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UK Election 2019 Series - The Green Party


This is the fourth post in my series on UK political parties during the lead-up to the 2019 UK General Election, which will look at The Green Party.

In my eyes, the Green Party has two big strengths; the fact that it puts the climate emergency first and foremost, and the second is that along with the climate emergency, it also wants to try and implement some other more 'out there' ideas, like a four day working week, and a basic income.

Both these concepts are hugely controversial and fairly easy pickings for journalists and other politicians, since they're ideas that involve fundamental changes in how society works, so they're hard to explain and defend in snappy soundbites. While I'm not fully sold on the Green's policy, I do believe that lots of their ideas have merit.

Treat an emergency like an emergency

Let's look at the climate emergency first. It's clear that as a species, we need to change how we organise ourselves. Essentially, the current world economy is horrifically unsustainable, but in a way that is hard to see on a daily basis if you live in a first-world country like the UK. It's clear to pretty much everybody that doesn't out-right deny science, that we need to make big changes, but what's contentious, is when the Government needs to start making them.

On Radio 4 the other day, a journalist asked a Green party spokesperson why the UK should start to greenify its economy now while other countries like China aren't doing so. This is an age-old rebuttal to climate action; a prime reason why Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris agreement, and also a big reason why the US failed to ratify the Kyoto agreement in 2001.

I don't accept the premise behind this question, which is that there's some kind of competition going on between each country in the world. This implies that whoever 'invests first' in greenifying the economy will lose out relative to other countries. The question is phrased in a way that implies 'greenifying' is a bad thing, a bitter pill to swallow just because the doctor told you to. This is false.

Many 'green' technologies are profitable now (especially in the renewable energy sector), and though clean and carbon neutral tech has an upfront cost (like, well, anything), it also has many benefits which often outweigh the costs. One example is air pollution in big cities (and even small towns on still, foggy mornings) causing lung problems which have to be treated by the NHS. In this case, reducing air pollution through 'greening' can offset the cost of investment against the cost of care (which should include the upfront cost of hospitals, chemotherapy, doctor's time as well as indirect costs such as lost work time). This means that when you do a holistic and complete calculation, there are lots and lots of really good investment opportunities that bring a net benefit for society. Plus, who doesn't want shiny new technology?

The way that humanity has run the world from the time of the industrial revolution to today has been to profit off of the planets resources in the short term, and pay the price in the long term. Unfortunately for us, this debt is intergenerational, and now it's beginning to come due. As a result, the UK (and the world) will over the next century, have to invest massively with two goals; reduce further damage to the environment and mitigate existing damage. There's no ifs or buts about it; these investments and changes will have to be made because otherwise the world will be unable to support a population as large as what we have today. Therefore, the most rational thing to do is to pay off the debt as quickly as possible in order to avoid paying lots of interest.

So following that logic, there is a great business opportunity to be had here. By investing early, there is the opportunity to ensure that British companies have the necessary capital to start to create solutions for this transition, so that UK companies can help (and sell to) other countries when they come to make the same transition.

Finally, to take no action, is to directly harm future generations of human beings, who will be born into a planet beset by problems of mass climate-driven migration, wars over scarce resources, extreme weather (even in habitable places), low biodiversity and polluted spaces. One nice thing about democracy, is it distills the decision making power to avert that future down into a simple tick at the voting booth.

Other policies

So even if you are convinced that the UK should make the investment into green technology now (while international interest rates for loans are extremely low, don't forget), what about the Green party's other policies?

If you're on the center-right side of the political spectrum, then crazy ideas like four-day working weeks, or universal basic income might fly in the face of all that you believe. While I'm fairly amenable to a four day week myself (I currently work four days a week, and study for a masters degree in the remaining day, and it's great so far!), some of their policies are objectively rather experimental (UBI is a good example).

The saving grace, however, is that it's extremely unlikely that the Green party would get a majority in parliament, and since they're almost certainly to continue to be a minority party (at least after this election), then presumably they will work primarily to achieve their main policy goal, which is to implement a green transition for the UK. You may be able to tell that I believe this to be an overwhelmingly good thing. Likewise, they will likely support policies that have similar aims to their own policies, even if they are watered down. They are policies that try to reduce inequality, improve education, create secure jobs etc, most of which I think are good ideas.

