24 April, 2005: Instrument and symbol

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As my (presumably) politically-obsessed readers will have noticed, nominations for the General Election closed last week, so now we know who is standing in each seat. To each of us, therefore, falls the task of deciding who, if anyone, to honour with a vote.

The way you are supposed to do this is to read the manifestos of each of the parties and candidates standing, and pick the ones which will be best for the country. This is a long and tedious process, best avoided, but as I pointed out at the time of the last European Elections, our politics has now become so devalued by idiocy of one sort or another that a simple optimisation is possible. For each candidate, read the associated manifesto until you discover something spectacularly offensive or stupid, then stop. If you find a manifesto bereft of any idiocy or offense, then vote for that candidate. In the event that you find more than one such manifesto, this procedure won't help you, of course, but this is unlikely to arise in practice. If no manifesto lacks for idiocy and offense, then you -- and we -- are in trouble. More on this later.

(For the purposes of this exercise I am considering the candidates as representatives of their parties.)

Here is the line-up in Cambridge, in face-saving alphabetical order: (several of the candidates have web logs, or, at least, some sort of regularly-updated web site; I have linked to these)

Candidate Party
Anne Campbell Labour
Helene Davies UKIP
Suzon Forscey-Moore, Independent Independent
David Howarth Liberal Democrats
Martin Lucas-Smith Green
Ian Lyon Conservative
Graham Wilkinson Independent
Tom Woodcock Respect

So, to each candidate's policies in turn:

All in all, not promising.

Of course, in a first-past-the-post election, one has to consider (a) whether there is any chance of an individual candidate winning, since otherwise one's vote is wasted; and (b) the qualities of the individual candidates. Here I am handicapped by only having met three of the candidates, but by a happy chance it turns out that those are the three who stand the most chance of winning:

Another question of interest is how the election is likely to turn out -- and, of course, nobody wants to back a loser. Here are some possible outcomes:

Recent and predicted Cambridge election results

(The 2004 local election result is rescaled to bring the support for `other' candidates down to its normal level of ~8% in a general election. The Daniel Davies prediction is from his Adjusted Regional Swing Estimate model as given here; it's based on data from 10th April, but the polls haven't moved much since then. The other predicted results are from here and here. Backing Blair has Cambridge down as a safe Labour seat, so I assume that they are using a UNS-type model like Martin Baxter's site.)

Update: I unaccountably left Martin Lucas-Smith out of the list of candidates I've met. Ho-hum. Nice bloke but he's not going to win. I went on Sunday to an event described as a hustings at which all of the above candidates were present, which gave an opportunity to discover Suzon Forscey-Moore's manifesto -- vague, but not unlike what I have presented above -- and hear from the others. Unfortunately, the audience at this event -- run by the Cambridge churches -- were prohibited from asking questions of the candidates (a fact which, it is rumoured, is not unconnected with Anne Campbell's decision to appear at it alone among such events); instead, the candidates were asked to respond to a set of five questions which were circulated in advance. And in another tragic reverse for British democracy, the candidates representing political parties -- except for the bloke from Respect -- were permitted fifteen minutes of speaking time each, compared to five minutes for the others. This was, to put it bluntly, completely fucking hopeless.

Copyright (c) 2005 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.