Media round

I have been in Westminster today to do some media interviews.  I shall be back again for the same reason next week.

Today’s interviews may be of interest to our international readers (or reader!).  This morning, I recorded an interview for the Aljazeera English television station.  It was with Sir David Frost for his programme  ‘Frost over the World’.  I was debating our current electoral system with Anthony Barnett, founder of  The discussion was quite animated; I enjoyed it.  He seems to think that our system is corrupt because of the first-past-the-post method of election.  Obviously, we cannot think of any corrupt system elected under proportional representation…

After that, I recorded an interview for the BBC World Service on – yes, you’ve guessed it – our current electoral system.  Mary-Anne Seighart chaired and I was debating with Lord Steel (an old friend) and a very pleasant Labour MEP that I had not met before,  Mary Honeyball.  It was a relaxed discussion.  Needless to say, I made a sterling case for our current electoral system.  Oh yes.  Keep listening to the BBC World Service for proof. 

Next week, discussion changes to the election and the outcome.  I’ll be on Sky News, Channel 4 News, and Reuters TV.  At this rate, I’ll become a media tart.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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30 Responses to Media round

  1. ladytizzy says:

    As soon as Seighart’s name came up I drifted to Private Eye‘s referencing of her daughters, Brainella and Intelligentsia. Sometimes, one can not get past another’s incisive prejudice.

    Then, when I read ‘sterling case’ I was reminded of today’s Daily Politics who, during this campaign, have highlighted one of the small parties each day. Today was the turn of The Monster Raving Loony Party. One of their pledges included “joining Europe in a big way” – by inviting the other European countries to join the pound sterling and then making the entire UK a European offshore tax haven.


  2. Carl.H says:

    “I recorded an interview for the Aljazeera ….and kept my head! ”

    The public at present I feel are being led into an elective system that will be worse for us. If PR is so good why isn`t it used in Parliaments ? Because it couldn`t work that way, the only way to achieve anything is FPTP and no matter what system you employ to get a Commons the smaller parties will have little or no say unless they are part of a coalition. PR will not represent anyone any better than they could be now and could result in all sorts of problems.

    “Next week, discussion changes to the election and the outcome. ”

    I think you`ll have your work cut out, I foresee smaller parties and independents getting a few seats and Labour getting kicked into touch.

    “At this rate, I’ll become a media tart.”

    You`ve no time for that…You have to get back to sort out our chocolates…..Which still haven`t arrived, Frank is packing his pitchfork and torch as we speak !

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: Sir David Frost introduced the discussion by listing recent governments that had fallen and noting that each of the countries involved employed a system of proportional representation. I thought it was a splendid way to open.

      What is often overlooked is that over 60 countries and almost half of the world’s electors utilise in one form or another a plurality, or first-past-the-post, method of election. This dwarfs other systems. Only about 0.5% of the world’s electors vote using the Alternative Vote and only 0.1% by the Single Transferable Vote.

  3. Troika21 says:

    I love the World Service.

    Britains hardly on it.

  4. Your Lordship,

    As one of your international readers (and fans!)—of whom no doubt the numbers are legion—I hope responsible officials and media outlets from Canada will solicit your opinions and experience with respect to reform of Upper Houses. This pernicious, polycephalous proposal keeps getting knocked down with respect to making the Senate of Canada an elected body, but once again it has reared an ugly head to torment defenders of our esteemed Red Chamber.

    Its most recent incarnation takes the form of a bill for eight-year terms, with ensuing legislation to allow for democratic elections at the provincial level.

    While no doubt you will demur from intruding into foreign politics—I am admittedly less punctilious—in the past Lord Howe of Aberavon and several of his colleagues from the red benches have spoken to an investigating Senate committee to underline the benefits of the appointed nature of the House of Lords, and of the efforts of the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber .

    I hope they will have an invitation from the Dominion Parliament to do so again.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Stephen MacLean: I have variously advised other legislatures and official bodies – including the McGrath Committee on Reform of the House of Commons in Canada in 1985 – and am always happy to be approached.

  5. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,

    Of course the Frost interviews with Nixon are something Americans often think about when tunking of politics. Much of the mischief discussed there involved CREEP (the Committee to Re-Elect the President). Louisiana is where I do all my voting save one (filtered to the Presidency) and we have neither FPTP nor PR. We are a majoritarian winner take all system. It is what I like best. I am sure much as your Lordship feels about FPTP.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Frank W. Summers III: I am not sure if I should mention this, but I visited the CREEP headquarters in Washington DC during the 1972 presidential election campaign. I also visited the National Democratic Party headquarters as well. It was quite a contrast.

