Friday, June 14, 2013

Question Time DNA

Yesterday afternoon, our old friend Duncan Hothersall launched a half-hearted defence of the ludicrously unbalanced choice of panel for the Edinburgh edition of Question Time by querying whether it was really true that the show was intended as an independence referendum special.  People keep calling it that, but where's the evidence, he asked.  Well, I only saw the last twenty minutes or so of the programme, but from the way David Dimbleby was talking it was fairly clear that a full five-sixths of the show had been devoted to the referendum.  It seems to me that if you walk like a duck five-sixths of the time, and quack like a duck five-sixths of the time, you must at the very least have a fair amount of duck DNA, and the composition of the panel should therefore have been duck-oriented.

I'll be interested to see the earlier part of the programme to find out whether Angus Robertson and Lesley Riddoch attempted to raise the issue of bias, and if so whether they were allowed to talk about it at any length.  Certainly when Nick Griffin was on the show the entire debate seemed to revolve around whether the producers had been right to allow him a platform, so I see no reason why a similar discussion shouldn't have been permitted this time given the huge level of concern expressed.  What particularly troubles me about the Question Time production team is their macho attitude - we saw it before in their arrogant reply to the criticisms of the notorious Glasgow edition of the programme in 2010.  It's as if their default response to negative feedback from Scotland is not to pause for reflection, but instead to pat themselves on the back and bizarrely treat the criticisms as proof that they must be getting it right at "UK level".  Scotland is terribly parochial, don't-cha-know, so if the Jocks don't like what we're doing we must be pretty much on the right track.

Hmmm.  Wouldn't it be better to at least go through the basic process of working out whether your detractors' logic has some validity?  As noted above, this was to all intents and purposes an independence referendum special, which in normal circumstances would entail parity of representation between the two sides of the debate.  If for some reason there wasn't to be exact parity, where should the balance have fallen?  55% of the members of the elected Scottish Parliament are pro-independence.  51% of the list vote in the most recent opinion poll went to pro-independence parties.  Two of the five parties represented at Holyrood are pro-independence.  Therefore, if there were to be five representatives of political parties on the show, it seems clear that the correct number of pro-independence politicians was either two or three.  How the producers could conclude that a 4-1 split in favour of the anti-independence side was appropriate is beyond me, particularly as they had to bus in two English-based politicians (representing essentially English parties) to achieve that imbalance.

The case for the defence from the producers seems to be that the programme had to be "of interest" to non-Scottish viewers, which necessitated the bringing in of box office names like Farage and Galloway.  Clearly that argument is fatuous beyond words, but even if we take it at face value, why should that be inconsistent with a balanced panel?  For instance, if we had to have a firebrand socialist with box office credentials, why couldn't it have been pro-independence Tommy Sheridan rather than anti-independence George Galloway?  Or how about Margo MacDonald - wouldn't she have been just as good a watch in Finchley as in Fintry?

One last specific point - the producers' excuse for excluding the Greens does not inspire a huge amount of confidence that they in any sense "get it" about the distinctiveness of the Scottish political system...

"The Question Time panel is chosen carefully across the series and the Green party has appeared on the programme twice in the last four months. The Scottish Greens will be invited to appear on the programme in a future edition recorded in Scotland."

Is it just me, or do you get the distinct impression that they're not even aware that "the Green party" they're referring to is the Green Party of England and Wales, which is entirely separate from the Scottish Green Party?  That's hardly a pedantic distinction either, given the Scottish Greens' participation in the Yes campaign.  So it seems a primary rationale for the obscene under-representation of the pro-independence side last night was to avoid at all costs the appalling danger of giving slightly too much prominence to the Green Party of England and Wales "across the series".

Bonkers.  Utterly bonkers.  Who exactly is it that's being "parochial" here?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The No campaign. You can't join it. Nobody speaks for it. Does it exist?

