A Quick Commons Reform

At the time of writing there are a number of MPs in the House who have resigned their whip to face various charges. Most recently, joining their number this morning Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock.He has resigned his whip, but not his seat, to fight allegations of sexual assault without causing his party any embarrassment in the meantime.

That’s an admirable position, and assuming he’s innocent, (which we must) there’s no reason for him to lose his job (at least not before the next election). If he’s cleared of all charges then there’s no reason at all for him not to continue in his career.


While he’s fighting these quite serious charges, he’s not likely to be able to acquit his role as a constituency MP to the standard his constituents ought to be able to expect.

So how to square this circle: He shouldn’t have to resign and lose his job, career and prospects over what may turn out to be entirely spurious, even malicious charge. If we were to expect MPs to resign their seat while they prove their innocence, then it’d become very easy to spitefully destroy an MP just by making an accusation. On the other hand, his constituents deserve an MP who will be focussed on them.

So how about this: Each party submits a list of perhaps half a dozen ‘deputies’ to a cross party committee. The committee can approve the list members (or not if there’s a solid reason). Should a circumstance arise where an MP is temporarily unable to do his or her job, perhaps through personal illness, compassionate leave or – as with today – fighting a criminal charge, one of the list members can be parachuted in as a temporary Deputy Member of Parliament.

Should it become apparent that the absence will become permanent, then a by-elections would be triggered in the usual way, the DMP being barred from standing (to prevent the mechanism being abused to ‘grandfather’ in new MPs). But should the MP be able to return to their seat, then the DPM would step aside and representation return to normal.


[Originally posted on Fifth Donkey]

The Voting Reform I’d Like

You’re in the polling booth and you really don’t support the mouse party or the dog party. You’ve never heard of the bird party, but hell, you really don’t want the cat party to win. Who do you vote for?

Many hundreds of column inches are expended on the problem of voter turnout and voter disengagement. The two are, of course, closely linked. The less engaged the voting public feel, the less likely they are to vote.

Lots of reasons are proposed and discussed but when I’m on the campaign phones the one that comes up more than all the others combined is “I won’t bother, because you’re all the same.” This appears to make it hard for people to feel passionate about supporting a particular party.

While I think having political parties that appear driven by different management ethos rather than different political ideologies is a problem (and entirely untrue, incidentally), I also think this is a red herring. Passion in politics is alive and well, it just isn’t directed positively. It’s easy to get people to be passionate against a party. Or an individual. Watch the news, read twitter accounts: there’s a lot of “Anybody but them!” going on.

It has always been thus, with tactical voting for instance: voting for the party most likely to beat the one you dislike the most. So why not make this a real, tangible part of our system.

If you don’t feel passionately in favour of a party, but feel passionately against one, why not have a system where you can choose to cast a negative vote instead of a positive one?

Picture it:

You’re in the polling booth and you really don’t support the mouse party or the cat party. You’ve never heard of the bird party, but hell, you really don’t want the dog party to win. Who do you vote for?

Tactical voting has you deciding which of the mouse, cat or bird party has the best chance of beating the dogs. But why not simply vote against the dog?

It’d be illuminating. As it stands, many MPs are elected with deceptive majorities and feel this is a mandate. But often it’s just a default victory. With minus votes, a newly elected MP would have a real sense of the level of support they have in the constituency. “Hmmm, I got 17,000 in favour and 6,500 against. I still won, but look how many really didn’t want me.” Perhaps they’d work to build their positive vote, perhaps they’d work to win over all the negative votes.

Some candidates would poll a negative figure. That’s a very quick and simple way to see who should lose their deposit. More people didn’t want you than did. Bye-Bye deposit.

But it might also, ironically, focus people’s minds on what they do want, and on who is really the bad guy on the ballot paper. Do you really hate the Labour or Conservative candidate more than the BNP candidate? Really? Do you really want to vote for the Liberal Democrat more than you want to stop the EDL option? Really?

Perhaps when people say “Anybody but Them!” They’d pause for though if there was the chance that the ‘Anybody’ they end up with might be Nick Griffin! Perhaps, just perhaps, they’d start thinking about what they do want, not what their lifelong reflex says they don’t want.

Then again, perhaps not. But it’d still be great fun on election night seeing a high profile candidate’s majority wiped out by minus votes.


[Originally posted on Fifth Donkey]

For #Wimbledon Fortnight: A Tennis Conundrum

As Wimbledon fortnight gets underway, I thought I’d share this tennis conundrum. Something to puzzle over the next two weeks.

You can’t get home in time for the final on TV, so you turn on the radio in the car.

It’s the final: Murray against Djokovic. Just after you switch the radio on, you hear the commentator say “Murray has won the last 6 points on serve, but he’s still behind in the match.

That’s all you need to know.

What’s the score?


Scotland, Europe and Independence

An idea that doesn’t seem to have seen the light of day so far.

We have a couple of referendums coming up: One in Scotland over independence from the UK, and another UK-wide over independence from Europe.

A couple of things occur:

1. Shouldn’t we count the European referendum twice, once with Scottish votes and once without?

If Scotland vote to cede from the UK, they should, of course, be allowed to go. But what if Scottish votes tipped the balance in an In/Out referendum to stay in? Why should the rest of the UK have its destiny effected by a country that isn’t going to be part of the UK anymore? Of course, if Scotland votes to stay within the UK, then Scottish voter’s opinions on EU membership for the UK is as relevant as every other voter.

