Party politics


Earlier this month Nicholas Arnold, Margaret Atkinson, Mark Banks, Ben Burcombe-Filer, James Charity, Adrian Cooper, Lisa Crosher, James Foulds, Jeanette Fox, Danny Francis, Jerry Hall, Susan Hall, Patti Hayes, Joy Haythorne, Mike Hughes, Shelagh Lee, Daniel Newcombe, Simon Payne, Gary Phillips, Joan Raistrick, Paul Redding, Albie Slawson, Roger Vivian, Alan Weatherall, and Chris Yates stood as Conservative candidates in the Eastleigh local elections.

As far as I know, only one of them has called for the Prime Minister to go for the Downing Street pandemic parties, and clearly none of them were concerned enough about Johnson’s behaviour to stand as independent candidates.

Eastleigh’s MP, Paul Holmes, a vocal supporter of the Prime Minister, even hosted a campaign visit to Southampton Airport, where Johnson lied about the tax free area only being possible due to leaving the EU.

If none of them had the integrity to challenge their leader’s behaviour when it so clearly breaches the standards expected in public life, how could anyone trust them on local issues? The election results suggest voters didn’t trust them.

Paul in particular has seemed more interested in putting his career, and party leader first, despite the damage being done to his party and the country.

“I understand your concerns about recent distractions from the good work the Government has been trying to do. I am disappointed that certain mistakes have damaged people’s confidence in our ability to deliver on the really important issues which affect all our daily lives.”

He could have done something about the distractions long ago, but chose not to.

“As you will know, the Prime Minister, his wife, and the Chancellor have been fined by the police for breaching lockdown rules by attending a gathering to celebrate his birthday. Like you, I was deeply concerned to read this news, and I will follow further developments closely.”

Rules which the Prime Minister was responsible for. Rules which Johnson repeated urged everyone to follow.

“You may be aware that the House of Commons recently agreed to refer the Prime Minister to the Committee of Privileges to investigate whether he had knowingly misled Parliament. This motion passed without a vote, which means an investigation will now be carried out.”

“As I have said previously, I believe it is vital that people around the country continue to have faith that those in power in our democratic system are held to account, and that they meet the high standards expected of those who hold public office. I would therefore have voted for this investigation if it had come to a vote.”

Wait until Paul finds out that the Prime Minister is changing the rules to thwart parliamentary standards again, just like he did with Owen Paterson!

“However, I remain of the view that all the processes that are underway must be allowed to run their course. The Sue Gray report has not been published and the Metropolitan Police investigation has not concluded.”

Well the Sue Gray report has now been published, and the Metropolitan Police investigation has concluded, so the wait for Paul’s response is finally over!

On the plus side, I am pleasantly surprised that Paul hasn’t followed the example of some Conservative MPs and told us all to move on. He has also resigned from his government position, which should allow him to start holding the government, and the Prime Minister to account…

…except he hasn’t yet. Oddly there isn’t actually any criticism of the Prime Minister in Paul’s statement, and no indication that he thinks Johnson should resign.

“It is distressing to me that this work on your behalf has been tarnished by the toxic culture that seemed to have permeated Number 10.”

It’s as if Number 10 was just ambushed by the toxic culture.

Paul Holmes’ Statement on Pandemic Parties at the Johnson Residence


At long last Paul Holmes has made a statement in relation to lockdown parties in Downing Street, after reports first emerged towards the end of last year.

“The Prime Minister will be aware that Eastleigh was formed as a railway town and, from producing locomotives and carriages to building gliders for the D-day landings, Eastleigh has a proud railway heritage. Given that pedigree, its excellent transport links and the need to level up the south, does he agree that Eastleigh would make the perfect home for the new headquarters of Great British Railways?”

You might be wondering what that has to do with his views on government parties during the pandemic. The only relevance is that this was Paul’s contribution during Prime Minister’s Questions today, which was dominated by Boris Johnson’s admission that he had in fact attended one of the parties during lockdown after all.

