September 13, 2014
by Paul

Is this Alex Salmond’s “Sheffield rally moment”?

Full video here.

I couldn’t help noticing this smile from Alex Salmond (above) after he had finished responding to the BBC’s Nick Robinson, at his (Salmond’s) press conference last week.

Bear in mind that Mr Salmond was responding through an amplified microphone, while Nick Robinson could only make his responses (after his initial question) in unamplified shouts, which hardly anyone could hear. Plus there was, extraordinarily, a shipped-in audience of Yes supporters, who were, obsequiously, applauding Salmond. And it had been couched, bizarrely, as an “international press conference”, so that Alex Salmond could cut off Robinson, with the excuse that he urgently needed to address a question from Madrid.

After responding to Robinson, and receiving applause from his supporters, Salmond couldn’t resist the smile above, because he was, presumably, so pleased with himself.

…So pleased that he had deflected questions about the projected movement of the HQ of the Royal Bank of Scotland to London, in the event of a Yes vote, after it has been headquartered in Edinburgh for nearly 300 years. I mean, it’s the Royal Bank of Scotland! It does what it says on the tin. Or, at least, it has done up until now. But, oh no, Alex Salmond is really pleased with himself because he deflected all this, by demanding a full enquiry into why the news of the proposed move was confirmed by the Treasury twelve hours before its official announcement. …An enquiry which was convincingly rejected out of hand by the UK Cabinet Secretary within 24 hours.

To me, the smile you see above is unmistakable. It is the smile of a bully.

It is the smile which, I would venture to suggest, has led to Alex Salmond being described as a “man so pleased with himself that he would drink his own bath water”. And, perhaps, that smile is part of the reason why a recent poll found that, by a margin of two to one, women in Scotland don’t trust Salmond.

I would also suggest that Salmond is a man of low intellect. This is evidenced by the fact that, while he seeks the low-lying fruit of beating up the BBC, he fails to solve the “stupidity on stilts” of the currency question.

Note: The “Sheffield rally moment” referred to in the title of this post refers to Neil Kinnock’s trip and “We’re alright” cry on the eve of the 1992 general election.

September 11, 2014
by Paul

Exaggeration of the day

Alex Salmond on the leaking twelve hours early of the info that RBS had a contingency plan to move their HQ to London in the event of a Yes vote:

It is as serious a matter as one can possibly get.

Yes, forget the Holocaust, world famine and climate change. This is as serious as it gets.

September 11, 2014
by Paul
1 Comment

#indyref – unleashing the beast

Others may disagree, but I like to think that I am normally calm and polite.

But, when I am alone with Radio 4 Today, I am occasionally aware of a beast in the car with me, shouting at John Humphrys:


And the Neverendum has most regularly brought that beast to the fore.

Alone in the gym last week, I was aware of the beast as I watched Nicola Sturgeon being interviewed on a ferry (she was on the ferry, I was on the treadmill). I’m actually sure Nicola Sturgeon is a good person with a good brain. But she has that Salmond habit (they are both fishy people) of having that little suggestion of a smirk, which says:

I am super-intelligent and you, oh interviewer, are a complete numpty and I will have to explain to you why you are a complete numpty, even though I am actually talking complete bollocks myself.

I heard the beast:

STOP SMILING YOU ******* ******

And what of Alex Salmond? Well, there the beast is not allowed to escape any more. My radio off switch is pictured below. It is a nice chunky one which can be, in emergencies, hit with the flat of my left hand, with some force. So I don’t know what Salmond is saying these days because my hand gets to the off button before he gets into his second word. So the beast hasn’t pronounced on Salmond recently. How is he doing?


September 11, 2014
by Paul

Squeaky bum time over: OFFICIAL

imageWhat follows is a load of rubbish. But, as my great brother said, everyone else is talking rubbish on this subject, so why can’t I join in?

Such was the tweet from Mike Smithson at 18:07 yesterday:

I have great respect for Mr Smithson, sage of betting and polling. His tweet received some commentary. But it was the two polls earlier this week that were the outliers, not the Survation poll yesterday, showing No six points ahead, which was with the pack. The pack, that is, of polls over the last six months. Panickers mention some 20 points lead for No poll several months ago, but that was an outlier too. YouGov again, you see.

