Your vote counts this time.

Whatever you feel about the EU referendum which will take place tomorrow, the one thing you should really do is actually vote. Please don’t forget, besides you have from 7am until 10pm tomorrow to put a cross in the box, and cast your single vote to decide if the UK will remain or leave the European Union. And this time, unlike at the general election, everyone’s vote really will count.
Both sides of the argument have chucked a load of statistics at each other for months now, most of which appear to be bordering on lies and all of which has only confused most of us anyway. We have been told that this is all about our democratic right to decide on what laws we want and what politicians we want to rule over us. It’s about the economy and immigration at the end of the day, apparently. And it’s all about ‘taking back control’, whatever that means. Clearly the ‘head’ argument has pretty much lost out to the ‘heart’. Ultimately this argument is actually pretty complicated, much like life itself, yet most people want simple slogans and actions, or simply someone else to blame. Why bother with a set of carefully thought through and even piloted policies when a hashtag will sort it all out in a few minutes on Facebook or Twitter?
Given we are pretty good at irony in the UK, it is pretty ironic that we hear all this stuff around democracy. Our voting system which delivers 650 MPs every five years to set the vast majority of our laws is so broken, it is beyond a joke. When a party wins an overall majority of 331 MPs i.e 50.1% in Parliament on only 36.9% of the votes cast (which was actually 24% of those eligible to vote) you know something is badly wrong. When another party gets only one MP  i.e. 0.15% on 12.6% of the overall votes cast, it really is beyond funny. Add in the simple fact that all laws that the MPs pass then have to be passed by an unelected bunch of ‘Lords’ who have all either been appointed by governments, are senior members of one religion in this country or have simply been placed their through their birth right and you suspect that someone is really having a laugh. The problem is they aren’t. It’s the UK’s version of democracy and it is simply far from that. How do less than 4 people in a room of 10 rule the day exactly, shouldn’t it be 6 people who have the majority on 4 every single time?
Then we have immigration, which has become the really toxic and divisive aspect of this referendum. Yes there are lots of people born outside of the UK who live and work here. But we are told every time a ‘Leaver’ opens their mouth that ‘we need to take back control of our borders’. Ignoring the simple fact that there are more arrivals from countries outside the EU than from inside the EU (the truth is often inconvenient) none of these ‘Leavers’ has any actual plan to tell us what sort of numbers they will allow to come here, simply citing some Australian points system which will ride in and save their day. Add the simple fact that we can’t stop people leaving the UK, yet anyway, and this whole exercise becomes somewhat theoretical. When Michael Gove states ‘the British people will decide on the numbers each year’ he not only shows contempt for the issue, he also lies. How exactly are we, the British people, going to decide on how many and who we will allow into the country each and every year? Don’t forget this man has form, just ask an teacher you know what they think of him and his ideas. And that is without any of Farage’s misleading and shameful poster from last week stirring up the fear and loathing. I am not going to waste my time on him.
I understand why people are so angry. I am angry. Yes our NHS is under pressure alongside our schools, housing and our jobs and wages. But to put this at the door of the EU is both simplistic and wrong. Our ‘democratically’ elected government has decided to pursue austerity and reduce investment in our country. We are importing doctors, vets and teachers from all over the world rather than train enough here. In my industry, we need skills to build our technology businesses and we don’t have enough of them to wait until we can train our young people up, so we have to seek them from both the EU and outside of the EU.
So we must invest in people and we should invest in people who live here, and are born here. Don’t blame the EU for this. The UK needs to take a long view, invest in our people through training and skills, build more houses, build more hospitals and GP surgeries, build more schools, build more unity and above all ensure we have a democratic voice that reflects the needs and wants of the people of this country. Vote Leave the EU if you think that will make this happen as I am sure people of the ilk of Michael Gove and Nigel Farage will deliver this vision for you. Or not.
Or vote Remain to ensure we have stability through trade and diplomacy with our nearest neighbours and then demand that our politicians, rather than blaming immigrants and the poor, deliver a society which ensures everyone in this country gets a fair deal and a good life.

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This really is a Special Effect

It was June 2008 when I first met Mick Donegan. Mick had started a charity called SpecialEffect which had a very simple aim. To help disabled people play games and in so doing enhance their quality of life through play. There was a big official launch and at that event, Mick demonstrated eye control technology that allowed a severely disabled, quadriplegic England U21 Rugby player, Matt Hampson to use his eyes to move a cursor around a screen thus controlling a racing car around a track in a video game. It was quite literally amazing.

From that day, myself and Kirsty, decided that we simply had to help the small team at SpecialEffect and do what we could to get them support and awareness within the video games industry. We both became VPs of the charity and I was also honoured to be there when the Prime Minister, David Cameron opened the SpecialEffect’s fully accessible games centre, the first in the UK, and I even had to make a speech addressed to him, standing about three feet away!

