Monday, June 27, 2011

Blog off

Update: you need to look at Big Smoke and my personal site for my latest work. Thanks.

A few eagle-eyed regular readers have pointed out to me that I haven't blogged in a while. I know. In fact there has been a three-week gap. That's the longest gap there has ever been in this blog's entire history - including the time I had pneumonia - and every high and low of my life over the last four and a bit years.

Well, there's a reason for the break. I'm switching the blog off, but wanted to give myself a little thinking time before telling everyone in case I was going to change my mind a couple of days later.

To be precise I'm archiving the old girl. This is the very last post and in a couple of weeks I'll turn off the comments - and that will be that.

It's been fun but I'm moving on. I've set up a Jim Jepps website where you can keep up with any interesting bits of news, articles I've written and projects I'm supporting. I've got a few things in the pipeline so watch that space!

If there are two thoughts I'd like to leave with I suppose it's these. First, that the internet can be a civilised place if people treat it in the same way that they treat their own day to day 'meatspace' lives. That means the same self-regulation and the same willingness to not put up with the kind of behaviour that at work or among friends would be unthinkable but appears to be commonplace in some places on the net.

I think writing this blog has proved to me at least that it is possible to disagree with someone on the net without demonising them and to be critical of your friends without falling out.

The second is that the best of the web is where people think, not where people are fastest with the news. The blogosphere is full of people blogwarring with each other, jumping up to comment on the news the moment it comes out and knee jerking their politics just so they get in first. That's pretty unhealthy and it's led to parts of the blogosphere mirroring the worst parts of the 24-hour media rather than enhancing it or, even better, holding it to account.

I think we need to be more conscious of the risks of becoming an echo-chamber caught in a self-referential circle.

Twitter allows us to, for example, name a Tory MP arrested for sexual assault within an hour of it happening. What it does not seem to allow for is to not out that person until we know whether any charges will actually be brought. In our daily lives gossip is seen as a bad thing, and gossips are people we are generally wary of - much of social media encourages us to unthinkingly exhibit behaviour that most of us would regard as reprehensible in other circumstances.

Why else would a perfectly decent person serving jury duty think it's perfectly acceptable to contact someone whose case they've heard about a co-defendant? That's something I'm sure she would never have dreamed of doing before the ubiquity of social media but, in reality, is just as wrong as walking up to them face to face and discussing the, as yet unfinished, case.

I'm just thinking aloud really; it's hardly as if I've personally come a cropper of any of these tendencies nor have they been a theme of this blog particularly, but I am concerned at how the medium is distorting how we do politics and what we think is decent behaviour. The fact that these new technologies seem to by-pass that area of the brain where our integrity lies is a tendency I firmly believe we can counter if we work together to do so.

At least that's the way it seems to me.

Returning to the subject of signing off though, it's been an educative experience. I first set the blog up as a purely temporary measure as I wanted to test whether I could write a post a day for a month, but at the end of the month it was oh so easy to carry on. And here we are. It turns out that once you have momentum it's easier than you'd think.

Thanks to all the lefty, greeny, decent people who've been following The Daily (Maybe) for the last few years. Do stay in touch and good luck with the future - we're all going to need it.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Time to end the war on drugs

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act which heralded the beginning of the war on drugs (a term first used by Nixon in June 1971). This war has done irreparable harm to millions and yet still, it appears, drugs won. It's time to negotiate an honourable surrender and accept we are well and truly occupied.

The ongoing policy treats a public health issue as primarily a law and order issue has not just failed, in many cases we can see that it has made the problems associated with drug use worse.

In the US the continuing anti-drug user escalation means that states are introducing mandatory drug testing for welfare claimants. Don't worry though all you deficit watchers, the claimant has to pay for the test themselves in order to apply for benefits, and if they fail they are simply cut off.

Drug addicts without any means of support - what could go wrong?

Part of the oddness of the whole debate though is that public opinion seems remarkably resilient. Despite the fact that you're unlikely to see an article in the press or a BBC broadcast advocating the repeal of the drugs laws - and God help any politician that suggests such a thing - there is still a large body of opinion that our current approach simply is not working despite the fact this argument is never articulated in the media or by our leading political figures.

A campaign to get the government to rethink was launched today but it was met with a swift rebuff. A government spokesman said:
"We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs are illegal because they are harmful – they destroy lives and cause untold misery to families and communities. Those caught in the cycle of dependency must be supported to live drug-free lives, but giving people a green light to possess drugs through decriminalisation is clearly not the answer".

But where is the evidence that drug laws protect people from harm rather than simply criminalise a wide spread activity? The campaign's launch letter states that;
"In 2001 Portugal decriminalised the possession of all drugs and, despite sensationalist predictions to the contrary, this has led to a decrease in the number of young people using illicit drugs, an overall reduction in the number of people using drugs problematically, fewer drug related deaths, and an increase in people accessing treatment voluntarily, things we would all like to see happen in the UK. Whilst there are other factors to take into account, it is clear from the Portuguese experience, and from other jurisdictions, that the decriminalisation of drug possession and use does not lead to an increase in drug use or related harms."

The complete decriminalisation of drugs would bring drug use into the open, allowing users to seek help when they need it, allowing public information to be actually useful rather than censorious crap, ensuring that those drugs in circulation are safe and well regulated and cutting out organised crime from this lucrative industry.

It may even begin to allow the "did not inhalers" in our political establishment to be a little more honest about their own drug histories and make stunning admissions like "I used to smoke weed because I enjoyed it." Wouldn't that be a thing?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Wednesday's Selection

I dearly wish computers were less helpful. Right now my spellcheck is in French and I have absolutely no idea how to change it. How does it know I'm in France and why does it think I've suddenly become a native speaker. Anyway, it's useless to me now as very little of what I type is in the proper French, so my computer thinks it's all wrong.

