Tuesday 17 December 2019

The Aftermath, Part 3 - Who Is To Blame?

So, following the catastrophe that overtook the Labour Party last week, blame is inevitably being directed at Corbyn.  As pointed out in my last post, there is some dubiour research that supports that conclusion, if you are minded to accpet it at face value.

I think, however, that blaming Corbyn's leadership, or lack there of demonstrates a massive misunderstanding about the situation confronting the Labour Party.  Corbyn and his adherents are being demonised and portrayed as something to be crushed and driven out of the party, like fleas or ants. It works on the assumption that once Corbyn and the Corbynistas have been eradicated then everything will be okay again.

I think this is, fundamentally, missing the point.

Corbyn is not the disease, he is the symptom of the disease. His election in 2015 was not some whimsical decision by the membership, a jolly jape they decided on without thought to the consequences.

It was their way of signaling to the 'elite' in charge of the party how utter dissatisfied and disaffected they were, after almost two decades of Blair, and Brown, and Milliband; how neglected, ignored and taken for granted they felt. that's why Corbyn's message resonated and that's why he got elected.

Of course. the aforementioned 'elite' didn't get the hint. If there is one thing they are very bloody good at it is thinking they know best. They viewed the election of Corbyn as a foolish error on the part of the membership, who had to told off, sent to the naughty step and made to elect a proper leader this time; hence the Chicken Coup - only the 'elite' (significantly misnamed; there isn't much elite about them in terms of intelligence or wisdom) were so clueless and craven they put up Angela Eagle and the Owen 'Lacklustre' Smith might be viable alternatives, with fairly predicable results. Corbyn won, and the elite decided that, obviously, the membership were being recalcitrant and really, really needed to be taught a lesson.

At no point, it seems, did anyone bother to ask, "Why DID they vote for Jeremy?" Or if they did, the answers were probably just a load of patronising generalisations and sneers.

Remember what happened with Corbyn as leader (before Friday the 13th, I mean): membership soared to almost half a million and there were genuine signs of a mass movement developing.  People becoming re-engaged and excited about being Labour again.  2017 happened, just as much as 2019 did, and can not be ignored.  The message resonated and the messenger was not deemed too abhorrent then.

Only, of course, the 'elite' knew better.  Corbyn and his rag tag bunch had stepped out of line and had to be put back in their place - for the good of the party, you understand, and especially for th good of the membership, who had let the power Ed Milliband had unwisely gifted them go to their heads and used it unwisely.

They identified real but not Earthshaking issues - the presence of some foolish people in the party who don't think before they tweet, plus some genuine anti-Semites - and started to make Quite A Fuss about it. And they never missed a chance to confide just how awful things were to their friends in the media.

In the meantime, of course, Brexit was rumbling on. They noticed that Corbyn and the Unions weren't too hot on Remain and the 'elite' - who love skiing in the Alps and holidays in Umbria - felt once more they knew better. The 'elite' always knows best and if they have to keep intervening to correct the unruly plebs, well, noblisse oblige.  After all, THEY haven't gone to Oxford to do PPE so how could they be expected to know what's best for them?

The proles had voted foolishly - AGAIN, you'd almost think they were doing it on purpose - and once more had to be corrected. A botched compromise was devised and Labour was forced to go into an election offering a fudge that might have been morally principled but only seemed to tell people they were being ignored - again.

So, now that Corbyn is on his way out, the impetus will be to make sure that him and his horrid followers are excluded from the party and never even given a whiff of a shot of getting anywhere near power. It will be very hard for anyone running on anything that even resemblance of a Corbynite ticket to get the nominations to stand as leader. There won't be any more 'widening of the debate' because the elite know they will lose that debate. They will try to force a bland slate of safe, Blairy candidates on the membership. One of them will win, and it will be just like the 2010 leadership election all over again.

The lesson of 2019 is not that Corbynism needs to be crushed but that the 'elite' need to look at why Corbynsim ever happened in the first place, and be honest about why something that was actually working pretty well in 2017 was an abject failure two years later. And acknowledge their own failings and responsibility for the stagnation and failures of the last 20 years.

I'm not holding my breath.

Aftermath, Part 2 - Why Did All The Votes Go?

Predictable, there has been a lot of effort being put into saying the disaster of Friday the 13th is down to Corbyn, Corbynism and Corbynistas.

There was a poll published by Opinium the day after the election, asking why people did not vote labour, and why Labour voters who voted for other parties switched.

The survey found the main reasons people did not vote Labour were:
  • The leadership (43%)
  • Brexit (17%)
  • Their economic policies (12%)
They also looked at the reasons given by party vote:
Further polling focused on those who voted Labour in 2017 but not in 2019:
  • The leadership (37%)
  • Brexit (21%)
  • Their economic policies (6%)
On the surface it looks pretty convincing.  Clearly, the Blairites were right.  The issue is and was Corbyn and his leadership team.

But ... but ... but ... but ...  I have some issues with this data.

First of all, 'Leadership' is a very vague category compared to 'Brexit' and 'Economic policy'; a lot comes under than heading so it isn't surprising it is the biggest category.  Does it mean the leadership was too leftwing?  Was it to do with the alleged failure to address anti-Semitism?  The inability to silence the criticism and attacks from within the party?  The disunity?  Because some of these aren't really criticiss of the leadership per se, but of the behaviour of the MPs and others who have been trying to throw Corbyn since he got into the saddle in 2015.

I'm also disappointed with the lack of geographic detail. I'd be very interested in seeing the result broken down by region - what if 'Brexit' was more of an issue in the Northern constituencies?  This was an election where what happened in the north was critical.  Traditional Labour heartlands revolted just two years after they had enthusiastically embraced Corbynism.  In 2015 Labour polled just under 18,000 votes in Blythe Valley; in 2017, that swelled to just under 24,000; but by 2019, the total was down to just under 17,000, and the seat was in Tory hands.  Those are remarkable changes in a couple of years.

The absence of the Brexit Party from the data breakdown by party is unforgivable. The BXP were critical in draining Labour support in a lot of constituencies, allowing the Tories to win on quite modest vote gains.  If we looked at that crucial demographic would we see Brexit significantly more prominent?  That seems to be the trend from the limited data available - where former Labour voters were more concerned about Brexit, and less so about 'leadership.'

I'd like to see more information about the reasons given for defection. Given the skewing we can see in the data we have, where almost a third of Lab / Con defectors identified Brexit 31% of the time as their reason for switching, I think it nothing much can be deduced without a more detailed picture. At the end, someone switching from Labour to Conservative is likely to be on the right wing of the party, so is likely to be opposed to the leadership anyway; we really need to know what went wrong in those northern seats and where the Brexit Party was decisive.

If we zoomed in on the Northern seats, and then in again on the Labour voters who went to BXP, would we see Labour voters switching to BXP because their old party had not embraced the referendum result?  And if we did the same again in other areas, would we see the Labou voters switching to the Lib Dems because Labour was not sufficiently Remain?

Aftermath, Part 1 - Where Did All The Votes Go?

So, that didn't go so well.

Immediately after the election, the Guardian published data showing where Labour's vote had gone:
Labour to Conservative - 4.72%
Conservative to Lib Dems - 1.34%
Labour to Lib Dems - 6.06%
The impact of the Brexit Party (BXP) on Labour has already been noted - in seat after seat, the BXP absorbed Labour votes and allowed the Tories to take the seat on relatively small gains.  In Blyth valley, the Conservative vote went up by about 2,000 - small change.  But the Labour vote dropped by 6,000 - 3,000 stayed at home and 3,000 appears to have transferred to the Brexit Party.  And this allowed the Tories to take the seat.

(It is a shame the figures don't include the BXP.  I imagine the transfer would be small, but critical in a lot of seats.)

