A utilitarian’s guide to a Brexit outcome.

Of the many problems associated with Brexit, the most glaring is the lack of ability for those in charge to get a majority of people behind any one given choice forward. However, this is strange on a number of levels, given the actual makeup of the house in terms of what each MP believes. For example, there is a vast majority against a ‘no deal’ exit, but they can’t seem to execute on that, and so if no one compromises, it’ll be the option taken despite it probably being the least favourite option of 90% of the MPs.

To show a potential way forward, let’s invite Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham to try and solve our issue. Bentham believed in a Hedonic Calculus, where everything could be measured in units of good or bad. For simplicity, let’s just use positive units. Every MP has a set of options in front of them, and they can give them a maximum utility of 100, and a minimum utility of 0.

Note: I am not saying any of the following is what I believe is best, or that they outcome of the calculus is my preferred option. This is an attempt to be objective. 

For our experiment, Bentham is going to create a 4 x 5 grid, comparing types of MP vs types of outcome. Our MP types are as follows (a) our no deal MPs, (b) our soft brexit MPs, (c) our remain MPs in a constituency that was strongly Leave-voting (here defined as 60%+), and (d) our remain MPs who live either in a balanced or remain area. Our five outcomes are (i) no deal, (ii) May’s deal, (iii) a customs union deal, kind of what Corbyn is saying, a little softer than May’s but not fully defined, (iv) a Norway or Norway+ deal, (v) remaining.

So let’s walk through our four sets and see what they feel.

No-deal MPs

So, obviously our no-deal MPs want no deal, so if there is a no deal, we’re going to award them 100 utility points. Since they’re so against any permanent tie to the EU, Bentham (not me, of course) decides to give them 30 points for a CU and 20 for a Norway brexit (liking Norway less for keeping FoM). Now, initially he decides to give them 0 for remaining, but after a cup of tea with Jacob Rees-Mogg, he understands that they prefer remaining to May’s deal, as they believe they’ll be trapped in a way that they aren’t even now. As such, he gives remaining 5 points, and May’s deal 0. Bentham also visits his friends at YouGov and learns that this group is roughly 65 MPs.

Soft Brexiteers

This group is a little trickier, as they represent a slightly wider range of options. However, Bentham’s friends at YouGov had a harder time breaking down the numbers here, so lazy Bentham decided to lump them all together. The definition he used was based on their original desires at the referendum, not what they appear to be supporting now, so by this definition, the Labour front bench pushing for Corbyn’s CU would not be here, but in the Remain set of MPs. By this method, Jeremy B finds about 105 MPs are in this box.

This group campaigned for a variety of outcomes, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, off-the-shelf. One thing that unites them is the idea that we should have some form of close tie with the EU and that a no deal brexit would be extremely harmful economically. As such, they only award 10 points to a no deal, as it gets them brexit, but in a bad way. Since they’re eurosceptics who campaigned to leave, they also dislike remaining, but give it 20 points as at least it avoids a no-deal chaotic affair.  They too dislike May’s deal due to the backstop, so they average out at a 50 here: not perfect, but kinda what they wanted. They’re after something closer. As such, they give the CU idea a 75, and the Norway option 90. This is because the Norway option is better catering to services and the CU to goods, and since they are most concerned about a strong economic position after leaving, Norway is slightly preferred. Some MPs give Norway 100, others a CU 100, but the points above give us our averages for this group.

Remain MPs in leave constituencies 

This is our most conflicted group. They believe that they need to stick to their guns and fight for what they believe in. But at the same time, they know that they probably have to temper that with representing their voters’ choice. After speaking to a few of these MPs, Bentham concludes that they are balancing these out, but are putting much more weight on their original beliefs than on being delegates. Clearly Burke was here before him.

