Category Archives: democracy

A fissiparous state

Fakenham Grammar School, Norfolk, mid-1950s: looking down a microscope to witness an amoeba dividing. Odd how these memories come back to haunt, and intrigue.

It’s one of those Victorian words, when intelligent folk were getting into the new science of “biology” — itself a definition which was only then coming into use.

“Fissiparous” (reproducing by splitting) is a very useful and adaptable term. John Morley was rendering it as a metaphor by 1886:

… a false opinion, like an erroneous motive, can hardly have even a provisional usefulness. For how can you attack an erroneous way of thinking except in detail, that is to say through the sides of this or that single wrong opinion? Each of these wrong opinions is an illustration and type, as it is a standing support and abettor, of some kind of wrong reasoning, though they are not all on the same scale nor all of them equally instructive. It is precisely by this method of gradual displacement of error step by step, that the few stages of progress which the race has yet traversed, have been actually achieved. Even if the place of the erroneous idea is not immediately taken by the corresponding true one, or by the idea which is at least one or two degrees nearer to the true one, still the removal of error in this purely negative way amounts to a positive gain. Why? For the excellent reason that it is the removal of a bad element which otherwise tends to propagate itself, or even if it fails to do that, tends at the best to make the surrounding mass of error more inveterate. All error is what physiologists term fissiparous, and in exterminating one false opinion you may be hindering the growth of an uncounted brood of false opinions.

Morley was a classical liberal, and Liberal, and that final sentence (even if you wisely skipped the build-up) is an eternal political truth worth cherishing.

A phrase from The Times, 21 November 1891, appears as one of the OED‘s citations for “fissiparous”:

 Scotch Home Rule and, perhaps, half-a-dozen other fissiparous developments of ‘national life’. 

As then, now still with us.

Out of the peaty fog

Sticking to the problem of “devolution” (which I’ll be redefining in a moment), I was much taken by the latest entry on the sage Andrew Tickell’s blog. One might not expect excitement from a constitutional lawyer, but that prejudice fails when your piece is entitled Jockophobia and kicks off with:

The Scottish people may have a right to self determination, but as a matter of international law, we have no right to secede from the United Kingdom.

Cat: meet pigeons.

Much of the Lallands Peat Worrier‘s short essay is then directed at the way in which Scottish devolution has been “weaponised” by our local English Tories:

Although the Nats are the explicit target of these Tory diatribes, their real objective is to pre-emptively de-legitimise the idea of a minority Labour government taking office with Nationalist votes, even if such a government would command stronger support in the Commons than a Tory minority.  The real victims in all of these antics are not the SNP—but the pigeon-hearted Labour Party, who predictably enough, seem content to go along with their own annihilation at the hands of Fleet Street and Conservative Central Office.

pack-blueTickell, as a straight-speaking ScotNat is fully entitled to that dig at Labour. My own take is that, could we overcome a long legacy of mutual antipathy, we’d be having to force Rizla papers between the “rival” social policies of Nicola Sturgeon and proper-thinking democratic socialists both sides of the Border. When we have overcome the present short-term difficulties (i.e about Sunday 10th May, 2015), such a meeting of minds is inevitable. In exterminating one false opinion (on a fallacious division of the left-of-centre over a non-issue and the canker of “nationalism”) we might avoid an unnecessary uncounted brood of false opinions. 

“Devolution”

Only a historian, in some remote future, will determine whether more good or ill fell out of #Indyref. And, we can be sure, that opinionated historian will be promptly shot down by other historians and their contrary notions.

As things currently stand, what hasn’t emerged so far is any serious consideration of “devolution”. What we have are loud, insistent and narrow nationalisms. These “nationalisms” are voiced by self-serving politicians, and summed into crude monetary terms. Just today, Plaid Cymru launch a manifesto:

Plaid Cymru wants the devolved Welsh government funded to the same level per head of population as the Scottish government – which it says amounts to £1.2bn extra a year.

Earlier this week, to the great delight of the Daily Mail, under the headlineSalmond holds Ed to ransom“:

One of the SNP’s many demands is to delay plans to tackle Britain’s deficit by spending an extra £180 billion over five years on the country’s credit card. Treasury chiefs have warned that it would drive up debt.

