Few will lament
The end of Lamont,
Apart from that Ed
Who she’s punched in the head.
Few will lament
The end of Lamont,
Apart from that Ed
Who she’s punched in the head.
Who’d have thunk when watching Big Brother’s Big Mouth
The Dickensian host with language uncouth
Apologising for Jade’s racist remarks
Some months later would alarm Andrew Sachs
By phoning to say he’d shagged his granddaughter
And other remarks he’d really ought not to?
Yet within a few years when quizzed on Newsnight
As a cultural behemoth, a man with insight,
Ribald revolutionary Russell Brand
Thought today’s politics was much too bland
And consequently we shouldn’t vote
Because those pesky MPs got on his goat.
At least he seemed to think that until this week
For faced with an old punk he seems a bit meek
‘cos when called a “bumhole” by one Johnny Rotten
Russell’s earlier views seemed quickly forgotten.
Might be best to avoid
Private views of Lord Freud.
On Sunday we’ll go to Freedom Square;
Let’s hope Naomi Wolf will be there
Brandishing her blank ballot spreadsheet
With labelled columns, all lined and neat:
Listing regions from around Scotland
And ballot papers that should have been banned.
The Electoral Commission doesn’t care.
No, they won’t have someone in Freedom Square.
Matthew Parris blames you
For the Clacton to do.
Crow and legislative competence
His winged shadow
Fell on the page
He clawed the words
His acts – beak tore
I sometimes incline
To confuse Naomi Klein
With Wolf, which is a no go
Perhaps best resolved with a logo.
A sheep in Wolf’s clothing
I’ve just read
Her brain’s shred.
Oh my, eh?
Those things that poets said
Those things that poets said
Of love seemed true to me
When I loved and I fed
On love and poetry equally.
But now I wish I knew
If theirs were love indeed,
Or if mine were the true
And theirs some other lovely weed:
For certainly not thus,
Then or thereafter, I
Loved ever. Between us
Decide, good Love, before I die.
Only that once I loved
By this one argument
Is very plainly proved:
I loving not am different.
was talking hoarse
So whispered “deficit”
Sadly I didn’t have the time
For Ukip to move me to verse
Like many people I have greatly enjoyed the tremendously bad poetry about the referendum as people have put together words on a page with no sense of the shape of the words on the page, how to use space, or any conception of subtlety, word choice or rhythm. The self important political poetry has been of such quality that I for one am grateful that the internet exists in order to allow its full dissemination.
however, how easy is it to write bad referendum Poetry lacking all of the qualities that one would expect from poetry? I thought I would try for a good five minutes or so using the challenge most seemed to have set themselves: lines with no or nursery rhythm; littered with clichés and adverbs; and a Simple rhyming scheme.
I therefore unveil
September 18, 2014
I am sure that I will for rest of my life certainly remember
That initially foggy day in the middle of September.
I attended the polling station nearby just before eight
My heart full of hope, and devoid of hate
Apart from for those who would do Scotland down
Who I Stared at as they walked in, while giving a frown.
On the ballot with pencil I marked a big X
But waiting for the result I and my wife were turned into nervous wrecks
And as I watched the twitter timelines and saw the tweets from tannadicelad
I realised for yes the results they could be bad.
[and so on for weeks]
I live in a relatively new housing estate in central Scotland. Like many recently built housing estates our area neighbours extensive social housing. The local primary school has a great mix of children and parents talk at the gates or in the playground when dropping off or picking up children. For nearly two and a half years the referendum was scarcely mentioned. But when the schools went back in August the referendum campaign was up and running and entering the final weeks, and people started to talk.
“have you had anyone at your door?”
Uniformly, across parents from social housing and those from the new estates the answer was no. This confused me. I thought it was just us. That our estate was identified in these demographic mapping exercises as clearly supporting one side or the other and consequently not worth bothering with. But it wasn’t just us. It was everyone. The media talked consistently of a massive ground campaign by yes supporters, contacting areas never previously canvassed for opinion. But not where I lived. Not in central Scotland. Not in a council area with two SNP MSPs. And watching the media something struck me. This massive ground campaign was filmed in one or two geographical areas.
