Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Biggest lies of the 2019 general election campaign

Plaid Cymru have proposed a law to make politicians lying a capital offence. (OK, I lied by inserting one word there, but I'm not a politician). Their draft refers to an elected representative (watch out Democracy Man, parish councils weren't excluded) or an agent acting on their behalf making or publishing "a statement they know to be misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular". Crikey, they wouldn't have much left to say, would they? What a load of spoilsports, besides being totally impractical. And, if I've understood that properly, someone standing for re-election (hence an elected representative) would commit an offence by telling a lie, whereas an opponent on the ballot paper wouldn't. D'oh!

I've written before about the spectrum of porkies, from selective use of statistics and use of stats and quotes out of context, through to dissembling, obfuscation and downright lies. But what about exaggeration or using forecasts that you don't actually believe or are bordering on impractical? Like JFK proposing to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s or Boris getting a changed deal with the EU by the end of October, for example. When these things were said most people thought they were barmy, but they proved to be ambitious targets that were achieved.

So what constitutes a lie? And how do you prove the culprit knew it was? It's as subjective as deliberate handball. So it's impossible. But it's also important - many remainers claimed lies undermined the EU membership referendum to the point where it wasn't valid. Which is a statement I've always found disingenuous in itself. But what about the recent general election?

When I listened to the campaign and inspected the leaflets and broadcasts with this in mind I began to feel there were dodgy statements all over the place of so many types. Indeed, I stopped trying to keep track of fibs and contentious assertions in the TV debate between Johnson and Corbyn.  Some of the statements were subsequently fact checked by the BBC and others. While many were found to be dodgy, none were outrageous, generally having an element of substance, as a good fib must.

Living in a marginal constituency we were bombarded with literature. We got 10 addressed to Mrs H, 2 for me. (Is that sexism? Or because her initial is earlier in the alphabet?)  Some came from the parties but tried to look a bit different to draw you in. This Tory one was probably the best done of it's kind.


If you don't live in a marginal you may not have got leaflets like this, very different as it was from the traditional political flyer/window poster. Made from one thick piece of A3 it opened out to 3 more pages like the one above and one huge fold out page on the other side. You can see it was labelled from the Conservatives in print almost too small to read in the bottom corner of the front page. It used lots of text, photographs and lurid colours in blasting out about 8 key messages besides the "Let's get Brexit Done" mantra, a warning on the perils of voting SNP or LibDem and a reminder of how small a swing the Tories needed for a majority. Whatever your political persuasion it was clever and well thought out. It made all the other leaflets look old fashioned, monochrome and, ironically, focussed on a narrow range of policies. It was full of promises that might get broken but I couldn't see anything contentious, let alone a lie.

I inspected all the election communications closely to see who they actually came from as I've read about arms length organisations set up well before an election that then sends out messages that don't count towards their party's spending limit: dodgy practice but hard to legislate against. I don't think we got any of those, but we got this from the National Education Union, the largest teachers' union.


Full of contentious stuff on (relative) poverty rather than outright lies it didn't say who to vote for but to vote "for education". The message wasn't clear - otherwise it would have counted as a Labour leaflet - but somehow I don't think they wanted you to vote for the Tories.

But with so much dissembling, misrepresentation and plain lying which were the biggest porkies? Where to start?

Was it a lie for Johnson to promise a trade deal by December 2020? It seems unlikely but I don't doubt he means it and he did deliver a deal with the EU by the end of October which most folk thought was impossible. I thought it was ridiculous when people accused him of lying and invited him to go to his ditch when he'd done everything he possibly could to achieve his goal. But I did feel queasy about his insistence that there would be no border controls or inspections between the mainland and Northern Ireland under his exit deal, as that's not what most commentators think the agreement implies. This one smelt very fishy to me. We'll see.

Do practical obstacles mean a statement is a lie? David Smith pointed out that Labour couldn't possibly spend money on infrastructure at the rate they were promising. Is that a lie? Or just pie in the sky?

The biggest lie for me, because it was on an important issue and was repeated so many times, was Labour's shibboleth about the NHS being for sale. It's frequent repetition began to get me worried in case it had an effect but fortunately the electorate saw it for what it was - blatant, groundless scaremongering. The only tangible point Labour made, based on the leaked document about preliminary trade talks with the US, was that the US might want to talk about the length of patent protection for drugs which could increase prices. The fact that when you're buying things you aren't selling anything was obvious to nearly everyone. I'm not sure if it was obvious to Jezza as he would put on that pained face which seemed to say "I don't really understand what you, I, or anyone else is talking about but they are Tories so they must be evil". It still makes it a lie, Jeremy. Or is it just a slur? Well, there is no evidence in anything the Tories have actually done in over 75 years, or anything they've said in recent elections that they do not totally support the basic principle of a standard, universal health service free at the point of use, controlled and predominantly provided by the state. Indeed, their comitment has been absolute. But you could say almost anything about what you claim someone intends to do in the future  - and then when they don't do it say you obviously made them change their mind. Which shows how problematic it would be to legislate in this area. Nevertheless for me this was as clear a lie as you'll find in political debate.

Since proving that what you say someone else intends to do is a lie is difficult,  let's switch to the funniest lies. For me, they were Corbyn pretending that he watches the Queen's broadcast live on  Christmas Day morning and Rebecca Wrong Daily's claims in her election leaflet about how her outlook as a politician was shaped  by her experiences,  like watching her father Jimmy worry about losing his job on Salford Docks. "I grew up watching him worrying when round after round of redundancies were inflicted on the docks". But the docks closed for good when Becky was two years old. Is that a a lie, a false memory or just poetic licence to make a point, a bit like a script writer sexing up a story line to make it work better? More worrying for me is the thought that Ms Long-Bailey, who either can't decide or doesn't care whether there's a hyphen in her surname, is the sort of politician who wants to prop up failing enterprises indefinitely. Which worries me more than the exaggeration (or lies if you prefer) in her pre-politics CV, that she'd spent 10 years in the legal profession fighting for the NHS, when she was actually in private practice for less than 7 years including a small element of work on NHS contracts. When will folk realise that tweaking your CV always gets found out? Calling her Wrong Daily is proving to be a very apposite jibe.

I watched out for the lie that would have won my prize for the most awful porkie hands down had I seen it repeated during the campaign (though I suspect it must have been). This was the LibDems truly appalling statement made by Jo Swinson at the start of her speech against the EU Withdrawal Bill on 27 October (Parliament voted for the general election the next day). Swinson said "The government's own assessment..... of a free trade agreement .... would mean that our economy would shrink by more than 6% - greater than the amount that the economy shrank during the financial crash". (My italics and I promise the editing here doesn't change the meaning one iota). The claim was repeated by Chucky (aka the not much lamented Chuka Umunna) and Caroline Voaden, a LibDem representative on Question Time around the same time.

Why is that so egregious? Well, it's a classic misrepresentation of statistic that doesn't say anything like Swinson was claiming. The Treasury assessment actually said the British economy would be about 6% smaller in 15 years time than if we remained in the EU. But far from shrinking, it is expected to be 18% bigger instead of 24%.