Filthy lucre to be dispensed at the behest and whim of national politicians to their grateful, obedient and bought clients.

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Filed under blogging, Daily Mail, democracy, Devolution, History, Labour Party, leftist politics., Salmond, Scotland, SNP, Tories.

The pernicious influence of Goveian militarist clap-trap

As far back as March 2010, and that’s before he was enstooled at the DfE, The Times was mocking Michael Gove as a “meerkat“.  It’s not just the facial expressions: the constant self-grooming and sublime self-confidence are ever reminding of the fabulous Alexandr Orlov:

aleks_trans

Things, of course, have gone from bad to worse. However, Anne Treneman has his service number:

New Year, New Gove. It seems that over the Christmas break Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has been busy turning himself into a military man or, in his case, meerkat.

Field Marshal Gove, of course, is currently re-fighting World War I:

He condemned the widely held view that the prosecution of the war was “a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite” as the misrepresentation and myth-making of “dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely WarThe Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder” and “left-wing academics” such as Sir Richard Evans, regius professor of history at Cambridge. In fact, he denounced Sir Richard’s views as “more reflective of the attitude of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate”. A dismissive comparison indeed coming from a man who thinksBlackadder is a drama.

Evans himself, Tony Robinson and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt all returned fire and even Margaret Macmillan, a historian praised by Gove, responded coolly saying: “You take your fans where you get them, I guess… but he is mistaking myths for rival interpretations of history.” Meanwhile, a fellow Tory member of the government said that “Michael should get back in his box”.

“Michael should get back in his box”

Ouch! And double ouch! What interpretation could possibly be lurking there? Here’s an unboxed clue:

2_0_ctm_meetthemeerkats-02_v21

Nosology

Nothing to do with the snout, but the “study of diseases”. In this case a verbal dysentery, “an inflammatory disorder of the mouth”.

When Gove shouted “Rule Britannia,”
When he’d sung “God save the Queen,”
When he’d finished killing Evans with his mouth,

Mark Wallace at the ConHome cheer-leader squad donned the brass-hat and the red tabs, and contracted Gove’s ailment.  His piece is thin as gossamer, but the rhetoric is instructive: “invade new territory”, “stronghold is collapsing”. ” new campaign”, “dodgy generalship”, “core territory”, “solid supply lines”, “drive his divisions”, “own fortress”, “sallying forth”, “super weapons”, etc., etc.

Don’t you just feel the military metaphors are a trifle overdone? It’s party — even partisan — politicking, for heaven’s sake! Not the drums of total war, June 1941 and Fall Barbarossa.

Surely we should always be suspicious of such strained, purplest prose: it generally disguises threadbare argument. It may encourage the troops (which, apart from providing a jam-pot for the Kippers to buzz around in, is what ConHome is about), but we deserve something better, more solid than either Wallace or Gove, in their separate ways, provide.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition

That was the thought that came to mind, reading Wallace.

It seemed a trifle Kiplingesque. But, no, it is as recent as 1942, and comes from Frank Loesser:

Down went the gunner, a bullet was his fate,
Down went the gunner, and then the gunner’s mate.
Up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look,
And manned the gun himself as he laid aside the Book,

Shouting …

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
And we’ll all stay free!

Praise the Lord and swing into position!
Can’t afford to be a politician!
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea.

So, two lessons here:

1. The war-talk is precisely what turns folk off political discourse. It’s unreal. It’s extreme. It’s contrived. It’s hysterical.

If political commentators or practitioners have something of point to say, that should be enough. Henry V before Harfleur, they are not. Today’s PMQs were instructive: Cameron seems to have relapsed into his shrill hectoring mode (his only alternative register to his pseudo-bedside palliatives). Miliband is experimenting with a softer, more measured, more deliberate tone. Nick Robinson, on BBC2 Daily Politics, murmured that the former might cheer the troops in the Tea Room and appeal to the lobby sketch-writers, but the latter could well have wider listener appeal. We shall see.

