Monday, May 11, 2015 

I'm not working.

I hurt myself yesterday / To see if I still feel

I've written before about self-harm.  It's not cool, kids.  Do as I say, not as I do.  I didn't expect yesterday to be lying in a field, listening to a bird singing barely 10 feet away, giggling away to myself.  I didn't expect that my brain would react to the absurdity of a 30-year-old man scratching at himself with a blade in such an incongruous setting by being precisely that, triggering a laughing fit that didn't stop for 10 minutes.  I thought I remembered that hurting myself before hadn't done anything except leave scars.  Perhaps it didn't then.  All I can relate is that for a good few hours yesterday I felt euphoric.  I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I walked home.  Grinning, laughing.  Then once I was home it quickly wore off.  The pain remained, still does somewhat.  It pulses, burns slightly, like your skin does when the heat of the sun on it becomes too much.

Doctors will tell you there are a number of tell-tale signs to depression.  Loss of appetite, or rather you all but stop eating.  Loss of enjoyment of everything, or rather you return to what you know best, to comfort yourself.  You listen to that music, you watch that TV show or those movies, you listen to that man rant about those things.  Inability to sleep, which thankfully doesn't concern me as I've been on medication that helps me with that for umpteen years.  Alternatively, and this does apply to me, sleeping more.  Where before you were getting by on 6 hours you can now go for double that.  I speak in a monotone.  I stop finding attractive people attractive.  I shake.

Petrified for the millionth time / Slowly my soul evaporates / No parachutes no dismal clouds / Just this fucking space

You don't expect these things.  You do expect other things, but you do it anyway, because you've got no self-control, or you use that as an excuse.  Let's put it at best, that you're an annoyance, rather than something more visceral, that you disappoint rather than bring someone else down with you because you're such a fucking imbecile.  You beat yourself up about it, but that's not the real reason you turn against yourself, is it?  You can't leave well alone because you don't know anything else, isn't that it?  Can't you admit that you do this because you want to, that it's no one else's fault, despite you saying over and over again you're the only one to blame, do you really mean it?  Because it sure as hell doesn't seem like it.  Haven't you just proved you're a masochist, and that at root that has something to do with it?  You like the pain.  You might not want it, but when it comes as it always will you secretly enjoy it.  You tell yourself you can't change, and when you demonstrate just that, or think you have, it just reinforces your spectacularly immature world view.  There is only one solution, and you're still far too cowardly to let it envelope you totally.

It's worse than you think.  Yeah, thanks Guardian, tell me something I don't already know.  You see all the old barely human faces, the skin not as thick as it once was, stretched tauter over bone.  What this proves is I was right all along.  These people can't even wait until the corpse is cold, their glee total at what has transpired.  Had it been the opposite they would have been nowhere to be seen, muttering to themselves about how it couldn't, wouldn't last.  Aspiration.  The centre ground.  Working hard and getting on.  Wealth creation and cultural affirmation.  Those words coming just after the writer tells us that politics has to be emotional rather than public policy seminar or data collection exercise.  This, friends, is what awaits us in the next Labour leader.  It doesn't matter that no one has come up with a prescription so far on how you can win back voters in Scotland that went to the "left" while convincing those in England that went to the right that you aren't going to launch a pogrom on white van men, clearly where Labour went wrong was in not remaining on the centre ground.  Like the Lib Dems, who clung to the centre because Nick Clegg decreed it and were duly squashed flat.  Labour was just slightly to their left, and apparently that was enough to seal their fate.  Pull the other fucking one.

This is not evidence Britain is a "fundamentally conservative country", says Matthew d'Anconservative, as if it were neither the NHS or BBC would exist.  No, Britain in the era when both were created was not a fundamentally conservative country.  It was a fundamentally social democratic country.  Then it stopped being such and the only reason we retain both is because they remind us of what we once were, that and no one has come up with a better alternative.  You can't replace an entire health system.  You can get rid of the BBC though, and don't be surprised if that process begins under this glorious government.  The Tories would be quite wrong to interpret the election result as a green light to cut welfare, Matt goes on.  Why not?  Rather than deploring the politics of heartlessness, a good percentage of the public seem to have embraced it.  They've displayed a very funny way of saying they disagree with the bedroom tax, for instance.  As the inestimable Flying Rodent has repeatedly said, no one makes people watch Benefits Street or all these other gawping documentaries on the poors.  See, that's where Labour went wrong: too much emphasis on the poors and the riches, not enough on the middle.  Because Labour didn't spend years going on interminably about the squeezed fucking middle, did it?

Half of me wants to scream that Labour needs to have the shortest leadership contest possible, regardless of whom comes out at the end of it, because it was during the navel gazing of the contest last time that the Tories banged on endlessly about the crash being all Labour's fault.  With neither a Labour or Lib Dem leader in place, although hey, thank heavens for small mercies that Nigel Farage has been preserved for the nation, we can expect the same again.  The other half of me though just doesn't give a shit.  This result has pretty much proved there's only one thing that does for the Tories, and that's a disaster like Black Wednesday followed by the party obsessing over itself.  Even then Labour can only win by going one foot to the left of the Conservatives, and as the more perceptive have pointed out, it wasn't Ed Miliband that screwed Labour in Scotland, it was a certain Mr Blair.  It was a very delayed reaction, but reaction it was all the same.  Hunt, Kendall, Umunna, Burnham, Cooper, whoever wins they look set to accept in full the prevailing message already dictated.  None of them look quite as weird as Miliband did, although Burnham has some especially sensual eyelashes, but you think they're going to be fellated like Blair was by all comers?  There's no one, and they have nothing to say.

All that's left, all I have left is to point and criticise.  I'd like to think I'm reasonable at doing that, I'm dedicated at least if nothing else.  I'm also always unexpected.  Dedicated and unexpected.  What a fantastic epitaph.

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Saturday, May 09, 2015 

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Ever have one of those days where, regardless of anything else that was happening, you should have done everything differently?

