Saturday, 28 February 2015

Chubut on fire

The centre of Welsh in Argentina has suffered from a wildfire for two weeks. Radio Wales reported this morning that the front extends over 19 miles. So far, there have been no human casualties, but hundreds of animals have died and a national wildlife reserve is under threat.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The End of February Agreement

I refuse (like Welsh Labour) to follow the media and call it the St David's Day Agreement, but there is no doubt that it moves forward Home Rule for Wales, something which Liberals have called for since the days of David Lloyd George. The official pdf is here.

There will be more knowledgeable  and considered  commentary on the whole of the Agreement elsewhere, so I will restrict myself to just a couple of reactions:

First, the devolution of responsibility for  larger (but not the largest) energy developments to Wales will reduce the conflict between planning authorities and the Department of Energy in London, which has been able practically to enforce consents.

Secondly, the UK Government is still minded "to consider the case and options for devolving further powers to the Assembly over Air Passenger Duty" in the face of opposition from English regional airports. This power has already passed to Scotland, but it seems to me that this particular devolution militates against an ecological improvement which could be made to APD, namely levying it per plane rather than per passenger as at present.

Finally, there is the fact that Whitehall is happy to give up extensive powers over elections in Wales.

This includes "deciding the electoral system; the number of constituencies, their boundaries and the ratio of regional Assembly Members to constituency Assembly Members; the timing of elections and therefore election terms; matters relating to the requirements of candidates to stand for election and the conduct of the elections themselves; and the circumstances in which a sitting Assembly Member can be removed [...] The Assembly should have control of campaign expenditure by political parties, controlled expenditure by third parties and party political broadcasts in relation to Assembly elections."

This means that unless Labour is dislodged from government in Cardiff Bay, we can forget about fair votes in local elections, which the Scots have enjoyed for  a number of years. There is also the danger of losing what proportionality there is in the National Assembly.

Fortunately, the regulation of political parties, including donations to political parties, will remain reserved.

One good thing is that we may see the lowering of the voting age to 16 in Wales.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Fairtrade fortnight

We are well in to Fairtrade Fortnight. Neath Port Talbot is a Fairtrade County. Morrisons should be praised for putting the event on the web page for their Neath store, though it is not exactly headlined. The nationwide grocer still leading the way for Fairtrade goods remains the Coop, though, in spite of all its travails in the last decade. I am disappointed that there is no Fairtrade event in the Coops in Pontardawe or Ammanford, though I see I have just missed one in Glynneath. There is at least to be a wine-tasting in Mumbles tomorrow.

For more details of Coop events, see

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Betty Driver, Violet Carson, Muriel Levy, Doris Campbell

Betty Driver's entry popped up in my feed from the ODNB this morning. It was good on her early variety and film career, and the later Coronation Street days for which she is most famous, but said nothing about her work for regional Children's Hour between those times.

Violet Carson's musical contribution to BBC North Region is also largely overlooked. A programme chosen at random is here. Carson, Muriel Levy and Doris Campbell also performed as The Three Semis. If the names of Campbell and Levy are not recognised nowadays, it is probably because they did not make it on to Coronation Street.

Monoculture and plague

Yet another story illustrating the folly of basing an economy on a single crop, and an imported one at that, comes from Tanzania.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Neath Abbey history group presentation tonight

A final reminder of a presentation on the industrial heritage of Neath Abbey organised by the indefatigable Vic James at the Longford Memorial Hall Committee Room at 7 o'clock this evening.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Life imitating art (literally)

It sounds like the plot of a Steve Martin, Michael Caine or George Clooney movie, but according to the Independent today, it actually happened. Two brothers put down a deposit on a 19th-century knock-off of a Goya, believing it to be genuine. After authentication failed, a court awarded them the picture for the price of the deposit rather than the full asking price of €270,000. Rather than being content with what was clearly a decent enough copy, if not a real Goya, the brothers tried a con in their turn.

They must have been overjoyed to agree a price of €€4m with a sheikh and receive 1.7m Sfr as a deposit - until they tried to pay the francs in to a Swiss bank when they found that they were also fake.

The sheikh, and the middleman who arranged the deal and was paid in real money, have disappeared.