As such, their options are as follows: no deal is 5 points – it’s bad, but at least they might keep their seats. They don’t see much difference between the CU deal and May’s deal – they’re not concerned about being trapped in a backstop, but they don’t like losing FoM. As such they give both of these a 40 – they can live with it. When weighing up Norway against remaining, they decide to give Norway a 90 and remain a 95. Remaining would get 100, but they might lose their seats, so loses 5 points. Norway isn’t quite what they want, but they can say they respected the vote, and in reality, they’ve still got FoM, and they can live with not being a part of the Common Agricultural Policy as a least-bad outcome of losing the brexit vote. Bentham checks notes, and finds there are about 112 of these MPs.

Remain MPs

Our final set of MPs are quite straight forward: they want to remain, and if they leave, they want as close a tie to the EU as possible. They don’t risk their seats by campaigning for things like a second referendum. They hate no deal, so give it 0 points:  no upside at all. May’s deal and CU aren’t awful, but they are leaving, and they end FoM, so they give each of these 30 points. Norway allows them to keep most of what they want, but they still are ceding leaving, so they give it 80; and if they remain, they get the full 100 points. My minusing the above groups from 650, Jeremy finds there are about 368 MPs in this group.

Now, Bentham sits down and does the following calculation: for each option, he takes group A, and multiples its number of MPs by their utility score, added to same for group B, C and D to get a total utility score for that brexit choice.

He comes up with the following:

650 MPs No deal May CU Norway Remain
No deal 65 100 0 30 20 5
Soft brexit 105 10 50 75 90 20
Remain in 60+ L 112 5 40 40 90 95
Remain 368 0 30 30 80 100
Total Utility 8078 8128 11703 17678 12733

For Bentham it is clear what will happen: as the least utility is from a no-deal, the MPs will obvious make sure this doesn’t happen. As the Norway option is (a) by far the option with the most utility and (b) if put to a vote, only the 65 no-deal MPs would be firmly against it, so it would pass with 500 person majority, Jeremy is confident the MPs will soon release this and chose that option.

As he turns on Parliament TV, he is very confused. Why aren’t MPs applying his simple math? It seems, as a result of the remain MPs refusing to compromise on their exact preferred option, 585 MPs are drifting dangerously close to ending up with their least favourite option. Jeremy retires to his panopticon.


Ukpolitics October survey results

The breakdown of the ~700 responses by party were as follows



Our first question examined the top two reasons out of seven as to why Ed Miliband lost the 2015 referendum.

First, here is the results among all responders:

Ed lost all

Next, the answers only of people who would vote Labour at the next GE:

Ed lost left

And finally, only those who would vote Conservative or UKIP at the next election:

Ed lost right

Some of the difference between left wing and right wing answers are no surprise: lefties think he wasn’t left enough, righties think he wasn’t right enough.

Much more interesting is the view of the media: lefties state that it was the 2nd most important reason, not too far behind the first. In stark contrast, not even one righty stated that it was the most important reason, and very few the second most.

The EU ref is another interesting point: righties put it as 3rd of 7: lefties put it 6 of 7 (with no one at all considering Ed too left to win as 1st or 2nd most important).

Finally, the question should be asked: if even the Labour voters see lack of strength of leadership as the key factor, do they think that Corbyn has fixed this issue? It is hard to argue that he has good control over his MPs, but perhaps that’s not what people mean by a strong leader. In fact, it’s much easier to argue that Corbyn sees himself more of an anti-leader – the first among equals, only there to echo up the opinions of the party membership, rather than being a leader who rules with an iron rod.

