Spoilt Vote != Wasted Vote

A spoilt vote does not automatically translate to a wasted vote. Nor is a spoilt vote equivalent to not voting at all.

Another important note to make early on is that I’m not writing this to encourage anyone to spoil the vote – but I would hope you would come out of reading this feeling encouraged to vote, in whatever form.

This morning sees the opening of UK Elections for the European Parliament. As has been increasingly predictable, much fuss has been made of the “threat” parties such as UKIP pose to the established mainstream parties (namely Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats).
The resulting social and conventional media storm has been somewhat hectic and infuriating. Understandable obsession that people may feel dejected with mainstream politics and forced into voting for one of the more extreme options; frustration at the apparent disproportionate airtime Farage and UKIP have been given; simultaneous over-reaching to shout racist and disregard anyone who would vote UKIP as being dated, past it, out-of-touch, wrong – yet still being scared of them winning a large portion of the votes.

I didn’t start writing this to debate the merits (or lack of) in UKIPs campaign, nor the fact they seem to lack any depth or breadth of policies (and they’re not alone in that, by the way), but I needed to mention it because one thing that crops up regularly is a comment along the lines of “worse thing to do is not vote, or spoilt ballot” or “there’s always something to vote against”. Presumably, you can already tell I disagree with this sentiment, at least the latter part of it.
I would be the first to agree that not voting is a terrible option, and doesn’t actually bring anything to the table, but why then do I believe a spoilt vote is any more valid an option?

The reasoning is actually pretty simple, aided by the way UK voting works:

  • If you don’t vote, the elected individuals can, with some justification, attempt to disregard your opinion in society as invalid – it’s nearly impossible to differentiate between apathy and indifference, or disillusion with the options available / protest no-votes. Simply put, if you don’t vote you’re not someone they can “win” a vote from, so they have no reason to bother trying.
  • In the UK, spoilt votes have to be counted and, often, announced. Just think about that for a second. That means that, along with every vote for a certain party, every spoilt ballot is also recorded. A spoilt ballot is as close to a “true” protest vote as we get.
  • Where spoilt ballots are in the tens or low hundreds, it can be easily put down to voter error. Where the numbers are higher it demonstrates genuine dissatisfaction with what the parties available offer.
  • In the previous Euro elections, UK turnout was just under 35% (15.1 Million) of the eligible population. In the last general election it was just over 65% (29.7 Million). It would be lazy of me to assume everyone who doesn’t vote cares enough to actually spoilt their vote, but it’s fair to assume that a reasonable percentage of those who choose not to vote do so through disillusion, frustration, and a feeling that their vote is irrelevant as it won’t change anything. To those people, I would urge you to consider spoiling your vote (as opposed to not voting at all).
  • Let’s take the last Euro Election:
    • Roughly speaking, 28.04 million eligible voters did not vote at all in the UK elections. 15.99 million didn’t in the General Election a year later. If we assume the everyone who didn’t vote in the last General Election won’t vote in any, that leaves us with 12.05 million no-votes to work with.
    • Presumably, if those 12.05 million, at lease some chose not to vote because they “didn’t see the point” or “didn’t think it would make a difference”. I’m no statistician, so I’m pulling numbers from the air here when I suggest that, maybe, 5% of those non-voters wanted to vote but didn’t think there was anyone to vote for. (Note: This is different to those who chose not to vote as a misguided EU protest / frustration with their “usual” part / etc.). That’s over 600,000 potential spoilt ballots – more votes than the SNP, who won 2 seats.
    • Even at that low (in my opinion) estimate of potential spoilt ballots, that is a huge figure, and registers that disillusion / frustration / anger officially.
  • It may not change the election outcome, but it does send a clear message that there is a considerable body of people out there in your electorate who are disillusioned with the political options they’re presented with- and care enough to actually go out to vote on election day and register that frustration.

Ultimately, I don’t care how someone chooses to vote come the day, come the hour. But I would urge you all to vote if you’re eligible. Without it, there is virtually no reason for your government to care about your opinion.

And, please, don’t be so quick to disregard those who choose to spoil their vote.

The BNP on QT

Well, I’m not the first blogger who’ll mention this and arguably – with an hour or so to go until it airs – I’ve left it quite late, but it’s all I’ve heard on the radio all sodding day and so I wanted to have my own short(ish) rant about it. Craig’s already written a letter on his blog that I largely agree with, but need to summarise some extra thoughts myself. Because I can.