  • When the Westborough Baptist church are being picketted by the KKK the mind starts to boggle.
  • Georgian London has an interesting post on riots past.
  • A little while ago Earwicga wrote an interesting post on how gender specific work in international development can sometimes be less than worthless.
  • The London Assembly has warned that the focus on frontline policing may actually reduce their capacity. I think this goes for all public services frankly.
  • Damascus gay girl writes on the Syrian government's offer of amnesty for her and other dissidents, as long as they behave from now on.
  • Reuters reports that the US congress may vote on withdrawing US troops from Libya. A scheduled vote has been delayed. "Democrat Dennis Kucinich, the resolution's disappointed sponsor, suggested the vote was dropped because it might have passed". The Republicans say they may yet bring it back to the table though.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


  • A friend of mine is involved in Cable Street to Brick Lane a film project charting 75 years of anti-fasicsm in the East End. Looks good.
  • James Graham advises theLib Dems not to take any more Lords seats until its democratic. Seeing as these are the only new seats they'll be winning for a while it seems a bit foolhardy to me.
  • Left Foot Forward have spotted that a right wing think tank commited to shrinking the public sector is not adverse to taking its own slice of the public pie.
  • It seems that former Met officer Ali Dizeai was probably phone hacked by the News of the World. I wonder if they've reported that his conviction was unsafe yet?
  • Britain is preparing bunker buster bombs for assaulting Libyan command positions - which includes Tripoli I suppose. Remember when we bomb cities it's called liberation.
  • The TUC have published a report showing that corporation tax cuts do not create jobs.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Some idle thoughts on water

This may make no sense what-so-ever but I've been thinking about water. More specifically I've been thinking about our attitude to the ancientness of water.

Let me put it like this. When we see a moutain in general we go something like 'Ohhhh' and then often we'll have some thoughts about how impressive it is.

I certainly think about how old that mountain is and how that same mountain won't just have been experienced by generations of humans, but by all the generations of humans and loads of things that went before us too.

Sure, we've shaped the natural landscape significantly and when wandering through a London park I don't tend to have any deeper thought than where my next kebab is coming from, but by and large mountains are one part of the landscape that have a certain permanence.

They've been around and we give them an emotional significance because of that. Likewise ancient standing stones, great valleys and all sorts of cool, impressive stuff that has a lot of terrain-i-tude. Kudos to them all.

However, as I was being rained on earlier today I got to thinking. I stared at a drop of water on my hand and contemplated its history. Well most of us know the basics of how rain happens in a cycle. It rains, the rain soaks into the soil, that water collects and eventually makes its way into a river, that river makes its way into the sea and the water is taken from the sea into clouds that then rains on your washing as it hangs out to dry. And again, and again, and again.

That's a cycle that has been taking place for something like, oh, 4,000 million years or thereabouts. With the exact same water. The same rain that tried in vain to soak me today might have been the very same water that Napoleon's horse drank and weed out again. I feel kind of priveleged. It might have been drunk by the very last Tricerotops or the very first Woolly Mammoth - it was certainly around then.

Water has been the very stuff of life since before life got going, and by and large very little stuff that was water becomes anything more than water mixed with other stuff (like being part of a lizard), or water arranged as a vapour or a solid. Very little that wasn't water gets into a situation where it becomes water. Almost all of the water we have now was still water billions of years ago, and it still finds time to stop play at Lords. Cool.

But our attitude to water is rarely of awe. Even when it is arranged into an ocean that's been sat there for millions upon millions of years we don't tend to have those same thoughts that we might when confronted by a desert or a majestic set of rolling hills. We can be impressed by its size, enjoy its pleasures but I don't think we tend to reflect upon its age.

I suspect that's because we find construction fascinating and the building blocks of life common place - because they are no matter how special. It may be a passing thought but I still reckon that it's an important fact that each humble rain drop has been around for, what, a thousand times longer than the human race, including false starts? I think that deserves a little bit of respect, surely.

A few blogs to highlight

  • I've been reading a week is a long time for ages now, Jo felt I should show it some love. Happy to oblige.
  • I may not have linked to Ann Pettifor's blog, Debtonation, before but well worth following.
  • Matthew Butcher blog's at A place to write. Do check it out.
  • A scanner dispairingly is new to me but looks really good.

  • Labour's Dave Harris in Colchester has a blog that is a useful example of how a hard working local councillor can use their blog for solid local news.
  • And last but not least women of the sky a fun little blog on astronauts, aeronauts and assorted interesting people.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guest Post:: Climate Politics in Australia

Thanks to Dwight Towers for this very useful and comrehensive guest post on climate politics in Australia, a hot topic in more ways than one. Incidentally, a few people have told me they've not been able to leave a comment in the last few days. Apologies. Hopefully everything is back to normal now though so do give it another try.

Climate Politics in Australia seem to me, a recently returned ex-pat, both fascinating and depressing. The Labor Government, only in power with the agreement of a small band of independents and a Green, are trying to push through a carbon tax that will morph into an emissions scheme. The Opposition, led by a man whose position on the reality of climate change changes from day to day, is calling for an election on the issue. Meanwhile, the “climate movement” is punching below its weight and is – by the admission of knowledgeable participants – all at sea.

As little history as I think you'll read.
The history of White Settlement in Australia is a litany of careless extraction. Whether it was cutting down trees in, extracting the value of the soil via sheep and cattle or mining and exporting gold, the economy and mindset has always been one of pillaging natural resources and worrying about the consequences later, if at all. If you look at topsoil loss, salination and extinction of species, Australia has a record to shout about.
Australia avoided recession during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2010, partly because the thirst for Australia's mineral and energy exports in Asia seems unquenchable (though it's a myth that China burns much Australian coal – the majority is actually send to India?), and the “must export every last lump of coal or we will all starve” perception remains. Guy Pearse, a forming mining lobbyist, refers to this as Australia's “Quarry Vision.”

At the same time, water and fertile land are scarce “commodities,” and the recent floods in Queensland and parts of Victoria are only the latest indication of economic vulnerability to ecological events. A very long drought has only just broken.

Climate change politics from the 1990s to now, in two minutes

The Hawke-Keating governments of 1983-1996 (think Blair/Brown only the ambitious Treasurer, both luckier and bolder than Gordo) made some of the right noises but basically kicked climate change into the long grass. There were, as remains the case today, many votes in coal and virtually none in solar panels. Liberal Prime Minister John Howard's attitude to climate change was pretty much exactly George Bush's, and he was an eager participant in the extra-UNFCCC “spoiler” outfit known as the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (which, as of 5 April 2011, has “concluded its work”)

Howard went into the 2007 election with a proposal for a domestic cap-and-trade scheme, but at the time Australia was in the grip of a long drought, and Howard's credibility on climate change (and other issues) was not high. Labor’s Kevin Rudd came to power, signed Kyoto and went to the Bali negotiations as the great new hope. Before the election he had said “Climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation.”
He bargained intensively with the (conservative) opposition about bringing in an emissions trading scheme. Their leader, Malcolm Turnbull, was unable to convince the mix of climate skeptics and mining interests of the merits of the case and he was overthrown in December 2009 by Tony Abbott.

