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Author Page for Dave Brockington

Born in San Jose, grew up in Seattle, received a Ph.D. in poli sci from University of Washington, worked for three years at Universiteit Twente in Enschede, Netherlands, and have worked at the University of Plymouth for eight academic years now in Plymouth, United Kingdom.

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The Future of the Left, British Edition

[ 0 ] March 5, 2010 |

During the 15 minute commute between the building that houses the admin side of my Faculty and my office (you couldn’t draw a longer straight line on a map connecting two points on this campus, it’s rather convenient) I was handed a leaflet. I typically reject these with either a menacing glare or a curt “no”, but this one promises to “defend the welfare state and public services” with a march and rally on the 10th of April at Trafalgar Square. This is organized by the TUC, and I see my own union on the list supporting this dramatic action.

So I shouldn’t be concerned that the lad who handed me the leaflet looked like he’s 118 years old, right?

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Michael Foot 1913 – 2010

[ 0 ] March 3, 2010 |

Michael Foot died today. He’s best known as leading Labour from 1980 until 1983, and having a hand in writing the “longest suicide note in history”, or officially the Labour Party Manifesto for the 1983 elections. Foot was as old Labour as they come, and his election as leader in 1980 prompted the “gang of four” to break off and form the Social Democratic Party, which would eventually merge with the Liberals.

Foot was also born and raised in Plymouth, and a life long supporter of Plymouth Argyle FC, and I believe that he was a director of the club for a while. For his 90th birthday the club formally registered him as a player and issued him with a squad number of 90.

Considering the quality of Argyle’s play of late, the running joke is obvious.

Ongoing tributes to Foot can be found at The Guardian here.

Just Splendid

[ 0 ] March 3, 2010 |

Is the UK going to be the next Greece or Iceland? When I moved here in 2003, when times were good economically, I did openly wonder about the sustainability of the British economy. It didn’t seem to be based on much more than the City of London, and heaven forbid, should anything happen to the financial services industry . . .

The consequences might be grim. I’m bemused by the stories linking the sudden accelerated decline in the pound to the YouGov poll released Sunday showing only a +2% Tory advantage. Apparently the nebulous markets fear a hung Parliament.

There is a paragraph from the NY Times story that hits wide of the mark, however:

In an echo of the United States’ rush into subprime mortgages with low teaser rates, millions of homeowners in Britain have piled into variable-rate mortgages that are linked to the rock-bottom base rate.

This completely and utterly fails to understand the British property market. There was some “sub prime” stuff going on, yes, but that was not tied to “teaser” rates. Rather, banks would lure in lesser qualified applicants through manipulating two variables, the Loan to Value ratio (Northern Rock was offering mortgages worth 125% of the property value in 2006, for example; one wonders how Northern Rock were one of the first casualties of the credit crunch) and personal income ratios.

Most mortgages held in the UK are “tracker” mortgages, which are tied to the Bank of England rate — in other words, variable rates. When I bought my house in 2004, the longest fixed mortgage on the market was only for 5 years (there are now 10 year fixed mortgages available), so I took out the five year fixed mortgage (and paid over the odds in order to lock in that security). When a fixed term expires, or when the tracker expires, you are placed on a bank’s Standard Variable Rate, which has been quite low considering the BoE is at 0.5%. Hence, six months ago or so, my rate went from 6% to 3.5% overnight. The drinks were on me.

Until this month, when my building society unilaterally raised their SVR 1.5%, so now I’m back up to 5%. When the BoE finally gets around to raising their rate, my mortgage goes up. There’s not much I can do about it — existing fixed mortgages are 1.5 to 2 points above what I’m currently paying. Of course, if this NYT story pans out . . .

I was all in favor of a hung Parliament for the sheer lunacy of it and the joy that it would provide me.

I now find that I’m rapidly losing my enthusiasm.

More on British Polling and Margins of Error

[ 0 ] March 2, 2010 |

I promise that this will not be a daily habit of mine, but the Tory +2% lead poll did generate the predictable breathless excitement on these islands.