UK Election 2019 Series - The Liberal Democrats


This is the third post in my series on UK political parties during the lead-up to the 2019 UK General Election, which will look at The Liberal Democratic Party.

Like previously, I split this post into a few different parts:


First things first, unlike the Labour party and in direct opposition to the Conservative party, the Liberal Democrats have conclusively positioned themselves as a strongly pro-remain party, and will always push to remain in the EU (one of their signature policies is to cancel Brexit). Obviously for me, as somebody living in the EU and highly opposed to Brexit, that's a really big plus.

This policy also makes pre-eminent sense for anybody who is really tired of Brexit. If we officially leave the EU, then the process of Brexit isn't over; that's just the beginning. The UK Government would have to negotiate a new treaty with the EU, and a series of new treaties and trade agreements with other countries, which will take many years. For reference, it's not uncommon for a treaty to take a whole decade to negotiate.

This means that for literally years, two things will happen; valuable diplomatic/governmental resources will be put into trade negotiations (taking policy making clout away from domestic issues), and the droning, boring, homogeneous news cycle that reports on each and every (mis-)step about the ongoing Brexit will continue.

Of course, in a world where the Liberal Democrats get their way, Brexit is cancelled unilaterally by the UK Government which immediately rescinds Article 50, meaning that we stay in the EU and forget about the whole caboodle. Actually, that's not quite true, we'd have to do a little bit of integration into the EU again, but nothing compared to a Brexit.


More generally, the Liberal Democrats seem to have their Election manifesto pretty well figured out, in contrast to both the Conservatives and Labour. The Lib Dem website has a five point plan, which is very clear and to the point. In contrast, Labour has an 'issues' page which after the customary full-page picture of Corbyn, lists twelve sub-pages, which have further sub-pages which, as of writing, eventually link to a page which says that Labour's manifesto is coming soon. The Conservatives aren't much better, they have a lot on Boris, and four pages on other topics; police, the NHS, the economy and schools.

I particularly like the Lib Dem's plan to tackle the climate emergency; investing in renewables so that they get an 80% share of our energy mix by 2030, and insulating all low-income homes is a great idea.

Apart from being, well, vital to avert a catastrophe, both plans have the potential to stimulate small/medium sized businesses in the UK, and with global interest rates really low, other European countries making similar moves, and the climate problem only going to get worse, this is the best time to invest. Note that both Labour and the Green Party have stronger decarbonisation commitments.

Another point of note, is that their pledge to invest 20,000 more teachers has an interesting parallel to the Conservative goal to hire 20,000 more police officers; it feels like they're trying to tackle the same problem (crime), with the same government resources (20,000 new public sector staff), from two different angles (stronger education vs stronger policing). The Liberal Democrat approach appears to be to invest in the education of young people so they have more opportunity to thrive in, and contribute to British cities, rather than the Conservative approach, which is to try and deter people from committing crimes by making policing more effective. I prefer the former.

Prime-ministerial & majority suitability

I'm happy that the Liberal Democrats have had a resurgence recently, they had a somewhat rocky time under Tim Farron (partly for his controversial stance not to support gay marriage), and are still recovering from their 2010 coalition with the Conservatives when their government implemented the current (diabolical) student finance system. Nevertheless, the current party seems to have learnt lessons, and under Jo Swinson, has a charismatic, sensible and apparently sane (important in today's politics) leader. Obviously the Lib Dems are a massive outsider to take a majority, but I think them having a larger share of the seats in parliament would undoubtedly be a good thing; it'd move the UK away from a two party system and provide a stronger and more varied opposition to the government.

UK Election 2019 Series - Labour


This is the second post in my series on UK political parties during the lead-up to the 2019 UK General Election, which will look at the Labour Party.

Like previously, I split this post into a few different parts:

Labour's record as the opposition

With 83% (as of today) of the MP's in parliament being part of either the Labour party or the Conservative party, it's fair to say that the UK has a two-party system. Unfortunately for Labour, with great electoral success comes great national responsibility; they have to form the backbone of the opposition to the Government.

Sadly this means that much of the criticism about Conservative Party policy from my previous post can be mirrored back at Labour. The thinking is that the Conservative party wouldn't have been able to make some of those mistakes if Labour had provided an effective opposition in government. Instead, the Labour party has been almost as inward looking and unstable as the Tories have, especially in the last few years.

