Friday 26 April 2019

Brexit: fake impressions

I'm not particularly familiar with TED Talks, but this one

has been bought to my attention, and gives a very convincing account of how carefully targetted messages on Facebook, probably with finance that was illegal, were used to influence receptive people to vote Leave in the 2016 Referendum.

Well worth the time to watch it, and just wonder what else is happening to lead us astray.

A friend of mine who is Irish has sent me a cutting from the Irish Times which gives an account of how the anti-EU press in Britain has dripped absurd information about the EU over a long period of time and created negative feeling towards it..

The Irish Times issue is dated 24th November 2018 but my friend  works in the Solomon Islands so it took rather a long time for the paper to get to him and the cutting to get back to me.  The article is written by Fintan O' Toole and is headlined "England turned the EU into a Monty Python sketch - now it's stuck in one."

O'Toole argues that the hostile press have waged a long-term propaganda campaign "not of one big lie, but an endless succession of little lies, each in itself  so absurd as to seem harmless, yet cumulatively amounting to a profound distortion of public reality."

He gives examples of this drip, drip drip of distortion.

Circus performer must walk tightrope in hard hat, says Brussels.  The Times, 23 July 2003.

EU's plan to liquify corpses and pour them down the drain. Express, 8 July 2010.

Shake'n back - EU tells women to hand in worn-out sex toys.  Sun, 4 February 4 February 2004.

Shellfish, (especially mussels and oysters) must be given rest breaks and stress-relieving showers during journeys of over 50km.  The Times, 29 January 1996.

EU push for standard condom size.  Brussels is set to produce  a standard Euro condom while refusing to implement  the subsidiarity principle so that Member (sic) States can take into account the different national characteristics of the male organ.  The resultant compromise is simply not large enough to house British assets.Sun, 19 October 1994 .

Each of these these vignettes - and hundreds more,  says O'Toole, " has a common quality : memorability.  It creates a visual image that lodges in the brain."

Of course, hostility to the EU cannot all be blamed on the press.  Both the Tories and Labour, when in government, have been quick to attribute to Europe any regulation, however sensible and desirable, which might be electorally unpopular.

The nasty atmosphere in BBC 1's flagship "Question Time"  last night.has been built up not just post-referendum, but over decades of false information  and misrepresentation.

Monday 15 April 2019

A single "Remain" list for the EU Elections

 We do not yet know whether the UK electorate will be privileged to take part in the EU elections.  If our government or parliament manages to cobble together some sort of deal before the election date, 22nd May, then we're "out" and naturally can't take part.  But clearly, the parties have to make preparations "just in case."

It is widely believed that, since the UK's Euro-elections are held under a (very crude) PR system, there is no need  for the dedicated Remain parties (Liberal Democrats, Greens and Tiggers, if they decided to stand) to co-operate, because  wasted votes for one party are passed on to the next.

But this is not how this primitive PR system works.  As a letter to the Guardain  from the the Libeal Democrat's Tony Greaves points out:

 Under the closed party list system and d’Hondt counting (with no transfers) it is possible in some regions for the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Change UK to each get a sizable vote and end up with no seats at all. Even in bigger regions the risk is that very many remain voters will find that their votes are wasted. For this very unusual and very special poll where there will be one major issue, there is an obvious and strong case for an electoral pact with joint lists of these three parties. Time is obviously short, but is anyone prepared to bite their tongue, swallow their pride and take the lead to create a united progressive remain ticket, for these elections only, that could not only do very well but actually top the poll?

In specific detail, a colleague with some psephological insight, a Simon Blakey,  has calculated the likely result for Yorkshire if these three parties do not co-operate:

I’ve done some calculations to help us start thinking about how best to campaign for Remain in Yorks and Humberside. The assumptions behind the calculations are:

·        Yorks and Humberside Electorate:  3.93 million (source Office of National Statistics, March 22 publication), to elect six MEPs

·        Turnout: 35 percent

·        Split of votes:LAB 39.4%; CON 24.0%; Brex 10.7%; LIBDEM 8.4%; Uk 7.8%; Change 4.3%; Green 4.2%; Other 1.2% 

·                                 (source: national opinion poll of 2000 electors done between 5th and 8th April — it's the only one out there so far — — and I’ve adjusted it for there being no Scots Nats in Yorks and Humber).

