Saturday, April 30, 2005

Blair

Interesting long-ish pro-Blair article in the FT magazine from Phillip Stevens.

Kamm to vote Conservative?

Oliver Kamm urges everyone to vote Labour, and makes some excellent points about the quality of their campaign, their obsessive focus on Blair's character despite the own untrustworthy nature of their own leader, and the nasty tone about immigration.

However, remarkably, he himself is to vote for the Conservatives, as their candidate supports the war in Iraq and the Labour candidate doesn't.


It [the Labour candidate's opposition to the war in Iraq] does put those of us who support the revolutionary cause in a tricky position. As it happens, the Tory candidate, Nicholas Boles, is one of the few in his party who it is reasonable to assume would extend consistent and principled support to Tony Blair's foreign policies...There may be other cases, but this is the only one I have come across where, in a marginal seat, a supporter of progressive policies would have good cause to welcome the election of a Conservative candidate.


Update: There's a long profile about Boles in the FT today. Seems an ok bloke, with one major political idea,'localism' (ie political devolution).

Friday, April 29, 2005

Ignorant

Ferdinand Mount in the Telegraph writes:

... at least the Conservatives are ware of hte pressing imperatives of theday - to reduce the runaway growth of public expenditure, to start cutting taxes and to encourages us to spend more of our own money on pensions, health and education...

Mount is clearly unware of the Conservative's policies. They are committed (in the first month of taking office) to scrapping tuition fees, not encouraging people to spend on education. They are also going to increase the basic state pension, not reduce it. Truly ignorant.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

More Yougovery

YouGov asked me again for a Sunday Times' poll, which shows just how important I am. It also asked about the Attorney General's legal advice, and whether it made me more or less likely to vote Labour. I said 'more', as I was keen to see how many of us there are.

My YouGov fund has therefore reached £27.15!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I mean, really, how hard is it to keep a hospital clean?

Seems quite hard, if you're Michael Howard.

Next-Gen Consoles

I'll probably get a PSX3, which is rumoured to be more powerful, but the Xbox2 version of EA's next-generation of football (and hence you assume soccer ones will look similar) does look rather tempting.

Rogue Nation

Interesting Christopher Hitchens article on the extent to which the US is a rogue nation.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Google Maps

The new Google map service is very useful, particularly for finding busineses/pubs/pizzas in a given area. However it's driving directions do rather leave something to be desired. I'm am sure there are worse examples, but this from my house to a friend's house in Tulse Hill turns a 12 mile journey into a 27 mile one. It's not even because it has tried to stay on A-roads; there are much shorter and quicker ways than this.

The electoral system

There's a ranting letter in the D.Telegraph to the effect that each Conservative seat requires "5,000 more votes than a Labour seat".

I'm not entirely sure what he means by this. In 2001 the Tories needed 50,000 votes for each of their 166 seats, whereas Labour only needed 26,000 (the Lib Dems needed 93,000). In the seats that they won the Tories took 21,402 votes, to Labour's 20,013 (Labour constituencies are smaller, but most of this is counteracted by their getting a higher share of the vote).

The general point is that a FPTP system is a winner-takes-all system. The Tories (and the Lib Dems) simply didn't win enough seats. In other words the system's biases are endemic, and wouldn't be solved by ending different constituency sizes (accounts for about 9 seats I think) or turnouts. Indeed as Chris Lightfoot has pointed out before, if constituencies get more similar in their voting patterns the system will get less and less proportional

Ten Days to Save the Pound, Jeremy, er to show Mr Blair

Is Michael Howard turning into William Hague? The BBC reports he has adopted Hague's strategy of saying this is our last chance to do something, in this case show Mr Blair what we think of him. Echoes of 2001 and 'Save the Pound'.

Is their nerve cracking?

One of the more loyal Conservative journalists, Matthew d'Ancona, is damning in his criticism of Michael Howard's tactics today in the Sunday Telegraph. Read it all, as these excerpts don't convey the full sense of despair.

Can we have the real Michael Howard back please? ...

...On tax-and-spend the agile dynamism of the Letwin-Osborn strategy is eclipsed every time the focus returns to immigration.

People sense these forces and made anxious by them. How could it be otherwise? But that does not mean the politicians have a duty simply to parro those anxieties, to take their script from the doorstep...sometimes their duty lies in doing precisely the opposite. In this case the Tories face a choice between presenting themselves as prospective governors in the modern world, or as refugees from it.

...It is not too late for Michael Howard to put judgement first

Alistair Campbell writes

a memo on the campaign so far, leaked to the Sunday Times. It sounds a bit like it was written by Private Eye, but it is said to be the real thing.

Tory hypocrisy

1. The Shadow Immigration Minister has been sending out one set of leaflets to Muslim voters, boasting of his help in arranging visas and visits from relatives, whilst to white voters he sent out leaflets promising to campaign to substatntially reduce immigration.

2. Sandra Howard tells the News of the World, this:

After her first two husbands—socialite Robin Douglas-Home, with whom she has a son Sholto, and PR Boss David Wynne-Morgan— both cheated on her, fidelity is crucial to Sandra. She adds: "When I agreed to marry Michael I knew it was right—because he doesn't lie. He can't lie." She was unhappily wed to her third husband, advertising boss Nigel Grandfield, when she met Michael, then a barrister, at a Red Cross charity ball...Eventually she relented. Howard was cited in the divorce papers in 1975

He's clever, but in a different way

I missed this little snippet last week:

Nicholas Soames, the shadow defence secretary, said Mr Howard's energetic leadership was an example to the entire party. "You cannot fault him for effort."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

My first election leaflets

have arrived from the Lib Dems. And quite impressive they are too.

Election fraud

There's been lots of comment about the risk of fraud from postal voting, which seems pretty fair. However thinking about the worry must be that postal voting makes it easier to fake large numbers of votes, not just that it makes it easier to fake votes. For surely it is very easy to have commit fraud in the normal election? What's to stop someone pretending to my girlfriend* and voting in her place, given she's going to be in New Zealand?

* Apart from the social shame, obviously.

2001 election

I found this nice map of the 2001 election, with the colours of the parties (the Lib Dems are green for reasons of clarity) in proportion to their electoral strength in that constituency (so most seats are a reddish purple).

I'm not totally sure that in a winner takes all system it makes a lot of sense to show it this way, though the idea is to show that the country is not so divided as it looks on a normal red/blue/yellow map. However for that really it should be a a cartogram, like the map you get from the 'make your prediction' over at this site. However this is all petty carping.

Totallly lacking in any class

Arise Sir John Major!

Whatever happened to?

I want changes to produce across the whole of this country a genuinely classless society


In fact why is this useless man getting an hounour in the first place? What has he done to deserve it?

Friday, April 22, 2005

CBI says go!

The CBI criticises the Tories' plans for immigration.

Let's put it simply. The Tories' plans for immigration are stupid, and not only stupid in terms of decency, but stupid in terms of what a party that is supposed to believe in free markets believes.

However. If the CBI says something is bad, it's best to believe it's good. The CBI has been on the wrong side of just about every policy debate for the last x-hundred years. So reluctantly we have to conclude the Tories might be on to something.

“on the left, but not of it”.

Oliver Kamm makes the powerful case, to quote Mick Hume, of being "on the left, but not of it".

Being "on the left, but not of it", appears to be pretty similar to being a member of the "decent left". Thus I would assume Mick Hume is a member of the "decent left", not the other sort [though I might be wrong -- see comments]

But I can't, because I'm fed up with journalists on the right-wing broadsheets never correcting their errors. The Times seems to employ, much like the Telegraph, liars as journalists., particularly when it comes to tax. Their Business Editor, Patience Wheatcroft took the IFS's report on taxation, and just made up a bit about Council Tax, despite the report expressly stating the obvious. Boris Johnson took someone's tax bill, and quadrupled it, then pretended to find it scandalous. Last Summer we had that fiasco of the shock at Stamp Duty that is paid every year, without the corresponding articles about how rich people must be if they did that. But they'll never admit it. They don't even, unlike the Guardian or Independent, have corrections column.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Death threats to Galloway

George Galloway, Respect candidate for Bethnal Green & Bow has received death threats and advised to stay away from his home. He and Oona King, the Labour candidate in the same constituency, have made a joint plea for 'less negative campaigning'.

