Tuesday, November 30, 2004

More suffering in Iraq

according to a British medical charity. Of course we'll probably here that Iraqis are lying about their injuries, or that doctor-reporting is not a valid way of finding out about them. Indeed surely we've had heard about this already by now if it was really happening?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Another day, another hate-fest

I mistook the above title on a Harry's Place post for a description of Melanie Phillip's site, not a quote from it (see comments).

Embarassing, but I think it's an easy mistake to make.

To quote just those posts on the home page:

"Lazy BBC journalism? Sloppy? Malicious? Bigoted?"

"Our Foreign Secretary progresses from supine to sick"

"Thus the French barter the lives of some of their citizens for many others; thus they display gross cynicism and absence of principle, decency or indeed a sense of self-preservation; thus they once again show that in the fight against terror, they are on absolutely the wrong side."


But what really beats them all is this, about those who believe in global warming as a threat:

"Both [it and a belief there is no global threat from global terrorism] are surely rooted in the same mindset-- fear and loathing of the west, and a desire to destroy it rather than defend it."

With, at the end, the weasly words, "Of course, this does not apply to all who take these positions."

In fact perhaps it isn't malice or hate, but merely a complete lack of scientific understand. See her attacks on the Lancet study.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Police states

The story of the treatment of Nicky Samengo-Turner at the hands of the Metropolitan police is on the cover of the Spectator, and a shorter version the comments pages of today's Sunday Telegraph.

For those who can't click on a link, Samengo-Turner consented to having his car searched by the police who were training other policeman. Whilst searching they found an illegal weapon (he disputes that it is illegal), arrested, put in the cells, generally harassed for a bit, charged with carrying an offensive weapon, before his lawyer arrived and he was bailed. The case continues.

We should note that we haven't yet heard the Met Police's side of the story, and they seem confident that he was carrying an illegal weapon. Nevertheless you hear a lot about young men in London being "stopped and searched", most of whom aren't carrying illegal weapons, and I am pleased that the S.Telegraph and the Spectator, traditionally pretty authoritarian newspapers, are finally giving it the attention it deserves.

Given this, it would be as well that next time Michael Howard, who has pledged to stop the Police having to keep a record of people that they stop, makes a speech about 'political correctness gone mad', he remembers that potential Tory voters get stopped and searched too. Oh and of course David Blunkett should resign.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Old man rant

I've just been to the cinema. When did this annoying habit of people applauding the film at the end, as if they were in a theatre, start? It's not as if anyone who made the film is there to hear it.

The total honesty of our politicians

There's some good stuff on the (real) Proud of Britain site.

Backword Dave notes the beer drinking fan of the NHS.

The best however is PJ Howard

What makes me proud of Britain is:...never attempting to criminalise people to appease minority pressure groups; the incorruptibility of its politicians who would never sell its legislation under any circumstances; the way those politicians protect the rights of this country to govern itself, brooking no interference from others; the total honesty of our politicians especially when presenting statistics or giving reasons for declaring war against other nations; the way anyone found to be dishonourable in any way is removed from public office permanently, never to be rewarded later...

Over 2000 dead in Fallujah

on current Iraqi health ministry figures. Obviously the real figure could be far higher.

Polls

The latest YouGov poll is out showing Labour 3% ahead, on 35%. Anthony has a discussion of YouGov's interesting past-vote recall.

There were a few interesting findings.

First, just how popular the Tories are in London. Unless I've read it wrongly, they lead 47% to 24% (in a poll remember, in which they are behind). In the rest of the South they lead by only 1% (34% to 33%).

Second, the widespread support for a ban on smoking in public places, 76% in total, and that seems pretty standard across all regions, classes and age groups.

Third, consistent support for a ban on fox hunting (60% to 32%), and strangely the only region where a ban comes near to not having plurality support is London, 54% to 39%.

London is heavily over-represented in YouGov's sample (it is weighted downwards) and although all of these results are explainable, I wonder if their sample is a little skewed.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Johann Hari on Michael Howar

As Michael Howard attempts to woo ethnic minority voters, Johann Hari goes on the offensive:

People who know him well assure me Michael Howard is not personally a bigot. Fine. Then he is something worse: a man who is choosing to tango with bigotry for electoral gain.