But the third figure is also interesting.  Labour lost a lot of votes to the Lib Dems, and as a result neither went anywhere.  In spite of Swinson being ousted in East Dunbartonshire and ending up a couple of seats down on 2017, they actually increased their vote share substantially by absorbing Labour votes.  In 2017 the Lib Dems won a national vote share of 2,371,861, or 7.4% of the vote. In 2017, their vote was 3,696,423, 11.6%. It seems unlikely that the extra illion were people inspired by Swinson's charismatic leadership. It looks like they absorbed a lot of Labour voters.

Perhaps the hidden story here is that Labour lost Leave votes to BXP AND Remain votes to the Lib Dems, with both sides of the argument rejecting Labour's measured, sensible Seocnd Referendum compromise. Be interesting to know - though there is probably no way of telling - how much of this was smart tactical voting, and how much Remainers dumbly rejecting the second referendum.

This time, Labour seems to have been caught between two vote sinks - the Lib Dems taking their votes on one flank, and the BXP giving disaffected Labour voters an option than stopped short of voting Tory. And the result of this mess is that it enabled a Tory government with a massive majority.

Some of it was intentional - Farage's ploy of standing own candidates in Conservative seats was an obvious but effective ploy. And some of it boils down to the continual madness of running two parties competing for the centre left vote. Thatcher's reign in the 80s was enabled by the SDP-Liberal Alliance absorbing 25% of the vote and returning fewer than 5% of the MPs.

It seems we've learned nothing since.

This is not about trying to transfer all the blame onto the Lib dem - another, oft overlooked, reason why Blair's government should be remembered as a failure. They had the opportunity to change things in 1997; but they decided the system was working for them, so they would keep it like it was.

Of course, subsequent incarnations of the Labour Party have failed to embrace electoral reform. Stupid short-termist idiots.

Saturday 14 December 2019

"People's Faces" by Kate Tempest

Heard this on Radio NZ this afternoon. Perfectly captures how I'm feeling just now.

It's always good to find new music, though it would be nice to be hearing something celebratory. Even "Things Can Only Get Better" would be welcome, if it was accompanied by a thumping Labour victory.

Friday 13 December 2019

Election 2019 - The Legendary Liveblog

Legendary in my own mind, I mean.  All times are NZ, which is an hour

10.00am (NZ) There's about an hour to go until the exit poll is released.  At that point, half of the British voting public will devastated, and the other half celebrating wildly.  Unless everyone is simply confused.

Turnout seems to have been exceptionally high around the country, which should favour Labour. But the bookies are saying they think a Tory majority is on the cards; we'll see about that. Excitingly, there are rumours that Boris Johnson may be in trouble.
Serves him right for not voting in his own constituency.

10.00am (NZ)  Owen Jones has been incredible during the campaign, a dynamo of optimism and energy. And he's still going:

10.34 (NZ)  Half an hour to go!

Here's a list of potential Labour gains (not compiled by me - I'm too lazy. I just nicked it from @centrist_phone.)

  • Milton Keynes North
  • Milton Keynes South
  • Chingford and Wood Green
  • Hendon
  • Putney
  • Hastings
  • Reading West
  • South Swindon
  • Norwich North
  • Vale of Glamorgan

What other seats should we be keeping an eye on?

  • Workington - Labour may be in trouble here.
  • Wrexham - Labour may be in trouble here.
  • Grimsby - Tories are claiming they might have nicked this from Labour.

And of course, Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

10.39 (NZ)  Watching t' 'lection on Novara Media, with the awesome Ash Sarkar.

10.53 (NZ)  The editor of the Sun is worried:

10.57 (NZ)  Exit poll imminent.  I am VERY NERVOUS. My rating of Labour's overall performance:
30-32 - Dismal
33-34 - Poor
35- 36 - Adequate
37-38 - Looking good
39-40 - Exceptional
10.00 (NZ)  Tories 368, Labour 191 ... No way.

11.06 (NZ)  Either I will be hailed as a genius tomorrow, or John Curtice will be. But we can't both be.

11.16 (NZ)  The deflation and pain in the Novara live-stream is awful to behold. I want to give them all a hug. And they've got to spend the next two hours talking about this cold vomit exit poll before the results start coming in. I feel for them.

11.43 (NZ)  So I won't be drawing your attention to my earlier prediction that Labour will be the largest party in a hung parliament just yet ...

11.46 (NZ)  Of course Corbyn has to go if the exit poll is validated. The question is ... who replaces him? None of the usual candidates inspire me in the slightest. Though as a left winger in New Zealand, my desires may not be the ones the party needs to consider.

11.55 (NZ)  At least Chukka Umunna might not win a seat. The exit poll is a big ass dark and stormy cloud, but I can discern that much of a silver lining.

12.15 (NZ)  Initial vote share puts Labour on 32% ... 'Dismal' according to my schedule, above. Maybe if there is something after the decimal point it will sneak into the 'Poor.' Tories being given a 'Better than Blair' 46%. Hard to fathom.

12.20 (NZ)  First result was supposed to by Blyth Valley, which had a 7K majority in 2017. Apparently it has been delayed for a recount, which is stunning. I think Labour is going to get thrashed in Leave areas, which indicates the people who insisted that the party had to be more Remainy were wrong.

12.25 (NZ)  Socialism is essentially about feeling empathy and sympathy for your fellow human creatures; I guess I'm getting a taste of how Conservative supporters must have felt in 2017.

12.30 (NZ)  First result in:

Lab Hold - Majority 12278
Swing 3.5% from Lab to Con

Lab 21568
Con 9290
LibDem 2709
BRX 2542
Grn 1365

A swing of 3.5% doesn't seem too bad, under the circumstances.

12.31(NZ)  Oh, wait a minute ... Houghton and Sunderland South in.  Labour hold but vote down by 18%. Staggering.

12.41 (NZ)  Blyth Valley turns blue for the first time in its history. The Brexit Party took over 3000 votes, primarily from Labour, I suspect. Labour's policy was morally right but politically unpalatable, it seems. Farage standing against Labour but not against the Tories probably hurt Labour critically in places like Blyth. It gave the voters somewhere they could waste there vote by voting for Brexit without endorsing the Tories.

12.56 (NZ) 
 It looks like the Lib Dems are going to be eradicated in Scotland (bye, PM Jo!) and may suffer elsewhere.  Perhaps they need to consider - seriously - whether they should continue.  Unlike some, I don't hate the Lib Dems.  I voted for them in 1992, in my very first election.  But I can't see a place for them as long as we have FPTP.  All they've done since the 1980s is enabling Conservative governments, either directly or indirectly.

13.12 (NZ)  Sunderland Central duly reports for Labour, but with its majority cut by 6,000.  The Brexit Party took 5000 votes.  Anyone with a majority of under 7K could be in danger tonight.  Anyone in Labour, I mean.

14.51 (NZ)  Sorry, had to pause the live blog to look for my son's missing glasses.  Which remain undiscovered.  Not that there seems to be much of a purpose in continuing as the exit poll seems to have been proved heinously correct. I always wondered what 1997 felt like from a Tories' point of view. Might have a bit of an idea now. Wither now for Labour? THe narrative that will be driven is that it is all the problems lie with Corbyn. He'll have to go - he's had two shots and gone backwards - but I don't think it is fair or true to blame this disaster on Corbynism. Yeah, he had a history that made it easy for the media to portray him as a monster. But any Labour leader would have been thoroughly monstered; they always are. Even Blair got the treatment. And Corbyn's history didn't seem to be a problem in 2017. Given the loss in Labour's vote share are pretty much matched by the BXP gains and the seats being lost are leave areas, it sees to be the poison of Brexit is still potent.

15.00 (NZ)  I don't think there will be many of these tonight so let's celebrate the Great Victory in Putney.

15.03 (NZ) But at the same time, Andy Burnham's old seat of Leigh goes blue - and again the BXP vote share equals the difference between the Conservative and Labour candidates.

