miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)

On that Ryan Coetzee Article

May. 22nd, 2015 11:29 pm
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Ryan Coetzee has written an article in the Grauniad in which he details why he thinks we did so badly in the elections. Perhaps unsurprisingly his answer isn't "hanging on the every word of an overpaid soothsayer who sold us a pup of a slogan". You will be likewise be unsurprised I have some disagreements with his conclusions.
About four weeks from election day it became clear that The Fear was hurting us. We tried everything we could to counter it: fear of a Tory minority government in hock to its own right wing, Ukip and the DUP; fear of Tory cuts to welfare, schools and other unprotected departments; ruling out participation in any government that relied on SNP support; offering ourselves as the only guarantors of a stable coalition. All of it was trumped by The Fear, and on a scale we didn’t see coming.
Yes, we tried every other form of fear we could think of. But we didn't try hope.
We made a coherent, liberal case to the voters...
No we bloody didn't because you told us not to. We were the rizla trying to slip between the tories and labour, and those who wanted the "tory" value of strong economy voted tory, and those who wanted the "labour" value of fair society voted labour.
...offering both a strong economy and a fair society.
SEFS is and always was a total bag of arse. It fails the standard test (who would campaign for a weaker economy and a less fair society?) and it's meaningless bollocks. Ask the average voter what they thought of it and they'll shrug and go "it's all right". It's not distinctively liberal. It's Rizla-slipping in slogan form.
My tentative conclusion is that it is probably not possible to succeed electorally in coalition government under first-past-the-post while remaining equidistant from the two big parties. If we can’t win the fight for proportional representation, it may be that we have either to stay in opposition or pick a side.
We are NEVER going to succeed by aligning ourselves ANYWHERE on the left right axis because it's already crowded. We need to persuade people that the axis that matters is the Liberal authortarian axis because we bloody own it.
There are three options for the party now: remain in opposition unless we can change the electoral system, even if a coalition opportunity presents itself again, allowing us to be whichever version of our liberal selves we like; seek once more to reunite the left by merging or aligning with Labour, thereby creating a path to power for liberal ideas; or rebuild, take the next chance to be in government, and do it differently in the hope of a different outcome.
Does it have to be us that changes the electoral system? I don't care who does it, as long as it gets done, and there's a LOT of pressure for it now. And once that happens, all bets are off.

Look, clearly Ryan wins the argument from authority here, because the party pays him an awful lot of money to do what he does, and the party doesn't pay me anything anymore because I got made redundant, there being no funding left for my job now we have been massacred. So you can dismiss this as bitterness if you like. But I think people will vote Liberal Democrat if we give people a reason to vote FOR US. And "we're a bit less profligate than Labour, and a bit less heartless than the tories" isn't a reason to vote for us, it's entirely negative. Until some overpaid soothsayer comes up with something the voters can latch onto that's distinctly us, we're screwed.

Of course, up until 2010 we had "you can trust them to do what they say", and look how well THAT'S going now...
commodorified: I'm sure I'm sorry but the number of people gone mad in the street is particularly excessive (madness of crowds)

The Manuscript IS DONE

May. 22nd, 2015 06:04 pm
[personal profile] commodorified
Done, dusted, tied up in a bow. Poked with a fork. Emailed to [personal profile] graydon with strict instructions to ignore me when I email him at 3am with ONE MORE THING.

DONE.

Please feel free to provide Wild Rumpus and Shenanigans of a celebratory nature in comments. Pictures of sheep and pangolins particularly welcome.

On Writing Head Of State, Part 1

May. 22nd, 2015 09:19 pm
[syndicated profile] andrew_hickey_feed

Posted by Andrew Hickey

Sorry for my absence for a few days. This has been an incredibly busy and stressful few weeks — since the election I’ve had a severe illness in my family, spent a couple of evenings with a friend over from California, and had various other bits that needed doing.

One of those things, that’s occupied a big chunk of my spare time recently, is putting together the final edits for my novel Faction Paradox: Head of State, which will be out in the summer. So I thought I’d talk a little about it, without spoiling too much, because I think the process of writing it is of some interest.

