Too many ministers

Earlier this evening I moved an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.  Or rather I moved an amendment to an amendment.  Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved an amendment to provide that the number of ministers sitting in the Commons must be reduced in proportion to the reduction in the number of MPs.  I moved an amendment to that amendment to provide that the maximum number of ministers who can sit in the Commons, paid or unpaid, is reduced from 95 to 80. 

My argument was that reducing the number of MPs did not create a problem but rather exacerbated a problem.  There are already too many ministers.    The so-called payroll vote in the House, including parliamentary private secretaries  (PPSs), constitutes too great a proportion of the Commons. In 1950 it was 15%.  Today it is 21%.  That will increase with the passage of this Bill.  The greater the number of ministers in the Commons, the less the capacity of the House to call it to account. 

The number of ministers has increased in order to add to the patronage available to the Prime Minister rather than to meet the growing needs of government.   Ministers tend to find work to fulfil the time available, as former minister Chris Mullin has pointed out.  The emphasis has tended to be on quantity for the benefit of patronage than on quality for the sake of good government.  We need fewer, but better trained, ministers. 

I did got get a wholly positive response from the Leader of the House, Lord Strathclyde, who said the Government would look at the issue but did not indicate that he felt there was any urgency about it.  He also said that it did not address the issue of PPSs.  I pointed out that if you reduce the number of ministers, you reduce the number of people requiring PPSs. 

It is an issue to which I shall return.  As I said in the House, reducing the number of ministers is as important a constitutional question as reducing the number of MPs.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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34 Responses to Too many ministers

  1. Carl.H says:

    Our greatest living expert on Parliament-The House Magazine- ignored by Government and the House that prides itself on being expert based, say’s it all really.

    This bill is being forced through without a care for correct scrutiny and expert opinion. I have no doubts it will lead to a system that is bias and undemocratic, ultimately resulting in self destruction.

    • tory boy says:

      Carl H, how can you state the above when at present we do not have equal votes due to the size of constituencies, which favor and over represent the Labour party. The bill is not being forced through if you actually watch proceedings which I have, you will gather that the Labour party have been filibustering. Even independent Cross Bench Peers like there Convener have stated that the Labour party have been filibustering. The bill has had something like 15 days in committee of the whole house, if you think that is ramming the bill through your living in a funny world.

  2. Carl.H says:

    It is being forced through and has turned the House into a partisan system. Yes 15 days in committee, 15 days in which most Tory and Crossbench peers refuse to give this bill what it will expect when similar is produced later in the shape of Lords reform, they will want expert opinion and evidence.

    You say the present system offers Labour favouritism but give no evidence that this bill will not favour anyone which is what I want, nor has Government done any research on this which is necessary for it to proceed. You talk of equal votes but if you`re not voting for the winner your vote is worth nothing, it is a losing lottery ticket. If you want equal votes, which I don`t say I do, then you must push for PR then everyone will get their one votes worth of power otherwise talking of equality is just hogwash.

    If we talk of population in terms of voting and equality then London and the South East will have a greater say than anywhere else, how is that fair in the farmlands where Londoners understand little ?

    Lord Norton stated

    “My argument was that reducing the number of MPs did not create a problem but rather exacerbated a problem. ”

    Exacerbating a problem, making an existing problem worse. This from the leading expert on Parliament, a Tory expert, in a House where expertise is merited as being the reasoning for it’s continued non-elected status, quite rightly – but not if the expertise is ignored.

    This bill is a dangerous precedent, the fact your colours are on show means it unlikely you’re able to be neutral and clear minded.

    • djb13 says:

      If you study the precise working of the current SMS (Single Member Seat) electoral system (and I have, in great detail academically) you’ll find that the current system favour Labour over the Conservatives, and Labour and the Conservatives over the Lib Dems, and the Lib Dems over the Greens, who are favoured over UKIP and the BNP. The reason that we see Lab/Con favoured over Lib/Grn/UKIP/BNP is because of the SMS nature of the electoral system, so without a relative proportional MMS (Multi-Member Seat) system we’ll have that forever – coincidentally, I agree with you, a (semi-)proportional MMS system, such as STV-4-6MS, would be better than an SMS system. However, the advantage that our current SMS system offers Labour over the Tories is due to the large variation in seat sizes, which are largely driven by the Electoral Commission’s desire to fit within defined boundaries. This bill fixes that specific issue by reducing the ammount of permitted variation. In the short term, it hits Labour, but long-term it just means that vote share and seat share are more closely correlated for Labour and the Tories.

      There’s also another problem with our current FPTP-variant of SMS which is that it allows a person to win a mere plurality rather than majority, and the bill offers a fix for that in the form of the AV-variant of SMS. In all, this is actually a bill quite focussed on two relatively small technical aspect of FPTP-SMS. Therefore there’s actually very little detailed scrutiny that can be done by the Lords, because this entire bill is really detail, and has already been scrutinised by the Commons. The Lords can reasonably ask the Commons to think again, but this filibuster is an attempt to take down the bill, which is the express, and scrutinised, will of the Commons. It therefore goes beyond the perogatives of the House of Lords.

