Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Humbling Thought


A humbling thought

   Despite the hectic traffic on the slip road to the M1 motorway, I spotted, and swerved slightly to avoid, a mother duck followed closely by a clutch of day-old ducklings; fluffy and confused, but trusting. She clearly wanted to cross the six lanes of traffic that separated her from the other side. Some instinct must be telling her that she has to find water in the next few hours; perhaps she can smell it, perhaps she knows to go downhill, but somehow she has concluded that the other side is better for her and her novel (and doubtless unexpected) companions. Constantly glancing over alternate shoulders, she steps tentatively into the traffic then as quickly retreats.
   What must the little chicks be thinking? Imagine cracking open your shell and stepping out into the sunlight, knowing so little, yet knowing with certainty one big thing: "Follow close to that duck, that strange but reassuring shape."
   Mother duck (we suppose) has never been here before; took no classes in motherhood. To fly would be for her so normal, and so easy, and she would find water in minutes. However, indistinctly but inescapably, she knows that flight is inappropriate while she has these six fluffy little followers, to which she is so strangely bound. What a heavy responsibility! These may not be thoughts exactly, but she  experiences two conflicting impluses. It is no wonder she tries again and again to fight a passage through the thundering traffic.
   How different it is for us, with our complex brains, speech, primary and secondary education, books, the internet and the experience of hundreds of generations to guide us! We do not need to head off in the wrong direction time and again, in obedience to an impulse we cannot voice, and cannot even locate.  And yet we do it.
   Is that not a humbling thought?


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Darby and Joan

Darby and Joan

When I arrived after my 3 mile walk, there were only two other customers at the Blue Bell. I met the first soon after I arrived.

The door of the gents eased open and in shuffled a head of snow-white hair, a neck, the shoulders and torso of an acutely bent and elderly gentleman; probably 6 foot when straight, but that would have been twenty, thirty, forty years ago. "This is the rush" he said in a pleasantly articulated, cultured and resonant voice, as he shuffled into position. "Well, you made it" I replied, fielding this unexpected greeting as best I could. I left him to it and headed off to the bar to order my half of 'Original', noticing as I passed, a lady at the table by the window. She was of an age with the gentleman, but more
frail; motionless and transparent like a glass galleon. The gentleman gradually returned and sat down. Every minute or two he addressed a conversational remark to his wife, which I could not help overhearing: about the coffee, about the meal at the 'Bow Wine Vaults', which was probably their best, and  at the 'Bromely' which was probably their last at that venue. This point he repeated, as though some extra sadness attached, but one I could not guess.   All to little effect. Comparing the gold-wrapped chocolate mints with some at home was his most successful venture, and drew from his wife a murmur of agreement. He went to pay the bill at the bar, commenting cheerfully on his progress, his willingness to help out financially, his "little something for those who contributed 'at the coal-face'", his wallet, his sticks. Could he please have the bill back from the till so that, in years to come, he could resolve potential arguments with his wife over what they had eaten, that day at the Blue Bell?

It seemed she had exhausted her quiverfull of repartee earlier in the marriage; but her husband played on as much for the gallery as for himself; perhaps he had been a barrister. I felt sucked in, by his need to talk, and being intrigued by his cultured accent I asked if they were from Melton. "Oh no! We lived for 50 years in London, where I made a little money; not much but enough. We are both retired", he explained, helpfully. "In fact we are both a little doddery". "Very
doddery", corrected his wife. There seemed to be a game afoot concerning the chocolates. "I shall eat one of mine." he said at one point. A few minutes later, he asked, with a touch of sharpness, "Have you eaten your second?" "No" she replied, lifting her hand to show him the evidence. I felt this might be the latest round in a long-running contest. It was not much, but it gave them something; a bond. "Well, we should go." he said, without moving. "I think I shall put my coat on", she replied, also without moving. "Come", he said, "pass me your coat." and he helped her on with the nearest sleeve. I got up and helped her find the other sleeve hole with her glass-like left arm. "I half hoped a gentleman would come to our assistance", he offered, and thanked me for talking to them. I left them sitting there like Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for something; energy perhaps. I did not feel I could wait with them, for that energy might take some time
a-coming.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Weighted Voting


