A Brand New Web Presence For Bob

IT LOOKS AS THOUGH Bob Spink, our local MP, will be supplementing his Website’s campaign messages from a new domain, ElectionBook.co.uk, registered on 7th January 2010 via the auspices of Clifton Flack, a ‘chartered member of the Institute of Marketing’ and trading under the name iDeal-SEO.

Bob apparently has the dubious privilege of being the first, and only, member of the new site which is due to be launched on 1st March – in anticipation of the general election on 6th May.

‘Are you running for election in the 2010 UK General Election?’ the Website asks. ‘If so we urge you to sign up to ElectionBook and make yourself available to the electorate.

‘ElectionBook.co.uk gives you the tools to position yourself in front of the people who’s votes you need.

‘Do not miss the opportunity to socialize your election campaign.’

It appears that Bob has been a member for over a week; but has yet to provide any content.

The disingenuous might think that Bob has somehow been involved in setting-up this site to provide himself with moderating privileges over any user comments; but there is no evidence to support that hypothesis. Nevertheless, it would be an attractive proposition for any candidate to be able to create, modify, edit or delete any public feedback such a presence might generate. And the compelling beauty of such an arrangement is that all content is deniable.

Fortunately, that is not the case with Hansard or attributable Early Day Motions (EDMs).

On the 9th February, Bob phrased an incongruous gem of an EDM, aimed at allowing him to dig-up an old Sunday Telegraph article, which that paper would rather forget.

His EDM839 says this:-

That this House welcomes the Sunday Telegraph’s initiative of publishing a listing of hon. Members’ value for taxpayers’ money; believes that it is just as important for the public to know what work hon. and right hon. Members are doing as it is for them to know what they are paid and what expenses they claim; and therefore calls on the Sunday Telegraph, in the interest of democracy and informing the public, to publish an updated value for money listing for all hon. Members prior to the election.

The article to which Bob is referring was published on 4th April 2009, and related to a flawed analysis of MPs’ ‘value for money’ as determined by their expenses versus the number of debates participated in and the number of written questions they made during the 07/08 year.

The flaw was that, overall, there was very little difference in MP’s total expenses, and the formula used to arrive at an MP’s ‘value’ was heavily weighted to attendance in the house.

What the formula did was to credit MPs with their attendance, then credit them again for taking part in a debate for which they were present. Then it credited them again for creating written questions on the perverse hypothesis that this would reflect parliamentary ‘work’ undertaken by an MP when absent on constituency business.

The article was heavily criticised by TheyWorkForYou, whose site had been used to source the raw data.

For some time, TheyWorkForYou had noticed various MP’s had been influencing that website’s own attempts at grading MPs by raising spurious EDMs and written questions to boost their ratings. As a consequence, the organisation ceased their analyses and now provide a ‘health warning’ on their site.

To be fair to Bob, the Telegraph’s ‘analysis’ did show that, out of 608 MPs examined, he achieved 6th position in their ‘Value For Money’ table. But only because he spent 82% of his time in the salubrious halls of the chamber (rather than his constituency); interjected on 148 debates; and, when he was not in the chamber, sat in his parliamentary office raising 727 written questions that he had apparently not been able to ask verbally.

To get a better idea of Bob’s ranking, it is best to sort the Telegraph’s data individually to arrive at his positions overall:-

  • Spink came in 219th when it came to total expenses (but don’t forget he ‘lives’ in Westminster – and spends 82% of his time in the house).
  • He was joint 16th when it came to time spent in the house; second in the number of debates ‘spoken’ in; and 12th in the number of written questions he raised.

Bob is a qualified accountant. He knows all about statistics and how to achieve the best results.

The problem with measuring ‘debates spoken in’ is that any interjection an MP can make (so the MP’s name is listed in Hansard) scores a hit.

Here is Bob trying to make the most of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill coming before the house on 9th Feb.

Mr. Grieve: I agree that voters have a choice. Frankly, I am singularly unconcerned about the Liberal Democrats’ preferences or tendencies, or about where they will go for a second vote. I am by no means persuaded that the hon. Member for Battersea (Martin Linton) is right.
9 Feb 2010 : Column 809
The evidence from my constituency is that it is most improbable that Liberal Democrat voters would exercise a second preference vote in favour of a Labour candidate, but things might be different in other places.