Yesterday was one of those days.  And to be truthful, I don't just mean yesterday.  I mean every single day of my life since I was oh, 13, just to put a figure on it.  17 years later and I still haven't learned a thing.

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Friday, May 08, 2015 

Acedia's blackest hole.

Where do we even begin?

Perhaps it's best to start with what I and so many others got spectacularly wrong.  First, the Lynton Crosby "crossover" happened.  It happened at the very last minute, but it happened.  Second, the mainstream, overwhelmingly right-wing media has far more influence than anyone on the left or on the internet as a whole has given it credit for in years.  Their screeching appeals to their readers not to vote Labour over the past couple of days are almost certainly not the reason the Conservatives have a slender majority, but the months, years of attacks on Labour and their depiction of Ed Miliband as a mixture of Stalin and Mr Bean, to borrow from Vince Cable, have exacted a heavy toll.  If you want a reason why UKIP won just shy of 4 million votes, almost as many as the SNP and the Lib Dems combined, you need only look as far as a media that depicts Britain as a country where the power lies not with the white, upper middle classes but with immigrants, benefit claimants, the EU, and a constantly being bent over and sodomised BBC.  The real metropolitan elite has succeeded in creating an image of a phony metropolitan elite, where politically correct limp-wristed Guardianistas allow children to be raped and everything that's wrong with the country is down to their smug, sneering attitude of knowing best.  You can't support England!  You can't talk about immigration!  You can't say anything anymore without someone jumping down your throat!

Where I would maintain I wasn't wrong is in that no one won this election.  Now, plainly, the Conservatives did.  They didn't however win on the basis of anything in the Conservative manifesto or almost anything that David Cameron said the whole campaign.  The Tories have increased their share of the vote yes, something not achieved since 1900, but the swing is a miniscule 0.5%.  The Conservatives won because at the last minute more decided to stick with what they know than risk a Labour minority "held to ransom" by the SNP.  Apart from a few exceptional results, like the defenestration of Ed Balls, the Tories have their majority thanks to winning the seats they needed to from their former coalition partner.  Nick Clegg's message of dead centrism, which even to me looked as if it might in the end pay dividends failed catastrophically.  Why have a Lib Dem MP supporting Tory policies when you can have the real thing?

The Labour result is though throat-slittingly, jumping into a gaping chasm, blowing your own head off with a howitzer bad.  It represents everything the party must have feared in its darkest moments combined with the very worst of its most gleeful enemies' fantasies.  To gain an overall swing of just 1.5% after 5 years of austerity, real terms losses in earnings and hacking away at the public services as only a Tory led government can is not just nightmarish, it suggests Labour as a party is in terminal decline.  As we've seen on the continent, it isn't the centre-right parties that have been most squeezed post-crash, it's been those on the centre-left.  Unlike in Spain and Greece where parties of the radical left have been the beneficiaries of the collapse, we're seeing a refracted image of the situation in France, where the Front National looks set to become the unofficial opposition.  Clearly UKIP aren't going to play that role here, but what has happened is that as all the main parties have moved to the right on immigration and the economy, it's the establishment parties of the left that suffer most.  As the Greens will never be a working class alternative to Labour for a whole myriad of reasons, the major shift has been to UKIP, but there has been a much smaller if still significant shift to the left also.

How is Labour meant to win those voters back?  The more hawkish it is on the deficit and the harsher on immigration the more it loses voters like me to the alternatives on the left.  Meanwhile those on the right aren't satisfied as Labour won't go further than merely copying Tory policies.  It's utterly stuck, and has next to no room to manoeuvre.

For the left to win, it seems the only hope is to have a charismatic leader.  They can be an utter bastard, like a certain Mr Blair, or they can be a sign of change rather than stand for anything, like a certain Mr Obama.  If you look slightly nerdy, decide that you'd rather than country was just a little bit more equal please sir, and that it's not the best idea in the world to chuck bombs at countries without thinking it through first, or to spend the whole of your life brown nosing some of the most despicable cunts on the face of the planet, then boy are you fucked.

Ed Miliband's gambit was that the country had on a few really quite slight measures shifted all but imperceptibly to the left.  In their heart of hearts, perhaps most people do feel that way: they do want a higher minimum wage if not a living one, they do want a job that provides a way out of poverty, which is secure, they do want the corporate behemoths that now run so much of our public services to be just that, rather than service only their shareholders.  When it came down to it though, they held onto nurse in case of something worse, the worse being an inconclusive result where a nationalist party set on breaking the country up would hold the balance of power.  Yes, the failure to correct or challenge the media/Tory narrative that Labour was responsible for the crash did have an impact, but then on so many other fronts Labour and indeed all the parties have failed to do the same.  For far too long the main three have been too scared to confront voters' prejudices and instead have given in to them.  You celebrate the way the country has become diverse and yet you tell us you want an end to immigration right now; you tell us you hate scroungers and yet the welfare bill is increasing because benefits are topping up low wages and subsidising landlords, not to pay for layabouts; you complain about the wait to see a doctor and the threat to the NHS, and yet you're not prepared to pay the taxes to fund it to the same level as health services elsewhere.

Who Labour should choose to replace Miliband seems almost moot.  It clearly can't be someone else from the Blair/Brown era, which rules out Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham at a stroke.  Chuka Umuuna would, should be a frontrunner but while he has steel he lacks said charisma and passion.  I'd like to think it's time the party chose a woman, and on that front Liz Kendall would probably be the best bet, only yet again there's no reason whatsoever to believe she would make the needed difference when there is so little scope for policy change without losing more voters to UKIP or the Greens.  If there is the tiniest, most minute squib of brightness, it's that nothing can possibly get worse for the party in Scotland.  It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, but it can't get any worse.  Whether Scotland will still be part of the UK by the time it's ready to challenge again could be the real question.

