In the twenty years since I joined the Conservative Party (and I am only thirty-six now, so imagine how insufferable that was), I have only expressed outright disapprobation with the direction of the party once – when Iain Duncan Smith was leader, after his ‘never underestimate the resolve of a quiet man’ speech, I despaired for the party I had joined. We were no closer to power than under Hague, and Hague had been a damn sight more electable than the man who one can have imagined Googling ‘what would a leader do?’. I digress.
Today, as the Conservative Party splits up on its way home to constituencies and prepares for the return to Westminster in a short while, I must admit that I am wavering in my support for the leadership.
Amber Rudd’s speech was light on things to cheer for, and heavy on things for the left to categorise as ‘nasty’. She’s already rolling back on some of the most serious bum notes, but it’s fairly clear that nobody with any common sense had an opportunity to listen to it in full and determine what the biog picture message from it was. That’s a pity, because ceding law and order as our area of competence is a silly rookie error.
Philip Hammond scared the markets with the roller-coaster analogy. I don’t believe Philip Hammond has ever been on a roller-coaster, so I don’t know who wrote the speech.
My concern now is that Theresa May has sought to utterly change the direction of the party – from a liberal, non-state-interventionist party to a state-knows-best party. Ronald Reagan had it right when he said the most dangerous nine words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’. The state is the thumb pressing down the enterprise of the people – this interventionism is bad and dangerous.
I was a remainer for the express purpose of keeping David Cameron on as PM – but that ship has sailed, and we have the leader we have.
I want Theresa May to be brilliant – and I believe she can and will be, once she stops the inevitable new-leader process of throwing red meat to party animals. On some basic level, the party is now out of control and is testing the boundaries of the mandate given to it by the people in the General Election.
I therefore believe the argument for a new General Election is becoming insurmountable – and it should happen before Brexit, to give a solid, clear mandate to the government on the way it proposes to take the nation forward.
Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition
House of Commons
Palace of Westminster,
City of Westminster
If the rumours in the hated mainstream media are to be believed, you will soon be seeking a replacement for your strategic support Seumas Milne to work with you towards the realisation of the Project. There is much to mourn in the departure of Seumas:
Irrespective of the obvious inevitability of some political objective’s failure, Seumas never sought to dissuade you or redirect your political energies to things the doubters suggested, like policy development, consultation or communication with anyone outside the party.
Even during the most tense crises, Seumas kept his glowering, deeply unsettling presence at the edge of meetings, coldly appraising the utterances all around you and making dissenters less likely to give their distracting ‘thoughts’.
Seumas, as was well known outside the office, did not eat or drink; the times when he appeared to do either were carefully choreographed efforts to put people at extreme unease, as his slow, methodical faux chewing or sipping were carefully developed efforts to make people consider whether their own consumption of food was bourgeois and self-indulgent.
He could see in the dark and wore ‘wheelie’ shoes so he appeared to glide about the office, to suddenly appear behind and scare the living fuck out of staffers.
Whilst it would be churlish to claim I can live up to the bounty brought to the party by Seumas Milne, I believe I have some qualifications which could have benefits for your new dispensation on leadership.
I am almost always extremely angry. Not your run-of-the-mill, confused anger. The kind of anger normally occasioned by someone borrowing but not replacing one’s screwdriver, or a plug that won’t quite go in even though you’ve found the earth-socket with your finger before trying to line it up, or the bourgeoisie controlling the means of production even though you’ve written columns detailing how this order is inevitably doomed. The impotent, all-consuming rage I harbour almost always makes me worry that I will end up killing someone or wetting myself, or both.
When I am not experiencing my daily paroxysms of debilitating anger, I tend to relax with a glowering, brooding, dark malevolent presence which lingers long after I have left a room. My joyless, energy sapping demeanour, whilst it is nowhere near as personally scary as my default state, is still pretty troubling for all those around me. This seems to me in keeping with the tone you have set over the last twelve months, and is effortless for me. If there are still people in HQ needing their spirits crushed, I am just the person to do it.