2. The other lesson is we are still sixteen months out from a General Election.

Under normal conditions — not this artificial fixed-parliament five-year-stretch abomination — we really would be waiting for the electoral starting gun.

Even at the outset, there was general agreement (i.e. everywhere except Nick Clegg’s inner circle) that five years was too long. Even the Commons own political and constitutional reform committee saw that:

Among its main concerns was the proposed length of the Parliament, which experts suggested should be shorter.

The government had justified the length by saying it went “with the grain of some of the founding texts of our unwritten constitution” – the maximum length of a Parliament was curtailed from seven years to five in 1911.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also said it followed the previous government’s precedent and would “give any government of whatever complexion enough time to govern and deliver a programme of change and reform”.

But the committee points out that the expectation of the 1911 changes was that five years would be the maximum – and, in practice, terms were expected to be four years.

Since 1979 four general elections were called after four-year parliaments, while three, in 1992, 1997 and 2010, were called after five years.

Constitution expert Professor Robert Hazell told the committee: “Those parliaments which lasted for five years did so because the government had become unpopular and did not want to hold an earlier election.

Instead there is still 1/3rd of a normal term to go. Parliament ought to have much unfinished business: it doesn’t. It has run out of puff. Lassitude is setting in. Every MP has eyes on May 2015, marking time, sounding off, filling in the voids, fretting on the majority. Among Tories, Item One is the inroads UKIP might make, particularly coming off a high in the Euro-poll.

In that sixteen months there is still ample room for umpteen mood-shifts either way. Writing off any — any — party (as Wallace does with contempt) and its leadership so prematurely is prejudging the case.

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Filed under Ann Treneman, BBC, Britain, broken society, ConHome, David Cameron, democracy, education, Elections, History, Lib Dems, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg, Nick Robinson, politics, Times, Tories., World War 2

The end of Swiveleyesation as we know it?

Another magnificent coinage by the great Steve Bell:

Steve Bell 21.05.2013

Yesterday Malcolm was attempting to find some kind of historical context — or, failing that, the comedy of errors — which has led to the present Great Tory Bad-Hair Day.

Today Benedict Brogan writes his Morning Briefing for the Telegraph blogs, and sweepingly assumes it’s all water down the sink. Happy Days are Hair Again. The skies above are clear again. So we’ll sing a song of cheer again:

Well, almost:

Cast your eyes along the waterfront this morning after the night before and you might conclude that things are fairly dire for Dave. He’s suffered another major rebellion (I know, I know it was a free vote, but he still failed to persuade his colleagues to follow his lead), there’s lashings of backbiting, and he’s been reduced to sending a pleading ‘Dear Mr Loon, I still love you’ letter to his members, something even American commentators have picked up on as a bad look. Nick Watt, a keen reader of Tory runes, spots a sea-change in attitudes to Dave among MPs and raises the prospect of a move against him in The Guardian, with more letters going in to Graham Brady. As I mention in my column, grown ups inside No10 realise that they are stuck with a number of what they refer to as ‘legacy issues’, from not winning the 2010 election to the gay marriage idea.

200px-Candide1759The rest of Brogan’s musings stretch for, but don’t quite reach a Panglossian optimum:

Much of what has excited us in recent weeks will have passed the voters by, and after tonight’s vote gay marriage will be on its way to becoming law, and passing out of the current political debate. With the economy slowly improving and Labour wallowing, the Tories surely should be able to claw themselves off the rocks. This will require a fair wind, and a commitment by Mr Cameron and those around him to sharpen up. It also means not surrendering to the bullying disguised as advice from those agitating against Dave, whether it’s David Davis or Lord Ashcroft. The recess starts today, a good opportunity for everyone to calm down and for the PM to have a think about how he organises himself from now on.

[For the record, Voltaire in 1759 is parodying Leibnitz of 1698: not many people know that.]