15.26 (NZ)  The knives will be out for Corbyn (who will go), Corbynism and Momentum in a big way.  But here's a think - Jeremy Corbyn is not the leader of the Lib Dems, yet they look likely to have as bad a night as Labour, and it looks likely Jo Swinson is going to lose her seat.

Brexit was a massive factor in this disaster.

15.38 (NZ)  Tim Farron holds his seat to get the Lib Dems on the board!  So at least they can have a leader once the dust settles.

15.53 (NZ)  Dan Jarvis holds on in Barnsley Central, but his majority is shredded. Corbyn and Corbynism was not poison in 2017. The only significant change has been the party's shift towards a more Remain aligned policy. That opened the door for Labour Leavers to ... um ... leave. The BXP got 11,000 votes in Barnsley. It isn't down to them not liking Corbyn or the manifesto. They liked him well enough in 2017 - Labour had a majority of 15,000 then. What is the message they are sending? They voted for the Brexit Party because they were sick of Brexit and (stupidly) wanted it done. Labour compromised and offered an opening which the Conservatives and BXP exploited ruthlessly - "Get Brexit done," repeated endlessly.

16.05 (NZ)  Labour lose in Heywood and Middleton, and again the BXP vote is the difference between a Labour win and a Tory win.

16.15 (NZ)  This chart, produced by Professor Will Jennings, shows the correlation between tendency to support Leave in the referendum and increases in Conservative support.

This was about Brexit.

16.18 (NZ)  The Lib Dems take Richmond Park, rendering Zac Goldsmith unemployed.  That's good.

And it means the Lib Dems can have a proper leadership contest, instead of just having to give Tim Farron his old job back.

17.30 (NZ)  Tories reclaim Kensington, the constituency where the Grenfell Tower fire took place.  They won by 150 votes from Labour, with the Lib Dems in third place, hogging over 9,000 votes.  I think that is a suitable symbolic point to end this dispiriting live blog, with the Lib Dems handing the Tories a victory in the shadow of Grenfell.

Thursday 12 December 2019

Final BMG poll - nothing to see here

BMG research have unleashed their final poll of the 2019 campaign:
Westminster voting intention: 
CON: 41% (-)
LAB: 32% (-)
LDEM: 14% (-)
GRN: 4% (-)
BREX: 3% (-1)

via @BMGResearch , 06 - 11 Dec Chgs. w/ 06 Dec 
That's a bit of a "Dunno why we bothered" sort of poll.

"Phillip, I'm afraid I've been a bit of an ass and forgot to do any polling for the eve of election poll. I was so high on coke it completely slipped my mind!"

"Don't worry Niles. There's an old industry trick for this. Tell Monica to stick up the same figures from last time and change a minor party's result by a tiny amount. We'll get away with it. People only pay attention to polls that show something interesting happening."

Regardless of how they arrived at their conclusions, I think they are wrong.  Not enough younger voters, not expecting enough younger voters to turn out, failure to pick up on impact of the last few days to filtering through - some of the data was collected before Johnson's recent blunders.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Boris Johnson ... Hides ... In a Fridge

I am not making this up.

First few lines of the Dail Mail write up:
Boris Johnson's exasperated media minder swore on live TV today as the PM refused to speak to Good Morning Britain before trotting into a fridge as he started an early milkround in Yorkshire.

Piers Morgan was visibly shocked and Susanna Reid had her head in her hands as Mr Johnson's press secretary Robert Oxley declared 'for f***s sake' and blocked the path of GMB's roving reporter Jonathan Swain.

The Tory leader, who was delivering milk in the marginal seat of Pudsey, West Yorkshire, this morning, has repeatedly refused to appear on the ITV1 show.

Mr Swain confronted Boris as he put milk crates in a van and said: 'Morning Prime Minister will you come on Good Morning Britain? Will you deliver on your promise to speak to Piers and Susanna?'.

A tired-looking Mr Oxley loudly muttered: 'For f***s sake' as his boss ignored the calls and wandered into a large walk-in chiller as Mr Morgan exclaimed: 'He's gone into the fridge'.
I mean, FFS. what is going on? This campaign is getting genuinely surreal. This is how dadaists do politics.

Johnson looks utterly dazed, like he has no idea what he is doing or what is going on. it's like he's being wheeled around the country, being forced to perform for the cameras, but barely holding it together. Certainly not together enough to speak to journalists.

I'm pretty sure a few weeks ago he'd have cheerfully engaged in a bit of buffoonery, fobbed them off with a bit of whiff-waff. But he can't, Just like he couldn't respond adequately when a journalist waved a mobile phone at him.

He's broken, a hollowed out shell.

And look at this clip of Johnson delivering the milk to some 'lucky' voter:

This is a rip off of the Love Actually bit where PM Hugh Grant knocks on doors pretending he's just wishing people Merry Christmas.

Following on from their 'Brexit, Actually' toe-curler.

Their campaign is actually just ripped off from a feckin' rubbish twee rom-com?!

Predictably, the Sun somehow managed to cut the sweary words and the Napoleonic retreat into the freezer from their video version of the story, gushingly entitled "Boris Johnson stuns family as he delivers milk on last day of general election campaign":

What does it feel like to have less journalistic interity than the Mail, I wonder?

Shy Labour Voters?

In previous elections pollsters have bemoaned the 'shy Tory' - the respondent who is so fearful of being judged as a cruel and heartless bastard by an anonymous pollster, or their spouses, workmates and friends, that they lie about their intention of voting Conservative, skewing the poll figures in Labour's favour.  But in the privacy of the polling booth, these scruples vanish and with Satanic glee, legions of voters up and down the country put a monstrous X beside the name of the Conservative candidate, thus winning the election for that party.

Of so the pollsters would have it.  I've never really bought into the idea, myself.  But I am wondering if - given the stubborn refusal of the polls to do what I think they should be doing and narrow, damnit, narrow - if we are seeing the opposite phenomenon.  Or opposite phenomena, as rough beast shambles into view in two forms.

On the one hand, the brazen Brexiteer.  The years since the referendum have embolden and validated some Conservative voters.  People who would once have kept their admiration for Nigel Farage and hankering for blue passports very quiet because it was not considered smart or respectable no longer care a cuss.  They are out and proud, strutting down the high street in their Union Jack suits, brandishing their copies of the Daily Mail and proclaiming anyone different a traitor or - worse - an elitist.

The only shy Tories these days are the One Nation Conservatives, who are feeling a bit excluded from their own parties and toying with the idea of casting a vote for nice Jo Swinson.

On the otherhand, I think the mantle of shyness has been passed to potential Labour voters. Given potential they are being told they are voting for an anti-Semitic, Marxist, sandwich stealing, terrorist loving, Cenotaph dancing, incorrect bowing, national anthem not singing security risk ex-spy vegetarian who wants to nationalise sausages and sell all our nukes to Russia (only this last is not something that has actually been alleged about Corbyn and / or Labour) I would not be surprised if they just muttered "I haven't made up my mind yet" when asked.

Is this a thing or just another straw that I am clutching at?  We'll know soon enough ...

You Gov MRP Poll Out

So, You Gov's MRP poll - the weird one that tries to reflect what will happen at a constituency level and which pretty much nailed the hung parliament in 2017 - is not looking too good for Labour:
None-the-less I am feeling pretty confident the actual gap will be less than polls are showing.

Maybe it is my Scottish second sight, or my equally Scottish refusal to acknowledge the cause is lost, or something.

I think:
a) Labour clearly have the momentum (intentional, et cetera and will still make some progress in the final 24 hours;

b) the polls have always tended to overestimate the Tory support;

c) the polls are underestimating youth vote and turnout;

d) the last couple of days will have cost the Conservatives a lot of potential votes;

e) especially undecideds, who will have looked at Johnson's dithering over JustLookAtTheBloodyPhotoOiGiveMeMyPhoneBackYouThievingDickGate and decided they certainly can't be voting for that.

f) Labour will have a terrific Get Out the Vote campaign.
On the down side, the Tories have the mirage of getting Brexit done, the splitting of the anti-Conservative vote and the slight advantage that a third of the voting population have been conditioned to hate.

