Episode Nine: Polar Bears

At an earlier stage of this general election, I thought about proposing one of those drinking games in which people have a shot or swig every time a Conservative on the campaign trail used the word ‘plan’. I’m glad I didn’t go ahead with that. Anyone who’d taken up the suggestion would now be in a clinic. It was already bad, but the Tory manifesto takes it to another level entirely. Guess how many times the word ‘plan’ occurs’. For purposes of reference, the Labour manifesto uses it 27 times. Answer: 121. It’s almost as if they were trying to stress the idea that they have a plan. More »

Episode Eight: Unicorns

I’m having trouble suspending my disbelief at the Labour manifesto. The party promises that it will:

Cut the deficit every year
Raise the state pension by whichever is the highest of inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent
Protect spending on health, education and foreign aid
Hire an additional 8000 GPs, 20,000 nurses and 3000 midwives
‘Guarantee people a GP appointment within 48 hours, and on the same day for those who need it’
Reduce tuition fees
Not raise basic or higher rate income tax, or VAT, or National Insurance
Give every child a free unicorn
Make rich people, tax avoiders and non-doms pay for it all

I made up one of those promises. If you’re trying to guess which is fictional, here’s a clue: not the most unlikely.

Episode Seven: Panic the Kippers

To understand the Tories’ general election campaign, you have to grasp its central premise: that the Tory route to power lies through a collapse in the Ukip vote. If the Ukip vote stays where it is, and the SNP vote stays where it is, the popular vote is more or less a draw. Thanks to the party landscape and the geographical distribution of the vote, that puts Miliband in Downing Street. So the Tories badly need Ukip to go away.

This helps to make sense of things that would otherwise be inexplicable. More »

Mind Your Tone

In the brave new world of know-biz, universities now issue ‘tone of voice’ marketing-correctness drills to staff charged with handling the ‘brand’. The comms and marketing wonks who write them face a tough challenge: to pander to their institution’s special-snowflake syndrome, while spouting the same commercial cobblers as everyone else. More »

Bacall’s Effects

bogart and bacall

Bogart and Bacall

Looking around her apartment in the Dakota above Central Park, Lauren Bacall saw ‘my several lives’ surrounding her. ‘Going from room to room,’ she writes in her 1994 memoir, Now, ‘I am faced with one or more of my collections, my follies: books, pewter, brass, Delft, majolica, tables, chairs, things… how did it happen, the acquiring of all this, the accumulation of it? Now that I have it all, what do I do with it? Who will want it?’ Quite a few people, it turns out: at the auction of Bacall’s belongings at Bonhams last week, every lot sold, from the Henry Moore sculptures to the Louis Vuitton luggage to the Ted Kennedy lithograph of daffodils (the auctioneer joked about the ‘collective gasp’ in the crowd when he announced that this one had ‘lots of pre-sale interest’), to the miniature bronze statue of Bogart in his gumshoe get-up (14 inches high; $16,250). More »

Episode Six: The Non-Dom Tax Tunnel

Ed Miliband’s intervention on the subject of abolishing non-dom status is interesting. The non-dom loophole is flagrantly unfair and has corrosive effects on social cohesion: nothing more overtly shows that we aren’t in it together. Look at the upper reaches of the Sunday Times rich list and it’s full of non-doms. The richest people in the US are American, the richest people in France are French, the richest in Germany are German, and so on. The richest people in the UK are from countries where you learn never to ask how somebody made their first million. The reason this loophole has survived – though it’s bigger than a loophole, it’s more like an enormous tunnel – is always officially said to be because the non-doms spend so much money here, and generate so much economic activity, that they end up benefiting the UK exchequer. I don’t buy that line, because if it were true, other countries would have copied us. No other big country in the developed world has chosen to be a residential tax haven for the super-rich. It isn’t a joke or a riff or a slogan to say that the UK has a different law for the rich: the UK actually does have a different law for the rich. London is a wonderful city in many respects, but from the tax point of view it is Monaco-on-Thames. More »

Episode Five: Flatliners

The BBC has a handy electoral poll tracker on its website. Here’s where we are:

bbc poll of polls

I’ve never seen polls like that. The thing which really stands out is that nothing stands out. They are as flat as the flattest of flatnesses. Five months ago, on 7 October, Labour was on 34 per cent and the Tories on 32. In the latest polls, Labour are on 33 per cent and the Tories on 34. That small advantage is not stable, though. The parties are passing the tiny lead back and forth between them like dope-smokers conscientiously sharing a joint. More »

‘Dior and I’

Still+1

Dior and I, a documentary following Dior’s new creative director Raf Simons as he prepares his first haute couture collection (autumn-winter 2012), tries to summon up the fashion house’s ghosts while ignoring several elephants in the room. More »

Indiscriminate Attacks

Unlawful and Deadly, Amnesty International’s recent report on ‘rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict’, accuses Hamas and others of carrying out ‘indiscriminate attacks’ on Israel: ‘When indiscriminate attacks kill or injure civilians, they constitute war crimes.’

The report reiterates a formal symmetry between Israelis and Palestinians (previous reports have accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Protective Edge), asking both parties to take all precautions to respect civilian lives, and reminding them to ‘choose appropriate means and methods of attack’. More »

Episode Four: 0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Front page of the Guardian: ‘Labour buoyed as Miliband edges Cameron in snap poll.’ Front page of the Telegraph: ‘Miliband flops as outsiders shine.’ The Mail: ‘Runaway jihadi’s father is Labour activist.’ The Sun, over photo of Miliband: ‘Oops! I just lost my election.’

ICM scored it as a narrow win for Miliband, YouGov for Sturgeon, Comres as a three-way tie between Cameron, Miliband and Farage, and Survation the same except with Farage a point behind. In other words, it was a draw. The main outcome, probably, is that nobody had a disaster; it’s not so much about winning as about not losing, and on this occasion there was no obvious loser. More »

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