Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Jeremy Corbyn says he is going to betray “the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them,”


I normally try to avoid posts on politics, especially Labour politics, since my views lost in the Labour leadership election then in the referendum about Europe. I am clearly on the wrong side, the others won so shut up.

However, you knew that would be coming didn’t you? The headline has given away that I am going to write something about the Leader of the Labour Party, that I did not support last year.

OK, so what great political insight have I come up with that requires a breaking of my self-ordained silence on the matter? Nothing. This is not a political post but a logical one. If you ask me to be more precise, a symbolic logic one. A search for how we can decide if a statement is true or not.

Symbolic logic tries, this is my own description from what I understood studying it so I know I may be wildly off course, to represent the logic of sentences with symbols so it is easier to understand the logical meaning and consequences of what we say, are they true or not.

The beginning of my study was “and statements” and “or statements.” Sentences with and in and/or ones with or in. How do we decide if they are true?

Basically, for statements involving “and” both parts of the statement had to be true for the statement to be true. Whereas, statements involving “or”, only one half of the statement had to be true for the statement to to be true. Symbolically it works out like this, I thank for the following table:

Symbolic Logic

Conjunction (AND statements)

A conjunction is a compound statement formed by combining two statements using the word and. In symbolic logic, the conjunction of p and q is written pq.

A conjunction is true only if both the statements in it are true. The following truth table gives the truth value of p∧ depending on the truth values of p and q .

p          q         pq

T          T           T

T          F           F

F           T             F

F           F              F

So, for example, if we say “He likes oranges and lemons.” Then, if he likes lemons and oranges it is true, but if he likes lemons but not oranges then any statement saying he likes oranges and lemons or vice versa, will not be true as he does not like both of them. If he does not like both of them then any statement saying he likes both of them will not be true either.

Disjunction(OR statements)

A disjunction is a compound statement formed by combining two statements using the word or. In symbolic logic, the disjunction of p or q is written pq.

A disjunction is true if either one or both of the statements in it is true. The following truth table gives the truth value of pqp∨q depending on the truth values of pp and qq.

p           q             q

F            F                F

T             F                T

F             T                 T

T            T                T

So, if the statement is “He likes oranges or lemons.” will be true so long as he likes both of them, oranges, or lemons, but not if he hates them both.

Thus, using symbolic logic we can see that Jeremy Corbyn’s statement “I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me – or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them,” logically means, he could betray the trust of those who voted for him, or the supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them. It is an “Or statement” so he could be seeking to betray anyone.

However, if both statements are true the whole statement is true. But, if that was the case, why not use an “and statement” to make sure the logic is clear and doubly locked in? I can only assume that by not using an “and statement” and by choosing an “or statement” Jeremy, or the people who speak for him, unwittingly highlighted a truth about him, that he, and/or they, know that he will betray the trust of one of them. He cannot keep the faith with both.

Is it “those who voted for me” or “the millions of supporters who need Labour to represent them?” Who does he think his continued leadership betrays?

The headline is my answer to that question.

I read the news today oh boy, an MP killed just doing their job.


Shocked, just totally shocked that an MP, going about her job has been killed in the UK. I’m not totally surprised. The febrile atmosphere from the media over the last few years about how ‘they’re all in it for themselves’. The hapless MPs who took the piss of the expenses regime. Both have worked together to give the impression that MPs are not people’s representatives but fair game for hate and bile.

OK. Hands up. I was married to an MP and I worked for the same MP. So, I might have a biased view. But anyway, here it goes.

Most people who go into politics do so because they want to make the place they live better. Some get the chance to do so. Some get the chance to move on and have the chance to make the place they live, or come to represent and then live, better. Being an MP is a thankless task. I know, I saw it from the inside. I had to fight to get my wife to take one Sunday a month off and go to the cinema or do something else human. Reading happened on holiday. Otherwise it was politics at work and home 24/7. Hey I’m not complaining, it was a great life. However, go shopping and you have people looking at you, what do you have in your shopping bag? A bottle of wine, oh must be a drunkard! Go to the cinema, oh you’re neglecting your work. Do we want robots or humans as our representatives?