It seems a sensible idea. All of those with an interest in this contest should step back and take stock of what their actions have led to.

The polls

Over at Political Betting (Tories for London Mayor...) they're making a fuss about the latest ICM poll.

Headlined, 'How ICM made a 17% drop in Labour support into just 1%' the point they make is this.

341 people told ICM that they had voted Labour last time. Yet only 291 said that they were planning to vote for the party on May 5th – a decline of about a sixth...YET the headline figure that was published was that Labour would get 41% - just one percent down on what the party got four years ago'

All this is based on ICM’s view that people do not tell the truth when asked how they voted four years ago. To deal with this they have a complex equation which weights towards Labour and away from the Lib Dems and the Tories.Are ICM right or are ICM wrong? We’ll know on May 6th.


This gives the impression that ICM are somehow favouring Labour. They're not though. In fact the reverse is true. In that Mirror survey, which ICM tried to conduct randomly, they found 291 people who said they planned to vote Labour and only 201 who said they planned to vote Conservative, a lead of 13%. They decided that this was unrepresentative, because when they asked people how they voted in 2001 it favoured Labour too much. So when they published their figures they said there were only 272 Labour voters and 214 Conservative ones, a lead of only 9%. ][Weighting for likelihood to vote brought this down further, but that's not important right now].

Political Betting are being misleading. The poll does not show a 17% fall in Labour support from the last election, as no-one believes its estimate of voting shares in last election. This is because of the phenomena of 'false recall', and it's a real phenomena.

You can argue it both ways. But you can't - as commentators on Political Betting have been -- argue that if ICM showed the 'real numbers' it would show a smaller Labour lead. It would show a larger one.

17:31 and counting...

There are rumours flying around Westminister and the TV news studios that Michael Howard is going to manage a whole day of this election campaign without bringing up immigration or foreigners, or some made-up problem they are causing.

There's still six hours 29 minutes to go, but the omens are good. Can he do it? If you see him then please give him all the encouragement you can muster. It's well known that there's a mental 'Wall' about 7pm, and he might break.

Tories to close down Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph?

Driving through Harlesden last night (on way to Park Royal to pick up new computer!) I saw the new Tory posters. Essentially they appear to be announcing a crackdown on misleading and partisan headlines from the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, and 'People'.

I've never heard of the latter, but the I fully endorse Howard's policy on the former.

You see Michael, when you forget about the foreigners for a bit you can do it!

The Decent Left

There appears to be an interesting new development in the behaviour of the 'decent left'. Whilst anyone on the left that 'doesn't get it' is not allowed to vote against a pro-war Labour candidate, as to do so risks the achievements of this government just to make yourself feel better when eating various Italian bread products, if you are a member of the 'decent left' you are allowed to vote against Labour if the candidate is anti-war.

US interest in election

...according to an American journalist on Today he could not find a story about the British election in any American newspaper today.

The Stupid Party

The Conservative Party introduced the Council Tax in 1991-1993 after the ruinous fiasco of the Poll Tax. It was a property tax loosely based on the value of your home in 1991.

Today Michael Howard has taken time off musing about the potential for race riots to say that he won't implement a revaluation of the property prices. This can only be for two reasons:

1) He no longer wants the council tax to be related to the value of your home
2) He thinks that 1991 valuations are more accurate than modern ones

There is nothing sensible about this at all*. On the latter explanation, even if a Conservative government does lead us back to 15% mortgage rates there is no chance of house prices falling back to 1991 levels. On the first it's sheer opportunist electioneering, particularly given he offers no alternative policies.

Many people have pointed out that Howard is a reasonable opposition politician, good at raving about the threat from foreigners, disease, Europe, gypsies, and not very good at coming up with policies for government.

