(Before people ask: no, you don't have to bring anything, but if you come from the culture where showing up with empty hands is unthinkable, bring a bottle of whatever you want to drink: we'll have soda and stuff, but our liquor cabinet is nonexistent.)
New Scottish poll for D Record has SNP with a commanding lead SNP 48% LAB 24% CON 16% LD 5% UKIP 4% GRN 1% http://t.co/y4VurJDCBG
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) December 22, 2014
Survation Record poll shows scale of his challenge
With LAB’s fortunes on May 7th so tied up with how the party performs in what was its Scottish stronghold there’s a big blow this morning with the publication of the December Scotland poll for the Daily Record.
If this were to be repeated at the General Election then the red team would almost be wiped out north of the border and the SNP would take in excess of 50 of Scotland’s 59 seats.
It goes almost without saying that losing 30+ MPs in Scotland makes LAB’s overall General Election challenge even greater and would almost certainly rule out the possibility of an overall majority. It would also put the SNP in a very strong position at Westminster in discussions over the post election government.
There is a smidgeon of positive news for LAB in the poll as the Record reports:
“…30 per cent of Labour voters and 37 per cent of Tory voters said: “ The Scottish Labour Party will be more successful now Jim Murphy has been elected leader”. Only three per cent of Labour voters and eight per cent of Tories said that the party would be less successful.
There is also evidence of a soft side to the SNP vote. Asked if they would seriously consider voting for another party 21 per cent of those intending to vote SNP say they would seriously consider voting Labour”
Previous Scottish polls with figures like these have failed to budge the Scottish single seat markets. Last week the SNP was only down as favourite to win 4 seats currently held by LAB. This suggests a lack of confidence on the ground.
The next big Scottish polling news will be the promised Lord Ashcroft single seats surveys with their two-stage voting question that asks voters to focus on the constituency and the candidates who might stand. Will incumbency temper some of the SNP surge and could we see tactical pro-union voting?
53% of those sampled in Survation Scotland poll "remembered" voting YES in IndyRef
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) December 22, 2014
2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble
On my Patreon, those of you who donate money to me can find out my views on the third Batman ’66 story, The Joker Is Wild/Batman Is Riled, while those of you who don’t even have any Christmas spirit at all and are probably due to be visited by ghosts on Wednesday night can read an earlier piece, on the 1949 Batman serial, over at Mindless Ones.
Also, my apologies for the light posting over the last week or so — I’ve had some family problems to deal with (nothing irreversibly bad, but stressful and time-consuming). I’m hoping to get a CalDream post up tomorrow, and ideally a couple more posts queued up, but on Tuesday I fly out to the US to spend Xmas week with my in-laws, getting back to the UK on New Year’s Eve. I’m *hoping* to get a lot of writing done while I’m over there, but I can’t guarantee it, as while I’m there I’m at the whim of others, so expect either a *LOT* of posts or absolutely none for the rest of the month.
The first thing Andrew took out of the big shopping bag containing our presents from his family was labeled for me and had a printed note taped to it that said "No 1 - open this first" in big letters.
It was a little box full of littler things: cotton buds, double-sided tape, hairspray, a bag of nuts (as in "bolts and..." rather than the foodstuff or...any other kind of nuts), pipe cleaners, a few other things...each with another printed* note taped to it, with a picture of something Christmasy (ranging from snowmen to the Christmas poo from South Park), saying stuff like "the polite thing to do is smile and say thank you" and "at least it isn't another Christmas jumper." One of the best things about this was watching Andrew's brother sitting across the room from me start out confused and amused like the rest of us, but with each pound-shop-esque item I opened, each note I read promising all would become clear later, his bafflement seemed to escalate into a frenzy of just being absolutely desperate to know what the hell was going on here.
I had a lot of presents to unwrap. After that first box of utterly random items there was a bag with different colors and sizes of balls of yarn, and a pair of knitting needles. This was intriguing. Finally I opened the last package (with its "No 4 - open last" label plastered over the wrapping paper).