My first impressions of the whole affair (including the ‘protests’)? The country is overrun by single-minded idiots. Sorry, but there we go. I’ll come to why shortly.

As for where I stand on politics, I’m largely neutral. I have no sense of support for any party (major or minor) and long for the day the ‘state’ is little more than a thing of the past. I’m also realistic and doubt strongly that will happen in my life time, so I feel I can get involved in little arguments like this. On top of this, I despise being encouraged to vote for a ‘major’ party in order to stand against the BNP – if no-one can give me a convincing reason to vote _for_ them, I won’t. I strongly believe that whilst the argument has limited merit as to what it hopes to achieve, it will never fix the fundamental problem, and as such will just prolong its symptoms from rearing their head again.

Anyway, moving swiftly on to some of the arguments against the BBC playing host to Nick Griffin this evening:

  • I don’t want my license-fee being spent on the BNP
    Short answer: tough shit.
    I don’t like _my_ license-fee being spent on far worse and (completely) uninformative programming, such as Eastenders or Stictly Come Dancing, but I’d rather pay it and not watch those shows if it means it can also be spent on pressing political programmes (yes, such as Question Time), or exceptional documentaries (a la Blue Planet, Life, Planet Earth). As it is, I’m prepared to ignore the shit in order to receive the good. If you don’t feel you’re getting that value for money, don’t pay it, and go do something more pro-active, like reading. Either way, don’t bitch about it. Because it’s a baseless argument.
  • The BBC has a moral obligation to not host the BNP
    I’m not so sure on the actual truth of this one, nor the morality of it either way. I guess I would come down on the side of, ‘Surely it is more amoral to pretend the voice in the wilderness doesn’t exist (and so let it fester unseen) than it is to give that voice the same chance the others get’. If you’re so concerned that you will be that easily swayed by the ramblings of such a party, I suggest suicide. Before you kill us all.
    If you don’t believe you’re that easily swayed and that the views and propaganda of the BNP are built on a pack of lies then you have nothing to fear. They will embarass themselves in their own time. Either way, face facts: Just because you can’t see / hear them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you would rather force them underground and hope that will solve the problem, I encourage you to think harder.
  • Nick Griffin as holocaust-denier
    This seems to get brought up every time someone mentions Nick Griffin and the BNP. And whilst I can understand why (citing an easy example as to why this man’s a moron), it carries no real weight in the sense of the argument. I believe the Holocaust occured. And I believe that on the balance of the facts I have seen and studied. In just the same way that I do not believe in a god, based on the facts and evidence I have looked at. Just because I have friends who do believe doesn’t mean I shouldn’t discuss and debate such issues with them ultimately in the pursuit of knowledge.
    Is he a holocaust-denier? Then good for him. Just means he needs to go back and actually digest the facts. Nothing more for me to worry about except that he’s an idiot. Whilst it’s a very good reason he should not be in politics, it does not change the fact that he is and as such deserves the same chance to talk as we would give any other politician.
  • Allowing him on Question Time provides a valid platform to spout their racist diatribe
    No. It gives him a valid platform to partake in a public discussion, fielding questions both from the public and his opposition. This is not a BNP Political Rally being broadcast by the BBC, it’s a political debate. And in many ways I would like to think the questions don’t become just a bashing of BNP policies, because that’s not what the debate is about. And if that does happen (as I fear it inevitably will) then the situation has been changed by the very people claiming to protest it. And that gives Griffin every opportunity to use it to his advantage.
    Treat him like any other politician in the way you ask your questions and respond to his answers and he will be exposed as the flawed individual he is. If you try and attack BNP policies and him explicitly, it will be easily manipulated to make you look the fool, and garner further support. Any shouting, pointing person can be very easily made to look like the mad man. So don’t do it to yourself. Let them do it to themselves.
  • He’ll manipulate it to appeal to a broad audience  to garner support (disguising the more sensitive views they may stand for)
    See above, largely. But moreover, I disagree in terms of scale. Pissy little protests incorporating such views as listed above do far, far more for the extremist politician in their ability to manipulate that reaction to their own advantage. It’s already happened countless times (MEP Elections, the ‘Egging’ incident, etc.). And here’s the thing – it doesn’t matter if what he responds with is lies (to the general public), he’s still coming across as far more in control of the situation than you will in your hate-filled moments of shouting and demonstration. And that is what’s dangerous.

