Saturday, October 09, 2004

Another debate thought

If Al Gore 'invented the Internet' has George Bush now bettered him by inventing the internets?

Oh, that liberal media

Can you imagine the uproar there'd be in the US if a broadcasting company said that all of its stations - many of which were win key states - were going to show Fahrenheit 9/11 just before the Presidential election. Can you imagine the chest-beating there'd be from various people over how terrible this is, how much bias it showed, how it showed the media was dominated by liberals who just want to use it for their evil propaganda.

Well, enjoy the silence in response to this news, instead:
The conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TV, is ordering its stations to preempt regular programming just days before the Nov. 2 election to air a film that attacks Sen. John F. Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War, network and station executives familiar with the plan said Friday.

Sinclair's programming plan, communicated to executives in recent days and coming in the thick of a close and intense presidential race, is highly unusual even in a political season that has been marked by media controversies.

Sinclair has told its stations — many of them in political swing states such as Ohio and Florida — to air "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," sources said. The film, funded by Pennsylvania veterans and produced by a veteran and former Washington Times reporter, features former POWs accusing Kerry — a decorated Navy veteran turned war protester — of worsening their ordeal by prolonging the war. Sinclair will preempt regular prime-time programming from the networks to show the film, which may be classified as news programming, according to TV executives familiar with the plan.

If you can't get onto the LA Times site to read the story, try the excellent Bug Me Not for assistance.

Update: Via Josh Marshall and Sid's Fishbowl, here's some information about the director of this film:

(Sherwood) is known for his purportedly independent investigation of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Sherwood concluded that Moon and his followers "were and continued to be the victims of the worst kind of religious prejudice and racial bigotry this country has witnessed in over a century." Sherwood himself had previously worked for the Washington Times, owned by members of the Unification Church. In a story on this book, the PBS television series Frontline obtained a copy of a letter addressed to Moon. The letter was written by James Gavin, a Moon aide. Gavin tells Moon he reviewed the "overall tone and factual contents" of Inquisition before publication and suggested revisions. Gavin adds that the author "Mr. Sherwood has assured me that all this will be done when the manuscript is sent to the publisher." Gavin concludes by telling Moon, "When all of our suggestions have been incorporated, the book will be complete and in my opinion will make a significant impact.... In addition to silencing our critics now, the book should be invaluable in persuading others of our legitimacy for many years to come." ...

Sherwood formerly worked for Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, whom George W. Bush later appointed as the first Secretary of Homeland Security. The Bush administration has selected Sherwood to create and manage a new federal website aimed at first responders (police officers, firefighters, etc.). While working as a Ridge administration official, Sherwood directed then-Gov. Ridge's award-winning broadcast TV and radio operations in Harrisburg.

Nope, move along, nothing to see here...

I'm so happy he has his finger on the nuclear button

The man who can't remember what businesses he has a share in:
(Kerry:)Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not true what he said. The Wall Street Journal said 96 percent of small businesses are not affected at all by my plan.

And you know why he gets that count? The president got $84 from a timber company that owns, and he's counted as a small business. Dick Cheney's counted as a small business. That's how they do things. That's just not right.

BUSH: I own a timber company?

(LAUGHTER)

That's news to me.

(LAUGHTER)

Need some wood?

Though admittedly, it must be hard for him to remember a business that actually makes money:

President Bush himself would have qualified as a "small business owner" under the Republican definition, based on his 2001 federal income tax returns. He reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise.

Or you can just watch Bush giving the Republicans their own version of the Dean Scream. Reminds me of some old Christmas TV listings, in a way.

Making your mind up is hard work

As if the Tories didn't have enough problems, now polls identify that even their own voters won't vote for them:
A contrarian writes: Those who savour independently minded people such as myself might like to note the table setting out the responses in the same YouGov poll when they asked: "Which four or five of the following policies would make you most likely to vote Conservative at the next election - or would you not vote Conservative whatever they promised?" One per cent of those who classed themselves as Conservative voters said they wouldn't vote for the party whatever it said.

Kerry-Bush 2: Savage in St Louis

OK, let's see how this liveblogging lark goes - I think the last time I tried this was for the local elections in May 2003.

Before we start, make sure you're aware of the debate rules.

Something to watch as the night goes on if you want to follow the money and see who's won - Betfair's prices are currently 1.71 on Bush and 2.38 on Kerry (that's about 7/10 and 7/5 in standard odds). Interestingly, Betfair have just opened markets on various swing states, but there's still very little money in them, but it'll be interesting to see how prices go in them as they establish.

The cameras just showed Bush momentarily from the back - I'm sure someone's looking for a bulge there.

First question to Kerry - are you wishy-washy? He responds by saying the Bush campaign is a 'weapon of mass deception'. Interesting answer - pointing out that he's supported Bush on issues and that Bush has changed his mind to not do what he says. Bush response is a bit of a yah-boo, but not bad, though 'pressure' could be this week's 'hard work'.