Weighted Voting

The idea of giving unequal weights to the several voting members of an assembly is not a new idea; rather it is an old idea that fell out of fashion. It was practiced by the Romans, in Germany pre-1870, and in Sweden, until 1918.[1]  In Britain, graduates of universities exercised a privileged extra voice in the House of Commons by a different mechanism, in that there were extra MPs elected only by graduates (wherever they might live) in addition to their constituency vote. Thus Oxford and Cambridge universities elected two members each until 1950. (Other English universities shared 2 Members between them, as did Scottish universities.)[2]  In all these cases the bias of the voting power of citizens or MPs was towards privileging certain classes at the expense of other classes. The present conception of democracy requires us to count each citizen as of the same value as every other, and these preferential biases have all been abolished.
The suggestion, recently beginning to be discussed, of Proportional Representation by Weighting Members [3,4] has the opposite objective. It recognizes that approximately half of the votes cast in British parliamentary elections are essentially wasted, in that they are not successful in electing an MP, and are therefore not represented in the House of Commons. It sees this wastage as contributing to the conclusion that voting is pointless, a conclusion that will be disastrous to democracy. The voting preferences (as to Party) of all those wasted votes are all known and it is a simple matter to take account of those preferences. The mechanism is discussed elsewhere [3,4].
References:

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

38 Degrees and Political Engagement

I enjoyed watching the hour-long grilling that David Babbs (Executive
Director of 38 Degrees) was given by the "Political and Constitutional
Reform Committee" in March 2014 [1]. He acquitted himself well. But so
did the chair (Graham Allen, MP), who acquitted himself perhaps even
better.

Graham Allen repeatedly pointed out that there is a great difference
between negative and positive comments, criticism is easy but what we
need are constructive ideas; and he pleaded several times for a more
'nuanced' approach from 38 Degrees. He emphasised the distinction,
often overlooked by the media and the public, that Parliament is
weaker than generally thought, and Government is much stronger. In our
form of parliamentary democracy we elect MPs, the Queen counts heads
and selects a Prime Minister to form a government, which then governs
for the next 4 or 5 years. The MPs do essentially nothing. It seems
that David Babbs' position is that "MPs are pompous, self-indulgent,
self-interested people who ignore their constituents." This may be
true of MPs in 'safe seats'. But it is certainly not true of marginal
MPs, who work fantastically hard for popular approval. So the proper
objective for 38 Degrees is to turn safe seats into marginals. Perhaps
we need proportional representation. (Or see 'weighted members' [2])
In the rare cases where the election of an MP depends on their
reputation for listening to their constituents during those 5 years of
a parliament, there might be some point in the 38 Degees position; but
in most cases MPs are voted in very largely on party lines and party
manifestos, even in marginal seats. But not every citizen wants his
voice heard in Parliament; some would be quite happy if the MPs were
indeed delegated the task of doing the thinking, and analysing, and
weighing up.

We are told that to fight a seat at a general election costs some
£34,000 [3]; not of course in direct election costs for that is capped
at under £1000, but in lost salary, and the 2 years traipsing that
precede the election. Such a cost will put most people off standing
unsuccessfully more than once. This makes the backing of a party
machine an essential allay, with all the evils that this entails.

Most of those on the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee who
attacked 38 Degrees (in the person of David Babbs) showed up rather
badly as self-important and unable to listen to criticism. But there
were one or two exchanges that suggested that David Babbs also was a
little deaf in that regard. Tracy Crouch (MP) pointed out that with
power comes responsibility, and asked that 38 Degrees use correct
nomenclature to show that they were attending to detail; she objected
to the use of slang terms like "Gagging Law", and "Bedroom Tax".

David Babbs replied adequately on "Gagging Law", to the effect that he
thought it a more exact name than "The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-
Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill". Yet it is an
over-simplification to say that this is a bill designed to 'gag' lobby
groups like 38 Degrees. Most democrats would strongly approve of a
limit to the promotional expenses permitted [a] candidates, [b]
parties, and [c] lobbies. The proposed legislation limits the amount a
lobby group can spend on a campaign to £450,000. The novel positions
of 38 Degrees is that it can mobilize the support of enormous numbers
of people. They argue that with 1.5 million members the £450,000 limit
represents only 26p per member; in other words the gross cost of a
campaign should be divided by the number of citizens involved. Good
point. Nuanced, if you like. "What" (someone asks) "does the proposed
legislation mean for Free Speech?" Nothing, I would suggest, provided
citizens speak for themselves, and do not simply add their signatures
(or email addresses) to the ideas of others.

