Friday, November 24, 2006

Will the real Inner Tosser please stand up?

The man on the Left is Simon Wolfson, Chief Exec of Next, whose in store Credit Card has a whopping APR of 26.4%*. An APR like that helps young people spend on the never-never then get into a lifetime of debt.

He also chairs the Conservative Competitiveness Commission alongside John Redwood. They've recommended that the Financial Services market should be further deregulated.

The man on the right is an actor hired to the point that Conservatives don't want young peole to buy clothes at high interest rates . The little film thay made (bless) shows a young man getting into debt at his local Next-a-like.

In the film the "inner tosser" tells a young customer thinking about buying some shoes: "Let's get a store card and stick 'em on that". You can see the film here.

So do the Tories think Simon Wolfson is the real inner tosser?

*The nice woman at the Next press office "didn't have the info at hand", so I just phoned their customer service centre, who told me quite happily.

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These "Gordon does worse" stories are crap.

I looooove Tony Blair. When it comes to the Prime Minister I'm the embarrassing fanboy in the corner with the baseball cap, T-shirt and strangely adoring gaze.

Yet even I recognise that certain other people don't feel quite the same way. Indeed, when you look at the polls he's now.. well, quite unpopular.

So what can one make of Polls that say Gordon does worse than the PM? Is Gordon really less likely to attract votes than the Prime Minister who took us to war in Iraq?

Let's take a look at the poll and data.

ICM asked "If at the next election the Conservatives are led by David Cameron, Gordon Brown leads Labour and Menzies Campbell (Ming Campbell) leads the Liberal Democrats, how would you vote, would you vote Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats or for another party?"

So people are being asked to predict how they would vote under a hypothetical match up. Not how they currently vote but how they think they will vote.

This matters, because it alerts you to the biggest issue with these questions- they ask voters to make a leap of imagination- to transport themselves into the future and decide how they are going to vote.

When one looks at the poll breakouts for this question (page 4) we see:

Of the 205 base Labour support, 170 current Labour supporters think they would vote Labour under Gordon. 9 would go to the Tories and 8 to the Liberal Democrats. In return Gordon would attract 3 Conservatives and 11 Liberal Democrats.

So that's 17 out and 14 in. Not much change really.

However, another 13 go to Don't know/Refused. That's an entirely reasonable response to a hypothetical question, and almost entirely accounts for the difference in Labour's support between TB and GB.

Now, I don't know whether those people would come back to Labour under actually existing Brownism, but I do know that it means there's all to play for.

Intriguingly, the softest support under a Gordon Brown Leadership is for the Liberals- they lose 11 people to Labour, 7 to the Tories and 11 to don't know, getting 10 Labour and Tory supporters in return.

Finaly one word of warning over all this.

Polls are trailing indicators, not predictive ones. Doing popular things makes you popular. Being the Prime Minister gives you the bully pulpit. You can use it well or badly, but it gives you an unparalleled power to change perceptions, so any analysis of polling today could be shifted hugely by one or two actual announcements by a new Prime Minister.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hug- a- Polly?

Greg and Polly, sitting in a tree... K I S S I N G.

The Daily Telegraph said

“It is annoying.. to be regaled with PR froth such as yesterday's vacuous suggestion from one policy adviser that they should look to the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee rather than Winston Churchill for inspiration.”

Boris Johnson said

“She incarnates all the nannying, high-taxing, high-spending schoolmarminess of Blair's Britain. She is the defender and friend of everyone whose non-job has ever been advertised in the Guardian appointments page, every gay and lesbian outreach worker, every clipboard-toter and pen-pusher and form-filler whose function has been generated by mindless regulation!”

Douglas Carswell MP said:

"If we really are serious about helping hard-working families we should be prepared to reduce the tax burden, get rid of our centralised system of welfare, address our "like or lump it" education system that crushes aspiration, and look seriously at the idea of giving parents control over their chidren's schools.

"We need to be bold and we need to be radical. Polly Toynbee, nice though she may be, is part of the Establishment that advances an orthodox view that's prevailed for the past 20 years and its done precious little to solve these problems."

Shipley MP Philip Davies said:
"If I had wanted to be a member of the liberal establishment I would have joined the Labour party."

Tory Commentator Bruce Anderson said:

“A Tory who would take Polly Toynbee’s advice on social policy is a Tory who would consult the Warsaw Pact on defence policy. During the French Revolution, there was a particularly unpleasant set of females, who would do their knitting by the side of the guillotine, watching gleefully as the aristocrats went to their deaths. They were known as les tricoteuses. Miss Toynbee is a modern British tricoteuse, lacking only a guillotine. No sane Tory should provide her with one.”

