Monday, 20 April 2015

SNP seeks to involve people with a campaign leaflet

The SNP seems to have come up with a decent wheeze that will enable them to build up a good database of supporters and the issues that matter to them. This leaflet, printed on two A5 sides of thick paper plopped through my letterbox the other day along with a stamped addressed envelope so that it could be returned to the party.

It is very rare for any party to go to the trouble of asking the punters what they think, still less for that party to make it easy for people to reply. I filled in the form, and told the SNP that I thought that the war against claimants was the major issue of our day. Then I ticked the box to say that I would vote for Brock in this election and gave them my details. 

If the SNP do as well in this coming election as the polls predict then a lot of it will be due to out of the box thinking like this. The idea behind the leaflet is simple, so simple that I have never seen it done before. It will leave more than a few people thinking that the SNP actually gives more than a tinker's cuss about them and their concerns.

I told a couple of friends who are standing for election in England about this leaflet and they both agreed that it was a fine idea, but neither seemed to want to take it up. The first said that it was too late and the second told me that he couldn't afford all that postage.

The quick reply is that people could be asked to use their own stamp, or party workers could collect the completed cards. Alternatively, if a stall is set up in the centre of the constituency, people can fill them in there and then.

Good ideas need to be copied.

Labour abandons its Scottish section, but still looks a winner.

A party needs many things to win an election, and a fair wind is certainly one of them. Often that good breeze comes about because a party looks like a winner, so things start to fall into place effortlessly. Take this chance encounter between Ed Miliband and a girly gaggle out on a hen party. It could have happened to David Cameron, but it didn't. Instead, Cameron went to talk to some workers and many of them got so bored with him that they preferred to go back to work instead of listen to the man a moment longer. Miliband met the tottie quite by chance and all of a sudden he went from geek to sex god in the public eye.

The Labour campaign went into overdrive over the weekend as it began its final sprint towards the finishing line.

The first thing that Labour did was toss its Scottish branch to the wolves. Angela Eagle, the shadow leader of the Commons made that very plain when she said: “We’ll speak to any party that has got representation in the House of Commons in order to try and build a majority for a Queen’s Speech that the country desperately needs for a change of government.” 

With that comment you can forget the plaintive wail that still emanates from Scottish Labour that the biggest party forms the government because the national party has now kicked that idea into touch. Labour will try to work with anyone who will join them in getting the Tories out.

Secondly, Miliband appealed directly to those Tory voters who are not complete scum suckers, as well as to the remaining leftist UKIP and Lib-Dem contingent, by telling them that  if they are worried about tax evasion, avaricious energy companies and fat cat bankers, then he is the man who will champion those causes. The toy town left will scream at that, but if it solidifies Labour's right flank then it is to be welcomed.

Labour seems to have done the electoral maths and accepted that the Tories on 280 seats are still going to be unable to form a government, but Labour with as few as 260 certainly could. 

The SNP now seem to be certain to take almost 50, and any that they fail to grab will probably remain in Labour hands. Add the Welsh, Ulster and English one-seat parties to get another ten or so. If we add the shell-shocked remnants of the Lib-Dems who may manage to save 25 MPs if they are very lucky, then Miliband has a majority of the 650 seats in the Commons.

Thinking about this for a moment, Miliband has to treat the SNP with kid gloves, but all the others can be brought on-board or dumped depending upon the mood. He could even leave the Lib-Dems to stew in their own juices, if Labour did take 265 seats or so.

Cameron by way of contrast does not have any of these options. At best he can count on the eight or so members of the DUP, with maybe the Lib-Dems, always assuming that they do not decide to take whatever deal Miliband offers them. UKIP can be discounted because whatever seats they have will come from the Tories, so their success or failure does not alter the Con-Lab balance of forces.

It's no wonder that Ed Miliband is looking so chirpy - barring a disaster, in a little over two weeks he is set to become Prime Minister.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Scottish police seem to be helping Jim Murphy's campaign.

You couldn't make this story up because nobody would believe it: the Scottish police have pulled in a protester and demanded that he give them advance details of all and any plans that he has to demonstrate at Jim Murphy's public events. Sean Clerkin is the demonstrator and what McPlod did not know is that Clerkin seems to have had a camera hidden on his person and he has said that the video will go live on YouTube tomorrow.

Now it may be that Sean Clerkin is an irritant to some politicians, but this is an election after all, and political hacks have to accept that not every event will be stage managed to their satisfaction. The police refused to rule out sharing any information that Clerkin gave them with Murphy, so the obvious conclusion that people will reach is that they are aiding the Labour campaign.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Scottish Cuisine: Haggis

Haggis is a traditional Scottish delicacy, made all the more delightful these days by being smothered in batter and then deep fried. The one you can see in this photo provided me with last evening's meal and went down a treat. As you can see, it is accompanied by a smallish portion of Scottish salad, or chips as they are sometimes called in England.

In case you are wondering, haggis consists of  sheep lungs, heart and liver, all chopped up and then mixed with oatmeal. Traditionally it is cooked in the animal's stomach lining, but these days artificial casings tend to be used. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Miliband won the challengers' debate

Last night's event was called the challengers' debate because neither Cameron nor Clegg were there. Cameron had made it plain that he wasn't going to attend so the BBC didn't invite him. Did you watch it? I suspect not, since it was a bit like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, and only Survation bothered to conduct a poll to decide the winner. Their result was Miliband 37, Sturgeon 31, Farage 27, Bennett 5 and Wood 2.

