2015 General Election Day 28: Who’s ahead in Wabznasm North?

Election Sundays are notable for two things – a slight scaling down of the activity carried out on the ground by the parties, coupled with a ratcheting up of the ridiculousness of the rhetoric by the Sunday papers. Today, of course, we had the spectacle of the Mail telling us that an arrangement between Labour and the SNP would be the biggest crisis in British politics since the Abdication in 1936. It’s an odd point to use, even if you’re looking for purely constitutional crises, as the Abdication was something that was seen as completely unthinkable before it happened but then when it came, it was all handled with a minimum of fuss and the country did quite well out of it. You’ll certainly find few people who’ll argue that several decades of King Edward VIII would have been better for the country than George VI and Elizabeth II.

It’s all feeling very much like The Day Today reporting on a constitutional crisis:

But don’t worry Britain, everything will be all right:

In future election news, there was an interesting development in the next Tory leadership election battle as Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband found themselves sitting next to each other on Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning sofa. Unfortunately for Boris, his prospects of a coronation shrunk even more as Miliband showed he’s found the way to respond to Boris: stay calm, and don’t get drawn in. I suspect he might have been watching Eddie Mair’s interview with Johnson, where Mair’s refusal to get drawn into Johnson’s blustering tempo led to Boris getting progressively more flustered and open for a clever counterpunch.

Of course, Miliband impressing me on one hand had to be coupled with him annoying me on the other. During his solo interview with Andrew Marr, he casually announced that his government would find ‘back office savings’ in local government allowing him to make more cuts in its budget. There are two key points here: first, local government has been making cuts and finding savings for several years now, and if there were easy savings to be made without cuts to services, it’s be doing them already; second, it’s annoying that he’s taking the standard Westminster approach to local government of assuming it’s there to be commanded and bossed around, not free to find its own ways of doing things. He’s not being different from any government before him, but it’s just annoying when politicians of any party talk like that.

One point of interest that might explain that is that as far as I can tell there are only two Prime Ministers (and they’re the only two party leaders) of the last hundred years with any direct experience of local government. Attlee was Mayor of Stepney just after the First World War, and John Major was a Lambeth councillor in the 60s. It’s a pattern reflected across the senior leadership of all the parties – being a councillor might help in becoming an MP, but a hindrance to getting further than that.

Back to the list of minor parties in the election and we find that the Communities United Party is the next up. They’re not new for this election – though Mark Pack found them a bit of a mystery when they stood in the European Elections last year – and their website isn’t much of a help in deciphering their political stance, but it’s a bit worrying when the picture of the leader on the front has the caption ‘legend leader’ on it and a lot of the website is plastered with adverts for his legal services firm. Still, they have four other candidates standing across London as well as the ‘legend’ Kamran Malik in Brent Central, so it would be unfair to refer to them as solely a one-am band.

Today on Election Leaflets throws up a high-profile independent with a leaflet from Mike Hancock’s campaign to ensure he gets his full £30,000 resettlement allowance re-elected in Portsmouth South. His main call within the leaflet is for better pensions, which might reveal what he expects his situation to be after the election. Still, it makes for an interesting curio in this election, and the sort of thing it’s interesting for Eection Leaflets to have archived for the future.

And that’s how we leave it with eleven days to go. We’ve made it this far, surely we can do the rest?

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Don't worry David, I've never gone back on my word.

Don’t worry David, I’ve never gone back on my word.

I think we might be in the election silly season, as today we’re getting swamped by odd stories and speculation. This includes the idea that if the Tories don’t get a majority, David Cameron will step down and allow Boris Johnson to be appointed Tory leader without an election so he can try and form a minority administration.

So far, so silly, but if they do try it, they might want to take heed of the words of a Daily Telegraph columnist writing at the time of Gordon Brown replacing Tony Blair:

The British public sucked its teeth, squinted at him closely, sighed and, with extreme reluctance, decided to elect him Prime Minister for another five years. Let me repeat that. They voted for Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to serve as their leader. They were at no stage invited to vote on whether Gordon Brown should be PM.
I must have knocked on hundreds of doors during that campaign, and heard all sorts of opinions of Mr Blair, not all of them favourable. But I do not recall a single member of the public saying that he or she was yearning for Gordon Brown to take over. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t remember any Labour spokesman revealing that they planned to do a big switcheroo after only two years.
It is a sad but undeniable truth that there are huge numbers of voters (including many Tory types) who have rather liked the cut of Tony’s jib. They have tended to admire his easy manner, and his air of sincerity, and his glistering-toothed rhetoric. They may have had a sneaking feeling – in spite of Iraq – that he has not wholly disgraced Britain on the international stage; and though you or I may think they were wrong, they unquestionably existed.
In 2005, there was a large number who voted Labour on the strength of a dwindling but still significant respect for the Prime Minister. They voted for Tony, and yet they now get Gordon, and a transition about as democratically proper as the transition from Claudius to Nero. It is a scandal.

The same columnist was equally scathing about the idea of the new Prime Minister relying on other parties to support him:

in revelations that yesterday rocked Westminster, it emerged that Sir Menzies Campbell has been engaged in talks with Gordon, about a “government of all the talents”, which must be faintly mystifying to all those Labour candidates, activists and voters who have been engaged in fighting the Liberal Democrats. They thought they were campaigning for Tony Blair – and it now turns out there was a secret plan to bring in Gordon Brown and assorted Liberal Democrats, including good old Paddy Pantsdown.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t remember the electorate being asked their views of a Gord-Ming Lib-Lab coalition. It is fraud and double-fraud.

It was ‘a scandal’ and trying to build some form of coalition in that situation was ‘fraud and double fraud’.

I’m sure we all eagerly await the same columnist – one Boris Johnson – denouncing this proposed move in the same terms.

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Boris points out the first guilty man

Boris points out the first person to be presumed guilty

In addition to his occasional duties as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson finds the time to do a wide range of other things, including earning £250,000 a year as a columnist for the Telegraph. With all those things to do and so little time to do them in, it’s hardly surprising that Boris can’t devote his full attention to everything he does, and this time it’s the column that suffers. For it’s here that he’s not been paying proper attention to what he’s writing, and has let the affable, humorous Boris the buffoon mask slip to reveal the scary reality of the true Boris underneath.

Boris has declared, like so many other columnists and professional bloviators, that Something Must Be Done to stop terrorists and the Islamic State. Despite this situation having directly emerged from the Something That Was Done when the same people were calling for action against terrorism and Saddam Hussein a decade or so ago, we’re assured that this time, Doing Something is the only option, as long as it’s the Something that columnist has decreed is the right thing.

What does Boris want done? Oh, nothing much really, just a minor change in the law. It’d only be a tiny thing…

it is hard to press charges without evidence. The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.

Yes, it’s just a minor change in the law to declare that a certain class of people (that no one will accidentally be included within, of course) will from now on be treated as guilty of a crime until they can prove that they didn’t do it. Having been branded as a terrorist, and thus subject to the control orders that Boris also wants to bring back, it’ll no doubt be a simple task for them t prove their innocence, especially when many things will be kept from them in the name of ‘national security’. Of course, we’ve now got secret courts, and it’ll only take a further minor change in the law to ensure that all those we’ve declared terrorists have to go to one to prove their innocence.

And so it turns out, if there was any doubt, that Boris is just another politician ready to fall into the politician’s fallacy of something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done. Like so many politicians of the last decade or so, it turns out that the Something which Boris thinks Must Be Done to protect us against the terrorists is to give yet more powers to the state and the security services and take more powers away from the rest of us. As ever, these powers are only to be used against Bad People, but once the state has acquired the convenience of being able to declare people guilty until proven innocent of a certain crime, what do you think is more likely? That those powers would remain restricted to just one crime and one group of people (or even be allowed to wither away unused and be removed from the statute book) or gradually be applied to a wider group of alleged crimes and people, just because they’re such useful powers? How long until someone seriously proposes David Allen Green’s Something Must Be Done Bill because we can’t be too careful and Something Must Be Done?

Welcome to the future, where we’re all guilty of something and someone we’ve never met will be given the chance to prove our innocence behind closed doors. It’s OK, though, because Boris is Prime Minister and he’s got funny hair. Laugh at the funny man with his funny hair, and pay no attention to the jackboots behind the smile.

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David Cameron and the expert use of metaphors

When David Cameron says

Do you think he remembers this?

But then, Boris doing something nasty, crude and thuggish, then trying to get out of it by doing the ‘lawks a mercy, silly Boris, ho ho!’ act is a perfect summation of his career.


