Category Archives: Representative Democracy

Labour, Syria and the problem with mandates…

I posted this over on Slugger O’Toole earlier.

Here’s a pull-quote:

When some of us, back in August, said “putting Corbyn in charge of the Labour Party is like filling an ‘unleaded’ car with diesel”, this is what we meant. It actually won’t work. We weren’t trying to talk those voters out of something sensible. We were saying “this is bound to end in tears.”

Winning elections is a lot harder than you think

Peace in our time

Sometimes short-term popularity isn’t a good thing.

… and the benefits of doing so are much bigger than a lot of commentators seem to realise.

When I say (in the previous post here) that a politician, or a political party can get away with backing a particular cause – my convictions on Trout Dipping, for example – as long as it enjoys ‘a reasonable level of support’, I mean that Trout Dipping needs to have enough of an attraction to allow a political party to include it their manifesto in a way that wouldn’t damage their chances of winning an election.

Sure, they can adopt one or two points of conviction. The public understand that, sometimes, politicians have to make ‘tough choices’ and that Neville Chamberlain’s popularity in 1938 provides us all with an object lesson. Continue reading


So far, I’ve posted three things here intended to build a wider case. I hope I’ve made them to a ‘for the sake of argument’ standard, and I think I’ve established a passable case that a sensible politician can only come out as a supporter of a cause once it is one that has a reasonable level of support. They actually do more harm than good by wearing their convictions on their sleeve.

I think I’ve established that voters are a lot less easy to read than most people think they are. Even if we could identify policies that we think are going to appeal to sensible utilitarian voters, calculating their own interests, seasoning them with a bit of altruism and morality, we are going to be wrong about that because voters don’t respond in any kind of utilitarian way. Continue reading

The Muggle-headed politics of Trout-Dipping

Trout Dipping - the future

I’ve kept this quiet up until now, but it’s time that I came out as a Trout Dipper.

I’ve read detailed studies and shown that it would be very good for our ecosystem if we were to catch every freshwater Trout in British waters, quickly dip them in a harmless green dye, and then throw them back in the water alive. Personally, I’m convinced.

I’m not writing about it here to convince you that ‘Trout-Dipping’ is a good idea, but I hope it illustrates another point that I’d like to make.

It is a counter-intuitive argument. I won’t go into the very sound scientific data behind it (links to follow if I get round to it), and I don’t expect you to think that it’s a good idea until you’ve read the whole thing. I can see the practical problems, and the expense, but if you understood the great arguments, I’m sure you’d realise that it’s worth doing. Continue reading