Popped along to the British Library on Saturday to see their rather marvelous Magnificent Maps exhibition. The display was very well presented, showing not just a history of maps and map-making but explaining some of the different reasons maps area created. There is always an agenda in creating a map, and understanding this can give all sorts of clues to the views and politics of the time in and place in which it was made.
The one piece which captured my attention for longest was Stephen Walter’s hand-drawn The Island. It depicts Greater London as it it were an island in a sea surrounded by satelite island-suburbs. The detail is phenominal.
I’d urge anyone in the area to go along. The BL is open late on Tuesdays as well as opening weekends, so you have no excuses.
We now have a shiny new government in the UK. To me, at least, the coalition does feel new and exciting allowing for the best from the two parties while tempering each of their excesses – natural Tory selfishness and rabid Liberal Democrat Europhillia. If they can hold it together (and it is a big if), and deliver on their promises, I think it will be well worth-while.
Now the Government has started to publish its programme, there is one issue in particular which seems to be causing a stir – especially on Twitter and in the blogosphere; the new 55% rule.
This has been reported as a change to the rule on votes of no-confidence in the House of Commons – in some places reported as a change in the threshold from a simple majority to 55% being needed before a government falls. As I see it – this is a fundamental misunderstanding.
Currently there are two ways in which a dissolution of parliament is triggered:
The Prime Minister requests a dissolution from The Queen
The Government loses a vote of no-confidence in parliament
(addendum – this does not trigger an automatic dissolution. The Government would fall, however, and if another could form with the confidence of the Commons then that would be the case)
Usually these would be triggered in different circumstances number 1 when the PM and government wishes it and number 2 when the government is weak enough for this no-confidence motion to be won by the opposition.
The proposal from the new coalition government is to change the constitutional convention on point 1 and just point 1. So, instead of the PM having the power to dissolve parliament on whim, he must get a motion passed by the Commons in favour of that dissolution. This is a transfer of power from the PM to Parliament – very much a good and democratic thing.
This is very different from a vote of no-confidence which would (usually) be instigated by the opposition and, to my understanding, is not due to change.
I’m all in favour of fixed-term parliaments, as long as they do not result in lame-duck governments which have no choice but to limp on to the end of their term (as fixed-term US administrations seem to). So keeping the current no-confidence rules and supplementing with the transfer of power to Parliament for the requesting of a dissolution seems a very sensible safeguard.
A few weeks late with this but once again The Middlemen assembled to take part in the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour film challenge. The idea is to write, film, edit and all-together produce a 5 minute film in one weekend. Each team is issued with a randomly selected title for their film along with a prop to use and a line of dialogue. Our selection can be seen on the left.
This being our second year taking part certainly helped. This time we managed to include music and far more in the way of special effects. I’m particularly pleased we managed to get some decent green-screen shots to work just using a DIY lamp I picked up at Class Ohlson to light it and a lot of patience.
Then last weekend we assembled again to take part in the screenings at the Apollo Cinema, Lower Regent Street. It’s always a thrill to see yourself and your name on the big screen. The other audience members seemed to laugh in all the right places too.
If you want to see last year’s offering for comparison then here it is:
So today we go to the polls. Finally. It has felt like a long-time coming.
I’d say that I am a political animal and the machinations have been fun to watch, but the inevitable descent into negative campaigning is also depressing. It seems to happen earlier and earlier with each election campaign. That said, it now seems we are heading for a hung parliament – it’s going to be fun watching one party or other furiously back-pedalling their way towards a coalition with those they slagged off as entirely untrustworthy just days before.
Our politics should be based far more on consensus and cooperation, and frankly anything which allows our MPs to vote more with their consciences and the representation of their constituents has got to be a good thing. The media keeps telling us that the man in the street is disillusioned with politicians and maybe that is true but I believe it’s the parties which are the problem. The parties have become all together too powerful and it’s been at the expense of proper debate in parliament, and the kind of consensus which is only possible if MP’s affiliation is far more loose. Is it too idealistic to think that our representatives should decide based on local views and needs and through persuasive argument rather than the whip?