I have split Britain, hypothetically, in to twelve states - Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, East, South-East, South-West, North-East, North-West London, East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside,
I have taken the general election results for the last fifty years, and assumed the same votes and constituencies had made up a local federal government.
Finally, I have assumed that the Prime Minister in a UK central government was from the party which won the greatest number of "states".
The following things are the initial points of interest...
There's more data for me to look at, but it's an interesting exercise.
I've done some stats.
I've done quite a lot of stats, actually, looking at the following question:
"If the UK was a federal system, what might it look like?"
I'm doing this on the basis of splitting up England, partly because I can, and partly because I think it makes sense.
The idea, you see, is to extend the idea of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly to the rest of the Kingdom, and I've been using the EU seats, pretty much because they're there, but also because they have the benefit of splitting up the UK in to some fairly equally sized chunks, some of which I strongly suspect have different characteristics.
I've looked at results of General Elections over the past fifty years, and I've started with Scotland because it's always going to be one of the most contentious.
In 1959 - the first election I'm looking at, the Conservative and Unionist Party took 28 seats - almost 40% of the seats available. By 2010, there is one Conservative MP in Scotland.
The interesting thing is when they lost the seats and who they lost them to.
28 is the peak in the period I'm looking at. There was something of a decline in Conservative support over the next 20 years, but even in 1979, 22 Scottish Tories joined the first Thatcher Government.
Even in 1983, 21 Scottish Tory MPs were elected. Then, in 1987 the number of MPs dropped to 10. It seems likely that the main event triggering this was the closure of a number of pits in the North of England, Scotland and Wales, with the consequent loss of 20,000 jobs in these areas.
The seats lost don't show any real pattern. While some are in mining areas, others (eg Edinburgh Central) are not. The main benefactor was the Labour party, who had been losing some ground to the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party.
Between the elections in 1987 and 1992, the Government introduced the Community Charge ("Poll Tax"). This was pretty much universally hated. Virtually impossible to enforce and woefully mistargeted at the best of times, it was also introduced in Scotland a year earlier than England. It's often cited as one of the reasons why "Scotland will never vote Tory again," which is an ironic impact of a choice by a party that ostensibly seeks to strengthen and maintain the Union between the various parts of the UK.
Despite this, there was one more Conservative MP after the 1992 election. By 1997, however, there were none. With one exception, this remains the case.
On 2010 results, over 50% of the seats in Scotland are represented by Labour MPs, and this would have been the case consistently over the last 50 years.
The old witch has a lot to answer for.
For five minutes last night, I watched a political debate between the treasury spokesmen of the four major parties in Scotland.
It was utterly irrelevant.
In those five minutes, I became acutely aware that this election is even less about politics than previous elections (which have mainly been about newspapers). This election is about personality, about presentation. It really should be about the economy, but instead it's about polls and punditry.
I'm kind of loving the side-show, though. The posturing from the SNP, declaring that they should be involved in any leader's debate. Of course they shouldn't. Their presence at the economic debate last night was an irrelevance, and only served to make them look like arrogant, pointless peacocks. In a bag. In my opinion.
In the Scottish elections, fair enough. They stand a chance of getting in to some sort of power there. But the SNP's treasury spokesman will never, never become Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2010. In the debate last night he served no purpose, and that possibly even worked against the SNP's continued push to be credible.
That's just my view, though. Other opinions are available.
It comes as no surprise to me that Nick Clegg "won" last night's Leader's Debate. What surprises me, however, is that this comes as any sort of shock to anyone, least of all Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
After all, they handed it to him.
To some extent, both leaders of the main parties focussed on attacking each other - leaving Clegg to point out that they sounded as bad as each other. Presumably, they didn't see him as a threat.
Also, at points both of them said they agreed with him. In the event of a hung parliament between the Tories and Labour, after all, Clegg becomes Kingmaker, so both parties need to keep him on-side. And by agreeing with him, they add to his credibility. By them both agreeing with him, he is almost elevated to not just a contender as leader, but the only contender.
That's actually clearly not the case. The demographics and voting patterns of the UK are such that it would take a far more significant swing towards the Liberal Democrats than seems feasible in a three week time period for them to be able to form a majority government. Indeed, what we see looks like posturing in preparation for a hung parliament.
In the brave new world, Scottish independent television "STV" is crap.