Incidentally Johann says 'who now, for example, remembers terms like "hottentots" and "piccaninnies"?'. The latter (to my amazement) was used by Matthew Parris in his Times sketch in 2000. A colleague of mine wrote to complain, but Parris brushed it off. Political correctness gone mad.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Ukraine

The election result and much else hangs in the balance in Ukraine. For excellent coverage, and links to more excellent coverage, see Fistful of Euros.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Power of the blog

There's some good charts and figures here showing (puportedly) which blogs and media organisations were most cited in the US election. The BBC and the Guardian are the top British entries, both in the top 20.

City morality vs Countryside immorality

The Economist reports that unlike everywhere else in the UK the number of children born to unmarried parents has been falling in London, and indeed so much so that it now has a lower rate than the rest of the country (see chart).

For those who are extremely bothered by such things this must be a shock. But it's hardly news that the Countryside is a hot-bed (literally) of affairs, confused parentage and scandal. Anyone whose read a Jilly Cooper novel knows that, though for those who require more proof there are studies confirming it.

The Economist gives three reasons for this London trend. First the high proportion of ethnic minorities, who are said to belive in marriage more than white Britons. Second the cost of living in London, which makes co-habiting, and therefore also marriage, cost-effective. Third the far greater number of rich people, who see marriage as a social status symbol, much like the Porsche 911.

Are there any lessons that can be drawn? Politically insofar as the Conservative Party sees itself as the party of traditional morality, one might think this would suggest a route back to political success in the inner-cities. But as Anthony Wells pointed out the party is split on topics, so it would be a risky strategy. And of course recent affairs have reminded the public that the party has no special claim to such issues these days, if it ever had.




Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Proud of Britain

Via Backword Dave I see the Labour Party has a new site (and I think a new rod for its back) in its

"Why are you proud of Britain"

site. So far about seven people, some semi-famous have given their reasons, many of which appear to be an (often inaccurate) modern version of what Orwell complained about in 19th century literature,

when it was accepted as a kind of scientific fact that one Englishman was the equal of three foreigners

Britons on the world

Harry's Place mentioned an ICM poll that showed most Britons believe that the US government had some knowledge of September 11th 2001 before it happened.

The poll was conducted for "The People's Poll", a programme presented by Al Murray to be shown on the UKTV G2 channel.

Some other findings were:

* 40% think we went to war in Iraq over oil, while 10% believe Tony Blair's explanation of WMD.
* 93 per cent think political leaders lie to them 'sometimes' or 'all the time'.
* 40% say they believe in ghosts. 50 years ago it was 1/10.


None of these seem particularly surprising however. I think we went to war in Iraq over oil. Obviously the 'some' means you have to answer 'yes' to the second question. The third is rather alarming, but perhaps a sign of the times. 50 years ago many Britons thought the Queen was a direct descendant of God.

Update: There's also an interesting thing on how things have changed since 1954. Poor coal miners.


Most admired men - 1954
1 Winston Churchill
2 Duke of Edinburgh
3 Anthony Eden
4 Sir Edmund Hillary
5 Clement Attlee

Now
1 Nelson Mandela
2 Bill Clinton
3 The Pope
4 Lance Armstrong
5 Tony Blair

Most admired woman - 1954
1 The Queen
2 Eleanor Roosevelt
3 The Queen Mother
4 Lady Mountbatten
5 Odette Churchill (second world-war heroine, nee Samsom, no relation to Winston)

Now
1 Margaret Thatcher
2 The Queen
3 Kelly Holmes
4 Hillary Clinton
5 Mum

Can you name any occupations where you think those who work in them are paid too much?

Then
1 Miners/coal workers
2 Civil servants

Now
1 Lawyers
2 Footballers





Sensible policies for a sensible America

Matthew Yglesias comments on plans to make illegal the fast-forwarding of adverts during recorded television programmes.

I hope it's not a joke. I've often felt ashamed of myself when fast-fowarding adverts, particularly since I got a Sky + unit, and sometimes you need the law to intervene to save you from yourself.

