Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cameron firm on truth referendum


Prime Minister David Cameron is standing firm on his promise to hold a "truth referendum" if the Tories win the next election.

David Cameron has promised to quit as Prime Minister if he is unable to deliver a yes-no referendum on telling the truth by 2017.

He promised he would not “barter away” the referendum in new coalition negotiations, as an angry Conservative activist told him the public do not believe he will deliver on his promise to give the British people a chance to hear nothing but the truth from government ministers.


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New EU Smoke Directive

Smoke - from Wikipedia

The EU plans to control certain domestic and commercial smoke emissions which for once have nothing to do with tobacco or fossil fuels. From the EU preamble we are told :-

Certain materials with high carbohydrate content are liable to char and emit a complex range of atmospheric smokes when exposed to levels of radiant heat beyond their design parameters. Processes where this occurs are often indoor environments of a domestic or commercial nature.

The key to effective control of potentially harmful indoor smoke is threefold.

a) Controlling the radiant heat source.
b) Controlling the degree of carbohydrate exposure.
c) Standard instruction manuals and training requirements.

In addition to these three control measures, the EU intends to investigate the possibility of changes to carbohydrate formulations, specifically water content, in order to minimise the emission of potentially harmful smoke.

So that’s damp bread and low wattage toasters. I’ll post more detail on the new EU toast-making regulations as they become available.

More details here.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Russia's big plans?

If we are to understand them, we have to look behind the horrible events in Ukraine - for which the West may turn out to be be partly responsible, if Peter Hitchens is right about the CIA's Director being spotted in Kiev a couple of weeks ago.

What's the big picture?

How about, Russia's future as a non-EU European country?

For all its vastness, the land is far more heavily populated in the West, as hardly anyone wants to live in the cruel cold of the Siberian winter:

(Source)
Then, how about the customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan that started in January 2010, which could be the seed crystal of a sort of eastern EU?

And the massive blue-sky concept, mooted in 2008, of a Trans-Asian Corridor of Development? Here's a map of how it could look:
 
(pic source)
On a less gigantic scale, there is the long-proposed Eurasia Canal project, linking the Black Sea to the Caspian via Georgia:

 
(source)
This was reportedly delayed in 2011, pending the development of cargo facilities in Kazakhstan.

A company called Yaconto LLC had ambitious plans along the same lines, with a naval base at Tuapse (two hours' drive from Sochi, on the Black Sea):

 

Yaconto (founded by a Sergey P Yakunin) appears to have ceased trading, but it's interesting to note that further up the same coastline is the port of Novorossiysk, which has indeed been developed, as I noted in an earlier post:

(pic source)
As part of his integrated plan, Yakunin also proposed the construction of a second waterway parallel to the Bosphorus, to ease shipping between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The last couple of paragraphs refer darkly to potential interference from the corrupt elite in Russia and perhaps this is what has happened after all. (Nevertheless, last year Turkey announced its determination to continue with its own similar plan for a "Kanal Istanbul".)

And three days ago, President Putin told officials to come up with a plan to develop Russia's Black Sea fleet.

Like China, Russia is under pressure to maintain economic momentum, like a fox with its tail on fire. Her aim - perhaps unattainable - is to achieve 7% pa GDP growth to 2020: have a look at these briefings from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. There's a long list of challenges to be overcome, including corruption and ineffective law and regulation.

As with China, a rapidly-growing economy is needed to tackle a host of problems, not least demographic challenges. There's a danger of collapse if their economies stall.

We can only hope that this is not the West's intention.

Some previous BOM posts on Russia:

http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/ukraine-never-mind-fascism-taunts.html

http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/ukraine-is-it-just-business-plan.html

 
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UK voter apathy - why?

Source: UK Political Info

"Apathy could destroy democracy. When the turnout drops below 50 per cent., we are in danger." - Tony Benn, Maastricht debate in Parliament, 20 November 1991.

The landslide Labour victory of 1997 was not just because of voters switching parties; it was also owing to the drop in voter turnout - the lowest percentage since World War II. It's dropped further since.