2. We know Alex Salmond wants an independent Scotland to remain in the EU. Of course, a number of other countries in the EU have their own regional independence issues and will discourage the Grandfathering of newly split nations to discourage their own separatists.

If Scotland voted to leave the UK, and the UK (excluding Scottish votes) voted to leave the EU, perhaps we could all get together and negotiate the UK’s membership to be inherited not by the remainder of the UK, but by Scotland?


[Originally posted on Fifth Donkey]

Whisky Review: Bowmore

Bowmore is one of the few whiskies I’m rarely without. There’s two reasons for this.

One is that it’s such a good ‘everyday’ whisky (not that I’d like to give the impression that I drink whisky everyday). If you just feel like one glass late in the evening, Bowmore is a great choice. It’s clean and fresh, with a deep aroma, so you spend as much time enjoying that as the flavour. But unlike my favourites like Bunnahabhain, Lagavlin or Highland Park, once I’ve poured my glass and the stopper is back in I tend not to go back for a crafty second.

The other reason is more selfish. I like to have a good whisky to give guests, but if they’re not whisky drinkers I don’t want to give them one of my favourites that they may not appreciate!

So that’s two very good reasons for always having a bottle of Bowmore in the house.

whisky review.bowmore


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The Red Queen

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” – The Red Queen

Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through The Looking Glass has an insight. It’s one that’s been quoted often, even becoming part of evolutionary theory: that as your prey or your predator evolves to escape or capture you, so you must also evolve. Not to gain an advantage, but just to keep the status quo.

You have to keep running just to stand still.

And so it is with technology. We’re all familiar with smartphones getting better and better, and other manufacturers improving, leapfrogging, falling behind… But it happens under the bonnet, too.

Last week Twitter shot down it’s API v1. It’s true that v1.1 is better, more robust, more versatile, but it means I’ve spent my week going back over all my old twitter automations, rewriting and updating them. The end result will be no different. You as a client or a user will notice no changes. But it’s a slog, lots of work. Lots of running just to stand still.

Would it have been so awful to leave v1 running in the background?

A Special Something For Freddie Mercury Fans

I’m a nice guy, and I know there are Freddie Mercury fans out there who don’t listen to Radio 4. I’d hate for them to miss last night’s Front Row just because I’m not there to tell them about it.

It’s about a painting called ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke‘. You’ll know it if you’re the sort of fan who knows everything about him and his influences. If that sounds like you, I’m posting this especially for you.

Here’s the link. It’s not embedded (nice loss of functionality, Beeb)
You’ll want to skip forwards to 23 minutes.

And here’s a little something extra, just because…

Never let it be said I’m anything other than a nice guy.

A Weekend

I had a great weekend. It started with an evening out with my brother, Alex. He gave me some big news, which sadly meant that his wife couldn’t go to the Bruce Springsteen gig at Wembley with him the next day. Alex is a massive Springsteen fan, so – as a favour to him, you understand – I agreed to keep him company.

That’s how I found myself standing in the biblical rain on Saturday at 12 o’clock queueing to get armbands for the front of the stadium, swiftly followed by a few hours warming up and drying off in an indian restaurant we’d been avariciously eyeing from the queue.

A few hours and several drinks later we barrelled into the stadium to let The Boss entertain us. This isn’t a review, so I’m not going to go into the pros (and the sole ‘con’ – a problem with acoustics in the stadium). We found the sweet spot and it was incredible. This is a man who knows his craft. He loves the work, he feels the music. The lyrics are his life. If you’ve never seen him, go next time you have a chance.

Sunday was Father’s Day, so I spent it with my kids. They’d made me a cake, cards and generally made me feel like I might be doing okay with them.

But all that means I haven’t written a blog post for today. So you’ll have to make do with this weekend autobiography – an insight into me, and wait until tomorrow for something I’ve had to think about before writing.

The Month In Review

I kicked off this blog on the 13th May with pretty modest ambitions. I’m not trying to change the world, just to write a few things a week to entertain myself, you and to publish a few extracts from the upcoming Social Media Guidebook.

I thought I’d see if I could get a daily 10 viewers and 20 views. Instead the blog has far surpassed my hopes, with a regular 40-60 views and a one day peak of 157 views.

So I’m giving myself the day off, and offering you my top posts for your enjoyment:





Have a read if you missed any of them.

Kids Today!

Saturday night. I confess I’d had a couple of drinks. But nothing like the number of drinks the group of teenagers who walked past had. They’d been out for a great night. Even so, they were being gentlemen and dropping the girls they’d been out with safely home. I met them just after they’d dropped the last one off.

Two of them were taking the mickey out of the third because of his broken nose. How had he broken it? A failure of Jeff Murdoch’s NAT: Nose Avoidance Tilting. Rule one when you’re about to kiss a girl, tilt your head a little. Otherwise she’s going to headbutt you in the face. I’d like to say he took it on the chin, but no.

So here, as promised and just for @RobertN1996, @PatrickLewin and @JayWilliamTee is Lesson 1:

But these guys were friendly, happy, had a good night, were having fun, but were still gentlemanly to the girls they’d been with, walking them home and being polite and respectful about them even after they were out of earshot.

Kids today? We’ve less to worry about than we think.