Saturday, June 29, 2013

When is a bet not a bet?

Just a very quick postscript to what I wrote on Thursday. Last year I entered into two private bets on the outcome of the independence referendum with a (characteristically delightful) PB Tory calling himself John O'Hersham (not his real name). The first was a £100 bet that Yes would win, and the second was a £50 bet that the No vote would not exceed a 12.5% lead over the Yes vote. Intriguingly, John's sole reaction to my seemingly permanent banning from PB was to anxiously check whether I still regarded those bets as valid - my firm impression is that as a southern Tory he's been lured by the prevailing London media narrative into the delusion that the bets represent free money for him. Frankly, although I wouldn't presume to call the outcome of the referendum itself this far out, my own judgement is that as far as the second bet is concerned the odds lie firmly in my favour.

I was perfectly happy to let him wallow in misplaced complacency for another year and a quarter, but what did trouble me slightly was that in his sunny optimism over the two aforementioned bets, he appeared to have overlooked a third bet we entered into at the same time, which as it happens I have just won - on whether 16 and 17 year olds would have the right to vote in the referendum (or whether "children would be voting", as one of his fellow travellers sneeringly put it). I asked him if he was now prepared to settle that bet. In all honesty I can't say I was entirely surprised that he tried to brazen his way out of it, but the approach he took in doing so was truly breathtaking-

"I am well aware of that without any need of a reminder from you. All our bets will be settled together when the referendum actually takes place."

This was my response -

"Oh really? Who decided that?

It appears that what you are in need of a reminder of is the meaning of the term 'good faith'. There was no agreement between us whatsoever that you had the right to defer settling a lost bet for FIFTEEN MONTHS at your own convenience.

I cannot legally force you to honour this bet, but I expect you to. If you haven't done so within a reasonable timescale (let's say a few weeks) I will be drawing the obvious conclusion about your good faith."

I have also now sent him the following email -

"Hello John,

Just in case you never become aware of this, I have responded to the extraordinary comment you left on my blog this morning.

I do not necessarily expect you to pay up today or tomorrow, but for the avoidance of doubt I do not consider a fifteen or sixteen month delay in settling the bet (or anything even remotely close to that) to be acceptable.

I'll look forward to hearing from you about your preferred method of payment.



They say there's honour amongst thieves. But is there honour amongst PB Tories? We'll find out.

* * *

Staying on the subject of votes at 16, this was the verdict of the Electoral Reform Society's Katie Ghose in the Guardian -

"Next year's referendum will be the first test of what happens when young people are given the opportunity to put citizenship education into practice while it is still fresh in their memory. We should not be surprised if this cohort goes on to show higher levels of civic engagement in the future. The danger is that their contemporaries around Britain, and indeed subsequent generations of Scottish young people, fail to match them."

In respect of the latter point, I can only assume Katie must be praying for a Yes vote, because I cannot see any credible chance that future generations of young people will be denied the vote in an independent Scotland, whereas the overwhelming likelihood is that they will continue to be denied the vote if we remain part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it's very hard to understand why anyone who is serious about constitutional and electoral reform (paging the Liberal Democrats) would vote anything but Yes. With independence, you get : votes at 16, an entirely elected national parliament with members voted for by proportional representation, a written constitution, and a cast-iron commitment to membership of the European Union. With the UK, you get : no votes at 16, a semi-unelected national parliament with its elected members voted for by first-past-the-post, no written constitution, and a severe risk of an involuntary departure from the European Union.

* * *

UPDATE : Fair play to John O'Hersham - he's had a change of heart and has now said he is prepared to settle the bet.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Advantage Scotland

It's slightly mind-boggling that YouGov appear to have devoted more effort to tracking public opinion about Andy Murray's national identity than to tracking independence voting intentions (as far as I can see there hasn't been a published YouGov poll on independence VI since 2012!), but for what it's worth the figures on Murray are rather refreshing.  This is the perception of the British public as a whole, remember -

Thinking about Andy Murray, do you think of him as a Scottish sportsman or British sportsman?

Scottish 53%
British 35%

Those are fairly astounding figures a year on from the "Oh my God, he's touching OUR flag! Oh my God, he's singing OUR anthem!" moment at the Olympics. I'm not entirely sure about YouGov's spin, though -

"the polling appears to mostly contradict what many have claimed about British attitudes towards the tennis star – namely, that to non-Scottish Britons he is "Scottish when he loses and British when he wins"."

The way I would put it is that a determined - verging on embarrassing - effort by the establishment to gently extinguish Murray's Scottish identity in the public consciousness (most disgracefully by conflating his supposed 'maturing' process with a movement towards Britishness) has failed. It obviously deserved to fail, but it's still slightly surprising that it has. Probably the reason is that the hate campaign against Murray from a few years ago has come back to haunt the London media - it's a bit difficult to paint Murray as an anti-English brat and then embrace him as a True Brit icon, even with a cobbled-together 'maturing' narrative to explain away the dramatic transformation.

"Interestingly, though more people from England and Wales think of Murray as British now than in 2011, the proportion of Scots who think of Murray as Scottish has declined from 85% in 2011 to just 70% today."

