John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 69: Disgusting Little Weasel

by on May.04, 2011, under Rum Doings, The Rest

It’s episode 69 of Rum Doings! Tee hee hee! Snort.

In this episode we don’t discuss whether it’s time to put an end to the scourge of supermarket self checkout before it is too late. But we do discuss tomorrow’s vote.

That’s why this is up a day early. We recorded it in a day from the past, expecting to post it on Thursday, but in the wake of the swell of support for AV we’ve decided to put it up a day early. Because we really want to encourage Britishers to spoil. For arguments why, make sure to check out this fine post about it.

Beforehand we risk our lives with some ASDA energy drink, and with that coursing through our veins we begin a discussion of the upcoming vote. John makes the argument for spoiling, while Nick puts forward some even more radical positions. John discusses his encounter with a troubled Lib Dem councillor, and we get alittlebitpoliticalladiesandgentlemen.

An attempt to change gears by addressing more listener questions is almost immediately interrupted by the noisiest escape attempt by the prisoner in John’s basement. That sound accompanies thoughts on Piers Moron, dancing, how to eat an Easter egg, why we’d not be MPs, skirts for men, a smattering more politics, sitcom recommendations, and John’s balding legs.

Please consider writing a review on iTunes. It’s a really good way of raising our profile. And keep on tweeting and so forth.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here!


24 Comments for this entry

  • George

    Hooray! I have a long coach journey to look forward to tomorrow, so I’m glad this episode’s a day early. Thanks guys!

  • James

    I’d never normally leave a comment before listening, but I’m at work, and this is important. I’ll listen later. Do not spoil your ballot. I’ve left a lengthy comment on the blog post you link to: Stu’s response to my comment is factually incorrect.

    If you want to vote no, that’s entirely your prerogative. You have the democratic right to reject greater democracy. But please make an informed choice. Unlike the outright lies being spread by the no campaign, I’m sure John, Nick and Stu are making their recommendation in good faith. But they are misinformed. If you want actual democracy in Britain, a yes vote is the only way you’ll get it.

  • Daniel Rivas


    AV is in no shape or form “objectively more democratic”. First Past the Post is a plurality voting system. AV is a plurality system masquerading as a majority one. The fifty percent claim is a dishonest bodge, and in any case untrue even on its own terms.

    The notion we should have to put up with AV’s awfulness just for the slightest, tiniest chance that in ten years we might get something else is insulting. One does not win major parliamentary reform through bowing and scraping to parliamentary process. As for PR, as though it were even desirable in the first place: a yes win kicks PR into the long grass just as effectively as a no win. Get the people marching, and then you’ll see something.

    So no, AV isn’t better, and literally nobody wants it—including the Yes campaign, pretend as they might. Which is why the No campaign have a thirty-three point lead in the polls.

    On a podcast-related note, do I get a prize for being the final bastion of correct grammar left upon this Earth? A small one will do.

  • mister k

    I really, really disagree with spoiling your ballot as a sensible political movement. If it was massive, and campaigned for, fine, but actually it’ll be at most a few hundred which will be ignored. They really, really will.

    I’ll listen to the podcast before saying more, but I am pro-AV, I do believe that simply put, if 30% like coca cola, 30% like pepsi and 40% like lemonade, we should get cola.

  • NM

    Political parties aren’t sugary drinks. The analogy fails. They cannot easily be put into unifying sets except through ludicrous contortions. As the LibDems’ chameleon mendacity in the last couple of years proves beyond doubt.

    So to suggest that voting should be like choosing the ingredients for a picnic is ridiculous.

    But wait! Britain’s version of AV is the worst of all worlds, because it allows plumping. And it’s been shown time and again that when plumping is allowed, it’s used – overwhelmingly. So AV’s in fact getting you a less honest, more messy version of FPtP.

    But wait! That’s not the worst of it. If ‘Yes’ won, then we’d have this voting system that nobody really wanted and, when it came out in the wash, was a slightly messier, compromised version of the system we already have. And what would have been the price? Ironically, the price would have been the destruction of any chance of PR for the UK parliament. What do I mean? Well, if ‘Yes’ were to win, then there would be a substantial right-wing backlash. Tory backbenchers have made clear that they effectively would prevent Cameron from undertaking any of the more progressive measures in the coalition agreement. One of the big ones is the abolishing of the House of Lords and replacing it with a Senate, where 80% of the Senators were voted for with PR (STV in particular), with 20% being expert advisors (scientists, doctors, historians etc).

    Now, if, as is likely, ‘NO’ is voted for, then Cameron will provide Clegg with a number of sops – including the PR Lords reform mentioned above.