      It’s also worth taking a longer-term view on this. AV-SMS would probably have benefited Labour over the Tories between 1979-2010 relative to FPTP-SMS, but if we see the Lib Dems become electorally a part of the centre, or UKIP becoming a serious challenge to the Tories on the right, AV-SMS may benefit the Tories over Labour, relative to FPTP-SMS. The constituency boundaries currently disadvantage the Tories, although between 1950-1992 the boundaries benefited the Tories over Labour.

      • Carl.H says:

        Dhb13 thank you for a clearer view, however at present I still disagree.

        “However, the advantage that our current SMS system offers Labour over the Tories is due to the large variation in seat sizes,”

        Not according to this:
        http://pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/1/4.full

        The AV variant in my opinion does not give a clear majority of 50%+
        because of the way second votes will be counted, they will still have the power as a first vote and the second votes of some candidates will not be included at all. A second vote, a less prefered vote should not carry the same weight as a first ideal vote. Having studied the examples given for AV I find them deeply unfair and they will be open to calls of fixing due to the complexity of the system.

        If one wanted to go that way, the only way in my opinion is PR where every vote gets a votes worth of power. Regards what some see as a problem with PR in that it is not constituency based I don`t see that as a problem. Party’s at present often foist a candidate on an area with that candidate knowing little of the area and electorate, they do this to ensure their “yes” men get the best advantage. Personally I don`t like PR or the concept that voters are equal, they quite obviously aren’t and once power is gained autonomy of party kicks in anyway.

        I do not believe there is a perfect system, the boundaries commission often take so long at decisions that another generation has come or gone by the the time it is complete.

        We have anomolies with this bill though that 600 has been chosen seemingly at random. Why ? Why not 500 or 700 ? An MP represents a constituency not just the electorate so the count should take in the whole population. There are areas where population is sparse, farming communities etc., should these be lumped with Council estates on the edges of areas ?

        And of course as LN has stated the fact that Ministers?PPS’s also be proportionate so as not to give advantage to Government in the House.

        This bill is not precise enough, it is not as you say two relatively small aspects, there are some major questions to be answered before I at least am convinced that this is an attempt at a fairer system.

  3. djb13 says:

    To address the journal article. Firstly, they “demonstrate that the rules and procedures applied by the Boundary Commissions when redistributing seats in the UK preclude the achievement of substantial equality in constituency electorates”, which is indeed true. I do not believe that the BC is intentionally creating an advantage for Labour over the Conservatives, but rather the rules force them to; this bill changes the rules.

    I will amend my previous statement, because it is wrong, for which I apologise. It is not true to say “the advantage that our current SMS system offers Labour over the Tories is due to the large variation in seat sizes”, but rather is it true to say “one of the advantage that our current SMS system offers Labour over the Tories is due to the large variation in seat sizes”. There were also other factors at play. This bill eliminates one. Others include turnout, ‘base’ vs. ‘floating voters’ campaigns, or sheer bad luck in electoral geography.

    AV is usually misexplained. Under FPTP we could have an election in Scotland, the results are as follows:
    SNP: 23%
    Labour: 22%
    Lib Dem: 21%
    Conservative: 15%
    Scots Green: 10%
    The Monster Raving Elvis Bean Party: 9%
    So, the SNP would win. However, let us hypothecate that because the SNP only got 23% (well below a majority), that the government insist upon another go. They eliminate the MREBP, and ask everyone to vote again. Obviously SNP, Lab, Lib, Con and SGr voters stay the same, and the MREBP voters are split fairly evenly:
    SNP: 23% + 1% = 24%
    Labour: 22% + 1% = 23%
    Lib Dem: 21% + 3% = 24%
    Conservative: 15% + 1% = 16%
    Scots Green: 10% + 3% = 13%
    Again, no party is on more than 50% of the vote. Let us pretend further that the government insists upon yet another round, this time eliminating the SGr. Again, SNP, Lab, Lib and Con voters don’t change their minds.
    SNP: 24% + 5% = 29%
    Labour: 23% + 3% = 26%
    Lib Dem: 24% + 5% = 29%
    Conservative: 16% + 0% = 16%
    Now, we have some parties edging towards an overall majority. This time the government eliminate Con, and we get:
    SNP: 29% + 0% = 29%
    Labour: 26% + 10% = 36%
    Lib Dem: 29% + 6% = 35%
    So, this time the SNP are eliminated, and the following happens:
    Labour: 36% + 15% = 51%
    Lib Dem: 35% + 14% = 49%
    So, even though Labour are the party with the greatest general support, the SNP would win under FPTP. There are two ways of going about solving this problem. The first is to ask everyone to tactically vote for either Labour or the Lib Dems, or the other solution is to use IRV or AV. The disadvantage of IRV (which is what I just showed you) is that it takes absolutely ages (coincidentally, it’s how they elect the Pope and the Speaker of the House of Commons), so we use AV, where the returning officer infers your ‘current preference’ (based on who’s still in the race) from who you listed on the ballot paper. AV is essentially FPTP with tactical voting built in, but you don’t need prior knowledge of what will happen, and you can be ‘honest’. I fear a lot of the time people try to sell AV without explaining that it’s really a quick version of IRV, which is really a version of FPTP. When you’re applying it to a country as a whole AV-SMS acts almost no differently to FPTP-SMS.