Why is this so important? Firstly, if you size the economy at 100 now there's a lot of difference between it being at 118 in 15 years time instead of 124 and it immediately shrinking to 94. The latter would be pretty disastrous in terms of impact and evident to everybody as a result. The former? No-one other than economists would realise, since you don't miss what you haven't had and might never have had. So it's pretty shabby scaremongering as well as wrong. But secondly, it is pretty well exactly the type of misrepresentation the LibDems and other Remainers accused Johnson and Vote Leave of with the £350 million a week stat on the infamous bus and that's what really riled me, especially since the LibDems have plenty of their own form on this type of falsehood over the years.

The daftest statement? That prize goes to my local Lib Dem candidate. This was one of his many leaflets and it gave his party's five "national priorities":


Four of them the LibDems could deliver if in government, but "end climate change"? There was a deafening silence about how such a huge "priority" could be achieved. I can only presume that Jo Swinson, in addition to being sure she could be PM, had great confidence she could steamroller Trump to sign up to the international agreements, Xi Jinping into stopping burning coal and Brazilian president Bolsonaro into preserving the Amazon rainforest. In that case, we might have missed out on one of the greatest leaders the country has ever seen......

My conclusion is that it would be very boring if politicians didn't dare to push the boundaries a bit, what Alan Clark called being "economical with the actualite" in his statements on the Matrix Churchill affair in the 1990s and Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong, using the long standing phrase attributed amongst others to Burke and Mark Twain, called being economical with the truth in the Spycatcher trial in 1986.

Far better to leave the electorate to judge. There's plenty of evidence that they can tell when they're being spun a yarn, promised the earth, patronised or fibbed to. Politicians will always try to pull cotton wool over our eyes. They haven't figured out yet that most of us don't have it between our ears.

P.S. Was the Boris bus statement really a lie? I thought it was. Indeed, I called Boris a bare faced liar in my post David Cameron is reckless but Boris Johnson is a liar on 19 June 2016. But, leaving aside the fact that Johnson was acquitted of misrepresentation in a public office for standing in front of the bus (which doesn't mean it wasn't a lie, it was because the judge found false statements relating to publicly available statistics wasn't in the scope of the relevant law) there are those who argue it was essentially true in the context of the referendum. The £350 million figure was the gross figure we pay in before the Thatcher rebate. But Tim Condon argues* that the rebate is resented across the EU and seen as a relic, it had never been built in to the arcane treaty formulae which determine contributions and, had we voted to remain, it would have been for the chop. The net figure of around half the £350 million is also after "public sector receipts", money the EU spends in the UK. But that's the point, they control what it's spent on not us. Hardly any of it is spent in England (only Cornwall and the Scilly Isles qualify) and most of the spend in agricultural areas is on things that don't produce anything - after all the EU wouldn't want to give us any competitive edge against continental farmers when they can give us a bung to set aside and not produce. Congdon argues that the £350 million was arguably a naughty exaggeration, not an untruth which could easily have come true in the not too distant future. Indeed, when the £350 million was briefly referred to in his BBC debate with Corbyn, Johnson implied in an aside it would soon have been true:  "they'd need a bigger bus" he muttered, almost under his breath and without further explanation. I assume he'd been warned to steer clear of this potential rabbit hole but couldn't resist that much bite back.

* Congdon's article was in the centre-right publication Standpoint on 26 June 2019: https://standpointmag.co.uk/issues/july-august-2019/the-350-million-wasnt-a-lie-heres-why/

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Cats isn't a turkey

I don't normally write film reviews on this blog but here goes. Cats had some of the worst launch reviews of any big budget movie ever. Wow, was it panned. But then so was Bohemian Rhapsody which went on to delight movie fans, break all sorts of box office records and win four Oscars. I was intrigued to see Cats as I loved the stage musical, which converted me to musical theatre. I'd always found film musicals artificial. Characters bursting into song seemingly at random spoiled any flow or plot for me (not that they ever had much plot). It didn't help that the music was generally not to my taste. When I was taken, under some duress, to see a traditional stage musical (I think it was 42nd Street) I found the experience fairly excruciating.

Fortunately we had already booked to see Cats, or that might have been it for me and live musicals. Cats was very different. For a start, why have a limited plot when you can have almost no plot at all? No wonder it proved difficult to raise the finance to launch the show. Producer Cameron Mackintosh failed to get the £450k necessary and major investors declined to back it. Andrew Lloyd Webber personally underwrote the musical, taking out a second mortgage on his house. Together with small investments from 220 people obtained through newspaper advertisements they cobbled the money together. Had Cats been a failure Lloyd Webber has said he would have been ruined financially. Instead the global phenomenon the musical became made a return of over 3500% for its investors.

The first time I saw Cats (yes, of course, I've seen it several times) I was intrigued by the round stage. Effectively there are no stage wings, so the cats enter from all directions, mainly out of the audience. Sitting near the front you can suddenly realise there is a cat - well an actor dressed in a very catlike costume with a tail -  right next to you. Not just standing there, but in character all the time, making small cat-like movements and gestures. The set features everyday objects scaled to the size of the cats, ignoring the fact that they are actually human sized. The show is essentially song and dance, with quite a lot of ballet emphasising feline gracefulness together with modern dance and a bit of tap. And the problem of bursting out into song is solved by the musical being "sung through", i.e. there isn't any non-sung dialogue, as is my other all time favourite musical, Les Miserables. From the first bars of the music starting I was entranced. I must have sat so still that, at the interval Mrs H wondered if I'd fallen asleep. "Are you hating this?" she said nervously and was taken aback when I said "it's fantastic". The first time I saw Cats remains one of the most striking and memorable experiences of live entertainment I've ever experienced. I'm including seeing my first football match at Goodison Park and gigs like Pink Floyd, The Nice, Led Zeppelin and The Clash in that comparison.

I'm not a film buff. I quite like watching films but one a month is enough for me. This limited appetite may be because no film has ever induced a reaction in me like watching the best live entertainment. So I briefly wondered if I should accompany Mrs H to watch Cats at the cinema given the reviews but then set such thoughts aside. I decided I was keen to see it. That isn't always a good thing as comparisons with expectation often colour how you feel about an experience. (Yes, that probably was a factor in my enjoyment of Cats at first sight. But I've enjoyed it just as much every time I've seen it on stage).

As we left the cinema Mrs H again asked nervously "what did you think?" Although she had enjoyed it, she was again somewhat taken aback when I replied on the lines of "fantastic, awesome, brilliant". She has since said that it was the most positive reaction I have ever given to seeing a film at the cinema. My normal mode is to nitpick. It wasn't at the cinema but my favourite such nitpick was after watching the closing sequence of Die Hard 2 where the literally incredible plot line ends with John McLane, played by Bruce Willis, lying on a snow covered runway and igniting the kerosene aviation fuel spilling from the escaping jumbo jet with his lighter. The flame catches up with the plane which explodes just after taking off. Mrs H asked why I was so quiet and I replied that I was converting my guess for the take-off speed of a jumbo jet from mph to metres per second as, sadly, I remembered the flame speed for hydrocarbons in air from my days working in risk assessment. I soon concluded that this scenario didn't just require suspension of belief but defied the laws of physics by around two orders of magnitude, even without allowing for the difficulty of lighting kerosene in cold air. (I guess you might manage it with something to use as a wick at warmer temperatures but below zero I doubt). For the nerds among you I have just checked the take off speed for a jumbo: it is 184 mph which converts to over 80 metres a second. The flame speed of a hydrocarbon in air is generally less than one metre per second, so the mental arithmetic wasn't difficult. No nitpicks with Cats for me. Yes they are people dressed as Cats, that's the point. I just loved it.

