Jesurgislac’s Journal

May 24, 2010

ConDem: More privacy for rapists

Three years ago David Cameron, now Prime Minister, called for tougher sentences for rapists, saying too many men “think they can get away with it”. (BBC)

Now he’s Prime Minister, he seems to have decided that the important thing is to preserve the privacy of rapists.

It’s generally agreed by crime statistics compilers that the percentage of false accusations in rape is no greater than the percentage of false accusations of any other crime (around 4%) – and the police are pretty good (some would say overly good) at weeding out the false accusations before the case is given to the criminal justice system and they decide whether or not to prosecute.

It’s also confirmed that most rapes – more than half – go unreported, because the victim either can’t believe herself (or himself – men are even less likely to report rape than women) that she was raped, or is sure she won’t be believed.

Once a case of rape gets to court, slightly over half the cases win a conviction.

Anyone accused of a crime has the right in a court of law to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But we don’t generally have a problem with the idea that even though Fred Bloggs was found innocent in court of stealing the lead from the local church, still everyone local is pretty damn sure Bloggs did it, given the locally known circumstancial evidence of missing lead from the roof, Bloggs seen around the church at the right time, and Bloggs suddenly acquiring some inexplicable money from somewhere unknown. And it’s perfectly okay to report all of this in the local paper, once the trial’s done and Bloggs has been acquitted.

Fred Bloggs also has a habit of picking up young women, taking them out to dinner, going on a second date in which he gets her drunk, offers to “drive her home”, drives her instead to an out-of-the-way place to rape her, an then drives her home, pointing out to her on the way that if she talks, he’ll just say it was consensual, and there’ll be no evidence. Eventually one of them reports to the police, who arrest Bloggs, who maintains the young woman was “gagging for it”, and as she was drunk and admits herself that she went out on a date with Bloggs before he raped her, the jury decides “insufficient evidence” and acquits. And to protect Bloggs’ good name, the local paper is not allowed to report that Fred Bloggs does this – or any identifying details which might help anyone realise that the man acquitted is good old Fred Bloggs, last seen at the Slug and Lettuce courteously helping his drunken date into his car for a drive home.

Why all the concern for the men accused and acquitted – most of whom did actually commit rape, even if they couldn’t be convicted – while no concern whatsoever for the victims, whose rape can’t “unhappen” just because the rapist walked free?

May 12, 2010

Wednesday Recipe Blogging: ConDem Cocktail

Ingredients:

    306 Conservative MPs
    57 Liberal Democrat MPs
    A shot of ambition
    A double-shot of lust for power

Mix in tall jug of disbelieving horror

Pour into House of Commons

Add two public schoolboys

Scream and refuse to drink it.

Jokes on Twitter about ConDem compromises: (tag: #torylibdempolicies)

1. Gay people to be allowed to have a bed but not breakfast at Christian B&Bs.
2. The UK will remain in Europe, but strictly in the geographical sense.
3. Terminally ill patients will have the right to die… but only if they can’t afford to pay for their care.
4. Proportional representation Rupert Murdoch style – the more money you have, the more votes you get.
5. A cap on immigrants, but only for immigrants who arrive not wearing a cap.
6. Split Easter Bunny from Santa Claus so they can operate as 2 different organisations. Sell 49% of shares in Santa and reinvest in the Tooth Fairy.
7. Red tape to be cut… into little strips about 6 inches long and used to tie Diploma Certificates into bundles – to burn (Alternatively: Red tape to be replaced with muddy green tape.)
8. More funding to help under-privileged kids, through a series of new “workhouses”. Sure start scheme for chimney sweeps.
9. Immigrants to be rounded up and killed but their heirs made exempt from inheritance tax.
10. All bribes to be taken in Euros.
11. Bankers to be allowed hedge funds if they stick to privet.
12. Massive wall to be built across English Channel. With a door.
13. Gay partnerships allowed Wed to Fri only. Winter fuel allowance cut except for Old Etonians. Sure Start on Thursdays.
14. Public schoolboys’ fags to receive minimum wage.
15. Gay married couples to get a £150 tax break… towards a one way air fare to anywhere outside the British empire.
16. An open and free, unbiased media. Owned by Rupert Murdoch.
17. Full support for Europe, but refer to the ‘The British Empire’ within ear-shot of any euro-sceptics.
18. Massive cuts to public services, spread proportionately across the north, Scotland and Wales.
19. William the Hague to form stable whilst Nick the Clegg mucks out. Horses surprised.
20. A penny on income tax for schools, no sorry a penny OFF income tax paid for by schools.
21. Proportional representation in LibDem seats – forever.
22. All domestic staff to be given Right To Buy Own Aga and to receive a Golden Retriever Allowance.
23. Proportional representation, but only for the House of Lords
24. Fair taxes for all foreigners living abroad.
25. Reduce the deficit slowly, to allow for tax cuts to the rich.
26. New businesses needn’t pay their first ten employees, particularly if they are gay or immigrants.
27. British Summer Time scrapped in favour of Proportional Daylight Savings. Scottish kids to start school at 3am.
28. London Marathon reformed to abolish first past the post wins.
29. Trident to be scrapped and replaced by Lord Ashdown, the only peer trained to kill with his bare hands.
30. Compulsory moats round all homes to increase water storage.