I really must resist the temptation to repost every single exchange I have with a certain controversial Labour activist on Twitter, but I feel that this one is very, very close to representing the pinnacle of the unique Hothersall art-form.  If you don't have time to read through the whole thing, it goes something like this.  Duncan thinks that the Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May does not speak for the No campaign, because she's an English Tory and only Scottish parties are officially part of the No campaign.  He doesn't need to have a view on whether she would be welcome to formally join the campaign, because it's not actually possible for her to join.  Well, OK, of course she can "join" - there's that big "join" button on the campaign's website, after all - but that doesn't mean she'd have really joined, she'd just be a sort of No campaign "fan".  He categorically wouldn't encourage non-Scottish parties to get involved in the campaign because it's supposed to be "made in Scotland", but that doesn't mean there is any inconsistency in his failure to attack the campaign's reliance on large donations from outwith Scotland, because when he said he wouldn't encourage non-Scottish parties to get involved that obviously didn't mean he was discouraging them from getting involved.  And please note that the fact he is neither encouraging nor discouraging them to do such a thing does NOT mean that he doesn't have an opinion either way.  Incidentally, another reason Theresa May doesn't speak for the No campaign is that the referendum isn't about the current UK government, it's only about future governments.  But even though Theresa May has every chance of being a member of one of those future governments, that still doesn't mean she can speak for the No campaign, because while the referendum may be about future governments, it isn't about the members of those future governments. That would be silly.

Duncan's zealotry in insisting that absolutely nobody at all is empowered to speak on behalf of the No campaign (not its own members, not the UK government, not Ed Miliband, not even Dunc himself) calls to mind that old Rory Bremner gag about Gerry Adams -

"I demand that the British government withdraw all troops from the north of Ireland without delay.  I demand that the DUP ceases its provocative language.  I demand that the RUC stop its harassment of the nationalist community."

"And should the IRA disarm, Mr Adams?"

"Well, it's not for me to tell the IRA what to do!"

*  *  *

Duncan Hothersall : Special #YesScot debating rule number 253: Alex Salmond doesn't represent Yes; but Theresa May represents No if its convenient.

Me : So what's your own view, Duncan? Do you embrace Theresa May as a representative of your own campaign, or not?

Duncan Hothersall : Of course not. From the moment the Section 30 order was passed the referendum became nothing to do with the UK government.

Me : But isn't she also a leading member of the Conservative party, your comrades in arms?

Duncan Hothersall : #Bettertogether is a campaign involving Scottish Labour, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservative Party.

Me : So English politicians can't speak on behalf of those parties? What sort of 'better together' is that?

Duncan Hothersall : Of course they can speak on behalf of their parties. But you can't pretend they speak on behalf of the No campaign.

Me : This is hurting my head, Duncan. Would you listen to yourself?

Duncan Hothersall : Theresa May does not speak on behalf of the No campaign. How hard can that be to grasp?

Me : Would you welcome her if she "joined" the No campaign?

Duncan Hothersall : In what sense could she?

Me : What on earth do you mean? Do you exclude on the grounds of race, or something?

Duncan Hothersall : What? Ludicrous leap after ludicrous leap. I asked how could she join the No campaign. Do you have an answer?

Me : To the best of my knowledge she is eligible to "join". Are you saying that's wrong? If so, on what basis is she barred?

Duncan Hothersall : How? It's a simple question. I'm not barring anyone from anything. How could she join the No campaign?

Me : By joining! There is a "join" option on the website, for pity's sake! Are you saying she's barred, or not? If she is, why?

Duncan Hothersall : Oh you mean as a supporter? Well of course. But that wouldn't mean she then spoke on its behalf, which was my point!

Me : Ah, so you're saying people who join have not really "joined"? They're just a sort of fan club? Another sham exposed.

Duncan Hothersall : No. I'm saying supporters aren't spokespeople for the campaign. It's not hard to understand.

Me : You've spent the last twenty minutes asking how May could join the No campaign. You seem to think there's a distinction.

Duncan Hothersall : You asked "Do you embrace Theresa May as a representative of your own campaign, or not?" and I answered very clearly.

Me : I then asked if you would welcome her if she joined the No campaign. You didn't seem to think she could. Why?

Duncan Hothersall : "You didn't seem to think she could." Evidence for this assertion? I asked how she could, I didn't say she couldn't.

Me : All right, so why did you ask, when the "join" option is prominently displayed on the website?

Duncan Hothersall : I'm not particularly familiar with the website.

Me : I'm appalled.

Dun Garbhan : Last week you declared Indy had nothing to do with Cameron and were proved wrong, as usual.

Duncan Hothersall : Proved wrong? It's an opinion. One shared by Alex Salmond until very recently ("a referendum made in Scotland").

Me : So why do you accept donations from outwith Scotland?

Duncan Hothersall : Me? I have never accepted a donation in my life. Why are you addressing me as if I am a spokesperson for BT?

Me : So this logic means that "Cybernats" are irrelevant to the SNP and the Yes campaign?

Duncan Hothersall : Sorry, which logic is this now? The fact that Theresa May isn't a spokesperson for the No campaign? Have we finally agreed that?

Me : The logic that you are not a representative of the No campaign. Wouldn't be pretending not to understand, would you, Duncan?

Duncan Hothersall : Of course I am not a representative of the No campaign. Did you seriously think I was?

Me : So "Cybernats" do not speak for the SNP or the Yes campaign. Correct?

Duncan Hothersall : Of course they don't. Who has ever claimed they do?

Me : Good. After all the obfuscation, an historic admission. It will be recalled.

Duncan Hothersall : (responding to another tweeter) That is a ludicrously broken piece of logic.

Me : Do you think it's a mistake to ban "non-Scottish" parties from Better Together, Duncan? Where's the togetherness?

Duncan Hothersall : Nobody's "banned". BT is a campaign set up by 3 Scottish parties which includes individuals from all parties and none.

Me : So would you encourage non-Scottish parties to get involved? All hands on pump, and all that?

Duncan Hothersall : No, I wouldn't.

Me : Why not?

Duncan Hothersall : Because the campaign is doing fine as it is.

Dun Garbhan : (responding to earlier comment) It flies in the face of reality. Fact - Cameron, UK Ministers, Treasury, MoD, DWP et al are all promoting NO.

Duncan Hothersall : And in my opinion it's none of their business.

Me : So would you agree it's not the business of donors outwith Scotland to bankroll the No campaign?

Duncan Hothersall : I'd prefer it if campaigning was state funded. Neither side should be reliant on private donors.

Me : But as there are private donors, would you discourage non-Scottish donations just as you've discouraged non-Scottish parties?

Duncan Hothersall : No, and I haven't "discouraged" non-Scottish parties. I merely answered your question.

Me : So you're neutral on whether non-Scottish parties should get involved? Do you have an opinion on anything?

Duncan Hothersall : Yes. I think you're wasting my time, and you know damn well Theresa May isn't a spokesperson for the NO campaign.

Me : Duncan, I've indulged your logical gymnastics, but in the real world everyone knows the UK government speaks for No.

Duncan Hothersall : "In the real world everyone knows" = "I can't justify it but this is what I want to be true".

Me : Your entire campaign is about the UK government continuing to rule Scotland - and yet they don't (and can't) "represent" you?

Duncan Hothersall : No, it isn't, and you know it. #indyref is about Scotland in the UK, not about the current UK government.

Me : I didn't say "the current" UK government - I said "the UK government". Next excuse?

Duncan Hothersall : You said the current UK government speaks for BT. #indyref is about future governments, not current governments.

Me : So on that basis would you accept that Theresa May might be representing you, but you don't know it yet?

Duncan Hothersall : Stop being silly. #indyref is about constitutional decisions, not individuals currently in power.

Me : Stop moving the goalposts. You said it was about "future governments". Theresa May might be in a future government, yes?

Duncan Hothersall : It's not about the members of future governments. Stop playing the daft laddie.

