» Nick ¦ What You Can Get Away With

The ‘cost’ bias – Chris Dillow explains how a lot of our understanding of how much something might cost the economy is completely wrong.
The robots are coming – John Lanchester in the LRB on how automation is changing everything around us.
Die Another Eh: What Does It Mean Now That James Bond Is In The Public Domain In Canada? – It’s almost as though copyright law has been set up to be as confusing and stifling of creativity as possible.
American democracy is doomed – Slightly incendiary title for a piece that’s arguing the current structure of American democracy needs to change, but sums up a lot of the problems with how American democracy (doesn’t) work. The problem isn’t having a constitution, it’s having that constitution seen as a near-sacred text that can’t be jettisoned and replaced.
A mayor for all seasons? – Professor Colin Talbot argues that devolution to Greater Manchester and the imposition of an elected Mayor is following the model of previous British government blunders.

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Scenes like this will not be seen in the House of Commons.

Scenes like this will not be seen in the House of Commons.

The news that Frank Lampard has apparently turned down the chance to be Conservative candidate for Kensington is perhaps unsurprising given that I’ve never heard of him expressing a political view before, and City Football Group will pay him much more to not play for somebody than he’ll ever earn as an MP. (One does wonder if he was only mentioned because he has so much in common with the seat, as both have cut all ties with Chelsea)

Those who still wish to see Parliament filled with sportsmen who’ve never expressed political views before could still be in luck as Andrew Strauss, James Cracknell and Sol Campbell have all been linked with the seat. I wonder just what it is that attracts the Tories to wealthy celebrities?

It’s curious, though, that it’s these sporting celebrities who are linked with careers in politics, not those who’ve spent much of their sporting careers campaigning, and are now retired, so would likely have the time if someone approached them. The two I’m thinking of were known throughout their careers for speaking up even in the face of ostracism, and have led global campaigns for equality in sport. They managed this while training hard with little financial support and winning World and Olympic titles, one of them even managing to complete a PhD during their career, showing the sort of dedication, campaigning experience and wide range of knowledge one would want in a politician.

So, has anyone ever approached Nicole Cooke or Emma Pooley about the prospect of using all their skills in a political career?

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The competition, apparently.

The competition, apparently.

Apparently, there’s a market – and someone at the Guardian reckons it’s at least 18 strong – for a ‘masterclass’ on live blogging at a cost of £99 for three hours.

I look at that and think ‘who is this Stuart Heritage?’ Does he have the extensive knowledge and experience of blogging that has made him the eighth most influential blogger on the subject of ‘other’? He clearly does not. Has he been nominated for a Blog of the Year award only when the field from which nominees are selected has shrunk dramatically? He hasn’t. Was he featured in print in The Blog Digest 2007? He wasn’t, but yet he still feels he can charge a quite large sum of money to those wanting to receive his blogging experience.

Well, if there’s money for old rope going around, never let it be said that I wasn’t willing to do a half-arsed job and throw something together in an attempt to get a little bit of that cash for myself. Here’s my full day seminar in the things you’ll need to know to be a political blogger as successful, influential and well-regarded as I am.

10am: Welcome, Introductions and Getting To Know You In which I spend at least ten minutes looking at a list of names, counting heads in the room and saying ‘we’ll just give the stragglers a couple of minutes’ before getting started on reading out this schedule to you, as though you’ve never seen it before. Following that, I’ll ask you all to introduce yourselves, figuring that as you’ve all come to an event about how to get other people to read your opinions, you’ll easily fill an hour between you bigging up your own self-importance and getting into pointless arguments.

11am: The basics of blogging In which I ignore the fact that all the attendees already have blogs and tell you how to start a blog, including a ridiculously detailed PowerPoint presentation on signing up for WordPress. (Note: This will be the only part of the course where I have anything resembling notes and a plan and am not desperately winging it)

11.45am: Developing your own complex and detailed political opinions: The amount of time we devote to this subject will reflect its importance in creating an interesting and well-read blog.