It started, as a matter of fact, as a space opera. I was trying to come up with a Faction Paradox novel idea, because my friends Simon Bucher-Jones and Lawrence Burton, both of whom have written their own very good novels in the series, said I’d be good at it, and my original thought was to use a space opera idea I’d posted here, about first contact with a planet that was exactly like Earth in every way.

The idea was a good one, and I may well come back to it, but I hit a few snags. There were things I wanted to include, things that I had a hazy idea of, that just didn’t fit — I wanted to include a book that held some great significance, I wanted to talk about power, and I wanted to include a plot point hinted at in The Book of the War which I still think is one of the best ideas in the Faction Paradox series. And none of this really seemed to fit the space opera storyline.

Then, I had two other ideas. I can tell you precisely where I was — I was walking through Piccadilly train station, and I could show you the precise spot where I was when these ideas came to me, they were that vivid. The first idea was to have the Thousand and Second Night, as told by the decapitated head of Scheharazade. The second was a scene which comes right at the end of the book, so I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s set in 21st century America. But the thing is, I *knew* those two scenes, totally disconnected as they are, were part of the same book.

I also realised that the Thousand And Second Night could be the important book that I wanted to write about, so now all I had to do was connect the two images.

The first, obvious, thing was that Sir Richard Francis Burton, the Victorian explorer, was a translator of the Arabian Nights, and also appears as a character in The Book Of the War, so I decided to use him as a character, and model the version of the Nights in my book on his translation. Making the book the motivating factor behind a character in the last scene could tie the threads together.

But that’s still only five ideas (1002nd night, Richard Burton, ending, book, motivation). At a rough approximation, you can get about 1000 words out of an idea. So I needed seventy-something more ideas to write a novel. I’ll talk about how I pulled those together next time…


Tagged: faction paradox, my books, writing process
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Posted by Kieren McCarthy

Can you beat off the stiff competition? Have you got what it takes? Find out

As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about pornography: "I know it when I see it." What he may not have envisioned was that 50 years later, people would make a living from doing just that.…

rmc28: (books2010)

Reading Friday is running late

May. 22nd, 2015 10:38 pm
[personal profile] rmc28
 What I've read
[more than usual in the last fortnight I have been sticking to light, predictable reads that I find comforting and escapist]

Much Ado About You
by Eloisa James
A new series of farcical historical romances, this time featuring four sisters (rather than the previous series, which was four friends).  I do like the friendships in these books probably at least as much as the romances.  I also like that the library has them all; they're definitely single-serving books for me.

Archangel's Blood
by Nalini Singh
Second in the "Guild-Hunter" series about a vampire hunter and angels.  This was definitely a bit gorier and getting close to my personal tolerance for that; also to my tolerance for dominant asshole romance "heroes".  I still like the concept and the characters a lot though, and the library has the rest of the series.

Justice Calling
by Annie Bellet
This is a pretty short read (150 pages, but a couple of chapters of the next one are included, so it's rather less than that).  It's a fun urban fantasy: there's shapeshifters and a witch with a secret, and a big tough law enforcer, and peril and plot, and a bit of romance worked in.  It was more or less exactly what I wanted to read right now and I enjoyed it very much.  There are four more books in the series, and a sixth coming out next month; I'm restraining myself from buying the lot right now, but I will be getting them as I clear more of my ebook backlog.

A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell
This was a library book; I have about 2/3 of Jill Mansell's output on my shelves: contemporary romcoms with interesting people, complicated plots and happy endings, many of which are set in and around Bath, near where I grew up.  I haven't read one I disliked, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.   [I am still migrating my to-read pile into my room, and there are two more by her in it, so I have physically pulled them out to read shortly.]

What I'm reading
I'm part way through rereading Ancillary Sword, and then "T Kingfisher" (Ursula Vernon) released another fairy tale retelling this week, so I am also part way through Bryony and Roses and enjoying it very much.