Me : So it's only about future governments collectively? But wouldn't May be bound by collective responsibility, as per tradition?

Duncan Hothersall : (no reply)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

ICM poll : Unprecedented surge for the SNP and Plaid?

The Guardian have released the details of the new GB-wide ICM poll on Westminster voting intentions.  Let me say from the outset that I'm a tad sceptical about the astonishingly high combined figure for the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and I do slightly wonder if someone at the Guardian made the error of subtracting the Green vote from the combined vote for 'others', and assuming that what was left could only be the nationalist vote.  The fact that the BNP (which had 4% in the last poll) is seemingly on zero is particularly suspicious.  However, until we hear otherwise, we must assume that the following figures are accurate -

Labour 36% (+2)
Conservatives 29% (+1)
UKIP 12% (-6)
Liberal Democrats 12% (+1)
SNP / Plaid Cymru 8% (+5)
Greens 2% (+2)

I can't check the historical data at the moment because the ICM website is playing up, but a nationalist vote of 8% must be some kind of record.  To put it in perspective, Scotland and Wales have a combined 14% share of the GB population, which would suggest that more than 55% of the electorate in those countries currently support the SNP or Plaid.  OK, that's the kind of freakish result that can occasionally happen when you're relying on very small Scottish and Welsh samples, and shouldn't be taken at face value.  All the same, it would be very unlikely to happen if the nationalists weren't at least doing reasonably well.

On the broader picture, at this stage in mid-term an opposition party heading for victory should have a comfortable double-digit lead.  Labour's slender seven-point advantage does nothing to change my view that the most likely outcome of the next general election is a Tory victory.

UPDATE : The above figures are now confirmed - the SNP are on 7%, comprising a whopping 55% of the Scottish subsample.  Plaid Cymru are on 1% (16% in Wales), while the BNP have indeed slumped to zero.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The love boomerang

I read a few days ago that the No campaign's latest wheeze is to recruit supporters in the rest of the UK to "lovebomb" Scottish friends and relatives.  On the face of it, this does seem to be an acknowledgement that there just aren't enough passionate No supporters within Scotland itself to go round, and it also sounds about as promising a strategy as the Guardian's idea of getting readers to write to Ohio voters to instruct them to vote for John Kerry as President.  But we mustn't get too cynical yet.  Let's think through how it might work in practice...

Dear Natalie,

You may not remember me, but I'm Felicity, your fifth cousin (twice removed) from Wisborough Green.  That's right, we met about sixteen years ago when your side of the family got locked out of Jeremy's wedding reception, and your uncle screamed abuse at us through the door for the next two hours.  Hope there's no hard feelings, old girl, it was a rum affair anyway, and who wants to listen to Atmosphere by Russ Abbot on a constant loop just to drown out the ramblings of a foul-mouthed Glaswegian?

Now you're probably wondering why I'm contacting you again after all this time.  Well, it's quite simple.   I want to tell you just how much I love, value and appreciate the contribution that you and all those other great Scottish people make to our United Kingdom.  To be honest, I'm not quite sure why I'm telling you this now.  Maybe it's got something with this "independence" nonsense I've been hearing about recently?  OK, we both know it's not going to come to anything, but it just set me thinking about how diminished I'd feel without you guys.  No more blue in the flag.  No more skirl of the pipes to welcome visitors to Britain.  No more of those non-Conservative Scottish MPs at Westmin...OK, some evils must be endured for the greater good.

So that's pretty much what I wanted to say.  I know you're sensible enough to vote against this "independence" malarkey anyway, but if by any chance you ever find yourself feeling slightly neglected up there, you just write to your cousin Felicity and she'll give you a damn good talking to about just how much we need you.