Well, I wrote a bit more then than I wanted, and it’s nearly time to actually see how it did turn out. I hope at least some of that is coherent, if a bit ranting. I’ll be interested to see what the reaction is to the broadcast in the end.

*sigh* Time to get a pot of tea ready me-thinks.

The Beauty of Random

Seven Hours.

Seven fucking hours.

That is the total amount of time I have spent travelling to and from Manchester this weekend. Let me just point out that, according to schedules, that seven (count ’em, 7) hours should be 2 and a half. I just got nearly three times my money’s worth. Bargain? Hmmm.

Anyway, that’s by-the-by because, despite delays, I actually thoroughly enjoyed them.

The first delay was on the way down to Manchester, when the train came to a stop jsut after Chorley because the previous train had disrupted the ‘points’ or some such technical train-like term. So we stopped, for the best part of an hour, in what I like to consider a No Man’s Land of the train world.
Yet, it was remarkably refreshing. Sat at the end of the carriage as I was, we were a cluster of maybe 6 or 7 people. And after a short while being stopped everyone started to open up. There was no frustration, no excessive tutting and shaking of heads, just light-hearted amusement. Simple jokes, shrugging the situation off, and genuinely just making the most of an unfortunate situation. People opened up, started talking about where they were heading, a few of us had drink on us that we were toying with cracking open if we were delayed much longer, and the like. It was how I imagine the war-time atmosphere was (granted, the bombs weren’t falling). It restored my faith in the public.

Anyway, before we knew it (and before we resorted to drink) we were movijng again and arrived at Bolton, where it terminated because of the delays. Lots of concerned people ushering their children everywhere and tutting wildly. I laughed a little. To myself. And then jumped on a train to Victoria instead, as it looked like it’d be quicker. Soon enough, I’d arrived.

The return was funnier still.

I did the quick walk to Picadilly in my remotely hungover state, got a good ol’ Pasty to help me on my way, then got on the 12:25 train destined for Blackpool via Preston, where I was hoping to change to Lancaster.
It started with a decidedly dodgy edge when the train we got on was originally Stockport-bound, but got terminated for us to jump on. It got as far as Oxford Road before stopping, the crew jumping off, and no replacement crew being available. I could do little else but chuckle as I continued to read.

Then the engines stopped. Sighs all round, but, once more, smiley faces making the best of it. Public confidence restored, once more. After a little while, general pleasantries were swapped and I got talking to the lady sat opposite me who, as it happened, was also trying to get to Lancaster. Others left, jokes were told, and amusement was had by all as we finally started moving again and finally got into Preston and rushed to get much needed refreshment. During this process, we managed to miss the connection to Lancaster, so opted for beer whilst awaiting the next train. The bar tender did an excellent job and also joined in the banter spawned from random events. Most amusing, and more or less settled my ailing body.

Finally got the train, and got into Lancaster at 16:00, a mere 3 hours late. Super stuff.

But the important thing that came out of all this? The banter, the chat, the getting along with strangers and genuinely just meeting nice, nice people. Lovely stuff.

Sophie – thanks for the chatter – it was much appreciated and lightened my day after feeling pretty terrible from drink after effects. Genuinely very nice to have met and thanks for a fun couple of hours chatting shite. I hope you enjoyed the brief spell in sunny Lancaster and enjoy your course / being back in Manchester.

To the others I didn’t catch the names of – thanks for just being nice and restoring my faith. Dramatic? Probably. But it was lovely.

The strange part is that I almost certainly will never see any of those people again but… it doesn’t matter. I feel better because we had the banter and were nice to strangers. It would be nice to make and keep friends with everyone you meet, but it doesn’t have to happen that way. Lovely jubbly.

As to why I was in Manchester, I was there for Craig’s birthday. And I failed terribly at drinking.

To the people who met me at Craig’s, and to Craig and Lehna – I apologise. I have no excuse for seemingly being as drunk as I was as quick as I was, and I certainly have no excuse for locking myself away and sleeping on the bathroom floor. I’m still at a loss as to what actually caused my downfall. I’m sure I could sit here all night and come up with excuses, but that is all they’d be and it wouldn’t actually fixed anything. Sorry anyway for playing the drunken fool, it was lovely to meet you all.

And, Craig, happy birthday, you old bastard. 😉

Local Elections and Propaganda?