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

You know. I've suddenly realised what Labour's secret weapon against cameron should be. it's not policy, not attack, not Tory toff.

It's mockery. The man is absoloute A-grade piss take material. Cycling with a chauffeur... Hug a hoodie... Hug a Polly... Inner Tosser...

It's getting hard to take him seriously about anything.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

He's Frit.

You're the leader of the opposition and one of the countries leading newspapers is running a story about your ambitious new policy to tackle deep poverty- but none of your actual policies would make a damn difference to the poorest.

Your shadow chancellor has just launched a campaign on reducing personal debt by increasing regulation of store cards- but your economic competitiveness commission wants to deregulate the financial services market and is chaired by the Chief Exec of Next- who won't want his store card business axed.

Your backbenchers are acalling for more spending on their local NHS trusts- but your own policy briefings say you won't match government NHS spending.

You want to talk about climate change- but you know your policy on Nuclear energy, on annual targets and renewables are thinner than recycled bog roll.

So what do you do? You ask six questions about Foriegn affairs.

He's Frit.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I've managed to find gainful employment for today

So instead here's a picture from David Cameron's website that caused me to wonder- how much, exactly, does David Cameron love himself?

Is it:

a) A lot

b) More than most

c) He's bigger than Jesus, dude.

or d) It would be better if every picture of David Cameron had a slightly more moody and pensive picture of David Cameron included in the background as a Brucie bonus

...and before you start, shut up with the "this post is pointless".

I wrote a serious intelligent and witty post yesterday (or so mummy says), Did I get linked everywhere and have praise piled upon me? *sniff* Did I 'eck.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

A picture from the Web's other side

Following Matthew Taylor’s remarks on new media last week, quite a few bloggers, writers and commentators have pondered the question of “why some people don’t get it”, the it in this case being the wonderfully liberating energy and blasphemous rage (take your pick) of the interwebnets.

As far as I can tell it’s not that Taylor doesn’t get it- any less that Osborne does get it in his "the interweb is cool eh, isn't there a lot of stuff happening" speech, or Guido Fawkes gets it, it’s just that the wild freedom of the internet looks a whole lot different when you’re trying to manage government than when you’re trying to get a good story up.

Dear reader, whether you're Conservative of Labour, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a special adviser. You get into the office in the morning at 8am, determined to do your bit to move progressive governance forward a little by carrying your bosses bags. It’s a noble and joyous task. You have a little planner saying what should happen that day and you’ve got a thoughtful speech to write about long term policy challenges.

Within 15 minutes of getting into the office, you get a message that a story is running on News 24 about spending a billion on new design of paperclips.

You listen to it and it sounds all wrong, but you can’t issue a straight denial because you’ve never heard of the figure and the head of the Papercip Department is unavailable.

So you phone the reporter, who’s got the figure from some NAO report that some website has mined for data and reached this conclusion, and you try and get your press office to get the right numbers- which takes three hours, and by that stage the story is running on the World at One and Number Ten are asking why you’re letting another story about government waste get out of hand.

Then you discover that your junior minister has been quoted by a local paper as saying that David Cameron is “worse than Hitler”. You phone him and he says the quote was in fact “Worse than Spitzer” and he meant the new Governor of New York. You rush to get a denial on PA, but the stories off and running.

So far it’s 11am and you have Sky running “Is Cameron worse than Hitler?” polls and the BBC running “The billion pound paperclip?”.

Both of the reports end with the familiar line “The Department of Total incompetence, Craven spin and ridiculous waste were contacted for a response but didn't comment.” read in that tone of “We let the mendacious crooks have their side of the story and they couldn't evn defend their idiocy” so beloved of newsreaders in the post Paxman days.

Your thoughtful speech on "How to make life better?" Not written much of that yet.

When your life feels like this, you can imagine that you welcome a bunch of bloggers whose reporting agenda consists of “that lying scumbag is a lying scumbag and I’m going to prove it.” with the enthusiasm you normally reserve for a bucket of cold sick at the breakfast table. Especially when you suspect that when his lot are in power he'll suddenly go quiet about the scumbaggy nature of the liars in question (When was the last time Matt Drudge ran an anti-Bush story? He sure used to do a lot of anti-Clinton ones).

This isn’t really about blogging, or about the internet- it’s about the management of accurate information in an age when you can find a source to suit your own world view and the number of news organisations seems to stretch to infinity..

