2017 week 29

July 23rd, 2017

This week…

  • Mid-September 1982. Mari Wilson's on TOTP, the international telephone exchange in Moscow failed, a deep dive into Radio 3 schedules then and now, and try not to feel like The Late Grace Kelly.
  • The Vamps have the number one single, a deep dive into Linkin Park's flash sale. And Despacito is still the singles number one. After all is said and done, sales #1 and streaming #1 still is one.
  • Constitutional crisis looms in Warsaw.
  • Hot early, wet later, and unsettled ahead.

Why we're leaving the Yougov panel

July 20th, 2017

To our surprise, this blog has been on the panel for pollsters Yougov since 2004. After cashing in our points, we've decided to leave the panel.

Yougov is an internet pollster, it sends us surveys every so often, asking us what we think about this and that. As an inducement to complete the survey, we're offered a token reward. The pay works out at about £3 per hour, well below minimum wage. We have a feeling that we've been asked to do more work for less pay, and that our insights are worth more than minimum wage to the clients.

(More: Opinion polls require knee-jerk responses from a limited diet, and mislead everyone.)

By making decisions in a bad way, we get bad decisions.

Fundamentally, we find ourselves arguing against opinion polls. They appear to be democratic but are not. We are limited to a pre-selected diet, while in a true democracy we would be able to put forward any response we wanted. The poll speciously limits our actions, the real world allows us to have two clashing ideas at the same time.

Public opinion is much greater than anything Yougov can measure. Public opinion is much greater than any binary choice.

2017 week 28

July 16th, 2017

This week…

  • Simon Cowell, whooping cough, and NCAA-ball season – it's September 1982
  • Despacito and Divide still top of the charts.
  • Something in the woodpile, bringing out the latent racists.
  • First rain in a month, but more heat next week.

2017 week 27

July 9th, 2017

This week…

  • A double feature of Jessie Cave.
  • Top of the Pops has a carnival to mark BBC 60.
  • Default number ones from Luis Fonsi and Ed Sheeran.
  • Results from the quidditch European Championship.
  • A strange and warm week.

Workfare13: a reminder from history

July 5th, 2017

KP asked after a 2013 vote to retroactively legalise penalties against people who refuse workfare schemes. Labour suggested that its MPs did not take part in this vote. Was this a major cause of Corbynism?

We consider the facts, and mull other people's conversations.

2017 week 26

July 2nd, 2017

This week…

  • On TV: Colonel K talks about his favourite gay buildings, and JTV tries to demonstrate there's anti-semitism in the Labour party.
  • Top of the Pops from August 1982 features Valerie Landsburg, and Maggie Philbin sends a letter using the cosmic address – all 16 lines of it.
  • Pop – The OCCCC has some ideas to rig their charts in a novel way. Grenfell and Radiohead have the number ones.
  • News – Same-sex marriage is happening in German-speaking areas, we've a genuine and totally not-made-up quote.
  • Weather – shit in midweek, nice for the weekend, possibly hot next week.

Press Ganged

June 26th, 2017

Another dispatch from the election backwaters.

Mail readers voted Conservative. Mirror readers voted Labour, as did Guardian. Sun readers didn't vote, as usual – but it's the first time this century the majority of readers didn't vote. FT split equally between the parties. This last is very unusual: even in Blair's landslides the FT gave a Tory lead in the high teens.

Everyone has noticed that the papers have become more shrill and hectoring. This is Paul Dacre's doing, ever since he took over the Mail in the late 90s, he's used the front page to peddle a party line.

A third of those polled in 2017 said they had no newspaper. This blog would be amongst them – our papers of choice, the Independent and Irish Times, have both left the newsstand in the past year.

Modernisation times

June 19th, 2017

Ever since William Hague became leader in 1997, the Conservatives have felt the need to "modernise" themselves. Vague started off down this path, declaring "Compassion is not a bolt-on extra to Conservatism, it's at its very core." But to win the 1999 Euro-elections, Vague allowed the skinhead tendency to rise again. Two years later, he was buried beneath a landslide.

(More: The leaders from Vague to Foxface, and a quick look at the other main parties.)