As to 'Bedroom Tax', that seems an even more acceptable shorthand for the "under-occupancy penalty" than the "Gagging Law" case just discussed. But I am not against the penalty in principle, though I see that it causes hardship in the short run and in many special cases. Councils suddenly need smaller houses at their disposal, and that will take time. On the other hand, failure to cap the 'bottomless pit' of the Social Service budget plays straight into the hands of the 'cutting party'; the party of small government. I suggest we have to
think much harder about our fundamental rights before we go
protesting. Do we have a fundamental right to a free house? It sounds a very funny idea to someone who can just about remember the workhouse system of poor relief. We certainly have the right to offer assistance to a needy neighbour, but it is not so clear that we have the right to force others to pay; that is up to them, surely. The difficult job of Government is to find a level at which a majority of the country is willing to pay. The current method in Britain is the occasional general election. It might well be that great lists of email addresses, for and against each issue would be a more focussed method. But I have not yet seen an online campaign that attempted to lay out one tenth of the necessary argument.

So, please: nuance, accuracy, thought, particularly positive thinking, and thinking for oneself. And beware of sloganizing.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GforkpduUNg#t=140
[2] http://occidentis.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/weighted-members_07.html
[3] http://www.spectator.co.uk/columnists/politics/9287782/could-you-afford-to-become-an-mp/

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Candidate MPs


Candidate MPs

If I am going to support any aspiring parliamentarian at the next election I would like to know that my candidate was equipped to discuss the following issues, and where applicable that they held the appropriate views and would stick to them in the face of pragmatic arguments, and ad hoc alliances.
●  We must energetically seek to reduce the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Our MPs must know 4 or 5 good reason why this is essential for the cohesion of society, and for the active participation in democratic government of all classes. They must clarify in their own minds whether these reasons trump arguments about losing talent abroad, and the supposed trickle-down of wealth from the 'rich-man's table'. If one candidate MP will not vote against tax cuts for the wealthy, I shall have to find someone else who will.
●  Our MPs must understand economics: understand asymmetric risk (inexplicably called 'moral hazard' in the USA); understand that buying and selling shares, though it brings money to the 'City' and to the bankers, does not create wealth (it merely takes if from the silly poor and gives it to the clever rich); understand that 'quantitative easing' (a silly[1] name for 'controlled inflation') is based on a misunderstanding of why there is resistance to investing during  a depression [2]. MPs should understand that there is no particular reason why, with proper accounting, public money loaned to the banking sector in a crisis should not be returned, pound for pound, to the public purse, when the crisis is over [3]. MPs should know the "Mirrlees Review into the UK tax system", and should know what it recommends, and why that has not been implemented.
●  Our MPs should clarify their attitudes to privatization, and public ownership. Privatization (by harnessing the avarice of the capitalist) does seem uniquely able to force improvements and economies; but beyond a certain point it can only siphon off public money into private hands, splinter a unified and planned system (be it railways or NHS), and drive down accounting costs [4] and quality until serious damage calls a halt, and in extreme cases re-nationalisation. Private enterprise must be closely and intelligently regulated every inch of the way. Many of our proudest national institutions were founded and run as state, public, non-profit enterprises for many decades, e.g. the postal service, the BBC, and the National Health Service; see also the successful East Coast Railway. It is not state ownership that is bad; it is bad management that is bad. Privatization is not in itself essentially and necessarily bad; but when unbridled it is essentially against the public interest. Doctrinaire privatization is very dangerous. Some systems must be unified in order to function properly and efficiently; arguably the rail network, and the NHS.
●  Do MPs understand the concept of 'worker participation on boards of large companies', or 'co-determination', ("Mitbestimmung" as it is called in Germany, where it became legally required in 1976)?  Is there any better way to resolve the inherent conflict between labour and capital. (Has any MP ever mentioned co-determination in Parliament, or at a Party Congress?)
●  MPs should know the arguments for and against the 'inquisitorial' justice system practiced in France and Germany (among other places). This should be discussed and briefing papers offered. It is foolish to think that British traditions are inevitably better than other traditions. The confrontational British common law system has become very expensive, and though its aim is a fair trial, is not aiming at finding the truth; and often fails in that regard.
●  The observed and supposed faults of the European Community must be known, studied and debated; and remedies sought and pursued. This is very urgent. Are the horror stories (bent bananas, etc.) true?  Are the rules made by a small bureaucracy not under 'sensible' democratic control? Is that the problem? Why is it the case? Has no one protested? Do we have to leave Europe to reform Europe, and how would that work?

