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Archive for the ‘Political campaigning’ Category

Tuesday
Jan 24,2012

It is well known that there has been a major drop in crime in New York.  What is more that drop in crime was twice the rate of fall in crime across the United States and has been sustained over a twenty year period.

So what was the secret of success?  And could it be translated to the UK and to London in particular?

Professor Franklin Zimring of the School of Law at Berkeley has applied scientific analysis to the figures and has come up with a number of interesting conclusions.  The improvement was not so-called “zero tolerance” policing, focussing on stopping the spread of crime into new areas.  Instead, the results were delivered by “hot spot” policing – robust, sustained policing of those areas with the highest rate of crime (especially violent crime).

The aim should be harm-minimisation as far as things like drug use are concerned (disrupting public drug markets where associated violent crime tends to happen, for example, rather than trying to eliminate drug use itself).

Crucially, he also finds that police numbers matter – provided those numbers are directed to the areas with the highest crime and, when there, officers police “robustly”.

He is also not convinced that simply locking criminals up cuts crime.  As he puts it:

“We used to think that all we could do with high-rate offenders is lock ‘em up or they’re going to offend on the street. But NYC has 28 % fewer people locked up in 2011 than in 1990. And it has 80 % less crime. The [individual] criminals didn’t go anywhere. They’re just doing less crime. So the bedrock of prediction on which incapacitate imprisonment was built, has turned out to be demonstrably false. And the proof of that is in New York City.

The data shows that the criminal activity of people coming back to NYC from the prisons dropped as the crime decline proceeded. In 1990 the odds that a prison released from prison coming to NYC would get reconvicted of a felony over the next three years was 28 %. But over the next 17 years, the odds of being reconvicted of a felony dropped to 10 percent.

The street situation changed and so had the things that their friends were doing. People were now smoking marijuana and drinking wine. Cocaine use was down. Street robbery has gone down 84 %. Burglaries 86 %. And that meant that the people that the released offender used to hang out with as a persistent offender from a high-risk neighborhood, are no longer doing those things. So he’s not doing crimes with them.”

This obviously has implications for the current debates on prison numbers and suggests that Kenneth Clarke’s approach is potentially right, if – and it is a big if – the rest of  Zimring’s conclusions are taken on board.

So what else does his work mean for policy here?

It certainly implies that police numbers are important and that the last Labour Government (and the last Mayor in London) were right to boost the number of police.  The cuts envisaged by the present Government and those that are being carried out quietly in London by the present Mayor are therefore almost certainly unhelpful. (The lack of certainty derives from the fact that it does, of course, depend on what the police officers remaining are actually doing and whether their activity is in fact robustly tackling crime hot spots.)

It also suggests that policies favouring policing the suburbs at the expense of the areas with higher crime that tend to be in the inner cities are misconceived.

I suspect that the robust and sustained “disruptive” policing of crime hot spots is consistent with the approach that Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe would wish to follow.  It will be interesting to see whether this is encouraged by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC – pronounced “Mopsy”) or whether the MOPC will be nervous about the political implications in the run up to the Mayoral elections in May.

 

Monday
Jan 2,2012

Michael White, the Guardian’s veteran Assistant Editor, has an article today assessing the shape of UK politics over the year ahead.  Although sometimes verbose (a problem I am well aware that I suffer from myself), he is usually extremely perceptive.  Today’s article is therefore well worth reading and I agree with many of his conclusions.

However, there is one line in it that is total nonsense.  After pointing out the threat that reinvigorated Boris Johnson would present to David Cameron if re-elected to the London Mayorality in May, he goes on to say:

“If Ken beats Boris he will make Miliband’s task harder.”

The reality is the exact opposite.  So much so that David Cameron has recognised that his number one priority in 2012 is to ensure that London’s City Hall must remain in Conservative hands.  Not the economy; not the growing housing crisis; not Europe and the Eurozone; but London.  That is the Prime Minister’s priority for the coming year.

Why?  He knows that a Ken Livingstone victory in May would be an essential first step for the Labour Party to win a General Election in 2015.

He also knows that Ken Livingstone’s flair for articulating the impact of Tory policies on the people of London would resonate with millions elsewhere in the country.

The Prime Minister’s grasp on history is probably a little shaky, so he may not be aware that a Labour-run London County Council in the 1930s laid the groundwork for the victorious and reforming Labour Government of 1945: trialling and showcasing how the power of Government can be harnessed to boost the chances of the vast majority of the population.