2017 week 24

June 18th, 2017

This week

  • We're leaving The Handmaid's Tale, and watched Jo Cox Murder of an MP.
  • Toto Coelo audition for Wonder Woman, and Haysi Fantayzee mime the cowboy position at 8pm. It's Top of the Pops from 1982.
  • Daddy Yankee / Luis Fonsi have the number one single, London Grammar the top album.
  • At least 58 dead in a tower block fire in London.
  • Hot for the time of year, and it's not cooling before midweek.

Turnout and constitution

June 15th, 2017

Another despatch from the calm banks.

The demographics from last week's vote are interesting. Young people voted, in a way they haven't done recently. Turnout amongst the elderly was down.

What happens next time, when the Conservative platform doesn't inflict a dementia tax? What happens when elderly voters come out in their usual numbers? Will the grumpy grandpas turn out for the Tories again?

The constitution is what the government can get away with. Public pressure matters.

The people were asked to give Foxface a mandate for her negotiation. She did not receive that mandate. We the people can say that she does not represent us, and that we will not be bound by any purported "agreement".

Fighting talk

June 14th, 2017

This was a comment to Jennie's piece about the Lib Dems needing every ounce of backbone. On some things, a compromise may be in order. On this, there can be no compromise.

The approximate speech I'd like to hear from Tim or whoever succeeds him:

"We, the people, spoke in 2016. We gave our government permission to investigate leaving the European Union.

Then the government said they want a bigger mandate. And we the people said no.

We, the people, said no.

Did them in government listen? Did they heck!

You asked us for a mandate. We said no.

No means no.

Withdraw your "article fifty" letter and think again.

You do not negotiate on our behalf.

You do not speak for us.

There will be no exit. Not on my watch."

And here's a longer version.

Cake: It's a MayDUP dogma

June 12th, 2017

Well, we did say Foxface was a duplicitous, untrustworthy, lying shit.

Many things come out of last week's results. The bare headline: the Conservatives are short of an overall majority, Labour gained in both seats and votes, peak SNP was in 2015, and the LibDem fightback was more tactical than widespread.

Right now, the ongoing disaster of Foxface and the DUP. The grouping comes across as desperate. It's what we expect from someone whose noxious web of lies has been found out, and who is now flailing about to take other people down with her.

Aligning with the DUP goes treble or quits on the idea that "we're not Cameron's liberal tories". It makes the Conservative brand toxic for the forseeable future.

At this point, we consider the few illiberal DUPers, and the many liberal Conservatives.

You don't even know us

Foxface refuses to understand the district she claims to lead. This is a more diverse, more educated, more urban district than it once was. Foxface has chosen to work with the insular, rural, and stupid minority.

That group might have liked a gloomy, nationalist, anti-metropolitan campaign. That group might have been persuaded to despise foreigners and all the foreign. But they weren't. A fault in the saleswoman? Or a fault in the message?

We think the latter. What might appeal to the old farts is anathema to many swing voters. Small-l liberals did not like it. Neither did anyone who doesn't remember The Golden Shot on television. Foxface's position was anathema to her own sponsors – the Young Conservatives, the non-white Tories.

The diverse liberals are coming into majority. Demographics may be on our side, Foxface is not. She could have made an ally of her own district. She chose to make an enemy of her own district.

2017 week 23

June 11th, 2017

This week:

  • Clique finished, perhaps not the best viewing for a nervy Thursday night.
  • 1982: airlines will require name tags on luggage from the start of 1983. How did people cope without name tags? Belle Stars the best in a poor TOTP.
  • One Love Manchester propels Ariana Grande to the number one single; The Beatles still have the best-selling album.
  • Unrest in the middle east.
  • A wet week, more settled weather ahead.

Where Jeremy Vine Went Wrong

June 8th, 2017

At 10pm on 7 May 2015, the BBC / ITN / NOP / MORI exit poll projected a near-win for the Conservatives. The prior two exit polls had got the leading party's seat count spot on. Last time, they were out by 15 seats, within the published margin of error.

In 2005, the BBC graphics contained seat-by-seat projections of gains and losses, though Peter Snow never referred to them in his commentary. In 2010, no such projections. In 2015, the seat-by-seat calls were back, and Jeremy Vine spent about five minutes going through them just after midnight. We can compare Vine Minor's calls against what really happened, and work out what the poll got wrong.

All the errors. All of them.

The lesson for tonight: we're watching, Jeremy, and we will check your work.

Unknowns, incompetents, and predictions

June 7th, 2017

The latest dispatch from the election sidelines.

Diane Abbott (Lab, Hackney North and Stoke Newington) has stepped down from the opposition front bench, where she was the Interior Ministry critic. She claims unspecified health reasons. Abbott had a bad campaign, and often appeared confused about policy detail. Her case was hurt from some rancid commentary – racism and male supremacists combined in misogynior.

Lyn Brown (Lab, West Ham) is the new critic for the Interior Ministry. A complete unknown is seen as better than a known incompetent.

Which brings us to the opinion polls, where there's been a striking turnaround. At the start of the campaign, Foxface had net approval ratings of +10, Corbyn net disapproval ratings of -50. Now, the two are roughly tied, and some polls show Corbyn as the less unpopular choice.

According to polls, Mudkip's 2015 cohort is breaking Conservative by 2-1. The evidence leads us to think they're weakly attached, and could yet switch. Are they "yes-yes-no" for Corbyn? Are they willing to take a chance on a complete unknown, rather than stick with a known incompetent?

Guessing game

We expect seats to move on both sides of the swingometer. The question is how far the Conservative gains will offset losses to Labour and the Lib Dems.

At best, we can see 50 gains for the Tories; if they keep everything else, that's landslide territory. But we don't think they'll keep everything else: factor in a net half-dozen losses to the Lib Dems, most of the seats in Wales, chunks of London and the south, and already that majority is down to Blair 2005 level.

Blair's 66 is where we reckon Foxface's gamble has worked: it's just enough to counterbalance the headbanging xenophobe extremists in the parliamentary party. Thatcher's second landslide of 102 would be a clear win. Thatcher's opening majority of 44 would be awkward, it stores up trouble for the future and likely wasn't worth the effort.

And, if the Conservative surge isn't quite as strong as we expect, or the opposition is just a little bit better, the losses may outweigh the gains, and Foxface may be out by the weekend. The road to Corbyn commanding the confidence is rocky, but easier than any mainland parties propping up a minority Tory government.

Do we have a prediction? Conservatives certainly the largest party, and likely an overall majority. How big? Somewhere between 44 and 66: not large enough to make Foxface look a clear winner, not small enough to say she's failed.

It would be an unsatisfactory end to an unsatisfactory campaign.

Cutting for safety

June 5th, 2017

The latest election diary piece.

Rory Bremner: Did Theresa M just say 'Jeremy Corbyn fails basic criteria to be PM, which is to keep the country safe from attack'? After the last month?

The narrative has run away from Foxface. Andy Stewart was a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police, the force responsible for London.

Theresa May undermined police effectiveness, cut numbers, and tolerated a terrible management culture while Home Sec.

Her leadership saw plummeting morale, the weakening of community-led policing to the point of uselessness, and loss of good people. This affects the police response to terrorism, of course, but it also stretches policing every single day around every single function.

I told a senior Home Office staffer this in 2014. I told a senior Tory politician this when I left too. At the time, it suited them politically to do nothing, to address our concerns with platitudes or not at all.

So when Theresa May lectures me on what needs to be done, I think of that. How her 'leadership' was integral to my decision to leave the Met Police.

When Theresa May plays politics with terrorism, that was her politics then. And that's how it affected you and affects you still.

The War Against Prime Numbers

Foxface's plan is to stop the encrypted bits of the internet. To do this, she proposes a "backdoor" into the various cyphers and codes used to secure many websites. See the green padlock on many web sites? That's secure internet.

Secure internet works by taking your picture of a kitten, multiplying it by a huge prime number, and sending it out. Your web browser knows the huge prime number, divides the picture through by this prime number, and your kitten is restored.