Legacy issues

Such was the vein into which history-mining Malcolm was driving his shaft with yesterday’s piece. Let us then consider what rich ore Brogan has found:

Gay marriage served as a stark reminder of just how far removed Dave’s world view often seems from his troops. As The Guardian notes, the inter-generational divisions in the Tory party were particularly stark. Sir Gerald Howarth, the former defence minister last year knighted on the PM’s advice, warned in yesterday’s debate of an “aggressive homosexual community” in the country. Edward Leigh lamented that the “outlandish views of the loony left of the 1980s” had become “embedded in high places”.

Really? Really! It’s all those gays? Hardly!

Brogan concludes by passing us and the tar-baby onto Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. Ganesh asserts it’s 2010 and All That:

… the election that should detain David Cameron is the last one. The prime minister’s estrangement from his party has many causes – the inexhaustibly vexed question of Europe, the same-sex marriage bill he takes to Parliament this week – but the rancour really set in with his failure to win in 2010. This original sin led to coalition with the Liberal Democrats, a political miscegenation that turns Tory stomachs, and broke the unspoken covenant that allows a leader to be as autocratic as he likes as long he delivers. Last week, a prime ministerial ally was reported to have disparaged the party’s grassroots as “swivel-eyed loons”. “Arrogant losers” tends to be the rejoinder.

Ganesh then reprises the course of the 2010 Tory election campaign, concluding:

For all the campaign’s haplessness, the Tories ended it with roughly the same poll lead over Labour as they began it. Mr Cameron was still preferred by voters to his party. The campaign was a non-event, as they usually are. The real reason for the Tories’ failure had more to do with the economic insecurity that nagged at voters when shown blueprints for austerity by a party they already mistrusted. That the economy was slithering out of recession at the same time hardened their risk aversion. Fiscal clarity made for bad short-term politics, and yet the blame has somehow gone to other, softer aspects of the Tory offering.

The Conservatives did not fail because they were seen as high-minded metropolitans, but because they were too redolent of the same old Tories. They had changed too little, not too much. The people who should have been vindicated by 2010 were the modernisers. But their chronic passivity, their lordly distaste for a fight, has allowed a misremembered version of that election to become the definitive history. This is undermining Mr Cameron and shaping a future in which only the ideologically orthodox can lead the Tories.

That is indeed the “high-quality journalism” that the FT prudently reminds low-life, thieving types (like Malcolm, shamelessly ripping of those extracts) needs paying for. [Again, for the record, Malcolm happily pays for the print edition, especially at weekends, if only to pre-empt what he knows the Sundays will regurgitate as original thought.]

Two small details (1):

Those televised debates (and Cameron’s foolish participation in televised debates that he flunked) really screwed up the opinion polls. In a different context (to which we may come in a moment), Malcolm was reviewing just how the 2010 polling went. The answer is not very well:

2010 polling

Got that? The main impact of the televised debates was to flatter the LibDem vote by anything between 3% and 6% (which amounts to gross “data artifact“), while under-rating Tory support just slightly, and Labour’s quite significantly. One might feel that Cameron & co. have been blinded by those errors ever since.

Two small details (2):

On their perception of the election result, and of the “reliability” of the LibDems, the Cameron & co. “modernisers” entered their Mephistophelean pact with Clegg & co. — two capitalist combines monopolising the market for their short-term profit. Let’s have another 18th-century great intellect’s view on that:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (see page 111 in this e-text)

An alternative history

Wind back to Friday, 7th May, 2010, with the last of the 649 results coming in (the 650th, a safe Tory seat — Thirsk and Malton, was delayed by the death of a candidate). This is what we saw:

  • Tories: 305 (and bound to be 306);
  • Labour: 258, plus Caroline Lucas, the Green for Brighton Pavilion, and Sylvia Herman, likely to attend infrequently but then vote with Labour (so call it around 260);
  • Lib Dems: 57, plus Naomi Long for Alliance in East Belfast (so 58 at a pinch);
  • DUP: 8;
  • SNP: 6;
  • SDLP, Plaid Cymru: 3 apiece.