      First-past-the-post is a majoritarian winner-takes-all-system, unless you are thinking of some variant.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Lord Norton,
        I am afraid this may be the first time I actually embarss you and I hope not. But here is a correction and not a mtter of opinion on which honest folk disagree. Most US states (not that we are alone as we are in many things but we are a minority) are FPTP. That is pluarlitarian democracy (or aristocracy if applied to closed elite ballots) it is not at all majoritarian. If in FPTPland Tories get 49%, Democrats get 30% and Communists get 21% Tories win. In a majoritarian jurisdiction like ours Tories and Democrats have a run-off election with only two contenders so that one must 50% and one vote or more of all votes cast. In practice if it were as decribed above and the Democrats were incumbents they would usually concede that race because it is never won, If they were challengers then they and the Tories would run a very hard race indeed. Then the result might be very distinct from FPTP. Usually an incumbent needs to lead the nearest challenger to win a run-off (almost always).

        It may be that Britain is now majoritarian and has run-offs but then it is no longer FPTP. I have not heard of any such change.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Frank Summers III: Run-offs are the equivalent of the Supplementary Vote used for the London Mayoral elections. It produces an engineered majority but may not necessarily reflect the preference of the majority as one of the eliminated candidates may be the second choice of most electors.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Lord Norton,

        Actually everyone gets a second choice in our run-offs. Whether one voted for a third party, abstained, or voted for one of the two contenders. Arguably it is the only time when a second choice of the majority of electors is ever known.

        I will say that we had fewer run-offs and when party primaries had constitutional status in our state. Also for the same reason, FPTP in many states is almost always majoritarian in practice. In our country the two major parties are so strong that if the party selection is constituted law then they are often alone on the ballots. However, because of federal changes we disliked we made the move to a new system about twenty years ago (I think).

        For about one hundred years the Democratic primary was contested by two (evolving) well-organized factions and an occasional strong independent. Then the Democrat nominated was the winner in more than 95% of races in Louisiana with Republicans taking the vast majority of the rest and with a few taken by Socialists or the Klan Party in that century. Before that Republicans held office with troops at the ballots for a few decades. So the ordinary two-party American system was here in the period from the 1820s to the 1860 cataclysm and then from the 1960s to the 1980s. Of course, the few historically conscious Democrats contest Your Lordship’s own party’s claim as the oldest. I think you win because the 1798 founding of the Republican-Democrats in the USA is certainly as far removed as you are from the Tories and you are not claiming them. Nonetheless, Jefferson is the ancestor of the Democrats as a political party. One of our wits once said however, “I am the member of no organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

        Since British Petroleum has created a likely cause for long decades or centuries of rancor betwixt our native polities once again I am cramming in topics while it is easy to do so. Further since, Louisiana is already very far from Westminster I am throwing in these few bits of dialogue to make things clearer while I can. Gentlemen are already made silly by this age so we may as well chat before things get too unpleasant. There is little room for the civility in serious discord which I think both of us might still be capable of practicing. However,the discord itself is unlikely to be civil from what I feel and hear.

      • Carl.H says:

        “Since British Petroleum has created ”

        I don`t think that is the case Frank, else one might say Union Carbibe created in Bhopal…

        Sounds like you`re about to blame a whole Nation for what is essentially an accident that happened to a structure belonging to a Company with the name British in it`s title. Doesn`t belong to me I`m afraid, no more than Union Carbide belonged to you.

      • Carl.H says:

        “On 29 April 2010, economic impacts are felt from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion as Gulf state shrimpers sue BP over oil spill with Transocean and Halliburton named as defendants.”

        Transocean and Halliburton are both US companies, Transocean which is a US company owned and operated the rig, not as I stated above BP.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        the reason the timeline would not work above is that first I made a mistake. Secondly, because the Democratic Century has a grey or fuzzy election at its start and a decade (@1957-1968) at its end that I counted as part of that century although they are halfway eras. However, my wording pertained only to the middle fifty or sixty years really (perhaps a bit more).

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Reply to Croft replying to me>

        First I have to do some housekeeping. I am not getting email notice of your posts. Everyone but you and only when you post on this comment. So I may seem to avoid you but am not.

        Corporations are created to make veils, mulitinational connections of corporations to make them impenetrable. I am indeed publicizing the bad deeds of Transocean in other places. In things like wetlands management the only way to keep things that are slow billions alive against fast billions is by holding people and nations accountable. Britain has a nuke arsenal, a seat on the UN Security Council and the world’s largest financial hub. They make a poor cry baby. BP PLC would still be Brit in this area if 80% were owned by Koreans. It would also be Korean. The last time the UK invaded New Orleans they lost by the way. But I would think that pitched military battle is still a bit beyond what I am talking about. For me personally I think that you have fewer useful cultural referents as to my mentalite than I have for yours.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Correction again: My last note is to Carl H replying to me. I cannot see the page and do not have an email copy as I type this. But I should have been more careful.

      • Carl.H says:

        “The last time the UK invaded New Orleans they lost by the way.”

        I love that type of Nationalist talk, it really makes discussion between human beings easy. I used to be into this type of mentality especially for football but I educated myself and outgrew it. See me again in 5 weeks when we take on the USA that may change 😉

        Frank there is no point in talking of this absolute disaster…..For the world and especially the wildlife when you`re just going to talk Nationalistic fervour. Blame will be apportioned correctly I hope, it won`t be me or I suspect you who does the judging.