    So, what’ll it be? Crappy AV for the Commons and that’s your lot for a generation, or a completely reformed second House, voted for largely by PR. Because *that’s* your choice here, in case you hadn’t realised.

  • mister k

    I don’t believe thats necessarily true though, I had a look at the economist article that mentions that, and it seems to be pure speculation. I admit that if my choice was pr in the lords or av in the commons, I’d vote the former every time, but you are guessing thats what will happen. I can see the backbenches happily rebelling against pr in the lords either way. I find Cameron stuffing the lords full of peers ominous if his intention is really to change it.

    Have listened to the political part of the podcast now, and might as well comment now before tomorrow.

    I don’t hate the coalition as much as you two. I think you underestimate the financial situation both labour and the lib dems would have been in if there had been another election. The lib dems have always been strapped for cash, and have barely any wealthy donors to back them up, while the tories will always be comfortable. An immediate election would have done them well, and they could have framed it as a lib dem betrayal, with the lib dems having no money to counter that message. Adding to understandable disappointment that an increase in electoral vote led to a reduction in the number of seats, and lib dem support would have collapsed. John says that’d be democratic, and it would, in a world where funding wasn’t an issue.

    I know the sugary drinks metaphor isn’t precise, but it is true that under fptp that similar candidates split the vote. I want to be able to vote for green and not worry about my main candidate losing, and by the by I don’t need to worry.

    On voting systems, you mention closed lists, which are open to corruption, and parliaments full of minor parties, but why not something like av plus/ additional member system. I like the random voting system, but the real downside is that I might be in a constituency which ends up with a BNP mp with only 10% of the vote. And while variety is nice, its only so great when I get a racist a my local mp. That would undermine the constituency link just as much as STV or AMS.

    Its worth noting that STV isn’t really fully proportional, at least when I last checked it can produce results which are only very vaguely proportional.

    Another way to prevent lunatics getting in is to do what Germany does and require a 5% minimum for parliamentary representation of any kind.

  • Daniel Rivas

    And yet, Germany’s politics is as troubled and corrupted as our own. More and more so, as the mainstream all across Europe adopts a “can’t beat ’em join ’em” attitude to Nazis. Something that, Davey C’s occasional funny turns aside, hasn’t happened here.

    Whence the assumption, all through our Left, that PR brings Utopia? There are more important things to bother about.

  • Nick Mailer

    I would not want PR for the Primary chamber. I am happy to have PR for the revision/constitutional chamber.

    I was discussing with a friend that what I consider important about democracy is not so much the ability to vote the government in, but the ability decisively to vote the government OUT. That’s my primary criterion. As such, I am highly sceptical about fudge-your-way-to-eternal-coalition PR systems.

    As Daniel says, the voting system is the least of our political problems. How dare Clegg come on the radio and suggest that by rejecting this miserable little compromise, I am delighted by the constitutional status quo? Undistributed middling twat.

  • Jambe

    Right off the bat (just listening): John, you evil heteronormative person! etc!

  • James

    I really want to listen before I comment more, and I doubt I’m going to get the chance to do that before the result is announced. I have a polling station to leaflet outside of. This could be the one good thing we get from this government, and I intend to work damn hard to make sure it happens.

    A few points though: AV is mathematically superior to FPTP. At the moment most of us have MPs we didn’t vote for. Under AV most of us would have MPs we did vote for. That is objectively more democratic, by any recognisable definition of democracy.

    AV is not a plurality system. It’s a runoff system. It prevents the condorcet loser from wining, something that plurality systems miserably fail to do. I’m totally bewildered by this talk of AV not ensuring a majority. For a candidate to win in AV they must get more than 50% of the valid votes in that round. If someone choses not to vote in the later rounds of a runoff vote, you can’t expect the winner to be required to get votes that don’t exist. Surely that’s just extremely fucking obvious?

    It would be logically inconsistent to require voters to number every candidate on the ballot paper (effectively saying, “if you vote in the first round, you must vote in every round”) if we didn’t also have compulsory voting. You might well believe in that, but it’s a separate issue. Personally, I’d rather not force everyone to exhaustively number every candidate, as that would suddenly make tactical voting a much more real possibility.

    I really wish people would stop with the “system no one wanted” bullshit. I’ve been involved with Yes to Fairer Votes since the beginning, and there are plenty of people amongst us who actually do just want AV. Part of the reason I think this referendum was the right choice is that it allows people like me who want STV to work together with others who don’t, to make sure that when the debate on proportionality eventually comes round, if we lose, at least we’re not stuck with the worst of all systems. And if we had the debate on PR now, we would lose it. PR would mean more hung parliaments, and hung (or, you know, representative) parliaments are unpopular right now.

