Brexit and Boris don’t add up, Getintothis’ Jono Podmore looks into the statistics and the number crunching that goes on behind the scenes.
The numbers aren’t adding up.
A Scottish friend of mine proudly posted the other day that she’d been one of 80,000 people to have braved hideous weather to march through Glasgow in support of Scottish independence and staying in the EU.
Along the march they were met by a group of about 30 people waving Union Jacks and making Nazi salutes.
A few months earlier I’d been one of around a million people marching through London to protest against the economically self-destructive cultural vandalism of Brexit.
The only Union Jacks I saw were firmly lodged with 26 other flags.
But Brexit is happening and Scotland will not get its referendum.
It seems like 30 fascist idiots have a louder voice and more powerful friends than the 1,080,000 who made the legal protest.
The numbers just don’t add up anymore.
Here are some more.
The last General Election is widely seen as an angrier rerun of the Brexit referendum. But 52.67% of the voters voted against the Tories and the Brexit party. There is no mandate for Brexit.
These figures from the Electoral Reform society are also illuminating.
Comparing numbers of votes to seats in parliament per party it took:
– 864,743 to elect the one Green MP
– 642,303 votes for zero Brexit Party MPs
– 334,122 to elect each Liberal Democrat
– 50,817 to elect each Labour MP
– 38,300 votes to elect each Conservative MP
– 38,316 to elect each Plaid Cymru MP
– 25,882 to elect each SNP MP
It seems our system means you need over 33 times as many votes to elect a Green as it does a nationalist. A Labour MP has to get 12,500 votes more than a Tory to win a seat.
During the last few days of campaigning, 6,749 Tory ads on social media were analysed by disinformation tracking organisation First Draft. It discovered that 88 per cent of them were laced with false claims about the NHS and income tax, as well as the Labour Party and its plans.
First Draft said that it had “not been able to find misleading claims in Facebook adverts from the Labour Party”.
In terms of dishonesty the Tories scored 5940 to Labour’s 0.
Dataprax is a fabulous source of numbers to help us work out what happened in December. Just the title alone “Tory Landslide, Progressives split” is a pretty coherent 4 word assessment of the whole debacle.
Labour lost over a million voters to the Tories, mostly over Brexit but a quarter of that due to the tireless character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn. Another million staunch remainer votes went to LibDems, Greens and SNP.
But the next bit of number crunching may turn out to be the most important of all in working out how the numbers got the way they did.
An article on the BBC News site from September recently caught my eye. During the May 2019 local elections in Highworth, near Swindon, 2,477 ballot papers were issued for a voting population of 6,408.
Somehow 41,939 votes were counted with each of the 10 Conservative candidates polling more than 3,000 votes. It took 4 months and a High Court ruling to overturn the result.
That’s a rather significant error. 10 Tories had 3000 votes added to their totals.
How could that happen?
Spinach is widely held to contain an enormous quantity of iron, but this is due to Dr. E. von Wolf who in 1870 accidentally slipped a decimal point in his numbers.
It wasn’t until 1937 that the error was discovered and that scientists found that spinach has 1/10 of the iron we supposed, in line with other similar greens. But by then the message was culturally embedded, with the help of Popeye.
What would have happened in Highworth if just 300 votes were added to the Tories candidate’s tallies?
Or even 30?
The difference between winning and losing in this council election was as little as the 136 votes between Ms Webster (Con 727) who had to make way for Ms Barber (Ind 836) after the High Court ruling.
If someone had accidentally added just 300 to each Tory’s tally the result would have stood unquestioned.
No-one would have suspected any interference or error in the counting.
The opposition would have slunk off to pore over the numbers, make endless enquires into how they’d ended up failing so badly, maybe even remove their leadership, casting themselves as losers in an endless round of “listening and learning lessons”.
By December 2019 I’m sure lessons from Highworth had been learned, but more by the Tories and their collaborators in the dark world of electoral manipulation than by those who work to keep our democracy free and fair.
The latest Cambridge Analytica revelations show that the global reach of the organisation was greater than we had thought.
On New Year’s Day an anonymous twitter account @HindsightFiles started to release documents that showed the depth of their interference in elections in Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil before Cambridge Analytica was shut down in May 2018.