The Speaker is neutral, though votes for the government in a tie, and Sinn Féin are non-attenders (so, n=650-6). A cynical calculation is the cash-strapped sand bruised Labour and LibDem contingents aren’t too keen on a quick re-run; but, more to the point, there are at least a score of odds-and-sods turkeys there who can’t afford to vote for Christmas (sayn n=650-26). The most basic “working majority” would be, in practice, well short of the nominal 326 (the calculation above suggests 312 at most)— and Dave’s Tories are within a spit of just that.

So, in the short term, Dave’s Tories could talk the talk, cobble a “confidence and supply” arrangement with even the DUP (306+8=314), and walk the walk through until a second election in the autumn. By which moment Tory coffers, uniquely among the main operators, would be topped up by the grateful and expectant clique of bond-traders and hedge-funders.

A second election, please note, that could have been contrived by losing a vote of confidence on some populist issue (immigration?). A second election, too, in which the Tory economic record would be buffed up by the tail-end of Alistair Darling’s economics (it was only in the autumn of 2010, thanks to Osborne’s austerity, that the UK economy went into flat-lining).

In short, had Cameron done the right thing, the Tory thing, he would now likely be sitting on a secure Tory majority, and figuring his way to calling the next election at his choosing, on his terms, and not on those of the LibDem dictated Fixed-term Parliaments Act. He would also have enjoyed the benefits of a greater patronage for Tory backbench nonentities, not having to service the self-esteem of LibDem nonentities.

All the Tory back-benchers, and the wannabes out in the cold have done that math. The iron has entered their souls.

One last thing

We were looking there at how the polling companies had cocked it up. Enter the new-boy on the block, Survation. Ben Brogan (see above) gave that a nod in passing:
The fightback could just start here. Though from a low base if you believe a new Survation poll in The Guardian. It has the Tories down to 24 pc – just two points above Ukip.

Look closer, and we find The Guardian, doesn’t give Survation more than the time of day.

Andrew Sparrow counters with the YouGov/Sun numbers:

Last night Survation released a poll showing the Tories just two points ahead of Ukip.

Here are the figures.
Labour: 39% (down 1 from YouGov in the Sunday Times)
Conservatives: 31% (up 2)
Ukip: 14% (no change)
Lib Dems: 10% (up 1)
Labour lead: 8 points (down 3)
Government approval: -34 (up 5)

Finally, let’s hear it from Anthony Wells (whose shock-factor is also set to minimum):

Survation have put out a new poll, the topline voting intention figures are CON 24%(-5), LAB 35%(-1), LD 11%(-1), UKIP 22%(+6). The 22% for UKIP is the first poll to show them breaking the twenty percent mark.
In many ways the high UKIP score here shouldn’t come as a surprise, for methodological reasons Survation tend to show the highest levels of UKIP support so if ICM have them at 18% and ComRes at 19% I would have expected Survation to have them in the low twenties. Striking it may be, but the increase in UKIP support is actually in line with what weve seen elsewhere, just using a method that is kinder to UKIP.
More interesting is the drop in Tory support, down five points on Survation’s poll in April. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday so at least partially after the “swivel eyed loon” story broke (it came out in Saturday’s papers, so broke about 10pm on Friday night). All the usual caveats I apply to any poll showing sharp or unusual results apply. Sure, it might indicate a shift in support, but just as likely its a blip – wait to see if it is reflected in any other polling. As Twyman’s Law of market research says “anything surprising or interesting is probably wrong”.

As Wells implies, there, swallowing Survation might not produce the glorious summer the Kippers expect. More likely, “up like the rocket, and down like the stick”: UKIP is hardly the best-presented pyrotechnic in the box.

Swiveleyesation may endure yet.

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Filed under Alistair Darling, Autumn, BBC, blogging, Britain, Conservative Party policy., Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, democracy, DUP, economy, Elections, fiction, George Osborne, Green Party, Guardian, History, Homophobia, Literature, policing, polls, Steve Bell, Tories.

Ham, spam, jam …

Max Boyce, the Treorchy trismegistus [*], encapsulated the whole matter of free-market exploitation in a simple question and observation:

If ham grew underground,
Would it be ten bob a pound,
And the pit-head baths
Are a supermarket now.

