AV, Safe Seats, Selections and Primaries

As I said when I first blogged about AV, both sides of the campaign are using weak, wrong and misleading arguments to advance their cases. A perfect example this week was Lord Ashdown’s Sky News interview, where he manages to squeeze at least four incorrect claims about AV in a couple of sentences. He said:

“…no more safe seats, ever; politicians will now have to fight harder to get elected; every vote will count; no MP will get elected unless they get at least 50% of the support of the people in their constituency. Never again will we have more people voting against their MP than actually voted for him when he was elected”“

Today I want to look at safe seats and how to achieve Lord Ashdown’s wish for “No more safe seats, ever”. Read More

Creative uses of AV

Tomorrow is the first day of the National Union of Students’ annual Conference. It’s also five years since I last attended an NUS Conference myself, either as a voting delegate or as a balcony-based observer.

I went to my first NUS Conference in 2003. I was elected by the narrowest of margins in an STV election and joined eight of my fellow Bristol-university students on the trip to Blackpool.

NUS conferences are unusual because elections for NUS’s full-time officers happen at the Conference. This is an archaism; Trade Unions and Student Unions used to elect their officers in the same way, but labour laws and the Education Act 1994 respectively, meant that these Unions now have to legally hold a ballot of all members. NUS is not legally a Student Union and its members are other Unions not individuals, so didn’t have to change away from the old-fashioned system.

NUS has political groupings of varying formality, often disparagingly called ‘factions’: Labour Students is the formal student wing of the Labour party and organises openly. Various groups of ‘Independent’ students run slates of candidates, sometimes openly and sometimes less so. Groups on the Far Left are active, sometimes running joint slates as allies and sometimes opposing each other. Conservative Future sometimes organises for NUS and sometimes decides not to bother. Other groups like the Union of Jewish Students also attend the Conference but don’t usually run candidates for the full-time officer roles. Read More

Misunderstanding AV

I have no particular view about the AV referendum. I haven’t decided which way to vote yet, but it’s not ambivalence as much as non-valence. I don’t feel strongly either way.

But weirdly, I still want to explore the arguments anyway, especially as public debate on both sides has been pretty poor.

One reason for this may be that lots of the people leading the debate don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

A confession: I have probably voted in over a hundred AV elections; I have run in AV elections, been a campaign manager for AV elections, and counted the votes in AV elections.

But I’ve also voted and run and organised several dozen Single Transferable Vote elections. I’ve even counted some small ones.

STV is not AV (though strictly speaking AV is a special case of STV). STV elections are ‘block elections’, where there’s more than one position being elected at the same time. Read More

Getting round Facebook’s one-paragraph limit for comments.

Changes to Facebook comments today took away the ‘Post’ button. Instead, pressing Enter posts your comment automatically. This means your comments can’t have paragraph breaks, which is ugly and annoying, especially if you have a lot to say.

As a Twitter user, I know that short can be beautiful. But it’s not the only way. Often, long well-reasoned discussions on Facebook can be fascinating and informative. This change seems to be designed to prevent them.

But there’s a workaround. Instead of Enter, push shift-Enter. This is the ‘new line’ command, which will put the cursor on a new line without automatically posting the comment.

Shift-Enter works in lots of useful ways, especially when you don’t want to start a new paragraph in Microsoft Word.

Senior NUJ Activists plan BBC protest against journalistic freedom

Leftlist is a private mailing list for NUJ members. Its members are not happy about the recent BBC Panorama programme on the flotilla to Gaza. 

So what do members a Trade Union dedicated to journalistic freedom and independence do when they see piece of journalism they don’t like?

Well, the NUJ’s Vice President Donnacha Delong calls for NUJ members to protest outside the BBC, and for BBC NUJ Chapels (ie branches) to put out ‘a statement’, presumably condemning one of their own members for writing something they disapprove of. 

And another senior NUJ activist wants the NUJ to force the BBC to commission another Panorama that is more politically acceptable to them. 

It’s a real shame – but no a surprise – that senior activists in a journalists’ union are prepared to throw out their founding principles in favour of attacking Israel.

First email – 

From: donnacha.delong@tiscali.co.uk

To: leftlist@lists.riseup.net

Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2010 00:26:54 +0100

Subject: [leftlist] Demonstration called at the BBC

Ken O’Keefe and (one of) the Muslim Defence League(s) have called a demo on Sunday at BBC Television Centre. 


Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it, but it would be really good to have NUJ people. A statement from some of the BBC Chapels wouldn’t go amiss, particularly with the prospect of a strike at the BBC. The last thing we need is people attacking the BBC in its entirety as a result of this, and I’ve seen a few examples of that already on Facebook. 



The National Union of Journalists runs a discussion list for people working in new media, join the debates at:  


second email

From: Larry Herman

Sender: leftlist-owner@lists.riseup.net

Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2010 22:27:23 +0100

To: Tim Gopsill

Cc: ‘Vicki Morris’;

Subject: Re: [leftlist] Israeli propaganda machine

On 17 Aug 2010, at 15:25, Tim Gopsill wrote:

…  And the issue is not religion or ideology but western militarism and imperialism, …


Our legitimate reaction to the BBC Panorama pro Zionist programme has thrown up profound questions and has, once again, labeled those of us who fight for self determination of all the world’s peoples, including for those who live in the UK, closed – minded bigots and specifically, in this case, Jew haters. Those who sneer and seek to denigrate our views are wrong, but we don’t fear their slander because it shows our strength. Our responsibility is to determine how we better organise to take on the enemies of humanity and their apologists who live their lives giving the politics of reaction credibility.

There are many explanations why Zionism was organised in the 19th Century and why it was able to establish its state after the Second World War, why this State was violently inserted into Palestine and why Israel has carried on a sixty-year war to defend its interests. Israel is the form that imperialism takes in the Middle East. The Apartheid governments in South Africa were another, and equally unique, form of imperialism. The support of all American big capitalists, their governments and military, since the mid 1950’s (and before) for the Zionist state is because it defends Imperialism and Israel is its imperialist  beachhead in that part of the world. 

American imperialisms has always fought wars to extend its interests, whether in The philippines in 1898, in the First and Second World Wars and now throughout Western Asia and North Africa ( of course, on other continents, too. The biggest military base outside of the United States is in Honduras!). It’s not the very active and well funded lobbyists in the United States that cause the American Government’s defence of the Zionist State; to argue this is playing into the hands of anti-semitism. The nefarious activity of pro Zionist organisations and individuals throughout the world exists because of the historic weakness of imperialism. That’s why they are compelled to do what they do. 

I enthusiastically acknowledge that anti – Zionism occupies our political activity today because of several decades of Palestinian resistance. But, it’s not what we are against that defines people, but it’s what we are in favour of. If there were ever a crises of leadership it is there, in Palestine, for all progressives to see. As activists, we are in harmony with the Palestinian people in their struggle for self – determination. We are transformed into anti imperialist fighters through building this solidarity. We, as NUJ activists, have struggled to be heard in the past and will continue to organise against bigotry.  Perhaps, beginning with a demand, supported by a Union – wide campaign, that the BBC fund a ‘Panorama Two” putting the different view. The Leftlist should convene an immediate meeting, with an agenda, open to all who are opposed to the the content of the Panorama film, to initiate this demand within the Union.