Monday, November 22, 2004

More policies

The Conservatives have made an 'Alternative Queen's Speech', which despite its name is a serious policy document, not some Channel Four lecture to the nation on Christmas Day made by a bald man wearing woman's clothing.

Furthermore according to the BBC report Oliver Letwin has outlined his proposals for reform of Stamp Duty, an important move given he believes it costs the typical £40,000 pa taxpayer £7,500 a year.

Much like the Tory proposals on personal income tax there is no definite policy but a range of possible policies. I can't find it on the Conservatives' website but the BBC reports it as thus:

They included scrapping the tax for first time buyers spending below £250,000 or exempting all purchases below £120,000 - double the current threshold.

The first measure is quite interesting in that it discriminates for certain types of buyers. This is similar to a suggestion the Sunday Telegraph made yesterday that the Tories should make anyone who earns under £10,000 a year exempt from tax, but those who earn over £10,000 a year should pay tax on earnings below it (with tapering to make it worthwhile earning £10,500 pa).

The advantage of these measures if they increase the income of the lowly paid by quite a lot (in % terms) but don't cost much because they don't give the money to everyone.

The problem though is complexity. You don't need to be an advocate of a 'flat tax' to think that the current taxation system is as complex as needs be, and indeed could be simpler. Making exemptions based on your status, whether a first-time buyer or earning under £10,000, is not the way to go.

Incidentally I don't quite understand the Conservatives' motive in releasing these 'options'. Is there meant to be a public debate, or a party debate, as to their merits?


That shining large land mass nr Russia somewhere

The Ukrainian election results appear to show that unfortunately the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, has won re-election with nearly 50% of the vote, beating the opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko.

Ukrainian nationalists are not slow to tell us of the wonders of their country, and I agree. The Ukraine of wheat farms, sunflowers, sugar beet, non-ferrous metal mining, and process food (especially sugar). The Ukraine from where came Sergy Bubka, Oksana Baiul Oksana Baiul, Igor Belanov Igor Belanov, Oleg Blokhin, Oleksander Koshetz, Taras Hryhorovich Shevchenko and Alexander Dovzhenko. The Ukraine that stood against Viktor Yanukovych, and voted for Victor Yushchenko.



New Tory policy

The Telegraph reports (behind registration wall) that David James' efficiency gains drive has come up with a plan to privatise the DVLA, and make the insurance industry produce and distribute road tax discs.

Tim Yeo, the shadow transport secretary, said that the measures would allow the Government to crack down on the estimated one in 20 motorists who drive without insurance: "Under a Conservative government, drivers will receive a tax disc from their insurance company at the same time."


There seems a lot of merit in this proposal. You cannot drive a car without insurance or road tax, so issuing them together appears sensible (there might be some problems with people changing insurers, but they don't appear insurmountable).

It'll be interesting how the Tories present the savings from this proposal however. The efficiency gain is not the money saved by scrapping the DVLA's Road Tax role. It is merely the difference between the cost of the DVLA admnistering Road Tax, and of the insurance companies doing it. Taxes will fall (all other things being equal) but insurance premiums will rise.

I note that they don't seem to have considered scrapping the charge though.

Paul McCartney won't show us his nipples

Sir Paul McCartney has been chosen to provide the half-time entertainment at this year's Super Bowl game - the slot filled by Janet Jackson last year.
Organisers have promised there will be no repeat of her nipple-baring incident that sparked thousands of complaints on US TV's most-watched broadcast.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Prince Charles

Backword Dave takes issue with my critism of Charle's now-famous memo, saying that,

"what he says in the memo ... is not contentious"

This I don't understand. Here's the memo:

What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities? This is to do with the learning culture in schools as a consequence of a child-centred system which admits no failure. People think they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability. This is the result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially engineered to contradict the lessons of history.


In order the contentious bits appear to me to be -- It's not true there's something wrong with everyone, not everyone believes they are qualifed to do things beyond their technical capabalities, even if they did I don't believe it's to do with a learning culture in schools, nor anything to do with not admitting failures, as that is a sensible policy for schools. People don't think they can all be pop-stars etc without putting in any work or having any ability. This is not a result of social utopianism (it's a result of common sense), and I don't know what he mans by the lessons of history.

