Are you worthy of Britain ?

Not quite sure about the latest Doctor Who yet. Two episodes in a row have been a tad British for my taste. First it was Spaceship UK with Orwellian overtones and Good Queen Bess. Then it was back to the Blitz and Winston Churchill. The episode of Doctor Who Confidential which followed suggested that the Daleks themselves were also a British Icon. I didn’t find all this stuff as stirring as I think I was supposed to. Found myself doubting my patriotism.

Then, courtesy of Norman Gray, I found out how to measure my patriotism. Her Majesty’s Government has kindly provided the Official Practice Citizenship Test. There are 24 multiple choice questions along the lines of “How many parliamentary constituencies are there ?” and “In what year did women obtain the right to divorce their husband ?” and “Which University does Paul Crowther work for ?” Norman announced on Twitter that he had scraped a pass. So I gave it a go and failed miserably (11/24).

So are most astro-blog-readers worthy of being British Citizens ? Give it a go and record your result anonymously below :

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68 Responses to Are you worthy of Britain ?

  1. Mark McCaughrean says:

    I tried this a year ago and failed: at that point, I put my tail between my legs and slunk back off to Yurp.

    Actually, I did this for fun when my wife was applying for UK citizenship, which we thought we might as well do after having lived in the UK for four years. Without preparation, I failed the test.

    But then it’s hardly surprising, given that many of the questions (as I recall, without having looked again) mostly require hair-splitting multi-choice rote learning along the lines of: “Q. What fraction of people living in the UK have red hair? A. 2%, 3%, or 4%”. I mean, who’s supposed to know the precise answer to that and who really cares?

    Anyway, we paid for the official citizenship test book and realised that all of the test questions are essentially directly mirrored in the book. Learn the book, pass the test, bingo: you’re in. It’s not a test of anything much except short-term memory of facts you will never use again. Much like University exams, really 🙂

    Coda: my wife passed the test and filed the papers for the next stage. We were that as long as she filed the papers before we moved back to Europe, she’d be fine. True, except the next stage was a face-to-face interview to examine her credentials. Given that gaining UK citizenship costs the applicant nigh on £1000, you would have thought that the government would’ve been itching to get this done this as quickly as possible, but no, ’tis all smoke and mirrors, as with so many things British these days. The next possible date for the interview at least six months in advance.

    • andyxl says:

      Its similar in some ways to the written test for the California drivers license that I took last year. They ask some bizarrely narrow questions that could spring from any part of the DMV Handbook. Basically its a method of making people actually read the whole damned book.

      • Paul says:

        Interesting. The Hawaii driving written test consists mainly of questions like: It’s OK to drive when you’re intoxicated, a) On Fridays, b) After work, c) After work on Fridays, d) none of the above.

      • andyxl says:

        In the 1980s at least, the Massachusetts test was like that – I remember one question was “Which of the following is legally required on an automobile ? (a) Power Steering (b) Heated seats (c) A Muffler”.

        On the other hand one of my questions in California last year was “What is the penalty for dumping an animal on a public highway ?”

        And no I can’t remember the answer now.

      • Nick Cross says:

        Oh dear, I only got 13/24. This actually was the Life in the UK test, which you need to do for Permanent Residence, not citizenship, which my wife did last year and at the time I had been testing her, so I should have done better. I knew most of them then, but it a lot of it is the kind of rubbish that you learn for the exam and forget straight away.

  2. Ross Collins says:

    I wonder if the next government will actually be qualified to run a Home Office…

    • dave says:

      Well the current lot certainly aren’t!

      • Nick Cross says:

        Will we actually get rid of them though. It is looking very uncertain: the recent polls put them 3rd in numbers of votes, but 1st in number of seats. With all the Brown-nosing going on it is looking like a Lib-Lab government. I may be cynical, but I can’t help feeling that we will get the worst parts of both rather than the best.