A significant proportion of their home-produced programming is irrelevant twaddle, mistargeted and underadvertised. Low budgets mean cheap programming, endless cheap magazine programmes, repeats of programmes about weaving in 1920, and imports of shows that are low-cost either because they were made in other low-cost markets, or because they were rubbish and flopped in their original markets.
There are exceptions - popular programmes such as Coronation Street and the X Factor still air in Scotland, although Scots can't vote in the EWNI X factor. They can vote in the Scottish equivalent, which is about finding a song for Scotland's Eurovision. It's faintly embarrassing, but it has helped to revitalise Lulu.
The main reason for showing these shows is to try to stem the tide of illegal streaming, or watching ITV London on satellite rather than STV. It backfires, because many people just retune and stop watching STV altogether, while the standards of STV programming plummets even further due to dropping advertising revenues and the high blackmail cost paid to keep Coronation Street on Scottish screens.
There are mumblings in the press.
In the Brave New World, Spain's Telefonica has been forced to split O2-UK into two. O2-S covering Scotland, and O2-EWNI, covering the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
After some teething troubles, where some O2-S customers living in the Borders were occasionally being charged International Roaming rates when they went a little too close to the wrong cell, things have settled down - not least because the Scottish Government and Westminster managed to reach a compromise by reverting to the original arrangement whereby Scottish and English mobile phones could work in each other's country without charge.
Then Apple, bless them, launch a new phone. It's an Uber-iPhone, call it the uPhone. It's the hugely desirable gadget that everyone wants, and for financial reasons they want to tie it to one network per market. Obviously, in the brave new independent world, they pitch to England and Scotland separately, meaning that the terms for getting the uPhone in England and Scotland will be different. Possibly it'll be cheaper in Scotland, probably not.
Except for one little thing. Apple pitch the uPhone to the English market only.
Why would they pitch to Scotland? The market size is smaller, the mobile phone coverage is a fraction of the land mass. England would be their primary market, surely? London in particular?
Scottish "entrepeneurs" of course would be nipping down South, buying them up in bulk and reselling them - kicking off a grey market, enhancing Scotland's international reputation and leading to general satisfaction with the Edinburgh Parliament, and pressure for a single licensing regime for telephone companies and that sort of thing.
Sounds like an expensive, foolhardy waste of time.
Little bit political. Sorry.
The passing of the British Empire is a strange thing. It brought with it the joys of the slave trade, the opium trade, the tea trade and so on, and left in its wake a range of shattered economies, destroyed cultures and the English language. It's something that, as a Scotsman, I look on with a mixture of pride in the achievement, shame at the incredible inhumanity involved, and faint guilt at the fact that, on balance, I think that its effect on current world politics is probably marginally more beneficial than damaging. It's a controversial view, and it's a very fine line.
Where the countries in the former British Empire have thrived, they have done so despite the legacy of Empire. I've been to many ex-colonies around the world - not just British, but French, Dutch, Portuguese - and I've seen and lived in the remnants of Empire. I've seen a direct correlation between economic success and self-reliance. Those countries that know their history but place it in context and don't whinge about it, generally do better than those who do.
Imagine it as two siblings with two towers of bricks. Their evil Uncle Oddverse knocks over their bricks.
Max bites his lower lip, and doggedly starts rebuilding his tower.
Dominic has a bit of a sulk. Then he says that Uncle Oddverse should rebuild the tower because he knocked it over. But uncle Alan has actually gone away and can't hear Dominic.
So yes, Uncle Oddverse was a bit of a git, but at the end of the day, Max has a tower.
I'm not saying it's the same with the countries that used to be part of the Empire. I'm not even mentioning the third child who decided that she didn't want a tower in the first place, she really wanted to attach the bricks with a chainsaw.
Where I think I'm going with this is Scotland. Scotland, which shares huge amounts of cultural and economic interdependence with England, the country from which the current leadership of the Scottish Parliament wants independence.
Back to Dominic. If Uncle Oddverse hadn't gone away, but was standing there, Dominic would have shouted far, far longer. It's harder to let go if the person you blame for your hardship is right next to you.
What happens if Scotland gets independence, and if it all goes tits-up? Do we stand on the border shouting at the English, blaming them for problems of our own making? Do we cancel our economic links? Stop importing Coronation Street from them? Who do we blame then?
There's a rally in London today. Religious groups are to protest outside Parliament in an attempt to halt legislation banning discrimination against lesbians and gay men. They should be soundly ignored.
