Rexy For Ruislip

Integrity. Honesty. Fairness.

Even More Economic Ineptitude

This would be a much less wasteful thing to do with money than what Reform UK have in mind. Reform UK are on the move, but unfortunately it’s just another example of them wanting to play at politics without any real understanding of what they are doing.  I am referring to this “manifesto” which has surfaced in recent days on Twitter.  This particular image was shares by a self-declared stand-up comedian, but most of his recent political posts seem to be serious (or at least that looks like it was the intention).  The image in question is this one: Let’s go through claim by claim to see what makes sense, what doesn’t (most of it) and what is just so wrong it isn’t even in the right ballpark. Authenticity First of all, this is not an authentic manifesto. During an election campaign, all materials published by a party  are required to have an imprint on to show who has been responsible for making the claims.  This document lacks any such imprint, meaning it has the same impact as parody.  Nevertheless, several Reform UK candidates seem to be treating this as though it is real, so I will do the same.  Importantly, though, if this is official party policy, they have messed up by not including an imprint. Notwithstanding this crucial omission, I suspect that this is actually a sanctioned document by Reform UK.  I assume the missing imprint is deliberate to allow them plausible deniability if they actually get success, essentially giving them a “Get Out Of Promises Free” card.  So if you are reading this document and thinking “I like that a political party is promising these things” remember that they aren’t.  They are taking you for a fool, and they deserve your contempt for that and numerous other offences. Increased Personal Allowance Nothing wrong with this headline figure as a concept except to say why £20,000 is their chosen figure (minor gripe) and how they intend to pay for it (major problem, as this would cost a huge amount of tax revenue).  My back of envelope calculations suggest this on its own could cost upwards of £200 billion a year, on its own dwarfing the total cost of the whole manifesto stated as £141 billion. Scrap VAT on Fuel Bills and Lower Fuel Duty This seems like a reasonable solution until you realise that the reason why fuel bills are so high is because the free market allows energy companies to charge a high price for their product. Scrapping VAT on energy bills would have a short term benefit, but market forces would react to the reduction in price by nudging prices higher.  In a  few short years we would likely be back to the same issue again, but this time we would all be paying high energy prices and there would be no tax revenue to compensate us.  Worst of both worlds. The right solution is to either price regulate, nationalise the energy companies or introduce a competing publicly-owned supplier that can directly affect the prices offered by the remaining private sector companies. Reduce Corporation Tax to 20% No indication why reducing corporation tax would be a good idea, though it is of course interesting to note that Reform UK Ltd – a corporation – would directly benefit from such a tax reduction.  In reality, small companies rarely pay anywhere close to the 25% rate due to the number of allowances and reliefs they have available, and any income they generate which is paid out as salary is already an  allowable expense. Corporations do not need a lower rate of tax except to directly benefit their shareholders, not their employees. Freeze Non-Essential Immigration This is another costly measure that will likely cause us more problems than it solves, but even if successful, the question has to be raised of “who decides what is non-essential?” At the moment, it would wholly be Nigel Farage, as he seems to be the sole decision-maker for Reform UK, and frankly I wouldn’t want him making any such decisions on behalf of the country. Immediate Deportation for Foreign Criminals This  might as well be renamed “Catch and Release”. If we arrest someone in the UK and sentence them to a jail term, then deporting them back to their parent country is just setting them free instead of jailing them because they have not been sentenced to jail in that jurisdiction.  People would be free to come to the UK to commit whatever crimes they wanted, safe in the knowledge that if caught they would just be sent home again.  I can’t even begin to state what a terrible idea this would be for justice. This is one of those policies designed to sound like it would save money, but in reality all it would do is create a two-tier justice system where ironically the foreign criminals would have far better treatment than native British criminals. New Housing Again, no issue with this in principle as we need more housing. But again, it’s a good idea, but with no costings or even quantified goals. Life Skills in Schools and Scrap Student Loan Interest Sensible policies, but again no indication of who would get to pick the life skills being taught.  As such, the default is Nigel Farage getting to decide on curriculum content, which frankly should terrify anyone even if they actually like him – one man absolutely should not have that much power. In terms of scrapping student loan interest, it’s a start, I suppose.  But the lost interest has to be paid for from somewhere, and there’s no indication of where this will come from. Farming There’s talk here about increasing the farming budget, but not what would be done with it, increasing our food production without any sort of acknowledgement that we don’t grow all our own food because we actually like the food that we import, and subsidised agricultural apprenticeships.  Nothing wrong with this last one necessarily, but