What I'm reading next
I was sufficiently impressed by G Willow Wilson's defence of A-Force to buy the first issue digitally.  (Though ouch, individual comics on release week is an expensive way to do this hobby.)  I also want to carry on with Daredevil vol 1.
That pair of Jill Mansell books I just found.
Younger by Suzanne Munshower is next up in my ebook list

[personal profile] miss_s_b
So of course all the actual goths are hiding. They wouldn't want to be associated with something so mainstream as World Goth Day.

I (who, of course, am not a goth in the slightest) am working my way through my Hugo packet*. I am now decided how I am going to vote in 13 of 17 categories. The Graphic novels this year have some really, REALLY awesome stuff in - two of the four I've read have made me want to engage with anything else in the series. I need to read the rest of the novels to see if anything can beat Ann Leckie. And I've committed a heresy against my Whovian religion by deciding that the Orphan Black episode nominated is better than the Doctor Who episode nominated (I really didn't like Listen).

Who all else here is Hugo Voting? What have you really loved (or really hated) so far in what you've read/seen?



a million thank yous to Mary Robinette Kowal, without whom I would not have a Hugos packet. I will totally buy at least one of your books and read it as soon as I have a job again.

Today’s New Books and ARCs, 5/22/15

May. 22nd, 2015 08:43 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As we go into the weekend, a nice collection of new books and ARCs for you to peruse and to consider for your own collections. What looks interesting to you? You have a whole comment thread in which to opine!


[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Ryan Coetzee is, rather like his predecessor Richard Reeves, likely to go down in the history of the Liberal Democrats as a rather controversial figure. But whilst Richard’s controversy was mostly confined to being within the Whitehall bubble, for Ryan his close association with such a disastrous general election result means his likely to be the more talked about record.

He’s written a must-read piece for The Guardian giving his take on what went wrong. I doubt many others will agree with all of it, but it makes a coherent case that is well worth digesting as part of the party’s post-mortems:

People shy away from articulating the emotional consequences of a loss so comprehensive, preferring catch-alls such as “devastated” and the very British “gutted”. The full range goes something like this: disbelieving, horrified, guilty, embarrassed, angry, vulnerable, resentful.

Our campaign was fought on three fronts [against the SNP, Labour and the Conservatives], and we lost on all of them.

On the point about how faulty the party’s intelligence on its prospects in key seats turned out to be (on which I’ve written about here), Ryan reinforces the point that the party’s data and the final results were at variance:

We hoped – and what data we had suggested – we could add Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Ross Skye and Lochaber, East Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh West to the “safe” seat of Orkney and Shetland. We couldn’t…

By the end of the campaign we thought we could hold onto Sheffield Hallam, Leeds North West, Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Birmingham Yardley and, at a push, Cardiff Central. Only the first two made it across the line.

Where there’s likely to be the most controversy over Ryan’s views is when he makes this point:

Should we have run the campaign differently, given what we knew? I don’t think so. We correctly identified the threats facing us on each front, and did our best to counter them. We made a coherent, liberal case to the voters, offering both a strong economy and a fair society. There are of course improvements that could have been made to the design and execution of the campaign, as there always are, but in retrospect it is difficult to imagine a different campaign producing a significantly better result. Doubtless some will disagree, but consider this: our excellent candidate in Montgomeryshire, Jane Dodds, ran a Roll Royce campaign. Lembit Opik, the man who lost us the seat in 2010, was by all accounts the opposite of an excellent candidate and put in very little effort. He polled 9% more than her.

Actually, the party could have done things differently. In the face of what he calls The Fear from the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats could have talked down rather than talked up fears of a hung Parliament. Rather than repeating the problems of 1992, the party could have tried to do the opposite.

Despite that disagreement with him over the campaign, I do agree with his point about how the party needs to learn to look after its core voters:

I have no doubt that going into coalition was the right thing to do for the country, but I can’t help feeling it is the root cause of our current woes … I do think we should have done more to look after the interests of our core supporters in the first half of the parliament.

His conclusion from all this?

My tentative conclusion is that it is probably not possible to succeed electorally in coalition government under first-past-the-post while remaining equidistant from the two big parties. If we can’t win the fight for proportional representation, it may be that we have either to stay in opposition or pick a side.