And before you say anything about "If only they'd switched leader ..." that goes for every Labour leader. Even Tony Blair got it a bit in 1997 - though perhaps they went easy on him, and it was only 25% of the electorate that got the 1984 style 'Two Minutes Hate' style conditioning.

My earlier prediction of Labour finishing as the largest party feels wildly optimistic, but I think I said that at the time, and I'm going to stick with it because, you know, Scottish, refusal to acknowledge and all that.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

More lies on the Twitter (Dan Hodges edition)

The other big story concerning Leeds Hospital is Boris Johnson's bizzare behaviour at Leeds Hospital, where he was confronted by a journalist and challenged about a four year old boy with suspected pneumonia who was left sleeping on the floor, rather than getting  abed like a sick kid would in a decently funded heath system.

Johnson refused to engage with the journalist and refused to look at a photo of the child and then - bizarrely - tried to steal the journalist's phone to head off further challenges.

On Dan Hodge's Twitter feed (Hodges is a 'commentator' for the Daily Mail) that narrative is challenged:
So, a clear GOTCHA.  Johnson is looking at the image.  The Guardian is full of hysterical FAKE NEWS bullshit.  A picture is worth a thousand words, eh, Dan?

Only, if you read the piece in the Guardian that Hodges sneers at, some of the words indicating Johnson did not look at the image are direct quotes from Boris Johnson:
Johnson refused to look at the photo and, out of camera shot, eventually took the phone from the reporter and put it in his own pocket. 
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, responded by tweeting a video of the exchange with the message: “He just doesn’t care.” 
First asked if he had seen the photographs, Johnson said he had not. The ITV reporter, Joe Pike, then showed the prime minister the photograph on his phone, describing what it portrayed. 
Johnson declined to look at the picture, saying: “I understand. And obviously, we have every possible sympathy for everybody who has a bad experience in the NHS.” 
He went on to discuss investment in the NHS and Brexit. Pike pressed the prime minister: “I’m talking about this boy, prime minister. How do you feel, looking at that photo?” 
Johnson replied: “Of course. And let me tell you … I haven’t had a chance to look at it.” 
Pike asked: “Why don’t you look at it now, prime minister?” Johnson, still not looking at the photo, replied: “I’ll study it later.” 
Pressed again, he said: “If you don’t mind, I’ll give you an interview now. What we are doing is we are taking this country forward, and we are investing in the NHS.”
Sorry, Dan, but if Boris Johnson is saying he hasn't had the chance to look at the image, either he hasn't had a chance to look at it (and thus your photo with its squiggly yellow lines is worthless) or he's a serial liar who was trying to bluster his way out of having to address the issue.

Obviously, Dan Hodges thinks that latter.  And if Dan Hodges wasn't running cheap propaganda for the Conservatives - he also ran with the 'protester punched a SPAD' lie for a short while - he'd be tweeting about how Johnson is a dishonest liar who will bluster and lie to avoid having to address the reality of austerity.


So, for a brief period of history, it was alleged that a protester had punched Matt Hancock's SPAD (not a euphemism; special adviser) when Hancock visited Leeds Hospital.

This was reported by the likes of Robert Peston and Laura Keunssberg, as well as the less credible Guido Fawkes.  It also quickly made it into the Mail, the Sun and the Express.

Video quickly emerged proving it didn't exactly 'go down' as had been claimed - a protester was gesturing, and the SPAD walked into his (unclenched) hand.

Keunssberg and Peston, eventually acknowledged they were spreading false information and apologised:

But note that lines: "2 sources suggested" and "I was told by senior Tories" - who the Hell fed them the misinformation?  And why are they protecting them?

The real story isn't that a protestor didn't punch someone.  The real story is that 'senior Tories' are feeding lies via respected journalists and those journalists are diligently repeating those lies.  And - even when they are caught - the journalists are so cravenly, sycophantically aligned with the 'senior Tories' they will cover up who is trying to feed falsehoods into the election campaign.

Saturday 30 November 2019

Boris Johnson Goes Down

It hasn't been a good week for the Conservatives, pollwise.  All major recent polls are showing their lead shrinking.

Comparing each pollster's current (between 29/11 and 22/11) and previous most recent poll.

  • Panel Base - Conservative lead down 2 points.
  • Com Res - Conservative lead down 3 points.
  • You Gov - Conservative lead down 1 point.
  • Kantar - Conservative lead down 8 points.
  • ICM - Conservative lead down 3 points.
  • Survation - Conservative lead down 3 points.
  • Deltapoll - Conservative lead down 2 points.
All from here.

Like I've said many times, I don't trust pollsters to get vote shares right; some of these polls are still showing outlandishly high Conservative leads. But I do expect them to be able to pick up indications movement. Which is what we're seeing.

I still think there is likely more movement than they are detecting, and things are much closer than they are showing.

So here's a song for Boris Johnson, which captures his arrogant sense of entitlement ("I tell all the girls they can kiss my heinie"), his sexual incontinence and his current polling:

Frank Zappa - predicting everything about Boris Johnson before anyone else knew Boris Johnson needed to be predicted.

Friday 29 November 2019

Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party - Again

Within quick succession, Countdown maths wizard and twitterer Rachel Riley, alleged comedian David Baddiel and prominent lawyer Andrew Julius have all expressed very similar opinions / ideas:

Riley has been a ferocious critic of Corbyn for a while.  Notably, she recently alter a well know image of him being arrested at an anti-Apartheid rally in the 80s to call Corbyn a racist.


It is worth noting that Riley is echoing the sentiments promoted by the billboards on the trucks shown in her tweet.  And those billboards would have had to be prepared well in advance.  They were commissioned by a group called The Community United against Labour Party anti-Semitism (CULPA) who have carried out similar stunts in the past.  I remember doing some vague digging about them and finding ... something ... that I thought was interesting but I can't for the life of me remember what it was.

(EDIT - I actually blogged on the earlier parade of billboards at the time.  I'm pretty sharp, I am.  Today's news, yesterday!  It's associated with a character called Jonathan Hoffman, a politicised pensioner who has somehow reconciled his Jewish identity and the racist politics of the English Defence League.  It seems Hoffman has learned something from buddying up with the EDL - in June he was found guilty of a public order offence after threatening a speaker at a demonstration.)

Then Baddiel:
This in response to the surreal debate about whether Corbyn's pronunciation of Jeffrey Epstein's name is some sort of anti-Semitic act.

Baddiel is saying (as explained earlier and drawing on two different comments he made as proof) that he thinks Corbyn is passively / subconsciously anti-Semitic. As you said, it is right there. The word "actively" is the give away.

He isn't accusing Corbyn of wanting to beat up Jews, or shout abuse at them; he is saying Corbyn consistently disregards, minimizes or trivializes Jewish concerns about some of his associations and endorsements; and (important bit) this consistent pattern of behaviour is something that most Jews would consider anti-Semitic.

So passive / unconsious anti-Semitism, not the active, goose-stepping Horst Wessel Song singing sort. But still - in Baddiel's opinion, or at least that of "most Jews" - anti-Semitism.

And finally Julius, responding to comments made by Harold Evans, who he worked with on the Irving libel trial:
To purge the party of anti-Semitism will be the work of a generation. The evidence that the political will exists to undertake this task is not compelling: members are not yet ashamed enough of their party’s anti-Semitism. The driving out of leading Jewish (and non-Jewish) politicians from the party, who cited its anti-Semitism, did not have a substantial impact on party morale, still less commit its officials and elected members to decisive action. We cannot leave the work to the party itself. Supporters have to lend a hand. Depriving the party of a vote is a start.
Three diverse sources all with essentially the same message - that a vote for Labour is a de facto racist act, and that voting Labour is endorsing and accepting the anti-Semitism Riley, Baddiel and Julius claim infests the party.