What Uxbridge and the UK Needs

Hopefully this image says it all.  Uxbridge and the UK as a whole needs me, or at the very least people like me.  People who care, people with integrity and people who want to make the country better for all of us. Let’s have a look at some of the things that I want to achieve. Fairer Elections Right now, elections are essentially designed to be unfair.  I wrote a blog post recently explaining how the current system almost guarantees that at least half of votes are wasted, and usually considerably more than that. In an ideal world, every vote should matter.  After all, we have 650 seats in the  Commons, which means that each MP should represent around 0.15% of the current population.  That’s a lot of potential for nuance, but right now such nuance is not just discourages but outright impossible.  In fact, this inability to allow nuance is precisely why the Conservative party has become so dominated by a radical right-wing element that very few people in the country actually support. The Liberal Democrats are the largest party in England that supports Proportional Representation.  This is a fundamental change to our electoral system to make your votes count and to introduce nuance into our political system that currently cannot get in. Fairer Taxes Right now the tax take for the UK is the highest is has ever been, but many ultra wealthy individuals have managed to get away with paying very little tax, often across multiple generations. This comes from a very long-standing tradition for the  political right that wealth trickles down, so looking after the wealthy indirectly looks after everyone else.  Trickle down economics has never worked anywhere except to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. For society to improve, we need to make sure that everyone pays their fair share of tax and that the burden for paying tax doesn’t hit the poorest in society the most. Fairer Healthcare At the moment, if you can get a GP appointment via the NHS, you are very lucky.  If you can get an appointment with an NHS dentist, you  are beyond lucky.  When the NHS was founded, the stated intention was to provide healthcare from the cradle to the grave without any up front costs.  Nothing about that indicated having to wait weeks just to see a doctor, months to see a specialist or years to get life-improving but technically non-urgent treatment.  But that’s the reality we now face.  Our healthcare service has been persistently decimated in terms of staff and required funding, and frankly we all deserve better. In particular, we in Hillingdon deserve a world-class hospital rather than one that is falling apart. Our current hospital has plans to renovate which have been   approved, but approval absolutely is not enough, especially since the country was promised 40 new hospitals and has so far received none. Fairer Environment Regardless of our socio-economic status, we all use the environment one away or another.  We all breath the air and drink the water, so it is horrible to see the forces of unchecked capitalism taking a stand against environmental protection.  It has become normal for water companies to simply dump raw sewage into our waterways almost whenever they feel like it, and they have a track record of awarding their directors huge bonuses and their shareholders huge dividends whilst doing so.  At  the other end of the spectrum, these same forces have turned large parts of the legislature against things like clean power generation, despite the fact that right  now renewable energy is by far the  cheapest form of electricity generation available and we live in one of the most reliably windy places on Earth. We all deserve laws that are designed to protect the precious environment and preserve it for our children and successive generations.  Instead we are embarking on a huge expansion of fossil fuel extractions which is both needlessly expensive and highly polluting. And of course we are allowing water companies to pump sewage into our rivers. Fairer Everything You’ll see that there’s a theme for what Uxbbridge and the UK needs, and that’s a fairer deal. I could go on at length about what we need, but I honestly can’t do much better than suggesting that you read the Liberal Democrat position.  We stand “For A Fair Deal” for a really  good reason – it’s what the whole country is crying out for. We aren’t looking at  improving things only in the short term until the Conservatives get back into power.  Instead we want to make meaningful long-lasting changes that make the UK a fairer, kinder, better society for everyone. So what does Uxbridge and the UK need?  People like me in Parliament.  So I reiterate, on 4 July, cast your vote for me:

More Tory Lies

We are only a few short hours into the General Election campaign and the Conservatives are already lying to you.  Their central campaign team has produced a flyer which is rife with misrepresentations and outright lies.  Here’s my take on it, complete with my marking for each of the claims: Tackled inflation, cut workers’ taxes and increased the  state pension The idea that the  government has tackled inflation in any meanningful sense is an egregious lie.  All they have done is wait for the highs of 2022 to fall out of the  current inflation figure, which looks at the change between now and a  year ago.  If you look at the  cumulative impact of inflation over the last 5 years you see a rather different story: This shows that an average bundle of goods as represented by CPI is close to 25% more expensive now than it was 5 years ago.  Frankly this is an absurdly high level of inflation, so being proud that they have slowed it down to “only” going up by 2.3% now shows just how little they have to be proud of. The workers’ tax claim refers to the National Insurance cuts announced this year and last.  For someone earning £35,000, the cuts this year amounted to around £450, or less than £10 per week. Certainly not enough to offset  the mammoth increase in costs due to inflation. The state pension has been “triple locked” for decades, meaning it grows at the highest of price inflation, average earnings inflation or 2.5%. The Conservatives have maintained that triple lock, but claiming credit for this  is essentially claiming credit for not doing away with a long-standing guarantee – hardly worthy of inclusion at the top of their  supposed achievements. Reduced taxes on investments This is simple not true unless you are a landlord, where the capital gains tax rate has been reduced by 4 percentage points.  For anyone investing normally in anything other than property, the rates are unchanged. Record amounts of funding into our NHS This one is misleading rather than an outright lie.  In pounds and pence terms, more money has been paid into the NHS, but this includes things like the PPE contracts that wasted huge amounts of taxpayer money, and ignores the fact that the NHS is still critically underfunded for what we need it to do as a country. It is also worth remembering that the Conservatives promised 40 new hospitals, none of which has materialised. Reformed education Genuinely not sure what reforms they are boasting about here. Most of these recent “reforms” have been to ban certain forms of sex education, but that largely seems to have been to appease the anti-trans movement more than anything. Aside from that, there have been a few changes in labelling, but no major reforms to education as a whole. Prioritised energy security and family finances in our approach to Net Zero Considering their “approach to Net Zero” has largely been to pretend that there’s no need for Net Zero, this is an utterly laughable claim.  Coupled with the fact that renewable energy is currently cheaper than fossil fuels to produce, the idea that they have prioritised energy security and family finances would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious a problem. Full funded increase in defence spending to 2.5% of GDP Questions must be raised as to why such spending was below 2.5% to begin with.  The answer is that the Tories lowered the amount of defence spending, so this return to 2.5% is nothing to boast about, just undoing the cuts they imposed for years. Invested more in local transport There may be isolated exampled where this is true, but there is not a single additional bus route near where I live or work that could be attributed to this supposed investment.  I wonder where you would have to go to actually find one. Set out a comprehensive plan to reform our welfare system This is nonsense. They have demonised disabled people and reformed the system such that non-doctors would have the power to make decisions as to whether someone is fit to work or not, but this is not positive reform, it is just a barbaric attack on those who already struggle in society. Immigration Immigration might be coming down in a very specific short-term measure, but in reality there are more immigrants than ever before and still a huge number of Channel crossings, many of which  end inn loss of life because our government has been too callous to  open up asylum application centres in France. Ensured the next generation grows up smoke-free I’ve marked this one as questionable, because the policy likely won’t achieve that result.  People too young to buy cigarettes legally will likely do so illegally rather than stopping smoking, so this ban on purchases is very unlikely to create a smoke-free UK. In addition, this says nothing about people living in a house where someone is legally able to continue buying cigarettes.  In such a case, that individual can still be subjected to a large quantity of second-hand smoke even if they do not partake themselves. This policy is oddly restrictive of personal liberties for the Conservatives, but it is clear that it will not achieve the stated aim of ensuring that the next generation grows up smoke free.  If they wanted to do that, they would need to ban  smoking  altogether and find a way to enforce the ban, which would itself require a vast investment into the police and justice services that they have assiduously avoided.

Did Your Vote Matter?