I am the opposite of a populist. I actively seek out popular opinions and, in detail, seek to tear these things apart. In recent times I have written articles warning against the petty bourgeois activity of breast-feeding, the risk to national production of an educated workforce and how awful sugar is. These are just examples, of course. I can also write stuff praising quasi-socialist dictators, ideological demagogues and opinion pieces blatantly misrepresenting my own position for the purposes of obfuscating an entirely accurate complaint against me. It’s possible you’ll have more use for these skills.
I have perfected a smile of disapprobation. This is an upgrade on Seumas’ tendency to simply sit entirely still and suddenly exit the room without anyone noticing him standing up, and is twice as creepy.
In short, Jeremy, I am exactly the sort of unhinged lunatic your campaign needs now to recover from the loss of Seumas Milne. My general creepiness and the majesty of my silent, dark spectre cannot fail to keep your headquarters operation in a state of chaos and suspended animation, just how you like it.
Give it some thought. No need to give me a ring. Just think about me twice and I will be right behind you.
If someone had asked me as an eighteen year-old what I would be like, a whole lifetime away, I would probably have said that I would be happy, amused and comfortable. I certainly thought I would be richer than I am now, and I definitely thought I would have finished the book I started thinking about all those years ago.
My life’s journey has been fairly typical except in the detail; on by birthday I had travelled 13,149 times around the sun, which means 12,360,060,000,000 (twelve trillion) kilometers. Couple that to the rotational velocity of the sun around the centre of the galaxy, and I have in effect (just adding the two figures because the cam-speed rotation calculation needed is beyond me) travelled 262,296,252,000,000 km (two hundred and sixty two trillion) during my lifetime.
Thinking less enormously, I have just in the past year cycled a little over 2,600km at a little over 24km/hr, which is up on the 18km/hr average before the catastrophe.
The catastrophe was almost a year ago – the sudden and unannounced passing away of my dad. Between them, my mum and dad were 3/4 of my world, and he was absolutely the die from which I was cast. I miss him every day and I wish he was still here. There are days I share with my friends who have also lost their fathers, where the pain is too much to bear, and where the simple will to get the fuck on with making people happy kicks in. How bizarre that this should, in the end, be the thing that gets me through. That and my mum – a tower of fragile strength whom I have grown to respect more and more with every passing week.
In other matters, I am fitter than I have ever been. I still wish I had listened to Brian McLaughlin and not turned into the fat bastard I was for a few years. I haven’t shaken off the size yet, but my heart is reassuringly strong and small steps are taken every day for the purposes of making life a little longer, because life is fun. My desire to stay active and do something a bit stupid every month is paying off.
Work is work – we get paid for the difficult stuff, but the fun stuff we do because we’re allowed to. I’m blessed to work in an organisation where work is valued and progress is measured in successes every month – and where failures are learning experiences.
I am grateful for the people around me. The Producer is a constant grounding influence, and after more than a decade, we will have the ability to make one another laugh, and sometimes it’s even ‘with’ rather than ‘at’. My brother has never been taller in my eyes and I love him dearly, even if we don’t see enough of each other.
So, this is thirty-six. I miss lots of the things I had when I was 34, but 35 has been about coping with losing the thing you couldn’t live without, and discovering, with amazement, that thing was what set you up to live anyway.
Manager Appointment Standing Committee
The Football Association
PO Box 1966
Dear Sir Greg and everyone at the FA,
I write again to apply for the position recently vacated by Sam Allardyce. I have lit a candle for him and sent him an invoice, as he would have wanted.
Since you most likely have my CV on file since the last time I applied for the position and the four previous applications I have made, I shan’t burden you with it here.
