Going down, the UK’s reputation

Going down, the UK’s reputation

Transparency International report that the UK drops five places, in their Corruption Perceptions Index. Daniel Bruce, their CEO, blames  public procurement corruption, the questionable and partisan decisions on the levelling up fund grants, the multiple breaches of the ministerial code, and the growing visibility of cash for peerages and the crony funding of the Tory Party.

Daniel Bruce’s comments do not mention the reputation of the Police which will have fallen given the proven criminality in the Police, its growing reputation of a return to institutional racism to which they can now add misogyny as illustrated by the harsh policing of the Sarah Everard vigil, herself a victim of illegal police violence, and the dismissal of the Met Police commissioner for losing the confidence of the Mayor. We can also add their persistent failure to satisfactorily pursue Johnson over the Arcuri affair, other issues of corruption at City Hall and even the slow progress on Partygate.

The last time I looked at this, I said, “ Prof. Daniel Hough also finds it strange that we score so well but observes that TI are mostly interested in public sector corruption and so the cesspit that is the City of London’s money laundromat and the secrecy of the London property markets do not count against the UK’s score.” …

Maths at 18

Maths at 18

Sunak has proposed that Maths should be taught to 18. I think this ambition i.e. of better equipping people to understand data and draw conclusions needs redesign earlier in the curriculum and would be informed by a study in the UK’s failure to adopt the Baccalaureate. Some say that they’ll need more [and better paid] teachers, which they seem unwilling to fund. I think this is just revisiting failed reforms of the last half century. I seem to remember some nonsense in the 70’s about scientists in the Civil Service, and after a bit of looking around came upon this review of the Fulton Report; it made little difference.

A common question has been how much have I used my A level and 1st year graduate statistics education. The answer is a bit. Linear & Quadratic correlation has been useful a couple of times, queuing theory at least once, and I had to mug up some hypothesis testing for that one project I did using 6 sigma. More than most maybe. Although at least once, my then manager’s own poor statistical education led to him putting it in the bin, because he didn’t have the confidence to sell the results.

Simon Pegg on twitter is more succinct and sweary in his defence of the need for arts.

When doing the 6-sigma project I discovered that many of the distribution tables needed to perform the statistical tests were encapsulated in costly software. I amused myself by bringing in my uni. text book, which had the distributions printed but which was older than many of my colleagues. They had remained useful, the tables that is, and I still have the book on my book shelf.

For my foreign audience, in the UK, students from 16-18 study 3-5 subjects often reducing their subjects studied at the end of the 1st year. There isn’t really room to push Maths into that time table if a student has made otherwise sensible contiguous choices. This is supported imposed by the Universities who claim that early specialisation leads to our graduates being better qualified at the end of the first degree. I suspect that most US university academics would disagree, For my British readers, the early specialisation, at 16, is unusual, with other countries using other curriculum design techniques to provide a broad 16-18 education. Also the fact of a Prime Minster in the 21st Century educated at University in Greek and Latin must have been a source of amusement to the French graduates of the Ecole National d’Administration, an amusement enlarged by calling it Greats!

All this on the day when Starmer flags his second thoughts on Labour’s promise of abolishing student tuition fees.  …

Polling Leads over time

Labour’s current lead in the polls is suggesting that there will be a Labour landslide at the next election but I made a chart of the polling history of Westminster election intentions since 1984. This is an attempt to put this in historical context.

The history of UK Polling data for Westminster elections; from 1984

As of today Labour would seem at elections to underperform its polling results. Some say this is down to low turnout.

I was interested answering two questions, the first is that no Party with such a large polling lead has ever lost the following election. This would seem to be false. Johnson threw away a huge lead and while it took Blair over two parliaments, his lead fell from a max of 39% to -14%. Only Blair and Johnson have had leads over 20%. Only Major, Brown and Sunak have increased their party’s polling lead. The other question is about whether the allegation that Corbyn was substantially less popular than Labour deserved.

I have made an Open-Hi-Lo-Close chart of the PM’s leads and added Corbyn. To truly understand if Corbyn was worse than others, I’d have to show the other Labour leaders.

To remind us how to read these charts, if the entry is black, then the lead fell, the opening value is the top of the box, and the close value the bottom. If the box is white, then the value increased and the open value is the bottom of the box, and the final lead the top of the box. The lines above and below the box illustrate the high and low values, which in the case of Truss and Sunak are the same as the open/close values. Blair’s high number above the opening value was achieved on day one, and illustrates the difference between the poll and the general election vote. (I wish I could add red and blue colours to the chart, but it’s a restriction on the tool.) I’d say Corbyn while not good, was not appalling at least that’s what the number’s say, although he had become an issue by 2019.