Friday, 20 February 2015


I didn't actually predict that government income would have a big boost in January. It was more that I saw the disappointing tax returns in 2014 as a sign of a switch from PAYE to self-employment and that January would be a test as those assessed on a half-yearly basis, including the self-employed, had to settle up. It was a relief to see the ONS figures just released.

I still believe that the government was entitled to believe that the rest of the EU would recover at or near the same pace as the UK and that if France in particular had been in better economic health we would have seen more benefit over here.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

BBC News

Michael Church in the Independent expresses my feelings about BBC News Channel. True, he chooses different examples of trivia (Prince Charles' views on Islam, an Ed Miliband non-speech and a David Cameron non-response, the BAFTA awards) from the one that roused me: the extensive coverage of soap opera. The wallowing in the death of Anne Kirkbride (a simple report would have sufficed) was bad enough, but the recent extensive plugging of East Enders was too much. This dragged the BBC into the same area as the hyping of Fox movies and Sky TV productions by newspapers in another Murdoch company, News International, or, while Channel 5 was owned by Richard Desmond, the prominence given to Channel 5 content by the Daily Express and the Daily Star. BBC News Channel also runs too much footage from its partner in the States, ABC, even when the incidents covered would not rate a report if they had occurred in Scotland or Wales.

Church contrasts the trivia with the absence of breaking international news stories. He praises the corporation for its handling of the Charlie Hebdo massacres (though I would contend that its coverage of the ensuing demonstrations was excessive) and in my view it has done justice to Ukraine and political developments in Greece. It was right to report on Australian PM Tony Abbott's difficulties - though it was some way behind the Australian press in doing so, and rather superficially at that - the one point on which I disagree with Church. But it was slow to pick up on the political collapse in Libya and it has not addressed the implications of the fascist leanings of the government in Hungary, an EU member state. South Africa, an important Commonwealth member, receives spasmodic attention but has largely been forgotten since the Oscar Pistorius trial. This is a pity, because the rise of a new political party, the EFF, has been entertaining as well as newsworthy (more of this anon, I hope).

I share Church's enthusiasm for al-Jazeera. Its blind spot in Qatar, its sponsor, apart, it is remarkably objective and makes great use of local reporters. Church says that BBC "has the resources to effortlessly trump its rivals", It does not look like that when you see the extent of al-Jazeera's coverage. (RT is probably its equal in financial muscle, but it is so obviously the mouthpiece of Putin's Russia that it is not in the same league as a news organisation.)

I hope the BBC takes note of Church's criticism and suggestions - apart from the removal of the weather forecast. That would be too un-British.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

How long can the Telegraph survive?

The London Daily Telegraph used to be one of the two or three most respected journals in the UK. Although traditionally associated with the conservative shires and the military, the accuracy and depth of its coverage of labour matters was second to none. (This was the main reason why my father, a life-long socialist, had it as his regular broadsheet, though the bridge column and the excellent crossword may have contributed.) And of course it was very well informed about comings and goings in the administration, royalty and the upper classes.

The rot started when the families owning the title sold out to Conrad Black. When the latter's businesses unwound, the Telegraph passed to the Barclay brothers. One can at least say of Black that he knew the newspaper business. Although the Barclays had been involved in newspaper ventures in the past (e.g. The European, whose objective reporting on continental matters they switched to an anti-EU stance) but their understanding of journalism was clearly lacking. Their management of the Telegraph has been marked by a series of gimmicky appointments, chronicled by Private Eye, which have improved neither its profitability nor, it seems, the morale of the journalists who remain. Now the most senior of them has jumped ship. On the Our Democracy web pages, Peter Oborne explains why.

His article deserves reading in full. He outlines the status of the paper when he joined and the decline in standards under a succession of editors (or "heads of content"), leading to blunders which would be ridiculed in a red-top tabloid. Worse, as the country's revulsion against big business corruption tops the domestic headlines, is the way that the demands of big advertisers has been seen to distort its presentation of the news.

It has long been axiomatic in quality British journalism that the advertising department and editorial should be kept rigorously apart. There is a great deal of evidence that, at the Telegraph, this distinction has collapsed.
Late last year I set to work on a story about the international banking giant HSBC. Well-known British Muslims had received letters out of the blue from HSBC informing them that their accounts had been closed. No reason was given, and it was made plain that there was no possibility of appeal. "It’s like having your water cut off," one victim told me.
When I submitted it for publication on the Telegraph website, I was at first told there would be no problem. When it was not published I made enquiries. I was fobbed off with excuses, then told there was a legal problem. When I asked the legal department, the lawyers were unaware of any difficulty. When I pushed the point, an executive took me aside and said that "there is a bit of an issue" with HSBC. Eventually I gave up in despair and offered the article toopenDemocracy. It can be read here.
[There follows detail of further spiked stories about HSBC]
The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year theTelegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.
The paper’s comment on last year’s protests in Hong Kong was bizarre. One would have expected theTelegraph of all papers to have taken a keen interest and adopted a robust position. Yet (in sharp contrast to competitors like theTimes)I could not find a single leader on the subject.
At the start of December the Financial Times, the Times and the Guardian all wrote powerful leaders on the refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs into Hong Kong. The Telegraph remained silent. I can think of few subjects which anger and concern Telegraph readers more.
On 15 September the Telegraph published a commentary by the Chinese ambassador, just before the lucrative China Watch supplement. The headline of the ambassador’s article was beyond parody: ‘Let’s not allow Hong Kong to come between us’. On 17 September there was a four-page fashion pull-out in the middle of the news run, granted more coverage than the Scottish referendum. The Tesco false accounting story on 23 September was covered only in the business section. By contrast it was the splash, inside spread and leader in the Mail. Not that the Telegraph is short of Tesco coverage. Tesco pledging £10m to fight cancer, an inside peak at Tesco’s £35m jet and ‘Meet the cat that has lived in Tesco for 4 years’ were all deemed newsworthy.
Peter Oborne is an extremely scrupulous writer. (His books on Basil d'Oliveira and Pakistani cricket which I prize testify to that.) His observations on the state of the Telegraph may therefore not be dismissed as facile or unfounded. The management of the paper is beginning to look like the bridge of the Costa Concordia.

See also

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Supporting pubs

CAMRA has mounted a campaign to encourage George Osborne to cut beer duty in the budget of 18th March. I would not object to such a cut, but there are other areas of taxation which deserve more attention. Moreover, the UK is home to whisky (not forgetting Penderyn) and even whiskey and it would be unfair to widen the historical gap between duty on beer and on the water of life again.

However, the ostensible reason for the campaign, of keeping pubs open, is specious. Whatever reduction is applied to beer in public houses will also be made to beer in supermarkets. What would help pubs, and also reduce destructive private drinking, would be a step no government now dare take: restrict the sale of alcohol to those premises whose main business it is.

Neath Abbey history group has a Facebook page

Monday, 16 February 2015

Just because it's legal doesn't mean you have to do it

Janet Street-Porter is outspokenly honest, possibly too much so, or she would be director-general of the BBC by now. She now makes a living from her writing and, as so many of her fellow commentators* do, relies on a corporate structure to manage her finances, as her article in last Saturday's Indy explained:

My company is tiny, and its income is derived from my work as a writer and broadcaster, and the accounts are filed at Companies House. My bank is HSBC, but I do not have any offshore accounts.

She is open about the level of her earnings:

I’ve just paid HMRC more than £26,000 in corporation tax, on top of the thousands in PAYE on my salary. I’m not complaining – I carefully saved the money throughout the year


Small businesses based in the UK operate under a completely different regime from the huge multinational companies such as Starbucks, Amazon and Google, or the private clients of HSBC, or the thousands of non-doms who live in the UK but who possess vast wealth in trust funds carefully structured to minimise tax. [...]  how can one person, not a pop star or a footballer, pay a 10th of the sum handed over by Starbucks – a huge company with almost 800 outlets in the UK? 
The size of JS-P's tax bill implies a comfortable income, but she is unlikely to be near the top of the commentariat rich list, which is probably dominated by chaps and Polly Toynbee. So it would be nice if those on the other side of her argument about tax dodges or who are comfortable with income disparity in this country would also publish their annual income.

* or IT contractors.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Nick Clegg is now less, not more, insipid

Jeremy Browne always was an outlier in the Liberal Democrat party. Those of his constituents that I know assure me that he is a good constituency MP and a loyal liberal, but it has seemed to me from soon after his election in 2010 that his liberalism was more of the Alderman Roberts variety.

