Thursday, 5 May 2005


Apropos of the U.K. election, Stephen Bainbridge plays ‘predict the election’ and notes Labour’s massive (predicted) lead in seats isn’t matched by its lead in vote share:

It’s an interesting example, by the way, of just how skewed the British electoral system is against the Tories. If I’m right, a 3 point difference in the national polls leaves them almost 200 seats behind Labour.

The British electoral system isn’t skewed against the Tories—at least, not any more, as Scotland’s overrepresentation in Parliament has finally been done away with; it’s skewed in favor of whoever wins the plurality of the national vote. It’s almost (but not exactly) the exact same effect as we see in the U.S. electoral college: “landslides” in the electoral college are easily manufactured by relatively small differences in the popular vote.

The effect is also a partial consequence of Britain’s nonpartisan redistricting system; gerrymandering in the U.S. depresses the number of districts that are likely to “swing” from one party to the other, while the British process tends to produce a larger number of districts close to parity. (However, unlike post-Wesberry America, there is no requirement of strict population equality for constituencies in Britain.)

Shugart and Taagepera’s Seats and Votes explains things far better than I can, if you can find a copy.

I like to watch

There was a time when I was enough of a politics junkie to watch election returns live. These days I’ll settle for reading the BBC results on the laptop while I watch the NBA playoffs on TV.

At the moment, it looks like Labour is running slightly behind its 2001 seat total (a net loss of 21 seats), with the Tories benefitting the most (+14), but there’s real no risk of Labour losing its majority unless the polls are really wrong—the current 3.2% swing to the Conservatives would have to become a 6.5% swing for Labour to lose its majority, according to the awesome Swingometer. (þ: Raffi Melkonian for the Swingometer link.)

Hey jealousy

Jacqueline is seeing Serenity tomorrow. I’m stuck at home watching Enterprise.* Life isn’t fair.

Damn lies

My students are apparently laboring under the delusion that I am “hot.” Oy vey. I could buy that rating for Ms. Mueller or Dr. Galicki, to say nothing of the legendary Dr. Tegtmeier-Oertel, but not for me.

Elsewhere: Dr. Huffmon’s students love him (except the student who fails to properly recognize that he is the Messiah), but inexplicably fail to award the coveted chili pepper. Mass delusion, I tell you. (þ sorta-kinda: Mungowitz End)

Movie afternoon

Yesterday, a few of the first-year faculty (Suzanne, Kamilla, and Peter) and I went to see The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn; most thought it was a very good film. Although I don’t specialize in African politics, it seemed to be fairly faithful to the themes of sub-Saharan Africa—the semi-obvious inspiration for the film’s fake country of Mobutu is Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe was once viewed as the savior of his people but has spent much of the past three decades terrorizing his own population, but aspects of other central and southern African countries are present as well.

The broader point raised by some in the war party of the blogosphere (e.g. ☣ Little Green Footballs), that the choice to set the story in Africa instead of the Middle East somehow is a denial of the existence of Islamic-inspired terrorism, strikes me as rather stupid. For one, the terrorist attack in the story is a political assassination—not the preferred tactic of most Middle Eastern terror groups. More importantly, I think it’s easier to think seriously about the issues raised in the film if they’re not tied up in the 9/11 framework, especially since the film doesn’t want to make it as easy as “people with guns and bombs bad.”