    You say that PR doesn’t offer a constituency, and allows parties to foist ‘yes’ men on the electorate. MMS-List is certainly guilty of that, but STS-4-6MS doesn’t. You have constituencies, local candidates (often independents have a good chance of winning too). It’s used with some success (and some failings) in Ireland.

    Your point about the precise number of MPs is good. I’m an advocate for more MPs (the more the merrier so far as I’m concerned). 600 is arbitrary. However, I don’t see how you pick a number that isn’t arbitrary. The reduction in the number of MPs is often said to ‘hit Labour’. That’s not true: a boundary review will hit Labour, and reducing the number of MPs will require a boundary review. However, even if the number of MPs were kept the same, the legislation would still require a boundary review.

    I agree with Lord Norton and yourself on the number of ministers, it is a failing of the bill.

    What in the bill isn’t precise enough, and what other issues do you think the bill seeks to address?

  4. djb13 says:

    Also, Carl.H: What questions are unanswered?

  5. Carl.H says:

    “You say that PR doesn’t offer a constituency, and allows parties to foist ‘yes’ men on the electorate.”

    Sorry djb13 I may not have been clear. The fact is FPTP allows this to happen so PR would not be a great deal of difference is what I meant.

    I don`t think AV is misexplained it is just apparently unfair in my thinking. Now in your first instance you say no one is elected so we go to another election without the MREBP. However in the AV example this is done via preference voting. These two I believe would result in different results. I am not a party member or supporter of any one party, very much a swing voter – voting is a spur of the moment thing and I believe this is so with a great deal of people who do not support party`s whole heartedly.

    Perferences: I would like a Ferrari but if not a Ferrari then TODAY an Aston Martin but maybe tomorrow or later or in a minute a Bugatti Veyron but my choice is for the Ferrari. Second preferences are not worth as much as first ever, ask a woman. 😉

    The 50% mark moves or doesn`t in AV and in my opinion is nasty way of fooling people with statistics. In the Government examples and I believe in the bill they state 50% of all votes cast- which therefore must include second preferences but it doesn`t. Also the fact that if we’re going to count second preferences then to me to be fair we should do that across the board.

    The whole concept of preferences in a three main party state seems ludicrous unless you’re LD. A labour supporter is unlikely to put conservatives as second choice and vice versa, it`s designed unfairly.

    Have you ever watched a woman getting ready to go out ? With a choice of dresses ? We`re going to be at those ballot boxes a very long time.

    Your example giving Labour victory would be described by most as a fix, I can understand it but feel it not right, it is the use of statistical mathematics to achieve something that should not be. A second preference will never be as strong as a first -ever.

    Boundary reviews: The Isle of Wight has been made exempt by amendment in 2005 there were approx 110,000 voters, that will of course change and Boundary Reviews are notably slow. Now you may say that if we have equal electorate in areas it should equal out- this isn`t so. We have large areas where elderly people live meaning population will decrease, other area’s where population increases at an incredible rate so it won`t equalise.

    We also as you say have geographic problems, Islington I believe has an electorate which is low so they will accrue some from a neighbouring borough. Great parts of Islington are quite affluent, the Yuppy influx of the 70-80’s, however it is surrounded by Council estates. Islington with an electorate base of approx 55k will need another 20k, those 20k if voting in a different way will feel they have cheated by being added to an area totally different to theirs.

    I am against PR for various reasons but if you want a system of equality where each vote is fairly translated then PR is the only way. Each vote is counted at first preference, no statistical tricks, every vote gets it’s alloted amount of power. The commons will be proportional exactly to the votes. That is a fairer voting system – however to my mind it has drawbacks which I`ll go into later. At present we have to maintain the illusion that Government is democrat and I feel that is necessary. Democracy in it’s true form cannot work therefore the people settle for the illusion but only as long as we maintain the seperation of powers and all it’s parts.

    • djb13 says:

      On a side point, I have been calling EB (Exhaustive Ballot) IRV, which is another name for AV. Again, sorry for the mistake, please read all references to “IRV” as “EB”.

      Your point about indecision on voting day is reasonable, but that’s a flaw that AV and FPTP share. The fact remains that AV is a pretty good approximation of EB. When it comes to counting preferences, the suggestion that 2nd pref.s should be weighted lower suggests that those tactically voting under FPTP should have their votes counted for less. A second (or third, etc.) pref. under AV is basically the equivalent as a tactical vote under FPTP.