I’m reminded of two Dad’s Army catchphrases. We get two Yes lead polls and a lot of people are like Private Fraser:

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer all dooooooooooooooooooooooomed

But I reply with Corporal Jones:

Don’t panic! Don’t panic!

As far as I am concerned there is only one short statement any sensible person needs to know about Scottish independence. It came from George Soros, the Oracle, yesterday in the Financial Times, in an article which you can access by registering for several free articles per month:

An independent Scotland would be financially unstable…

(TRANSLATION: Scots, if you go independent, the markets will have your arse for breakfast on a daily basis, including Sundays and Bank Holidays).

So there you have it. Go ahead and have your independence if you want it, oh Scots, but in the process you will fuck the economy of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the next ten years.

A lot is made of the parallel with the Quebec independence referendum in 1995. I see a parallel with the Australian Republic referendum in 1999. Then, there was a reasonable feel that generally Australians would vote for a republic, just not the one on offer. Similarly, unconstrained by reality, I suspect the Scots would vote for independence, but just not the wacky, risky proposition of Salmond.

One more point in this miscellany of nonsense: People say: oh, but if they vote no there’ll be another referendum in 20 years time. Well, firstly I hope I don’t live to see another Scottish referendum. I couldn’t stand it. Secondly, the oil and gas would, by then, be running out, so that would change the dynamics considerably. And those who say that all the (now) over-55 no voters would by then be in that bothy in the sky, replaced by now younger yes voters, I say this: as you get older, you tend to focus, laser-like, on interest rates, tax rules, Aldi best buys and boring stuff like that. So those yes voters now in their forties might change their tune when they become pension-obsessives in 20 years time.

And by the way, can I bore my reader by repeating that this is not some smug soft southern English onanist pontificating on Scottish independence? I am Cornish – a fellow Celt.

August 31, 2014
by Paul

So much for “Yes momentum”

scotland photoIn the Scottish Independence campaign, much is being made of Friday’s Survation poll which showed Yes on 47%. An article in the Guardian flags this up and says:

The momentum appears to be with the Yes campaign.

(By the way, that phrase is one we have heard repeatedly from Salmond and Sturgeon over the last year, only for it to be proved that the Yes-No gap is not narrowing). There is one slight snag with this. That Survation poll shows the No campaign ahead by six points. That same poll by Survation showed the No lead at only five points in June and July.

So much for Yes momentum.

This snapshot from the BBC poll tracker shows the gap has actually widened, not narrowed for this particular poll:

August 30, 2014
by Paul

Salmond/Darling debates didn’t make much difference to the Yes/No status

In terms of the second debate, as Mike Smithson of Political Betting explains below, the poll showing Salmond as the winner should be treated with caution in terms of the Yes/No situation. He notes in an update that, soon after the debate, the Yes betting price was back to where it was before it started:
Three weeks ago during the first Salmond-Darling TV encounter the first indications that NO was having the best of it came on the Betfair betting exchange where full data on trading is made available instantly and where you are able to track it.

In the two hours of the STV hosted confrontation a lot of money was traded and YES moved sharply backwards from the 22% chance position it had reached in the aftermath of the Glasgow games. The ICM poll that came afterwards merely confirmed what punters had seen for themselves – Salmond was losing.

So last night I kept a close at the markets which barely moved throughout the 90 minutes of the debate. YES started at a Betfair price of 7.4 (a 13.5% chance) and finished at 7.4.

The movement came after the the debate was concluded and the Guardian published details of its ICM poll of 505 people who had watched it.

As well as the “who did best” the 51-49% leads for NO on referendum voting intention before and after the debate in the poll were widely reported. This led to an assumption on PB and elsewhere that the referendum voting intention findings now had YES and NO very close. People were mistakenly comparing the debate figures released with other ICM referendum polling.