I have a fairly lengthy drive to work each morning, and pass through a few little towns / villages on the way.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spotted a noticeable sprouting of (largely) orange signs declaring proudly:

Liberal Decocrats – Winning Here!

Now, ignoring the blatantly obvious graffiti opportunities of daubing ‘And only here’ or ‘but nowhere else’ underneath*, these signs irritate me. Even the highly conservative blue Conservative ones (see what I did there..?) that I saw strategically placed in neighbouring gardens and carrying similarly optimistic messages manage to annoy me.

Why? Because I question what their point is. The only thing I can come up with the more I think about it and run it over in my head is that it’s to encourage other people to vote your way… or intimidation. “Oh, everybody else is voting that way, we might as well do the same.”
Of course, the flipside is that, I hope, there’s many people like me who simply don’t care which way you’re voting. That’s why we have private ballots, surely? So that nobody needs to know which way you’ve decided to vote.

Maybe I’m just turning ever more cynical in my old age, but it did just strike me as one huge waste of time and resources that seems to go into these things. On the flip side, if I ever live somewhere where this sort of thing is prevalent, I need ideas as to what hugely ironic, incredibly invasive, and downright ballsy signs I can stick in my garden. I’m thinking something to be done in Neon, perhaps with flashy bits. And lots of shiny stuff. That’ll learn ’em.

* – I don’t have anything against the Lib Dems but, let’s face it, they’re neither Republican nor Democrat (sic) so they’re not going to win long term.

BBC News: Man sues M&S for £300K over grape

Original Item:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7289051.stm

What an absolute miserable bastard this fellow is. Please, read the article, it’s not too lengthy.

In short, a London accountant is trying to sue Marks&Spencer after slipping over and tearing a tendon in their car park in 2004.

The reason he believes he fell over is because he found a grape stuck to the bottom of his shoe that could have become attached either inside or outside the store… so therefore it’s their fault…

Thankfully M&S are contesting this and I sincerely hope they win it and bring the scrounging little prick back down to earth with a bump.

The reason he’s suing? ‘Loss of Earnings’. Good one… nobody ever tries that, do they? Something confuses me though… he’s a sodding accountant. How critical is a tendon in his right leg to his work? It’s not as if he’s a footballer, rugby player, cyclist or any other ‘active’ job that sort of requires the full and proper use of his right leg. Would it have made things more difficult while he was recovering? ‘Course it would, but it’s not bloody impossible.

This little section particularly gripped me

Mr Martin-Sklan, who is representing himself, is claiming for lost earnings on top of his general damages, because “loss of confidence” and depression following his injury led to him being unable to recruit new clients and contacts for his business.

… Stunning. He hurts his leg and suffers loss of confidence and depression as a result. To me, that screams that he needs psychiatric attention, not financial. I am not doubting that tearing a tendon works, but if something that simple knocks your confidence and induces depression which in turn affects your ability to do your job then you’ve always been an accident waiting to happen good sir, and should be thankful it happened know rather than later. In fact, you should be paying M&S as a little ‘thank you’ for bringing your clear instability to your attention before it got too far.

Either way, you need to grow a pair of testicles and move on, you whiny mother trucker.

EDIT: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7292657.stm ROFLCOPTER. You fail. Now dig deep to repay those fees…

BBC News: ISPs could face piracy sanctions

News Source:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7258437.stm

I’m genuinely curious to see how they try to implement this. And the inevitable workarounds that will appear the next day.

Also, this comment:

“ISPs are in a unique position to make a difference and in doing so to reverse a culture of creation-without-reward that has proved so damaging to the whole music community over the last few years,” said John Kennedy, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Yeh, because the music industry’s on it’s arse… *sigh*

It really does get tiring hearing the same fat cats argue that the music industry has been damaged by so-called piracy. Apparently though, it’s not obvious enough, so people like the RIAA have to try and make it look like all media ‘pirates’ are up-and-coming terrorists.

Of course, what the various groups are avoiding from admitting in this sort of lobbying is that… wait for it… DRM does not work. But, of course, they can’t say that, because the other hand is still trying to push DRM.
For those not full aware, DRM is that little thing that means if you buy music through the iTunes store, you can’t play it on your Sony Walkman. Or if you buy music from nearly any other store* you can’t play it on your iPod. In some parts of the world, that would be considered an attempt at creating a monopoly, or at the very least, consumer lock-in. Apparently though, it’s not. It’s for national security… Erm, right.