His outburst in the Independent has given the opportunity for activists in the party to respond, showing how much the party as a whole disagrees with the Conservative policies he is happy to go along with. I would contend that Nick Clegg is not being "insipid" in seeking to lead the party where it wants to go, rather than continue with a coalition consensus. It should be noted that the Conservatives were first to break this consensus with their declarations over nuclear weaponry and restrictions on human rights. It has always been possible to act as a responsible partner in government for the sake of the financial stability of the UK while maintaining the party's distinct identity and I am sorry that this line was not pursued from the very start of the coalition.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Legal aid disparity worse than I thought

I should have posted this link last month, but I genuinely thought that Andy McSmith's story was so shocking that it would be picked up by other media. I have previously complained that while legal aid is still available for defendants in serious fraud cases, it is now much less so for ordinary people who most need it. Now it is clear that it is also available to the worst of criminals.

One of the most shocking murders to take place on British soil in recent years was the shooting of PC Ian Broadhurst on a street in Leeds on Boxing Day 2003[...] His killer was David Bieber, an American wanted for murder in Florida who had entered the UK illegally in 1996. He was arrested in Gateshead. Why he was in Gateshead was never explained. One suspicion is that he had gone there to carry out a contract killing.

This man, who had thousands of pounds in cash on him when caught, has made ample use of the legal aid system which the Government is busy cutting, putting justice beyond the means of many people who need it. From inside prison, where he must stay at least until the year 2041, he has launched a series of legal actions against the prison authorities. In July, a furious judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, exclaimed that they were all designed to make his life behind bars easier. He added: “All of the claims he has made have been funded by legal aid.”

What the judge did not have to hand was a global figure for how much Bieber has cost the legal aid system so far, but after a Freedom of Information request, the Ministry of Justice has totted it up. It comes to £1.87 short of £277,600.

Just think how many distressed evictees that could have helped.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Labour rewriting history again

Once again, we heard Labour in the form of Stephen Timms reinforcing the too-readily accepted wisdom that there was a global recession in 2008. (At least he did not go on to suggest that Labour had nothing to do with the credit crunch.) I would only add to what I said twelve months ago that Canada, which managed its financial affairs better than either the UK or US, was also relatively unscathed and that we should all be glad that the chancellor persuaded Mark Carney to take over as Bank of England governor.

Mr Timms was attempting to explain away Labour's poor record on youth unemployment. He was eloquent in presenting the case for Labour's "jobs guarantee" in a debate on Wednesday afternoon. Indeed, he was probably the only Labour front-bencher who could have made it sound plausible for more than a second. But he glossed over its crucial flaw, which is that it cannot be paid for without more borrowing or taxes. The proposed mechanism, a tax on bankers' bonuses, is as substantial as a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow. As the last Labour chancellor admitted shortly after the coalition replaced the bonus tax with a more reliable means of extracting money from the banks, "it will be a one-off thing because, frankly, the very people you are after here are very good at getting out of these things and... will find all sorts of imaginative ways of avoiding it in the future".

Earlier, at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron delivered this squelch, which I am sorry went unreported on BBC bulletins:

Last week, the Labour leader asked me six times about the tax treatment of hedge funds. Now it turns out that the treatment he is complaining about was introduced in the autumn of 1997 by a Labour Government. It further turns out that it was extended in 2007. Who was in power in 2007? It was Labour. Who was the City Minister in 2007? I think we’ll find it was Ed somebody.

It has to be said that though Conservatives voted en bloc against Labour's budgets and other major financial statements, neither David Cameron nor George Osborne seems to have raised the treatment of hedge funds in the House when Labour was in power. The coalition has closed some loopholes but not all. That does not detract from the Blair/Brown administrations', close as they were to the big financial institutions, readiness to create opportunities for certain people to shift large amounts of money offshore.

Government must now take action over restitution

We have seen the legal cosh applied to planning committees to force through such unwanted developments as windfarms in areas of natural beauty, supermarkets where ample shopping provision exists and power-stations burning carbon-based fuels. Defending sensible decisions through the appeal process (note there is no possibility of appeal against an irrational approval of development) is expensive enough if a council is successful, but there is always the threat of having to pay all the costs if unsuccessful. Developers usually have deep pockets and can ante up for powerful legal teams.

