Friday, 30 April 2010

Warm winter ahead, lefthandpalm predicts scorcher year

Niwa forecast that the next three months will be above the seasonal average, with occasional cold snaps (1).

Lefthandpalm dares go further and predicts that 2010 will be a scorcher, globally. This breaks the usual trend of hot years such as 1998 or 2005 being followed by cooler years, a pattern which suggests seasonal variation (early/late winters, long/short summers) has played a significant role. But even though 2009 was a very hot year (2) globally, I suspect that 2010 will be almost as hot, if not as hot. I say: top five for sure, almost certainly top three.

To forestall any accusations of weaselling, later on, I'll say now 'll be using the GISS data set.
1 - "A mild start to winter, and the end of el nino," press release by NIWA, 29th of April, 2010. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1004/S00068.htm)
2 - "2009: 2nd warmest year on record: end of warmest decade," press release by NASA-GISS, 21st of January, 2010. (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20100121/)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

From arrogance to incoherence

Nick Clegg forgot the golden rule of politics - "Never apologise, never explain" - and compounded his "I won't work with Gordon" tantrum. Instead of clarifying the situation, he's made it even more incomprehensible and incoherent:
Clegg, however, has not been deterred from trying to set out the Lib Dem stance. He said: "I think, if Labour do come third in terms of the number of votes cast, then people would find it inexplicable that Gordon Brown himself could carry on as prime minister. As for who I'd work with, I've been very clear – much clearer than David Cameron and Gordon Brown – that I will work with anyone. I will work with a man from the moon, I don't care, with anyone who can deliver the greater fairness that I think people want." (1)
So he might work with Brown as PM - presumably, Brown is marginally less alien than a man from the moon - even though this will appear inexplicable to the British people. Is this man following the example of his predecessor, Charles "Buckfast" Kennedy, and hitting the bottle?

Clegg seems to be buying into the Cameronian delusion that Britain operates a presidential system. Or perhaps he thinks that he is vested with the authority to tell other parties who they should have as leader.

Which begs the question - if the Lib Dems were to finish in third place, as is entirely possible, and Labour were to demand Clegg step down as a precondition to coalition, would allow himself to be hoist by his own petard?
1 - "Nick Clegg: I could work with Labour, just not Gordon Brown," by Patrick Wintour. Published ion The Guardian, 26th of April, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/26/nick-clegg-hung-parliament-labour)

Monday, 26 April 2010

After the operation, they'll be this big ...

David Cameron extols the benefits of breast augmentation for middle aged men.



Or is he about the fondle his own man-breasts as part of a lurid strip tease to shore up his flagging popularity?

Image courtesy of Associated Press.

More stupid ...

In a clean sweep of the major British political parties, Nick Clegg has been stupid enough to indicate he would not form a coalition with Labour if they finished third in the popular vote, regardless of how many seats they won:
"It's just preposterous, the idea that if a party comes third in terms of the number of votes, it still somehow has the right to continue swatting at Number 10 [Downing Street] and continue to lay claim to having the prime minister form the government," he said.

"What I'm saying here is pointing at a very, very irrational possible outcome of our potty electoral system, which is that a party which has spectacularly lost the election because fewer and fewer people are voting for it than any other party, can nonetheless, according to constitutional tradition and convention, still lay claim to providing the prime minister." (1)
This is foolish as if constitutional reform is so essential, the Liberal Democrats should use any opportunity to force it through, even if it means forming a coalition with the third placed party. If the system is potty and irrational, the sensible thing would be to change it as quickly as possible - and it is hard to see the Tories agreeing to strategic catastrophe that electoral reform would mean for them.

The more sensible approach would be to say, bluntly, that some things are important enough to justify almost any means necessary to achieve them - even putting Gordon Brown back in Downing Street. At least, if a pragmatic dalliance with Labour produces PR, Clegg can say, "Well, that sucked for me, too, but now we never need to do that again."

Instead, in a weird fit of scruple, he's decided to put principles first and go with the numbers. This is one time, probably, when the generally holier-than-thou Lib-Dems won't thank him for it. They've been suffering from the unfairness of First Past the Post since the party was formed. They've done enough of the principles, and they'd like something to show for it, thank you.

After all, it isn't like anyone is likely to thank him if he puts David Cameron in. The country will be worse of, as Cameron and his chancellor seem absolutely clueless. Given that an alliance with the Tories is unlikely to yield up the reforms the liberal Democrat voters want, they'll be even more unimpressed than the rest of us.

