So, No Change There

Mike over at Political Betting has posted a handy set of numbers:

The following show the average annual opinion poll ratings from ICM for the Conservatives over the past ten years and although there has been a small improvement the figures remain pretty consistent.

1995 29%
1996 30.4%
1997 29.2% (General Election 31.4%)
1998 29.6%
1999 30%
2000 32.5% (excluding petrol crisis surveys)
2001 31.25% (General Election 32.7%)
2002 31.2%
2003 31.7%
2004 32.25%

Has there ever been this degree of stability in a major Party’s polling numbers? (Mike’s data go back to 1995, but I don’t think there’s much change in the 1994 or 1993 numbers: we can date the Tories’ opinion poll slump fairly precisely to September 1992, when Mr Heseltine announced his pit closures.) Having grown up in the 1980s, when polls bounced up and down wildly between elections, and no Parliament was complete without the Government having a twenty-point deficit in the polls somewhere along the line, I still find these unchanging numbers strangely gripping.

Pollard Discovers Alliteration

It’s somewhat alarming to discover that on the Jerry Springer issues sensible people are in more or less full agreement with both Melanie Phillips and Stephen Pollard. Pollard, however, still can’t write prose very well:

“I cannot think of a single rational reason why the BBC should not have broadcast the opera. I am, as regular readers will know, the first to criticise the Beeb. This, it seems to me, is one of the rare recent instances of the BBC doing exactly what a public broadcaster should be doing.”

Oh, and Matthew Turner has a good point to make, and makes it well.

Self-Parody Alert!

From the people over at Media Watch UK, the organisation that seems to be devoted to (i) the memory of Mary Whitehouse and to (ii) keeping Jerry Springer The Opera off our screens. Here’s how their letter to the BBC ends:

Bearing in mind that there is already mounting public concern and an absence of any assurance regarding compliance, we believe that the decision to show ‘Jerry Springer The Opera’ should be urgently reconsidered at the highest level within the BBC. There must be other West End productions that would be more enjoyable and appreciated by a far greater number of licence-fee payers? Why not, for example, screen a seasonal pantomime, with well-known and liked television and radio personalities, currently showing at provincial theatres across the country?

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have stayed up for a BBC2 pantomime last night. It would also (I observe) have been less suitable as the climax of an evening given over to Jerry Springer-themed programmes.


To Enetation, the people who provide the comments facility at the Virtual Stoa, and who have finally installed what would appear to be effective anti-spam measures…

… Phew…

… I think this means that if you post comments at a rate of many-a-minute you’ll probably be banned as a likely spambot, and the same might happen if you post comments that are full of links to sites which purport to sell you cheap Rolex watches, phentermine or viagra.

Lazio Merda

I don’t really follow any football teams. I almost decided to become a mild Newcastle United partisan a couple of years back, but the day after I made that half-hearted resolution Bobby Robson decided to sign Lee Bowyer, and that rather killed that courtship stone dead. But I do have a very soft spot for AS Roma, and was sorry to hear that they lost to Lazio 3:1 at the weekend.

And there’s also this (also here, and discussion here).

The Politics of Facial Hair

The politics of facial hair are always interesting: Peter the Great (no, not that one) banned beards, the Taliban mandated them, etc.

On a slightly different but no less political register, I’m still wrestling with the bit of British Politics Trivia which maintains that there were no beards in the Cabinet between the fall of the Labour Government in 1931 (Sidney Webb, aka Lord Passfield, was heavily bearded) and the election of the Labour Government in 1997, which brought the beards of Dobbo and Cook to the Cabinet table. But can there really be no beardies in between? Sixty six years is a long time in politics (over three thousand weeks, in fact, each week being a long time on its own), and it does seem unlikel, or, at the very least, regrettable. Counterexamples, real or imagined, are more than more than welcome in the Comments below.

The Politics of Hair

Friends are emailing me from across the Atlantic to ask me whether I’ve seen this. It seems that the North Korean government has misunderstood the basics of socialist politics — again — by launching a TV series with the imperishable title, “Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle”.

I will be going for a haircut over the next few days, but it will not be for this reason.

The North Korean News Agency remains highly recommended, as ever. Don’t smoke N. Korean cigarettes, though: they’re crap. (A former student posted a pack to me when he was last in Pyongyang. They really aren’t very nice.)

New Game, New Game

I’ll play the non-fiction version, via Normblog:

Rules: ‘You copy the list [of books] from the last person in the chain, delete the names of the authors you don’t have on your home library shelves and replace them with names of authors you do have. Bold the replacements.’

1. David McLellan
2. Ellen Meiksins Wood
3. Ian Kershaw
4. Alasdair MacIntyre
5. Primo Levi
6. Raymond Chandler Epictetus
7. C.L.R. James
8. Ralph Miliband
9. Brian Barry
10. Pierre Bayle

No bloody David Horowitz for me, thank you very much. I bet Norm’s got more Primo Levi than I have, too. And it’s still a fact I should be a bit more ashamed of than I am (i.e., ashamed enough to actually do something about it) that apart from the complete novels of Raymond Chandler, each read several times (apart from Playback, only twice, because it’s shite), I’ve read practically no American fiction (though I keep meaning to make a start on Moby Dick).

UPDATE [5pm]: Some people may have noticed that I’m not too solid on the distinction between non-fiction and fiction in the list I posted, above (and before anyone makes rude remarks, it’s the Chandler that’s fiction, not the MacIntyre…) So I’ve made a slight correction.

Jerry Springer the Aftermath

I woke up this morning expecting to find news reports of BBC Television Centre having been burned down by Christians and Mail-readers, what with the unprecendented levels of outrage, etc. That would have been dramatic, but it was not to be.

And wasn’t JS:tO fun? (Not to be confused with JSTOR, which is useful but not much fun.) I saw it last Summer in the West End, and thought it transferred very well onto the small screen with two exceptions, one minor, one major.

The minor problem was that it seemed to me that Jerry’s inner Valkyrie didn’t work so well on TV. The inner Valkyrie is great — everyone should have one — but she makes a far greater impact in the theatre.

The major problem was that the real stars of the show are Satan’s shoes, and they were barely visible in the TV broadcast. Satan has a splendid pair of red shoes that create a fine devillish-hooves effect, and which deserved several lingering close-ups, which they didn’t get. Instead, often the shots of Satan either cut him off at the knees or had his shoes in shadow. You could see them a few times during the show, but not nearly enough. And that, for me, was a problem.

(I also can’t find a photo of a shod Satan to link to on the intrawebmesh in order to prove my point, which shows that the conspiracy to deny the viewing public their rights runs deep, alternatively that I’m not terribly efficient with Google Images.)

I hear that the Birmingham Rep has a slot to fill now that they’ve pulled one of their productions. Perhaps JS:tO could play there for a bit?