Monday 28 May 2012

Far too good not to broadcast

This, from a South African news site, and deserving of a narrower audience:

"Gauteng MEC for Local Government and Housing, Humphrey Mmemezi, used his government-issued credit card to buy an artwork worth R10 000 from burger chain McDonald’s. The initial transaction was disguised to indicate the buying of R10 000 worth of burgers. The R10 000 would buy 256 Big Mac burger meals with large chips and a Coke at R38.95 a piece".(MEC is the equivalent of MSP/AM etc).
At the risk of spoiling the story, it would seem that Mr Mmemezi was not acquiring one of those panels showing Ronald McD fighting off Hamburglar, but rather laundering through the joint's business bank account. 

Tuesday 8 May 2012

An antique (1912) Hansard trawl,

It's been a while, hasn't it?

Those wicked Americans:

Mr. KING asked what number of claims arising out of telegraphic cables cut in the West Indies were preferred against the United States Government as a result of the Spanish-American war; how long a period elapsed between the presenting of the claims and their final settlement; and what was the total amount of compensation paid.
§Mr. ACLAND As far as I am aware, only two such claims were preferred against the United States Government, one by the Cuba Submarine Telegraph Company and one by the French Cable Company. That of the Cuba Submarine Telegraph Company was presented in November, 1899, but no compens

The Boris Effect pt II - with another graph.

While I wait for the ward level data, here's a bit more on the Mayoral first preference votes.  This graph shows the advance or decrease in the votes for Boris or Livingstone from 2008:

I have not been able to come up with a prettier looking positive / negative chart, but I think this tells the tale fairly clearly.

First up, note the huge upswing for Livingstone in the London borough of - wait for it, wait for it - Tower Hamlets (and, technically) City and Newham.  Quelle surprise.  While TH's equivalence to Richard Daley's Chicago for non-traditional democracy is well known, one can also factor in the absence of a Trot mayoral candidate this time.   Bar North East, Livingstone did not put as much as 5000 votes anywhere else.  What, one wonders did he do to so alienate Merton & Wandsworth?  Threaten to cancel Wimbledon and turn Clapham Common into a radioactive tip?  He dropped just shy of 10,000 votes from 2008.

Boris gained a small uplift in Barnet & Camden, where Livingstone fell back.  I think that certain hateful comments about Jewish Londoners did KL no favours.  Boris got his biggest upswing in my own haunt of South West.  Set against that, note the heavy falls in the Boris vote in Bexley & Bromley and Havering & Redbridge.  I'm putting this down to the bone-idleness of Tories in the eastern outer 'burbs rather than anything else.    

Saturday 5 May 2012

The Boris Effect - with gratuitous graphs

Until such time as the London Elects bods get around to providing ward level data and I can go to town on that, I have been fiddling around with 2008 and 2012 data to see how Boris (hurrah for his re-election, btw) fared on first choice votes relative to his ideological confrères in blue.

Chart one shows the percentage of Boris's vote achieved by each Conservative assembly candidate in 2008 and 2012 and in each case the candidate fared worse than Boris in 2012 than in 2008, or if you prefer, Boris outdid the candidate each time.  So, taking a wholly random example, South West's Tony Arbour polled 76,913 votes to Boris's 90,061 in 2008 - or 85.4% of Boris's total.  In 2012 the figures were 69,151 to 92,180 and 75%.  This gives a Boris Factor or BF of 10.4.

The lowest BF is in Bexley & Bromley, at 1.8.  B&B is a pretty solid seat, so that comes as no great surprise, and it could be argued that folk were more inclined to vote for the slate than elsewhere.  Lambeth & Southwark had a BF of 4.9, suggesting that those poor, benighted souls were sticking with the local Streatham lad made bad.

At the other end of scale, Barnet & Camden had an epic BF of 24.5, and Brent & Harrow's was 21.6.

More later, maybe.                  

Monday 23 April 2012

The Front National's vote share - it's a bit more complicated....

Judging from news websites and the Today programme, the second lead story on the French presidential election is that Marine Le Pen's Front National scored its 'highest ever share of the vote', at 17.9%.  And in strict terms that it is true, if somewhat misleading.