That’s one of the first problems. Consult the supposed expert upon our constitution and the answer is the MPs are representatives. Not delegates. They are sent to Westminster to listen to the arguments and make an informed decision. Not to do what you want. Not to do what you thought they went there to do. They are not delegates. Representatives. Lots of times working for an MP I heard or read people say, I want the MP to do this, they are my representative, therefore they must do this. No.

But enough of getting things off my chest. The main point about this post was that, despite the cynicism about MPs, fed massively by the media, most are good, hard-working people who have only their constituents interests at heart. I say this of Tory MPs of my acquaintance just as much as Labour ones.

After the Cheltenham MP, Nigel Jones, was attacked by a constituent in his surgery, and his member of staff lost their life protecting him, a review was undertaken of the security of offices of MPs and their surgeries. The MP I worked for did not encourage people to come to our office and we were on the second floor, there was a well populated reception area of another organisation and people were welcomed there and not invited up, unless let into the building by some of the other, clueless, tenants of the building, so we could invite a member of the public into the foyer of the building, if we had to, and there were plenty of eyes looking at what was happening. That did not happen often.

Surgeries were different. People came, by appointment, and were alone with the MP and a member of staff. An essential requirement to make sure the MP could focus on the needs of the constituent, the member of staff could take notes, and that there was a witness and a written record in case any argument ensued about what happened afterwards. Initially these surgeries, in the case of the main local council area the MP represented, were stuck away in a room hidden at the back of the building. The room was small and it was only possible to organise it so the constituent came in and sat next to the door with the MP and member of staff facing them. If the constituent got agitated, upset, or, even worse, violent, there was no way past them. The MP and member of staff were stuck there. In a tiny room, out at the far distant edge of the building from the security or other member of staff. It must be OK we were told as that was what councillors did and previous MPs did. It must be OK, there was a telephone in the room. Yes, also behind the constituent. After what happened to Nigel Jones the office requested the council move the surgeries to somewhere they were overlooked, especially by their security staff and somewhere the MP could escape from easily. The council were not happy. It had always been fine for previous MPs and councillors, why change things now? The death of an MPs staff member and almost of the MP were not a strong enough argument. I know some of the members of the council would have been happy if a nutter had taken care of the MP, but that was not the reasoning of the body itself.

Fortunately we managed to get the local police onside and they recommended that a more publicly visible venue, overlooked by the council security be sought and it was. Security intervened in the case of an old man unhappy at losing what he thought had been left to him, someone known to the community and no threat, just prone to shouting when he got emotional and unhappy.

They were not to be seen, maybe checking the rest of the building, when a man came in to the surgery with two knives in his belt, complaining about a burger chain restaurant in a nearby town, that was crushing up beetles and putting them in his burgers to get him sexually excited. The man was listened to, an undertaking was given to look into his problem and he left. All the time the MP was nearest the door and I was between the man with two knives and her. I was glad he left happy as otherwise it was me between them.

The Hawke Ascendancy


I bought this book after reading the praise for this and its successor in a highly contesting review of Paul Kelly’s new book in the Monthly. 6701134Previously the only thing I had read about Australian political history were books about the Whitlam coup and his life after it, Abiding Interests or the diaries of a short term Labour leader.

So this, taking the story from the coup against the elected Labour government in 1975, through the Fraser government and into the first Hawke term was an interesting read. The story it set out as the period being the fate of three people and way it was written made it a page turner. And, even though you know the outcome it is still thrilling to see if things will happen in time or be overtaken by event. It is one of the most readable history of politics books I have read and draws a very effective picture of the time and the place with the characterisation of the people also effectively drawn. An absorbing read. I also love the title, even though it was written before they existed, it still sounds like it should be one the the Bourne films!