A further complication is the position this places the leftwing of the Liberal Democrats in. The social democrats, like myself, who can move quite comfortably between the Liberal Democrats and (old) Labour are left with no reason to support him.

Under First Past the Post, a strong liberal showing might produce an unlikely Labour victory from third place. So social democrats such as myself win twice over - economic progressive policies from Labour, and the Lib-dems (hopefully) curbing their coalition partner's authoritarian impulses, and forming Labour to make good on electoral and constitutional reform.

Now, if the social democrats vote Lib-Dem, it increases the likelihood of the party coalescing with the Tories, which in turn means a reduced likelihood of electoral reform and the end of progressive politics for a decade or so.

What would be the point of that?
1- "Clegg hints at Conservative coalition," by Phillip Williams. Published by ABC News, 26th of April, 2010. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/26/2882683.htm?section=world)

With stupid ...

Good god, what were they thinking?


After the PM left the stage following a speech at a rally paying tribute to NHS staff, Elvis impersonator Mark Wright came on singing The Wonder of You. (1)
In all seriousness, are both major parties trying to lose the election/ Cameron makes vacuous sound bites about people getting to elect prime ministers, suggesting that he doesn't understand the very basic ideas that inform British democracy, and now Brown is ritually humiliated like this.
1 - "Gordon Brown joined on the General Election campaign trail by Elvis," unattributed article. Published in the Daily Mirror, 25th of Arpil, 2010. (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/general-election/2010/04/25/gordon-brown-joined-on-the-general-election-campaign-trail-by-elvis-115875-22211658/)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2010/04/stupid.html

Stupid

David Cameron has suggested unelected prime ministers - such as Gordon Brown - should be required to seek election within six months of taking office:

During the morning's campaigning, Mr Cameron's key proposal was that anyone taking over as PM following the death, overthrow or resignation of the previous incumbent would have to call an election within six months.

A new PM would be free to request a dissolution at any time during the six-month period, which would allow time for him or her to appoint a ministerial team and set out a programme for government and for Parliament to deal with any outstanding business, under the plans.

"It means putting the people in charge, I believe you should be in Number 10 because people have voted for you," he said. (1)

This is a stupid idea, because the prime minister of Britain is not directed by anyone other than his or her constituents. These are the only people who get to vote for the PM. Once the election is finished and the votes counted, the prime minister is the MP who can command the support.

Cameron seems to have confused this with the idea that the prime minster is some sort of directly elected president. it's quite frightening that one of the lead candidates for the job seems to have a complete misapprehension about what it actually is.

Cameron's floating this idea to try to distract people from the recent talk about more general constitutional reform - his party remain dead against proportional representation, so this is a token. It has the advantage of cashing in the vague, lingering resentment over Brown's assumption of power. It is stupid poster politics, but it might have some traction.
1 - "Unelected PMs must call poll within 6 months - Cameron," unattributed article. Published on the BBC website, 24th of April, 2010. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/8641552.stm)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Ruminations on the British election

Interesting times in my native land. Following the first televised leaders debate, the perennially hopeful Liberal Democrats have been catapulted to giddy heights in the polls, round about 30%. This is even higher than the ratings they enjoyed even back in the 80s, when they formed under the unhelpfully long-winded name of SDP-Liberal Alliance. Some polls put them ahead of Labour, behind the Conservatives, and a couple even put them out in front. Dizzy, crazy times.

Of course, it isn't as simple as that, as Britain is still lumbered with the monstrous First Past The Post electoral system, which tends to entrench the conservatives and Labour. Electoral maths means that Labour are now likely to be the biggest party, with the Libs as a coalition partner. It's a very strange thing, but an aggregate of about 60% of the voting population will likely produce a bare majority of seats.

if this comes to pass, the Tories are still in opposition. The David Cameron 'renewal' is brought to a juddering halt and - with no prospect of winning power under a PR electoral system - a civil war between the Clarkite wets who'll be at a disadvantage because something like their policies didn't win them this election) and those favouring a Long March To The Right all the Tories have got to look forwards to. John Redwood as the next Tory leader? Don't be surprised.

In coalition, the Lib Dems can not expect major concessions from Labour. On the economy, they'll get next to nothing - that's one area where Labour will try to retain total control. The Libs will get to play about with social policy and the environment, where their policies are closest to Labour's. The might be able to push this or that a bit further than Labour would, but essentially they'll be implementing their coalition partner's policies.