  3. Andrew says:

    At last, someone speaking some sense regarding this over-hyped nonsense. I’ve never seen so much twee drivel in all my life (Dr. Who that is, not the citizenship test). I caused quite a stir on a certain message board (which shall remain nameless…badastronomy…ahem…) expressing my right to freedom of speech, where I dared to go against the common consensus, that this wasn’t actually all that great. I currently reside in the colonies. Do you think that I would have to sit this exam to reenter old blighty?..My guess is I would probably fail with flying colours!

  4. telescoper says:

    Why are there no questions about cricket?

  5. telescoper says:

    I also failed, by the way, which is a shock. I got 15/24 which is 62.5%. That should have got me a 2.1, even without scaling…

    • David says:

      I don’t think even this government is daft enough to openly acknowledge that there are second class citizens.

  6. “the recent polls put them 3rd in numbers of votes, but 1st in number of seats”

    Presumably this is due to the first-past-the-post system, gerrymandering and the lack of PR. How anyone can call such a system democratic is beyond me. Remember the German Democratic Republic (and similarly titled nations)? What about elections in Cuba? Does that make Cuba democratic, even if there is only one candidate? They just have a different definition of democracy, Guv’nor. One can justify anything if just calling one’s own system democratic is enough. If a party gets x% of the votes, it should get x% of the seats (within roundoff errors etc). How one can even consider anything else is beyond me.

    • Ross Collins says:

      I believe that electoral reform is seriously being considered by parliament for the election after this coming one. However, I doubt they’d ever go for something quite that simple… 😉

    • andyxl says:

      Well.. it depends whether you think you are voting for your local representative, or voting for which Government you want. Suppose I want to vote for a Labour representative, and most people in my area do. But then the guy I voted for doesn’t get in, because different bits of the country voted a different way. That wouldn’t seem right either, would it ?

      • In practice, voting for a local representative is overrated. The only reason to do so would be if one expects him to help his district, but then that is the case for all of them, so at best it is just a renormalisation. At worst, it leads to pork-barrel politics.

        But even for those who like the idea of voting for a local representative, there is the German system: one-half of the MPs are representatives of districts. The proportion of seats is determined by the proportion of votes. So if a party has x% of the votes, they get x% of the seats. These come from a list the party puts out (in some elections, it is possible for voters to determine the order of the list as well). However, the directly elected district representatives are subtracted from the number of seats. So, the “second vote” for a party determines the proportion of seats, while the first vote for a district representative allows one to vote for someone directly. One can have one’s cake and eat it too.

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        Close, but still no cigar, Phillip. I used to live in London in a ward that was staunchly Labour, but which nonetheless regularly returned a Conservative representative to the local council because she was smart, understood the needs of the locality, and had a good track record of helping her constituents (I don’t think that doing things like taking steps to prevent pensioners being evicted really counts as “pork barrel”). In any kind of system where a vote registered for a party, even if only partially, there is no way that she would have been elected, and democracy would have been the poorer for it.

        There is no single “right” democratic system.

      • I think you misunderstand the German system. I don’t know what system was in place in London when you were there. In the German system, if the people want a conservative MP with their first vote, that’s what they get (a relative majority is sufficient). With the second vote, the percentage of seats is determined. In the rare event that the conservative party got such a low percentage of the second votes that they should have no seats (a fraction corresponding to less than one seat or, if there is a minimum percentage, that percentage), the directly elected conservative MP would STILL get the seat. (This implies that this party has a higher percentage than that given by the second vote. Some systems increase the total number of seats to compensate.)

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        Ahh. I thought the German system involved using one vote for both purposes. Now all is clearer. However, I stand by my assertion that there is no “right” answer to democratic elections, and as such a first-past-the-post system is just different, not wrong.

        Incidentally, I should declare an interest: I am a card-carrying member of the third party in the UK, so stand to gain most by a more proportionate system. However, I also recognize the argument that a system that propels the third party into almost permanent possession of the balance of power could equally be argued to be undemocratic, also in line with the above claim that no one system is right.

