Saturday, May 03, 2003

Aaron Sorkin is leaving The West Wing, along with fellow producer Thomas Schlamme. Reports are that the next series will start with a scene in which a motorbike-riding Bartlett jumps over a shark-infested Potomac.
Oh, I hate it when things clash. Wednesday 14th May at the Institute of Contemporary Arts:
Author and screenwriter Nigel Kneale was one of the most influential SF writers to come out of England in the 1950’s. His beloved series The Quatermass Experiment (1953) took the British television industry by storm and simultaneously scared the wits out of a generation. Tonight, Kneale introduces a rare screening of episodes 1-3 of Quatermass and the Pit, first broadcast to tremendous acclaim in 1958. He will be in conversation with the acclaimed horror writer Kim Newman.

Which, of course, is the same night as the second night of the playoffs. Though that might be moved to Thursday, which means it would clash with Part 2. Add in the fact that I'm supposed to be working that evening as well, and things start to get mightily complicated.

Friday, May 02, 2003

And the winner of the May Day Outrage Challenge is... no one. What is the world coming to when you can't rely on a bunch of wannabe revolutionaries to cause some trouble on May Day? Plus, with it being the elections yesterday as well, I think the attention of the selected contestants was elsewhere at the time. Plus, one chose the long weekend as a good reason to go for a break. Thanks anyway to Jackie, Stephen, Peter, Harry and Tom for 'competing'.

Still, it was a fun idea and thanks to all the entrants and contestants. I might do another one for another event sometime in the future - and this time I'll try and come up with the idea a bit more in advance than the evening before! If anyone has an idea for an Outrage Challenge-worthy event in the future then please let me know, or feel free to run one yourself!

So, all the contestants and commenters get a bit of recognition as a share of the 'prize': Dan, Gert, Green Fairy, James, Ryan, Sam and Chris.
The detailed results page for last night's elections makes some interesting reading. Obviously, the papers over the weekend will be covering pages and pages with analysis of whether Britain is becoming a more ecologically minded country, whether these results show how there's a mass of people out there who care about the environment who the major parties have forgotten. After all, the Greens won 34 council seats last night (gaining 9) as well as seats in the Scottish Parliament to go with their MEPs and London Assembly members, so you'd think that if there was going to be a focus on a minor party they'd be featured. Or the Mansfield Independents who gained 25 seats, maybe? Or one of the nine other councils in Britain that are run by independents or local issue parties? No, obviously the BNP will get all the coverage, despite the fact they were effectively wiped out everywhere they stood except Burnley. Given the amount of media coverage they've had, you think they might have done better than that.

Should any newspaper or TV news editors ever happen to read this, here's my point. Yes, I know the BNP are worrying. Yes, I know they should be stopped. But have you considered just ignoring them and given them the same lack of treatment all the other minor parties get? Next time you go to cover a BNP story, ask yourself if you'd be covering it if it was the Greens or the UK Independence Party in the same position. Or, if you feel you have to cover the BNP, why not match it by covering one of the other smaller parties? You might be surprised at the effect it has.
So, I look up the story of the cheating Major being back in court on more fraud charges on BBC News and discover a fantastic headline: 'Van Morrison ruined my life' which conjures up all sorts of images much more interesting than the story itself.
I think it's time to call him Councillor Happy. He was standing in Romsey ward, and according to the Cambridge News website:

TWO of Labour's strongholds in Cambridge tumbled to the Lib Dems in yesterday's council elections. Romsey - once known Red Romsey because of its staunch socialist population - was one of the seats to fall

In Romsey, sitting Labour councillor Paul Gilchrist was edged out by Liberal Democrat Iain Coleman

Congratulations, Iain! Of course, I'm taking all the credit - that crucial What You Can Get Away With endorsement made all the difference, I'm sure.

Full result: ROMSEY Iain James Coleman (Lib Dem) 892; Paul Gilchrist (Lab) 789; Vicky Russell (Green) 146; Richard Normington (Con) 145; Diana Minns (UKIP) 63. Lib Dem maj: 103. Lib Dem gain. Turnout 34%
'US says Canada cares too much about civil liberties'. Can I please go back to the real world and leave this Onion-created one behind?
OK, this live blogging has been quite fun, but needs a lot of dedication. I've developed a lot of admiration for those people who do live blogging of events for longer than a few hours (and using more than a couple of websites). Don't know about doing it for the locals and European election next year, but could be fun doing it for the next General Election - in 2005, probably.

