Tag Archives: london

Just how many spoilt ballot papers were there?

I’ve been looking at the final results of the London elections on the London Elects website and I’m confused. Under Turnout and Technical Information, it state the following:

Electorate: 5,419,913
Papers counted / turnout: 2,456,990
Turnout: 45.33%

Good votes
1st choice: 2,415,958
2nd choice: 2,004,078

Rejected votes *
1st choice: 41,032
2nd choice: 412,054

Blank **(no votes cast): 13,034
No 2nd preference ***: 407,840

* “Rejected votes” refers to ballot papers where the vote has not been counted because the ballot paper has not been filled out correctly. This may be because the voter has marked more than one preference in one column, because the voter identified themselves on the ballot paper, if the voter’s intention is unclear or if the voter has spoiled his or her paper in any way.
** “Blank votes” refers to ballot papers where no 1st choice and no 2nd choice have been marked, and no vote has been counted. (This data is only available for 2008.)
*** “No 2nd preference” refers to ballot papers where voters have only made 1st choice vote and no 2nd choice vote. The first choice vote has been counted. (This data is only available for 2008.)

If 412,000 second preference votes were rejected in addition to 407,000 in which individuals didn’t express a second preference, this is a pretty sorry indictment of the electoral system and given the closeness of the final result is a very serious matter indeed. But none of these numbers add up. If there were 2,456,990 votes cast in total, of which 2,004,078 had “good” second preference votes, then there is a difference of 452,912 “bad” second preferences to account for. The rejected votes, blank ballot papers, and no second preference categories are defined as sui generis from one another. Add them all up and you have 380,016 too many votes. Add any two of those three categories together (i.e. assume that the no second preference category is a subset of the rejected votes category) and it still doesn’t add up.

Either I’m missing something pretty fundamental here, or something is seriously awry. Any ideas?

Regarding the Assembly results, much better news all round. The numbers do add up (assuming the blank ballot papers are not included under total votes cast) and there are significantly fewer of them than there were in 2004.

Brian Coleman: Blinging Idiot and the new power behind the throne?

Julian H reports a rather bizarre Mandelson-style acceptance speech from the foul-mouthed, chain-obsessive excuse for Barnet and Camden’s GLA member. The most under-reported aspect of this election is the fact that as the Tories have more than a third of Assembly seats, the new Mayor will be accountable to the Tory Assembly Group not the Assembly itself.

Coleman and co ran on a manifesto they did not agree a single word with. However nice and cuddly Bozza himself might be, they will spend their time trying to drag him in the opposite direction. On the positive side, it is hard to see Coleman being able to restrain himself over the next few years. He’s done a pretty good job at convincing most people who watch London politics that he is a dangerous idiot. With Johnson’s win he may find his antics now get rather more attention on the national stage.

My verdict on the Paddick campaign

My piece on Comment is Free this morning is rather less “sunshine and buttercups” than my effort yesterday:

Has the light at the end of the tunnel I was detecting yesterday turned out to be a freight train moving at speed in the wrong direction? Maybe not, but there is no disguising the fact that the London elections have been awful for the Liberal Democrats.

For the record, and not that I’m complaining about being censored, my original draft was considerably more sweary. Read the full article here.

A tale of three newspapers

I’m on the night shift tonight – got to file an article for Comment is Free at 7am. The big picture is still unclear at the mo so I thought I’d offer my words of wisdom about the London election.

I’ve spent the past month tracking mentions of Boris, Ken and Paddick on Twitter. What I witnessed, particularly today, was about 80% of twitterers mentioning Boris expressing utter disbelief at the prospect of Three Jobs Boz getting the Mayoralty, 5% were petulant remarks from True Blues accusing anyone who fails to immediately see how wonderful he is as being “class warriors” and “inverted snobs” and 15% echoing Charlie Brooker’s article a couple of weeks ago, namely “OMFG LOOK AT HIS FUNNEEE HAIR LOL!!!! BORRIS IS A LEGERND!!!!” I’m afraid to say that seeing the 100th one of these messages today, I started to go a bit funny in the head.

The general impression seems to be that turnout in London is high. Iain Dale seems to think it is limited to the Outer London donut, but my experience from telling in an uber urban Islington ward today is that it is high there too. At 6pm we were being told that turnout there was already hitting 50%.

