When Does an Election Become an Undemocratic Lottery?

The basic premise of British democracy is that if anyone at all votes, an election is deemed to be democratic. Therefore if only three people vote and one candidate receives two votes, that’s enough. Even if the electorate is 64,831. Where should the line be drawn?1 Let’s consider two recent parliamentary by-elections.

1) Old Bexley and Sidcup2 2nd December, 2021

Louie French (Con) 11,189 (51.48%)
Daniel Francis (Lab) 6,711 (30.88%)
Richard Tice (Reform) 1,432 (6.59%)
All other candidates lost their deposits

Turnout: 33.5% Electorate 64,831

When the base figure of the electorate is used, Louie French’s 51.5% victory shrinks to:

Louie French (Con) 11,189 (17.2%) with 82.8% of the electorate not voting for him.

2) North Shropshire3 16th December, 2021

Helen Morgan (LD) 17,957 (47.14%)
Neil Shastri-Hurst (Cons) 12,032 (31.59%)
Ben Wood (Lab) 3,686 (9.68%)
All other candidates lost their deposits

Turnout: 46.3% Electorate 82,3144

When the base figure of the electorate is used, Helen Morgan’s 47.1% victory shrinks to,

Helen Morgan (LD) 17,957 (21.8%) with 78.2% of the electorate not voting for her.

Discussion

Britain has a winner takes all system. No account is taken of the size of the constituency or percentage vote. The system is brutally simple. In a binary political scene this can sort-of be justified. But Britain long ago ceased to be a two party political country.5 The current (2021) parliament has 12 separate identified groups. This is despite the barriers that the binary system erects.

Neither victorious candidate achieved anything remotely close to a mandate. In fact, they were unloved by the vast majority of the electorate. Britain’s undemocratic elections result in governments at odds with the will of the people. They promote extremism. None of this is a novel insight but change won’t happen. MPs voting for proportional representation would be voting against the system which rewarded them. They’d be turkey’s voting for Christmas.

Notes

1 The Sorites Paradox (problems of vagueness) | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com) On the 4th November 2021 a council by-election in Salford had a turnout of 10% Labour wins by-election – but only 1 in 10 people voted in one of lowest turnouts in council’s history – Manchester Evening News

2 2021 Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election – Wikipedia Old Bexley and Sidcup 2nd December 2021 Boris gets a bloody nose in Bexley: Tory majority is slashed to 4,478 (msn.com)

3 North Constituency Count Spreadsheet.xlsx (shropshire.gov.uk)

4 The enormous disparity in the size of the two electorates is 17,483 or a stonking 26.96%. Old Bexley and Sidcup is tiny in comparison to North Shropshire, which automatically means any victor there will probably need fewer votes to become an MP. This is another part of the undemocratic nature of British elections.

5 State of the parties – MPs and Lords – UK Parliament

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A lucky break

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An Arnold Schwarzenegger quip

Having more money doesn’t make you happier. I have 50 million dollars but I’m just as happy as when I had 48 million.

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Dangerous Foods

A doctor was lecturing in Oxford about the importance of diet.

The material we put into our stomachs should have killed most of us years ago. Red meat is full of steroids and dye. Soft drinks corrode your stomach lining and Chinese food is loaded with MSG. But, there’s one thing more dangerous than them and virtually everyone eats it.”

Can anyone here tell me which food causes the most grief and suffering for years after eating it?”

After several seconds of quiet, a 70-year-old man in the front row raised his hand, and softly said, “Wedding Cake.”

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Book Review: Tim Bouverie ~ Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War (2019)

This is a ground breaking account of the 1930s. It’s meticulous history. The front cover ‘blurb’ quotes Antony Beevor saying, “An astonishing debut.’ and Beevor is one of the Britain’s greatest historians.

Great history writing is literature. Bouverie welds his use of sources with telling intimate quotes. Rab Butler on the day Chamberlain resigned made this acid comment,

This sudden coup of Winston and his rabble was a serious disaster and an unnecessary one ….They had weakly surrendered to a half-breed American whose main support was that of inefficient but talkative people of a similar type.” pp404-5

An early encounter with Hitler by Conservative MP Bob Boothby has this surreal moment,

Boothby was taken to a room in the Esplanade Hotel where ‘a short, dark, spare figure with a small moustache and limpid blue eyes’ jumped up, clicked his heels, saluted and shouted ‘Hitler’. The mischievous MP hardly paused before he clicked his own heels, saluted and yelled ‘Boothby’. P21

There’s fun but there’s deep critical analysis and profound awareness, which makes this an important book. It is very detailed but is worth the effort.

