A few thoughts on referendum opinion polling

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.

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Ed Miliband – an apology

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.”

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Scientifically based poll on thing for the purposes of some free publicity over various social media outlets from people who should know better

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?

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Books of the year


I loved Sophie Hannah’s Selected Poems, (which was funny and wise) and RS Thomas’s Poems to Elsi - which collects the poems Thomas wrote to and for his wife (before and after her death).


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.

Short stories

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.

PS Law

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.

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The ORIGINAL Is there snow outside? LIVE-BLOG

1.25 pm Ah. It’s stopped.

1.23 pm Yes. yes there is.

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EXCLUSIVE Is it windy outside? live-blog

10.58 am – The wind has died down. Grateful children and their parents run into the streets to greet the sun.  They weep.

10.32 am – Have recovered stuff from the garden.  It was like a garden out there. Like a garden filled with stuff.

9.45 am – saw a trampoline prowling outside. It looks shifty.

9.39 am – Glasgow police are warning the public about trampolines.  The bastards. Coming over here. Stealing our gardens.

9.31 am – The clouds part briefly.  We are showered in sunlight. And heavy rain obviously.

9.22 am – Tree outside is bending and straining, like a celebrity doing a dance in the early weeks of Strictly.

9.08 am – had a look in back garden. Shed blown over, doors off, debri everywhere. Which is nice.

9.02 am – While out I saw a trampoline nesting in a tree.  I thought they migrated before the really bad weather.

8.59 am – Been out. Taken kids to school. Bloody hell.

8.46 am – All Scottish train services are suspended.


8.45 am – Sod it. remembered there is a trampoline next door.  Luckily we have a big fence between the houses.

8.39 am – Daylight. A scene of devastation outside as the wind continues to blow. A crisp packet blows past the window.  It is green.  In the past we would have thought that it was cheese and onion. Today, due to Walkers and their disrespect for traditional colours of crisp packets, it might be salt and vinegar. This crisp packet is indicative of everything that is wrong with modern Britain.

8.19 am – Apparently Glasgow Central station is being evacuated because it’s windy there too and the glass roof has smashed.  I am watching chairs shuffle around the garden.

8.09 am – The sky is now a dark grey as we await sunrise.  The back garden is strewn with children’s stuff, chairs, and a table.  I’d guess that means the shed has blown over.

8.01 am -  It’s still dark. And it’s wet. And it’s windy.  I’m staying in.

7.51 am – What a horrible sodding day.

7.50 am – there is a stream of water in the middle of the road outside the house.  It reflects the street lights, rippling and breaking up as the wind increases.

7.43 am -Bet the Guardian wished they had a liveblog on whether it was windy outside, but as the south east is unaffected I guess they’re not bothering.

7.27 am – The wind blowing through the nearby houses and trees is creating echoes that sound like the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal. Too dark to check whether it is the ravenous bugblatter beast.

7.13 am – Still dark. And windy.

6.57 am – Aye, still windy. The lamp post outside the house is swaying like a lamp post being buffeted by a 70 mile per hour gust.

6.42 am – Still windy. It is making the groaning  sounds of a grumpy uncle relaxing on your couch after visiting on Boxing Night after he has spent the afternoon in the pub.

6.28 am – Yep. Windy.

6.15 am – Dark out.  And windy.

6 am – woken up by the wind.  I think this indicates that it is windy outside.  Begin live-blog to assess whether it is windy outside?

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Newsnight to buy It’s a Knockout latex outfits for new regular Gavin Esler feature

The editor of the BBC flagship show Newsnight has today confirmed that he has entered negotiations to acquire the giant latex outfits from It’s a Knockout for a new regular feature.

“After that interview with a muppet, and getting Kirsty Wark to act like an idiot, and that whole Gogglebox crossover I have thought that we really need to spice up the show a bit more.  I have therefore entered negotiations to buy those giant rubber costumes from It’s  Knockout for a new regular feature. We’re going to get Gavin Esler dressed as a giant and he’ll have to carry two buckets of coloured water to pour into a clear Perspex tube held by a government minister of spokesman for the opposition.  The politician will be in the middle of a giant spinning disk and we’ll get Allegra to pour some water over it while Gavin’s walking.  Gavin is only allowed to ask a question when he’s pouring water into the tube. And the politician can refuse to answer if he or she plays their joker.”