I gave a speech this week on Proportional Representation for Make Votes Matter, and it got me thinking about whether your vote mattered in the last election.  I suspect that the chances are that it didn’t no matter where you are, who you voted for and who won purely because of how the odds work. So, here are just a few of the ways that your vote was wasted.   Your Candidate Didn’t Win Under the current system, if you make the cardinal sin of voting for a candidate that doesn’t win, that vote is wasted by design.  Your candidate doesn’t get any political power as a result of coming second or third in the ballot, so a vote for a candidate that doesn’t win is essentially thrown in the bin. This discourages you from voting for a candidate that you don’t think can outright win, thereby shoring up the de facto two-party system that we have been dealing with for centuries. Your Candidate Won Comfortably Congratulations! But did your vote matter? Arguably this is the case that most people probably assume makes their vote matter, but I would argue that it’s not quite  that straightforward.  Imagine a two-candidate race where the winner gets 80% of the votes and the loser gets 20%.  In this case, it is obvious that the  20% of votes for the loser were all wasted, but what about the 80%?  In this case, the winner actually only needed one more vote than 20%, which for all intents and purposes is the same as 20% for a large enough ballot.  once that total is achieved, all further votes for the winner are also wasted – a candidate doesn’t become more of a winner if they win by 80% or 0.8% of the electorate.  This means that in this example, three-quarters of the votes for the winner are also wasted, meaning that if you cast a vote for the eventual winner, you only had a one in four chance of it actually mattering. Your Candidate Narrowly Won In this case,  your vote likely had the most impact.  If the example above actually had the winner with 40% of the  vote and the  runner up with fewer votes but still rounding to 40%, that means that every vote for the eventual winner was important.  Conversely, all other votes were essentially ignored by the system, so even in this example of a very narrow margin of victory 60% of the electorate’s votes would be ignored by design. A Real Example Looking at the 2023 by election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the results were as follows: At first glance, this might look like it was only worth voting for Steve Tuckwell, but this is essentially what the system is deigned to do – to make it feel like only voting for the winner matters.  But it is important to remember that this seat came very close indeed to flipping to Labour, which would have meant that votes for Steve Tuckwell were wasted and a proportion of votes for Danny Beales were the only ones that mattered, at least from the perspective of deciding an MP. Even more importantly, this vote was almost as close as it is possible to get, and it still meant that only 44% of votes cast actually mattered. By design, at least 50% of the electorate is disenfranchised using the First Past The Post system, which is horrible for democracy. What About Short Money? Short Money is the consolidation prize for voting for a party where the candidate didn’t win in your area.  Assuming the party returns at least one MP nationally, Short Money is awarded to them in proportion to the number of votes they received in all elections across the country, and it is designed to help the MPs to pay for things like research that the government has access to as a matter of course.  In essence, it is designed to allow parties that don’t form a government to at least have a fighting chance at representing their constituents, even if the government shuts them out of all major decisions. This means that  even a wasted vote for electing an MP is useful to the party that candidate stood for, as long as the party managed to win at least one seat in all 650 constituencies. It’s not perfect, but it means that you can still vote for the party that you prefer even if they have no chance in your area.

Tory Edits

I have made a few edits of various Tory advertising posters or articles over the last year.  Here’s a selection: CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 85