YouGov’s daily tracker indeed moved back towards +6, as anticipated, at Conservative +7. Additionally, a ComRes poll was released yesterday for The Independent which places the Tory lead at +5 (37/32/19). I want to emphasize that the +2 poll released on Sunday, while at the fringes assuming a true value of +6, is still within the margin of error. It was not an outlier in a pedantic understanding of the word, which is a case three standard deviations removed from the mean.
In other words, the findings reported in the Sunday poll were not “wrong”. 95% of samples will yield the true value within the error band of +/- 3%, as this was. This is why we have margins of error in the first place.

What we should focus on is not the point estimate itself, but the trend — and the consistent trend is clearly away from the Tories and towards Labour.

Speaking of which, the +5% Tory lead reflected in The Independent’s poll still yields a distribution of seats as Labour 287, Conservative 272, Liberal Democrat 59 — assuming a uniform national swing.

UPDATE ( 3/3/10): Again as expected, Wednesday’s YouGov tracker is rather consistent, at Conservative +5 (C 38 L 33 LD 16). Given the last seven to ten days of polling, this suggests a true value of support around + 6%, and if not precisely 6 (and it isn’t) it’s slightly below 6%.

We May Have a Ballgame Here

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |
Until this is held, due by June 3 (and the smart money is still on May 6 in order to coincide with the annual local elections) I will be paying more of my scant attention to the forthcoming British general election.

The latest YouGov poll, released on Sunday, has the Tory lead at a mere 2%. While Labour supporters should not get too excited, this is consistent with the trend over the past month to six weeks. Since YouGov essentially became a tracker poll on February 17, the Tory lead has been +9, +7, +8, +6, +6, +6, +6, +6, and now +2. If those +6 results reflect the true value of support at C 39, L 33, then this true value rests comfortably within the margin of error of the most recent poll. Hence, this Times column on the volatility of polling is sound advice, aside from his contention that “all polls have a margin of error of 2 points or so plus or minus”; +/- 3% is the norm due to the inefficiencies of diminishing marginal returns. This poll has an N slightly over 1400, which would place the margin of error slightly below 3%; in order to hit 2% the N would have to be around 2500.

I expect the next YouGov poll to move towards the earlier 6% lead, but the trend is clear: Labour are closing the gap for a variety of reasons (save for Gordon Brown, who still trails Cameron in head-to-head approvals). So what does either scenario mean?

If it’s Tories +6, at 39 to 33, the Tories would have 293 seats, Labour 280, the Lib Dems 46.
If at +2, at 37 to 35, then it’s Labour 316, Tories 256, Lib Dems 48.

Both scenarios assume a uniform national swing, which while not a completely safe assumption, is necessary in order to calculate the distribution of seats. The Tories ‘ground game’ strategy is to (intelligently) target the marginal constituencies at the expense of running a purely national campaign, and this may yield dividends that would warp the results expected from a uniform swing. However, even here, the Tories would come up well short if the gap is only 2%. In an analysis by Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, the Tories might realize 270 seats to Labour’s 300.

What is clear in any of these calculations, be it Tories +2 or +6, due to the vagaries of the British electoral system, neither party would hit the magic 326 necessary for an outright majority. This would result in a minority government and a new election within a year.

An Olympics Rah-Rah Buzz Kill

[ 1 ] February 25, 2010 |

No, I’m not discussing a Canadian perspective on the ignominy of losing to an inferior team, in their national sport, during the Olympics, in Canada. Though that must still sting a little, even following their destruction of the Russians and concomitant return to their rightful place as gold medal favorite.

Back in July I marvelled at the marvellous claims made about the new Cowboys stadium as an economic stimulus package for, well, the entire planet. I took the logical leap in speculating that the 2012 Olympics to be held in London will stimulate the solar system, at bare minimum, and hopefully the entire galaxy. It had better considering how much it’s going to cost.

It seems that the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver will cost $1 Billion (Canadian) for security alone (presumably shared across federal, provincial, and municipal levels) and potentially cost Vancouver and British Columbia something around $1 Billion in addition due to faults in another much-vaunted public-private partnership. Hell, even NBC will lose around $200 million in broadcasting the games (and considering what I’ve read of NBC’s coverage, they deserve it).