OK: here it comes:

The pit-head baths were the legacy of enlightened nationalisation. The supermarket evidence of how Big Business finds ways of selling, even to the unemployed. So, what and who caused the long-term unemployment? And who is punishing the unemployed (and unemployable) for their miserable condition?

Questions … idle questions

But here’s some more:

  • Would it have been acceptable for public-owned water utilities to allow major leaks to persist over years?
  • And shall we remind ourselves that, until a few weeks back, there were at least three of these trickles down the gutter in this one street? (Admittedly, they seem now down to just two).
  • Why is there a huge pit, a couple of feet across and at least one foot deep, in the middle of the highway past Redfellow Hovel, caused by the failure of the last failed attempt at “repair” and the equal failure to repair the carriageway?
  • Would the tax and water-rate payer have patiently condoned the Water Board digging up the road four times in a year, and making the leakage worse on each occasion?
  • Why is it all different, now that Thames Water is a privatised operation, owned by Kemble Water, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kemble Water Holdings Ltd, which is owned by a consortium of faceless capitalists, of whom the largest shareholder is the Macquarie Group (once upon a time Hill Samuel), which is based at 1 Martin Place, Sydney, Australia?
  • Is the water-rate payer and the metered-supply payer not forking out — massively, and with officially-endorsed annual hikes  — for all these incompetences?
  • Should we weep that the jam of Thames Water profits is spread a bit thinner this year: a mere £127 million (and so a bit under 15% of revenue), are sadly down by £22 million?
  • And, what, prithee, was that cant, your political spam, about “localisation”, Mr Cameron?

[*] “thrice-great”, a title for Apollo, because he commanded the three elements of hidden wisdom: alchemy, astrology, and ritual magic.

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Filed under Britain, David Cameron, democracy, economy, folk music, Music, politics, Tories., Wales

How to distort “news”

The Daily Mail is a low-down, dishonest, corrupting Tory rag — and needs constantly to be exposed for that. Fortunately, the Mail itself does so on a daily basis. Its whole existence is predicated to the Big Lie:

… the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

Malcolm deliberately disguises the source of that quotation, lest it fall foul of Godwin’s Law.

Today’s front page is a magnificent example of the Big Lie:

The essence of the Mail piece is:

Prescott loses police commissioner poll in his own back yard of Hull to a TORY

Except the election wasn’t just for Hull: it was for the whole Humberside Constabulary area. Here is the difference:

The political complexion, as of 2010, of the parliamentary constituencies of Humberside looks very skewed:

Ten constituencies, five Tory, five Labour, which might seem an even balance. The County seats all Tory: the Borough seats tending Labour, as one might expect. A closer look at the numbers suggests the Humberside area is safe Tory country: David Davis’s Haltemprice and Howden is regarded as the second safest Tory constituency in Britain, and has never deviated from that loyalty since 1837.

Add up the 2010 results and we have 40.8% Tory, 34.2% Labour and 25% Lib Dem:

Now consider Thursday’s results of the Police and Crime Commissioner election (though Malcolm never did get the hang of how to ‘commission’ crime):

Accepting that Prescott lost on the Second Round (39,933 to 42,164 or a 48.6/51.4% two-party split), on that first count:

  • Prescott caned the Tory — it is, in crude terms, a four or five per cent swing (and it has to be accepted that the “county” types turned out far, far better than the urbanites);
  • the Tory vote went AWOL, barely squeaking in ahead of the independent — even the egregious Godfrey Bloom (surely one of the more disreputable and bizarre UKIP types, which itself is saying something) splitting off a sixth of the total poll;
  • the Tory candidate was only rescued — just — on that second round by rolling up the odds-and-sods vote: those 19,375 who did express a second preference split for the Tory 2:1;
  • the Lib Dems were totally creamed: even proportionately, more than a third of their vote evaporated.

For the record, Paul Davison — who ran that close third —  is an ex-Police Superintendent, and probably the best qualified of all the candidates.