And then there's the skewing caused by the FPTP voting system. Have a look at the figures below:

Data: UK Parliament, UK Political Info, BBC

Comparing 1992 and 2010, voter participation dropped by 3.9 million. Between them, the Big Three parties lost 5.48 million votes - and only five seats!

If seats had been awarded strictly in proportion to percentage of votes cast, not only would there now be 150 Lib Dem MPs, but a further 77 from minority parties - whose votes over the same 18-year period increased by 79%, and more than doubled as a percentage of turnout.

Of course, both turnout and party choice would very likely alter if every vote counted equally. (For further discussion of our democratic deficit, please see here.)

Rogue representatives

But here I'd like to add another strand: the quality of our MPs. "They Work For You," says the website - but do they?

Here's an anecdote related to me about the Conservatives as they were in 2002:

"A  lady-friend who was active in the Conservative party convinced me to come to a few debates [plush venues, fine wine and senior politicians/civil servants]. The whole thing was a big disappointment, even then everyone was close minded, refused to acknowledge facts or party member opinion but worst of all clearly had self-interest or personal enrichment at heart. I saw whole rooms of highly intelligent young Conservatives, bankers, lawyers, surgeons etc. walk away in disgust time after time; even my friend left the party afterwards.

"The Conservatives think they are losing young people because they are not interested in politics, my impression was that they were dismayed [even made furious] by the lack of care for our collective futures. Twelve years later we can see what their self-interest has wrought."
And from the Mail on Sunday, here's Liberal Party insider Des Wilson on the 1980s:

"I was not only at the centre of the party in the country at that time but, for a crucial General Election year, the party’s president, allowed to attend the weekly parliamentary party meetings.
"In their innocence, party members may have assumed these meetings on Wednesday evenings throbbed with passionate political debate as the issues of the day were hammered out by men whose lives were devoted to the common good.

"Instead, week after week, I listened with mounting dismay and recoiled at the spectacle of this self-serving, self-pitying bunch (with, I should emphatically add, half a dozen honourable exceptions, such as Archy Kirkwood, Alan Beith and Matthew Taylor), spending an hour or more whining and whinging as parliamentary chores were handed out.
"They endlessly complained about the behaviour of the party’s so-called ‘activists’ – ie members – whose hard work and sacrifices helped them win their seats.

"The ‘activists’, committed to a campaigning party, looked to the parliamentary party for leadership and action. By concentrating on a few activities, they argued, and using all of the opportunities the House provided, the MPs could have more effectively promoted Liberal causes and been a constant thorn in the side of the two old parties.
"But that assumed the MPs saw themselves as the frontline force of a campaigning party, whereas they were a semi-detached pack, disloyal and disunited, self-regarding and self-seeking promoters of their own cause – their own re-election.

"On those Wednesday evenings there was minimal discussion of policy, and when there was, decisions were taken almost entirely on the basis of members’ constituency interests. I never left those meetings without a sense of shame. Week after week I went home thinking, ‘Thank God the rest of the party don’t see this lot in action’. "
Wilson hasten to add the "all a long time ago" rider:
"As for the parliamentary party, that generation has largely moved on (most knighted or sent to the Lords, and several of them dead) to be replaced by a generation who are a world apart from the 1980s lot."

Yes, of course. Though I have spent quite some time over the past nearly two years trying (and failing) to get my Lib Dem MP to stand up and ask questions in Parliament about protecting savers from what I think is the eventual arrival of high inflation (long since arrived, if you look at the price of assets such as residential property).

As to the Labour Party, we have no end of material from the Blair-Brown years (despite their habit of not allowing minutes of many crucial "sofa government" meetings) and more recently there was the internecine strife of the two Miliband brothers who have a strange sense of entitlement, rather like Lord Mandelson and his vaunted descent from Herbert Morrison. It is most odd that the hereditary principle seems as strong among socialists as others, perhaps more so.

(Addendum, 12:20 pm: see Craig Murray today on his experience of standing against Jack Straw, here).
 