Finally, the opinion questions. Starting with four statements that were not very controversial

(a reminder that a 1 means strongly disagree with the statement, 4 neutral, 7 strongly agree)

“I am more intelligent that the average UKpolitics commenter”

“I would be in favour of governments measuring their progress with a combined metric that included GDP, but other factors too, rather than GDP alone”

I think there will be a no-deal brexit”

“Stealing swing voters from other parties is by far the best electoral strategy”

similar answers

Civil partnerships should just be scrapped altogether now that gay people can get married

Civil partnerships

I’d rather spend a year living in Berlin than Boston


It was a fair decision that UK nationals who hadn’t lived in the UK in the last 15 years could not vote in the EU ref

fair eu vote

I would be in favour of a meat tax to help the environment

meat tax

UKpolitics July survey results

Voting intention by party, from 1742 respondents:




Questions with relatively little difference by party:

“Marijuana should be legal for recreational use”

“Suggesting a Jew, who was born in the UK and has always lived here, has more loyalty to Israel than the UK is anti-semitic”

similar opinions


Lying about pairings may not be fair play, but it goes too far to make it an illegal offence



All-female shortlists are sexist


If he runs, Trump will win the next presidential election



I don’t take economic predictions from the IMF too seriously



Hate speech should be legally allowed by a new Freedom of Speech law

hate speech


Corporation tax should be raised

corp tax raise


The EU could easily be more flexible in Brexit negotiations – they are choosing not to so that Britain gets a bad deal and other countries will be scared to leave the EU

EU flexible


Considering the policy in isolation, I would end freedom of movement


UKpolitics 2017 poll results

Voting intention by party, from 3344 respondents:


If there were a second vote tomorrow, how would you vote?


Which would better describe your motivation? That party would be less bad for the country than another party OR That party would be less bad for the country than another party

Con                                                                            Green


Lab                                                                     Lib Dem

SNP                                                                            UKIP


Questions with relatively little difference by party:

“Cocaine should be legal”

“The government should commission more nuclear reactors”

“Jeremy Corbyn should publicly condemn what the Venezuelan government is doing, without a comparison to its opposition”

“It would be better if all faith schools were secularised”

“It was morally wrong for the Lib Dem leadership to vote to raise tuition fees”


Theresa May genuinely thinks the policies she’s enacting will help the majority of people in the UK____

Universities should have the right to un-invite people who have non-violent extremist opinions from speaking on their campus


Nick Clegg achieved more in politics than Nigel Farage


Adoption agencies ought to be allowed to preference cis-couples over two transgender people


Adoption agencies ought to be allowed to preference heterosexual couples____

If my 12 year old child told me they were gender-neutral, I would be completely fine with that


A policy to reduce immigration from muslim-majority countries would fundamentally be based on racism____

The decision on EU membership should never have been put to a public referendum____

The EU is acting unfairly in the brexit negotiations

Next Tory leader poll results

A rather small poll was put up a few days ago, asking how people felt about a variety of contenders to be the next Tory leader. The results ranged from 1 (awful) to 7 (awesome).

Due to there only being 400 responses, only four sub groups have valid results: Cons, two Labour groups (+ = pro Corbyn; – = anti Corbyn) and the Lib Dems

The results are as follows:

Boris Johnson

Bo Jo

David Davis

David D

Jacob Rees-Mogg


Ken Clarke

Ken Clarke

Philip Hammond

Phil H

Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd

Ruth Davidson

Ruth D

Michael Gove


Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid

Rory Stewart


Now, here is the same data, but comparing individuals by party, rather than parties by individual.



Labour (anti-Corbyn)

Lab anti

Labour (pro-Corbyn)

Lab pro

Lib Dems


Political opinions – March ’17

As usual, /r/ukpolitics answered a few of my questions on a variety of issues, with around 3300 responses.

A reminder: the scale was 1 to 7, 1 strongly disagreeing with the statement, 7 strongly agreeing. In the party splitting, Lab+, LabN and Lab- mean pro-Corbyn, Corbyn neutral and anti-Corbyn respectively.

