Ill informed criticism and an idiots guide to electoral process

I have just had an article published in the Morning Star, which has received a good deal of, and I would argue ill informed, criticism. It was heavily edited, which I would imagine was in order for it to fit into the paper. As always I am posting the original pre-edit version up here on the site, so that people can both see what the article looked like before it was edited, and also see the references for the evidence. However, the reason I am reposting the full referenced version so soon after the article was published is because of the response, both ill informed and not so ill informed, that it received.

I do think it is important to be able to scrutinise the evidence we use to inform our opinions and conclusions. Fact checking would be made considerably easier if all media had to evidence what they were putting out there. In fact, I would argue that this is more important now than it has ever been with the wild west nature of social media platforms. Which has been compounded by what has now become one of the cultural definers of political process, the freedom to lie to the electorate with absolute impunity.

Interestingly, this article seems to have had more ‘twitter’ responses than almost all of my previous work for the Morning Star combined. What is most odd though is quite how much of it seems to be very angry and ill informed. That being said, some of the attacks do look like the critics, who have a tendency to hide their true identities, didn’t actually even read the article. But I will get to that in a moment.

Without any specific criticism of my overall argument or aspects of my argument, be it ill informed criticism or otherwise, I was called deluded, patronising, a Marxist, a Stalinist, a ba’athist war criminal, an extraterrestrial, dogmatic, and a comedian. And while none offered any evidence for this, one did suggest that I had made the same comment in 1983 … which I am pretty sure I didn’t as I was a very young child at the time. The fact that there is someone out there who thinks that they were watching me that closely when I was a young child is very creepy indeed.

In short, I am not going to argue with the ill informed bot-bile about whether I am an extraterrestrial or a Ba’athist because … well frankly none of us have the time if we are planning on surviving the next couple of decades.

And as for being labelled a Marxist and a Stalinist, this is actually a very helpful signifier for quickly understanding the knowledge level of your critics. In those specific accusations, they either don’t know what a Marxist or a Stalinist is, or they didn’t understand the article. Either way it is a helpful guide for prioritising the validity of their criticisms. However I do apologise to any actual Marxists or Stalinists for any insult caused by ill informed critics grouping them alongside me.

In terms of the critics that did try to inform their criticism I am more than happy to look at those. One of the accusations levelled at the article was that I had misunderstood the outcome of the election and was unaware that Labour had lost it. This is not a particularly difficult criticism to counter because it is demonstrably wrong. In truth, the only real problem with countering this argument is the that it will force me to draw attention to the fact that the critics either didn’t read the article or simply didn’t understand it.

Let me show you what I mean. The first line of the third paragraph reads … “I don’t believe that the failure to win the general election is due to the actions or strategies of the socialists within the Labour party”. Let me just highlight a couple of words in the middle of that for anyone that can’t maintain their concentration for very long. “… failure to win the general election …”.

In hindsight I realise that it is a difficult phrase to understand because it doesn’t literally spell it out. Perhaps it helps to explain to any reader struggling with this that “a failure to win” implies “lost”. Sorry I wasn’t more clear on that. The mistake is definitely mine as I didn’t really judge the reading level of all of the audience on that point.

Another accusation was that one of my problems was that I didn’t understand that the Conservative party had won the election because they had received a majority of the popular vote. Again, I really must apologise. I was hoping that the fourth paragraph explained how I understood that the Conservative party had actually won more votes than the Labour party.

In fact, my argument wasn’t that the Conservative party had won less votes than the Labour party, but rather that it was that the electoral system that we use in the UK that had allocated seats in Parliament in a different proportion to the votes cast. I know that this argument must be quite difficult to understand for some people, so I will try and explain it in more simple terms.

The Conservatives won 43.6% of the votes cast and were allocated 56.15% of the seats in the House of Commons. The Labour party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green party combined (that means added together) won 46.5% of the votes cast. Now before we move on, it is worth clarifying that 46.5 is a bigger number than 43.6. However the three parties added together only had 33% of the seats in House of Commons allocated to them. That is a smaller number than 56.15. Therefore the votes are allocated to seats in Parliament in different proportions.

Let me put that more simply. Some constituencies need less votes than others to win them. Therefore, the political system in the UK does not recognise votes equally. I know that all this is truly dizzying. But lets not give up on it just yet. And I am well aware that by this stage of the article I had probably lost a few of my critics anyway. But just in case they do go back to it, I will try to do my best to clarify it further. I wouldn’t want them to make themselves look stupid for accusing me of something that I didn’t say, again.