Dave suggests that it's Charles who loses out from this attitude, as he gets less qualified people. This is obviously true, but it's true of racists who won't employ blacks. It makes it no less obnoxious.

I admit I don't like Prince Charles. But I don't lose sleep over it, as I'm pretty sure he wouldn't like me if he met me, not being a member of the aristocracy. Thus I tend to agree with Johann Hari's rundown on all you need to know about the man(via Nick Barlow).

But as Johann says we shouldn't be too hard on Charles, it's not really fault he's the man he is.

Yet the humane response to this is not to be angry with Charles himself. The institution of monarchy has inflicted terrible psychological damage on him since he was a toddler. The snobbery and hatred of meritocracy that have been revealed this week are simply inevitable further by-products of monarchy


If we abolish the Monarchy then I'd have no complaints with an elderly slightly dotty landowner commenting on education. For no-one would pay him any attention.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Hunting

No, not foxes, but online. I'm not a great animal welfare person, but this seems a bit wrong to me.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Tories 8% behind

The latest Guardian/ICM poll puts the Tories 8% behind Labour, on 30%, their worst showing since May 2003 (in the wake of the then-sucessful Iraq war).

The situation is in some ways worse than this. Like many pollsters ICM adjust their polls for the likelihood to vote. There are no figures out yet for what an unadjusted poll would look like, but a Labour lead of 10% is perfectly possible. Although the adjusted polls reflect more accurately a likely election result, the unadjusted polls show how the Conservative message is going down in the country at large.

Why so bad? Two factors appear to me to have been overlooked, and both perhaps benefit Labour even though they are generally though to benefit the Tories.

First, house prices. It will not have bypassed a large section of the population that house prices are looking weaker than they have done for a long time -- an even longer time than the Tories have looked electable. This it is generally argued should boost the Tories, as high house prices help the government as they contribute to a feeling of well-being in the population, make people forget tax rises etc. The Tories in government were almost destroyed by plunging house prices.

Now so far house price falls have been tiny, taking us back to July. But even if they were to fall 20% I think it might even boost the governent's popularity. For most people know that the Bank of England sets interest rates, and furthermore in troubled economic times who would you rather have steering the economy, Gordon Brown with his impressive track record, or Oliver Letwin, who is happy to believe that people move house every year and has no idea about taxation levels in the economy?

Second, the ongoing conflict in Iraq. It's generally believed that as the conflict gets worse Labour's popularity will fall. But again this seems wishful thinking. The war is now history, and those who will never vote Labour because of it have already gone. The current conflict is clearly going to happen whoever is in power, and as it gets nastier, who would you rather have in charge, the resolute, determined and popular in the White House Tony Blair, or the opportunist flip-flopper Michael Howard?


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Not for the likes of us

Not since a young Peter Phillips said to his nanny from the deck of the Royal yacht, 'look at all the poor people waving at us' have I seen such a touching example of the Royal Family's common touch as we see in today's Daily Telegraph.

The memo was in response to a suggestion by Ms Day that personal assistants with university degrees should be given the opportunity to train to become private secretaries.

The prince [of Wales] blames the education system for making people "think they can all be pop stars".

In the memo, the prince wrote: "What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?

"This is the result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially engineered to contradict the lessons of history."


Charles is of course right. You should stick to what you are qualified in, unless you received a 2:2 in history on the strength of a B at A-Level in history and a C in French, when you can lecture on anything you like, such as architecture, education, reincarnation...

Update: As Chris Brooke has noted before that the Prince of Wales has said he will emigrate to Switzerland if fox-hunting is banned, so the way things are going we should be expecting an announcement from Clarence House in the next few months. Readers who are hoping that this means he will not be our next Monarch will be disappointed at my next relevation -- I spoke to someone at the Department of Constitutional Affairs who says there is no law that the King has to live in the British Isles, or even the Commonwealth.

Blair stole our clothes - Howard

I am sure that to my loyal readers it will come as no less a relief than it did to me to learn that the above titled BBC story was not about a typically public-schoolboy prank by our PM at the Parliamentary swimming gala.