This is to be expected. Every Olympics since Montreal in 1976 has been susceptible to haemorrhaging public money utilizing new and innovative techniques. Some have broken even or been profitable (I haven’t found a breakdown), but Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 both lost heaps of cash. While Montreal can bask in the delight of having settled their tab in 2006, Athens stands out as ironic given the current mess of Greek finances. Nobody has the foggiest clue how Beijing did in 2008, but the safe bet is on a huge deficit.

Yet, history is not a guide to the Olympic hopeful.

This all makes my mouth water at the prospect of England earning the right to host the 2018 World Cup, for which my current home of Plymouth was inexplicably selected as a host city. Of course, a new stadium will have to be built as Home Park currently seats only 19,500. While the local newspaper is breathless in its reporting that serving as a host city “could net Plymouth a staggering £292 million”, I’ll refer readers back to my post on the Cowboys: the economic empirical literature seldom if ever supports these claims. However, what is necessary is that Home Park would need substantial expansion to a capacity of 46,000, which while projected to cost around £50 million, promises to give Plymouth the “Wembley of the West“.

A 46,000 seat stadium for a club that has never been in the top division, now five points from safety in the relegation zone of the second tier (this despite a recent good run of form where Plymouth have not lost in three matches), and is currently averaging under 10,000 per match.

Clearly, Plymouth should build on this success and bid for the Olympics.

No War Over Oil (in the Falklands . . . )

[ 0 ] February 24, 2010 |

The British are searching for oil just off the coast of some small islands far away from anywhere, though I understand that Argentina is relatively near by, thinks the Falklands go by some other name, and are, in fact, theirs. They are bemused that the British are drilling, baby.

International law on the issue is sketchy, which is about as far as international law ever really gets us (please correct me if I’m wrong). However, in terms of self determination, the population of roughly 3100 would probably opt to remain a British protectorate. Hell, sarcasm doesn’t work here — it wouldn’t be close. Argentina might get five or six votes. While Argentina claim that the Falklands are an archaic colonial outpost, I’m not sure the definition of colony is consistent with a population who wants to remain British. Under that definition, Alaska could be considered a colony (Hawaii is a much better example, but there’s greater humor value in using Alaska).

Of course, there is also that small issue of the 1982 war between the UK and Argentina. 28 years on, neither the Royal Navy nor the RAF really have the capability to match that campaign. It won’t get that far, now that Hugo Chavez has weighed in with his own idiosyncratic diplomatic skills . . .

Sarah Palin’s Murphy Brown Moment?

[ 0 ] February 20, 2010 |

Of course, it’s Family Guy, not Murphy Brown, which is suitable for the new century.

Like any right minded curious individual with a shred of a sense of humor, I’m a big fan of Family Guy. Indeed, for my first 18 months or so on facebook, Brian was my profile picture (because, well, I guess I identify with a cynical, lecherous alcoholic dog, but at least he talks) until my partner insisted that I have a picture of me instead of some cartoon dog. What was she thinking?
I’m not going to weigh into this more than superficially, but in my quick read, the balance of sympathy is squarely with the cartoon, and not the cartoonish ex governor of Alaska.

British Pub Culture on the Rocks

[ 0 ] February 19, 2010 |

As several of our august LGM colleagues are attending some high-falutin International Relations junket in New Orleans (as well as one of my colleagues from my department here at Plymouth), I figured I’d lighten the mood a bit with a post on . . . beer. It is Friday, after all.

Before I became an academic, I was an accomplished amateur brewer, two pursuits that ran in parallel until I got my Ph.D. and moved to Europe. I was also a judge and a critic, and had (have — it’s still live) a beer review page on the web that I updated between 1994 and 2003. Indeed, my first two “peer reviewed” articles were on beer, not political science, and they remain proudly on my cv (if at the very end). OK, those are my bona fides out of the way; suffice it to say I know my way around a pint.

One thing I love about Britain is the pub culture, and this isn’t limited to just those pubs that are featured in the annual CAMRA Good Beer Guide, but the culture and concept of the “local”, which is not as common in the United States. Here, most pubs are locals — populated by a core of regulars who are known to all and especially to the staff. There are three pubs in Plymouth where I am always warmly welcomed, and there is a certain comfort in that. Furthermore, at nearly every pub, it’s not only accepted, but expected, that if you’re standing at the bar, you strike up a conversation with those near you. You’re expected to be social; pubs are social spaces. This is less prevalent in the U.S. — though it does exist most everywhere in the States; I immediately think of the Big Time Brewery in Seattle, where I spent the better part of my graduate career (indeed I listed it in the acknowledgments of my dissertation), and the Tugboat Brewery in Portland, Oregon. But it’s the exception, not the norm.

