bardcamp, when I was about as joyfully over excited and as sleep deprived and anxious as I get also led to me being slightly unrepresentative...

The chap didn't at any point remark on the fact I was wearing a long rainbow striped waistcoat, of the sort one might have been in the middle of trying on if one was making a clown costume in a hurry. I hope it cheered him up...

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