Brexit means…

Extrapolating from UK by-elections to a general election result is always a dodgy proposition, but we have seen two in short order so I’m going to stick my neck out.

In Richmond Park, a constituency that voted solidly to remain in the EU, the unambiguously pro-remain Lib Dem candidate trounced the Brexit supporting Tory. And no-one was fooled by Zac Goldsmith’s pseudo-independence.

In Sleaford and North Hykeham, a constituency that voted to leave, the pro-leave Conservative candidate comfortably won, beating UKIP into a distant second.

Both by elections centred on the Brexit vote and the government’s response, and this clearly remains a live issue for many voters. In constituencies in which the remain vote was strong, voters are turning to the Lib Dems as the only unambiguously pro-EU party. In pro-leave constituencies, voters are not buying UKIP’s accusations of the government backsliding on Brexit, and are continuing to back the Tories.

It would be foolish to try and make a general election prediction based on two by elections. But the one thing that has become clear is that when Theresa May says “Brexit means Brexit”, what she means is that Labour’s slide into irrelevance can only accelerate.

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Manipulating System 1

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman looks at the mental shortcuts we take and the ways in which these shortcuts mislead us. In doing so, he describes two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is quick, intuitive and emotional while System 2 is slower, more deliberative and more logical. Both systems have their place, but System one tends to dominate and is relatively easy to manipulate.

AC Grayling argues that this has happened, both in the Brexit referendum and the Trump election.

What Kahneman and other researchers have empirically confirmed in their work is that the majority of people are ‘System One’ or ‘quick’ thinkers in that they make decisions on impulse, feeling, emotion, and first impressions, rather than ‘System Two’ or ‘slow’ thinkers who seek information, analyse it, and weigh arguments in order to come to decisions. System One thinkers can be captured by slogans, statements dramatised to the point of falsehood, and even downright lies, because they will not check the validity of what is said, but instead will mistrust System Two thinkers whose lengthier arguments and appeals to data are often regarded as efforts to bamboozle and mislead.

Grayling goes on to say:

A senior BBC news editor told me that there was fierce debate among his colleagues about how they were reporting the Brexit referendum campaigns. They were conscious that that the Leave campaign, in particular, was putting out highly doubtful if not downright dishonest statements either very late or very early in the day in order to have them reported in morning news programmes, knowing that fact checking and the need to modify or retract misleading statements would only come later in the day, by which time the statements would have done their work with System One audiences.

And the media often compounds this problem by seeking a balance that (unintentionally) results in false equivalence.

I’m not sure what the solution to all of this is – or even if there is one – but surely it starts with more teaching and use of critical thinking and a better use of journalistic resources so that untrue and misleading claims can be quickly and effectively debunked.

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Cheers!

corsendonk Politico reports that the Belgian beer culture was added on Wednesday to UNESCO’s cultural heritage list for being deep-rooted in the country with breweries, beer tasting associations, museums and events in every province of Belgium.

“It is the unparalleled diversity of the art of brewing and the intensity of the beer culture, as a part of our daily lives and at festivals in our country, that make this beer culture a part of the identity and the cultural heritage of the entire country,” a statement from the culture ministers from the French, German, and Dutch speaking communities of Belgium said.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called upon people to visit the country to taste the beers.

With 214 breweries (PDF) in the country, visitors may find it best to extend their stay.

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Who was taking back control?

Politico has picked up a story from the Independent which reports that The Sun registered as an official Leave campaign group and spent nearly £100,000 pushing for Brexit.

[T]he Sun was a vocal proponent of Brexit, as was Murdoch, who, when asked why he didn’t like the EU, said: “That’s easy. When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”

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Quote of the Day: Understanding the right

But let’s be clear here. Trump and Farage do not understand the working class. They come from immensely privileged backgrounds, have spent little time studying the real problems workers have, and make no effort to identify genuine circumstances where the people might be right and elites wrong. Instead, they are just narcissists who found a ready market for their bigotry thanks to helpful socioeconomic conditions, a complicit media and cognitive biases among voters.

Chris Dillow

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OSPAT: The Open Source POWER Availability Tool

Here’s handy. If you are using Linux on the IBM Power architecture, the Open Source POWER Availability Tool (OSPAT) allows you to search multiple distributions for available packages.

[T]he specialty of OSPAT is that it only returns POWER package results, it does not return x86 packages in the search results. Thus, the user doesn’t have to drill deep into the search results to find the POWER packages. Also, the search results display the results across multiple distributions, helping POWER users determine whether certain packages have equivalency across multiple distributions.

Click here if you want to take a look.

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Quote of the Day: Not all change is progress

As neo-tribalism replaces neoliberalism, you must forget about the old checks and balances democracies erected to govern complicated societies. You must be sure to respect the “will of the people” in its unmediated rawness. You must be surer still that you are a part of “the people”. For, if you are not, you can find yourself an “enemy of the people” just by carrying on as you did before.

Nick Cohen

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38 Worthless Promises

Vote Leave Watch has helpfully assembled a list (via) of all the false promises the Brexit campaigners are now trying to duck out of.

Every one of the Leave campaign’s claims was worthless. Every one of their promises was obvious nonsense. And a BMG poll suggests that people are beginning to realise this.

Referenda can look superficially appealing, but by trying to reduce a complex or divisive issue into a simple yes/no question, they can cause confusion and uncertainty. Often, this leads to people voting on the the question they would like to answer rather than the question being asked, which allows the whole process to be hijacked by fringe groups (UKIP turning the Brexit vote into a ballot on immigration, for example).

Low turnouts, as is also often the case, also skew the results away from the balance of public opinion and towards the minority with the most enthusiastic supporters.

There are cases in which a referendum is justified, but these are rare and should be treated as exceptional and they certainly have no place in resolving internal party disputes.

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