Thursday, 31 May 2012

A bouquet of prime ministers

There have been twelve prime ministers since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne.  Churchill was in office when she got there.

In order (source: Wikipedia):-

Winston Churchill  - Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Anthony Eden -   Bailliol, Oxford
Harold Macmillan - Bailiol, Oxford
Sir Alec Douglas-Home  -   Christ Church, Oxford
Harold Wilson  -   Jesus,  Oxford
Edward Heath        Bailliol, Oxford
James Callaghan - Took the Oxford entrance exam, but didn't have the money to attend.
Margaret Thatcher -  Somervillle, Oxford
John Major -     didn't go to university
Tony Blair - St John's, Oxford
Gordon Brown - Edinburgh
David Cameron - Brasenose, Oxford.

Of that twelve, eight went to Oxford. It was nearly nine but for Callaghan taking civil service exams instead. None went to Cambridge, although it depends on if you include Nick Clegg who was at Robinson, Cambridge.  He's not prime minister but that might depend on whether Cameron has a bizarre accident with a windmill and a bicycle.

Oxford has also supplied us with the current back-ups. Boris Johnson (Balliol ) and both of the Milibands (Corpus Christi) and Ed Balls (Keeble) and Osborne (Magdalen). It's a very long shot indeed, but if you fancy Louise Mensch's chances, she went to Christ Church, which would nudge that college up in to second place behind Balliol, while Michael Gove would be a first showing for Lady Margaret Hall. Probably not in the running, but Theresa May went to St Hugh's and Hague, like Osborne, went to Magdalen.

If BoJo ever gets through the magical door, it will take Balliol's score to 4 which will be very difficult for any other college to match unless Balliol is disqualified for the next sixty years. Yvette Cooper (Mrs Ed Balls) is also Balliol, so the college is uncannily good at spotting potential contenders.

Looking at the two who didn't go to university - Callaghan and Major - the lack of an Oxford degree doesn't seem to have made a difference to their performance as PM.  Both took other professional exams, both were wrong about a significant number of  issues and lost office as a result.

Winston Churchill doesn't really count in this sequence. Since he passed out of Sandhurst 20th in his year of 130, he was no slouch. Luckily for us, since he didn't go to Oxford his idea was to fight Germany rather than defend ourselves by being pre-emptively invaded by Soviet Russia. Sadly, he eventually lost that half of the war but not for want of trying.  Baroness Thatcher went to Oxford but gets a special pass because she studied a proper subject: Chemistry.

Outside of No 10,  a mention must be made of Baroness Shirley Williams (Somerville) and Baroness Mary Warnock (Lady Margaret Hall), architects of the worst aspects of the education system which, sadly, was signed in to existence by Mrs Thatcher who was rather trusting in those days and thought the teachers and civil servants knew what they were doing. Perhaps they did.

So let's hear less about "Oxbridge" as if they were both equally culpable. It's incontrovertibly Oxford which has landed us with the majority of front-rank noodles.  

Or maybe not. 

Part II -  A bouquet of Chancellors

Update: Helen Mirren has read for the part of the Queen, again, in a drama which follows the relationships of the monarch to her prime ministers.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Pretendy government at

Back in September 2009 Witterings from Witney looked at a  body called GovNet Communications which paid various nabobs to be on their 'board'.   There's nothing unusual in this; sometimes the board member makes a useful contribution by way of consultancy, other times they are hired for their contacts or air of respectability and glamour.

Now WfW has received letter from solicitors Turner Parkinson LLP crossly stating that their client is not at all happy with the post. 

GovNet Communiations is a trading style of Partnership Media Group Limited no. 3307092

While the domain name is  allowable, the unwary will easily confuse it with, and thereby be encouraged to mis-read the website as a government organ, especially with a board studded with lords who used to be ministers and an existing MP. The current key government website is but is the beta site which may replace it.

It is a hazard of the domain name system that very similar names can be generated but owned by different people. Nominet will resolve disputes of this sort without going to court. Based on a quick reading of the nominet archive, Nominet asks users to make sure that websites are sufficiently different so as not to mislead people and takes in to account whether other intellectual property protections - such as trademarks - exist.  An intellectual property lawyer would have to advise as to whether the government has taken out any protections which would make the domain name '' one they could complain about.