Next question is on weapons of mass destruction and the ISG report. Bush: 9/11 changed everything, Saddam was a 'unique threat' even if he didn't possess WMDs. Kerry - the world is more dangerous because the President made the wrong judgements. Kerry stepping right up to the Bush attacks - I believe Saddam was a threat, and I wanted him removed from power, but I would have used power wisely. Bush took his eye off the ball.

Rebuttal: Bush brings up the 'global test', sanctions and the UN weren't working. Kerry - ISG report shows sanctions worked to removed WMDs, and US should have used 'smart diplomacy'. This is getting quite nasty and personal.

OK, maybe not nasty, but this is as much a head-to-head as last week, though Bush is fighting better than he did. On Iraqi elections now: Kerry again hammers Bush on not having a good plan (or any plan), and then makes some good points about how the US needs allies back in Iraq. Bush talks about Iraqi Finance Minister's optimism, and trying to make it sound like it just looks bad here. Says Kerry has stolen his plan, then criticises it, which seems odd. Bush abbreviated Berlusconi to 'Berlus...'

On rebuttal, Kerry brings up Tora Bora again and how Osama escaped. Bush bringing out the 75% number again, because Al Qaeda hasn't recruited anyone since 2001, of course.

Next question to Bush on repairing diplomatic relations with other countries. Shorter Bush response: 'We're the USA, bitch!' Kerry - I can remember what you said 4 years ago, can you? Bush broke old promises. Other nations would have backed the US if Blix was given time to do his job - Bush rushed and didn't plan.

As they each keep jumping up in response, I keep seeing this as a rap battle - how about a question when they have to answer in rhyme. Kerry: 'Military's job is to win the war, the President's job is to win the peace.'

Next question on Iran: Kerry - it's a problem because Bush took his eye off the ball, same with North Korea. 'We have to lead the world to crack down on proliferation' - brings up Russian nuclear problems, how his plan will sort it in 4 years rather than Bush's 13. Bush: 'naive and dangerous' to let inspectors do their job.

Question on the draft: Bush says there are 'rumours on the internets' - can anyone tell me where the other ones are? I think he's saying there's no need for a draft because there are troops in Europe and South Korea who can be moved out. 'We're not going to have a draft so long as I'm a President.' Kerry: lists former Generals and Chiefs of Staff who support him because they know the military is over-extended - 'backdoor draft' in place. Military will work better because of more alliances.

Ooh, Bush is angry, listing leaders and managed Berlusconi and Kwasniewski (though I've probably spelt that wrong!) this time. Kerry - countries have left the coalition and those that are in, apart from US and UK, aren't contributing.

Again, Kerry looks Presidential, Bush looks angry.

Question on terrorist attacks: Kerry says we need better intelligence, need allies to get intelligency, have to invest in homeland security - Bush chose tax cut over homeland security. Bush - best defence is a good offence, says Kerry doesn't have 'the right view to make us safe'. Again, he's trying to attack Kerry, but not really picking up Kerry's attacks on him while Kerry is getting his rebuttal in on Bush's attacks.

Prescription drugs: Bush - Canadian drugs can kill. (I always knew those Canucks were evil - I don't really know the issues here) Kerry brings up Bush's statements from four years ago - that's some clever preparation and good memory.

Ooh, question on Edwards' time as a lawyer: Kerry comes back well, saying he and Edwards know the issues with tort reform and patients rights. It's less than 1% of the total cost of health care. Idea for a suicidal drinking game: do a shot every time Kerry says 'I have a plan' Bush's response mangles 'Kerry' and 'Kennedy' and brings up the most liberal senator lie again and is trying to use the 'he's a bad evil liberal' line.

I think I spot the Bush/Cheney campaign line for the next couple of weeks: 'John Kerry is an evil liberal, John Edwards is an evil trial lawyer'

On the budget deficit, Bush trots out the supply-side mantra. Kerry: biggest turnaround from surplus to deficit ever, first president to lose jobs for 72 years, first time taxes have been cut in wartime. Bush is thinking 'I would have got away with it if it wasn't for those pesky facts' - the other Kerry drinking game is a shot for each time he mentions 'the top 1%'. You'd just about be still standing now.

Kerry gets asked to pledge not to raise taxes on families under $200,000 and does it - makes a good point that he's had to abandon programmes he wanted to bring in because of Bush's deficit. Great line about who'll be affected by his tax changes - 'The President, me, and Charlie'.

I'll throw the summary of Bush' response to the MSN Messenger peanut gallery: oh so whiney.. whine whine whine

Bush gets a question on the environment, and really stumbles through his answer on this one. The questioner does not look at all impressed with his answer. Kerry talks about Bush's plans as 'Orwellian names' and how Bush has damaged environmental protection. 'I'm going to be a President who believes in science'.

Again, Kerry looking reasoned, capable, discussing the issues, Bush is reciting lists and getting angry.

