EU Petition Fraud – A Closer Look

Since 5 a.m. on Friday 24th I’ve been following the steady increase of signatures on UK Government and Parliament Petition 131215 – EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum – with considerable interest. There are now 3.5 million signatories, an unprecedented number. However, I noticed something strange when I took a look on Sunday morning.

There is an option to view the signatures on a choropleth map, taking me back to my Year Nine geography days. On Saturday, the map looked fairly similar to how it does now, with the spread of dark and light constituencies vaguely correlating to Thursday’s results.

ref map
Screenshot taken 21:44, 26/06/2016

On the morning of Sunday 26th, however, the map looked markedly different. Every section was the palest shade of yellow, with the exception of Cities of London and Westminster, which was the darkest red. London, unsurprisingly, has been home to the majority of the petition’s signatories – on Sunday morning there were 12,000 in Chelsea and Fulham, 13,000 in Ealing Central and Acton, 16,000 in Hampstead and Kilburn, and so on. Cities of London and Westminster, meanwhile had 44,000 signatures, 26,000 more than the second highest area. Odd, to say the least.

The petition website also provides  more detailed statistics in a format that is almost unreadable. This breaks down the number of signatures per constituency, and also per country. I took this information, had a fiddle with it and created a spreadsheet, which you can peruse at your leisure. There were some anomalous results thrown up, mostly in the information about countries.

One strange result emerged from the Vatican City. The microstate, with a population of 800, had accrued over 40,000 signatures. That works out at 50 signatures per head. Strange. Similarly, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, an inhospitable British Overseas Territory with no permanent population, were responsible for almost 3,500 signatures.

Also noteworthy were the numbers emanating from the Korean peninsula. South Korea remained indifferent, with only 154 of their number calling for a second referendum. Their northern neighbours, meanwhile, were up in arms about Nigel Farage’s success, with 25,000 North Koreans adding their name to the list of disgruntled Remainers.

By three p.m., action had been taken. Votes appear to have been struck off, or possibly reassigned. I won’t go into the details of how the numbers have changed, but they are available here.

I have written to the Petitions Committee, asking how they go about identifying fraudulent signatures, and how foreign nationals’ signatures are counted. Clearly some people feel strongly enough about the petition to try and unfairly alter the result. It’s very possible that some of the 3.5 million signatories may not be genuine, even after the action taken earlier today. But I question who is behind this fraud. Tens of thousands of votes coming out of the same counting area, or the Vatican or the British Antarctic Territory were unlikely to be missed. Is it possible that these fraudulent signatures, rather than an attempt to boost apparent support for a second EU referendum, were an attempt to undermine the petition’s legitimacy? Stranger things have happened.

Thoughts of Patrick Sarsfield. @PJSARS

Brexeunt: Thoughts on a Second EU Referendum

You might not have heard – there was this vote on Thursday, and we decided to leave the EU. The debate around the referendum was toxic, but the fallout could be nuclear. Particularly now we don’t need to secure votes by pretending to like one another.

The early-morning, bleary-eyed reactions on social media predicted doom and gloom. I was scrolling through forecasts, name-calling, hand-wringing, old-people-cursing, with a sense of easter egg-like hollowness. I came across a link to a petition. EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum, the title read.

Interesting, I thought. I’ve had second referenda on my mind for a while. My mum, a fervent Unionist from Aberdeen, abhors the suggestion that an Engxit, unilaterally precipitating a Brexeunt, should lead to a second Scottish independence referendum. Cries of protest ring around my living room whenever a Scot in a yellow tie raises the spectre of a second indyref, which now seems increasingly likely to take place. Unsurprisingly, the Leave camp were jostling in a similar manner in the run up to Thursday’s plebiscite. A week or so before the polls opened, I saw an article in which Nigel Farage had suggested a 48/52 split in favour of Bremain would represent unfinished business. “Posh!” I thought, “He won’t be saying that if he wins.” something which, at the time, I thought was about as likely as discovering Beethoven was actually a musically-gifted water vole. But, of course, Farage’s horse did win and, of course, he isn’t saying that we need a second referendum.

But William Oliver Healey is. His e-petition, set up a month before the referendum, suggests that, unless either side could secure a majority of 60%, based upon a 75% turnout, there ought to be a second referendum. When I first saw the petition, in the early hours of June 24th, it had 80,000 signatures. Impressive! Almost enough to be considered for debate in parliament. As of now though, midday on June 25th, the petition has over 1.17 million votes. That is an incredible level of support. The highest number of signatures ever received by on the parliament’s e-petition website.