Firmly picking a side is what worked for the Liberal Democrats so well in the run up to the party’s 1997 breakthrough. But that requires both one of the main parties to be so unpopular and the other to have moved so much closer to the Lib Dem territory for it to be a palatable approach.

That isn’t just up to the Liberal Democrats and the party shouldn’t bank on it being an option available for 2020.

 

For more on what I think went wrong, see see the lessons in Liberal Democrat Newswire #65, my piece on what went wrong with the Lib Dem polling and the repetition of the mistakes of 1992. But not everything went wrong: 10 things the Lib Dems got right in the general election.

[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

On May 5, 2015, SpaceX tested its launch abort system: A set of powerful rockets on the Dragon space capsule that can pull the Dragon away from the Falcon rocket underneath in case of catastrophe.

SpaceX just released video taken from a camera on the Dragon capsule, and it’s pretty dang dramatic. Come along for the ride:

Whoa. SpaceX said the capsule went from 0 to 160 kph in 1.2 seconds, which is an acceleration of four times Earth’s gravity. It reached a top speed of 550 kph, arcing nearly 1200 meters into the air.

You can see the trunk jettisoned at 0:30 (in a real flight, this sits under the Dragon and contains unpressurized cargo and the capsule’s solar panels). At the time I wondered where the trunk landed after the test; from this it looks like it came down in the water; it looks to me the capsule was already past the shoreline when the trunk jettisoned.

Seconds later the drogue chutes deploy to stabilize the capsule, then the three main parachutes release. Weirdly, the video stops just before the capsule splashes down. Perhaps we’ll see more of that later.

This test was critically important: NASA requires any human-rated vehicle pass stringent tests, including the ability to get astronauts away from the rocket stack in case of emergency. If SpaceX had failed this test, it would have been a major setback to getting Americans back into space on an American rocket. As it happens, things look to have gone pretty well.

There's also video of the test taken from cameras on the ground, and you can see just how fast the capsule blasted away from the pad. 

The SuperDraco thrusters used for this test have double duty with Dragon; besides being there if needed in an emergency, they can be used on-orbit for maneuvering the capsule. SpaceX plans on being ready to put humans into space by 2017. They are also currently building the next generation Falcon Heavy rocket with plans for a test launch later this year.

Edited to add: Slate posted a review of a new biography of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. I also wrote about meeting Musk during a visit I made to the SpaceX rocket factory earlier this year.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Speaking of negative reviews

May. 22nd, 2015 02:45 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
I ran across this one of an old juvenile dystopia:

John Neufeld very cynically wrote a young adult novel in which he did HIS level best to make the teenagers of America scared to death of a basically harmless and insecure Quaker in the White House.


The basically harmless and insecure Quaker being Richard Nixon.
andrewducker: (wikipedia)

49 remixes in four minutes

May. 22nd, 2015 07:10 pm
[personal profile] andrewducker
49 University of Newcastle Australia animation students were each given 52 frames of Taylor Swift's Shake it Off music video, and together they produced 2767 frames of lovingly hand-drawn rotoscoped animation footage:



(Thanks [livejournal.com profile] alasdair)
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

    Keiran Pedley assesses the importance of a recent poll of LabourList readers that shows Andy Burnham the clear front-runner for the Labour leadership but with Liz Kendall in a stronger position than you might think.

As the Labour Party leadership campaign gathers pace, we are gradually building a picture of what the contest will look like. Right now, it seems that there are three serious candidates that can win, with a maximum of four likely to take part. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper seem certain to make the contest, Liz Kendall looks likely too but there are some question marks over whether or not Mary Creagh will make the ballot.

Given that the polling industry has collectively gone to sit in a corner and think about what it has done there is not much polling out there on the candidates so far (yet). However, LabourList has released the results from a survey of 2,274 of its readers today. The findings are interesting.