Paul claims that he was merely trying to secure money, jobs and investment for Eastleigh. Even if you believe that he wasn’t just providing friendly cover for the Prime Minister during a difficult PMQs, Paul appears to be appealing to the Prime Minister to influence the new railway headquarters decision when there is meant to be some sort of competition for towns to submit bids. That’s an interesting approach on the day that the government’s VIP lane for PPE contracts was found to be unlawful.

Interestingly Paul had previously suggested to the Deputy Chief Whip that the competition should be cancelled in favour of Eastleigh. He also said this in that debate:

“I did notice, however, that I still have not received a Christmas card from him—[Interruption.] which is shocking. No doubt—I ask him to comment—that is an indication of my standing in his little black book in the Whips Office.”

I don’t think Paul need worry about his standing with the whips after today!

Anyway, I assume Paul will eventually stop ignoring the issue and actually make a statement. I’ll add a link, or the text, here when he does.

Update: Paul Holmes’ actual statement!

Paul finally got around to posting a statement on his website today!

“I know many constituents have contacted me about the recent revelations regarding events in Downing Street.

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that I have not attended any parties in Downing Street myself.”

It’s telling that he starts by clarifying that he wasn’t at the parties. He knows it was wrong.

“The reports we have all seen in the news are deeply disappointing.  Not only do I understand your anger and frustration about the reported parties in Downing Street, I share that anger and frustration.”

The Prime Minister said he understood the anger back in December last year: “May I begin by saying that I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No. 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures?” We had to wait a very long time to hear something similar from Paul.

“These reports raise serious questions about the conduct of people working in Downing Street and like you, I want answers to these questions. I believe Sue Gray’s report will address these points. While I welcome the Prime Minister’s apology, I also believe he needs to address these concerns.”

Paul seems to be playing his part in Operation Save Big Dog already, deflecting blame from the Prime Minister to “people working in Downing Street”. Classy.

Paul was so slow writing his statement that the likely outcome of Sue Gray’s report has already leaked and is not expected to find evidence of criminality! Ultimately Sue Gray’s investigation is not what it’s being advertised to be.

While I welcome Paul’s statement, it’s too little too late.

“Fundamentally, there is no excuse for those who make the rules, to break the rules. Those found to be doing so should be disciplined and face the consequences, with no exceptions.”

Well Paul, over to you. Or did you mean no exceptions except for the Conservative Prime Minister?

Update: Paul’s update!

Paul has updated his email template since Sue Gray’s update.

“I appreciate and understand the ongoing anger and frustration around these matters, and I remain clear that anyone found to have broken the rules must face the consequences of their actions.”

It’s already clear that the Prime Minister repeatedly breaks the ministerial code, and has done so since before it was revealed that he broke his own lockdown law. It’s also clear that Paul isn’t interested in those rules, and doesn’t expect the Prime Minister to face any consequences.

Worse, Johnson appears to be lying in Parliament even more regularly than usual in a desperate attempt to cling on to power, and has now even sunk to repeating far-right conspiracies to score political points.

“I have said that I will make a further statement when Sue Gray’s report is published. Given the concurrent police investigation, it has not yet been possible for her to release her full report, which is why only a limited update has been published so far. I look forward to the full report in due course, as well as the outcome of the police investigation, and I will make a further statement then as promised.”

Instead of distancing himself from even the worst of the Prime Minister’s false allegations, Paul is still content to stick to Johnson’s “wait for the report/wait for the police investigation” script.

It’s worth reading Sue Gray’s limited update. The full report should be interesting if the Prime Minister actually ever publishes it.

“I understand that many are calling for decisions to be taken now, but I have always been of the view that the full facts must be known in a case before a judgement can be made. However, I want to assure you that I continue to take this matter extremely seriously as your MP, and that I have heard and taken on board your views and have made them clear to the Prime Minister and Number 10.”