Firstly, the relatively uncontroversial issues:

  1. It should not be a crime for an 18 year old to sleep with a 15 year old
  2. Ducks make excellent pets
  3. A black person running for PM would face no significant reduction in their chance of winning due to their race
  4. Ecstasy ought to be legal

First four

The remainder of the questions shall be given with a full scale, starting with the smallest distance between the extremes and ending with the largest

We ought to have an elected second chamber in place of the House of Lords

elected 2nd house.jpg

Women are naturally better suited to be primary school teachers than men

Women teachers

I prefer a corrupt politician to an incompetent one

corrupt > incomp

I would be happy if all faith schools were secularised

no faith schools

Corporation tax ought to be abolished

no corp tax

The law should be changed so that spouses of British citizens automatically are given British citizenship


I’m more than 90% certain that Labour will lose the next two general elections

Labour 90

Referendums are a good addition to our democracy


I would be comfortable with my 5 year old child knowing that their teacher was married to a person of the same sex

gay teacher

The number of people going to university should be reduced significantly


Trans women are not real women


I would be comfortable with my 5 year old daughter being taught by a woman wearing a hijab (headscarf with no facial covering)


Politicians and political figures – survey results

As usual, I’ll polled the UKpolitics subreddit to find out how they feel about political figures.

I must stress that this particular poll received only ~450 responses, so the only data that I am comfortable stating is accurate within a small margin of error are those of the Lib Dems and Conservatives.

The following five statements received no great difference by party affiliation, so they are here shown as total responses.

Reminder: questions are answered 1 to 7, 1 = strongly disagree; 7 = strongly agree. In later questions, Lb- denotes Labour supporters who are anti- Corbyn, Lb N are Corbyn neutral and Lb + are pro-Corbyn.

“This isn’t a question, just a warning to mobile users that all following questions are 1 to 7, but your screen might only show 1 to 5. Please choose any number (but I recommend not to pick 2).”

not 2.jpg

“The sexual assault charges against Julian Assange are not authentic, and there is almost certainly some governmental foul play going on.”


“On balance, Chairman Mao did more good than harm”


“Corbyn voted Leave”


“The duck meme should be brought to an end”


 The remainder of statements will be shown with party breakdown, from least controversial to most.

“At heart, Hilary Clinton is a good person”


“Gordon Brown did a good job of responding to the financial crisis”


“Jeremy Corbyn supports the IRA”


“Theresa May is a better PM than David Cameron”


“If I were in Germany, I’d vote for Merkel in the upcoming elections”


“Tony Blair left the country in a much better condition than he found it”


“Nicola Sturgeon dislikes the English”


“Bernie Sanders would make a better president than Trump or Hilary”


“Nigel Farage is a racist”


“It would be terrible if Marine Le Pen became president of France”


/r/ukpolitics 2016 survey results

Apparently Christmas time is a good time to put up a poll: previously, I’ve only ever got a little over 1000 results, but yesterday’s survey got over 6700.


Firstly, the boring results. Four of the questions did not produce any significant variation by party, so I’ve simply put them on a table here to read. Remember, 1 = strongly disagreed with the statement, 4 = neither agreed nor disagreed, 7 = strongly agreed.

The statements were:

  • Sending people to Mars is a good use of resources
  • If a train were coming down a track and was going to hit a middle aged man, who was a bit of a dick, I’d pull a level to divert it to another track where it would hit 100 ducks

  • Robots are very likely to cause mass unemployment in the next 100 years

  • Although loneliness amongst the elderly is a problem, the government can’t really do much about it


 Now, the pretty results:

I don’t have any doubt that climate change is real and that humans are causing it


If my daughter married a reasonably religious muslim, I’d be concerned


I’m disappointed how little the environment ever gets mentioned in British politics


Farage’s ‘breaking point’ poster was morally wrong


Most gay men aren’t any more effeminate than straight men, it’s just media stereotypes and confirmation bias that makes people think otherwise


Although obviously there were dark parts to it, I think on the whole we should be proud of the history of the British Empire


Women are naturally less interested in politics than men


Farage deserves at least a small portion of the blame for Jo Cox’s death


I think Britain will suffer from a Trump presidency


I am uncomfortable with the idea of future geneticists creating a baby using the DNA of two men


Although some people may get a bit carried away with it, PC culture doesn’t actually cause any real problems


A Brexit outcome that kept freedom of movement would not fulfil the spirit of the Leave vote


I’d support the idea to ban advertising from public spaces, like they’ve done in Sao Paulo


Someone who’s four grandparents were Pakistani, but who was born in Britain and whose parents were born in Britain, is 100% British


Feminism has gone too far


Political and social attitudes survey results

Last week I put up a survey and 830 people gave their views on a series of political and social attitudes. Although it was not intended as such, the questions actually clumped into groups, so each of their results will be displayed together for comparison.