As LabourList sensibly acknowledge in their write-up, there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about this poll. It is an online, self-selecting sample of LabourList readers and therefore almost certainly not representative of those that will vote in the eventual leadership contest. We should always be very cautious with such polls. Who can forget, for example, the survey of Sun Readers that showed UKIP in second place nationally that was presented by some as a proper nationally representative voting intention poll? Put simply therefore, these are not poll results you can ‘take to the bank’ (of course the unkind among you may ask what are these days!).

In fact, I suspect that we are going to have to be cautious about any poll produced on the subject of the Labour leadership race. The ballot itself will be conducted among Labour Party members and affiliates. It is highly doubtful that nationally representative surveys conducted by pollsters are going to be able to adequately sample this audience. A simple Labour voter cross-break in a standard voting intention poll is not going to cut it. This does not mean that surveys produced tell us nothing but it does mean we should be careful in how much significance that we place on them. Perhaps then, polls such as this one produced by LabourList are as good as any we can use to understand what is happening.

With such caveats in mind, what does this survey tell us? Well, it confirms what we already knew, which is that Andy Burnham is most definitely the front runner. This will no doubt help the Burnham campaign reinforce such a perception among MPs as they consider who to support. Of course, the front-runner position is not always a comfortable place to be (just ask David Miliband) but Burnham supporters will be heartened at such a convincing lead in this survey nonetheless.

However, this survey should also give significant heart to the Kendall campaign too. To be second, at this early stage, ahead of Yvette Cooper, is a great place to be for a relative newcomer to frontline Labour politics. Other than just being second place with a long way to go there are other aspects of the survey results that should boost the Kendall campaign too. Importantly, this survey does not ask respondents to rank their preferred candidates in order, a likely crucial factor in the result of the leadership contest. We do not know where Yvette Cooper’s support in the above example would go. Also, a large number of respondents chose ‘other’ (22%) when asked which candidate they prefer. In some respects, this does not reflect well on any of the current crop of candidates. However, one of them has to win and this group selecting ‘other’ represent a large group of potential untapped support for each candidate to win over. Of course, there is no evidence that Liz Kendall should disproportionally benefit from 2nd preferences or ‘others’ being reallocated but the point is merely that there are votes out there to be won. Andy Burnham’s position is not unassailable.

Of course, Liz Kendall’s candidature has its own limitations too. For a start, she will have to make sure she gets on the ballot in the first place and Labour members are entitled to wonder whether backing a candidate that cannot command large amounts of support in the PLP is wise. Furthermore, she will need to be careful that she does not run too far to the right of the party. A common refrain from some of the Labour Left on twitter is ‘what difference is there between her and the Tories?’ There is a delicate balancing act to be struck here between (rightly) taking Labour out of its comfort zone but also in ensuring that the party is willing to come with you. With this in mind, I expect her to start attacking the Conservatives with gusto in the coming weeks.

So overall, at this early stage, the contest is up for grabs. Given sample considerations and the fact that this poll recorded so many preferences for ‘other’ whilst not asking respondents to rank their choices, there are enough unknowns to suggest that each of the leading candidates has a chance. Burnham is of course favourite. He is clearly ahead among MPs and party members and if he takes enough second preferences and ‘others’ he will be the next Labour Leader. Also, it is likely that the above poll skews London so his current position could be stronger than even this 11 point lead suggests. Nevertheless, he is not inevitable. If Liz Kendall can make the ballot, this poll gives enough encouragement to her supporters that she can compete and win. The idea of a ‘fresh start’ is likely to be a potent message to Labour members. Finally, let’s not forget, it could also be that Yvette Cooper, relatively quiet until now, emerges as something of a ‘consensus candidate’ between the Labour ‘Left’ and ‘Right’. The fascinating aspect of this race we cannot call yet is who makes the final two and where do second preferences go. The final outcome is not yet clear, there is a long way to go yet.

Keiran Pedley is an Associate Director at GfK NOP and presenter of the podcast ‘Polling Matters’. He tweets about politics and polling at @keiranpedley.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

A few things I wish to put onto your radar, or put back on, as the case may be:

1. A reminder that next week at this time I will be the author guest of honor at ConCarolinas, in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina, along with other very cool people. Come down and say hello to us all! We promise not to bite. You have to pay extra for that. But even without the biting, it will be a ton of fun. Hope to see you there.

