Parliament and the 1965 Race Relations Act

The History of Parliament

Passing legislation with a small majority is an ongoing problem for our current government, but this not an unusual parliamentary position. In today’s guest blog, Dr Simon Peplowdiscusses the difficulties faced by Labour in passing the first Race Relations Act in 1964-5 with a small majority …

When Labour returned to power in 1964, they did so with a manifesto pledge to legislate against racial discrimination. This resulted in the 1965 Race Relations Act, the first legislation in Britain to address racial discrimination, outlawing ‘discrimination on the ground of colour, race or ethnic or national origins’ in ‘places of public resort’ such as hotels and restaurants, and punishing incitement to racial hatred. However, it has been almost universally criticised as ineffective and too narrow, failing to address the main areas of discrimination within employment and housing. For example, during its passage through Parliament, leaders of the standing conference of…

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Dame Vera Lynn told Michael Parkinson how she became the “forces’ sweetheart”

Sanders Supporters Don’t Support Sanders’s Policies: A Short Note on Yet Another Reason why “Deliberative Democracy” is a Myth

Notes On Liberty

In the previous part of my democracy series, I took note how the notion of democracy as a “deliberative” means of policymaking is a myth. Contrary to John Dewey, Sidney Hook, and Joshua Cohen, who characterize democracy as an application of the scientific method to political problems and as deliberative “intelligence” directing society, democracy is really the rule of the irrational and ignorant, as public choice theory teaches. Deliberative reasoning does not determine policy in democracies, but rather whoever can cater the best to systemically biased and rationally ignorant voters. Voters don’t give deliberative reasons for their policies, and if they do they, contra Cohen, clearly do not have an equal say in the formation of policies as, according to public choice theory, special interests have the most control over it.

However, I neglected one important other reason why actual political democracies are anything but “deliberative:” voters rarely chose…

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Can Median Voter Theorem explain political polarization?

Notes On Liberty

When I began dipping my toes into game theory and rational choice theory, like many others, I learned about the Median Voter Theorem (MVT). This theory is essentially the Hotelling’s Law of voting, in which two competing politicians, on any given issue, will adopt views similar to the median on a spectrum of views of that issue, in order to maximize the number of votes they receive. Any movement toward either extreme, so the theory goes, would allow the opponent to gain the votes of centrists by moving in the same direction, but not as far, effectively gaining all voters on the other extreme AND the centrists. According to MVT, the most successful politicians should, if rational choice theory can be said to apply to elections, represent (if not hold) the views closest to those of the median voter, who should be relatively “centrist” even if extremist voters outnumber centrists.

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Happy 100th Birthday to British Songstress Dame Vera Lynn

American Elephants

Vera Lynn was the voice of home to British Soldiers wherever they served, and a great voice it was. Today she turns 100 years old, celebrated as a Dame of the British Empire.  When she was 78, she sang on the fiftieth anniversary of VE Day, the songs of the times: The White Cliffs of Dover, Land of Hope and Glory, I’ll Be Seeing You, Lili Marlene,

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The NZ sugar tax debate: extended version

The Sand Pit

Fairfax has posted a debate between myself and Dr Simon Thornley, a public health physician and spokesperson for the sugar tax lobby group FIZZ. We were asked to give our top 5 points for/against a sugar tax (I think Simon’s points might have been merged to avoid repetition). Here’s a taster but as always, do read the whole piece.

There are certain policies worth experimenting with. If they are of low cost and will not leave the population any worse off, there is no harm in trying. A sugar tax is not one of those policies. No matter which way you cut it, a sugar tax is regressive: people on lower incomes will pay disproportionately more of the tax than people on higher incomes.

We’d originally also been given the opportunity to respond to each other’s points, which in my mind would have made for an even richer debate as it…

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Unconscious mind studies should not have survived peer-review

unconscious thought

Brexit and Scottish Independence: It May have been time for some bad game theory


The SNP have called for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and many feel this is the direct result of the Prime Minister steering us towards a ‘hard Brexit’:  exit from the single market and the customs union.

This seems both right and wrong.

It’s wrong in the sense that one could argue that the real driver of a hard Brexit is the EU’s strategic determination to keep itself intact, post Brexit, and what it has decided best serves that end.

As seemed likely before the June 23rd vote, the EU would figure that to avoid a chaotic renegotiation of its constituent Treaties, it would basically offer the UK a take it or leave it option.  Pay for single market membership, or be out of it.  No menu of alternative options.  The emergency brake on immigration and the other concessions Cameron wrung were no longer to be pursued because there…

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