Finally then we must turn to our new overlords.  The Conservatives have won a majority, regardless of how, on the back of the most right-wing manifesto since the days of Thatcher.  They promise to rip up the Human Rights Act, if only to replace it with a British Bill of Rights codifying the same things, to slash social security to the absolute bone in ways they refused to let us in on, to further ramp up the housing market, to all but abolish inheritance tax, and to run a surplus from which tax cuts in time for the next election will be handed out.  Let's surmise that in fact it won't be that bad: Osborne will now look at the books, realise that cutting as much as they say they will is complete lunacy, and that a further delay to reducing the deficit is sensible.  We still though will be facing cuts that look unachievable, if that is the party doesn't now renege on its promise to not raise VAT, to posit just one thing it could do instead.

As promised by Cameron, the starting gun on the EU referendum has sounded.  Let's assume the best: that Cameron gets something from Angela Merkel and the rest that allows him to claim he has successfully renegotiated our membership.  Regardless of that, his backbenchers, looking over their shoulders at UKIP once again will be campaigning for the exit.  The poll will not be about the benefits of the EU so much as what are seen as the negatives: the open borders, the loss of power, the amount we pay for barmy EU bureaucrats, and so forth.  Even if the vote is a yes to stay in, the Scottish referendum has proved that once you've asked the question you will sooner or later have to ask it again, as it's guaranteed the result will be as close as the 55%-45% share north of the border.

Then we have the issue of Cameron himself.  We know he's not going to serve a third term, so the party leadership battle begins here.  At the same time as the EU referendum we're going to have Osborne, May and Boris battling it out, with all that implies for infighting in the party in and around the referendum.  When you've won a majority on the back of being right-wing shitbags and those whose support you're trying to get are right-wing shitbags, why on earth would you then head back to the centre?

I could go on but that's probably enough and I'm sleep deprived as it is.  To be slightly optimistic again, the Tories are still going to have trouble governing: their majority is smaller than it was in 1992, their backbenchers will be just as fractious as in the last parliament, and by-elections will dwindle it further.

Let's not lie to ourselves, all the same.  Today's result is a disaster for those at the margins of society.  It's a disaster for those who believe in internationalism, rather than nationalism.  And it's the evidence we should have seen before that the left in England is fucked, probably irrevocably.

Have a good weekend.

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Thursday, May 07, 2015 

Erection special!

05:53:

Yeah, that's it.  This is what you wanted Britain, this is what you're getting.  I think the only thing left to do is reprise the only thing of worth Neil Kinnock might have ever said, only I've slightly altered it for 2015:

I warn you not to be ordinary.  I warn you not to be young.  I warn you not to fall ill.  If you're old, you're the only ones who will be protected.  Everyone else will be fair game.



05:40:

The strange thing about all this is that turnout doesn't seem to have gone up dramatically, except again for Scotland.  It might be 1 or 2 percentage points higher overall, but not to where you might have thought it was the turnout that swung it.  Rather it seems to have been the weeks of deadlock that prompted the switch at the last minute, aligned with the SNP fearmongering and perhaps some renewed "shy Tories" shenanigans.

05:36:

Not that that's surprising when I feel sick to my stomach at what's happened.

05:26:

Ed Miliband looks to have aged 10 years in one night.

05:21:

Norwich South, the seat the exit poll had inexplicably flagged up as the other Green win, has gone to Labour with a near 8,000 majority over the Tories.  Something went slightly haywire with your sample there lads.

05:14:

If by some freak of nature you're one of the 1,141 who voted Green in Bury North, where Labour's James Firth fell short by 378 votes of the Tories, hang your head in shame.  It won't have made any difference, but still.

05:00:

Esther McVey has gone.  Quite possibly the only bright spot of the entire night.  That's how little we've had compared to the position we started from.

04:51:

Amazing.  Clegg leads his party to a result so terrible they might have less than 10 seats, and yet he hangs on in Sheffield Hallam.  Never has a win been less deserved.

04:47:

Vince Cable has gone.  I've knocked Cable on here over the past few years for his bashing the Tories while remaining a minister, but there was the one hope if Clegg lost his seat of there being a Labour-Lib Dem pact of some variety.

Turned to dust, like so much else on this dreadful night/morning.

04:45:

The result we're looking at right now is quite possibly the worst of all possible worlds.  An indecisive one would have had to put electoral reform back on the agenda, a point being made by Douglas Carswell, who could be UKIP's only MP.  If the Tories either fall slightly short or scrape over the line, they have absolutely no reason to make any concessions on that front, and why should they?  In Scotland, we now have a party that hates the Tories probably just marginally more than it does both Labour and the union in total control, and will spend every moment of its time at Westminster raising hell, shouting at the complete illegitimacy of whichever government we have.  Add in how a referendum on EU membership is now certain, and which will in turn become not so much a vote on Europe as on immigration and the government itself, and to say the next five years look even bleaker than the 5 previous doesn't seem an understatement.

A few years back now I saw Simon Munnery, not long after he had (bizarrely) appeared on a panel on Newsnight alongside Greg Dyke on the AV referendum.  Afterwards, according to Munnery, Paxman said to Dyke on the economic situation, "this country really is fucked, isn't it?"

If it wasn't then, it is now.

04:24:

Results flooding in now.  Thurrock, Hendon, 2nd and 3rd on Labour target list, both remain Tory.  It was over long ago, but seems to be confirming we're seeing a repeat of 1992 only sans the Sheffield victory rally.


04:17:

Lynne Featherstone has gone as well.  She was one of those who demanded someone must resign over the death of Baby P, helping along the demonising of social workers that followed.  Probably also worth pointing out that David Cameron's bright idea a few months back was that those in a position of authority who fail to protect their wards should face up to 5 years in prison.  That, unfathomably, was one of his less wacky pre-election brainfarts.

04:11:

Simon Hughes has lost his seat.  He you might recall defended the prisons book ban, and thus richly deserves to lose regardless of the good he has done previously.  Not that it's going to make much frigging difference in Labour beating the Lib Dems at this point, sadly.

