the brilliantly leaping gazelle

The immoral minority.

In common with anyone with an I.Q larger than the radius of their kneecap, I was not in the least bit shocked by Michael Gove’s admission that, as reported in ‘The Guardian’

“I took drugs on several occasions at social events more than 20 years ago,” he told the Daily Mail. “At the time I was a young journalist. It was a mistake. I look back and I think, I wish I hadn’t done that.”

But it was his assertion that he did it ‘on several occasions at social events’ being both so wonderfully non-specific whilst being candidly honest, which causes me to consider if he has a non-exclusive relationship with the truth. It is loose enough to allow for other revelations to emerge. How many is ‘several’ exactly? And how social were these ‘social events’?

And this only further confirmed my opinion of him as a self-serving opportunist who’ll say anything in his quest for power, when the BBC ran a story under the headline

Michael Gove: Cocaine ‘mistake’ a ‘deep regret’

Just once, wouldn’t it make a refreshingly honest break from all this faux-regret if someone said “ Yeah I took drugs and it was great, my only regret looking back is that I didn’t do more. God I miss those times.”

Because do you honestly think that the same journalists and cathode ray moralists who’ll condemn him haven’t – or are – themselves guilty of the same behaviour he is? Dominic Raab, another Tory leadership contender, realized this contradiction when he very subtly appeared to support him but slipped the knife in anyway. As ‘The Guardian’ reported,

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Gove’s leadership rival, Dominic Raab said he did not believe the admission would have an impact on Gove’s chances in the leadership race. He said: “I certainly don’t see it barring him from this race in any way. I rather admire his honesty.”

Raab, who has previously admitted taking cannabis as a student, added: “It was a long time ago and pretty few and far between. I have never taken cocaine or any class-A drugs.”

He said class-A drugs were “a bit different” but added: “I’m not going to cast any further aspersions on Michael or anyone else who is just honest about being human and doing the things that some young people do – not everyone, obviously – and holding their hand up and saying: ‘I got that wrong, move on.’”

As someone so pithily observed about Dominic Raab, ‘he looks like he should be a sympathetic hospital consultant, as opposed to what he is.’ A Conservative leadership candidate.

J.F.K. and ‘The Peterborough Effect.’

Many years ago now, in what today seems like a hopelessly optimistic endeavour, someone had to ambitious idea of promoting Peterborough as a thrusting and dynamic place to relocate one’s business. Under the tagline of ‘The Peterborough Effect’, the advert starred Roy Kinnear as a Roman Centurion, to emphasize the town’s long history, by the somewhat rash decision to have all the dialogue in Latin!

Had everyone involved been paid in Roman money, then fine. But I’m thinking they weren’t. Probably they trouser large amounts of cash that could be spent on buying the kinds of stylish clothes and equally stylish garden furniture featured in the advert.

But I digress. For earlier this morning we saw another ‘Peterborough Effect’ only this time it wasn’t so much an advert on what the town could do, it was more on what the town couldn’t do. Bother to vote. I mean a 48% turnout?

And it’s not as if voting here is in any way an onerous activity. It’s made as easy as it possibly could be for people. I mean they might have go to a church hall or school, be greeted by a bored election official who’ll hand them a ballot paper and direct them to a flimsy booth to cast their vote. Voters abroad who’ve long been denied democratic free and fair multi-party elections that don’t involve a long journey to vote, and a threat of violence if they do, can only sympathise.

I find it staggeringly pathetic of people not to vote. It was only comparatively recently that women got the vote, although this gave rise to the widespread belief that women would vote the way men in their life wanted them too. Some men still think they can do that. Because who one votes for is nowhere near as important as taking an active role in the democratic process, because if one doesn’t vote, not only is your vote not cast, but worse, the that the vote of the people who do bother is worth more, because it’s counted and yours is not.

48% turnout indicates a worrying lack of political engagement at precisely the time when political engagement is needed more than ever. People cannot claim that the political process is in crisis, when they themselves are fuelling it! I’m reminded of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address as President and his challenge to every American to “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”

Hollow emptiness on the HollowayRoad.

I was to going to write a post all about ’ The Bandwagon Effect’ and how, after the success of the Brexit Party at the recent European Elections, this phenomena might be witnessed in the Peterborough by-election results. According to wikipedia,

The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others. In other words, the bandwagon effect is characterized by the probability of individual adoption increasing with respect to the proportion who have already done so. As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence.

The bandwagon effect occurs in voting: some people vote for those candidates or parties who are likely to succeed (or are proclaimed as such by the media), hoping to be on the “winner’s side” in the end.