The English counts seem to have pretty much finished for the night. There are a few still to come that could be interesting, like Leicester, but the story of the night seems to be told by now. Labour losses, Tory gains, Lib Dem growth but not enough for any of the parties to make any big changes. Labour have lost around 700 seats, and about 30 councils, but that's quite good for a governing party in a midterm election. Smiles will be wider in Wales, where they could well take control of the Assembly, and there'll be wry smiles in Scotland - it's not a fantastic performance there, but it's a lot better than the SNP.

The Tories have made some good gains - they might just go over 500 gains, along with 25 or so more councils, but that's just steady gains, not the big surge or big breakthrough they need to be getting at this point if they're going to challenge at the next General Election, they needed at least 1000 for that, though they can claim a victory tonight. They'll also be happy about having won Edinburgh Pentlands in the Scottish Parliament. IDS is probably safe, despite the resignation earlier tonight. However, he's going to need to pull something out of the hat soon to silence the chatterers. I expect he'll still be in charge for next year's elections, but is going to need to make the big breakthrough there.

As for the Liberal Democrats, it's been a night of steady growth, with the party's vote hitting a kind of maturity - a 30% share is fantastic, even if it hasn't had the impact in seats and councils one might have expected before the elections. However, what will have Charles Kennedy smiling tomorrow is that the breakthrough has been national, with the Lib Dems breaking out of the 'Liberal heartland' and into the country as a whole. Also, when the battle has been Liberal vs Conservative, the party has got a couple of notable scalps, including Torbay.

The main story in Scotland and Wales looks likely to be the rise of the independents and 'others', with John Marek winning Wrexham on top of the earlier results in Scotland. A BBC projection is giving the SSP, Greens and various independents 19 seats in the Scottish Parliament, mostly at the expense of the SNP.
My local council of Colchester remains no overall control, though the Liberal Democrats have gained a couple of seats.

There's a definite trend emerging in Scottish constituency votes - Labour slightly down (1% or so), SNP strongly down (around 6-7%), Lib Dems and Tories slightly up (about 1% each), SSP strongly up (5-6%). Dennis Canavan gets re-elected in Falkirk West. Another independent has won Strathkelvin and Bearsden - campaigning against hospital closures, just like Wyre Forest. The trend definitely seems to be towards the SSP and allied groups (they didn't stand in Falkirk East or Strathkelvin) - the swing is coming from Labour and the SNP. When the regional list votes come in, things could get very interesting - they're not counted until tomorrow, I think. The BBC have predicted that the Pensioners Party may get a seat on one of the regional lists - there'll be some interesting voices in the new Scottish Parliament.

Still waiting for Welsh results, but reports are that Labour have regained Islwyn from Plaid Cymru, with the Plaid vote dropping heavily. If that is the case elsewhere as well, Plaid could be in trouble, and may lose a lot of the Valleys seats they gained in 1999. However, the regional list vote is going to determine if Labour gets an overall majority - as well as the result in Wrexham where Labour AM John Marek is standing as an independent. He looks likely to get enough votes to get elected as the constituency AM, and failing that, through the regional list.

OK, with 2am approaching, it seems like the sort of night every party can take something from tonight. Labour haven't lost too badly, especially for a government in the middle of a term, the Conservatives have made good gains, though not as much as they need to call it a real breakthrough (especially in terms of share of the vote) and the Liberal Democrats have made some gains but the key is that they're doing well against the Conservatives in the South and South West and against Labour in the cities.

IDS is probably safe for the near future, but the knives have just been sheathed for a while, not locked away. But, with the way the Scottish vote is going, there's still the possibility of the Conservatives dropping to fifth place (behind the SSP) which isn't going to damage IDS (the Tories have pretty much written off Scotland for now) but might cause some interesting friction between the Scottish Conservatives and the national party.

At 2am: England (214 councils declared): Labour down 481 seats and 20 councils, Conservatives up 337 seats and 20 councils, Lib Dems up 120 seats and 4 councils, independents down 23 seats and 1 council, others up 15 seats. Scotland: Labour 19 seats (down 1), Lib Dems 1, SNP 2 (both unchanged), others 2 (up 1). Wales: Labour up 1, Plaid down 1 - 1 result so far.
Too many results to cover them all now, especially with Scottish and Welsh results starting to come through - I'll just highlight the big ones and the developing issues from now on.

