Mark – my words

Standby for some more posts

Brexit. Don’cha love it?

As our top-class team battles the obstructive Brussels bureaucrats, maybe it’s time for some facts.

HMG reviews its policy on wine for hospitality

One of the bodies to go up in flames in the coalition’s 2010 Bonfire of the QUANGOs was the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the Purchase of Wines (GHACPW), which had existed since 1922, making it one of the very first QUANGOs to be created. Its abolition will save virtually nothing, since it consisted only of four Masters of Wine who apart from expenses were unpaid for their duties, and a civil servant who acted as secretary, and whose full-time job presumably is (and remains secure) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The GHACPW used to meet just four mornings a year, deliberating and sampling wines, followed by lunch. It could be argued that their expertise led to the creation of what must be one of the best collections of wine anywhere – if in these straitened times that can be considered a worthwhile achievement. Still, no doubt the symbolism inherent in the abolition of the GHACPW was felt to be worthwhile.

Meanwhile, a review has been conducted into the operation of the hospitality wine cellar at Lancaster House, and it has concluded that “retaining a Government Wine Cellar remains the most cost effective way to supply wine for Government Hospitality functions and State Banquets, but that substantial reform was needed.” The plan is in part to “conduct targeted sales of high value stock in order to pay for future purchases.” And goodness knows they have enough high value stock to see them through a good many years to come.

A series of Freedom of Information requests have resulted in the publication of a partial list of the Government’s hospitality wine stockholding, on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website. It’s in two parts, in PDF format, and I should warn you that the files are rather large, as befits the nature and value of the assets they document! Here they are:

So now is your chance to get your bids in for those rare and special wines that your own cellar may lack. A ’55 Château Latour? “The essence of wonderful claret.” A 1961 Bouchard Corton? “A national treasure. Use with extreme caution for heads of state.” The odd magnum of ’64 Krug?

It will be interesting to learn, if we are allowed, to whom these wines are eventually sold, and the values they realise.

I was first alerted to this subject by an article in The Guardian.

What went wrong?

To Katie Ghose and all at the Yes campaign:

What your erstwhile supporters would now like to know is this: how come the Yes campaign screwed up so badly? Did you have the wrong headline messages? (I know that where I live, the “make your mp work harder” line generated massive pushback!) Were you too slow to recognize and challenge the lies that the No campaign produced? Why did you fail to invest in explaining the mechanics and the advantages of AV?

The referendum was a sitting duck for Yes. All the positive arguments were on the Yes side. The No side failed to produce any positive arguments for FPTP. Yet the vote was overwhelmingly lost.

Please use whatever funds remain to commssion a survey from YouGov, or Ipsos Mori, or whoever, to determine why people were persuaded to cast their votes against reform.

You owe it to your supporters. You owe it to the millions who voted Yes. Please.

Electoral Reform Society – no conflict of interest

Once again, the No to AV campaign is shouting foul over the relationship between the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), one of the Yes campaign’s main sources of finance, and ERS subsidiary Electoral Reform Services (ERSL). Time for some facts.

The Electoral Reform Society has existed for well over a century, with the primary objective of securing voting reform. Specifically, ERS wants the UK to adopt Single Transferable Vote proportional representation. The ERS Memorandum of Association (PDF) makes this quite clear. It also makes clear that the Society may “advocate and support other measures, not being inconsistent with” the PR objective. Note also that ERS is a membership society and not a charity, as under UK law charities are forbidden from acting for political purposes.

On the topic of the present referendum on AV, ERS balloted its members and their decision was to support the “Yes” campaign. This decision, wholly consistent with the Society’s published objectives, was arrived at in an entirely proper and above board manner, as anyone familiar with ERS would naturally expect.

From its beginnings, the ERS has sought to raise the standards of probity and honesty involved with ballots and elections and has built a reputation for integrity and impartiality that is recognised internationally. More than a century after its inception, the Society found that demand for its services was increasing as organisations in many fields became more willing to resolve issues through ballot and consultation. To meet the growing need for direct ballot management, Electoral Reform Ballot Services was constituted as a separate company in 1988.  Now known simply as Electoral Reform Services (ERSL), the company offers the benefits of over 115 years’ experience of best practice in election, ballot and consultative process administration. ERSL provides, on a commercial basis, electoral services including conducting elections, ballots and referendums, for a wide range of companies, organizations and local authorities.

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of ERS, all profits from ERSL are returned to ERS. This is and always has been an open and transparent arrangement. ERSL clients, including those in the public sector, are naturally entirely free to select alternative election service providers if they so choose.

It’s difficult to understand how anyone in possession of these facts can construe this perfectly logical and sensible state of affairs as any kind of conflict of interest. One can only conclude that the No campaign is seeking to gain advantage for its own cause through innuendo and malicious mudraking, attempting to insinuate that there is something improper in ERS pursuing the electoral reform objectives for which it exists.

Is AV better than FPTP? (via Gowers’s Weblog)

Professor Tim Gowers treats us to a comprehensive rubbishing of the No to AV campaign’s arguments, some of which he proves to be false using mathematics.

It’s a long article, but well worth reading. I’ve seen no better single collection of reasons why anyone with a brain should cast anything but a “Yes” vote on May 5th.

Is AV better than FPTP? On May 5th the UK will vote in a referendum for only the second time ever. (The first time was in 1975, when we voted on whether to remain in the EU, or the Common Market as it was then called.) Now we have a chance to decide whether to retain our current voting system, misleadingly known as First Past The Post, or whether to switch to the Alternative Vote. Let me come clean straight away. Although in this post I shall try to write dispassionatel … Read More

via Gowers’s Weblog