Democracy is a word being used by all colours of the political spectrum currently. But in some quarters, it seems that it is thought to mean exactly what it is not.Read More
I give a personal take upon the interesting times in which we live, sometimes from a scientific perspective.
We are in the middle of a General Election here in the UK and the sound bite slogans are rattling in our ears like a bad tune you can't get out of your head. It's worth remembering the rather sinister origins of the campaign slogan just to put it all into context.Read More
Why has politics become so polarised? It seems that to even question a particular opinion can elicit a torrent of abuse. No more so in the UK than on the subject of Brexit. You are either with the “will of the people” or you are a “remoaner” and there’s nothing in between. Well, I am in between and I'll explain why.Read More
In the UK a new term has arisen - liberal elite, used by the elite but certainly not by liberals. Is there an attempt to turn history back to a time before the age of the enlightenment, when liberalism stood for reason, individualism, championing freedom, liberty, science, tolerance, equality and informed democracy?
Science and politics are not a good mix but when statistics are misused for political purposes, then scientists should be stepping up and challenging the spin irrespective of their own personal ideology. And so it is that I am pointing out the error of those claiming that only a third of the electorate voted for Brexit. That particular spin is making me feel just a little giddy.Read More
I have taken the personal position that I am less bothered about whether we stay in the EU or come out, rather than the route by which we have come to the current point in Brexit space-time. I am of the view that we are where we are not through any great political intention but through plain and simple political incompetence. To explain my reasoning, I want to go back to the beginning and look at some facts to explain why I have come to my conclusion.Read More
The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States has ramifications for global politics but also for science. Today, science suddenly became even more important to the lives of everyone, except perhaps many just don’t realise it yet.Read More
I know I keep saying that I’ll stick to the science and avoid political blog posts but such are the times that I am being drawn back again to write something on recent Brexit events. I will try and put personal opinion aside and just stick to the maths.
I have heard a lot recently about the result of the referendum being the “will of the people”. The Conservative MP Tim Loughton last night on BBC’s “Have I Got News For You” went as far as to say that “17.4 million people voted to leave the EU and that’s what we will give them.”
The 17.4 million was not factually incorrect but, of course, it’s all part of the political game to select the numbers that support your case and then ignore the rest. So let’s just put the result of the referendum into context.
Votes cast for remain were 16,141,241 and those for leave were 17,410,742. The difference between them was 3.78%.
If you take the view that one vote is enough, then the government do have a mandate to leave the EU (legal arguments on the validity of referendums aside). Statistically however, the best that can really be said is that the country is split right down the middle on the issue.
Even before the result, I was very much against the referendum which has now led to a vociferous split in the country. Given the divisions, at the very least our elected leaders should try to be a little less political and a little more rational in the way they proceed from here and recognise that the “will of the people” is not quite as black and white as they seem to make out. Perhaps if they did so and considered the actual numbers a little more carefully, we might avoid some of the angry outbursts we have seen recently.
Let me use an analogy. Imagine if a new drug was being tested and the clinical trials managed to recruit thirty three and a half million volunteers who were dived up into those receiving the drug and those receiving a placebo. When the results were in, it was found that just 3.8% of the volunteers taking the drug reported feeling better compared to those on the placebo. Do you think the company could take that drug to market? I can tell you that the scientists will be clear that the effect of the drug was no different to the placebo.
I have come across too many people who seem to think the result of the referendum can be reduced to the score of a football match, saying “we won, you lost.” Pictures of crying babies are also appearing in what I assume is a metaphor for being a bad loser. These really do not offer any arguments although they may possibly give comfort to some in their simplicity. Think however, about what you voted for and how your wishes might be achieved. Then, you might just realise that we could all be crying in the long run.Read More
Very small or very big numbers are hard to comprehend and so need to be considered in relative terms. This certainly applies to government statistics and when those surrounding the EU referendum are placed into context, it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about.
The referendum resulted in a vote for the UK to leave the UK. I voted to remain but I must still accept the outcome, that is how democracy works. Nevertheless, there were central pillars of the Brexit campaign that must now be delivered. We will wait and see what happens but if those promises are not kept then those that made them must be called to account.Read More
In just over a week, the UK goes to the polls in the EU referendum, I believe that the real issue is not whether we stay in or not but whether the referendum should have ever been held in the first place. Referenda give an illusion of democracy but perhaps the politicians that we elected should have had the ability to sort this out as they might any other importnat decision the country faces.Read More
The in-fighting, absurd hyperbole and political rhetoric in the absence of facts defines the debate on the EU referendum. Regardless of which way you might cast your vote on 23rd June this episode has prised open the lid on a political system that is the antithesis of the scientific method. It would be naive to think politics could ever be scientific but it might learn a thing or two about the philosophy of looking at evidence first then forming an opinion, rather than the other way round.Read More