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy

Jeremy Corbyn is a hugely divisive figure both inside Labour and out; he's seen as the saviour that the UK needs by his supporters within the party, but also as a dangerously socialist firebrand by others (including many center/center-left voters that Labour would like need to win over to get a majority). I think the reality is somewhere in the middle; while he has some great policy goals (greening the economy, reducing inequality, reducing poverty, etc), his somewhat ranty speeches are often hard to relate to (at least for me), and the actual policy mechanisms aren't always well communicated, or are explained in a very idealistic way that seem to require a lot of faith to be convincing.

Labour's website is similar to the Conservative one in the sense that both parties have lots of full page pictures about their leader, though Labour has far more information about their actual policies (and there are a lot of them, more on that later).

Peak Corbyn; the People's Preacher?

Though Labour tries to portray Jeremy Corbyn as a strong leader, under his tenure, it hasn't successfully or cleanly dealt with many of its own internal issues. There's been a slowly bubbling scandal around antisemitism for quite some time, and infrequent-but-persistent infighting, with Momentum often mentioned as causative culprits. The effects of this internal disorganisation and lack of discipline are plain to see on a day-to-day level, and there have been many divergences between what Jeremy Corbyn says is Labour policy, and what his shadow ministers will say. If I'm not convinced that he can competently run his party and heal it's internal division, then it's hard to be convinced that he can competently win an election campaign and go on to run the country, and heal it in the post-Brexit period.

It should be noted that the same issues exist within the Conservative party too; it has a problem with islamophobia (maybe xenophobia and jingoism too), and the ERG is a divisive party-within-a-party just like Momentum is.


Speaking of Brexit, Labour has dithered and dathered on what their policy actually is. If there's one thing that's obvious about Brexit, it's that many people and businesses in the UK (and outside of it) would massively benefit from certainty... yet Labour has flip-flopped between various stances, none of which have been definitive and easy to grasp.

While I appreciate that the debate is nuanced (something the Tories missed when they decided to run a yes/no referendum), Labour's indecisiveness to settle on a position has meant that they haven't provided a cohesive alternative to the Tory government, which has contributed to them failing to provide an effective opposition which can hold the government to account. I mentioned this above too, but it's been especially apparent and important throughout the Brexit crisis.

Their current policy is to have a referendum on any deal that the UK Government does negotiate. I like the idea of a referendum, but only because I hope that it would stop Brexit altogether. I think the process of yet another referendum (presumably after the election?) would be hugely tiring and divisive.

Other policies

As of a few days ago, the Labour party was still actively taking submissions for what should go in it's 2019 manifesto, which isn't exactly encouraging considering that it's already November, and the election takes place in about a month.

Apart from that though, their website has lots of policies that sound good; Labour wants to strike a Green New Deal (essentially upgrading the country to run sustainably, bringing lots of investment and jobs), increase the National Living Wage to £10 an hour and ban fracking. It's also worth noting that a Labour Government would also put more money into basically all public facing government services. Of course, this includes the police service like the Tories want to fund, and their website implies that they'll invest a similar amount into it too (though Jeremy doesn't bluster about that anywhere near as much as Boris does).

UK Election 2019 Series - The Conservatives


This is the first post in my series on UK political parties during the lead-up to the 2019 UK General Election, which will look at the Conservative Party.

I'm going to split my analysis of the Convservative Party into three separate parts:

Conservative Economic Record

Despite the Tories' reputation as a pro-business party which puts the economy first, it's not clear to me that this promise has really been delivered on over the last nine years since they came to power. While stock brokers may argue that "past performance is no guarantee of future results", I'd say that it's exactly this line of thinking that produced today's United Kingdom (take from that what you will).

"The economy" is a nebulous and abstract concept, which I find hard to talk about in ways that are actually meaningful on a level relevant to an individual, rational voter. While the economy has 'grown' under Tory stewardship, I'm hardly convinced that it's done so in a way that still enforces the traditional social contract under which conservatives often claim to operate; where everyone has the chance to get on in life and to go as far as their own talent and hard work can take them.