04:05:

By the way, hello to the one remaining person who seems to reading my ramblings now.  And I don't mean myself.  Apologies this hasn't been more insightful, but I'm trying not to start crying.

03:58:

Rare gain for Labour in Ilford North on a swing of 6.3% from the Tories, still adding up to a majority of just 589 mind.  This was 84th on Labour's target list.  What might have been had Labour managed that across the board.

03:41:

I'll say this right now: David Lammy shouldn't seek the London mayorship, he should seek the party leadership.  Looking at all the other potential candidates, he's the only one even remotely inspiring.

03:33:

Incidentally, I haven't seen much evidence tonight of that fabled BBC bias.  Labour figures might be in mourning, but the BBC presenters seem pretty buoyant, despite a Tory majority spelling the all but end of the licence fee.  The SNP aren't great fans of Auntie either.  Still, eh?

03:18:

I think I've gone very quickly through the 5 stages of grief tonight.  Not that I was angry, I'm rarely angry these days.  Despair has taken over on that score.  Acceptance has already arrived though, don't worry.

03:16:

When I said vote, you bastards, I didn't mean vote for the bastards.  Just to clear that up.  Because clearly it's your fault.

03:11:

Jim Murphy has lost his seat.  He looks demob happy, and again, who can blame him despite his utter uselessness.

02:59:

Story of the night is told by North Warwickshire result, Labour's number 1 target seat.  In 2010, the Tories won by 54 votes. They've turned it into a majority of nigh on 3,000.  Speechless.

02:54:

All the Labour people on so far look absolutely shell-shocked, not by Scotland, but by England results.  Can't say I blame them.

02:45:

Swindon South, 2010 Conservative majority: 3,544
Swindon South, 2015 Conservative majority: 5,785

Labour has gone backwards.  I repeat, Labour in the Tory marginals has gone backwards.  Not a single person predicted this.  In Scotland the polls were about right.  In the rest of UK, completely and utterly wrong.

02:40:

Incidentally, don't worry about the constant references so far tonight to suicide.  That's perfectly normal around here.

02:35:

I think at this point I have to stay up just to see if the Tories get a majority.  Something to tell my, err, actually fuck knows who I'll tell.  Probably the birds in the park when I'm sitting on the bench about to slit my wrists.

02:25:

Flying Rodent, who I don't think has been wrong about anything ever, tweeted this prediction this morning

The Tories, having correctly and shamefully chosen a strategy of spite and resentment, to squeak it. 5 more shithouse years.

Closer than any other pundit it seems thus far.

02:17:

Tim Farron: We know the scale of nothing so far.

Indeed we don't.  I really, truly hope the Conservatives aren't going to somehow squeeze a majority but as this point it looks possible.

02:00:

The Nuneaton result confirms it, if there was any doubt.  A 2,069 Conservative majority in 2010 has turned, incredibly, into a majority of nigh on 5,000.  Something major happened today that the polls failed completely to pick up on.

01:54:

Call me premature, but we may as well already get on with the post-mortem.

Any gains Labour will make, and there will be a few no doubt, are going to be wiped out by the losses in Scotland.  Labour has fouled up there spectacularly: how did it not realise within a matter of weeks of the referendum result that almost all those who voted yes were going to vote SNP?  Answer: years of neglect and taking its base for granted.  With a dedicated campaign of listening and action it might, just might have been able to staunch the worst of the losses.  What did it do?  It elected Jim Murphy, the la-la not listening act went on, and the end result could be a complete wipe out.  The party couldn't have bargained on Cameron's the SNP are going to crash the economy act, but it could have prevented him from being able to make the argument with such force.

Peter Mandelson, sad as it is to say, is right.  Labour has been squeezed between two nationalisms.  UKIP probably won't win more than 2 seats, but it looks as though it's on course to be the opposition to Labour in its northern heartlands.  Meanwhile, in the seats Labour had to win to stand any chance, voters have gone to UKIP and the Greens, while the 2010 Lib Dem voters have split down the middle between the Tories and Labour rather than en masse heading left.

How much of the blame can be personally assigned to Ed Miliband is difficult as yet to ascertain.  The gains in popularity he made during the campaign don't look to have been enough.  As I wrote before, I honestly don't believe David Miliband or Alan Johnson would have made much if any of a difference.  Even if the exit poll ends up being dead right, this isn't so much a vote for the Tories or against Labour (except in Scotland) as it is against the "threat" posed by the SNP to England.  You can say again that's Labour and Ed Miliband's fault for not dealing with the SNP, and you'd be right, but this is hardly a vote of confidence either in David Cameron.  With so much in his favour he should still have won a majority tonight, and that isn't going to happen.  As said, it could still turn out that thanks to the vote against the Lib Dems, which is total, Cameron will still find it extremely difficult to govern.  Let's not split hairs though, he will say he's won, and in truth he has.  Second election or not, we've got another 5 years of the Tories coming up.

01:21:

I think the very best we can hope for now is the Tories don't get quite as many seats as predicted by the exit poll.  If the Lib Dems have done that badly, then a difference of ten seats could be, as Ed Balls said earlier, the difference between the Tories being able to govern and not.

Battersea result, another swing to the Conservatives.  Doomed.

01:08:

Oh, and the Lib Dems have mostly it seems gone Tory in the marginals.  I missed them out.  Easy to forget.

01:03:

What seems to have happened as always looks obvious in hindsight.  More defectors from Labour to UKIP than expected.  UKIP/Tory waverers went back to the Tories.  Undecideds until the last minute went Tory.  Mass scaremongering about the SNP seems to have worked, as the Tories were claiming it was.  And we didn't expect it because the polls couldn't cope with the UKIP rise in support/couldn't tell us about undecideds properly.

What a horrible, horrible night.

00:50:

Swindon North result: 4.3% swing from Labour to Conservatives.  102nd Labour target seat.

I think it's over already.