Now a central government agency has been coshed. The Serious Fraud Office has been billed for the defence costs as well as its own in the case referred to here. The SFO is said to be considering appeal against the costs order. If the SFO is unsuccessful, there will be a powerful disincentive to its pursuing similar cases in future.

Given the appearance of dishonesty on the part of the defendants it seems to me that the SFO had every right to pursue them. As the judge in the criminal case opined:

after five days of legal submissions, Lord Justice Hickinbottom threw the Serious Fraud Office's case out saying that the six defendants had not acted unlawfully regardless of whether or not they had acted dishonestly [My emphasis]

So, as the law stands, there is no practical means of enforcing restitution of mineral extraction in this country if the extractor contrives to move ownership offshore. This is a serious worry not only for the areas round here sitting on coal, but also for those where fracking is possible.

Fracking is not economic at present because of the falling price of petroleum. However, it may become more attractive in England and Wales when Saudi Arabia turns off the taps again. The main objection to fracking (apart from its potentiating earth movements) based on experience in the States is that slipshod or minimal restitution, including capping no longer profitable wells, leads to contamination of ground water. Since the economic viability of fracking in this country is going to be marginal compared with that in the vast plains of the US, the temptation to skimp on restitution legally is obvious.

Only changes in the law can prevent this. At the very least, adequate funds for restitution should be put into an independent account held onshore. Ideally, the liberalisation of offshore and brass-plate companies, which has led to losses to the exchequer as well as communities, should be reversed.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Lizabeth Scott

I have just caught up with the death of Lizabeth Scott, such a disturbing presence in US films noirs which received frequent outings on BBC TV in my younger days. She would be better known today if her career had not been interrupted by an ill-advised (as it turned out) court action, as the Washington Post obituary outlined:

An article that appeared in 1954 in Confidential magazine linked Miss Scott to a Hollywood lesbian set. She sued the magazine for $2.5 million, alleging it portrayed her in a “vicious, slanderous and indecent” manner. But the 1957 trial ended without a verdict, and the scandal took its toll on her career.

These days, Sandra Bullock can snog Scarlett Johansson at an awards ceremony and neither suffers from a whispering campaign or loses pull at the box office. An actor or actress can be asked about their private life and tell journalists to mind their own business (provided they do it politely). But in the days when the major studios ruled Hollywood, the studio publicity machines  required their stars' images to be 100% heterosexual and monogamous (albeit serially if necessary). Lizabeth Scott was clearly a survivor (she outlived most of her contemporaries, after all) but she could have tasted more success. There are some ways in which we live in more civilised times.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Malcolm Burge killed by the machine

An indication that we are moving even closer to the world of Michael Frayn's "A Very Private Life" came with this story. The death of Malcolm Burge will no doubt be used by Labour to attack the "swingeing cuts in the benefits system" and coalition spokesmen will reply with some justification that not only would Labour have applied austerity measures if it had been returned in 2010 but Labour has not shown how it would restore all the cuts it objects to without spinning up another debt spiral.

But to me Mr Burge's desperate end represents something else: a gulf between a government (central and increasingly local) IT-based machine which has no time for people who are temperamentally or by reason of lack of skill unable to communicate technologically.

MPs trumpet their enjoyment of face-to-face campaigning and that they are in touch with their constituents. It is a pity that once they are in power they do not insist that civil servants build in continuing options for personal communication with "service users" (dreadful term, but I suppose it is better than "clients").

Monday, 9 February 2015

JP Marquand not forgotten in his own country

I have just come across Terry Teachout's blog. Further to my posting about "So Little Time", I was pleased to see Mr Teachout quoting from another of Marquand's books (which I confess I do not know):

On security:

“You never particularly envied security in others until your own was gone. In fact, if you possessed it yourself, you gave it a different name when you observed it in other people. You called it complacency or dullness or unawareness.”