Instead it's referring to comments made by Michael Howard in an interview in the Guardian. Which I cannot for some reason find on their website.


The Daily Telegraph

I guess you are all waiting to hear my views on the new and improved Daily Telegraph, which I have started to purchase again on the strength of Martin Newland's interview in Monday's Guardian.

Overall I was quite impressed. The news coverage is solid, if perhaps still a little idiosyncratic, but refreshing free of bias (normally -- the City pages talk of 'slashed growth forecasts' when in fact it went from 3.2% to 3.0%). The sports coverage is good, although I preferred it when it wasn't a separate section. The City coverage is so-so.

The letters page is much like the Guardian's, not only in that it's filled with what Private Eye calls 'Mike Giggler' letters, but also because it sounds like something written by Michael Moore. Example: "The resignation of Colin Powell bodes ill for the rest of the world, and leaves a cabal of neo-Conservatives of the ilk of President Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney in a cabinet facing the global challenges of the future".

Where the paper really falls down of course is in its columnists. The normally solid Andrew Marr writes a column in which the first section is utterly incomprehensible. I presume regular readers might have a clue what he is going on about, but if this is the normal stuff he writes there must be very few of these left.

Compared to Janet Daley however Marr is sense itself. Newland was rightly happy that he had got rid of Barbara Amiel, but god knows why he keeps Daley on. Here is an example of her wing-nuttery from today's column, which is so idiotic on so many levels I'll just reprint it without comment:

...I do believe that the democratic experiment in Continental Europe, begun just over 200 years or so ago, is coming to a close.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Telegraph

There's a good interview with Telegraph editor Martin Newland in the Guardian, who says lots of sensible things, in particular this about the comments pages:

I soon came to recognise we were speaking a language on geopolitical events and even domestic events that was dictated too much from across the Atlantic. It's OK to be be pro-Israel, but not to be unbelievably pro-Likud Israel, it's OK to be pro-American but not look as if you're taking instructions from Washington. Dean Godson and Barabara Amiel were key departures.


I used to read the Telegraph but stopped when the others went tabloid. I still read the S.Telegraph, though as shown below it's getting difficult. I did read the Telegraph the other day and was reasonably impressed -- the creeping comment-style news that was evident under the Black regime appears to have been stopped in its track and Newland is explicit that he will not allow it to become another Independent (which I like, btw, but see his point).

He also says the Mail is vulnerable as it presents itself in a 'spittle flecked way'. He says the tabloid Times has 'new things arriving like a unwanted trains at a station, at a time you never expected them to arrive....the flow is so bad', which is completely true.

Sadly Newland says the Telegraph will remain broadsheet as long as its readers wish, which I imagine will be some time. He also seems to rate Tom Utley highly, which is bizarre.

Cor blimey guv'nor, can we rip tha foxes apart?

The Telegraph has an article in which it sends two members of the upper classes undercover in flat caps and sporting cockney accents to discuss foxhunting with Tony Banks.

It begins:

Lulu and I had never been to the East End before. But we are good mimics, and we prided ourselves on the authenticity of our cockney accents. As we sipped our teas and re-adjusted our new flatcaps in the canteen of Stratford East Bingo Hall...


You couldn't make it up. After the meeting with Banks (in which they pretended to be constituents 'Mary' and 'Lorraine' from Stratford, mentioning 'this untin' stuff' they feared they had been caught out..sorry owt.

When Lulu reminded him that his own government had appointed at least half of the 700 peers, Banks was briefly silenced. We started to worry that we'd been rumbled. Banks seemed to be turning somehing over in his mind - the possibility that we weren't as ignorant as we'd claimed'


You couldn't make it up. Naturally it ends with the usual cant "Our Government has in effect declared war against a whole section of the British population in a thoroughly underhand way". That would be Parliamentary democracy, love.

Next week the Telegraph sends Gussie Wooster blacked up with coal tar to attempt to buy drugs off a Black Man in Brixton.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Like Grandpa?

Nicholas Soames on Boris Johnson:

"But don’t let’s forget this is one of the most brilliant and amusing and interesting men of his generation."