Suffice it to say my GCSEs (4A*s, 4As, 2 Bs and a C) and my A-Levels (B,B,C) have ensured that I can tell the difference between a Sheikh from a country which does exist from a man with a teatowel on his head from a country which doesn’t. This will be helpful in our future deliberations. Further, I have learned recently to begin every conversation with someone unknown to me with the phrase “if you’re from a national newspaper, please realise that everything I say from this point on is a colourful, whimsical comedy routine and not to be taken seriously.” However, unlike Roy Hodgson, I will begin every conversation with players with the phrase “please realise that everything I say from this point on is an instruction or direction as a football coach and not to be confused with a colourful, whimsical comedy routine.” Every conversation I begin with Gareth Southgate will begin “Hello Gareth, how is it in the West Country?”
Since my last application, my approach to football has changed slightly. Whilst I still favour putting the fast, wiry men with decent ball control on the flanks, the surly psychopaths with gambling and cocaine addictions to the back of the field and the hyperactive cretins with narcissistic personality disorder at the front wearing the 9 and 10 shirts, I have recently determined that the best place for people called Southgate is somewhere in the West Country (see above) and that Alan Shearer should be employed to shout pithy epithets at the group of millionaires we have assembled to represent the country in what is our national sport.
I would, as manager, bring some new disciplinary ground rules to the training regime. First of all, no player would be allowed to arrive in a car which cost more to purchase than a small housing estate. Second, no player would be allowed to bring pro-forma contracts, fake passports, disguises or golf clubs to training. Thirdly, any player passing to Wayne Rooney would be sent to the reserves. Wayne Rooney is to be employed totemically only from now on. If a ball happens to ricochet off him into a net and put him on the score sheet, we will take that disappointment stoically. He will be played in every match until 2024 for the full regulation ninety minutes and serve as a lesson to other players.
I would employ Paul Gascoigne as the team trouble shooter. In the event of any family crisis or problem for a player, Paul would be summoned with some chicken and a fishing rod to stare wistfully at the player until he returns to full fitness.
In all, I think you can see my absolute seriousness in my application. I know the offside rule, I know that they’re “referee’s assistants” and not “linespersons” and that the flag they hold is not a signal for a slice of Battenberg Cake.
I hope this application is successful. I believe I have Des Lynam’s endorsement, but he won’t return my calls. Did you know he was born in Ennis, Co Clare? Blew my fucking mind.
Jeremy Corbyn is startling sometimes. He has amassed such a bewildering (and bewildered) group of disparate supporters around him, and communicated his ideas so poorly, that it is deeply complex to ascertain exactly what we’re looking at when we see his Labour Party operate. In no reasonable sense is the Labour Party today the same entity it was when it was, say, winning elections. They don’t seem to have a problem with this, because, as any Momentum supporter will tell you, elections aren’t the point. The point is stimulating activism.
Whoa there, spooky. The UK is, constitutionally, a parliamentary democracy where the people are represented – Parliament is sovereign, thanks to the decision to cut the head off Charles I and the coronation vows of successive monarchs. Elections are the fucking point, and anyone in any doubt should try to subvert or overthrow parliamentary democracy (protip: you’ll go to jail).
As a result, it doesn’t matter how many clam-bakes, safe-spaces, die-ins or bake-offs you organise, if you want to wield actual power in the United Kingdom, you need to run for election and win some seats.
Even the most pugnacious Labour MPs know this – but for some reason, Momentum’s drones either seek to marginalise and minimise the importance of parliamentary elections or to undermine their own members of Parliament. The people who know how our democracy functions are being undermined by people who think one-way streets are systematic capitalist oppression.
Momentum does not, yet, own the Labour Party, but they’re about to get the keys to the shop at Party Conference. When that happens, it’s curtains for both the ability of the party to construct a coherent narrative in the leadup to the general election, and for the authority of Jeremy Corbyn himself. When he is returned to his leadership, the strategically shaved morons shilling for him will begin the purge, to get rid of the people who know how the fax machine works, and the people who moderate the worst bits of McDonnellism, the thuggish, aggressive, militant tendency in the party. McDonnellism has had to be quiet and loyal up to now – but even Tom Watson, the intellectual heir to McPoison and Brown, must now be able to see what’s coming now.