BNP have now got 8 seats in Burnley - the second largest party on the council - but they haven't won any seats in Oldham, where their leader Nick Griffin was standing. Trevor Philipps (CRE Chairman) attributes it to the loss of hope in towns like Burnley because of the collapse of manufacturing with nothing to replace it - people feel that conventional politics has abandoned them. However, aside from their one seat in Broxbourne, it seems that the BNP have done poorly everywhere else they've stood.

Greens have gained three seats - it's entirely likely that they'll gain more than the BNP (and have more councillors at the end), yet somehow I doubt their media coverage will be proportional.

Labour do seem to be suffering more in urban areas - they've lost control of Coventry, after losing Birmingham earlier. This could be the result of Labour losing support amongst Muslims, and also a lot of Labour supporters staying at home.

Conservatives have gained one seat in Darlington - is this the Cuthbertson effect?

This BBC page gives a list of all the events so far.

Interesting news from Harlow where the whole election might have to be reheld after 3000 postal ballot papers were sent out without an official stamp.

Quick Lib Dem moment - gaining control of Chesterfield and Durham from Labour, while remaining in control of Liverpool.

SSP are getting an interesting swing in the two Scottish seats declared so far with the SNP down in both of them. BBC have a 'tip' that the SNP have gained Glasgow Govan from Labour. Scottish result looks like being little change for Labour, SNP and Lib Dems with Conservatives down heavily and SSP and Greens making big gains. Wales could well be what I like to call a Samuel Beckett election - lots of talking, lots of angst, but very little has changed at the end of it. Turnout is down to 25% in some parts of Wales.

Projected national share still Con 34%, Lab 31% (may drop to 30%), LD 30%, others 5%. Peter Snow has a rather bizarre 'Clapometer' to measure Conservative support compared to what they need to win at the next election.

Independents have taken control of Mansfield, gaining 25 seats from nothing - Mansfield has an Independent Mayor, so they may be connected to that.

Liberal Democrats have held Cambridge, gaining two seats. Will we now be calling him Councillor Happy?

David Mellor is on the BBC calling for IDS to resign.

1am update: (164 out of 340 councils declared) Labour down 296 councillors and 14 councils, Conservatives up 184 councillors and 13 councils, Lib Dems up 68 seats and 2 councils, independents up 23 seats and 1 council, others up 3 seats. In Scotland, 3 seats declared - Labour have won them all, but there's been a swing from Labour and the SNP to the SSP in all three of them. No results yet from Wales.
Labour have lost Trafford and Rochdale to no overall control - both after a swing of just one seat - Exeter, Birmingham, Bolton and Bristol also go to NOC. Labour have regained control of Barrow-in-Furness from NOC.

Conservatives gain Worcester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Basildon, Taunton Deane and Congleton from no overall control. However, they've lost Carlisle to no overall control.

Liberal Democrats have gained Watford from no overall control - this is after winning the Mayoral election there last year. They have also gained Torbay from the Conservatives.

BNP appear to have gained seats in Burnley. They've also gained a seat in Broxbourne and two seats in Sandwell. However, they've failed to gain any seats in Sunderland where they stood 25 candidates.

BBC projected share: Con 34%, Lab 31%, LD 30% - would be the best ever share by the Liberal Democrats. Polling shows that Labour vote is falling more in areas with a large Muslim population - this may mean Lib Dems taking control of Leicester from Labour. Also identified as a reason for a big swing to the Lib Dems in Birmingham.

My hometown of Redditch remains no overall control - the Conservatives are the largest party there for the first time in twenty years.

Professor Anthony King on the BBC says the biggest story of the night so far is the growth of the Liberal Democrats as a national force, gaining seats across the country.

At midnight: 86 (of 340) councils declared - Labour down 135 seats and 8 councils, Conservatives up 79 seats and 6 councils, Lib Dems up 37 seats and 1 council, Independents up 6 seats, others up 2 seats. Nothing yet from Wales and Scotland - turnout may be over 50% in Scotland, but below 40% in Wales.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

BBC projection based on key wards shows not much change in share of the vote in England so far: Labour down 2%, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats up 1%.