* I have a personal interest in the Conservative plan given I live in an area that has had nearly the highest house price inflation nationwide since 1991. But even so it remains the politics of the Stupid.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Joyous news

I've finally, four years after mulling over the idea, bought a new computer. Gone is the 1998 300 mhz, 192mb ram (upgraded from 32mb), 14inch monitor, 5gb (I'll say it again FIVE gigabyte) hard drive, and in it's place is a shiny new 3.2 ghz, 512 Mb ram, 160 Mb [whoops Gb, interestingly my first computer I had at university, a Mac Quadra 660 AV, had a 160mb hard drive] hard drive computer with a 19 inch flat screen monitor. And all for just £586.

So now I'm 10 times faster, expect 10 times as many witty, interesting, educative and brilliant posts.

Theory holds

My theory holds. Michael Howard, refers to an immigrant as "a most valuable member of our national community" and then like the Smethwickian, says he fears 'race riots' if our current immigration policy continues. Do I need to check Anthony Well's site to see what the polls say? Well just to check...what a shock. The polls show the Tories heading for a landslide defeat...

Update: Finally it appears sensible, decent, Tories have had enough of Howard's obsession with immigrants. Even their own Ayslum spokesman doesn't think it is an issue.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Fighting terrorism the Bush way

involves removing any evidence you might not be doing very well.

More Royal Nazi behaviour?

The Sunday Telegraph's Nigel Farndale makes the staggering revelation that on BBC World's images of the Royal Wedding, Prince Harry was clearly seen goose-stepping towards the chapel, in order to entertain his brother.

Sunday papers

Aside from the polls, which are showing ever more variety, two things caught my eye in the Sunday Telegraph's books section

First a Churchill anecdote. When asked for a birthday tribute to Stanley Baldwin on his 80th, Churchill offered, "It would have been better for our country if he had never lived".

Second, a claim from the Telegraph's Public Policy Editor, Alisdair Palmer. He says, "Despite 50 years of effort to eliminate it, there is no more [income, presumably] inequality in Britain than there was in 1955". If it is true inequality is higher now than in 1955, surely it is not true despite 55 years of effort to eliminate it? I can't find a series but I recall it fell to the late 1970s then rose again. Some of the latter rise was deliberate government policy, or if not at least benign neglect not an 'effort to eliminate it'.

Elsewhere the Tories have surprised (me at least) with their sensible plans to offer basic-rate taxpayers a pension credit of 10% (ie for every £1000 they invest they will get £100). The aim is to encourage pensions. Will it work? I thought basic-rate payers already got a 22% bonus and that doesn't seem to have helped, but I could be wrong.

This made me laugh though.

Howard said: "When I meet people they often say to me "too many politicians are interested in the short term - tomorrow and next week, rather than ten years time..."


This from the opportunist?

Friday, April 15, 2005

PR

Newly out Tory-voter Backword Dave says of PR:

I can’t see why any Labour supporter would welcome it.


Well I'm a Labour supporter and I would welcome it. First because it is fairer, it is unfair that the Lib Dems get 20% of the vote but less than 10% of the seats. Worse, there is no reason to believe FPTP won't get less and proportional to the point where the winning party in terms of share of the vote gets an enormous majority in terms of seats. Second, the Francis Pym reason - I'm not a great fan of governments with large majorities. The Dave argument would suggest that I would be happiest if Labour took 100% of the seats and the Tories/Lib Dems were destroyed. I wouldn't be happy at all. Governments with constrained powers are usually better governments, particularly because I also don't believe that Labour have a monopoly on wisdom.

The argument in favour that he gives, which is "I think the direct responsibility of MPs to their constituents is the foundation of representative democracy. Bugger Iraq and all that, if I’m in danger of being deported to Malawi, I want my MP out protesting", applies no less to STV really. Very few MPs under our current system really have to worry about local accountability.

My pride and joy

I said I would show everyone my 'new' car, and here it is. It's not a camper-van, regardless of what some people in the comments have been saying. It's a Non-Stationary Hotel which goes by the name of Mazda Bongo Friendee (you have to say that in a Bonzai accent as it's a Japanese import).