A little digging in the 2002 results shows that there was a split in the FN vote between the old poujadiste's original FN, and the Mouvement National Républicain, which split from the FN in 1999.  Le Pen polled 16.86% in 2002, while the MRN polled a further 2.34%, for a combined 19.2%.  While the MRN is / was a tad more respectable (so to speak) than the FN, there cannot be any serious argument but that the two parties were fishing in the same pool.

More fun with French stats later, probably.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Your cut out 'n' keep to London's least talented electorates

Those nice people at London Elects have been kind enough to make ward level data from the 2008 Mayoral / LA elections available, and turnout and vote share maps having been done elsewhere I've had a go at doing spoilt ballots, council by council.

Black (hello and welcome, Tower Hamlets) represents 3.2% of all first choice ballots being ineligible through mismarking, no mark etc.  Dark grey (Ealing, Brent, Newham and Barking and Dagenham) represents 2.1-3.1% ineligibility and light grey 1.1-2.0%.  Very light grey - Richmond - managed a 99% success rate and the City of London 99.6%.

Ward level data shows that the very worst figure is a 7.08% vote failure in Alperton, a ward in Brent.  if Wikipedia is to be believed, Alperton is 75% ethnic Indian and 10% ethnic Sinhalese/Tamil, so it would seem that language might be a problem.  Also at or around 1 in 20 are are Southall Green (Ealing, 5.9%), Spitalfields & Banglatown (Tower Hamlets, 5.5%), St Dunstan`s & Stepney Green (Tower Hamlets, 5.1%) Whitechapel (Tower Hamlets, 4.9%), Norwood Green (Ealing, 4.9%), Larkhall (Lambeth, 4.9%) and Kenton East (Harrow, 4.8%).

At the other end of the scale, two out of 1,312 City of London postal voters made a hash of it (0.15%), while the most talented polling station visitors were to be found in Kensington & Chelsea's Royal Hospital ward where 99.43% got it right.  Nice that the Chelsea Pensioners are keeping good company, and doubtless providing it themselves.        

Digging a little bit deeper, Alperton leads for blank ballots - 4.4% and while all of the electors of Bromley -Biggin Hill found something to mark.  Identifying oneself on the ballot paper seems to be a Lambeth vice, at 2.8% in Larkhall and 1.4% in Oval.  Over voting was big in Plaistow South (Newham) - 3.3%, Southall Green (Ealing) - 3.2% and Tottenham Hale (Haringey) - 3.1%

Friday 30 March 2012

Pass the brain bleach

We live in dark and terrible times - that man Galloway is back in Parliament, hot sausage rolls are VATable, newsreaders wear horrid ties and so on. And now this:

Clearly spelling is no higher than, at best, his fourth priority.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Peace, love and understanding - DPRK-style

Judging from this article at the KCNA, brotherhood betwixt the two Koreas is along the lines of the brotherhood betwixt most small children:

"Meetings took place in North Hwanghae and Ryanggang Provinces on Friday at which servicepersons and people vowed to wipe out through a merciless sacred war the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors who hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK".

The servicepersons and people had their feelings dignity hurt by LMB and Co not allowing southerners to attend the funeral of the late and generally unlamented Kim Jong-Il.

And there's more, much, much more:

"The speakers branded the Lee group of traitors as human scum worse than rabid dogs, hordes of traitors bereft of elementary ethics and morality".


They called for uninterruptedly staging the DPRK-style sacred war in an indiscriminate and intensive way till the Lee group of traitors makes an apology for its high treason before the nation.

That dignity is not cheap it would seem.

The DPRK has the most powerful and merciless striking means and methods which are unknown to the world and beyond human imagination(My emphasis)

One does have to be rather impressed that the DPRK's scientists and the like are able to create means and methods without having imagined them first.


"The revolutionary armed forces of Mt. Paektu will shower fire deadlier than what was done on Yonphyong Island and thus blow up not only the dens of such human scum but Chongwadae and other bulwarks of the group of traitors".