2. On the video game front, Midnight Star, the game I worked on, has had a massive update that comes complete with a pretty awesome-looking new icon for the game:

If you’re already playing the game, you knew about this update; if you’re not playing it yet (on iOS; the Android version is still in the works), then this is a very fine time to pick it up. Have fun!

3. Monday will be an interesting day. You’ll know why when it happens. That’s all I’m saying right now.


Eurovision myths

May. 22nd, 2015 03:38 pm
[syndicated profile] anders_hanson_feed

Posted by Anders Hanson

Every year I get frustrated by comments made about the Eurovision Song Contest and so I thought I’d collect a few together and dispel some myths:

They’re neighbouring countries so of course they vote for each other: Neighbouring countries are as likely to dislike each other as they are to vote for each other, after all, who are they most likely to have invaded over the years?  For many years Greece and Turkey would have never voted for each other (although that is less common now), Armenia and Turkey have hardly been best friends, and Georgia and Russia both being ex-Soviet countries doesn’t mean very much.  It’s more complicated than geography, which I’ll come on to.

Everyone hates the UK:  If they did, why does our music sell so well throughout Europe?  Also, we won in 1997 which is a hell of lot more recent than most countries.  There are 33 countries competing to be in the Eurovision final and we won 18 years ago, which if think that some have won more than once is actually not bad going.  Russia isn’t exactly flavour of the month but they also seem to do OK.

It’s our placing in the contest:  In 2012 we were placed first in the running order and we said it was too early and everyone had forgotten about us by the end.  Last year we were the last to perform and we said, well the problem was that we were too late and everyone had made up their minds and the Netherlands who came shortly before us were so good we looked rubbish in comparison.  You can’t blame the position.  Yes, later songs have generally done better, but an outstanding song trumpets all of that.

So here are some more plausible reasons:

It’s about airplay: Outside of the UK, many countries go round promoting their songs in the run-up to Eurovision, and so by the time they get to the contest itself they’ve heard other country’s songs over and over again.  It also perhaps helps that most countries have to go through the semi-finals as it means that much of Europe has already heard their song and seen it performed on the big stage.  The UK however just doesn’t seem to do its promotion, and the last time I specifically remember us talking about promoting our song it was Katrina and the Waves, and they won!

Many countries share language: This has a bit of a link to the last comment, but when a country shares a language they often listen to each other’s music.  The Scandinavian countries understand each other’s languages so they often hear music from each other’s countries on radio and they also share some TV programmes.  German speaking countries understand each other’s songs, as do French speaking countries and so on.  In fact, the UK can’t criticise this as they have a tendency to vote for Ireland and vice versa for the same reason.  Even these days when most countries sing in English, the tradition of listening to music from countries that share your language, or have a language you understand continues.

Look at minorities:  Neighbouring countries might not vote for each other, but residents of a country whose family hail from another country or who come from a minority group within another might.  After all, I still feel a loyalty to Sweden despite having grown up in the UK (although I’ve been pretty lucky in that Sweden does generally enter good songs) but a good example is how much Germany votes for Turkey, which presumably has a connection with the large Turkish minority in the country.  Whilst I’ve dismissed the “neighbouring countries vote for each other argument” this is actually partly true when it comes to national minorities but it’s far more significant than simple proximity.

We enter rubbish songs: Generally, our entries have been pretty rubbish.  If you enter crap songs, what do you expect to happen?  We’ve assumed that mediocrity with a good singer will do, but actually one big shift in recent years is that most entrants can sing well (it’s very rare you hear a poor singer these days) and so you need more than that to win.  There is definitely a Eurovision type song, but all sorts of things do win, and so whilst some songs that do well commercially may not stand a chance at Eurovision, many songs would.  Perhaps we need a Swedish-style five-week long televised competition as they seem to do pretty well out of it and we like shows like X Factor or The Voice.