I was going to write about that. However, after a counseling session, my partner suggested we find a café and stop off for something to eat. It being a great, and a visit to a café indicated it was only going to get better. However, my mood was immediately plunged into thoughts of the utter pointlessness of continued human existence by a bookshop on the Holloway Road that boasted ‘we buy any porn’.

Given my thoughts about the overwhelming benefits of human extinction for the planet, this merely reinforced that view. It may not be popular, some people might find it to be this or it may be that, but to me it is undeniably a fact.

It just is.

 

Laugh? I nearly shat!

Well that took no one by surprise, did it?

The news that, as ‘The Guardian’ had it,

Six of Change UK’s 11 MPs, including its spokesman Chuka Umunna, and interim leader Heidi Allen, have abandoned the fledgling party after its dire performance at the European elections.

Dire? That’s putting it mildly! For a party that received massive media coverage at its inception, and made pompously grandiose claims about how its formation heralded a new kind of politics and promised to shout its unequvoacal support for the EU, to receive a 3.3% share of the vote at the EU Elections is damn well unequivocal.

No wonder six of them are off, their dreams of sunlit uplands crushed by an uncaring electorate…hang on!

That’s right,….it wasn’t their fault! Oh no, they weren’t duplicitous, self-serving lickspittles and political chancers who’d turned their backs on their parties. It was the publics fault! Yes they’re the guilty ones! Blame them! We gave them a choice, but they chose the wrong choice! The public might think they knew what they were voting for, but we know better. We always know what’s best for them, even if they don’t always know it themselves. That’s why we’re joining the Literal Hypocrites, because we firmly believe in the right of voters to change their mind, based on what they know now, at a national level, it’s at a constituency level where we draw the line. We believe in demoracy, of course we do, everyone does, just not when it doesn’t suit us.

Well that’s a relief, glad we sorted ir out and least said soonest mended, eh? Just admit you were wrong and we’ll say no more about it. There, we’ll make it all better, we’ll pretend like it never happened, shall we? Leave it to us. Or not Leave!

Are you having a bubble?

Hang on! You mean to say that the failure or inability of the British government to offer a financial rescue package to British Steel is somehow linked to the European election results? You might have to explain that one to me, before I even begin to considider your preposterous proposition that the EU themselves might be in some way culpable for the 2016 EU referendum result.

This is how. As ‘The Guardian’ noted,

The government clings to its do-nothing approach, justifying its rejection of financial support, a bailout or public ownership of British Steel because these options would be illegal under the EU state-aid laws.

Yet the UK government conjured up billions of pounds to bail out banks through loans, guarantees and an extensive quantitative-easing programme. It brought the East Coast rail service and other lines back into public ownership. None of this was opposed by the EU.

If large parts of this country feel that the EU isn’t helping them, then why, they might reasonably ask, should they help it? I mean, it’s all well and good for the EU to enhance workers rights but that only matters if you have a job to work in. Equally, it’s great that we can live and work abroad, but if your poor and feel dispossessed, then are you going to try and find work abroad when you can’t find it here?  And the flip of that only compounds the problem. An poor and disposed person in Europe might be willing to work for a shockingly low hourly rate, and live in appallingly crowded conditions, because they might reason they’re better off here than there.

And an inevitable consequence of this is the strain it places on health, housing and education of communities whose councils are already suffering 40% funding cut. Another problem of free movement is that it reduces the responsibility of employers to train their employee’s. Why would they, when they can simply get a EU national to do the job and save themselves time and money?

And therein lays the problem why so many in Europe are disillusioned with the EU. The problem is the EU itself, and the perception that it only benefits the already well off, and if the EU isn’t aggressively challenging that perception, well whose fault is that?

 

 

 

The Farage farrago.

So, with a tedious inevitability, here we are again and no, I don’t mean you reading my blog. That’s on you, it was your choice, there wasn’t a gun to your head. I mean newspapers presenting opinion survey results as anything other than complete and utter nonsense. Reading tea-leaves is by comparison a much better way to predict the future, having required the drinking of a cup of tea to do so.

It’s not as if the woeful incompetence of opinion polls to accurately predict the result of the 2015 General Election wasn’t remarked upon. One could easily be forgiven for mistaking the same newspapers that were so thunderous in their condemnation as somehow bastions of moral probity. One could then question how it is that a beneficial amnesia has afflicted these same newspapers as they callously presume their readers will have forgotten as well.

The latest – but by no means the last –example of this utter nonsense was to be found in yesterdays ‘Guardian’, which ran a story based on the results of an opinion poll, and claimed on that basis,

Brexit party tops Westminster election poll for first time

Survey by Opinium suggests Nigel Farage would be 20 seats short of a majority, with Conservatives reduced to 26 MPs

How much support the Brexit party would receive at a General Election can only be accurately calculated from the results of that election, because opinion polls only tells one what a statistically insignificant proportion of the population are thinking. There are estimated to be somewhere in the region of 51 million eligible voters in the UK – whether they’ve bothered to register to vote or not is the subject of another post – and yet typically a survey will ask no more than 4,000 what they think. Therefore an opinion poll has all the evidential qualities of a beauty product advert on television. Actually, thinking about it, they’re remarkably similar. Both get widespread attention, but make huge claims based on not very much at all. I mean, have you ever read the small print on a beauty ad? You’d have to be quick though, as they don’t leave it on the screen for very long, for a very good reason. Typically around 80% of about 150 people agree with some claim, sometimes more, sometimes less.

But back to Nigel Farage and his Brexit party. Is he clever or dangerous in the way that so far, there have been no policy idea’s given about what the Brexit party stands for, so therefore everyone can believe it stands for what they believe in. This doesn’t alienate anyone but allows them to project whatever they want.

By doing this, good old Nige, beer drinking, cigar smoking, man of the people Nige, isn’t dangerous. Neither is he clever.

He’s dangerously clever.

And now back to the opinion poll. Have the pollsters massively enlarged the amount of people questioned? And was it conducted using a combination of different interview techniques – face to face, telephone, or online – to give a truly representative sample?

No.

Buried down at the bottom of the article – which has worrying similarities to those beauty adverts – which most people wouldn’t bother to read down to, proved how utterly worthless the survey was the detail that.

Opinium polled 2,005 people online from 28-30 May.

It gets worse. You mean that asking a self-selecting, statistically insignificant sample, unrepresentative of anyone other than themselves isn’t bad enough? No, you don’t mean that….oh you do….they’re paid!

The Jo Swinson swindle!

In announcing her candidacy to be the new leader of the Liberal Democrat party, their deputy leader Jo Swinson somewhat self-servingly announced that the country was embracing Liberal values. By that one presumes she means a Liberal Democrat notion of what liberal values are, not actual liberal values in the sense I understand them to be. One of the most important characteristics of that underpins liberal values would, as I understand it anyway, be a respect for other peoples deeply held views. No matter how alien to your way of thinking on the same issue they may be, one should extend them the same tolerance you’d expect them to.

But any reader of this blog will know I am quite scathing about Liberal Democrats, considering them to be neither Liberal nor Democrats., at least in my understanding of those words. This is best illustrated in their support for a second referendum, which essentially sends a message to people who voted in the first referendum to leave were somehow mistaken, that the full implications of voting leave weren’t properly understood. And that they have a right to have something, which not heal but would further widen the divisions in this country. The first referendum comprised a simple question; leave or remain. There weren’t any caveats, no stipulation that might legally bind any leave decision to be confirmed once we knew the precise details of the negotiated settlement. It was a clear message from the British people – well as clear as 51.9% of 72.2%of votes cast can be. Whether or not that’s a sufficient winning margin or not is not the point. What is the point is that we are where we are, and the fact UK is still a member state of the EU can only be seen as a failure of the entire political class to deliver on the expressed will of the people.

Perhaps that’s why the Brexit party did so in the EU elections. Although thinking about it, any party that gains 32% share of a vote in which only 36.1% of the electorate voted is hardly a ringing endorsement. It shows exactly how dire our political landscape is that somehow this is seen as a resounding defeat for anyone other than democracy. How the Liberals can interpret their 18% share of the vote as anything other than average at best is beyond me but then they are the political equivalent of ‘The Gunning-Kruger Effect’.

Really?

So Donald Trump has said that Boris Johnson would make an ‘excellent’ Prime Minister. That is indeed some endorsement, although if it be a good or bad one does rather depend on your view of Donald Trump, and the worth you place on his opinion.

You might think him a great communicator, as his predecessor Ronald Reagan was often reputed to be, adept at his use of Twitter and other media to be so. You might also be of the opinion of him as a skilled diplomatic operator, able to both to think strategically and be aware of the possible long-term consequences of his foreign policy aims, effectively negotiate to achieve them. Domestically, you might think he’s been tireless in attempting efforts to heal the many divisions that afflict his country, in order to – to use one of his campaign slogans – ‘make America great again’.