Lewis Carroll's Walrus and Carpenter, with their supporters (pic source)

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said.
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size.
Holding his pocket handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter.
“You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?”
But answer came there none –
And that was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.


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Scotland's democratic deficit

The UK has big flaws built into its system of democratic representation - and within the UK, Scotland's is worse. Should the two countries separate, it will have to be addressed, if Labour is not to have a permanent unfair advantage - see the graph below:

(Based on data from the BBC)


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Sunday, April 27, 2014

A response to Craig Murray

"A win for UKIP will not only remind Scots that England remains in thrall to very right wing politics tinged with racism. It will also make plain to Scots that the only way to be sure to stay in the EU is to be part of an independent Scotland.. 

"A massively greater risk is the crazed Little Englanders dragging the UK into leaving the EU. UKIP are rampant. The Tories are terrified of them, and have a risible position that after the next election they will renegotiate Britain’s membership, then have an in-out referendum. In fact there really is no chance that all the other member states will unanimously agree to Cameron’s demand for changes in treaties that were excruciatingly difficult to gain unanimity for in the first place. In several instances EU states would be unable to agree without a referendum, a can of worms nobody wants to open. Cameron’s renegotiated settlement can never happen, so the Tories’ European figleaf only has a couple more years to go before expiry date. Then the English will want to leave. A majority of English voters already do want to leave."

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2014/04/farage-boost-to-yes/

Granted, UKIP has its Looneytune element, but it's not alone and as I said in an earlier post*, outsiders who have little in common will group together simply because they are excluded; it's one of the challenges for a fringe party trying to become mainstream.

In the meantime, I don't care to be tarred with Mr Murray's carelessly-swung brush, so I say:

"Little Englander" - if readers would kindly look up the origin of this phrase, there would be more LEs, since it was used to label those who opposed empire-building and colonialism.

I am not a racist. Besides, there are and have been racists in the Labour and Conservative parties also; as to Liberals, I don't know, though they have to contend with other historic shames, as we now see.

Nor would I describe myself as remotely "right wing".

I am in favour of an EU referendum on democratic grounds. So were Margaret Thatcher, Douglas Jay, Tony Benn and Lord Blake; so was Lord Rees-Mogg, who challenged the legality of Maastricht in the courts. Ask Dennis Skinner what he thinks of the EU, though with his heart condition it would be better not to.

A little nuancing in your thoughts re UKIP would be most welcome. If Prof Alan Sked's New Deal Party gathered momentum I'd certainly be prepared to consider; until then, when the three largest parties in the UK have agreed a stitch-up on EU membership, which appears to be more in the interests of big business, bureaucracy and careerist politicians like Tony Blair who want to sell their contact book for millions after public office, don't be surprised by the popularity of an underfunded and heavily top-directed newbie like UKIP. Among the ruins of democracy in Britain, si monumentum requiris, circumspice.
_______________________________________

* See the section  headed "The madness of minorities" in "Stretching the Rainbow" (April 23rd)

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Could a free Scotland manage economically?

I've already suggested that if it secedes from the UK, Scotland might seize the opportunity to remain outside the EU (rather than suffer the boom and bust of, say, Ireland and Greece) - and maybe should be looking to forge closer cooperation with other "semi-detached" European nations such as Norway and Iceland.

For example, look at the sea areas controlled by these three:


Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) & Fisheries Protection Zones (FPZ), Iceland and Norway (Jan Mayen & Svalbard are Norwegian) Source: Bates

 
Scottish Sea Areas (from Scotland's Marine Atlas)

Save for a couple of loopholes, there is a vast contiguous sea area under the control of the "SIN" countries.

Indeed, if Scotland is to join with anyone, Norway would be far better than the corrupt, undemocratic economic shambles of the EU. Their population sizes are similar (c. five million) but Scotland clearly has a lot to learn from the Norwegians: GDP per capita c. $40k for the former, c. $100k for the latter (and a big sovereign wealth fund that will provide financial security for the foreseeable future). Further, Norway has claims to the Arctic shelf that could result in still more oil and gas:

Arctic territorial claims and potential for oil and gas
(Source: The Economist, 16 June 2012)

I'm not suggesting that Scotland would roll up to the banquet with knife and fork to eat Norway's pie; I'm saying that the three countries might have a synergy based not only on geographical position but on their potential for joint economic and technological development.

For example, one reason Norway is so prosperous is that she can sell a lot of her oil abroad, since most of the country's domestic electricity comes from hydroelectric installations. Similarly, Scotland has 85% of the UK's hydroelectric resources and has great potential for other renewables (she provided 36% of the UK's renewables output in 2012). Some of the hydro power is used for aluminium smelting - just as Iceland uses geothermal energy for the same purpose.

Then there is the shared expertise of Norway and Scotland in shipbuilding and marine engineering.

And Scotland has fishing, tourism, brewing, the arts...

What if Scotland picked up the Treasury's gauntlet, dropped the British pound and floated its own currency to protect and develop its industries, maybe with some initial financial/investment support from her neighbours to the north-east?

Perhaps independence, with the help of carefully-chosen partners, is not such a romantic pipe-dream, after all.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Democracy Online

I suppose it's reasonable to believe that when you're browsing the comment sections of blogs, interactive media or Facebook that you are reading the thoughts and opinions of genuine readers. Naturally some of them may work for the state or be functionaries of political parties but would you actually expect them to be paid expressly with taxpayers money to post messages of a particular nature?

Welcome to the rise of the professional, tax-funded internet Troll.


45223
10 April 2014
21 April 2014

Job Title:
Social Media Coordinator

Working For:
International Alert

Location:
London

Salary:
Negotiable

Job Details:

This is a short-term consultancy contract until the end of May 2014, with an immediate start. Job share or part-time considered.

Are you a social media enthusiast? Do you engage on a variety of different social channels? We’re looking for someone creative and dynamic that has a natural flair for social media engagement. You will work closely with International Alert’s Communications and Europe Teams, and be responsible for running a short-term social media campaign (#EUnify) to counter racist and xenophobic discourse in the UK in the run-up to the European elections.

You will be responsible for building and engaging with audiences on the project’s social media channels, which includes coming up with content ideas, creating new content, amplifying messages online, managing and starting community conversations and making sure the social campaign is in line with the project's goals.

Tasks include:

  • Building and amplifying campaign messages online
  • Updating the project’s social media platforms - publishing daily posts on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and any other relevant social media channels
  • Increasing networks and expanding our reach across all social media channels
  • Managing and moderating user generated content and posting responses including on-going conversations and private messages
  • Working closely with internal teams and partners to respond to issues and co-ordinate content activity
  • Disseminating messages and materials to partner networks and channels
  • Setting appropriate targets on engagement and activity
  • Compiling statistics and monitoring engagement on a regular basis

Skills required:

  • Ability to create engaging and compelling written and visual content
  • Proven ability to conceive, implement, and manage cutting-edge online strategies, including mobilisation campaigns
  • Proficient in using and managing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn and blogs for marketing/campaigning purposes
  • Ability to work to tight deadlines with a ‘can do’ attitude towards managing multiple tasks
  • Expertise with online analytics
  • Demonstrated ability to understand complex public policy and translate it into compelling digital content

For the full details please see the advertised post on our website: http://international-alert.org/jobs/social-media-coordinator.

Closing Date:

21 April 2014

I bring your attention to this section :

You will work closely with International Alert’s Communications and Europe Teams, and be responsible for running a short-term social media campaign (#EUnify) to counter racist and xenophobic discourse in the UK in the run-up to the European elections.

I think it's clear that they mean to target UKIP.

International Alert is an NGO, that means in reality a taxpayer funded, un-elected and permanent wing of the Labour Party.

This is the new face of democracy.


That's my vote decided. 


