Friday, February 15, 2013

Labour vote falls 4% in Rutherglen South by-election - Labour councillor describes it as "amazing result"

This was the rather startling verdict of Labour councillor Davie McLachlan on yesterday's Rutherglen South by-election -

"Amazing result and body blow to the nats. The downfall begins"

"Massive defeat for SNP #RutherglenSouth Labours @GedK polled almost double SNP vote. Roll on 2014 #indyref and put this matter to bed."

Now based on these extraordinarily grandiose claims, you're probably thinking that - at the very least - Labour's vote must have increased in the by-election, and that they must have enjoyed a swing from the SNP? If so, you'd be wrong. Here is the actual result -

Labour 39.9% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 29.5% (+4.7)
SNP 21% (-2.9)
Conservatives 3.8% (-1.1)

Swing from Labour to Liberal Democrats : 4.35%
Swing from Labour to SNP : 0.55%

So in spite of the fact that the ward was last contested during the SNP's historic triumph in the local elections of May 2012, Labour have in fact suffered a further (albeit modest) swing to the Nationalists. I dare say that's the kind of "body blow" and "massive defeat" that most of us could just about cope with - again and again and again. As Councillor McLachlan says, roll on the independence referendum, and let's put remote-control rule from London to bed.

There's no doubt about it, though - the true moral victors in this election were the Liberal Democrats, albeit in a pocket of traditional (relative) strength for them.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Another tragic example of the 'empowering' effect of owning guns for self-defence

Unconfirmed media reports this morning are suggesting an unimaginable human tragedy - that legendary South African athlete Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead after mistaking her for an intruder.

If this turns out to be true, I await with baited breath Mr Kevin Baker's latest convoluted explanation of how, contrary to appearances, having a boyfriend who possessed guns for defensive purposes made Ms Steenkamp's life safer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ipsos-Mori becomes third pollster this year to show a swing in favour of independence

Here are the latest Ipsos-Mori findings on independence, which make highly encouraging reading for the Yes campaign -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 34% (+4)
No 55% (-3)

In theory the percentage changes should be treated with caution, because the question has of course changed since the last Ipsos-Mori poll. But I thought the new Electoral Commission-approved question was supposed to be "yet another catastrophe for Salmond", oh wise London media? Apparently not.

Ipsos-Mori now joins Angus Reid and TNS-BMRB as pollsters that have shown a swing to the Yes side this year. The odd one out is Panelbase, which showed a swing in the other direction - although ironically the No lead is still smaller with Panelbase than anyone else. What we really need now to complete the picture is a new poll from YouGov, which is traditionally among the most favourable pollsters for No (arguably because Mr Kellner insists on "clarifying" what the referendum question "really means" before inviting his respondents to answer it).

Elsewhere in the Ipsos-Mori poll, there's no comfort for the anti-independence side on Holyrood voting intention either -

Constituency vote :

SNP 43% (+3)
Labour 35% (-)
Conservatives 13% (-)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)
Others 2% (-2)

For reasons lost in the mists of time, Ipsos-Mori do not seem to ask for voting intentions on the regional list. However, there are personal satisfaction ratings for various politicians...

Nicola Sturgeon (SNP, Deputy First Minister) +17
Alex Salmond (SNP, First Minister) +7
Alistair Darling (Labour, figurehead of anti-independence campaign) +1
David Cameron (Conservative, UK Prime Minister) -40

The difference between Sturgeon and Salmond is arguably slightly misleading, as 50% of the electorate are satisfied with them both - it's the dissatisfaction rating that drags Salmond's figure down a bit more.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My campaign to be Pope starts here

I was surprised and delighted to discover on the BBC website a couple of hours ago that I am fully eligible to be elected Pope next month. It seems that there are no boring requirements about having to be an ordained priest, or a Bishop, or a Cardinal, and you don't even have to attend Mass every week (which is just as well, because I haven't been to church since the Easter Vigil last year). Being a baptised male Catholic is quite sufficient - which, frighteningly, makes me a more important Catholic than Cristina Odone.

Well, clearly this is the type of exciting opportunity that I simply can't afford to pass up. Not only would I become leader of the world's biggest religion, I would also be a Head of State, an absolute monarch, and I would get to see my head on stamps and coins and so on. So for any members of the College of Cardinals who may be passing by (hello Keith), here is my hastily-assembled mini-manifesto for my forthcoming tenure as Supreme Pontiff.

1) Immediately upon being elected, I will renounce my papal infallibility. This will head off the risk of any further embarrassing additions to Catholic dogma along the lines of Pius XII's bizarre insistence that the Virgin Mary was bodily lifted up into heaven at the end of her life.

2) I will authorise the ordination of both female and married priests. Let's face it guys, it's going to happen one day anyway, so instead of being dragged into it kicking and screaming in 700 years' time, let's just get it over with and have a sandwich.