With its debate results the firm issued the following guidance:-

“It should be stated this this sample was pre-recruited on the basis of watching the debate and being willing to answer questions on it immediately after the debate ended. While we have ‘forced’ it via weighting to be representative of all Scots, it SHOULD NOT be seen as a normal vote intention poll as it is premised on a different population type i.e the profile and nature of Scots who watched the debate is different to a fully nationally representative sample of Scots.

If punters moved to YES because the ICM debate sample appeared to be split down the middle they were drawing the wrong conclusion.

UPDATE: YES price back to almost where it was before debate started.

It should be also noted that according to Survation, the No lead was six points before the debates and six points after them. There are 4% less undecided people after the debates – they split evenly between Yes and No as a result of the debates (graphic from


August 29, 2014
by Paul

A really hard worker and political genius

Very well done to Gerald Vernon-Jackson in being selected as PPC for Portsmouth South. I think this makes it a little more of a dead cert that we will hold that constituency next year.

Gerald works fantastically hard doing the stuff that politicians should do. Between now and next May, for example, I suspect he will knock on most of the doors in Portsmouth South. He is also a political genius, who knows backwards all the processes and initiatives needed to get elected. Added to that, he has a record of a decade of prominent work on the city council plus a conciliatory and “nice guy” style. Indeed, he is genuinely a nice guy.

Portsmouth South Lib Dems have chosen very well.

August 25, 2014
by Paul

Attend 15 Lib Dem conferences and win a free peerage!

Mark Valladares provides very interesting updates on the progress, or otherwise, of the names on the Lib Dem list for peerages (or whatever it is called).

It reminded me of the scheme, in the title of this post, coined by the late great Simon Hoggart.

I have had a simple approach to voting on the peers list. I vote for all the female ethnic minority candidates starting at the end of the alphabet (working backwards) and then for the male ethnic minority candidates starting “Z” also. When I told a young British man of Chinese extraction with a surname beginning with “W” that I had voted for him, he was tickled pink.

By the way, it is worth reading in full Simon Hoggart’s report from the Bournemouth conference of 2000 in which he used that phrase in the title of this post. It is a classic.

August 25, 2014
by Paul

Notting Hill carnival and the art of the pissoir

pissoir with extra fuzzWe were wondering around the fringes of Notting Hill Carnival yesterday. It’s great for people watching.

There were some portaloos near Pembridge Square which had the usual long queue. However, there was virtually no queue for this snug four man pissoir (above – with heads “fuzzed out” to protect the anonymity of the protagonists), next door to the portaloos. (Be careful how you pronounce that word in mixed company, by the way. The emphasis very much needs to be on the “oir”.)

I am probably one of a dying breed of people who remember the 1972 BBC2 series called “Clochemerle”, based on a book by Gabriel Chevallier adapted by Galton and Simpson (who wrote Hancock and Steptoe and Son). It was all based around the outrage in a small French town concerning the installation of a gentleman’s pissoir in the central square.

No such outrage ensued about the (temporary) installation near Pembridge square and others elsewhere in Notting Hill. Not even the Daily Mail got hold of it.

August 23, 2014
by Paul

A personal best and a great song from a great musician

I may have done a personal best at the Newbury Park run on Greenham Common this morning. I should find out the verdict from the official timespeoples later this afternoon. Certainly, the lady from Mapmyrun, who comes over my headphones, was very encouraging. ++BREAKING NEWS++ PB confirmed at 27:56!

As usual, as I ran round, I listened to my “old mate” Brian Matthew and Sounds of the Sixties, about which I have waxed lyrically on several occasions.

This morning the great spinmeister played a cracker of a song from Ray Stevens called “Mr. Businessman”.

I normally associate Ray Stevens with his lighter fare, such as “The Streak”, “Bridget the Midget” and “Turn the radio one”. But “Mr. Businessman” is in a different league. It is a very serious song which “skewers” (as Brian Matthew put it) the genre of money-minded businessmen:

Itemize the things you covet
As you squander through your life
Bigger cars, bigger houses
Term insurance for your wife
Tuesday evenings with your harlot
And on Wednesdays it’s your charlatan analyst
He’s high upon your list

The full lyics of the song are here.

Here’s the song on YouTube and, as a bonus, Ray Stevens singing “Turn the redio on” from 2009 while, I might add, tinkling a Steinway with great aplomb.