I’m wary about measuring public opinion from social media or from online petitions. If we did away with elections and had a purely Twitter-based democracy Mesut Ozil would be Prime Minister, and Beyoncé his Chancellor. Corbyn would get in as Secretary of State for Farming and Agriculture. If you peruse the list of most popular petitions featured on the petitions.parliament.uk site, you will see “Block Donald J Trump from UK entry” proudly in third position with 500,000 signatures. You probably heard about the parliamentary debate that was triggered in January this year. You may have felt a degree of national pride, as I did, that Britons were standing up to that hateful man with humour and democracy. More importantly they were standing alongside Muslims. What you probably didn’t hear about was the petition sitting at fourth: “Stop all immigration and close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated.” This petition, suggesting the same policy that Donald Trump was being criticised for raising, received 463,500 signatures. Thankfully, “The Petitions Committee decided on 24 November 2015 not to schedule a debate on this petition…” sadly, this was not because the petition ran contrary to our nation’s liberal values, but “because there had already been a debate on 19 October (scheduled by the Petitions Committee) on a similar petition entitled ‘Stop allowing immigrants into the UK.'”

It is fantastic that the Government gives us this avenue to pursue democracy, but it cannot be assumed that a large number of signatures on a petition is equivalent to widespread support for an issue. Many, supporters of Leave and Remain alike, have quick to point out that the petition, no matter how popular, may be undemocratic:

undemocratic

Personally, I don’t particularly support the idea of a second EU Referendum (I never want to go through that ordeal again!). However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the electorate have been coldly lied to and manipulated by the Brexit campaign. The reactions and u-turns surely prove that. Within half an hour of victory, Farage was conceding that the NHS wasn’t about to be given a £350 million budget increase. Conservative MEP and Leave campaigner, Daniel Hannan revealed on Newsnight that staying in the common market would require free movement of labour, and so the effect on immigration would be limited. Within 12 hours the Leave campaign were stepping back from two of their key bargaining chips – an increase in funding for the NHS and a decrease in immigration.

How many of those 17 million leave votes were decided by claims about immigration and the National Health Service? It’s impossible to say. But a series of YouGov polls suggest these were key issues – among the only ones in which Leave fared better than Remain. 53% of those polled thought immigration would decrease as a result of Brexit. 35% of people thought Brexit would be good for the NHS, compared to 24% who thought the Health Service would be worse off. On issues such as Britain’s financial state, pensions, terrorism, jobs, global influence, and economy, leaving was seen negatively.

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I question which is the bigger affront to democracy – a campaign that is based on lies winning an irreversible victory, or asking our democratic representatives to allow us a second opinion on a tightly contested issue now that more of the facts are at hand.

Oh, by the way, in the time it took to finish writing this, that petition received 300,000 more signatures.

Thoughts of Patrick Sarsfield: @PJSARS

Palimpsest: THIS WEEK’S EVENTS

Wow, we are so close to that beautiful moment. When fireworks and champagne corks start popping, and the entire student cohort lifts us up and carries us around on their shoulders… Or, y’know, we put out some nice wine and nibbles and people maybe do some clapping.

Because the Palimpsest anthology is getting officially released tomorrow!

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We’re all pretty excited. Nine months of hard labour and soon we get to hold our baby in our arms. (Wait, was that too creepy?)

Since the Queen has two birthdays, we figure we deserve two book launches. Well, one book launch and a book launch after-party. Don’t worry, there’s booze at both – and opportunities for you to collect all those copies of Palimpsest you pre-ordered.

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Just repeat after us: Must. Buy. Anthologies… 

The official launch is Tuesday 28th June, in London. You’ll find us in the Piccadilly Waterstones, 6.30 PM onwards. Writer Will Eaves will be kicking off the night with an introduction, followed by readings from some of our Palimpsest authors. So enjoy a glass of wine, buy an anthology, indulge our egos by requesting to have it signed, have a great night out…you know the drill.

The second launch/after-party is Thursday 30th June, on Warwick Uni campus. We’ll be in the Writer’s Room from 5.30 PM, raising a toast to the published anthology and to surviving 3/4 of our Masters degree so far. We’d like to show our appreciation of everyone who’s supported our project over the year, so please join us for a drink and some preview excerpts. The book will of course be on sale, so if you couldn’t make it to London, this is a great opportunity to get your hands on Palimpsest.

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One. Copy. Not. Enough. Need. At. Least. Ten…

Launch posters_double bill

 

 

Palimpsest: This Week’s Events

We’ve got some cool events coming up over the next few weeks.
And you’re all invited to join us…

WEDNESDAY 22nd JUNE

Maybe you’ve seen this poster around campus?

palimpsest_removed writing

The Warwick Writers are hosting an open mic night and everyone’s invited. We want to hear your poetry, spoken word and short prose pieces. To get an open mic slot, just sign up on the night. People who only want to listen are very welcome to join us too (you know performers, they love an audience ha ha).