00:48:

According to Isabel Hardman, Nigel Farage has failed in Thanet South.  Not really much of a consolation when so many of the Tories set to be returned want precisely what he does.

Also looks as though Douglas Alexander has lost his seat.  He had a majority of 16,000, and his SNP opponent is 20, yes that's 20 as in years, said she fantasised about headbutting Labour councillors and that no voters were gullible.

Fuck me.

00:34:

You know, you forget just how life threateningly terrible the hours are before the results proper start coming in are.  I'm sitting here with the BBC on mute and am still just inches away from beating myself to death with a plastic bottle based on how many of these terrible, terrible cunts from all three parties have already been in my line of sight.

00:20:

So how are you all?  Been to any good gigs lately?  And what brand of rope do you recommend when it needs to be good and strong?

00:02:

Three seats down, number of Liberal Democrat deposits lost: 3.

P.S.  The Greens also got more votes in all three than the Lib Dems.

23:58:

Please BBC, it is beyond pointless going through all these seats based on your forecast.  If it's right there's plenty of time to beat us over the head with that later.

23:48:

If Nick Clegg has held on, that's the cherry on the gigantic shit sundae we're all going to have to chow down.

23:43:

Also I'm not sure that 2 constitutes a group.

23:39: 

Natalie Bennett:
If we have doubled our parliamentary representation and we are sending perhaps Darren Hall in Bristol West to join the brilliant Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion as a strong group of Green MPs in Parliament - then that will be a good result for the Green party. 

Yeah, shame about the rest of the country, oh and the potential for keeping the temperature rise to 2C, but you carry on Natalie.

23:27:

Let's try and cheer ourselves up a bit, eh?  Check out the balls on this fucking lecher (Yes, it's probably her old man or her electoral agent, but play along with me here):



23:06:  Last bit of exit poll speculation after saying I wouldn't, I promise:

Nicola Sturgeon tonight: I'd treat the exit poll with HUGE caution. I'm hoping for a good night but I think 58 seats is unlikely!

Nicola Sturgeon tomorrow: The people of Scotland have spoken.  A second independence referendum will be in the 2016 SNP Holyrood manifesto.

22:52:

Just to add, the poll is clearly wrong on one thing.  If the Greens win another seat, I'll join Paddy Ashdown in eating a hat.

22:49:

Oh, and if it's right, what I said about the press having lost their influence?  Saturday morning, the Mail, Sun, Telegraph, they'll all have "IT WOZ US WOT WON IT".

22:36:

The Labour line: coalition has lost its majority if exit poll is right.  Come on, please.  If it's right, the Tories have won.  Simple as.

22:28:

Speculating about speculation is pointless.  I just can't see how the exit poll could be so wrong though.  Last night I was optimistic.  Right now I am staring into the abyss.

22:05:

To bring a completely local anecdote into this, I saw a hell of a lot more people voting in the neighbouring safe Tory seat than I did 5 years ago.  Only way I can possibly get my head round how the exit poll could be right.  Still, the Lib Dems down to 9 seats?  That's what I can't quite believe more than anything, or indeed Labour losing seats.  As Mike Smithson has tweeted, if right, a complete disaster for all the polling firms and some major inquiries to be held.  Oh, and we're all utterly boned.  But that comes second, obvs.

22:01:

OK, if this exit poll is right I'm going to fucking shoot myself.  With my imaginary gun.

21:58:

It's not until it's real that you remember just what a complete prat Jeremy Vine is.

21:42:

At this point, I think I can say if you voted for the party that used in all seriousness the slogan "BAIRNS NOT BAMBS" and put this out with the intention of winning over support:



You deserve everything you've got coming.

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Vote, you bastards.

That is all.

Oh, and I might be back tonight with some live blogging if I can be bothered.  Or I might just leave it to everyone else and return on Friday.  We'll see.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2015 

A campaign of failure.

"All political careers end in failure," we often hear, a slight misquote of a line from Enoch Powell.  These might be exceptions that prove the rule, but few can claim with a straight face that the careers of either Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan ended in failure.  Thatcher was ditched by her party, yes, and arguably the Tories have never recovered from that singular moment of trauma, and yet who can deny that the legacy both she and Reagan left the West has not proved resilient since then?  Not even the great crash of 2008 has led to a break with neoliberalism; if anything, quite the opposite, regardless of the rise of a few opposition movements.

Barring a complete shock, tomorrow's election results will demonstrate there are times when political failure is absolute, whether it ends careers immediately or not.  The last polls all point either to a dead heat between Labour and the Tories, or a lead for the latter well within the margin of error.  6 weeks, or rather nigh on 5 months of campaigning by both has failed to shift opinion in any substantial way.  All they've succeeded in doing is consolidating their support: that might not strictly be a failure in that it's just as important as winning over undecided voters, but it speaks of just how limited the terms of engagement have been.

Nor is it as if the main two haven't tried: the Conservatives have thrown every conceivable bribe at those they consider "their people" possible.  The all but abolition of inheritance tax, the expansion of right to buy to housing associations, the promise of tax cuts to come, paid for by a brutal slashing of the social security budget, none of it has worked.  Labour meanwhile affected to pinch the Tories' clothes on deficit reduction, pledging it would fall every year, guaranteed by a "budget responsibility" lock, the forerunner to the 6 pledge tombstone.  The parties battled over whom could deny themselves the most potential revenue: the Tories would legislate to make raising income tax, national insurance and VAT illegal, while Labour said they would only put the top rate of income tax back to 50p.  If this was meant to make voters believe just how serious they were about sticking to these fine words, it hasn't worked.  Why would it when everyone can plainly see there's going to be a mass bartering session come Friday afternoon when another hung parliament is confirmed?

The failure has not just been political, however.  If the 2015 election becomes known for anything, it will be as the one where newspapers confirmed they are as good as dead.  This is not to say they no longer have any influence, as some risibly claim: quite the opposite.  They might not have a direct impact on how people decide to vote, but they can define perceptions and shift attitudes fundamentally.  Ed Miliband would not have been considered a complete no-hoper little more than a month ago if it had not been for the way he was persistently caricatured as a weird leftie nerd from almost as soon as he won the Labour leadership.