Julius is the most interesting case.  He is a prominent legal practitioner well known for his involvement in the Deborah Lipstadt libel trial.  He is also - according to Wikipedia - "an advisory editor at the current affairs journal Fathom" - which has published negative pieces about anti-Semitism in Labour - and "a founding member of both Engage and the Euston Manifesto" - the latter linking him to another fervent Corbyn critic, Nick Cohen - and "From 2011 to 2014 he was chairman of the board of The Jewish Chronicle" - which brings in Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle since 2008, another trenchant opponent of Jeremy Corbyn.

The tactic seems to be persuading Labour supporters that - if they prioritise social justice (or free cricket and broadband) over confronting anti-Semitism (and thus, perforce, accepting it exists, as defined by Juius et al) - they are akin to Corbyn tolerating his dodgy mates, which means "most Jews" would consider them anti-Semitic.  Most people don't want to be thought of as racists or anti-Semites, so will be deterred.

What does all this mean?  I have no idea.  I do know, if I was inclined to buy into anti-Semitic tropes, I'd be having a field day with all these media tie-ins.  I really don't want to go down THAT road.  David Irving might revoke my honourable standing as a "Traditional enemy of truth."  But there is something going on, some of it clearly deliberate and orchestrated, and some possibly coincidental (I struggle to think why anyone trying to hatch a conspiracy would include the tiresome David Baddiel); but, either way, the previously discussed cynical weaponization of anti-Semitism seems to being deployed once again.

Damn the Polls

So, there have been a bunch of bad polls out for Labour, and even the Leftie's friend, Survation, have recently given the Conservatives a rip-snorting 11% lead.  You Gov's much vaunted MRP poll - which pretty much nailed the result in 2015 - is currently predicting a comfortable majority for the Conservatives.

People have such touching faith in the opinion polls. I think the polls are wildly incorrect, on a 2017+ scale.

They may be right, they may be wrong.  Usually, they are wrong, often significantly so.  Remember, most pollsters had the conservatives winning a comfortable majority in 2017 ... and said there would be a hung parliament in 2015 ... and the Tories would win decisively in 2010.  Not forgetting the Brexit referendum and the Soccish independence referendum (which pollsters were predicting would be close).

In 2017 I had trust in Survation; this year I've lost faith in them. It's a bit like atheism - they say Christian's don't believe in 99.99% of all gods that have historically been worshipped, atheists feel the same, but add one more to the list. My hunch / hope is that Survation have messed up the BXP redistribution. Since the BXP pulled out of contesting Conservative seats, Survation have started showing large Conservative leads.

The bottom line is  - I'm finding it hard to believe that Boris Johnson is as popular as Blair in his heyday. 

I can not comprehend widescale enthusiasm for a blustering fool, liar, cheat and blowhard who gets booed wherever he goes. (But that's enough about me ...)

Nor can I imagine Labour's exciting and ambitious manifesto not catching on.

So inspite of the polls I'm feeling pretty cocky at the moment. At the start of the election I predicted Labour would finish as largest party with about 290 seats. Obviously, the opinion polls are saying that isn't going to happen, but we know they are bollocks. I may have been a bit optimistic, but we'll see. I think another stalemate - perhaps even staler than the last one - is a distinct possibility. And Labour finishing ahead is not out of the question.

Also bear in mind this wisdom from Tom Clark, considering the You Gov MRP poll:

Lesson 1 of 2015 is that it’s no use having more data if you’re data is biased. Back then, inspired by the cult of Nate Silver & his state-by-state stuff, we had loads of constituency polls and seat-by-seat projections that turned out to be tosh


Good thread, by the way.

I think Labour will rally, and the Conservatives will sink, as people realise how insipid their manifesto is and Johnson continues to come across as an over-promoted dolt. It will be like a crapper version of 2019, with neither side managing to whip up the enthusiasm of two years ago.

I think the final result will be:
37% Con
35% Lab
13% Lib Dem
5% BXP
4% SNP
2.5% GRN
2% Irish
0.5% PC
1% Others
And with numbers like that (depending on how they translate into seats) it is hard to see how Johnson can get into Downing Street.

But I am worried about people feeling demoralised and despairing, which may make the polls self-fulfilling

Monday 25 November 2019

Some cheap soundbites i thought up while reading about the underwhelming Conservative manifesto

Tory manifesto: big on austerity, low on promise, non-existent on delivery.

The Tories: the party so big on ambition they couldn't be arsed writing a manifesto.

MLK: "I have a dream!"
BJ: "I'll just have a nap."

Labour: Broadband!
Tories: Narrow minds!

Labour have hope, dreams and ambition. The Tories will save you.

Labour - shooting for the moon and falling among the stars.
Tories - shooting at the ground and hitting themselves in the foot.

Labour: Dare to dream: Tories: Try to stay awake.

If that all seems a bit airy-fairy, perhaps the IFS are more serious and convincing:
The Conservative government had already planned to increase day-to-day spending on public services by £11.7 billion next year with some further increases for schools and the NHS in subsequent years. Their manifesto adds just £2.9 billion to current plans in 2023–24. This is a very modest increase indeed – it would boost spending in that year by less than one-third of one per cent of what was already planned.

The manifesto pledges appear to leave little scope for spending increases beyond next year outside of those planned for health and schools. Even in 2023–24 day-to-day spending on public services outside of health would still be almost 15 per cent lower in real terms that it was at the start of the 2010s.
That's some serious bad shit right there.  Vote Tory for FIFTEEN years of austerity.

Sunday 17 November 2019

Scary Opinium Poll

This, of course, doesn't look good.  Labour have been chucking big, headline grabbing policies left, right and centre ... Well, maybe not right.  Left, left and centre left, perhaps.

But then again, Opinium have always tended to show big Tory leads.  The 16% there isn't too outlandish for them.  Every single one of their last ten polls has given the Tories a double digit lead.  And 5 out of that 10 have given it as 15% or 16%.

Another interesting (for me) feature of Opinium's polling is that they seem to have recently started including the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales - and this seems to have coincided with the ballooning of the Conservative lead.

What could this mean?

1 - The Tories became wildly popular at that time and it is just a coincidence.

2 - Everyone in Scotland who supported SNP but didn't have the option said they'd vote Labour instead, and that was a lot of people; one they got the option of saying they'd vote SNP instead they did so, and Labour's vote collapsed.

3 - Opinium made some big methodological changes at the time and now their polling is completely bonkers.

Looking back at Opinium's polling pedigree, I find more reasons to be sceptical.  In 2017, their polls in the month leading up to the election gave leads of 15%, 13%, 10%, 6% and 7% - so they did detect a narrowing of the Conservative lead, but seem to have consistently underestimated how tight the race was.

So if Opinium say the lead is 16% it is probably 8%.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Asking for it ...

"I saw a newspaper picture,
From the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child,
Who was obviously in pain.
She spills with compassion,
As that young child's
Face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
Coming down on that child's lips?"

Sunday 10 November 2019

War of the worms

I'm going to make a Reckless Prediction™ that the Tories have 'topped out' in the 'poll of polls' / Britain Elects multipoll tracker at about 38%, and in the next week we will start to see Labour creep up on them.

In fact, we might just be seeing the start of this trend now:

The Conservative worm appears to be taking a rest, while Labour's is - perhaps - starting to wriggle energetically upwards.

There seems to be a ceiling on support for the Conservatives - in 2017 it was in the mid 40s and now, critically, it is several points lower (due to disillusionment over Brexit, disenchantment over social problems, the rise of the Farage and the Brexit Party, and Johnson being more of a 'difficult' figure to voters than May was).

Meanwhile, Labour's potential will be starting to think seriously about who they want to vote for and - possibly reluctantly at first - opting for Labour.