Our best writers are going abroad:  Have you noticed how many Eurovision entries are clearly written by British composers? Just look at the captions that appear.  So we can write Eurovision entries that are credible, but we just give them to other countries, perhaps because they take it more seriously and so care more about having someone good to write entries.  In some cases there is a long tradition of British pop or dance writers working abroad, but it’s not as many as there are entries.  Why do we not entice some back home?

We’re all so liberal here in Western Europe:  We like to think we’re all liberal in the UK and some other countries aren’t.  But whilst the UK voted for Conchita Wurst last year, the phone vote went for the writhing sexually provocative female Polish entry, and with Austria third.  It was the jury that tipped the UK in to voting for Austria.  Russia however, that was supposed to be all buttoned up and anti LGBT rights had a public vote that also placed Austria third, it was their jury that stopped them voting for Austria in the end.

But to be honest, whatever happens, do we really enter this to win?  No, we enter because it’s fun, it feels neighbourly and the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most popular TV programmes in the UK, in Europe and the world as a result. Yes, I’d love us to win some time soon but more than anything (and certainly more than the Olympics) it is the taking part not the winning that counts.


[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Gordon Lishman

“Caron’s test” for emails to Party members is good, but I think we can go further.

The underlying problem, as I’ve written before, is that too many of the emails  seem to be written by marketing professionals who are trying to achieve a specific result – often one that can be measured by funds raised.  The reason it’s a problem is that we aren’t just donors – most of us see ourselves as members of an extended family who need to be reassured, engaged and spoken with directly in ways that relate to our own experience as Party members.

It is interesting that fund-raising charities now spend a good deal of their time and money on chatting with supporters about what they do rather than just doing constant appeals based on need.

A recent piece of US experience seems to me to be useful:

Levitt and Dubner in their most recent book in their “Freakonomics” series quote the example of Brian Mullaney of Smile Train with his “once-and-done” strategy.  That involved asking potential donors to make only one donation with the option of ticking a box to say “do not ask for another donation”. That seems counter-productive: in charities, we have learned that first-time donors rarely give enough to cover the cost of making the contact. It’s only with continued donations that the charity makes a surplus on the relationship.

So, what happened in the Smile Train experience? Firstly, donors were twice as likely to make a donation if they had the option of saying “never again”.  Secondly, they gave slightly more money. Thirdly and crucially, two-thirds of them didn’t opt for the “never again” option; they said instead either “send me only two letters a year about what you are doing” or “keep me in regular touch with the good work you are doing”. As a strategy, it cost less money (because the opt-outs didn’t get further, unproductive appeals) and it raised more.

Crucially, the strategy “changed the frame” of the relationship between the supporter and the charity: It put the supporter in control and it recognised the sheer hassle of getting regular appeals.

Let’s go a stage further with this approach. We have a large number of new members, the majority of whom joined nationally for national reasons. A third of them have said that they are not looking for local involvement (that may well change, but only if we are careful in how we manage the relationship).  In addition, we don’t know how many of our existing members are alienated by the fund-raising focus of most of the communications they receive, particularly when any information about campaigns is focussed on paying for someone else to take action.

These issues aren’t met by an occasional magazine, even if it wasn’t edited in “Woman’s Weekly” style.  Similarly, it is unlikely that these new members (and a lot of existing ones) are going to be fully engaged by the top-down style of consultation on policy development we have developed.  It is very clear that we need to find new models and new media if we are going to use the strength of our members in contributing seriously to developing and deciding policy.

The challenge for us therefore is to answer the questions: what would happen if we put members in control of our communications with them?  How far and fast would our engagement with members develop if they were in the driving seat of the relationship? Would it actually improve both our fund-raising and the quality of our policy if members knew that they were in charge?

This isn’t a fully worked out proposal. It’s an idea and a principle. At the least, however, it seems to me that it’s worth thinking through and testing.

* Gordon Lishman is a member of the Federal Executive and Director of the Social Liberal Forum

The Big Idea: Brian Catling

May. 22nd, 2015 01:55 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

In describing how The Vorrh came out of him, author Brian Catling pretty accurately makes a point about creation that I think many creative people can agree with — before it comes out, there’s so much that has to go on inside.