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Friday, April 25, 2014

Distraction

Why a duck? (pic source)

1. Hounded by the Daily Mail to explain why he resisted an enquiry into the Cyril Smith paedophile saga, Nick Clegg finally called for a police enquiry yesterday - into the possibility that the abuse and cover-up was a wider, cross-party affair - and on the same day, also called for the Queen to be relieved of her role as head of the Church of England. A good way to bury bad news? Nothing like insouciantly kiting a massive constitutional change to redirect the attention of the media goldfish..

2. The Cornish are to be recognised as a minority, with rights. I'm still waiting to hear someone in the MSM connect this with the EU's plan to split us into regions, before dismantling the UK altogether. Don't hold your breath waiting for the restoration of their fishing rights, though.

3. Following the 2009 "Smeargate" scandal, I have occasionally checked to see what actually happened to Damian McBride. At the time, after his sacking, he was said to have gone into teaching - something likely to soften the judgmental hearts of GROLIES - "don't hit me, I'm finally going to do something socially worthwhile" - but instead it seems he became "Business Liaison Officer" at his old school in Finchley, and two years later became Head of Media at CAFOD.

4. Speaking of burying bad news, I still can't quite establish what became of hapless spad Jo Moore. Like McBride, she too was said to be going into teaching, though the 2003 article in the Independent reported her working in the role of a "classroom assistant" as part of her teacher training, which certainly wasn't the route I took. I have personally known a teacher give up to become a learning mentor, though - half the pay but a quarter of the work and no responsibility, she told me. Perhaps Jo really did stick it out - the 60-hour weeks, endless paperwork, sometimes horrid children, worrying about classroom displays and water-bottles, dreading hidden-agenda visits by Ofsted; perhaps not.

We think we're a democracy, they think we're a ship of fools.


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Fly Greenways, the carbon-neutral airline!


Worried about global warming but would still like to fly abroad on business and for holidays?

Hop over the pond with our revolutionary new wind-turbine-driven miniliner! Tilt your seat back and sip your complimentary drink with a clear conscience as our naturally-powered luxury craft wafts you to your destination!

Note: travel dependent on ambient wind speeds of 120 knots-plus; journeys may be interrupted by lulls. No refunds.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Waning sun to lead to new Little Ice Age?

A frozen windmill (pic source)

"Climate sceptics" may like to read the website of Habibullo I. Abdussamatov, a Russian astrophysicist specialising in the study of the Sun.

He says that it has long cycles of variation in sunspot activity and total radiance, and predicts a stable cooling period starting now and bottoming out late this century, with a drop in average temperature of 1 - 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Perhaps we should be building more coal-fired power stations, like the Chinese.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The origin of life – is it in your water?

Layers of EZ (exclusion zone) water next to hydrophilic material
From Prof Gerald H Pollack's TED lecture
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-T7tCMUDXU

Sackerson recently emailed Professor Jerry Pollack with a number of questions about his discovery of light-driven exclusion zones in water. Professor Pollack’s replies were both prompt and interesting enough to prompt further posts.

Here’s one obvious possibility. Highly speculative I agree, but surely too fascinating to ignore.

Question. The H3O2 layers suggest that their construction liberates hydrogen gas. What happens to it - does it bind with dissolved oxygen in seawater? If using pure distilled water in a non-oxygen atmosphere, would it generate hydrogen gas?

Prof Pollack’s answer. We're not so sure about hydrogen has. Certainly EZ buildup generates protons. Whether those protons normally collect to form hydrogen gas remains uncertain. On the other hand, the fact that salt water bombarded with RF/microwave radiation can catch fire (see book) implies that hydrogen has could, at least under certain circumstances, be generated. One thinks also of Brown's gas.

So when light shines on water in contact with a hydrophilic surface, a proton gradient across the exclusion zone is created automatically. Now proton gradients are associated with a range of basic energy-related biochemical processes. 


The proton gradient can be used as intermediate energy storage for heat production and flagellar rotation. In addition, it is an interconvertible form of energy in active transport, electron potential generation, NADPH synthesis, and ATP synthesis/hydrolysis.