If one of Foxface's minions were to intercept the entire picture, all they'd get is a random bit of mush. They don't know if it's a picture of a kitten, or a horse, or something else entirely. And, because the prime numbers are huge and bloody difficult to find, it would take a very long time to stumble upon the right number.

Foxface wants to know what the prime numbers are, so that her minions can intercept and decode the kitten pictures much more easily. But if Foxface has a list of all the prime numbers, any criminal will know where to get it. Your "secure" pictures of kittens will not be secure for very long.

So what, you might say, the internet is full of kitten pictures. The same technique keeps your bank details safe. It keeps your email secure. These prime numbers protect your identity.

If there are no secure spaces, online commerce is dead. Killed by prime ministerial fiat. Amazon is gone, Ebay is gone, Netflix is gone. All because Foxface doesn't understand modern technology.

Weeknotes for 2017 week 22

June 4th, 2017

This week…

  • Elizabeth on Clique for the wonning.
  • A boring Top of the Pops in an interesting week: in retrospect, was the Falklands memorial service the point where Christianity began to be sidelined?
  • Captain Ska is this week's Tossy Chart Campaign.
  • Leo Varadkar elected leader of Fianna Fail.
  • Muggy for much of the week; fresher weather ahead.

On Foxface's character, or lack thereof

June 2nd, 2017

One last time through the More United Candidates, and this on the Conservative leader.

The Conservative campaign has been a lurch from one disaster to another. The dementia tax was big. Fox hunting alienates the socially liberal voters and breaks Dave's coalition. Allowing the sale of ivory is a small thing, but sends the "nasty party" signal. There is a coherent argument that Foxface helped prepare the ground for last week's bombing, by cutting funds for the police.

This time around, neither prospective government is safe or sensible. There are risks to the courses they plot. There are mines to avoid, traps to defeat. When policy fails, the public might choose character.

In a test of character, Foxface comes up short. Corbyn has history, he has heritage, he's been doing stuff. We might not like what he's been doing, but he's been doing it, and he fights for what he believes in.

Foxface has risen without trace, she's never had to fight for anything – safe seat, handed a plum cabinet position after Chris Grayling shat his pants in public, watched as all the other tributes killed their chances. Foxface hides from the public – didn't do the leader's mass debates, didn't do call-ins, didn't meet the public.

Into the vacuum, the opposition is able to project values. Paul Mason fills the void with "xenophobia, petulance, imperial bravado, privilege". These feel like a fair description of Foxface's policy.

A fair description of her person? We don't know enough to say it's not. And, for a potential prime minister, that is fatal.

Northfield's Hustings

May 29th, 2017

This constituency's hustings took place on Friday night. All four candidates took part.

Other people have given a blow-by-blow report of the night's events. B31 Voices is a "community" website, gently in favour of the establishment. Rozak The Goon is part of Richard Burden's claque.

There were identifiable claques on the night. Labour filled the front seats on one side of the aisle, the Conservatives on the other side. Both were nakedly partisan, cheering and applauding for their own candidate, and remaining silent for the others. A small Green claque turned up, backing their candidate and Burden. We didn't see or hear a Lib Dem claque. This blog was sat in a neutral row, behind the Conservatives and just in front of the Greens.

(More: A full discussion of their strength and weaknesses)

We don't get any vision from Richard Burden; we do see a vision from Meg Powell-Chandler. We don't believe Richard Burden has been a competent MP, and this prevents us from voting for him. We don't believe that Foxface will be a better negotiator than Jeremy Corbyn, and we don't believe Foxface need be negotiating at all, so we cannot vote in good faith for Meg Powell-Chandler.

At times, we're glad that the Alternative Vote didn't pass. Choosing between the old devil and the deep blue parachute would be painful. We can simply vote our conscience and be done with it.

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2017 week 21

May 28th, 2017

In this week's Weeknotes:

  • The first third of Clique (BBC1): recommended, if you're good with the content.
  • New single for Liam Payne, new albums for Linkin Park, Engelbert Humperdinck, Erasure, and Echobelly.
  • An act of terrorising girlhood
  • Continental-tropical air brought heat, and will bring a wet bank holiday Monday.