And all did become clear, because it was the instruction booklet for a knitted chess set kit. The cotton buds and hairspray and double-sided tape are all things the pattern requires.
But to wrap them up separately and make me open them first was absolutely genius, and kept the whole family entertained for quite a while. Andrew's mom was so organized she even put an empty plastic bag next to where I was sitting in which to collect the huge volume of wrapping paper I was about to accumulate. And Andrew and his brother and sister and parents seemed to have as much fun watching the gradual strange process unfolding before them too, so it's fun for the whole family!
Now I just have to see if I can make the damn thing! It's a big step up from the triangles (hats) and rectangles (scarves, though I also once made a jumper entirely out of rectangles) I usually stick to.
* "Mum just got a new printer," Andrew's sister said in explanation when she saw me examining these little notes.
Found this among my drafts. It’s from mid 2014 and I never posted it because I didn’t have a photo. It was delicious, though, and if you’re in the northern hemisphere it’s probably just about the right season for you to eat something like this. Definitely not the weather for it here and now! Oh well.
This was an experimental meal that worked out so well I thought I’d record it here.
The purple sprouting broccoli is bursting out all over the place in the garden, and needed eating before it started to flower, so I made this up based on a combination of recipes I found online.
For starters, broccoli and blue cheese is a classic flavour combo, but I only had a little knob of blue cheese left in the fridge, so I mixed it up with some other cheeses. Then, there are all kinds of broccoli-and-cheese soups and pastas and casseroles, but none with the whole grains I was craving, so I decided to use whole grain wheat berries instead of the potatoes or pasta that most of the other recipes used.
Start by soaking 1.5 cups of dry wheat berries for a while (I left mine a couple of hours, having got the idea for this mid-afternoon) then cooking them in 3.75 cups of water using the absorption method, such as in a rice cooker, or in a pot of boiling water on the stove (in which case strain them after they’re cooked). This will probably take about 40 minutes which is ample time to get the other stuff sorted out. I did it at a leisurely pace while puttering around and drinking cheap shiraz, so realistically if you’re on the ball all the other prep will take about 20-30 minutes.
While your wheat berries are cooking, prepare these ingredients:
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tblsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2 tblsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 small kohlrabi, grated (optional)
(I had kohlrabi that needed using. Don’t bother buying it if you don’t have it. But if you want to put more vegies in here, you can do it at this stage — zucchini would be an ok choice too, or any other kind of greens, or corn kernels, or mushrooms. Honestly I’m now wishing I’d put corn in mine. Damn.)
Saute the onion until golden-heading-towards-brown. Add the garlic, and saute a further minute or so, then add the herbs and any vegies that could do with having their water reduced a bit (in my case kohlrabi, but zucchini would also go here), and continue cooking a couple of minutes until it smells great. Set aside.
Now grate your cheese. I used approx:
- 1.5 cup grated cheddar cheese (NOT the weird orange kind, what is with that, North Americans?)
- 1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
You’re aiming for about 2-3 cups total. If you don’t like blue cheese you can skip it. On the other hand, you could probably double the blue cheese if you really liked the flavour. All kinds of cheeses could work here to be honest — don’t sweat it too much, just use whatever you have, even just plain cheddar. You could go a bit lighter if you wanted, too. It’s flexible! Just grate any hard cheeses and crumble/dice any softer ones.
Mix all the grated hard cheeses together, and put about a cup of them aside for later.
Now make a white sauce:
- 2 tblsp butter
- 2 tblsp flour
- 500 mL milk
In a medium-to-large saucepan, melt the butter then mix the flour into it to form a roux. Cook over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, then start adding the milk a little at a time, incorporating it fully before adding more. As it becomes liquid you can add the milk faster. Once all the milk is added, turn the heat up to medium-hot and keep stirring until the sauce almost comes to a simmer and thickens up. It’s ready when it coats the back of the spoon or the sides of the saucepan.
Now add your cheese — everything except the cup of hard cheeses you set aside earlier — a handful at a time and stir in thoroughly.
Next, toss in the sauted onions, garlic, herbs and vegies from the pan, and stir them through, along with:
- 3-4 cups broccoli, chopped (smaller than florets – mine were about an inch in their largest dimension)
- your cooked wheat berries
- a few grinds of pepper, to taste
Grease a baking pan and dump the wheat berry mix into it. Now make the topping:
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko, but plain breadcrumbs would also be fine)
- 1 cup grated hard cheese that you set aside earlier
- a drizzle of oil
Toss them together, then spread them across the top of the wheat berry mix.
Bake at 180C until deliciously brown on top — about 30 minutes in my oven.
Serve with a salad, unless it’s pissing rain outside and you can’t be bothered going out to hunt lettuce in the dark, in which case promise yourself you’ll have a piece of fruit afterwards. Ahem.
I was never one for climbing trees. Never nimble enough. Heavy-footed, clumsy, lacking the agility of other children. So the tree at the end of my grandmother’s garden, the tree adjoining the cut, the path through from her street to the little shop round the corner where you could buy chocolate buttons, remained unclimbed (by me, at least). Summer passed, and summer after summer. I grew taller, more awkward, and while I would play in the park at the front of her house, on the swings, and on the roundabout, and on the rocking horse, I’d never climb the tree.
and then one summer, one holiday, dared by a cousin, I clambered up, grasping at branches, and managed to get up, managed to balance on a branch as high as the peak of the roof of the shed in her back guard. I sat on that branch watching her exit the back door, peg out the washing. I sat there, uncomfortably shuffling, as she came out of the kitchen shouting that it was time for lunch. You could smell the soup, a thick lentil soup made with chicken stock.
I never climbed it again.
And years passed and I got older, and the summer of 1988 we didn’t go to my grandmother’s to stay. Instead, we were despatched, billeted to relatives around the country, because my Grandfather was ill. My grandfather, a tall, gentle voiced, dark haired man, was ill, losing weight, his voice a croak where once it was mellifluous and loving. Cancer was killing him and we were not there, not playing in the park, not climbing the tree. And he died. And we cried. And life changed for all of us. Holidays were never quite the same. But that first year was the most difficult.
And that is why on the day the plane fell on the town, my sisters were there. That’s why I was there just before Christmas, conscious of the stench of kerosene, standing in the kitchen looking past the tree at the top of my grandmother’s garden at the houses to the rear, the houses where windows were smashed, the houses where one seat – visible from my grandmother’s kitchen – was stuck, lodged in a window, the left arm of its occupant lolling to the side; looking past the tree to the hillside to the rear of those houses, where bright sheets and markers were randomly scattered.
And those days after I watched and read lots, watched and read as much as I could to work out what had happened, what on earth had gone on. I was drawn to the coverage, but it didn’t make me feel better, didn’t switch off the dreams. But I couldn’t look away from the stuff. And so soon after, a few days after a muted Christmas, I read Time magazine, and there in the pages was a picture of the tree, and in it, a child, so high.
Do they also have big speakers with which to annoy everyone in a five-block radius?
Or are you just supposed to guess what music is going on with the dancing lights?
Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 403rd weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (14-20 December, 2014), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.
Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.
As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:
1. 7 years on, 2 “myths” about the Clegg/Huhne leadership race that persist by Stephen Tall on Stephen Tall.
Just what about those postal votes?
2. Lib Dems up 3, Tories down 3. The latest ICM poll and what it means for the General Election by Nick Tyrone on NickTyrone.com.
Nick isn’t entirely confident about the findings and explains why.
3. How UKIP will do in the General Election: a seat by seat prediction by Nick Tyrone on NickTyrone.com.
A look at some key battleground seats.
4. My ConHome column: we live in an age of outrage that’s killing debate by Stephen Tall on Stephen Tall.
No babies were eaten in the writing of this post.
5. Excellent news for Ed Davey in Kingston by-election result by Mark Pack on Mark Pack.
An 11% increase in the Liberal Democrat vote is not what the Tories want to hear
6. Day 5098: You can prove anything with statistics un mrs temps by Richard Flowers on The Very Fluffy Diary of Millennium Dome, Elephant.
The Elephant vs The Toynbee. No contest really.
7. On UKIP MP Douglas Carswell’s “clever” editing behaviour on Twitter by Neil Monnery on The Ramblings of Neil Monnery.
It’s safe to say Neil is unimpressed with Carswell changing the whole meaning of a tweet.
And now to the five blog-posts that come highly recommended, regardless of the number of Aggregator click-throughs they attracted. To nominate a Lib Dem blog article published in the past seven days – your own, or someone else’s, all you have to do is drop a line to email@example.com. You can also contact us via Twitter, where we’re @libdemvoice
8. Radio 4 Woman’s Hour – Female PPCs in the Liberal Democrats by Louise Ankers on From one of the Jilted Generation.
Thoughts on how to improve our party’s dreadful gender balance. Since it was written, Louise and her husband Paul have welcomed their first daughter into the world. Congratulations to them all.
9. The Hogan-Howe approach would be disastrous by David Boyle on The Real Blog.
The best options for public services are not based on balance sheets alone. (And I should know, given the disastrous merger of police forces in Scotland).
10. There’s been at least one former Prime Minister in Parliament since 1756 but could that end next year? by Nick Barlow on What you can get away with.
Nick gets historical – and there’s even been some debate on his findings.
11. Putin jumps the shark by Cicero on Cicero’s Songs.
All those bad things that Cicero told me about earlier this year seem to be coming to pass. That’s bad enough. And then you get to the bit about nuclear weapons. Yikes.
12. On #PaydayBook by Jennie Rigg on Nothing is more important than my egomania.
Because we all need an excuse to buy more books.
And that’s it for another week. Happy blogging ‘n’ reading ‘n’ nominating.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings
Sunday Funny: The limits of blind trials. (via xkcd)
The Physics Philes, lesson 123: Conduction, Convection, Radiation, Oh My!
Mindy explores the ways in which energy is transferred as heat.
Suspension of Disbelief: The Imitation Game
Elizabeth reviews the Alan Turing bio-pic.
DBT Skills: Use Some Logic
Holidays can be stressful. Olivia provides some tools for getting through holiday distress.
Feed this From-Scratch Tofu Turkey to Your Favorite Omnivores
Move over turkey. There’s a new main dish in town.
Queen of Carbon: The Ongoing Materials Science Legacy Of Mildred Dresselhaus (Women In Science 27)
Learn about Mildred Dresselhaus, who unlocked the secretes of carbon.
Still Waiting After All These Years: FDA and Gay Blood Donation
Vince writes about the ongoing FDA ban on blood donations from gay men in the US.
Bigot of the Week: Wedding Cake Fight
Jac starts off a new feature, shining a spotlight on bigots each week. This week is all about anti-LGBT bakers.
The Queeriew Mirror: The Perfect Wedding
Ser reviews the 2012 movie “The Perfect Wedding” (Warning: Spoilers!).
Are scientists really bad communicators, or do we need to be better listeners?
Festival of Lights: Doing Holidays When You Don’t Do Religion
Kelly talks about celebrating Hanukkah with her husband and daughter. For her, the holiday is fun because it’s presents and tradition without so much mystical pretense.
Finding the Causes of Disease
Topher talks about a recent teardown of a study that claimed to link GMOs to disease. Spoiler alert: the original study was full of bad science.
Why This Mom Boycotts Organic and Will Never Shop at Whole Foods
Kavin questions the claims that organic produce is better (not just with regards to nutrition but also the environment) and how Whole Foods takes advantage of the ignorance of the general public.
My Tribute to Stella Young
Stella Young, a world-famous disability activist, writer, and comedian passed away recently. She touched many people’s lives and helped many come to terms with their own disabilities. You can read about her legacy here.