This is one of the cultural features that make British pubs appealing. Sadly, they’re dying a slow death, which prompted CAMRA to present a report to Parliament discussing the “vital social role of the community pub”. According to the British Beer and Pub Association, pubs are closing at 39 per week in the UK. This is down from a high of 52 during the first half of 2009, so at least it’s attenuating (pun explicitly intended). However, in March of 2008, the closure rate was only 57 per month.

When on Monday my good friend Tandleman posted this about his local, the Tandle Hill Tavern (north of Manchester) I became concerned. It’s not a death sentence, but considering the local climate of the business, and the remoteness of the Tandle Hill, it is cause for concern. I’ve been to this pub numerous times over the years (indeed if one were to do a google image search on it, there appear to be several of me, including this one: Tandleman himself is on the left, I’m on the right) and it exemplifies all that is good about British pub culture.

Politically, what can be done? It’s well known that the smoking ban in England and Wales has hurt business, but that’s not going to be rescinded. What can be done is an adjustment to tax policy. Pubs are being hammered by super markets that sell booze as a loss-leader. Why go to your local when you can go to Tesco and get a 12 pack of Stella Artois (nicknamed “wife beater” on these islands) for the cost of three or four pints in the pub? In nearly every annual budget since I moved to the UK, the government has raised the duty on a pint. This can be reversed (although in the current fiscal climate, I can’t see how any British government can justify lowering any tax) and greater weight of responsibility accorded to store-bought crap lager.

I’d drink to that. As it’s Friday, pushing 5pm, it’s time to do my part to keep the culture alive. I’m about to leave my office and make the treacherous 30 second walk to my local here, to join in with several colleagues for a post-work pint.

Or five.

The BNP’s Big Tent

[ 0 ] February 15, 2010 |

The British National Party has boldly entered the 20th Century by voting to allow non whites to become, gasp, members of the BNP. Leader (and MEP) Nick Griffin is quoted in The Guardian article as conservatively estimating membership from non-whites to be a “trickle, rather than a flood”. Magnanimously, he goes on to observe that “Anyone can be a member of this party. We are happy to accept anyone as a member providing they agree with us that this country should remain fundamentally British”.

Of course, the BNP’s definition of fundamentally British might differ from a more mainstream view. I’d go on about it, but it’s a) a soft target, and b) they have an FAQ for the more curious or open minded. Suffice it to say that while they claim to not be racist, they wouldn’t mind it if everybody who is not white left these islands for good, via a mechanism of “firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home”, according to their manifesto in advance of the 2005 General Election. I’m OK, even though I’m an American citizen of largely Irish lineage, but if you’re third or fourth generation Caribbean, you’re out.

So, in essence, you have to agree to kick yourself out of the UK in order to be a member of the BNP.

I propose the following. While Griffin argues that these odd looking newcomers to the party will “be accepted, they’ll be welcomed, providing they’re there to do the things that we want to do, and providing they accept and agree with our principles, which is that multiculturalism, we believe, has been a failure . . . “, with only 14,000 members, it wouldn’t take too many new members to overwhelm and take over the party.

I’m just saying.

It’s good to see that membership in the club of respectable fascist right parties in the UK has increased by one. We needed a little competition over there, to keep UKIP honest.

Donovan 1, Cole 0 and Other Random Soccer Observations

[ 0 ] February 12, 2010 |

I want to preface this by asserting that I don’t revel in sporting injuries, even if they’re players that I loathe. As a result of what the BBC characterizes as a “mundane-looking and perfectly legitimate challenge” by Landon Donovan in Everton’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Goodison Park on Wednesday, Ashley Cole was forced to limp off the field in what has since been diagnosed as a broken ankle (which came to my attention over at Prost Amerika). I have loathed Cole since he lamely forced a transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006.

