Term-time holiday dad loses court battle @tfa4freedom #Libertarianism #NannyState

The UK Supreme Court has decided that parents are not allowed to take their own children on holiday during school term time regardless of the child’s overall attendance, punctuality and attainment rates, or the needs of the family.

This sounds kind of reasonable, right? Surely, we need to protect kids from neglectful parents who harm their children by not giving enough regard to their educational attainment. However, bookings and flights are much more expensive during the school holidays. Many parents simply cannot afford these prices. Therefore, parents will often choose to miss some days of school, opting for a term-time holiday, than have their child miss no school time but perhaps forfeiting a holiday altogether. Yet even with this fine, it will still often be cheaper to take children on holiday out of term. Well, for wealthier parents, that is. What this fine means is that many poorer parents will not be able to have a holiday at all as they are less able to afford to pay the fine or the premium non-term time prices.

This is an outrageous decision. I grew up on a council estate, my parents were literally too poor to afford nappies. The only holiday I ever had from age 0-20 was when when I was 12, and it was paid for by people other than my parents. I never even went on these one-off school trips to places like Wales. I know the stress that no time away, no R & R, can have in a family and on school grades.

Sure, Mr Platt, the parent at the centre of this court case, isn’t trapped on a council estate like I was, but this decision applies to everyone. The decision is morally wrong for two fundamental reasons.

1. If a child’s attendance, punctuality, and attainment are otherwise good — that is, the child is being well cared for by their parents –, this ruling still does not allow parents to manage their children as they see fit. As it has been put today, parents must seek permission from the headmaster. This is a disgraceful decision, incredibly statist, and goes against the longstanding established liberal British and common sense mindset. It’s well-known that regular breaks from work or study yield greater periods of productivity.

2. It has been stated that taking kids out of school hampers the individual kid and their classmates from getting good GCSE graces due to the disruption caused. Well, you know what also hampers good GCSE grades? Tired, stressed, fatigued parents and children who don’t go on holiday or who can only holiday through excessive sacrifice in other areas. Trust me, I know.

It also needs to be said that GCSE attainment is far from the be-all-and-end-all of, well, anything. Lasting bonding time, fond memories, and a stress-free body will stand the child in good stead. That one holiday I took left me with more good memories, love for my family, and a rounded outlook than all the good GCSE grades I ultimately got. GCSEs have got me nowhere; when you’ve got A Levels, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, that’s what counts.

This case just goes to show that even in our fair, rational, and outstandingly excellent legal system, atrocious decisions are made which affect peoples lives badly.

Note: I wrote this post at the time when this story came out, but I suffered an enforced hiatus from posting. However, whilst Mr. Platt’s story is no longer current, the issue which it refers to is still relevant. Thus, I have decided it’s still very much worth posting.

© 2017-2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39504338

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Voting Reform

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The results of the General Election have thrown up some intriguing uncertainties. For example, will the SNP’s unprecedented success precipitate the break up of the UK?

But one thing is certain from the results: the voting system needs to be changed in time for the next General Election.

Consider this. The UK Independence Party received almost four million votes. That’s the third highest and a total 12.6% share of the vote. Yet the party only received one seat in Parliament. Yet 12.6% of the 650 House of Commons is 82 seats!

Whatever you may think of UKIP, this is a travesty and makes a mockery of any notion of British “democracy”.

But it’s not just UKIP who were done over by our voting system.

The LibDems got two and a half million votes, a 7.9% share. Yet they received 1% of the seats.

The Greens gained 1.15 million votes, a 3.8% share. They only received a single seat.

On the other hand, the SNP got 50% of the vote in Scotland, yet a whopping 95% of all seats! Not quite as dramatic, but the Conservatives won 51% of the seats on a mere 36.9% of the vote.

And bear in mind that 33.9% of the eligible population didn’t even vote! That means the Conservatives were only supported by 24% of the voting age population, yet got more than half the seats.

Our system really is winner takes all.

A lot of people I’ve been speaking to have been really quite confused. So I’ll explain our system.

The country is divided into voting areas (constituencies). Whichever candidate gets the most votes in any area wins that seat. Everyone else gets nothing. This was UKIP’s problem: they came second in 120 seats nationwide! But first in one seat is better than second in a hundred under our system.

Perhaps in the era of two party politics, our current system worked well (for example, in the 1950 General Election, the Conservatives and Labour respectively gained 40% and 46.1% of the vote and 35.2% and 46.1% of the seats). But we no longer exist in that era, and never will again. So it’s time to change.

The only arguments in favour our system are that it’s easy to understand and produces stable government. Well, I think the idea our politics is stable is now laughable. And easy to understand? How can anyone understand a party receiving 12.6% of the vote getting a mere 0.15% of the seats?

The system needs to change. That is clear. But change to what? There are so many alternatives that the mind boggles.

