Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Curse of Job and blogging 

The Book of Job makes a pithy point on the theme raised by Charlote Gore:

"Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book."

I suspect that Job would pray that his adversdary had a blog, if such a thing had occured to him. If you are someones adversary and also Vince Cable, writing a book is likely to be of little comfort to their hostile researches. For the rest of us there are potential goldmines to exploit.

Congressional Quarterly in the USA is exploring a similar theme, noting the devastating effects of unwary facebook disclosures in campaigns now unrolling. (facebook: opposition research dream come true. CQ 26 June 2009)

It quotes one research company

“It’s a godsend for us,” said Jason Stanford, president of Stanford Research. “Most times you have to get someone’s enemies to give you an embarrassing photo. Now, candidates themselves are posting them on the Internet ....There’s a way to live your life publicly but not stupidly and the Internet generation is late to the discretion party,” Stanford said.

I suspect that the same may be true of adventurous blog posts.

(It is Job 31:34 if you are scrabbling for the exact reference).

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

It is OPEN on Saturday. All welcome 

The Open University is 40! And if are near Milton Keynes you can help celebrate on campus this Saturday at the Open Unlimited day. Just turn up and take part... including tasting the famous Open University Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream.

Description of the events is here...

Sample events:

On the criminal justice system:
Stop and Search
On a dark evening Jonny Richards was stopped by police and asked to empty out his pockets. Now he is charged with going equipped for burglary. But is he guilty? You decide. Our 20 minute reconstruction of a magistrates’ court case gives an insight into the workings of the legal system.
Magistrates Information
Magistrates deal with 95% of all crime that comes through the courts – only the most serious 5% go to the Crown Court. There are about 150 magistrates working in Milton Keynes.
On accessibility:
Knowledge Media Institute
Find out more about the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) its work in designing technologies to enable disabled students to participate in field research and enabling OU downloads from iTunes (iTunes U) and many more innovative projects.
On shaking that botty
Connect to the Drums
The Music Computing group in the MCT Faculty will be demonstrating a haptic drum kit. This enables a drummer to feel the music. So come and feel the music!

It is possible I might be in the library sometime that day, if I survive the drums.

Interactive campus map here.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Bercow effect The new hole in the heart of central England politics 

So what are the on-the-ground effects of Mr Speaker Berkow removing Buckingham constituency from normal Parliamentary competition? By convention there will be no LibDem or Labour General Election candidates and of course no Tory ones also. What effect will this have on politics in that area and on neighbouring areas? Bercow could be Speaker for several general elections, given his youth, so this could be a generational influence in terms of local politics.

Will Parliamentary level activity atrophy here and if so will it affect parties in different ways? How will the local government fights be affected? What about recruitment and retention of activists? Will the various established parties be able to recruit flying squads to go to nearby target seats and if so on balance which parties are likely to benefit most? Should we respond in party terms if UKIP or the BNP or the Greens (for example) ignore the ‘convention’ and contest the seat with real resources?

In Party terms this area is right on the edge of South-Central region so we may need to evolve action plans co-ordinating support work in several LibDem regions.

Where it is: Buckingham constituency takes up the northern tip of Buckinghamshire County. The present constituency is the basically the whole of Aylesbury Vale District Council EXCEPT for the city wards in Aylesbury. The southernmost townships are at present Long Crendon and Haddenham and after the boundary changes noted below Princes Riseborough takes over southernmost spot.

There are some boundary changes upcoming for the next General Election. One will correct anomalies, putting the whole of Coldharbour Ward (Aylesbury) and the whole of Aston Clinton ward into Aylesbury Constituency: they are at present each spilt in two between Aylesbury and Buckingham. Quarendon ward will also shift to Aylesbury so will have a ‘proper’ MP again after the election. On the other hand Icknield ward and The Riseboroughs ward of Wycombe District transfer from Aylesbury to Buckingham and so lose their proper MP coverage.

Aylesbury Vale (a district the LibDems have controlled in the recent past) will therefore have a split political personality.

The new Constituencies neighbouring Buckingham (from north tip clockwise):

South Northamptonshire
Milton Keynes North
Milton Keynes South
South-West Bedfordshire
South-West Hertfordshire

And of course in easy reach are the Northampton and Oxford constituencies.