Importantly, this will create a new narrative - that the Conservatives are 'stalled' and Labour are starting to ;close the gap' and the 'Corbyn effect' is starting to impact on the campaign. That will mostly be twaddle but the media like to sound like they know what is going on and sound clever (like me).  The result will be that they actually start to create the effect they are trying to discern.

This might sound like grave hypocrisy from someone who frequently scorns polls, but the point is not the individual numbers or even where the aggregate lies, but the trend. Pollsters - unless they are completely useless - will tend to pick up shifts of opinion - and how the polls actually can influence the public's perception of what is going on.

Saturday 9 November 2019

Out of the past - Tories to revive racist laws from the 16th century

Did you know there once was a time when it was illegal to be a gypsy (aka Romani) in Britain?

That was between 1530, when the Egyptians Act was passed, and 1856, when it was repealed.

Amongst other things, the act forbade the entry of 'Egyptians' into England, ordered those already there to leave the country with just sixteen days grace to do it in, and gave the state the power to seize their property and dispose of it.

The act wasn't absolutely successful as a few decades later Mary I passed a follow up act that grudgingly allowed the Romani to stay, as long as they abandoned their "naughty, idle and ungodly life and company". In other words, if they settled down, assimilated and started behaving like good christian souls.

If this all sounds a bit familiar it is because it isn't just because Nazi Germany also targeted Romani as one of its gateway genocides.  It's also a new policy proposal from the Conservative Party:
Police will be able to arrest travellers and seize caravans if they set up illegal campsites on private or public land. 
Strict new laws will make it a criminal offence to occupy land with the intention of setting up home there, without getting prior permission. 
Home Secretary Priti Patel has outlined proposals to give police the power to remove unwelcome visitors. 
Currently, trespass is considered a civil matter meaning landowners face a long and expensive legal battle to remove offenders. 
'Unauthorised encampments can cause misery to those who live nearby, with reports of damage to property, noise, abuse and littering,' Ms Patel told The Sun on Sunday. 
She added: 'The public want their communities protected and for the police to crack down on trespassers. 
'Our proposals aim to ensure these encampments can be challenged and removed as quickly as possible.' 
In the Republic of Ireland, 'unauthorised encampment' is a criminal offence. However there is also a statutory requirement for local authorities to provide sites for travellers. 
Ms Patel is aiming to copy the criminal offence system and is seeking views from councils, police forces, travellers and the public on alternative measures.
There is an issue underneath this - I wouldn't like twenty caravans turning up in my garden unannounced and uninvited.  Landowners (private or public) should be able to have unwelcome campers removed without "a long and expensive legal battle".

But the proposal Patel is making is pretty obvious dog whistle politics, playing on all manner of unpleasant stereotypes and bigotries, and cynically timed for the election.  I mean, the Tories have been in power for NINE AND A HALF YEARS.  In spite of their claims to hold the concerns of the Daily Mail middle Britain close to their heart, the Tories don't seem to have been too bothered about the 'issue' (also known as people) - until it became politically expedient to pander to socially acceptable racism.

Also note that the Irish system Patel claims to be using as a model has a legal obligation for camp sites to be set up for travellers.  Patel doesn't seem to be too bothered about that, as it is "the criminal offence system" she is interested in copying, while only seeking "views" on other aspects.

Musical aside - Scotland, alas, had similar legal prohibitions against Romani.  The Scottish outlaw / folk hero James MacPherson and some of his band were sentenced to death for the crime of "being Egyptians," commemorated in the Song MacPherson's Rant, supposedly composed by MacPherson himself the night before his execution:

Friday 8 November 2019

Let this never be forgot

In the spirit of Remember, remember the fifth of November, let's keep this in mind FOREVER.

Lades and gentlemen, the true face of the Conservative Party - inhumane, arrogant, blinkered and contemptuous. And utterly unapologetic.

Vote for them at your peril.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Media impartiality

Sky's economics editor, Ed Conway has posted a Twitter thread responding to a claim that - as far as I can see - Labour never made:

Note, "All time high."

The tweet that provoked this, from Jonathan Ashwoth, Labour's Health and Social Care Secretary:

Nothing there about cancelled operations at an all time high.

The Ashworth tweet links to a statement put out by Labour which also does not make the claim Conway (using the weaselly "the impression you might have been left with") inveigles into the debate:
New data obtained by Labour through FOIs has revealed a huge increase in the number of cancelled operations because of staffing issues and equipment failures.

Last year, 78,981 operations were cancelled. These operations were either classed as urgent or were elective operations cancelled at the last minute – either on the day the patient was due to arrive in hospital or after they had already arrived.

The number of operations cancelled because of staffing issues and equipment failures have each increased by a third in two years. Last year, 10,900 were cancelled because of staffing issues and 4800 were cancelled because of equipment failures.

There are currently over 100,000 staff vacancies in the NHS, with shortages of 10,000 doctors and 43,000 nurses. Cuts to NHS Capital Budgets have left the health service with a £6.5 billion repair bill.
Again, nothing in there to justify Conway's disingenuous claim.  It's odd he would put these words into a Twitter thread where he then goes onto do some really detailed statistical analysis ... Unless, of course, he was just trying to create a false impression about what Labour were claiming, or wasn't very good at his job.

Sunday 3 November 2019

My loyal readership of ... Cam girls and Pornbots?

I checked my traffic stats:

I was intrigued by 'monica29' - who was this very dedicated individual?  I clicked on the link, to be greeted with ...

Ho, hum.

Spreadin' the word, spreadin' the word.  Doesn't matter who hears it, as long as it gets out there.

Worth repeating forever

There have been three polls since the election was announced, and I will shamelessly steal YouGov / UK Polling Report's Anthony Wells' summary of them:
Survation – CON 34%, LAB 26%, LDEM 19%, BREX 12%, GRN 1%
Ipsos MORI – CON 41%, LAB 24%, LDEM 20%, BREX 7%, GRN 3%
YouGov – CON 36%, LAB 21%, LDEM 18%, BREX 13%, GRN 6%
I'll also shamelessly steal from his commentary on these polls:
It’s worth noting that that Tory lead is largely down to a split opposition. Even in the MORI poll the Conservatives have lost support since the election (in the YouGov and Survation polls they’ve lost a lot of support). This is not a popular government – in the MORI poll, their satisfaction rating is minus 55 – it’s just that the main opposition have lost even more support. The healthy Conservative lead is down to the fact that the Conservatives are retaining the bulk of the Leave vote, while the remain vote is split between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the SNP, Plaid and so on. 
For as long as this is the case, the Conservatives should do well. If it should change they’ll struggle. If the Brexit party manage to get back into the race and take support from the Tories it would eat into their lead. The other risk for the Tories is if the Remain vote swings more decisively behind either Labour or the Liberal Democrats (or that there are signs of more effective tactical voting, winning seats off the Conservatives despite a split vote). Essentially Boris Johnson needs to keep the Leave vote united and the Remain vote divided.
The 'Vote stupid, get Tories' message can never be hammered home enough.

That said, I am feeling pessimistic today.  My hunch is that we will wait ... and wait ... and wait for the 'Corbyn surge' that never quite materialises.

I hope I am wrong.  I hope it is just early morning glumness following a late night (there was a rugby match) and the prospect of a Sunday afternoon spent doing frustratingly dull work.  I hope all the Conservative voters decide to stay at home because they are too sickened of all this nonsense to turn out to vote.  I hope Momentum organise furiously, target their resources well and get the vote out where it matters.

n.b. The bit that is worth 'repeating forever' is the bit about the dangers of splitting the vote, not the bit about me feeling a bit doubtful.

Friday 1 November 2019

Rabbi urges congregation to vote against Corbyn

Though Jonathan Romain is a fairly high profile Rabbi, writing in several papers and popping up on TV and the radio, this story doesn't seem to have made it to the Guardian yet, so I'll take the unusual step of linking the Stephen Pollard edited Jewish Chronicle:
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain has taken the unprecedented step of writing to his congregation urging them to vote for whatever political party stands the best chance of beating Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour candidates in the forthcoming general election.

