Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Techno techno techno

Alix Mortimer rightly bemoans the quantity of idiots in parliament, but it should be obvious why there are so many of them: the political skills required to get selected then elected are nothing like the skills required to be a top-class legislator.

Ideally, legislators should have a sharp eye for detail, excellent reading comprehension skills, an excellent grasp of statistics, an understanding of history and political philosophy and a set of novel personal background experiences to bring to the table.

In contrast, parliamentary electees must convince 35,000 skeptics to give them a job, through awareness-raising campaigning, doorstepping, local problem solving, successful media interviews and appearances, and being able to recall and reframe the main planks of their party's brand identity at will.

These two skill groups are so different it should really be a surprise that there are any smart people at all in parliament. And while the media insist that everyone's special and everyone's opinion is important, and while political parties are built on strong brand identities, and while the electoral process only allows one candidate of each political stripe to stand in each constituency, this will continue to be a problem.

What can be done to change things? STV would help a little, I think, because only the "best" tranche of each existing party's candidates would get elected, and would potentially allow smaller parties with more focussed branding to pick up 1st preference votes ("Smart Labour", anyone?).

I would really, really like to see all PPCs take an apolitical statistics and reading comprehension test, with their scores marked on the ballot paper next to their name. That way, voters can actually decide in a meaningful way whether they do want smarter politicians.


I like to write something here when I am positively surprised by an online transaction, to reward the seller beyond just the purchase price. So:

I ordered a replacement battery for my Asus laptop on Sunday night on eBay and it arrived this morning, despite it being listed as 3-4 days shipping time. It was also pretty much the cheapest option going. So if you're looking for a laptop battery, give Battery Pro a look on eBay.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Satire: the death of politics?

Malcolm Tucker appears to be writing a series of columns in the Guardian, which considering he is fictional is an impressive feat.

It's well known that Tucker is viewed as something of an inspiration to many spin doctors in the Westminster Bubble - Armando Iannucci tells a story that when filming In The Loop it was a senior Whitehall spinner that suggested that Peter Capaldi be filmed leaving the actual 10 Downing Street front door and organized it. On the day of filming, the press pit opposite was full of "special advisers" all cheering for Capaldi.

So one has to wonder just how much influence a fake blog - presumably written by Iannucci (though you would have thought that Capaldi would at least get an "ok" on the text since it's effectively his face slapped on the column) - has in the run-up to the actual election. Satire has shaped politics before, of course - Thatcher was a big fan of Yes, Minister and again Iannucci relates that it was because of the portrayal of senior civil servants on TV that caused Thatcher to begin the reign of the "special advisers" - but has satire ever set out its stall at an election campaign so brazenly?

I supposed we can but look on and see whether Labour really do press the Tories on Ashcroft, Ulster Unionists and young conservative organizations...

Sunday, 7 March 2010


So I've had the joy of flying abroad and back recently, and on the return it really hit me just how much time, energy and money we waste on trying to keep people born in different geographic locales from entering and staying in our geographic locale. How pointless is it, that we in the West consider ourselves so much better than everyone else that the dirty foreigners must be boxed in, tagged, queued up and questioned?

It's entirely depressing. Along with the new e-passport cages at Bristol airport: "Come in to our country! But you'd better be the right sort, else we'll lock you in a box!"

I look forward to a world in which geopolitical boundaries finally become meaningless.