In the short term the two MK constituencies are in theory both marginal and will undoubtedly be Tory target seats come the election, so I suspect that in the next year the main effect of Buckingham not being contested properly will be an increase in outside Tory help here.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

A Guardian opportunity to annotate Those Claims and avoid the oboe-player joke 

The Guardian is linking up all the MPs expenses claims and receipts to a special tool which allows web users to highlight and comment on each and every page of claims and receipts. They ask us to ferret out points that need further investigation. This of course also gives MPs or their staff the opportunity to access the same online tool and add notes to any page so that obscure entries are clarified.

Having glanced through several entries from MPs of all parties I would say such annotation is very much needed, and that is assuming everything is completely above board. Especially needed where the inept blacking out simply leaves us with no clue as to what the claim was for.

So what about it for our MPs? After all if we had a proper publication of proper accounts there would be notes to various items putting them into context - standard accounting practice.

The masking out really is a stupid nuisance. The effect is rather like the story of the music reviewer who wrote of one orchestral performance

'The Oboe player spent the whole evening gazing at his navel'

The sub-editors objected, saying it was a crude line please change it.

So the reviewer did and it was printed as:

'The oboe player spent the whole evening gazing at his *****'

Not quite the effect intended.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The SF phantoms at the expenses trough 

Lots of fuss on the blacking out of parts of MPs expenses claims, including addresses of ‘second homes’.

Some MPs say this is necessary for their personal security, and this might just be the case for one or two of them, such as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Knowing exactly where they live in London could be useful information for violent idiots.

Living in London of course when they have (in the words of the official legal declaration they both signed) to ‘stay overnight from my only or main home for the purposes of performing my duties as a Member of Parliament’.

Oh wait, Sinn Fein MPs Adams and McGuinness have never taken the oath as MPs and have never attended Parliament for a second since they were elected. Nor have the other three Sinn Fein MPs.

McGuinness claims a rent of 1800 quid a month and Adams a rent of 1800 quid a month. This is apparently for the same flat in London, a fair rent for which would apparently be 1400 quid a month for the whole property.

All five Sinn Fein MPs pay rent to the same landlord in North London.

Slugger O’Toole is on the case as this posting from way back in May 2009 shows, and this for 18th June.

This is a bit more incendiary than a duckhouse, surely.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran - the Armenian example is not hopeful 

All sorts of conflicting theories about events in Iran and what might be happening.

Basically there are similarities to what happened in Armenia in March 2008 when the incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian blatantly stole an election and remained in power because the authorities were willing to mow down protesters in the streets. Armenia and Iran are neighbours and have very good relations - Sarkisian and Ahmedinejad 'work well' together. There is a large Armenian minority in Iran which has substantial priviledges.

Over in A Fistful of Euros Douglas Muir paints a sombre picture. The shades of Tien An Men seem likely for Iran.

Hoping that the green Proetsers succeeed but not optimistic

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The Georgian example suggests something diferent. he western media & "N"GO observers got het up at the guys we supported not winning & insisted on a rerun organsised by our condiate. e won allegedly getting 96% - a figure which our media had no trouble swallowing. Later the thug invaded South Ossetia attempting to recreate the genocide we had so enthusiasticly supported in Krajina & got his head handed to him.

Clearly our media will scream foul at any election which our thugs don't win while enthusiasticaly endorse the most blatant corruption by "our" thugs. Mr Dinnerjacket won by 12 million votes, same as last time. End of.
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Hooray - But Trident costs only start of urgent debate that we need 

It is good news that Nick Clegg is moving onto a more realistic position on ‘Trident’.
I support the slightly qualified pleasure Lindy blogs to this news. Yes we MUST have a full debate at the next Federal Conference. Our present voted-on policy is not a fudge, it is an acid drop.

‘Trident’ (the missile system) is only a minor part of the problem we face and we need to look at these wider issues if we as a party are to regain full coherence on this issue. Pushing Trident as the issue is in a way a smokescreen hiding the real problems.

On the question of costs we must demand a proper financial statement of the overall ‘nuclear weapons’ policy. The Armed Forces insist that huge chunks of the current Nuclear Weapons costs never appear in the Defence Estimates, but are scattered over several other budgets. Claims that this extra expenditure amounts to several thousand million pounds over the last decade need to be investigated. If substantiated, the sums should be publicly admitted and placed before the public as evidence in debates on the cost of the deterrent. As costs which might be cut if certain decisions are made. Just scrapping the Trident missile will not bring is real savings, if hard choice cost savings are the driving impulse for a review.