Months later, Rudd was faced with a choice of either dumping the attempt to bring in an emissions trading scheme or calling an election. He dumped the scheme and his poll numbers collapsed (the mining industry had also been up in arms about a proposed new tax, and spent heavily on scare-mongering). He was replaced, in an internal Labor Party coup, by Julia Gillard, the current PM. There was an election in July last year that resulted in a hung Parliament. Gillard runs a government with a very, very slender majority which is dependent on the support of the Greens (who have been eating away at the Labor Party's vote for a decade or so).

Gillard is worried about losing votes to the Greens, so has been slagging them off as “not understanding family values” (this is completely unrelated, of course, to the fact that Greens leader Bob Brown is gay).
Tony Abbott had the best comment on this “if they're so extreme, why are you in coalition with them?”
The Greens take the balance of power in the Australian Senate (which is not  at all like the House of Lords) in July.

Why do I tell you this soap opera? Well, partly because it's a soap opera. And to make the point thatthe politics of climate change in Australia have already toppled two party leaders. As I write this, the media is reporting that Turnbull has criticised Abbott's climate policies publicly. (Abbott's policies, so-called “direct action” amount to faith in technology and government subsidies for polluters, with households bearing the cost!)

Business as Usual

Meanwhile, business lobbies are split, as they are in the rest of the developed world. The most exposed sectors (the so-called “emissions-intensive trade-exposed” industries) are muttering about lost jobs and moving their businesses overseas (though they're less clear on how exactly you move a coal mine!)
Gillard is wooing the more “pro-action” sections of the Business Council of Australia (the Australian equivalent of the CBI) and asking them to speak up for her scheme

The Australian media is not doing a great job in reporting this, to put it mildly. The business press (I'm thinking specifically of the Australian Financial Review) is noticeably more partisan than the UK Financial Times which, while unabashedly pro-capitalist, eschews ideology-drench opinion dressed as news). The Murdoch press (The Australian, the (Melbourne) Sun-Herald, the (Sydney) Telegraph, the Adelaide Advertiser to name but the most embarrassing) is full of scare stories and denialist memes (which sits oddly with Newscorp’s proud boast of its carbon neutral status, and James Murdoch's much vaunted conviction that climate action is essential).

The main attention of political economic and media elites is at the moment focussed on the carbon tax, specifically on what price per tonne it would start at. (Analyses by the pro-renewables thinktank “Beyond Zero Emissions”  and the Climate Institute agree that a carbon price of anything less than 50 to 70 dollars a tonne would see at best a shift from coal to (“cleaner”) gas-fired power stations). A shift to 100% renewable energy in the next ten years is, according to BZE, both technologically and financially possible. But given the current parlous state of the climate movement in Australia, it does not seem politically possible.

Climate Movement soul-searching
The "treetops' climate outfits have banded together in a loose and issue-based coalition as the "POP Eleven"  (POP standing for Price on Pollution) to push for a carbon price.  There are, inevitably, tensions in that coalition, but for now they seem to be managing to keep their show on the road.

Meanwhile, the grassroots are pondering their place and their power. Two excellent pieces have recently been written by knowledgeable participants within the climate movement about the failures of climate activism. The first is by Holly Creenaune, a member of Friends of the Earth Sydney (much more radical and grassroots than the UK version).

In part she writes...

“Bad policy aside, it's the debate – or lack of it – that is the real problem. The public cannot participate in a discussion about a perfect price or the market that could work magic: the debate is inaccessible, ignores concerns about justice, and is not relevant to our daily lives. We've been stuck for decades in a media and policy vacuum of neoliberal market mechanisms and a contest over complex science. Real solutions, community voices, or the elephant in the room – our coal exports – are locked out. It suits government and industry to keep the debate on this limited terrain – but we desperately need to build a message and a movement that can reject false solutions like carbon trading, halt privatisation of energy infrastructure, and put forward new ideas.”

The second is by Anna Rose, one of the founders of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (a more mainstream lobbying outfit – sort of like “Stop Climate Chaos,” only effective.)

“But the time has come to be honest. We are failing because as a whole the Australian environment movement does not understand power, has not built power, and has failed to effectively exercise the power we have built.
"To win campaigns we have to make it harder for those in power to continue with business as usual than it is for them to give into our demands. Yet currently, it’s easier or politicians to continue with business as usual, and to give in to the demands of industry lobbyists from the coal, gas, mining, aluminium, cement and electricity generation industries — everyone, that is, except us.”
Meanwhile, the real elephant in the room, as Holly calls it, is the carbon in Australia's exports of coal (and liquified natural gas). These exports are set to expand rapidly in the coming decades. Legally, according to the UNFCCC, the emissions are the responsibility of the country that burns them. That argument is unsatisfactory to some, such as the direct action group Rising Tide Australia, which recently installed solar panels on the office of the Federal Climate Change Minister.
They're doing their best, but the issue is just not “thinkable” yet.

My predictions? 
Well, with the usual caveat that their value is extremely limited, I think that, barring accidents, some sort of tax/emissions trading scheme will come into play, but with so many loopholes and get-outs as to be useless (think the European ETS in its first phase). There will not be a shift away from coal – there is too much inertia in the political and economic and cultural systems for that.

The opposition will continue to make political capital out of it, and the denialists and culture warriors will not go away until the effects of climate change are literally undeniable.

Lastly, I don't see the climate movement reflecting and innovating and creating the forms of political and social pressure and space that make any other alternatives possible. On this last point I hope I am wrong, will act as if I am wrong, and try to act so that I make myself wrong.

See also

Guy Pearse Quarry Vision

Club Troppo

Larvatus Prodeo

Journal of Australian Political Economy issue 66 (December 2010)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Political picture of the day (second of two)

I'm told this was an electricians' demonstration this weekend in Mexico. I like the fact the motorcyclist has decided that this is a situation where he doesn't need to wear his helmet... I wonder if he thinks anything is *ever* dangerous enough for one?

Political picture of the day (one of two)

Every face in this picture is a treat, but I'm particularly keen on the school girl in the middle: she is just not impressed. Feel free to suggest captions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today's Misc

  • Sometimes it takes 36 years to clear your name. See George Davis.
  • I thought Cath Elliott's piece on the rape debate was one of the more thoughtful pieces.
  • For all the fury Clarke-gate created we seemed to miss things like the closure of domestic violence courts.
  • This piece on whether feisty women in film are making the world a better place is interesting.
  • Hangbitch writes on sexual abstinence.
  • It seems Boris Johnson has not been entirely truthful about UK Uncut. Tut, tut.

