Saturday, February 28, 2009

Has American cultural imperialism already gone this far?

You may have gathered from the links on the left that I occasionally follow the blog of Rachel Lucas - an extremely right-wing American who I naturally disagree with on just about everything, but she's brilliantly witty and a very entertaining read. She's currently on this side of the Atlantic, and is delighting her readers with a daily account of the alien world that is "England". (England is exactly where she is, but I put the word in inverted commas because I have no great confidence she's mastered the distinction between England and the UK yet - in fact I'm quite certain she hasn't.)

Anyway, in her latest post she assures her loyal fans that there's no danger of her returning to Texas with an English accent - a) because she spends the bulk of her time with her husband 'Rupert', and b) because 75% of British TV is made up of American programmes anyway. This is quite a startling estimate, and I've been trying to get my head round it. Can it possibly be true? I can only assume she's mainly been flicking through some of the more obscure cable/satellite channels, because it seems to me the main channels are still predominantly British. Or have I not been paying enough attention? Admittedly, children's programming now seems to be hideously Americanised.

Friday, February 27, 2009

SNP take the lead in YouGov sub-sample

Although it transpires much of the increase in support for the 'others' is down to a disturbing move to the BNP, the YouGov Scottish sub-sample does indeed show a complete turnaround from last time, with the SNP edging back into a slender lead over Labour. Here are the full figures -

SNP 33% (+8)
Labour 32% (-8)
Conservatives 21% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-5)
Others 6% (+1)

As ever, the health warning is that sub-samples of UK-wide polls have huge margins of error and may not even be weighted properly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

'Others' gain ground in YouGov poll

Judging by the net changes in support for the three principal UK-wide parties, support for the 'others' - including the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens, UKIP and BNP - appears to be up a full three points in the latest YouGov poll released tonight. That might (or might not) bode well for the SNP's showing in the Scottish sub-sample, which on past form should be published tomorrow. The UK-wide figures that have been released so far are -

Conservatives 41% (-3)
Labour 31% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 15% (+1)

And as ever, the wait for the detailed figures from the ICM poll published earlier this week is proving lengthy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Not quite the language of the angels, but...

This is obviously not the moment to be writing about politics following the tragic death of David Cameron's son (although Gerri Peev can't resist having a pointless dig at a perfectly sympathetic comment from a Labour MP), so I thought instead I'd belatedly take up Brian Barker's invitation and spend a surreal half-an-hour listening to some pop music sung in Esperanto. Unfortunately for me I made the mistake of starting with the 'cheesy' music (I'm not sure 'cheesy' quite covers it - who is this guy?) but then I moved on to the main course which is a bit more like it.

Sadly, I think the moment for a 'neutral' language becoming the international lingua franca has long passed - if there is any hope of English not becoming completely dominant it lies in the political/economic rise of China, or in the possibility of the USA becoming de facto bilingual in English and Spanish (no wonder such a prospect terrifies so many people).

Another slippery slope to separation

I was slightly amused to see's Mike Smithson call for a move towards England-only opinion polls. The logic for this is impeccable, as no-one can deny political trends in Scotland bear at best a very weak resemblance to those south of the border, and therefore GB-wide polls will always give a slightly distorted picture of the pro-Tory swing that can be expected in English seats at the next election. But can you imagine the reaction of the usual suspects if this came to pass? Would Scottish Unionist start a rearguard "Keep Our Polls British!" campaign? He might even resort to quoting Burns again...or how about John Major?

"Wake up! The United Kingdom is in danger..."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An investigation to check if we did that thing we never do

David Miliband made an absolutely laughable statement about the Binyam Mohamed case yesterday - "Britain never co-operates in torture, and whenever allegations are brought we investigate them thoroughly". How can anyone have faith in this 'thorough' investigation when it's already been predetermined that the alleged British collusion in torture is something that cannot possibly have happened?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shadow Cabinet gains another junior part-time observer member

I get the impression that the BBC's Betsan Powys has, to some extent, interpreted Annabel Goldie's elevation to part-time "Shadow First Minister" in David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet in the same way I did. Having probed whether the same 'honour' would be conferred on Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne, she poses the question - "is it better to be Shadow First Minister or real life Leader of the Opposition?"

(For the uninitiated, the Tories are the Official Opposition in the Welsh Assembly despite being only the third largest party. This came about after the two largest parties - Labour and Plaid Cymru - formed an improbable governing coalition.)

Party leader, or observer status at the Shadow Cabinet?

Is this the new-found Tory respect for devolution? The Herald reports that Annabel Goldie will be invited to attend Shadow Cabinet meetings in London - once a month. They just don't get it, do they? The logic of devolution is that Goldie is an autonomous party leader in her own right, not some ultra-junior, part-time member of someone else's Shadow Cabinet. And I can't help wondering if this arrangement will work a bit like the participation of Scottish ministers in EU negotiations - will Goldie have to agree a joint line with David Mundell first, and will she require his permission to speak?

Of course if there was any natural justice in this world it would be the other way round, and if Annabel refused Mundell permission to speak our ears could all have a well-earned rest.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How the Bush responded to the Olive Branch

Over at the Spectator's Coffee House blog, James Forsyth is rather excited about proof that Iran had privately acknowledged its responsibility for attacks on British soldiers in Iraq. The evidence comes in an interview given by the former Foreign Office political director Sir John Sawers for the excellent BBC2 series Iran and the West. This is certainly important information - although it doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know. But it's utterly predictable that a Spectator journalist would pick up on that while completely ignoring the other extraordinary revelation in tonight's programme - that Iran had explicitly offered to take the necessary steps to normalise relations with America (including pretty dramatic things like the transformation of Hezbollah into a peaceful political party) but the US refused to even discuss it for ideological reasons.

What also became clear was the extent to which Iran had resolved to reach out a cautious hand of friendship following the 9/11 atrocities - an initiative to which George W Bush responded with the 'Axis of Evil' speech.