      • While there might not be a perfect system, that doesn’t mean that all are equally good. It can still be worth it to discuss the relative merits of various systems.

        The FDP was the balance-of-power third party for a long time in Germany. However, they were also in the opposition 1998–2009. One one has PR, then additional parties (such as the Green Party in Germany) can also come into being.

    • andyxl says:

      So then you still get to vote for the individual that you actually like or trust. You are voting for a party not for a person. You have to trust the party to pick people that it wants.

    • andyxl says:

      Sorry, hang on, I misread the last bit Phillip. Yes, a combination of rep voting and party list voting is a good combination.

    • Michael Merrifield says:

      How one can even consider anything else is beyond me.

      Why not go the whole hog and decide every major issue by direct referendum, so that it really is “rule by the people,” as the word democracy implies? I think that most people agree that that would be a recipe for disaster with no coherence or strategy to implemented policy, so instead we compromise by electing people to represent us, with the smaller number involved able to muster a more coherent policy.

      And of course it is equally impractical to have candidates who represent all possible permutations of people’s views, so we compromise further by having parties and expecting people to vote for the party that comes closest to being aligned with their views.

      Next you have to ask whether you really want to vote just for the ideas that a party represents to create a national opinion poll parliament, or do you want to vote for a representative who will stand up for your local needs, which may not fit within the realm of party politics, and whom you trust to do a good job. In the former case, the system is more democratic because everyone’s vote counts equally. In the latter case, the system is more democratic because the choice of representative isn’t left entirely to the party bigwigs, so they can’t just put their cronies into parliament.

      In short, there is no perfect electoral system, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. To simply dismiss any system other than conventional PR as undemocratic seems to miss this essentially complexity of democracy.

      • “do you want to vote for a representative who will stand up for your local needs”

        At best, such a representative would stand up for the needs of those who elected her, perhaps not even an absolute majority.

        Why not have one’s cake and eat it too?

    • At the bottom of the web page below there is a list of countries which use FPTP for the election to the equivalent of the House of Commons. Good company, eh?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plurality_voting_system

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        Looking at the list of countries using proportional representation, I would say that there were a fair number that I wouldn’t be particularly proud to be associated with.

        But then there is no single right answer when it comes to an electoral system, is there?

  7. mirmilant says:

    I also failed miserably – but not as miserable as you Andy with 12/24 and no swotting.

    Jeez – I took the US equivalent last year out of interest as a colleague was going applying for US citizenship and got 75% with no swotting. What gives!!??

    I’m now beginning to worry.

  8. I’ve started to favour the multi-member constituency single transferable vote system, as on http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

    But how voting for a party can be called “democratic” while voting for a person counts as “undemocratic” is beyond me I’m afraid…

    • Michael Merrifield says:

      Rather than the STV, why not use an electoral system based on the Borda count? It is designed to come closer to representing the consensus of a constituency, and can be shown to be more robust against tactical voting.

      Plus, it was invented by an astronomer, Jean-Charles de Borda, who apparently came up with it because he was convinced that French Academy of Sciences was conspiring to prevent his election; the kind of academic paranoia to which we can surely relate! Of course, he also tried to get all angles remeasured in a system in which a circle comprised 400 degrees split into 100 minutes each, so maybe not all his ideas are worth pursuing.

      • Hi Mike,

        I suppose there are many different ways of counting preferential votes, STV being just one of them (or several of them, actually). The key aspect in this proposal is that each constituency would return several members. This ensures that the number of seats a particular party has more closely reflects the number of votes that party received nationally, compared to the current system, while still maintaining the member-constituency link and the “vote for a person” idea rather than “vote for a list of automata”.

        Anthony

      • Interesting article on the Borda count here, pointing to problems with strategic nominations and tactical voting:

        http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/article.php?id=75

        Anthony

    • “But how voting for a party can be called “democratic” while voting for a person counts as “undemocratic” is beyond me I’m afraid…”

      It’s not voting for a person which is the problem. Rather, it is the fact that maybe 45% or maybe 55% of the people also vote for a person and get NO representation.

