I just watched that.
And then I set up a £5 monthly direct debit here, because it felt like the absolute least I could do.
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ComRes have a new poll of Rochester and Strood out tonight that shows UKIP with a solid lead. As far as I can recall it’s the first ComRes by-election poll this Parliament. Like all constituency polls it was done by telephone, and with a healthy sample size by constituency polling standards of 1500.
Topline figures are CON 30%, LAB 21%, LDEM 3%, UKIP 43%, GREEN 3%. The only previous Rochester & Strood poll was by Survation at the start of the month – that showed a nine point lead for UKIP. Obviously one has to be careful about direct comparisons between polls from different pollsters using different methodologies, so it would be wrong to draw too many conclusions about how opinion might have moved between the two polls (differences could be down to methods), but it certainly doesn’t show any obvious sign of the Conservatives eating into UKIP’s early lead.
UKIP campaign HQ Rochester pic.twitter.com/dGnzE4E8SN
— PolPics (@PolPics) October 19, 2014
Th big by-election news tonight which has already been anticipated by the betting markets is a new UKIP donor funded poll of Rochester & Strood in the Daily Express.
The news is not good for the Tories and very good for the purples. The poll has Farage’s party in a better position than it was in the Mail/Survation poll two weeks ago when UKIP had a 9% lead.
Amongst 2010 CON voters ComRes found 57% supporting the blues and 40% Reckless – almost exactly the same proportion as in the earlier Survation poll. Reckless is relying for his support on ex-LAB & LD voters. But the biggest source of new support for UKIP are those who didn’t vote at the last general election with 28% of the UKIP share coming from them.
Some other pollsters would mark the views of this group down sharply because non-voting support from the previous general election is the most flakey of all.
This is how the non-2010 voters split.
Clearly this puts the purples in a strong position just four weeks from polling day and there’ll be a huge amount of pressure on whoever wins the primary to claw some of this back.
With four weeks to go I’m expecting a lot of polling. Eagerly awaited is a survey from Lord Ashcroft.
The name Donnachadh McCarthy means something to those of us of a certain age. Donnachadh was once a Liberal Democrat and he was proper Awkward Squad. I spent many hours arguing with him on Cix, which was where all online Liberal Democrats hung out back in the day. Quite often I agreed with him and even when I didn’t, I realised that he was the sort of pain in the backside that every leader needs. Liberals have always been particularly bad at venerating their leaders. Willie Rennie described us, the day he became Scottish leader, as a party that doesn’t want to be led. He, actually, has been pretty good at engaging with members and boosting morale, probably better than any leader than I’ve ever known, but even he needs his wings clipping at times.
Anyway, back to Donnachadh. There will be many figures from the establishment in the Ashdown and Kennedy Eras who will have felt the sharp end of his tongue. John Tilley, if he’s reading this, will no doubt fill in some of the details in the comments. The day Paddy issued that Joint Statement with Blair was a case in point. And as Deputy Chair of the Federal Executive, he pushed very hard for the party to oppose the war in Iraq. Where I parted company from him was his ability to see conspiracy theories in absolutely everything when circumstance or cock-up was the most accurate conclusion. He was, however, pretty insightful at times at where the party was getting it wrong and how it needed to engage with people.
Since he left the party in 2005, he’s focused his energies on being an environmental campaigner. I was not in the least surprised to find that he was in with the Occupy protesters. It seemed a very Donnachadh thing to do. Yesterday, he managed to get himself arrested in Parliament Square. However, if you watch the video (about 15 minutes in), you have to wonder if the Police response was not just a wee bit, actually, quite a lot, heavy handed.
There are a whole load of things you aren’t supposed to do in Parliament Square, one of them being to look like you are going to set up camp. That’s the law, sadly. I have to say that I suspect that in this case the law may have pointed ears and go hee-haw. The tarpaulin that Donnachadh was carrying may well be what attracted the attention of the Police, but it was folded. He had done nothing with it and they didn’t mention it to him as a reason he was being arrested. With him was Green Peer Jenny Jones.
To me, the policing tactics seemed a bit over the top. And I’m not particularly impressed by the restrictions on the right to protest near to our Parliament. If you look at the list of things that are not allowed, it’s a wonder the Equal Marriage vigils were allowed last year – they had amplified sound, although they weren’t technically on Parliament Square.
A thriving democracy is one where peaceful protest is not just accepted but celebrated. These scenes worry me. What do you think?
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings
We have a new Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian tonight after a by-election win. It’s a wee while since we could say that. But it’s a very different type of by-election and one that raises more than a little disquiet. I have to say I find it pretty objectionable that you can get a seat in Parliament not through election by actual voters but because of the circumstances of your birth.