With the proportional system that is used in the EP elections (the ‘DeHondt system' for the nerds among you!), this would give  three Labour, two Conservative and one Brexit MEP in our region.

So what are we dedicated Remainders to do, nationally (in England: things will be different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)  as well as here in Yorkshire?

There is an overwhelming case for these three parties to co-operate.

Happily England has nine Euro-constituencies, which divide neatly into three. The party apparatchiks should get together, so that in each constituency there is one and only one "Remain" list.  Each party will have three in which their candidate is in first place on the list, three in which they are second and three in which they are third.

How this allocation is made  is immaterial.  To save time and silly arguments (I know all about those, having been involved in the allocation of seats between the Liberals and SDP in the 1980s) this could be achieved by pulling balls out of a revolving drum, as I believe they do for football cup draws, or something similar.

This "Remain" list should win at least one seat in each constituency and possibly two or even three.  

As important as the number of MEPs elected on this "Remain" ticket will be the psychological effect of the total vote - much more impressive than pathetic attempts by party PR specialists to try to publicise the summation of the votes for the three different but failed parties.

The successful "Remain" candidates would not, of course, be the only British Remain MEPs:  there will be some hidden (but probably difficult to identify) in the lists of the Labour and Conservative parties, and some Scottish Nationalists, some Welsh and Irish MEPs.

I understand the closing day for the parties to submit their lists is in about 10 days' time.  It's not long.  The parties should get moving, or we lose a massive opportunity.

Such an arrangement should be for this election  only, at a time when "in or out of the EU" is the overwhelming issue facing the UK.  After that, who knows?

And if the EU elections don't take place in the UK - well, we tried. 

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Les Français: aidez nous.

This afternoon Mrs May is to meet with the French President to beg for an extension.

My friend John Cole of Bradford suggested we write to M Macron to prepare him and help to promote a constructive dialogue.

So over the weekend we sent him the following Email:

Monsieur le Président,

Nous sommes deux members du Parti Libéral britanique.  
 Notre parti est depuis  le début un partisan 
enthousiaste de l’Union européenne. Maintenant, nous
 avons honte des singeries de notre gouvernement. 
Nous sommes deux des plus  de 6 millions d’hommes 
qui ont signé une pétion en annulation de l’article 

 Nous espérons que notre parlement aura le bon sens 
de le faire avant la fin de la semaine. Si ce n'est pas le cas, nous vous prions d'appuyer l'octroi d'une  nouvelle prolongation d'au moins un an.

Partir n’est certainement pas le but de la population
. Déjà, les sondages d’opinion montrent que 55% sont
en faveur de rester dans l’Union européenne. 
 Dans un an, nous pourrons peut-être obtenir une 
majorité encore plus convaincante.

Ensuite, nous pourrons peut-être rester dans l'Union européenne et nous associer à vous et à nos autres voisins pour construire une Europe meilleure et plus just.

Veillez agréer, Monsieur le président,  d'accepter l'assurance de nos salutations distinguées

We are two members of the British Liberal Democrat 
Party. Our party has been an enthusiastic supporter
 of the European Union since its inception. Now we
 are ashamed of the foolish antics of our government.
 We are two of the more than 6 million people who 
signed a petition for the withdrawal of Article 50.
We hope that our parliament will have the good sense 
to do that before the end of the week. If they do not
, then we beg you to grant us another extension
 of at least a year.

Leaving is certainly not the will of the people. 
Already the opinion polls show  that 55% are in 
favour of remaining in the EU. In a year we should 
be able to obtain an even more convincing majority.
Then we may be able to remain in the EU and work with
 you and our other neighbours to build a better and 
fairer Europe.
Yours etc.,

There is a typo in first word of the super-
respectful conclusion. It should  be  "veuillez" 
meaning "we beg you" rather than "veillez" which 
means, among other things "sit up with" such as a 
fractious child or a dying relative. 
 Maybe it wasn't such a mistake after all.