      Also, there are people who like to vote for parties. I usually know none of the candidates personally, and prefer to vote for ideas, not people. Also, take a question like “should the government spend more on basic science”? That’s the sort of issue which might lead one to vote for the party which supports it. At the constituent level, it might mean more basic science in my district and less in yours.

      The basic problem, though, if one doesn’t have PR is that a large percentage of the population has no vote at all in parliament.

      • Okay, that’s a fair point, that under FPTP (for example) for the majority of the electorate, there is no MP they can approach and say “My vote contributed to your presence in Parliament”.

        But that is very different from having no representation.

        Under FPTP, or any more preferential or proportional versions of the constituency system (AV, AV+, STV, etc), the member(s) representing my constituency is/are my representative(s). For a start, there is always the next election, and they want to persuade me to vote for them (or their successor) next time round. And how I voted in the previous election is absolutely none of their business – if I approach them as one of their constituents with a problem, I would be shocked if they asked me how I voted before deciding whether or not to help me.

      • “if I approach them as one of their constituents with a problem, I would be shocked if they asked me how I voted before deciding whether or not to help me”

        True. However, the basic idea of democracy is to be represented. If one supports a party which has no chance in FPTP, then one has no representation. Sure, one can ask the local MP, but suppose he is of a different opinion. After all, he can’t say “yes” to anything. If he’s purely a complaint/request handler, no need to elect him at all, just appoint him, or choose him randomly from the population.

      • “If one supports a party which has no chance in FPTP, then one has no representation.”

        My particular political beliefs and ideas may have no representation, which is one of the reasons why I don’t like the FPTP system. But I myself as a person am still represented by another person: my local MP(s).

        “Sure, one can ask the local MP, but suppose he is of a different opinion.”

        We’re talking about a local issue here – something specific to my own circumstances – and my local MP should be concerned about the welfare of all of his/her constituents, and hopefully sympathetic to my plight as a fellow human being. Anyway, in a multi-member constituency (e.g., STV) there is more likely to be a local MP who does share my political opinions. But for national or ideological issues, the way to approach those is not solely through my local MP but primarily through national campaigns and lobbying politicians in general.

        “If he’s purely a complaint/request handler, no need to elect him at all, just appoint him, or choose him randomly from the population.”

        Well, if you can appoint a trustworthy, reliable, sympathetic, hard-working, politically-articulate person at random, then that would be fine!

        A system such as STV retains both of these aspects: local MPs who have a particular responsibility towards their own constituents, and a greater and more representative diversity of political views within Parliament as a whole than under FPTP.

  9. Nick Cross says:

    My two concerns with PR are that you don’t get local representation and there is too much power going to the parties with no chance for independent MPs, but this German system, which I think is similar or the same as they use in the Scottish Parliament avoids the worst of these issues.

  10. Hi Nick,

    It seems to avoid those problems for one bit of the parliament while retaining those problems for the other bit (and also creates two different kinds of MPs). The multi-member system I mentioned above avoids those problems for the whole parliament.

    Anthony

    • Nick Cross says:

      Hi Anthony.
      I agree. I have been generally in favour of first-past the post, but it does sometimes give some odd outcomes. I will have to read more about the multi-member system. The Lords is another issue: typical New Labour botched effort there, a bit like the Scottish Parliament/West Lothian question.
      Nick

  11. Alan Penny says:

    Having seen the Scottish multiple member local elections two years ago, I was not impressed. It seemed to go a long way to breaking the local link and also the convention that a member represents all the people in his/her constituency, not just those that voted for him/her.

    A way of combining local representation and PR is to have the usual single-member constituency (perhaps with AV). Then in parliament each individual member gets a number of votes, distributed so that his/her party’s total votes in parliament reflect the total national vote.

    Thus if three parties A, B and C get 40%, 10% and 50% of the national vote, but each end up with 200 seats, then MPs of party A each get 4 votes, of party B get 1 vote and of party C get 5 votes. The local link is retained, but PR emerges. Crucially, the voting in parliament is not even more dependent on party control than it is at the moment.