And you know what? It has been relatively easy to help spread the word about the good that SpecialEffect do for disabled people over these last seven years. Seeing people become connected with their friends and siblings through play is just brilliant. And seeing the same people not being judged when they plan online with their friends is simply awe inspiring. SpecialEffect’s work, in one word, is transformational.

SpecialEffect never refuse to help anyone who has a need. Quite the reverse, they actively meet those needs, every single time, no exceptions. As the word gets out there, so the demands on SpecialEffect grow. In short saying no is simply not in SpecialEffect’s DNA.

With demand for their work rising exponentially as awareness goes viral, so SpecialEffect needs to increase its capacity to respond. This takes time, resources and of course, it takes money. Add this to the care, kindness and love that SpecialEffect show all those they help, and you can see why SpecialEffect is truly special for all of us in the games industry.

Without going all Bob Geldof on you, we do need more support, yes that comes in many ways, but money helps. So please, don’t forget that every penny and cent counts. Spread the word, offer your time and above all do what you can to help SpecialEffect this very special charity. And yes, if you are a GamesAid member, please consider voting for them in the annual GamesAid charity vote which opens at noon on Monday, 7th September until noon, Monday 14th September 2015. You can join GamesAid and get your vote here

This video sums it all up really,

and if you want to donate cash, please dig deep hereHelp Special Effect

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So what did we learn from the General Election 2015?

Have any of us actually learned anything from the results of the General Election? There is much talk of who has won, and who has lost. It does seems like there will be a load of introspection and reflection amongst Labour and the LibDems who in their own ways suffered devastating defeats in the early hours of Friday morning.   For those voters who voted for UKIP and the Greens, however, there is probably a fair amount of confusion, if not utter dis. And for those who voted Conservative, Green, UKIP  and LibDem in Scotland & Wales, you too probably feel pretty confused also. Put simply, votes don’t match seats, they never have and never will, unless of course there is reform to the system.

The raw data is fascinating.  And data never lies.

In the UK as a whole the Conservatives  had 11,334,920 votes for them, namely 36.9% of the total votes cast. Labour were almost 2 million votes behind, which is a huge margin, with 9,347,326, representing 30.4% of the total votes cast. The 3rd biggest party was UKIP who recorded 3,881, 129 votes, i.e 12.6% of the votes cast. UKIP also got more votes in Scotland than the Greens – 47,078 vs 39,205, and in Northern Ireland 18.324 vs 6,822. In Wales 204,360 voted UKIP  more than Plaid Cymru who got 181.694, the LibDems 97,383 and the Greens with 38,344. For all the date see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

All of these voters voting for UKIP and yet they only got 1 seat in the House of Commons? How can this be right in a modern democracy?  Maybe the word ‘modern’ is a little misplaced?

Well we are told that the electoral system we have, called First Past The Post (FPTP), delivers strong government and therefore it is the right system for the United Kingdom. That is certainly debateable, but if we want a democracy to represent and importantly include the people, we need a system that actually represents those who cast their vote.  In so many constituencies, unless you vote for the incumbent MP, your vote will be wasted.

If you live in an inner city in England, good luck voting Conservative, Labour always get in. Similarly, if you live in the suburban and rural South or South West, if you vote Labour it will make no difference.   Millions of votes are in effect wasted. That is why the 2 big parties focus on these so called ‘marginals’. Those ‘marginals’ decide which colour of Government sitting in Parliament we actually get.  So the system gets even more undemocratic and unrepresentative.  Indeed, many MPs can be elected without being the majority candidate in their seat!

One of the key reasons why so many people voted in the Scottish Referendum, 84.5% of voters turned out to vote, versus 66.1% in this General Election, was because their vote actually counted.

Right now, I believe we have a divided Britain, where whole parts of the country feel totally unrepresented despite having real support. The General Election result has actually made things worse.

Put simply, based on the proportions of votes cast, we would be looking at a Parliament made up of the following.

Conservatives = 240 seats (versus 331 seats now)

Labour = 198 seats (versus 232 seats now)

UKIP = 82 seats (versus 1 seat now)

LibDems –  51 seats (versus 8 seats now)

SNP = 30 seats (versus 56 seats now)

Greens – 24 seats (versus 1 seat now)

And then to each of Plaid Cymru in Wales, Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland would get 4 seats.  The rest would be made up of all the really small parties.

From that Parliamentary make up, it would be up to the parties to try and form a Government. This is the tricky bit and it would have to be a coalition of parties of course, as no one party would command over half (i.e 326) seats to make absolutely certain that they could form a Government of one colour.