While they discuss jobs and outsourcing, let's look at Betfair again: Bush still at 1.71, Kerry in to 2.34. There's been money going on during the debate, but not too much and with a slight edge to Kerry. Everyone waiting for the post-debate spin, I guess.

On Patriot Act: Bush says rights aren't being restricted, but all tools are needed to fight evile terrersts, Kerry lists Republicans who oppose it and lists the restrictions it puts on: 'we must never let the terrorists change the US Constitution'

Stem cells: Kerry respects objections to it, and mentions Michael J Fox and the hope of someone he met that they can save lives with it. Bush comes on and talks about life - did he just change the reference from 22 lines to 23? Again, he doesn't seem confident here, but I think he's trying to avoid mentioning religion. Peanut gallery: he has NO FUCKING CLUE what he's talking about

Sorry, Blogger took a while to publish there - Kerry won on the Supreme Court question easily as Bush had to reach all the way back to Dred Scott to find a decision he disagreed with.

Abortion: Kerry put on the spot again there, but came off well. Bush again seems to be struggling to answer without talking about God.

Shorter Kerry's rebuttal there: 'Don't fuck with me, monkey boy - I'm John Kerry, bitch!' Man, I'd pay good money to watch a proper, no holds barred debate between these two.

On mistakes: I missed Bush's full answer, but it seemed big waffle again. Kerry's talking about specific issues he's got wrong related to the war, and though I hate to repeat myself, he sounds clear and talking about actual issues and isn't vague.

Closing statements are the usual, but my thoughts are that Kerry's won this one again by, yet again, looking competent and sounding Presidential while Bush just sounds angry (and I'm pretty sure he's already got the angry white guy vote locked up) and talks about generalities. In terms of the post-debate spin, Kerry's got lots of sections where he can be quoted, lots of good sounding soundbites on different issues, while Bush's all sound the same.

And as a final point, it seems the gamblers of the world agree with me: Kerry is now down to 2.18 on Betfair with Bush out to 1.75. There's been a lot of money on Kerry in the last half hour.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Thanks to my lovely hosting company doubling my webspace (they've realized they can pretty much give that away, as it's the bandwidth that really costs) I've finally been able to switch this blog over to Blogger comments as enetation seems to have been sponsored by Xerox recently, double-posting comments all over the place. It also means that every post now comes on its own page, but all the old archive pages are still there so any old links will still work.

The old comments won't be thrown entirely down the memory hole, though - especially as they're useful to have as a backup in case Blogger throws a wobbly - but they'll just be less visible. I've changed the settings (though they don't seem to have percolated through the system as I write this) so that it'll no longer say comments, but just have a number there, showing how many comments there are. The 'comments' link will now take you to the Blogger comments page. I hope that makes sense.

Aside from that, everything else should still be the same, so let me know if anything's broken.

Advance warning

For those of you who have FilmFour, here's something to look out for next week. Every night at 10pm they're showing the fantasrtic City Of God and if you haven't seen it already it's definitely worth setting aside the time to watch it. And if you have seen it, you'll probably agree with me that it's worth watching again.

Friday, October 08, 2004

You want a piece of John Kerry? Then come get some...

From the Rude Pundit - the same person who suggested Edwards should offer Cheney a Deliverance-style experience in the debate - comes some advice for John Kerry and how to explain the 'global test'.

Different directions

The latest tool in the American online political battle has just launched: BlogPac, a Political Action Committee (PAC - they'e one of the myriad organisations allowed to raise and spend funds in American political campaigns) designed to take political blogging one step further and be actively involved in the political process:
Writing a blog post is not enough. Reading a blog post is not enough. Commenting on a blog is not enough.

Being educated is the first step toward political change. But the next step requires doing something.

BlogPac.org is that next step -- a group of bloggers not content to simply write words or read them, but eager to take action on the pressing issues of our day. We will not sit idly by and merely chatter as everything we care about burns. And you join us in our efforts.

Beyond what effect it may have, it got me thinking about the differences between political blogging in the US and the UK, and the different routes they've taken. It's interesting to note while more and more British politicians start blogging (the latest being Green Party leader Keith Taylor and Liberal Democrat MP Sandra Gidley) to the best of my knowledge there's not one US politician (above the state or local level at least) blogging. Politicians have used blogs - most notably Howard Dean, and there are also official Kerry-Edwards and Bush-Cheney blogs - but none of these are actually being written and run by the politicians themselves.

Instead, US blogs are being used to motivate and tap into an online activist and fundraising base - witness the number of candidates advertising on blogs and the fundraising efforts by Kos and Atrios, amongst others. While there have been recent developments in online fundraising by political parties in the UK - see this post on Perfect for more - political blogs have been mostly used as a communication rather than a fundraising tool. It'll be interesting to see what, if any, changes there are in British blogging as campaign managers learn from the American experience in the run-up to the General Election.