After pointing out that votes are weighted differently, I then went on to explain how votes are weighted differently by region and constituency. And in order to prove my point I used mathematics to highlight the difference between the ‘first past the post’ system and the ‘proportional representation’ system. I know, big words right. Let’s see if I can make that a little clearer as well.

The trick I used is called ‘averaging’. So, I took the overall number of votes won by two different parties, the Scottish Nationalist party and the Green party, and then averaged them by the number of constituencies allocated to them in the ‘first past the post’ system. This showed that one party had averaged just under 26,000 votes per constituency allocated to them, while the other had averaged over 865,000 votes for the 1 constituency allocated to them. The implication being that the ‘first past the post’ system does not recognise all votes equally.

Again, I see my problem. It is not enough for me to imply something, the audience must also be able to infer my intended meaning, which requires a certain level of intellectual ability. Suffice to say, if you don’t understand something it is probably better to ask a grown up before losing you shit in public. The good news is, your boss, your friends, your family and the community you live in have clearly pointed this out to you already, otherwise why would you hide your true identity when you are about to lose your shit in public? But gold star for trying.

I then took the argument one step further. I argue that there are examples within the current electoral system that shows a correlation between median income and house prices and the voting power of the constituency. I get that there is a lot of big words in that last sentence, so I will try to simplify it.

A correlation is a pattern of activity where two things occur at the same time. It does not mean that one causes the other. It simply means that the two things may well be related in some way and if we are to have an informed debate about whatever it is we are discussing it might be worth looking into that. Unfortunately the critics really didn’t get this far down the article. Which is a shame because it really is the point on which the argument is based.

Let me try and explain the concept of a correlation with a metaphor. Imagine I start reading the Daily Telegraph on a daily basis, and at the same time I seem to increasingly hate people I’ve never met before. That could be referred to as a correlation. However, it is not fair to simply assume that one action causes the other. After all, it could be for one of several reasons. Maybe it is because I am prone to hate-filled prejudice that I have decided to start reading the Telegraph. Or I might not have been full of hate until I bought the Telegraph, but ingesting it on a daily basis has influenced my way of seeing the world. Or even, it might just be one of those funny coincidences. Without more information, who can say?

So a correlation is two things happening in a similar manner that could possibly be related to one another, but are not necessarily causing one another. The two ‘patterns’ that I was suggesting could be related, were the wealth of the people living in the constituency and the power of their vote in terms of allocating seats in the House of Commons against that constituency.

The reason I find it strange that this wasn’t really criticised was that it is one of the sections that was heavily edited by the Morning Star, and therefore appeared to lack evidence. However it might just be that it was in the sixth paragraph, so may well have been be too far past the 280 character limits for some of the critics to maintain their concentration. Again, it is not my place to make ill informed diagnoses.

So in conclusion, because the majority of the criticism didn’t seem to get past the headline I only really thought I would take time to address those people that seemed to have read at least some of the article, even if they didn’t actually read it that closely. Which I hope I have done.

And for those who either didn’t understand it, or felt like they would like to know more, or simply felt blindsided by me writing the article, I thought it might be helpful to point out some of my previous work on the same subject. From the last two years I have had a couple of pieces published relating directly to this flaw in our electoral processes. There was the piece published in October 2018, or the piece from September of that same year, or for that matter June, or May, or even February. Or perhaps you would prefer to go even further back, to lets say November 2013, or February 2003.

To put it bluntly, my position has been for some time that the political system in the UK is not only not democratic, it is specifically designed to be anti-democratic in the truest sense of the phrase. I thought that it would be only fair to explain how my thought process reached these conclusions for those critics that not only can read more than 280 characters in a row but took the time out of the busy trolling to read a couple of paragraphs of my work.

And of course, giving them a bit of background may go a little way to help them out of the intellectual cul-de-sac they find themselves  in. After all, if they were not so ill informed of the minutiae of electoral processes in the UK perhaps their criticisms might  have had more validity.

And as for the bile-bots, I wish you the best of luck and ask that if you are going to cross a busy road any time soon please make sure you hold an adults hand while you do so. We wouldn’t want to lose you from the gene pool. And really for you own self-worth and the good opinion of your social network, before you try to criticise something publicly that you know you don’t truly understand, take a moment to consider your other options.

With that in mind, and as promised earlier, if you wish to now read the edited version published in the Morning Star click here, or if you would prefer to read the unedited and fully referenced version that it was taken from please click here. And if you don’t want to read my work then don’t. I really won’t feel insulted.

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