They will also - probably - manage to force Brown away from Alternative Vote to proper proportional representation, and the net result will probably be something akin to MMP. For some reason, the idea persists that STV is too complicated for the electorate. That in itself would be a satisfactory outcome for them, as it will serve them far better in the long term.

A Tory-Liberal coalition is a remote possibility, but it seems to be contrary to the wishes of the Lib Dem's supporters, and the electoral maths. Also, the Tories offer the Lib dems nothing that they can't get from Labour. Also, they are unlikely to get any give from the Tories on PR, or social issues, or the environment, where there is far more of a gap between them. And the Tories will fight much harder over every concession.

As for 'flipping,' bringing down a Labour government and then form,ing a new coalition with the Conservatives, that is even more unlikely. The Liberal Democrats are nothing if not patient. They've been working towards this for years. Now, their thinking has to be strategic, about the long term. If they behave like flakes, putting one party and then another into power within one parliament, they undermine their credentials as a stable centre party in future PR based elections, and confound their own argument that PR will improve democracy

A coalition with the Lib dems wouldn't serve the Tories, either. If they don't immediately collapse following effective defeat (if that happens, of course), they might relish an election based on 'stable, conservative values versus Lib-Lab flakiness.' They wouldn't have much to gain in forming a coalition with the Libs, and a lot to gain from another election in a couple of years time, with their two rivals discredited and tainted through their association with each other.

A few months ago the newspapers were full of stories about how - strategically - this election might be a 'Good one to lose' because of the economic problems. That's still the case, though the argument has weakened somewhat. Throw in some Lib Dem parliamentary flakiness, however, and a snap election in 2012 or 13 would be looking very good for the Tories, with the economy on the mend, Labour looking hopeless without coalition support, and the Lib-Dems a busted flush through opportunistically bring down the government. So if there is a coalition agreement, and the Lib Dems don't abide by it, and bring down the government in a fit of pique, they damage their own long term prospects and the case for PR. So it is unlikely they would do it, unless effectively forced to walk away.

If, on the other hand, they play fair and things fall apart through no fault of their own -say the coalition collapses over a 'moral fault line' such as an attack on Iran - a second election in a year or two might work quite nicely for the Lib Dems. It would certainly be better for them than trying to form a second coalition, with the Tories, within the life of the parliament. That would just make them look like power hungry opportunists. Which they are, of course, but they don't want to look like that ... A second election, following the demise of a Lib-Lab coalition, on the other hand, would give them a 'This is why we need real, decisive change in Britain's broken politics - Vote Lib Dem!!' platform.

I really think that talk of Lib Dem governments or even majority positions in coalitions is pure madness. The Lib Dems can't make much further inroads into the other parties 'embedded' support, or overturn the big majorities in the 'heartland' constituencies. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that people who have stuck with the Tories through 13 years of opposition - including the horrors of Hagueism, Duncan-Smithery and the Rocky Howard Picture Show aren't going to abandon the party because of a couple of TV debates. The soft support has gone, what's left is likely to be pretty solid.

The same applies to Labour, of course - anyone still saying they are going to vote Labour after 13 years of Blairism and Brownism is not the stuff of which floating voters are made.

Last week, I met a working-class pensioner, who told me that open borders were to blame for the recession.

The best thing ever (1).

I'm glad some people have too much time on their hands.
1 - "Who has David Cameron been Talking to?," by mysterious but very talented people. Viewed drunkenly on the interwebnet somewhere between the night of the 20th and the morning of the 21st of April, 2010. (http://www.fridgemagnet.org.uk/toys/dave-met.php)

Friday, 16 April 2010

BNP civil war - part III

As if death threats and exclusions were not enough, the BNP has now been forced to expel a potential councillor, alleging that he was a mole who had infiltrated the party to discredit it:
The British National Party has expelled a UKIP mole standing for the BNP in Thurrock after discovering that his aunt was the UKIP candidate and that he had been sent into the party to discredit it, Thurrock organiser Emma Colgate has announced.

“Mark Onions appeared out of the blue a short while ago and became very active,” Ms Colgate said.

“We never dreamed for a minute that his aunt was the UKIP candidate standing against us, and he gained our confidence enough to volunteer to be our candidate in the local ward against his aunt.

“When we discovered the link, our suspicions were alerted that something was amiss.