Any "thinking" party machine should have think-tanks covering these (and other) issues, and parliamentary candidates should be well served with briefing papers; the stance and the supporting arguments should come off the tongue promptly and with conviction.

Notes: [1] Quantitative Easing is a silly term because it suggests that, in a recession, spending is inhibited by a shortage in the way a belly is restrained by a tight belt. There is just as much 'money' as there was before the recession, but it is in the wrong hands. The rich do not invest when there is no profit to be made. So giving the 'rich' even more money (i.e. Quantitive Easing) does very little to increase spending; the extra money is simply stashed away in the Bank of England.
[2]  It is not that there is too little money; it is that there is no point in building a factory if no-one will buy the products. Banks simply invest the newly created money in the Bank of England.
[4] Accounting costs are those shown to parliament; Actual overall costs may not fall significantly, and in some cases can be shown to rise when administrative costs and bailouts are taken into consideration.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Liberal Democrat MPs


Liberal Democrat MPs

If I am going to support a Lib Dem MP at the next election I would like to know that my candidate was equipped to discuss the following issues, and where applicable that the candidate held the appropriate views and would stick to them in the face of pragmatic arguments, and ad hoc alliances.
●  We must energetically seek to reduce the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Our MPs must know 4 or 5 good reason why this is essential for the cohesion of society, and for the active participation in democratic government of all classes. They must clarify in their own minds whether these reasons trump arguments about losing talent abroad, and the supposed trickle-down of wealth from the 'rich-man's table'. If Lib Dem MPs will not vote against tax cuts for the wealthy, I shall have to find someone who will.
●  Our MPs must understand economics: understand asymmetric risk (inexplicably called 'moral hazard' in the USA); understand that buying and selling shares, though it brings money to the 'City' and to the bankers, does not create wealth (it merely takes if from the silly poor and gives it to the clever rich); understand that 'quantitative easing' (a silly[1] name for 'controlled inflation') is based on a misunderstanding of why there is resistance to investing during  a depression [2]. MPs should understand that there is no particular reason why, with proper accounting, public money loaned to the banking sector in a crisis should not be returned, pound for pound, to the public purse, when the crisis is over [3]. Lib Dem MPs should know the "Mirrlees Review into the UK tax system", and should know what it recommends, and why that has not been implemented.
●  Our MPs should clarify their attitudes to privatization, and public ownership. Privatization (by harnessing the avarice of the capitalist) does seem uniquely able to force improvements and economies; but beyond a certain point it can only siphon off public money into private hands, splinter a unified and planned system (be it railways or NHS), and drive down accounting costs [4] and quality until serious damage calls a halt, and in extreme cases re-nationalisation. Private enterprise must be closely and intelligently regulated every inch of the way. Many of our proudest national institutions were founded and run as state, public, non-profit enterprises for many decades, e.g. the postal service, the BBC, and the National Health Service; see also the successful East Coast Railway. It is not state ownership that is bad; it is bad management that is bad. Privatization is not in itself essentially and necessarily bad; but when unbridled it is essentially against the public interest. Doctrinaire privatization is very dangerous. Some systems must be unified in order to function properly and efficiently; arguably the rail network, and the NHS.
●  Do Lib Dem MPs understand the concept of 'worker participation on boards of large companies', or 'co-determination', ("Mitbestimmung" as it is called in Germany, where it became legally required in 1976)?  Is there any better way to resolve the inherent conflict between labour and capital. (Has any Lib Dem ever mentioned co-determination in Parliament, or Party Congress?)
●  Lib Dem MPs should know the arguments for and against the 'inquisitorial' justice system practiced in France and Germany (among other places). This should be discussed and briefing papers offered. It is foolish to think that British traditions are inevitably better than other traditions. The confrontational British common law system has become very expensive, and though its aim is a fair trial, is not aiming at finding the truth; and often fails in that regard.
●  The observed and supposed faults of the European Community must be known, studied and debated; and remedies sought and pursued. This is very urgent. Are the horror stories (bent bananas, etc.) true?  Are the rules made by a small bureaucracy not under 'sensible' democratic control? Is that the problem? Why is it the case? Has no one protested? Do we have to leave Europe to reform Europe, and how would that work?

The Lib Dem party machine should have think-tanks covering these (and other) issues, and parliamentary candidates should be well served with briefing papers; the stance and the supporting arguments should come off the tongue promptly and with conviction.