The real determinant was tthe total failure of second preference transfers (which, as every aficionado of Irish politics knows, is key to the whole operation). Only 27% of the odds-and-sods ballots bothered to make a second preference. That is either a failure of voter education or a clear statement by a majority to vote “neither of the above”. 51,665 second preferences did not go for either the Labour or the Tory in the final run-off — which amounts to an absolute majority of those who turned out. We should not forget the “alternative vote” was the preferred option in the Great Constitutional Débâcle of 5th May 2011. If we needed concrete evidence that AV is a sham, and no substitute for proper proportional representation, here is the concrete evidence.

Yet the Daily Mail says it was all about Prescott, and the Daily Mail is a dishonourable rag.

And the Daily Mail says it was all about the city of Hull, and nothing to do with the other lands north and south of the estuary, and, for sure, the Daily Mail is a dishonourable lie-sheet.

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Filed under BBC, Britain, broken society, civil rights, crime, Daily Mail, democracy, Elections, Fascists, human waste, Ireland, Labour Party, Law, Lib Dems, policing, politics, Tories., UKIP

Too early, but rethink necessary

A day on, and we are already getting the post-mortem analyses of what went wrong for the Republican Party. This time it’s serious:

The New England wing of the House GOP, after showing brief signs of life, is extinct again.

Democrats cleaned out the region on Tuesday, knocking off New Hampshire GOP Reps Charlie Bass and Frank Giunta and fending off stiff challenges to Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline. Republicans also lost a toss-up open seat race in Connecticut.

The GOP didn’t fare much better in New England’s Senate races either. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown lost his seat, Independent Angus King captured retiring Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat, and Linda McMahon spent more than $40 million in a losing bid for Connecticut’s open Senate seat. In Vermont, meanwhile, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders demolished his GOP foe in a 71-25 landslide while Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse won 65-35.

The Republicans’ initial base was in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. So one good’un, even this early, is Peter Beinart on The Daily Beast. He is almost certainly wrong to assume (as his headline has it) any New Democratic Dominance in U.S. Politics. Where he is useful is to propose a once-over-lightly historical perspective:

For roughly half a century after the Civil War, Republicans dominated American politics because they dominated the North. But by the 1920s, after almost four decades of Catholic and Jewish immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, the North had changed. And instead of embracing that change, the GOP fought it, spearheading blatantly anti-Catholic measures like Prohibition and shutting down mass immigration in 1921 and 1924. Democrats capitalized, nominating a Catholic, Al Smith, in 1928. Smith lost, but in 1932 Franklin Roosevelt built on the coalition he had forged, and won the presidency by combining the white South—a traditional Democratic stronghold—with the new immigrants of the urban North. Then, to an unprecedented degree, he appointed Jews and Catholics to top administration jobs. In 1935 Time magazine noted the change by featuring two key Roosevelt advisers, the Catholic Thomas Corcoran and the Jewish Benjamin Cohen, on its cover.

But it was only in 1936, when FDR won despite a terrible economy and the venomous opposition of much of the Northern WASP elite from which he hailed, that Republicans began to acknowledge that America had changed—and left them behind. And that’s exactly what Republicans are realizing again Tuesday night. For the last four years, Republicans have argued publicly, as they did between 1932 and 1936, that their defeat was a fluke. They’ve said John McCain was a bad candidate who only lost because Americans were sick of George W. Bush. They’ve said the Tea Party heralded an anti-government shift that would sweep the GOP back into power. They’ve said America was still a center-right country.

By no coincidence, and it’s David Frum repeating it, Romney is being depicted as a “weak candidate”. Equally, loyalists in the Republican Party seem to be denying that anything is “structurally” wrong — cue Charles Krauthammer.

On the contrary, the whole scenery has changed.

  • Along with returning Obama, the Great American Public have accepted Obamacare and gifted Obama’s second term with the (surely, inevitable) economic bounce-back.
  • Even climate change, the great unspoken of this electoral cycle, is now mainstream (Allen West of Florida is a political corpse).
  • Maine and Maryland have voted for same-sex marriage, while Minnesotans voted down a constitutional ban: Washington may yet endorse marriage equality.
  • Colorado and Washington have legalised recreational Mary Jane.
  • California came within a three-per-cent swing of repealing the death penalty. Back in 1978 they voted 7 to 3 for judicial killings

In so many ways, the United States is adapting to the 21st Century.