      I don’t understand the paragraph beginning “The 50% mark…”. I hope this is an accurate response, if not, please clarify your point. The bill refers to 50% of all ballots cast – under AV, as FPTP, all people have one ballot and thus one effective vote at all times. Say we have an AV election between eleven people, to select one of four suggested restaurantes. If five people use all four preferences, but six use only one, then the number of effective votes remains eleven (not 5×4 + 6×1 = 26), and therefore the 50%+1 quota for victory remains five (not 26/2 + 1 = 14) total votes. In the proposed version of AV, the electoral quota will fall as ballots are exhausted; although obviously it’s the decision of the voter to allow their ballot to become exhausted. Are you suggesting that the quota be 50%+1 of initial votes cast? In which case, I shall prefute your case by pointing out that this either makes no difference, or means that in some cases no candidate can win the race, which leaves an interesting constitutional conundrum.

      With regard to Labour supporters giving Tories 2nd prefs, we’ll have to see (I personally suspect the converse, but I’m just extrapolating from tiny and non-representative samples). Even if they do, I’m not sure how it’s unfair that Labour supporters would 2nd preference Lib Dems. It’s down to the voter to decide how to use their preferences.

      The situation I gave is a fix (clearly I was using it to demonstrate a point), but if it happened in the real world, it would not be. AV found the candidate with the highest level of general support. FPTP finds the candidate with the higest level of specific and tactical support. I guess you have to decide which type of support you value the most, I personally would rather see the candidate that’s most favoured by the most people, but that’s why AV is going to a referendum, because that’s a normative decision people must make. As it is right now, FPTP takes 2nd and 3rd pref.s into account as though they were 1st pref.s, it’s called tactical voting. I know Green party members (not even mere supporters) to vote Labour (as their 3rd pref. after Lib Dems) tactically. AV means they can at-least be honest about their true Green party beliefs, whilst not wasting their vote.

      Population change is an issue, it might make sense for boundary reviews to take into account population projections in some way. But that’s a flaw with any constituency-based system, the only system that avoids that problem is List-MMS covering the entire country. If that’s your system of preference, fair dos, but I think that it takes mathematical consideration to a way too extreme point. A boundary review can make things better, not perfect, and no-one claims it will (or if they do, I condemn them for lying). Remember, I’m on the left; on a policy point-of-view I am very happy for centre-left Labour to beat centre-right Tories, or for the mid-left Greens to beat the mid-right UKIP, as the current set of boundaries and vote distributions do. In a sense, I’m making a constitutional case against my own policy preferences.

      Sense of attachment to local areas an major issue, but ultimately it’s a political call: do we want an electoral system that delivers more accurate (note: not ‘most accurate’) representation on the macro-level or the micro-level? For the Lords to filibuster a political call made by the Commons is not constitutionally acceptable.

      I guess the fundamental issue I want to point to in the question of boundary review is whether or not we want a system of representation that treats parties more equally than we have right now? It won’t be perfect, but certainly better.

    • djb13 says:

      On a side point, I have been calling EB (Exhaustive Ballot) IRV, which is another name for AV. Again, sorry for the mistake, please read all references to “IRV” as “EB”.

      Your point about indecision on voting day is reasonable, but that’s a flaw that AV and FPTP share. The fact remains that AV is a pretty good approximation of EB. When it comes to counting preferences, the suggestion that 2nd pref.s should be weighted lower suggests that those tactically voting under FPTP should have their votes counted for less. A second (or third, etc.) pref. under AV is basically the equivalent as a tactical vote under FPTP.

      I don’t understand the paragraph beginning “The 50% mark…”. I hope this is an accurate response, if not, please clarify your point. The bill refers to 50% of all ballots cast – under AV, as FPTP, all people have one ballot and thus one effective vote at all times. Say we have an AV election between eleven people, to select one of four suggested restaurantes. If five people use all four preferences, but six use only one, then the number of effective votes remains eleven (not 5×4 + 6×1 = 26), and therefore the 50%+1 quota for victory remains five (not 26/2 + 1 = 14) total votes. In the proposed version of AV, the electoral quota will fall as ballots are exhausted; although obviously it’s the decision of the voter to allow their ballot to become exhausted. Are you suggesting that the quota be 50%+1 of initial votes cast? In which case, I shall prefute your case by pointing out that this either makes no difference, or means that in some cases no candidate can win the race, which leaves an interesting constitutional conundrum.

      With regard to Labour supporters giving Tories 2nd prefs, we’ll have to see (I personally suspect the converse, but I’m just extrapolating from tiny and non-representative samples). Even if they do, I’m not sure how it’s unfair that Labour supporters would 2nd preference Lib Dems. It’s down to the voter to decide how to use their preferences.