Tax Freedom Day Update

According to the Guardian:

13th April

To recap, in his first party political broadcast as leader Michael Howard promised that "the next Conservative government will make Tax Freedom Day a bank holiday", and we wish to check this is still on, given its baffling absence from the manifesto. Alas, there is still no joy, as chief press officer John Deans forbids any discussion on the matter before slamming down the phone


14th April

Mr Letwin was asked by journalists whether Tory plans for a "tax freedom day" - to celebrate the day when workers have "paid off" their tax liability - had been dropped. The idea did not appear in the Tory manifesto, but Mr Letwin said it was still party policy.


So it is party policy, but although it was important enough to appear in Howard's first broadcast as leader, it's not important enough to appear in the Manifesto. Essentially I think you can read it as dropped, which is good news, although clearly another hole in the Tory Party's claim for honesty.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The book...

all bloggers should read?

YouGov III

I've been asked my voting intention in a YouGov poll for the Sunday Telegraph!

What next?

The polls show the Tories falling behind, despite Howard's obsession with foreigners. So expect a lot worse to come.

On that subject, still no mention of his flagship policy of 'Tax Freedom Day'. I have emailed three Conservatives and am waiting, probably forlornly, for a response. The Adam Smith Institute, whose idea it was, and who do (very impressively) respond to queries, think he's probably abandoned it.

Furthermore Ed Matts, a particularly disgraceful Tory candidate, remains. Howard should show some decency and sack him.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

YouGov

Yesterday, for the first time this year, I was asked to do a YouGov poll. It was on transport not politics though. Today I was asked to do another one. It consisted of one one question, 'Which forms of transport have you used in the last 12 months?'. I ticked all boxes except coach and train. The second question was...well there was no second question. That (if they ever pay) got me 75p. Which is quite good, really.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Election roundup

Not a good day for those believing the Tory party has changed its ways.

Ed Matts should resign. Not just because he is clearly stupid, but because he has no decency. In an election campaign to take a picture that shows one thing, and doctor it to pretend it means something exactly opposite, is despicable. Where will it end?

It appears Michael Howard has scrapped a flagship policy, the Tax Freedom Day public holiday - or at least as Nick Barlow notes it's not in the Tory Party's manifesto. I pointed out the stupidity of this policy here, but it's still pretty shocking if Howard has scrapped it. Perhaps he'll mention it in his tax plans, because if you recall his first party broadcast was all about this, and he said, "That is part of our commitment to be straight and honest with people"...

Talking of his tax plans the Conservatives today confirmed their pensioner council tax rebate won't happen in the first year of a Conservative goverment, they will only legislate for it.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Totten still ahead by a nose

But luck Melvyn. But in the race for '2005's most embarassing article' I'd say Totten was still ahead. It's not for a lack of effort on Lord Bragg's part. His article covering the wedding of Charles and Camilla does contain some gems.

"The speech of Prince Charles was, as those who know him expected, generous, widespread and comprehensive in its references. It probably fails to register with the general public quite how democratic he genuinely is"

"It was a very good pork pie indeed."

"We were then motored up to the castle in small white buses. It is quite wonderful that this collection of people in the most magnificent clothes, ...went up to the castle in buses"

"But for me the best part was when the archbishop asked: do you, his relatives, his friends and supporters, will you support the prince in his marriage vows and his loyalty for the rest of his life? The words boomed out in reply: “We will.” It sounded like an oath of allegiance that took us back to Henry V, back to King Alfred. It was a magnificent “We will”, a statement of support, and it was what everybody felt they needed. "

"Then, in wonderfully English fashion, this congregation of aristocrats, stars, old friends and colleagues queued up for little white buses to take us back to the car park. "

Pub cricket

Had rather a long drive yesterday so the four of us in my new car (pictures to follow) played 'pub cricket', which is the game where you get runs for the number of legs that are on the pub sign, e.g. if it's the Duke of York, you get two, if it's the Coach and Horses you get four per hourse, and two per person. I naturally won, picking up the rather handy 'Firefly', which we decided had six. The best pub we saw though was the 'Bank of Swans' (best in terms of legs, I wouldn't recommend it otherwise) which had four swans, so eight. Obviously what you really want is the 'Chinese Army' or something similar, but there much more difficult to find. Indeed as we entered London we realised that the ongoing trend for renaming pubs 'Chair' or 'Lounge' or 'Electric' means the game is really dying on its legs.