Admission is free, and there will be wine, beer and pop available for purchase in the Writer’s Room. See you there!

 

THURSDAY 23rd JUNE

Yep, the night you’ve been waiting for all year (or maybe that’s just me) has arrived! A free Film Club screening of Jurassic Park WITH a fun, tailor-made drinking game (optional).

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So: join us in the Writer’s Room/cosy cinema…

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…grab a beverage of your choice…

JP Drinking Game T-Rex

…enjoy a cinematic classic and celebrate some JP tropes with us.

JP drinking game rules

“When you gotta go, you gotta go.” And we’re all going to this, right?

Latest Palimpsest News

The end is nigh!
In a good way. We’re sending our manuscript off to be typeset this week. It’s then going to be finalised and printed. So big thanks to everyone who has supported us and this anthology project so far.
Last week was our third evening of readings. Jon Mycroft, Mez Packer and Ian Sansom were fantastic and kept us all entertained. Although we were saddened to hear it was likely Ian’s final reading at Warwick University (due to moving jobs), this meant he treated us to excerpts from his published diaries. Very funny stuff.

May readings

We also had impressive readings from two of our own people – exclusive previews from the upcoming anthology – which went down well.
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However…we haven’t quite hit our target, so we still have some exciting fundraising events coming up. For instance, there’s:
WARWICK WRITERS’ FILM CLUB

film club

Every week, we hold a screening of a movie in the Writers’ Room, Millburn House, for you lovely people. These are films our supporters voted for, via our Facebook poll last term. We provide comfy couches, an intimate cinema atmosphere and a load of popcorn/snacks/ pop/booze bargains. Whoever turns up gets to watch a good film for free and have a fun time. What’s not to like?
The upcoming films this term are:
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Week 5 (Thursday 26th May)
WILD TALES – Week 7 (Thursday 9th June)
A SCANNER DARKLY – Week 8 (Thursday 16th June)
aaaaaaand…the one I’m most excited about…
JURASSIC PARK – Week 9 (Thursday 23rd June)
We have something special planned for Week 9’s screening, which we’ll be revealing to you in a later blog post, so keep an eye out for that!
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Thanks for reading.

Final Fundraiser

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So…Wednesday 18th May. Do you know where you’re gonna be?
That’s right, in Millburn House for the next Palimpsest evening of readings. It’s the last of our big fundraising events (but the weekly Film Club is still going, don’t worry). We really want to reach our target this month; the London launch is on 27th June so we need to pay for the type-setting and printing.
We’ve got some great performances lined up for you, from a range of writers:
  • readings from Ian Sansom, Mez Packer and Jon Mycroft
  • poetic entertainment from Jack McGowan, who will be compering
  • sneak previews of the Palimpsest anthology
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“Hang on, how much is this amazing event going to cost me?”
Admission is FREE!
“Bu-but how are you going to raise the money for Palimpsest?”
What a cynical question.. But you’re right, it IS a fundraiser so we’re hoping you might spend a little as well as enjoy the night. There’ll be light refreshments and drinks available for guests to purchase, plus raffle tickets (to win books signed by the authors), plus legacy copies of previous MAW anthologies.
So please bring your good selves, bring your purse/wallet – and bring some friends. It’s going to be a great night. We’re all looking forward to it, and to seeing you there!
Venue:
Millburn House (Rehearsal Room)
Millburn Hill Road
Warwick University
CV4 7AL
Date and time:
Wednesday 18th May
6.30 p.m.

PGR – Open Mic Fundraiser

Hey, what are you up to this Thursday evening? Nothing much, right? So get yourself down to The Royal Pug in Leamington and support our latest fundraising venture…

Microphone

What’s going on?
On Thursday May 12th, the Palimpsest anthology team will be headlining at Pure&Good&Right. It’s always a great gig, with plenty of spoken word from talented poets. This month, we’ll be there performing an extended set – sharing some of our own pieces, plus work from a few better-known poets. The audience will also be getting a sneak-preview of excerpts from the upcoming anthology.
How it works:
We get some of the proceeds taken on the door, so we’d really appreciate support from as many people as possible. We’ll be bringing books produced by previous MAW groups too, so please buy a copy if the urge takes you.
Basically, the point of all this is to raise the funds to type-set, publish, launch and promote our anthology to a professional standard. The Palimpsest team has put a lot of hard work into this project over the year – we just haven’t quite hit our target budget. But with your help, we can get there over the next month!
Venue: The Royal Pug (upstairs), 141 Regent St, Leamington Spa, CV32 4NX
Date: Thursday 12th May
Time: 7.30 PM
Admission: £3

Royal Pug

Only £3, for a fun night out and supporting a group of aspiring writers.
Bargain!
See you there…