11.50am: Who needs opinions when columnists can have them for you? Includes important lessons on how to get newspaper pundits to tweet a link to the post in which you bravely agree with whatever they wrote that morning.

12.30: Lunch (not included in price). Attendees will be given the opportunity to learn more of the secrets of blogging if they buy me food and drink at a nearby pub.

2pm: The @loveandgarbage guide to live blogging: Special guest tutor Love And Garbage (invited, but not confirmed at time of going to press), author of many live blogs including ‘Is it snowing outside?’, ‘Is there snow outside?’ and ‘Snow’ will explain all the intricacies of this special form of blogging. As an acknowledged master of digital communication, Love And Garbage’s lessons are not to be missed (attendance still not confirmed at this time).

3pm: How to be a success at political blogging: This session will help turn you into a top class political blogger. Topics covered will include:

  • How to cherry pick polls to prove your point
  • The conventional wisdom: Isn’t the true bravery in standing up for it, not challenging it?
  • Telling people just what they want to hear – and getting them to share it
  • Building an audience through the use of partisan factoids
  • Speaking truth to power: How to tell the powerful they’re looking really good, are completely right about everything and do they have any jobs available?
  • (Some of these topics will be covered in greater depth on our full-day ‘How To Work For A Think Tank’ course – 10% discounts available to everyone who completes the blogging masterclass!)
    All topics will be covered by way of me improvising wildly based on half-completed PowerPoint presentations, and attempting to stoke arguments amongst attendees in the hopes that’ll fill some time.

    4.30pm: Close and Conclusions A chance for me to make many of the same points again, then fill more of your time by asking you all to tell us what you’ve learned on the course. Please feel free to tell us all in great detail how it’s proved you’re right about everything.

    Following the event, the tutor will retire to a nearby pub, where you will be invited to buy him drinks in the hope of learning more of my wisdom of blogging.

    The details: Attendance is just £5.50 per person, though Ryanair-style additional charges may be made for extras such as having a seat or being in the actual room where the masterclass is taking place. Location TBC, but likely to end up being whichever coffee shop has the comfiest seats and staff who are least likely to throw us out for hogging space and not buying anything. Attendees should expect to bring their own laptops, tablets, chargers, power sources and ideas to the course as none will be supplied. All guest tutors are unconfirmed at this time, and may be replaced by whoever responds to a desperate plea for help on Twitter on the morning of the event. All attendees will be given the right to design and print their own certificate of attendance. Tutors reserve the right to be more interested in browsing social media than teaching the course. All timings are subject to change, especially for the afternoon after the pub. No refunds.

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    By adding this picture, this post is now 32.9% more patriotic than it was before.

    By adding this picture, this post is now 32.9% more patriotic than it was before.

    Your starter for 10: Look at the following proposal.

    Publicly-funded infrastructure projects – including roads, flood defences and broadband cabinets – will be branded with a Union Jack plaque.

    Is this:
    A) Something a UKIP MEP pledged to their conference when he lost his notes and had to make up a policy on the spot?
    B) Actual Government policy, cooked up by Danny Alexander and Francis Maude, to ensure that neither party in the coalition can distance themselves from the stench of stupid?
    C) A Labour party proposal, launched by a grinning Tristram Hunt and Chuka Umunna holding a massive flag?
    D) A rejected plot from The Thick Of It, where Nicola finally snaps at Olly for proposing a policy of pure unadulterated ridiculousness?

    The correct answer is actually and depressingly B, and Danny Alexander and Francis Maude will be launching the policy today. According to Alexander, the flags will be attached to everything from “roads in Cornwall to broadband in Caithness”, both examples that make you ask ‘how?’ Will there be a plaque every few hundred metres on the road, just to remind you, and just how do you attach a plaque to broadband? Meanwhile, Maude predictably trumpets this as part of the ‘long term economic plan’, which conjures up an image of a future where unemployment will be solved by employing millions in designing, making and affixing flag plaques to things.