Why we blog, part 94

From the mind of The Editors:
What does the future hold for blogging? Who can say? Some people call me a visionary, but I don't think of myself that way. I mean, I haven't heard anyone say that personally, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that people are saying something along those lines, somewhere. In the future, I think that robots will rise against their human masters and enslave us all, and we will be forced to work 12-hour days erasing comment-spam from their robo-blogs.

Do I ever think about my place in history? Not really. But, you know, I think that people will probably remember this weblog long after we've all died and gone to hell. I bet one day, in a few thousand years, some kid will have to do a school project on this blog, and he'll look in the nano-encyclopedia, and under "The Poor Man" it will probably say something that really encapsulates everything I've been trying to get across with this blog, something like: A/S/L ROTFLMAO AOL SUX L8R L4M3R!!1! And in that way my message will reach this kid - maybe my hundred-times-great-grandchild - and he'll understand that there is an eternal golden cord that connects all of us who ever lived and ever will live. Because we're all one, really, just one life constantly experiencing different facets of itself, eternally. And then the robot overlords will scoop him up and melt him down into the fuel that powers their unholy war machines. It's thoughts like this that really make blogging so personally satisfying for me.

Friday Cat Blogging

As one of my flatmates has just got two new kittens, I can join in with this ancient and venerable tradition of blogging.



This is Boris. Like the similarly named spider, he likes to climb up people. He also has increible bursts of energy, interspersed with long sleeps while people wonder how he gets all those things done.



Aslan gets her name from the Turkish for 'lion'. However, she's yet to show any great hunting prowess, and instead takes her cue from the lions of Longleat, preferring to spend her time lazing around while people look at her and go 'ahhhh'.

Of course, when discussing kittens, it's necessary to point you in the direction of the leading blog expert on them and their nefarious ways.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

National Poetry Day - around the blogs

OK, hopefully this post should stay up on top all day. There are now National Poetry Day contributions from:

The Ex-Communicator
Backword Dave (and second, third and fourth contributions as well)
Iain Coleman
Crooked Timber
Normblog
Blood And Treasure
Panchromatica (and another)
A Step At A Time
Will Howells
Sheila A-Stray's Redheaded Ramblings

Christopher Hill
Liberal England
Offensive Mango
Creative Slips
The High Hat
Public Health Press
(make sure to read the comments on these posts as well, as many other people have contributed within them)

And while I remember, here are the links to the NPD posts from last year: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Strangely, even though I was posting poems by Adrian Mitchell that day I missed one of my all-time favourites out, so here it is now instead: Back In The Playground Blues

I dreamed I was back in the playground, I was about four feet high
Yes dreamed I was back in the playground, standing about four feet high
Well the playground was three miles long and the playground was five miles wide

It was broken black tarmac with a high wire fence all around
Broken black dusty tarmac with a high wire fence running all around
And it had a special name to it, they called it The Killing Ground

Got a mother and a father, they're one thousand years away
The rulers of The Killing Ground are coming out to play
Everybody thinking: 'Who they going to play with today?'

Well you get it for being Jewish
And you get it for being black
Get it for being chicken
And you get it for fighting back
You get it for being big and fat
Get it for being small
Oh those who get it get it and get it
For any damn thing at all

Sometimes they take a beetle, tear off its six legs one by one
Beetle on its black back, rocking in the lunchtime sun
But a beetle can't beg for more, a beetle's not half the fun

I heard a deep voice talking, it had that iceberg sound
'It prepares them for Life' - but I have never found
Any place in my life worse than The Killing Ground.


I'll be around updating on and off for most of the rest of the day, so let me know if I've missed you and wou want to be added to the list.

Maybe now they'll support lowering the voting age

Given that the number of Busted fans over 18 are probably even smaller than the number of Tory MPs without ambitions on the leadership after the next election, does their endorsement of the Tories actually mean anything? Or are Michael Howard's secret election campaign plans based entirely around pester power?

So what blogs is Boris reading?

From Mr Johnson's latest column:
Conservatives tend to think that of the crooked timber of humanity was no straight thing ever made

On trains

Seeing Richard Allan's comments about the bewildering array of train fares available for what should be simple journeys prompts me to write a post of praise for a train company that I dealt with today. I had to book two journeys for a couple of weeks time and having ascertained which trains I wanted to get and at what times - with their website telling me how much the journey would cost - I called them up and booked the journeys at exactly the times indicated on the website, at exactly the same price they'd quoted there.

You're waiting for the punchline, aren't you? Well, in this case it's not SNCF, but RENFE (English timetables available here and UK website here) - Spain's national train company. As a point of contrast, for the price a friend of mine paid for a return from Colchester to Huddersfield a few month ago, I've purchased a journey from Barcelona to Malaga, and then a separate journey from Malaga to Madrid a week later.

Now, I could write a long post on my complaints about the British rail network and the terrible service offered by just about every Train Operating Company, but if I started to write that post, I'd probably never stop. I'll just note that RENFE is, of course, a state-owned company.

The most important question about UKIP

Maybe this question has already been posed in Viz's 'Syrup Watch', but does Roger Knapman wear a wig? Because in that picture it doesn't look like real hair.

