Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Where in the world...

Someone showed me an interesting little gadget last week, a gizmo the size of a mobile phone that could tell you pretty much exactly where you were (in three dimensions), what direction you were heading and at what speed. It used global positioning satellites (GPS) to triangulate location and was accurate to 15m or so (depending upon where you were and how much sky it could see). We were using it to check an Ordnance Survey map reference of our transmitter site for Morley FM but we both struggled to make sense of the readings.

Knowing that we have a lot of outward bounders at work, I asked further on the topic and was loaned another unit yesterday. I checked how much it was worth (in case I dropped it!) and was pleasantly surprised to find out it could be replaced for £50 or so. Indeed, a quick look on ‘teBay proved this was the case, for the older monochrome models.

I’m not certain I could personally justify buying one, however, as I’m not known for trekking much further than the Pub…

After tracking down a manual on ‘tinternet I worked out why we had been confused. The standard UK Ordnance Survey grid reference consists of two letters then two groups of three numbers, giving 100m accuracy on a 1:50,000 or a 1:25,000 scale map (generally divided into 1km squares). The handheld device actually resolves down to two letters and two groups of five numbers, i.e. 1m squares (although the best the device can really pinpoint you to is within 3.5m provided it can see a Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) satellite). Just to confuse matters, however, the second 5 number reading (the “Northing”) was prefixed with BNG which we assumed meant bearing but actually appears to be an abbreviation for “British National Grid”.

Moving onto the election, today is the last day of canvassing & the candidates have shifted into overdrive. Even Colin Challen (sitting MP) has been spotted out (by himself) putting up signs and posters. He must be nervous if he can’t even wait for the party colleagues to lend a hand. Has he done a risk assessment, I wonder?

Presumably the risk of falling off a ladder or of being fined by Leeds City Council for inappropriate positioning of election material is small beer compared to the risk of not qualifying for a nice fat MP pension by serving Parliament for ten years. It is a contributory scheme (9%) but it is a final salary one and based on 40ths, so 10 years service qualifies for £14,371 at present rates.

The BNP have been out last night, putting up posters saying “People like you… voting BNP”. Really? Apart from all of the prejudice and bigotry stuff they are also somewhat authoritarian and believe in bigger Government, the same as all of the other parties. Chris Beverley managed to get his election message into today’s Morley Advertiser and there is certainly some sensible stuff there- withdrawal from the EU, police actually tackling crime, use of corporal & capital punishment where guilt is proven beyond dispute, foreign relations based on the national interest etc. I have doubts for his claims of the BNP being “green” & don’t personally have a problem with their main bugbear, immigration. I don’t mind who comes here as long as they pay their own way & don’t break the law. If they decide to stay, then provided that they don’t dump on anyone else that is fine with me. (I don’t regard getting a job as dumping on anyone else, although being positively discriminated into work certainly is). If people want to live in Britain all well and good, but realistically we can’t just open our borders with our present welfare system. Conversely, I’d like to be able to move to somewhere where being PC isn’t a pre-requisite to getting on, but there aren’t too many places like that left.

Colin Challen claimed in a recent newspaper article that he was running a “carbon neutral” campaign. Is he serious? Is he cycling everywhere? Has he coloured in his own posters on recycled cardboard using crayon? The paper through my letterbox has all been four colour print on decent quality paper. Does he buy his electricity from renewable sources? Is he planting a forest in his own back garden? By simply existing, humans change Oxygen to Carbon Dioxide, that well known toxic greenhouse gas. It is also well known that politicians are much worse offenders than everyone else because they talk so much hot air. Come on Colin, don’t insult our intelligence, if you are an eco-warrior, join the green party, don’t just jump on the conservation bandwagon.

I’ve had a flyer from the Lib Dem candidate, who also stood last time round. Call me cynical, but suddenly popping up when there is an election on doesn’t score any credibility in my book. The Lib-Dems are also the most socialist of the big three parties and have a reputation for saying what people want to hear, especially if it involves getting control of local Councils. I've seen diddly-squat as far as campaign signs go in Morley.

Nick Vineall, the Tory bloke, seems a decent chap. However, he will inevitably come second at best in Morley & Rothwell, standing for a party that has been out-toried by new Labour in many ways. The Tories are still not a credible party and may possibly go the way of the Whigs given time (& another couple of election defeats). I have seen a couple of Conservative posters out in Morley this afternoon (on poles, not in house windows) so they haven't given up.

That leaves our very own Independent, Robert Finnigan. I’ve said before that he has a Labour Party background & somewhat of a statist mentality, possibly even green socialist. However, I don’t want to count that against him too much, because he has taken the step of recognising that our current political party model is morally corrupt and driven by power rather than getting things done.

