11.22.63

Beginning today on Hulu (for you Americans, not sure when us Brits are going to get a looksie) is a new 8 part mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s 11.22.63. The story concerns itself with a time-traveller who goes back in time to try to save JFK from assassination, only to find that time doesn’t want to be changed. Check out the trailer below:

I can highly recommend the book, especially if you’re a fan of IT, though if fans were hoping to get a look at 60s Derry in the mini-series, they’re in for disappointment. As can be expected, references to his other works have been chopped.

So what do people think? Is this adaptation a winner, or do we have another Under The Dome here? Prizes for anyone who stops the Quadrupedalo.

Ben Carson clinging on… for no reason

After a fiery Republican debate that saw clashes between Trump and Cruz, Trump and Bush, and Trump and the audience, one question remains as strong as ever: just how delusional is Ben Carson? The latest South Carolina poll has him on 4% and that was before his appalling debate appearance. The answer might be at his peak on Nov 9 he polled 23.3% and believes that somehow all those voters might come flocking back on election day. It’s doubtful. My guess would be that he made a promise to himself about SC when the polls were strong, and on FEB 21 he’ll bow out.

Other than Ben Carson’s decidedly sleepy showing, Trump suffered the brunt of the audience’s ire, especially when he attacked George Bush on Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. But Trump has never polled particularly strongly with the sort of loyal Republicans who attend or view these debates. He polls best amongst those who’d have considered giving up on the party, those who feel excluded from the political process, those that respond to Trump’s advertising sound-bite-style communications, and if New Hampshire is anything to go by, they’re still willing to turn out and vote.

For those who don’t quite grasp the uphill struggle the other candidates face, Trump currently polls 35.3% in SC. That’s 19.3% ahead of Cruz. It’s a hell of a lead, and not unique to SC either.

Two More Down

So long Chris! So long Carly! Yup, as predicted Chris Christie of New Jersey and Carly Fiorina of Hewlett Packard have dropped out the race. For some reason Ben Carson is still hanging in there, perhaps because he has polled strongly in one or two states and wants his moment in the sun. Also, having been a front runner a while back, its probably difficult to throw in the towel, even when it is obvious you should do so.

For those who didn’t catch it before, here’s the clip from the debates that Paul and I discussed:

Jeb Bush – John Major Come Again!

Voters in New Hampshire today are making their choice as to whom shall take all the media attention, at least until the South Carolina Primary on the 20th. Yup, big stakes at play. So far it looks like Trump is going to win, but all the attention is on which Republican candidate can take second place. Will Rubio sustain his Iowa momentum?

Well this wee blog is calling for one candidate to hold in there: Jeb Bush. Yes, by simply being mild-mannered and a bit pathetic, Jeb Bush has claimed our pity vote in much the same way that that nice grey bloke, John Major managed to. So hang in there, Jeb! Don’t let those appalling poll ratings deter you! This election needs a quiet, compromising, bland, middling figure and you’re just the guy to do it!

Please clap.

Two Down

So long Rand! So long Rick! Barely had the podcast been recorded when it was rendered out of date. Both Rand Paul and Rick Santorum have bowed out of the race for the White House, allowing their meagre support to flow to other more likely candidates. As a parting shot at Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Rick Santorum heaped praise on Marco Rubio (our podcasts predicted next president). No such indication from Rand as to where he’d like his voters to swing, but perhaps that’s because there really isn’t anyone else in the race quite like him…

First Ade then Paul – Podcast News

It’s been slowly boiling away and now the first serving of our new podcast is available. Each week Paul Hayes and myself will bring you gossip and scaremongering from the world of politics and tech.

First Ade then Paul – Satire for Solipsists

Episode #001 Snitch in the Machine: Our daring heroes boldly discuss the Psychoactive Substances Bill & security flaws in the Internet of Things

The Case for Keeping Clegg (Even in Opposition)

Unless something dramatic happens between now and election day it appears as if we are in for a hung parliament. Unlike the previous one, there will be no obvious match between the parties; a right-of-centre coalition of the type we have enjoyed/endured (delete as applicable) will be difficult to achieve given the culling of Lib Dem seats. What is more likely is either a grand coalition of the left, or a minority Labour government lurching from vote to vote on the goodwill of SNP, Plaid, Green and Lib Dem votes.

Whichever way the election goes, leaders that are not deemed winners are for the chop. The Tories are sharpening their knives ready to take out Cameron, a dethroning they have been dreaming of for years. They held back from realising this desire due to the delusion that he could easily defeat Miliband and Cameron’s failure to do so has made Miliband’s position stronger than it was a month or so ago. However, a last minute swing to the Conservatives could set back the recent good-will Miliband’s garnered within his party, and if the Tories managed to form a government he too would be finished. Even the smaller party leaders such as Farage and Bennett face potential peril. Both have enjoyed an almost perfect scenario for minor parties to have any hope of breaking through in the First-Past-The-Post system. If they fail to capitalise, questions will be asked as to how they were allowed to blow it.

But the most likely to fall is the most hated man in British politics Nick Clegg. Since going into coalition with their arch-enemy, the party’s ratings have plummeted. Estimates range between the Lib-Dems returning 20 and 30 seats (down from 56) though Lib Dems usually face an election day slump as voters flee back to the safety of the two main parties, in which case they may sink lower than that. With as few as 25 MPs the party won’t have enough to negotiate a coalition with the Conservatives, nor an exclusive one with Labour. Instead they will be merely one of many small parties doing vote by vote deals.