Bob Spink: Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Grieve: In a moment.

And then:-

Bob Spink Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Grieve: No.

And then:-

Bob Spink: Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Grieve: No, I really must make progress.

And then:-

Bob Spink: Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Grieve: No.

And then:-

Bob Spink: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Field: No, I am going to make a small amount of progress, because you, Sir Alan, were kind enough to say that I could mention, at least in passing, the amendments that I have tabled.

And then, finally:-

Mr. Field: As the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) has been jumping up a lot, I will give way to him and then to my hon. Friend.

Bob Spink: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. If he presses his amendment with the three alternatives to the vote, I will vote with him. On the AV system, does he accept that voters will not easily switch their allegiance between the main political parties, so the real political advantage will go to independents? Does he think that that might be a good thing, and that people might want to have more independents in this House in order to break the grip of the Whips from the main political parties?

Mr. Field: It is always good to have a disinterested contribution made here.

Bob can relax now. He has ‘contributed to the debate;’ he has scored his statistical ‘hit;’ and the time is fast approaching 9.00pm.

While other members continue to participate in what is one of the most important constitutional debates to come before parliament since its inception: Bob Spink has nothing further to say.

Let’s face it, Bob. There is very little chance of the Sunday Telegraph repeating their mistake for you – no matter how many signatures you achieve on that 65th EDM you have personally raised this session…

… (22/02/2010): With just five days to go before ElectionBook is launched, members of the site appear thin on the ground. The only other candidate to sign-up so far is Lord Toby Jug who, like Spink, has yet to set-up his pages.

4 Responses

  1. As always the only political journalist in Castle Point has spotted Bob spink’s efforts at pushing himself before the electorate at no cost to either his morals or his pocket. His pocket is always of deep concern to our local Member, hence his breach of the code of ethics with regard his abuse of his expenses claims and his morals are something that are of concern only to him and his various partners.

  2. ” On the AV system, does he accept that voters will not easily switch their allegiance between the main political parties, so the real political advantage will go to independents? Does he think that that might be a good thing, and that people might want to have more independents in this House in order to break the grip of the Whips from the main political parties?”

    I had to laugh at Field’s reply. He really has Bob’s number doesnt he? And I had to laugh at the civilised manner in which Grieve kept putting him down.

    What you didn’t show though was Hansard’s recording of Bob keep standing-up only to be completely ignored. But you can probaly only use “And then” just so many times before readers switch-off!

    It seems to me that all honorable members know precisley what Bob is trying to achieve here – simply boost his statistics by getting his oar in on a debate over reading the bill a second time.

    His contribution makes no sense – unless you understand Spink’s devious mind:

    What he is doing is setting up an argument for his having backed the alternative vote system, only to be opposed by the Tories (given Cameron’s preferrence to retain first past the post).

    Watch his statements from now on. He will be spinning that Cameron is against AV because it would give independants like Bob a fairer playing field. A complete and utter lie. But what local journalist (yourself excepted) would take the time to research the facts to provide the truth?

    This was a debate on the Command portion of the bill to decide on the form an AV system would take. The system that will be put before the electorate in a referendum and which the majority of Castle Point constituents, if asked, have strong opinions on.

    Spink did not present one of those arguments……………………..

    • Yes, Cynical. There is only one Castle Point constituent whom Bob represents in the house.

      Apart from giving the Bill a second reading, the house was also given the option of adopting a single transferrable vote (tabled by David Howarth). Bob voted with the majority against; but we will probably never know why. David Cameron, being against the Bill, abstained – which is contrary to Bob’s personal ‘system.’

      When Spink is undecided on which way to vote, he ensures he passes through both lobbies – in effect voting both ‘for’ and ‘against.’ He says this is to ensure his abstention is recognised (but, of course, it also gives him the ability to say, to an interviewer: ‘Quite right! I voted for that!’

      He is not ‘lying’ of course, when he does this…

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