Ian Katz is old enough to know better.

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I have in front of me an old black and white photograph. In the centre pulled by two horses is a cart: the wheels are almost as high as the horses. On each horse, a man in uniform, sashes over the shoulders, peaked caps obscuring their eyes. In the background there are more horses, more men, but it’s the cart that is the focus of the piece.  It , and the horses, are on a road bordered by a low stone wall. The road is badly surfaced. The wheels look metallic.  They are thick-rimmed. On the back of the cart is a gun, an enormous gun. Immediately behind the gun, a uniformed man marching. He is tall. His face is blurred. He is my great grandfather.

The picture is a copy of a postcard he sent to his fiancée in 1915.

Within eighteen months he could not march.

He manned a gun at the Somme. He continued to man the gun when his leg was blown off. He got a medal for that. Married his fiancée, had children.

He was an old old man when I was a child. He lived with his son, and his wife – my papa and granny. In their home he had a special chair, high-backed. No-one else sat in it. Even when he was away for a brief period of respite care no-one sat in it. It was his.

He was bald. Bespectacled. His ear lobes were large then, his hearing poor. He had an ochre coloured cardigan. He wore dark trousers. His leg clanged when you knocked it. And we knocked it…

When he died my mum got a morning call. She sat in tears at the bottom of our stairs cradling the phone. And we cried because she was crying.

When we visited my granny’s house the weekend after his chair was empty.

When it comes to November every year I wear a poppy. And I remember him. And the others.


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Only Connect: an appeal

The popula BBC Fou panel show Only Connect has a poblem. Sadly, the question settes have misplaced a numbe of lettes. When setting questions the question settes assume that one lette of the alphabet exists puely in a silent vesion unutte-ed by the people of Bitain. This vexes those of us who exist outwith the south of England and occasionally use the lette ” ” in ponouncing wods. It is had for us to watch a show we admie and enjoy but feel we cannot fully paticipate in because one of the lettes we ponounce in ou eveyday existence is ignoed, cast adift fom the vocabulay.

Accodingly we appeal fo all missing lette ” “s to be etuned to the Only Connect studios to be used in questions. It is only afte that ponunciation is evived that we can be assued that the question settes ae not talking out of their ases.

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Wilfred Owen

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen
who died on this day in 1918.

(for a reflection on Owen read this lovely piece by Sean McPartlin)

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The 3 people you must follow on twitter

Ignoring yesterday, here are the real top 3 people you must follow on twitter:

1.  Julia Roberts, film star revealing everything you need to know about life in the movies.

2. Oliver Letwin MP, a government minister shedding light on the murky business of coalition politics.

3. Brian Taylor, the BBC Scotland political editor is a refreshingly bracing voice on twitter.  His forthright opinions and quick wit, and perceptive insights on reality television contestants, have won him thousands of followers.

Any newspaper list generated from dodgy algorithms or mates letting you know who their celebrity friends are that fails to contain these individuals is missing the point of twitter, and treats the whole thing far too lightly.


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The people you MUST follow on twitter (CONCEPT EXCLUSIVE TO ALL NEWSPAPERS)

1.  someone famous. Comedian.

2. someone famous.  broadcaster.

3. someone famous.  Politician who gets staff to write his tweets.

4. someone famous.  Panel show member.

5. someone famous.  Presenter.

6. someone famous.  Radio personality.

7. someone famous.  Journalist who has a book out.

8. someone famous. Actor.

9. someone famous.  Film star, interviewed elsewhere in paper.

10.  someone famous.  Television personality.

11. someone famous.  Rent-a-mouth pundit.

12. someone famous.  Writer.

13. someone famous.  Footballer.

14. someone famous.  Renaissance man.

15. someone famous.  A WOMAN!!!!

16. someone famous. Actor.

17. someone famous. ANOTHER WOMAN!!!!