National Poetry Day

Well, as it's past midnight it's now National Poetry Day so, as promised, if you've done something related to it on your blog, please leave the details in the comments box, and I'll make up a big post full of linky goodness to the various participating sites. And as I mentioned earlier, here are some thoughts from Shelley, In Defence Of Poetry:
But poets, or those who imagine and express this indestructible order, are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance and architecture and statuary and painting: they are the institutors of laws and the founders of civil society, and the inventors of the arts of life, and the teachers who draw into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and the true that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world, which is called religion. Hence all original religions are allegorical, or susceptible of allegory, and like Janus have a double face of false and true.

Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which they appeared, were called, in the earlier epochs of the world, legislators or prophets: a poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of latest time. Not that I assert poets to be prophets in the gross sense of the word, or that they can foretell the form as surely as they foreknow the spirit of events: such is the pretence of superstition, which would make poetry an attribute of prophecy, rather than prophecy an attribute of poetry. A poet participates in the eternal, the infinite and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Liberal

I got a copy of the first edition of the new magazine The Liberal last week. I say new, but one could claim it has 180 years of (mostly unwritten) history as it is consciously based on the magazine of the same title established by Byron, Shelley and Hunt in 1822. That only lasted for four issues, but I hope the new one stays around for a lot longer.

I'd originally thought that it would be for the Liberal Democrats what the Spectator is for the Conservatives and the New Statesman is for Labour and it some parts it is, with articles by Tim Garden on Iraq, Chris Huhne on localism and Shami Chakrabarti on identity cards but, perhaps because it's a monthly magazine rather than a weekly, it has a much wider focus and features original fiction (by Hanif Kureishi this issue) and poetry as well as some more reflective pieces on the arts, culture and philosophy.

It's not perfect - the look and layout of the magazine is a bit dated (compare it to New Humanist - another magazine on a similar scale - for example) and the reviews section at the end is rather brief, though that may be more to the problems of getting review copies (or advance admission to films, etc) for a first edition than a long-term flaw. But, in a nod to the magazine's past, Shelley's 'In Defence Of Poetry' is included, which is rather good for me, as it makes it easily available for me to quote from for National Poetry Day tomorrow.

All in all, I would recommend picking up a copy - if you can't get hold of one in the shops, then contact them through their website and (if they're still as quick responding as they were to me) you should be able to get a copy in a day or two. Personally, I'll probably be subscribing and looking forward to the next issue.

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of loons

Five Live are reporting some interesting developments in the ongoing struggle for control of UKIP. Someones leaked to the BBC that Kilroy was offered the role of 'Director of the General Election campaign' in exchange for him not demanding the party leadership with the deal set to be confirmed at their Conference last week. However, it seems the Orange One pulled out of the deal at the last minute and resumed his bid for the leadership while calling for Roger Knapman to resign. It's probably connected to Paul Sykes' decision to stop funding UKIP, and the BBC already have a quote from Frank Maloney - UKIP's candidate for London Mayor- attacking Kilroy. Fasten your seatbelts, as I think this is going to be a fun ride for the next few months!

Does it matter?

I was going to stay up and watch the Vice-Presidential debate, but then I realised that it wasn't really worth it. Firstly, because not only does Dick Cheney make me want to throw stuff at the TV when he appears, but also because I can't help thinking that John Edwards, even though everyone seems to think he's a nice guy, keeps reminding me of Ken Wind from Elektra: Assassin. Secondly, it's because Vice-Presidential debates may create a few interesting quotes (Bentsen's 'You're no Jack Kennedy', Stockdale's 'Who am I? Why am I here?') they don't tend to make any difference to the overall election. And looking at various reactions, it seems that everyone was either distinctly underwhelmed - or going along with their partisan leanings - by last night as well.

Still, two more Bush-Kerry debates to go, and hopefully I'll be liveblogging one or both of them, either here or maybe over at Fistful.

Making Boris look sensible

I've just read in the Independent's Conference Diary that Rick Wakeman's a Conservative and hoping to become an MEP at some time in the future. (There would seem to be confirmation here) Personally, I think he's wasted as an MEP, and should be looking for a Westminster seat. Though of course, that's just because I wonder what the effect would be of bringing his and Boris Johnson's hair together in an enclosed space like the House of Commons.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bought and paid for

Via Guido Fawkes, here's a chance to buy and sell MPs like you control a Rotten Borough with Polidex. All very simple - buy shares in MPs, and the more people who buy someone, the higher their share price goes. It seems achievements count for nothing against popularity in this game, and I'll leave you to make your own judgement as to how accurate a reflection of political reality that is.

There's also a league for bloggers to compete in should you wish - the league name is 'bloggers' and the password is '65log', so come join in and see how wise my investments in Tim Collins turns out to be.