However, Cameron’s instincts will tell him that a Labour Mayor in City Hall would demonstrate that there  is an alternative to a Conservative-led Government more concerned with the interests of a privileged minority than the rest of society.  (A Conservative trait also shown by Mayor Johnson and his penchant for meeting bankers and representatives of the financial services in preference to other interests in London.)

So if Cameron is so desperate for Ken Livingstone not to be elected in May, it follows that Ed Miliband is, if anything, even keener to see the Conservatives turned out of City Hall in four months time.  This is where Michael White is wrong and dwelling in a 1980s past.  Ken Livingstone has more positive and supportive relations with the national Labour leadership than ever before.

A Livingstone victory will be a boost for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party.  It will be a sign that the people of London have rejected not only a Conservative Mayor but also those Conservative policies being pursued by his friends holding national office.

Tuesday
Dec 13,2011

Telephone message received: “Please call Geoff in Lord Strathclyde’s office as soon as possible. He would like to have a meeting with you before the Christmas break if at all possible.”

I have to admit to being intrigued.  This would be the first time that Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde, Leader of the House of Lords, has ever asked to see me. And before Christmas …..??!!

I dial and speak to Geoff:

“Hello, this is Lord Toby Harris.  I had a message to ring.”

“Oh yes. Thank you Lord Harris.  Tom Strathclyde was keen to have a meeting with you and Lord Kirkham  in the next week or two before the Recess.”

This was even more intriguing: I have never even spoken to Lord Kirkham, the South Yorkshire billionaire, founder of the DFS Furniture Company and Chairman of the Conservative Party Treasurers.

“Are you sure you’ve got the right Lord Harris?  What’s the meeting about?”

“Oh, fundraising, I think.”

“What sort of fund-raising?”

“I guess, it is for the elections next May.”

“I think you have got the wrong Lord Harris.”

“Oh, err, are you sure?”

“Yes, I think you want Lord Harris of Peckham.”

Of course, Lord Harris of Peckham is not quite in the same league as Lord Kirkham: he is only worth £285 million and he only does carpets.

Still, it is good to hear that the Leader of the House of Lords and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is doing his bit for the Conservative Party coffers from his Parliamentary office with the support of his civil servants ….

Thursday
Nov 24,2011

What is probably the final ordinary meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM, Deputy MOPC Presumptive, is NOT in the Chair (he is on paternity leave).  Instead, Reshard Auladin, the Deputy Chair, is presiding over what is hardly going to be a quiet somnolent meeting of the Authority.

Apart from the usual items on the agenda, like the Commissioner’s report (will he mention Tasers?), there is also the “Policing London Business Plan” that will lead to a lively (and political – given the approaching Mayoral elections) debate on the gap in the Met’s budget, the Mayor’s instruction to keep police numbers up without the money to do it (apart from £30 million that the Mayor is transferring to the Met from the Fire Service budget, about which the Fire Brigades Union threatened demonstrations outside the MPA meeting), the cutbacks in Safer Neighbourhood Teams and their sergeants etc etc.  And the report of the MPA’s Civil Liberties Panel on the DNA database (topical with the Government’s plans to remove potential rapists and others from the database) is also to be discussed.

But the meeting has started with a question submitted by Samantha Rigg-David on behalf of the United Families and Friends Campaign about the procession down Whitehall on Saturday 29th October in remembrance of those who have died in custody or state care and what the Campaign says was the disproportionate, aggressive and degrading treatment the families received from the Police after the procession had handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street.  Shortly after the 29th, I had heard about the incidents referred to in the question and had asked for a briefing from the Met about what had happened. I never received a response, so the answer to the public question is the first time that the Met has given their version of events.
That version was rather different to that of the questioner. However, the Commissioner gave an undertaking personally to review the CCTV material of the incident and to communicate directly with those involved. Surprisingly (given the fact that similar events have been organised over the last thirteen years), it was suggested that there had been a failure of communication between the organisers of the demonstration and the police.
What is not clear is how easily such issues will be aired and pursued once the MPA is abolished.

Tuesday
Sep 27,2011

The first really big applause line in Ed Miliband’s Leader’s Speech this afternoon was his affirmation that he would be true to himself, his own instincts and values.  And the big roar of approval came when he said:

“You know, I’m not Tony Blair.

I’m not Gordon Brown either.

Great men, who in their different ways, achieved great things.

I’m my own man.”