Cole is out for three months, and while it’s not impossible for him to make England’s World Cup 23, will not be at 100% match fitness even if he does make the squad.
There are a couple delightful ironies here. First, it’s Donovan, the USA’s best player, taking out a dead cert member of the England starting XI in the run in to their opening group match in South Africa.
More ironic is that Cole’s likely replacement in the starting XI is Man City’s Wayne Bridge. Meaning, Bridge would play alongside John Terry in the England back four. I’m only going to treat this briefly for those LGM readers who do not follow soccer (and care even less about who is shagging whom), but there was a spot of bother over the last couple of weeks fuelled by the English tabloid media (as only the English tabloids can do) that alleges Terry had an affair with the ex partner of Bridge, with whom Bridge and said partner have a son. Terry himself is married with twins. While this non-story story remains an allegation, it has had an effect on Terry’s career; Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the England captaincy last Friday, and Chelsea have since allowed Terry to go on leave because of the allegations and concomitant media furor.
The ever erudite, eloquent, and quite possibly existential FIFA President Sepp Blatter sagely opined that “Terry would have been ‘applauded’ in Latin countries.” Because, well, we know that Catholics are all about adultery, especially the women who presumably constitute over 50% of the population of said Latin countries. This is the same Blatter who once suggested that women’s soccer would be more popular if only it were sexier, advice from the sage that was not well received by its target audience, oddly enough. This is too good to pass up:

“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Whatever, Sepp. When are you going to just go away?
In other random soccer / football news:
My local side Plymouth Argyle are edging closer to certain relegation from the English second-tier. When I arrived in Plymouth too many years ago now, they were enjoying their second promotion season in three years; this will be my first experience of a relegation season. At least the lads still have the fight in them. They’ll need it next season when matched against another Devon side, Exeter City, in League 1. And, ah, Millwall. Oh yes, I think I’d rather be in Glasgow during an Old Firm derby than in Plymouth when Millwall come to town.
Speaking of the Old Firm, astonishingly Celtic managed to score goals while at the same time keeping a clean sheet, against Hearts no less, which usually secures three points (but with this Celtic side, I don’t assume anything.)
On the same night, Rangers dropped points, narrowing the gap at the top of the table to a mere eight points. There’s hope for Mowbray and the Bhoys yet, but don’t get too excited, Marc-Antoine. I sure as hell can’t. An eight point gap in mid February is not quite Everest or K-2, but it is an uphill slog, made more difficult with half the squad now playing for Middlesbrough.
I know it’s difficult to get excited about the SPL, especially when we’re eight points down, but I’m trying to have some faith. I certainly have more faith in Celtic’s chances than President Obama’s chances at reaching a bi-partisan agreement for Health Care Reform that includes the word “reform”.

The Alternative Vote for the United Kingdom?

[ 0 ] February 10, 2010 |

Gordon Brown managed to get his proposal for a referendum on the Alternative Vote passed by the House of Commons yesterday.

So, 1) What does this mean? 2) What would it do? 3) Why did he do it?

Short answers: 1) Not very much. 2) AV could marginally alter outcomes, AV would dramatically alter incentives for tactical voting, and AV should increase both the perceived and real legitimacy of both those elected to Parliament and concomitant Government. 3) To make him and Labour more fanciable to the Liberal Democrats considering the increasing possibility of a hung Parliament, and / or to create a wedge issue for the putative governing Conservatives.

What does it mean?

It doesn’t mean very much for a several unrelated reasons. It needs to get past the House of Lords, first. Usually, the Lords are meaningless; their power to delay legislation is limited to two parliamentary sessions over one year (and only one month for so-called “money bills”). However, since the delay can not extend the life of a Parliament past its maximum tenure, all the Lords have to do on this is sit quietly and chat about the plight of Portsmouth FC until the next election, expected to be held on May 6th. In other words, the chances of this passing the Lords is close to nil.

Second, the operation of a referendum in the United Kingdom is not exactly comparable to this variant of direct democracy as understood in the United States. Referenda are not binding. Parliament can simply ignore the results. While this could possibly expose the Government to political problems, constitutional or statutory considerations are not relevant. Furthermore, a future Parliament can choose to overturn a decision made by a previous Parliament to accept the results of any given referendum.

That said, referenda are rather rare in the United Kingdom. There has only been one UK-wide referendum, held in 1975 to see whether or not the UK should remain part of the European Community.