The Woman issue

This is the biggie.

  • There are now a record number of women in the Senate— though not enough.

Hear it from Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker:

If you got caught up in the “war on women” narrative this election cycle, you might have missed the fact that that a conspicuous number of women were running for the Senate today. There were women candidates in fifteen of the thirty-three Senate races. In three states—California, Hawaii, and New York—both the Republican and the Democrat are women. And a couple of those women check other demographic boxes as well. In Wisconsin, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, won a tight race against former governor Tommy Thompson. She will be the first openly gay member of the Senate. In six of the contests where women are running, they’re the incumbents, and likely to be reëlected. Among the remaining nine states, there’s Hawaii—which will definitely send a woman to the Senate—Wisconsin; Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown tonight; Nebraska, where Republican Deb Fischer seemed to be beating former governor Bob Kerrey; Nevada, where Republican Dean Heller was trying to defend his seat from Shelley Berkley; and North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rick Berg were running neck and neck. Linda McMahon, a Republican, was defeated in Connecticut.

The Show Me State

Republican center must be taking note of what happened — especially in Missouri.

Romney took the State by some eight points (when McCain in 2008 squeaked a lead of just 3,900 votes out of 2.9 million) — yet he had no coat-tails. The Democrat Governor was returned — the first successful re-run since 1996. And Claire McCaskill steam-cleaned Todd “legitimate rape” Akin by a 15½ per cent margin. 400,000 Missouri voters split their tickets: Romney but also McCaskill. As the AP summary of the exit poll had it:

Women didn’t carry McCaskill to victory on their own, but they did the heavy lifting. McCaskill outperformed by a wide margin among women, who supported her in slightly higher numbers than in 2006. The Democrat’s comfortable edge among women was propelled by those 18-44 who overwhelmingly lined up behind the first-term incumbent, as did a significant number of middle-aged women who made up the bulk of female voters. Akin offset some of these losses by holding his ground among women 65 and older and white women overall. Black women, however, backed McCaskill in a landslide.

Aside from being more likely to look past Akin’s comment, men backed Akin in stronger numbers than women, especially those who are older. Still, the best Akin could muster was a split with McCaskill for the entire male vote.

  • Women are some 52% of the Missouri electorate.

As one wise comment, while the results were coming in, had it: If you’re a Republican with views on rape and abortion, better to keep them to yourself.

The wit and wisdom of Bill O’Reilly

You don’t expect it on Fox News, but O’Reilly nailed it:

Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly said tonight that if President Barack Obama wins re-election, it’s because the demographics of the country have changed and “it’s not a traditional America anymore.”

“The white establishment is now the minority,” O’Reilly said. “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”

“The demographics are changing,” he said. “It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

He could have added the other element: younger voters bothering to use their franchise, which is another change from pre-Obama days. He was mistaken to suggest that “America” has somehow changed: what has changed is that long-suppressed sections of the electorate — women and the ethic communities, the young and the radicals — have mobilised themselves.

Of course, the draught isn’t whistling just one side of the gang-way:

Blue Dog Democrats also saw their numbers shrink from 24 to 15, including six members who retired, sought higher office, or were defeated in primaries earlier this year. Reps. Ben Chandler, Larry Kissell, and Leonard Boswell all lost Tuesday.

The white establishment is now the minority — but they always were.

Now they know it.

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Mark meets Jimmy …

There’s a very nice piece by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker on The Voter-Fraud Myth. Jillian Rayfield fisks it on salon.com.

It is a major article. It won’t convince the neo-Cons, of course.

Then there’s Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury.

The greatest strike against the U.K. press is that, since the demise of the lamentably short-lived The Sunday Correspondent, we benighted Brits have to access the Sunday extended Doonesbury on-line.

Today’s exchange between Mark Slackmeyer and Jimmy Crow is a gem. It says enough of it to get to the caw! of the issue.

By the way: that (as right) is not the punch-line. Which is even more pointed.

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