We’ve been able to laugh and slightly worry about Labour up to now – from this weekend on, we need to reflect on the crisis McDonnellism inflicts on UK politics – because nobody’s actually foolish enough to vote for the thug, but they may be prepared to put up with Uncle Grandpa.
Newcastle United Football Club,
St James’s Park,
Newcastle Upon Tyne
In light of the disappointing performances of Newcastle United Football Club in the current season, I hereby offer my services to take over from the lovable bumbling rogue you have in charge at the moment.
I will freely admit that my knowledge of football management has been recently untested, since they started putting copy protection on Football Manager, so allow me to briefly establish my doctrine and approach.
I have noticed that we get more points from a game (on the league table) when we have a higher number beside our team name than the other team, when the referee blows his whistle for a long time at the end of the match. I do not believe this is coincidental, and I believe there is a cause-and effect. I have also noticed that when the little dashed line on the league is somewhere below our team name, fewer people in Newcastle try to set fire to Sports Direct adverts.
I favour placing players who aren’t very good either on loan or on the bench. I favour putting players who seem to know one side of a boot from another on the field, wearing a football kit, and playing the game. I know this is a bit different from the general scheme over the last few months, but bear with me, as I think it’s a strategy which could pay dividends in the future.
Further in terms of squad selection, I favour putting shirts with the numbers 9 or 10 on people who enjoy running toward the opposition goal, passing it to one another and then eventually, when there’s not much pitch to go, hoofing the ball into the net, past the goalkeeper. Now, I’m aware of the excitement caused when a player simply kicks the ball to the side of the pitch, or passes it gently into the warm arms of the opposition goalkeeper, or, as in the last few games, tries to send the ball up to Tim Peake in the International Space Station; but imagine the excitement if we actually employed some people to do some of the passy-passy, kicky-kicky stuff that some of the other teams do? Their fans seem to like it.
Moving on – if we were to consider putting some people in the middle to keep a formation, intercept opposition players who have the ball and pass forward to the people with 9 or 10 on their backs, that could be helpful.
I favour putting surly, ill-tempered people in shirts with lower numbers and keeping them to the back of the field, with an occasional lunge forward when they have possession of the ball and see a space on the pitch from which they could pass the ball forward. The recent trend within Newcastle United of having people at the back apparently paid to observe the opposition players running past them towards our goal is actually an unwelcome one and I would like to see us try something different. What if some of them (obviously not all) tracked back, watched the space and prepared, with insight into the probable next steps of the attacking players, to intercept them before the box? It seems to work in Ladies’ football, and I see Leicester City using an similar approach to their advantage. If I was the manager, I’d at least give that a go. I could draw diagrams for the players.
Finally in terms of squad selection, I would put a big player who seems to understand the flight characteristics of a near-sphere in a shirt with the number 1 on it. I’d have him stand near our goal to stop the opposition team from kicking the ball into our goal, either by catching it in some gloves, or punching it away from the goal, or by kicking it away, or, like I did when I played in goals in the quad at school, blocking the ball with my face. Again – controversial strategy but imagine if it worked.
In conclusion, Mike, I have in the past bought shoes from you and I trust you. You could repay my trust by hiring me – for £30/hr (not a penny less) on match days and training days to apply some of the strategies I have outlined above to help out our football team. It may be, of course, that you thought you were buying a Formula One racing team when you hired Steve McClaren, and that this really isn’t your fault. In that case, feel free to direct him to this page to help him.
If you’re looking at this on a Mac, it looks like shit, and you paid far too much for your computer to be looking at something this fucked. If you’re looking at this on a PC, it’s not much better, but at least you aren’t a hipster fuck.
Geoffrey Robertson today stated on television that the ruling on Julian Assange’s ‘detention’ was arrived at by five ‘distinguished judges’. In fact, the WGAD website indicates that none of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a judge in any sense. The chairman is a lecturer, a conciliator and a campaigner on human rights. If any of the members of the Working Group is a judge, it is not mentioned on the WGAD website.