* Full credit to Play.com who ahve recently opened their completely unrestricted digital downloads store, with quiet a healthy selection of music on there. My advice is, if you want to buy music online, buy it through Play. If you can’t find it there, buy the CD f(as long as it doesn’t have that super-smart copyright protection on it that doesn’t play on some CD Players, or under Linux boxes, usually, and only sometimes work with Macs.
Play.com, I salute you. And all that.

I have to be honest, I don’t endorse piracy. But I also like the right to at least have _some_ control over the items I have legally bought, whether it be making a copy so I don’t have to keep a £10 (minimum) CD Album in my car – where it’s at greater risk of being stolen – or putting a copy of a song on my PC or iPod (my PC runs Linux and my iPod runs Rockbox, so DRM is not an issue I can really consider, unless I want to use one of x number of limited CD burns I can make with it, or download it again from another PC after I’ve reached my limit for ‘Registered Computers’ etc etc grumble grumble.

piratebay.org has some interesting views on the subject as well, and some useful links.

BBC NEWS: Saudi school ‘preached race hate’

Original Post:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7257695.stm

Do we really need to have such articles on worthless news like this? Does it really go anyway to being helpful? I think you’ll find the answer is a categoric ‘no’.

Besides the fact that a Whitehall inquiry stated that the school provided ‘satisfactory education’, the headline is still chosen to be as it is.

Granted, the teacher in question, Mr Cheetham, may well have been dismissed unfairly – but that has fuck all to do with what the school teaches, seeing as, from the article, he claims he was sacked after ‘blowing the whistle on students cheating in public exams’. The school claim he was sacked for misconduct. The truth is though, under a headline like that, what he was or was not sacked for comes across as highly irrelevant. Feeding the fire and all that.

In fact, Mr Cheetham, by his own confession, states he was only ‘informed’ about the school ‘preaching race hate’ after his employment was terminated, and he can’t prove that the passages he was shown were ever actually used in lessons. Mr Cheetham said:

“Without any evidence to support it, it’s not worth a jot,”

No, it isn’t, you fucking moron. Because it’s not illegal to own a book. So why are you moaning about it? If a school dismissed you because you rattled on them for allowing cheating to occur, then bollock them for that – it’s bad enough and it’s what I’d rather hear about. I’d also want to hear about it _whatever_ the background of the school is. But that apparently isn’t very newsworthy these days.

‘What? A Muslim school accused without evidence of preaching race hate? Yeh, print that, they’ll fucking lap it up.’

It’s a shame as well, because I’ve always found the BBC site to be more or less ok in giving me the news I want to read in a fairly straight-forward manner. Of course, the actual text of the article was fine, it just proved that the headline was completely ridiculous tabloid-style stuff.

So, Mr Cheetham and the BBC – grow up.

BBC News: MoD criticised for soldier deaths

.. This irritates me.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7245533.stm

Yes, it’s a shame, yes they should have the right equipment for the task, but at the end of the day, two basic facts remain:

  1. They are soldiers… one of those risks you take when signing up for that shit is that you can get shot… and bullets kill.
  2. The solider in question, and his superior (who I believe testified in court that they had insufficient equipment) are human beings… if you don’t feel the equipment is dequate, don’t follow through with the task.
    Granted, this is the armed forces, but Afghanistan is highly unlikely to invade the UK. You denying the mission does _not_ (whatever your propagandha may tell you) endanger British lives. It’s the Ministry of (fucking) Defence for a reason. Given the modern age in regards legal matters, you would be hard pressed to be prosecuted for disobeying orders, except maybe by the Yanks who may take you to Guantanemo on terrorist charges ( 😉 ). *sighs*

Sorry, but I felt it had to be said. Yes, a soldier has died fighting ‘for his country’. Yes, it appears he had inadequate equipment (I haven’t read a full report that details exactly what he did or didn’t have – my guess is he had more than the Afghans). Yes, he should have been better equipped. Yes, he was a soldier. It’s one of those ‘Risks of the Trade’.

Shit happens. If you want to blame anyone, why not look to America, who claimed the war there was won 4 years ago.

I have various friends who have served in the forces, and I have the utmost respect for each and every one of them. But each and every one of them were plain about the risks they faced – and fair play to them. I wouldn’t have the balls to go out and serve as they did.

But if I did, I wouldn’t expect such a fucking hoo-hah when the possibility became reality.