The facts are that Boris Johnson is a liar, and Paul Holmes still has confidence in him.

Update: Paul Holmes’ statement (radio edit)

Paul has clarified his position further during an interview on the T&G Times Radio show (from 1h54m on 13th February 2022):

“I fully support the Prime Minister. He’s getting on with the job.”

“I have every confidence that he will be able to deliver going into the next election.”

His enthusiastic support was somewhat unexpected after he had initially claimed he was angry, but said that we should wait for the result of the police investigation.

Paul Holmes’ Statement on Owen Paterson


It’s not immediately obvious that Eastleigh’s MP Paul Holmes even made a Statement on Owen Paterson because it’s tucked away in a dark corner of his website.

It seems appropriate to revisit his statement given that today’s North Shropshire by-election was only possible because he and the vast majority of Conservative MPs supported the government’s attempt to thwart the Parliamentary standards process. Let’s have a look…

“I do not support the lobbying activities that Owen Paterson undertook while working as an MP for two companies that he acts as a paid consultant for. This is expressly forbidden in the rules and it is right that he is punished.”

I think most people agree. I also think most MPs agree. I’m fairly certain most Conservative MPs, like Paul, would now publicly claim they agree as well.

I’m inclined to believe them, which makes it even more inexcusable that they allowed the motion to suspended Owen Paterson, who had been found guilty of corruption, for 30 days to be hijacked by the government.

Instead of passing the motion to suspended Owen Paterson, the motion was amended to politicise the standards process. Conservative MPs were told to support the amendment, whether they liked it or not, and the amendment passed.

“I did not vote for the ‘Leadsom Amendment’ which would have stopped Owen Paterson being punished”

It’s true that Paul did not vote for the amendment which did stop Owen Paterson being punished but he doesn’t say why.

Paul has a government job as PPS to Priti Patel. Angela Richardson lost a similar job for defying the government whip but, as far as I know, Paul did not lose his job. The most likely explanation is that he did not rebel; he just didn’t vote for some reason that was acceptable to the government.

“I did vote for a review into the Standards Regime which was encompassed in the second vote.”

Basically he just voted for the motion which was now to rip up the standards process instead of suspending Owen Paterson.

The alternative was for Paul to lose his PPS job, and it’s even possible that Eastleigh would have been punished as well, which would be even more appalling than Owen Paterson’s behaviour.

“I am pleased that the Government has now changed its mind and is proceeding with a review into the standards regime but in a more cross-party and collaborative way.”

I hope the review will look at why ministers like Priti Patel can break the rules and escape without punishment

The review also needs to examine the Ministerial Code and the conduct of the Prime Minister, as highlighted by Dawn Brent.

Finally, Paul makes some statements about his own employment…

“For the record, being the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh is the only job that I have and am remunerated for.”

He does also have a job as a PPS in addition to his constituency role, but that is unpaid.

“I do not have a second job and I do not earn any money from any paid consultancies.  This is reflected in my own register of interests which is a matter of public record.”

This one is a bit more puzzling because, well, that is not what is reflected in the public record!

15 hours per month for share options in the “Employment and earnings” section sounds like a second job to me!

He has since revealed more details of his second job on twitter…

“It’s a judging role for a fund to build housing for key workers and NHS workers”

The share options are a £5 discount on the listed share price of £5.50 per share.

Conservative MPs, including Paul, created this scandal themselves, but it’s telling who their anger was reserved for: not the person who broke the rules (Owen Paterson), or the one who tried to rewrite the rules (Boris Johnson).

No, apparently in a WhatsApp message to a group of new Tory MPs, Paul called Chope a “selfish twat” for not allowing the government to make the scandal go away without even a debate in Parliament.

I agree with Theresa May’s remarks in the debate which Chope was so selfish for forcing on Parliament:

“The attempt by honourable and right honourable members of this House, aided and abetted by the Government, under cover of reform of the process, effectively to clear his [Paterson’s] name, was misplaced, ill-judged and just plain wrong.”