3) Cardinals will no longer be appointed, but instead elected by Catholic congregations. If Cardinals get to elect Popes, it's only fair that we little people get to elect the Cardinals. This would also of course end the destructive feedback loop of conservative Popes appointing conservative Cardinals, who then go on to elect yet another conservative Pope. Now, I'm guessing that the objection to this idea will be that the feedback loop constitutes "the will of God", but just hang on a cotton-pickin' minute here. When Catholics receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, they have the wisdom and understanding of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon them. So it's high time that we trusted the Holy Spirit to do his job, and allowed him to guide the electoral choices of rank-and-file Catholics. It may well turn out after the first batch of elections that the Holy Spirit has rather more liberal views than we previously suspected, but so be it.

4) Elections for Cardinals will naturally be conducted by Single Transferable Vote.

5) The ban on contraception will be lifted, thus extending the life expectancy of millions in the developing world, and putting an end to one of the most ludicrous pieces of Catholic doctrine. As things stand, if you make the human decision to use contraception, you are thwarting God's will that a new life should commence, but if you make the equally human decision not to have sex in the first place, you are apparently embodying God's will that a new life should not commence. There are intelligent badgers in Drumnadrochit who can see the slight flaw in that logic.

6) Masturbation and 'impure thoughts' will no longer be a sin, making life considerably less confusing and miserable for hundreds of millions of teenagers.

7) Divorce and gay marriage will both be authorised.

8) More young people will somehow be persuaded to go to church. I freely admit that I have no idea how I will actually achieve this, and a judge-led inquiry may be needed to come up with suggestions. However, I solemnly pledge that whatever approach is taken, it will be more sophisticated than the traditional one of "let's have more guitars".

9) The Vatican City will enter the Eurovision Song Contest.

Now, obviously this manifesto has the shortcoming of having been dreamt up over the last ten minutes (for some reason I'd never previously considered what I would do if elected Pope), so if anyone has any constructive suggestions, I'd be very happy to tweak it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I-I-I-I wouldn't change a thi-ing

From the BBC -

Writing before the launch of the Westminster government's document, Mr Cameron pledged that his government would put the "facts" about Scottish independence to the public.

He said: "As one of Scotland's two governments, the UK government has a duty to help inform people with hard facts."

Great. Well, let's get cracking with this hard fact - Scotland has just one government of its own. The clue is in the now legally-recognised title "The Scottish Government". Scotland is part of the UK, which has its own government - but that's a different point. The European Commission is also a de facto government in all but name - what credibility do you think José Manuel Barroso would have if he came to Edinburgh and said "speaking on behalf of one of Scotland's three governments..."?

"So we'll be providing expert-based analysis to explain Scotland's place within the UK and how it might change with separation - and our first paper is published tomorrow."

Yes, David, do explain to us how Scotland's "place within the UK" might "change" after independence. Could be interesting.

"We don't shy away from putting facts and evidence before the Scottish people. This must not be a leap in the dark, but a decision made in the light of day."

Ah, so you're finally going to tell us about this Top Secret Devo Plus plan that you may or may not be kind enough to implement if we vote No? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. Facts and evidence to inform the electorate's choice are great up to a point, but you can have way too much of a good thing.

"Our ancestors explored the world together and our grandfathers went into battle together as do our kith and kin today - and this leaves deep, unbreakable bonds between the peoples of these islands."

Empire nostalgia may or may not be the most promising argument against independence in the second decade of the 21st Century. And "kith and kin"? Perhaps not the most fortunate choice of phrase, given how widely-associated it is with the armed forces' reluctance to fight their racist "kith and kin" in Rhodesia in 1965.

"I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone," he said.

Does that include British Prime Ministers who sneer that "if you had an independent Scotland, you wouldn't be flying planes, you'd be the seat of your pants!!!!"? I presume it must do, and I trust Mr Cameron has slapped himself down pretty firmly for that one.

He pointed out that Scotland had its own government and parliament in Edinburgh, with power over areas such as health and education.

"Scots can take all of these decisions and more to meet the specific needs of Scotland," Mr Cameron said.

And more? Well, let's consider the decisions Scots can't take to meet the specific needs of Scotland. We can't choose to stay out of London's illegal wars. We can't get inhuman weapons of mass destruction off the Clyde. We can't represent ourselves in Europe (we're "represented" by Cameron and Hague instead). We can't set our own policy on welfare payments. We can't set our own immigration policy. We can't frame our own laws on abortion and gun control. We can't tear up the unequal extradition treaty with the US. We can't decide our own broadcasting and energy policies.

We know from polling evidence that Scots want to take all these decisions for themselves. And oddly enough, the majority of them could - in theory - be taken by Scots within the context of the UK, if only Westminster would devolve those powers to us. But it seems the computer says no. Presumably we should draw the obvious conclusion in next year's referendum? For Scots to take decisions to meet the specific needs of Scotland, in most cases independence will be required.

Unless, of course, we hear about that Top Secret Devo Plus plan before the referendum. But that would be silly.