Dirty deeds done badly

It’s election season again, which means yet another example of bad mathematics and dishonest representation through the door from the Conservative party. The Tories use charts in an attempt to represent how they are the only party to stand a chance of beating the SNP in whatever contest they are engaged in. I say the SNP because they are the party which holds the Westminster seat at the moment and are the party to be toppled if someone else is to represent the constituency. Prior to the 2015 election, the seat was held by the Liberal Democrats.

This post isn’t about the political merits or otherwise of the various parties, but the perpetual habit of the Tories in mis-using and abusing statistics in seeking to gain the allegiance of the voters in the ballot box or postal vote as the case may be.

Let’s start with the statistics the Tories seek to abuse. These are the actual results of the elections for Argyll and Bute Council earlier this month. Because Scottish local authorities are elected from multi-member wards using a single transferable vote (STV) system, the only data that we have to work with are the first preference votes, which are published by the Electoral Management Board here for you to look at yourself. I’ll summarise the data:

The number of eligible voters was 68,808 and 33,670 people cast a vote, a turnout of 48.9%. That means, even if the turnout at a general election is 60%, there are another 7,614 votes in play. Remember that.

The first preference votes were as follows:

Independents 10079 30.4%
SNP 9174 27.7%
Conservative 8315 25.1%
Liberal Democrats 3571 10.8%
Labour 1362 4.1%
Green 609 1.8%
Other 32 0.1%

The distribution of first preference votes represented in a chart are as follows:

This is how the Conservative leaflet that came through my door today represented the Council elections for Argyll and Bute:

There’s a wee difference. If you took the numbers and charted the data properly, it would look like this:

The Tories have done what you’d expect; scale down the heights of the columns for the LibDems and Labour. Hilariously enough, they’ve also scaled down their own column and shown the gap as visually greater than it would be if the figures they were using were honest. Remember, they’re not.

So, taking the Council election first preference data, and excluding the 35,138 people who didn’t bother vote, and all of those who voted for independents, Greens and Kippers, the data would look like this:

The Tories have actually under-represented their own share. And these are the people who claim to be good with finances.

So, what about their claim that they’re the only party to unseat the SNP? Here’s the result of the 2015 parliamentary election as shown on the UK Polling Report website:

It would still appear that it’s an SNP/LibDem contest. Bear in mind that 32% of the people who voted in the Council election voted for independents, Greens or Kippers and there were 35,000+ people who didn’t vote at all. It may well be that the Conservatives are the party who can unseat the SNP, but the data they use is dishonest and shouldn’t be used to persuade people.

I should state here that I am not expressing a preference for any party here, with the exception of abhoring Kippers and Tories. I should also state that I’m not a psephologist.

Church nominees on Education Committees; Petitions Committee writes to Scottish Government (for 3rd time)

Primate's Progress

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better for our Petition to remove unelected Church nominees from Scottish Local Authority Education Committees, things got better.

nov24_0 Spencer Fildes and Paul Braterman testifying to Public Petitions Committee

The Scottish Secular Society is petitioning the Scottish Parliament for the removal of the theocratic anomaly, according to which every Local Authority Education Committee in Scotland must include three representatives of religious bodies. These church nominees are not answerable to the electorate, nor to the elected Councillors, and do not even have to declare an interest.

The Public Petitions Committee has now discuss the matter at three separate meetings. At its November 24 meeting last year, it took evidence from Spencer Fildes, who is advancing the Petition on behalf of the Society, with minor contributions from me, and agreed to write to interested parties, including of course the Scottish Government. So far, so…

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Loch Awe view

It’s been another warm, dry day here in Argyll, with beautiful blue skies and good clarity. This is a new viewpoint for me, looking up Loch Awe from close to the entrance to Ford Bay. The sail of the small dinghy picks up from the rythmn of the three headlands.

Glasgow local elections; my preferences based on secularism issues

Here’s some good information for Scottish electors casting their votes in next week’s local council elections. If you’re interested in seeing which parties take a positive position on secularity in society, Paul’s article is essential reading.

Primate's Progress

Life goes on at local level, and I urge you to cast your local vote on local issues. Here, for me,* the order of preference is clear, based on my educational and secularist concerns:

Greens > SNP ~ Labour > LibDem >> Conservative

Marble staircase, Glasgow City Chambers (click to enlarge)

My reasons are apparent below.

Under the system used, it is important to list all your preferences (or as pedants point out, all but the last of your preferences) in order

I asked all parties a series of questions saying I would publicise their response or lack of it. SNP replied with specific answers. The Greens referred me to their manifesto. Other parties did not reply at all. I give below SNP replies, and such information regarding the other parties as I could gather from manifestoes and other sources (note that this introduces sampling errors); direct quotations from party…

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