    Rejoice, citizens, and form an orderly queue at your local Office of Flag Attachment to receive your complimentary (and compulsory) full face flag tattoo to mark the taxpayer’s contribution to making you the person you are today.

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    It's the mockbuster version of this, basically.

    It’s the mockbuster version of this, basically.

    The Pitch: So, there’s this blogger, yeah? He’s been doing it for a while and still getting ideas for things to write about, but he refuses to learn lessons from his past. So, despite his recurrent failure to keep themed series of posts going, he decides to create a new one, telling himself it’ll be different this time, that he’s sure to be able to get inspiration, and it’s only one post once a week. Surely he can manage that?

    Inevitably, things go wrong, and he finds himself one weekend completely devoid of inspiration. Rather than admitting his own failure, he strikes on a last desperate plan: surely inspiration will return in the next week, so all he needs is something, anything to fill the gap this week. That’s how he ends up plunging into the world of metafiction, making this week’s post entirely about his inability to come up with a post in the hope that someone, somewhere will be hugely impressed by a gambit that might have been interesting twenty years ago but is now pretty hackneyed and dated.

    The ending comes rather surprisingly when he realises that he can’t even come up with a punchline, so things just sort of stop rather than concluding.

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    The surprising results that have happened in Group B mean that the losers of crucial games in Group A could get easier quarter-final games than the winners. Let me explain why.

    Group B has been the more interesting half of the draw in this year’s Cricket World Cup. It’s seen nail-biting finishes, the first World Cup double century, the biggest ODI win by one Test-playing country over another and the question of which four teams will go through from it is still not settled. Ireland’s victories and the mercurial nature of the West Indies and Pakistan have opened up the battle for third and fourth place in the group, whilst India’s win over South Africa puts them as favourites to top the group, despite AB De Villiers’ demolition of the West Indies.

    Meanwhile, Group A has been progressing more sedately and more in line with form. There’s the mild surprise of New Zealand’s overnight win against Australia, but the Kiwis seem to have come into form at just the right time as they did last time they co-hosted the World Cup. Behind the two hosts, England’s match against Sri Lanka will likely settle who takes third place in the group, while Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland squabble over the minor places.

    However, because of the unexpected results in Group B, the losers of this weekend’s big clashes may find themselves with the easier match in the quarter-finals. Australia’s loss means they’re now most likely to finish second in the group, which will match them up with Group B’s third place side. That now seems most likely to be Ireland, while New Zealand as group winners will face whoever comes in fourth, which will likely be Pakistan or West Indies. While Ireland are good, I’m sure the Kiwis would rather face them rather than risk another Chris Gayle explosion.

    Likewise for Sri Lanka and England. The winner of their game seems likely to finish third (though Sri Lanka could still finish second if they also beat Australia), which means playing the runner-up of Group B, while the loser should finish fourth, where they’ll meat Group B’s winner. India seem highly likely to win the group now (they’d need to lose two of their remaining games to not do so), but South Africa seem the more dangerous team to face after their record-obliterating performance against the West Indies. I suspect England especially would much rather face the team they beat twice in the pre-World Cup triangular tournament than discover just how much damage AB De Villiers can do to their bowlers.

    While I’m sure Australia are kicking themselves over their loss to New Zealand, and both Sri Lanka and England will be giving their best for victory tonight, they’ll all have it in the back of their minds that losing isn’t the end of the world, and the escape route could be the easier way to the semi-finals.

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    Times Like These – Flying Rodent argues that we take the Times far too seriously – indeed, the fact that its habitual grovelling to power isn’t a national joke says a lot about us as a nation.
    A different cluetrain – Charles Stross on some of the factors that will drive the politics of the future.
    The history of a political surge – A Green perspective on the processes that have driven the recent growth in that party’s membership.
    Disaster – Simon Wren-Lewis on the economic hole we’re currently in, and not showing any signs of climbing out of.
    Has The Good Right got it right? – Alex Marsh on the latest (though oddly pre-election, not post) manifesto setting out yet another new direction for conservatism.

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