The Maidenhead synagogue minister revealed he had sent the letter to 823 families who are members of the Berkshire shul across 16 different constituencies suggesting that “a Corbyn-led government would pose a danger to Jewish life as we know it.”
The source article notes that it is unusual for a Rabbi to be issuing political advice like this, then continues with a lengthy Romain's letter.
"I should stress that the problem is not the Labour Party itself, which has a long record of fighting discrimination and prejudice, but the problem is Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn-led Labour, has at best, let antisemitism arise within its ranks, or at worst, has encouraged it.

“This has never happened under any previous Labour leader, whether under Tony Blair on the right, Neil Kinnock in the centre or Michael Foot on the left, so the finger of responsibility really does seem to point to Jeremy Corbyn.

“I am therefore suggesting we should each put aside all other considerations and vote for whichever party is most likely to defeat Labour in whatever constituency we are in - even if we would never normally vote for that party.”
I am quite happy with Rabbi Romain expressing his opinion.  I can't see the point of religion that isn't engaged in social and political activity.  Religion is a political activity, and religion that tells its members not to be political is an inherently political act.  Quiescence and silence are de facto support for the status quo.  You can't be neutral or disengaged.

That doesn't mean I agree with what the good Rabbi says, of course.  I hate what you say but I defend to the death the right to et cetera, et cetera.  It's a ridiculous mish-mash of nonsense.

It's absurd to say "Corbyn-led Labour, has at best, let antisemitism arise within its ranks"; 'let' implies a degree of quiescence and apathy.  Labour has not been passive.  It might not have done as much as the Jewish Chronicle or, it would seem, Rabbi Romain would like, but it has not ignored the issue with the passive indifference that 'let' suggests.

But Corbyn's Labour party has taken far more action against anti-Semitism and anti-Semites within Labour than any previous iteration of the party in the time frame laid out by Romain.  Setting aside Corbyn's long history of engagement and expressions of sympathy for British Jews, following the Chakrabarti inquiry anti-Semitism is now something you can specifically be expelled from Labour for.  Previously, it was fudged under the heading of 'bringing the party into disrepute'; the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has been adopted by the party, controversial examples and all; and many, many cases have been processed, and at a faster rate than previously.

It has been alleged - by Jon Lansman - that the delays in processing of anti-Semitism cases was not due to indifference by Corbyn and his team but by politically motivated neglect by anti-Corbynites on the NEC, who delayed processes in order to generate negative headlines about anti-Semitism.

On this troubling issue, where justice is being delayed and anti-Semitism used as a prop in political theatre, Rabbi Romain appears silent.

That was his 'best case' scenario, remember.  He suggests that, at worst, "has encouraged" anti-Semitism with in the party.

I think claiming Corbyn has "encouraged" anti-Semitism is someone wanting to be martyred. He's either hoping for a libel writ or (more likely) fishing for abuse so he can jump up and down and say, "See! Anti-Semitism!" and Pollard can write more articles bloviating about the wickedness of Corbynites and Corbyn.

I hope people will observe the distinction between criticism and abuse.  It is not wrong that Rabbi Romain has used his position to make a political point; it is wrong that his point appears not to be based on facts and the genuine interests of his congregation but political animus seeking a means to its end.  But he does not deserve to be shouted down, threatened or abused for that.

First, because it would be utterly wrong to do that.  Second, because it would be utterly wrong to do that.  Third, (and a distant third) because it would play into the hands of the sort of people who don't have the interests of Labour or of British Jews in their hearts.

I wonder if any journalists will interview members of his congregation to find out what they think of the Rabbi's letter?  Find out what actual Jews think, rather than just disseminating the utterances of their leaders.

Of course, that would require a bit of journalism, something of a dead art in 2019.

My absurdly optimistic prediction

There's an election afoot, and that is when noted opinion formers such as myself get to make wild fools of ourselves by pretending we have the faintest idea what will happen.

So, here is my absurdly optimistic prediction:
Labour - 285
Conservative - 262
SNP - 53
Lib Dems - 20
PC - 5
Ireland - 18 (probably 7 abstentions, and the DUP taking a hit.)
Greens - 1
Independents - 6
Meaning a Labour-SNP coalition, possibly with Lib Dems lending a bit of support here and there.

"Absurdly optimistic?" I hear you ask.  "You've only got Labour on 285!  I thought you'd have them down for an outright majority.  What's absurdly optimistic about 285?"

The optimism is that any prediction will withstand contact with reality.  Elections are inscrutable beasts.  They defy augury.  They confound expertise.  Anyone pretending to know how it will end is guessing and hoping.  Consider the last three:

2010 - Tory victory expected. Result - hung parliament.
2015 - Hung parliament expected (or even a Labour victory). Result - Tory majority.
2017 - Tory landslide expected. Result - hung parliament.

So, yeah, any prediction is absurdly optimistic.

Corbyn the Mighty vs BoJo the Clown

Interesting contrasting pictures in the Guardian:

Corbyn gets the classic positive shot - low angle and a clear background, making him look authoritative (of course, being Corbyn, he doesn't do authoritative very well).

Where as Johnson gets pictured with children at some sort of mad-hatters' tea party:

Begging the question, who is the adult in THAT room?  ANd who is the odd large blonde child in the comedy suit?

It shows impressively poor foresight by the Conservatives. They KNEW there was an election coming and they let their candidate who looks like a clown at the best of times - sit down with a bunch of school kids.

What is more interesting, though, is that the Guardian decided to use these pictures, suggesting a more positive attitude towards Corbyn than I might have anticipated.

Monday 28 October 2019

"I have a plan, Sir"

The Lib Dems are considering giving their support to an attempt to by-pass the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to give Boris Johnson an election:
Boris Johnson has been offered a route to securing the pre-Christmas election that he has been seeking, through a plan that would only require the support of a simple majority of MPs.

With most Labour MPs still against the idea of a snap election, the prime minister looks set to lose his bid to secure a December poll on Monday in a vote that requires the backing of two-thirds of MPs. Other parties are also opposing an election until the EU has granted a three-month Brexit delay, although the DUP hinted on Saturday it could back the move.

However, in a sign that the coalition opposed to an election is under strain, the Liberal Democrats have drawn up a plan allowing Johnson to secure a December poll with a simple majority of MPs, with the support of Jo Swinson’s party and the SNP.
Typical short-sighted tactics by the Lib Dems, undermining the one good thing to come out of the Coalition. Undermining parliament's control over its own destiny.

This ploy could be used by government to bypass the FTPA and have an election at their convenience. If the Lib Dems do it now, they have legitimised it and any future PM will be able to use the same mechanism. The moral injunction against anyone doing it evaporates as soon as it is done. So they shouldn't do it, in case a some point in the future they want to be able to tell other people not to do it.

I want an election but I want it done properly and in accordance with the law, not through some wily subterfuge that will later on become a tool for cynical PMs.

Labour, meanwhile are calling on Johnson ruling out No Deal. I'm interested in seeing what Labour mean when they are calling for No Deal to be ruled out. That's consistent with what they have always wanted so it makes sense. I'm not sure how they expect it to work - unless it is based on a promise from Johnson, which isn't worth much - but I accept they *MAY* be smarter than me and know what they are about.

I wouldn't give them too long to sort it out though.

Surely the Lib Dems would be interested in preventing No Deal?

There is an alternative.  It proceeds on the assumption we get a lengthy extension, which the EU seems to be about to announce. The main aims (as I see it) at this stage are: remove No Deal from the table as a 'default' option; secure a second referendum; secure a second election; humiliate Johnson to ensure maximum chance of doing well in that election.

The proposed route where the FTPA is by-passed is not satisfactory. It sets an unpleasant precedent that could be abused later on. Also, it gives Jonson control. He's not going to rule out No Deal, it won't get a second referendum, he's going to set the terms of an election and he's going to come out of it enhanced, not humiliated. So a big old fail there.