The House of Lords Act of 1999 left 92 hereditary peers in place after the Labour government backed down from full reform. That’s the Labour party, blocking reform at every turn whether in government or opposition. When one of them dies, there is a by-election held to admit a new one. The electorate is the whole House of Lords.
Liberal Democrat Lord Methuen died in July and a by-election was held to choose his replacement. The Earl of Oxford and Asquith was elected with 155 of the 283 votes cast and will take his seat on the Liberal Democrat benches.
You couldn’t have much more of a liberal background. His title was created for his great-grandfather, one Herbert Henry Asquith, the former Liberal Prime Minister. Raymond Asquith was born in 1952, almost exactly 100 years after his famous ancestor. He’s has a background in the Diplomatic Service and has particular ties with the Ukraine. The party website says:
Lord Oxford joined Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service in 1980 and remained a serving diplomat until 1997.
As well as postings in London at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Cabinet Office, he served as First Secretary at the embassy in Moscow from 1983-5, and Counsellor at the embassy in Kiev from 1992-7.
He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1992.
This is what he said in his pitch for election:
My first career was in the British foreign service, largely covering the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and, in due course, the ex-Soviet states, especially Ukraine. My main experience has therefore been in foreign and defence policy, foreign trade and commercial affairs, with strong connections in Russia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Iran and China. Currently I run an environmental company specialising in soil remediation, decontamination and water conservation.
My politics started when I was seven years old, addressing envelopes in Paddington
North. I later joined the SDP and the LibDems.
Between family, business and arts/cultural interests, I have stood in elections for the LibDems whenever and wherever appropriate, including peers’ by-elections since inheriting my title in 2009, and council elections.
If elected, I will give the best service I can as a working peer and a dutiful member of your lordships’ house.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings
Parliament Hill came under attack today after a man with a rifle shot a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill's Centre Block nearby.
MPs and other witnesses reported several shots fired inside Parliament, and a gunman has been confirmed dead inside the building, shot by the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, according to MPs' eyewitness accounts.
As many of you know I recently formed a meetup group in Los Angeles for women who don’t need religion but like hang out with friends and learn stuff and to do cool things. That meet-up group is called The Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group or LAWAAG for short. LAWAAG is a great group of really wonderful people. If you are a godless gal and are in Los Angeles, you should spend some time with us. We have a lot of fun. Our next meetup, on Tuesday, November 4th, will have special guest Sikivu Hutchinson!
With LAWAAG’s first big art exhibit under our belt we are now turning our sites towards community activism and helping to make the world a tiny bit better.
LAWAAG has formed a team to do a 5k walk in Los Angeles, on Saturday November 15th sponsored by the United Way to help raise money to end homelessness. We invite you to join our team and walk with us or to help us reach our goal of raising 1,000. We are over half way to our donation goal so any help you can give will make a difference AND all donations are matched!
We are supporting United Way’s mission to end homelessness at HomeWalk on Saturday, November 15th. So join our team by registering to walk or run – or make a donation to help us reach our fundraising goal.
Every dollar you donate will be matched – dollar for dollar! You can make a general team donation, or donate to a specific team member by clicking on the team “Roster” and finding their name.
Thank you for helping us lead the way home for thousands of homeless men, women, veterans and families living on the streets of LA County. Together, we can end homelessness!
Show the world that godless people care and that we want to help build a better world free from needless suffering.
And get outside and walk!
And meet new people!
And have fun!
EDIT: 10/22 1:10 pm
I should also point out that I think it is really important that atheists be active in doing good deeds for our communities. People often associate the word “atheist” with negativity and so we should try our best to support groups using the word “atheist” while also doing community service. Normally we only see church organizations reaching out to the communities in need. So if you can’t afford to support this particular fundraiser consider doing some community work with other atheist orgs that are doing more than just not believing in something.
Just a quick update: Sure enough, as predicted, the freakishly huge sunspot AR 2192 blew out a powerful X-class flare today around 14:00 UTC. The picture above shows the view from the Solar Dynamics Observatory; in the far ultraviolet it’s very sensitive to solar activity. Note the Earth for scale there, in case you need the Universe to crush your feeling of self-importance under its heel.
Flares are massive explosions on the Sun associated with sunspots. You can read about them in detail in an earlier post I wrote, but the quickie version is that magnetic fields in sunspots can store vast amounts of energy. Looping magnetic field lines can get tangled up and snap, releasing their energy as mind-crushing explosions called flares. They’re rated by how much X-ray energy they emit; for example M-class are “moderate”, and X-class are the highest.