What I found most revealing today was looking at the coverage of the London elections in London’s free newspapers. For those who don’t know, London now has three of the things: the Metro which is distributed on the tube in the morning and London Lite and thelondonpaper which is handed out in the late afternoon/evening. The Metro and London Lite are both Associated Newspapers, who also publish the Mail and the Evening Standard. thelondonpaper is News International who also publish the Sun and the Times.

The Evening Standard has of course been running a vendetta against Ken Livingstone and not surprisingly called on its readers to vote for Bozza in a leader today. But what of the Metro and London Lite? They have very different demographics: while the Standard is the paper for the middle aged, middle class, stockbroker, its sister papers are for the hoi polloi.

thelondonpaper has had extensive coverage of the Mayoral elections over the last three days. Today’s paper consists of the following:

  • Front page: headline “IT’S NOT TOO LATE”. front page editorial encouraging people to vote.
  • Page 2: pics of the candidates
  • Pages 6-7: general coverage
  • Pages 8-9: Bozza and Ken’s style analysed, with tips on how to get their respective looks

By contrast, this is the coverage of today’s London Lite:

  • Front page: headline “Ken closes in on Boris”
  • Pages 6-7: general coverage.

And the Metro? The paper with the widest circulation by a factor of more than two?

  • Front page: nothing. nada.
  • Page 23: half a page of jokey coverage.
  • Er…
  • …that’s it?

It’s quite clear that the Associated Press were trying their best to depress turnout. So full marks to thelondonpaper, which has easily had the best and most balanced coverage. The fact that News International are angling for the license to distribute a morning paper on the tube is, I’m sure, a complete coincidence.

Karma Police and the fashion failure of fascism

Karma police, arrest this girl, her Hitler hairdo, is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us

Radiohead, Karma police

For reasons that may (or may not) become clear, the Daily Mail made me think of these lyrics today. As it has done through the years, thankfully a mite more critically this time, the paper has done a piece on the fascist du jour Richard “Dick” Barnbrook. The main revelation which I did not know was that he is in the final stages of divorcing a woman he met during his “Derek Jarman gay porn” years. Not terribly impressed with his politics, she says:

“In a way, I wanted to join the police to redress the karmic imbalance in the world caused by my husband’s views.”

Barnbrook has also been in the News of the World this week for two-timing his ballerina fiance with a nurse from Finland. I have to admit I am rather disappointed that NotW failed to use the headlines “a kick in the Balkans” or “Finns ain’t what they used to be”.

Possibly the most disappointing thing about the state of British fascism (apart from, of course, the fact that they are racist, violent thugs who are improbably gaining electoral support at the moment), is their sartorial inelegance. Oswald Mosley may have dressed his blackshirts up like Doctor Who villains, but at least they knew what a fucking iron was.

Oswald Mosley and his blackshirts

Richard Barnbrook as Adolf HitlerOne thing you can say about Barnbrook is that with his brown suit and already suggestive fringe, at least he makes it easy for people to caricature him.

Frankly though, I prefer these fellers.

Boris is punk’d

Yesterday, I kept getting twitter messages about “Boris and Torche on tour.” Naturally, I assumed this meant that in order to avoid the homophobic brush, Mr Johnson had been going round Soho with members of the Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality (which appears to have folded given that I can’t find any evidence of their existence other than an archive). However, it turns out to be a couple of punk bands. Who knew?

Matt O’Connor and the English Democrats split

Long time readers of this blog will be aware that Quaequam Blog! is a great friend of the English Nationalist movement (and indeed nationalism in general). So it brings me great sadness to have to report to you that a schism has emerged between the English Democrats and their candidate for London Mayor, Matt “fathers4justice” O’Connor:

The problems O’Connor discovered were that there was no party machine in London as promised, no advertising budget as promised, and they were economical with the facts about whether we’d be funded by backers. His recent party election broadcast which he organised also had amendments made without his knowledge.

He also struggled with an organisation that didn’t share his ideas and vision as evidenced in the difference between O’Connor’s official www.voteenglish.org site and the main party site.

On one occasion he was called racist and anti-Semitic by a senior member – a claim O’Connor described as ‘absurd’. He is also profoundly disappointed that they are now deliberately trying to smear him whilst at the same time the party was happy for him to stand.