The right to know shit

I'll put something right upfront, one career opportunity I'd like to see disappear from the world has the job description 'fuck a famous person and then sell your story'. The press is a plague rat taking it's fetid filth from home to home, from brain to brain for no other purpose than it wants to sell units. If it ruins lives and destroys our culture at the same time, well it's the profit margin that matters isn't it?

Any law and any judge that gets in the way of printing the passing tittle tattle that is the bread and butter of press work has to be brought down. They have to be campaigned against because the untrammeled rights of the press have to trump things like common decency or a society that cares about the welfare of its members.

Now we have a vacuous MP joining in as an unpaid(?) lobbyist for the filth factory, using up valuable Parliamentary time to name someone everyone knew the name of already. John Hemming should step down and let someone who is interested in politics take his place in the House. Whilst Hemming took a malicious glee in naming a footballer whose privacy was protected by an injunction he could have been discussing Libya, climate change, the use we could put Obama's visit to or, God forbid, one of any number of pressing issues his constituents are facing.

No, not for Hemming the route of discussing changing legislation he appears to disagree with, he simply subverted it and in the process showed his utter contempt for the real lives of those involved.

For while there is a general issue around whether the press has the right to print anything it God damn pleases, no matter how vile and mendacious, there are also specific issues around this case which prompted the judge to grant an injunction in the first place. Hemming would have known this had he taken a moment to acquaint himself with the court judgment.

Let's pull out some salient points shall we? Do read the whole thing if you have time.

  1. On 14 April, News Group Newspapers Ltd was represented by leading counsel, Mr Richard Spearman QC, who did not oppose the grant of an injunction over the short interval before the return date. Ms Thomas was not represented, and indeed had not been notified of the hearing, since on the evidence I was satisfied that there would otherwise have been a risk of further disclosure of private or confidential information prior to her being served with the order.
  2. The Claimant's witness statement was to the effect that Ms Thomas had made contact with him by various text messages in March, which led him to conclude that she was at that stage thinking of selling her story, such as it was. She told him by this means that she wanted, or "needed", a payment from him of £50,000. It was against this background that he agreed (he says with some reluctance) to meet her in a hotel where he was staying in early April of this year in order to discuss her demands. Although he had no wish to meet, he eventually agreed because he was concerned that she would go to the newspapers if he refused. On that occasion, which was according to his evidence only the fourth time they had met, they were together for no more than 30 minutes. She had asked him to provide her with a signed football shirt, which he did, but he told her that he was not prepared to pay her the sum of £50,000.
  3. The next development was that she asked to see him again, in a different hotel, a few days later (where he was also staying). He agreed with reluctance and on this occasion, as she had requested, provided her with some football tickets.
  4. It now seems that the Claimant may well have been "set up" so that photographs could be taken of Ms Thomas going to one or other, or both, of the hotels. Although the position is not yet by any means clear, the evidence before me on 14 April appeared to suggest that Ms Thomas had arranged the hotel rendezvous in collaboration with photographers and/or journalists. He first began to "smell a rat" when she told him at the first April meeting, perhaps feigning innocence, that she had been followed and recognised when she visited the first hotel.
  5. On 12 April, the Claimant sent Ms Thomas a message to say that he did not want any further contact with her. Then, in something of a quandary, he thought better of it and sent her a further message the following day. This was to convey to her that he might be willing to pay her some money after all. By this time, however, she made it clear that she was looking for £100,000. She later texted him to say that there was a journalist outside her house.
  6. The evidence before the court at that point, therefore, appeared strongly to suggest that the Claimant was being blackmailed (although that is not how he put it himself). I hasten to add, as is obvious, that I cannot come to any final conclusion about it at this stage. I have to make an assessment of the situation on the limited (and untested) evidence as it now stands. (That is what is required by s.12(3) of the Human Rights Act, to which I shall return shortly.)
  7. Ms Thomas made contact with the Claimant again on 13 April and asked him to call her. When he spoke to her, he formed the impression that she had someone with her – probably a journalist. At all events, she told him that The Sun was thinking of publishing a story to the effect that they had had an affair for some six months and that this account would be supported by photographs of her at or near the hotels where the April visits had taken place. She did not give any indication that she herself was in any way responsible for this. It is hardly likely that she would have done so, of course, if she was still hoping to extract money from the Claimant. It seems, nevertheless, that The Sun was ready to take advantage of these prearranged meetings in order to be able to put forward the claim that it was The Sun which had found him "romping with a busty Big Brother babe". This was no doubt to give the impression, which Ms Thomas herself may have fostered, that a sexual liaison between them was still continuing at the time of the two hotel rendezvous in April.
  8. At all events, it seems probable that she had agreed at some point to contribute to the story in The Sun that was published in its issue for 14 April (i.e. prior to the hearing of the injunction application). It is thus ironic that Ms Thomas has subsequently complained of the court's supposed unfairness in according anonymity to the Claimant but not to her. She was already identified, apparently of her own volition, before any application was made to the court. It seemed to me that the Claimant was fully entitled to the protection of anonymity at the time he came before the court on the first occasion – not least for the reasons acknowledged and explained by the Court of Appeal in JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2011] 2 All ER 324 at [40]...
  9. The courts are required to carry out a balancing exercise between competing Convention rights, as was always overtly acknowledged by the government prior to the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998. It was, for example, explained by the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, when the bill was before the House of Lords on 24 November 1997 (Hansard, HL Debates, Col.785). He said that any privacy law developed by the judges following the enactment would be a better law because they would have to balance and have regard to both Article 8 and Article 10 (as indeed has been happening over the last decade). When the statute came into effect in October 2000, it explicitly required the courts to take into account Strasbourg jurisprudence when discharging those responsibilities.
  10. Despite this long history, it has for several years been repeatedly claimed in media reports that courts are "introducing a law of privacy by the back door". Yet the principles have long been open to scrutiny. They are readily apparent from the terms of the Human Rights Act, and indeed from the content of the European Convention itself. Furthermore, they were clearly expounded seven years ago in two decisions of the House of Lords which was, of course, at that time the highest court in this jurisdiction: Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] 2 AC 457 and Re S (A Child) [2005] 1 AC 593.
  11. Since those decisions were promulgated in 2004, the law has been loyally applied by the courts in a wide variety of circumstances and exhaustively explained in numerous appellate judgments. In particular, there are a number of important decisions of the Court of Appeal in addition to those I have already mentioned: see Douglas v Hello! Ltd (No 3) [2006] QB 125; McKennitt v Ash [2008] QB 73; HRH Prince of Wales v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2008] Ch 57; Lord Browne of Madingley v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2008] QB 103; and Murray v Express Newspapers [2009] Ch 481. This does not purport to be an exhaustive list, but it will suffice to establish beyond doubt the legal framework within which the courts are required to operate on applications of this kind. It is widely known that the House of Lords refused permission to appeal with regard to each of the last four cases I have listed. This can only, surely, have been on the basis that it was by that stage recognised that the principles were sufficiently clearly established.
  12. The majority of cases over the last few years, in which the courts have had to apply those principles, would appear to be of the so called "kiss and tell" variety and they not infrequently involve blackmailing threats. Blackmail is, of course, a crime and in that context the courts have long afforded anonymity to those targeted as a matter of public policy. That has not hitherto been questioned. In the modern context, against the background of the Human Rights Act, it is equally clear that the courts have an obligation to afford remedies to such individuals, to discourage blackmailers and to give some protection in respect of personal or private information where there is a threat of revelation...
  13. I have to consider whether there would be a legitimate public interest in the revelation of this particular information, in so far as it is not already in the public domain, and whether publication would contribute to "a debate of general interest", in the sense conveyed by the European Court of Human Rights in such cases as Von Hannover v Germany (2005) 40 EHRR 1. Would it help to achieve some legitimate social purpose, such as the prevention or detection of crime? Or again, echoing the terminology of the Press Complaints Commission Code, would publication in some way prevent the public from being seriously misled?
  14. As in so many "kiss and tell" cases, it seems to me that the answer, at stage two, is not far to seek. Indeed, it was not even argued that publication would serve the public interest...
  15. ... It has recently been re-emphasised by the Court in Strasbourg that the reporting of "tawdry allegations about an individual's private life" does not attract the robust protection under Article 10 afforded to more serious journalism. In such cases, "freedom of expression requires a more narrow interpretation": Mosley v UK (App. No. 48009/08), 10 May 2011, BAILII: [2011] ECHR 774, at [114].
So, the paper did not argue, in fact could not argue, that this story was in the public interest and the court had the concern that there was potentially evidence of a blackmail plot. Well done Hemming, you may have just publicly facilitated a blackmailer. Twat.