BRIAN CATLING:

I have answered more identical questions about The Vorrh than anything else in my life. The core ones being about its origins and the process of its construction. When I explain that it was probably brewing for thirty years and that once it escaped it wrote me, then the problems begin, especially as I have not stopped writing since it was finished. Words like channelled and cathartic appear in other people’s mouths. So I did what I know best, I consulted perversity and made something else.  Made it out of lead, glass, Perspex and electrical motors, transparent piping, feather quills, wiring and pumps. An extension of my hand, tiny eccentric engines giving the tip of each finger a life of its own, eerie and totally against anatomical grace and favour. Instead of blood the quills and their nibs are pumped with warm water and compressed black ink. When it ‘goes off’ it surges and gushes, staining the room and its operator’s disability with saturated steaming shadows. I did not know it was literal until it was finished and switched on.

There is another tale of loose hands that I wrote in a grim poetic series many years before. Hands running through the back alleys and murder yards of Whitechapel, scratching sparks and gouges from the wet walls with hooked nails, fleeing, forcing themselves into flesh and infamy. I think they also wrote a true channel for The Vorrh to play, like a needle on black shining disk.

I always had the title, the opening scene and the conclusion and once the work finally began to turn, I had to invent everything else in-between. A wonderful savage awakening that had nothing to do with mapped out plot, or carefully observed character. I became each personality and principle in the book. Living equally the events of each man, demon, woman, monster and ghost. Each writing themselves visually. Without a pennyweight of the critical skills, or a daub of the doubt. A necessary blindness to let the mystery and the presence of The Vorrh overwhelm me. In all modesty, I thought I was writing a slender obscure surrealistic work that would hopefully exist in the sacred margins of esoteric imagination. What arrived was quite different. An enormous birth without a shadow of pain.

The Vorrh is the vast African forest that Raymond Roussell invited in his masterpiece of surrealism, Impressions of Africa. He never much cared for its detail and used it only as a painted backdrop. I have put aside my reverence and dragged him screaming into the depth of this new Vorrh, along with several other ‘actuals’, such as Edweard Muybridge. The Vorrh is the first book in a trilogy, with the unwanted forth already remotely clawing at the inside of my skull, like another disembodied hand.

—-

The Vorrh: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt on the publisher’s book page. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

Following the Cabinet Office’s conclusions regarding the leaking of a Scotland Office memo to the Daily Telegraph, Alistair Carmichael issued the following statement:

The Cabinet Office has today published the conclusions of its inquiry, after an internal account of the First Minister’s discussions with the French Ambassador was published in the Daily Telegraph on 3rd April.

I had not seen the document before it was published in the Daily Telegraph, however I was aware of its content and agreed that my special adviser should make it public.

I should not have agreed this. It was an error of judgement which I regret.

I accept full responsibility for the publication of the document.

I have written today to the First Minister and to the French Ambassador to apologise to them both.

Had I still been a Government Minister I would have considered this to be a matter that required my resignation.  I have therefore informed the Cabinet Secretary that I will decline my ministerial severance payment.

 

Well, that’s us told then

May. 22nd, 2015 01:50 pm
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

How many liberals and progressives have heard this? It’s ridiculously common. Hell, even David Koch of the Koch Brothers has said, “I’m a conservative on economic matters and I’m a social liberal.”

And it’s wrong. W-R-O-N-G Wrong.

You can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues. And conservative fiscal policies do enormous social harm. That’s true even for the mildest, most generous version of “fiscal conservatism” — low taxes, small government, reduced regulation, a free market. These policies perpetuate human rights abuses. They make life harder for people who already have hard lives. Even if the people supporting these policies don’t intend this, the policies are racist, sexist, classist (obviously), ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise socially retrograde.

Apparently, my support for markets as a method of allocation over government means that I hate you because you had your dick cut off (or built, if that’s the way the trans went).

Hmm, we’ll file that under “ideas people give up by the time they leave Mother’s basement” shall we?

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

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.

Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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