Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are you called David?

I've just stumbled across a Twitter campaign that unaccountably has just nine followers at present. Called 'Davids for Indy', it seeks to identify every David in Scotland who will be voting Yes in September 2014. So if your first name, middle name or surname is David, or even if it isn't, go HERE to follow this inspiring campaign as a matter of some urgency.

Surely someone has got to do this for every single name? Once we have a thousand Felicitys for Indy, victory will be assured.

* * *

The BBC's John Sweeney has had a number of highlights to his journalistic career, but I'm not sure his solemnly-delivered 'insight' into the latest North Korean crisis was one of them. It went something like this -

"North Korea is mad. It's sad. It's bad. It's silly. It's all those things at the same time. It's thermonuclear cheese. Our minder sang "My Way" at a karaoke bar. This is crazy. Someone phoned up their mum who said haven't you heard that North Korea has just declared thermonuclear war. Hold on a second. It's like the Wizard of Oz, but with a young fat man instead of an old thin man. What's going to happen? Three words, Lucy. I - Don't - Know. But I don't think there's going to be a nuclear war. That's my feeling."

Cheers, John. That's four minutes of my life I'm never going to get back.

* * *

Brit Nat logic for wasting billions on renewing Trident -

Brit Nat : We need it to protect ourselves against our adversaries. (NOTE : Our 'adversaries' are presumably Iran and North Korea. The former does not possess nuclear weapons, and the latter has a tiny of number of nuclear weapons which it is incapable of firing to anywhere even vaguely close to the UK.)

Sceptic : So does that mean Spain needs its own nuclear weapons to protect itself against Iran and North Korea?

Brit Nat : No of course not. As a member of NATO, Spain is protected by the American nuclear umbrella. Any attack on Spain would be treated as an attack on the United States.

Sceptic : But isn't Britain also in NATO? If Spain doesn't need its own nuclear weapons for protection, why does Britain?

Brit Nat : Er...

Yes, I believe Tom "Admin" Harris is a firm supporter of retaining inhuman weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More befuddlement on Scotland from the London media - it's the Independent's turn

In 2011, the Scottish Sun came out in support of the SNP, but made clear that they remained firmly opposed to independence. They were probably hoping (and expecting) that the SNP would win, but not well enough to actually bring about an independence referendum. Nevertheless, the day after the election, the paper's editor (or political editor?) was all over the airwaves making plain his satisfaction that the SNP had won a majority, but maintaining his scathing stance on independence. As things stood, therefore, the most likely outcome was that the Sun would back a No vote in 2014, but continue to support the SNP in the 2016 Holyrood election.

In today's Independent, there is for the first time a clear-cut statement from a News International source on the Sun's stance in the referendum -

"We will have a neutral stance."

So in two short years, the Sun have gone from being viscerally anti-independence to a position of studied neutrality. By any standards, this is a considerable bonus for the Yes campaign, which can now look forward to a fair (if not uncritical) hearing in Scotland's biggest-selling paper. And yet, curiously, the Independent seem to think this is "a major blow to the SNP" (not another one, surely!), and a "withdrawal of support for independence by Mr Murdoch" (how can something that didn't exist be "withdrawn"?). Even more bizarrely, they seem to think that this also constitutes a withdrawal of support for the SNP itself, even though the SNP will not be on the ballot paper in the referendum, and even though the NI source doesn't seem to have made any comment whatsoever about the Sun's likely stance in the 2016 Holyrood election.

Answers on a postcard, folks.

There's an even more exotic claim elsewhere in the article -

"The latest opinion poll puts support for independence at 36 per cent, support for Scotland to remain in the Union at 46 per cent, and those undecided at 18 per cent. With a shift away from any radical change widely expected to occur as the referendum gets closer, the "Yes" campaign technically needs to be close to 60 per cent within the next 12 months."

Given that the idea that the Yes campaign needs to reach 60% support (even in polls that fail to exclude don't knows?!) is a rather wild, evidence-free declaration of blind faith, this must surely be a contender for the most inappropriate use of the word "technically" in recorded history. And "widely expected"? Where is it widely expected? In the Kellner/Ashton household, perhaps? Students of the 1995 Quebec referendum (you'd think a pollster of Mr Kellner's stature might be one of those, but apparently not) will be forgiven for having rather different expectations, given that the pro-independence campaign recovered from a seemingly hopeless position to finish in a virtual dead-heat by polling day.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tavish didn't "save our p'lice" - but did he save Rennie's skin?

This seems almost uncannily topical on the day that the merger of Scotland's police forces finally takes effect, but a YouGov survey of leading political strategists and advertising executives has found that Tavish 'Two Hoots' Scott's famous "save our p'lice" TV ad from the 2011 Holyrood election is held in higher regard than most of us realise -

Top five most effective UK Party Political Broadcasts since 1970 (in reverse order) :

5. "Crisis? What crisis?", Conservatives, 1979

4. "24 hours to save the NHS", Labour, 1997

3. "John Cleese explains proportional representation", SDP, 1987

2. "Labour's Tax Bombshell", Conservatives, 1992

1. "Save our p'lice", Scottish Liberal Democrats, 2011

Yes, I'm way ahead of you here. It does appear, to say the least, somewhat bizarre that a component part of a campaign that saw the Lib Dems' representation slashed by more than two-thirds could be considered the greatest party political broadcast of the last four decades. But in his commentary on the poll findings, our old friend Peter Kellner has an explanation (of sorts) -

"The test of the effectiveness of this broadcast is not how many seats the Scottish Liberal Democrats lost, but how many more seats they would have lost without the brilliance of the "save our p'lice" strategy. Former aides to Mr Scott have privately told me that the party had braced itself for the possibility of being left with only two or three seats after the May 2011 election. It's quite probable that Mr Scott's visionary successor would not have been among the successful candidates in that scenario. The broadcast may not have succeeded in saving Scotland's p'lice, it may not even have saved Mr Scott's own leadership, but by saving the skin of the charismatic Willie Rennie, it might just have helped safeguard the Liberal Democrats' long-term future as one of Scotland's top seven political parties.

Anyone who stumbles upon the broadcast on YouTube today might be slightly bemused to discover the awe in which it is still held by experts. But it has to be seen as very much "of its time". The techniques pioneered by the ad have since been copied so extensively by rivals that, two years on, it's all too easy to forget the extraordinary impact they originally had. The unconvincing siren noises at the beginning and the end, Mr Scott's endless pacing up and down in front of a stationary Lothian and Borders police car, his struggle with the wind as he attempts to keep his dome-shaped Lib Dem "save our p'lice" postcard in an upright position, his sing-song voice as he outlines all the things that he doesn't want to happen to his p'lice (counterpointed by the shocking force with which he delivers the instruction "AND NOR SHOULD YOU"), his determined failure to pronounce the letter 'o' in the word "p'lice" - these are all things of genius. But, if anything, the broadcast is even greater than the sum of its parts. If there was such a thing as an 'X Factor' for party political broadcasts, I suspect Tavish Scott and "save our p'lice" would have been 2011's Christmas No. 1, and deservedly so."