That sentence doesn't make any sense. Do YouGov really believe that the other 30% of Scots don't think of Murray as Scottish? In a forced-choice question, you go with your perception of Murray's primary identity, but I'm sure virtually everyone would regard Murray as both Scottish and British, for the simple reason that he is. That will remain the case if Murray becomes a registered Scottish player post-independence. As I've pointed out many times, the word 'Britain' is not synonymous with 'whatever political state London happens to be capital city of at any given moment'.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Political Betting's Smithson embarks on another "I will not be defied!!!!" rant and then bans me yet again

Apologies for anyone getting bored by this, but as you know I made a promise to the PB moderation team that if they continued to muck me about I would simply repost the exchanges here. Regrettably, that's now become necessary for a third time -

Mick Pork : Sadly as everyone on PB knows by now one persons mischief and jolly japes is another persons smears and tension filled trolling. Or something. ;)

I trust Malcolm did not storm off in the huff vowing never to return?
There's been a bit too much of that of late from some of our right wing friends sadly. :)

Alan Brooke : ah yes Tories like Old Nat, Stuart Dickson, JJPG2 famously huffed and vowed never to return. Good to see them still posting.

Mick Pork : OldNat left of his own accord without making a complete t*at of himself like some I could mention and the site is poorer without him. You might want to rethink the definition of leaving willingly for Stuart Dickson. Don't know if you're telling the truth about JJPG2, sorry. Before my time.

Me : "You might want to rethink the definition of leaving willingly for Stuart Dickson."

Exactly. He was banned for the heinous crime of using the words "pure comedy gold".

Mike Smithson : You know the rules. If you want to continue posting here you do not discuss moderation

You break this time and time again and I am getting sick of it.

If you have issues contact me directly.

Me : Mike, you know my position. It has not changed and it will not change. I will not be bullied. Sorry.

Mike Smithson : When you come onto my site you accept the house rules.

If you don't want to then you must accept the consequences.

Me : "When you come onto my site you accept the house rules."

I'm afraid I don't, Mike. As I've made abundantly clear, I'm prepared to follow sensible rules like not posting about matters that could get you into legal difficulty. I've always attempted to follow those rulings to the letter. But I'm not going to even attempt to follow daft rules, and I've made that abundantly clear to you again, and again, and again.

"If you don't want to then you must accept the consequences."

Nope. If you ban me or delete my posts for no good reason, that is a decision you've made, not me. That is your responsibility, and something that you have to justify (if you can). It's not something that I "must accept", and I have no intention of doing so.

* * *

I was of course then banned yet again, and unlike last time (only a few days ago) my photo has now disappeared and been replaced by a "banned" image. That might indicate this is intended as an indefinite ban.

For the uninitiated, Stuart Dickson was for many years PB's leading SNP poster (and indeed one of its leading posters, full stop). He was originally subject to an indefinite ban for - get this - posting the results of Scottish subsamples from UK-wide opinion polls, and calculating the percentage changes in each party's support from the previous general election, which is a format that Smithson disapproves of (as it happens I also disapprove of it, but I don't exactly regard it as a hanging offence). That ludicrous ban was eventually lifted after TWO YEARS, a development that unsurprisingly Stuart was oblivious to until I alerted him to it. Having got back on, he was indeed banned again just days later simply for using the words "pure comedy gold".

It's not hugely surprising that Smithson subsequently introduced the Kafkaesque "the first rule of moderation is that you don't talk about moderation", because it's the only hope he has of covering up his past antics (and perhaps more to the point the ongoing antics of his 'noble volunteer' Tory moderation team), which he simply can't even begin to justify. So I've been banned for breaking that rule, while Tory posters continue with their free licence to be abusive, and in many cases frankly racist.

That's the profoundly ugly state of the site that Mike has moulded through his own free choices, and if he thinks that's a site that he can be proud of, and one on which he's happy to build his career as a media pundit, then I think that's rather sad.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yet another problem that London rule "isn't to blame for"

Well, I've had another highly instructive day. As you probably know, life expectancy in Scotland is considerably lower than in the rest of the UK, and there are pockets of Glasgow where it is lower than even the Gaza Strip. As this situation has arisen entirely on London's watch, you'd think it would be an open and shut case that the UK government must take at least a modicum of responsibility for it. But no - my CyberTory friends advise me that such an idea is ludicrous. Here is their list of excuses - is devolved! (Yes, but it's only been devolved since 1999, and the life expectancy differential has been in evidence since the 1950s. Fourteen years is scarcely enough time to turn around decades of damage caused by London misrule - and arguably it's six years rather than fourteen, because when Labour were in power at both Holyrood and Westminster the Scottish Government functioned more like the Downing Street-controlled Scottish Office of old. In any case, health policy is far from being the only determinant of life expectancy that is controlled by government, and many of the others such as welfare are still the sole preserve of Westminster.)'s preposterous to suggest that Westminster is to blame when everyone knows this is all down to the Jocks' bad diet and lack of exercise! (So no-one has ever resorted to comfort eating or alcohol abuse after becoming unemployed, or being bullied by Atos? Can you truly see no connection to Westminster policy there?)

But...but...that's only Westminster POLICY you're talking about. It's absurd to blame the policies of individual governments on constitutional structures! (So how exactly do you think we ended up with all those government policies we didn't vote for, if not as a direct result of constitutional structures? Scotland didn't exactly win the Thatcher government in a game of cards, you know.)

But...but...pointing out that Westminster is to blame for the poor life expectancy of Scots is NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING! (Has anyone seen my irony-ometer lying around somewhere? I seem to have mislaid it.)

But...but...nobody knows what causes the poor life expectancy of Scots. It's a total mystery! (My personal favourite. Anything good that happens in Scotland = conclusive proof that we are 'better together' in this, the most glorious political union that our planet has ever been blessed enough to witness. Anything bad that happens in Scotland = BAFFLING.)

Well, I'm convinced. In future, I'll try not to be so impertinent as to expect the No campaign to actually defend the track record of the union. Let's not over-think things too much, as we join with Blair McDougall, Alistair Darling and the rest of the Scottish Labour family in saying "Play it again, Dave"...