Their reach was colossal and their interference in the Brexit referendum and the US election (including the harvest of 87 million Facebook profiles) is on the record.
Nevertheless the founders of the company, leading lights of the extreme right Stephen K. Bannon, Robert Mercer and Alastair MacWillson are all still very active and “even more sophisticated actors will have been emboldened to interfere in our elections and sow social divisions”.
That last quote is from Christopher Steele, the high level MI6 officer behind the dossier into Trump’s relationship with Russia. He should know.
The documents were leaked by ex-employee Brittany Kaiser, her motivation being that she is “very fearful about what is going to happen in the US election later this year” and thinks that “one of the few ways of protecting ourselves is to get as much information out there as possible.” adding “It’s so abundantly clear our electoral systems are wide open to abuse”
She came to this decision after following events in the 2019 UK General Election.
Despite the seriousness of what we see in these documents, at very best they can only show us what Cambridge Analytica was capable of up to May 2018.
How emboldened did the “sophisticated actors” become in 2019?
Bold enough to meddle directly with the numbers, as someone accidentally did to the Tories benefit in Highworth?
Laura Kuenssberg curiously managed to avoid being arrested for breaking electoral law when on Politics Live just the day before the election she said this:
“The postal votes, of course, have already arrived. The parties — they’re not meant to look at it, but they do kind of get a hint — and on both sides people are telling me that the postal votes that are in are looking pretty grim for Labour in a lot of parts of the country.”
Someone broke the law to give her that information and she broke the law to share it, but more importantly it’s part of a picture of a right-wing establishment that maybe had an inkling of the election result in advance.
Avoiding scrutiny at every turn appeared at the time to show Johnson’s campaign as desperate and incompetent, but with hindsight it appears supremely confident.
Why bother with the sheer discomfort of an interview with Andrew Neill when these “sophisticated actors” are working on your behalf, with a degree of finance, mendacity and a grip on social media that your opponents simply don’t have?
The 2016 Brexit referendum proved the efficacy of micro-targeted dishonest advertising on social media, as orchestrated by Dominic Cummings.
We are yet to find out which technologies or techniques the 2019 General Election has demonstrated, or what impact they will have on the 2020 US election, as the skills developed in the UK in 2016 were deployed later that year to get Trump elected.
The Electoral Commission have only published fraud data dating up to 2018 and all that seems to prove is how inadequate the system is at defending itself, especially when pitted against the powerful and underhand oligarchs that support Johnson, Farage, Cummings and their equivalents across the world in Brazil, the US, Hungary, Israel, Ukraine and Russia, for example.
The oligarchs realise the global impact that a socialist government in the UK would have, from controlling tax evasion, to curbing the flow of dark money around the stock exchange, to avoiding the wars that they profit from so much, to encouraging other European nations to follow suit.
To avoid all that, if you had the sort of data control that Cambridge Analytica had at your fingertips, a little statistical manipulation would be a temptation…
What the numbers prove is that our electoral system is not only wide open to abuse, but also hugely weighted against progressives of any sort.
Looking forward though, things may not be as grim as they appear.
The idea of a socialist UK is maybe anathema to the big money and the dark forces behind our current government, but it’s on its way.
According to YouGov, if the votes of 18-24 year olds alone were counted, and using the current electoral system, there would not be a single Tory MP in the House of Commons.
Across the age groups the percentage of nationalists (Plaid Cymru, SNP, Brexit) stays the same but the swing to Labour in the young is enormous. 56% in the 18-24 group compared to 14% in the 70+ group.
As they grow up our population will swing dramatically and inescapably to Labour and the progressive cause.
Labour will soon have a new leader and a clean sheet to move forward.
My advice to the new leadership would be to stop blaming themselves for the defeat in December but to concentrate on holding those that cheated and those that have manipulated our democracy to account.
Not only did they break existing laws but also their resources come from outside the UK.
The attitude should no longer be that the left is responsible for losing, but that the right is guilty of winning on false pretences with foreign backing.
We need to take the game to them; not agonise about our defeat. We must unite progressives and tackle the inadequacy of our electoral system and its vulnerability to corruption.