Top Tips

Save time on visiting Anthony Wells site to find out what the latest opinion polls are saying by applying this simple test.

Is Michael Howard ranting about foreigners and immigrants?

If Yes, then the Labour lead is increasing in the latest opinion polls.
If No, then the Labour lead is falling in the lastest opinion polls.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Books etc

I was asked to do this by lots of people, and managed to avoid it, but then the person I planned to ask to do it if I did it went and did it without me asking, so I thought I'd better do it myself.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Much like Peter I had no idea what this meant. But I asked Nick so I do now. So let's say Animal Farm. People seem to like it, and it's very short.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Not really. Unless Columbo counts, in which case it's more an ongoing love affair.

What are you currently reading?

Oxford Junior Encyclopeadia (1950) - "The Home" section. I picked it up at a car boot sale in Canterbury.

The Code Book, by Simon Singh - I went to a wedding nr Bletchley and had a half-price coupon to visit the house/huts/etc. Felt guilty using it after they told us how broke they were I felt I should buy something. Like all code-breaking books it's interesting exactly up to the point where you might learn something, and then the effort's too much.

England under Hitler, by Comer Clarke - Fiction based on fact about England under Hitler. Bought at same car boot sale.

Experience, by Martin Amis. I've read it before, and greatly enjoyed it, but this time I was looking for that bit where Christopher Hitchens (for younger readers a left-wing commentator of the 1990s) causes a scene at Saul Bellow's. Both of them are now dead, but Bellow only this week.

The last book you bought is:

The Guilty Madmen of Whitehall, by Andrew George Elliot. This is a populist right-wing polemic from the late 1960s, which sounds exactly like any right-wing criticism of the government today (which does, of course, not make it wrong). It has a foreword by J. Enoch Powell, which concludes, 'Make no mistake about it, either: hundreds of thousnds more, maybe millions, are thinking and talking much as he is. These are some of the notes in which the rising anger of a nation becomes audible. It is a sound I like to hear'. I intend to give it to Peter when I've finished.


The last book you read:

Stiff, by Mary Roach. A fascinating (for a while, it's a bit long) account of what happens to the human body when it dies and the social and political history of dealing with dead bodies.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.

I think i'd go for weighty non-fiction tomes too.

History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century, by Richard Vinen - The most readable single-volume history of post-war Europe I've read, I would say

Classes and Culture: England 1918 to 1951, by Ross Mckibben. Probably the most educational book I've ever read on British politics.

Berlin: The Downfall, by Anthony Beevor. Good read, make you feel a bit less unhappy with your plight on the island too.

Hubris/Nemesis, by Ian Kershaw. Ditto.

and probably The Time Out Travel Guide to Deserted Islands, if there is one. I'm a big fan of the series, the only problem being the way they are written means they are out of date in a few years.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Left falling apart

Many on the Decent Left have been warning about the perils of people, usually described as being on the 'extreme Left', supporting other candidates than the official Labour one. Unfortunately for them even the blog standard bearers of the Decent Left appear to be getting in on the action, with Oliver Kamm giving this warm tribute to Michael Gove, who is the Conservative candidate in Surrey Heath.

There are individual Conservative candidates - notably Times columnist Michael Gove - whose election would be a good thing for public policy and the quality of British democracy


There are Tories and there are Tories. Gove's social views appear to be out of the 1950s American South, with a particular veneration for States-, or in this case Counties'- Rights. Gove famously said this to a Conservative meeting:

"Those of us who want a more traditional sex education for our children should be able to choose schools that reflect our values...much the same as if you were driving up the turnpike in America and you enter New Hampshire, it says 'Welcome to New Hampshire: Live Free or Die...You could drive up the M1 and you could enter Northamptonshire and it could say 'Welcome to Northamptonshire: This is Clause 28 country'


Well, let us hope not, eh?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Right...