Now I knew there were activists for the yes campaign in the area. indeed, one neighbour was an early adopter of the YES car sticker. But he did not have a window poster (in my area in a one and a half mile radius of my house they did not appear until the final week after an unfortunate incident earlier in the campaign, and it was the yougov poll showing yes in the lead that prompted window posters although even then no more than a handful with “no” outnumbering “yes” (disregarding the enthusiastic homes, one on each side where three posters appeared in the windows of one home)). So where was the campaign?
I know some people are uncomfortable knocking on doors (I did it myself for a party in the late 80s and early 90s when enthusiastic and devoid of cynicism and am conscious that forcing yourself into someone else’s personal area requires you to be in a particular mind set) and would have expected lots of leaflets. But we didn’t even have that. Over the more than two years of the campaign we had (up until the final week) five leaflets that had no been delivered by the Post Office. One was for yes, four were for no. When these leaflets were delivered the person did not knock at the door, did not want to engage. On two occasions I tried to go out to speak to the leafleter (partly out of a desire to get information, partly out of mischief given that I had some questions I has been trying to persuade someone to ask the politicians throughout the campaign) the leafleter rushed off. Once I recognised the local SNP councillor, who – following my cheery shout – darted round the corner as if attempting qualifying for the Commonwealth Games relay squad. We were getting hardly anything, but there was the Yes activist in the immediate area. What were they doing? Where were they going?
When I raised this at my work, in central Edinburgh, I expected colleagues to regale me with multiple tales of canvassers. But no. Despite people living across different parts of Edinburgh only one of my work colleagues (from a sample of ten I had chatted about it with) was canvassed. One, living in the city of Edinburgh had, apart from royal mail deliveries, never had any leaflets from either side.
This seemed bizarre.
But then I spoke to my parents in Dumfriesshire. They were canvassed four times by one side during the campaign, never by the other. Four times. Now, as a long time apathetic former activist four time seemed unnecessary. My mum and dad were pretty clear in their vote. They had been clear in their statements with the canvassers. When I canvassed (Admittedly more than twenty years ago) we usually relied on the first response, would note probability, and may go back as a check potential swings, or to encourage our supporters. And once identified it was about getting those supporters out to vote. But if the yes side was canvassing avowed no voters four times I had some queries. The media proclaimed the database of the yes campaign and the SNP hugely impressive. What sort of database needs you to go to the door of someone supporting the other side four times? What was the record keeping really like? And why, when I knew so many areas were uncanvassed, was the same series of streets in a small town in Dumfriesshire, being done four times?
The use of resources seemed inexplicable. Moreso, when told by parents that a team of sixty canvassers descended on their home town in the final weekend of the campaign for another go at the same streets in an area near the border that was nothing like SNP or pro independence territory – while I lived in central Scotland in a town with two SNP MSPs and had never had anyone at the door.
That weekend 6,000 yes supporters attended a protest at the BBC protesting against BBC bias and the temerity of the political editor of the BBC asking political questions. And we got another no leaflet. And no one from yes came to the door.
On the night that thousands of yes supporters rallied in George Square in Glasgow, less than half an hour away on the train was a sizeable chunk of a Scottish town – where ultimately over 100,000 people voted – where the yes campaign had never made any contact. The night that the rally took place in Glasgow I saw my neighbour, the yes activist. It was at the train station as he left for Glasgow and I got home from Edinburgh. Knowing that I watched pictures of the rally, and videos appeared, I was reminded of Kinnock’s rally at Sheffield. It looked like a victory rally. That night we had a no supporter at the door.
The following day I saw a car with two saltires drive round our estate. The driver stopped and dropped off boxes at my activist neighbour’s home. We did not get a leaflet until much later that night. Just after the one from no arrived.