A number of years ago, a pipedream party popped up called the First democrat Party. It wanted a Parliament of collaborative free-thinkers with simply a loose party alliance for the purposes of Government. It would not have had a Whip- all votes would be free ones, reached after careful consideration of the facts and practicalities of any issue. It would not even have any policies, because policies are often formulated in ignorance of the facts and the consequences. It regarded the primary role of Government to be an enabler only, with provisioning of services being the action of last resort should the free market be unable or unwilling to provide for whatever reason. It fully intended to collaborate with the other Parliamentary parties, rather than compromise, the current system.

Of course, because they involved humans, the First Democrats were not perfect. They were a slightly shadowy organisation with only one public persona, their leader, a Mr. D. J. Morgan. They postponed their inaugural Conference every six months, presumably due to lack of bookings. They also felt that a second chamber was an anachronism in Parliament and was no longer required, missing the point completely that laws are meant to be difficult to change and need to be challenged by others, otherwise society ends up as a sort of legal sandbox where well meaning but misguided schemes are imposed upon areas and regions to see what happens. Eventually their website died & now the only residual evidence of their existence is a set of filed dormant accounts with the Electoral Commission.

Would I have voted for a First Democrat? You betcha. Who is the nearest fit to that approach? Mr. Robert Finnigan. Robert, I wish you well. I will be pleased if you come second, absolutely delighted if you actually win the seat and end up as our MP. It isn’t likely, but it is certainly possible.

A Party member told me the other day that we are not voting for an MP in an election, we are voting for who runs the Government when all the votes are in. If this is the case, where is the box on the ballot paper that says “none of the above”? As long as we have a first past the post system, we will be voting for people, not parties. I don’t want a PR system because that is parties, not people. I believe that Robert Finnigan can be as effective as any other backbench MP in Parliament, more so when it comes to local issues as he will not have to toe the party line. OK, so he may never be a Minister, but the same may be the case for Colin Challen and Robert can certainly hold them to account.

Whoever wins, I will be sending them my application letter to book a “Big Ben” trip for the Summer.


James said...

Hi Ian,
I have been pondering my own vote for a while, and like you, I have problems with almost all of the parties being a bit statist.

I've been thinking about the NeoLibertarian article about become part of the libertarian tendencies in the main parties rather than supporting the Libertarian Party. It appears that there probably is such a tendency in the Tories although it is probably not as vocal as those who are currently calling the shots. If the majority of bloggers who fancy themselves Tory are any representation, there could be time for the Tories to change before they go the Whig route.

What do you think of becoming an activist in the Conservative Party?

I've thought of that for myself.

Luckily, I have a Conservative MP who seems to be a bit of a rebel (scored 69th out of all MPs for voting against the whip). Much of his voting record on those things that have been voted on in this last parliament matches my own stand on those issues. And he appears to be a thoroughly decent chap, calling me within practically minutes of my leaving a message on his web site.

This election, I am voting for the candidate and not the party. Although I wish the party would better represent my own views.

Have fun tomorrow.


Ian Grey said...

I'll blog one day about my old man being a Tory Candidate & why I wouldn't trust the party machine as far as I could throw it.

There are some decent people in politics but power corrupts.

Paul J said...


These are interesting comments, and this aint a party political broadcast ;)

I got involved with the Tories because I bought a T- shirt thru an advert in Viz magazine; a YC thing (interesting to think that YC things were thought advertising in those days!) A week later, I received a phone call from the local Conservatives, asking me nicely if I'd help out (this was just before the 19992 general election)

It was purely because of John Major, who I liked and still like, that I became involved. He seemed to represent a Tory Party that would be fairly dry on economics, but fairly wet socially.

Unfortunatly, the party committed hari-kari because of its regicide; and I believe it is still coming to terms with that. However , it is in line with the general jettisonning of principles, forgetting of identity, pilfering of policies which New Labour has made its own since 1994.

I make no wonder that people think party politics is dead. However, the thought of Parliament made up of independents (and I smile here, since even the 6 on Leeds vote as a bloc, ususally with Labour) fills me with horror. Just think of 600-odd Albert Slingsby's.

For the record, as local Tory Boy:

I want less Whitehall; more delegated powers to municipal government

I am dead against I.D. cards, in any form

This present Government wants less personal freedom. I won't even mention the stealth taxes!

No Prime Minister has ever taken our Army into war on a false premise and survived. Why on earth is he still there?? Disgusting

There are plenty of libertarians within my party; and we will have our day. The more liberal (with a small l) we get in, the more the party machine will have to listen (and they will do; they'll have no choice)

Octopusuk said...

Maybe this is the way that Colin is ensuring his campaign is carbon neutral

Excellent idea and he is to be congratulated on this.