Of the rest, one is a former civil servant and academic and three are essentially ‘just’ academics. I don’t seek to argue that they are not experts in the field, nor do I seek to argue against their judgment (I shall do that with an entirely different argument), but I do seek to draw attention to Geoffrey Robertson QC acting today as a PR agent and shill on national television whilst apparently not in possession of the facts. By inflating the qualifications of the panel, he seeks to establish in the minds of the viewer the idea that they cannot possibly be wrong. Perhaps they are not – but the use of a bare-faced lie is jury-baiting sophistry and can’t be allowed to go unchallenged by the BBC.
Perhaps Robertson was just rushed today. Hardly a diamond standard excuse.
In any case, argument from authority is a defining logical fallacy. I hold that the British Government is right to ignore the ‘ruling, and to consider if, really, the WGAD procedure is one to which it really ought be attached.
Incidentally, Joanna Gosling was brilliant in questioning Roberston today, quite excellent, but his bravado and bluster was so blatant as to possibly confuse any viewer.
And so it begins. Lampposts across Ireland are today festooned (or infested, depending on your preference) with the smiling and not-so-smiling faces of our modern day gladiators, vying for a connection with our ballot-booth pencils.
As usual, most look like they should be holding a number board, and as always, the men look worse than the women.
In most cases this year, at least in Dublin Bay South and Dublin South, most of the inhabitants of the corrie-boards look alive at the time the photo was taken, although Jim O’Callaghan for Fianna Fáil looks fairly disturbing against a foreboding Dublin sky. Posters of leaders have been spotted. Joan Burton, leader of the Labour Party, is smiling the smile only a Tánaiste can. Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil, leaves us wanting the wider shot, so we can see what his ventriloquist’s dummy looks like.
As usual, people will soon start giving off about people giving appraisals of the personal appearance of candidates – saying that personal appearance doesn’t matter and that we should focus on the policies and what they’re saying, not the photo on the poster.
In that case, gentle (and not so gentle – I know who reads this blog) reader, may I gently suggest that if they didn’t want to be appraised on how they look, they wouldn’t have spent so much time getting cleaned up for the photo, and they would put some policies on the posters too. I’ve seen Eoghan Murphy close up, and his photo on the poster is only semi-recognisable.
I’ll return to the theme of posters tomorrow when I’ve had a chance to properly appraise them.
Live footage from the dissolution of An Oireachtas. Expect this type of paddywhackery.
In the first of our unrivalled* coverage of the Irish General Election 2016, we cover the system. You don’t get this kind of coverage in the Irish Times **
Whilst I’m no Tim Roll Pickering, I am a constantly bemused observer of Irish politics, and I have come to a number of facts, conclusions and conjectures. Before we begin, however, note the peculiarity of Ireland’s native language. Ireland is overwhelmingly an English speaking country, but the instruments and apparatus of the state are in Irish. Where it would be disrespectful or confusing to use the English phrase instead of the Irish, I will explain the phrase once, give an inexpert pronunciation guide and persevere with the Irish version. Where that would be confusing in and of itself, I shall use the English version. 800 years and all that.
Dissolution of Parliament
An Oireachtas (Eh-rock-tas) is the Irish parliament, and it is divided into two parts – ‘an Dáil Éireann‘ (Dawl Ehrin) which is elected by the people in a general election and ‘an Seanad Éireann‘ (Shannad Eh-rin) which is elected through a public speaking competition, a discussion between farmers and Dumbledore’s Sorting Hat (only the Trinity Panel).
The Parliament is dissolved by the President of Ireland, whose Irish title is ‘an Uachtarán‘ (Ooktarawn) is advised on the matter by ‘an Taoiseach‘ (Teeshuck), who is the Prime Minister.