It is, of course, different watching a film from a stage show. Clever stage directors can catch your peripheral vision in a theatre and steer you to what they want to see, whereas a camera just zooms in. However there are opportunities with film (and CGI) which the director of Cats chose to take. Some reviewers took issue with his choices. One review I read had also hated Tom Hooper's film of Les Miserables referring to the director's "frequent misuse of fundamental film-making techniques, like close ups and camera angles" Eh? Such folk presumably think that to make a film of a stage show you just film it, which seems daft to me as, until we have true virtual reality, watching a film will never be like watching a stage show. Overall I had no problem with what Hooper decided to do. For example, I rather liked the computer generated cockroaches that are an addition to the Gumby cat song. After all the stageshow uses short actors for the mice.

A bit like the director of the Quadrophenia film who decided he just had to inject a bit of plot into the Who's rock opera, the Cats film has more plot, some of it built in with the addition of a few spoken lines. When it's a cat pausing from singing to speak this seemed to bother me less than in a conventional musical, especially as the balance is at least 95% to singing (or should that be miaowing?) The Victoria character, which is a non-speaking/singing role in the stage show, is developed to bridge the reordered songs and create some storyline, which hangs together ok for me. There was some controversy about Victoria because mixed race Francesca Hayward of the Royal Ballet played a white cat. She dismissed claims that she had been "whitewashed" saying "it doesn't matter what colour you are when you're playing a cat". Good on her. Cats has always been balletic and it's probably part of the reason I like it. I enjoy ballet and don't enjoy traditional American style song and dance musicals, OK? Hayward dances beautifully in the film of course.

Criticism that people made up as Cats is weird seems to me, well weird. What bit of it being about cats don't they get? There was also criticism of the skin tight costumes. Well, hello, that's what the stage play has been like since it opened in 1981. I remember my late and sadly missed father in law watching the siamese cat that always features in the dance troupe very closely. Well, siamese cats are slim and they always seem to cast a very slim but shapely dancer in that role. But as Mrs H pointed out, despite the tight costumes they weren't at all revealing: there wasn't a hint of budgie smuggling about the male cats. Nothing to scare the kids there.

The director apparantly ran out of time finishing all the effects and, after the intial critical panning, made some tweaks. For me this didn't show but as we saw the revised version that's not so surprising.

What didn't I like? Mrs H thought Munkustrap, usually a strong presence, was a bit feeble and we'd both have preferred a traditional bulky baritone male as Old Deuteronomy (Brian Blessed performed the role the first time we saw the show) but it was a nice touch casting Judi Dench who was due to play Grizabella in the original stage show but had to pull out with a torn achilles tendon late in rehearsals. I must admit I always thought it was tantamount to nepotism that Elaine Page was cast in the role, her partner at the time being Lloyd Webber's buddy Tim Rice. But they needed someone in a hurry and Page had sung in Lloyd Webber's Evita. Memory from Cats was a huge hit for her and became her signature tune. And I suspect she sang it better much than Dench could have done.

My only other quibble was the way the Rum Tum Tugger was played. I accept that to ensure the U certificate the Tugger's lascivious character had to be toned down. To be fair, T. S. Elliot's original Tugger is a tamer beast: a "curious cat" who' d rather be in than out, out when in, eat fish when offered meat etc. (Sounds like every cat we've ever had, actually). The stage show has the female cats swooning at the Tugger's swishing tail and gawping at his crotch. Fair enough to step back from that but the film Tugger has been completely neutered: to exclude even the characteristic shoulder shimmies seemed barmy. After all Strictly Come Dancing goes out before the watershed hour. However, while the Tugger was toned down to the point of marginalisation, James Corden's Bustopher Jones was a hoot and Skimbleshanks the railway cat was also superbly done.

Would I have liked it so much if I hadn't loved the stage show? Who knows. Is it the best film I've seen? No, that requires something to make me think a bit more. The Shawshank Redemption or One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest for example. But was it the most enjoyable? Certainly one of them, yes.

What do punters think? On Google the reviews are split mainly between people who love it (5  out of 5) and people who hate it (1 out of 5).  The mean score is around 3 but that's the least common score given. So the film is polarising.   If you don't like singing and sancing I really wouldn't bother with the it but if you ever get the chance to see the stage show it would be worth a try as it really isn't like anything else I've ever seen. If you have an open mind I'd say ignore the reviews and go and see the film. I expect you'll see plenty of people, especially families, enjoying themselves. And as the musical has been enjoyed by millions I expect the film, while probably not winning awards or breaking box office records will do quite well.

We saw only one positive review of the film. Brian Viner of the Daily Mail said "Cats is really demented - but it works!". I agree.







Wednesday, 8 January 2020

How will we know whether we are better or worse off out of the EU? We won't!

Now that we know we are going to be leaving the EU how are things going to pan out over the next decade or so? I've said previously that the only way I could see the country being brought back together again would be if we exited the EU. Had we stayed a large proportion of the population would have felt bitterness and resentment over the failure to implement the outcome of the referendum. We would have had Brexit Party successes in elections and the prospect of Farage making permanent mischief at the European Parliament. Brexit would be like a wrecking ball at elections, drowning out debate as it has for so long already. It would have been a running sore. Of course, as we leave, Remain supporters will feel sadness and regret and many of us will have concerns about how things will pan out. But it already feels as if a boil has been lanced. The topic of conversation has moved on and maybe now the nation, or at least most of it, will also.

Remainers are wont to point out that most economists say we'll be worse off outside the EU than we would have been in it. Well, most economists say that but they are forecasts which are often for the birds or at least often incorrect. And I've pointed out before that what they are actually saying is that we'll be better off than now but not by as much as we might have been. Moreover, the difference will be small and so it will be difficult to discern. Indeed, if we're better off than now we'll feel better off and we probably won't miss what we have never had.

I've now seen figures which say exactly that and more. The Centre for Economics and Business Research is an independent London-based economics consultancy known for its commentaries on the UK and global economies. They earn their corn producing reports for businesses, other economic consultancies and organisations such as the Bank of England, HM Treasury and the European Commission. So it is far from a pro-Brexit think tank. The CEBR publishes an annual World Economic League Table covering 192 countries and looking ahead more than a decade. I recently read a summary of the CEBR's latest long range forecasts which indicate their expectation that the UK's trend growth is likely to be about the same as Germany's, somewhat higher than France's and a large amount higher than Italy's. They expect the UK economy to be about 25% bigger by 2034 than it is now.