I voted early on 18th September, completing my referendum journey. As I wandered round I reflected on questions I had raised with friends that were activists that had gone unanswered, questions that had been asked to representative bodies for the campaign based on readings of directives and other legislation that had been answered with one line emails, I reflected on my childhood weekends, on my family, and my job, and my home, and I reflected on a twitter exchange which exemplified a feeling that neither side really understood the emotions of the other and lacked any empathy. I got my ballot paper. I marked my cross.
That night I went to the local corner shop. I passed the car with two saltire driving around. The shopkeeper and I chatted about the number of people who had voted. He closed early to go to vote himself. I returned home and saw the car with the two saltire driving around my street aimlessly. What was the driver doing? Given there had been no canvass if this was a get out the vote operation where was he going? I stood at the door and watched it drive past my door three times in five minutes as it followed the loop of the road. Going round and round in circles.
I closed the door and waited for the results.
I’ll probably go out of the house after breakfast, walk up the street, then through the cut, turn left, and along the road past the roundabout until I get to the new houses and then turn left to the community centre. I’ll hand over my polling card and then go to the booth and put a cross in one of the boxes, but with a pen mind, not a pencil. You can’t be too careful.
In recent years I have tried to avoid blogging on scottish politics for reasons too complicated to go into. But after a week of reading silly tweets, press releases, blog posts, and articles I have been stirred from my silence. Here are, in no particular order, some thoughts on referendum polling.
1. The credibility of opinion pollsters for their general business is dependent on having a pretty good level of accuracy in relation to polling for high profile things, like big public votes. The pollsters therefore, in good faith, do their best to get the most accurate reflection of opinion. For either side in the referendum to claim X is in the pocket of the other lot is a bit cheap. Sometimes you don’t get the result you would like to hear because you are not hearing what the public likes.
2. There may be things that are difficult to take into account in the opinion polls for the referendum – particularly people who may vote who are not usually voting (because they’re not usually registered) – but the companies are trying to do their best.
3. if you are trying to derive any grand declaration of voting intent for an area from a regional subsample of around 120 voters you are an idiot. Those regional polls that have been worth looking at are those where a regional paper or TV station with regional coverage has had a proper job done by a pollster in the area. Last week yes and no folk issued press releases claiming [Region x] for [yes/no] based on samples of 100 or so folk (which was not mentioned). The yes ones emerged after the Survation poll at the start of the week, the no ones after the poll at the end of the week. Read the regional subsamples for each and marvel at the fluctuation of support in some areas. Then compare with genuine regional polling with proper samples that has taken place. If you are a political type issuing a press release like that think about your credibility before publishing.
4. If you are issuing a press release based on a self selective poll on a newspaper or magazine website you are an idiot. Votes on newspaper websites can be hijacked. This will not come as news to fans of television shows or pop groups or personalities. Look at the old best TV show of all time polls, look at what won, and wonder why work by Kneale, Potter, Bleasdale, Rosenthal, Davies &c didn’t appear at the top of the web based votes. I really enjoy doctor Who. I have a DVD and audio and book collection that testifies to it. Is it a better show than I, Claudius? aye, right.
5. If a web based poll purports to be from a site in a particular sector make sure before issuing the press release proclaiming great news for you that those who can vote in the poll actually come from that sector. If you issue a press release proclaiming sector X is for [yes/no] and it can be shown that a legion of one direction fans scrawling through web links can click an answer and comment then your credibility is hit.
6. A vote through social media is a waste of time. Either hijacking takes place or if the link to the poll isn’t shared by people on other social media with an exhortation to vote for this then when you hold up a mirror to a sample you have some control of selecting don’t be staggered if it reflects what you think. Don’t issue press releases or public declarations that your self selecting poll is clearly more accurate than one by opinion pollsters or people will question your motivation or sanity. I have over the years asked various polls on social media often about the pronunciation of scone. This is as informative as a poll on social media gets. A percentage is in favour of scone, another percentage in favour of scone. Beyond that I wouldn’t draw any conclusions.