Supposedly the big story of the night: Tory frontbencher quits and calls for IDS to be replaced. Had anyone ever heard of him before tonight? Interviewed by David Dimbleby on the BBC's coverage, he says he waited till 9pm tonight so as not to damage any election chances. Says others agree with him that IDS is not seen as a potential PM among the voters. Not backing any particular rivals, though.

Guardian Politics has a latest results page if you want to see the latest results in one place. The Electoral Commission has a page that should have the Scottish and Welsh results, but not indication as to when they'll be posted there.

The Conservatives have gained East Staffordshire and Hyndburn from Labour. Liberal Democrats have lost Brentwood to no overall control.

At 11pm: Labour down 30 seats and 2 councils, Conservatives up 16 seats and 2 councils, Lib Dems up 4 seats and down 1 council, Independents up 5 seats, others down 1 seat. (Totals won't balance as new boundaries and redistribution means there are about 100 less seats now than 1999)
The May Day Outrage Challenge appears to have been a bit of a damp squib, not least because there doesn't seem to have been that much trouble in London. Still, I'll keep an eye out for another day or so for any outrage and post the results should they happen.

So, on to the local elections. I'll try and post stuff through the night as snapshots of what's going on, what people are saying, who's winning and losing what etc etc. Not much to report so far - only four councils have declared results so far - all Labour holds, though Labour have lost 11 seats, with Liberal Democrats gaining 9, Independents up 3 and Conservatives unchanged (112 seats total).

Wales and Scotland have just started counting (polls there were open till 10pm) - if I find any exit polls, I'll post them.

Best site for election results seems to be the BBC's Vote 2003 - please let me know if you find any others. I'll keep an eye out for any results in Cambridge, where Iain Coleman is standing.
Discussing Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and its Discontents seems a good way to mark May Day here on What You Can Get Away With. Luckily, I just finished reading it yesterday. If I'd planned that, it would have been good timing, but instead it was just luck, as ever.

It's a fascinating book, partly because of Stiglitz's background. Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during Clinton's first term, he then became Chief Economist of the World Bank, won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001 and is now Professor of Economics at Columbia. So, he's not a fringe figure taking potshots at the establishment from way outside, but an insider revealing just how the system works (or doesn't work, which seems just as, if not more, common).

Stiglitz has an ability that's not common to economists, though - the ability to write in such a way as to be understandable to the layman while still dealing with complex issues. It's interesting that a book about economics contains so few actual facts and figures in the main text (thanks a lot to Stiglitz's clever use of footnotes) yet is still persuasive in it's arguments. I almost wonder if Striglitz's editor gave him similar advice as that given to Stephen Hawking when he was writing A Brief History of Time - 'every equation will halve the number of readers.'

What makes this book relevant for May Day is Stiglitz's attack on the process of globalization. He makes an important distinction, and one that is rarely present in the simplified atmosphere of the media debates over globalization, that to criticize the current processes of globalization and the ideologies that drive it is not to be against the principle of globalization. In fact, as Stiglitz shows at a few points, the supposed 'critics of globalization' are often proposing a much more globalist or internationalist view than the supposed 'globalizers', particularly when discussing the accountability of global institutions.

The main thrust of Stiglitz's assault, however, is at the IMF. Given his former position at the World Bank, and that his views appear to be shared by many there, even if one doesn't agree with his arguments, it's quite worrying that two of the main forces in the global economy seem to be at continual loggerheads with each other. However, there is a real force behind his arguments, and his sustained critique of IMF policy is something that should be required reading for people with an interest in the issues surrounding globalization.

In Stiglitz's view, the IMF presents itself to the world as a technocratic institution, dedicated to it's initial Keynesian mission of ensuring monetary stability throughout the world. However, behind that facade, the IMF is a nakedly ideological body using its power in the global economy to force countries to adopt a 'one size fits all' economic policy that it believes to be the best, regardless of the flaws that policy may have shown in the past. At times, the IMF comes out as an almost Kafkaesque creation, with countries finding themselves in trouble for actually following its rules and doing what it says, while at others it seems like a global Nero, fiddling a dance of low inflation while the economy burns. It's almost a horror story at points, especially in his descriptions of the East Asian crisis and 'shock therapy' in Russia, with the IMF forcing countries to adopt policies that only make a crisis worse, adamant that it knows best and using its power to stifle dissent and criticism. Time and again, Stiglitz shows how the IMF dismissed advice that went against its 'free markets and low inflation as quickly as possible' ideology only to see the darkest predictions of its critics come true.