GovNet is proud of its speakers and essentially, sells influence 
Understanding ModernGov draws together a range of senior Government contacts, bringing you the very best speakers and trainers with the most relevant knowledge.
They also have another product called Understanding ModernGov copied on both the and registrations.  Nothing wrong with that, but the unwary might think they are part of the government.  Wording on the website fosters that impression.  For example:
Understanding ModernGov provide a portfolio of highly informative, interactive Government training courses that clearly and concisely explain the mechanisms of government and parliament.
But they aren't 'Government training courses' in the sense of being produced by the government, They are a set of talks about the government which you can pay to listen to. In some cases, from people who you've already paid once to do their job, and who are now selling their arses - or more likely, ours - to the highest bidder.

As the GovNet domain tells us:
Each course is CPD Certified, providing an in-depth perspective of the mechanisms that drive central, regional and local government.
They are certificated in as much as there is an established trade body, the CPD Certification Service, which acts as an umbrella for private training providers.

Membership of the CPD Certification Service signifies the corporate commitment to the sharing of knowledge and enables members to have a wide range of material independently certified by us and to utilise our certified CPD symbol on items promoting their CPD material and on Certificates of Attendance and CPD Self-Assessment Forms.

You must put what weight on this you think fit.  Some trade bodies are stronger than others. In general, the older established ones have acquired legal protections linked with the obligation to enforce minimum standards and the mechanism to do it, and their stamp carries weight, especially if they can exclude other people from using identifying words in that trade, e.g. The Law Society.   However you should never assume a body has any legal authority until you've checked.

Here for example, is an Intellectual Property course, which originates in a specialist body with legal standing and is delivered by recognized training bodies, which is definitely worth the money.  That's the sort of thing to look for when buying training. 

The existence of Partnership Media Group Limited is on the and websites but it is gently down-played, directing the attention to the Government Procurement Service logo with "supplier" written under it in tiny letters, misleading the glancing eye as to who is providing the material.
  we are the UK's leading Public Sector publisher and events organiser.
Well, yes, that may be strictly true in the sense of publishing material about the public sector, by it isn't a "Public Sector" publisher and events organizer.

The names, images and logos identifying the GovNet News and Events portal and Search the Public Sector (STePS™) , are proprietary marks of the Partnership Media Group Limited trading as GovNet Communications. Copying of our logos and/or any other third party logos accessed via this website is not permitted without prior approval from the relevant copyright owner.
Did they bother asking the UK government if it minded someone taking a domain name so very close to their own?

Monday, 21 May 2012

The ASA and judicial review

There have been updates in the tale of Cranmer and the Advertising Standards Authority, (ASA)  where Brer ASA punches the tar baby Cranmer for not raising its hat to him, only to find that he gets stuck in a worse mess than being offended.

It is not clear why the ASA decided to have this fight which is a political one disguised as being about an advert.  What little authority the ASA has has arises from the willingness of advertisers to accept its rulings rather than risk having a statutory body created. It is industry-funded which is better than taxpayer-funded.  There are plenty of firms who just ignore the rulings; presumably they are not worried about whether the ASA can lean on publishers or search engines to restrict access to their material. Here is a list of them.

The eminent blogger Guido Fawkes says this in a comment to Cranmer:
The reason I ignore them is because they have no power. No statutory basis. They are a self-appointed, self-regulatory organisation ............. no different from the green ink loonies who write to me every day apart from the fact that they have a letterhead.
 Which prompts the question:

If judicial review is the process for reviewing the decision-making process of  public and quasi-public bodies, is the ASA the sort of organisation which can be taken to judicial review?

There has been at least one judicial review which by the very act of being heard bolsters the view that the ASA is a quasi-public body doing public work and, besides, people keep responding to the ASA as if it had Authority. 

In an earlier case the ASA investigated whether quoting passages from the bible can be an advert which causes offence and concluded that they were and should not be used again. Instead of pointing out that ASA is not the first body in history to have suggested that Christians can't say what they are going to say whether you like it or not, the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church (SFPC) took the ASA to judicial review. (This was a Northern Ireland case).

Mr Justice Treacy found for the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church:
Mr Justice Treacy accepted that there had clearly been an interference with the applicants’ right to freedom of expression [Art 10] since the effect of the ASA’s decision was to prevent the applicant advertising in similar terms in the future.  

He accepted, however, that the ASA had a legitimate aim of maintaining a system of self regulation in the advertising industry which provides adequate controls against the publication of material that would cause widespread or serious offence, including offence that interferes with the rights of readers of a particular sexual orientation to respect for their dignity and private life. 
 (Summary of judgment here.   Full judgment here.)