Back in July 2008 some of our MPs signed an open letter on nuclear warhead replacement. I have blogged at boring length on all this over the years, but to summarise many of my comments from my posting on that initiative:

We should for example:
1 Look at the way the debates on this are put into ‘defining frames’ that shut out important questions and make sure we bring in some neglected frames and themes. Please, no more tribal ‘unilateralist or not’ hot-button posturing.
2 Insist that the whole question of expenditures on AWRE Aldermaston is put in the public domain, at least to equal the public accountability enforced on equivalent establishments in the USA.
3 Insist on a complete review of the way all our weapons procurement policies are managed especially on whether purchasing decision are made to subsidise industries rather than to meet vital defence needs.
4 Make clear the connections between the procurement mess and the corruption allegations about the dealings of BAe and certain foreign customers.
5 Examine the evolution of new non-nuclear high-destruction weapons that may make nuclear devices an expensive obsolescence in the next couple of decades.
6 Above all, insist on a clear strategy for armed forces evolution and for equipping our forces actually to do the jobs we say they must.

Nick Harvey’s February 2007 blog from before the last Federal Conference debate has some points on the issue that I raised, but were not as far as I can see answered. Also some points on a Nick Harvey led discussion in LibDem Voice (February 26th 2007). Looking back at these official party positions now makes it clearer than ever that we need a full debate at upcoming Federal Conference 2009

(Just to remind ourselves that the Non-Proliferation Treaty comes up for re-negotiation in 2010. Almost certainly now an election year in the UK. So nuclear stances could be live political themes for once…)

I put this forwards as a policy line in the February 2007 discussions:

If we are to go into NPT negotiations in good faith and with the intention of actually getting results, we need to be able to show the world:
1 What the UK nuclear weapons system actually means in terms of financial costs and defence opportunity costs.
2 Give an awful warning to other states – ‘if you go down the nuclear road this is the kind of burden you will take up’.
3 Show other states that we know that disarmament measures would mean for us, have thought them through, and are politically capable of taking on the vested interests in the status quo (industrial and military and Freudian) should international agreements require us to do so.

This party has rightly taken a strong line on Civil Nuclear Power issues, and in particular on the disgraceful attempts of the current Government to ‘fake’ consultation processes. We need to take an equally strong line on the current attempt to ‘fake’ a debate on the nuclear future of the UK.

Now that Nick Clegg has shifted his position, we need to move urgently to tackle these themes. Yes we should have done this a few years ago… but better late than never

Just so I can keep track of previous posts, some links:

The Nuclear Weapons dance goes on (July 2008)

Nukes: Chris has it (nearly) magnificently right (Nov 2007) (this has a slightly polemic content now outdated but some core stuff I hold to)

Like it or not, defence policy must be debated again (Oct 2007)

Astute: the ongoing nuclear navy issue (and the BAe row) (June 2007)

Getting at the real costs of so-called Trident (February 2007)

Is ‘Trident’ a deliberate diversion from the real nuclear debate? (January 2007)

Trident, new weapons, and intelligence (December 2006)

Vanguard: the complexity or framing debate on ‘Trident’ (December 2006)

Nuclear independence and realities (December 2006)

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Woman as judges - and the importance of more women in power 

Women have to imagine what it is like to be a man every day of their lives. Many men recoil from the idea of really imagining what it is like to be a woman.

The uproar over 'wise Latina' comments made by US Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor rumbles on. One posting by Dahlia Lithwick in SLATE looks at the work of LSE anthropologist David Graeber which she says thows a strong light on the isses here, and suggest that women in the judiciary may indeed, by virtue of their experience of being women, be better trained to be judges than men are.

Graeber says:

A constant staple of 1950s situation comedies, in America, were jokes about the impossibility of understanding women. The jokes of course were always told by men. Women's logic was always being treated as alien and incomprehensible. One never had the impression, on the other hand, that women had much trouble understanding the men. That's because the women had no choice but to understand men.

And Graeber cites concrete rearch on gender differences in perception:

Faced with the prospect of even trying to imagine a women's perspective, many recoil in horror. In the US, one popular trick among High School creative writing teachers is to assign students to write an essay imagining that they were to switch genders, and describe what it would be like to live for one day as a member of the opposite sex. The results are almost always exactly the same: all the girls in class write long and detailed essays demonstrating that they have spent a great deal of time thinking about such questions; roughly half the boys refuse to write the essay entirely. Almost invariably they express profound resentment about having to imagine what it might be like to be a woman.