Mr Sykes' masterplan

I've been thinking some more about Paul Sykes' announcement that he won't be funding UKIP any more, and realised that he's played a very interesting game with the Tories and UKIP for the past few years, and he's finally getting close to winning. At some point, I'm not sure when, Sykes realised that while his aim was to get Britain out of the EU, he was never going to achieve that with aim with UKIP, but that he could use UKIP to pull the Tories closer to advocating withdrawal through UKIP.

It was only a few weeks ago, after all, that Sykes was talking about withdrawing his funding for UKIP if Kilroy didn't become the leader but now we're told that:
UKIP's would-be leader Robert Kilroy-Silk's declaration he wanted to "kill" the Tories is understood to have been the final straw for Mr Sykes, who has twice left the Conservative Party because of its policy on Europe.

Now, Sykes can probably claim that he didn't expect Kilroy to proclaim his death sentence on the Tories, or that he'd changed his mind, but it seems to me that Sykes very cleverly wound Kilroy up and let him go, giving Sykes a convenient excuse (just when UKIP have given the Tories a solid kicking in Hartlepool) to pull his funding.

Now, of course, he can go back to flirting with the Conservative Party which is - as Michael Brown mentioned yesterday in the Independent - needing to find large sums of cash to fight the next election, and suddenly here's that nice Mr Sykes, having seen the error of the swivel-eyed loon ways, coming back to the fold. The Tories are now scared enough to start moving towards withdrawal, but the big potential threat to them of UKIP has been damaged by having it's financial carpet pulled out from under them. The Tories won't win the next election - and I suspect Sykes doesn't expect them to, whether he gives them money or not - but after it, Howard goes and then Sykes and his money are in a very good position to help the Party choose its next leader...and I suspect he'll be much more willing to talk about withdrawal.

I got your debate right here, Mr Cheney

Given his views on language this morning, I'm not sure if Harry will appreciate the Rude Pundit's suggestions for what John Edwards should say during tonight's debate, but I found it pretty funny.

Responses

Michael Howard is telling Conservatives to use 'ten words' on the doorstep to persuade people to vote Tory. Leaving aside the fact that he seems to have followed Blair in throwing the basic rules of English grammar out of the window (verbs are your friends, Michael!), I wonder if they're going to be told what to say when someone replies with one word:

How?

One extra thought - did Howard promise or pledge to win the next election (one would assume it's integral to the job, of course)? Because given his rhetoric that politicians who don't live up to their promises should lose their jobs, if he is saying he'll win it, then he's pretty much pledged to resign the day after the election if the Tories don't win. The next Tory leadership contest starts on May 6th next year, it seems.

Missing: one country. Reward offered for safe return

So, when Wales goes missing from an official map, I look for a comment from bloggers based in Cardiff and Swansea, yet hear nothing? Has the whole country really slipped into the Irish Sea? Was the very existence of 'Wales' just a mass consensual hallucination that has now faded? Does this make my University of Wales degree invalid now? And who will England be playing on Saturday?

Self-inflicted wounds, pt 94

I think the keyword for Robert Kilroy-Silk's next speech to the loons might have to be 'oops':
The UK Independence Party's largest donor says he will not provide funds for its General Election campaign.

The anti-EU party has pledged to fight almost every constituency at the general election expected in May.

But Paul Sykes, who has contributed £1.4m, thinks UKIP will achieve little more than unseat Eurosceptic Tory MPs.

The North Yorkshire businessman told BBC Radio 4: "Conservative Party policy on Europe is now moving in the right direction."

UKIP's would-be leader Robert Kilroy-Silk's declaration he wanted to "kill" the Tories is understood to have been the final straw for Mr Sykes, who has twice left the Conservative Party because of its policy on Europe.

Anyone with a spare few hundred thousand pounds lying around would do well to contact UKIP. If you're really lucky you may even get a tiny bit of it back when Kilroy and a couple of others manage to just about avoid losing their deposits.

Descriptively correct

You know how some people get their job title changed so it sounds like they're doing something more important than they actually are? The way toilet cleaners become 'sanitation engineers' or:
Team Leader is just a title, Tim tells Gareth. No one respects it, just like milk monitor. That's not true, Gareth counters, because if people were rude to him he used to give them their milk last... so it was warm.

Well, via Tbogg, here's one of the silliest yet:

We are not bloggers, We are independent, peer reviewed journalists.

Monday, October 04, 2004

A long way from number 10

I'm sure some people will discount these poll findings because they were for the BBC:
Only 12% of the public believe Michael Howard will be elected prime minister, with 78% believing he will never lead the country, according to a BBC Newsnight/ICM poll.

Even among Conservative supporters polled, the majority (65%) believe he will never be PM.

And just to put on my partisan Liberal Democrat hat for a moment, can you see my smile as I read this paragraph:

Nearly a quarter (22%) of those polled believed the Conservatives were the most effective opposition party, compared with 42% believing the Liberal Democrats were.

And who's the opportunist in the eyes of the public?