Notes: [1] Quantitative Easing is a silly term because it suggests that, in a recession, spending is inhibited by a shortage in the way a belly is restrained by a tight belt. There is just as much 'money' as there was before the recession, but it is in the wrong hands. The rich do not invest when there is no profit to be made. So giving the 'rich' even more money (i.e. Quantitive Easing) does very little to increase spending; the extra money is simply stashed away in the Bank of England.
[2]  It is not that there is too little money; it is that there is no point in building a factory if no-one will buy the products. Banks simply invest the newly created money in the Bank of England.
[4] Accounting costs are those shown to parliament; Actual overall costs may not fall significantly, and in some cases can be shown to rise when administrative costs and bailouts are taken into consideration.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Radio 3


Some questions regarding BBC Radio 3

And my individual answers

How much do you listen now? Is that less or more than in the past?

An hour a day, perhaps. More now during the night than when I was young, and the station closed at 11pm (with the 'Queen', or a Schubert song). I do not now listen 5pm till 0100hrs for a number of reason (Do not like the presenter, do not like the music, not into Jazz, no idea what is going to come up but experience suggests only 20% chance I shall want to listen. Etc.)

General programme content, distinct from presenter input

Which programme formats (CD-based ‘sequences’, concerts/recitals, magazine/guests, music documentaries/features) do you enjoy and which not? Are there other kinds of programme you would welcome?

I enjoy lunchtime concerts, Composer of the Week, Record Review, Building a Library, Through the Night.
I used to enjoy 'innocent ear' 30 years ago. I enormously benefited from Anthony Hopkins' "Talking about music", and Hans Keller's 3-minute expositions of a work to be heard that evening. I (personally) have my quirks, and so (I suppose) does everyone else. All one can ask of the BBC is that we can navigate round the stuff we do not like, and know how to switch on for (or 'download') the stuff we do like.
I have liked enormously the occasional 'intelligently themed' sequence, and could do with a few more. ( I mean something like: The influence of Corelli; The battle over Equal Temperament; The evolution of Sonata form; The Evolution of the Piano.)
There was a time when the technical team went out to China with the BBC Symphony orchestra to broadcast from there, which was totally daft. More interesting would be to hear a Chinese Orchestra playing in London (if one ever did).
But is Radio 3 only for music? I used to enjoy 'high brow' talk radio on the 3rd programme (scholastic debates as by medieval monks, Greek Plays). I used to find 5 minutes of news on Radio 3 better than 45 minutes on Radio 4 (which is really 5 minutes of news and 40 of puggling.)  [Parenthetically, Radio 4 news is extraordinarily parochial. What is happening in Germany, Finland, Taiwan, Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand? We are expected to be interested in nothing but our own back-yard and media persons.]

What, for you, would be the basic constituents of a satisfying music programme and what might spoil it? What harms good Radio 3 presentation?

The music of an evening concert should be fairly well 'bunched' so that if one piece suits the mood, the rest of the concert will likely suit as well.
What might spoil a morning sequence of recorded music would be interjected talk. Erudite music talk is wonderful  (see 'Hans Keller' comment above), but talking is a separate experience altogether from the experience of listening to music; they do not mix well. I think the experiences and views of individual listeners should be totally absent from the programme (as of no general interest), that of the presenter's experience and personality should be a vanishingly small component, the personality of the performer should be experienced ONLY via their music, not their talking. An interview of a performer or a distinguished novelist is one thing, and could be good; but it is not a concert.

How does the time of day influence the kind of programme you would enjoy? (What kind of presentation do you want at the various times of day: early morning, later morning, lunchtime, afternoon, early evening, mid evening, late night?)

Enormously. I wake to music with a minimum of talk, but breakfast to the news. I am fascinated by Record Review  and Building a Library, on Saturday mornings. And through the night I prefer gentle and distant music.

Do you like the listener ‘interactivity’ (texts, tweets, emails, phone-ins, quizzes, requests)? Does it serve a useful purpose?

No, I do no like it. It may help some folk to feel engaged, but mostly the one interviewed, which is only ONE person!. It worries me that the BBC may think that the 10 tweets it gets about a programme is representative of its audience. It further worries me that the BBC does not seem to have a mechanism of sampling the whole country. It would be wonderful if there were a way of detecting and monitoring the sets getting switched off all over the country (e.g. 10 bars into a certain piece of music).