Paul’s contribution to a more recent debate on Johnson’s (lack of) standards was even less impressive than his WhatsApp outburst…

“As a new Member of Parliament, Madam Deputy Speaker, I need to ask your advice. Is it acceptable in the House to use the word “liar”, and to accuse a Member of lying?”

He seems more interested in covering for the Prime Minister’s lies than having a debate on improving standards in public life. Ironically Paul seems to have missed the start of the debate where the usual rules that protect the Conservative leader from proper scrutiny had been suspended.

Perhaps he was too busy with one of his other jobs?

Brexit Update


My response to Eastleigh MP Mims Davies’ latest Brexit Update:

On the 15th January, the Withdrawal Agreement was put before the House of Commons.

Ideally it would have been put before the House of Commons last year but the Prime Minister wasted yet more time.

This Agreement would:

Respect the referendum taking back control of our laws, our money and our borders and allowing us to trade with our friends and allies around the world.

We already have control of our laws, our money, and our borders. We already trade with our friends and allies around the world. It doesn’t even respect the promises made in the referendum.

Safeguard our economy, with large local employers like GE Aviation and Prysmian supporting the deal.

Leaving with a withdrawal agreement is certainly better than the alternative however, despite the impact to local businesses like GE Aviation and Prysmian, you have stated that you would support a disorderly exit.

Offer a compromise around which we can begin to heal our political divisions.

This agreement is far from a compromise. Despite her historic defeat, the Prime Minister has still failed to genuinely reach out to other parties to form a consensus on the way forward, preferring to capitulate to the usual suspects in her own party. She continually manages to deepen political divisions, not heal them.

Retain close diplomatic links to the EU while paving the way for a new trade relationship with our closest neighbours.

If only the UK could agree on what new trade relationship we want. Ideally one that avoids a hard border.

And avoid both the dangers of No Deal or No Brexit.

Please explain the dangers of no Brexit.

Nonetheless, Parliament, primarily down to MPs looking to frustrate this process and stop us from leaving the EU altogether, voted this Deal down.

This is clearly false. Parliament has now voted for exactly the same deal with the exception of the Northern Irish backstop. So it looks more like MPs want to frustrate the agreed provisions to ensure no hard border in the event that a future relationship cannot be agreed.

This outcome helps no-one, gets us no further forward & means that the deadlock continues for communities, businesses & jobs.

Tonight’s vote gets us no further forward either. The Prime Minister has essentially voted against her own deal with the EU. With 59 days to go, we are just one step closer to a disorderly exit, which communities and businesses are ill-prepared for.

That’s why I am actively supporting our focus on key next steps in the House of Commons which must come together & work out a way forward for ALL as the 29th March closes in.

What are you actively doing? Who are you actively working with? It doesn’t seem to be enough based on this evening’s debate.

Over and above everything is that there is no reason why we couldn’t leave the EU on the 29th March, and I absolutely do not want to see a long, drawn out extension of Article 50, a view that I have shared with the Prime Minister.

You would barely have had enough time to pass all the necessary legislation if MPs had supported the withdrawal agreement but they haven’t.

For those who back no deal, I do understand this sentiment. Many have said that they feel that the UK should leave the EU on the 29th March on WTO rules.

Leaving without a withdrawal agreement is the only outcome that doesn’t require something to change. WTO rules only cover a fraction of what we will need to be in place for the country to continue operating in 59 days time.

However, as we continue to celebrate record high employment in the UK, with The Resolution Foundation saying:

“low-income households, disadvantaged groups and traditionally low employment urban areas are benefitting most from Britain’s jobs boom.”

As a Member of Parliament, I have a responsibility to listen to local employers large and small across our area – such as Southampton Airport who I visited last Friday, and Proteum who I visited the week before. Both have shown me that, while they are taking a pragmatic approach to Brexit, leaving the EU without a deal would affect LOCAL jobs.