To obtain the full report you have to shell out £200. But you can download a free executive summary from their website, which I did. I couldn't verify the numbers quoted above but I don't doubt they are quoted correctly (as opposed to correct). However, it is very interesting that the CEBR should be so bearish about the EU's major economies. The exec summary does comment on the UK and Brexit saying the impact "will be less than feared". Specifically they had forecast that the UK would lag behind France for 5 years whereas they now expect the UK to overtake France again as soon as this year "driven by the UK's particular blend of the tech sector and the creative sector which the CEBR has called The Flat White Economy and by the probability of a fairly soft Brexit".

These comments will have preceded the recent general election which I would expect to have made their view more positive.

Of course there will be some recalcitrants who will blame everything that happens that they don't happen to like on the fact that we've left the EU. But what the experts are saying is clear: we'll be worse off than we might have been if we'd stayed in the EU but we'll still grow as much as Germany and more than France. If that turns out to be true we won't feel worse off (because we won't be) and none of the stats would make it look like we've taken the wrong decision. There'll just be a diminishing legion of remainers claiming we'd have been even better off if we'd have stayed with no tangible evidence to point to other than forecasts from a decade or more previously. Everyone will soon lose interest listening to that.

And so it will come to pass that the nation will move on and our membership of the EU will become a history lesson rather than an active political debate. Time will tell, but I have some optimism.

P.S. The CEBR report has lots of other interesting stuff. For example, India, having overtaken the UK and France to become the world's fifth largest economy is expected to become the third largest by 2034. That's not much of a surprise, but what I hadn't realised was that the Indian economy was larger than the UK's until 1906 and the French economy was smaller than India's until 1951.



Tuesday, 7 January 2020

A gloomy start to 2020

I had intended that my first post of 2020 should be optimistic. That one's on hold while, like all Everton fans, I ponder our team's feeble second half performance in Sunday's F A Cup derby as what wasn't far off Liverpool's youth team made Bill Shankly's jibe from over 50 years ago, that the two best teams on Merseyside are Liverpool and Liverpool reserves, come palpably true, probably for the first time.

Sure, Everton made several good chances in the first half and Curtis Jones's strike for the winner, reminiscent of Wayne Rooney's announcement on the scene against Arsenal all those years ago, was a screamer. But it was hardly against the run of play as Liverpool had 57% possession and bossed the midfield. I'm not sure which was the more galling feature - that Liverpool should have been so comfortable in the closing stages with a teenage centre back and debutant right back or that Adam Lallana and two players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them should dominate Everton's midfield so easily. I've been quite critical of Gylfi Sigurdsson and very critical of Morgan Schneiderlin in their time wearing a blue shirt. But they were made to look ponderous and slow-witted yesterday, and an extremely poor return for around £70 million in transfer fees.

Liverpool, of course, had almost literally nothing to lose but this was still an awful defeat for the blues. The gap between the clubs now feels permanently unbridgeable, which is very hard to swallow for someone old enough to remember Everton being considered, by common consent, very much the bigger club. I wouldn't bet much on Moshiri's financial backing and the new stadium project  gradually rebalancing the situation the way the game is set up now.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the players for whom it mattered most gave the best performances. Evidently they were mainly wearing Liverpool shirts as their youngsters had plenty to prove. They weren't all teenagers: Pedro Chrivella and Nat Phillips are 22. Spaniard Chrivella has been at Liverpool for 6 years, Phillips was signed from Bolton 3 years ago. But in the blue ranks it was predictably Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert Lewin who at least looked as if they wanted to win. Sigurdsson and Schneiderlin looked as if they didn't care while Walcott looked, as usual, like he didn't have a clue: Liverpool had teenagers in their team, we had a 30 year old who still plays like one.

An equally worrying aspect was Carlo Ancelotti's tactics and failure to address the obvious issues on the pitch during the match. His team selection and tactical shape was too aggressive and ceded control to Liverpool. Why not play, or at least bring on, Tom Davies, who would be guaranteed to care and to try hard?

Indeed, given that Liverpool were always going to play some fringe players, why not play one or two of our U23s? At least they've had the experience of beating Liverpool teams containing some of the players Liverpool fielded on Sunday. In the second half  Everton looked as psychologically cowed by Liverpool as ever even though the occupants of the red shirts were unfamiliar and lacking in experience.

Team talks can be over-rated in terms of impact, but also I wonder what the two managers said to their teams at half time. Klopp's talk would have been easier to give. Maybe something on the lines of "They've thrown everything they've got at you and you're still level. They're never going to score today. Now it's your turn to play. Show them what you've got and they'll fold".

For Ancelotti it would have been tempting to say "you're playing well, just keep going as you are and you'll score" which is very much the modern philosophy in football. But such words always, in my experience, lead to complacency. The best manager I ever played for wouldn't have said anything like that. Brian Scott was a construction labourer who had never played organised football before some of his work mates brought him to training. He was already a bit old for the team, but was keen and enjoyed getting fit. We had no-one to run our reserve team at the time and Brian was persuaded to give it a go. He was a revelation, a natural man manager and very observant about what was happening in front of him, despite his lack of playing experience. I lost count of the times he'd say to me "why are you (or aren't you) doing such and such today? That's not like you" about something I hadn't realised for myself. Brian would have recognised how dangerous it always is when you've made several good chances but not scored. In his characteristic sharp style he would have warned the whole team that we'd now made life hard for ourselves as the opposition would have gained encouragement from our failures and would almost certainly come out and play much better in the second half. Basically, he'd have given us a well aimed rocket, telling us we'd have to try much harder and play much smarter if we wanted to win.

Brian was perceptive and tough. I still remember the rocket he gave the back four after we'd won 14-2 for losing concentration and letting such weak opposition score twice! He accused us of all wanting to get on the score sheet, which was probably correct. The good habits he instilled turned us into a very effective team. Although he'd never played at the (modest) standard we competed in he improved us as individual players and as a team. He was our Mourinho.

I wish Brian could have given the half time talk to Everton on Sunday. He wouldn't have been happy at that stage, let alone by the end. I suspect half the team would have tried to escape the ground without going back into the changing room.

At the moment I'd be quite happy for some of them to stay away permanently.

My new year message saying why the 2020s could be a good decade will have to wait until the steam dissipates.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The exit poll has ruined election night (but not like it did for Jeremy)

I know it's ten days after the event but Christmas has intervened. A hopeful sign of normal life butting in again after a protracted political nightmare? For most people the mood has lightened and folk have stopped talking about the B word.

It won't surprise some readers to know that I love general election nights. Yes, I'm interested in politics, but I don't watch much tv coverage of politics other than the news and sometimes Question Time. I would have been interested in the Andrew Neil interviews - he's the only good interviewer around at the moment for me - but I didn't make the time even for his one to ones and I thought it was wrong of him to pillory Boris Johnson for not appearing. It smacked of BBC entitlement to me.

But the election results.....for me it's a wonderful overload of numbers - results, statistics, swings - and histograms,  political maps....oooh lovely. Just like poring over Wisden as a teenage cricket fan. (Yes, of course I did. In the days when we had libraries). And there's that glorious moment when the exit poll is revealed, followed by all those talking heads saying "let's wait till we have some actual results". With, sometimes, wise old politicians making a complete tit of themselves, like Paddy Ashdown saying in 2015 that he'd eat his hat if the exit poll was right. (Actually, it wasn't right in the overall outcome but it was in predicting that his party would lose most of its seats).