But fear not, there will be reform to the system and it is coming in 2018. It is called boundary changes, something that is called for variously by Labour or the latterly the Conservatives, in order to retain the status quo. They both know the current system is unfair, undemocratic and unrepresentative of the votes cast. But they just don’t care enough to call for review and reform. Have a look at Owen Patterson who was interview today, around 5 mins 20 secs in. He believes passionately in electoral reform, just not really the reform many voters actually need.

So what is the real lesson learnt from this election? Same as it ever was, voting for so many people has proven to be fruitless and a waste of time. Unless you vote Conservative or Labour, you won’t get heard. Unless of course if you live in Scotland, where the SNP have ‘won’ this election.

So there you have it. Don’t bother voting Green, unless you live in Brighton, or UKIP, the system laughs in your face.  Be a good citizen and decide if you want to go red or blue, Labour or Conservative, because they really are the only choices. As both leaders told us so many times, you only have 2 choices of who will be Prime Minister.  At least we got David Cameron, I suppose.

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Filed under AV Electoral Reform, Politics

Tell me why….

Another rare day working from the relative peace of home. Sometimes it just gets a bit meh though. Mondays can be good or bad. Today was neither. With one week left before I take a short break, followed by a business trip to the Middle East, I had a ton to do. And as usual an incoming came in and needed dealing with. That involved an hour long conversation, trying to persuade and enlighten a very dear work colleague of the benefits of something important we are all bound into. I think it worked, but time will be my judge. And of course, that achievement simply lined up a load more tasks off the back off it, none of which were on the to do list at 8am when I started my day. A short visit to a more local dentist was a relief in so many ways!

More on the slate for GamesAid getting ready for the Trustees meeting this week, followed by some BAFTA Children’s Jury prep including going through all the games to be judged meant the day job needed to be done either side of the England football match. A ton of follow up to investor meetings has started and now we need to start closing down the options and prospects. A shareholder communication and meeting with the landlord of our building in Huntingdon also all needed follow up. And there was more work on behalf of ‘From Bedrooms to Billions’.

Today, Tuesday is set to be a very busy day in London. That to do list needs to get shorter, that’s for sure!

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Good Friday

I thought it would be handy to try and record, briefly, some of the work I do, given all of the events of the last few months.Well what a day. Again. A rare ‘working from home day’ kicked off with an early morning visit to the doctors. That was to have a blood test. In 10 days time I will know what is right or wrong with me. Meantime I have a ‘to do ‘ list as long as my arm and an inbox which runs to about 1500m long. As always, you prioritise in your head. Then the world comes online and all hell breaks loose.

First up, I had to confirm what we are going to do at EGX in London in September, given the turbulence of recent months, all plans had been on hold. We decided to show Dream from Hypersloth and Tango Fiesta from Spilt Milk, both games which will have a full release this year and ensure we got the PC gamers attending the show to know we were there. The dev teams are awesome and up for working the four grueling days which is a tribute to their commitment and passion.

We had more deals and promotions to consider for Train Fever, which launched on Steam yesterday and now is wanted by other digital platforms. That game has done well for Gambitious (the rev share games specialist crowdfunding platform) and Urban Games (the developer) and is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and effort. Alongside all of this, over at AppyNation we are getting closer to the launch of our free to play game, Dr Quizington which will launch in a couple of weeks and there were assets to sign off and launch plans to make.

I also spent some of the day on Skype with Anthony and Nicola Caulfield, from Gracious Films, the makers of the hotly anticipated, ‘From Bedrooms to Billions’. There’s some exciting stuff coming down the line, and everyone is pleased that both screenings at EGX are sold out, within 48 hours of going on sale.

Finally, I spent a fair bit of the day helping out with the GamesAid voting campaign, and planning the cheque presentation ceremony on the 25th of September. There is loads more to do, which is always out of hours so to speak, so the weekend will be needed to get myself up to speed.

I even had time for a cup of tea and a read of this week’s MCV. It was nice to see Martyn Gibbs CEO of GAME Digital referencing the trial that Just Flight ran for their GAME Wallet recently. Our tech team worked hard to make that happen, another project which is breaking new ground. Tomorrow is Saturday and I am hoping to get a bit of the to do list knocked off. And confirm flights to the Middle East.

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Open Letter to West Ham United

Mr D Gold & Mr D Sullivan
West Ham United Football Club
The Boleyn Ground
Green Street
Upton Park
London E13 9AZ

9th January 2014

Dear Sirs,

West Ham United Football Club
I am a proud West Ham supporter and have been for 47 years. Over the past three seasons I have become increasingly disillusioned with the direction in which you are taking our club. Along with many thousands of West Ham fans I am now dismayed, yet unsurprised, at the plight we find ourselves in.
We need a change and we need it fast. I think we can all agree on that. Yet having witnessed the hapless reigns, under your aegis, of Avram Grant – a proven football failure who led us to relegation – and Sam Allardyce – who looks determined to do the same – I have no confidence in your collective abilities to affect this.
Avram Grant’s management of the club was a farce. That alone was enough to make us a laughing stock, but your gauche attempt to appoint Martin O’Neill in December 2010 and the manner of Grant’s eventual departure, doubly compounded the situation.
O’Neill withdrew from discussions when he read about his impending appointment in the press before he had agreed a deal. Grant survived, but was summarily dismissed following the game at Wigan that confirmed our relegation. It was a match where defeat was plucked from the jaws of victory. Having been two up and cruising we capitulated and ended up losing 3-2. Yet that does not excuse what followed. That Grant was not even allowed to travel home on the team coach and was forced to make his own way back to London felt rather tawdry – certainly not the West Ham way. Indeed no less than Scott Parker, then club captain and a real credit to the shirt, expressed his disappointment at the shabby treatment of his former manager. He was sold shortly afterwards.
Two years on and things are, if anything, even worse. The ridicule that our beloved club was subjected to by the media following the 5-0 loss at the weekend to a decent Championship team (‘team’ being the key word) was dispiriting. Yes, we all heard the usual excuses and we all read your ‘open letter of support’ for the manager, but if the defeat in Nottingham was wounding, then last night in Manchester, gangrene set in.
Of course, losing a semi-final is not unprecedented for West Ham. But the manner of the defeat certainly was: an incompetent performance that reeked of indifference. So much so in fact that the 6-0 score line is not the worst part of the story. West Ham is a proud club, famous for its playing style and footballing philosophy, but it is becoming a travesty.
I feel that things simply have to change. There are tens of thousands of West Ham United fans who share this view. I understand that you are the legal owners of the football club and to that end, I would like to know how much you want from a fan consortium to purchase your shares for cash?
Our plan is simple: we will crowdfund the purchase of West Ham United and place in into the hands of thousands of genuine supporters for the good of both the club and the modern game.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Yours sincerely,

AG Payne

You can sign the petition here http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-gold-david-sullivan-name-your-price-to-sell-to-west-ham-fans

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Filed under Football, Premier League, West Ham United

The high street, where next?

This was the follow up blog I wrote almost a year ago…

February 4, 2012

I have been thinking about where next for our beleagured High Streets, you know the town centres that are no longer the centre of much for many people nowadays. There is no pushing back the tide of the supermarkets, the internet and the fact that people are spread out more geographically, there are more of them and everyone seemingly needs to use cars. But I reckon there are some things that could be done at the policy level of local and national Government.

I am yet to read Mary Portas’s report commissioned by BIS, but I intend to do so. Meantime here is my ten point plan for a revival:-

  1. Increase business rates on all out of town shopping centres. Levy charges on cube footage including car parks.
  2. Reduce all business rates on inner city/town commercial buildings. For all start ups give a rate free period measured in years. .
  3. Increase public transport into town and city centres – start with buses, minbuses and then trams when budgets allow. Make them all free to use.
  4. Deregulate parking, make it all free. Build more car parks.
  5.  Repair all broken windows on empty properties and municipal buildings. This should be the local council’s job and it will create jobs. Spend money on the fabric of existing buildings rather than creating new ones whilst money is tight.
  6.  Cut red tape and allow unused shops to be turned back into housing.
  7. Encourage all social enterprise and services to locate in the centre by waiving all rates. Definitions are needed, but work something out that says if you are putting back, giving or supplying services for old or young, you don’t pay extra tax.
  8. Make all businesses responsible for their own waste collection. Let them self manage and change car parking wardens for recycling officers.
  9. Aquire land/buildings from the private sector and re-let at aggressive rates to social enterprise businesses.

10.Levy council funds as a direct proportion of profits. If a store cannoty prove its turnover and is therefore part of a chain, it should pay rates at standard tariff if it is a single site business then it only pays rates if it makes a profit. The more successful the business, the more that business pays. Allow businesses to take risk and take time to build.

Above all, encourage enterprise and the public to understand what is best served on the High Street. Anything that is sold easily via the internet is not going to work. Equally commodoties that are sold by supermarkets don’t work either. Keep it social and keep it niche. Ensure that older people and young people have a reason to travel and make it free to travel to and from the city/town centre. Strike proper partnerships between small to medium size enterprises and local authorities, geared around mutual success and long term shared goals. Encourage small traders, young and old. Create a feeling of civic pride and renewal.

I am sure it could happen, if everyone did their bit. But we need leadership from the national Government and councils and we need that to be decisive and to happen now. We don’t want wishy woshy ideas, we need firm policies that encourage small organisations to grow. Get younger people, with fresh ideas and energy into elected councils and let’s make the centres exciting morning, noon and night.

Napoleon called the English ‘ a nation of shopkeepers’, we should remember that and celebrate our heritage through innovative and creative use of our High Streets.

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Filed under Environment, Politics