The job of a judge is to take competing arguments and make a fair evaluation between them. Like a woman is trained to do by necessity.

Speaking as a man I recognise some of this underlying dynamic. It is why I am really keen to get more women into positions of power, to the extent that I back women for office unless I get a good reason not to.

But this data is of some years gone by. Do our younger people think there is a difference experience today?

Graeber, David (2006) (the Malinowski Lecture): "Beyond power/knowledge: an exploration of the relationship of power, ignorance and stupidity". I suspect that people who do casework will have jolts of recognition at some of his stories of the individuals crushed in the tramlines of bureacracy, public and private. Note his Wikipedia entry for hints of his wider political links.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

A gentler place across the river 

Uzupis is the artistic quarter in Vilnius, which calls itself an independent republic. National Day April the first. The Constitution lays out a series of rights and reading these are a welcome distraction into humanity after our forced attention to the hate files if the BNP over here. And do enjoy this video clip if you can...

Some of the articles look rather liberal actually.


Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
Everyone has the right to die, but it is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
Everyone has the right to individuality.
Everyone has the right to love.
Everyone has the right to be not loved, but not necessarily.
Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous.
Everyone has the right to be idle.
Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.
Everyone has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.
A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in difficult times.
Everyone has the right to sometimes be unaware of his duties.
Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to be happy.
Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
Everyone has the right to be silent.
Everyone has the right to have faith.
No one has the right to violence.
Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.
Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity.
Everyone has the right to understand.
Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
Everyone has the right to be of various nationalities.
Everyone has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday.
Everyone shall remember his name.
Everyone may share what he possesses.
No-one can share what he does not possess.
Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
Everyone is capable of independence.
Everyone is responsible for his freedom.
Everyone has the right to cry.
Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
No-one has the right to make another person guilty.
Everyone has the right to be personal.
Everyone has the right to have no rights.
Everyone has the right to not be afraid.
Do not defeat.
Do not fight back.
Do not surrender.

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The Constitution in Lithuanian:

. Žmogus turi teisę gyventi šalia Vilnelės, o Vilnelė tekėti šalia žmogaus.
2. Žmogus turi teisę į karštą vandenį, šildymą žiemos metu ir čerpių stogą.
3. Žmogus turi teisę mirti, bet tai nėra jo pareiga.

4. Žmogus turi teisę klysti.
5. Žmogus turi teisę būti vienintelis.
6. Žmogus turi teisę mylėti.
7. Žmogus turi teisę būti nemylimas, bet nebūtinai.
8. Žmogus turi teisę būti nežymus ir nežinomas.
9. Žmogus turi teisę tingėti arba nieko nedaryti.
10. Žmogus turi teisę mylėti ir globoti katę.
11. Žmogus turi teisę rūpintis šunimi iki vieno iš jų gyvenimo pabaigos.
12. Šuo turi teisę būti šunimi.
13. Katė neprivalo mylėti savo šeimininko, bet sunkią minutę privalo jam padėti.
14. Žmogus turi teisę kartais nežinoti, ar jis turi pareigų.
15. Žmogus turi teisę abejoti, bet tai nėra jo pareiga.
16. Žmogus turi teisę būti laimingas.
17. Žmogus turi teisę būti nelaimingas.
18. Žmogus turi teisę tylėti.
19. Žmogus turi teisę tikėti.
20. Žmogus neturi teisės prievartauti.
21. Žmogus turi teisę suvokti savo menkumą ir didingumą.
22. Žmogus neturi teisės kėsintis į amžinybę.
23. Žmogus turi teisę suprasti.
24. Žmogus turi teisę nieko nesuprasti.
25. Žmogus turi teisę būti įvairių tautybių.
26. Žmogus turi teisę švęsti arba nešvęsti savo gimtadienio.
27. Žmogus privalo prisiminti savo vardą.
28. Žmogus gali dalintis tuo, ką turi.
29. Žmogus negali dalintis tuo, ko neturi.
30. Žmogus turi teisę turėti brolių, seserų ir tėvų.
31. Žmogus gali būti laisvas.
32. Žmogus atsako už savo laisvę.
33. Žmogus turi teisę verkti.
34. Žmogus turi teisę būti nesuprastas.
35. Žmogus neturi teisės padaryti kitą kartą.
36. Žmogus turi teisę būti asmeniškas.
37. Žmogus turi teisę neturėti jokių teisių.
38. Žmogus turi teisę nebijoti.
39. Nenugalėk
40. Nesigink
41. Nepasiduok
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Clegg takes on Toynbee 

Nick Clegg is in an 11 June video interview conducted by Polly Toynbee. From the body language Nick is in combatitive form.