It will. Leaving with a deal is also likely to affect local jobs but we won’t know for sure how until we have negotiated a future relationship with the EU.

Some have said that they feel people were not ‘informed’ ahead of the referendum, and that therefore their vote to leave should not count. To those people I say that every home in the country was sent a pamphlet by the Government making VERY clear what leaving the EU could mean, and regardless, 52.5% of those that voted in the referendum in Eastleigh, voted to leave the EU. The turnout in that election was one of the highest recorded in any election in our constituency at 78.2%.

There were plenty of issues with the 2016 referendum, which I am sure will be discussed at length for many years, but it would be risible to suggest that a majority of people eligible to vote then would have expected either the deal the Prime Minister negotiated, or the consequences of a disorderly exit.

Others have said that they feel that there should be a second referendum. The vast majority of those pushing this option would privately prefer that we never left the EU, and the so called ‘Peoples Vote’ campaign is nothing more than a disingenuous ploy to reverse the result of the referendum.

I reluctantly support a referendum on the final deal, for a few reasons:

  • The current deadlock in Parliament
  • The inability of MPs to function effectively with the dangerous idea of a unified ‘will of the people’ from the 2016 referendum hanging over them
  • The gulf between what was promised in 2016 and what is now on offer

It may even provide the much needed space to begin to heal the divide which threatens to rip the country apart.

I very publicly assure you that I will be campaigning to remain in the EU in the unlikely event that there is another referendum.

But very quickly, let’s look at the political alternatives.

Labour Continue to fail to present their own Brexit plan, with many of their MPs continuing to support remaining in the EU and, unlike Union Leaders, Party Leaders and leading MPs, the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn continues to refuse a meeting with the Prime Minister.

It would be nice if more of their MPs supported the wishes of their membership, but the Prime Minister has not made any serious attempts to work with other parties on a real compromise.

Lib Dems Have made clear that they wish to use a Second Referendum to ignore the result of the referendum and reverse the decision of 17.4 million voted for.

Arguably you want to use the 2016 referendum to ignore the wishes of voters in 2019. Does the current Parliament get to bind future Parliaments in the same way?

UKIP Have demonstrated how their plan would have no regard for safeguarding jobs or our economy, nor heal our nations divisions.

No argument there, although I fear the Conservative party is closer to UKIP than ever before.

In contrast, I am absolutely committed to delivering on the result of the EU Referendum and ensuring that we leave the European Union in a smooth and orderly way – and getting on with it – and that will be my continued mission. I have made VERY clear that I would not support a long, drawn out extension to Article 50, and while I would prefer to avoid leaving on WTO rules, I would support this, over the extension of Article 50, which would just lead to even more uncertainty and frustrate this process even further.

Unfortunately this is the clearest indication yet of your reckless disregard for the damage a disorderly exit will inflict on Eastleigh and the UK. I sincerely hope you will reconsider in the next 59 days.

Twenty years!


It hardly seems possible but I celebrated 20 years at IBM today! Here’s me foolishly thinking that I’d be staying for up to four years while I work out what I really want to do…

…and now I work just up the stairs from where that photo was taken. I’ve gone far!

Twenty years is a long time but I’ve done a few things on the way, so it hasn’t been at all dull!

MQSeries

I started out in technical support on a machine/OS I’d never heard of, asking such questions as, ‘Where is the design that describes what this command should do?’ Much mirth!
Later I worked in test when I discovered that ‘temporary’ generally means several years… maybe decades… probably still there actually… sorry!

Message Broker

…or whatever it happened to be called in any particular week.

Here I learned that a solution can take on a life of its own, becoming only tenuously related to, or even completely detached from, the problem it was meant to be solving. (If only someone had come up with design thinking sooner!)