      The situation I gave is a fix (clearly I was using it to demonstrate a point), but if it happened in the real world, it would not be. AV found the candidate with the highest level of general support. FPTP finds the candidate with the highest level of specific and tactical support. I guess you have to decide which type of support you value the most, I personally would rather see the candidate that’s most favoured by the most people, but that’s why AV is going to a referendum, because that’s a normative decision people must make. As it is right now, FPTP takes 2nd and 3rd pref.s into account as though they were 1st pref.s, it’s called tactical voting. I know Green party members (not even mere supporters) to vote Labour (as their 3rd pref. after Lib Dems) tactically. AV means they can at-least be honest about their true Green party beliefs, whilst not wasting their vote.

      Population change is an issue, it might make sense for boundary reviews to take into account population projections in some way. But that’s a flaw with any constituency-based system, the only system that avoids that problem is List-MMS covering the entire country. If that’s your system of preference, fair dos, but I think that it takes mathematical consideration to a way too extreme point. A boundary review can make things better, not perfect, and no-one claims it will (or if they do, I condemn them for lying). Remember, I’m on the left; on a policy point-of-view I am very happy for centre-left Labour to beat centre-right Tories, or for the mid-left Greens to beat the mid-right UKIP, as the current set of boundaries and vote distributions do. In a sense, I’m making a constitutional case against my own policy preferences.

      Sense of attachment to local areas an major issue, but ultimately it’s a political call: do we want an electoral system that delivers more accurate (note: not ‘most accurate’) representation on the macro-level or the micro-level? For the Lords to filibuster a political call made by the Commons is not constitutionally acceptable.

      I guess the fundamental issue I want to point to in the question of boundary review is whether or not we want a system of representation that treats parties more equally than we have right now? It won’t be perfect, but certainly better.

      • Carl.H says:

        “If five people use all four preferences, but six use only one, then the number of effective votes remains eleven (not 5×4 + 6×1 = 26), and therefore the 50%+1 quota for victory remains five (not 26/2 + 1 = 14) total votes.”

        You see this is complex, it will be seen as a fix by some. To me 26 votes are used therefore 13+1 needs to be 50% but that would occur on a sliding scale per round. I agree in most cases therefore the 50% may not be reached and become a conundrum.

        The voting system needs to be easily understandable and aside from my bugbears with AV I feel this isn’t. Ultimately what we vote for and in is an illusion of democracy but is seen to be such and it is this importance that things are seen to be right and fair even when they may not be as suspected.

        AV is a complex system for the average working class voter, I would not like to explain it to either my wife or daughter who are not ignorant by any means.

        You go on talk of tactical voting, now from my perspective of working class things are never that deep and I have never known anyone even think that way.

        I have no idea about list-MMS but will look it up- at some point. 😉

        I don’t know if List-MMS is what I was talking about but I don’t think it an extreme point. It does appear to do what many of the electorate have spoken about in giving a fair representation of the electorate. I don’t think it’s workable but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not the fairest equalising system.

        I’ll leave AV for now as I think we shall be coming back to this in the near future in the run up to the referendum.

        “Sense of attachment to local areas an major issue”

        The whole concept on this part of the bill is fairer representation but like the AV part it doesn’t go all the way. Local area’s will always be an issue and not just in the Devon & Cornwall example or Isle of Wight we have seen. I stated before that candidates are often foisted on areas where they have no connection, areas considered safe seats in most cases. This being the case why have MP constituencies ? Why not an MP alloted by postcode or other. I would certainly say a lot of people in my area and within my circle of friends could not even name the local MP- erm count me as one since the election.

        With regards the 600 applied to 75k +/- 5% is that ideal ? Will that prove too much a work load for MP’s in rural area’s ? And what of the inner city MP who finds himself representing a whole lot more who were not registered.

        A reduction of 50 from 650 gives more workload to the remaining 600. Will this result in less of a service provided to the constituent ? Will this result in less time spent in the commons ? Will bills be cut proportionally to allow for this ?

        The Government benches appear to be making much of the £12m savings yet refuse to cut Ministers proportionally, so I presume it isn’t the savings. Cutting MP’s gives people less influence in the House but the Government increases it’s own by not decreasing Ministers. At a time of deficit budget cuts the Government is also seen to not cut it’s own in the form of Ministers.

        I’m going to cull it here as I’m sure I’ve rambled too much. I have enjoyed our debate and I’m sure we’ll do more in the future. I appreciate your explanations and non-combative replies.

      • djb13 says:

        If we judge public policy by how people who don’t understand it think it works, then we’ll be in a bit of a pickle as a nation.

        I agree, a voting system needs to be seen as understandable. The thing is that when a system is a place, the media suddenly start explaining it well.

        I fear you underestimate the average working class voter. I’ve never found anyone who couldn’t grasp how AV works after a five minute explanation.

        Of course people tactically vote, even working class people 🙂 (he said with some irony). Often a tactical vote isn’t a conscious thing, it’s that people rightly recognise that a certain party might be their ideal choice, but won’t win.

        List-MMS is what they use in the Netherlands and Israel. I’m using the suffixes SMS and MMS because constiuency-size has actually been determined to be far more important than system-of-election in determining proportionality. What I call List-MMS is more usually called Party List.