Luckily for us, however, the UK has been engaged in numerous pilot schemes trialling different voting systems for a while now.

  • In the London Assembly, Welsh Assembly, and Scottish Parliament, the Additional Member System is used. It is semi-proportional; winners are chosen as in the General Election, but there are extra seats for each area which are awarded proportionally.
  • The London Mayor is selected by the Supplementary Vote system. Everyone picks their first choice and second choice. If no one candidate receives 50% of the vote, then all candidates except the top two are eliminated, and all second preference votes are redistributed. The candidate with most votes after these supplementary votes are added is the winner.
  • European Parliament elections are done according to the d’Hondt method which, more-or-less accurately, gives a proportional share of seats based on share of vote. For example, in the 2014 European Parliament Elections, the percentage of votes/seats won was: UKIP 26.6/32.88, Labour 24.43/27.40, Conservative 23.05/26.03, Green 6.91/4.11, SNP 2.37/2.74, and so on.
  • In London council elections, each ward elects up to three representatives.
  • There are many other systems in use in the UK. See here for all the details.

Clearly, no voting system is perfect (this is actually scientific fact: just see New Scientist‘s article if you don’t believe me), but we need to make votes count. Some ways include more even-sized constituencies so each vote is equally valuable, instant easy right to sack any MP / call a by-election, direct voting by the population, easily triggerable referenda, and so on. But changing the electoral system is key.

My proposal

Whilst I don’t want to break the link between MP and constituency, nor introduce two kinds of MP, I think the best solution is either a proportional system based on voting regions, e.g., the four nations or sub-regions thereof, or a London-style Additional member system with the current system supplemented by proportional elected regional MPs.

The 2015 General Election results were a travesty and a miscarriage of justice. Indeed, they were a farce. Let’s move into the twenty-first century.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

References
Full results: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

Scottish Parliament Electoral System: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/Education/16285.aspx
European Parliament Electoral System: http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/your_meps/european_elections/the_voting_system.html
Other voting systems used in the UK: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/voting-systems/
European Parliament Election Results 2014: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(United_Kingdom)
New Scientist on the impossibility of fair elections: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627581.400-electoral-dysfunction-why-democracy-is-always-unfair.html#.VVYou2dFCM8

Featured image from http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/06.11/images/vote-toss.jpg

 

General Election 2015 Predictions: Aftermath

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The 2015 General Election is almost done, with less than a dozen seats left to declare. David Cameron has won, and with an outright majority.

Huw Edwards on the BBC said, “Nobody predicted this”.

Well, not quite nobody, Huw:

https://doggerelizer.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/general-election-2015-predictions/

As you can see, a nobody predicted this. If everybody wants to come to this nobody’s house and offer me a top boffin job and / or fat wodges of cash in return for my god-like insights, I will consider your offer.

But how did I get this right when top bods around the country didn’t? Was it luck? Was it insider knowledge? Was it a time machine or a cellophane-sealed batch of NZT-48?

Actually, it was simply a matter of being realistic, objective, and following the ebb and flow both on the streets (as a political activist, myself; I’m not a drug dealer) and in the media.

But my supernatural gift of foresight comes as a small crumb of relief because the party I voted for did not win. Also, I didn’t put a damn bet on!

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.link2portal.com

Somaliland Petition: Outcome

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My official petition to make the British government officially recognise Somaliland’s independence has now closed. It didn’t quite get the 100,000 signatures required for an obligatory government response; it got 611.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. That 611 represents more than the combined signatories to all other Somaliland petitions put together.* So, when set against the 100,000 target, 611 is indeed a dismal failure; but when set against the past Somaliland petitions, 611 is an outstanding success — literally the best there has ever been. So I am both proud, and deeply disappointed.

So where from here? But first, why bother?

I do not have Somali family or any real interest in Somalia or Somaliland itself. I have no ulterior or selfish reasons for my campaigning on this. Rather, I am passionate about national liberal democracy: that a world organised according to a brotherhood of sovereign nations thoroughly exercising liberal democracy is the best and only way for a moral and free world to thrive and function. This view is grounded in the notion that all peoples have a right to exercise their freedom and join the brotherhood of soveriegn nations if they so choose. Somaliland to me represents a fairly non-controversial and unequivocal example of this principle. And our continued refusal to recognise Somaliland not only goes against the principles I just outlined, but it thoroughly jeopardises the democracy that Somaliland is building. Thus, the failure to support Somaliland by way of recognising its independence and all which that entails not only is morally wrong from a theoretical standpoint, but it is also an error given practical and pragmatic considerations.

But for more context and explanation, see here for my previous Doggerelizer article on the subject, and see here for the official government petition’s page.

So where from here?

Simple. I continue to campaign for national liberal democracy. Perhaps this time focusing on a different nation which may appeal to more people. And I will keep the fight for the recognition of Somaliland going. I will keep you all informed.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry