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Who ordered THAT?!?

The Scottish Political Singularity is not only far from over, it's showing every sign of recomplicating, bizarrely.

From The Guardian:

a new poll by Ipsos Mori for STV showed that a record 52% of Scottish voters would vote SNP if there were an immediate general election, implying the SNP would win 54 Westminster seats - a nine-fold increase on the six seats it currently holds - leaving Labour with just four. Carried out in part after Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont's sudden resignation last Friday, the poll put Labour at just 23% - its lowest figure in over six years, with the Tories cut to 10% and the Lib Dems down to 6%, tying with the Scottish Green party.

What does this mean?

Firstly, it's important not to read too much into this poll. It's been criticized elsewhere, and the timing (coincidental with the Scottish Labour leader and deputy leader's resignations) is iffy.

However, Scotland runs on first-past-the-post, like the rest of the UK, in general elections (of which one is due next June). And even if we knock 10% off the SNP voting intentions across the board, Labour is going to take a very deep, very cold, bath—punishment by their voters for running an unremittingly negative campaign during the referendum. Lots of Scots didn't actually want to leave the UK, but deeply resented being told that they were too wee, too poor, and too stupid to go it alone: this is the payback.

How crazy is it going to get?

Well, if the SNP pick up on the order of 50 MPs, they'll be the third largest party in Westminster (replacing the Liberal Democrats, who are in meltdown as voters desert them—the LibDem core are mostly centre-left, and the coalition with the Conservative party was pure poison for that base).

Alex Salmond, the former SNP First Minister of Scotland, has been rather coy when asked if he was going to run for Westminster in next summer's election. But he's been an MP before, and he'd be a shoo-in for a safe seat as party leader if he wanted one. In the wake of a "No" vote on independence, a Westminster seat would give him a good base on which to campaign to hold the UK party leaders' feet to the fire over promises they made during the campaign.

There are (still) going to be 650 seats in play at the election. A number will go to independents and minor parties: one or two Greens, a handful of Ulster Unionists, an indeterminate number (5-15) Liberal Democrats, plus independent MPs and maybe even a few UKIP. (My sticking-my-neck-out prognostication is that UKIP will get lots of votes, but distributed thinly enough that they win relatively few seats.) The Conservatives and Labour would, as before, each win roughly 250-300 seats. With 50 seats, the SNP would be the turd in the punchbowl: it would literally be almost impossible to form a stable government without them (unless we look at the apocalyptic scenario of a Labour/Tory coalition, which in the past has only happened during a World War government of national unity). It would be hard to spin Alex Salmond smirking and demanding Devo Max as being tantamount to Hitler! so quite possibly some sort of deal would be done. As the SNP already firmly ruled out a pact with the Conservatives (it'd be a political suicide pill for their base in Scotland), that leaves two likely options:

  1. A full formal coalition with the Labour Party. (I think this is unlikely, although Labour might have learned a lesson from the consequences of Brown's refusal to compromise with Nick Clegg in 2010: Labour and the SNP are natural rivals for the governing party/centre-left niche in Scotland.) Terms would be: the SNP get Devo Max and some ministerial posts, and in return they vote in line with Labour policy on any items that the parties don't actually disagree on, and abstain from voting on purely English non-budgetary matters.

  2. An understanding (like the Lib-Lab Pact of 1977) whereby a minority Labour government operates with SNP support contingent on them not pissing in the SNP's wheaties. This might work, if Labour are willing to cut a deal over Scottish powers. Otherwise ...

I could be wrong.

The most unpredictable alternative would be a landslide in the direction of UKIP. I find it hard to imagine UKIP picking up more seats than the SNP, because while they may have more voters across the UK, the SNP's are concentrated in constituencies where they stand a chance of winning: but if UKIP were to pick up 50 or so MPs, roughly matching the SNP's showing, then we're into total terra incognita in British politics. I don't think we're going to get into "rainbow coalition" territory in just one election—Labour and the Conservatives—aren't going to completely crumble just six months from now—but the number of possible combinations that could form governments in Westminster just exploded. And so did the outcomes. UKIP appear, ironically, to be intensely hostile to Scottish nationalism and devolution in general (they're a vastly stronger party in England than in Scotland, where they are out-polled three to one by the Scottish Greens). So we have the prospect of two historically ideologically polarized major parties (neither of whom can form a government without external assistance), and two ideologically polarized minor parties (one or both of whom might enable one or other of the larger parties to govern, with a tail-wind and some independent help).

Anyway: I can't be sure of the outcome, but as far as I can tell British politics is about to go sideways, very fast, next June—largely as a delayed consequence of the Scottish independence referendum. Order up the pop-corn: this is going to be interesting.

298 Comments

1:

It shall be very exciting yes. How go the other two independence minded parties? Are they making any serious runs for Westminster seats?

With Scotland & SNP and England & Wales & UKIP, it is going to be a strange 9 months

2:

It could be said that the modern concept of the nation state with a strong central government is a product of the Industrial Revolution. Born in Great Britain, spread to France via revolution, America by Lincoln and Germany by Bismark - the form of our modern nations could not exist in the pre-industrial era.

Now that the Industrial Age is over, the old style nation state no longer works in the modern Information Age. As such, strong central governments, necessary for industrial societies, are obsolete and regional dvolution is ocurring from the collapse of the USSR to Scotland to Red/Blue America.

I just hope we don't all go back to tribal animosities, local tyrannies and feudal overlords.

3:

UKIP will almost certainly take Labour seats, as well as tory ones - the recent bye-election in Manchester gave them a really nasty fright.
Good.
However, even with massive SNP representation, I would imagine that a lot of the "Devo-Max" proposals will have been (even if only unofficially) nailed down before Parliament is prorogued .....

Disagree re analysis of SNP being a "left" party.
They are an Authoritarian party, which is why I loathe them, as well as their petty small-mindedness.
The one saving grace in the tories is that quite a few of them really do believe in civil liberties & don't like too-authoritarian moves. As opposed to those who do want to clamp down on everything & everyone - but then Labour has those as well - back to the Beige, in fact.
Interesting times, indeed.

4:

It could be said that the modern concept of the nation state with a strong central government is a product of the Industrial Revolution.

No, it's a product of the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the thirty years' war -- it formally introduced the idea of sovereign states with defensible borders: the Industrial Revolution got under way a generation or two later.

I tend to think that a properly functional national government is useful in the post-national age because it provides compartmentalization of failure modes (to outsiders this is a benefit) and for insiders, it provides insurance -- if one part of the nation is doing well, its tax revenue base provides support for those parts in danger of being left behind.

Of course, the doctrinaire free market neoliberals really have no time for this latter benefit (look at the post-disaster treatment of New Orleans, Detroit, or -- for that matter -- how close Liverpool came to going the same way in the early 1980s) and they see the former as a positive obstacle (their ideological perspective is global, not local).

5:

Two things.

First, you have underestimated residual Lib Dem support, and the general trend for parties in government to pick up support during an election campaign. The current best forecast I know of for the 2015 election has the Lib Dems picking up 14 to 36 seats: http://electionforecast.co.uk

Second, it's not possible to form a stable government that requires SNP support. Because they have a policy of not voting on issues that don't affect Scotland, and you can't have a stable government that has a majority on Scottish and national issues, but not on English, Welsh or Northern Irish issues.

6:

Those two points don't solve the essential problem: they just compound it!

7:

I agree it's going to be interesting.

Even if the SNP voting proportion is right, as with the independence vote, it will be the distribution that matters. I think the bloodbath that saying "everywhere in Scotland will vote like this" is unlikely. 20-30 seats seems likelier. 20 seats for Labour. It's still a kicking but it's not a catastrophe of the order the pundits are screaming about. If there is a good Scottish Labour leader elected and it could be more like 30 seats for Labour and a storm in a teacup.

Without seeming the manifestoes it's hard to be sure but I think the Greens could pick up a chunk of the disenchanted LibDem and Labour votes, at least South of the border. Whether that's enough to get more than 1 or 2 seats remains to be seen but there are going to be a lot of LibDem seats available for the plucking. I think it could be more like 10-20 MPs and certainly polling higher than the LibDems. I certainly hope so, and a part of me suspects they could actually do better in terms of seats than UKIP and leave the BBC saying "we're not going to have the Greens in the leader's debate" with egg on their faces.

But popcorn for next May, oh yes.

8:

Since I'm a lonely South African, speaking out of idiocy, I have to ask: In the case of some form of cooperative/coalition agreement, would the SNP be taken out as methodically as the Lib Dems? Coalition really did not do them any favours (or exposed them as standard politicians, take your pick).

It's fun to look at a state that, in theory, has multiple parties from one that, in practice, has only one.

9:

Plaid has a much lower base of support, as does independence in Wales, although there's support for more powers being devolved. They usually get an MP or two up in the North and Anglesey though.

I'm not sure which the "other" you mean is. I'm guessing Northern Ireland in which case that's a powder-key question - but there's certainly strong support for independence there's also strong support for staying in the union. Violent. Deadly violent.

Cornish independence I don't think is likely to get an MP. The others... Even less likely than the Cornish.

10:

There's a fantastic piece of political slang in Ireland (where coalitions are the the norm) for the small or unsavvy party of a coalition: mudguard. Being seen as one ended two parliamentary parties in the 2000s.
It's why I'd think a pact rather than coalition would be the way to go for the SNP; it's a longer spoon...

11:

Ah, the disUnited Kingdom.

It will be interesting to see the Tories dealing with the SNP as a force in national politics. And, frankly, Labor has become a centrist party; I expect this was just the last straw. I won't weep for them.

The UKIP…brrr…brrr. Didn't you fight a war to stop these guys from taking over, or something like that?

I fear the terrorists are winning.

12:

I think that's also an interesting question and the answer is I don't know. The SNP would be harder to do it to in some respects because they'll have a leader outside Westminster as well as a leader inside Westminster so they'll always have that second voice.

Also, in Alex Salmond does go back, he's likely to be the SNP leader at Westminster. He's a cannier operator than Nick Clegg IMO. He's certainly been around longer, been First Minister in Scotland and so on.

So at a first approximation... I'd say it's unlikely. I could happen of course but it's unlikely.

13:

Mr. Stross,

While I agree that the de jure concept of the nation state was created by the Treaty of Westphalia, the de facto nation state with strong central governments required the Industrial Revolution.

As writer/historian Shelby Foote noted, before the Civil War the "United States" was a plural entity, the war made it singular.

14:

What's intensely depressing is that this far out from the election and with politics in such a state of flux, something like 400 seats are effectively fixed already. If you live in a 'safe' seat (as I do), you know what colour rosette the winning candidate will be winning in May.

And I suspect the picture might not be quite so radically different as we've been assuming. Although polls are pointing towards fringe parties picking up a lot of votes and the implosion of the LibDems, when the big two parties crank up their machinery and begin saturation advertising along the lines that only Cameron or Miliband will be the next PM, we'll see large numbers of people fall back into line.

I think we're in for another coalition. I suspect the Conservatives will pick up the most votes, but I think Labour will get the most seats from safe constituencies with low turnouts. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the smaller parties will get sufficient seats that any majority coalition will require more than two parties. Which is where things will get really different and really unstable.

But a minority government, either Labour or Conservative might just be the only way this is resolved with the other parties - LibDems, UKIP, the SNP and let's not forget the Ulster parties providing support on an 'as needed' basis.

Whatever happens, I think we'll be looking at voting reform sooner than later. The current system is clearly broken.

15:

"I think we'll be looking at voting reform sooner than later. The current system is clearly broken."

If you do, bully for the UK! The USA is currently advancing to the rear.

16:

Whatever happens, I think we'll be looking at voting reform sooner than later. The current system is clearly broken.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_Alternative_Vote_referendum,_2011

Tried that and the opportunity was utterly squandered. Much like the Scottish vote i suppose.

17:

That referendum was for a proposal rather close to the ballot for the Hugo Awards, close enough that many of us here were looking at the anti-change campaign and seeing some pretty big lies.

It wasn't identical.

For me, it pretty well wrecked my image of the LibDems as a leash on the Conservatives. With what we get, the only way the LibDems can get any credit from what has happened is if the Conservatives were blocked from setting up Concentration Camps.

18:

With what we get, the only way the LibDems can get any credit from what has happened is if the Conservatives were blocked from setting up Concentration Camps.

If the conservatives wanted to set up camps, the lib dems would claim credit that they were only concentration camps, not the ones with fancy chemical showers.

If the conservatives _did_ want to set up extermination camps, the Lib Dems would be 'yes, but they wanted to set up 4, not 3'.

And then new labour would say 'we only want to set up one camp, couldn't you go in coalition with us?' and the Lib Dems would accuse them of not taking the need for camps seriously enough.

If there is hope in British politics, it lies in the expiry of the lib Dem right-ward ratchet on politics that has been going on since the 1970s.

19:

This sounds as though all of the candidates have been selected for every party within every riding. (Or, candidates don't matter because no one ever votes for the candidate over there, just for the party?)

Change of party 'leader' can also impact votes.

What's the current status of the above plus the likely status as of likeliest election date?

20:

Actually, I find:
"Now that the Industrial Age is over, the old style nation state no longer works in the modern Information Age."

to be laughably wrong. The old style nation state still exists and works well for those whom it has always worked for - the ruling class, whoever they might be. It enforces national and international contracts, from trade agreements to extradition treaties. It keeps the peace internally, clamping down on dissent, whether that be violent like the recent terrorism arrests, or peaceful, like the climate change protesters and those groups under observation for years by undercover police agents. It provides havens for the rich and their people. It provides stability, such that rich foreigners are buying up large parts of London as a nice solid way to keep their money about.

Moreover, there are many countries that are more industrial than the UK which still have strong nation states, and dismantling ours (which isn't happening) would put us at something of a disadvantage.

21:

It could be argued that the SNP has more experience of government than the Lib Dems had before coalition. Moreover the SNP is certainly more on the curmudgeonly side than the lib dems and less likely to knuckle under. Even better, although from my point of view they have sipped from the neoliberal koolaid, they haven't been drinking it for several years before the coalition the way the lib dem high heid yins (The orange bookers) did before coalition.

So it seems likely to me that any coalition involving the SNP would be more rumbustious than the lib-dem one.

22:

The last referendum was basically a sop to the LibDems from the Conservatives. Part of the coalition agreement but of the then big three, only supported by the LibDems - Labour and the Tories like FPTP because it generally gives them working majorities. Only twice failing to do so in OGH's 50 year lifetime.

If the next parliament requires a coalition too, I suspect there won't be another referendum, unless it's in the coalition agreement of course, which it might be. But still the big two will probably not support it and it will fail.

If the 2020 election (assuming the next government doesn't undo fixed terms and go to the country earlier and/or lose a vote of no confidence) but the next one anyway, is ALSO hung then they might change. The electoral calculation starts to look different - it's not about winning outright majorities, it's about likely alliances and getting more of your likely allies to have seats.

Of course, they set up the Scottish Parliament to make outright majorities practically impossible and the SNP managed it anyway... they're bloody awful at working these things out.

23:

"but deeply resented being told that they were too wee, too poor, and too stupid to go it alone"

That's an SNP strawman and always has been. The No campaign never told anyone this (They weren't totally stupid).

T

24:

Speaking as a sometime Lib Dem activist, I really don't think UKIP will do that well next May (not June). "First Past The Post" is brutal against third parties. It takes a lot of work and time to build up the local bases needed to be able to make serious gains in Parliament. The Lib Dems and their predecessors took decades to get from single digits to around the twenties, and another decade or more to get to the 50-60 seat mark they've reached for the last few Parliaments.

UKIP simply doesn't have that infrastructure, not yet anyway. They may eventually achieve it, and may well replace the Lib Dems as the third party in England at least, but it's not something that can happen overnight. They'll need to get a vote share in the high 20s / low 30s for sheer weight of vote to start to overcome their disadvantage in local organization.

For my money, UKIP will probably keep Clacton, they may keep Rochester if they win next month's by-election, and Farage may well take Thanet South. But beyond that, I'll eat my hat if they get into double digits of seats, and it would not surprise me if they fail to win a single seat in 2015.

Similarly, whilst the Lib Dems will receive a (IMO, despite my former loyalties, well-deserved) kicking next year, they probably won't get knocked back to minibus, let along taxi-cab numbers because they still have a lot of local base in place, despite losing lots of councillors since 2010. Furthermore, enough of their MPs have a personal incumbency bonus that will mean more squeak through than one might expect. A Lib Dem parliamentary party in the 30s seems reasonable to me - less than 20 would be a surprise.

It's going to be a fascinating general election though - probably the most significant for British politics since 1945.

25:

And of course, Nicola Sturgeon, the soon-to-be new leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland, has just lobbed a ticking time-bomb into British politics by demanding that Scotland (and Wales and NI) be given a veto over any referendum to leave the EU. She wants a majority in each of the four countries of the UK for a Brexit vote to pass, and if the SNP hold the balance of power in Westminster in just over six months from now, she could get it.

I can almost foresee a scenario where the EU-exit referendum takes the form of a vote on England seceding from the UK, and automatically leaving the EU as well, with the Scotland, Wales and NI notionally remaining as the "UK" and inheriting its EU membership.

26:

Irrespective of whether you think the nation state a good or bad idea, somebody always gets to make the laws and carry the big guns to enforce them.

27:

For my money, UKIP will probably keep Clacton, they may keep Rochester if they win next month's by-election, and Farage may well take Thanet South. But beyond that, I'll eat my hat if they get into double digits of seats

My thoughts exactly. If UKIP get more than five Westminster seats I'll be surprised. I'd put money on NOT ONE currently Labour-held seat falling to Farage's mob.

The swing against the Lib-Dems will be hilariously bad, up to and including Nick Clegg looking for a new job.

The Lib-Dem collapse will help Labour, UKIP stealing Tory votes will help Labour more than hinders them.

I think the Tories will be lucky to get 30% of the popular vote.

The SNP will improve their position massively twenty seats+, but FIFTY SEATS!? Pffft. Not sure. Not an expert on Scotch politics [;-) yes, I know] The post #indyref hangover will have cleared by then.

My money's on a Lab/Lib-Dem/SNP coalition.

Still, thats enough amateur psephology from me.

28:

First-past-the-post is brutal in a three-party election; but it gets interesting in a four-party contest.

But we'll start with Eastleigh, a marginal constituency contested and won by the Lib Dems seven times in a row.

In all but one of those wins, their margin of victory has been less than the split in the conservative vote due to some or other right-wing fringe party.

Now consider a broad swathe of constituencies with a ten, fifteen, or even twenty percent UKIP share of the vote; if any of those are 'Con hold' marginals, they are now Lab or Lib-Dem wins - unless the Lib Dem vote collapses to near zero.

Next, consider Brighton. Four parties polled approximately 25% and the margin of victory so small as to be statistical noise. It's great to see the Greens in Parliament but, with respect, a four-way split is a crapshoot and all we know is that about a quarter of the voters isn't anything like a mandate.

But UKIP move the game along from three-way Eastleigh with a snip off the Conservative vote letting in the second-largest of the three; they move us to four-way crapshoots.

Or, in Brighton, a five way contest.

If that happens in a hundred constitiencies, we'd expect to see twenty or twenty-five Green MPs. Rationalp expectations are nonsense in elections, so let's just say that any ten constituencies where UKIP get 20% of the vote will return one to five Green MPs.

And if you're going to make predictions about who forms a government, good luck.

29:
If UKIP get more than five Westminster seats I'll be surprised.

I'd be surprised if they get more than one, and that's in name only (because it's a Tory seat that decided to hoist their flag). I've fought elections against UKIP before, and put bluntly: they have no clue how to fight an election. They do all the things that people outside politics think are how you fight an election, and none of the things that win votes. To borrow a phrase from one of our experts on the subject: "UKIP are really good at coming second in a lot of places".

The swing against the Lib-Dems will be hilariously bad

That sounds like something you want to believe. It'll certainly be easy to justify after the fact, because historically we've also been pretty good at coming second in a lot of places, and what we've lost is all those votes in seats where we consistently came second and had no realistic chance of winning because it was an L/T safe seat and we were taking 20% of the votes against the incumbent's 50%. This massively reduces our "national vote", but has no impact whatsoever on how many seats we'll win, because moving from second place to last place in a lot of places still wins zero seats.

I expect we'll lose some and it won't be enough to satisfy the people who are desperate to blame anybody who tried to help them... but while our council support has taken a beating, our MP support is mostly holding up.

The Lib-Dem collapse will help Labour, UKIP stealing Tory votes will help Labour more than hinders them.

Okay, so you can be forgiven for not knowing the reality of how voting intention is shifting on the ground because it's too complicated to be widely reported, but this isn't what's been happening at all. The collapse of LD second-place votes in safe seats will have precisely zero impact because they're still safe seats and aren't going anywhere (which is also why there hasn't been a sea change here - half the seats in the country have already decided red/blue for next year). Once those are discarded, what's left are predominantly our Labour-facing seats. If we're Labour-facing, then our support is coming from the Tories, so when voters leave us that's where they go - they certainly aren't going to switch to Labour!

That's the reason why you tend to hear a lot of centre-right talk from LD politicians: most of the places where we win depend on support from right-leaning voters and our MPs have to talk to their own voters first. This is also why the 1977 arrangement with Labour was really bad for us. There's a political problem here in that most LDs (and LD MPs) are more centre-left, to the extent that this is still a thing at all, but the people that have historically been willing to vote for us are the soft Tories - liberal-minded people who are all in favour of fairness so long as it doesn't affect their tax rates or property values.

The "UKIP stealing Tory votes" meme is, surprisingly, a myth - every time we look at the data we anticipate finding some evidence of it happening, and it's just not there. UKIP voters are in two groups: the anti-establishment voters, who have always voted for the major party that they think is least likely to run, and the anti-immigrant voters who are coming from Labour and the Tories in roughly equal numbers.

I think the Tories will be lucky to get 30% of the popular vote.

Frustratingly enough, if current trends continue, the single most likely outcome right now looks like a Tory majority. Labour peaked in 2012 and they've been losing ground ever since. The Tories dropped hard in early 2012 and again in mid 2013, but they've been stable ever since then and they're starting to gain ground, and they still have huge cash reserves for the campaign that they haven't seriously started to fight yet - looks like they're holding fire for the big bang. Labour are deep in debt (£5.7m under, with outstanding debts dating back as far as 2005), internally split, and appear to have already fired off all their best ammunition which is now starting to sound a bit shrill. Their national campaign is going to suffer because of it.

I really hope that doesn't happen. I have a pretty good idea what the outcome would be - a lot of people don't realise quite how much we've been holding them back - and it would be fairly catastrophic for us as a country. (Think: quit the EU, become a US puppet state, eliminate unemployment and disability benefits by moving all those people into workhouses, quit the Council of Europe and scrap the human rights act, begin mass deportations...)

Second most likely outcome is a minority Labour government propped up by whoever managed to weather the storm the best, and right now that could be anybody. Unless they get really lucky with the political news cycle, I can't see Labour having enough momentum to win a majority. (Could happen, but I'd assign it a much lower probability than a minority government)

Third most likely outcome is that the current government continues as-is. It has to hit a fairly narrow margin for this to happen, but trends are currently moving towards that window rather than away from it. I would assign this a probability of less than 20% - it's not all that likely.

After that you're into odd combinations like Tory/SNP alliances, or three-party coalitions, and all of those are likely to prove completely unstable. I would predict that if we get any of these then we will be looking at a second general election in late 2015 or May 2016, depending on whether it crashes hard or just finds itself unable to get anything done. The Tories will easily sail into a majority if this happens; the UK public always leans to the right when governments are in chaos, and they'll be the only party with the funding to put on a serious campaign so soon.

30:
But we'll start with Eastleigh, a marginal constituency contested and won by the Lib Dems seven times in a row.

In all but one of those wins, their margin of victory has been less than the split in the conservative vote due to some or other right-wing fringe party.

So there's something that doesn't get reported about Eastleigh much, which might completely change your perspective on what happened there.

The UKIP campaign was unbelievably awful - we (LDs) on the ground were shocked at how inept it was. So why did they come second? Well, we put quite a lot of effort into encouraging UKIP supporters to vote, while getting Tory ones to stay home. I don't think anybody at the time expected it would work quite as well as it did...

31:

Why is there nothing to the left of Labour? I mean, nothing that can actually win more than one or two seats?

Or am I totally confused?

32:

SNP getting most Scots seats is not as far-fetched as some make it to be. The Bloc Quebecois was a force in Canadian Federal politics for two decades before the electorate turfed them in favour of the main centre-left party (NDP).

As a result, for a few years during the Liberal collapse Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition was a party dedicated to splitting Canada into bits.

The Bloc didn't arise from nothing, however: they were started by disaffected Quebec Tories who left their former party after Brian Mulroney failed to carry through his promises about devolution. AIUI, the SNP doesn't have the history of being formed from the ashes of a federal organisation, so that's a difference from the Canadian precedent.

33:

There's George Galloway - what more do you want? :-)

34:

That sounds like something you want to believe

Well, yes it does, but clearly you beg to differ. I would really prefer to see Labour humiliated at the polls much more than the Lib-Dems [as an ex-LD voter and "Chatshow Charlie" fan, a most underrated politician]

Let's face it, Labour deserve it. But it's not going to happen. Never underestimate the slavish tribalism of most Labour supporters.

The Tories have been consistently poorer at getting their vote out than Labour or the Lib-Dems. They couldn't get a majority in 2010, and no-one was blaming them for the previous five years that time.

35:

Identity politics, everywhere identity politics. In the USA, the largest plurality of voters (perhaps 45% of voters) vote on identity.

Identity politics are incredibly vulnerable to political versions of affinity fraud and that's what seems to be happening in the USA and UK.

36:

Um, more seats? (Missed this on my last pass through – sorry.)

37:
the de facto nation state with strong central governments required the Industrial Revolution. As writer/historian Shelby Foote noted, before the Civil War the "United States" was a plural entity, the war made it singular.

Might be true for the USA, but they are not the only country on Earth, not are they very representative (they are an outliner in many ways).

France became a nation-State with a strong central governement under Louis XIII, consolidated as such under Louis XIV. That's way before the Industrial Revolution - which incidentally occurred in France right after the revolutionary period of 1789-1815, during which France went through a variety of regimes that were all very centralised.

Similarly, Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate was militantly pre-industrial-revolution, and quite centralised a Nation-State.

38:

I think people are taking a very much politician view of the chances of UKIP. Personally I stand back and look at what's being offered.

In scotland, even though the SNP were inept in putting together any kind of a plan, they still got 45% of the votes because they seemed like change, like they were offering anything other than what people already had (and didn't like the taste of).

Now with UKIP they are offering change, and the conservatives will be offering more of the same. After the incredibly stupid EU money grab UKIP will have an easy time pushing their view of "leave the EU to rot". Local party machinery really won't count much (everyone avoids the politicos anyway).

Upshot, I think, will be 70-100 seats. At the same time the conservative vote will get split across the country. They will rue stabbing single transferable vote in the back.

I think Labour will also haemorrhage, but not as bad as the tories. They still don't have policies, or a leader; but its a bigger jump from lite right to far right for their supporters.

Upshot is the probability of many more results getting won on the outside by surprises.

I think the real winner, if they can get their act together, is the greens. They will pick up voters who can't hold their nose to vote lib dem (after last time), and they can also run on change (but very different from UKIP). I think they may well swap places with the Lib Dems when the results roll in - because of the split UKIP will create.

So what does Westminster look like?

The two major power blocks loose seats. UKIP gains 70-100 and the greens gain maybe 20-40. The SNP gets maybe 35 (mostly undeserved) seats.

Two obvious coalitions Cons+UKIP, or Lab+Green+SNP.

Could they do those deals? I have a feeling that nobody will want to give the SNP much power, not after the sh*t they've pulled recently. If they are content to be quite silent partners, they might get a place, but that's never going to happen if Salmond stands.

So I think we might well end up with a minority government, and a swift second election.

39:

There's nothing that historically has won more than 1 or 2 seats, except arguably the LibDems before Clegg were to the left of Labour under Blair.

There is starting to be a lot of pressure to get the Green voice heard on national debates, to be regarded as a genuine national party. They're polling higher than the LibDems in national opinion polls, if that continues and grows they could be the sort of anti-UKIP: they seem to have a left-of-centre and young-skewing voter base. Whether they could get more than 1 or 2 seats though is unclear - FPTP will still conspire against them.

But it's possible, just possible, there's enough of a upswing against the beige neoliberal politics that they could motivate the young lefty votes to do well.

40:

GROW UP
UKIP are nothing like a fascist party.
There are elements on the authoritarian right of the tories (as opposed to the real libertarians I spoke of before)who are close to fascism, as there are in the SNP.
Come to that, there are Lem-o-Crats & Labour representatives who have very unpleasant authoritarian streaks in their make up - always "for your own good" of course ....
Note that this tends towards the Beige again - there are nasty control freaks in all the parties, possibly.

41:

You forgot to take your dried frog pills!

42:

Gosh, what a fascinating read.

I couldn't disagree more with every single piece of your analysis but still a fascinating read.

It falls apart from the start really. The Scottish referendum was a yes/no question with a deep emotional resonance, a long history and a huge turnout. The general election will have at least 5 candidates at every mainland seat, 6 in Scotland and Wales. In many of the safe seats the winner will win an absolute majority, but in a decent chunk of them the winner will poll less than the no vote in Scotland and yet still win. Winning on less than 40% in any constituency is pretty rare though.

So UKIP could easily poll 35% everywhere (they won't, their support is more concentrated in some predictable places) and get no seats, while the LibDems could poll 8% nationally and win 10+ seats as long as there are voters in core seats that like their constituency MP despite what the party has done.

The SNP hasn't "pulled some shit" it's lived up to a manifesto promise for a referendum. They fought on opposite sides in the referendum but "a week is a long time in politics" and all that. Labour nationally might have some problems making an alliance with the SNP because in Scotland Labour and the SNP are the major parties and are nominally at each other's throats. But it probably won't slow them down that much when it comes to making a deal for power. It will be fun negotiating the dev-max arrangements as part of the coalition deal if they're not already in place I'm sure, but of everyone Labour currently seems (and I stress seems) most committed to making some changes without other strings.

43:

Everybody except Andrew Suffield @ #29 seems to think (have a hopeful wet dream?) that Liebour will pick up lots of votes, or enough to win.
Forget it, at least whilst the useless & pathetic Mr Milibean is in their chair.
I'm with most of AS's predictions, except I doubt if UKIP will get more than 20 seats, 5 or 6 of which will be taken from Labour - the straw in the wind is the collapse of Labour in Glasgow - & it seems to be happening dahn sarf here as well.
However, I'm fairly certain that the next government will be an uneasy coalition, that probably will not last it's term out.

44:

@Greg Tingey

It's worth noting that the "libertarian" Tories are utterly useless while they remain inside the party.

We saw this last year when the government signed off on UKBA officers masquerading as policemen at and around Stratford stopping every slightly tanned person (including myself) and demanding to see a passport and behaving in a very threatening manner.

No complaints have gotten anywhere - and I'm no member of the underclass. Just not a member of the overclass.

45:

I think one big attack in Scotland that will ensure the SNP does well is simply that we have been promised Devomax but Labour haven't delivered it. Vote for us to ensure we get it.

As for UKIP they don't seem to have the organisation to get their voters out (as demonstrated by the PCC South Yorkshire by election...

Before you think that is good news however the results also shows (although you have to dig into the result to find it) that Labour is doing very well in big cities (Sheffield) and is losing large numbers of votes outside those cities.. I think outside of Scotland trying to predict what is going to happen is going to be very difficult and I can safely say Labour won't do well North of the Border.

46:

Just two things:

The Lib Dems got 23% of the vote, last election, pretty evenly spread, and got 57 seats. If UKIP got 25%, they'd likely get even more seats, and much of that vote would cut the votes for the conservative even where they didn't win. If they got your 35% the modelling says they would win ~325 seats !

http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/Analysis_UKIP.html

The reason why I point to the desire for change, as being behind the SNP polling as well as they did, is that I believe the parties that offer change at the general election will do 5-10% better than you'd expect otherwise. That's going to be UKIP, and the Greens IMHO.

I do wonder if you could get good odds on 100+ seats for UKIP and 20+ for the Greens. If you could find some 100/1 odds it would be worth a punt

47:

The problem with trying to generalise from the PCC elections to anything else is that it's a tiny turnout (

There's probably about 45% of the electorate to turn out in May who will quite like vote closer to the predicted local norms than those that voted in this particular election. (Urban Yorkshire votes largely Labour, except Nick Clegg's constituency, rural Yorkshire is more complicated depending on the constituency boundaries but often Tory.) The observed "loss of Labour support outside the cities" could simply be Labour supporters not voting in an election they don't see the value of (the Labour candidate and several shadow ministers are all saying the PCC elections are a waste of time and money and should be abolished, so why bother voting?) combined with some level of local antipathy towards the last Labour candidate that almost certainly will a) be largely gone come May, b) not be applicable come the general election and c) is local not national.

Labour may still have some issues in S. Yorkshire come the general election. But it's a really beast to the PCC election.

48:

One thing you haven't mentioned is the effect of a (likely, in my view) collapse in Lib Dem votes in Tory/Labour marginals. Although this won't affect the number of Lib Dem MPs, there are a significant number of seats where is 2010's Lib Dem voters shift to one or other of the major parties it could swing the outcome.

49:

"23% pretty evenly spread" is pretty disingenuous. Of their elected MPs the lowest I can find got 39.1% of the votes in their constituency, the highest got over 60%. This supports the rule of thumb of needing at least 40% of the votes to win any given seat. You can average 23% over 650 seats and do appreciably better in 57 of them and get 57 seats in our current system.

As I was suggesting, although obviously not clearly enough, UKIP could theoretically get 35% everywhere, fail to reach 40% everywhere and get 0 seats despite what that voting predictor suggests - they'll put some level of randomness in there. I wasn't predicting they'll get anything like that level of support, I was pointing out how FPTP voting can screw a party that comes second everywhere.

UKIP's national support is currently around 18% - there are odd polls that place it up at 25% but a lot more that are around 15% or 16% that drag the average down. I doubt your 5-10% better on the back of a desire for change. I'd say that is a young-skewing voter perspective and UKIP doesn't appeal to younger voters, not in real numbers.

I wouldn't like to guess what their support will be come next May. Callmedave is clearly manoeuvring to reduce Tory-voting defectors. The big three parties will start to limber up properly. We're starting to see Farage in the media more and more. Will that start to change his allure from the outsider, the new face daring to be different to yet another politician? He's going to suddenly have to answer questions about the NHS, education, policing, running the economy and the like as well as Europe.

50:

Greg, YELLOW CARD.

You do not tell other commenters here to "grow up". That's abusive, derogatory language and will not be tolerated.

Are we clear?

51:

Errr, is there a primer somewhere on the political leanings of all these parties for non-scottish people?

OG (French)

52:

Wikipedia is your friend! And the SNP is only the Scottish-specific one of these.

The Conservative and Unionist Party (aka the Tories, Converatives), Labour and the Liberal Democrats (LibDems) are the traditional big 3 national parties. Traditionally the Tories are the right-of-centre party, Labour the left-of-centre and the LibDems the centrist party. Over the last 25 years or so, Labour has become more neoLiberal economically, the LibDems had moved to a more centre-left position.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) are further right than the Tories. They try to avoid being overtly racist but they certainly look like an isolationist, nationalist party.

We also have a small Green party with 1 MP that's fairly cookie-cutter environmentalist, left-of-centre.

Scotland and Wales both have their own nationalist parties (SNP and PC respectively) that are pro-independence and broadly left of centre politically. Northern Ireland has a complete list of its own parties across both Republican and Unionist groups and the political spectrum. They're very important in Northern Ireland but relatively small in numerical terms at Westminster. The Republican parties are pro-independence, the unionists are not.

Then we have a number of other minor parties. There's the BNP, which is basically a fascist party not dissimilar to the FN, but nowhere near as popular. There is, locally to me a "Yorkshire First" party, or there was at the last election anyway, there may not be this time.

There's also the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies - devolved parliaments in effect with more or less limited powers. They basically have the same parties though, just within their own borders.

And then we have all the fun parties. I remember having the chance to vote for the Natural Law party, which was basically voting for a particular Buddhist sect that would introduce compulsory meditation to enhance our chances of yogic flying. They were comparatively sane compared to The Monster Raving Looney Party and the like. Without wishing to be overly rude, they're mostly narcissists with £500 to lose. If you fail to poll 5% of the votes in the constituency you lose your deposit (which I believe is £500 although it might go up for 2015). They don't really have political leanings in the main though. Not really. One of the MRLP manifestoes included free donuts for everyone or similar.

Hope that helps a bit.

53:

True, the US was somewhat late to the part - starting as a federation of states and evolving into a single state. A process that is still going on.

England was perhaps one of the earliest nation states in Europe, starting with the 100 Years War if not sooner.

54:

An English unilateral secession from the UK would cause all sorts of problems aside from an exit from the EU. Who gets the treat obligations? Who gets the UK seat on the Security Council? Who gets the debt? Etc...

55:

Identity politics, everywhere identity politics. In the USA, the largest plurality of voters (perhaps 45% of voters) vote on identity.

Identity politics are incredibly vulnerable to political versions of affinity fraud and that's what seems to be happening in the USA and UK.

It occurred to me not long ago that the inter-party propaganda of the US left and right leaning groups differed; I called the split Action vs Faction.

Liberals tended to be outraged at whatever offensive thing had recently come to light about mentally deranged conservatives, greedy corporations, or politician-buying billionaires. Incidentally, do we have to have so many of all three? Yeesh.

Conservatives tended to be outraged at liberals, and congratulatory toward each other for being...in the same group as the meme carrier. A seed for this was a post disrespecting "liebrals" with a picture advocating equal opportunity in America; I pointed out, "Yes, that is what liberals believe. What does the poster believe?" That wasn't what the meme transmitter wanted to hear.

This strategy seems to be working for the conservatives, in the sense that conservatives are bound together in a battle most of the rest of the nation isn't even fighting and keeps them too busy yelling to notice any overlap between their positions and those of the 'enemy.' Meanwhile the American left tends to be at least vaguely grounded in reality. (Ignore 'fracking is TEH EVULZ' and concentrate on 'people who get caught committing felonies should at least be arrested and maybe go to jail, even if they have several million dollars worth of lawyers.') However, there's no centralizing force; plenty of Americans can agree that, for example, our federal government does some useful things and should not be shut down out of spite - but that doesn't translate into organized political action.

All of this is quite off topic for the question of UK politics, however; being reminded of the term affinity fraud just brought to mind my own thoughts on the local version. Let's return to the UK situation. They may not have any fewer crazies in politics than the US but they're a different set of crazies.

56:

And yet the UK Tories are staunch allies of the US Republicans, and have many ties with them. The UK LibDems look much like the conservative wing of the US Democratic Party, Labour looks much like the rest of the Democrats, when the non-conservative Democrats are taken as a a whole. Perhaps the differences are less deep than they first appear.

57:

Noted & agreed - but ... other people are equally (I hope) not allowed to accuse me of having leanings towards fascism - which you know not to be true?

58:

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) are further right than the Tories. They try to avoid being overtly racist but they certainly look like an isolationist, nationalist party.
Quote from Farage - heard live on radio: "We are not against Europe, we are against the European Union".
IIRC, Farage's wife is German ....
Work that out for yourselves, please?

I have been accused of still being frightened of Boney somewhere in here .... in spite of being a regular travller to the rest of Europe (when I can afford it) & having been as close as one dared get to the Zonengrenze in the bad old days.
I really think some people round here need to re-evaluate their views & not use pre-cut-out false stereotypes.

59:

Ouch! Someone's pressed Greg's berserk button (again)

Answer me this - if UKIP aren't fascist - who are all the BNP voters and EDF supporters voting for? Not the BNP, evidently.

My opinion has always been that UKIP aren't fascist - but they'd help out if they were short-handed.

To paraphrase Michael Caine.

60:

MUCH much sooner & earlier than that ...
Alfred's granson IIRC, Athelstan . High King of all of Britain & King of England, 924-927-939.
"100 years war started IIRC in 1337, err 400 years later.
Oops, as they say.

61:

Please try to read the post in the context of what it was a reply to Greg. A French person asked for a quick briefing on the political stances of the main parties. I attempted to give that.

You're welcome to try and sum up UKIP in 2 sentences and get all their nuances. I stand by that as a really tight summary. Yes, like all stereotypes there will be places it doesn't fit properly but for the situation it's close enough.

62:

Unfortunately & disgustingly true.

von Hichthofen @ #59
Might be true, also very unfortunately.

But, how else is one to protest against the unstoppable march of EU centrist corruption & diktat -as well as similar moves here, where cath3iK might be very surprised to find that I agree with (?)her(?) or being drawn into cecoming the 52nd(?) state of the USSA/Airstrip One.

Anyone got any practical ideas?

63:

Greg is right to object to the identification of UKIP as fascist. Robert Ford and Matthew J. Goodwin, in their book"Revolt on the right" have analysed the support for UKIp and find the core support coms from the "left behinds". These are the group who do not like the changes that have happened in the UK over the past 50 years and consider themselves as losers. The core demographic is White, lower class, poorly educated men in the age range 50-75. The older age group have never identified with Fascism-they survived WW 2 and remember the consequences of Fascism. In many cases there is a strong nostalgia for a remembered 1950-early 1960's (It is at this point I say I can remember this time period and it wasn't as they claim!)
Greg-please note the important part of this comment _"CORE DEMOGRAPHIC" I am not accusing you of being in this group.
PS for what it is worth I am a 64 year old white UK far left socialist(and male)

64:

Ah, so it's really a literacy problem. I characterised the BNP as similar to the FN and a thus a fascist party, not UKIP. UKIP and fascist was von hitchofen.

65:

sorry for the mis-attribution

66:

What's the status of strategic voting in the U.K. -- ref: 'Making Votes Count' (G.W. Cox)? And, who's the most charismatic party leader?

67:

Probably the crawler Salmiond ...
Who isn't a party leader any more!
None of them have any appeal for me at all, really.

68:
One thing you haven't mentioned is the effect of a (likely, in my view) collapse in Lib Dem votes in Tory/Labour marginals.

Yeah, that's because I have no idea what it will be (and I would agree that in any Tory/Labour marginals, the LD vote is going to drop sharply this time, not least because we're abandoning them to concentrate on places that matter). I only get to hear data about places where we have a functioning organisation, which isn't the case in any of those places; I have no real insight into the derelict constituencies. I do know that they both tend to run national campaigns in these constituencies, so they're likely to follow the national trend, but that's pretty thin.

69:

I'm sure it varies a bit from place to place, but in general my impression is that it's pretty uncommon, probably less than 10% of the votes and I wouldn't be surprised to hear less than 5% in general.

There's a lot of tribalism, families and certainly people who say "I've voted X all my life and I'm never going to change." That goes with the 200+ safe seats for the big two parties. Even when they take an electoral hammering - the Tories in '97 say, when safe Tory seats, safe for decades or even centuries fell - they were left with 165 seats. Bear in mind the Labour majority of 179 is the biggest majority there has ever been in a UK parliament.

(As an aside, that was so dramatic, I had an interview on May 2nd and the 'icebreaker question' was "how late did you stay up, what was the last seat you heard them lose?")

There are a number of voters who won't vote the party line so much, they will vote for a good constituency MP regardless of party. This will probably help some of the LibDems survive at the next election. Although their national support is falling through the floor, they tend to have a reputation as good constituency MPs, or they did before they became part of the coalition.

There are a smaller number that consider how to vote every time and change their votes. They're not tactical voters in the sense of choose how to vote based on who they want to win in a particular constituency, they vote for the representative of the party they want in their local constituency. The numbers of these vary a bit but are probably up to 20% in most constituencies. In places where it's lower, or local support for one party is very high, that doesn't make any difference (there are jokes about weighing the size of the majority for a particular party that are not really funny, one party can easily poll 60%+ with the remaining votes split pretty evenly 2 or 3 ways). In other places it can make much more of a difference and these make the "target seats" at each election.

Then you get the true tactical voters. I live in a constituency that's borderline for it - my MP had a majority of almost 6,500 (and 14%) AND he has a good reputation in the constituency. But the City of Durham, which is near might be a better bet. That's a Labour-LibDem fight - majority of 3,000 and 6.6%. I don't know what their MP is like a constituency MP, or even if she's standing again, and although at least one person here is bullish about the LibDem support come the next election, drumming it up to replace an incumbent is different to maintaining it to keep one.

Sorry, that's a lot longer than you were expecting I'm sure but hopefully it's answered your question.

70:

Charismatic party leader? I don't know Nicola Sturgeon, she's very new, but she's got to be in with a good shout. The others, between them, have the charisma to make me roll over and go to sleep. Other opinions may, of course, be different.

71:

Andrew,
We have a majority of ~12,000 in the constituency I live in and a thriving Local Party. We have been twinned with a Conservative marginal to provide election assistance to our Labour candidate. there as well as at home
In the City I live in, however things will be complicated. We have a full slate of Elections next year-City Mayor, 3 MP's and 53 City Councillors. We (The Labour Party)have recognised from the European Elections that a number of our Councillors may be at risk from UKIP and we have been active, in our Constituency, in the wards at risk, this will feed through to our MP's defence of his seat. If we lose the constituency I live in, The Conservatives would have an absolute majority based on English seats alone.

72:

Then the UKIP is similar to the Tea Party Republicans in the USA. While they have few formal ties to legacy fascist parties (there are some) their ideology and policies are very much so. As journalist David Neiwert wrote,

The "conservative movement," in the course of this mutation, has become something entirely new, a fresh political entity quite unlike we've ever seen before in our history, but one that at the same time seems somehow familiar, as though we have seen something like it.
See his series, The Rise of Pseudo Fascism. (Go to his web page and search for the title; or read the PDF, if you can.)

73:

"Anyone got any practical ideas?"

Damifino. Over here, we've been fighting these bastards for 40 years, more-or-less, and the war is nearly lost.

74:

The English nation developed sooner, but the state was still very nascent. And after William invaded, England was part of a larger Norman state. It's not really until after the dissolution of the Angevin Empire that the state and nation were more closely identified. It only really became a nation-state when the ruling class thought of themselves as English, which many point to the Hundred Years War as being the turning point.

Though ironically it became less of a nation-state after the formation of the United Kingdom, and a British nationality started supplanting the English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish nationalities. And now we're seeing those other nationalities reassert themselves, with the English being left in a weird spot.

75:

Strategic voting - which I would call tactical voting is something I have done for most of my adult life.
When I became old enough to vote I lived on a council estate and helped my vote went to the sitting labour MP. For the next 20 years I lived in middle class constituencies where the Conservatives were in power and generally only a tactical vote could unseat them. I voted Liberal, SDP, Liberal Democrat, Labour and once Communist (That was because the LIberal Councillor who tried to persuade me to vote for him was so obnoxious in our conversation that I decided even the Conservatives would be less of a hypocrite than him. (There was no Labour candidate in that Ward).
Only in one election did the party I tactically voted for win.
After the last general election when the party I voted for tactically went into coalition with the party I voted tactically against I decided that I would never vote for them again and would just vote Labour even if they had no chance.
I have supported the alternative vote for decades as a way to vote for the party I wanted and against the party I didn't want but that is now a dead issue.
My advice for any tactical voter is "Don't do it"

76:

Added note: link to the first part of The Rise of Pseudo-Fascism. The posts are chained together.

77:
who's the most charismatic party leader?

A completely biased summary:

  • Cameron (Con) - too posh to be charismatic

  • Milliband (Lab) - politics geek

  • Clegg (Lib Dem) - was well regarded, but his personal appeal has been well and truly burned by 5 years in coalition / government

  • Farage (UKIP) - presents himself as a bloke you could have a pint with down the pub, strikes me more as the saloon bar bore who you want to avoid

We don't have a strong recent history of charismatic leaders in the Reagan / Clinton / Obama vein. Blair was probably the most charismatic politician in my lifetime, and that didn't entirely end well.

78:

I do hope you are wrong ....
Comparing UKIP to the Tea Party may be a convenient piece of mud to sling, or it might (just) have some truth in it.
However, I am utterly disillusioned with all 3 main parties, ( a.k.a. "The Ruling Party") I have switched sides, about 2 years back over the EU, having supported that idea from before I could vote, or even left school (the latter in 1964).
What is to be done?

79:

who's the most charismatic party leader?

The last thing Britain needs is a charismatic leader. Look what happened with the last two 'charismatic' leaders the UK had.

In the cases of Reagan, Clinton and Obama, their alleged 'charisma' concealed a howling ideological void, into which Liberals and Conservatives imposed their wishful thinking, and Reagan's pragmatic foreign policy would have made Clinton and Cheney/Beck/O'Reilly vomit, had anyone else done it.

Benghazi is nothing compared to Beirut

Both Reagan and Thatcher expanded and indebted the state to a degree their supporter would never admit to.

Clement Attlee government probably created most of the state structures the British hold dear - and he was about as charismatic as a slide rule.

80:

Actually 179 is not the largest majority in a UK parliament either absolutely or proportionately to the size of parliament. It's the largest under the the post war two party system and the largest ever Labour majority.

However several earlier peace-time governments had larger majorities

In 1931 the National Government had a majority of 433 (524 seats out of 615) 85.20% of seats.
In 1935 the National Government had a majority of 247 (431 seats out of 615) 70.08% of seats.
In 1924 the Conservatives had a majority of 209 (412 seats out of 615) 66.99% of seats.
In 1918 the Coupon coalition had a majority of 239 (473 seats out of 707) 66.9% of seats.
In 1906 the Liberals and Labour had a majority of 182 (426 seats out of 670) 63.58% of seats.
In 1997 Labour had a majority 179 (419 seats out of 659) 63.58% of seats

Before the first world war Labour was effectively a working class branch of the Liberals and were in a formal electoral pact with them. much like the Liberal Unionists were effectively part of the Conservative party.

The Coupon coalition was a continuation of the wartime coalition under Lloyd-George and cut across old party affiliations for a time, normal allegiances were largely resumed in 1922. The effective majority was bigger as the largest opposition group was Sinn Fein with 73 abstentionist MPs. The largest effective parliamentary opposition groups were 57 Labour 47 conservative and 36 Liberals who hadn't had the coupon.

81:

I stand corrected, thanks.

82:

What is to be done?

Look to Spain for an example. We haven't been hit as hard by austerity as they have, but you might want to examine the politics and trajectory of Podemos, a party that was only founded in 2010 and which now looks on course to win a majority in next year's general election in Spain ...

"In this manifesto, the necessity to create a party list which presented itself to the European elections of that year, with the goal of opposing, from the left, to the dominating EU politics ..." (per wikipedia)

As opposed to Farage, who seems dedicated to opposing it from the hard right.

83:

Well, I can't prove it without a lot more research, but the demographic report Deacon cites does suggest it.

Is there any British analog of the Koch brothers? Some nobles or related commoners who are funding right-wing policy-making?

As to what is to be done, the biggest thing, surely, is to restore post-World War II anti-fascist media law and regulation. That would return sanity to public debate. In the USA these laws and regulations were abandoned under Reagan; in the UK were they abandoned under Thatcher?

Beyond that, electoral reform would be sensible, as well as the reform of economic institutions along Keynesian lines; if people aren't so much afraid for their the roof over their head and the food on the table, they are less likely to panic.

BTW, why are the British Greens so much disliked? I don't credit their economics, which is non-Keynesian ("truly, a profit is without honor in his own country"), but none of the parties seem to be Keynesian. In the USA, the DFHs (Dirty F--ing Hippies) are often right; is it different in the UK?

84:

Oh, dear, and I've made one of my favorite typos ever. Regarding Keynes, "a profit is without honor…"

85:

BTW, why are the British Greens so much disliked?

In general they aren't particularly disliked. (There is at least one exception on this blog of course.) Unlike a certain country we could mention, all of the big parties here pay at least lip-service to green policies. In fairness, at various times both Labour and the coalition have paid more than lip-service to some green policies too, although Osborne seems to be trying really hard to retrench in favour non-renewables as fast as he can.

It kind of undercuts the support when it comes to election time - you've got to be either really opposed to all the others or really strongly Green above all else to vote Green when there's pale-Green mixed into your Red, Blue or Orange alternates.

86:

"BTW, why are the British Greens so much disliked?"

Well, for the best part of 2 decades I voted Green, even back when they were the Ecology Party. I was a member. Eventually I could no longer stomach their relentless anti-technology Luddism and their particular variety of docrinaire Socialism.

Latterly I voted Liberal (ie LibDem), but no more.
In the upcoming general election I'll vote UKIP as a way of saying "Fuck You" to all of them.

87:
Some nobles or related commoners

Downton Abbey is not a good place to start for an introduction to contemporary British politics.

88:

Some nobles or related commoners who are funding right-wing policy-making?

Well, UKIP has

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Wheeler#UKIP_donor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Pearson,_Baron_Pearson_of_Rannoch

Both old Etonians, both City money. Pearson is a former leader of UKIP and one of their life peers.
He also a member of the late Norris McWhirter's bonkers "Freedom" Association [my scare quotes]

The others are former newspaper proprietor, and two hereditary peers/landowners.

With backers like these, and leaders like Farage, anyone thinking a more powerful UKIP would be any more interested in the needs of the working people than Cameron, Osborne or New Labour is living in a dream world.

89:
In the upcoming general election I'll vote UKIP as a way of saying "Fuck You" to all of them.
All of them or all of us?
90:

I have a certain sneaking sympathy for the current government wrt. energy policy, even though I think they're dead wrong on fracking, down-ramping renewables, etc.

Energy policy takes decades to turn around and they were shafted by decisions made by Thatcher. The UK stopped building new nuclear plant in the 1980s (the Invisible Hand thought it was too expensive, and we had enough plutonium to make all the bombs we needed). Meanwhile, Thatcher hated public transport in general and trains in particular (so under-invested in public transport). And natural gas from the North Sea was cheap, so we got lots of gas turbine power stations during the early 1990s "dash for gas". Back then hydroelectric was pretty much tapped out, photovoltaic and wind farms were a joke, tide power was a laboratory curiosity, and global warming was "eh, we'll get around to doing something about it one day, when it's serious."

Today, a whole chunk of our nuclear reactor fleet is hitting the end-of-life point where it can't be duct-taped: IIRC by 2024 the existing fleet will have shut down for good, taking what was (at peak) 20% of our electricity supply with it. The North Sea gas fields are mostly played-out, leaving us dependent on that nice Mr Putin to keep our lights on in winter. Winters are getting more severe thanks to the Arctic pack ice melting thanks to global climate change -- which is unevently distributed. Wind turbines are economically viable but we don't have a huge amount of land and the NIMBYs are complaining, hence the move to off-shore wind (which costs more). Photovoltaic has suddenly gotten so cheap it would save our ass if we weren't 60 degrees north of the equator (i.e. around the same level as Moscow).