As a reminder, statements were given and responders give answers from 1 to 7, whether they strongly disagreed (1) or strongly agreed (7).

Another reminder, people who said they would vote Labour were split according to feeling towards Corbyn, noted here as pro-Corbyn (Lab+), Corbyn neutral (LabN) and anti-Corbyn (Lab-).

Set 1

The three statements here were:

“I would like immigration to be reduced to lower than 100,000 per year”

“People who say they don’t like Islam are likely to also be racists”

“I would feel more comfortable if an African Christian family moved in next door than an Asian Muslim one”



Set 2

“I would feel more uncomfortable seeing two men make out on the seat in front of me on the bus than if it were a man and a woman”

“If I had a gay son, I would be significantly more uncomfortable if he were very effeminate rather than bloke-y”



Set 3

“Consent classes for university students probably lower the amount of rape.”

“If I were in a club and a female friend came to me crying because someone pinched her bum, I’d think she was over-reacting”



Set 4

“Remain-supporting MPs who now say that we ought to end freedom of movement are respecting democracy, and it’s unfair to label them as doing anything to grab votes”

“I feel optimistic about our country in the next 5 years”



Set 5

“I would pay an extra 20% for energy if it were completely green”

“If I were PM, fighting climate change would be in my top 5 priorities”

CC set.jpg

Set 6

“Ed Miliband would have made a good PM”

“Tony Blair was a good PM”

“David Cameron was a good PM”

“I would consider voting Labour in 2025 if they had a centrist leader”

“I would consider voting UKIP in 2025”



Misc set

“Left wing people tend to be kinder than right wing people”

“I am confident I know who was Labour leader before Tony Blair”

“Ecstasy should be legalised”

“I would accept a free £5 even if it meant that a duck had to die”


Controversial Politics Survey results

Last night’s survey was a little quieter than usual, with just under 600 responses. Unfortunately, that meant that neither the SNP nor the Greens had enough responses to make it onto the results sheet today.

There were 11 questions asked, of which 5 saw a smaller range than 1.5 in between the highest and lowest average answer per party, so they will be displayed just in table form. The 6 more controversial questions have the normal format, where Lab+ means Pro-Corbyn Labour, LabN is Corbyn neutral, and Lab- is anti-Corbyn. Once again, a reminder than 1 means strongly disagree and 7 strongly agree. Enjoy.


It is possible for an adult to significantly increase their base intelligence.”



If I really had to answer the trolley problem, and chose to pull the level to save 1000 lives at the cost of one, I would still feel a certain amount of guilt for being responsible for the death of that one person.”


Thinking about the person I care most about in my life, I’d accept my non-dominant hand being removed instead of their non-dominant thumb.”


I’d be comfortable living and raising a family next to a nuclear power plant.”

nuclear power

If I really were given the choice to become PM, despite all the hours, stress and responsibility, I would take the job.”


And now, for the 6 issues that divided groups a bit more, in order of increasing division:

There is a worrying level of sexism and homophobia amongst British Muslims compared to the rest of the population.”

Hom & Se

I would go hungry for 24 hours to save the lives of 24 ducks.”


There are a significant number of situations in our society where it is much more difficult to be male.”


If Scotland voted for independence then its economy suffered significantly, I’d feel a certain amount of schadenfreude.”


It is preferable for an adoption agency to favour an opposite sex couple over a same sex couple.”


If I were PM and Russia fired nuclear missiles at us, I would fire back, knowing that millions of innocents would die.”