Said O’Connor this morning, ‘It is sad but inevitable that they are trying to cover up their own internal problems. They did not deliver on their part of the agreement. It is extremely regrettable that this happened at this stage but I cannot stay in the party where people say things like that or where we have no sensible funding. I also had a clear vision to raise the issue of an English Parliament which they didn’t share.’

Nadine Taylor, Matt’s Campaign Manager resigned several weeks ago because she could not work with the level of incompetence within the party. O’Connor recognises now “that I should have listened to her advice”.

‘Descending to abusing somebody who campaigned in the Anti-Apartheid movement would be laughable if it were not so offensive. I am truly sorry for the good men and women in the party that this happened and while I wish the party every success, my record speaks for itself. Fathers 4 Justice has existed for the same amount of time as the English Democrats and F4J is a household name, with more members and wider recognition. The reality is that my resignation may generate more publicity for them than they achieved in the last six years.

‘Later this year I will launch a new campaign to raise issues like Tartan Taxes. Awareness is everything and they would probably stand to benefit from it.’

English Democrats Leader Robin Tilbrook was quick to issue a stern rebuttal:

I am obviously very disappointed that Matt O’Connor has issued this statement but I have to admit, not entirely surprised. What I now say is in sorrow, because Matt has done the cause some good but, contrary to what he now claims, Matt approached the English Democrats Party to put himself forward to be our mayoral candidate. In January he came to our National Council meeting in Leicester to urge us to select him and promised to “give the campaign 110%”!

During several discussions, he was made fully aware of the problems confronting a candidate for a smaller political party which is challenging the Establishment Parties – not least the problem of raising sufficient funds to fight an election campaign especially given the lack of media coverage of non Establishment candidates.

Within the bounds of our limited manpower and financial resources, Matt has been given 100% support by the English Democrats and many of our London members who have campaigned for him, and for England’s cause. Day in and day out, for many weeks the English Democrats have paid for all the campaign expenses that have been incurred. At no time has any funds been received from Matt.

Unfortunately – and this is not a subject I would have wanted to air publicly had it not been for the statement released by Matt O’Connor this morning seeking to blame us – it became apparent that there were problems with Matt’s candidacy arising from his own personal problems, not least following his disappearance from the campaign for several days, to the extent that I advised him to seek professional counselling regarding alcohol abuse, which he did. Matt did not disclose this problem to us when he urged us to select him as our candidate.

Despite this counselling, Matt again went missing last Saturday; – neither his office nor his partner seemed to know of his whereabouts and he could not be contacted at home. Indeed the Party prepared a statement last night raising concerns at his disappearance, as we were becoming genuinely worried for his safety.

Now, he has stated that he has resigned, although he cannot, of course, at this late stage, remove his name from the ballot paper.

This is all a great pity for Matt personally – he obviously has personal issues that he needs to address – but it also a pity for English Democrats’ candidates standing for the London Assembly – of which we have a full slate. They feel badly let down by Matt – but the campaign for English Democracy goes on!

The assembly campaign is running well and we have great hopes of getting a candidate elected, particularly on the party list, to campaign against the Establishment’s discrimination against London and England. The campaign for fair spending for London, an end to the Tartan Taxes, and real democracy and freedom of speech, will go on.

So I urge the people of London to give their vote, particularly their list vote, to the English Democrats. England’s cause is far bigger and more important than any one individual!

To lose one Mayoral candidate is unfortunate, but to lose two smacks of carelessness. Taking sides in this debate is like choosing between my children, but it has to be said that O’Connor brought with him a slickness that the English Democrats will miss. Whether that slickness was an unambiguously good thing however is another matter. Their recent PEB was a bile-filled attempt to resemble will.i.am’s homage to Barack Obama “Yes We Can” which ends up looking more like “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. And not in a good way. Can you say David Brent? Yes we can:

Sarcasm aside, it is hard to feel sympathy for a party and candidate whose sole objective seemed to be to piss off the Scots as much as possible, making exaggerated claims about “Tartan Taxes” and claiming that the only things the Scots ever gave to the world were “deep fried Mars Bars and Irn Bru.” The English Democrats also managed to cause me great amusement earlier this year by getting apoplectic about the SNP’s suggestion that Berwick might want to come back to Scotland, forgetting the fact that one year earlier they stood in the Welsh elections on a platform to do exactly the same thing with Monmouthshire. This is the disease of nationalism; the inability to see how bloody ridiculous you are being.