    Does this system have a name? Has it been tried anywhere?

    • Michael Merrifield says:

      I suspect that every possible electoral system has been dreamed up several times by now, Alan:

      http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/documents/633009991417391250_WVSubmissionNov12_0.pdf

      • Alan Penny says:

        Michael: Good link. Does this mean that WV has not yet been tried in practice?

        As is well known, it is impossible to create a totally ‘fair’ system. Different conditions lead to the choice of the most ‘appropriate’ system. The present system for all its faults suits where we are.

        But as we seem for the moment to be moving to a real three-party system our system may need changing to reflect this.

    • “A way of combining local representation and PR is to have the usual single-member constituency (perhaps with AV). Then in parliament each individual member gets a number of votes, distributed so that his/her party’s total votes in parliament reflect the total national vote.”

      In this system, a party with, say, 20% support in each district will have no MPs at all and thus no say in Parliament.

      • From Mike’s link: “If during an election a party elects no members to the Legislature, but should have voting power according to voting entitlements as determined above, that party’s leader is awarded a single seat in the Legislature, and its voting entitlement.”

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        Fortunately in the UK there is no such party, so the question doesn’t arise.

        I may have said this before, but there is no “correct” system of democracy, so one relies on the applicance of compromise and common sense rather than dogma to get a reasonable system.

  12. Alan – I think all local councils in England are composed of multi-member wards too. I haven’t found that a problem. A bit of competition is healthy – I emailed my three ward councillors about a local issue but only heard back from one of them (of a different party to the other two), who was very helpful and put in a good deal of effort on my behalf. My previous voting behaviour wasn’t discussed. But I’m much more likely in future to vote for those councillors who actually represent me during the previous term, regardless of the party.

    Conversely, in a safe single-seat ward there would be no way of getting rid of a useless councillor.

  13. Andy – you do realise it’s summer time I hope? Or is it still winter in Edinburgh?

    Anthony
    12:02 pm

  14. andyxl says:

    Anthony – you’ve lost me.

  15. andyxl says:

    Oh hang on see what you mean – timing of comment entries. Nothing to do with me guv. WordPress bug I guess

  16. Think it might be a timezone thing in the WordPress settings?

  17. andyxl says:

    My timezone is set to UTC+0. Can’t see a “use summertime” setting. Do you think WordPress needs one to adjust to summertime by pretending temporarily to be in a different time zone ????

    • telescoper says:

      andy

      You need to adjust the time manually by an hour, and BST is not an option. WordPress admit it’s “lame” and they’re not wrong.

      Peter

  18. I’m using WordPress installed on another server, and it gives me a huge list of cities as well as the UTC+… settings, and then it auto-adjusts for summertime. Weird that the wordpress.com version should be different… you probably need to change it manually to UTC+1?

  19. Michael Merrifield says:

    Maybe it comes down to which is more important: proportional representation or proportionate power.

    A PR system may ensure that your party is represented by a number of MPs in strict proportion to the number of people who voted for it, but what does it really matter? The party I support is under-represented in parliament, but there are still enough of them there for my views to have an adequate voice.

    On the flip side, a PR system is really rather likely to result in disproportionate power: a national vote of 49% Left, 49% Right and 2% Centre would result in the tiny minority making the major decision for the entire country as to wtheter it had a left-wing or right-wing government, and would no doubt cut itself and entirely disproportionate power deal to bestow its tiny percentage.

  20. “On the flip side, a PR system is really rather likely to result in disproportionate power: a national vote of 49% Left, 49% Right and 2% Centre would result in the tiny minority making the major decision for the entire country as to wtheter it had a left-wing or right-wing government,”

    Maybe. But at least it is a majority which decides; if the alternative is FPTP, then there might be a left-wing government even if 60% voted otherwise or vice versa.