Today’s flare was an X 1.6, which is fairly powerful. And by “fairly,” I mean it exploded with the energy of something like a million times the combined yield of every single nuclear weapon on Earth.
So yeah, bit of a big bang there.
We’re in no danger on Earth from this flare. There are likely to be radio blackouts and minor issues like that, but that’s probably it. We may get some aurorae and such, too, so keep your eyes on SpaceWeather.com for info on that.
AR 2192 is the largest sunspot complex seen in more than a decade, going back at least to when this solar magnetic cycle began. It’s been huffing and puffing, putting out a bunch of M flares, and this is the second X flare in as many days. It’s quite likely to continue this rude behavior for a while, and if there’s more news, I’ll let you know.
The cover of Liberal Democrat peer Tim Razzall’s memoirs features a quote from Nick Robinson, saying “After a quarter of a century as a Lib Dem power broker, Tim Razzall knows where the bodies are buried”. True, but as the first line of the book illustrates, the memoirs are not a guide to location of said corpses but rather mostly an account of Razzall’s entertaining life outside politics, often featuring both the music and business worlds: “I met Frank Sinatra through Robert Maxwell. That’s if you can be said to have met someone who was on a private jet with your for fourteen hours and never spoke to you”.
The discretion over many political details, especially bearing in mind his close working relationships with both Charles Kennedy and Chris Rennard, will doubtless disappoint some readers. There could have been a fascinating account, for example, of the human strains for both Charles Kennedy and his colleagues caused by the former party leader’s struggle with drink.
Discretion, however, has mostly won out, and to Tim Razzall’s credit there aren’t the sort of tales that would have secured a tabloid newspaper serialisation for his political stories.
His life outside politics, however, is great fun to read about, full of name-dropping of the famous and tinged with sadness such as the two occasions he had to have his father sectioned.
There are still some political snippets worth reading the book for, especially Tim Razzall’s tale of his role in the community politics revolution in Richmond that made it one of the Liberal Party’s early areas of local government success and for his accounts of what it was like to be a political party treasurer before the reforms of 2000. His account of a donor to multiple parties dishing out a suitcase full of cash is a stark illustration of why, as he says himself, those reforms were so needed – and indeed he argues for more controls over political donations in future, wanting to see a £50,000 cap on individual donations.
He also helps explain why the party took the ill-fated donation from Michael Brown, later convicted of fraud. The Liberal Democrats asked Special Branch if Michael Brown’s background and claimed business in the UK were legit:
The report came back … that the relevant company’s bank account was sizeable from what were undoubtedly trading activities. So there seemed no reason not to accept the donation. Anna [Werrin, Charles Kennedy's advisor] clearly needed to be careful about disclosing the information from Special Branch, as they would never go on the record to disclose how they could obtain the relevant information … The Electoral Commission were satisfied that we had complied with our obligations.
When it comes to the former Lib Dem campaign supremo Chris Rennard, Razzall says relatively little but gives some of the background to how he ended up so powerful in the party (on which see also my history of the party’s campaigning). Of the allegations against the party’s former Chief Executive he says:
It is from this period that the allegations against him for sexual misbehaviour relate. I have no knowledge of what happened, as during the period that Chris reported to me nobody came forward to make a complaint. I know that this has been investigated in detail and Alistair Webster QC has produced his analysis. I cannot comment on the truth or otherwise of the allegations against Chris. I can only comment on my experience.
It is clear from the report of the independent investigation commissioned by the party leadership to review party culture and procedures that the organisation needs to set up clearer systems to ensure that similar allegations in the future are dealt with more effectively and sympathetically.
There’s also a gem for anyone interested in the evolution of election rules:
After we chose Frank as our candidate [for the Action Parliamentary by-election of 1968] I came up with an idea that later resulted in a change in the law. Up until then, a candidate’s party affiliation could not appear on the ballot paper. This preserved the fiction that the candidate not the party was receiving the vote. So a huge amount of effort in any campaign went into reminding the electorate of the name of a party’s candidate. This was a problem particularly for the Liberal Party, with fewer resources than the other two parties.
So I suggested to Frank that he change his second name to ‘Liberal’ so that he would appear on the ballot paper as ‘David, Frank Liberal’. He agreed. So the Home Office changed the law afterwards. Whether they would have done so anyway I know not.
At times, the book becomes rather a sequence of anecdotes, but never just name drops the famous. Frequent references too are given to grassroots party campaigners as well as more national figures such as Navnit Dholakia who Tim Razzall feels have not had the full public recognition their contributions to British society deserve.