However, he doesn't just critique, but does lay out an action plan for reforming globalisation and actually making it work for the people of the world not just the elites. Yes, it's a much more interventionist model than the IMF's, but it has the interests of the people at heart, whose suffering is all too often ignored by the IMF's current strategies (for instance, when the IMF is working in a country its main concerns are levels of inflation, with no concern for unemployment or poverty rates caused by its policies). It's about creating a world where all can share in the benefits of globalization, which seems to me to be an admirable aim.
Speaking of May Day, Chris Brooke (The Virtual Stoa) has an interesting couple of posts about the history of May Day and how the hammer and sickle appears at the University of Chicago every year.
The May Day Outrage Challenge is still on at the time of writing, so get your preidictions in before it's too late. But, for those of you who like a competition with an actual prize, you might enjoy British Spin's Local Elections prediction competition.
I think I'm in love... I've just discovered that Janel Moloney (Donna on The West Wing) is a Bill Hicks fan. Oh, be still my beating heart...

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

OK, so my Gash prediction was wrong and Mark Oaten was the Lib Dem MP interviewed. And yes, the summary of Liberal Democrat policy as 'Vote Liberal - we'll get back to you' was quite amusing. And, it actually informed me of a bit of news I hadn't heard - Iain Duncan Smith's 'I am not bullshitting' statement.
So, it's May Day tomorrow and, as usual, there's going to be the usual (and now almost as traditional as Morris Dancing) big fights in London between the police and supposed 'anarchists' (they're not anarchists, just thugs who can't be bothered to put in the weekly commitment needed to be a football hooligan).

Anyway, I've come up with an idea to try and put a little fun into tomorrow for those of us stuck in front of a computer screen (or, like me, sleeping between two night shifts) - the May Day Blog Outrage Challenge! It's quite a simple challenge - below, you'll find a list of five UK bloggers all of whom, I believe, are likely to post something tomorrow saying how angry the whole May Day protests make them, and generally criticizing them. The aim of the Challenge is for you to guess which of them will be first (and, as a tie break, at what time they'll post their winning outrage)

So, in no particular order, the five 'contestants' are:

Peter Cuthbertson (Conservative Commentary)
Tom Watson MP
Stephen Pollard
Harry Hatchet
Jackie D (Au Currant)

So, leave a note in the comments section below (or email me if the comments aren't working) with the name of the person you think will be the first to be outraged by something and the time you think they'll post that anger. It has to be connected to some actual event that happens tomorrow, not just a general 'I will be annoyed by the May Day protestors because...' post. I'll announce the winner tomorrow night. The prize for the winning entry? Um... your name (and blog, if applicable) mentioned here and the right to call yourself the What You Can Get Away With May Day Blog Outrage Challenge 2003 champion - what more could you want?

(Note to 'contestants': This is just a bit of humour based on the fact that an event is going to happen tomorrow that people will blog about. I've tried to get a political balance, but obviously it's had to be slightly weighted by the desire to make it an 'outrage' challenge. Should you not wish to be included in this challenge, please contact me and I'll remove your name from the list as soon as I can)
So, it looks like I won't be upgrading to Movable Type after all. Turns out that my hosting company does support PHP and MySQL, but doesn't support CGI or Perl, which also rules out my backup plan of going for Greymatter (or Bloxsom) instead of MT. So, as I've paid for hosting here through to January, I guess I'll be staying with Blogger until at least then - maybe I'll upgrade to Pro, so I can at least have a decent XML feed at this address!

But, I would like to thank all the people who gave me advice about how to move to MT and as promised here's your acknowledgement. So, thankyou to Matt, Vicky, Peter, Green Fairy and Gert for your advice which has been stored away until I need it next year.
As I'm one of only two results for an MSN search for 'armando ianucci gash', and the other isn't Channel 4, I thought I'd help them out by giving you a link to their page for the show, which also explains why it's called Gash. Apparently, 'Gash is a TV term for footage surplus to requirements' - which comes into the 'well, I never knew that' category.

