Thursday, 29 April 2010

We're all in glass houses over the PM's so-called gaffe

Of those who are still trying to twist the knife into Gordon Brown over yesterday's events I say this:

if you are prepared to stand in front of a camera in front of several million people and say you have never slagged anyone off immediately after being pleasant to them - then I'll take your criticism more seriously. 

That so much of the attack comes from so-called newspapers such as The Sun and the Daily Mail is even more hilarious. These are the papers which offer financial inducements to members of the public for 'kiss and tells', for scandalous goings on, to make allegations or indeed tell their own sob stories.

That's not to say that the PM wasn't wrong to say what he said. He's apologised and we, like Mrs Duffy, should accept that and move on. The election is about far more important things than this. And yes, immigration is one of them. Let's hope the PM rises to the challenge tonight.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The egging of Cameron is the antithesis of democracy - not a prank to be celebrated

People who throw eggs, paint or water etc at politicians are  juvenile and cowardly.  They're the kind of people who complain that politicians don't listen to the "man on the street" enough, that politicians are all in it together, are all the same, launch illegal wars of aggression, are deceitful criminals - before trotting off merrily to physically attack someone who actually has the balls to stand for election, put himself out there in front of the public, accept huge media scrutiny of his lifestyle, family and every utterance and actually take on the responsibility of being a potential prime minister - i.e. he may  have to take decisions about things rather than whine about how terrible politicians and the government are all day.

I'm not a fan of the Tory party - in fact I'm a Labour activist.  I don't agree with what David Cameron stands for but I have sufficient respect for our political opponents that I don't jump up and down with glee when they're assaulted while going about the legitimate business of campaigning.  We would expect nothing less from our opponents were the leaders we support to be assaulted.

Would those who think it's funny support a situation where all people seeking elected office at national and local level are fair game for this kind of thing?  We surely don't want to see a situation develop in which it will become legitimate to throw objects or paint at those who bother to go out leafleting or canvassing or hold public meetings?

Democratic politics is surely about free speech, ideas, debate and tolerance.  As the phrase goes -  "I may hate what you say, but I'd defend to the death your right to say it."  Not, "I hate what you say so I'm going to assault you" (but disguise what it is - premeditated physical assault and intimidation - by using something that sounds and looks funny, like an egg).

Didn't the leaders debate show one thing above all else, that the public craves a more constructive, grown-up politics?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ash health advice shows we're viewed as morons

Now I have mild asthma, so perhaps I ought to be worried about volcanic ash (I'm not btw) but for all you able breathers out there, I'm sure you'll be relieved to read the health advice from the Health Protection Agency as listed on BBC News Online -

"...if people notice symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes or cough they may want to go inside".

I read on that if you smell sulphur, rotten eggs, OR A STRONG ACIDIC SMELL when outdoors, you "may wish to limit their activities outdoors or return indoors". I'd endorse that advice based on personal experience. When I was last out playing with my frisbee at the chemical works, I continued to run to catch the frisbee, despite the strong acidic smell in the air, and ended up falling into a vat of acid....

Honestly, are the WHO, BBC, and HPA worried that someone might sue them if they don't offer advice on all eventualities?

Heaven knows how we'd cope if anything serious or vaguely dangerous ever came falling from the sky.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Clegg receives the benefits of airtime far outweighing his party's proportion of the vote or seats

Each of the three leaders did well and the content and style of the debate was a credit to the men, their parties and our democratic system. Of the three, Gordon Brown performed the best although this wasn't what the audience thought (according to the polls). He was more rigorous in his debating style, he got the only joke in and for him, he looked very relaxed. Unlike Cameron whose frown was popping off his forehead every time the camera caught him getting frustrated at what his opponents were saying. Nick Clegg has a tendency towards sounding self-righteous. He is a leader who can turn what on paper looks like a rousing call to arms into what sounds when uttered like a sub-6th form debating club rant, in which every other word is emphasised.