It also became highly relevant to be reading this, about the end of his career in Parliament and how he was seen as a loser after the coup, before going on and having further careers, at the time of the death of Gough Whitlam. It is also interesting in setting out how the Hake government differed from the Whitlam one and how that resulted in its legitimacy not being challenged. Though I think one thing that helped cause Whitlam’s government to be challenged was that it had come after 23 years of Liberal and coalition government how dare these Labor people do this “It belongs to us”. I am now looking forward to the arrival of the successor about Hawke’s further government and his defenestration by Keating.

50,000 miles beneath my brain


When a teenager at school someone in the same year as me said he had just got a load of cassettes from a relative and would I like to buy them. ref=sr_1_3They weren’t prerecorded but previously blank tapes that people had recorded albums onto. They were in a cardboard box and I didn’t get to choose which I wanted it was all or nothing. There were some I wanted and some I knew nothing about. One of the ones I knew I wanted was the whole Woodstock album. David Hepworth talks about the film of the same album here.

One of the tapes that fell into the second group, that ref=sr_1_3-1I knew nothing about, was Ten Years After’s ‘Cricklewood Green.’ It’s not often that something blows me away but this did. In particular tracks like, ‘Love like a man’, ‘50,000 miles beneath my brain’ and ‘Working on the road’ are just fantastic with a mix of blues and great organ playing topped off by the fantastic guitar playing of Alvin Lee. His big break came via the performance the band put in at Woodstock.

The cassettes have done what my mother calls “gone the way of all flesh.” A couple of years ago something reminded me of the tracks and I downloaded them, I think they might even have been the first tracks I downloaded, and I enjoyed playing them again. On Tuesday night whilst out seeing Jake Bugg at the venue round the corner I’d been reminded that Ten Years After were playing there in October and I’d remembered that I wanted to go.Then yesterday it was announced that Alvin Lee had died. I was sorry that I would now not get to see Ten Years After but in the process of writing this I discovered that he had not been playing with the band for some time and that the gig seems still to be on. Here they are with working on the road. Enjoy:

François Hollande – Balls of Steel!


During the primary to be the Parti Socialiste candidate to be French President it became public that Lille Mayor, Martine Aubry, 4b0e71ec32d06e4d0e1c5533601643db4dd2e1d9had a nickname for her opponent, François Hollande, that was “couilles molles” or ‘soft balls’ because of his inability to make a decision.(cf here for example)

Ordering French forces into Mali, at the invitation of the head of the government of the country and working with the United Nations, to stop the advance of the Islamist fighters has shown that not to be the case. The UN had agreed to a force from the African Union to work with the Mali forces to gain back territory from the Islamist invaders but it was said that it would be September before they would be ready to go and the Islamist fighters were gaining ground rapidly. This intervention has allowed the Malian force to stop the advance of the fighters and now, hope fully they can repulse them and restore the control of the government over the whole of the country.(here is the statement of the President of France) Well done M. Hollande

Putin up yours


According to the BBC, so it must be true, a Moscow Court has ordered that videos of Pussy Riot doing their ‘Punk Prayer’ in Moscow’s main cathedral should be removed from the internet or blocked. So, Mr Judge here’s what I think of your ruling:

On the rails


Back in Strasbourg, trying to survive the canicule, after a few weeks working on the south-coast of England, there’ll probably be more about that later, and listening to the last day of the last test match of the series against the South Africans.

Staying at my parents in Twyford before and after the work I travelled through Reading a few times using the railway. It was interesting to see the progress on the redevelopment of Reading railway station. The first picture shows the new footbridge, being built over the railway to the west of the current footbridge, taken from the existing footbridge.

I am particularly interested in developments at this site as I have a personal interest in the redevelopment of the station as I played a part in starting it off when I was a councillor on Reading Borough Council, in particular as the Chair of the Transport committee. At the time I started Reading was a District Council with no power to do anything much for transport in the town. Two years later the County Council was abolished and Reading had more power on transport for the town, but not to do with the railway. However, at the start of my work in the role I had three main ambitions for the railway:

  • the redevelopment of Reading station,
  • work to Cow Lane bridges to remove a bottleneck there, and
  • Crossrail to happen with Reading as the Western terminus.