What has changed is the abandoning of all pretence of being the voice of their readers as opposed to the voice of their owners.  The Sun straight up admitted its contempt for Ed Miliband was based around how the fiend hasn't ruled out breaking up Rupert Murdoch's continuing stranglehold on the media, something it would have never done in the past.  Most egregious though has been the Telegraph, once respected by all for the dividing line between its news and comment, reduced by the Barclay brothers to prostituting itself without the slightest shame to the Conservatives, time and again turning its front page over to missives issued directly from CCHQ.  Peter Oborne's exposing of the paper's sycophancy towards advertiser HSBC seems to have led to it straight up throwing in the towel, not so much as bothering to hide its bias.  The Mail meanwhile with its non-dom owner Lord Rothermere savages Miliband as a "class war zealot" who will "destroy the nation", although when the paper has already described his deceased father as "THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN" it's barely possible to go any lower.

It wouldn't matter as much if there was the slightest evidence the monstering of Miliband and Labour was working, or if there was something resembling wit in the constant attacks.  Putting Neil Kinnock's head in a light bulb and asking the last person in the country to turn out the lights if he won at least had the semblance of originality, of being a wounding attack.  Reprinting the photograph of Miliband eating a bacon sandwich in a slightly comical fashion alongside a whole load of puns on pork is pathetic, nowhere near cutting enough and worst of all, obvious.  The Sun of Kelvin MacKenzie's era, of Rebekah Brooks's era for goodness sake would have come up with something better.  If nothing else, the Sun once knew how its readers' minds worked.  As with the rest of the popular and indeed right-wing press, those days are gone and they're not coming back.

That at this point the right-wing media rather than eulogising about Cameron and his party is spending all its time attacking Miliband and questioning his party's legitimacy to govern itself demonstrates their and the Tories' abject failure.  When all they've got is a year-old photograph, a five-year old joke of a letter and the prospect of a party in power that hasn't won an election, after 5 years of precisely that, little could be more pitiful.

Not that Cameron or the rest of the leaders have been held to account by the media as a whole.  All the attempts to trip them up, to get the Tories to say where they'll make their cuts to welfare or how much Labour will borrow have been brushed aside.  The interrogator who has caused politicians the most discomfort, Andrew Neil, has been doing so to an audience of politics nerds and the barely compos mentis, while tinsel tits Evan Davis was given the job of interviewing the leaders in prime time, bringing his brand of less tenacious and less insightful technique along with him.  All the emphasis on trapping the parties in a gaffe has only had the result of making them risk averse above all else.  The campaign as a whole has suffered from that choice.

If anyone's failure has been total, it must though David Cameron's.  He's had every advantage a prime minister could hope for: an utterly servile media; a divided opposition with an unpopular leader; a growing economy; and the collapse of said opposition in its Scottish heartlands.  The threat on the right from UKIP has subsided somewhat, helped by another failure in the shape of the wheels coming off Nigel Farage's bandwagon, and still Cameron hasn't been able to shift the polls in his favour.  From the outset he's displayed every sign of not being interested, from the interview with James Landale where he said he wouldn't serve a third term, instantly starting the Tory leadership contest, to the cringe-inducing showing of "passion".  If any other politician had claimed to be "bloody lively" and "pumped up" the ridicule would have been absolute, as it would if it was Miliband addressing empty cowsheds or dropping in on farmers for a spot of breakfast, or if the Labour leader had made the slip that the election would be "career defining".  Calling him the poor man's Tony Blair doesn't really work any longer; not only did Blair win elections, Blair at least believed in things.  Cameron as the profile by Matthew d'Aconservative in the Graun demonstrates believes in absolutely nothing.

Indeed, the only thing saving Cameron is Labour's collapse in Scotland.  This isn't so much down to the success of Nicola Sturgeon as it is the carry on from the referendum and Scottish Labour's helpless flailing around trying to work out why it is this has happened now.  There is a point to wondering why it is voters who've come to the conclusion they've been abandoned and ignored by the party they previously backed en masse would then transfer their allegiance to one single party en masse and think there'll be a different end result, but only as far as it goes.  The only thing to be done now is to appeal to voters' better instincts: that every seat Labour loses in Scotland helps David Cameron regardless of what the SNP says about "locking the Tories" out.  It also has to be emphasised that just as Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland and the rest of the country will never forgive Labour if it refuses to work with the SNP, it's also the case the SNP will never be forgiven if it refuses to vote for a minority Labour government's Queen speech on the specious grounds it doesn't end austerity.

5 years ago, the British people conspired to ensure no one won the election.  Five years later and they seem all but certain to produce a result that adds up to the same thing, only with bells on.  If this doesn't result in the political class considering just why it is they've become such failures and what to do about it, then they've missed the real message of this campaign.  The same goes for a media that has never seemed more out of touch, talking to itself and only itself.  Regardless of which party wins the most seats or manages to form a government, there's a reckoning coming.  It's not going to be pretty.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2015 

We still need a Labour government.

So here we are.  With less than 48 hours until the polls open there is just the one thing that can be said for certain about what's going to happen once the votes start being counted: that absolutely no one has the first fucking idea about what's going to happen once the votes start being counted.

Obviously, we can make a few informed assumptions based on the polling evidence up to now.  The SNP are going to win a lot of seats in Scotland; the Lib Dems will in all likelihood be left with around 30 seats all told; UKIP will be lucky to win 3 seats, but their share of the vote could still wreak havoc on the Tories in the marginals; Caroline Lucas will in all likelihood hold on to her seat in Brighton, but it will take a miracle for the Greens to win anywhere else, with the possibility their share of the vote could also hinder Labour in some seats; and just to keep this somewhat wieldy, tactical voting will almost certainly be more important than ever.