Yours in memory of the Raj,


*  *  *

Hi Felicity,

I think you might be getting me confused with someone else.  I was definitely at Jeremy's wedding reception, although I do remember you pouring tequila down my dress when I said I was going to open the door and let our Mancunian cousins in.  But never mind about that.  I can't deny I was really excited to hear about how much you value our place in the United Kingdom, and I was wondering if you could clarify the following points for me -

1) Do you value us enough to house Trident somewhere near Wisborough Green if we ask for it to be removed from Scotland?

2) Do you value us enough to let us make our own decisions on welfare policy?

3) Do you value us enough to give us an opt out from London's illegal wars in future?

4) Do you value us enough to give us access to our own natural resources?

When I read your letter, I could sense the selfless love dripping from every word, so I feel sure that you will be able to answer all four of these questions in the affirmative.   I must admit I had been thinking of voting Yes to independence, but if you can confirm that you value us enough to make these sacrifices, you may just have a convert on your hands.

I eagerly await your response.



*   *  *

Dear Natalie,

Did I mention how much I love kilts?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

PB's Tory moderators lose the plot yet again

So it seems we must return (as is always inevitable sooner or later) to the subject of the delightful Ms Plato, the passive-aggressive, "libertarian floating voter with a fiscal conservative twist" queen of the right-wing forum Political Betting. Her comedy value just never stops increasing - over recent weeks and months she's taken to huffing and puffing on Twitter about how awful and unfair PB has become (apparently not spotting the irony that she used to endlessly tell me how "sad" I was for talking about the site on this blog, which she "never reads"). She also now repeatedly claims to "hardly ever visit PB anymore" - which would be a tad easier to take seriously if she hadn't posted on the site 1468 times (and counting) since the introduction of the new Vanilla comments system a few short weeks ago. That's more than virtually anyone else.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back, she let us in on her reasons for (supposedly) not gracing PB with her presence any longer - apparently the vast majority of comments on the site are now "pointless". I suggested to her that was a rather startling observation coming from someone who spends a great deal of her leisure time posting cat videos and such like on a forum about political betting. I may also have vaguely mentioned something about her being the "Queen of Pointlessness". Well, what fury I caused - it was almost like the good old days. Ever since then, she has tried to "bait" me every time she spots me on the site by announcing that "it's time for a cat video". I then typically say something like : "Quite right, Plato. This is a political betting forum after all." Which is invariably the cue for a lengthy rant along the following lines -

"Mr Kelly, you have just demonstrated that you have no sense of humour or irony. What you didn't realise is that I was baiting you there. Yes, that cat video was entirely for you. It was a trap, Mr Kelly, and you walked right into it. You did this in spite of me warning you the last time that I only post cat videos to bait you, that this is a trap and that you had just walked right into it. The fact that you read my warning last time and responded to it (and have also done so on at least eight other occasions), and yet still walked right into my trap again today, shows that you have even less of a sense of humour or irony than I thought you did. But please keep continuing to do this. I win every time you respond to me. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha."

There's a kind of meta-irony going on there which I'll just leave hanging in the air, but suffice to say this is one for the connoisseurs of self-awareness (the lack thereof) everywhere.

One of these exchanges occurred yesterday, and I was intrigued to notice that my posts started disappearing, while Plato's initial cat video "bait" remained (naturally) intact. My suspicions were confirmed when a chap calling himself "PB Moderator" (ie. an incognito Tory-supporting poster with Little Hitler powers enabled) instructed me to "DESIST IMMEDIATELY". This was somewhat puzzling, so I asked him what precisely I was supposed to desist from doing. I was informed that I was now banned from responding to Plato, or even referring to her directly or indirectly. (He hurriedly added that an equivalent ban would apply to Plato, prompting chortles from all those with any experience of the selective way in which PB "rules" are enforced.)

I made clear that I had no intention of abiding by such a ludicrous rule, especially given the abuse I and others are routinely subjected to by right-wingers at PB without the slightest protection from the moderators (I was called a member of the Ku Klux Klan recently). I also indicated that if any more of my posts were censored, I would simply put them up here instead. That scenario has now arisen.