Master Data Management

Lots of Master Data Management- almost 10 years of that alone!

Product information management, user interface generators (still gutted this one didn’t make it), model driven development, sketchy thingy, the MDM Developers community and probably more. There was definitely some virtual universe community in there as well.

Plus a really nice office with a window seat! And rats, and floods…

Watson

A tiny amount of Watson! Despite being barely a year, most of that time seemed to involve moving desks! Also the only time I really didn’t want to move on but serendipity led to…

Blockchain

An actual open source project this time, which is something completely new for me! And blockchain which I still think is one of the most interesting technologies to come along in… well, in the last 20 years!

And then

I doubt I’ll be in Hursley for another 20 years, so who knows. Having said that, I never intended to be there by now either!

It has been a privilege to have worked with so many amazing people who together made most of those 20 years an absolute pleasure. There really are too many to list without an Oscar speech but I will just mention two: Mark Phillips, who was a bit of a role model right from the start, and Patrick Wagstrom who you should jump at the chance to work with if you ever get the opportunity!

Epic referendum fail


 

Arg. I had been mostly managing to avoid looking directly at the referendum, unfortunately a ‘myth buster’ and some ‘facts’ dropped through the door today.

FACT: Adding ‘FACT:’ in front of anything you like doesn’t make it a fact!

I know, life would be so much more fun if that did work…

Sadly there has been a distinct lack of facts from both sides of the debate. If I’m being charitable, that could be because the whole thing is a massive unknown. The substitute has not exactly been constructive though.

Perhaps it would have been better not to have the referendum at all? Our recent track record of referendums hasn’t exactly been stellar, and the EU referendum in particular is even more problematic. Perhaps we could all agree to stop having referendums whatever the result is this time. Or would we need a referendum to decide that?!

I did at least spot a couple of more interesting looking articles during the predictably depressing campaign:

Plus this discussion on twitter:

I know that the EU is far from perfect but unless I hear any compelling reason otherwise, I think I’ll be voting remain on Thursday. There are probably pros and cons for either choice but ultimately where you draw borders is so completely arbitrary that I’d personally prefer to live in a larger area that allows free movement of people, than a smaller one. I don’t want to live in a gated community for similar reasons!

I also tend to agree with Ben Goldacre’s reasons.

Having said all that, the real issue of the whole campaign is, why isn’t the official leave site on a .uk domain, and why isn’t the official remain site on an .eu domain?

Update: Uh oh…

 

 

Indoor camping


I’m currently camping on the living room floor while the last two rooms upstairs get a 60 minute week long several week makeover!

Since we moved in we’ve been using the en-suite as a cupboard, partly because the shower leaked. It did make a pretty good cupboard though so clearing everything out took a while. The rest of the house is now full to bursting, even with full loads to the charity shop and tip! Need less junk! After enough flights of stairs to qualify for a Redwood Forest, Ferris Wheel and Lighthouse badge, it was finally all empty…

This is the first major work we’ve done inside the house since having children so we planned carefully. Here are the blueprints at a 1:1 scale…

(No prizes for guessing who added the extra stickers.)

Partly thanks to an amazingly helpful local planning department, we had an extra window after day one. And no walls.

By the end of day two first fix plumbing is done, and the new and improved walls were beginning to take shape. (The existing walls upstairs are literally just a thin sandwich of plasterboard and paper. Quality.)

At the end of day three first fix electrics are in, the walls were back properly and the bonus window is looking like a fantastic idea.

The plastering started on day four and by the end of day six we have one less artex ceiling, fewer holes in the floor, the door back. Even the new shower tray fitted, which was a bit of a relief!

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The whole job was meant to take five days but unsurprising it’s overrunning. It hasn’t helped that the floor under the old shower has rotted through. This time next week, it’ll all be done though, hopefully!