It seems that Redfield and Wilton have also produced a chart, but only for the last 18 months. These numbers come from my interpretation of politico.eu’s poll tracker, using the Guardian ICM numbers from 1984 to 2016. My spreadsheet is here. …

On Labour Conference representation for CLPs

On Labour Conference representation for CLPs

At Conference 2022, the rules on CLP representation was changed and this will impact representation at regional conferences too.

This is Rule, C3.I.1.B which now says, (non-italics is the new text, strikethrough is deleted,)

Delegates duly appointed by CLPs to the number of one delegate for the first 749 individual members in the constituency or part thereof paying their membership dues as of 31 December in the previous year, and one further delegate for every additional 250 individual members in the constituency or part thereof. No CLP shall be represented by more than 6 delegates in any given year. CLPs must also have paid any outstanding insurance premiums and other levies due before their delegation shall be accepted. To increase the representation of women at Party conference, at least every second delegate from a CLP shall be a woman; where only one delegate is appointed this must be a woman at least in every other year. In a year where a CLP is required to send a female delegate, following a male delegate in the preceding year, but is unable to find one, they will not be entitled to send a man as delegate. In the following year, permission may be granted to send a male delegate if they demonstrate to the conference arrangements committee that they have made every effort to seek a woman delegate.

Labour Rules C3.I.1.B

Paragraph C, the next rule says, bold is my emphasis.

Where the individual women’s membership in a constituency is 100 or more, an additional woman delegate may be appointed. Where the individual Young Labour membership in a constituency is 30 or more an additional delegate under the age of 27 may be appointed.

Labour Rules C3.I.1.C

I say, the woman and youth delegates are additional, so the maximum delegation size is 8, , which a CLP become entitled to at 2000 members, if they have 100 women and 30 young people. Also note that the representation rule is mathematically one delegate per 250 members.

This, “at least every second delegate from a CLP shall be a woman” is nonsense, the number of women to be elected depends on whether the number to be elected is odd, or not, and whether the first delegate elected is a woman or not.

Source: CAC 1/2022

You might like to see, Labour Conference: Delegate &-member power which looks at how representative the hand vote is, and Delegates to Conference, which explores the meaning of the conference representation rule in terms of gender quotas, both articles on my wiki. …

New Britain, new Britcon

New Britain, new Britcon

Gordon Brown’s Commission on the constitution of the UK has finished its report. Much of the press focus on the proposal to abolish/reform the House of Lords but it is much more comprehensive than that. I originally wondered if in its way it is as ambitious as the Chilean constitution that failed to win approval in 2022. On reading it fully I conclude that it is not. They do however, propose a new constitution, with entrenched individual rights, of health, education and housing and a duty of the state to ensure no-one is poor. For all their controversy in this country, these rights are commonplace around the world.

Brown introduces his Commission’s report in the Guardian, saying,

… our key insight is that in order to build economic prosperity across the United Kingdom and alleviate fast-rising poverty, political reform is a necessity. Any economic plan will fail unless the right powers are in the right places in the hands of the right people. The goal of an irreversible transfer of wealth, income and opportunity to working families across the United Kingdom is dependent upon the irreversible transfer of political power closer to the people.

As ever, there’s nothing wrong with Brown’s mind or instincts.

I have now read the proposals for reform and made copious notes, and ask myself how useful this is. For those who think that constitutional reform is not relevant to progressive politics, I’d remind them that Blair’s first  administration made major changes to the British Constitution, introducing devolution for Scotland & Wales, signing the Good Friday Agreement, re-established city wide government in London, and passing the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act, they also reduced the number of hereditary peers to 92 but failed after two attempts to abolish the unelected Houe of Lords having been accused of like today’s Tories selling peerages.

Richard Murphy, in a blog article with which I basically agree criticises the lack of ambition and principle on both Proportional Representation & the rights of self-determination of the Nations of the UK. Despite this the report is more ambitious than its critics and commentators allow. I have four points to make.

