Mostly a note to self

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 09:34 am
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
I found Bob Olsen's obituary again. (Bob was partner to my great uncle Theo for decades.)  So now I know which cemetery to go to if/when I visit Toronto again.

(dept of ridiculous advance planning: maybe for the solar eclipse in 2024)

Vikings season 3 episode 6 review: Born Again

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 07:40 am
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Posted by louisamellor

Laura Akers Review Apr 2, 2015

Michael Hirst's revisionist approach to the portrayal of Viking culture is just one of this show's many fascinating facets...

Labour have zero credibility on zero hours contracts

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 07:14 am
[syndicated profile] peter_black_am_feed
Ed Miliband is right to highlight the problems caused by zero hours contracts but what credibility does he actually have on this issue?

As this article reports 68 Labour MPs, nearly a quarter of Mr. Miliband's Parliamentary party, have been accused of using these controversial contracts to employ staff. Furthermore 21,798 of these contracts have been handed out by Labour-run Councils.

And that is before we focus on votes in the Welsh Assembly where Labour AMs have twice vetoed moves to ban zero-hours contracts in public services here.

/>The most insidious part of zero hours contracts are the exclusivity clauses. That is an issue Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats have already focussed on. Uncertainty about working hours is one thing, being told that you cannot make up hours elsewhere is unfair and inequitable.

The Flash: ‘coming up’ trailer teases major arcs

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 07:10 am
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Posted by rleane

Rob Leane News Apr 2, 2015

Time-travel, the Reverse-Flash, Gorilla Grodd – they’re all in this new trailer for The Flash season 1’s final episodes…

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Posted by Mark Thompson

Ever since the formation of the coalition, Lib Dem voters have been abandoning the party and in a lot of cases going to Labour.

I have always found this a little surprising given all the things that Labour did while in power but if a week is a long time in politics then 5 years is a lifetime and memories of course fade.

But if you are trying to woo voters who at the most recent general election voted for a liberal party, why on earth, 5 weeks out from polling day would you release this leaflet?
The Labour leaflet attacking the Lib Dems on crime.

I am particularly referring to the final bullet point on the "Lib Dems Have" side:

"And they would end prison sentences for drug posession - even for the hardest drugs like heroin and crack".

Now to me this just seems like a cynical attempt at vote grabbing. I suspect even those who drafted this leaflet know the current legal regime around drugs is self-defeating and damages the most vulnerable in society. But I think campaigning in this way is actually very misguided if you think about it.

Labour's best shot at being the largest party in parliament is by holding onto (and getting more of) those people who voted Lib Dem last time. Whatever else the Lib Dems have done, as a party their drugs policy is very clear. Indeed it is one of the most distinct "clear yellow water" issues between the Lib Dems and the two main parties. And many Lib Dems really, really like that policy. I know from personal experience having been one for several years. In all my discussions when I was a member on this subject (and that is a lot) I can count on one hand the number of Lib Dems I met who thought the current laws on drugs are right to stick with. This even applied to the older generations of Lib Dems in my experience.

So if anything, campaigning like this is likely to push wavering former Lib Dem voters back towards the yellows. Or at the very least make them hesitate when deciding whether to put their cross next to Labour. And let's not forget there are other options out there for voters too. The Greens also have a very progressive drugs policy and I am sure this will have pushed some who were going to vote Labour towards them too.

Labour should probably be grateful that this leaflet and the reaction to it in the media has largely been confined to online comment and articles in The Independent and The Guardian. Because the wider coverage this gets, the more likely I think it is to actually cost Labour votes.

They have fallen back on what they think is a "safe" issue to campaign on when in actual fact it is anything but for them given the current political situation.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

Like the GE10 LDs UKIP will be squeezed in the big party fights

Apart from the problems facing Nick Clegg and the latest on the CON-LD battles a striking feature of the latest wave of Ashcroft seat polling was the decline of UKIP.

These are all constituency fights where, with perhaps one possible exception, UKIP was not a contender and what happens – in every single case the purples see a sharpish reduction in their share.

The biggest slippage of all, Camborne+Redruth, had Farage’s party slipping from 26% in last June shortly after the Euros to 14% in this latest poll. At one stage UKIP had been seen as a serious contender there.

My guess is that when we see the latest from CON-LAB battlegrounds there’ll be a similar trend.

    UKIP’s vote will be squeezed where it is not in contention and at least two of the traditional three big parties are slugging it out. Farage’s party will struggle where it’s not relevant to the main battle at hand.

Where there isn’t a fierce constituency fight going on, the non-marginals in the red and blue heartlands, then UKIP might fare better. That is precisely what happened to the LDs in 2010. The Cleggasm did happen – but not in seats where it was going to affect the result.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble

(no subject)

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 06:18 pm
skygiants: Drosselmeyer's old pages from Princess Tutu, with text 'rocks fall, everyone dies, the end' (endings are heartless)
[personal profile] skygiants
Here is a terrible confession: if I had enough power over the television networks to make one show based on a book series come into existence -- one and only one! -- ... it would be Kage Baker's Company series.

Yes, OK, I know, but there are so many vids I want to exist, and you have to admit, it would be pretty. It would be so pretty! And every season could be a different time period -- season one would be Elizabeth England, season two nineteenth-century California, season three early Hollywood (I'm eliding the season of pre-Columbian America because I wouldn't trust the producers not to screw it up) -- and everything would be gorgeous costumes and conscious anachromisms, and we could have Oona Chaplin (with red hair) as Mendoza, and Naveen Andrews as Joseph, and Samuel Barnett as Lewis, and Alfie Enoch as Nicholas/Edward/Alec, and yes, I know that in the books Nicholas/Alec/Edward is white but honestly given that the villains make it a huge point to make sure he grows up feeling different and isolated and like he has massive amounts to prove in every incarnation there is no actual reason on God's earth why he should be white, I'll fight you on this, the only really important factors are that he is British and extremely good-looking but also so tall as to look kind of uncomfortably distorted, all of which factors Alfie Enoch epitomizes, and maybe if Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax didn't literally epitomize the Victorian British white male patriarchy in every possible way I would feel less of an urge to punch him in the face at every opportunity! Who knows!

...anyway the most important thing about this hypothetical television show that I would conjure into existence is that it would VERY DEFINITELY tragically cancelled after the fourth season, with all the main mysteries unresolved! TOO BAD, HOW SAD, I guess fandom will just have to fill the gap and no one ever needs to remember the horrible Nicholas/Edward/Alec/Mendoza orgy of messianic incest EVER AGAIN.

So that's my confession. The 98% of you who have never read any Kage Baker books are now blinking at me in total incomprehension but 2% of you, 2% of you understand, right? (I'm still not rereading them though. Not yet. I'LL CAVE SOMEDAY but in the meantime I will stave off that day as long as possible with incoherent public rants.)

What about you guys, if you had the power to bring one television show into existence, what would it be?

I aten't dead

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 11:28 pm
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
I've just been ill, and busy, and ill some more.  Did you know that it's entirely typical for coughs to last up to three weeks? Well now I do.

Studying is mostly progressing in bitesize chunks; I've missed a few days while ill, but also picked up once my brain came back, so that's passed the first test of "is this really sustainable?".

My colleague's funeral had a very gratifying turnout; the funeral service itself focused heavily on the afterlife I don't believe in, but I drew a lot of comfort from fellow attendees, and exchanging stories at the wake.   Her family very kindly let me pick out some of her things from the flat they were clearing out.  I focused on books on topics we had in common and came away with more than I would have expected: I was amused when one of the business texts I'd picked out was referenced in my studying a few days later.  Now I just have to find time to read it before finishing the course.

Running is on hold until I stop coughing, which cannot happen soon enough.  Also I missed the 20th anniversary meet / Pratchett wake, but at least Tony and Charles got to go.

Eastercon is imminent; my mother-in-law arrived tonight and Tony and I will leave the children from Friday morning to Monday evening.  I've not even been away from Nico overnight yet; I have been away from Charles a few times for the length of a conference, but Tony was with him for all of them.  I am nervous and excited and hoping it all works out well.  Mobile phones make the prospect a lot more bearable.

VIDEO: Snowden's smashed laptop on show

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 09:04 pm
[syndicated profile] bbc_technology_news_feed
The laptop used to store top-secret documents leaked by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has gone on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Lord Ashcroft returns to the Lib Dem battleground

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 08:37 pm
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Posted by Anthony Wells

Lord Ashcroft released another batch of constituency polls earlier today, this time revisiting some of the Lib Dem seats where he had previously found close battles. In Lord Ashcroft’s previous polling in Lib Dem seats he’s often found wide variation from one seat to another, and it’s the same here – in some seats the Lib Dems are holding on against the national tide, in other seats they are doing very badly indeed.

Camborne and Redruth was an ultra marginal between the Conservatives and Lib Dems at the last election. In June 2014 Ashcroft polled the seat and found a close three way battle between the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP. The picture in this poll is far less exciting – a very lead 13 point Tory lead.

North Devon and St Austell and Newquay both had narrow one point Tory leads last time, this time they had more comfortable seven and six point leads for the Tories.

North Cornwall, St Ives and Torbay all saw much less movement. Torbay and North Cornwall both had neck-and-neck ties when Ashcroft last polled them, this time he found a one point Lib Dem lead and a two point Lib Dem lead. St Ives has gone from a one point Lib Dem lead to three points, showing almost no swing from LD to Con at all since the general election.

Turning to the two Lib Dem seats where Labour is the main challenger, Julian Huppert in Cambridge has now opened up a nine point lead over Labour, reducing the swing from LD>Lab to just three points, which would be exceptionally good in a LD/Lab seat.

Finally Lord Ashcroft re-polled Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg’s own seat. Naturally this is the poll that got the most attention, as he continues to show Clegg trailing Labour. Voting intentions were CON 16%, LAB 36%, LDEM 34%, UKIP 7%, GRN 6% – a whopping great swing of 19.5% from LibDem to Labour. The Lib Dems criticised the poll for not including candidate names, saying this would have boosted Clegg. Lord Ashcroft pre-empted the criticism by saying that he already asked the constituency specific question and feared putting candidate names in the question would give too much prominence to that as a factor and would risk showing too much of a candidate effect. Both are perfectly justifiable arguments – the reality is we don’t know. Constituency polls have been very rare in the past, so we don’t have lots of constituency polls with and without candidate prompting from previous elections that we can compare to results to make a judgement. There is simply no evidence that would allow us to judge whether candidate prompting in constituency polling is less or more accurate.

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Posted by David Herdson

The squeeze is on the smaller players

That cloud looks like a tree. Or a bird. Or a flower. It’s human nature to see patterns in chaos and further, to try to rationalise and explain those patterns. Hence earthquakes are still archaically ‘acts of God’. Hence also the interpretation of the four point Labour lead in the YouGov poll published after the Cameron-Miliband interviews and Q&A as a Miliband ‘win’. Given that YouGov routinely publish over 20 polls a month, we should expect at least one outlier and several others a bit out-of-true simply due to statistical noise. It turned out that one of these followed the ‘debate’, so providing a misleading impression.

In fact, over the month, the Tories firmed up their slender lead in the PB poll average, though I’m more confident about the reported lead than I was last month. In February, it rested mainly on one ICM poll which gave the Blues a 4-point lead and itself looked a bit of an outlier. This month, the picture is much more consistent across the five pollsters in the index. The figures are:

Con 34.5 (+0.5)
Lab 34.1 (+0.5)
UKIP 12.2 (+0.1)
LD 7.9 (+0.3)
Grn 5.7 (-1.3)
Oth 5.7 (-0.1)

While the overall picture at the top of the list remains much the same, the big change comes at the bottom. The polling story of the winter was the Green surge; rather ironically, with the green shoots of spring, that’s now faded: Bennett’s party has lost nearly a quarter of their vote since it peaked in January, though still stands substantially higher than it did this time last year, never mind at the last general election.

That drop looks to be part of a bigger picture, with the big two squeezing out the lesser players (in England and Wales at least). In November and December last year, the combined Con+Lab share was about 62.5%; it’s now fully six points higher.

Most of that change has come not from the Greens but from UKIP, who are broadly flat on the month. Late last year they were consistently scoring in the mid-teens, peaking at 16.4% in October. Like the Greens, they too are down by around a quarter since then, which may go a long way to explaining the simultaneous rise in the Conservative vote.

In one sense, David Cameron ought to be reasonably happy with March’s polling figures. Apart from a second consecutive monthly lead, the Conservative share of 34.5% is his party’s highest since March 2012 and within touching distance of its 2010 result. Or it would be if there weren’t a very large fly in the ointment in the shape of Labour’s own share, which is several points higher than Gordon Brown managed on polling day; probably enough to hand Labour a narrow lead in seats were it to be realised on May 7. The collapse of the Lib Dem vote – still just a third of what it was in 2010 and their second-lowest ever in the series in March – remains the largest of the several critical swings in play.

March’s figures are realistically the last meaningful set before the election. Although one can (and will) be compiled for April, the reality is that so much can happen over the course of an election campaign that an average is of less value. Likewise, the purpose of the PB Average – to strip out the noise of short-lived events and statistical fluctuation and identify the true direction of travel in opinion – is of less use when the vote itself is only a few days away (and in the case of postal votes, mostly over and done with). So what can we expect of April?

The main movements now, as across the parliament, are not directly between Con and Lab but between each of them and their respective opponents in their area of the ideological landscape. This will be one of the most multi-faceted elections ever and anticipating its outcome is like trying to predict a game of chess played at sea on a heptagonal board where someone’s greased the pieces beforehand and where several players can move at once: tricky. Nonetheless, the debate this week may well prove critical.

For UKIP and the Greens, the debate is their best chance to make their mark in the campaign and reverse their recent declines. As was noted on PBC recently, the main effect of granting UKIP major party status seems to have been not to give them extra coverage but to give the Lib Dems less (not unreasonably, given that the Lib Dems are likely to behind UKIP in votes and the SNP in seats). If one minor party scores a big hit or makes a serious gaffe, that’s likely to have a knock-on effect on the top-line – as in 2010 when Clegg zapped Cameron’s lead. If not, it’s probable that coverage will continue to focus heavily on Con and Lab (outside Scotland and NI), leading to further falls in the purple-green share.

David Herdson

Harry Hayfield’s by election preview

Whyteleafe on Tandridge (Con defence)

Result of council at last election (2014): Conservatives 34, Liberal Democrats 6, Independent 2 (Conservative majority of 26)

Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 457 (48%), Liberal Democrats 376 (40%), United Kingdom Independence Party 115 (12%)

Candidates duly nominated: Martin Ferguson (United Kingdom Independence Party), David Lee (Liberal Democrat), Peter Sweeney (Conservative)

It shows how bad things were for the Conservatives when in 1995, Tandridge in deepest Surrey, popped up as a Liberal Democrat win, however since those days the Liberal Democrats have been knocked not only out of power but for six as well (as that’s how many councillors they have left). In 2003, the earliest data I have, there were ten of them, the following year they reached their peak of 11.

But have been falling ever since. But as you can see from the result at the last election in 2012, it’s not that they have been knocked out completely and with Tandridge being the sort of area that UKIP have the potential to do very well indeed, could we see something that has been discussed in many quarters (and give a chance for the Liberal Democrats to retain a substantial number of MP’s), UKIP taking votes from the Conservatives in sufficent numbers to allow the Liberal Democrats to HOLD or even GAIN seats that might not have gone that way if UKIP were not standing?

Harry Hayfield

Tomorrow night is Nigel Farage’s big opportunity

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 04:26 pm
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE

Farage’s ratings for a third party leader are pretty poor

With the seven way debate upon us shortly, I was trying to see the circumstances that led to the Cleggasm in April 2010.

Using the Ipsos-Mori leader satisfaction ratings as a proxy,  we can see how Nigel Farage’s net ratings compare to Clegg in March 2010.

Then in April 2010 the public for a short time, ended up liking someone they already liked a bit more.

Given that that Farage and UKIP are the recipients of the None of the Above voters that the Lib Dems used to attract, and are effectively the third party of Great British wide politics, in the polls at least, compared to his predecessors of the third party/second opposition party, Farage’s ratings aren’t that good.

This may be a by product of the voters’ perception of UKIP, which sees them as the most extreme and least fit to govern party,  as the most sleazy and disreputable party, and a racist party likely to have candidates with racist/extreme views.

So does this mean no Faragasm tomorrow night? I suspect the format of the debate is what is more likely to stop a Fargasm tomorrow night rather than Nigel’s poor ratings as a third party leader, but it does present Farage an opportunity to regain the UKIP voters he seems to have misplaced recently, as Lord Ashcroft’s marginals polling today was the latest to confirm this trend.


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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.

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