ReformUK’s Economic Ineptitude

The ReformUK party is not like every other political party. Originally the Brexit Party, the membership of this so-called political party is three individuals, namely Richard Tice, Tracy Knowles and Mehrtash A’Zami.  No-one else has voting rights for the structure, leadership or policies of the party.  As such, it is designed to be authoritarian in nature rather than democratic, which is the antithesis of my own beliefs and the Liberal Democrats in general.  However, this structure is – amazingly – not the worst or only major problem for the “party”. Economic Woes On 24 February 2024, the ReformUK party announced a list of tax reforms (pardon the pun).  This was broadly summarised as follows: Change the higher rate threshold from £50,000 to £70,000. Increase the personal allowance for income tax from £12,570 to £20,000. Set the inheritance tax allowance to £2 million (presumably this is per person, so the allowance would be £4 million for couples). Cut corporation tax to 15% (I saw this figure on Twitter rather than in the independent article, so this is less reliable than the others, but is certainly in keeping with their other promises). Add a 20% tax relief for healthcare fees and private school fees. This all seems very appealing if you have wealth and don’t rely on anything that is cut to fund this gift to the wealthy.  So what is being cut to fund this tax giveaway? Nothing. They have mentioned that they will abandon net zero policies and eliminate illegal migration.  The former of these is something of a red herring, because renewable energy right now is cheaper than fossil fuel power, so abandoning net zero actually costs money if we look at energy, the single largest contributor to our CO2 emission.  The latter is also a red herring because the total cost of migration is essentially negligible. As part of my Twitter ranting about this, someone posted an article telling me that illegal migration (as they put it) had cost some £36 billion since 2020. This sounds like a large figure until you look at the annual amount of £9 billion and compare it to, say, the annual budget for NHS England, some £163 billion. In short, even if the cost of “illegal” migrants could be completely eliminated with no additional costs for whatever scheme replaced the existing structure, they would not even be able to fund a single month of NHS England’s budget with the annual saving. In short, they have not proposed anything that would possibly offset the cost of massive tax cuts, and we saw what happened when someone last tried to announce uncosted tax cuts for the wealthy. This is worse. Much worse.

Resignations on the Horizon?

In case you have been living under a rock or on the moon, you will no doubt have seen the news this week that the recent drama about the Horizon Post Office scandal hit the screens and forced the government into action.  Sadly, their action has been the same as always, trying to pin the blame on someone – anyone – else. Right now, their two targets are Keir Starmer, who was directing the Public Prosecutions Service at the time when the sub-postmasters were prosecuted, and Ed Davey, who was Post Office Minister as part of the coalition government at the time. Was it either of their faults? No, definitely not. Was this the fault of the Tories in government? No.  I am not writing this to assign blame to them, but instead to step above petty blame games and talk about the real culprits. Fujitsu At the heart of this scandal is the Horizon software, which was essentially a cash reconciliation programme installed in sub-branches of the Post Office in the 1990s.  This software was developed and ultimately installed by ICL Pathways Limits, now part of Fujitsu, a large technology company with a pretty strong reputation. Unfortunately, it seems that there was a flaw in the software.  For those of us with experience of developing software, this is probably not a surprise – every IT project has bugs, they are essentially unavoidable.  However, in this instance the software bug made it appear as though cash was disappearing from sub-branches.  I don’t understand the specifics enough to go into details, but these seem to be agreed facts. There also seems to have been some delay over the development of the software, which likely put more and more pressure on the coders to rush the job.  To cut a long story short, though, the error seems to have originated from Fujitsu, so when the error was discovered they should have indemnified both the Post Office and the falsely accused Sub-Postmasters.  That is what I would expect from a company that released a product which caused harm.  This is not saying that they shouldn’t also be subject to fines or sanctions, but rather sets out the bare minimum they should do for rolling out a product which caused so much harm. There is some speculation that Fujitsu were given preferential treatment because their staff included the husband of our current Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, and given the other cases of Tory corruption we have seen in recent years, this wouldn’t surprise me. The Post Office As I understand it, this is where the true blame lies.  The Post Office management were aware of the issues as early as 2000 and didn’t report them back to MPs.  They proceeded with charges that they knew – or reasonably ought to have known – were false, and in doing so ruined the lives of over 900 sub-postmasters.  These were their staff, they absolutely had a duty of care to look after them, and given these hundreds of people were not guilty of stealing from the Post Office, they absolutely deserve compensation. The Post Office management needs to be investigated for ignoring the issue from 2000 to around 2013, when they finally obtained an assessment from Second Sight (which itself was wrong, as it concluded that the software was fine but the Post Office’s procedures were flawed).  This means that for 13 years they had information from sub-postmasters that the software had a major flaw and for 13 years they ignored it. Post Office Ministers? If after reading this you still think that the Post Office Minister might still be to blame, here’s a list of such ministers since Horizon was installed: (Thanks to Christopher Hope for collating the data on the terms and names of the various ministers) The obvious question to ask is “what makes Ed Davey special out of this list?”  Why is so much ire being directed at him (as well as Keir Starmer) as though this was his personal failure rather than the 19 other ministers with the exact same duties?  Look into the source of said claims and I expect you will find a Tory donor desperate to create news that will keep his friends in power for a little longer. It won’t work. We see through the lies, and the British people will likewise see through the lies when they are presented with unbiased facts.  Change is coming, and this might well be the last ever Tory majority government.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of UK Politics