  1. The problem is parliamentary sovereignty. Any reforms made by Parliament can be undone by Parliament. How do we entrench such reforms including the promises of subsidiarity and social rights? I was quite despondent when I started the report and remain concerned if the only answer is a basic law and judicial review. But, the proposal to reform the House of Lords may be the clever change required. The report recommends the entrenchment and protection of devolved power to be safeguarded by new powers of the reformed second chamber of Parliament. If the renamed/reformed House of Lords has a legal and democratic mandate to veto changes to the new settlement, maybe we can embed this redistribution of power within the United Kingdom or whatever remains of it after the Brexit experiment. I note, however, that by focusing on House of Lords abolition, rather than the reform of Parliament, the Labour Front bench and the media miss the point and allow opposition within the Party and country to grow.
  2. I believe the proposed powers to be devolved within England lacks ambition, and the continued fetishisation of Directly Elected Mayors is a mistake and a brake on the ability to allow communities to have their say. Blair’s government tried and failed to run a regional policy; I argue it failed because they became diverted by both regional democracy and, shamefully, workfare policies. Brown proposes that the Job Centre network is devolved to [large] local authorities as part of a devolution of a skills investment programmes, despite being silent on FE governance, much of which has been privatised. He talks of devolving powers on trains and buses, housing with respect to planning, licensing landlords and funding retrofitting of insulation and a trivial engagement in cultural investment. The report focuses on devolving supply side programmes, while maintaining the investment powers in a renamed National investment Bank. The report also fails to talk about the loss of EU subsidy for innovation, and to counter regional poverty lost through Brexit, or the opportunities to fund regional development should we rejoin the EU or Horizon Europe. On the question of scrutiny, he sees the London Assembly as a suitable model and makes no mention of the abolition of the independent and feared Audit Commission nor its resurrection. The promise of effective subsidiarity is important and worthwhile, but the report’s reticence on devolving investment programmes and the focus on metropolitan and Mayor led authorities is disappointing and at the end of the day weakens the devolution promise and fails to address the anti-corruption agenda. There is of course no way a commission consisting of Labour local government people are going to criticise the Party’s inability to hold its elected [local] leaders to account.
  3. The huge gap in the proposal is there is no mechanism to guarantee funding against the time horizons needed for programme management. What time horizon’s they do consider are ludicrously short (3 years). None of this works without bi-partisan or constitutional commitment to local ‘needs-based’ funding with a long-term guarantee. Money must be transferred between geographic areas and guaranteed as it is in Scotland, albeit only by convention. These guarantees need to be protected from parliamentary sovereignty. The whole of these English local government proposals cannot work without a transfer union. “From each according to their ability, to each according to need”.
  4. There are series of proposals about Westminster. Obviously abolishing the House of Lords is one step, but the commission recognises the need to clean Westminster up1 and recommends, eliminating foreign money from UK Politics, banning MPs second jobs, a new Independent Integrity and Ethics Commission, with the power to investigate breaches of a new, stronger code of conduct, a new body to ensure all appointments in public life are made on merit, juries of ordinary citizens2 to determine whether rules have been broken, a new UK wide anti-corruption Commissioner, appointed by the parliaments of the UK but no suggestion of powers, except to report to Parliament[s]. It’s probably not enough, we need to ask why it doesn’t work today as in principle most of these measures are in place, as law or convention. Our money laundering and anti-corruption laws are amongst the strongest in the world. The problem is the accountability and motivation of the regulators, which brings us back to the Audit Commission, the Police and even the ICO, who have been abolished or seem loathe to investigate leading politicians. For most MP corruption, the House of Commons is its own3 judge and jury and we also have the increasing politicisation of the control process as we see in the US, where people designated as judges, even in treason cases, take the Party whip. I believe the proposal for an independent integrity and ethics commission is just tinkering although I am unsure what else to do.

PR & the Commons, and judicial review

Proportional Representation and the Commons is clearly an issue that causes fear in the leadership layers of the Labour Party that the Commission represented. We know why this is not mentioned. The E;ectoral Reform Society have made a statement, entitled, “Brown Commission reforms offer first blueprint for much needed democratic renewal” has some interesting further reading to explore, they say, albeit in image only, “without addressing the Commons, the aims of Brown’s Commission can only fall short”.

The Institute for Government, in its, much briefer review raised the issue that a basic law i.e. a constitution requires more powerful judicial review and this may have some undesirable side effects. I also ask myself, what if Dr Fritz Sharpf is right, and that judge defined basic laws will stymie social democratic ambitions; remember Thameside and “Fare’s Fair”.

The remainder of this article looks at the proposed size of the new second chamber, and at their proposals for more Civil Service job dispersal.

Is 200 the right number?

I have looked at  some of the academic papers on the size of parliaments, and the ratio of elected politicians to people. One interesting point argued is that assemblies that are too small are easily captured (by the executive), and those that are too large, more likely to deliver reduced quality as people look for unnecessary work, “The Devil finds work for idle hands”. One proposal to guide avoiding these threats is that assemblies are sized to be the cube root (∛) of the population. Personally, I am not convinced.

While representation and these ratios, are important, the size of a legislative chamber also needs to take account the amount of effort required to perform its functions. An assembly of over 1,000, will almost certainly mean that some/many representatives will not speak in the chamber, however this metric underestimates the work of committees and individual efforts by representatives to rectify wrongs. The availability of time in the chamber, will be reduced if the chamber has restricted, in terms of dates and hours, sittings times. We should also note the House of Lords has become the initiating source of legislation when the government has a busy programme and plays an important role in scrutinising secondary legislation, which itself should be more limited than currently occurs because the sole purpose of secondary legislation is to avoid effective parliamentary scrutiny.