Ham: Are You High?

Readers may recall me mocking the Ham and High a couple of years ago for condemning the Labour party’s “flying pigs” advert on the grounds of anti-semitism. Words therefore fail to learn that the same paper has allowed the BNP to take out paid advertising on their pages.

The paper appears to have confused the two concepts of “freedom of speech” and “suckee suckee – one dollar!” – to be fair, many people who lack a moral compass do. But does anyone seriously believe that if this advert had been anti-jewish as opposed to anti-muslim they would seriously go ahead with it? In that part of North London?

Anoraks and PR

I’m still trying to be on my best behaviour by not commenting here on the London elections, but I can’t let this comment by Lib Dem Voice’s resident troll Laurence Boyce go unchallenged:

Please allow me to provide my own advice for London voters.

First preference: State your first preference for Mayor of London.
Second preference: State your second preference for Mayor of London.

Because it really is as simple as that.

I didn’t comment on Laurence’s previous advice on electoral politics as he was clearly on a massive wind up. After noon on 1 April, it ought to have had a “don’t feed the troll” neon sign hung above it and can be summed up thus: “me, me, me, me, me, me, me.” I don’t however question that his opposition to proportional representation is genuine. It is however one thing to oppose any electoral system that would prevent tactical voting; quite another to claim – as he has done today – that it is an irrelevance.

The May 1997 election would not have been as spectacular as it was were it not for tactical voting on an industrial scale. This isn’t the eighties (don’t be confused by Laurence’s designer stubble); tactical voting is no longer a controversial electoral tactic. All parties encourage it or discourage it according to what happens to be to their personal advantage in every election. The electorate intuitively understand this and exercise their preferences accordingly. Of course, all this negativity has a corrosive effect on our political system, but it is a product of the system not something individuals trying to make the best of a bad job ought to feel particularly guilty of. If you hate it so much, change the system, don’t whinge.

To claim then that the SV system is as simple as giving your ideal two choices a first and second preference vote is somewhere between laughably ignorant and criminally misleading. As an opponent of electoral systems that would dispense of such tactical voting, Laurence simply can’t be allowed to have it both ways.

Opponents of PR like to accuse its proponents of being anoraky. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes at an Electoral Reform Society AGM can hardly disagree, but when the debate moves beyond the merits of individual systems and instead focuses on broad principles, it is the other side who start to sound distinctly hairy palmed.

I might prefer STV as an electoral system but I’m really not personally that fussed so long as it achieved three things:
1. The overall votes cast should broadly reflected in Parliament. A minority party with 35% of the vote should not be sitting pretty on the government benches with 56% of the MPs.
2. Voters should have a choice of candidates, not just parties. I’m realistic that in most cases the electorate will simply vote on party lines but bad eggs should not be unaccountable simply because they are high up on some closed party list.
3. Voters should not be forced to choose between stating a genuine preference and having their vote count, or between voting positively for a party and voting negatively against one.

Any system which achieves those aims is fine by me and I will happily refrain from getting too bogged down into the details. Yet when I talk to opponents of PR, they bombard me with weird arguments about why Parliament should reflect the popular vote, why the public should be denied a choice of candidates (a feature of the first past the post system – which is just as much a closed list system as the one used for European Elections) and either that tactical voting is an irrelevance or some beastly thing that people should somehow be prevented from doing – and ultimately the only way to achieve that would be to outlaw any political party beyond the first two.

All those arguments are intensely complex and downright weird. They genuinely involve patiently explaining the logical equivalent of black = white and that all swans are purple. Terribly clever these fellows, far far too clever for their own good. Blessed with exceptionally flexible spines and neck muscles, they can disappear up their own sphincters on a whim. They are capable of the most obscurantist argument the collective membership of ERS can only dream of.

Asking the most hardcore electoral reformers to focus on broad principles rather than detail is an exercise in futility, but the next time some Tory calls you an “anorak” simply for believing that votes ought to count for something, ask them why and hand them a raincoat.

Finally, back to Laurence for a second, it is probably a good thing he isn’t a Londoner. A committed atheist, it is hard to see how, out of principle, he could vote for any ticket other than Unity for Peace and Socialism.