As Burd argues today "For everyone to make this case the cause celebre of all that is wrong with the system is misguided.  There is no public interest here;  this particular footballer has always been an intensely private individual;  the court papers suggest less than fragrant behaviour by the woman involved who appears to have colluded with the media to try and create a story worthy of their attention;  and he has never created a public persona based on his private personage.

"I couldn’t even tell you how many children he has or what his wife’s name is, such is the low profile he has given his family throughout his career. This is entirely the wrong case upon which to demonstrate that the law is an ass and to try to tease out the balance between article 10 (the right to freedom of expression) and article 8 (the right to private and family life)."

However I don't agree this is the wrong case. It is entirely the right case to show that the law is there for a good reason. Where it is used to prevent actual news getting out it needs fixing, but the row over this story shows absolutely clearly that the press are not interested in reporting the news they are only interested in salacious gossip no matter who it hurts, and no matter whether it is substantially true or not. We should have laws to prevent this kind of reporting.

It's also worth noting, as Jennie does, that this is not judges running wild inventing laws but judges making perfectly coherent decisions based on the laws that are in place. If there is something wrong with those laws let's change them, but sweet Jesus let's not change the law to allow the press the power to destroy the lives of footballers.

Right now there is a war being waged to grant the press the power to pry into any aspect of any one's life and print half truths about them for a momentary flash of titillation. Some people have leaped into the fray to enjoy sticking two fingers up to the law with a warm glow that's it's all being done in the name of high principle. I think these people have chosen the wrong side with the best of motives - but I'd like them to reconsider.

We need to challenge the power of the press in the country, not act as its outriders. Until they demonstrate a willingness to exercise that power responsibility we should be holding them to account and limitting their influence. That's my view anyway, but then again I'm sick of the lies, the blackmail, the corruption and the foul influence the press have on our political system.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Selected items

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Some selected links on Ken Clarke, etc.

  • Top Soil is a consistently excellent blog. Today they have a post keeping it clear on date rape.
  • Sunny points out that getting tough on crime is a Tory trap.
  • The Fawcett Society on why the government must be clear on rape.
  • The Guardian editorial calls for Ken Clarke to stay. Well worth reading.
  • Unity has a really useful piece on the simple facts Clarke got wrong.
  • Jenny Rigg has a poll examining the issues on the whole affair.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Those Scottish Elections: the essay

I know I'm a bit slow with this as I get the blog back on track but I thought I'd give a very quick overview of the Scottish elections. The headline, of course, was the amazing landslide for the Scottish National Party which, for those outside of Scotland, is essentially an alternative social democratic party to Labour, without the baggage of murder and government and at liberty to put political ideas independent of a Westminster agenda.

Whilst that does not mean the SNP is immune from exactly the same neo-liberal and reactionary pressures that Labour is prone to it is able to, for example, oppose trident and nuclear power or propose a tax on supermarkets in a way that Labour seem utterly unable to. Indeed I even voted SNP on the constituency ballot (where the Greens did not stand) in order to help displace the complacent Labour incumbent.

We could go into the SNP's deficiencies at length - but frankly that would be both boring and churlish in the face of their historic victory gaining a majority of seats under a system that was specifically designed to stop them doing just that.

How did they do it? Well, they certainly had a strong well-financed campaign, although I wont go as far as some to call it a work of genius. To a large extent it was achieved through the miserable state of the opposition and the ability to gain real momentum off the back of that. There were few people who voted on the 5th that had any illusion about whether the SNP would be forming the next government or not, but if we look back to January we see the polls were predicting a comfortable Labour victory... that lead was lost by Labour rather than overcome by the SNP.

Labour's campaign

Labour did so badly that they lost key Glasgow seats leaving them in a minority in the city... yes, Labour a minority in GLASGOW. Unthinkable.