Another aspect of Britain’s democratic deficit is that we have on the whole far fewer local elected politicians than others in the OECD; it’s one of the outcomes of the increasing centralisation of the British state. The Commission makes no proposals on this, although it’s obvious preference for Executive Mayors and more limited control commission sized scrutiny bodies is clear.

An assembly of two hundred with geographical balance means some very small delegations from the Nations. Having more than one cohort, with each on a different cycle will be  difficult while maintaining geographical balance if the chamber is so small.

I believe that on the basis of representation, focus, independence, integrity and effort, 200 is far too small.

Civil Service Reform

One of the proposals is based on a concern about the state, quality and independence of the civil service, and they propose a legislative solution, but they also propose to relocate 50,000 Civil Servants from London to the Regions, this is fanciful nonsense.

Most Civil Servants are now outside London. Those in London are either in service delivery or close advisors to Ministers.

As of March 2022, there were 510,080 people employed in the home civil service, across the UK and overseas. Of these, 104,830 (21%) were based in London – an increase of almost 3,000 since March 2021 and 13,170 since March 2020.

Chart, pie chart

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Illustrating the effect of the proposed Civil Service job dispersals

50,000 from 510K is doable, 50K from 104K when over half of these people are engaged in service delivery to Londoners, i.e. DWP, MoJ & HMRC sounds infeasible to me, particularly given the current government is planning to relocate 15,700 in the next three years. The extensive list presented as targets for relocation, will almost certainly generate a trivial numbers of jobs for relocation’

There is no mention of the downsides of relocation of government departments also known to me as Sheffield syndrome; when the Manpower Services Commission Head Office moved from London to Sheffield in the 80’s, it generated a local house price boom, pricing out long term residents.

See also on my wiki, https://davelevy.info/wiki/new-britain-new-britcon/, my notes,

A New Britain: Renewing our Democracy and Rebuilding our Economy on the Labour Party web site also SURL at https://bit.ly/newrules4britain, and my mirror.

[1] It’s a bit ironic that the man you introduced MPs expenses as a means to capping MPs salaries is making these proposals.

[2] US style grand juries?

[3] There is a genuine problem in that MPs privilege was designed to ensure that their constituent’s voice could not be supressed by the Government, a recurring problem we see in the Labour Party where accusation of breaking the rules is enough to silence people within the Party. …

Not so fast!

Not so fast!

The High Court has ruled that the Government’s plan to send refugees to Rwanda with a one-way ticket, is legal. Suella Braverman is claiming this as a victory but there is a sting in the tail of the ruling, which I have not yet read in full. The decision is reported by the BBC who quote Braverman as vowing to continue and Yvette Cooper who called the policy "unworkable, extortionate and deeply damaging", but not immoral nor criticising the hostile environment; she leaves it to Alison Thewliss, the SNP's home affairs spokesperson. PCS & Care4Calais plan to appeal, so we’ll see and of course there remains the ECtHR injunction to consider. Although the desire to manipulate international law with respect to immigration (and labour) law is bi-partisan. There's more overleaf ...

Oi! Boundary Commission, “No!”

Oi! Boundary Commission, “No!”

I have today made a submission to the Boundary Commission to rename the Constituency as “Deptford” and not “Lewisham North and Deptford”. I said, “Deptford has a proud maritime history to be remembered by the Convoy’s Wharf heritage projects. The recent and planned house building, moves the population centre of gravity towards Deptford as does the proposed loss of Hither Green and Crofton Park. Transport links within the constituency are predominately East/West to the West End, City and Kent. No one uses the name Lewisham North to describe the area, or any area.” I suggested that my second choice would be Deptford and Brockley. …

You have one wish

You have one wish

Terry Reintke MEP, posted to twitter, asking what one change would her correspondents make to the EU. Terry is a co-president of the Green/EFA European Parliamentary group and a loud advocate for welcoming the UK back into the EU. She's looking after our "Star". She is also part of the Parliament's delegation to the EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly, which provides parliamentary oversight over the implementation of the Trade and Co-operation agreement. I wonder if it's met? She says,

Having to down select to only one reform, is tricky, as I say, in https://davelevy.info/big-changes-after-cofoe/ there’s a lot of great proposals involving extending competency into Education, Health and Energy, as well as other great . Good luck in getting it right, meanwhile it seems us Brits are changing our minds, I know you i.e. she will welcome us back, and it would help if we sought to do so with some respect and humility. I say more overleaf ...