Featured image credit: martinak15 via Flickr
From here, the days get lighter.
I have a friend who asks me exactly the right questions (even if I never answer them).
I know what is the next step on Speak Its Name.
Things are grim, but they do not stay grim.
In 2015, I am open to... huge, exciting, things happening
In 2015, I want to feel... light-hearted and full of grace
In 2015, I will say no to... over-commitment
In 2015, I will know I am on the right track when... I see the secret holiness of everything. But when I find myself veering off course, I will gently but firmly... rewrite my timetable so that I have a day or a week free to reset what needs resetting
In December 2015, I want to look back and say... that, my love, was the best year ever.
How could you make space for joy in the year to come? How could you protect it?
I have noted repeatedly that this is going to be the year for fun. I am going to seek fun out deliberately. I am hoping that there will be joy coming along with the fun.
One thing that I found immensely useful in 2014 was the #100happydays meme. I am a little cynical about forced gratitude, particularly of the sort imposed on one from outside ('cheer up, there are children starving in Africa', or, 'cheer up, it might never happen') but this practice, taken on because I wished to do it, proved to be surprisingly joyful in itself, so much so that I have embarked upon it again. Even on the darkest days (today is 21st December, we note) it had me looking for one single good thing to talk about, and, once I'd found that, I often found more.
It's always there. I just have to find it.
And what of levity? I gave up drinking alcohol this year but find, at least on the evidence of Friday's office Christmas party, that my sense of levity has declined not one whit. It had been a very long time since I laughed so hard that I was nearly sick. It's very good to know that this is still within me.
Mermaids - cheating, rather, because I went looking for mermaids once I discovered what an apt metaphor they were. Mermaids for me are a useful way of thinking about fiction, these creatures that look almost the same as us, but who, moving from one element to another, need things provided or explained that feel obvious in this world.
Rainbows - Lots of them, this year. There were a couple of weeks in the autumn where it seemed as if every day I saw a rainbow from the window of my train home. One of these felt particularly apt, coming on the day that Vicky Beeching came out. And there's one that falls on the wall at work, when the sun comes a certain way through the windows. I think the obvious message is obvious here. I have been managing to be more out this year, if (it feels) less active.
Bells - the quarter-hour chimes from the church opposite my office, bringing me back to the moment.
Purple - I know it's my favourite colour, but even my study wall was purple when we moved in. Still preparing, still waiting. But also luxury and sovereignty.
Inventive ways of transporting things - well, I have moved to Cambridge, and you would not believe what weird things I've seen carried dangled from a bicycle's handlebars. I managed to bring a planter of herbs home in my own bike basket (only spilt a few bark chippings); but the best one I saw was a chap on a skateboard, moving at a good speed through the railway station car park, with a wide, flat cardboard package balanced on his head. I am not sure if this has a moral, but I note it.
Chocolate - it's good stuff, an inexpensive indulgence.
Illness - mental or physical, one way or another I've been ill on and off since August. I think it's trying to say that I need some rest.
Mike Smithson at Political Betting talks about data from the British Election Study that shows how well thought of MPs are in their own constituencies. Liberal Democrat MPs come out well on top, being much more liked even among opponents than their Tory and Labour counterparts. His graph illustrates thus:
As Smithson puts it:
The chart shows views of those in LAB/CON and LD-held seats and highlights the split between those who say they will vote for their incumbent (supporters) and those who won’t (opponents).
As can be seen there was a markedly different response pattern from those in CON and LAB held seats and those in LD ones. Even opponents in the latter had a net negative of just 4.4%.
Another interesting finding was whether voters knew the name of their MP. Of those with Labour MPs, under 70% knew his/her while for Tories, the figure was just over 70%. But of those with LD MPs, the name recognition level was 82%.
This knowledge isn’t new, and the Lib Dem incumbency bonus is about to be tested like never before, but knowing that our MPs are so highly thought of is a definite advantage as we enter the fight of our lives.