Yonphyong was struck with artillery shells last year, which I find fairly easy to imagine.  Chongwadae is Seoul's No. 10 / White House.  

Maybe an awful lot of North Koreans had rather bad childhoods and that explains all this acting out.

Friday 9 March 2012

British and French in 'not arrogant' shocker

I am indebted to the lovely people at Pew Global for making their survey on 'the American-Western European Values Gap' available online, so I've picked the best bits and knocked up another couple of charts.

Asked this question - Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others” - the polling results look like this:

Interesting, no?  The supposedly self-satisfied / exceptionalist French are the least confident / arrogant across all age ranges, while the supposedly cringing / perpetually apologetic Germans have the smuggest youngsters (well, under 30s).  Our American chums lead in self-belief in the two other age breaks.  Meanwhile, what is going on with Britons born between 1962 and 1981?  Most of that cohort would have known Thatcher, Major or Blair as the first prime minister of their adulthood, two of whom were not exactly shrinking violets.  

The breakdown by gender is not as dramatic, but is of interest nevertheless:

Taking a wild stab in the dark, I would imagine that women lead in most countries as there are more of them among the older.

Shame that Pew did not poll the Chinese....


Thursday 8 March 2012

And the Liberals will inherit the earth, or at least a lot of EU Commissions

For reasons too dull to divulge, I have been mulling on the EU's Commissars and noted that there are rather a lot of Liberals among them.  Commissioners take a vow of political celibacy -

"Having been appointed as a Member of the European Commission by the European Council, following the vote of consent by the European Parliament I solemnly undertake: to respect the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in the fulfilment of all my duties; to be completely independent in carrying out my responsibilities, in the general interest of the Union; in the performance of my tasks, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any Government or from any other institution, body, office or entity; to refrain from any action incompatible with my duties or the performance of my tasks.
I formally note the undertaking of each Member State to respect this principle and not to seek to influence Members of the Commission in the performance of their tasks. I further undertake to respect, both during and after my term of office, the obligation arising therefrom, and in particular the duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after I have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits". 

To which I would retort, go tell it to the marines....

Anyway, back at the plot, the current 27 break down thus - nine ALDE (Liberals to you and me) aligned at nomination, Six PES (Socialists), nine EPP (Christian Democrats) and three apparently unaffiliated.

A pie-chart of which looks like this:

That's a lot of Liberals, isn't it?

What would a Commission based on populations currently ruled by each party look like? 

Like this:

The PEL (blow-dried Bolsheviks) rule Cyprus, but the good people of Cyprus fail to reach 1/27th of  the population of the EU by, oh, about 17.8 million so no sinecure for the PEL.

The AECR is the Euro grouping cobbled together by our own dear PM, and those four Commissariats represent the population of these parts plus the Czech Republic.

The PES would get one seat - losing five - based on the populations of Austria, Denmark and Belgium all of which are currently groaning under the red wheel.

The ALDE slides from nine to two, courtesy of Romania, the Netherlands and Estonia.

The technocrat governments of Greece and Italy are taken to be neutral.

And the big, big winner is the European People's Party, which jumps from nine to 16, aided by France, Spain and Germany.

Thursday 12 January 2012

In a pique on Darien

(Joke stolen from Flann O'Brien)

Imagine, if you will, that an indigent friend comes to you asking for just under £400,000 having gone bankrupt.  Being a generous soul, you agree to the sum, but as a condition the friend agrees to enter into business with you.  Some way down the line, the friend decides to exit the business.  Might you, perhaps, want your money back, compounded?

This is roughly what has happened with our Caledonian neighbours, who we bailed out in 1707 with the Act of Union, their having blown rather a lot of money on their attempt to build an empire in what is now Panama in the quite extraordinarily ill-fated Darien Scheme - see here, here or the inevitable Wikipedia link.

Anyway,  £398,085 (and the all important 10 shillings) in 1707 terms would be worth rather more now, and the rather nifty calculator at measuringworth suggests £52m based on RPI or £725m based on average earnings.

I look forward to Alec Salmond including this sum in his next budget.