Mr Justice Treacy appears to have accepted that the ASA is a quasi-public body doing public work.  The ASA aren't about to contradict him. They engaged the experienced  Dinah Rose of Blackstone Chambers and she doesn't appear to have argued for dismissal on the grounds that the claimant could not bring her client to judicial review. That would have been to argue that the ASA has no legal standing and isn't a quasi-public body.

The Sandown Free Presbyterian church brought the case for its own purposes so it didn't ask that prior question. The reviewer of the case - because there were internal challenges first - also thought the ASA had authority.
I consider that the ASA has a duty to weigh up the arguments and counter-arguments and decide whether the advertisement has, or is likely to have, caused serious or widespread offence. That decision must be taken with due regard to the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency.
My emphasis on "duty".  Does it have a duty?  It certainly can give whatever opinions it likes, but then so can any club on the behaviour of its members.

In paragraph 53 the court makes explicit its belief about the status of the ASA;
  1. Moreover, seriously offensive advertising attacking a particular sexual orientation may interfere with the right to dignity, and the right to respect for his or her private life, of the reader of the advertisement. This right is itself protected under Art.8 of the Convention, and the ASA, as a public authority, has a positive obligation to protect that right.
By paragraph 66 the judgment implicitly accepts the ASA as an emanation of the state even though it is in the form of a private company, industry-funded and cannot compel compliance. In paragraph 73 he considers that although this isn't an example, there could be instances where the ASA would be entitled to order the church "You can't say that".

But surely that depends on establishing whether the ASA have any power to order anybody around who doesn't want to be?  Making an assumption doesn't deal with the prior legal question: can the ASA be brought to judicial review?  

This is not the first time the question has been raised since governments began to set up private agencies to do quasi-public work.  In 1987 that question was asked about the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers. The discussion involved looking at the reality of regulatory power being distributed in a world which was changing.

There is no hard-and-fast rule about this; the court reserved the right to decide to hear a case because nobody can foresee exactly how administrative structures will be in the future.  However, strong guidelines emerged for when a body's decisions can be reviewed: (note: my summary, not definitive)

- the body has to be producing effects in public law

- the body does not need to have statutory support but it ought to be able to point to something official from which it emanates, although that might be a convoluted route as a result of other acts which does not set it up directly.

- the body's rulings cannot be ignored, that is, if it has enforcement power such that when it gives a ruling, it is only fair that it should be reviewable by the courts.

Not all of these have to be in place to bring a case. Their Lordships tried to differentiate an argument between members in a private club with situations where that club has public law effects.

Applying that to the present example, the first is arguable. The ASA has some effect on advertisers but would you call that public law? It involves cutting off the access to revenue by telling publications not to accept advertising, which is definitely an exercise of real power.

The second is also arguable. The ASA keeps saying the government recognizes it but do they have a duty to undertake investigations.  What power compels them to do an investigation when they are unwilling?

But, as Guido Fawkes demonstrated at the very beginning, the third ground is the weakest. If you have a choice whether to take any notice of them, at least in certain media, then how are they a tribunal or a public body?

If  the ASA is not a public body because it cannot enforce its rulings, why is it being taken to judicial review?

If the ASA is a public body, can the Freedom on Information Act be used to prise open its secret complaints procedure?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A little more about the ASA

Cranmer has published the response he has given to the ASA.

The ASA has issued a pompous statement which seems to miss the main point: they haven't got any grounds to investigate and even if they had what they think of as a right to investigate, they still haven't got any power to do anything except, maybe, to hand it to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who are most unlikely to want to tangle with this one. The EHRC prefer to stick to beating up fond old couples such as Mr and Mrs Bull down in Cornwall (and then claiming they didn't mean to launch a second attack for more money), and calling Christianity an infection.

We can all investigate. A little more about the ASA is useful to collect.

Firstly, it's not an "authority". It's a company as registered at Companies House, specifically:

Company No. 00733214

The members of the council are all listed on the website with short clickable biographies.  The best known are Lord Smith - that's Chris Smith who, although gay, has never made any secret of it and has never allowed it to be an issue in any of his work, at least as far as I know, Professor Andrew Motion best known for his poetry (some of which is OK but not as good as Pam Ayres), and Martin Narey, best known for heading up Barnardos and signing-off the sort of ads which stigmatize white men as child beaters. 