The comments from 'readers' talk about a real exchange of views and a breath of fresh air.

Of course no subtitles enabled on this Guardian video and no sight of a transcript so I await LibDem comments giving some idea of the content. As ever new multi-media is sometimes unkind to deaf people.

I do know one of Polly's questions was along the lines of "Isn't your problem that you are too right wing?".

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

How the votes are distributed in d'hondt 

Looking at how the system actually works on real data - and it is clear what a narrow squeak it was in the Southeast of England with our second seat. We came very close to a Tory gain from us. Doing some calculations with a higher vote share for us shows we would need to raise our vote by nearly 60% to get an extra seat if other parties stayed stable.

Table shows the calculation. Method: top line is actual votes cast for each party that got a seat. Second line of table is this actual vote divided by two. Third line is the original actual vote divided by three. And so on. There are ten seats in Southeast England so we need to list out the ten highest numers in this table. That gives the seats allocation.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Still a lottery for tonights counts 

The basic thing to remember about First Past The Post is that it is a ‘party list system’ with the number on the list limited to one. The crude and rigid proportional system we enjoy for the Euro elections has a serious defect. When it comes to determining the last seat, one competitive name left on each list, it becomes in effect ‘first past the post’ with the winner being the party ahead relative to the others. By this stage normally nobody will have a full quota of votes so it will be the residues that decide it.

Something to remember if we are biting our nails as to whether one of our champions gets the last seat going in any electoral area. If there is a lot of scattering of votes including solid but not spectacular success ‘minor’ parties not quite making up a quota it could become as much of a lottery as a multi-competitive Westminster seat.

The last seat in a larger region could go to a party with a pretty low level of support.

Of course this could be mitigated if we had a transferable system…

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Our eleven victors in Central Bedfordshire 

One of the frustrating things about the ‘standard’ election results in the media is that we cant get a picture of how the distribution breaks down by wards.

Congratulations to the new Central Bedfordshire UA for getting the full results up on the web promptly so election anoraks can dig away..

As far as I can see our winners are:

Ampthill; Gary Summerfield elected top of the poll in a two-member ward with 971 votes. Second was a Tory with 855 votes. Our second LD candidate was 6th with 418, a pair of Independents disturbing the field..

Barton: Tony Northwood and Janet Dunn topped the poll in a two-member ward.

Houghton Regis: Susan Goodchild, Rita Egan, David Jones and Peter Williams all elected in a four-member Ward.

Sandy: Peter Blaine and Nigel Aldiss in a two-member Ward

Silsoe and Shillingham: Alison Graham elected second in a two-member ward with 1226 voted behind a Tory with 1503. Our other candidate was fourth behind the other Tory.

Southcott: Peter Snelling elected second in a two-member ward with 858 votes behind a Tory with 986. Our other candidate was fourth behind the other Tory.

And that’s it. Any local analysis to flesh out these figures?


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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Small steps in great matters 

One of the lessons I picked up from my parents life experiences is that if you don’t take a interest in what is going on around you, other people will make the decisions for you. And you may not like the result. So at 4am preparing for a Good Morning drop I remember Belsen (My Dad was one of the Liberators) and my mothers resistance unit blowing up the tracks of a railway in Nazi-occupied Lithuania so that the men in the train (who the Nazis wanted to form into SS Units) could escape into the forest. I remember my Dad landing in Normandy in the second wave of D-Day and how emotional he was when his only grandson was born on June 6th so many years later. Life on a day which had a memory of immense fear.

Delivering Good Mornings along the Ampthill Road in Bedford is a tiny thing but I am warmed by the thought I am supporting the Party least like either the Nazis or the Communists –both of which have a fundamental contempt for the individual as a free person of unique value. And as for Europe - I am proud to be a supporter of the Party upholding the immense changes for the good in our continent since my parents had to make their life decisions as young people.