The electrochemical potential difference between the two sides of the membrane in mitochondriachloroplastsbacteria, and other membranous compartments that engage inactive transport involving proton pumps, is at times called a chemiosmotic potential or proton motive force (see chemiosmosis). In this context, protons are often considered separately using units of either concentration or pH.

Suppose we imagine Earth’s surface before life evolved. No microorganisms, no plants and certainly no animals. But there is water and sunlight. Picture a shallow pool of water in contact with a hydrophilic surface such as clay particles. As yet there are no organic compounds in the water, let alone organic life.

The sun shines down on that pool of water to create exclusion zones at the surface of the clay particles. The exclusion zones form proton gradients, a ready-made energy source for many chemical reactions.

So even before organic molecules have a chance to combine and recombine into the building blocks of life, an inexhaustible energy source may have been waiting, ready to go.

If so, then proton gradients within our biochemistry are an unimaginably ancient inheritance. Not merely from our earliest biochemistry, but before biochemistry even existed here on Earth. Before even the simplest organic molecules had begun to take advantage of the subtle properties of water.

Note. As far as I am aware, this speculative possibility has not been raised by Professor Pollack, but his work is comparatively new to me and I may be wrong.  

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Stretching the rainbow: addressing the UK's democratic deficit


A Poison Tree, by William Blake, from "Songs of Experience" (1794)

Drowned out

One of the first difficulties with modern democracy is scale and ratio. It used to take far fewer votes to elect an MP, which means that the individual voter had much more power. Granted, not many people had the vote in the nineteenth century, and no women.

The franchise has quite rightly been extended since then, but taken together with the increase in the size of the population it means that we now have much greater difficulty in influencing our representatives. They don't even bother to get us drunk at the hustings any more.

Before the Reform Act of 1832, some Parliamentary constituencies could have sat together in an open carriage (Old Sarum had 7 voters); even afterwards, the average seat had an electorate of about 1,236. Today it's around 71,300 and if (as Cameron and co. wish) the Commons is cut to 600 seats, your voice will be one in around 77,250 - more than could fit into Old Trafford stadium.




But in the old days, there were other ways to register one's feelings. Democracy is for averting these other methods.

During the 1991 phase of the Maastricht debate, Tony Benn observed:

"If people lose the power to sack their Government, one of several things happens. First, people may just slope off. Apathy could destroy democracy. When the turnout drops below 50 per cent., we are in danger.

"The second thing that people can do is to riot. Riot is an old-fashioned method of drawing the attention of the Government to what is wrong. It is difficult for an elected person to admit it, but the riot at Strangeways produced some prison reforms. Riot has historically played a much larger part in British politics than we are ever allowed to know.

"Thirdly, nationalism can arise. Instead of blaming the treaty of Rome, people say, "It is those Germans," or, "It is the French." Nationalism is built out of frustration that people feel when they cannot get their way through the ballot box. With nationalism comes repression.

"I hope that it is not pessimistic--in my view it is not--to say that democracy hangs by a thread in every country of the world. Unless we can offer people a peaceful route to the resolution of injustices through the ballot box, they will not listen to a House that has blocked off that route."

The unheard minority

We've seen from Dr Matt Qvortrup's paper that there is statistical evidence supporting the idea that barriers to political representation breed discontent that can sometimes lead to terrorist acts.

These barriers include:

  • A limited range of Parliamentary parties, perhaps none of which speaks for you
  • A weak or divided Opposition with little influence on government policy
  • A loaded-dice relationship between votes cast and Parliamentary seats gained, so that some parties (e.g. Liberal Democrat) are under-represented, and others not at all
  • Dissenting minorities within a constituency being permanently sidelined and muzzled by the dominant local political party.
Warped voting results
Under our current "first past the post" system, only 217 MPs out of 650 actually gained a majority of votes cast in the 2010 General Election (and only 220/650 in the 2005 GE). So in two-thirds of constituencies, the majority of voters ended up with someone they didn't want, or at least who wasn't their first preference.
Yet in 2011, when there was a referendum about the Alternative Vote (some call it the Single Transferable Vote), which would take into account second and third preferences, there was a powerful media campaign against it, especially in some newspapers (since unlike the BBC they have no statutory obligation to strike a balance on political issues). So we are left with the status quo, which favours the two largest parties.
For those who want a plebiscite on the EU, it also illustrates that a referendum is not enough: full information, clear explanation and unbiased coverage beforehand are also essential.
The system of Parliamentary representation developed in a time when much economic activity was regionalised and it took days to reach London from remoter parts of the country. There was also an economic shift from rural agricultural to urban industrial, so that constituency boundaries and voter eligibility had to be radically adjusted in 1832. Yet now, in an age when businesses and shopping have countrywide and international connections; when millions of viewers can vote for a showbiz act by phone or a button on their TV remote control; when many of us commute to work, fly to distant parts of the world for holidays but don't know their neighbours by name, our voting is still locally based - and quite possibly, our MP isn't!
The electoral boundary system is impossible to rejig so that every constituency has a range of electors reflecting the national spread of voting. So we get strange, unrepresentative results. For example, in the 2005 General Election, the Labour Party was returned with a Parliamentary majority: 355 seats on a total of 35.2% of votes cast nationally. Yet in 2010, the Conservative Party got more of the national vote (36.1%) and still ended up with only 306 seats, leaving them with no choice but to share power with the Liberal Democrats. And in both cases, the party of the Prime Minister only represented about one-third of voters.
Declining engagement
Worse still, democratic participation is shrinking dangerously. The landslide Labour victory of 1997 was won on the lowest electoral turnout in over 50 years (71.4%) - which subsequently plummeted below 60% in 2001 and has barely recovered since.