Worth Reading 108: All the names

The memory of my daughter Amy Houston has been dishonoured – The Human Rights Act isn’t why her killer wasn’t deported, it’s the fault of the Home Office not using the powers they have.
Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown – Humorous columnist Michael Deacon has used the digits on the end of his hands to compose a humorous column about renowned author Dan Brown, which renowned newspaper the Telegraph has transferred into a pattern of ones and zeroes using arcane knowledge created by occult-influenced genius Berners-Lee that allows it to be displayed on its digital website for everyone in the world to read. Thus, many more people can read the humorous column composed by humorous columnist Michael Deacon.
Boris’ Bus Is A Criminal Waste Of Money – According to Tim Fenton, the ‘New Bus For London’ will cost £500m more over its lifetime than a regular alternative.
Fixing A&E – Flip Chart Fairy Tales on why ‘sacking middle managers’ doesn’t always bring cost savings.
Lies, damned lies and Iain Duncan Smith – Finally, Nick Cohen looks at a politician lacking evidence for the outlandish claims he makes.

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Boris is wrong. Again.

It’s amazing how far you can go with funny hair and the ability to say ‘cripes!’ isn’t it? For a start, you can get straight past the Telegraph sub-editors and fact-checkers and bring out this little nugget of non-information:

a new building like the Shard needs four times as much juice as the entire town of Colchester

Yes, that’s right. According to the Mayor of London, who’d you expect to know even a vague something about these things, the Shard – a building that will hold around 8,000 residents and workers when it’s full – needs four times as much power to run as Colchester – a town of 100,000+ inhabitants that includes one of the Army’s largest garrisons. Bur according to Boris, the Shard needs 4 times that much power, which means that every person who uses it would be using 50 times as much power as their equivalent here in Colchester.

Somehow, unless the Shard was the winner of the little-publicised ‘build the least energy-efficient building in the history of humanity’ contest, this doesn’t seem very likely. Let’s see what Renzo Piano, the building’s architect, has to say about how much power it will use:

“It’s a very old dream of mine, this idea of making a building like a little town,” Piano says. “So when people say, oh but it’s going to use up so much energy, it’s not true. An actual town of 8,000 people [the Shard’s projected number of occupants] would use up five times as much energy. This is why the Shard is the shape it is. The higher up you go, so the functions change, and you need less floor space, until you get to the very top, and there I just wanted the building to kind of mingle in the air. It’s important that it breathes up there – that it breathes in the clouds.”

So, Boris is not just wrong, he’s wrong by a factor of 250. Rather than use fifty times the power of the average Colcestrian, a person in the Shard will be using about one-fifth.

Now, this might seem just like Boris getting his hyperbole wrong again and I shouldn’t worry about it because he’s got funny hair, but this non-factoid is in the first paragraph of his Telegraph piece for a reason. Because of the huge demand for power he says there’ll be from buildings like the Shard, we have to abandon all our scruples and join the fracking dash for gas. There’s no time to worry about the potential impacts of extracting shale gas – or even whether it’s techologically or economically viable – we have to be rushing to feed the beast of reckless consumption, even if it doesn’t actually exist.

In his rush to grab evidence to try and bolster a weak argument, Boris has failed to notice that the Shard actually punctures it. Renzo Piano has designed a building that anticipates energy shortages by using less power, rather than cracking up the juice on everything and hoping that the payment cheque will clear before the building’s inundated by rising sea levels. Surely the Mayor of London should be trumpeting how forward-looking his city is to create such an efficient building, rather than making up figures to argue for pumping even more CO2 into the atmosphere?

(Original links from Zelo Street, who also point out the flaws in the arguments Boris makes for shale gas and fracking)

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Update: You know what they say about something being too good to be true? Yes, this was. Nicely done fake, though.

The Mayor of Baltimore responds to Chris Grayling’s comments, and proves that she’s got a sense of humour. Or humor, given that she’s American.

o present a television show as the real Baltimore is to perpetuate a fiction that dishonours our city. It is as pointless as boasting that Baltimore has a per capita homicide rate a fraction of that in the popular UK television show Midsomer Murders.

(via Liberal Conspiracy)
At this rate, I give it a week before Boris Johnson is putting out a statement claiming responsibility for the fact that London hasn’t suffered an alien attack at Christmas since he was elected.

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