Last night's show? Still showing potential, but they still have the topical balloonist - however, there did seem to be 'well, we've booked and paid for him so we better get our money's worth' attitude to it. Interestingly, they, they had intended to interview someone from all three of the main parties in the run up to Thursday's elections, but the Tories turned them down. So, it was a Labour MP last night, and a Lib Dem tonight. I'm just wondering which MP it'll be - my guess is Lembit Opik, who's the obvious inheritor of Charles Kennedy's 'Chatshow Charlie' mantle, and also means they can get in a few I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! jokes as Sian Lloyd is his girlfriend .

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I haven't linked to any quizzes before that I recall, but this 'Which Enemy of the Christian Church Are You?' one is too good for me to resist posting it. (thanks to Caz for spotting it first). And it seems quite accurate - it worked out that I'm an atheist...
OK, anyone want to help me with a technical problem? I've registered with the UK Weblogs site, my RSS feed appears in the aggregator but I don't appear on the list of updated UK weblogs. Any suggestions as to why, and how to get myself on the list?
In the post this morning: a copy of Stephen Jay Gould's The Hedgehog, The Fox and the Magister's Pox. Turns out that I won the competition in last month's New Humanist. I guess this means I ought to subscribe or something...
Meanwhile, in America, Senator Rick Santorum (R - Pennsylvania) has got in trouble over some remarks he's made about homosexuality and the right to privacy. While this issue is being heavily talked about on a lot of American blogs, there's one odd little parallel that struck me that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else (though it probably has).

In the interview that caused the furore, Santorum says: 'I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.' which seems to be an odd echo of Gore Vidal's quote: 'There is no such thing as a homosexual person. There are only homosexual acts.' Has Santorum been reading Vidal?
Just finished watching Gash on Channel 4. It's Armando Ianucci's new show, though 'new' seems to be stretching it a bit when it does bear a quite striking similarity to his old series The Saturday Night Armistice. The difference seems to be that David Schneider and Peter Baynham have been replaced by different comedians every night along with a special guest - Dominic Holland, Nick Wilty and Martin Bell tonight.

Still, it was a good show - the prepared material was a lot funnier than the live chat bits, but that's to be expected while I presume they look round for comedians who can be funny and topical on cue. It's not quite the British version of The Daily Show but it's got potential and Ianucci does have the potential to be a Jon Stewart - of course, whether he can get the supporting 'cast' and writers to hit those levels regularly is something we'll have to wait and see. Of course, it also depends on Channel 4 giving it the chance to succeed - the constant messing around with the Eleven O'Clock Show was one of the things that ruined any potential it had (alongside employing Iain 'Giant Sucking Black Hole of Comedy' Lee, of course). It seems that Gash is being tried out for four nights this week with, I assume, the possibility of bringing it back as regular series if it does well. I hope they give it a chance - after all, if Ianucci's got a regular show on TV, there's always the chance that Chris Morris might contribute something.

Anyway, as this is the Internet, where everyone's entitled to an opinion, here are my suggestions for improving Gash should any Channel 4 executives happen to be passing by. First, the topical balloonist is less funny than the 'physical cartoonist' from The Day Today and the novelty will wear off by Wednesday. Second, do more with actual news footage, like the stuff with a soldier trying to get a one-legged Iraqi child to smile - The Daily Show has shown that when the news is parodying itself, sometimes you need a parody to get to the real news. Finally, make up your mind about what the comedian guests are doing there - if they're in the same role as Schneider and Baynham then rehearse with them, otherwise treat them as interviewees. Oh, and stick Armando Ianucci behind a desk - unless you're worried about making it look too much like the Armistice.

You know, one day I'll get paid for giving TV advice like this.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Guardian tries to rebrand and relaunch the Conservative Party. I have to admit that when I first saw this on the cover of the paper this morning I thought it was going to be just a joke article, but it's actually quite a serious discussion of ways the Conservatives could relaunch and rebrand themselves - and before anyone says 'It's The Guardian, what do they know about the Tories' the panel that came up with the ideas had a nunber of Tories on it, including Ed Vaizey who's the party's candidate for Wantage at the next election.