In any case, as I write this apparently it’s about to be done. An Taoiseach is driven to Áras an Uachtaráin (Awrus an Ooktarawn), which, amusingly, is the old Viceregal Lodge in the enormous and gorgeous Phoenix Park. He (it has always been a he) meets an Uachtarán, I presume they have a cup of tea, and an Taoiseach advises an Uachtarán to dissolve an Oireachtas.
By decree, an Oireachtas is dissolved and Leinster House (wherein an Oireachtas is situated) becomes 100% more useful.
The election period
This election will be the shortest in the history of the state (which was arguably formed in 1921, or more philosophically, 1937). The election was called on Wednesday 3 February 2016 and polling will take place on Friday 26 February. Three weeks and two days, yet something tells me it’s going to drag by.
The method of election
Ireland elects an Dáil Éireann through a multi-member constituency proportional representation system called Single Transferable Vote. This system is dull to its core, except to people who geek out on these things. Here are the details such people find interesting.
Le geek, c’est chic! Geek out!
A voter ranks the candidates in order of their preference with a pen or pencil on the ballot paper, where a number 1 signifies their political BFF and a high number (or no number at all) signifies the sort of support a right-thinking person gives to this hallion.
The vote is cast.
The vote is counted. In the first instance, first preference votes are sorted. This gives a ‘first count’, and a ‘total valid poll’. Invalid votes include funny faces (LOL), rants (LMAO), marks which could personally identify the voter (ROFL) and political statements against water charges (LOLCANO).
Once you have your ‘total valid poll’, you can calculate your quota for each seat.
Each constituency has between 3 and 5 seats. The quota is based on a simple formula:
Quota = (Number of Valid Votes / (Number of seats + 1)) rounded up to two decimal places.
If there was a three seat constituency with 1000 votes cast, the quota for a seat would be (1000/4), so – 250.45 votes. Since votes tend to occur as whole numbers (duh), the quota is really 251 votes, no matter what a mathematician tells you.
Surpluses, or why people with clipboards should be avoided
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. Say in that election, the candidate receives more votes than they need. In that case their surplus is redistributed, if the redistribution of that surplus could in theory result in another candidate also being elected.
This is what’s dull about PR-STV elections and it’s why people who support the system should be treated with deep suspicion. When sensible people would sooner have a fast count of a single seat first-past-the-post election and get to the pub, Irish political geeks like to stand around speculating about outcomes with tea.
More disturbingly, some of these people stand about with clip boards, claiming to know how the election will pan out – and they are, by and large, lying, and probably trying to woo academics or party activists. Treat these people with disdain. In an Irish election, nobody knows what’s going to happen other than a sometimes pretty accurate prediction of first preferences and pattern of redistribution.
An Dáil Éireann will be smaller than before, because people have emigrated. Where last time there were 166 members, there will now be 158 members. I advocated for a long time that this could have meant the election be unnecessary, and the make-up of the next Dáil simply be decided by Musical Chairs. This is why I am not a member of the Dáil.
What happens next?
When the votes are counted and people are deemed elected, eventually the Dáil will return and elect from their number a person to serve as an Taoiseach. That’s the theory. In reality, there will be political horse-trading between the parties and a coalition will be formed. We expect a number of independents to be elected this year (as last year) and for Sinn Féin to gain some seats, whilst it’s expected the Labour Party will struggle. The big issue will be whether Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil (Feeanna Fawl) has done enough to decontaminate his party. They’re expected to gain a few.
Fine Gael (Finna Gale) will probably be the largest party, but will more than likely lose a few and will not be able to form a majority on their own. Their coalition party last time was Labour – this arithmetic may not on its own provide for a majority and we could see another ‘Rainbow Coalition’ made up of multiple parties and independents. Truly, Ireland’s cup of woe runneth over.
What happens next next?
An Seanad Éireann will be elected in the month or so following the General Election. The upper house is a debating society for people with ideas and enough time to make tray-bakes, so don’t expect it to be too exciting.
* piss poor
** Worthy, beautifully written, excellent but boring