Government system to register to vote in the referendum gets overloaded. Deadline gets extended. Cockup or conspiracy?
News reports tell us the best measure of traffic they had was the peak of registrations ahead of last year’s general election, and they built the system to cope with many times more traffic than they’d had then. Yet traffic surged way beyond even that ‘surplus’ capacity. So while cockup is entirely plausible, it’s by no means inevitably the cause.
It is widely supposed that late registrations come predominantly from younger people, and that younger people are more likely to vote In. So bringing the system down ahead of the deadline would favour “out”, while extending the deadline would favour “in”. Overall my best guess would be they more-or-less balance – at least if the system doesn’t go down again.
Most campaigners on both sides seem to accept it’s just one-of-those-things. But a few “out” campaigners have been remarkably quick to jump on it. It’s gerrymandering (Ian Liddell-Grainger). It could be cause for Judicial Review in the event of a narrow “in” vote (Bernard Jenkin).
Hmmm, cui bono? Jenkin’s line of reasoning points to a vote-again-until-you-get-it-right scenario. We have a motive: someone stood to gain from the system failing on the last day. If the deadline is not extended, a chunk of predominantly-in voters are excluded. If it is extended, they’re preparing the ground for judicial review: get the courts to decide. A win-win.
A Denial of Service attack can bring any system on the ‘net down for a while, and is very easy to mount (buy yourself control of a million virus-infected PCs and have them all bombard the target system to overwhelm it).
Cockup or Conspiracy? I anticipate some more evidence, albeit far from conclusive. If it goes down again tomorrow, that signals cockup – unless someone could organise a new DoS attack remarkably quickly. If it survives to the new deadline, it smells more of conspiracy.
Just heard businesspeople debating the EU issue. Unlike most of the crap we’ve been getting from both sides, this discussion aimed to be somewhat informative.
It was chaired by the BBC’s Evan Davis, with a panel comprising two business leaders from each side, and a guest from the Swiss business community to bring insights from a prosperous European non-EU perspective.
The pro-EU panellists basically said what I’d expect: their businesses benefit hugely from not having to deal with red tape in their everyday dealings with the rest of the EU. One of them was in manufacturing, and drew the contrast between just shipping something vs having to fill tedious forms for every item exported outside the single market. Whether and to what extent brexit would affect her business surely depends on politics (of 27 countries), and if you take the Gove vision of out-of-the-single-market, hassle-free exports would look like an early casualty. The other was in financial services, on which subject the most interesting observation came from the Swiss guest: Swiss companies have to establish EU-based subsidiaries to export their financial services!
The Anti-EU panellists were more interesting: their gripe was with EU red tape. Between them they provided three examples:
- Data Protection rules constrain the first speaker’s business of direct marketing. Hmmm, Americans in his line of business complain of that too. Perhaps he imagines brexit will exempt us from rules that bind US companies doing business in Europe (even if lobbyists could persuade a UK government to adopt rules more spam-friendly than our current ones)?
- The other speaker is a financier, and one of his investee companies struggled with an inordinately long approval process for a new drug. Well, he may have a valid point, but how could brexit help him? Pharma research involves big investment (that’ll be why they needed a financier), and needs to sell into big markets. So I would imagine their top priorities will be EU and US approvals, regardless of brexit. If the UK process departs from the EU one, that’s just more red tape and expense.
- A health-and-safety rule: executive office chairs have to have five legs/wheels at the base to give them stability (yes, four swivelling legs with wheels really is hazardous). Hmm, well, they all do have that, everyone in the industry works to that standard. Is anyone realistically going to try and change it? We can of course still get a four-legged chair without wheels.
So, that’s the red tape that bothers them. Is there a developed country anywhere in the world without broadly similar rules? Oh yes, the US lacks data protection, and one or two states are safe havens for spammers.
A particularly interesting nugget came when the chairman asked the Swiss guest about having to abide by EU standards without legally having a say in them. He replied that in fact swiss business does effectively have a say. Like anyone else, they can lobby, and if they present a reasonable case for something, the EU is receptive to it. One might almost conclude that only the Brits get obsessed with legal niceties over reasonable practicalities. On the other hand, he also pointed out that domestic politics within any of the EU countries may get in the way of them doing any particular deal you might expect – and that the brexit campaigners are assuring us will happen.
 (footnote removed, I thought better of it).
 I wonder if the much-feared TTIP might help with that, perhaps with a streamlined or even unified process to get approval both sides of the Atlantic?
 I wasn’t quite clear on the details.
 Notably Florida, unless I’m out-of-date or misremembering.