On the war in Iraq, more than half of the sample (52%) believed Mr Howard's criticism of the way the government made its case for war was motivated by a desire to score political points over Tony Blair.

And 34% of those polled believe Mr Howard genuinely objects to how Tony Blair made the case for war.

Even amongst the Tory voters questioned, 38% believe Michael Howard was motivated by political point scoring.

Elsewhere, Anthony has some interesting thoughts on the Tories' problem of persuading people about their policies:

Finally there is the air of being "out of it" - in other words, people don't support us because we don't seem to have much support. Now there is a vicious circle and there isn't an easy answer to that, other than keep working, keep believing and, as Nicholas Soames said last week, Keep Buggering On.

As a member of a party that's been told 'if we thought you could win, we'd vote for you' by enough people to mean we would win since the early 80s, my advice is this: there's a lot of buggering on for you to do, I'm afraid.

Quick reminder

It's National Poetery Day on Thursday. Last week's post about it is here, for those of you missed it, or have forgotten about it.

Not dead, just resting

Unfortunately, today's interesting cover story in the Independent - former Tory MP Michael Brown on 'The Slow, Strange Death of the Conservative Party - requires a subscription for you to read it online, but it's an interesting look behind the scenes at the organisational side of party politics, and how the Conservatives are slipping further and further behind as their grassroots wither. Of course it's not just the Conservatives this affects - I've heard complaints from Labour Party members that not only are membership numbers dropping, but those that leave are the people who would go out delivering leaflets on a wet Wednesday night in February and the Liberal Democrats have a smaller membership than the other two parties and less resources to pay for a national structure - but one does wonder if the Conservatives are suffering more than the other two parties, especially from an aging membership. For instance, the Young Conservatives claimed to have 150,000 members back in the 50s and, as Brown points out in his article, whole swathes of the country used to have their own local full-time Conservative agent and now don't. (However, he does make a mistake when he claims this makes it harder to join the Conservatives - one of William Hague's reforms was to make it possible for people to join the Conservatives centrally, instead of having to join their local party) It's probably worth noting, though, that whatever the membership of Conservative Future (or whatever it's called this year) may be, the swivel-eyed loons don't seem to even have a youth wing, though one suspects that if they did, it's members would start getting very lonely very quickly. Actually, if anyone has spotted someone trying to establish a UKIP branch at a University, do let me know.

I suspect we'll have to wait until the next General Election to see what the actual effective membership of the parties is, though.

Tim Collins Watch

While there's not much going on at Tory Party conference yet, the pre-conference fluff pieces are bringing up some interesting (and potentially disturbing information) such as this one revealing that Nicholas Soames like Dido (though you may wonder if he thought it was the name of a new restaurant), Liam Fox is a fan of the Scissor Sisters (whether he'll be taking his mama to the Party Conference is not revealed) and that the last CD bought by Tim Collins, was Will Young "although he insisted it was for his wife." Meanwhile, Chris Brooke - the man we should normally expect to bring us such important news about Tim Collins - is dealing with slightly more serious issues and juxtaposing posters.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Devaluation

I'm fully aware that all religion is rather silly and every one of them is based on particularly stupid premises, but isn't it getting just slightly too easy to get beatified by the Catholic Church?
Pope John Paul II has declared five Roman Catholics blessed, including the last Austro-Hungarian emperor...

the beatification of Emperor Charles I has been criticised by some as he authorised the use of poison gas by his army in World War I.

Charles I sat on the throne of the now defunct empire between 1916 and 1918.

The Austrian press has also questioned the miracle he allegedly worked to merit beatification.

According to the Vatican, he cured a Brazilian nun of varicose veins.

About 1,000 descendants of the Habsburg dynasty attended Sunday's ceremony.

"I hope Emperor Charles will serve as an example, especially for those with political responsibilities in Europe today," the Pope said.

I do wonder just what the criteria for beatification are. Are points allocated for actions? And on what scale does healing one nun of varicose veins outweigh authorising the deployment of poison gas? Has someone informed Saddam Hussein's lawyers of this? It could be a could defence for him - perhaps Tariq Aziz should have a quick word with Pope.

And please correct me if I've got this wrong, but isn't one of the rules of Catholicism that someone has to be prayed to before they intervene? And if I am right, just why on Earth was a Brazilian nun praying to the former Emperor of Austria-Hungary? Was she bored and just plucking names at random from an encyclopedia? Can you just pray to anyone who happens to be dead, or are there official Vatican forms that have to be filled out before someone becomes officially worthy of being prayed to.

I'll make this clear now, just for the avoidance of doubt. If I happen to be wrong and the Catholics turn out to be right, I'll probably be going to hell. But if by some chance I end up on a cloud, don't even thinking of praying and asking for my intercession unless it's for something important, like stopping a war. The afterlife's a time to relax, kick back and chill a little, not for flitting round the cosmos healing varicose veins, warts and ingrown toenails. Wouldn't it be nice if the Pope told his assembled gullible sheep - sorry, Catholics - to stop praying for the relief of ailments that can be relieved by minor suffering and ask the several thousand saints he's created to do something useful with their time?

