Adrian Farrel's blog

Why It's Important to Make a Small Donation to a Small Party

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Our electoral system is skewed against small political parties – it's well known.

Perhaps the most obvious problem is the "first past the post" system of single constituency MPs elected to represent large areas by the largest number of votes but without a requirement for a majority. Thus, most of our representatives in Parliament got the largest number of votes in their constituencies, but do not have the support of the majority of the voters.

This translates to a Government that is hugely unrepresentative of the people. So-called "minor parties" in British politics can gather a significant proportion of national vote, but never be the largest party in any one constituency and never get any representatives in the House of Commons.

While there are many benefits to democracy from our system (stability, direct representation), the drawbacks lead to a feeling of distance and disenfranchisement. The incumbent major parties see no benefit to themselves in a change in the system and there is a consequent disillusionment and Sinicism among voters.

Is a Vote for Your Principles a Wasted Vote?

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The media are full of proposals for electoral pacts and ideas for tactical voting. These suggestions are based around keeping one party or another out of government, or making sure that a particular person is not returned to Westminster.

But where does this leave a minority party? Should it encourage its supporters to vote for candidates from other parties and maybe for different parties in different constituencies?

And what should voters do in our first past the post system where their first choice from one of the smaller parties is unlikely to get elected? Should they vote for the person they support or should they consider that a wasted vote?

I am personally very frustrated and disappointed by negative voting. At the previous election my MP said to me words equivalent to, "Vote for me because at least I'm not one of them." This is not exactly a resounding reason to do anything.

PPUK After the Brexit Referendum

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Ahoy fellow Pirates.

Regardless of which way you voted, I'm sure you're tired of hearing about the referendum and plundering politicians but PPUK is impacted by many of the issues raised by the process and fact of Brexit.

Transparency in Campaigning

Both the Leave and Remain campaigns were based on lies and fear. Little concrete evidence was supplied and both sides of the debate can carry some blame despite the fact that real information and data was available to researchers. It seems as though the politicians and campaigners were more interested in stirring up emotional responses than in having a measured and constructive debate.

What treatment would we in PPUK like to see for those who lie on a public platform during a referendum campaign? How would we like to see the media held to account? How would we expect information to be presented to the public in future campaigns?

Ridiculing of "Experts"

During the campaign, Michael Gove said: "People in this country have had enough of experts" and this seemed to strike a chord across the voting public.

Research Funding in a Post-Brexit World

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Whatever your view of the outcome of the referendum, you probably agree that the campaigns were threaded through with misinformation and confusion. We might hope that we are past that point, but as the debate about how we will negotiate the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) develops we are being exposed to more and distractions and disingenuous public statements.

A considerable amount of research funding comes to the UK from the EU through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) scheme [1]. This programme is providing over 80 billion Euros in grants over the period 2014 to 2020 and is envisioned as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs within the EU's member nations. The stated aim is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

The chief beneficiaries of H2020 grants are research institutions (universities and independent research organisations) and the R&D arms of large companies [2], however there is a goal that 20% of the monies will go to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

What Price Security Surveillance Now?

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A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of the Manchester branch of the Open Rights Group to discuss the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill known as the IPBill and currently about to be discussed and voted on by the House of Lords.

The meeting included a showing of The Haystack (http://thehaystackdocumentary.squarespace.com/watch/) a short documentary film about surveillance in the UK. We then had an open discussion of the film and the IPBill with a panel including Gary Herman from the National Union of Journalists, Gary Hough from Zen Internet, Loz Kaye from Open Intelligence, and myself.

While recognising the threats posed by terrorism, paedophilia, and organised crime, the room seemed unanimous in its belief that the IPBill is poorly conceived, lacking in detail, and over-reaching in its powers. For some background on the IPBill see https://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Investigatory_Powers_Bill.

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