If I was Seamus Milne, this is what I might be planning:
  1. Demand the PM puts forward a bill (or something) pledging that No Deal is not an option. Argue it has to come from Johnson so he is honour bound to stick with it if he wins the up-coming election. Johnson, of course, refuses.

  2. Spring a VONC in the government when Johnson refuses to rule out No Deal. If Johnson survives, so be it. At least they tried. If the motion succeeds, Johnson's government falls. He is humiliated and loses control of the schedule.

  3. Try to set up a GNU, led by Corbyn. Dare the Lib Dems and pro-remain indies to vote against it. If they do, then Labour can campaign arguing their true colours were exposed and their commitment to the EU was found wanting; if setting up the GNU succeeds, then they have a short window to pass legislation ruling out No Deal, setting up a second referendum and having the election at the time of their choosing. They might even have time to grab an 'off the shelf' Norway style deal from the EU.

  4. If a Corbyn GNU can not work, throw the party's weight behind another candidate. The important thing is to be seen to be genuinely trying. If that doesn't work, an election follows.

  5. In the election, campaign like fiends, pointing out that Corbyn was PM for a month and the sky did not fall, or that he gallantly set aside his own ambitions to enable a GNU, or that he tried his utmost but the Tories, Lib Dems and supposedly pro-Remain indies frustrated his efforts.
Steps 3 and 4 are the crucial ones - if the push came to shove, would the Lib Dems and pro-Remain Indies actually support a Corbyn led GNU? Would Corbyn be able to rally his own party to support another figure?

You have to wonder about a party where the leader muttered something about supporting Johnson's deal (with the proviso of a second referendum) and which now is contemplating supporting his efforts to undermine a law the Lib Dems insisted on being passed in the coalition years.

Saturday 26 October 2019

A wee rugby interlude

I struggle to maintain interest in rugby these days, and this will probably get me expelled from New Zeal, but I am enjoying this rugby semi and find myself instinctively supporting Englerland.


  1. They're the underdogs. That makes them almost Scottish.
  2. They're British, and I guess that counts for something.
  3. They're playing proper, Northern hemisphere driving, forwards based rugby, with none of this silly fancy-boy back stuff.
  4. They don't have twenty people called Barrett in the team.
  5. The English team all look like squat trolls, which is endearing. Proper rugby stock.
  6. The All Blacks all have silly moustaches and even some mullets.
  7. The English team doesn't have Will Carling, Rob Andrew or the Underwoods in it. Which makes it possible to like them.

Friday 25 October 2019

Lib Dem's anti-Corbyn poster

The Lib dems have unleashed this:

Playing on the same themes that the Conservatives have been using against Corbyn - that he's naive, possibly a bit ideologically suspect ("Comrade?") and hinting at supposed disloyalty.

I don't think it is 'offensive' as some are claiming; but I do think it is shit and every time I think mebbe we've been a bit too hard on the Lib Dems they pull some stunt like this - and then I think, "Too Hell wi' them."

I see the Lib Dems are back to their Revoke fantasy politics (they only need about 310 more seats to do it!); but in the real world, do they really expect sane politicians to leave No Deal roving about as an option in this mess? Any referendum has to be between Remain and a Brexit deal of some sort. Preferably Soft Brexit, but anything will do right now.

It's also effin' hypocritical of the party that literally put the Conservatives into Downing Street (2010-2015 coalition) and facilitated austerity and class war obscenities like the 'Bedroom tax' to be making a poster themed on Labour working with the Tories.

I'm not sure the Lib Dems - whose current leader was actually a part of the coalition government - really want to get into a dirty fight with Labour about who enables Conservative misrule.

Just sayin'.

Monday 21 October 2019

What the actual Hell?

Keir Starmer has hinted that Labour might vote in favour of the Johnson government's shoddy deal, with the proviso that a second referendum is attached:
Speaking to BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, he said: “We will see what that looks like but it makes sense to say that by whatever means we get that referendum. 
The spirit of this is clear. We offered this to Theresa May. We said: we don’t think your deal is very good but if it’s up against the safeguard of being able to remain then we will allow it to proceed in that way.” 
He added: “The position we have adopted is whatever the outcome, whether it’s Boris Johnson’s bad deal or a better one which could be secured, it has got to go to a referendum up against remain.”
Backing a referendum amendment is common sense.  Backing the whole bill is stupid.

It was stupid when Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was talking about it and it is stupid now when Starmer is talking about it. Even if it is just a ploy, a bait-and-switch, it will encourage rebels - "You were considering backing it, so you can't blame us for just taking it a step further."

And after all the rhetoric about the deal in the last few days either Labour look like liars if they are now willing to back a deal they'd described as so awful, or they look untrustworthy and cynical for saying it was so bad and then voting for it.

Of course, a referendum might result in Remain winning, and the whole sorry episode being brought to a close starting over again. But that's not a risk I am comfortable taking. I'd rather have Remain run off against Soft Brexit because - guess what - everyone was confident the British public would more likely than not reject Brexit back in 2016. They didn't.

Also, Labour voting for the deal makes it harder for them to then campaign against it. "You're tellig us to stay in the EU, Jeremy? But you voted for the deal."

Vote for the amendment and vote against the deal.

The only acceptable explanation to me is they are waiting for the EU to grant an extension, before coming out against the bill.

Saturday 19 October 2019

Remainers starting to sound like fascists

As Brexit comes to a grisly conclusion (perhaps) people on all sides are saying intemperate and uwise things.  Some, like the Daly Mail, have been doing it for years.

People as normally level headed as Jon Lansman are calling for automatic deselection of MPs who vote against a (likely) Labour three line whip for Saturday's vote on Johnson's crappy deal.

Others have called for automatic withdrawal of the whip for rebel MPs.

I can understand that people feel very passionately about this.  It's easy to preach moderation from the comparative safety of New Zealand.  But this extremism is worrying.

Crying out for automatic expulsion is Draconian. It's the sort of behaviour people have condemned 'Corbynisas' for in the past - all that talk of deselection, trigger ballots and crushing of internal dissent. Now - because this is an issue that tickles their fancy - these people are adopting the same language and tactics allegedly used by 'Corbynistas'.

Defying a three line whip has never lead to automatic expulsion, as far as I'm aware. It should lead to some sort of sanction, but that is at the behest of the Chief Whip - a set up that is deliberate, intended to prevent party leaders using direct threats against MPs to intimidate them.

Back in 2003, 121 Labour MPs (including a certain Jeremy Corbyn) defied a three line whip over Iraq and were not expelled. I think we'd agree Iraq was at least as serious as Brexit. Can no-one see how a reaction like automatic expulsion for defying a 3 liner sets a very dangerous precedent for the future?

Also, by adopting tactics similar to what self-described 'moderates' claim 'Corbynistas' are using in CLPs they're legitimising the 'Corbynista' tactics as well. The ends justify the means. Whatever these alleged 'Corbynistas' believe in, they doubtless believe in it just as strongly as the alleged 'moderates' believe in Remain.

Or, as another chap once wrote:
Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
The moderates are starting to sound like what they claim to hate, advocating crushing opposition to their vision by any means. It is disappointing how everyone seems willing to embrace dangerous precedents and endorse behaviour they would condemn in other circumstances; and how quickly they start to sound like a fascist if they are provoked just a bit.

We all like to think of ourselves as wise, rational, level headed, moderate lovely people but turn into swivel-eyed monsters demanding purges and punishments when we're scratched. Mike Tyson said, everyone's gotta plan until they get punched on the nose." You could say the same about calm rational moderation. We've all got it, until we realise it isn't going to get us what we want.

It is dangerous to start using the language and tactics of your enemy - it has a way of sticking, and after your enemy is defeated, you discover they've actually won, because you've become like them.

Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.


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