I'm not particularly anti-religion. I think that it does a lot of harm, sure. I think the church spreading pamphlets in Africa telling people that using condoms promotes the risk of spreading AIDS is a particularly nasty side of that for example. I think the use of belief in a next life to promote martyrs and justify religious war is downright insidious, but on the other hand, I think that a lot of great culture has been created to glorify some supreme being, and that's generally a good thing. I think that religion founded the moral codes behind many of our governments and cultures across the world. We've got a lot to be thankful to religions for.
I just wish that they could accentuate the positive a bit more.
I do kind of understand the reasons why they want to have the freedom to discriminate against lesbians and gay men. That is "understand", not "agree with", note. After all, if you're a parish priest who has a deep belief that homosexuality is a very bad thing, you're not going to want to be forced to rent out your parish hall to a gay civil partnership. But surely my belief that having a civil partnership with my boyfriend is a good idea is as valid an idea as your idea that people can turn in to pillars of salt, that the earth was created in seven days and that all the historical evidence that the world is more than 6000 years old is falsified by an invisible flying spaghetti monster?
Possibly, just possibly, I might even have some evidence to support my belief that my relationship is loving, nurturing and supporting. You may not have any evidence at all, other than a deep-felt spirituality. Good for you, I say. I kind of respect a faith that can hold on to one set of beliefs despite a whole world of evidence that denies it. Good for you.
On the whole, though, I believe that 99% of religious people in the UK will welcome this legislation. Because faith and religion aren't bad things. They are often used to justify bigotry and hatred, and when they are, that becomes a pretty serious issue.
But I'm not planning to lobby parliament for legislation to allow discrimination against people on religious grounds.
Why, oh why, oh why, does the leader of the Labour Party in the UK persist in making himself unelectable? It's such a stupid thing to do. Parable time.
Bob and Gloria live in Southwold, a picturesque town somewhere in England. One day, Bob comes home from a hard day working in the local village shop or whatever and suggests to Gloria that they pop in to Norwich and go to an antique fair. Gloria loves antiques, so off they go. They never actually make it to the fair, because they can't work out where it is, but they have a lovely day, and Gloria sees a dress in a shop window which she loves and buys. And Bob gets to go to B&Q, and he buys a new drill, which he's been wanting for ages.
On the way home, though, Gloria starts to get suspicious. What if there never was an antiques fair, she wonders. What if it was all a ruse to get to B&Q and buy a drill. So when they get home, she asks Bob exactly where this antiques fair was supposed to be.
"I think it's important that we don't lose sight of what we've achieved here. I've got a new drill, which we both agreed was a necessary objective. In addition, you've got a dress that you love. Nobody should be in any doubt that a drill was needed. And I have no doubt at all in the future, whatever the differences there have been in the past, we can reconstruct the shelves in the bathroom as a stable and prosperous place to store medicines and the house will be a more secure place as a result. And we should be proud as a couple of what we have done."
Later, while Bob is sleeping, Gloria takes the drill...
You are the President of the United States. Scientists have discovered a meteor that is headed towards the earth. They have calculated that it will strike France in two days, at approximately 2:30 A.M. EST. The meteor is large enough to completely wipe France from the face of the earth.
France and the United Nations have requested that the United States send all available ships and aircraft to help evacuate the country. Among the ships and planes you could send are many that are being used to fight the war on terror overseas. As the President, you must decide:
A) Stay up late on the night of the impact to watch the coverage live?
B) Tape it and watch it in the morning?
Well, here are the punch lines. Make up your own jokes.
"Sorry, Norma. I was eating Currie earlier."
"Because three inches is a major disappointment."
There I was, thinking nothing could be more grotesque than the Ross/Pauline and Pauline/Mickey sex scenes in the first episode of the new series of The League of Gentleman, when suddenly this little revelation creates a nasty, nasty mental image that I'm going to be stuck with all week.
What strikes me, however, is how unsurprised I am. Revelations about Tory hypocrisy are hardly new. We learnt, years ago, that whilst they stood up and lectured us, blaming "society's ills" (their mistakes) on single-mothers, homosexuals, the homeless, the unemployed, etc., etc., they were getting their secretaries pregnant, caning rent boys, dying of auto-erotic asphyxiation, being caught out on Hampstead Heath (the pro-hanging, pro-flogging, anti-abortion, anti-smoking, ex-Tory Minister in question is now a fully paid-up Blairite), assembling entire regiments of mistresses, etc., etc. Old news.