They did come up with some interesting ideas about policy, and also about image - primarily branding the party as 'the Conservatives' with a thumbs up logo, with the suggestion that the word 'Tory' should be dropped, because of its usual derogatory use. There's also a competition if you think you can do better - and at this point, I was going to link to Dustbinman's excellent spoof election posters, but they don't seem to be where they used to.

And for those of you interested in possible future directions for the Tories - and an indication of how hard it is for the different wings of the party to agree - this post by Peter Cuthbertson and this response to it by Anthony Wells make interesting reading.

Update: Because he's a very nice man, Dan has now reposted the election posters.
For those who care about this sort of thing, you can now see me in the Mirror Project.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

The Observer Magazine has an interview with the actor Daniel Craig, who's playing Ted Hughes in the film Ted and Sylvia. He has a rather amusing memory of actually seeing Hughes give a reading:
As a young boy, Craig heard Hughes give a reading at the girl's grammar school down the road from him in Liverpool. But far from being in awe of the man, Craig found the performance hilariously boring. 'I mean, bless him, he didn't read poetry particularly well. It was just this monotone crap.' Craig puts on a Northern accent so low and gloomy you can barely hear words between the mumbles: 'This is called Crow. Crow sits in... duh duh duh... Blood and otters... Birth and death... thank you very much.' He bursts out laughing.

Also, I didn't realise that Daniel Craig comes from Liverpool originally - I think his performance in Our Friends In The North was so good, I'd assume he was from the north-east. But, being originally from Liverpool only confirms my belief that he's the perfect choice to play John Constantine if there's ever a Hellblazer movie.
In the comments on the post about elections below, Caz asked why we have elections in Britain on a Thursday, to which the answer is the usual 'because we do' - you expected a logical explanation? From what I recall there's no actual law that says elections have to be held on a Thursday, it's just convention that they are (unlike, say, the US where Tuesdays are constituionally mandated). I believe it's actually quite a recent convention - until WW2 (I think) it was quite common for elections to take place over a number of days (given the difficulties of organisation I'd be surprised if the General Election of 1945 took place on a single day).

There have been a lot of suggestions over the years that we should change our election day, especially recently when it's been suggested as a way to rectify our low turnouts in non-national elections (though even there the turnout appears to be falling). One little bit of strangeness that our insistence on voting on Thursdays brings is in the European elections where the other 14 members of the EU all vote over the weekend and we vote on Thursdays. However, because the elections are all part of the same process, our votes can't actually be counted until Sunday night. I'd like to see the day we vote changed to the weekends - the best suggestion I've seen is that voting should take place over a day and a half - either from Saturday morning to early afternoon Sunday, or Saturday afternoon till Sunday evening. I think weekend voting has to be over two days because certain religous groups won't vote on certain days (Orthodox Jews on the Sabbath, some Christians on the Sunday).

As for 'How do people get away from work etc to vote if their boss is a bastard?' Well, you don't. But, firstly, unlike Australia (I believe) we don't have compulsory voting, but also we have quite long polling hours. For instance, on Thursday polling stations are open from 8am until 9pm and at General Elections the hours are usually 7am until 10pm. Plus, polling stations are usually quite close to where you live so it's not much of a trip (in urban areas at least) so everyone except the most workaholic person should be able to get to a polling station near their house at some point and the postal ballot regulations have been loosened recently, making it easier to get one if you don't want to go to (or can't get to) a polling station.

I've heard people suggest that we should bring in compulsory voting here, but I'm really not in favour of it as no matter how stupid I might think someone who doesn't vote is, it's their right to not vote should they want to and I can't see who benefits from forcing someone to go to a polling station just to spoil their ballot paper. However, I would like to see the introduction of a 'none of the above' option on ballot papers, because I think it does have a positive effect. I was involved in student union elections as a student (and then as an employee of an SU) and even there it's very rare for 'none of the above' to win an election, but what it does mean is that everyone has to actually campaign for election. Quite a few local council seats are won by candidates who stand unopposed are thus automatically elected - even if there isn't anyone else willing to stand, I think the people of that area have the right to say 'no' but that also means that the candidate gets an electoral mandate for their policies. Plus, it encourages all candidates to go out and campaign and get votes even if they're not going to win - one of the more embarrassing results in Student Union elections is being beaten into last place by 'none of the above' (or 're-open nominations' as it's also known). After all, that's an indication that people would rather have no-one than you.