        Why do we have constituencies? Peers (with no constituencies) will often ‘stand up for’ an area, whilst MPs (who do) won’t. However, it remains the case that by giving an MPs at-least some incentive to stick up for a local area, and deal with case-work, you make them more likely to do so. Merely allocating MPs a postcode means that their chances of re-election are in no way determined by what they do for their constituency.

        Lord Norton would argue that a cut in MPs would decrease the workload or MPs. I’ll leave it to him to explain that one. I personally am fairly apathetic on the number of MPs, probably leaning towards retaining the number or increasing. That said, I really haven’t given the issue much thought.

  6. Carl.H says:

    “600 is arbitrary. However, I don’t see how you pick a number that isn’t arbitrary.”

    If as the Government state each MP’s constituency is to be 75k +/- 5% then that is not arbitrary the number of MP’s would have to be proportional to the electorate. I don’t believe it should be based on electorate, far too many people are not listed but still when necessary go to an MP for representation. Also if we base on population this allows for increase and decreases in electorate through age and death etc.

    The amendment making the Isle of Wight a special case is wrong pure and simple unless this is given in many other cases. The mere triviality of a small piece of water is of no consequence in the digital age. I have dealt with my MP on a number of occassions a great deal faster by way of email rather than having to rely on surgeries.

    I’m not sure how this bill gets around borough boundaries and how it may affect voting at the same time as Council elections. I see problems have already started:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-11507363

    In studying this matter time and again I come across academics who state clearly the prime problem with the Boundary Commission is too much partisan control and input. This obviously will not allow a fair and equal result which is one of the main reasons for the bills creation.

    I, like labour , have no problem with a referendum on AV, I shall fight against naturally but I do have a problem and see the other parts of the bill as problematic with unanwered questions.

    The Government are unwilling to give a definite yes to Minister and PPS reduction as part of this bill even though it was called for by an expert Conservative peer. That tells me something is not right for starters in this instance and as I have said as far as I’m concerned there is much more to be answered.

  7. djb13 says:

    75k is an arbitrary number itself. As I say, what methodology do you use to find a non-arbitrary number?

    The merits and demerits of the Wight case are complex, I don’t really have a personal view. That’s perhaps one area that the Lords has a legitimate role in asking the government to think again.

    Who’s said the Boundary Commission is partisan? That’s really news to me if anyone has said that’s an issue.

    As I say, I agree with you on the number of ministers. Perhaps if this bill progressed in the normal way, we might have a situation in which a government climb-down were more acceptable.

    Finally, what unanswered questions?

    Also, on a side note, this is the most civil flame war I’ve ever taken part in.

  8. Carl.H says:

    I hope not a flame war 😉

    I do not ever say I’m right all the time, I am willing to listen and learn. I have and do argue points forcefully but in that context will often change my point of view because of the answers given. I find the process of learning a great deal more interesting through passionate intercourse, if you`ll pardon the expression.

    I appreciate all the time you give in explanation.

    It’s not that the Boundary Commission themselves are partisan but the inquiries etc., lead to often partisan results. I’ll try to find the links I looked at.

    • djb13 says:

      On the Boundary Commission thing, I do vaguely remember hearing about that. I suspect it probably has more of an effect in gerrymandering on behalf of the establishment (as US gerrymander is wont to do), rather than Labour or the Tories getting an overall advantage.

      I’m happy to cut it off here too. I’ve enjoyed this too, although I would second Ladytizzy’s remark.

  9. ladytizzy says:

    Carl,
    Second preferences are not worth as much as first ever, ask a woman. 😉
    .
    .
    Have you ever watched a woman getting ready to go out ? With a choice of dresses ? We`re going to be at those ballot boxes a very long time.

    Please remember the three strikes rule – you’re at risk of being thrown out of the program.

    As you were, boys.

    • Carl.H says:

      Not quite Andy Gray or Richard Keys and what a load of old toffy about nothing at the end of the day that was, even the wife and daughter stated that.

      Boys V Girls has been around a long time and will continue to be. Half the music produced for the young now would be banned under PC rules as I expect I would.

      What happened to humour in sexual rivalry ?
      😛

      • ladytizzy says:

        OK, I’ll play, until Lord Norton wants his blog back.

        First, based on your general comments here and on LotB, I’m sure that you would not dream of offending anyone if you knew where the line is drawn between banter and sexist remarks. However, referencing close, female members of your family in your defence belies the uncertainty of your personal stance but, nonetheless, you are prepared to, at least, test the parameters. This is common, and that is the problem.

        In the examples above you were attempting to deflect from your shifting position by creating a blokey chumminess with djb13. The results were clichéd and without relevance to the debate. 😛 Back at you.

  10. Carl.H says:

    My personal stance is not to offend anyone in public if it can be helped. I don’t really know you or where the line is drawn. Does the fact that I think in a sexist manner or what could be described as a sexist manner differ from acting in that way ?

    Offence is taken not given, for instance the remarks by Andy Gray over the third official have been said a million times about men but in this case were frowned upon because it was a woman. This is not equality.