Much has been made of the dismal and lacklustre Iain Gray, Labour's Scottish leader. It certainly has little to do with Ed Miliband, as he barely figured in the Scottish campaign, with the entire weight of responsibility placed on the shoulders of a man determined to do an uninspired impression of a sack of potatoes. But frankly Labour chose him so they can't be absolved of responsibility no matter how much their candidates complained of the terrible campaign.

Labour's vision for Scotland seemed to consist of refusing to think about any alternative to cuts and mandatory prison sentences for carrying a knife. I guess that combination of authoritarianism and abandonment of public services is nothing new but in a field where voters actually had an alternative non-Tory party of government it just would not wash.

I was stunned by Labour's refusal to even talk about tackling the cuts in any meaningful way. There wasn't even any hot and meaningless rhetoric, which could have gone down pretty nicely had Labour wanted to win, which I guess they didn't.

There were two turning points of note for me. Way back when Labour had the lead the SNP proposed a 'Tesco tax' on the 1% richest companies in order to offset public sector cuts. It was a good proposal universally opposed by Labour and the Coalition Parties prompting a widespread feeling that Labour et al were simply voting in the interests of their major donors.

The feeling that Labour were in the pockets of the rich was further entrenched by the fact their argument against the Tesco Tax was that this was a 'tax on jobs'. If they wanted to look identical to the Tories they were doing a fine job and I would not have been surprised if they'd come out with the 'trickle down effect' soon after. It was from that week that Labour started to flag in the polls.

The second turning point, which was far less avoidable, was when Iain Gray was confronted by anti-cuts protesters. It's a difficult situation to handle and I have *some* sympathy with Gray over this, but his choice to turn tail and hide in a sandwich shop became an overnight legend which genuinely started to define Labour's campaigning style, run away from anything difficult. People still raise this minor incident today, and it may well become Gray's legacy.

For me more symbolic of Gray's shambolic election was the less known incident from when Alex Salmond was doing a photoshoot in a supermarket, the way you do on the election trail. As the assembled press and journos directed their attention to the big man who should walk in by chance but Iain Gray. He weakly waved and then ambled off to the lavatory. It sums the man's political career up for me.

But herein lies the danger for Labour. They desperately need to do some soul searching and the temptation to blame Miliband for not doing enough or Gray for being rubbish has got to be overwhelming. However I think that would be a mistake. Labour lost because they had nothing to say, not who was delegated to not say it. Be nice to supermarkets, be frightened of independence and give more powers to the police simply did not resonate with the electorate, and why would it? Why not turn to a Scottish party that had been careful to play down any dangerous thoughts on Scottish autonomy.

What about the Tories and Lib Dems?

Whilst the Tories did not have a great night the utter rout of the Lib Dems is the big news. All three Westminster parties saw their leaders resign in the wake of the election result which is probably inevitable but quite what Goldie or Scott were meant to do with the hand life had dealt them God alone knows. At least the Tories ran an honest and clear campaign with a leader who was happy to look the electorate in the eye and tell them 'hard truths', even if I don't think they're true.

Tavish Scott, the leader of the Lib Dems on the other hand seemed utterly flummoxed by the whole thing and given a complete absence of anything useful to say seemed to drift as much as Labour. He tried to distance himself from the national Coalition but without any meaningful policy difference this just looked shifty and dishonest.

The flagship policy of the Scottish Lib Dems was even worse than Labour's lock up those carrying knives. It was opposition to merging Scottish police forces. The majority of the electorate probably didn't even know there wasn't a single Scottish police force, let alone felt particular concerned about whether it was merged. It was totemic of their campaign that they chose as their lead campaigning issue an obscure piece of admin.

The only other significant campaign issue raised from the yellow team was on refinancing the debt of Scottish Water. As the only newsworthy economic issue they raised it was both complicated and reeked of privatisation. However the main problem with it was for a party that justifies drastic cuts in public services on the basis that we're in too much debt suggesting we get into more debt seems just the tiniest bit incoherent and, well, opportunist.

Not for the first time I was left thinking that even Lib Dem members deserve a better leadership than this. My local constituency candidate Alex Cole-Hamilton could not have campaigned harder if he'd hired an army of clones to go door knocking with him. The man was a Stakonovite of historic proportions in a campaign he must have known that he'd be crushed in. I genuinely feel very sorry for the guy. I must be going soft in my dotage.

Alison Johnstone and Patrick Harvie launch the Manifesto
And then there's the Greens

The polls consistently put the Green Party on between six and eight MSPs which always seemed a touch fanciful to me - although I had hoped for an increase. In the end it was not to be, the increase in the Scottish Green Party vote was not enough to see the SGP do more than hold onto their seats (with only the Highlands and Islands seat close to an extra win, being just a few hundred votes away from electing Eleanor Scott).

Personally I think for a small party to get noticed enough and taken seriously enough to maintain their seats whilst all other parties were swept before the tartan steamroller is actually an impressive result. Increasing our vote under these circumstances was a real achievement, but many were understandably disappointed.

With a strong media campaign and good professional approach to the campaign many members felt that this was the best SGP campaign that they could remember, although whether they'd all characterise our message as hard-left as the Scotsman did is debatable.

Certainly the Party focused on raising revenue to protect services and jobs. This gave our candidates something unique to say on hustings and in the press quite distinct from the other parties in Holyrood. It was good that the press focused on our economic policies, showing we were being taken seriously, and to my mind it is this reason that we were able to hold our ground - but in the future we need to ensure we have strong enough ground campaigns to deliver more MSPs in difficult elections as well as when the wind is going in our direction.

The others

The hard-left parties saw no resurgence in their fortunes and are sadly a shadow of their former selves. I saw one SSP candidate describe the idea of a rainbow Parliament at a hustings and to be honest that's what I would like to see, a real diversity of opinion represented (although not at the cost of the Greens, obviously!).

I was pleased that the Scottish Socialist Party polled almost three times higher than the morally bankrupt Solidarity and I hope that means they will be able to play a useful role in Scottish politics in the future. Sadly they did not out poll the Socialist Labour Party, a non-existent party who gain almost all of their votes from people who vote for them by mistake instead of the Scottish Labour Party.

Even though I love him dearly, I was also pleased that George Galloway was a long way off winning a seat in Glasgow. To be honest he doesn't live in Scotland, knows nothing about how Holyrood works, nor does he seem particularly interested in it. He's not qualified and the electorate knew it.

His hyperbolic intervention in the growing football tensions were particular unwelcome I thought and I'd far rather see a more thoughtful socialist like Colin Fox in place as an MSP than a walking megaphone like Galloway.