    I don’t think the situation is realistic in practice. In Germany, there is the FDP (rough equivalent of the Lib Dems), who tend to side with the conservative CDU on economic matters (free enterprise) and with the CDU on social matters (personal freedom) and have been in coalition with both parties in the past. However, they were also in the opposition 1998–2009. A party which is a) in the centre and b) small stands to vanish. Most voters (including those who sincerely prefer the small party) know which type of government they prefer, and so tend to vote for one of the bigger parties. Also, if the party changes sides often, it is seen as not very resolute, and so again loses voters. In the end, only those who truly believe in its principles vote for it, which is how it should be. And if the vote is otherwise split at 49% each, can one honestly say that it is wrong if the small party decides? In FPTP, it is also often a small group which decides (cue the swingometer), though it is not associated with a third party.

    Also, the two big parties can form a coalition. Also, additional “third” parties can spring up. The two traditional large parties in Germany are now both somewhat smaller, and there are 3 other parties in the national parliament, all about equally strong. The situation is more extreme in the Netherlands, with 5 parties of comparable size.

  21. Michael Merrifield says:

    Maybe, but at least it is a majority which decides

    That’s one way of interpreting it. But you could equally well say that it is the tiny number of MPs elected by 2% of the population that decides who forms the government, and in the process leverages all sorts of benefits for its constutent base out of all proportion to its popularity. So much for PR eliminating the pork barrel!

    Most voters (including those who sincerely prefer the small party) know which type of government they prefer, and so tend to vote for one of the bigger parties,

    And so much for the purity of PR where everyone’s vote for who they want counts equally, so no-one votes tactically!

    But that would be because every reasonable voting system contains its compromises, and can be manipulated by tactical voting. There’s even a mathematical proof to that effect, called the Duggan-Schwartz Theorem.

  22. IF the small party tries to misuse its leverage in this way, THEN I think people will say “I’ll just vote for the bigger party I prefer and cut out the middleman of the smaller party”. Also, IF the small party misuses its power, it will be regarded as more interested in power than in principle, and so will go away. As long as it remains issues-based and realistic, it will attract the correct percentage of voters. There is nothing sacred about a 2+1 party system. A small party has no guarantee it will be the king maker; other small parties might play a role, or maybe the big parties will form a grand coalition.

    The 2% have no more power than the 2% who can tip the balance (cue the swingometer) in a FPTP system, but in the former case at least the rules are clear.

    Yes, there might be no perfect system, but that doesn’t mean that all are equally good.

  23. Michael Merrifield says:

    IF the small party tries to misuse its leverage in this way, THEN I think people will say “I’ll just vote for the bigger party I prefer and cut out the middleman of the smaller party”.

    If the 2% of the electorate who vote for the small centre party because they like them, why would they not vote for them, especially if their supporters realize that by doing so they will have grossly disproportionate power to define the resulting parliament and get their special interests supported?

    The 2% have no more power than the 2% who can tip the balance (cue the swingometer) in a FPTP system, but in the former case at least the rules are clear.

    Except that a marginal party that gets only 2% of the vote will never be able to tip the balance in a first passed the post system, and hence will never be able to hold the country to ransom, because they will never get any MPs elected. With some of the marginal parties out there, I find that fact somewhat reassuring.

    Yes, there might be no perfect system, but that doesn’t mean that all are equally good.

    Probably so, but your problem then is to define what you mean by “good.” For every example that you trot out showing that a FPTP system is disproportionate in seat allocation, I can produce one where PR is disproportionate in power allocation.

    As I think this exchange has now shown quite convincingly, the issues are actually quite complex, and any blanket simplistic statement along the lines that no system other than proportional representation should even be considered is fairly conclusively discredited.

    • Mark McCaughrean says:

      Sorry, coming back to this conversation after a long delay, but just wanted to add a couple more wrinkle to Phillip’s proselytising of the highly admirable German election system (well, I did live there for 13 years, so had ample opportunity to see it in operation).