This one sounds bad

Clearly the case has yet to go to trial, but as political scandals go this should be an interesting one to watch.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Johnson sacked

Michael Howard has sacked party vice-chairman (and culture spokesman) Boris Johnson over the allegations he had an affair with Spectator columnist, Petronella Wyatt.

Details aren't clear (but probably will be after tomorrow's tabloid headlines) but according to the BBC he was sacked not for the affair (which he denies, ish) but for lying about it (very ish, presumably).

This is obviously not a reason for sacking someone, as it doesn't make sense. If it represented a new 'back to basics' campaign by Michael Howard, then clearly we should expect John Redwood to be next to go. It doesn't of course, as Howard's own position is not particulary good on this issue.

I imagine the reason he was sacked was for the good reason that basically on some days the 'affair' has become the Tory party story, and not a particularly attractive one.

Update I: If you can't wait, the Scotsman has the headlines. The News of the World has the details

Update II: One has to criticise Michael Howard's judgement. When he said only last week that Johnson's Spectator was 'political viagra' and Boris should 'keep his end up' he was clearly referring to the affair, which implies he must have thought it was true and that Johnson was lying about it. So why did he find it a source of amusement last week, and a sacking matter today?

Update III: The BBC reports: "An associate editor of The Spectator, Rod Liddle, described the sacking as "a terrible mistake"". Neutral observer there.

Update IV: Johnson claims that he did not mislead Howard, and that he realised he couldn't continue in both jobs and was planning to quit anwyay.

Friday, November 12, 2004

4m pages of people confused about confidence intervals?

The news that google, in a spoiler to Microsoft's new search engine, now searches 8,000,000,000 webpages is terrifying.

I can remember not so long ago when 700m was a lot. So to increase by 4bn is rather a lot.

But then I thought - hang on, this blog now has every post on a single page. There must be over a 1000 posts. That's 1000 pages, on my own. If everyone adult in Greater London was like me that'd almost be the whole world!

I read somewhere there were 4m blogs. If they're all as proficient (or not) as me then that's 4bn webpages. Co-incidence? I'm not so sure.

It gets worse. Say in the next ten years there are 40m bloggers, all with 10,000 posts, that would be 400bn webpages, 390bn or so would be crazed idiots, ranting on about things they've only heard of this morning, but know they DON'T LIKE.

Is it then any wonder that google bought blogger? The two feed on each other perfectly. But perhaps even Google will not be able to control what it has unleashed. Maybe the more sensible suggestion is to miss out blogger pages altogether.

The Lancet

I've discussed the Lancet article endlessly on other sites, and, as we know from the comments below, this is the site that discusses things other sites don't, so I'm not going to post on it here.

Luckily I don't need to, as Daniel Davies has the goods on the critiques (most of which are so bad you can only marvel at them) over at Crooked Timber.

He misses out one devestating line of attack however. It's what I call the 'I can feel it in my bones' critique. This is where the blogger (and it's always a blogger) can 'feel it in their bones' that the report 'can't be right'. I would link to some obvious examples, but 'I can feel it in my bones' that it would be pointless.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Tuesday morning

Is not the best day to find you've somehoe forgotten to pay a £175 council tax bill and a £135 water bill. I would have preferred a Thursday.

57% to 33% oppose Iraq war

Anthony in his highly recommended brand spanking new poll site has the other details (Tories up, Labour down, Libs down) but the new Populous poll suggests only 31% of Britons believe the Iraq war was the 'right thing to do' and 57% believe it was the 'wrong thing'.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Howard's good points

There's a good interview with Michael Howard in today's Sunday Telegraph.

First, as predicted on these pages, he has upped his campaign against President Bush.
I'm not going to be told how to do my job, and if it displeases those in the White House, that's tough


Second, despite Dominic Lawson's near obsessionw with a "Tony Martin" law (not that he uses the term) Howard is having none of it.

This is simplistic stuff. I know you are keen on this, but I'm being straightforward with you.

As I noted when some Tories tried to introduce a new law in the House of Commons, for some reason reformers want to make the law thus that you could kill your own mother merely because you thought she might be about to steal something from your house. Howard seems to agree, worrying about

a political canvasser opening your garden gate, coming to your front door, putting a leaflet int, and if you were of a particularly nervous disposition you could kill him.


Howard also adopts a refreshingly European tone, noting that there aren't many parallels to be drawn from Bush's victory,

It's rather different...there are many differences between the US and Europe (my emphasis).


I was mocked for suggesting that the Tories would move in a greater anti-war, anti-Bush direction. It looks like I'll be right. So here's another prediction -- with the Ukip in chaos, Howard will start to advocate the benefits of the EU.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

"Democracies make bad decisions sometimes"* .

Just in case the reaction to the American election result on some blogs is making you think there is something peculiar to the rest of the world, here is a reminder of American blog reaction to the Spanish election (all of which subsequently was shown to be rather inaccurate).

* Instapundit.

"Go ahead, appease the Islamofascistibabykillermotherfuckers. Bow your heads to god their way, cover your women in black sacking, kill your gays. Forbid Jews to hold good jobs, make them wear yellow stars – you know the drill. As the Great Cthulhu says, “You will be devoured last! Yum!” But at least you’ll have shown up those Yankee imperialists! And that’s what counts, isn’t it?"

"Spain is now ruled from a tiny cave somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and her rulers will be encouraged to see how many other countries they can take over.” Yup. Even if the “real” reason for the change of governments was some weaselly non-important matter like health care or whatever it is the socialists over there think is worth a few bombs going off every now and then, the terrorists will think they’ve caused this, and they will respond accordingly. "

"I wouldn't put England in the list [of countries who 'get it']. They just went along to Iraq so they could slow us down. They'll jump ship at first opportunity"

"France is discovering the ugly truth about this culture: it is, well, ugly. This culture doesn't believe in freedom of speech (except for themselves.) It doesn't believe in living in peace. It doesn't believe in human rights (except their own.) It is a backward anachronism that makes Medieval Western Culture appear civilized by comparison."

"What happened in Spain’s election was almost enough to make one feel nostalgic for General Franco (who is, unfortunately, still dead). "


The lesson of all this is of course -- blogs are the best medium for very stupid people to mouth off about things they know nothing about and given no thought to.



Friday, November 05, 2004

More fallout from Clark County

The fall-out from the Guardian's ill-advised stunt to write to voters in Clark County has started. An American citizen intends to tell more than 5m people in Britain who they should vote for in the forthcoming general election. Unlike the Guardian in Clark County he claims that he has already changed the result of one British election.

North-East says "no"

There was a referendum on North-East devolution last night, in which the 'yes' camp lost 22% to 78% with a relatively high turnout of 47.8%. About the only comfort you could give to the 'yes' camp is to note that the Welsh voted against devolution in about the same numbers, and 20 or so years' later changed vote for it.

On issues of wider importance, that Tony Blair, Charles Kennedy, and their respective parties supported it and got thrashed, whilst the Conservatives appear to have opposed it, hardly makes you confident about a euro referendum...


Sovereignty bites the dust.

I don't think you have to be a raving isolationist to wonder if the Iraqi people really are the best judge of whether the risks the British Army should face are a 'price worth paying'.

From the Independent:

Armed Forces minister, Adam Ingram, said it would be a matter for commanders on the ground if they continued to patrol on the east bankk. "We always knew that there were risks involved in these engagements but this is for the Iraqi people", he said. "Is it a price worth paying? Well the Iraqis are the best judge of that".

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The values are money

There's lots of wailing and grinding of teeth already on blogs abou how the Democrats are losing the battle of values. As far as I can work it out what this means is that the Republicans have broken through compared with say 2000 by appealing to voters' morals, not their wallets, and thus the Democrats are losing a large chunk of lower-income voters.

It's sadly not true. From the CNN exit polls for 2000 and 2004 (which were accurate in their vote share, note)

Of those earning under $15,000, Gore took 57%, Kerry took 63%, of those $15-$30k, Gore took 54%, Kerry took 57%, of those earning $30k to $50k, Gore took 49% and Kerry 50%.

So Kerry took a higher share than Gore of anyone earning under $50,000 p.a.