And then later he brought the Conference to its feet with a mid-speech standing ovation following a passage on the NHS:

“There is no greater public interest than our National Health Service.

Cherished by all of us.  Founded by Labour.  Saved by Labour.  Today defended by Labour once again.

Why does Britain care so much for the NHS?  Because, more than any other institution in our country, the values of the NHS are our values.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  Or what you earn.  The NHS offers the highest quality care when we need it.    ….

And when I look at everything this Tory Government is doing, it is the NHS that shocks me most.

Why?  Because David Cameron told us he was different.  You remember.  The posters.  The soundbites.  David Cameron knew the British people did not trust the Tories with our NHS.  So he told us he wasn’t the usual type of Tory.  And he asked for your trust.

And then he got into Downing Street.  And within a year – within a year – he’d gone back on every word he’d said.

No more top-down reorganisations?  He betrayed your trust.

No more hospital closures?  He betrayed your trust.

No more long waits?  He betrayed your trust.

And the biggest betrayal of all?  The values of the NHS.  Britain’s values.  The values he promised to protect.  Betrayed.

Hospitals to be fined millions of pounds if they break the rules of David Cameron’s free-market healthcare system.  The old values that have failed our economy now being imported to our most prized institution: the NHS.

Let me tell David Cameron this.  It is the oldest truth in politics.  He knows it and the public knows it.

YOU CAN’T TRUST THE TORIES WITH THE NHS.”

The Conference loved it.  It is the sort of stuff that will reinvigorate the Party and the Party’s base.

And that after all is the first step to winning in 2015.

Sunday
Sep 25,2011

Ken Livingstone was in fine form on the first afternoon of the Labour Party Conference: name-checking Ed Balls (“I will put ordinary Londoners first by backing Ed Balls’ plan for a cut in VAT not Boris Johnson’s tax cuts for the richest.”) before perorating with a loyalist paeon to the wisdom of Ed Miliband; some clear pledges on policing (“Any cut to front-line police by Boris will be reversed.”); and a series of passages emphasising the difference in his approach to Mayor Boris Johnson.

He promised to “put ordinary Londoners first” in his campaign for the Mayoral election in May 2012, pointing out that Mayor Boris Johnson has met representatives of the bankers more times than he has met the police since he became Mayor. 

And in a reference to the present Mayor’s aspiration to lead the Conservative Party and his part-time writing for the Daily Telegraph (netting him some £250,000 per year), Ken Livingstone spelt it out: “Unlike Boris Johnson I am in it for London, not for myself.  So I will freeze my salary and the salary of my senior staff for four years. And I will take only one salary – no moonlighting.”

And in a powerful dig:

“What is the difference between the rioters, and a gang of over-privileged arrogant students vandalising restaurants and throwing chairs through windows in Oxford?

“Come on Boris – what’s the moral difference between your Bullingdon vandalism as a student and the criminality of the rioters?”

The first standing ovation of the Conference followed.

Friday
Sep 23,2011

I am not getting too excited about it – in fact, I am not getting excited at all – but “Total Politics” have been publishing their latest ranking of political blogs in the UK.  This year, the arrangements changed requiring a lot more effort from those who wanted to vote and I don’t know what that did to the level of participation in the exercise, as the background data is not published.

However, for what it is worth, this blog has been rated as 228th in the list of the top three hundred political blogs in the UK.  Apparently, this is an upward move: I was (although not aware of it) in 271st place last year.  At least, I am above Lynne Featherstone who comes in at 252nd.

The blog is also 33rd in the list of the top one hundred Labour blogs and personally I am 87th in the list of the top one hundred Labour bloggers (this is presumably not a bad result as David Miliband is at 72nd place and Ed Balls at 73rd with Tony Benn in the 90th spot).

 

Monday
Aug 8,2011

I gather that the Total Politics Blog Awards are now in progress.  I want to make it quite clear that I will not be in the least bit affronted should you chose to vote for this blog by clicking here.

Tuesday
Jul 26,2011

An intriguing story is drawn to my attention by Team Cymru, leading experts on cybersecurity issues.  This highlights some strange goings on with the electronic voting system used in the 2004 American Presidential Elections in the State of Ohio.  As I remember it, early exit polls from Ohio suggested that John Kerry had won the state but that as the votes were counted it appeared that the exit polls were wrong and that Ohio had voted for George W Bush.  The electoral college votes from Ohio were pivotal and had they gone for Kerry he would have become President. 

The report says:

“A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio’s 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush.