It all makes for an enjoyable read, as the eclectic mix of names in the index – from Mohammad Azharuddin through to Sandi Toksvig and Bill Clinton – demonstrates.
If you like this, you might also be interested in Des Wilson’s Memoirs of a Minor Public Figure, which similarly mixes Liberal / Liberal Democrat history with a life outside politics.
Got a view on this review? Then please rate it on Amazon.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.
Kirsty Williams seemed choked with the cold when she questioned First Minister Carwyn Jones yesterday but her fighting spirit was undiminished as she took him to task for what she called his government’s aspiration towards mediocrity rather than excellence in the wake of the annual Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission report which said that poorer children in Wales were significantly less likely to obtain 5 GCSE’s including Maths and English. Even at the age of 3, children in Wales were falling behind those in England and Scotland in terms of vocabulary. While children in England caught up with those in Scotland by the age of 5, children in Wales fell further behind.
In his response, Mr Jones had to point to the “Pupil Deprivation Grant” as being part of the solution. He did acknowledge that this was a Liberal Democrat initiative, known as the Pupil Premium in England and fought for by Kirsty Williams and her colleagues in Wales.
You can watch the whole exchange here from around 9:52.
Right now, a truly ginormous sunspot is turning its baleful eye toward Earth.
The spot, called Active Region 2192, is a bit hard to wrap your brain around: Its dark core is easily big enough to swallow the Earth whole without it even coming close to touching the sides, and the whole region is several times larger than that, easily more than 100,000 kilometers across. It’s the biggest sunspot we’ve seen this solar cycle (bigger than one I reported on in January that was also huge).
It’s feisty, too, having blown off a series of moderate M-class solar flares recently, and one that edged into X-class. We’re expecting more from it as well, so stay tuned to SpaceWeather.com, SpaceWeatherLive.com, and Realtime Flares on Twitter for up-to-the-moment news about any big eruptions. [Update (Oct. 22 at 15:00 UTC): Yup. AR 2192 blew off an X1.6 flare at 14:00 UTC today.]
When I saw pictures of it a couple of days ago, I knew it would be big enough to see without binoculars or a telescope. Using just my solar viewing glasses (which are rated safe to use to view the Sun; see here for more) I easily saw the sunspot with my own eyes as a black blemish near the Sun’s edge. Holy wow!
I decided to try my hand at getting a shot of it. Sacrificing a pair of solar glasses, I rigged up a small filter for my camera, went outside, and got this:
Not bad! You can see AR 2192, as well as a few other spots (including the small one near the Sun’s edge that is visible in the SDO picture at the top of this post).
Clouds started rolling in, but far from being discouraged I figured that might actually make for a dramatic scene. I was right:
Nifty. And good practice; I want to make sure I’m ready for the partial solar eclipse tomorrow.
Speaking of which, let me repeat my call: If you get good and clever shots of the eclipse, please let me know! I want to post a gallery of a half-dozen or so. Make sure you tell me where you took them, what equipment you used, and whether they’re also online (so I can link to you).
* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and a former City Councillor of 19 years
It may not have escaped your notice on Tuesday that HM Treasury is not finding it altogether easy to close the UK's huge and unsustainable fiscal deficit, the gap between what the government spends and what it raises from taxes.
Of the yawning gap, which looks set to significantly overshoot this year's official forecast of £86.6bn, around £4bn to £5bn relates to spending in Greater Manchester alone.
Now the vast bulk of spending there - more than 90% - is determined in Westminster, not by municipal and regional bodies.
Which is just one reason why the City Growth Commission would argue that centralised government has failed to generate the prosperity we desperately need.
It points out that if the growth rate of our largest urban areas, what it calls metros, could be increased to the UK average, national income would increase by £60bn in today's money by 2030 - equivalent to almost £1,700 per urban dweller.
Which is tantalisingly alluring, but is much easier said than done - as shown, for example, by the yawning 100% difference between gross value added (or output) per head in London and in the North West, a gap that has widened over many years.
The Growth Commission's prescription to improve the economic performance of Greater Manchester and 14 other large metro areas - from South Hampshire to Cardiff to Glasgow - is a mixture of devolution and significant investment in infrastructure.
The idea is to improve communication within and between metros, both physical (integrated modern train networks, with simple electronic payment systems, like London's Oystercard) and digital (superfast broadband).
It also favours more local control of how money is raised - through property taxes and borrowing - and how it is spent.
The arguments in favour of this kind of financial and fiscal devolution are simple and persuasive - and, put simply, are that local people know better than the man from the ministry what are the needs of the local economy.