“Further research showed that he had posed for prank pictures in pubs and had written things on the Internet which could be used against the BNP, and Mr Onions was formally expelled from the party on Tuesday 13 April,” she continued. (1)
First of all, one wonders why anyone felt the need to discredit the BNP. They do a perfectly good job of that themselves, and I suspect the BNP's chances have not been significantly damaged by this. Read into that what you like.

The obvious uselessness of the BNP's candidate vetting - or perhaps their desperation to find any candiates at all - deserves passing acknowledgement. But the news that the BNP aren't very competent shouldn't com as any surprise.

Of greater interest is the reference to Onions' alleged behaviour. There's a photo of him giving a Nazi salute, reproduced on the anti-BNP website, nothingbritish.com, which also describes some of the comments he is alleged to havee made, which lead to his expulsion:
Mark Onion is the BNP candidate fighting the Orsett Ward in Thurrock’s council elections on May 6th. This picture is taken from his Facebook page and features the candidate offering a Nazi salute while wearing aHelp for Heroes wristband. Onion has said on his Facebook page that he finds films about the Holocaust and Slave Trade “amusing and funny”. He lists “Mein Kampf” and the “Final Solution” as his favourite books. He has publicly joked about violence and rape against women amongst friends on his Facebook wall. (2)
Now, what's interesting is that nothing british published this on the 9th of April. According to Colgate, the BNP expelled Onions on the 13th of that month - presumably, a damage limitation exercise in response to the nothingbritish story.

Which begs the question - what would they have done if nothing British hadn't broken this? And why weren't the BNP's leadership more active in dealing with this? Either, they didn't know, or they didn't care enough to do anything until they thought it would make them look bad.

If they didn't know, then it just changes the question - why didn't the BNP membership alert them to Onion's behaviour?

After all, if he was a genuine plant, his wwhole purpose would be to make as big a stir as possible. So, if he was making as big a display of being a nasty little racist Hitler loving gimp as possible, it would, presumably have been noticed by the party membership, if not by the leadership, and condoned.

The logical deduction being that the membership of the BNP see nothing outrageous or repulsive in displays of nasty little racist Hitler loving gimpery. Which would mean that they are also ...
1 - "BNP expells UKIP mole for trying to discredit party," by BNP News. Published on the BNP blog, 14th of April, 2010. (http://bnp.org.uk/2010/04/bnp-expels-ukip-mole-for-trying-to-discredit-party/)
2 - "Time to hold Nick Griffin and BNP candidates to account," by Maurice Cousins. Published on There Is Nothing British About the BNP, 9th of April, 2010. (http://www.nothingbritish.com/04/time-to-hold-nick-griffin-and-bnp-candidates-to-account/)

Monday, 5 April 2010

BNP civil war - part II

Will the history books have to be re-written, Stalin-Beria style, to exclude all mention of the traitor Collett? And if so, once Brons ousts Griffin, and Collett is welcomed back into the fold and the BNP and the NF merge, they'll have to be re-written again.

Collett has put out a statement that is notably long on profusions of loyalty to the BNP, and protestations about how he would never do anything to hurt the party but doesn't seems to include any statement of personal loyalty to Nick Griffin, or any direct denial of the allegations against him:
Mr Collett, 29, had been planning to stand in Sheffield at the election against David Blunkett, the former home secretary. He said yesterday: "I don't intend to say anything bad about the party that would compromise it in the run-up to an election. If I've been wronged, which I believe I have, I've still got no intention to undermine the party. I'm not someone who goes running to the press when I've got problems. I'm not going to say anything more, even about if I've been arrested." (1)
Note, also, the scramble to attain the moral high ground - a position which almost requires someone else to be lurking on the moral low ground.

It's almost like his statement is incomplete, and should contain some further comments that it is up to us to discern. Here's what I think he's really saying:
"I don't intend to say anything bad about the party that would compromise it in the run-up to an election - unlike Nick Griffin."
"I've still got no intention to undermine the party - unlike Nick Griffin."
"I'm not someone who goes running to the press when I've got problems - unlike Nick Griffin."
"I'm not going to say anything more, even about if I've been arrested - unlike Nick Griffin."
Pretty clear sub-text to Collett's statement is that he isn't the one betraying the party and its values - Griffin is, with his Euro gravy train and weakening of the membership requirements.