With a reduced presence, a hammering in the polls, and a left leaning parliament, it makes sense for Clegg to go, right? Consistently he’s shown to be a drag on the Lib Dem ticket, with candidates leaving him off their election material. It would only be right for him to step down and leave the party in the hands of someone like Vince Cable or Tim Farron, both hailing from the Social-Democratic wing of the party and better placed to negotiate with Labour.

I put the alternative to you, however: this approach would be a mistake. Whilst ditching Clegg would give the Lib Dems quick east boost in the opinion polls, a long term strategy might be worth considering:

If Miliband makes it into Number 10, Cameron is bound to resign his party’s leadership. Similarly, other familiar faces of the current campaign may also vanish; if Farage fails to win his seat, he may well resign leadership and hand over the reins to Douglas Carswell; if the Greens fail to take anything other than Brighton Pavilion they might turn back to the eminently more media-savvy Caroline Lucas.

These fresh faces (in terms of leadership – not actual freshness) would be in for a bumpy parliament. Whether successful or not, a grand informal coalition of the left would soon turn bitter as each side struggles for influence. The public are unlikely to support it for long.

Which brings us back to the question of Nick Clegg’s fate. In such a tumultuous parliament a party leader well-known to the public and experienced in government will be of the upmost importance. With Cameron gone, Clegg would represent and speak up for the previous government. Right now this suggestion would be the last thing the party membership would like, but after a year or so of failed votes and indecisive leadership the memory of the Liberal-Conservative coalition might well be a vote winner. Clegg reminding the public of economic growth and stability might well work, whereas Tim Farron, known only to political junkies, won’t even get the air-time.

Eventually Clegg will need to go, but to dump him unceremoniously in the wake of a bad election result would be for the party to run to the left and turn its back on what it has managed to achieve in government. Like it or not, the Lib Dems have become a centrist party, not a party of the hard-left. It can keep Clegg and remain the sensible voice of the centre or they can go into a full-blown rout. I fear to do the latter would mean that when the public grow tired of Labour’s minority they wouldn’t have the Lib Dems to turn to for stable pragmatic government; instead they will identify them with haphazard left-wing bartering, or worse, something not worth considering at all.

Soft on Crime, Drugs and Thugs

You can tell when one of the main two political parties are in full electioneering mode, for the very worst instincts come to the fore. In the Conservatives this is all too obvious; warnings of chaos and imminent apocalypse dominate the airwaves. It is all rather reminiscent of their “Hung Parliament Party” election broadcast of 2010, an advert that warned voters that should they back Nick Clegg the result would wreck the economy and paralyse government. The message now is much the same, though the success of the lib-con coalition (in terms of delivering a stable working government) means that they can’t simply air the same ad twice, forcing them instead to play up the threat of the various coalitions that might form around Labour.

But these tactics are generally what you’d expect from the Conservative Party. Labour, on the other hand, is rather more split upon its darker impulses. Under Tony Blair’s leadership, with braying support from the likes of David Blunkett, the party embraced an authoritarian approach to law and order. In many ways this was successful; it kept the Tories at bay by heading off any attempts to flank them from the right, and was a quick and easy way to drum up an easy vote or two. However, in the long run it deeply worried those in the party who were concerned about civil rights, driving many out of the arms of Labour for good.

It has been many years since Tony Blair left the scene, but this authoritarian streak has yet to leave the Labour Party. In recent leaflets Labour has been resorting to the old tactic of painting the Liberal Democrats as a party soft on crime for their policy on treating drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one. Never mind just how backward and out-of-step with current thinking their criticisms are, it seems that this stance is a default one; a well of authoritarian scare-mongering that the Labour party cannot help but sup.

As shared by @MSmithsonPB

But whereas this tactic might have worked back in 1997, today it is likely to have the opposite effect. Liberalisation of drug laws used to be a policy only embraced by the hard-core of the Liberal Democrat party. Now it is conventional wisdom. Those soft lib dem voters are more likely to be sent back into the arms of the liberals by such scare-mongering than any other outcome Labour is hoping for.

It all reminds me of when I was living in the Windsor constituency in 2005. As you’d imagine, it’s a safe seat for the Conservatives, but still Adam Afriyie came knocking on my door, seeking my vote. Rather glad for the opportunity, I presented him with a Conservative leaflet that slammed the Lib Dems (their likely opponent) for their aim to legalise drugs. As it happened I’d been researching for a documentary about drug prohibition at the time and knew Lib Dem policy well; in fact I had written to them complaining that their policy didn’t go as far as legalisation.

“This is simply not true,” I told him, pointing to the outlandish claims. “Here you say that the Lib Dems would legalise Cannabis. That is not their policy.”

“But it is,” Afriyie persisted, “And if I can prove to you that the Liberal Democrats would legalise drugs, would that secure your vote for the Conservatives?”

Adam Afriyie, so caught up in his… well… conservative mentality, never once thought that his claims might backfire on him. It is this same lack of imagination undermining the Labour Party as it struggles to define itself. It seems to hark for the old days when it could safely rely on its liberal-left roots whilst presenting itself as authoritarian-right to grab swing voters.

Those days are long gone, the internet has put a stop to such tactics. The question is, will the Labour Party wake up to this fact in time to save itself?