August 22, 2014
by Paul

Header photo – the beauty of Scotland

IMG_01591.jpgMy current header photo is of Loch Fyne. I walked out to the end of Otter Spit to take it. I crouched down and held the camera so that the water was lapping at my chin! Otter Spit is at Otterferry. We had a great pint in the Oystercatcher just there. The Cowal peninsula is a real gem and we feel privileged to have spent a day exploring it three weeks ago. Blessed Scotland!

August 19, 2014
by Paul

Time to heave a sigh and stagger forward, older and wiser

Liberal-Democrat-badge-Some-rights-reserved-by-Paul-Walter-Newbury-UKCaron Lindsay and Stephen Tall have written wisely about tonight’s news. It is telling that both, quite relevantly, quote from their previous posts on the subject. That indicates that we are running out of things to say on this (not in a good way). It is time to move forward, one might say “stagger forward”, older and wiser as a party.

The best thing we can say is that it is extremely regrettable that this all has an unresolved feeling about it. Due process, such as it exists, has been carried out in the last year or so. It was inevitable that Lord Rennard would be reinstated. There was no reason to do other than sustain his membership. On a personal level, I welcome Chris back. I am also acutely aware that there are some very discontented people in the party and, now, outside it. As Stephen says, the missed opportunities to achieve a more satisfactory resolution (for all sides) were years ago. Our party processes have been found wanting, and desperately need the overhaul Tim Farron is hopefully giving them.

Having said all that, I can’t help but think the following. We are a small party. Lord Rennard was, for some years, more revered and respected as being more important than the leader of the party. One might say he was bigger than the party. He was, and is, greatly respected and admired. In that sense, it is not a surprise that the party was discombobulated by all this. But, as the party of liberalism, it is very disconcerting that we were not able to deal properly with this much, much earlier.

August 18, 2014
by Paul

Details of the police helicopter which was hovering over Newbury last night

A number of people have been searching for the reason the police helicopter was hovering over Newbury last night.

It was the helicopter from Benson. They have tweeted:

Newbury Today have reported:

POLICE are searching for a man in his late twenties after reports that a 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in Newbury last night (Sun).

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police, Connie Primmer, said that the victim and her friend were approached by a man on his bike close to the job centre on Oxford Road.

The man then followed them until they reached Bath Road and as they got near the alleyway by Digby Road, the man grabbed the girl inappropriately.

…A police helicopter circled the skies of Newbury for more than an hour last night searching for the man after reports that the man may have headed in the direction of the railway line.

August 17, 2014
by Paul
1 Comment

Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Auschwitz speak out about Gaza

This letter in the Guardian yesterday caught my eye. It is very powerful.

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide, we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonisation of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanisation of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached fever-pitch. Politicians and pundits in the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and rightwing Israelis are adopting neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages (advertisement, 11 August; Report, 11 August) to promote blatant falsehoods used to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean “Never again for anyone”.

Hajo Meyer survivor of Auschwitz; The Netherlands, Henri Wajnblum survivor and son of an Auschwitz victim from Lodz, Poland; Belgium, Norbert Hirschhorn refugee of Nazi genocide and grandson of three people who died in the Shoah; London, Suzanne Weiss survived in hiding in France, whose mother died in Auschwitz; Canada, Felicia and Moshe Langer survivors from Germany, Moshe survived five concentration camps, family members were exterminated; Germany, Michael Rice child survivor, son and grandson of survivor; United States and 30 Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide and 260 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other relatives of survivors
See full list at

August 16, 2014
by Paul

Comedy genius at work – Big bang Theory

As I’ve mentioned before, “Big Bang Theory” tends to be on a constant loop on our TV. This afternoon, I noticed that there was an old guy playing “Professor Proton” in an episode we had on.

After watching for about ten minutes, I said:

That guy’s a really good actor.

He was handling his lines really well in a great deadpan way.

Then I saw the credits:

Professor Proton – Bob Newhart

So he’s not just a really good actor. He’s a comedy genius. Indeed, he is The Bob Newhart, the Bobster!