Monkeying with the numbers
Some 70 minutes into the England-Tonga game came a jarring remark in the commentary.
There had been a period in which England had been passing the ball hand-to-hand quite successfully, and totally out of character with some of their recent performances. Farrell over, right between the posts. Wilkinson slots it home. Nice stuff. Game sewn up.
Then the moment. Tonga had proved to be the best of the Pacific islanders. OK, fair enough. Despite having a total population of barely 100,000, “the size of Chesterfield”.
For a start, Chesterfield is only about 70,000: to get to the 100,000 mark one has to add in the outlying areas, especially Staveley. Malcolm has genealogy that stretches back to Chesterfield, of which he is quite proud. He has a fond memory of going to Chesterfield to watch the 1961 Australians play Derbyshire. It snowed. No play. The main event of the day was drinking bitter with his cousin, Ralph, and watching Frank Misson running laps round the boundary.
Perhaps a better comparison might be Hartlepool, with a population below 90,000.
The reason Malcolm suggests this is because there was a time, some forty years ago, when he seemed to spend an inordinate number of Saturdays playing one or other of the Hartlepool rugby clubs: Hartlepool Rovers. West Hartlepool, Hartlepool Athletic, Hartlepool Old Boys … He came to the conclusion that every Hartlepudlian male between 15 and 50 must be turning out for one team or the other.
And they were evil buggers too. If they didn’t knacker you in the scrum, they’d drink you under the table afterwards. And every member of the pack seemed to be built on the proportions of a barn-door.
Just like the Tongans, indeed.
Is The Economist declaring for Hillary?
There’s a certain fascination in decoding the Lexington column in this week‘s (any week’s ) Economist.
The column runs through an overview of the state of play:
- Clinton has led the Democratic hopefuls from the beginning, and is now firming up a decisive lead.
- The massed ranks of nay-sayers are composing their arguments that her campaign will stumble and fall, and particularly so in the Iowa caucuses (the main objection being that, last outing, Kerry was running third in the State until the final week).
- The Republicans, Giuliani especially, have her in their sights.
Lexington demolishes the arguments against her taking the Democratic nomination:
- Her opponents are falling further behind.
- She has commanding leads in polling across the country, despite what difficulties Iowa throws up.
- Her political machinery is polished, potent, efficient and effective, and harnesses the Party’s heavyweights.
So that brings it down to:
Do Democrats really want a candidate who has so much baggage, wayward husband and all, from the 1990s? And do they really want to run the risk of handing the Democratic crown to such a polarising figure?
The simple answer to both questions is “yes”. Most Democrats associate the Clinton years with peace and prosperity rather than stained dresses and disappearing furniture. Bill Clinton left office with a job-approval rating of 66%. Three-quarters of Democrats, and 53% of voters in general, would like him to play an active role in a future Clinton administration. Nearly nine in ten Democratic voters (88%) express a positive view of Hillary’s candidacy; 38% express a very positive view.
Which leaves the Giuliani factor:
Mr Giuliani seems less impressive in person than he does in the polls. His speeches are poorly prepared and convoluted, and he is given to silly gimmicks, such as stopping in mid-speech to the NRA to take calls from his wife on his cell-phone.
And so to the bottom line, the clincher:
Inevitable is too strong a word. But Mrs Clinton looks much more like a president-in-the-making than any of her opponents, Republican or Democratic.
Malcolm remembers that, in 2004, The Economist endorsed Kerry over Bush:
It is far from an easy call, especially against the backdrop of a turbulent, dangerous world. But, on balance, our instinct is towards change rather than continuity: Mr Kerry, not Mr Bush.
Tuesday, 4th November, 2008, is still well over most of our horizons. Even so, Malcolm is prepared to risk a few hostages-to-fortune that, absenting cataclysms in the meanwhile, he can predict The Economist’s front page for its issue of 31st October next year.