It’s quite a rarity to be able to say this, but next Christmas is now 366 days away because next year is, as far as I can tell, a leap year.  Next year will also most likely see a General Election, unless Rishi Sunak decides for some bizarre reason to have an election campaign over Christmas.  Barring the more minority parties, the current system for voting means that people realistically have a choice of Conservative (currently Steve Tuckwell in Uxbridge & South Ruislip), Labour or Liberal Democrats. Scientists are hard at work as we speak trying to determine whether 2024 will be a leap year. Here’s why you should vote Liberal Democrat, and perhaps more importantly, why you shouldn’t vote Conservative or Labour.  In this article, I am going to refer to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and if you fancy a bit of a challenge, you can try to predict which of those descriptors I apply to each of the major parties. The Ugly Just as a surprise for everyone, this is of course the Liberal Democrats.  I kid, I kid, it’s obviously the Conservatives.  Since coming to power 13 and a bit years ago, they have systematically made almost every aspect of life worse for UK voters.  Schools are literally falling apart, doctors and nurses are regularly going on strike, inflation has been allowed to run rampant, and the Tories have spent their time focused on petty issues like the small boats “crisis” and London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. When it comes to small boats, we are talking about 100,000 migrants arriving in the last five years, meaning around 20,000 a year compared to a population of around 70 million.  To put the number in perspective, that’s around 0.03% of the UK population each year, which might as well be a rounding error. On top of that, of the 100,000 migrants arriving by small boat, some 92,000 of them submitted asylum applications, making them – by definition – asylum-seekers.  In case you are wondering, that means they absolutely are not illegal migrants, but instead they are refugees with a legal right to be here until their application is reviewed and their case decided. In terms of the ULEZ, it is vital to remember two things, namely 1) that this was a Tory initiative introduced by Boris Johnson while he was Mayor of London, and 2) that MPs have absolutely no say or control over ULEZ, as this is a power deferred to the Greater London Assembly.  As MP, Steve Tuckwell has no more power to influence ULEZ than literally any random member of public, therefore running his campaign on this basis was utterly despicable. I firmly believe that Uxbridge & South Ruislip have had enough of ugliness and will oust the Tories at the very next opportunity. The Bad In this category, I am going to put Labour.  This isn’t for any specific policy at this time, as they have not yet released their formal manifesto for the next election.  Rather it is for what they have already said they will do, or more specifically what they won’t do. As those of you who have read my blog previously will already know, I am a huge believer in the idea of Proportional Representation.  At its heart, this is the principle that the amount of legislative power enjoyed by a party should be proportionate to the amount of votes they receive in an election.  Hopefully this isn’t a particularly controversial statement, but the important thing to remember is that our current system doesn’t do this.  Instead, votes cast for smaller parties are ignored, while votes cast for the largest party are magnified.  This is why the Tories are currently enjoying 100% of the legislative power in Parliament despite only receiving 46% of the votes in the last election. So why am I talking about the Tories in a paragraph about Labour?  The answer to that is in the position that Starmer and the Labour leadership have adopted, namely an opposition to Proportional Representation.  Ultimately this means that it doesn’t matter what policies they have in the short- and medium-term, they are committed to handing absolute power back to the Tories at some point in future. This makes them part of the problem, not the solution.  In my opinion, this is bad. The Good Without question, the Liberal Democrats are going to have some policies that you disagree with.  Importantly, however, the main focus is on changing the electoral system so that your vote matters and your voice is heard.  You can fundamentally disagree with me on everything else that I believe in, but I very much doubt that we disagree on the idea that you should have a say in who makes the law.  Likewise, one of the objections I hear regularly is that switching to Proportional Representation will allow far right parties into Parliament.  Unfortunately I think that objection is outdated – the far-right are already there, and our First Past The Post system helped them to get into power. We Liberal Democrats believe in a fair society for everyone rather than just the rich or just our supporters.  As such, we will always fight for fair representation in parliament and fair treatment of everyone no matter their status of birth. To my mind, that makes us the Good in this analogy.  We are clearly not the only good ones out there, but we are the largest truly progressive party, and unfortunately if we collectively want to see a more proportionate system of elections introduced, the progressive parties need to stand aside for one another. I’ll see you on the campaign trail next year.  Come and talk to me if you want to discuss any of my points or my wider manifesto. Merry Christmas to those celebrating, and a Happy New Year.