Source: UK Political Info
And again, in 1997 Labour had 64.3% of seats in the House of Commons, but based on votes cast by only 43.2% of those who actually voted (and only 30.8% of those who were entitled to vote).
Running ahead of the people
It is said by some that an advantage of "first past the post" voting is that we are more likely to end up with a single party having an overall majority in Parliament, so enabling it to pursue radical policies. Others may think this is actually a drawback, seeing the economic and social consequences of Tweedledum and Tweedledee politics over the last 40 years.
The Government majority after 1997 meant that it could afford to ignore not only a newly-impotent Opposition but its own backbenchers, and so it felt empowered to push through radical changes, especially on the constitutional front (e.g. the abolition of most of the hereditary peerage in 1999 - before working out what was to replace it!)
Raising the banners
So, absent an effective Parliamentary Opposition, we saw minority representation in the form of public demonstration. But there are problems with this.
The first, obviously, is that demonstrations are usually organised, so the question is who is behind them and why? As Burke warned at the time of the French Revolution, it is not always easy to see who is coordinating the activity, and what their long-term plans may be. A well-disciplined cadre can take control of and even tyrannise the majority: for example, under Communism only a very small fraction of the people in both Russia and China were in the Party, yet they ruled their fellows with fists of iron for decades. For democrats, it is far better to have one's rulers govern by consent and public scrutiny in the context of open debate and the ability to recall and replace one's representatives.
Another problem is that the media, our eyes and ears for things happening at a distance, can give misleading reportage either for or against the official line. For example, in 1990 the violent poll tax riots (which helped reverse Conservative Government policy) were top TV news, yet there were as few as 3,000 protestors in London; by contrast, in 2002 nearly half a million people marched peaceably through London on behalf of the Countryside Alliance and against the ban on hunting with dogs, and those of us in the provinces hardly knew of it, owing to lack of media coverage (and the Labour Government didn't give an inch as a result). Little wonder that some people think violence by the few is more effective than genteel protest by the many. Equally, small wonder that political parties now spend so much money on cultivating - in some cases, even bullying - the media; and on persuading journalists to turn from poaching to gamekeeping.
Cyber-pamphleteering
Enter the blogger. (That sounds a bit like Attack of the Killer Crabs, and in some cases there may not be much difference.) Thanks to Google Blogger and other providers, it became technically possible to become a "citizen journalist" and the attraction of having a go was boosted by the perception of an out-of-control Government and skewed news media. It was Hyde Park Corner a-gogo, with much swearing and tub-thumping and occasional stands occupied by people of wit and curious learning (some still declaiming, such as John Ward).
The blogger phenomenon has since dwindled. Perhaps some feel that now that Labour is out of power, their labours are at an end; maybe others have simply tired of the craze, like Citizen's Band radio. And there are so many more distractions on offer: if the Russians invaded, half the country would be too busy playing Candy Crush Saga to notice.
In any case, like "demos",  blogging was never going to be the answer, anyway, not for the masses. Unless you are blogging in China, your writing isn't going to get a newspaper-sized readership (except if you're a mainstream journalist who also blogs). But as with newspapers, you'll tend to be read by people who already agree with you, which is hardly the point of democratic discussion; and if you are in danger of punching above your weight you are likely to suffer "trolling" and other forms of organised counter-propaganda and disruption - including using the complaints system to get you banned from Google and Twitter.
The madness of minorities
The business of preaching to the converted has its own dangers.
One of them is ideological drift. This is discussed in a 2011 book by Cass R. Sunstein, "Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide" - the theme is explained in the introduction, which you can read here. Like-minded people who talk with each other not only confirm their prejudices, but deepen them, becoming more radical by degrees in a way that they themselves may hardly notice. The vast expanse of the internet allows the people to segment and segregate, just as some schools and places of religious instruction do.
Conversely, in Western politics, opposition can make strange bedfellows. In 1993, both Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher opposed the Maastricht agreement, not to mention Douglas Jay, Lord Blake and Dennis Skinner.
Elsewhere, heterogeneous dangerous fringe groups can be attracted to each other, perhaps on the basis of their being rejected by the mainstream. So for example it's said the IRA and the PLO worked together for a long time, attending the same training camps and exchanging information and resources, despite the fact that they were ideologically light-years apart, the IRA being Marxist-Leninists and the PLO not only nationalist but anti-Zionist and, of course, with an Islamic bent. In Iran the religious faction united with left-wing students and others against the Shah, but when he was overthrown the former then turned on their erstwhile collaborators to complete their Islamic revolution. 
Similarly in blogging, a fringe group promoting one view often attracts members who have additional obsessions, like Gerald Durrell's hermit crab that he put in an aquarium lined with semi-precious stones in order to watch it bejewel itself. Thus when I engaged with the English Constitution Group to look at historical arguments for an EU referendum and against what Albert Burgess calls the extended "power grab" of Parliament, I began to receive unsolicited emails expressing what are (to me) hateful and irrational opinions on racial and religious groups. Some of these come from the USA, where the intensity of loathing and denial of established fact seem almost insane. I have, of course, asked them to desist, but they seem to me to be good examples of this ideological drift into mounting hysteria and indiscriminate opposition.
Reaching for the pomander

Yet the way to deal with minorities is not simply to cut off communication altogether. Excluding them from dialogue is part of what tends to exacerbate them.
And you risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater - the comfortable consensus may be wrong. Think of Churchill's years in the political wilderness; or the way that all three major political parties have agreed that we should be in the EU.
I recently tried to organise some liberal public discussion of the referendum issue, and immediately ran into the mainstream-versus-extreme argument. The trouble is, some are unsure whether they are within the rainbow, or outside it. Those who think they "know better" simply raise the vinaigrette to their nose and pass on.
And so, cast out and disregarded, the resentment of the disenfranchised breeds in the darkness. Yes, they can be kept down with cyber-spying, infiltration, police, special forces, internment camps and so on; but not forever; and the cost of doing so is a less liberal society for all.
Conclusion
We need electoral reform.
On some great matters, especially Constitutional ones, we need ratification by the people through referendum.
We need unbiased news media to educate and inform the people, if their votes are not to be manipulated by cheap tricks.
We need those who think of themselves as educated, civilised and tolerant to step down from their carriages, roll up their lacy sleeves and engage with the people. And, perhaps, to agree a little less readily with one another.
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