The far-right continue to be a non-existent force in Scotland and political Christianity, which tends to focus on the hell fire stuff rather than the love one another business, continued to languish at 0.1%. Maybe if they focused on the hugging more than the smiting they might poll a little better, who knows?

When the dust cleared it was clear we are in a new situation with the prospect of independence on the cards and Holyrood's first majority rule. I'm really pleased for Patrick and Alison, our two Green MSPs, and disappointed for those excellent candidates who didn't make it - but elected or no there are still important issues to be campaigning on and I think we're in a good position to do that.

New blogs

I've not welcomed any new blogs recently (even if they aren't always technically 'new' except to me);

If you're blogging and you think I haven't 'noticed' you yet, feel free to leave a comment to let me know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Selected good news items

It's been a while - so let's catch up with some good news;

  • Ali Dizaei has been released from prison. I've been following his case for some time and am convinced Mr Dizaei has been the victim of a systematic injustice at the hands of his former employer, the Metropolitan Police. I couldn't be happier although I have little hope those responible will be brought to book.
  • Six other men have been released from jail because they were, well, innocent. They've been locked up since September for plotting to kill the Pope, even  though they didn't.
  • Alisdair Thompson who was arrested on a UKUncut demonstration in Edinburgh is out of pokey and safe and well. His crime. Carrying a banner. No, really.
  • The Indian elections have seen a big movement forward in terms of women's representation.
  • At least someone has some sense over Madeline McCann. Jenny Jones talks sense.
  • Credit where it's due the government has done something good by preventing vulture funds using UK courts against developing world countries.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Top YES to AV votes... notice anything?

Here are the ten areas with the strongest YES to AV vote... notice anything about them?

Hackney 60.68%
Glasgow Kelvin 58.78%
Islington 56.92%
Haringey 56.62%
Lambeth 54.69%
Cambridge 54.32%
Oxford 54.11%
Southwark 52.73%
Camden 51.4%
Edinburgh Central 51.36%

Well, I'll give you a hint... the Lib Dem and Labour vote are pretty variable across these ten, urban areas. Hackney is a strong Labour seat, Glasgow has just been rocked by the SNP and Cambridge is Lib Dem, for example.

However, they are all areas where the Greens either have councillors or, in the case of London, had councillors until the dual general election /council election last year.

Interesting... just to note I think this is about demographics not the spectacularness of the Green Party's contribution to the YES campaign which was vigorous in places like Camden and Islington and almost non-existent in Edinburgh and Glasgow as there were other things on our minds!

Holyrood two sworn in and official

This morning I attended the swearing in of the two new Green MSPs at Holyrood. The experienced and battle hardened Patrick Harvie (Glasgow, pictured) and the fresh faced and bushy-tailed Alison Johnstone (Lothians). I will admit to *almost* crying but swear to all mighty Jehoshaphat that not one drop of saline solution touched my manly cheek.

LPW has an interesting piece on the role these rituals play in society and comments that one of the most interesting things for him is spotting the embarrassing middle names. For me the high point of the proceedings was when the Proclaimers walked onto the balcony to watch the show. I may have let out the subtlest of squeals of delight. But no one noticed, it's ok.

Marco Biagi, SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central, looked super cool as he took the oath in Italian (the first to do so perhaps?) and the mighty Alex rounded off one session of swearing ins by literally throwing a flower up into the expectant balcony - how's that for a curtain call?

Sadly no one had anything written on the their hands or made any ultra-embarrassing pre-oath remarks although Labour's Neil Findley prefaced his oath with a statement that his loyalty was to the people of Scotland and was taking the formal oath as a legal requirement not a binding pact with the Queen. I rather liked that.

Anyway, it was all very reminiscent of a graduation ceremony with family and friends dressed up to the nines to watch their loved ones receive their little certificate they'd been working for all these years. I'm not generally a fan of these formalised moments, but I was keen to attend today and was glad I did, it feels like a nice rounding off of my Scottish adventure.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Guest Post: How close were the Scottish Greens to more MSPs?

Jeff from Better Nation kindly consented to write a guest post on how close the Greens were in Scotland to getting more MSPs. I think the facts, as presented here, are useful if a little depressing.

My shared home blog Better Nation is regularly pinned as a 'Green blog', something that I am certainly comfortable with and I know that my fellow Editors there were bummed at the lack of a surge in Patrick Harvie's bloc of MSPs, as I was.

As only a member of the GPEW, it's not really my place to say where, if anywhere, the Scottish Greens went wrong in this campaign, they were after all the only party other than the SNP to increase their share of the vote. So, I decided to take a dispassionate look at each of the regions and see where the Greens might have fared better with a few more votes or, perhaps, constituencies falling elsewhere.

CENTRAL (0 Green MSPs)

The SNP took the 7th regional spot here, winning its third list MSP.

The Greens were 6,395 votes away from taking that 7th regional spot and were behind Labour, the Tories, the SNP and even the Senior Citizens Party. Put another way, the Greens were miles off winning a seat in Central and it was never a likely place for a gain.


I had tipped this to be a potential region where the Greens could have picked up two spots but, alas, it wasn't to be. In what will prove to be something of a theme, it was the SNP who took the 7th spot here, their 3rd regional MSP on top of the 5 FPTP victories. Patrick Harvie took the 3rd ranking spot and the Greens were 3,193 votes away from getting a second, behind both Labour and the SNP but, interestingly, not behind the Lib Dems as the Greens successfully managed to poll more than double the yellows in Glasgow.

Changing the constituency wins between Labour and the SNP doesn't make it more likely for the Greens to get any closer either. Indeed, making Labour win every constituency would mean the SNP would take the first six ranking spots and Patrick would take the seventh.


Yes, you guessed it, the SNP took the 7th regional spot here too but the Green candidate, co-convener Eleanor Scott, was a slender 877 votes behind the SNP and 494 votes behind Labour in the race for that 7th spot.

If the SNP had won one of Orkney or Shetland then the Greens would have moved ahead of the SNP in the pecking order by 108 votes. Changing the Labour and SNP constituency seats does not have an impact
as any FPTP win is automatically replaced with another list seat with no impact on the calculations for that 7th spot.

This was as close as the Greens came to getting that 3rd MSP.


Edinburgh has always been a happy hunting ground for the Greens and it was unclear to what extent that was a personal vote for Robin Harper. However, Alison Johnstone was returned easily enough this time around
despite the threat of Margo Macdonald hoovering up much of the non-mainstream vote. Alison won her seat in Round 4 of the d'hondt allocations.