May 9, 2010

The Sensible Thing To Do

As discussed in previous post, The Arithmetic of Democracy, the next government of the UK – and the future of electoral reform – depends on the deal Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, makes over the next couple of days.

The sensible thing to do is to make a coalition agreement with the Conservatives. A ConLib (or as they’re calling it on Twitter, a ConDem) coalition government has a sufficient majority over the Labour party (and a solid overall majority) that it might well last four or five years if an agreement can be forged to suit both parties. It would mean abandoning PR for the lifetime of this Parliament; it would lend weight to Labour’s campaigning that a vote for the LibDems is a vote for the Conservatives. But it would be sensible, and John Rentoul explains why in the Independent.

Or Nick Clegg can help form a rainbow coalition – Labour, LibDem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Green – which can stand against the Conservatives. This rainbow coalition has many disadvantages and only two advantages.

A disadvantage: this rainbow coalition couldn’t hope to stay together for four or five years. It barely achieves a majority in Parliament. SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs seldom spend much time in Westminister: this coalition could fall if five MPs had the flu, four were stuck abroad due to volcanic ash, one was in Lerwick for the weekend and the tenth MP slept in. When the government fell, it would be back to the General Election madness – and while the Conservatives could afford a fullscale campaign with rich donors to back them, no other party could so quickly after the last. Nor would the public in general be happy with having this disruption occur again.

Further: there might be (and there certainly would be a media narrative to that effect) a feeling that by siding with the rainbow coalition, Nick Clegg was joining (in Janet Daley’s charming phrase) a coalition of the losers – never mind that as a group, this bunch of progressive lefties got the larger share of the vote and have more seats in Parliament. More people voted against the Tories than voted for them. But this won’t be the media narrative.

And the key disadvantage: Rupert Murdoch owns 40% of the British media. He wants a Tory government in place to gut the BBC, which competes with his properties. If Nick Clegg does not lie down with the Tories and accept what they choose to give him, the vilification he experienced during the pre-election campaign will be nothing compared to the vilification that will be piled on him post-election. A rainbow coalition government and its constituent parties would be subject to unceasing media attack.

The objective would be, if the rainbow coalition were determined to stay in government until they had got a PR system of election in place and then to call a General Election using PR, to bring down this coalition and to force a General Election by FPTP, with mass media talking up the Tories. So if Nick Clegg goes rainbow, and loses, the next General Election could well have the Tories in place with a big enough majority to form a government without partners – and every incentive to bury PR, perhaps by instituting their own “parliamentary reform”. (David Cameron came up with some cool gerrymandering ideas of “standardised constituencies” that would tend to reduce the number of Labour and SNP seats in Parliament.)

The advantages are only two, but they’re big ones.

One: If the rainbow coalition can work together (and refrain from taking holidays or falling seriously ill) then PR can be delivered. There needs to be a referendum promised in the Queen’s Speech, with a yes vote promising PR for the next General Election: there needs to be some serious work done on which form of PR the UK should adopt: and there needs to be a committment from all partners to oppose the Tories and support the Labour and LibDem policies. The LibDems have been a tail-of-the-dog third party in UK politics for decades, even though they muster 25-30% of the vote: PR should change that permanently. And it’s what a majority of the British people want. 62%, a clear majority, favour a change from FPTP. cite That won’t affect the Tories – their whole opposition to PR is that they want to be in government even though a majority oppose them – but it ought to affect the other parties.

Two: A dealbreaker. I very nearly voted LibDem this time. (I didn’t, because I did some complicated vote-calculations and concluded that the Green party needed my vote more.) I have voted LibDem in past elections, where the candidate seemed like the right person and had a better chance of winning than the Labour candidate. (It’s usually that choice.) But if Nick Clegg demonstrates that voting for the LibDems is pretty much what Labour always says it is – a vote for the Tories – then I’m certainly never voting LibDem again. If Nick Clegg gives up on PR in order to do the sensible thing and get into government, then the UK needs to have a two-party system, Labour v Conservative: we can’t afford to have the LibDems kicking around wasting votes any more.