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Performance Indicators

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Globalisation and Pandemics

Globalization, population growth, and urbanization have facilitated the transmission of infectious diseases. The complexity of global travel and global integration mean that any “patient zero” is now but a few degrees of separation from formerly isolated communities. According to medical experts, more than 30 new disease-causing organisms have appeared in just the past two decades. These have included such deadly pathogens as ebola, hepatitis C, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In addition, diseases such as cholera, malaria, and the plague, once believed eradicated, have returned with even greater virulence. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the world was threatened by at least three major pandemics: SARS, H1N1 (“swine flu”), and H5N1 (“bird flu”). The hallmarks of globalization—connectivity and integration—create the potential for negative externalities in the field of health, just as they do in other sectors.

Goldin, Ian. The Butterfly Defect Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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Seb Coe: A 1930s Appeaser?

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe believes a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics would only serve as “a meaningless gesture”, claiming non-engagement between Government officials rarely bears fruit.

Coe also pointed to the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games held under the Nazi regime, which he claimed demonstrated that sport can be a “very powerful driver of integration and change”* following the success of African-American track and field star Jesse Owen.

* Coe fails to notice what happened after the Olympics: the Holocaust and the second world war

Diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022 “a meaningless gesture”, Coe claims (insidethegames.biz)

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Religion, Politics and the Execution of Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell: died 3rd September, 1658; executed 30th January, 1661

…while the clergy offered prayers for the king in churches across the land, the coffins were taken to the Red Lion Inn in Holborn. Carters then carried the rotting bodies in their shrouds to the Old Bailey and propped them up limply against the bar, so that the judge could pronounce the death sentence for traitors…At sunset the dangling corpses were taken down, their heads cut off and their bodies flung into a pit beneath the gallows.”1


Cromwell’s trial was a turbocharged bill of Attainder.2 His trial and execution was the act of closure for the civil war and a demonstration of King Charles’ authority. The desecration of his corpse was purposeful. It was a political and religious act. Desecrating Cromwell’s corpse and burying it in unhallowed ground was aimed at preventing resurrection. The desecration was an important element in Cromwell’s eternal punishment for his role in the ‘martyrdom’ of Charles 1.3

The desecration of Cromwell’s corpse wasn’t thuggish. Hanging, drawing and quartering was a choreographed ritualistic event meted out to those who committed treason. Cromwell’s trial and execution was part of a series of trials punishing living defendants. Cromwell ‘shared’ their punishment even though he was dead. His execution attracted thousands of spectators. They came not to see his death throes but as a dying ember of the events following the Civil Wars. Like all the Regicides whose bodies were thrown into a pit under the gallows after decapitation, so was Cromwell’s. Decapitated heads were put on display as poignant reminders of their utter defeat.

The spikes (top left) are 6.8 metres high and were there until 1686

Contemporary religious beliefs said corpses retained the essential being of the living person. Burial in hallowed ground in church cemeteries was firmly believed to be essential in the journey to Heaven. The denial of access to hallowed ground was a signal about the eternal punishment of Regicides. The posthumous trial and execution of Cromwell, the principal Regicide, was a critical part of that narrative.

The religious and political context of the execution of Cromwell explains its hideous ghoulish connotations. It becomes rational. Although the punishment of the Regicides is apparently barbaric, the Royalist government was, in a 17th century context, restrained. King Charles wasn’t a vengeful monarch. He did what needed to be done to demonstrate his authority.

Addendum: Did they try the right corpse?

Many people began to question whether the body mutilated at Tyburn and the head seen on Westminster Hall were Cromwell’s. These doubts arose because it was assumed that Cromwell’s body was reburied in several places between his death in September 1658 and the exhumation of January 1661, in order to protect it from vengeful Royalists. The stories suggest that his bodily remains are buried in London, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, or Yorkshire.”

Oliver Cromwell – Wikipedia

Picture

Cromwell’s Execution • History in Numbers

Notes

1 Jenny Uglow A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration p110 The 30th January 1661 was the twelfth anniversary of the execution of Charles the First

2 A bill of Attainder is “A special legislative enactment that imposes a death sentence without a judicial trial upon a particular person or class of persons suspected of committing serious offences, such as Treason or a felony.” Bill of attainder legal definition of bill of attainder (thefreedictionary.com)

3 The reuniting of the body and soul, at the resurrection, is a burning issue amongst born-again Christians to this day. We will all have a Resurrected Body reunited with our Souls….. – In Jesus name we press on…. (wordpress.com

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Hanging on

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