The only high spot came when Farage made the quite legitimate point that mass immigration means that demand for housing is far outstripping supply, and the audience began to jeer. In other words what we had was a fairly typical, well-fed, ample-bottomed, BBC audience that is made up of people who cannot even imagine what it is like to be anything other than comfortable and middle class.

Farage took the opportunity to claim that the audience was rigged, and the moderator, David Dimbleby pointed out that it had been chosen from a polling company's panel. I suspect that exchange will be tomorrow's headlines as Farage was clearly stumped and struggled to reply

It was rigged of course, since those panels are made up of people like me, who do it out of interest and for the odd few quid that comes our way. That skews things away from your average punter and towards the political animals. Then you have to find people from the panel who live where the debate is taking place and are willing to go to it. That tends to exclude the people who actually work for a living and are tired at the end of the day, or who have to go home to cook a meal and look after the kids. However, it includes the comfortable middle class who spend their days sitting in offices and who may even have nannies to look after their whelps. So no, the BBC did not rig the audience, but that isn't to say that the audience wasn't rigged. That said, Farage got his message out to his people sitting at home, so he probably won't be too bothered about the studio audience.

Sturgeon can also be rather chuffed since she made her visceral hatred of the Tories very plain to everyone. She then went on to invite Miliband to work with her party to ensure that no matter who wins the most seats next month, the scummy Tories are kicked out of office. Obviously, Miliband could not agree to that since he has candidates of his own in Scotland, but his replies were measured and thoughtful, so Labour has plenty of wriggle room after the votes are in.

As for Miliband, he came over very much as a Prime Minster in waiting, which was clearly his intention. I wish he would stop sounding like a satnav's robotic voice, and there were times when I wanted to throw something at the screen when he trotted out the "hard working families" line once to often, but he did enough to encourage Labour voters in England to turn out next month and vote for his party.

Now that the debates are over I think I can conclude that Miliband has done more than enough overall to humanise himself and allow people to see the real Labour man that he is, rather than the caricature that the Tories wanted people to see. He is not as left wing as I would like, but there is enough of the old Labour Party in him to encourage the lost voters to return to the fold.

Sturgeon has been magnificent throughout and has shown time and again that this is not about independence, it really is about getting the Tories out and putting some stiffening into Labour's backbone. 

Farage comes in third in my list. During the course of these debates he has done enough to steady his vote at around 14 percent and halt what seemed to be a steady decline into oblivion. Whether that decline will start again is another matter, but it is true to say that UKIP's position at the moment owes everything to him.

With three weeks to go, everything is still to play for.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

When Robin Grey, ukelele man, told David Cameron: "Fuck off back to Eton"

What is it about the political right and their love of young men with closely cropped hair and cheap suits? One such specimen tried to intimidate a busker, of all people, during yesterday's walkabout by David Cameron in the border constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The ludicrous result is that the video is now all over the web, and Cameron's visit has been forgotten because all anyone can talk about is the day the busker came face to face with the goon. Here's the video clip that has the whole world whistling along:

Robin Grey is the name of the hero who ruined Cameron's day, and here is is with his nan enjoying a jamming session  as they try to improve on the lyric that came into his head yesterday as he saw Cameron heading towards him:

It's still very much a work in progress, and somebody needs to tell him to always hold the mobile 'phone horizontally to make the clip look better. That said, I'm betting that a polished version will be uploaded soon so that we can all sing it during the next three weeks should David Cameron be foolish enough to ever again venture out amongst real people.

Which he probably won't.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Jim Murphy is put in his place over no cuts pledge

No wonder Jim "Spud" Murphy looks even more puzzled than usual. He spent the weekend telling us that there would be no cuts and the Labour manifesto out today gives us more than a few. Now it is true that I still think people in England should vote Labour, but that is against a backdrop of a strong vote for the SNP in Scotland to make sure that the cuts are kept to a minimum or dropped altogether.

In a BBC interview, Chuka Umunna who is the Labour business spokesman, felt constrained to put Spud in his place and remind him that Labour is led from London, and not Edinburgh:

I think we can fairly easily conclude from this exchange, which admittedly was forced out of Umunna, that Labour has pretty much given up on Scotland.

That does not mean that people in England should go off and vote for the Monster Raving Loonies, or the Greens, as a protest. Labour manifesto has enough in it to justify a vote south of the River Tweed, but smoothie-chops like young Chuka here are motivated by a desire to get their snouts in the Westminster troughs more than they are by socialist ideology, or indeed any ideology at all. 

So they may try for cuts, but will probably not go down to the wire over them, because at the end of the day, staying in office is all that matters to people like this.

So a vote for the SNP in Scotland makes more and more sense, even to people who do not support the idea of Scottish independence. If you want to ensure that Labour does not implement cuts, then make sure that there is a large SNP cohort who will allow Labour's placemen and troughers to keep their place at the trough, in return to avoiding cuts to our services.