I’ve been following 38Degrees for a while. On Friday, I e-mailed the senior LibDems via their site, letting them know how I felt. Yesterday, I went to a rally they and other organisations put together. Today, I donated to their campaign to fund full-page newspaper ads to tell Nick Clegg: Don’t sell out on PR. Fair Votes Now!

They began this fundraising campaign just over three hours ago – about 2pm. Their goal was to raise £5000. In three hours they’ve received £14,307 from 925 people. [Update: it's now 15,235, donated by 976 people, so 50 people donated an average of 18.56 in the past hour and a half. The earlier average was £15.46 per donor, so it looks like donations may be getting bigger as the total goes up... and 4 people just donated an average of £20 each in the last 4 minutes, so, yes.]

We can’t afford to let Nick Clegg do the sensible thing.

May 6, 2010

Voting for democracy

The first election for which I had the right to vote was in 1987. I voted Labour. The incumbent was Conservative. The Labour candidate got in, and held the seat till this year, though (thanks to the expenses scandal – he was one of the embarrassing claims rather than one of the shocking ones) he won’t be standing this year.

Since then I’ve never missed voting in any election I had a right to vote in: UK Parliament, European Parliament, local council, or Scottish Parliament. My great-aunt turned 21 in 1929, the first year in the UK that women had the vote on the same terms as men: her first General Election would have been 30 May 1929, and I expect she voted Conservative, but Labour got in. Still, though she was quite aware that neither myself nor my sister nor her niece, our mother, would be voting the same way she was (lefties all of us) she was adamant that we should vote.

This year is the first year since goodness knows how long that none of the pundits or the bookies have really been sure who would be in government in Westminster the next day. (Seriously. 1992, it had to be either Labour or Conservative, and it ended up being Conservative: 1974, Labour formed a minority government: but mostly, really, you know.) But now?
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April 25, 2010

Lies about Islington demonstrate Tory desperation

Right up till 15th April, it looked like the results of the general election were going to be one of two dreary prospects:

  • Either Labour was going to remain in power with a bare majority, and we would see five more years of the same kind of no-risk party government as we saw under John Major (who won the 1992 general election with a margin so narrow that without the Ulster Unionists he couldn’t have stayed in power);
  • or the Conservatives would win majority (which of course they could still do, even if a majority of voters in the UK clearly reject their policies – see Johann Hari on the forces that block British democracy) and we’d be in for five years of right-wing government.

Then for the first time in the UK, there was a prime ministerial debate, and, even though no one seriously expected a LibDem victory (ten days ago? they didn’t stand a chance: they have 63 seats in the Commons, and they had a hopeful list of 30 constitutencies which they were hoping they could flip from Labour or from Conservative – I live in one of them, and I didn’t think they had a realistic chance here) they very properly invited Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader, to stand with Gordon Brown and David Cameron. (And I bet Brown and Cameron are both wishing they’d said no to Clegg.)

Because Nick Clegg won the debate.
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February 12, 2009

Never, ever, try to win an argument by editing a Wikipedia page

The Telegraph:

Attempting to explain that the present financial crisis was unprecedented, Mr Brown said: “I’m reminded of the story of Titian, who’s the great painter who reached the age of 90, finished the last of his nearly 100 brilliant paintings, and he said at the end of it, ‘I’m finally beginning to learn how to paint,’ and that is where we are.”

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Cameron said: “The Prime Minister never gets his facts right: he told us the other day he was like Titian aged 90. The fact is, Titian died at 86.”

Records on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, show that at 12.34pm – four minutes after the end of PMQs – the entry for the artist was altered to support Mr Cameron’s claim.

While previously his birth and death dates were set at 1485 and 1576, meaning Mr Brown could have been correct, they were changed to 1490 and 1572.

The editor’s IP address – the unique string of numbers identifying internet users – belonged to a computer in Conservative Campaign Headquarters in south-west London.

David Cameron says “The person at central office who then altered the Wikipedia entry – putting on the correct information, because I think Titian did die at 86, there’s some dispute among academics – but nevertheless that was the wrong thing to do. He shouldn’t have done that, he has been disciplined for doing that.” So, well, that’s nice.

I wonder how he was “disciplined”? Made to stand in front of a blackboard and write out “I will not edit Wikipedia to ‘help’ my boss win an argument”? Or will the words “from an easily-traceable IP address” be inserted there?


Update: “If the Conservative party is prepared to fiddle the figures with regard to the age of dead Italian painters, surely we cannot trust them on the economy either.” – Mark Lazarowicz MP, yesterday

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