Making it far too easy

More proof that UKIP aren't really that good at this politics lark:
Mr Kilroy-Silk said Mr Knapman had told him he wanted to stand down after the 10 June European elections.

But Mr Knapman, speaking to BBC News 24, rubbished the claims and said he had no intention of stepping down.

Explaining how the party's unexpected gains in June had changed his plans, Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "But then of course he [Mr Knapman] got a massive election result and probably he liked the size of his new train set."

But Mr Knapman said: "It is not within my grasp to come to such a deal and indeed such a deal was never come to or even discussed."

Now I know they probably don't have many friends, but haven't they heard of 'sources close to', or saying things in such a way that you can deny the obvious interpretation? Kilroy's just about one step away from saying 'I want his job, but the bastard's rigged the rules against me.' Still, it's just watching the loons continuing their ongoing process of tearing themselves apart. There's a strange part of me that almost wants them to get power, just to see how disastrous it'd all be. Of course, that part of me would also like to be living in New Zealand at the time.

An appeal

I've had a message from the people behind the By-elections website, which I thought I ought to give a wider audience than the couple of people who might see it in the comments box:
Thanks for the links. It's nice to see the site is generating some interest and discussion.

If anyone has any literature from a by-election I would love to hear from them. You can either loan me the items to scan, or send me your scans and I will add them to the website.

On the subjects of Richmond and Walton, I would love to get hold of some items from the SDP and Real Labour campaigns in those two contests - Can anyone help?

I am working on adding literature from Hartlepool. There is so much of it that it could take two weeks to get it all done but I will try to add items as they are completed, so keep checking.

By-elections and what ifs

In the comments on my post about by-elections below, Alex raises a what-if that I was considering while reading the site and writing the post - what if there'd been a rapprochement between the Social & Liberal Democrats (the party now known as the Liberal Democrats) and the SDP (the 'Owenite' rump SDP that didn't join the merger between the old SDP and the Liberal Party)

A quick search on soc.history.what-if reveals that there's been little discussion of the possibilities - though Anthony Wells discusses some of the issues here - but there are a lot of possible changes to the British political scene in the 90s that could result from an SDP or SLD win in Richmond.

It's worth remembering that there was (and still is - many Liberal Democrats have a visceral reaction to the name 'David Owen') a lot of bad blood between the two parties after the merger, mainly because a lot of egos were bruised during and after the merger of the SDP and the Liberal Party into the SLD, and the decision of the 'Owenites' to go and form their own new SDP afterwards. For a time in the late 80s, it did appear that the two parties would effectively destroy each other (combined, they were polling little more than 10%, and were beaten into 4th place by the Greens at the European elections in 1989). Then as now, by-elections were one of the main ways for a third party to make a mark (the old SDP-Liberal Alliance had made several gains at by-elections between 1981 and 1987) so when both parties sensed a chance of a gain at a by-election, they both went for it, which of course meant that they were competing against each other for the same votes. While this tended to lead to them squabbling over third place a lot of the time, there were two elections where it may have made a difference - Epping Forest in December 1988 and Richmond in February 1989. In Epping Forest, the combined total for the two parties was within 500 of the victorious Conservative (Steve Norris) while in Richmond, the combined total was 9,000 more than William Hague's winning total.

In retrospect, the solution seems obvious - the SDP don't stand a candidate in Epiing Forest, the SLD withdraw from Richmond, thus causing a Tory loss in one or both of them - but logical as that seems (and many suggested it at the time) it misses the fact that there was too much bad blood between the parties and that neither would give way for the other. Anthony's scenario - having a slightly stronger SDP - is perhaps the most likely other outcome, but there is one other (if more unlikely) option and that's to have the two elections taking place even closer than they did. If Sir John Biggs-Davison (whose death triggered the Epping Forest by-election) survives for another month or so, then the two by-elections will either take place on the same date, or close enough that campaigns will overlap. In that instance, we might not see the parties refusing to nominate a candidate, but some kind of tacit understanding (probably through back channels, of course, as it's hard to picture Paddy Ashdown and David Owen agreeing anything between them) that the SDP will concentrate on Richmond, while the SLD will concentrate on Epping Forest.

In the long run, I'm not sure that it'll make much change to the future of the SDP or the Liberal Democrats (as the SLD would soon become) as the SDP was always on the back foot nationally against the Liberal Democrats, having a smaller membership, less councillors and, even if they win Richmond, only 4 MPs. The more interesting question is if, having suffered two by-election defeats in early 1989, Mrs Thatcher's position is more precarious and whether that might tempt Heseltine to make his move a year earlier than he did? Will Lawson still resign in October, and if he does, is it more damaging? And if Thatcher falls in 1989 who replaces her? And how do the nineties progress without (presumably) Shagger Norris and William Hague?

(I've cross-posted a version of this post to soc.history.what-if as well)