Expect to see Collett fronting a 'Real BNP' splinter group inside six months - unless Griffin is knifed (metaphorically) after the election, having failed to win any seats. In which case Collett gets welcomed back by the BNP, 2nd in command to Brons, and Griffin gets to lead the 'Real BNP' splinter group.
1 - "BNP official arrested over claims he threatened to kill Nick Griffin," by Nigel Morris and Tom Peck. Published in The Independent, 5th of April, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/bnp-official-arrested-over-claims-he-threatened-to-kill-nick-griffin-1936014.html)

I was, of course, completely right - BNP civil war

Well, by competely right, at least mostly right. I had suggested, previously, that BNP leader Nick griffin would be rolled by Andrew Brons - who had already humiliated his 'leader' by bagging the top spot on the party's Euro elections list - and who is old school National front (1).

Time will tell. Meanwhile, Mark Collett, the BNP publicity director, has had his membership of the party suspended following suggestions that he was plotting against the Dear Leader:

The party confirmed that the BNP publicity director Mark Collett, who had been lined up to stand against David Blunkett in Sheffield, had been "suspended pending a disciplinary tribunal", after a leaked memo accused him of plotting a "palace coup".

And, as the party was gripped by claims that insiders were trying to "sabotage" its election preparations, it emerged that two more officials had left head office.

Emma Colgate, a staff manager, has "stepped down from her position to concentrate fully on fighting the Thurrock parliamentary seat for the party". Eddy Butler, the party's head of elections, is also understood to have stepped down, and his name has been removed from the list of national BNP contacts.

The BNP has also told activists it had called in police after an internal leak inquiry uncovered "very serious allegations potentially affecting the personal safety" of Mr Griffin and his colleague James Dowson. (2)

This follows a comment in the Indie the day before, about cracks in the BNP's facade of unity at the local council level, where it actually has managed to make some progress and win some significant representation:
With nine local councillors the BNP, led by Alby Walker, had become the third-biggest force on the council. Until January – when Mr Walker and his wife, also a councillor, dramatically quit the BNP and he announced his intention to stand against Simon Darby as an independent for the Parliamentary seat. Since then Mr Walker has claimed to be the victim of a BNP smear campaign. He has denounced the party for holocaust denial and accused its leader Nick Griffin of surrounding himself with "sycophants". The party, he said, was beset with "drunks, misfits and oddballs hanging around the fringes". He added: "I came in from the wrong direction for people to accept me. I hope they can forgive me. I have quite a lot of support." (3)
This is probably the true face of the BNP - that is to say, the National Front - manifesting itself. For all that Griffin's moves on the whites 'indigenous' only membership policy is just a bit of window dressing to make his ugly little band of racists look less troglodytic, it is obviously too much for some.

Griffin will probably survive in the short term - and I wouldn't be surprised to see Collett come cringing back into the party, for it isn't like the BNP has a very large or deep pool of talent to draw upon - but I suspect this is the beginning of the end for Griffin, and the BNP's flirtation with mainstream respectability. Some people just aren't comfortable playing nicely by the rules, and would be happier shoving crap through Muslims's letterboxes.

While Collet may have made the first moves, I suspect Brons will be the one who profits from it in the longer term. Once he's ousted Griffin - and Collett has been brought to heel with the promise of the succession, shades of Blair and Brown - Brons will be able to 'reunite' the BNP and the National Front.

Not that anyone with any intelligence was ever able to discern an iota of real difference between them.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/06/sympathy-for-little-nicky.html
2 - "BNP official ousted after claims of coup bid against Griffin," by Brian Brady and Jane Merrick. Published in The Independent, 4th of April, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/bnp-official-ousted-after-claims-of-coup-bid-against-griffin-1935427.html)
3 - " Hunt's selection sets up battle with former belly dancer for Stoke seat," by Jonathan Brown. Published in The Independent, 3rd of April, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hunts-selection-sets-up-battle-with-former-belly-dancer-for-stoke-seat-1934720.html)

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Eugène Terre'Blanche murdered

The South African rabble rouser and poet, Eugène Terre'Blanche was the founder and leader of the racist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), which didn't think that apartheid went far enough, and demanded a separate Afrikaner state.

Yesterday, apparently, he was hacked to death by machete weilding thugs on his farm. Terre'Blanche was a bigoted piece of human detritus, but no-one deserves to go like that.
1 - 'Eugène Terre'Blanche: Death,' anonymous Wikipedia article. Viewed 4th of April, 2010. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Terre%27Blanche#Death)

Hang out the stars in Alabama!

Well done, Albanians, or whatever you are. Who ever thought The Great Fightback would start in Alabama? Seriously, well done. Nothi...