The people who run the organization day to day include 
Miles Lockwood, Director of Complaints and Investigations
Miles joined the ASA in September 2010 and is responsible for leading the complaints and investigations teams, the core function of the ASA, who dealt with over 28,000 complaints last year. He studied History at the University of Nottingham and then obtained two post graduate certifications in Law at Nottingham Law School. Qualifying as a solicitor in 1998, he worked in commercial legal practice and specialised in general litigation and dispute resolution matters. 
Lockwood's top-class biography continues. It is hard to believe that he signed off a poorly screened complaint which is not within the scope of their own code, so perhaps he didn't know about it.

It isn't the first time that the ASA has had a spat like this with Christians.  At the end of March 2012, the ASA took issue with a standard  Christian leaflet where they offer to pray over you in the belief that this can promote healing.  The group who gave out the leaflet also included a sensible health warning about visiting your doctor.  There was no suggestion that they tried to coerce belief, cozen money out of people or prevent people getting proper medical attention.

This didn't stop the ASA sticking their noses in, attempting to make themselves arbiters of the printed material which barely qualifies as promotional.  There's nothing unusual about healing services; the ASA appears to be trying to claim the right to tell churches they can't use the word 'healing' at all.   

Since Christians have the unfortunate trait of often being irritating they don't get the support they deserve when their right to freedom of expression is infringed.  Blogs which should have known better failed to identify this as an freedom of speech and religious expression argument, thinking this was about a literal interpretation of what everyone with a scrap of education knows is poetic language and religious belief, both of which are entitled to protection and are matters of opinion, not fact. Why isn't Andrew Motion doing something brave like protecting freedom of speech?

The ASA used its considerable industry funding to lean on a bunch of harmless street pray-ers whose earnest desire is that my knee will be fixed without surgery by divine intervention.  Let 'em try, I say.  If it works, I'm better off, if it doesn't I'm no worse off and I'm still on the waiting list.  How strange that the hedge-witches, shamen and priests all accept that it is my choice whether to go for surgery or not but the ASA thinks it knows what is best for me.

The disputes over faith healing and what can be said about it stem in part from the antagonism in the alternative health-care field.   This was foolishly increased when the chiropractors decided to try to use lawfare (good word, I just heard it) to silence their critics. 

They attempted to sue Simon Singh for libel and such is the state of our laws that they were able to be a significant nuisance until finally dropping the case in April 2010.  It went all the way to the Appeal Court, though, before they were told that Singh's original article was comment, not fact, and that he was entitled to express his opinion.

There is a suggestion from one blog campaign that the ASA isn't up to much, but  it is confusing because it attempts to be over-clever and simply does not understand the ASAs limitations.  Then again, the ASA doesn't understand its limitations.

The website  has a series of pages expressing its rage over quackery and the apparent inability of the ASA to do anything about it.   I share some of their anger but they don't seem to understand how difficult it is to draw that line, especially since some medical doctors have engaged in quackery and misrepresentation, often in places which do matter such as when they are expert witnesses in court.

In climate science we've had the epic quackery of Global Warming but so far the ASA hasn't sent any letters to UEA asking them too explain themselves or tear out pages of their undergraduate prospectus which presents them as having a science faculty.

The bugaboo of asa-rocks is asa-sucks, the defunct campaign which noticed that the ASA was not sticking to the process of receiving a complaint and investigating, but instead had got in bed with another campaign, the Nightingale Collaboration, to systematically challenge the alternative services sector.   When this was revealed, the ASA dropped the association.

The Nightingale Collaboration makes some good points, but as it was fuelled by reasonable outrage at the use of the libel laws against Singh, its main  purpose was to return-volley lawfare against the Chiropractors by finding something they can't substantiate then reporting them to the Trading Standards which does have some legal standing, unlike the ASA. This summary gives a fair over-view of both sides.  The chiropractors should not have played rough if they didn't want the same level of response.

The other alternative care providers generally took a robust attitude to the ASA, advising that on receipt of a letter you should consider binning it as junk mail or perhaps making a complaint to the ASA that you have been contacted by an organization which misrepresents itself as having legal authority.

Technically, the ASA could take issue with every beauty parlour whose facials claim to rejuvenate the skin. That is an impossible claim to substantiate for prior reasons based on entropy.  However, the ASA would find itself even less popular if it decided to go after Madame Rene; do they seriously think her customers expect her to do miracles?  Her customers are not interested in hearing they look like WH Auden and there is little she can do about it; they expect Madame Rene to get on with the aromatherapy massage and for the ASA to mind its own beeswax.

I will decide for myself what I think of god-botherers and beauticians.  

Update:  In which Cranmer fisks the ASA interim statement and it emerges that the group who were supposed to have complained are very cross because they didn't, although one of them complained about about a separate magazine.