The second picture shows the new northern end of the station and the third the inside of the waiting room between what was platforms 5 and 8. From the first meeting of the Transport Committee I pushed forward on the three items. Not too long before I left the council in 1999 they were successful with a large bid to rebuild the M4 junction south of Reading, largely because the slip-roads to the motorway had become unstable and had to be rebuilt, and I was afraid that such a large amount of money being spent by the Government on the town would result in the massive amount of money necessary for the station and the bridges not to become available. Well I was wrong and the Gordon Brown government gave the go-ahead for the project and the coalition government confirmed it would happen. The project to rebuild the station that was approved included the work on the Cow Lane bridges to remove the bottleneck. In the 1990’s when I was pushing for this work to happen never in my wildest dreams did I think that the £850million work would happen so every time I travel through the station I look with great interest, and not a little pride at having played a part in it coming to pass, at the work taking place to improve the station for travellers and to remove a bad bottleneck on the rail network.

In the last decade Crossrail was given the go-ahead providing an east-west link under London giving extra capacity for people wishing to travel in those directions, whether as a whole journey or as part of it. On journey’s into London it has pleased me to see work on the scheme going ahead, whether the tunnel opening at Paddington or at different sites around London. The good news was tempered because the western end was to be Maidenhead and stop short of Reading.

From the 1990’s when the dying Major government cancelled the project Reading Borough Council’s official position was to campaign for the scheme to happen. With the encouragement of the then leader of the Council, David Sutton, as Chair of the Transport Committee I worked with the City of London to campaign for the scheme. So, in the middle of the last decade, when the then Labour Government announced consultation on the scheme I was overjoyed. However, the Leader who had been so supportive to me in campaigning for the scheme the decade before now went along with my successor, John Howarth, in his weak support for the proposal as part of Howarth’s work to undermine and deselect the Reading East MP, who was such a strong public supporter of the scheme. This lack of support and campaigning for the scheme from the Reading Council played an important part in the decision to stop short of Reading. It is a crying shame that the pathetic small town politics, of two people elected by the people of Reading to do their best for the people of Reading, has resulted in Reading missing out on what would be a bonus for them. Shame on Sutton and Howarth.

The last picture shows work taking place on new state-of-the-art train sheds between Scours Lane and Reading West junction on the west of Reading station. In the background, but perhaps not visible, are the stages and other preparations for Reading Festival.

A voté


Which is what is said when you drop your vote into the box when voting here in France. Tomorrow is the second round in the French Legislative elections. Unfortunately I will not be voting. The first round of the elections took place last Sunday and in most places there was no-one who won more than 50% of the votes, so there is a run off between the top two or three candidates this Sunday.

Where I live in the centre of Strasbourg (Strasbourg 1 constituency result pictured – I like to think of it as Strasbourg City, or Strasbourg Centre constituency) we had the only Parti Socialiste(PS) deputé in Alsace elected last time, in 2007. This time Armand Jung is through to the second round with almost 42% and the UMP challenger has 28% so hopefully he will be back representing me after tomorrow.

The good news is that there had been fears that there might be a Front National(FN) deputé elected in Alsace but there was not. It was thought if they did not elect someone straight off then they might get candidates though to the second round. In fact they have only got one through to the second round of the elections, and that in a ‘triangular contest’ i.e with a PS and a UMP candidate. So hopefully they will not get a candidate elected in Alsace. The map shows that the vote of the FN from the Presidential election got stronger the further you got from centres of population, with the blue getting darker as the votes for the FN increased.

Other things to look for  include the result from Strasbourg 2, or Strasbourg South as I like to think of it. This seat has been held by the UMP since the 80’s and had Ostwald moved into it as part of a redistribution before the elections which brought in 27,000 voters believed to lean more towards the right. Despite that the PS led in the first round  and it looks like we might have Alsace’s second PS deputé.