Why is that? Well, the current way that society in the UK operates makes it easy for people who are already rich to get richer, and it makes it hard for people that are poor to get less poor; a far cry from a meritocracy. For example, having a normal job and earning a salary will allow you to survive and make money in the modern economy, but being rich allows you to own assets (property, businesses, stocks), letting you to make money while doing nothing. Crucially, unlike a job, assets are almost infinitely parallelizable since you can just buy as many as you can afford. Since assets generate money, this means rich people can grow their wealth more quickly and easily than poor people can.

By stimulating businesses and implementing austerity policies, the Tory Party has succeeded in growing GDP, but they appear to have failed to ensure that living standards have kept up and failed to ensure that the spoils of this economic growth have been equally divided. While making public services more efficient is a great idea, the UK is a welfare state whether you like it or not. This means that the system is set up so that people are expected to rely on the state in times of need, which causes lots of problems for them (and everybody else) when austerity means those services are not provided.

Lets not forget; the economy is a means, not an end. For me, that end is providing a good quality of life for every citizen in the country, having a fair and equal country and maintaining the international standing of the UK as a powerful force for good on the world stage. This is not equivalent to arbitrarily increasing GDP (here's a good podcast on that).

My argument is, that even if the Tories aren't completely responsible for what's written above, they've been in power for better part of a decade and they're certainly partly culpable for the the above state of affairs.


Of course, thus far, I've only talked about economic policy, which is just a single aspect of governance among many. However, in my view, one massive reason not to vote Conservative in the coming election is because a vote for them, is a vote towards the party that called for the Brexit referendum in the first place.

Brexiteers, don't be alarmed; this isn't a criticism of the decision to leave the European Union, it's a criticism of how the decision was taken. When I first heard that "Brexit was a Tory project", I was rather taken aback, until it was pointed out to me that it was a Conservative government that called the referendum in 2016 (in part to avoid losing votes to UKIP at the time), and a Conservative government that decided on how the referendum was to be run (a yes/no question was a massive failure in hindsight since it wasn't anywhere near specific enough to actually be implemented), and a Conservative government that triggered Article 50, putting a two year deadline on getting a deal, which thus far, hasn't turned out very well for anybody.

No matter where you stand on the Brexit debate, I think it's hard to argue that the Conservatives ran the whole thing well so far. If anything, Brexit has laid bare the rotten power structures, warring sub-factions and mis-aligned incentives within the party. In my view, to vote for the Tory Party in its current form, is to vote for sub-par governance borne of selfish and short-sighted political gain.

Looking forward

If you look on the Conservative website, it's clear what the party's answer is to all of the above; it's Boris. Because quite literally, the website is all about him. Their front page is literally a full-page video of Boris, with six pictures of Boris further down the page, and literally no pictures of anybody else.

Boris, Boris, Boris.

Rather than their policies for the upcoming election in one month, the first link in their header is an invitation to 'Meet Boris', which actually consists of a letter from him and what appears to be his CV (and a rather selective one at that):

Certain foreign policy gaffes have been conveniently forgotten.

To be fair, there are four rather concrete policies that the Conservatives want to push; safer streets, a stronger economy, better schools and more money for the NHS (as well as Brexit, obviously). Compared to certain other parties, that's refreshingly simple.

However, I'm not convinced. Without doing a deep dive, lets look briefly at each:


To sum up, I can think of two good reasons to vote for the Conservatives; if you want a hard Brexit like they're going for and aren't perturbed by how they've handled it so far, or if you simply are happy with how the country has been governed over the last ten years, and want that to continue.

I think a lot of the Tory approach to the election revolves around the charisma and character of Boris Johnson, which would be excusable, if they had the policies to back it up, but as said above, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Finally, I do think that the Conservative Party has played a large role in bringing about the Brexit crisis, something that has been hugely destructive, damaging, and embarrassing for the nation. In my view, that heavily weighs against them going into the next general election.

UK Election 2019 Series - Intro


UK politics is incredibly complicated at the moment, dominated by a single issue (of course, Brexit), yet dogged by many others that in more normal times, could classify as era defining by themselves (think inequality, the climate crisis, possible break-up of The Union via Scottish independence, international affairs such as the war in Syria, etc).