Update: Bucko points out that the ASA fail to comply fully with company law.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

8 out of 10 cats prefer Cranmer

Do 70% of people think marriage should be left as it is: one of each sex?

A ComRes poll said so, and that's what the Coalition For Marriage (C4M) are quoting

This took approximately five minutes to find out, but rather than exercise their fingers and brains the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have written pompously to Archbishop Cranmer demanding that he explains it all to them as they are far too fick to bother to to check out a complaint about whether that figure could be substantiated.  It's not secret - the source is listed on the advert.

This, they think, shows them doing a good job.  I think it shows people whose jobs can be cheerfully cut. Luckily, it looks like the public aren't paying for once, so it's up to the advertising industry if they want to keep funding these idlers to provide free copy for bloggers. 

As His Grace politely points out, it isn't up to him to evaluate the original research. If the ASA want to challenge that, they must go to ComRes and C4M.  But we all know it isn't really about the opinion poll. Rather, it's an attempt to control what can be said politically in the context of an advert.

In this case, it is a Christian-led resistance to the re-definition of marriage which some people find  objectionable. They roped a trade-body in as arbiters of what can and cannot be said publicly.

I don't like C4M and Andrea Rose Minichiello Williams. I don't approve of the way the groups to which she is connected allow ordinary people - such as Mr and Mrs Bull of the Chymorvah Private Hotel - to get in to fights where the law is already weighted against them.  There are civilians and combatants, and you should be wary of  encouraging the former to become the latter.  Luckily the ASA have picked on someone their own size in Archbishop  Cranmer, who knows what he has signed up for.

This illustrates the point which Christian groups and Cranmer have previously claimed: that when a Christian expresses a view, not only can they expect that view to be challenged rightly in debate but that law, or quasi-law such as trade bodies claiming 'codes', will  try to stop them expressing a view at all.  

Checking the ASA's own code, it appears they don't have any remit to deal with editorial content so the following is run in the context of editorial material to further inform public debate about what it is attempting to suppress as offensive.

No permission has been sought from the originators nor has payment been received.

I 'ad that Barbara Streisand in the back of the cab once.

Update: Linkage -
Ministry of Truth - best formal analysis (as ever)
Ambush Predator
The Engineer
Peter Ould
Dr Jim West
Max Farquar  - best graphic
Anna Raccoon
Tim Worstall
Orphans of Liberty  

Friday, 11 May 2012


The illustrator Karen Davis has been out and about in Wiltshire taking weather pictures to show how they are up to their knees in drought.   She has a new painting out, Moonrakers, so the first part of the blog is about that, then she moves on to the local news. 

If you like whimsical paintings and a touch of hippiedom then you'll enjoy the graphics.  If not, scroll down and compare weather notes with where you are. 

N.B. She has romantic music playing in the background automatically.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Magazine prosecuted for stating the bleedin' obvious

The Spectator is to be prosecuted for breaching a court order which banned anyone from writing about the defendants in the Stephen Lawrence case lest they claim they could not receive a fair trial because the jury had been influenced.

This a fair argument in most cases; you don't need to be a lawyer to assent to the common sense of wanting an unbiased jury, without getting fetishist about whether the jury have ever heard of the defendant.  However it was pointless in a case which already had billions of words devoted to it and had begun life as an attempt very publicly to force the CPS to bring a case, then gone on to a high-profile inquest, press campaign, an investigation by the Police Complaints Authority (as it was then) and a major enquiry, and then another investigation by the IPCC in 2007.    The original trial collapsed; this meant some defendants could rely on the old double jeopardy rules to avoid a second trial, so hallowed law was changed to put them on trial again.

Whether they could ever have received a fair trial after the papers had tried the old "sue us for defamation if you aren't murderers" gambit is open to debate, and must raise issue of whether the inquest and three further reports were entirely without influence. If we refused to try everybody who was already known in the public press, then Jeffrey Archer would never have gone to gaol.

Besides, if this Spectator article could have prejudiced a jury, it would be against the Crown, not against the defendants.  As an article it offered little further damage to those on trial; its ire was directed at the court system by pointing out what everyone already knew, i.e. that in the intervening years there were other prosecutions all fully covered in the press, by the BBC and by the law wire services.   It wasn't secret.