You might also think that an endorsement, carried as it is in a newspaper infamous for its Page 3 image of topless women, is perhaps the perfect metaphor for such.

Francis Urquhart!

Just what the country needs!

Here something you may have missed, from metro.co.uk:

The fate of the UK over Brexit will be decided by around 100,000 people who are predominately male, white, middle-class pensioners. Grass roots members of the Conservative Party will choose the new prime minister whose job it will be to lead us out of the EU.

However, their demographic is ‘entirely unrepresentative’ of the general population based on gender, wealth, ethnicity and their hard-line attitudes against Brussels. Experts say this situation could make a no-deal exit from the EU more likely – but also, paradoxically, there is a higher chance of a second referendum too. The race to be Theresa May’s successor when she stands down on June 7th will be decided by Tory party members rather than the general public.

Research has confirmed that 70% of party members are male and 97% are white British. The average age is 57, although over 40% of the group is aged 65 or above. Members are concentrated in the southern half of the country with six out of ten living in Eastern England, London, the south east and the south west.

Before adding,,

Some 86% of them fall into the ABC1 category, used by researchers to describe the top social grade.

And if that doesn’t make you want to share a bath with a toaster, this might,

Politics professor Tim Bale told Metro.co.uk: ‘The average member will be a man, in his late 50s, will be white British, will live in the south of England and be comfortably off. ‘They are certainly more comfortably off than most people and certainly not representative in terms of ethnicity. ‘In the UK some 15% of people come from ethnic minority backgrounds whereas only 3% of those in the Conservative party do.’

Tory MPs are now queuing up to throw their hats into the ring and a leadership contest is set to start the week commencing June 10th. MPs will hold a series of secret ballots to whittle down the candidates to two. This final pair will be put to a postal vote of the wider party membership and the winner declared the new prime minister, probably by the end of July.

Membership costs £25 per year but it is too late for anyone wanting to join in the process for this time.

That last line is highly revealing, both about who the Conservative want as members and also who they don’t want. Only someone affluent , so ‘comfortably off’ as to be relatively unscathed by the worst effects of successive government’s austerity agenda would have enough disposable income to join. It cost me £3 to be able to join the Labour party ias a supportern order to vote for Corbyn, and when he won – to nobody’s surprise – I joined as a full member. How much of a member I feel I am now is a moot point, but at least the eligibility criteria to vote wasn’t predicated on wealth.

Basically, the new Conservative leader and PM will be chosen by people who one imagines mix within their own narrow social sphere and therefore their life experience and opinions gained from that will be equally narrow too. I mean, I could be wrong but something tells me I’m not, Anyway whatever they decide, they won’t have to live with it for long.

Talk about putting the con into co

Boris Johnson is no ‘Stretch Armstrong’.

One of the problems I have with putting Boris Johnson on trial for misconduct in public office, is not that it sets a dangerous precedent, one that allows those with the means to seek legal redress of some perceived political grievance. Nor is it because it – and the legal challenge by Gina Miller again about Brexit– is a frankly undemocratic way to settle these disputes.

No for me the problem is more fundamental, much simpler. We all know politicians lie, and even when they don’t, we think they do. We know they play around the notion of truth as if it were a political ‘Stretch Armstrong”. Ever since we’ve attained some healthy – and well deserved – skepticism for whatever politicians say, we’ve treated what they claim at election time with a dose of salt large enough to cause one serious health problems. That’s why I have more than serious doubts that anyone who read the claim on that bus actually believed £350 million a week going to be spent on the N.H.S if we left Europe. As soon as it was revealed, the doubts as to its veracity were aired. In fact as I recall, the main reason the claim received the publicity it did was precisely so it could be thoroughly discredited.

Which it was so many times and so comprehensively proven to be untrue in such a short space of time, I find it hard to credit anyone with the stupidity to still believe it to be true. One has to question the motives of whoever thought that this was in any way a matter for a court to rule on, and allowed it to proceed this far. The person who bought this mockery to trial, crowd-funded it.

Of course he has. Apparently he’s well on the way to raise the £500,000 needed to pay for it. Being a private prosecution it could of course be stopped by the C.P.S at any time, but for now, at any rate, it is in the public interest to proceed. But how a claim that will kill no-one be allowed on such arbitrary grounds, when a claim that helped cause an illegal war, that led to countless deaths, helped create ISIS and des-stablised the region, and was proven by a government inquiry to be false, how is the perpetrator of that fraud not on trial?

Try crowd funding a trial for Tony Blair for war crimes.