Finally, should this Act make it through the Lords (again unlikely, but not theoretically impossible), the referendum is supposed to be held by some point in 2011. In other words, beyond the tenure of the existing Parliament. The next Parliament can simply overturn this decision.

What would AV do?

The Alternative Vote is a form of STV applied to single-member constituencies. Wikipedia has a solid overview of how it works, and Renard Sexton further discusses AV over at fivethirtyeight. Note, both refer to it as “Instant Run-Off”, and Sexton erroneously states that IRV is how AV is known “to the rest of the world”. It’s not; it’s known to most of the world, the egghead electoral systems community to which I belong, and the Republic of Ireland where it elects the Irish President, as AV, and it’s commonly known as preferential voting in Australia, where it’s been used for something like the last 100 years (though in most of the literature on electoral systems that I have consumed, it is referred to as AV when examining the Australian case).

Briefly, instead of only having a single vote in a single-member constituency election, AV allows (but does not normally require) voters to rank order their preferences among the candidates. This severely reduces the incentives to tactically vote in contexts where your first choice candidate or party has a vanishingly small probability of success; in such cases it is rational to opt for the least undesirable of the two leading candidates / parties. If AV were used in the 2000 US Presidential election, Nader voters would have had the ability to rank either Gore or Bush as second choice (I wonder where most would have drifted?) When the votes are counted and no candidate has a clear majority of 50% +1, lesser candidates are eliminated and their votes redistributed to those remaining until a candidate receives a clear majority.

As only about a third of constituencies were won in the 2005 general election, Sexton suggests that this could have a marginal effect on outcomes. It would take a detailed constituency-level analysis of the 2005 results to examine this properly, and even then this would require making assumptions regarding the 2nd choice of voters supporting parties that finished third, fourth, or fifth in the various constituencies. Furthermore, as constituency boundaries and in many cases names have changed for the 2010 election, an additional layer of complexity is added to any such analysis.

However, as AV would virtually eliminate the incentive to vote strategically, the party finishing second in any given constituency should ultimately receive a boost (especially in cases where the Lib Dems finish 1st or 2nd), and the Lib Dems should see both their percentage of the popular vote (as measured by first choice ballots) increase, and even their seat percentage increase.

Finally, regarding legitimacy, as only a third of constituencies elected an MP with an outright majority in 2005, two thirds of sitting MPs in the current parliament were rejected by a majority of their voting constituents. Furthermore, Labour only received a shade over 35% of the popular vote in 2005, which translated into 55% of the seats, the democratic legitimacy of a government that was rejected by 65% of the electorate is open to question. AV solves this, at least superficially.

So, why did Gordon Brown do this?

Brown is no supporter of electoral reform. The Guardian article linked above quotes “Liberal Democrat spokesman David Howarth said Brown had undergone a ‘deathbed conversion’ on electoral reform.” This is accurate. Brown has known for a couple of years that the 2010 election was going to be dodgy at best for Labour, and his best bet at remaining in power, admittedly while being forced to share some of that power with the Liberal Democrats, was to adopt STV or some form of PR at least a year ago in advance of the 2010 election.

Sexton suggests, as does most of the British media, that Brown is doing this to soften up the Liberal Democrats in advance of a hung parliament, hoping that the Lib Dems would support Labour, and not the Tories, in such an outcome. The Lib Dems have long supported electoral reform for obvious rational reasons — it’s got to suck when 23% of the vote returning 9.6% of the seats is one of your best vote / seat ratios in generations.

There is another possible reason: Brown attempted to create a wedge issue between Labour and the Conservatives. Knowing the Tories embrace electoral reform with the same zeal that Thatcher embraced the coal miners (or the Argentinians, or Scottish independence, or society . . . you get the idea) he was hoping that either the Tories would boycott the vote banking on Labour rebels voting the bill down, or come a prospective Tory government, they would reject holding the referendum. The potential payoff in either scenario for Labour is limited.

Barring a hung Parliament following the 2010 election that results in a minority Labour government propped up by the Lib Dems, or an outright coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems (which I suspect is what it would require), electoral reform for the UK is off the table for a while.

But, I quipped in class on both Monday and Tuesday that this wasn’t going to pass in the first place, so what do I know? My students are likely contemplating that very issue at present . . .

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