And thanks to all of you out there doing your own tiny things.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Around Europe - how parties might fare country by country 

OK so nobody should take opinion polls as gospel. But this site which tries to analyse how the Euro-Election results will pan out across Europe has some interesting insights. In our UK Parish it suggests we are up to gain one seat (presumably in London) which matches our more realistically optimistic thoughts. Lest hope we can beat teh predictions though!

Elsewhere ALDE parties face a bit of a white water ride, some delegations (as in Germany) projected to increase, others to be wiped out entirely. In Poland for example the ALDE party in the last Parliament seems simply not to be standing this time, so goodbye four seats. The Dutch delegation may see one ALDE party (VVD) drop a seat and another (D66) gain. Which since VVD showed up in the Match Your Vote tests as one of the parties I would least likely vote for if I was a Dutchman is a bit pleasing for me.

See here for a country by country analysis.

On the Tories search for an Euro nest foul enough to attract them it looks like they will at least be spared the embarrassment of association with Tevzemei un Brivibai as that Latvian party is schedule to collapse and lose both its seats. On the other hand a couple of new embarrassingly awful Belgian parties may squeeze in and seek to embrace the Tories.


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Compulsory vaccination and the national emergency state 

As measles once more becomes a real threat in Britain, calls to make MMR vaccinations compulsory are to come before the BMA for debate.

Liberals I am sure will be instinctively wary of such a move, which would be backed by sanctions such as exclusion from school for unvaccinated children and possibly loss of benefits for parents.

We do need to tackle the problems of assuring ‘herd immunity’ in a society of individuals. I suspect we will be unhappy at the compulsion approach though.

There is a history to this kind of move. For example, when I went up to University in 1967 all entrants were screened for TB with X-Ray vans on campus for registration week, and nobody could take up a place without proving either immunity or vaccination status.

Looking elsewhere, there is a passage in the wonderful book by Lewis Thomas (about the changes in medical practice during his long career as an immunologist) discussing the draconian powers of the New York City Quarantine Board. When Thomas served on that board in the 1970’s (I think) it could declare a medical emergency and order people to be isolated, more or less internment without trial or appeal. The most heartbreaking part involved the regulations on Children. If a child was found to have diphtheria for example not only would it be isolated with very limited contact with other people, but all its toys would be destroyed.

As Swine Flu puts our current attitudes and practices to the test perhaps Liberals need to think how best to approach the pressures for collective sanctions on individual sick people, which is what such programmes effectively involve.

Book reference: Lewis Thomas ‘The Youngest Science notes of a medicine watcher’. Seriously, if you have a chance, do have a look at this moving and deeply humane book which, with its profound love and respect for people as individuals, is a testimony to real Liberalism as well as the scientific life.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Autumn the season of mists, elections and flu outbreaks? 

More pressure for an Autumn election in the press and elsewhere. But another possible Autumn story may have an impact on that. So far we have not had great outbreaks of H1N1 ‘swine flu’. But cases are increasing slowly and the pre-conditions for a pandemic wave definitely exist. One persuasive epidemiological model suggest that H1N1 will rumble along at a nuisance level over the summer, inhibited in part if we have a summer outdoors in the sun. However when schools and universities and general workplaces start up again in September and October, H1N1 will be at a stage where it could proliferate very quickly and in a serious form.

And the impact? For starter this could lead to the cancellation of the national Party Conferences.

What would be the effect of fighting a General Election in the middle of a pandemic, where public meetings could be banned, people would be highly resistant to opening their doors to canvassers, and election volunteers (and candidates even) falling sick?

Should we be giving some thought to this possibility?

Famously, the 1991 General Election was postponed because Foot and Mouth disease was raging during the originally planned election period.

We may again find it an advantage not to have fixed term Parliaments..

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ALDE and debates elsewhere on the Continental elections 

In all our local excitements on expenses and so on, we sometimes forget that the LibDems are fighting the EuroElections as part of an International grouping, ALDE. Some people are actually looking at the policy positions presented by ALDE and commenting. Take a look for example at this comment on energy policies.

The Eurotrib site tends to equate Liberalism with neo-Liberal ‘market worship’ by the way, many contributors putting it in the same basket as the policies of the last US administration. The tone of some comments elsewhere can be gauged by another post on Eurotrib which says ‘when something is being pushed by an ALDE member using "competition" newspeak, I reflexively check my wallet to see if I'm being robbed.’

By the way are there any projections on how ALDE as a whole will emerge from this election?

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