So, as the former deputy prime minister Lord Michael Heseltine has banged on about, decentralisation of the determination of what skills are needed in an area, and how they are provided, seems anything but bonkers.
That said, the Commission's suggestion that a town like Manchester should wrest from Whitehall the power to decide quotas for skilled immigrants is not uncontroversial (except with many larger businesses, which would prefer to hire local talent, but cannot always find what they are looking for in the indigenous population).
But the case for devolution has been powerful forever. Historically, what has terrified chancellors (and Margaret Thatcher) is that a Manchester mayor or council chief executive would go mad with the credit card, and land us all with a big bill.
To which proponents of transferring serious power to City councils and mayors would say:
First, that it is mad to trust the Scots with more taxing and spending powers, and not trust the North West - whose economy is actually bigger than that of Scotland; and
Second, that Whitehall has not exactly done a bang-up job of maintaining the integrity of the UK's balance sheet, and it is hard to see how local officials could do much worse.
Mark Thoma's point that apparently strong econometric results are often the product of specification mining prompts Lars Syll to remind us that eminent economists have long been wary of what econometrics can achieve.
I doubt if many people have ever thought "Crikey, the t stats are high here. That means I must abandon my long-held beliefs about an important matter." More likely, the reaction is to recall Dave Giles' commandments nine and 10. (Apparently?) impressive econometric findings might be good enough to get you published. But there's a big difference between being published and being read, let alone being persuasive.
This poses a question: how, then, do statistics persuade people to change their general beliefs (as distinct from beliefs about single facts)?
Let me take an example of an issue where I've done just this. I used to believe in the efficient market hypothesis. And whilst, like Noah, I still think this is good enough for most investors' practical purposes - index trackers out-perform (pdf) most active managers - I now believe there are significant deviations from the hypothesis, one of them being that there is momentum in share prices: past winners carry on rising and past losers continue to fall.
How was I convinced of this? As Campbell Harvey and colleagues point out, there are huge numbers (pdf) of patterns in the cross-section of returns. Most (though not all) leave me cold. Why has momentum been an exception?
There were two general things that persuaded me of this.
The first was evidence from different data sets. When I first encountered the case for momentum in Jegadeesh and Titman's paper, I merely thought: "that's interesting. I wonder if it applies elsewhere." So I set up a very simple hypothetical basket of momentum stocks for the UK - and found that it too has out-performed over long periods. And there's since been evidence that momentum effects exist in currencies, commodities, international stock markets and in 19th century markets.
The fact that different data say the same thing is something I found persuasive.
Secondly, there's powerful theory explaining momentum - all the more so because there is more than one theory.
One such explanation is simply that investors under-react to good news, causing shares to drift up rather than - as the EMH predicts - fully embody the good news immediately. This is intuitively plausible because casual empiricism tells us that Bayesian conservatism is widespread. But it's also consistent with another finding - that there's post-earnings announcement drift.
But this is not the only potential explanation. Another is that people have limited attention; some things escape their notice, so they might not spot when some stocks enjoy good news. This is consistent with the finding that that shares which see steady drips of news have stronger momentum effects than those which get a big splash of it.
And then we have an explanation for why smarter investors don't eliminate these irrationalities. Victoria Dobrynskaya has shown that momentum strategies have the wrong sort of beta: high downside beta and low upside. This means they carry benchmark risk - the danger of underperforming the general market. This makes them unattractive to those fund managers who fear being punished for under-performing.
My point here is, perhaps, a trivial one. The above is not a story about statistical significance (pdf). Single studies are rarely persuasive. Instead, the process of persuading people to change their mind requires diversity - a diversity of data sets, and a diversity of theories. Am I wrong? Feel free to offer counter-examples.
Latest "leave or remain" the EU finding from Ipsos-MORI has remain with 20% lead pic.twitter.com/4fuJ0kHiau
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) October 22, 2014
The Ipsos-MORI "should we leave/stay in the EU" findings reaches a 23 year high for remain pic.twitter.com/ghr6lwUUU6
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) October 22, 2014
As I often say one of the great things about Ipsos-MORI is that it has been carrying out political polls in the UK for 40 years and is has a vast amount of historical data on which we can make comparisons.
Today the pollsters has issued its latest findings on whether we should leave/remain in the EU. The figures and trends in the chart above come as something as a shock given the current UKIP narrative.
Maybe there’s something of a reaction to the Scottish referendum outcome here. Fewer of us are attracted by the prospect of change. But I wonder whether the way UKIP is dominating the headlines is having an impact and is polarising opinion?
British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.
Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.
Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.