7. Not every poll can be good news for the side you support whether the vote for the side you support goes up or goes down. Some aren’t good news for your side. Admit it. Not every news story or event is good news for the side you support. The other side gets good news too. Hell, both sides have some quite impressive people on view articulating their positions. That’s why some people are finding reaching a decision difficult. If you want to be taken seriously maybe being a bit less Pollyanna-like will help that.
8. A general thought to end with: people on both sides are taking their position for the best of motivations. They are taking their position because they think it’s for the best for the majority of folk. You might disagree with them, but they’re sincere. Maybe if everyone assumed that those on each side was equally well motivated it might make things a bit easier afterwards.
Following the publication by loveandgarbage on his twitter feed of a picture of Ed Milband accompanied by the salutations “how do?” and “#goalface” Loveandgarbage’s press secretary has just issued this statement on his behalf:
“Loveandgarbage was promoting his twitter feed by using the medium of a politician looking daft in a picture accompanied by a stupid comment, and is proud to do so.
“But he understands the anger that is felt towards Ed Miliband over the bacon sandwich incident by many
voters people on twitter and he is sorry to those who feel offended.”
As the PR person for loveandgarbage I often ask myself how can I increase links to my website without spending any money. I find that a spurious on-line poll about a thing in the news notionally targeted at and representing the views of some sector of people in the news (eg new presenters on a radio station) but open to voting from people that have nothing to do with that sector can be shared around on social media by people quick to link to a thing they think says something in support of a thing in the news they feel strongly about, while not thinking about what lies behind it.
So, anyway, with a thing being in the news today, how do you feel about it?
I have long admired the novels of David Peace. His latest Red or Dead is something of an acquired taste it seems – polarising views. The review I felt best got the book is by Stuart Evers. It is incantatory, hypnotic, compelling. The style mirroring the attitude to his work of Bill Shankly. That the style continues into his retirement becomes incredibly moving. I think this is his best yet.
A new Andrew Crumey is always a pleasure. The Secret Knowledge is no exception. There is a lovely piece by John Self on it. It is best not to say too much about it before reading, but if you haven’t read Crumey before there is a wonderful back catalogue. His wonderful Pfitz has been reprinted this year. I remember the year I bought eight or nine copies of it to force on people as Christmas presents.
Years ago I read Dan Rhodes’s Anthropology, 101 short stories of 101 words. I have enjoyed the books that have followed, but have been waiting for him to return to the funny, caustic, short short form. Marry me was published at the start of the year – heralded by stand up comics and others. It was very enjoyable.
I’m a Doctor Who obsessive. This may be apparent from a brief look at old posts. The 50th anniversary prompted much new stuff the best of which was Neil Perryman’s Adventures with the wife in space. This followed up the wonderful blog Neil and his wife Sue had during which they watched the whole of Doctor Who from the beginning. The book doesn’t cash in by rehashing the blog but is a lovely book about love, childhood, and growing up (in lots of senses).
Two stand outs for me: Malorie Blackman’s Doctor Who story for kids The Ripple Effect is a proper Malorie Blackman story, engaging with prejudice, but about Daleks and the Doctor’s prejudices.
The other is Andrew Drummond’s A Little Read Book a very funny collection of tales of the turkey revolution, narrated by Bruthur Nubbly – one of the revolutionaries.
I wouldn’t normally recommend law books to a general readership. The subject matter has become increasingly specialised over the years, and technical material may enthuse someone working in the area, but remain impenetrable to those outside. However, I unhesitatingly recommend Final judgment: the last law Lords and the Supreme Court by professor Alan Paterson. It is an important, (and very readable) look at how the judges in the highest court in the UK reach their decisions. It looks at the dynamics of group decision making, and the impact of personalities – in the presentation of arguments before the court and in the process of decision making itself. It is an enlightening book, much the most enjoyable law book I have read for years. If you are interested in law or in politics and our constitution it’s well worth a purchase.
1.25 pm Ah. It’s stopped.
1.23 pm Yes. yes there is.