However, the exit poll has now ruined election night for me.

In recent years I've been dismayed by the joint exit poll. Firstly that it's done jointly by the Beeb, ITV and Sky, which spoils the fun of three times as many exit poll numbers and seeing who got the best prediction. To be fair, when the polls were hoodwinked by those "shy Tories" in the past they realised they just had to have a bigger sample. Everyday political polls use a sample size of about 1000 which gives an error band of plus or minus 3 percentage points at 95% confidence. So if you had one party on 40 points and another on 34 there's still a small chance that they are actually neck and neck. So the one off polls, while normally fairly accurate, can sometimes be misleading. Which is why a "poll of polls" chart often tells you more. And why exit polls in the past were unreliable. Also the statisticians assume  a homogeneous population so regional or other differences could lead to errors. There are always regional variations in opinion, though what matters is the change from the previous election. And this time we had the wonderful uncertainty (well, not that wonderful while we thought there was any risk of PM Corbyn) of Brexit and switches in traditional voting patterns, including tactical voting.

To get much more confidence in the prediction you need a far bigger sample. Four times the size roughly halves the uncertainty to 1.5%. To get 99% confidence with plus or minus one percentage point you need a sample of over 16,000. Interestingly, once you have a population size of over 20,000 it doesn't make much difference to the sample size you need. So for that accuracy you'd need to sample over 16,000 whether your population was 50,000 or 50 million. Which is why the TV channels work together, otherwise it's too expensive.

But they still got it wrong in 2015, failing to call a Tory majority.  Techniques were refined, particularly on how the seats are predicted. The 2017 and 2019 exit polls, while not being right in detail, got the direction and scale of the overall result pretty close.

The exit poll started to ruin my election night in 2015 because they stopped showing the share of the vote and went straight to the predicted number of seats. Why did that bother me? Because I like to test my own feel for the result. In 1992 the exit poll got it totally wrong by calling a hung Parliament when John Major actually got a majority of 21. Mrs H and I had been out for dinner and got back to relieve the babysitter just before 10pm. I hurriedly switched on the TV in time for the bongs of News at Ten. "HUNG PARLIAMENT" they predicted. And then they showed the share of the vote. "If that's right" I said to my other half "we can go to bed because the Tories have won". It just seemed obvious to me that was the implication of the vote share. I sat up till the Basildon declaration proved my feel was right.

I've often wondered why the people in charge of that exit poll didn't share that feeling. Most probably they did, but didn't dare fudge the results. If it had been me, I'd like to think I'd have instructed them to show "Narrow Tory majority or hung parliament". If they'd done that they couldn't really have been wrong, after all.

But since 2015 they don't show the vote share. Three elections in a row I've been shouting at the TV "show us the vote share prediction". Then I can decide for myself if they've got it right. Once they finally showed the predicted vote share this time, some hours into the broadcast, it was obvious the Tory majority would be large. But by then results were already confirming it. If you'd told me it was Con 44%, Lab 32% the detail was pretty obvious after all.

So their failure to show the vote share combined with the accuracy they now seem to be getting, has spoiled my fun. It's a bit like watching the football knowing the pundits' prediction is bound to come to pass. Unlike Basildon in 1992, which made the pundits say "hang on...." this time Blyth Valley just confirmed the exit poll's veracity. It didn't stop me staying up till 2.45am mind. There was still some entertainment to be had. John McDonnell sounding as measured and reasonable as ever straight after 10pm and avoiding doing a Paddy Pantsdown. I respected his manner in defeat but it reminded me why I always felt he was so dangerous. (Was? Still is, as his like has their hands firmly on Labour's tiller). There was a super shouting match between Alan Johnson and the scary John Lansman across the studio. The big difference between these chaps is that Johnson is a decent man, even if he's wrong on most things, whereas Lansman is wrong on everything. And there was Alistair Campbell pointing out that only Tony Blair has won a decent majority for Labour in the last 50 years. Though John Smith would surely have also won handsomely in 1997 had he lived.

I shed no tears for Corbyn of course. A man fortunately too limited to be as dangerous as the opinions he holds. The electorate saw through the "kinder politics", the "many not the few" and the unbelievable promises. They saw someone who has very different values from the majority of British people.A number of writers have pointed out the fundamental thing in common between the electorate's stance on Brexit and on Corbyn: patriotism. Many leavers in that collapsed red wall were always wary of European federalism and ever greater union was not what they wanted. But they also, as Labour MP Pat McFadden said, saw a Labour leader unfit to lead, surrounded by people who believe the wrong side won the cold war and keen to explain away the crimes of the country's enemies as being our own fault. They had reservations about Johnson but his namesake Luke Johnson summed it up when he said "(Boris) Johnson is hardly perfect, but he is intelligent, optimistic, energetic and decisive. Corbyn is a tired Marxist who befriends terrorists and is surrounded by dangerous anti-Semites, quasi-communists and fools". I would add that, when he gets shouty, he sounds like a dalek and so comes across as unthinking and unfeeling. Which is what Marxists are actually like of course.

Many have argued that the electorate, in voting "Leave" didn't vote to make themselves poorer. (This is a canard I will return to). But they decided identity trumped the risk of being better off in the future but not by quite so much. Their reservations about immigration weren't racist but, in the less affluent areas, were driven by an intuitive understanding that low earning immigrants were holding down wages and adding impetus to the multi-cultural agenda that leaves many uneasy that we are losing our Britishness. These are valid, not racist, opinions whether you agree with them or not.

Johnson now has the opportunity to lay to rest once and for all the the charge that his is a right wing Tory party - a charge that has always seemed ludicrous to me. Brexit is not a right-left issue and the rest of the Johnson platform is very one nation conservatism.  Though the Guardian has pooh poohed the idea that the Tory party will be fundamentally changed by its influx of new, younger, more northern and yes more gay MPs it must have some effect. The state school, NHS oriented and everyday background of  the new recruits was obvious on election night and that back story has only got stronger. That said, the full name of South Dorset's new MP Richard Drax is really Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle Drax. But he didn't go to Eton. Though I'm not entirely sure that the fact none of the new Tory MPs went to Eton is necessarily a good thing.

Pundits have pointed out that Johnson's Get Brexit Done only increased the Tory vote by 0.3 million while May's Strong and Stable put on 2.3 million. But the increase of 1.2% to 43.6% made it the largest share of the vote for the Tories since Ted Heath in 1970. The key thing was that, by creating the situation in which he could turf out the Gaukeward squad, Johnson has united the Tories for the first time since Thatcher's heyday. Given their woes over Europe for the best part of 30 years this is not to be underestimated. And he benefited from a vote split between Labour and Lib Dem very like that which created Maggie's large majorities. The main difference between Johnson and May was that Johnson offered hope (and entertainment). But he also benefitted from the fact that we'd lived through 2 years of purgatory. Woyld tge redult have been the same if the Tories had gone for Johnson, not May, after Cameron? Maybe.