But it's John Major! A man primarily famous for being woefully dull, not the kind of dashing, obnoxious shit one expected to be having affairs or lining his pockets. Major was sold as a sincere, true-believing, One-Nation Tory - not a parasitic, hypocritical wretch like so many Conservative luminaries of that time. More than that, the image, in the days of "back to basics" (like so many political movement, a throw-away line taken out of all context), was of Major being let down by the sleaziness of his cabinet. Clearly, he was simply better at covering-up. Of course, now, this revelation can only serve to enhance Major's image - though he's totally irrelevant these days (mind you, which Tories aren't?), it'll be nice if history remembers him for something other than being unmemorable. And Edwina Currie is presumably trying to show her "debating and fucking" novels are based on personal experience. Ho-hum.
But is this big news? When I got in, around 4am, it was a very minor item on BBC News 24. Over breakfast this morning, I see it's grabbed several headlines, John McCririck is making jokes about it, various notables are rushing to have their say. Major is a former Prime Minister. This does come at a time when the Tories are trying to escape their "hyprocticial bastard" image (not to mention doing lots of other things - most interestingly all of, trying to grab the working-class and libertarian voters who've traditionally supported Labour but didn't turn out at the last election or two, essentially pitching for the people they've spent decades, nay centuries, slamming). It could have an impact on the party's attempts to revive itself, especially with other dangling reminders of the "Tory sleaze" heyday.
But who cares what John Major got up to fifteen years ago? (Norma Major, probably.) But who cares what Jeffrey Archer does at Her Majesty's Pleasure. But, then again, who cares about the Tories ('cept us car-wreck-watching types)?
But, but... how the hell can I get this image out of my head?
According to the Political Compass, I'm about -5.75 on the left/right axis, and -6.5 on the authoritarian/libertarian stance. This makes me closest to Ken Livingstone politics wise. Which is fascinating. I always put myself much more the centre politics-wise.
It'll be interesting to get Mr Twinky to do this. He's always touting himself as being very left wing - almost naturally so given his socio-economic background. I reckon that he's probably slightly authoritarian, and certainly further to the right of me politics-wise. I shall ambush him and force this test on him. Oh yes I will, see if I don't.
Mr Twinky's only slightly to the right of me, and slightly less libertarian. I guess that means that I get to keep him.
It's interesting that everyone I know is somewhere in this quadrant - again, nothing terribly surprising about that, but it's interesting.
Apparently, the British have had recent problems with an election. Rather than have a new one, they decided to re-run the previous one, except smaller. I'm so glad that I live in a country where I have no opportunity to vote, and even if I did it would be for an ineffectual body with no executive power at all. How happy I am to be spared the burden of choice, instead handing it over to faceless martians. Oh joy.
The most powerful man in the western world has to use his middle initial so that people don't mistake him for someone else.
12 January 2001. Anson Chan resigns. There go all my jokes. Mark your diary.
The American election has shown the world that their system of democracy is flawed. Clearly it needs to be rebuilt, from the constitution up. The problem is that all Americans have vested interests in the election system, so it needs to be rebuilt by someone who really couldn't care less who wins.
Oh, I've got some fab ideas. No more than three months of campaigning. Strict budget controls - candidates to be funded from a central fund, rather than political parties. Lots of strict smacking for people I don't like. Pictures on ballot papers. Results to be announced by fat ladies singing. See, I know what I want.
Apparently, there are elections going on in the US this week.
So - elections in the US. I read an article by someone (I remember who, I'm just not saying as it would be unfair - the attitude seems fairly common) saying that they were going to vote for Nader, because the two-party system was mean and nasty and both parties had the same agenda anyway but if she (yes, it was a woman) were in a marginal state she would vote for Gore because Bush is a nutter - I'm paraphrasing here, obviously.
Apart from the fact that this is a wonderful example of double standards, I've seen a lot of this sort of attitude among the on-line "community" whereas all the Americans I know in real life are voting for Bush.
If it was up to me, I know who I would vote for. And it wouldn't be someone who rejoices in the fact that they are completely clueless, that's for sure. But I'm not saying which candidate that is.
Hong Kong doesn't celebrate Bonfire Night. I doubt that anyone has ever attempted to blow up the Legco building.
Actually, that last one is probably unfair. It would probably make page three of the Hong Kong iMail, just below the picture of Anson Chan in her new twin set and pearls.