Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Scottish Tories make a historic mistake - but you weren't expecting them to break the habit of a lifetime, were you?

A 'steady-as-she-goes' choice of captain can sometimes be wise, but not when the ship sunk without trace fifteen years ago. The Tories had a golden opportunity to reconnect with the heartbeat of modern Scotland yesterday, and even to steal a pass on Labour in the process, but they've fluffed their lines yet again. So they're now stuck with Ruth Davidson for what could well be a very, very long time, and they'll just have to cling to the positives, such as they are. And those positives can only really be her personal qualities, because her wizard strategic plan seems to be (as Murdo Fraser pointed out) to carry on doing exactly what the party has been doing for many years and expect different results. Yes, it would normally be a matter of some note that the Tories have elected a young, articulate woman as leader, but they've had an articulate female leader for the last few years, so clearly that in itself isn't sufficient. And as for Davidson's youth and "freshness", that could well be a double-edged sword - I'd suggest that 32 is at the absolute extreme lower end of the age range within which someone can look plausible as a party leader. Even Alex Salmond was three years older than that when he first became SNP leader in 1990, and it was a good three or four years later before he stepped out of the shadow of Jim Sillars and really looked like a man in command.

So what happened yesterday is undoubtedly a retrograde step for the Scottish Tories, but is it bad for Scotland as well? My gut feeling is yes, because a Fraser victory would have finally forced the UK government to reluctantly accept the realities of the new Scotland. As it is, Davidson joins Willie Rennie as yet another loyal Scottish cheerleader for the London delusion that nothing really changed in May, and therefore nothing needs to be done. But as Kenny Farquharson has pointed out, that stubbornness could easily backfire on the unionist parties and make full independence a more attractive proposition to the electorate than would have been the case had devo max been embraced. And it has to be said the SNP's own long-term electoral prospects in large swathes of Scotland are looking considerably brighter today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chris Woodhead : our children just aren't miserable enough

Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools in England (and professional buffoon), has delivered some jaw-dropping pronouncements in his time, but this one takes the biscuit -

"Our current pre-occupation with happiness and well-being is stupid and is likely to lead to further under-achievement because real learning involves challenge, difficulty and unhappiness."

Unhappiness is part and parcel of the learning experience, he says.

"I don't want kids to be desperately miserable but we don't want them to be complacent and self-satisfied all the time."

What a fabulous point, Chris. A miserable childhood is a small price to pay for not turning out like you.

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Tweet of the Day (nay, of the century) comes from former MSP Andrew Wilson :

"Congratulations to @iainmartin1 on your 40th. You have the body of a 39 year old and the politics of a 139 year old..... Many happy returns."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Separation, floccinaucinihilipilification, and other words that weren't used at the SNP conference

Natural pessimist though I am, I must say I entirely disagree with Kate Higgins' assessment that the latest YouGov poll showing 34% in favour of independence and 52% opposed has "burst one of the SNP’s bubbles". If I'd known the poll was coming, I'd have practically bet my house on the figures turning out like that - there just seems to be some inbuilt reason why YouGov produces higher support for the No side than certain other pollsters, such as TNS. What really matters is the trend, which is in line with other recent polls in showing a significant boost for Yes.

The other interesting question is - what is it about YouGov's methodology that produces such different results? Is it their tendency to pose the question in a way that Alan Cochrane would heartily approve of, or is there some reason why people who join internet polling panels might be more hostile to independence than others? The latter possibility may seem fanciful, but I seem to recall that YouGov openly admitted in their early days that there were one or two questions on which their panel always produced skewed results, regardless of weighting to take account of demographic imbalances. The increase in internet usage since then may have resolved that problem, of course.

And of course no Scotsman report on an independence poll would be complete without a run-out for "Template Quote C" from the Captain of Team Scotland -

"For the first time in 20 years, the SNP held a conference where separation was the only word..."

The only word that wasn't used? Well, you're half-right, Margaret, it wasn't used, but there were many, many other words that proved equally surplus to requirements, such as "floccinaucinihilipilification" and "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis".