Stuff explained Sunday: the problem with First Past the Post


A few weeks ago, I had my monthly meeting with the NEON action learning group for young campaigners. As we were waiting for people to arrive, we ended-up talking about constituencies in London that could (quite ironically) end-up with a Conservative MP because of young, left-wing people voting Green.

The Guardian wrote about it quite extensively; below you can see data on the percentage of left-leaning votes that could go towards the Greens:


Green voters tend to be younger, socially liberal and economically leftwing university graduates- highly educated but not necessarily high-earning. They are the people who wouldn’t vote Labour because they see it as not left wing enough, or not pro-immigrant enough, or not pro-human rights enough; who wouldn’t vote Lib Dem because of their coalition with the Conservatives and who wouldn’t ever consider voting Coservative at all.

Then- how come their voting for the party that they most prefer may mean their getting the one they least prefer? The answer may be that British voters are no longer happy with a two-party system; but we still have an electoral system that only works with two-party systems and ensures a two-party system is all we can get.

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Creative ways of representing the gender gap


So, a bit more than 50% of the world’s population are women. About 22% of the world’s elected legislative representatives are women (see here) and the UK is just about average on this front.As of January 2014, 9 women served as Head of State and 15 served as Head of Government.(There are 195 independent states in the world).

Sounds a bit abstract? Here’s another way of thinking about it:

Here’s a picture of world leaders and influential politicians participating to the Charlie Hebdo solidarity march. Look at it carefully:


An ultra-Orthodox Jewish paper in Israel decided to photoshop and crop out female politicians, because their editorial policy forbids pictures of women. Let’s see how this looks like:

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Monday graph: 30000 Brits claim unemployment benefits in EU countries


Fresh from the Guardian!

EU_Unemployment_DatablogThere’s some data missing that may be relevant (I’m thinking especially about Britons claiming unemployment benefits in the Netherlands) but it’s still very interesting.

One thing the graph does very well is to remind us that yes, British people on benefits in EU countries do exist, it doesn’t only happen the other way around.

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LGBT rights in Europe- does religion influence gay rights policy?


Recently I came accross this map by ILGA-Europe:


The percentages you see on each country represent an aggregated score calculated by ILGA; 0% would mean the lowest score for LGBT rights and 100% the highest.

The East-West divide seems striking, but why is it so?

Freedom House’s Zselyke Csaky discusses  the idea that it may have to do with religion:

“A somewhat more plausible explanation emphasises the conservative-religious component in many of the region’s countries. Religion definitely plays a role in Poland’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, which has been in effect since 1997 and is strongly supported by the Roman Catholic Church. Support from the church was essential to the success of Croatia’s referendum as well, with Catholic bishops urging Croatians to vote “yes” to the amendment outlawing gay marriage. In Romania, an Orthodox priest running on an antigay platform collected the 100,000 signatures necessary to stand as an independent candidate in the European Parliament elections in May. And Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been forging a conservative image for a country that had previously been the first in the region to allow the registration of same-sex partnerships, in 2007.”

Fair does, but let’s try to analyse the data a bit more closely:

So,the most gay-friendly countries: Continue reading

Media literacy: we’ve got a piece of info, now what? (and some data/thoughts on terrorism)


Media literacy (the art of how to consume media smartly and responsibly) is something that I’ve been meaning to write about for ages: and now since I’m back to blogging after a pretty long hiatus seems to be as good of a time as ever.

So, let’s take something that caught my eye today: a tweet from Nigel Farage; because he is, in the great words of Stewart Lee, “a character”.

Riiight…. So we got a simple, straightforward, piece of information: there’s this guy who’s a law enforcement chief (so he should know his stuff) and he’s saying that about 5000 EU nationals are deemed to present a risk of engaging in terrorist acts. Now, what do we make of this? What is it supposed to mean to us? Presented, as it is, by Mr. Farage in a series of anti-EU tweets, it is presumably supposed to mean: “The EU is a scary place full of terrorists, vote for me so I can get you out”.

Yet somehow I’m reminded of an old joke: “The overwhelming majority of adult deaths happen in bed- so keep out of it!”

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Stuff explained: What is open data and why should you care about it?


Open data is, basically,  the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. A piece of data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web talks about open data in this TED talk:


“Opening up data is fundamentally about more efficient use of resources and improving service delivery for citizens.  The effects of that are far reaching: innovation, transparency, accountability, better governance and economic growth.”


The idea would be: if you make your datasets open to the public, more researchers would have the opportunity to play with it and see what gives; potentially expanding knowledge. This can be particularly helpful for those operating on limited resources of their own: a lot of researchers using open data come from the global South/open data is being very successfully used by research informing policymakers in developed countries; see, for example, Ghana’s open data initiative or the Open Data Research network.

Now, Sir Berners-Lee makes another interesting distinction:

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Monday Graph: UKIP Maths


This Monday, I’m featuring a very interesting and witty resource I discovered on Twitter: UKIP Maths are debunking affirmation made by UKIP members in their campaigns, and fighting them with cold hard facts.

Let’s look first at this graph; column on the left shows the Government’s estimates of the percentage of the UK population born overseas; the column on the right is from a 2013 ONS poll and shows the percentage of the UK population that respondents intending to vote UKIP at the next elections believe was born overseas.


(In case you’re wondering, the general public estimated the number of foreign-born people in the UK as higher than the actual figure, at around 25%; but UKIP supporters overestimate it by a wider margin).

So, UKIP supporters tend to think there are much more immigrants in the country than there actually are. Fair enough.

But it gets more interesting…

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