But as the country is attempting to grapple with these problems, it has also become increasingly evident that are also problems with the UK's system of governance. The election in 2019 will be the third general election since 2015, during which time we also had two leadership contests within the incumbent Conservative party, three prime-ministers, and of course, one very big referendum. There have been extraordinary occurrences in Parliament, with MP's using both newly invented and almost forgotten political devices to try to hold an increasingly recalcitrant executive branch to account, making our lack of a written constitution increasingly apparent.

I'm not sure if it's sensible for me to try to speculate on why all this has come to pass, but I think it is fair game to look at the current political landscape as it stands today, and examine where each party might stand in the coming general election. So, I'm writing a series of blog posts looking at most political fractions inside the UK parliament from my perspective as an English voter. I intend it to be an analysis for myself as much as for anybody else; I'll need to make a decision on the 12th of December, and I'd like to make a considered one.

I'll take each major party that's running in England; that's the Conservative Party, the Labour party, the Liberal Democrat party, the Green Party and the Brexit party, and discuss how they stand in the coming election. Since I'm looking from an English perspective, I won't take into account parties from other countries, such as the SNP, the DUP, Plaid Cymru, etc.

The posts will appear below as I write them:

It's my first time writing content like this, and to be honest, my first time taking such an in-depth look at each party. I expect that to shine through in the content, though I hope that the end result will remain useful and that I learn a lot along the way.

Getting into the habit of getting stuff down


My life got more busy lately since I started a masters degree, perhaps it's not the best time to start a blog. But, as the headmaster at my high school would cheekily remark, "if you want something doing, give it to a busy person" (often at the end of a conversation to parents about homework allocation).

In order to make the blog successful, it needs to have content. I think if I try to make each new post as good as I can, then this blog will remain decidedly empty. I aim to embrace the maxim that 'perfection is the enemy of good' and strive to improve the quality blog, at least initially, by simply getting content out there, and getting into the habit of getting stuff down.

Actually, there's a fun anecdote about this; a university professor once split their photography class in two; one half would be graded on the number of photos they produced, and the other on the composition of a single photo that they would select and submit. At the end of the course, the best photos were all from the 'quantity' side of the class, since they had spent lots of time practicing their skills, while the 'quality' side of the class mostly theorised about the best approach, and didn't actually learn as much. There's a more in-depth blog post about that here.

That's not to say that I'd like to post complete junk, I hope each post will have a central theme and something meaningful that I'd like to say as the basis behind it.

How to make a Pull Request (for my notes)


If you want to skip to the tutorial, click here.

Soon after starting at university, I started to become frustrated with the rather poor quality of the lecture slides we would have to revise from. Though all the information was there, and it was (mostly) perfectly clear if you attended all the lectures, when it came to revising for the exams, it was hard to figure out what exactly was happening from the lecture slides themselves.

Thus, I started to make my own notes and flashcards, which I put online after each of my courses was finished. To my very pleasant surprise, other students at Manchester started to use them for revision too. This is very visible from the large spikes in traffic that my website receives during every exam period.

The peaks in my website's traffic correspond to exam periods at university.

This makes me really, really happy, but with great happiness comes a little bit of responsibility. Since so many students are using my notes to revise and learn, any mistakes in the notes (and there are likely quite a few) could be propagated onto them, which nobody wants. Furthermore, some of the courses have changed and the material has become out of date, argh!

Since my notes are 100% open source, I've always hoped that they would become living documents, and students would update the notes as they found mistakes, or thought of improvements. While I do typically receive a few changes per year, I think there's a very low ratio of eyes-on-page to proposed-amendments, and I'd like to improve that. I recognise that many students, having just come to university, might not be familiar with LaTeX, or with Git or with how pull requests work, so this is my effort to help students contribute.

So, what follows is my guide on how to submit a pull request to my notes, from start to finish.

I'll split the tutorial into three parts; the structure of my notes repositories, how to edit the notes, and how to submit a PR.

How my notes are structured

As of writing, my bachelor's degree notes are split into three repositories on GitHub, corresponding to each year I spent at university. The repositories can be found here, here and here. In this tutorial, I'll use my first year notes as an example, but the other two repositories are similar.

I'll assume that you have a terminal set up that you can type Git commands into. If you've not heard of version control or Git before, perhaps read this intro before continuing.