What do you think about the way the different kinds of programme are scheduled (time of day, day of week)? Do you find the present schedule educative? Diverse enough? Balanced?

Um! I do not find the schedule particularly 'educative', though some of the programmes might be educational. Being rather elderly, I find the changes to the schedule too frequent; just when I learn to expect "Composer of the week" at a certain time it changes to another. The schedules probably are diverse enough. Let us guard against narrowing the repertoire to encompass only the most popular; but allowing enthusiast to force unpopular material onto the schedules will not work either. Porpora, Hummel, Spohr are not over-exposed in the way the 'Pearl Fishers duet' is, but nor are they unpleasant, in the way Stockhausen is.
I think the BBC has had a tendency to fall into a groove (a cliquey laziness); the "only trumpeter" is Håkan Hardenberger, the "only flautist" Jean-Pierre Rampal.

Online presentation: do you find online material (programme information, playlists) presented satisfactorily? How important is it to have playlists posted in advance?

I think the growing provision of online access to the music itself is wonderful. It will completely remove the problems of scheduling discussed above. But I think it has a long way to go. In general I find the BBC websites chaotic; different fonts shout at you from every corner of the screen, different heuristic media are jumbled, (pictures, words, fonts, colours, etc); too many pictures (What are they for? It is not a beauty competition. Beethoven's violin concerto is explained only to an idiot by means of a picture of a violin.)
Think of 95% of your audience as beginners. What is a 'playlist'? what is a 'track'?  What does it mean 'to export' ?  Why does one need to register? Having registered, selected some 'tracks' that one would like to listen to later, how does one find one's own 'playlist'? It is not on one's profile page. If one wants to listen to those works (or 'tracks') when away from internet access, where is ones playlist stored then?
The compressed versions of e.g. "Composer of the week" are very disappointing, for I usually want the music as much as the talking.

What do you feel about on-air promotion (programme trails)? Which kind is useful and which not?

I pay no attention to the 'trails'. The merely spoken ones are (for me) pointless, for they bear no relation to the way I choose to listen to the radio. (I do not think to myself "Hmm, Saint-Saëns' animals on in an hour's time; must stick around till I hear that.") If I am busy, or do not like the broadcast, I switch off.
I am even more strongly against the 10-second blast of music that follows the words "Elgar's cello concerto". It is like the mixing of pictures and words (above); it is a an actual strain to switch back and forth between different parts of the brain.
I am strongly in favour of the online publication of detailed schedules. (The online Radio Times is/was useless, as it does not have the requisite data — opus number of the works, when each begins, who is playing etc. The BBC website schedules are much better.) (Even better if/when we can click and download to our device for later listening.)

Radio 3 Facebook, blog, Twitter: do you use/follow any of them?

No. I have explained already that I think that one or two single opinions must give a very distorted opinion of the audience reaction; especially when self selected.

Presenters’ input/role

In what ways is the presenter important to a programme?

The words can be helpful. But the attitude and personality of the presenter is essentially a distraction.
I rather liked the high-brow-French-music-programme-presenter-style of some years ago; a beautiful but almost robotically neutral voice announced the next work as though reading the large font stuff off a record sleeve.

How much specialist knowledge do you expect a presenter to have? Does it depend on the type of programme? What would you regard as minimum qualifications for a  Radio 3 presenter?

They should know how to pronounce the standard alphabets of the relevant European languages: German, Italian, French, Russian, Spanish. (Für Elise is German; Pour Elise would be French, We usually get stuck halfway between.) And know how to pronounce the names of composers.

How important is the voice? In what way would you think some presenters are ‘better’ than others? Name three whom you think particularly good.

I find the quality of the voice far less important than the content. I like/Iiked David Mellor, and John Julius Norwich (but were both to be found on Classic FM). Of the BBC ones perhaps Donald McLeod, and Andrew McGregor; the others whom I remember liking are probably all dead, (Patricia Hughes, Alvar Lidell)

Is general tone and style important? If so, in what way (good or bad!)?

A certain amount of genuine (not contrived or pretended) interest in the music and the text must surely be good. None (please) of the grinning and giggling deliveries we hear on Classic FM and occasionally now on Radio 3; or the brash and booming (bass-enhanced) voices of Radio 1; or the fake 'rise and fall' of the voice that the BBC favoured some years ago, which often puts great emphasis on irrelevant words. Dead-pan robotic speech is better than such monkeying around.

What would improve presenter performance?

Intelligence, training, experience, a music degree, experience of playing music?