Archive for the ‘Religion & Politics’ Category

Immigration levels compared with Olympic medals

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Sport

Nothing to see here. Correlation does not imply causation.

Number of immigrants (millions), number of Rio 2016 Olympic medals at 1/4 scale

In fairness, if you line the countries up in population size, they come out in a pretty similar way. But it doesn’t fit quite as well as these figures do.

Unelectable: A History of Jeremy Corbyn at the Polls

Thursday, August 25th, 2016 | Religion & Politics


You won’t hear any protests from me when you call Jeremy Corbyn unelectable. What a joke the man is. He can’t afford a nice suit, and didn’t even have the decency to look flustered when asked to publish his tax return. What kind of politician is that?

That said, being skeptics, we like all that evidence and stuff. So I thought I would see if there is any evidence as to whether Jeremy is electable or not.

Year Election Result
1982 Islington North Labour Party candidate selection[1] Jeremy wins with 54% vote share
1983 General election[2] Jeremy wins with 40% vote share
1987 General election Jeremy wins with 50% vote share
1992 General election Jeremy wins with 57% vote share
1997 General election Jeremy wins with 69% vote share
2001 General election Jeremy wins with 62% vote share
2005 General election Jeremy wins with 51% vote share
2010 General election Jeremy wins with 55% vote share
2015 General election Jeremy wins with 60% vote share
2015 Labour Party leadership election[3] Jeremy wins with 60% vote share, in the first round of alternative voting

It probably comes down to personal opinion as to whether you think Jeremy Corbyn is electable or not. After all, it is all in the interpretation of the data. It’s just that, so far, he has won every single election he has ever contested in his entire political career, which started well before I was born.

Can restaurants discriminate when hiring staff?

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts


Whenever I dine at one of the many fine Thai restaurants in Leeds I am always struck by the fact that the staff are all Thai people. Why is this? How does a restaurant get away with this? Surely it is discrimination to exclude all other races?

My assumption was that they got round the legislation by insisting on language skills. If you run a Thai restaurant, all you need to do is specify applicants must speak Thai, and without saying anything about race you have filtered almost everyone else out. I’ll come back to this point later.

Economist Steven Levitt suggests that it probably isn’t that much of a problem. There are lots of different restaurants from lots of different cultures, and so the fact that you are less likely to get a job at one restaurant is fine because you are more likely to get a job at another. If anyone loses out it is the majority population (British people in the UK) which you could argue is also less of a problem because many restaurants are not themed and minorities generally need more protection than majorities.

He also suggests that restaurants may not be directly discriminating at all. In the fictional Swedish-themed restaurant he and Stephen Dubner discuss, he says you could advertise for staff in Swedish magazines, and write the job advert in Swedish. In the restaurant Dubner visits to do some interviews, they say they also hire extensively from friends and family of existing staff. Thus the restaurants are not refusing to hire white people, they just don’t apply.

Levitt also notes that customers prefer authentic staff. Which is probably true right. It’s nice to go to a Chinese restaurant and have Chinese people working there. The experience loses something when someone clearly British is serving you. This is silly when you think about it though. This is just your waiter; they’re not the chef. They’re almost like dressing for the restaurant. And even if the chef was Chinese too, that doesn’t mean they are automatically a better Chinese food cook.

Dubner also gives the example of airline hostesses. Back in the day, airlines would specifically hire attractive, unmarried stewardesses, and after they married they were expected to give it up. This proved popular with their business clientele (middle-aged businessmen) but the court ruled against it saying part of fighting discrimination was challenging these ideas of preference. Just because we’re all a little bit wired to prefer authentic staff, doesn’t mean we should promote that as an acceptable social value.

Not to mention these groups are often lumped together: Mexican restaurants are often staffed with Spanish and Portuguese waiters, Indian restaurants are often staffed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Thai restaurants are often staffed by Vietnamese people.

Language could be a genuine reason. In a Latin restaurant that Dubner interviews, they say the orders are called out in Spanish in the kitchen, so you can make a case for requiring that. However, when speaking to an equality lawyer, they talked about a restaurant chain that was successfully sued because the plaintiff argued language requirements were just being used as a proxy for discrimination.