5 Parliamentary Anachronisms

No, I am not doing an article bashing the Conservative Party, or at least not with that as the sole focus.  Instead I wanted to cover some of the oddities of Parliament that stem from tradition rather than any reasoned process.  As such, here are some of the weirder parliamentary anachronisms that we can see today. Minimalist Architecture In somewhere like the Palace of Westminster, it is hard to believe that the phrase “minimalist” could accurately apply to any part of the building.  Nevertheless, the heart of our democracy, the debate chamber in the House of Commons, is woefully undersized.  At the moment the UK has 650 elected Members of Parliament.  Some of those do not take their seats, so the actual number of active MPs is a little below that, but the capacity of the debate chamber is well below that level, around 427 seats.  This is why many of the well-attended debates see Members cramming into the chamber, with a significant number of elected officials reduced to standing to watch the proceedings. Oath of Allegiance I mentioned above that some seats are not filled at all.  This is mostly due to the fact that the elected representatives of Sinn Fein do not take their seats, entirely because they will not swear the oath of allegiance.  This is wholly understandable, as the oath is a personal declaration of intent to follow the orders of the monarch of the UK, while the whole purpose of Sinn Fein as a political entity is to separate Northern Ireland from the UK.  Such an oath would directly contradict their party’s stance, so they refuse. Incidentally, it is not possible for an MP to either draw their salary or speak and vote in debates until they swear the oath, so that means that the current system specifically excludes representation for anti-monarchists. The Mace If you see a large ceremonial mace in front of the Speaker’s chair  and wonder “what is that for?”, this is the section for you.  This isn’t a table decoration or a paper weight, instead it is the symbol of the Crown in Parliament.  By tradition, the monarch is not allowed to set foot in the House of Commons, so instead the Mace is present.  Bizarrely, this means that any debates or decisions made without the Mace being present are not valid and will not be recorded in official proceedings. When Parliament is prorogued (brought to a temporary close) the Mace is removed, symbolically withdrawing the authority of the Commons to make any decisions.  The Mace is returned at the Opening of Parliament. Member Behaviour One of the odder things about Parliamentary process is the way that MPs refer to one another.  In short, naming another MP is taboo.  Addressing another MP directly is likewise not permitted.  Instead all comments are made to the Speaker and any referrals to active MPs is made by referencing their constituency (e.g. the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip).  This is intended to increase the decorum of debate by stopping MPs from outright insulting one another, but I think it’s fair to conclude that Prime Minister’s Questions demonstrates that the quality of debate is woeful. Voting At the cry of “Division” by the Speaker, the Commons officially enters a closed state for voting for a motion.  This is a literal reference, in that the lobby doors used to be physically locked to ensure that MPs didn’t vote multiple times or that outsiders weren’t called in to cast a vote they shouldn’t have. You might think that in this modern era of connectivity, there would be a move towards using that for votes so that more business could be done.  Sadly not, the division is still counted by the MPs present physically walking through one of two side lobbies, casting their vote by tapping their membership card onto a scanner (a recent upgrade to each corridor having its own set of counters who would report back after a manual count). This is one of the more egregious anachronisms for various reasons.  First, it is not particularly friendly to disabled MPs or those dealing with a new child to force them to physically move through a voting lobby.  Secondly, it is grossly unfair to restrict MPs who cannot be in Westminster from voting.  This is less of a problem for a London constituency as it is for one of the outer Scottish regions, which might be seven or eight hours away from Parliament. This is an area which could easily be modernised for the good of the country. A modern electronic voting system would be very simple to set up, and would reduce the time needed for divisions from 20 minutes or so to under a minute.  With an app-based voting system and biometric protection, MPs would be able to cast their vote from anywhere in the world, allowing them to spend more time in their constituencies.