18. someone famous. Pontiff.

19. someone famous. Politician.

20. mate of the author of the piece who you have never heard of before.

21. someone famous. Comedian.

22. someone famous. Professional controversialist.

23. someone famous. Reality television star.

24. someone famous.  Pop star

25. someone famous. Pop star.

26. someone famous. Pop star.

27. someone famous.  Ageing lothario.

28. someone famous. Radio presenter and novelist.

29. someone famous. Model (AND ANOTHER WOMAN!!!!!!).

30. someone famous. Failed politician.

31. someone famous. Journalist and author, occasionally appearing on Question Time

32. someone famous. Actor.

33. someone famous. Pop star.

34. someone famous. person from the 80s, still alive.

35. someone famous. Celebrity participating in one of those talent shows

36. someone famous. Film star.

37. parody account to show author has sense of humour.

38. someone famous. Soap star.

39. someone famous. Professional misery guts

40. someone famous. Newsreader.

41. someone famous. Helping police with their enquiries.

42. someone famous. Pop star.

43. someone famous. Person famous for being famous.

44. another mate of the author. Even googling doesn’t help.

45. someone famous. Religious leader.

46. someone famous. Professional British idiot, now living in US.

47. someone famous. Journalist.

48. someone famous. Egotist.

49. someone famous. Pop star.

50. someone famous. Footballer.

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EXCLUSIVE: List of top pseudonymous tweeters with usernames taken from Czech novels revealed

The newspapers have today filled literally space with the controversial list of the top pseudonymous tweeters taking their user names from Czech novels. I am delighted to reveal, exclusively for my readers, the leading tweeters.

1. @bookoflaughterandforgetting – using the avatar of a hat, a subtle allusion to a tale in Kundera’s work, this pseudonymous blogger is not a member of a boy band and does not tweet to teenage girls.

2. @The_Castle – this tweeter is not a television personality and does not tweet about things in the news and his latest programme.

3. @themournfuldemeanouroflieutenantboruvka - A controversial addition to the list as Skvorecky’s work is a collection of short stories rather than a novel this tweeter is not a stand up comedian and has not written any articles about engagement with the political process.

4. @warwiththenewts – as the name suggests the pseudonym for someone who does not present a daytime television programme with his wife.  Tweets here are mainly about the novel he is not writing.

5. @closelyobservedtrains – is not a journalist at a leading British newspaper. He does not mainly tweet pictures of hats.

6. @thegoodsoldierŠvejk – is not a businessman and does not tweet about holidays he has taken.  He also does not tweet insults to those who reply to him on twitter.

7.  @theengineerofhumansouls – is not a solo pop artist and has not used twitter to send a series of tweets responding to adverse media stories.

8. @judgeontrial – is not a reality television show star and does not tweet badly spelled missives about her life in beauty salons.

9. @PragueIseeacity – is not the host of a panel show and does not have a widely read column on technological developments.

10. @longthickandsharpsighted – is not the Scottish political editor of a publicly funded television station and has tweeted. once.


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Is it wet and windy outside? THE OFFICIAL LIVE-BLOG

28th October

9.26 am A lone twig is blowing along the road.  It is pursued by a man with glasses. It may be his only friend.

9.12 am My hair was gently tousled by the wind, like an overfamiliar uncle visiting you on the 27th December with some presents he’s picked up at a 24 hour shop at a garage.

8.44 am  A light drizzle outside.  I am about to step out of the door.  I may be some time.

8.29 am  Following the travel advice on the telly and staying in my home.  Seems reasonable enough here though. And the trains are running. But still. Must avoid unnecessarily acting sensibly.

8.22 am Quite nice. Light. The leaves are swaying gently, like the hem of a dress from an inept celebrity dancer on Strictly.

8.02 am Nope.

7.25 am Neither wet, nor windy.

6.34 am Seems fine enough.

27th October

11.15 pm Oh, it’s stopped.

11.14 pm The rain. God. The rain. The interminable pattering of the rain on the window.

10.36 pm The puddles on the ground reflect the orange glow of the street lights. The reflections are pockmarked with raindrops.

10.31 pm Sorry about that.  Was a mistake.  But it is wet.

10.29 pm Oh my god it’s horrendous out there.  There are animals swimming down the street. Run. Run for your lives.

10.22 pm – Wet. The rain is leaving trails on the window.  The sort of thing that footballers would bet on to see which drop reached the bottom first.

9.48 pm – Hard to tell. It’s dark.

9.25 pm – It’s nearly November , what do you sodding expect?

9.15 pm – Yep.

9.10 pm – Yes. yes it is.

9.05 pm – This live-blog has been set up to consider the “imperfect storm” - the major weather event (comprising weather) affecting the south of the UK (or England and Wales as some call it). Being based in Scotland’s central Scotland I am not anticipating being hugely affected by the weather, but have noted that there is weather outside just now, even though it is dark! Fancy that! Weather! So, I will address the important question: is it wet and windy outside? To answer this I have peeked through a curtain. I intend to repeat this action at various points through the evening. I trust that this live-blog will make up for the dearth of live-blogs from newspaper websites who are usually quick to live-blog the slightest thing: some crap on the telly; a man walking down a street; all that sort of stuff. Anyway, as I peek out of the window I note that it is wet and windy outside.

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Announcement of guest editor of Love and Garbage

I am delighted to confirm that the popular and controversial comedian Joe Pasquale will be guest editing Love and Garbage in two weeks. Mr Pasquale has agreed to a probing interview on television’s Hacker Time in order to promote this exciting development in the world of pointless blogging. Channel 4 news have kindly agreed to run excerpts of the Hacker Time interview on its news bulletins and on its website, accompanied by a feature by TV’s Paul Mason explaining what viewing a clip of bear on the Jeremy Kyle show means for the disengagement of school children from the electoral process.

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We no longer have the luxury of Russell Brand

When I was asked to write a post for Love and garbage I said yes because it was me asking me. I chose the subject of Russell Brand because love and garbage is a pointless blog and imagining the overthrow of the current media obsessions is the only way I can be enthused about blogging.

When people talk about Russell Brand within the existing media framework I feel a dull thud in my stomach and my eyes involuntarily glaze. Like when I’m conversing and the subject changes from scones and moves on to another topic. I try to remain engaged but behind my eyes I am adrift in immediate nostalgia; “How happy I was earlier in this chat,” I instantly think.

I have never watched Russell Brand. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by the modern media. Like most people I regard stand up comedians lecturing us about how we should behave as nothing more than a means of self-promotion suggesting that they have a new book or DVD out, or are perhaps touring and require the vending of tickets to augment their incomes through the filling of stadia. Billy Connolly said: “In the Brownies everybody is your friend” and “In the Brownies they’re all waiting round the bend”  and frankly, I think we can all agree on that one.

I don’t watch Russell Brand because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (apart from the one working on the railways or the one in the munitions factories, but hell – you get the point) so that I’d have the right to watch Russell Brand. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to watch Russell Brand for. I feel it is a far more potent cultural act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently watching him via the medium of a shiny disc placed in a little box to allow viewing on a large flat screen box. Instead, I view again old episodes of the Phil Silvers Show, or marvel at the scripts of Galton and Simpson as I immerse myself in old episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour.

Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not helped by watching a man apologise on the behalf of Channel 4 for some actions that have taken place in the Big Brother house, or a video of a man crooning that he wished to apologise for the terrible attacks on an ageing character actor after calling up and leaving a message about his granddaughter. I mean in the context of that sort of action of individual autonomy is utopian revolution possible? The freethinking social architect Duane Doberman said “Aw, gee Sarge”. By ignoring our comic heritage we are inertly ambling towards oblivion, is utopia really an option?

(and so on for pages and pages)

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Lines written to express using the medium of words the panoply of emotions experienced by your blogger on learning that the autobiography of Morrissey had been published




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Andrew Mitchell: an apology #gategate

I am sorry for Andrew Mitchell.

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An open letter



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Loveandgarbage’s open letter to Miley Cyrus

Dear Miley

Who on earth are you?



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