If you're trying to promote an agenda, question authority, provoke debate and encourage sceptisim about official responses this freedom is liberating. I feel it myself writing this blog.

Yet if you’re the one desperately trying to answer all the allegations, questions and challenges coming at you, not knowing precisely where the next one will come from or what it will contain, and knowing that if your response contains an error or a bad figure you’ll be called to account, well- you feel hobbled, constantly trying to catch up with an agenda that is cartwheeling freely.

I’ve spoken to a few people in different parties who have been at the centre of this process when it reaches its apotheosis- the moment when the amount of allegations, rumour, story and counter-story floated on a particular issue reaches boiling point, when it becomes no longer possible to contain a story because the number of people producing reports, writing articles and allocating camera crews is so many orders of magnitude greater than the number of people trying to respond to it

At this point it is no longer possible to separate fact from fiction for any of the players- A point you know you've reached when 24 hour news reporters are standing in strange suburban streets waiting for a car to pull in, and saying things like:

“Well, Natasha, the situation is murky here in XXXXX, but one thing is clear – So and So is fighting for their political life as A N Other alleges YYYYY and ZZZZZ reports FFFFFFF. Of course, none of this is proven, and I can’t tell you if it’s accurate, but it all adds to the mounting pressure on a beleagered minister. Back to you in the studio.”

After all, no-one wants to lie and they don't know what the story is exactly, but they're not going to let it pass and be the last ones to know...

The people dealing with this all report the same response- total powerlessness. They can no more know whether all the things being said are accurate than the reporters can. As soon as they deal with one issue another arrives. They are reduced to simply trying to fight their way through a crowd.

The truth is, whether through the internet, through journalists, through 24 hour news- it’s now easier than ever to set a story running, and harder than ever to respond to it. It’s a fact, and we’ll all have to deal with it.

In the end, I suppose the truth does get aggregated, that somehow we discover what is accurate and what is not, and it’s tremendous fun to throw around the suggestions, the allegations and the banter, but from that perspective, it’s not a positive process- it’s a disturbing, frightening and seemingly random one.

Will blogging make things better? It might- I know that I tend to gravitate to trusted sources- like Slugger o’Toole or Mike Smithson or Virtual Stoa – where I can make reasonable assumptions about bias and perspective. Then again it might not- I also want to read sites that fit with my already existing agenda and who give me my daily hate- so when we’re in opposition again, we’ll have the continual invective revolution on our side.

Governments (of all stripes) will have two, possibly contradictory responses. The first will be to try and batten down the hatches. To draw a line and say we will not respond, support or magnify this story any further. To just try and take the oxygen out of a story and rigidly contain it.

The second is to say “let it all hang out” You want to believe your government is made up of deluded psychopaths? Fine, off you go, use this as evidence if you want, we’ll just talk about Healthcare quietly in the corner.

Personally I suspect the second strategy has a greater chance of success- that we will all have to deal with a political environment which is more tempestuous, more crazed, more seemingly irrational in it’s story choices than ever before –and that in the end consumers will sort out which sources and authors they want to listen to.

However, I can understand that in the middle of an election campaign, when you turn on the Today programme and hear the words “Websites are reporting that party Leader X made an offensive hand gesture to the Queen” followed by 17 hours of in depth frame by frame coverage, and a thousand youtube spoofs perhaps it won’t seem such a great strategy after all.

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A german bomb plot....

Apparently the German police are investigating a bomb plot to blow up an aeroplane.

I will now channel Simon Jenkins, Roy Hattersley, etc, etc, etc.

"Obviously this bomb plot would never even have happened if Germany had not taken part in the horrific and provocative invasion of Iraq, which caused an unstandable, if misguided reaction amongst Muslims.

"It just goes to show that these terrorist actions have been provoked by German policies and if only Germany withdrew their troops from Iraq and criticised Israel more outspokenly then Germany would not be the target for terrorism like this."

Ok, OK. We don't know who the alleged terrorists are, or what their agenda is, so let's not leap to conclusions. Still, if it does turn out that these are Islamic extremists, I do hope the people who have propogated the "It's all about Iraq" argument will at least bear attacks like this (and Bali, and Mombassa, and Mumbai) in mind.

Also, just on the detention point, I do find it slightly odd that you arrest people for conspiring to blow up a passenger plane, then release them, saying the investigation will continue.

I mean, if someone's accused of blowing up a passenger plane, presumably they're a teeny-tiny bit of a flight risk (pun not intended)?. So perhaps this conspiracy was not that advanced, or those arrested are low- level, or there's little to the allegations.

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