Everything else is cast in doubt.  Without exaggeration, this is the first election in a generation where so much is uncertain.  In 2010 it was fairly apparent there would be a hung parliament and the Conservatives would be the largest party.  While a hung parliament remains all but certain this time, and it's also probable the Tories will end up with the most seats and the most votes, Labour could well be close enough on the former measure at least for the question of "legitimacy" to not rear its head in the way Cameron and friends, including Nick Clegg, imagine it will.  Alternatively, and as some have began to argue, the polls could as in 1992 be wrong.  The Tories might be within touching distance, not of a majority, but enough seats to govern in a coalition with the Lib Dems alongside confidence and supply from the DUP.  Many are also still to make up their minds, or will be doing so now.  Generally, the incumbent gets the benefit of the doubt.

Or it could be the exact opposite and we might be stuck in a situation come Friday morning where neither Labour or the Tories can make a minority government, let alone a coalition work.  The Conservative strategy should this happen seems to be, with support from their friends in the press, to do absolutely everything in their power to remain in government, right up to the point of defeat on a Queen's speech.  Gordon Brown had the decency it should be remembered to accept the numbers simply weren't in his favour in 2010, and resigned sooner than he perhaps constitutionally had to.  If the Tories fail, Labour will invariably try and govern in a minority relying on SNP, Plaid and Green support as and when it comes, and may well persuade the DUP also to vote in their favour.  Minority government as some have also reminded us is not just about persuading those nominally on your side, but also those on the other side; would the Tories vote down a Labour Queen's speech or budget that didn't give in to SNP demands for instance?  Would the Tories really vote down a bill on replacing Trident as one of their MPs suggested?

One thing that can be said with certainty about the campaign as opposed to the outcome is that it has not once captured the imagination of anyone, let alone the country at large. Nor has the gap between the two main parties, which is also larger than it has been for a generation, been communicated to so many of those struggling as to how to vote.  Labour and Conservative spending plans, while seemingly not that different, with both saying austerity will continue, in fact diverge massively.  Labour's plans allow it to borrow £25bn or more a year to invest; the Tories promise a slashing of the state so big that it's frankly inconceivable they would go through with itAs passed judgement on by the IFS, none of the plans on offer as explained in the manifestos are truly credible, but the Tories' are the most outlandish by far.

With the result so unpredictable, it's slightly premature to pass full verdict on the campaigns.  Nonetheless, to judge the Conservative campaign on how Lynton Crosby kept insisting there would come a "crossover" point, with the Tories taking a decisive lead, both he and David Cameron have clearly failed.  Such has been the dismal fare served up by the Conservatives over the past six weeks, a campaign that was meant to focus on two things, the economy and Ed Miliband has finished up instead focusing on just one, the danger of a Labour government propped up by the SNP.  The personal attacks on Miliband that promised to define the campaign ended within 2 weeks once the party realised they had stopped having an effect; the economy followed suit shortly after.  A party that on the surface has a respected leader with a good story to tell on a growing economy has been reduced to little more than pointing at a "dangerous" Scotswoman to stay in power.  Even more depressing is it might yet work.

The Labour campaign (outside of Scotland, at least) has by contrast made only slight missteps, like the spectacularly ill-judged "Edstone" unveiled at the weekend.  Considering the thin meat of the pledges on that (mill)stone, Miliband has consistently played a weak hand well.  Anyone surprised by how he hasn't been a complete disaster fell into believing the bullshit spread not just by the right-wing media but also from some within his party, convinced Labour can't win if it tacks even slightly to the left.  Labour won't win outright, but anyone who claims with a straight face that his brother, Alan Johnson or someone in the shadow cabinet would have done a better job is lying to themselves.  Labour alone out of the parties has kept campaigning up to the last, has tried to do things (slightly) differently, whether it be Miliband agreeing to be interviewed by Russell Brand or even today appearing on a fashion vlogger's channel, and has at the very least attempted to be positive.  Trying to return to government after a single term out of office is always going to be a struggle, especially when Labour's exhaustion in 2010 was so total, the Tory narrative of the crash and the recession accepted without question by so much of the media and the public.  If Miliband's last 5 years should be judged on anything, it ought to be on whom the high priests of capital have declared for: the FT and the Economist both want a continuation of the coalition, despite the impact an EU referendum could have.  Indeed, in the media at large it seems only the Mirror and Guardian will end up supporting Labour, with the Indie also calling for a coalition: Miliband has scared the right people in precisely the right way.

If plenty of voters are still undecided, they can hardly be blamed for being so.  The campaigns at large have for the most part been ridiculously safe, neither the Conservatives or Labour wanting to be seen to have committed a "gaffe".  This is in spite of the one truly electrifying moment of the campaign being last week's Question Time debate, although contrarily I'd still say the opposition debate was better in quality overall.  All three of the leaders stood up well to a barrage of hostile questioning, precisely the kind they have spent so much of the campaign trying to avoid lest it be judged they screwed up or were secretly recorded insulting their interrogator.  David Cameron's debate avoiding gambit has undoubtedly paid off, but certainly not to the extent the Tories must have hoped; by the same token, Ed Miliband's personal ratings have improved, but not to the extent Labour must have hoped had the one-on-one debate Labour demanded taken place.  Whoever leads the next government, something has to be done to make sure the prime minister of the day is not able to both prevaricate and dictate to the broadcasters over the debates in such a way again.