    The chance we have is once in a generation. Voting no will kick reform into the long grass for the rest of our lives. Voting yes will kick start it. As the PSA report I linked to on RevStu’s blog shows, changing the voting system once breaks the taboo on changing voting systems, and it’s much more likely to be changed again if we vote yes than if we vote no.

  • Jordan Rivas

    Even for someone not well-versed in UK politics, I found the discussion entertaining and insightful.

    Also, must now watch Cougar Town. Damn.

  • Daniel Rivas

    “This could be the one good thing we get from this government”

    I’m shooting for gay marriage. The pupil premium seems okay? There’s always a little good with the shit, so don’t be so melodramatic. The point is the volume of shit.

    “AV is mathematically superior to FPTP”

    As I said, the fifty percent claim is a bodge. It takes the mild acquiescence of those who voted for losing candidates and treats those as equal to first preferences. Who says they are equal? Under FPTP the question is irrelevant; under AV it is ignored. I’d be less annoyed at a proper run-off system—give everyone two votes, and make them choose between two candidates for the second. Then you can make claims about fifty-percents. As for AV, it plays games to obtain a magic number and often gives more distorted results than FPTP. It’s not an improvement, mathematical or otherwise.

    And it fails on its own terms, as you’ve politely pointed out. FPTP makes no such claims.

    “there are plenty of people amongst us who actually do just want AV”

    Fine—as near to zero as makes no difference.

    “And if we had the debate on PR now, we would lose it.”

    If we had the debate any time on PR, you would lose it. A strong case has never been made. In any case, I oppose it—PR provides unpleasant, unchanging governance.

    “Voting no will kick reform into the long grass for the rest of our lives. Voting yes will kick start it.”

    No country has ever changed from AV to PR. Plenty have gone from FPTP. As Nick says, save your rage.


    Sorry to fisk you—I’m not quite so unpleasant as that post makes me seem. But it’s the fastest way to disagree with so many points, and I need to get ready for lectures.

  • Mister k

    Id like to make a positive comment as well. I also believe constitutional change is far more important. electoral reform is not a panacea, but I do prefer a more democratic system. I personally do not value strong govt that much, and germany actually gives the lie to the third pdstu always being in power

  • laddy_gaga

    Any plans to have “background boxing man” as a regular guest?

  • Chris

    You… You paused it.

  • Xercies

    To be honest in this country and maybe many others FPTP is broken because the way we have parties and the way MPs act. It used to be that MPs were local and did stuff for the local stuff, but more and more MPs are becoming national and basically your not voting for an individual person anymore, your voting for a party which if you look at it any other way. FPTP is broken for party voting.

    I like the idea of PR, but even more radical PR, basically if you have a hung parliament it just means you have to debate and have a proper democracy going forward. If you get enough votes to get in, you get in and do your vision.

  • James Campbell

    Boxing man, and how upset John got about boxing man, made me laugh a ridiculous amount. I was on the train.

    It pleased me that your responses to my twitter topics were correct.

  • EthZee

    You’ve got the leg thing too, John?

    I checked my legs a while back and was quite peturbed to discover the outer half of each leg (calf, the hairiest part) had been strangely defoliated, as if the hair had been burnt off by radiation or something.

    It was a while back, I’m not sure when: I checked my legs again after this podcast and there seems to be some hair growing back, although it’s noticeably shorter and weedier than the hair on the inside leg of the calves.

    So, it’ll probably return. And no, I have no idea why it did that.

  • Daniel Rivas

    It’s just a perfectly normal part of the transformation process.

  • Alex

    I thought you guys were sick of Monty Python, but there John went, referencing Traffic Lights of all songs.

  • mister k

    Thinking about the HOL notion, isn’t the danger of a 10 year cycle that the commons gets a drastic overhaul with a new party coming in, but the lords reflects the populations’ beliefs 5 years ago, and thus the commons finds it difficult to get anything passed? Maybe half elected every 5 years?

  • Nick Mailer

    A bit of latency isn’t too bad, though. It means the Lords can take a
    longer term view. They don’t have constantly to be preparing for an election etc. Things like the Dangerous Dogs Act, RIP and these NHS reforms would be headed off at the pass.

  • victoria

    I used to think I wanted PR. It’s the kind of wish that goes with my general vaguely lefty liberal sensibilities. I’d never questioned it.

    It was only when I was discussing Israel’s government with my brother that I realised that PR produces governments which give undue voice and undue power to minority parties with nutty ideas.

    I think if a minority party wants to get into power, it needs to stop being a minority, not lobby to change the voting system.