Saturday, March 14, 2009

Who's the novice?

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell yesterday lambasted Alex Salmond for daring to meet Hillary Clinton (a meeting to which Ms Clinton must presumably have consented as well?), on the grounds that "this is no time for a novice" in international affairs. I can't really better the instant retort from the SNP that Sir Menzies was showing himself up as a "pompous ass" but two fairly obvious observations do occur to me. Firstly, whether or not this is any time for a novice, it's certainly no time for any self-respecting opposition politician to be proudly quoting, of all people, Gordon Brown! No surprise, of course, given the unmistakable way that he allowed his friendship with Brown to shape his decision-making during his spell as leader (not least at the time of the 2007 Holyrood election).

Second observation - although a few years older, Sir Menzies has in fact been a parliamentarian for exactly the same length of time as Alex Salmond. They were both first elected to Westminster in June 1987. Salmond has now been a government minister (holding a position that is at least the equivalent of cabinet rank in the UK government) for very nearly a full two years. Sir Menzies' ministerial experience consists of...well, quite. So on what grounds does he feel so secure in dismissing Salmond as the 'novice'? Does he deem his own participation in the Commonwealth Games as some kind of "international experience"?

Friday, March 13, 2009

SNP gain seat from Labour in Dundee by-election

I feel slightly fraudulent billing the Maryfield result as a 'gain' given that it's one of those strange situations that sometimes crop up in STV by-elections where the party that 'gained' had actually been ahead last time anyway. However, all I have to do is remind myself of the Labour spin the last time they 'gained' a seat in similar circumstances, and all my qualms melt away! There was in any case a small pro-SNP swing in Maryfield (about 1.4% by my rough calculation), and given that the swing is measured from the very high base of May 2007, this is another little straw in the wind suggesting that the SNP might just be doing very well nationally. The result on the final count -

SNP 1747
Labour 1189

Incidentally, I keep trying to think of a fairer way of filling vacancies under an STV system, but I can't think of anything remotely satisfactory. I suppose it's just a quirk of an otherwise good system that has to be endured.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Populus sub-sample : Labour recovery, but SNP still well ahead

As you might recall, last month's Populus sub-sample for Scotland showed Labour (rather improbably) languishing in third place with just 19% of the vote. In this month's breakdown released today, they have staged an eight-point recovery - but this is notably not at the expense of the SNP who have also slightly improved their position. Meanwhile the Tories have tumbled from second to fourth place. Here are the full figures -

SNP 43% (+1)
Labour 27% (+8)
Liberal Democrats 18% (+3)
Conservatives 11% (-9)
Others 2% (-2)

As ever, it's worth bearing in mind that the fluctuations in the figures are often due to the massive margin of error in sub-samples, rather than any real change of public opinion.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Unacknowledged victims

I mentioned this point on Twitter the other night - why do the media and politicians insist on treating the term 'domestic violence' as if it was interchangeable with 'violence against women'? In fact, more than that - as if it was interchangeable with 'violence against women committed by men'? There is a school of thought that women are in fact just as prone to violence within intimate relationships as men are (the level of violence among lesbian couples is sometimes cited as evidence, for instance), but even if this was to be dismissed as a fringe view, surely no-one would seriously deny that women sometimes commit acts of violence against a male partner?

Perhaps a useful analogy would be the military - women are for the most part now fully integrated into the armed forces. In spite of this the vast majority of those who fight and die for their country are still men. And yet the media and politicians would never dare gloss over the courage of the relatively small percentage of women involved - the typical phrase is "our brave men and women". So why treat male domestic violence victims as if they don't exist - or more to the point, as if their suffering doesn't matter enough to be even acknowledged?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Earth is flat. North Korea is a democracy. Scotland is over-represented in the European Parliament.

Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting has written a very useful post highlighting Scotland's shocking under-representaion in the European Parliament compared to similar-sized European countries (we would be entitled to roughly twice as many seats if we were independent). But in the comments section, AM2 pops up and declares that, because all 78 UK MEPs almost always vote in the 'Scottish interest' (ahem), we are in fact - wait for it - grossly over-represented! "Not that I'm complaining!" he hilariously declares. A true return to form for Scottish blogging's self-styled 'Alpha Male' - a reminder of the golden days when he regularly turned such mind-bending logical gymnastics into a comedic art form.

Put-in is put-out, because Putin is put out

Having a slightly anarchic side to my character, my instinct was to wish the EBU would let Georgia's anti-Putin Eurovision song go forward to the contest. However the lyrics were so blatant that today's decision was utterly predictable. We've been here before of course with Ukraine in 2005, but that was a celebratory rather than an accusatory song so it was easier to change the lyrics without losing the essence. The expectation seems to be that Georgia will refuse to change the lyrics or to enter a different song, and indeed perhaps the 'martyrdom' of being banned from the contest is the outcome that would have suited them all along. It was always a fairly extraordinary thought that Georgia could compete in a country with which they were directly at war within the last twelve months.

Meanwhile, huge controversy that the Russian song looks set to be performed partly in Ukrainian. And yet last year's winning song entirely in English was absolutely fine? Have we got to the point where the English language is considered culturally 'neutral'?