In summary, the answer is no. Restaurants cannot, and should not, discriminate to get authentic staff. However a combination of indirect discrimination and language requirements may allow restaurants to primarily hire such staff without any direct discrimination.

Farage at the European Parliament

Friday, July 1st, 2016 | Religion & Politics


This is Nigel Farage giving his victory speech at the European Parliament. I noticed that he had a flag on his desk. Nobody else has a flag. The European Parliament do not provide flags. Farage just brought his own flag in from home and put it on his desk.

His speech was silly and offensive. However, I laughed more than anything because it was so similar to another speech I had seen. This is Nigel Farage giving his victory speech at the European Parliament:

And here is Father Ted accepting a Golden Cleric award:

Don’t forget to vote

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 | Religion & Politics


Today is of course referendum day. Many of you have postal voted already, but for those voting in person, now is the time!

I am very much looking forward to today being over so that I can talk about something else! I have some great posts about Iceland coming up, starting Saturday.

Some reasons to vote

Sometimes it might feel like it is not worth voting. However, there are some great reasons to make the effort today.

First, the result is on a knife edge. It is predicted to be incredibly close; closer than any vote we have seen foe a long time. With such fine margins, you vote will make more of a difference than ever.

Second, everyone else is doing it. YouGov are predicting we could see one of the highest turnouts for any vote in the last few decades (save the Scottish referendum). As a society, we really are all making the effort to get out there and vote.

Third, the consequences of this are huge. It is not just five years of one set of politicians before we vote again. It would be a most uncomfortable feeling for the future of our society having gone the other way than you wanted it, without having a say in it. At least if you vote you can say “don’t blame me – I voted x!”

Still undecided?

If you are still not sure which way to vote in the referendum, that’s fine. But consider this: if we vote remain, we can always choose to leave at a later date. A vote for leave is far less reversible.


What would Churchill do?

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | Religion & Politics


This poster caught my eye. It was used by the Remain campaign and it is easy to see why: Churchill is seen as a cornerstone of English patriotism and a hero, especially among Conservatives. If he had been here today, his view would be worth a lot.

But is it true? Was he a founder of the EU? Would he support it today?

In the case of whether he was a founder, it could be argued that he was. Here is what his Wikipedia page says:

In 1956, after retiring as Prime Minister, Churchill went to Aachen to receive the Charlemagne Prize for his contribution to European Unity.[278] Churchill is today listed as one of the “Founding fathers of the European Union”, a claim which in Boris Johnson’s view contains “a very large dollop of truth”.

In 1946, he used the term “United States of Europe” during a speech in Zurich. This shows his support for a more-united Europe was clear.

We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living.

This suggests he was clearly in favour of the EU. However, it is one quote that I have not included in the context of. Can we surmise, taking an overall view, that Churchill was in favour of the EU? To do that, we would need to weigh up all the evidence.

Journalist Jon Danzig has done just that. The conclusion? Churchill was not taken out of context in the above quote. He supported “the Union of Europe as a whole” and, if alive today, would almost certainly be voting Remain.

Best of the EU memes

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 | Religion & Politics

Here are some of my favourite memes from the past few days.

On our skills shortage

Damn those immigrants, coming over here, saving our lives.


On the economy

One thing we have struggled to have is a evidence-based debate on the economy. The truth is, a lot of it is unclear. However, when we are talking about hard evidence, we do have this. The pound is already plummiting, just on the threat of Brexit.


On free European healthcare


On scaremongering accusations


On the so=called breaking point

This one I did not enjoy. The whole affair has gone too far.


My EU referendum video

Friday, June 17th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

I made a video about why I am voting Remain. It is unlikely to make the Oscars shortlist, but I hope it is at least honest.

Practical things we can do for the EU referendum

Thursday, June 16th, 2016 | Religion & Politics


We are only seven days away from the EU referendum, so you might feel like it is too late to do anything to help the campaign. It really isn’t. Here are some practical things we can do to help secure the future of our country.