However, we are left with no party of fiscal probity. I just hope the world economy doesn't falter as we could do without heading into a financial crisis with debt going up quickly. Johnson will need luck on his side.

Meanwhile the LibDems reaped what they sowed by hanging their whole body, not just their hat, on total opposition to Brexit, which seemed anti-democratic to so many. It is legitimate to hold the view that we are better off in the EU but it didn't feel right to stridently insist on it against the votes of 17.4 million people. Together with the hubris of  Jo Swinson with her insistence that she could be PM, I'm sure this limited the LibDem increase in vote share to a point where they were never going to make an impact. Nevertheless, I was saddened that she lost her seat and disgusted by Nicola Sturgeon's reaction. But Swinson's defeat leaves the LibDems in a difficult position - maybe even the "existential crisis" I saw in one headline.

And Nigel Farage? His place in history is now secure despite leading two different parties which both failed to win a single seat in a general election. An absolutely remarkable achievement.... Hopefully we will see less of him in future, though I expect he'll pop up again as 2020 wends it's way towards a close and the last deal or no-deal cliff edge. On that score, Johnson must resist the EU's preposterous attempt to impose sequencing on the trade negotiation after it caused so much trouble on the withdrawal agreement. (Apparently they want to sort fishing and a few other things first. I'm still not buying another BMW till this is sorted Angela). You know my prescription - walk away early if they insist on prejudicing the negotiation from the start, giving time to come back and reach agreement on mutually acceptable terms.

The only party besides the Tories to do well was the SNP. I think Johnson is right to resist their calls for a referendum for now.  A 45% vote share against the unionist parties isn't a clear mandate for independence. If she gets nowhere I wonder if Nicola Sturgeon will dare to have a referendum about having a referendum  - if she legally can. But if not don't jail her like the Spanish did with the Catalans. Boris should deliver Brexit and let people see whether it's working for them before anyone, including the Scots, tries to block or subvert it or take their ball away.

The Scottish position is fraught but it's the future of Labour that probably matters most to England and Wales. Corbyn has stayed on solely to ensure that his successor is picked using the same rigged rules that got him there. His supporters, like Richard Burgon - sorely over-exposed in this campaign - show absolutely no contrition, though the claim that they won the argument and their manifesto was popular did make me smile. What would being unpopular look like in a general election result? Labour have the chance to regroup but probably won't be able to take it this time, as the involvement of Ed Miliband in their inquisition demonstrates. After all, Labour's crisis is his fault as he set the rules under which Corbyn got in. They'll go for a younger, probably female leader who may well prove to be as  unready for the job as Jo Swinson was. All governments need a reasonable quality opposition to keep them on their toes so Labour's woes aren't helpful but worse, in the longer term, is the lack of an electable alternative.

The scale of the Tories triumph is that both Labour and the LibDems are in deep disarray if not crisis.Suddenly we've stopped hearing that, unless they can appeal to the young, the Tories are dead. Youth fell for Corbyn in 2017 but younger people saw right through him this time as the crossover age at which people are more likely to vote Tory fell from 47 to 39.

A Happy Christmas to all my readers. I wish you peace and prosperity in the new year confident that, for every man (and woman) jack of you, you will be better off under Johnson than you would have been under Corbyn.









Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Who to vote for, Mikey47

Normally I would add a question mark at the end of a title like this and debate the issue with myself leaving the question hanging. But, egged on in their comments on yesterday's post by Democracy Man (who can readily guess who I'll vote for) and Mikey47 (who asked for some real reasons to vote in a particular way) I'll tell you what I actually think.

All elections are bigged up as the most important in a generation. This is the only one that has really felt that way to me for a long time. The Ted Heath "who runs the country?" election in 1974 felt that way and was inconclusive. But Heath hadn't done enough in government to justify re-election and we had a truly awful 5 years of a weak and eventually minority Labour government, the IMF bail-out and the trade unions' winter of discontent.

So the election that turned out to be the most important in my lifetime was 1979. It didn't feel that way at the time: it felt a depressing choice between failure, an unknown quantity in Margaret Thatcher and an attractive middle ground with the newly formed SDP-Liberal Alliance. Fortunately the country set itself on a sustainable course under Margaret Thatcher. I was disappointed at the time as a member of the SDP and it was an uncomfortable, rocky ride at first but with the hindsight of history I can see I was wrong then to oppose Thatcher. Her reforms were desperately needed and the fact that we have had one of the strongest rather than one of the weakest economies in Europe since then can be attributed directly to her government's reforms in the 1980s.

There is a huge risk that we now throw all of that away.

First let's contemplate the extremely unlikely - a majority Corbyn government. The damage would be colossal and immediate. The financial sector makes up over 10% of our economy. The prospect of a transaction tax and the seizure of 10% of the shares of large companies would kill capital markets overnight. Floats on the stock exchange would become a rarity and international businesses would quit London. Many of the 330,000 additional rate taxpayers who contribute over a third of all income tax work in the City. They are highly mobile and would migrate overseas. Then tens of thousands of lower paid jobs would steadily come under threat of being switched abroad, only this time the job would go not the person.

If Mikey47 doubts this, he should ask what I would have done if a Corbyn-led government had been elected in 2005 when I was working for a corporate and running a business that had its production facilities in the USA, Germany and China. A senior management team of three was based in the UK, but we could have departed overnight for Germany or the USA. The pension taper alone would probably have been enough to ensure we did. Had there still been production facilities in the UK (history I won't go into) the option of basing the central team abroad would still have been there. (You don't need to guess - I'd probably have gone to the USA though it might have been easier to decamp to Germany first). Write that story tens of thousands of times over.....

Investment has been weak since 2016, wreaking insidious but significant damage on the economy. It would collapse overnight. As we rely on capital inflows to balance our persistent trade deficit McDonnell would get his financial crisis which he would use to take "emergency measures". There would be prolonged legal wrangles over attempts to nationalise utilities below market value. Our international status would be fundamentally changed by support for every "radical" cause on the planet. As someone has said, this isn't Wilson or Callaghan or Blair or Brown. This is Hugo Chavez.

You might say why contemplate what isn't going to happen? Corbyn can't possibly win. I agree but even a minority government can do stuff. Supported by the almost equally crackpot SNP and moderated only by the LibDems a minority Corbyn government could do huge damage. Johnson could have gone on a long time with a majority of minus whatever in a gridlock situation; so could Corbyn. A minority Corbyn government would still be a 100% Corbyn cabinet, with control over foreign policy, for example.

Mikey47 said he felt we might end up with a hung parliament. That is a very real risk: many sources are saying it would take only a few tens of thousands of targeted tactical votes to deny Johnson a majority and even create a Corbyn-led government. Some say this could happen without Labour even winning any more seats than they have currently.

My problem with a hung parliament is that it really will solve nothing. Oh sure, Brexit might be fudged with a second referendum between a Brexit in name only and remain. The result wouldn't matter, as it wouldn't solve anything. Farage would be as important a figure as ever and the argument would rumble on as strongly as ever. We would not exactly be popular with our EU "friends", still chucking rocks at them in their Parliament. The festering resentment in the country would be colossal.

The only way I can see any chance of a healing process in the country is a convincing Johnson win. We leave the EU and get on with trade deals, investment in the UK strengthens and if things go ok the mood will change. There will still be many who will sadly reflect that we should have stayed in the EU but there is a chance that we can put it behind us, at least for most people and move on.

Won't we be worse off outside the EU though? Essentially all economists agree on that. It doesn't mean they are right, but let's go with it, as they nearly all say the impact on growth rate will be something like 0.5%. If the economy were to go forward with a weaker growth rate but still do ok - which is what most economists say - will we notice? No, of course not. We'll be better off in 5 and 10 years time. Maybe not as better off as we would have been but that would be theoretical to most people. After all, if Germany can tolerate weak growth for year after year, why can't we? Over time how we do on productivity is far more important than whether we are in the EU. Is a Corbyn led government, bringing back trade union powers and influence, likely to revolutionise productivity? Er, yes, but in the wrong direction!

So my healing scenario has a very reasonable chance of coming to pass.

The next biggest risk after a hung parliament is a small Johnson majority. I thought we would hear more about the December 2020 trade deal cliff edge in the campaign. Maybe it's too detailed a point and not immediate enough for the remainers to go at strongly. Instead they've just cast doubt on Johnson's ability to do deals by next December, using lies about the likely time to get a trade deal with the US for example. (The average time it takes the USA to negotiate a trade deal is 18 months. Admittedly more than 12 but not 7 years). It probably hasn't occurred to them that you can do these deals in stages. Effectively we will forever be negotiating and renegotiating trade deals. That sound awful? It's what the EU does on our behalf currently. And because they have to balance 28 countries' interests it takes longer and satisfies nobody. Of course we can do deals that, overall, are better for us and we can do it more quickly than the EU does on our behalf. Johnson probably felt he had to say that the final end wouldn't be overly delayed but I doubt he was wise to choose the December 2020 deadline. However, he got his EU deal through when almost no-one thought he would.

The real no trade deal cliff edge comes if Johnson has a small majority, putting power in the hands of his Brexit ultras. If Johnson has a good majority he can marginalise the ERG and push his deals through. This risk does concern me to the extent that I think a small Johnson majority is nearly as bad as a hung parliament.

But wouldn't a big Tory majority mean a very right wing government? I don't think so. A very wise professor in economics I worked for in the 1980s once told me that, for all the noise, the difference between the parties was usually quite small. I've looked at the numbers more closely ever since. At the time the number bandied about was the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement (PSBR, what we now call the "deficit"). In 1979 the SDP-Liberal Alliance was pushing for "pump priming" of the economy saying we could afford to borrow more to finance growth. The actual numbers were such a small proportion of total government spend that it was hard to see it having any effect. That's not the case this time on overall spending, but it's worth looking at the detail.  There was a good graphic about NHS spending on the  BBC news last night. It showed the average annual increase - and it always has been a strong increase - in NHS spend under each government since 1979. From memory the numbers were something like 3% under Thatcher and Major, 5% under Blair and Brown and around 2% after 2010 and the acute need to rein in spending. The Tories are now promising a 4% increase and the extra spending promised by Labour on top barely registered as a thin red sliver. No difference at all really.

Yes we had the media excitement over the awful photo of the boy with suspected pneumonia on the floor at Leeds hospital. The thing that surprised me most about this was that the Tories weren't ready for this year's equivalent of "Jennifer's ear", which was the 1992 election version. After all, an obvious risk of a December election is that all journalists need to do is keep an eye on every major hospital and, in all likelihood, such a case will arise. The only question was whether it was a child or an old person. While having every sympathy for the specific case, if people are saying that the NHS needs to be ready and waiting with facilities and staff for every conceivable emergency case then there's going to be a lot of expensive surplus capacity sitting around 98% of the time. We need a grown up debate about this and Corbyn promising to keep "weaponising" the NHS won't help us get there.

So the question is who will run the NHS more effectively? Labour with its power to the unions policy which will halt any kind of beneficial change in the NHS for good? (A rhetorical question. A separate blog might come on the Labour lie that the Tories would "sell" the NHS).

Johnson is a centrist, one nation Tory. He ran London well with an inclusive style and strong team. His cabinet is the most diverse ever. Yes he's a fudging dissembler but this is not a right wing Tory party. It's been incorrectly branded that on Brexit, but Brexit isn't a left-right issue. Johnson is the best leader on offer by far and the Tories have the most competent squad. They are the only party that has the first clue about business - and then, most of the time, not much more than the first clue. Even they are blind to the needs of the massive number of tiny and small business that are so important to our economy. But at least they aren't hostile to them. Why would anyone want to start a business under Corbyn? (If you aren't sure of the answer, or aren't convinced that entrepreneurs will flee the country, see what Sir Charles Dunstone, co-founder of Carphone Warehouse said a couple of days ago).

In contrast think what could go wrong. Seduced by the offer of "free" broadband? First remember the old saying about free lunches. But secondly ask yourself, why do they want to control our broadband? Because the public sector will be better at rolling out fast broadband? Pull the other one, this is the public sector that can't deliver Crossrail on time and budget and can't get HS2 properly started before the budget is not just blown but annihilated. You may think the next bit is paranoia but bear with me. All far left governments want to control the media. Labour have an "oven ready" way with the print media: the egregious Leveson controls are sitting there waiting to be implemented. The LibDems wouldn't resist it - Clegg was one of its main champions. But the internet is another thing. Control broadband and you're half way there.

This sort of Orwellian development wouldn't happen at once of course. McDonnell and co know that they just need to win battles now and then. Get state control of some of these things now and you are positioned to act later on. Especially when "emergency" circumstances require it. All those counter-terrorism controls  are there to be used. After all, local councils have used it if people use the wrong bin....

But aren't the Tories just too awful, seen as the nasty party as Theresa May said?  For the most part, no. The so-called friendlier, gentler politics of the left are of course actually bullying, harrassment and anti-semitism. They will use all of these things. Remember the Bolsheviks started as a minority government.

I have often wondered how things would have panned out in 1979 if Thatcher hadn't won and the SDP-Liberal Alliance had been in government or a coalition. I can reluctantly only conclude it almost certainly wouldn't have worked out well. A vote for the middle ground this time could also set us on the wrong track for a long, long time. Democracy Man will vote for his party, as he should but otherwise a vote for the LibDems seems a cop out to me, even if I wasn't put off by their extreme position on identity and gender. I wasn't the only one to find the news that they have accepted a £100k donation from Ferring Pharmaceuticals, a firm that sells drugs used in identity clinics to delay the onset of puberty, concerning.

I have more of a problem with people saying they can't stand Corbyn but have always voted Labour so will again. I can respect the idea of fighting from inside the tent but the battle for the heart of Labour seems lost.

But the real question is the undecideds and whether they will vote at all. (Generally they don't).

So Mikey47, I can respect that, if you think the single biggest issue facing us is climate change then, even though we are only one country and your vote won't have much if any impact, you should vote Green.

Otherwise anything other than voting Conservative risks a bad outcome: continuing argument over Brexit, the potential for the end of the union with Scotland after indyref2 and the whole Marxist nightmare slowly unfolding. And don't kid yourself, everyone knows McDonnell can't finance his plans on the back of the rich alone, if only because they'll decamp. He'll be coming after middle ground people like you, me and Democracy Man as well. He'll need to tax the many, not the few. And this from a starting point where the tax burden on the economy has just grown to the largest proportion of GDP since before Mrs Thatcher started her revolution in reducing the size of the state.

We live in a marginal so our votes do count. I'll be voting Conservative as the only viable option to anything other than a bleak, chaotic future. I don't think your constituency is a marginal, so you might as well follow your conscience. But I hope I've convinced you that a tactical vote against the Tories could be disastrous.


Monday, 9 December 2019

Reasons to vote in the general election

Just like last time, I've been finding plenty of reasons for the electorate to vote for the various parties in the general election. Most of them are admittedly whimsical at best - it shouldn't be too hard for you to identify the very small number of reasons I've found that I think might just be good ones.

Labour

You don't know if we should leave or remain and think we need at least another year to figure it all out

You want to be able to play Fortnite all day on free broadband on your day off in a 4 day week 

You long for the good old days of British Telecom and British Rail. You agree they were completely crap but it's much better to wait for months for a phone line than to have someone make a profit out of providing you with a generally good service.

You don't like rich people and think their taxes should go up so much that they all bugger off abroad. Sure we won't be able to afford as many doctors, nurses and teachers but it's better than having all those blood sucking rich dudes around. Isn't it?

You long for the good old days of secondary picketing and want to see the trade unions restored to their rightful position of being called in to No 10 for beer and sandwiches to fix the problems they have created in the first place

Spending that much money will inevitably create the crisis in capitalism that you crave. Not so much the velvet revolution, more the spendthrift revolution

You like paying for sex and want to see it decriminalised. (The Labour Party officially supports the blanket decriminalisation of the sex trade. It's not clear if they realise that means removing all laws against pimping and brothel-keeping and effectively means exploiters and human traffickers would go free. As Andrea Dworkin said, only when women's bodies are being sold for profit do leftists claim to cherish the free market).

You can't stand Trump or American imperialism and think we should quit NATO and forge a new alliance with Cuba, Venezuela and The Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

You think Britain should be much more outward looking and so we need a PM like Jeremy, whose main interest is in the international socialist cause not all this boring internal British stuff. Indeed you've always supported all revolutionary causes (IRA, Hamas and so on) and can't understand what the anti-semitism fuss is about. It's much more important to oppose Israel and Trump.

You think that, with so little on the nation's plate currently, Parliamentary time should be allocated to legislating about football club governance. (Shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan says fans should be given a greater say in running clubs, including who the manager is and whether "safe" standing should be allowed. I imagine she doesn't know anyone who was at Hillsborough).

You don't believe what you read (that Johnson has had the most diverse cabinet ever) and think there should be more women and black people in the cabinet. After all, Diane Abbott will really sort the Home Office out

You're fed up with there being so many elections and voting for a bunch of unreconstructed Marxists could well be a way of bringing that to an end.

(Trust me these are only a subset of the range of reasons for voting Labour)

Liberal Democrats

You like to think the referendum never happened. (But sticking your fingers in your ears and saying "la la la la" every time Brexit is mentioned might work just as well for you....)

You want to see gender neutral uniforms in school and want to be able to put "X" against your child's gender on their passport

You like paying for sex and want to see it decriminalised. See Labour above. The LibDems also take the view that prostitution is a job like any other. The party's Wendy Chamberlain argued against criminalising punters saying that "sex work has been going on for thousands of years and sadly no policy will end it". Er, you could say the same about murder, Wendy....

You think we should invest in all our people, not just young people and certainly not just the top 50% who go to university. After all if it's elitist to preferentially treat the top 20% by sending them to grammar schools isn't it just as elitist to send the top 50% to uni and ignore most of the rest apart from some pathetic apprenticeship schemes?

Conservative

You just want to get Brexit DONE! (I've bad news for you: negotiating trade deals will be a pain and won't happen quickly, even if ditches are died in).

You enjoy having a PM who speaks quite well and has comic value even if he doesn't know what he's saying. After all isn't that better than having a PM who doesn't speak well, also doesn't know what he's saying and definitely isn't funny?

The Tories are the only party who have the faintest clue about business and the economy, even if Boris did say **** business and they don't actually have any relevant policies. After all, isn't it just best to end the Brexit uncertainty and then give business the confidence that they can plan because the government isn't actually going to do or change anything?

You are worried that there will be another financial crisis. Oops, too bad, all parties are promising to break what's left of the bank. But the starting point might not be quite as acute under the Tories.

You are an endangered or victimised species (i.e. an entrepreneur or a fairly high earner trapped in George Osborne's fiendishly complex black hole of the pension taper; maybe an NHS consultant, praised to the hilt for your work and taxed at marginal rates that can be above 100%*). Actually it's too bad, probably no-one is going to help you but it's just possible that, having created this ludicrous situation, the Tories might not make it worse. Which would probably be impossible anyway.

You think that fairly high earners, even NHS consultants, are as bad as the super rich and so like the Tories for hammering them with the brilliant pension taper.

Green

You had such fun on the XR demos, holding up people going to work and the odd blue light ambulance.

You think it's right on having two people as party leader simultaneously. If Boris had thought of that and shared the role with Gove, they wouldn't have had the problem with Channel 4. Stupid Tories! 

You are miserable, having given up all air travel, your fossil-fuelled car and gas boiler and are limiting your use of batteries because of all the rare and unrecyclable materials in them. After all, mustn't be hypocritical. But it would cheer you up no end if everyone else had to get on board and join you in the Middle Ages by 2025 at the latest.

You're so woke you never need to set an alarm clock.

SNP

You're fed up with being subsidised by the English and want indeyref2 to sort that out once and for all.

Indeed, given the choice, you'd rather be subsidised and bossed around by the Germans than the damned English.

Plaid Cymru

See SNP

Brexit

Just like UKIP last time, I can't even think of an amusing reason to vote Brexit. It doesn't make sense even as a tactical vote in this election. Campaign for Farage's Nobel Peace Prize instead.

* The pension allowance taper is perhaps the single daftest taxation idea implemented by government in my lifetime. I've read that, as gross salary increases from £118k to £180k take home pay only goes up by £3k (which seems incredible), with marginal tax rates exceeding 94%. Between £118,800 and £122,600 marginal tax rates are over 100%. The arrangements are so complex some finanicial advisers will not offer advice. The taper is why many NHS consultants have limited their hours of work to avoid falling into the trap and large numbers are planning to retire early. One consultant, appointed to lead a regional specialist service, got a £92,000 tax bill, was effectively forced to leave the pension scheme in his 40s and intends to leave the NHS. Anecdotally some have had to sell their house to pay a large unexpected tax bill. Johnson has said he'll fix it but it's still the example that most undermines my view that the Tories are generally competent. I know these are high earners but this is worse than "one for me 19 for you" as George Harrison sang about the taxman under Labour in the 1960s. And note it doesn't affect really high earners. And funnily enough folk like train drivers fall just under the £80k higher rate threshold - as do MPs come to that.