If you want to make changes to the notes, the first step is to fork the repository. To do that, you need to open the repository in your web-browser and hit the 'fork' button in the top-right corner. This will create a copy of my repository under your GitHub account, that you can make edits to Eventually, you'll send me a request to pull your edits back into the original repository (and that request, is the pull request).

Once you've forked the repository, you'll need to download it to your machine before you can make any changes. To do that, you should run the following command, but replacing `Todd-Davies' with your username so that you download your copy of the repository:

$ git clone

Now, if you run cd first-year-notes and then run ls, you'll see the structure of the notes directory:

$ ls
> COMP10120 COMP11212 COMP15111 COMP18112 setup
> COMP11120_1 COMP12111 COMP16121 README.rst
> COMP11120_2 COMP14112 COMP16212

Each of the COMP* sub-directories contain the source for one of my notes files, and as you can probably guess, they're named after the course code for that course.

Lets see what's inside one of the course subdirectories. I'll cd into one of them, then see what's inside:

$ cd COMP15111
$ ls
> notes.pdf
> content.tex notes.tex
> drawstack.sty packages.tex
> flashcards
> kindle.pdf tcolorbox.sty
> kindle.tex two_box_model_diagram.pdf
> meta.tex two_box_model_diagram.tex

How to make a change, and build the PDF files

That's a lot of files, and most of them aren't relevant for the basics. The most important thing to know, is that the content goes inside the .tex files, and the output is in the .pdf files. The actual notes usually live in the content.tex file. In order to convert the tex files into pdf files, then you need to either run a command called pdflatex, or run the build script that's usually provided (later versions of my notes should use makefiles) ./

I'm not going to go into editing the LaTeX code now, because that would make a long post already longer than it is, but to get your feet wet, try making a change to some text, saving the file, compiling the code using the build script, and viewing the updated output in a PDF viewer (your web browser should do the trick).

How to make a change in Git, and push to GitHub

Once you've done that, if you run git status, you should see output similar to the following:

$ git status
On branch master
Your branch is up to date with 'origin/master'.

Changes not staged for commit:
(use "git add (file)..." to update what will be committed)
(use "git checkout -- (file)..." to discard changes in working directory)

modified: content.tex
modified: kindle.pdf
modified: notes.pdf

no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")

As Git says, the next step is to make a commit with the files we changed! Lets do that, and then push back up to the repository we forked on Github.

$ git commit -a -m 'My first commit'
$ git push origin master

Note that most of the courses have a section for contributors; please do add yourself in there if you do some editing, however small!

How to make a Pull Request (PR)

Now, if you go back to the repository you made in GitHub, and click on 'Pull Requests' in the tabs, then you should be able to see a 'New pull request' button on the top right side:

The green button on the top right!

If you click the button, you'll be taken to the UI, where you can actually send the PR to me.

Next steps

Now, I'll get an email that you sent me a PR, and within a few days (hopefully!), I'll take a look and either merge the PR into the codebase (which will automatically make the updated versions of the notes available on my website), or give you some feedback if we should make some changes before we merge.

If you'd like to see examples of previous PR's, then you can look here.

Finally, studying CS is hard, revising is hard, exams are hard, writing LaTeX is hard, putting all the knowledge you've learnt into coherent sentences so that other people can understand it is also... hard. So first off, if you do get around to making a PR, then you have my sincere gratitude for the effort, and second, I promise to be friendly, and will spend the time with you to help with any part of the process if required. If you have any problems, feel free to email me!

I'm starting a blog


The internet has gotten a lot of flak recently for facilitating information pollution via the World Wide Web, which is a shame, since the internet is also an incredible force for good in the world.

I recently realised how much I love looking at what people produce online. It's easy for me to spend lots of time looking at aggregated content on Hacker News and, in part, because it's rich in stuff that represents the best of the web; highly heterogeneous content from individual creators who are passionate about what they're doing. In particular, Drew De Vault's blog and work is a good example of content I highly value, and Jamie Tanna's post on the indie web helped motivate me to start the blog.

Conveniently, I do a lot of journaling and note taking as it stands; I keep a gratitude journal, a philosophy journal, write notes on lectures and papers for my university studies, and keep track of other random assortments. I hope that the additional effort required to translate the content into a blog and make it accessible to all is low enough that I can post fairly regularly, and enjoy the process.

Here's to blogging!