As I wrote at the end of March, and nothing since has happened to change my mind one iota, in fact quite the opposite, we need a Labour government.  Whether it's a Labour minority government, a Labour-Lib Dem coalition, a Labour government with an extremely slim majority, whatever the outcome, what's on offer from Ed Miliband's Labour party is preferable to that of David Cameron's Conservative party.  This is not always down to Labour's policies being superior, although they nearly always are, so much as the Tories' being destructive, cruel and discriminatory.  When the party can't so much as bring itself to include the "spare room subsidy" in its manifesto, at the same time as it proposes to cut a further £12bn from welfare while refusing to say where, the lack of honesty ought to be causing far more ructions than it has.  Such has been the Conservative way of denying their policies have affected anyone who isn't a scrounger or a work-shy layabout: food banks haven't expanded because of the astronomical rise in benefit sanctions, but as the JobCentre can now refer people to them.  Pensioners have been protected as both the working and unemployed poor are told "we are all in this together".  To the Conservatives a job, any job, is a way out;  Labour under Miliband has recognised that work increasingly doesn't pay.

How we then get to a Labour government is the real question.  To start off with the easy stuff: if, like Chris, you live in either a rock solid Tory or for that matter Labour seat where the nearest challenger has no hope, feel free to vote Green, TUSC or however you feel.  From there on it gets trickier: fairly obviously, if you're in a marginal where Labour has any chance, with the one exception of the sitting MP being an utter cock, vote Labour.  I'm fairly certain the sitting Tory in my constituency will hold on with a reasonably comfortable majority, but I'm voting Labour just in case.  Where the choice is between the Lib Dems and the Tories, it's a far more difficult decision.  The best possible remotely plausible outcome to my mind will be a Labour-Lib Dem coalition, but for that to happen both parties need to do better than the polls suggest.  It would almost certainly require in addition for Nick Clegg to lose in Sheffield Hallam.  When Matthew d'Anconservative says Clegg retaining his seat is key to the Tory clinging to power strategy, it's evident removing the Lib Dem leader is vital.  The problem is not knowing if yesterday's ICM poll suggesting Clegg will win fairly comfortably is more reliable than the Ashcroft polling saying it's too close to call.  Those in the Tory-Lib Dem marginals may well have to play it by ear and vote Lib Dem despite every instinct screaming they're boned whichever way it goes.  Much the same goes for those few seats in Scotland where it's either the SNP or the Lib Dems, although we can make an exception for Danny Alexander.  Finally, in Brighton Pavilion a vote for Caroline Lucas so long as you can separate the MP from the underperforming Green council ought to be a gimme.

Lastly, if the UKIP and Green shares of the vote hold up, voting reform will surely have to be looked at again.  If the SNP win 40 or more seats on the back of a 5% share of the vote while UKIP win 3 or less on a percentage that could be double that, something will have to give.  It will hopefully also finally get through to the blockheads in the Tories that the way things are going they might never win a majority under FPTP again; no reason then to continue blocking a system that has the potential to make every vote count.  Until that happens, it's a question of holding our noses and voting for the least worst viable option.  And even if you disagree with everything I've wrote here, voting regardless of who for is always better than the alternative.

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Friday, May 01, 2015 

Altercations.

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The Sun Says: Vote SNP, get Tories.

If I was running Scottish Labour's campaign, and let's face it, I could hardly do a worse job, I'd spend the next 6 days doing one thing and one thing only: ensuring that absolutely every voter has seen the juxtaposed front pages of yesterday's Sun and Scottish Sun.  There, encapsulated, is the lie of the SNP's progressive ideals.  The same voters who have decided that now is the time to reject Labour over its shift to the right can reflect on the knowledge that just as the Sun backed the New Labour project, so today it deems the SNP to pose so little threat to the paper's values, Scottish edition or otherwise, that it can back the party without fear.

Murdoch in truth has long flirted with the SNP and especially Alex Salmond.  Salmond for instance went as far as to lobby the UK government over News Corp's attempt to swallow Sky whole, as the Leveson inquiry heard.  As this week's Private Eye also noted, prior to the Sun's endorsement hitting the streets, the SNP's manifesto had nothing to say about levels of media ownership, while the party's support for a splitting up of the BBC into its constituent regional parts is exactly the kind of thing Keith yearns for.  The Indie's report that while in town Rupe demanded more attacks on Labour for daring to suggest they might now do something about his stranglehold on the media meanwhile tells its own story.  Murdoch and the Sun are not so much coming out for Cameron, utterly bizarre and really creepy IT'S A TORY front page or not, as trying their darnedest to keep Labour out.

Supporting the SNP in Scotland therefore makes perfect, cynical but not contradictory sense.  The English edition can rage and moan about Nicola Sturgeon giving her sister's doll a savage haircut, proof if any were needed of her ruthlessness and dedication to shafting everyone south of the border, while the Scottish one can declare the same person A NEW HOPE, despite this new hope having been in power for just the past 7 years at Holyrood.  So long as it works against Ed Miliband, seen as the real threat to business as usual for Murdoch, what does a little thing like consistency matter?

That Sturgeon has backed herself into a corner over locking out the Tories does seem to have finally dawned on a few of the less boneheaded SNPers.  Ed Miliband's remarks last night on Question Time were nothing more than a repeat of what, err, both Sturgeon and Salmond have been saying about doing a deal with Labour.  A coalition isn't on offer, nor is confidence and supply, leaving only a vote-by-vote basis relationship.  If Sturgeon means what she says, then she has little option other than to support a Labour Queen's speech and budget regardless of how little there is in either designed to mollify the nationalists.  All the talk about Scotland never forgiving Labour if they let in the Tories by refusing a deal is equal parts guff and bluff: the onus is on the SNP to support Labour, not the other way around.

Besides, at this point Labour has absolutely nothing to lose in Scotland precisely because, err, the polling suggests it's going to lose everything.  It can't get any worse; Labour could spend the next week saying everyone intending to vote SNP is a traitor and still not end up doing worse than many now expect.  More likely is the party will manage to hang on to between 5 and 10 seats, still an utter disaster, but considering the total landslide the polls imply will be regarded as akin to a miracle.  In such circumstances, putting the prospect of another referendum centre stage is just about all Labour can do.

In his interview with Russell Brand, Ed agreed this time people didn't want euphoria but rather a party that means what it says.  Voters in Scotland might one day think back on that, just as many of those who voted Lib Dem last time ended up doing.

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