Neil Acourt and David Norris were jailed for racially abusing a police officer, Detective Constable Gareth Reid, in 2001.  They were convicted and appealed on the grounds that they hadn't been able to receive a fair trial due to being repeatedly condemned in the papers since 1993

No, said Lord Justice Mantell, sitting with Mr Justice Wright and Mrs Justice Rafferty, just because you've been criticised in the press is no reason refuse to bring a trial.

However, they slightly reduced their sentences which they felt to be out of line with other examples of similar offences, which caused Sergeant Ravi Chand of the National Black Police Association to complain that judges didn't understand how serious this was. In other words, their original sentence was tainted by being an interim attempt to payback people who were felt to have got away with murder. The Sun was explicit in this "Lawrence thugs jailed at last" it said, glad that the CPS had finally got a conviction to stick against them.

So one of the defendants  in the 2012 murder trial, David Norris, had already had the issue of prejudice against him answered in the courts. On the day that the Spectator was supposed to have distorted the very fabric of the space-time continuum, that information was available all over everywhere, including the BBC, the Daily Mail, and a solicitor's news service which was open to the public at that point and has since gone behind a paywall. 

Later, the officer who alleged racial  abuse by Acourt and Norris, DC Gareth Reid, alleged that he had been the subject of racial discrimination, losing an employment case against the Metropolitan Police in 2010.  He had brought previous discrimination cases in 1997 and 2001.

Eventually, convictions for murder were brought in. The evidence looked poor but these are not the defendants one goes to the barricades for, and they have been convicted by a jury of their peers.  Possibly the grounds for appeal will mention The Spectator and will make as much as they can of the fact that if it was worth prosecuting the publication, that must mean it had some influence. So the defence must be pleased that they've been handed an extra argument to use by the legal machine which was so keen to see the clients jailed.

The Lawrence case has  always been choked with people trying to use the murder of  one young man as proof of racism in the police.  Neither the collapsed trial, the inquest or the PCA investigation delivered the conclusions which the press and campaigners wanted.  Eventually,  the Macpherson report got us decades of political correctness and which resulted in the police being  too scared to take on child abusers who instantly play the race card.

This time we are going to get the show-trial of a publication because the courts think this will demonstrate who's in charge and stop the pesky press reporting things or even mentioning what they already reported a decade earlier. Shush, someone in the jury might have heard of Stephen Lawrence.

It won't be much of a show; editor Fraser Nelson has already said they will not contest the case and will just pay the fine, which is a wise call.  But note, the original piece wasn't about the guilt or innocence of the defendants; it was criticising the justice system. However, Mr Justice Treacy thought the jury weren't influenced by two decades of media coverage and they said they hadn't read the Spectator,  and he met them so he should know.

Here's a useful timeline to help keep track of all the things other than a couple of lousy paras in a patrician house-mag, which might have come to the attention of anybody conscious since 1993. 

Stephen Lawrence has been held up as a martyr for 20 years, and so he is; but if there is one thing any averagely-educated person can see it is that martyrdom can swing round unpredictably.  Keep going with the prosecutions of the messengers and the political correctness, and we yet might see scumbag David Norris carried out of court, re-sanctified and wearing the white robes of a poor misused victim of the justice system.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Dinosaur farts

Everyone, even the normally open-minded Longrider,  is poo-poohing  this idea for why the climate changed but they haven't looked at the evidence.   I've seen filums with dinosaurs and they are always growling as if their bellies hurt, which is only to be expected if you try to eat whole trees, other dinosaurs and ladies wearing fur bikinis. 

It's all true and here's the film to prove it.  Note they have actually photographed the gas.  This explains megafaunal extinction.

Please can I have a PhD from UEA now for this valuable piece of conclusive research?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Re-engaging with politics

Mr Raft has an intriguing idea.  Everyone is used to casting one positive vote but what if they also had one negative vote to cast?  A vote which expresses your attitude towards the person you'd least like to see anywhere near the levers of power.

A candidate's final tally would be their positive votes minus their negative votes, which would deny some of them the smug comfort of their wide majorities.  It would make visible those who care enough to cast a vote but whose opinion is that they are all rubbish. At the moment, these voters have little option but to stay away or spoil a ballot slip, neither of which have an electoral effect. Now they have a reason to turn up.

There would be no obligation to cast both votes. You could leave it at who you really, really hate and know that your little vote helps make sure they can't easily get in.

It might be that no candidates end up with a positive tally.   A wannabe could get a seat by being the least-hated contender  which should stop them comforting themselves that they have 'a majority' or that they 'won' the seat.  

Admittedly it would cost more to administer and take longer to count, but it's worth thinking about.