On ideology and intolerance:

“All at once enthusiasms and loyalty and beliefs became very tiresome. The intelligentsia, the bright planners, working on those streamlined blueprints for the brave new world, were always repeating themselves. She had heard enough of the coined jargon that was all mixed up with cheap synonyms. It made no sense. There was something mechanical about Tom and all those boys with minds like steel traps. Minds equipped with dogmatic lucidity. There was some basic lack of understanding in spite of all their aptitudes. They had convictions, but they still seemed to be working out just what the war was all about. They stood for freedom of speech, except for disloyal fascist columnists, freedom from fear, except that Tom was going to put the fear of God into certain industrialists who still lived in the Dark Ages, and freedom from want, except for the obstructionists who could not see the light. Or you could turn to the other side, to the ones who said the country would be ruined by inflation, and that it was being run by crackpots and Communists. It made her sick to death to hear those people talk, too, because they also had their own jargon and their own intellectual foibles. There was no common understanding any longer, no patience or tolerance—nobody even wanted to understand.”
John P. Marquand, B.F.’s Daughter
Now if only I can find a way of persuading Mr Teachout to read Nigel Balchin.

Friday, 6 February 2015

European human rights asserted again

Presumably this is another judgment which Tories and Kippers feel should never have been reached: the court of appeal has ruled that foreign embassies cannot use exclusion clauses in English law to justify denying employee's rights in the UK.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Prehistoric weapons in water

I recently watched Alice Roberts' new TV documentary "Digging for Britain"on BBC4 and also came across a repeat of Neil Oliver's programme on Celtic Britain on the Yesterday channel. In both, the finding of prehistoric weapons, both bronze and iron, used and pristine, in ancient watercourses was discussed. The prevailing wisdom appears to be that these are ritual depositions. However, I do recall from excursions to North Wales when younger being told by an artist in Capel Curig that it was the custom of the older farmers to store iron tools on the bed of local streams. Their experience was that the tools were protected from rust, presumably because there was practically no oxygen dissolved in those upland streams. I wonder if the practice was a rationalisation of a race memory or if the archaeologists have misread a practical solution to the problem of corrosion on the part of our ancestors.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Worries about latest choice for child abuse inquiry chair

Minister Theresa May has taken the sensible step of ensuring that her new appointment is as far removed from the UK establishment as possible while still being familiar with English common law systems. However, I see that criticisms have been levelled at Justice Lowell Goddard in her home country of New Zealand. While any posting on the Web should be taken with a pinch of salt, I trust that the good lady will be tasked with the specific allegations of covering-up when she comes before Keith Vaz's select committee for approval.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Labour doesn't want experience on local councils

Considering that the Williams Commission proposals for fewer, larger councils will require virtually professional members, I found the headline news from Leighton Andrews' paper today contradictory. I don't agree with the creation of "super councils" as I have blogged before, but if we are to have them, they will require councillors with responsibility for larger geographical areas and council budgets, needing more travelling time and probably having to grasp more complex policy. In short, a long way from the volunteer spare-time servant of the community characterised in his interview on Radio Wales this afternoon. Increasing the turnover of councillors will put more power in the hands of permanent staff.

Peter Black is by no means an old man, but he is one of those who would lose his seat on Swansea City Council under the Andrews scheme. As Peter pointed out on that same "Good evening, Wales" programme, the difficulty of moving on superannuated and hidebound councillors is largely a Labour problem which the law should not be called upon to solve.

If Mr Andrews truly wants to reinforce the public service aspect of council membership, he should retain the existing council set-up while allowing authorities voluntarily to share services where necessary. He should legislate to go back to councillors' being paid an allowance to compensate for time off work, rather than being obliged to accept or reject a salary. He could also insist on councils holding all meetings outside normal working hours.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Essex model encourages LibDems

I generally avoid published surveys and predictions, even when they favour LibDems, but I couldn't resist the headline opportunity. The details (anticipating 48 LD seats after May 7th) are in the Guardian.

Namibian electronic voting

As this blog entry suggests, Namibia - not the richest country in Africa - seems an unlikely arena for the first national election on the continent to be conducted via electronic voting machines. There were unexpected delays in producing the results, but otherwise the exercise was reported to be well-managed and its conduct "free and fair".

The voting machines were purchased from the Bharat company in India at what appears to be a bargain price compared with US technology. The company claims that, once programmed at the factory, they are tamper-proof. (Reports of interference with e-voting machines in some States have inhibited their wider adoption in the USA.) This is all to the good, but for the sake of transparency in democracy, the actual logic used needs to be made public and, if necessary, debated before it is signed off for incorporation.