But the audience took a differing view. I suspect that part of the reason why he scored so well in the polls and focus groups is that so many of the public are (sadly) so uninterested in politics that the novelty of seeing someone other than Brown and Cameron meant that he picked up an amount of support disproportionate to the quality of his arguments or his debating style. This is a phenomenon akin to when Italy do well in the Six Nations. Or when a Championship minnow makes it to the FA Cup Final. One's immediate response is, "wow, where did that come from? Aren't they supposed to be rubbish compared to the big beasts". People instinctively back the newcomer to the ring, particularly when rather than getting knocked out in round one, they make it to the end and acquit themselves as well as their opponents.

Nonetheless, Clegg did very well indeed and deserves credit for establishing that there are alternatives to the Labour-Conservative tectonic plates. But it does raise an interesting question, which other smaller parties are no doubt well aware of: in receiving a third of the airtime last night, Clegg and his party received a level of free advertising far outweighing their representation in Parliament. They have roughly 10% of the seats (against 55% for Labour and 30% for the Tories. So in real terms, their coverage last night was three times what it ought to be. Before supporters of proportional representation lynch me, let's do the calculation based on the percentage of the popular vote. Labour won with 35.3%, the Tories came second with 32.3% and the Liberal Democrats won 22.1%. Even here, the Lib Dems received about 30% more coverage than their popular vote would have justified.

Of course third parties must be heard in order to provide balanced coverage for the electorate. However, we move into uncharted and murky waters if we extend the principle of giving minority parties disproportionate television airtime. Take UKIP, who in the 2005 General Election won 2.2% of the popular vote (although no seats). If we apply the first-past-the-post ratios then they ought to have received 6.8% of the airtime last night (or 6.12 minutes). Now over 5 minutes of airtime when up 20 million people might be watching is not to be sniffed at. When you think of the breakthrough possibly achieved by Nick Clegg, you can only imagine how someone like Nigel Farage (as opposed to his new party leader, Lord Pearson) could achieve in five minutes what thousands of posters would fail to. If we make the calculation based on popular vote then UKIP's 1% would translate into 30% more coverage, or 1.17 minutes. Again, nearly as much as each party leader had for their concluding pitches last night.

Take the odious BNP. who won 0.7% of the popular vote in 2005. This would merit 2.1 minutes or 0.91 minutes. In front of 20 million people, this could would be a useful platform for the far right party.

But these calculations are based upon the last General Election result. If we were to base them on the most recent national election - the European Parliament election of 2009, then the results are very interesting.

UKIP won more of the popular vote than Labour (16.5% to Labour's 15.7%). This would equate to either 44.5 minutes (first-past-the-poast) or 19.3 minutes (popular vote).

The BNP won 6.2% of the popular vote, equating to 16.7 minutes (first-past-the-post) or 7.7 minutes (popular vote).

Similar calculations can be made for the Greens and other smaller parties, but there isn't space here. The important point to take away from this is that, inevitably, smaller parties stand to gain most from TV appearances where they receive coverage disproportionate to their size in electoral or popular vote terms. When such an idiosyncrasy benefits a personable, intelligent person such as Nick Clegg, the effect is described by pundits as anything from "ground-breaking" , "game-changing", "a triumph", "a boost for our democracy". I'm not sure such hyperbole would be used were such an opinion poll boost to be won by UKIP, or much worse, the BNP.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Independent publish my letter on Chief Constable's comments re pay restraint

Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, says he is not worth £213,000. Despite eschewing his bonus, his message would be more powerful if, having worked out what he is truly worth, he gave the excess to charity or back to his police force. If more people acted upon their consciences in such a way, we would not be in this mess.
John Slinger

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Ordinary George is at it again with his 'normalised' pronunciation

Vote Labour - Don't be conned by the CONservatives 

In his preamble at the Tories' manifesto launch, George Osborne is at it again.  He's clearly been coached to sound less plummy and more 'normal'.   So we were treated just now to some beautiful guttural stops and dropped Ts.  That's the kind of pronunciation that would have been much mocked by the Bullingdon boys back in the days when Dave and George weren't quite so normal!
  • "How are we gunna get our economy moving" 
  • "id is labour's debt"
  • "the bedder off"
  • "that are gunna get growth growing again"
  • "id is business people"
  • "if you star a new business"
  • "send a message ou loud and clear around the world"
  • "and now we're gunna hear"
Vote Tory, vote for changed pronunciation!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Tory knives are out for Theresa May

