Monthly Archives: October 2006

YouGot to pay me more

I’ve just done another one of those interminable YouGov consumer surveys.

The thing about YouGov is they don’t appear to have any quality control over their surveys. The reason why I take part in political surveys is that I’m interested in the result; I have no such stake in a survey about London restaurants or utility bills. Yet all too often, the surveys asked for the latter are insanely complicated and endlessly repetitive, to the point that about halfway in, you start to lose the will to live. More precisely, I have to admit, I simply start making random replies in order to get through as quickly as possible in order to get my 50p. The same applies to those BrandIndex surveys, only more so.

I can’t possibly be the only one. If I were YouGov, or one of the companies that commissions such surveys, I’d be really worried about this: are they really getting reliable data? A bit of quality control I suspect would work wonders. How about it guys?

Webcameron. And on.

The Webcameron spoofs seems to be multiplying, even if you ignore

There is Stephen Tall’s provocative striptease (surely a Michael Kamen-style music career is now in the offing?), and Will Howell’s cheeky little number. And now, it would appear, Tom Watson has got in on the act and interestingly he doesn’t simply mock Cameron’s style, but actually engages in the “clean politics” debate.

While it’s fair to say that I certainly have my differences with Mr Watson, I agree with about 80% of what he says here. He does seem to be having his cake and eating it (i.e. a £15 million cap on spending is hardly a cap at all, and he skillfully evades the issue of individual donations altogether), but it’s good to see that Cameron appears to have provoked more of a debate on this issue, which can only be a good thing.

Emissions from BAA

According to the Guardian, the BAA have been denouncing aviation taxes at Tory Party conference in favour of emissions trading.

Sounds fair enough – I think emissions trading is a good idea as well (indeed, the Lib Dems have been flying that particular flag long before it was fashionable). But I can’t help but get the feeling they are actually trying to confuse the debate rather than play a constructive part in it.

Firstly, bringing aviation into emissions trading will take years. Aviation is specifically excluded under the Kyoto protocol and numerous treaties over the years have made taxing aviation fuel illegal since the twenties(?). So, what BAA are actually saying is that we shouldn’t do anything for a decade (and that’s assuming an international agreement can be made).

Secondly, Lib Dem policy is for an Aircraft Tax to replace Air Passenger Duty. Instead of charging each passenger £X (which budget airlines always conveniently remove when mentioning their cheap fares), the whole aircraft is levied a charge which then will be distributed for each passenger. This gives the airline an incentive to fill the plane as much as possible and, subsequently, pass the cost onto the passenger as little as possible. It is the current system that penalises passengers.

Thirdly, under the current system, big business has been able to force the government to set as high a carbon emissions target as they can possibly get away with. I can’t help but feel that was at the back of Roger Wiltshire’s mind when he made these proposals.

What this all adds up to me is a smokescreen, an opportunity for BAA to sound green while being anything but. We could introduce an aircraft tax tomorrow; it will be many years before aviation can be brought into emissions trading and that scheme is in need of being toughened up. Aircraft taxes don’t price passengers out; the status quo passenger levy does. BAA must know all this, so the question is, why do they turn up to Tory Conferences and say the opposite?

Lazy Hague

Iain Dale is very admiring of William Hague – and it is fair to say that the bald one did a brilliant rabble rouser yesterday.

But one issue troubled me. Hague is the Shadow Foreign Secretary. And, as per usual, there has been a lot of “foreign stuff” going on over the past few months, not least of all everything that has been happening in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, did he actually mention any of this in his speech? At all? No, instead he just did a crowd pleaser, bashing Prescott and Brown ad nauseum.

It isn’t as if he was the only person available to speak on the subject of his speech either – indeed, it was exactly the same subject as that of his Party leader’s an hour or so later.

It is true to say that there will be a debate on foreign affairs later in the week, but that didn’t stop David Davis from sending everyone to sleep speaking about crime in his speech before.

One can’t help but get the feeling that the reason Hague didn’t refer to his brief in his speech is that he doesn’t really have that much to say on the matter. For all his attacks on Labour, the truth of the matter is that you would struggle to get a fag paper between him and Blair on foreign affairs matters. And of course there was Hague’s personal elephant in the room: his handling of Cameron’s pledge to pull out of the EPP. Will anyone actually address this issue at all this week?

The Tories’ strategy for the past year has been to shout a lot about “change” as an excuse for not having an policies. From the media coverage I’ve seen, that’s already starting to wear thin. They’re boost in the polls, while in the right direction, hasn’t been enough to make them start looking like a party of government and now it looks like the honeymoon period is wearing off. And as for all this sleaze stuff

If I were a Tory I’d be starting to get a little twitchy. If the wheels haven’t come off the wagon yet, they’re certainly starting to look wobbly.

Tribune Tribute

I was amused to see Susanne Lamido get a whole article printed about her blog in this week’s Islington Tribune because she recommends it as “the best read for local residents”. Clearly blogging has come of age when local newspapers actually write whole articles out of the fact that a blogger has said a nice thing about them.

I too find the Tribune required reading, although I suspect not for the same reasons as Susanne. As a political hack, it’s a great, fun read – full of scandal and gossip – but I’m not as convinced by commitment to news values as Susanne clearly is. It’s certainly true it has a strong interest in community issues, but it has a real weakness for hearsay and seems more interested in mischief making than informing.

This week, for example, there is a report on a public meeting about Highbury Fields. Headline: “Fields update more like a ‘game show'”. Sub-heading: “Audience ‘shouted at by woman in dominatrix shoes’.” Indeed, fully 50% of that article is about the fascinating-sounding facilitator and her footwear (clearly I need to go to more public meetings), all based on the fact that Josie Lawrence-lookalike Green councillor Katie Dawson made a couple of catty comments.

The letter’s page is also a great read. Being a member of a political party or a pressure group appears to be compulsory and all the letters are full of bile and vitriol. All great fun, but anyone interested in getting to the truth of the matter is entirely frustrated.

Do ordinary people read this thing? It’s possible but if they do I doubt they gain anything from it except a confirmation of their worst prejudices about politicians. A bit of nuance, and the volume set at something other than 11, would be quite refreshing every now and again.