Plato : OT for anyone watching US TV new show releases - here's the countdown list for broadcast dates.

For anyone tempted to watch the old Simon Baker [The Mentalist] series The Guardian - save those minutes and spend them doing something more pleasurable, like standing on a plug.

Its just dreadful - and annoying. I can't recall the last time I saw such an unlikeable cast since Mad Men.

Me : "Dr. Who is a children's programme isn't it ? :)"

In my opinion it isn't. It's a family programme intended for both children and adults.

This has the distinction of being the only subject on which I've ever agreed with Tom Harris on Twitter.

PS. Welcome back, Plato! We've missed you!

Plato : @PB Moderator

I saw your posting yesterday, am delighted and will comply with your request.

I hope for everyone else's sake its enforced.

Me : So no more cat videos? You may be delighted, Plato, but I can assure you the rest of us are in mourning.

Sam : Why are you bothering with this relentlessly boring baiting of Plato?

Surely you realise you will get banned soon? Or is that what you want so you can moan about how unfair it all is?

Me : I think we established yesterday that you and I have very different senses of humour, so there's probably not much point in you trying to understand.

As for whether I get banned for such a cretinous reason, that's a matter for others, but rest assured I would complain about it, yes. Loudly and at length. I comply with all reasonable requests, such as refraining from talking about subjects that would cause legal problems. That's as far as it goes, and as far as it should be expected to go.

Me : As stated yesterday, all posts that are cynically censored will henceforth be appearing elsewhere. I see this process will now have to begin.

Charles : Do us a favour and post the link to your website can you?

That way when we don't read it it's a deliberate choice rather than just laziness.


Me : You're not the target audience, Charles. Lefties need to know what really goes on at PB - people such as yourself understandably don't care, because it doesn't affect you and presumably never will.

Incidentally, many PBers do read Scot Goes Pop. My most faithful fan comes from Lombardia.

Charles : As far as I can see it only effects (sic) people who put OGH at legal risk (IMHO he's got a conservative stance on this, but I can understand that he's risk adverse) and those individuals who are needlessly rude to others.

We all know you think you're superior to Plato for some reason. None of us really care - for most of us you are just two people who post on the same website. It's just boring to read your jibes.

Be the bigger man.

ScottP : LOL

The mods will rue the day they took on JK

Me : "As far as I can see it only effects people who put OGH at legal risk (IMHO he's got a conservative stance on this, but I can understand that he's risk adverse) and those individuals who are needlessly rude to others."

The former doesn't apply to me, and as for the latter - DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH. I could give you chapter and verse on the abuse I have been subjected to here, without the slightest protection from the moderators, and I'm supposed to accept that the real problem is me being beastly to that poor, delicate wee flower Plato?

Try harder, Charles. Or just stop trying.

Thankyou for correcting our defective memories, Mr Gove

England's Education Secretary Michael Gove at the Scottish Tory conference a couple of days ago -

"There's no question that Scotland could survive if it were independent. Don't let anyone talk Scotland or the Scottish people down. We never have, we never will."

It seems therefore that the Tories have NEVER talked Scotland down. Hmmm. So given that some of us have this strangely vivid recollection of David Cameron sneeringly making the following comment to the House of Commons on October 27th, 2010...

"if you had an independent Scotland, you wouldn't be flying planes, you'd be the seat of your pants!!!!!!!!"

...that must have been a figment of our collective imagination, right? And the sight of the Tory benches erupting into gales of laughter afterwards must be another false memory. I must say the whole incident still seems weirdly lifelike to me when I think back to it, but there you go. I didn't go to Oxford, so I'm easily confused.

As a matter of interest, Michael, if David Cameron had said something like that in a hypothetical parallel universe, what should we have done about it? You've made abundantly clear we're not to stand for that kind of nonsense, after all.

* * *

UPDATE : Here's a disgraceful "video" that appears to show David Cameron making the "seat of your pants" comment (at about 0:48). Another of Peter Curran's cunning forgeries, no doubt.