Over at John B's, the Telegraph's legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg explains why he didn't get a visa before travelling to India:

I have frequently entered the US without a visa, though not as a journalist. For many years, UK passport holders have not needed visas to enter the US for non-journalistic purposes. Why should India have stricter requirements?


Warning to readers. Do not try this style of argument in foreign countries..."But it's legal in the US, why shouldn't it be here?". In fact don't try it in Britain.

Goodness me.

At long last...

I've managed to read, copy and save a Backword Dave 'Drunk deleted' post before it was deleted. This one, in fact. It's actually remarkably good, and I will be serialising it over the coming weeks once I've got David Aaranovitch's permission.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

PCRS Election Special

It is not a great surprise but the Queen has graciously named the election date as May 5th. This will be first election I have been interested in where the Conservatives have a chance of winning so I am more than unusually excited.

The choice before the British people is clear. I will try to explain it dispassionately and objectively.

Labour stand for Tony Blair’s inane smile, more regulation, higher taxes, poor schools, dirty NHS, strikes, the dead-being-unburied in the streets, calling in the IMF, James Callaghan, Michael Foot, Derek ‘Red’ Robbo, Man-from-Whitehall-Knows-Best, Welfare State, the Underclass, immigrants, the Arabs, Scotland, immorality, gypsies, Europe, John Kerry, the European Convention on Human Rights, statism, the Undeserving poor, the French, garlic, Wales, writing off Third World Debt, onions, so-called 'equality, Roy Jenkins, The Feckless, Gail Redwood, investment, unborn babies being murdered by the shedload, the Sinn Fein/IRA, militant homosexuals, war in Iraq, dumbing-down, pacifism, ugly lesbians, Ireland, Cherie Blair, the UN, and of course The State Pension.

On the other hand you have the Conservatives. They stand for lower taxes, smaller government, faster growth, better hospitals, less gypsies, less immigrants, England, standing up to Europe, advertising, the Commonwealth, Romany Travellers who stay in Romany, Common Sense, Charles Moore, John Redwood, beating the Yob Culture, the rich, the decent working class, Good Old Enoch, IDS, the United States, Michael Howard, Howard Flight, attractive lesbians, decency, Keith Joseph, Third World Debt, Ulster, morality, George W Bush, sorting out bogus asylum seekers, Norman Tebbit, Israel, private pensions and of course Baroness Thatcher herself.

There won’t be many posts on this site during the election itself as I will be too busy campaigning for Conservatives up and down our country. Let me say this though – never has an election been so important to the history of this land. Except perhaps 1979, which was the most important event in British history. But other than that, the choice as I have outlined above is clear. To the polls, and Vote Conservative!

Sir Paul Marsden

The news that Paul Marsden is going to rejoin the Labour party after only a few years in the Liberal Democrats, whom he joined by the leaving the Labour party, shows you what a Great Man he is. Indeed the only other political figure to which comparisons are apt is surely Winston Churchill?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Election history

For those who enjoyed the BBC's repeats of older election coverage there's a short but entertaining look at previous election coverage since the 1950s here (warning video file).

"Disgrace a banana republic"

The reports in the press about electoral fraud in Britain are truly disgraceful. That it is possible our second main party will get more votes than the governing party but fewer seats is ludicrous


The Conservatives' five-point lead ...were replicated on election day, MORI says it would result in a hung parliament, with Labour as the biggest party in the Commons having 27 seats more than the Conservatives.



as is the fact that our third main party is certain to receive subtantially less than half the share of seats than it does votes.

The election day to be announced with Labour in trouble

Anthony Wells gives us the low-down on FOUR polls in today's papers all of which show Labour's lead collapsing, or in the case of Mori's FT poll, a 5% TORY LEAD.

There are some important caveats. This is only one poll (though the other three aren't, obviously). The poll could be wrong. The margin of error (which Mori don't give oddly) is about +_4% with this sample size (so the Tories, rogue polls notwithstanding, are in the lead).

Most importantly though the poll is markedly sensitive to changes in turnout -- it forecasts one of 55%, at 60% the gap is 3%, at 70% the parties are level-pegging. At 90% Labou are 5% points ahead. As Bob Worcester notes 70% was the minimum turnout at every post-war election until 2001 (though of course political participation has declined a lot generally since the 1970s). All-in-all the 45% who are not certain to vote support Labour by about 10% points ahead of the Tories (this is what Worcester says, I think it's more like 20%).