The filing also includes the revealing deposition of the late Michael Connell. Connell served as the IT guru for the Bush family and Karl Rove. Connell ran the private IT firm GovTech that created the controversial system that transferred Ohio’s vote count late on election night 2004 to a partisan Republican server site in Chattanooga, Tennessee owned by SmarTech. That is when the vote shift happened, not predicted by the exit polls, that led to Bush’s unexpected victory. Connell died a month and a half after giving this deposition in a suspicious small plane crash.

Additionally, the filing contains the contract signed between then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Connell’s company, GovTech Solutions. Also included that contract a graphic architectural map of the Secretary of State’s election night server layout system. 

Cliff Arnebeck, lead attorney in the King Lincoln case, exchanged emails with IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore. Arnebeck asked Spoonamore whether or not SmarTech had the capability to “input data” and thus alter the results of Ohio’s 2004 election. Spoonamore responded: “Yes. They would have had data input capacities. The system might have been set up to log which source generated the data but probably did not.”

Spoonamore explained that “they [SmarTech] have full access and could change things when and if they want.”

Arnebeck specifically asked “Could this be done using whatever bypass techniques Connell developed for the web hosting function.” Spoonamore replied “Yes.”

Spoonamore concluded from the architectural maps of the Ohio 2004 election reporting system that, “SmarTech was a man in the middle. In my opinion they were not designed as a mirror, they were designed specifically to be a man in the middle.”

A “man in the middle” is a deliberate computer hacking setup, which allows a third party to sit in between computer transmissions and illegally alter the data. A mirror site, by contrast, is designed as a backup site in case the main computer configuration fails.

Spoonamore claims that he confronted then-Secretary of State Blackwell at a secretary of state IT conference in Boston where he was giving a seminar in data security. “Blackwell freaked and refused to speak to me when I confronted him about it long before I met you,” he wrote to Arnebeck.

On December 14, 2007, then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who replaced Blackwell, released her evaluation and validation of election-related equipment, standards and testing (Everest study) which found that touchscreen voting machines were vulnerable to hacking with relative ease.

Until now, the architectural maps and contracts from the Ohio 2004 election were never made public, which may indicate that the entire system was designed for fraud. In a previous sworn affidavit to the court, Spoonamore declared: “The SmarTech system was set up precisely as a King Pin computer used in criminal acts against banking or credit card processes and had the needed level of access to both county tabulators and Secretary of State computers to allow whoever was running SmarTech computers to decide the output of the county tabulators under its control.”

Spoonamore also swore that “…the architecture further confirms how this election was stolen. The computer system and SmarTech had the correct placement, connectivity, and computer experts necessary to change the election in any manner desired by the controllers of the SmarTech computers.”

In the Connell deposition, plaintiffs’ attorneys questioned Connell regarding gwb43, a website that was live on election night operating out of the White House and tied directly into SmarTech’s server stacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee which contained Ohio’s 2004 presidential election results.

The transfer of the vote count to SmarTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee remains a mystery. This would have only happened if there was a complete failure of the Ohio computer election system. Connell swore under oath that, “To the best of my knowledge, it was not a fail-over case scenario – or it was not a failover situation.”

Bob Magnan, a state IT specialist for the secretary of state during the 2004 election, agreed that there was no failover scenario. Magnan said he was unexpectedly sent home at 9 p.m. on election night and private contractors ran the system for Blackwell.

The architectural maps, contracts, and Spoonamore emails, along with the history of Connell’s partisan activities, shed new light on how easy it was to hack the 2004 Ohio presidential election.”

Interesting, if true.

Saturday
May 7,2011

I used to pride myself on being able to read accurately the mood of my local area and predict reasonably accurately its election results.   However, when I cast my vote in the AV referendum on Thursday morning, I have to confess that I had absolutely no inkling that I was voting in one of only ten local areas (out of 439 in Great Britain as a whole) that would record a majority of “YES” votes when the results were finally declared. 

My feeling had been that Haringey would vote (albeit narrowly) against AV.  In fact, the declared result showed a vote for “YES” by a margin of 56.62% to 43.38% – the fourth biggest margin in the country.

It is not clear whether there any distinguishing features in the the ten local districts that voted “YES”:

  • Cambridge
  • Camden
  • Edinburgh Central
  • Glasgow Kelvin
  • Hackney
  • Haringey
  • Islington
  • Lambeth
  • Oxford
  • Southwark

No doubt some academic will do the demographic analysis and the psephological postmortem ……