Update: Hooray, it’s all done! (14th April)

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Now I just need to do a spot of painting…

 

Open Data Camp Day 1


If I don’t post a few notes from today’s Open Data Camp now, I never will, so here are a few things I scribbled down- it could be worse, I could have posted a PDF containing photos of the the actual scribbles!

So out of this choice

odcamp-sessions

…I picked, Open Data for Elections, Open Addresses, Data Literacy, Designing Laws using Open Data, and Augmented Reality for Walkers.

Open Data for Elections

I’ve been following @floppy‘s crazy plan to get elected for a while, so this was the easiest decision of the day: what drives someone to embrace the gory inner workings of democracy like this?

Falling turnout it would seem, and concern for a functioning democracy.

The first step of his journey was the Open Politics Manifesto, which I’ve so far failed to edit- must try harder.

Perhaps more interesting was how this, and use of open data, fits into a political platform as a service. It would be nice to have the opportunity to see a few additions to the usual suspects at the ballot box, and Eastleigh got a rare chance to see what that could be like with a by election. Perhaps open data services for candidates could tip he balance enough to encourage more people to stand.

Things that sounded interesting:

  • Democracy Club
  • OpenCorporates
  • Data Packages
  • Open data certificates (food hygiene certificates for data?)
  • Candidates get one free leaflet delivery by Royal Mail- I wonder how big they expect those leaflets to be!

Open Addresses

@floppy and @giacecco introduced the (huge) problems they need to overcome to rebuild a large data set without polluting that data with any sources with intellectual property restrictions. Open Addresses still have a long way to go and there were comments about how long Open Street Map has been around, and it still has gaps.

They have some fun ideas about crowd sourcing address data (high vis jacket required) and there are some interesting philosophical questions around consent for addresses to be added.

It will be interesting to see whether Open Addresses can get enough data to provide real value, and what services they build.

Data Literacy

Mark and Laura led a discussion around data literacy founded in the observation that competent people, with all the skills you could reasonably expect them to have, still struggle with handling data sets.

Who needs to be data literate? Data scientists? Data professionals? Everyone?

Data plumbers? There were some analogies with actual plumbers! You might not be a plumber but it’s useful to know something about it.

If we live in a data driven society, we should know how to ask the right questions. Need domain expertise and technical expertise.

Things that sounded interesting:

Designing Laws using Open Data

@johnlsheridan pointed out that the least interesting thing to do with legislation is to publish it and went on to share some fascinating insights into the building blocks of statute law. It sounds like the slippery language used in legislation boils down to a small number of design patterns built with simple building blocks, such as a duty along with a claim right, and so on.

Knowing these building blocks makes it easier to get the gist of what laws are trying to achieve, helps navigate statutes, and could give policy makers a more reliable way to effect a goal.

For example, it’s easier to make sense of the legislation covering supply of gas, and it’s possible to identify where there may be problems. The gas regulator has a duty to protect the interests of consumers by promoting competition, but that’s a weak duty without a clear claim right to enforce it.

John also demonstrated a tool – http://ngrams.elasticbeanstalk.com – exploring how the language used in legislation has changed over time, for example how the use of “shall” has declined and been replaced by “is to be”.

Augmented Reality for Walkers

My choice of Android tablet was largely based on what might work reasonably well for maps and augmented reality, so I seized this opportunity!

Nick Whitelegg described the Hikar Android app he’s been working on, which is intended to help hikers follow paths by overlaying map data on a live camera feed.

The data is a combination of Open Street Map mapping data, with Ordnance Survey height data, which is downloaded and cached as tiles around your current location. Open GL is used to overlay a 3D view of the map data on the live camera feed, using the Android sensor APIs to detect the device’s rotation.

I’ve just downloaded and installed Hikar and, while my tablet is a tad slow, it works really well. I live somewhere flat and boring but the height data made a noticeable difference when Nick demonstrated the app in hilly Winchester.

Still to come: Day 2!

2013 in review


[Cheating, just in case I don’t finish a real post in January!]

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.