All entries for Thursday 27 July 2006

July 27, 2006

Lib Dems' poll ratings take a battering

According to an ICM/Guardian poll out today:

The most obvious observation is that people who supported the Lib Dems over the Iraq War are drifting back to the two major parties again following what has been a disastrous year and quiet few months for Ming Campbell.

But here's some other thoughts:

  • Labour is clearly banking on their new leader (assume it to be Brown) to take the lead back from the Conservatives when they take power. I think this strategy's a bit risky and Brown ought to be setting out his stall already, even if he's not in Number 10. There's a danger that he won't have long enough to impress the public before he's forced to call an election. Plus, he's about as charasmatic as cabbage soup, so needs all the help he can get.

  • Labour's rise (up 3%) also suggests that voters are forgiving the government for the many problems they've got themselves into recently. This raises the question of whether people care about or understand the cash–for–honours scandal. Until it directly smacks Blair in the face, I'm not sure voters will fully associate it with the government.

  • The Conservatives are continuing to do well under Cameron, although he still hasn't had much to do so far. When he starts talking about substantive policy issues people might see him as a turn–off. So far they've only heard him talk about bicycles, underwear and solar power.

  • Ming is doomed. While extremely competent with the Lib Dems' foreign affairs brief, he's clearly not got the right skills to lead the party on other issues. If the Conservatives can do well while not talking about policy, how come the Lib Dems are finding the exact opposite happening to them?

  • The Conservatives think they need 40% of the vote in order to get a majority. With Labour likely to receive a boost under their new leader, Cameron will know he hasn't done enough yet to avoid the possibility of a hung parliament.

  • Overall, there's cause of optimism here for the Tories and Labour. But the Lib Dems have got a problem. If they lose seats at the next election, which looks likely given how close the other two parties are likely to be, then they could enter a decade of soul–searching which could cripple the party.

Andrew Lloyd–Webber in hypocrite shocker!

Andrew Lloyd–Webber (creator of the hit musicals) said yesterday:

Stage schools tend to turn out performers with a certain patina. There is a certain sameness. You can almost tell which school they have come from.

Isn’t that a little rich from the man whose musicals all sound identical and can be spotted a mile away for their schmaltz? If anyone’s to blame for musical performers sounding the same, it’s Webber himself.


Over–optimism from the Israelis?

From page 2–3 of today's Guardian:

[according to Israel] more than 200 Hizbullah fighters [have] been killed since the conflict began.

and Israel's northern command chief said:

in a number of weeks we will be able to declare a victory

this in spite of the statistic (on p3):

Hezbullah (sic) has 6,000 elite fighters and 20,000 trained fighters.

Based on those statistics, at the current rate it will take Israel precisely 130 weeks to come half-way to total victory. In the same amount of time they would kill 50,700 Lebanese citizens.

They seem to have fallen into the trap of the United States' War on Terror in believing that complete victory is even possible when dealing with a terrorist organisation.

=====

I should add that my statistics are based on the Israelis' estimates. The independent figure is 31 confirmed Hizbullah deaths. Meaning it would take over 1700 weeks to kill all of the Hizbullah fighters…


Repetition without deviation

Daily Mail Headlines - Spot The Difference

Spot the difference. In February 1997, the Daily Mail declared that five men who were acquitted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence were in fact his killers. They challenged the men to sue them, and they never did.

Today, following a documentary which has raked over the case and uncovered alleged corruption in one of the investigating officers, the Mail has repeated its assertion and its challenge to the men to sue the newspaper.

There's a little more going on here than simply trying to cause a stir. If one of the five men were to sue the Mail, the civil case would almost certainly have to examine the evidence for the Mail's assertion, and would very probably find that the five men did indeed commit the crime. However being a civil case (and under the rules of double jeopardy, which the government has considered scrapping), the men would essentially be found guilty but would not face prosecution. At the moment this would seem to be a best worst option.

But there's a danger in the Mail's use of repetition. Their article notes that at least one of the men has young children and that his neighbours knew nothing of his past until this week's revelations. While it's arguable his neighbours should know who they're living next to, it's very regrettable that his child may face repercussions either at school or in the local community generally. Given the hatred felt towards the five men – probably rightly – it's unwise for their children's identity to be too widely known. Some will argue the men should have thought about that before committing the crime, and realising the effect it would have on their kids, but others will rightly add that their children did nothing wrong and deserve protection.

The Daily Mail is, I'm sure, 100% certain that 1) the men will not sue, and 2) if they did, they'd lose. In which case I wonder if today's headline is a little unnecessary. It will bring unwarranted attention to the men's children while offering practically no chance of a conviction being brought. It's a powerful way to bring the story to people's attention, but by now the court of public opinion knows the men are guilty anyway.


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