The Greens were 5,757 votes away from the Conservatives who took the 7th seat in this region but were also 4,835 votes behind the Lib Dems, 3,356 votes behind Labour and 1,575 votes behind the SNP so they
really weren't getting a look in. The Lib Dems or Conservatives winning a seat here and there might have helped but in truth the SNP and Labour vote share were just too high again with the Greens falling short.


The SNP took the 7th regional spot here, winning their only regional MSP with it too. The Greens were 2,008 votes away from taking it. Again, changing the constituency wins would have no impact here as
seats won/lost by the SNP are just replaced on the list.


Similar story to MSF, the SNP took their only regional MSP on the 7th allocation. The Greens were 2,388 votes short and were also behind the Tories and Labour in the queue to take an MSP. Very unfortunate to not see Dr Martin Ford at Holyrood.

SOUTH (0 Green MSPs)

The SNP again took the 7th regional spot here and the Greens were 5,627 votes short (from a total number of votes won of 8,656). The Greens were also behind Labour and the Tories in the fight for that seat so were always outsiders to win a seat in this region.

WEST (0 Green MSPs)

Labour finally take a 7th regional spot, pipping the SNP by only 185 votes. The Greens were 4,804 votes short.

So, all in all, depressing reading and it will be a painful review that the Green party will have to embark on in order to understand how a radical alternative manifesto and a collapsing Lib Dem vote did not deliver gains. It is a shame that there is not even any real opportunity of analysis on switching constituency wins to see to what
extent that may have helped the Greens win, they simply didn't have enough votes to be in the hunt.

The simple problem was that the SNP took far too much of the vote.

Under a true PR system, the Greens with their 4.4% national vote share would have been entitled to 6 MSPs, thrice what they have now. But sadly there is effectively a 6.67% de minimis limit as there are typically 16 MSP slots available in each region.

My only advice to the Greens, albeit hollow as they appear to be doing it already, is to be the main line of defence against local decisions that go against the party's ethos. From Aberdeen parks through Edinburgh trams to Glasgow University cuts, the Greens were there but regional strategies to compliment a national strategy is, for me, the way ahead.

One final thought, because I'm nothing if not ornery - Patrick Harvie said he didn't go into Politics to sit in a group of two, and yet that is what he shall be doing for the next five years. Will those words come back to haunt him? I do hope that Patrick continues to value his place in the Parliament even if he doesn't have the numbers he has been wishing for. Scotland needs a strong, vibrant Green party, even if the nation doesn't always realise it at election time!

Six Simple Lessons From the AV referendum

Now the dust is settling I thought I'd quickly summarise the lessons from the AV campaign for the next referendum (!). As always in politics there are things we can influence and things we cannot, but we have to take it all into account.

  • Ask the right question:

    The last time we had a referendum in this country it was on a burning question that the public cared passionately about. This time we had a referendum on something that most of the public didn't even know existed before the campaign began.

    If you have to explain what your campaigning for, before you explain why, you've already started at a disadvantage. It gave the no campaign the opportunity to just shake their heads and say 'this all looks terribly complicated'.

  • Context:

    There's no denying it but many people voted no in order to punish the Lib Dems. As many Lib Dems are beginning to understand there is no anti-coalition vote, but an anti-Lib Dem vote. The referendum was inextricably bound up with the Liberal Democrats and as the election results show their brand is now thoroughly toxic, contaminating anything it touches.

    The campaign, which was largely run by the Lib Dems, looked, felt, smelt and tasted Lib Dem even down to dodgy statistics and hectoring insistence that people HAD to vote for AV. This was a massive mistake allowing the Lib Dems to run the campaign who were responsible for setting the utterly mistaken tone, but then again who else wanted it?

  • Win over the opposition don't entrench them:

    Much time and effort was spent in the yes camp attempting to win people to the idea that AV would exclude the Tories from government. That's a bad reason to vote for AV as it a) ties a permanent change to temporary political conditions and b) hardly sounds like a more democratic system if it's designed to exclude a large, significant party.

    Strategically it was a disaster though. Whilst the no campaign successful managed to persuade large numbers of Labour supporters to vote no, the yes campaign effectively spent time and energy convincing Tories that it was not in their interests to vote yes. You cannot win a majority whilst going out of your way to ensure that one in three voters will definitely vote against you.

  • Focus on the public not your rivals:

    YouGov asked was the no campaign dishonest?
    For the last months you couldn't turn around for seeing a yes campaigner miserably slagging off the no campaign. Over and over again we were subjected to bitching about how negative the no campaign were, while the no campaign focused on it's simple message that if you win the most votes you should win the seat.

    YouGov asked was the yes campaign honest?
    Instead of focusing on why the electorate were going to vote no the yes campaign focused on the argument that the no campaigners were horrid. Having associated no voters with nasty bugbear Nick Griffin, winner of the most Parliamentary seats David Cameron and the living dead, no voters tired of being insulted and rejected the yes campaign.

  • It's a political argument not a technical one:

    When yes campaigners threatened to use ASA or the courts or the electoral commission to get their way they inadvertently sent out the message that they couldn't win the political argument. Instead of making the positive case for a change that many of them never asked for they focused on whether the no campaign were right on the cost of the change, the fact the no campaign had more financial backing and legal manouvers.

    People don't warm to campaigners who try to use the courts to silence their opponents, and they care even less for those who unsuccessfully try to do so.
  • Make your case:

    Despite protestations to the contrary the NO campaign made their case. It was simple and effective and took one or two sentences to articulate. The YES campaign, when they took time off from slating their opponents, made a meal out of explaining AV and tended towards a series of unsupported assertions (like AV dealing with overblown expenses or that the system would make MPs work harder).

    A large proportion of the public were left unconvinced that they understood the case for AV, let alone whether they agreed with it or not. That time spent threatening the rival campaign with legal action could have been more usefully employed talking to the public about why this reform no one had been asking for was the right reform to adopt.
The NO campaign organisers were not geniuses nor paragons of virtue, I believe they could have been beaten. Certainly there were sincere campaigners who argued honestly and effectively, but they were let down by their leadership. Both sides deserved better and the nation deserved a higher level of discussion during our second ever UK wide referendum.

Most of all we deserved a referendum on a reform that millions have actually been calling for and that the public understand. The fight for proportional representation goes on but thankfully AV is now off the agenda for a generation.