Vote Labour - Don't be conned by the CONservatives 

Reading Fraser Nelson's paean to that great and successful Tory ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith in today's Daily Torygraph, I couldn't help notice a stinging and highly personal attack on one of David Cameron's tiny band of women members of the Shadow Cabinet - Theresa May.

In a section designed to show that the Tories would have been able to reform the welfare state successfully had Cameron not replaced the master of crime statistics, expert on teenage pregnancies in deprived areas and well-known defender of Gay rights Chris Grayling with Theresa May, he writes:

But the agenda died when Theresa May was sent in and Grayling was promoted to be shadow home secretary. With a nine-year track record of achieving precisely nothing in Opposition, May is spectacularly ill-suited to what should be the toughest task in government. It is not enough for her to have David Freud, a banker turned welfare adviser, in the wings. There is only one man appropriate for this job.

Now Fraser Nelson is not your average Tory commentator.  As editor of The Spectator and a columnist at the News of the World, he is highly influential.  He is also very well connected with the Tory high command.  My hunch is that he is unlikely to have launched such a nasty attack on a senior member of Cameron's Shadow Cabinet so close to an election without tacit approval from the top.  

With the number of capable and experienced female Tories at an all time low, it seems the knives may be out for the one Tory woman, who as party chair in 2002 was was brave and wise enough to state that the party had to shed its "nasty party" image.   Perhaps Cameron and co. are planning a May 7 putsch, assuming they win the election, which is itself unlikely.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

MORE TORY PR MISTAKES - Michael Caine forgets that his party are not yet the Government

Vote Labour - Don't be conned by the CONservatives

Here's Michael Caine fluffing his lines at the Tory launch of their national youth service.  He's better at acting in films I would say...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Tories need M&C Saatchi to take a look at their ridiculous merchandise

Vote Labour - Don't be conned by the CONservatives

Not that the Tories would wish to take advice from me, but if they did, I'd recommend they ask their new advertisers M&C Saatchi to take a look at the strange, verging on ridiculous range of posters and t-shirts on sale at

Take the "Stronger" poster (which claims that "by trusting people we help them grow").  This is straight out of the "Slogans for the aspiring New Age guru" book.
The whole tone of the design of these
posters and t-shirts is very 1970s.  Is this really the direction they want to take their squeaky-clean, hopeful, optimistic New Tory brand in?

My favourite is the
"Don't blame me, I voted Tory" t-shirt.  Surely a hostage to fortune given that Labour are likely to win the next election...

Other classics are the new
Tory pens.  You'll  be relieved to hear that the website makes clear that "The wood has been sourced from sustainable forests."  

The "Blue is the new green" recyclable bags will no doubt win the election for them, perhaps chiefly by being used to transport thousands of glossy leaflets paid for by non-dom Lord Ashcroft.

While Obama swept to power with exciting rhetoric and has proved himself a true progressive by challenging David Cameron's bedfellows, the Republicans, over healthcare, the conservatives give us the
"Tea for change" mug.

Great.  I can see how all this Tory merchandise could swing the election for them.  Forthwith, Labour Party and Lib Dem members will be resigning their membership in order to usher in the new blue, I mean, green era by writing out a shopping list using their ethically-sourced wooden pen.  Next they'll purchase their (fairtrade) tea and take it home in their new 'Blue is the new green' shopping bag.  No doubt they'll then sit down to a well earned cup of tea in their"Tea for change" mug.  As they gaze up at their newly purchased
"By sharing responsibility we help society grow stronger" poster perhaps they'll be a little shocked to receive news that the new Conservative government has just cut funding to the local Children's Centre, school, police force or army barracks (delete as appropriate).

Labour - Don't be conned by the