Tell your friends and family

Maybe your friends and family do not know how important it is. Or maybe they don’t realise that the result could be decided by lower voter turnout rather than people getting the result they want. Talk to them about it.


Both sides are spending big on advertising and media. It might be too late to pay for new billboards but there is plenty of time to buy more advertising in a daily newspaper or targeted online advertising on Google, Facebook and Twitter. You can donate to Stronger In or the Lib Dem campaign INtogether.

Helper people get to the polling station

Know anyone who might struggle to get to the polling station and cast their vote? Offer to help them.

Phone people

You might think that the campaign cold-calls are done by professionals at some big offices. They’re not. They are made by people at home. Using the Lib Dem system, all you need is a phone and a computer. Contact me for details.

Put some posters up

Stronger In offer posters you can print at home to put up in your house window, car window, at your office desk, anywhere you think people will see it. There are a lot of Leave signs around, simply because the Leave campaign has been more vocal, which gives a distorted picture of the support they have.

Why EU fishing quotas are good for Britain

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 | Religion & Politics


Today, Nigel Farage made a big deal about being on the Thames protesting EU fishing quotas. It is a serious issue. So lets pretend for a moment that Nigel Farage genuinely cares about the UK fishing industry, rather than just using this is an opportunity to press his own agenda. We have to pretend because we have the hard evidence to show he does not care, as exemplified by this meme.


That’s right, Nigel Farage was on the EU fisheries committee, but did not bother to turn up much, or vote, or really do anything. But suppose he genuinely did care. Are EU fishing quotas bad for Britain? The answer is no. Here is why.

We need to maintain fish stocks

Fish stocks have become dangerously low. We have quotas in place to stop fish going extinct. This would be bad because if fish disappear then it causes a huge problem for the environment. For example whales need fish to be there to eat. Whereas on the flip side, if fish were not eating their prey, they would cause over-population.

If you are not swayed by the environmental concern, consider that once there are no fish left, we won’t have any fish to eat. For me, that would be rubbish because I really like fish.

Fishing is big business

Are you imagining that the people complaining are small time fishermen who had a little boat to feed their family? To be honest, I was. And some of them are. But the majority of them are not. They’re big business. Here is Dr Chris Hassall from the University of Leeds…

Three large companies own 61% of all fishing quotas. This isn’t about Michael Gove’s father alone on a tiny boat in a stormy sea. This is an industry monopolised by millionaires who are fighting regulation, just like all other industries. Viewed in that light it is completely unsurprising that “Big Fish” has joined Farage, alongside his banker allies.

Fishing quotas help small fisherman compete against Big Fish. Unrestricted, big companies would fish the oceans clean, take all the dividend profits out of their companies and move on with their lives. Meanwhile small fishermen would suddenly find an empty sea, no way to make a living, and no huge profits to fall back on. Creating a sustainable industry is the only way to protect small fishing businesses.

Quotas protect Scottish fisherman

As well as allowing small fishermen to complete with the big corporate fishing, preventing over-fishing also protects those who genuinely do fish to feed their families. In the second episode of River Cottage: Gone Fishing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall travels to the Island of Rona in the Hebredes to meet the island’s caretaker. He feeds his family on the annual mackerel catch. However, each year that gets smaller and smaller. By the time the documentary was made, he had run into a two week draught.

Fishing quota are good for British business

As well as protecting our small fishermen from big business and ensuring we have a sustainable fishing industry going forward, fishing quotas have one further advantage to British business: they open up the opportunity for innovative fish farming to meet consumer demand.

In the same River Cottage: Gone Fishing episode Fearnley travels to the island of North Uist to visit just such a fish farm. The strong currents around the island mean they don’t have to treat for any diseases such as lice and produces excellent-quality fish. It’s a wonderful example of a small British business leading the world in innovation, sustainability and quality.


EU fishing quotas are good for Britain because:

  • They ensure there will still be fish to eat tomorrow
  • They ensure a sustainable industry for the future
  • They protect small fishermen from big fishing companies
  • They open up new opportunities for British entrepreneurs
  • They protect small communities that fish-to-eat from overfishing
  • They protect the environment