I’ve voted for Ed – here’s why

Somewhat to my surprise, I’ve voted for Ed Davey to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. At the start of the contest, even though undecided, my expectation was that I’d probably vote for Jo Swinson.

After all, Jo has the slightly higher profile of the two candidates. (Though not by much, if a recent YouGov poll is accurate). Regardless of who becomes leader their profile will rise. However, breaking through the noise of our opponents will always remain a challenge.

I scored the Nottingham hustings as a draw, but that felt like a surprise to me. Even Ed’s dreadful “Back in the game!” line, seemingly borrowed from Alan Partridge, wasn’t quite enough to put me off.

After Nottingham, I found myself warming more to Ed. The more I listened to both candidates, the more I believed that Ed had a better plan for building on our recent successes, especially post-Brexit (or post-article 50 revocation).

I also believe that Liberal Democrats are the best people to deliver Liberal Democrat policies. As Jonathan Calder puts it, we sometimes haven’t been tribal enough. Ed seemed clearer on this point than Jo. He still obviously wants to work co-operatively with others to end the Brexit madness and achieve our environmental aims. I think he’s smart enough to persuade the party to follow him into alliances where it makes sense, while remaining distinctive as Liberal Democrats.

It was the mini-hustings at the ALDC Kickstart weekend that finally swung my vote. I know the 250 people present were not representative of the way most people think about politics. We’re probably not even representative of the majority of party members.

But we were a group with a specific interest in local government and grassroots campaigning. Ed had recognised this. Right from his opening remarks, he successfully tailored the way he presented his message to the audience. Jo was much less good at doing the same thing. If I closed my eyes when Jo was talking, I felt I was back at the Nottingham hustings again. I never had that impression when Ed was speaking.

This difference in approach felt important to me, especially when there really isn’t that much to choose between two excellent candidates. To succeed in our ambitions at the next general election, different groups of people are going to have to understand our propositions in ways that make sense – to them.

As I said about the last leadership contest, it’s often not about what you say, but the way in which you say it.

Last Saturday, in the hot and sticky conference room at Yarnfield Park, Ed demonstrated to me that he understood this point best.

Telegraph poles at Yarnfield Park
As my photographs of the Yarnfield Park hustings were all equally blurry and rubbish, here’s a picture of part of the telegraph pole collection at the conference centre instead (The centre used to belong to the GPO and BT). I was relieved that the ALDC Kickstart training didn’t involve climbing these for an hour before breakfast …

Raspberry Pi 4B review

I’m now the proud owner of a  Raspberry Pi 4B. Naturally, I wanted to see how it performed using the Whetstone double precision benchmark. In FORTRAN, obviously. Over ten runs it averaged a single core performance of 1,259,871 KIPS. This is 2.4x faster than its predecessor, the 3B+, and 8.3x faster than the original model B, released in 2012.

Raspberry Pi Performance, 2012 - 2019
Whetstone double precision benchmark performance of Raspberry Pi models released between 2012 and 2019. (Single core, with no compiler optimisation flags set).

I’ve not yet decided what to do permanently with the latest addition to my collection. The others are used as a weather station, security cameras and for general tinkering. The graphics performance of the Pi 4B isn’t quite good enough to wean me off my Windows 10 PC for general office work and image editing. It’s not too far off being acceptable however. At £76.50 for the 4GB version (with a case, 3A power supply and Micro HDMI lead) it’s definitely better value.

The Pi 4B does get warm in use. vcgencmd reports a cpu temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Celsius when not under load. By way of contrast, my 3B+ idles at 50 degrees and the Pi Zero at 35 degrees. A heatsink or fan would seem like a good investment.

A Raspberry Pi 4B

I’m currently playing with the gfortran OpenMP compiler directives. I’ve already figured out the first two gotchas. The first is that gfortran wants the source file extension to be .f90 rather than .f (otherwise it ignores the OpenMP parallelisation directives in the code). The second is that the GNU implementation of FORTRAN 90 breaks backwards compatibility for traditional FORTRAN comments. Both were simple enough to fix once I’d worked out what was happening.

The compiler optimisation flags (-O1, -O2, and -O3) make a significant difference to performance. For benchmarking purposes I’ve not used them, but for any compute-intensive work they’re worth experimenting with. However, I still have nightmares about compiler optimisation settings breaking my code in the 1980s, hence my caution. Old habits die hard. The remaining challenge is figuring out which loops to parallelise. I have lots of not so lovely segmentation faults happening at the moment. Oh well.

The Raspberry Pi is one of the few things that make me feel proud to be British at the moment. Jo Swinson in her pitch to become the leader of the Liberal Democrats stresses the importance of the UK investing in technological leadership. She’s right, but we’ll need hundreds of similar successes. This is difficult enough to see happening while we’re still in the EU, let alone if we end up outside.