Nevertheless I can't remember the last time a PM with a large majority (in this case of over 150) and a full-year to go called an election with his party's poll standing so weak. So why is he risking it?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Politics of fear

There is little to disagree with in Nick Cohen's analysis of the Tories' campaign.

Royal Wedding same day as Pope's Funeral

Not much is going right here, is it?

Labour lose the manual workers

In the Telegraph YouGov sum all their polls since January (via Anthony Wells, and read that and the comments for potential problems with this technique) to come up with a snapshot of the electorate before the election compared with last time. The change in voting intention by 'social class' caught my eye.


According to this Labour is doing better (relative to the Conservatives) among 'non manual' workers than it was in 2001. making a swing to Labour of 1%. Amongst 'manual workers' however it has lost a whopping 13% points, the Tories have gained 3% making an 8% swing.

It's scarcely believeable actually, and it should be noted that ICM polls show a rather different story. But if YouGov are right then essentially a large chunk of the Labour manual worker voter has switched to the Lib Dems, with a smaller number going to the Conservatives.

A more equal society

Roy Hattersley notes in The Guardian that the recent trend towards a more equal society shown in the IFS survey is reason enough to vote Labour in the forthcoming election. [Via Harry's Place]

I'm still trying to get The Times to issue a correction over its misleading -- at times just plain wrong - reporting of the same IFS study. It has admitted it was wrong over the council tax (so we're just awaiting a correction) but still believes that the first part of this sentence is ok "A cut of 0.2 per cent in disposable income might not feel too painful to the average family but the real hit is much harder".

There are various definitions of average, and certainly the mean is one of them. But it's a real horses-for-courses thing. It would have been ok to use the mean if the sentence had read "A cut of 0.2 per cent in familes' average disposable income might not..." but not if it reads "to the average family". Taken in this context, where 'average' is meant to mean 'typical' then you should use the median. The average family has the median income, just like it has the median number of children rather than 2.3.

Obviously there are no hard and fast rules to follow. But we must appeal to common sense, as William Hague might say. To use the mean means that the 'average' family (wrt income changes) lies in the top 20% of the income distribution, which makes no sense at all.

Nazi grafitti on graves in Israel

is a depressing piece of news. .

Friday, April 01, 2005

"Those Bloody People"

Prince Charles' outburst captured on TV microphones about the BBC's Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell was rather entertaining. As the Herald notes:

Witchell asked the three a polite question about the prince's wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles next week. He said to the prince: "How are you feeling?"
Charles replied, looking uncomfortable: "I'm very glad you've heard of it anyway."
He then quietly said to his sons: "These bloody people. I can't bear that man anyway. He's so awful, he really is."

Defeat for the MSM

The Times today declares in a series of adverts that it is going to scrap its Compact (read Tabloid) version after less than two years of production, instead only producing a 'minute-by-minute updated daily weblog', i.e. a Blog.

The press release quotes the Chairman of Times' Newspaper Group:

The success of the Compact has opened our eyes to alternative newspaper forms. Clearly Blogging is taking over from the Mainstream Media as readers focus on accuracy, research and neutrality, all things that Blogs deliver and the MSM does not. Furthermore unlike other newspapers who have a complementary Blog we believe that the savings in distribution, newsprint and journalists will allow us to invest heavily in our content. These are exciting Times for newspapers.


The new Blog will run six days a week. The Sunday Times will also from Sunday April 3rd only produce in an online format, however it will come in 12 separate Blogs and a colour one.

The Editor of the Times noted:

After 200 hundred years of history the last ever "dead-trees" version of the Times will be produced today on April 1st 2005. As we move over to the Blog readers can rest assured that our unrivalled team of journalists will remain to bring you the best in news, sport and comment. With the addition of David Aaranovitch to our stable they should have no difficulties to adapting to the unique journalistic values of the Blogosphere. These are exciting Times for newspapers.