        I don`t believe even GB would lower himself to the level of sinking an oil rig intentionally to kill off American wildlife and fishing industry. Nor do I beleive the US would have allowed the rig without it being suitably regulated by them.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Reply to Carl H @ 7:57 Replying to me

        In law Mens rea or state of mind is relevant to conspiracy and murder. It is not relevant to very dangerous activities. In addition, it is a law of the world that where the damage threatened is great enough rules are only guidelines. You cannot comprehend what this spill threatens unless you compare it to the London Blitz. Not in compressed time of course, but quite seriously.

        As for judging Federal Law is likely to be used in what we call blue water admiralty but it is quite possible that there will be civil claims tried in Louisiana State Courts. If there are we have juries in civil trials. This is so high publicity that my blogs would not automatically disqualify me. So BP would have to use one of a finite number of challenges and might need them to exclude full-time fishermen, oystermen, wildlife biologists, union organizers, chandlers, and hotel owners. So in effect I or someone like me might not be the judge but would likely be the jury. The right to jury procedure can even attach outside Louisiana under some conditions.
        Remember, I am on a British blog. Your boys might weep with joy to have me judge them.

        The real purpose of law courts is forgotten in post WWII Europe. They exist so good and honest men do not always shoot the deserving louts they would shoot without law courts. They do not exist to always fall halfway between St. Michael and the Devil.

  6. Croft says:

    I wonder which you’ll be introduced as – the conservative peer ‘Lord Norton’ or the government expert ‘Professor Norton’. I do find broadcasters are bad/lazy in discussing with academics (and their letters to the papers) without mentioning their politics. I’ve seen you identify yours unprompted in interviews so you can’t be criticised!

    I was told by someone frequently interviewed they brought their own tea bags as they couldn’t stand the studio builders brew. Does create a lovely image of all these smart suits with pockets full of tea!

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: Whenever I pen an article for a magazine such as ‘The House Magazine’, I describe myself as a Conservative peer and professor of government at the University of Hull. Broadcasters usually try to keep the description short. The World Service broadcast was designed to draw someone from each party, so that was fairly straightforward. They asked if they could describe me as a ‘constitutional historian’. I didn’t mind the description (historians might!). For some reason, broadcasters seem to prefer referring to me as a historian or constitutional expert rather than as a political scientist. They also seem to be more interested to check how I should be addressed in the discussion rather than how I should be captioned.

      I suppose I ought to check more often how they intend to caption me on screen, not so much to ensure viewers know my affiliation but rather to get the reference or spelling correct. I am sometimes captioned as Lord Philip Norton and on occasion Philip is shown as Phillip. Oh dear.

      • Croft says:

        Perhaps it’s unjust but on captions, rather as with letters and official correspondence, I tend to assume if people can’t get the simple things right…

        Sadly this view was reinforced recently when we had a switch to twice monthly bin collections. The correspondence didn’t seem to know the correct details of my property, didn’t deliver the correct new bins and on contacting them to complain they sent me some free bin-bags for the bin I didn’t have!

        I don’t mind in the slightest academics who are politically active being involved but it does raise my hackles when people with a political position are introduced as though apolitical and then launch what seems a political attack on another parties position under the cover of their captioned ‘impartiality’ . Broadcasters should know better.

        On the tea: no tea at all. It might explain a lot if interviewees are dosed up to their eyeballs on coffee!

        In what capacity are you on those shows; for the ‘five minute’ segments from the ‘experts’ or for longer stretches of analysis and discussion? Personally I much prefer the academics and polling experts’ chats the politicians with their party lines and clichés are too tiresome for hours on end!

      • Lord Norton says:

        Croft: I am usually asked wearing my ‘expert’ hat – and even if I’m not I’ll still be wearing it anyway. There is very little I am asked to do that doesn’t draw on my interests in Parliament (or legislatures generally), the constitution, and the Conservative Party. One producer did once ask me to discuss pensions in a party panel discussion, but that was only because there had been a last-minute drop out and she was desperate.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: I should add (admit?) that I am one of those politicians who sometimes carry teabags with me! It’s not because of the quality of the tea I am offered – if it is tea I will drink it – but for occasions when someone does not have any tea available.

      • Carl.H says:

        “When someone does not have any tea available.” !!!

        What ! How terribly un-British, I shall not be attending.

        Dear Monster Raving Loony Party………….

  7. Pingback: Debating Electoral Reform with Lord Norton « THE HONEYBALL BUZZ

  8. Senex says:

    Have any of you been to the new facility from Google?

    • Carl.H says:

      The google translator has been around for a good while, it`s quite fun but wildly innaccurate at times as I have found in German forums.

  9. Senex says:

    CH: Yes it has been around for about ten years but the features on the translate site are new it seems. I caught this on an RSS from Der Spiegel’s Apr 30, 2010.,1518,692001,00.html

    What’s really new is this has been added to the Android OS for mobile devices as spoken translation. Astounding!–licensing-3rd-party-machine-translation-technologies-tha.html

    Your right about using them blindly, they don’t seem to be aware of cultural grammar. Try translating the phrase ‘how much is this’ into Chinese then do a reverse translation of the result

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