In the third Strasbourg constituency, imaginatively called Strasbourg 3, or Strasbourg North to me, there was a huge commotion because the PS mayor of Schiltigheim, who had been selected to fight the seat for the PS, was forced to stand down as part of a deal with Europe Ecologie-Les Verts(EELV). Here there is an all woman slate with a female EELV candidate and PS substitute. Their task is much harder, only being ahead by 39% – 37% and a lot will depend upon how the FN vote splits between the different candidates.

Otherwise, nationally in the first round a number of PS deputés were re-elected but only one UMP deputé and that was here in Alsace. One of the things I like about Alsace is how Christ is a common surname. So, one of our existing deputés was J. Christ and he is in front on the first round and looks like he will be re-elected on the second round. It does the heart good to imagine the French equivalent of the Speaker, which could be Sego if she overcomes her little local difficulty, shouting Christ in Parliament to call him to speak! (Although one thing that came out before the election was that he didn’t do too much of that- the UMP excuse being that he was busy on Parliamentary committees showing not much changes the world over.)

Nationally the issue is whether the Vague Rose will result in the PS electing enough deputés to govern on their own or whether they will need support from other parties. All will be revealed tomorrow night.

On the political relevance of Newton’s Third Law of Motion and fighting the last war


This morning I was contemplating the evidence of Alastair Campbell to yesterday’s Leveson Inquiry when I was struck about the relevance of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. For those whose scientific study did not extend to these important rules of physics or in case you have forgotten it the law states:

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The written evidence submitted to the Inquiry by Alastair Campbell sets out here what happened in more detail but in brief; in the 1980’s Labour got slaughtered by a largely right-wing press. We didn’t help ourselves by having open rows and letting the latest piece of loony nonsense set the agenda. After 1992 when  a close election was lost, and one part of the print media was able to claim they had won the election for the Tories, lessons were learnt and a more professional approach was taken to dealing with the media, particularly after the election of Tony Blair as leader of the Labour Party. This involved the genesis of spin-doctors.

The perception was that the print media was important, for their own impact and for that they have on the rest of the media from the point of setting the news agenda, in terms of mediating between people involved in politics and the public. It determined what a lot of people thought was going on. As a result the politicians became a lot more disciplined in the way they dealt with the media. To go back to Newton. Having got slaughtered in the past Labour learnt to manage the way they were perceived as a reaction. Journalists did not like it because as a result of it became harder for them to get stories which were different from the one politicians wanted. The Newtonian reaction by politicians in the 1990’s happened as a result of the actions of the media in the 1980’s. The media became very interested in the attempt to manage them, some even got obsessed about it to the lengths of writing a number of books about it. I read a couple of these books and the only thing that seemed to come out of them to me was how unhappy the journalists were at now having to do more work to find the more interesting stories. They don’t like Alastair because he was effective at the job he did. As someone who was a politician I am pleased to see that as I think it evened things up. So that’s Newton dealt with.

What I found interesting in the evidence from Alastair Campbell yesterday was that he said it is no longer necessary for a politician to worry so much about managing the media. It takes up too much of their time. The reason he gave was that the development of blogs and social media means that it is even more difficult for the print and broadcast media to mediate between politicians and the public. It is much easier for politicians to have a direct relationship with people. I have also seen how it is now easier to get mistakes in articles, especially online articles, corrected through the use of twitter. So I think he was right in what he said. It is quite common to talk about people ‘fighting the last war’ and politicians spending all their time trying to manage the media is an example of that.

The change is now


People might have noticed that there was an election taking place in France for the post of President yesterday. On my way to one of the city’s Irish pubs in order to watch a football match yesterday I passed a school which was being used as a polling station with people going in to vote. All very familiar.

What is not familiar and is, therefore, different is that the municipality provide space for the different parties to post-up posters of their candidate. The ones seen here are just outside the polling station pictured earlier. When there were ten candidates in the first round there were ten of these hoardings outside this school and at different locations all over Strasbourg.

Opposite the posters and the polling station someone had put forward their own view on the vote, Left = Right + vaseline:

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