      The basics have been established above: you have a first vote which is for a local representative and a second which is for a party. Half the members of the Bundesrat are elected via the first vote in a FPTP manner. The remaining half of the members are taken from the agreed party lists, balancing the proportions in the Bundesrat according to the second vote tallies.

      However (and this is pertinent to the 2% issue discussed here), a party who does not get any directly-elected (first vote) people into the Bundesrat will not get any via the second vote unless they get 5% of the second vote. The exception to this rule is if a party gets at least three directly-elected members: then they’re eligible for list members via the second vote regardless of the percentage. Finally, anyone who is elected directly gets in, of course.

      To me, this seems like an eminently sensible system that allows for (a) directly-elected local representation, (b) overall proportional representation, and (c) avoids nutters from extreme parties getting in via a tiny second vote fraction, and thus (d) avoids the Italian problem of unwieldy and unstable coalitions of minor special interest parties holding the system to ransom.

      One possible problem with such a system (called Mixed Member Proportional Representation or Additional Member System) is that you can get into endless discussions about the so-called “Überhangmandate” (overhang mandate). This occurs when parties get more directly-elected (first vote) seats than the proportional vote (second vote) would permit. You have to allow the directly elected people in, but how you balance things is debatable. In Germany, they simply add extra seats in the Bundesrat for the overhang people, and may also have to give additional list seats to the other parties in order to keep the proportional balance right.

      Somewhat complicated, but to me, infinitely preferable to the UK pure FPTP system which, IMHO, has resulted in the insane situation of main two parties having been power in just two contiguous blocks since I was first able to vote, 31 years ago. As things have changed enormously over that period, there has been no representation in government from alternative policy-makers such as the Greens, for example, let alone the Liberals. For me, that the German system allowed for Joschka Fischer to become foreign minister was the sign that there is an awful lot going for it.

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        As ever, Mark, one person’s sensible compromise is another person’s worst-of-both-worlds.

        The system you describe concedes the purist philosophical argument in favour of PR that its proponents might use to justify sneeringly dismissing any other form of electoral system as “undemocratic.” Yet it doesn’t eliminate the “2% problem,” simply turning it into a “5% problem,” as no-one can reasonably argue that a small party with 5% of the vote is wielding power in proportion to its support when it extracts its pound of flesh in return for a coalition with a party with 46% of the vote.

        The whole idea that one electoral system is better than another is essentially meaningless without the context of what is meant by “better.” Would scientists really argue that the mean of a sample distribution is a better measure of position than its mode, which is reasonably analogous to what we are discussing here, without some rather careful discussion of whether “better” means that we are worried about skewed distributions, outlier points, or some other subtlety of the underlying population?

  24. Martin E. says:

    17/24, not bad for a turncoat who went native in the US >20 years ago.
    BUT did anyone else get the trick questions? ‘what 2 cities does the European Pariliament met in?’ and ‘The governing body of the EU is called…’ Clearly no true Brit would know either one and I got penalized for giving the actually correct answers!

  25. Keith Ashman says:

    My question was always “Is Britain worthy of me?” But I’ve been told I have arrogance issues.

  26. andyxl says:

    Keith – yup, but why not ?

  27. Keith Ashman says:

    I’ve asked myself that question a lot the last few years Andy, since there’s no reason for me to be anywhere in particular. (Vegas is sort of natural since I play poker for a living now, but I could do that anywhere.) But when I contemplate returning to the country of my birth I get a vague feeling of unfriendliness and claustrophobia.

  28. andyxl says:

    You sound like a Weegie complaining about Edinburgh. You’ll have had your tea ?

  29. Keith Ashman says:

    Iced tea. Raspberry Zinger. Keeping awake watching this election thing. You’re supposed to hang the chads not the parliament.

  30. Alan Heavens says:

    A quick skim through the comments suggests that British people score 12 +/- 1, so perhaps one should be admitted only if one hits this target score, rather than aiming for 24, which could be achieved merely by swotting. Mine was a perfect 12.

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