On higher earners it reverses. Of those on $50k to $75k, Gore 46%, Kerry 45%. On those on $100k a year or more, Gore took 43%, Kerry took 41%.

The figures for Bush are the exact opposite. So the lower income you are in America the more you prefer the Democrats, and the more you prefer John Kerry over Al Gore.

There are obviously some important caveats. Some of this (but not all) reflects Ralph Nader's failed candidature. Assuming his votes were 3 to 1 Gore's, then Gore would only have been 2-3% behind Kerry among lower income voers. Also there are issues that would need further discussion, such as is income a proxy for a more important determinant such as age. It doesn't really seem very obvious why it should change though between 2000 and 2004, and the % in each income group is very similar between the two dates, suggesting similar age profiles.

ps Oh look. Kerry took a higher share of white males than Gore too! 37% to 36%. Bush seems to have picked up Nader's share. Perhaps a lurch to the left is in order?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

What does it mean for the UK?

And particularly British politics. It was discussed before the election what a Kerry victory would mean - some said good for Blair, as Kerry would be more willing to listen to Britain, and shared some of Blair's aims in other policies. Others said bad, it would be seen as a referendum on the war, and the war party lost. Blair would be left vulnerable.

Essentially what it boiled down to is Blair would prefer Kerry as President, but didn't want to see Bush lose. So in reverse, today is good for Blair in that his partner in crime remains in the White House, his policy on Iraq intact. Overally though, it's going to be bad for Blair. His relationship with Bush has been a loser all the way for him personally. Bush has failed to listen to Blair on any aspect of policy, from Iraq to the environment. Blair has recieved nothing in return for his support.

The advantage for Blair that it's worse for the Conservatives. He and the President have no relationship. Michael Howard is banned from the White House until 2008, and perhaps longer if the Republicans or Bushes win again. It is beyond me how he considers he could be PM whilst that ban remains in place, though I salute his courage.

Update: Howard, you'll be pleased to know, is trying to make amends with a suitably grovelling congratulations comment.

Bush wins the election

So it wasn't to be. Bush has won a second-term in a close but decisive race. I think I agree with Crooked Timber that a Kerry victory in these circumstances would not be desirable - a minority President, facing a hostile Congress, with a disastrous war and looming economic problems. A clear-cut Kerry victory would not have changed the latter three, but it might have given him the electoral authority to deal with these issues. Not now.

In that sense this election might have been a bit like 1992 -- one which in hindsight was better to lose. Kerry's loss might be the 2008 candidate's gain.

For now though, my sympathy to Senator Kerry, who fought a valiant campaign. He must console himself with the above thoughts, and that his wife is very rich. But of course the main congratulations to President Bush who (again like John Major in 1992) has recorded the highest vote in his country's history, a clear majority of votes, and a second-term in office. For the first time in his life he has bested Pops.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

It's 2000 all over again

Not in that it's close (though it looks like it will be). But in the US TV networks behaviour. Or at least one in particular. Fox News has a graphic on its home page showing each party's attempt to get to 270 electoral votes (see here)

A few minutes' ago, and I swear I am not making this up, they had three states going for Bush (coloured in yellow). They were Georgia, Kentucy and one other I can't remember. Bush had 34 electoral college votes on the finishing post graphic.

One minute ago only Georgia remained. Now they've all gone back to 'no result'. I assume it was someone testing the software.

US election competition

Nick Barlow's away, so it is left to me to hold the election competition, and it's a simple one.

What will be President Bush's electoral college votes minus Senator Kerry's electoral college votes?

For example if you think Bush will lead by 20, put +20. If Kerry is going to win by 15, put -15. A tie you put 0.

Rules are - results as published by CNN tomorrow afternoon, nearest person wins, and the prize, as normal, is a copy of Simply Red's 'Stars' album. To try to get more than 1 entrant, I'll also throw in a copy of John Lloyd's, 'What the Media are Doing to Our Politics'.

Answers in the comments box by midnight UK time tonight.

Update: It's not all finished yet, but the winner is likely to be Anthony, who already technically owns the Simply Red CD by virtue of winning it in a previous election competition. And you though the US election was complicated and corrupt!