    I have no wish to give offence but I am as some would say a chauvanist, it works for me. Yes I am the type that say’s “darling” and “babe” but nothing derogatory is meant by it. I live and work in a male orientated world where physical presence and aggression keep my family safe and free from trouble that still is the way of the world in a lot of this country. It doesn`t mean I don’t respect women or even realise the fact in a lot of aspects they’re better than me.

    I can’t see where I deflected or shifted position, please inform. I have had my share of flame wars even to the stage where my life has been threatened and I have been banned from more places than I care to remember. I learnt-it’s all a waste of time-and at the end of the day if I was aggressive to djb13 what purpose would it serve ?

    Regards the possibly sexist remarks, I have no wish to offend but as you sayI am uncertain whom it may offend so to act that way is normal. At the same time I see nothing wrong with those remarks so it is a quandry to me. I have no reason to make an enemy of Lady Tizzy but I have no wish to deceive her into believing I`m something I’m not- result uncertainty. Is that abnormal to feel that way ?

    I am possibly not a person you would mix with in your social life, should I hide that fact ? If you want honesty, we will clash at times, I won’t alter your perspective on sexism nor you mine.

    The close female members I reference I have a lot of respect for, their acceptance means more than yours after all Lady Tizzy could be a six foot fourrugby player for all I know so I reference definite female sources that are accepted as having normal attitudes in the realm in which I live. Of course outside of my realm I act differently, you’ve never seen me swear or act aggressively but in the working class world of where I live these are normal everyday things. Like it or loathe it it’s part of everyday life in a lot of Britain.

    I do have trouble at times stepping up the ladder, it’s not as easy as you may think. The ettiquette here in my world is not about how you hold your teacup or address a lady, the forms of nicety on meeting are often the reverse of what you expect…and this is turning into a defence, one I possibly should delete but won’t.

    I am different, from a different world,sometimes although I try to fit in your world I drop one. Our customs and way of life are different, our perspectives different. The difference is I’m stepping into your world, gingerly at times.

  11. ladytizzy says:

    Carl, sweetie, you would have to make much more effort than this to turn me into your enemy!

    Years ago, a typical working day for women might start with the drive into work and V signs and foul language from male drivers (especially if the woman was driving a sporty number), wolf-whistles from passing drivers and builders when going out for lunch, with lewd comments and groping punctuating the day until the drive back to a cheap flat because the pay was too low to support a mortage in her own right.

    Today, I would have hoped that all of the above would make all men wince but Mr Gray and Mr Keys amply demonstrated their sexist roots. Their comments were made in the workplace and Mr Keys attempts to infer their predicament was due to ‘dark forces’ made his apology totally hollow. He didn’t get it and, looking at comments across message boards, nor do some members of the public, male and female.

    Turning to your specific comment:

    Offence is taken not given, for instance the remarks by Andy Gray over the third official have been said a million times about men but in this case were frowned upon because it was a woman. This is not equality.

    This is what was recorded:

    RK: Well, somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.
    AG: Yeah, I know. Can you believe that? Female linesman. Forget what I said – they probably don’t know the offside rule.
    RK: Course they don’t.
    AG: Why is there a female linesman? Somebody’s [bleep]ed up big.
    RK: I can guarantee you there’ll be a big one today. Kenny [Dalglish] will go potty. This is not the first time. Didn’t we have one before?
    AG: Yeah.
    RK: Wendy Toms.
    AG: Wendy Toms, something like that. She was [bleep]ing hopeless as well.
    RK: [groan]
    AG: [inaudible]
    RK: No, no, it’s got to be done, it’s good. The game’s gone mad. See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.

    Mr Gray has questioned the use of a female linesman, full stop. Mr Keys believes the game has gone mad due to the inclusion of women. It’s all there, from both of them. For as long as Sky chose to keep Mr Keys, more recordings would have emerged, and so they did.

    In your first paragraph you question the relevance of thinking sexist over acting sexist. The Keys/Gray revelations are the result of this type of confusion. Simply put, think sexist, act sexist.

    …I won’t alter your perspective on sexism nor you mine.

    Is there any point in me continuing?

    PS I’m not a rugby player, nor am I six foot, but this information doesn’t determine my sex.

    • Carl.H says:

      An aside – or not !

      Football is run by an organisation that is intent on keeping the sexes apart no matter the skill level. At approx 10 years girls are no longer able to play in mixed teams no matter the skill and there are some extremely skilled girls out there. This limits their chances as Girls teams are limited in number.

      http://www.thefa.com/TheFA/RulesandRegulations/NewsAndFeatures/2010/MixedFootball

      The Essex County Girls Football League under 16’s division, my daughters league contains 6 teams, 2 of which are inner London teams, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.

      When will Sky ban the FA for being sexist ?

      Similar cases can be made for other sports, boxing for one.

      Sport, like Parliament once was, is an area of male domination, girls fight hard to prove their worth. The official Mr.Keys and Gray referred to was fully qualified and they both knew it, on tv as a commentator they often say things off the top of their heads to keep things going. Any football supporter will tell you half the time the commentators must be watching a different game.

      We’ve recently had a period where Lords members have slated new members, MP’s in particular, for not knowing correct ettiquette or regulations ? Is this MP-ism ?

      David Cameron riles me when he takes the mick out of Miliband, his haircut etc. Is this Labourism ? Mr. Cameron appears to bully Mr. Miliband and it offends me , can we sack him for it ?

  12. Carl.H says:

    I have 5 daughters, 2 grand daughters. 2 daughters play football, one knows the offside rule but has been at end of jokes about not knowing it. I’m from the Eastend, I understand banter I can give and take and most of the time do. My teenage daughters wolf whistle, grope and make lewd remarks like most of their friends. All the women I know think feminism wrong.

    Vive la difference.
    Nope no point.

  13. ladytizzy says:

    And the East End is relevant because…?

  14. djb13 says:

    Again, the most mild mannered flame war I’ve ever seen. I propose an amendment to Godwin’s Law: “As the length of an internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a reference to Hitler or the Nazis rises to one, (amdt 1) when not on a blog run by a Lord.

  15. Carl.H says:

    Football, sexism and me.

    I`ve looked deeper into this as we have progressed and things are not as straight forward as I thought. As a Dad, Husband, mate etc., people know me and when I’m joking or making remarks that are not meant in anyway malisciously but if I’m asking to be taken seriously in any type of forum that alters.

    I ask that people in authority take their positions seriously, that MPs and Lords have dignity and are not seen to deride people so in that forum I should abide by my own rules.

    Mr.Keys & Gray were in a position of authority, £1.7 million a years worth apparently, and my first thought was this was just manly banter off air, nothing I or others possibly wouldn’t have said or thought. However it is their position, their influence, that denotes they shouldn’t even think like that. Losing their livelihood seemed harsh, at this end of the social spectrum all a man has is his job, his tools and taking someones job is akin to taking a life. Mr.Keys and Gray are not at this end of the spectrum though at £1.7m per year they should be thinking more clearly than us armchair managers. I doubt their families will go without.

    At games I goto weekly, I mostly don’t even notice the referees sometimes they are women, the teams play to the whistle. Occassional I do notice a ref being more serious and it is inevitably a woman ref playing absolutely to the book and I know she is just having to put more effort in to be taken seriously.

    I did some internet digging and came across somethings that disturbed me in someways from one article in the Football Referees Association.

    When will a woman take charge of a Premier League game? “When there’s somebody good enough,”

    “Ian Blanchard, the head of referee development at the FA, said. He expects that could be within five years and does not believe attitudes of players and fans need to change.”

    Obviously this isn’t true and the attitude of players and fans does have to change. English womens football is at very good level but is still derided. The England womens team don’t get the media coverage they deserve but it is getting better. They still get to play their games in lower league stadiums although in someway I feel this helps as it gets locals to attend games and follow them. Most of the Ladies teams supporters being the young who can actually afford a ticket for a change. The trip to Wembley and ticket is beyond most now.

    As recently as 2006 we had this:
    “In 2006 Mike Newell, then the Luton Town manager, said Rayner’s appointment as assistant referee for the game against Queens Park Rangers was “tokenism, for the politically correct idiots”. The FA fined Newell £6,500”

    http://www.footballreferee.org/refreenews_detail.php?nid=291

    I watch these refs week in, week out and yes I argue with decisions sometimes but I couldn’t take their place. Refs and officials are professionals and highly trained and the FA would not let anyone who wasn’t qualified be in that position. They all make mistakes it’s part of the game – play to the whistle.

    So I at home can sit there tea in hand scorning the female or Italian or bald referee cos Arsenal are 1-0 down it doesn’t matter, I can even go on the footie forum and join in the bleating but as serious individual in a serious environment I have to think a little more carefully and a little less biasely.

    So were my original remarks wrong ? Well it was Carl being Carl, the armchair fan which is harmless and not intending to offend and they were completely off the cuff, not thought about, not even noticed and therein lies the problem. I should have heeded the warning shot also but stereotypically didn’t. I think Lady Tizzy realised I meant no harm otherwise I feel I would have felt her wrath.

    It’s not unusual for me to be wrong and I have a lot of women around me that remind me, often.

  16. ladytizzy says:

    Carl, I’m not at all surprised that you have gone that extra mile to research the two sides of the issue; you wouldn’t be on this blog (and LotB) otherwise, neither would I.

    djb13, does the above go some way to address the flame wars question? Oh, and before amending Godwin’s Law, I’d wait a bit. The Labour Lords aren’t quite up to speed yet.

  17. djb13 says:

    I suspect it’s that the presence of a peer attracts a higher quality of participant (or deters a lower quality), rather than that we moderate ourselves in some way.

    Have any Labour peers breached Godwin’s Law? If so, maybe it’s just Lord Norton that has this effect…

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