So they're in a pretty pickle. Regardless of whichever party was running the UK, they'd be in a pickle, because installing new power plant takes ages and has been neglected for decades. The fracking thing is a case of grasping at straws offered by their cronies: it's stupid, short-sighted, short-termist, and detrimental to the common good. But balanced against the lights going off and people freezing across the UK if we have a combination of another winter like 2011 combined with Moscow deciding to make a point, what should they do?

(In the long term the future is fusion power, whether it's ITER, Lockheed's skunk works, or the big burning ball o'hydrogen in the sky. But we don't get to the long term unless we can survive the short term crises first ...)

91:

Well, Farage certainly, often seems to be to the right - right of my usual stance, certainly, though as to "hard" I'm not so sure, especially given some recent comments.
My conversion to an anti-EU stance certainly has aspects of W Benn in it, which from someone of my normal political leanings is a definite change.

92:

You can answer that yourself - do you vote LibDem, Labour, Conservative or Green?

93:

Rupert Murdoch. The Barclay brothers.
As for "nobles" forget it - you are at least 50 years out of date, if not longer. NOTE: I mean "Hereditaries" here - people like Pearson have been ennobled by the current right wing of the Tory party & don't actually count as "nobles", cough.

See Dirk B as to why the Greens are disliked. Their anti-nuclear stance is simply unnacceptable as is their propsed "direktion" of everybody & everything - all for their own good of course.
As El & Chrlie have noted, too - incidentally, The Corporation & Pink Ken (before he lost his marbles) had a very good working relationship - they both wanted London to succeed - The Corp were against the abolition of the GLC, f'rinstance, because they knew it would make life a lot more difficult. And it did - it was a disater.
At that time, they offered to take the "UndergrounD" off the guvmint (Which was taking it over) for £1 & claimed that they would need no subsidy whatsoever & that they would run it for all Londoners.
Thatcher's ideologues & the Treasury could not countenence such a threat to their control-freakery & refused ....

Off topic: The current Lady Mayoress of the City has been forced to stand down over the child abuse enquiry ...
I think this is deliberate, though I have no proof. Certain people want to make sure said enquiry fails, & rubbishing successive female proposed chairpersons is a very good way to start that collapse.
I smell several rats.
Comments?

94:

Agree with every single word - what a total fuck-up.
However, Mr Putin is very unlikely to turn the gas taps off.
He desperately needs the money - to the point that whilst he is waging a semi-covert, expensive & illegal war on the E side of Ukraine, but has just agreed to supply them ( & the rest of Europe) with gas ... I wonder why that might be?
( See above & recurse your path )

OTOH a few short sharp power-cuts could actually provoke real civil unrest, given the sequential lying promises we've had from both main parties over the years.
I know coal power is horrible, but wouldn't it have been a good idea to mothball a few &/or fit their exhusts with scrubbers, just for insurance?
Naah, that would have been too sensible, wouldn't it?
See also "Watermelon" party & nuclear power, again.
This is so depressing.

95:

I agree entirely - the "dash for gas" was obviously at the time a stupid way to fritter away a limited and valuable resource and as a consequence, whoever was in charge now was going to find themselves with something of a mess to clear up (it's a shame no-one did anything about it between the 80s/early 90s and today, but the way politics works means spending money for something that isn't needed now is never going to happen).

Where I have no sympathy with the current bunch is in thinking it's perfectly reasonable to pay another government to built our reactors. Either stick to the ideological guns and only put things to real private-sector organisations, or set up your own state-owned companies. Paying for nuclear power from the French government through EDF and for public transport from the German government through Ariva just seems bonkers: if we are going to subsidise any country's taxpayers, why not our own?

96:

So I was just imagining the 8th Baron Norton, and 21st Baron Willoughby de Broke, supporting UKIP in the Lords, as well as Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Baron Stevens of Ludgate [life peer], was I?

And the 10th Viscount Exmouth hasn't stood as UKIP candidate in Teignbridge?

UKIP is a much the party of aristocrats as Conservatives, Lib Dems and New Labour.

97:

Just what would a vote for the UKIP be a vote for? We know what they say they are against.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party would be a better choice as a protest vote.

98:

The only thing politicians respond to is lost votes or lost money. If the OMRLP could do it, I would vote for them. But they cannot, so UKIP will get my "Fuck You" vote. If I were in Scotland it would go to the SNP.

99:

Their overall energy position is a mess, and not of their making, granted.

However, they're ignoring any inconvenient bit of evidence they don't like about fracking to the extent that even when they try to blatantly bribe people who don't ignore it the people who look at the rest of the case say "Um, no thanks," and they're confused.

They're still fixing it in the most ham-fisted way, and Gideon is unpicking and removing every green policy he can find. It probably hasn't been helped that the now sacked former minister in charge of DEFRA is the latest Tory climate change denier from the admittedly relatively small pool of climate change denying politicians in this country.

They've shifted every target on atmospheric Carbon reduction they can find, more heavily recently, and mostly at Osborne's apparent instigation. There are mealy-mouthed excuses for it that largely wouldn't have sounded out of place in Dobya's mealy-mouth.

And I agree with Nick #95. If it's so ideologically evil to have government subsidised or owned industries wtf are they doing having the French government build the reactor, in the guise of EDF?

100:

A decade to build a lot of nuclear power? Between them, the major political parties have painted us into a corner. We should have had a next generation reactor design in service now, whoever might have built it. We should have a good idea of likely construction sites, taking a step back from the usual coastal locations. Much of the coal-fired power along the Trent has gone: it's still a flood risk, but the river is available for cooling.

I think we're the Soylent Green of today's world. All of us. Because we're not the ones in power, and I am not sure what out votes can do.

101:

Climate change and carbon emissions are only of concern to the Guardian reading Middle Class. The average person will support all that if it costs them nothing. Otherwise, it's a vote loser.

102:

Well I count as middle class.

103:

In my opinion the 'Quit the EU' aspect of UKIP's ideology/manifesto/propaganda is by far the least troubling - if that was their SOLE policy I would have no problem voting for them.

But it isn't.

However, I have a rule - if you find a party leader more repellent or untrustworthy than the current leader of the Conservative party [whomever that might be] - DON'T VOTE FOR THEM, OR THEIR PARTY.

There has never been anti-European party that did not have a self-evident authoritarian streak - not Labour in 1983, not the Referendum Party in 1997, not UKIP ever since.

UKIP are merely an isotope of Conservatism, an isotope of the wealthy, tax-avoiding 'establishment' oligarchy - Uranium 235 to Cameron's U236.

No amount of anything a UKIP supporter might try to add as mitigation would convince me otherwise.

104:

So do I, and I read and comment regularly in the Graun. I am all in favor of moving as rapidly as possible to a carbon free economy, with a nuclear base load capacity supplemented by renewables. However, I want to see it done because it will bring us energy independence from Russia and the cesspit that is the Middle East [our creation], not because I'm crying over the archetypal drowning polar bears or sinking Pacific islands.

105:

Let me be clear on this: I don't care if UKIPs policies involved having Farage bite the heads off kittens on prime time TV every night for 5 years.

106:

Folks, you have the same objections to the Greens that I do; it seems to me they are at least acknowledging to the right problems, though in the wrong way. From my viewpoint, Bruce Sterling's idea of a Viridian (high-tech green) party is perhaps what is needed.

I am not sure I am right, however. A Faustian over-confidence in our intellectual power seems to be our curse. Nuclear power is to some extent a side issue here, but this an area where I fear technological over-confidence. The land around Chernobyl is on the road to being a Lovecraftian place where nothing can live because nothing can properly die. Fallen leaves don't even rot there, and who knows for how long? It is likely that the land around Fukushima is in a similar state, though those studies have not yet been done.

Without safety practices effective beyond anything now imaginable, I don't see nuclear power as something remotely safe on the surface of the only habitable planet we know of.

107:

El
If it's so ideologically evil to have government subsidised or owned industries wtf are they doing having the French government build the reactor, in the guise of EDF?
No different to having Dutch (NS) German (DB) & Franch (SNCF) state railway companies owning rail franchises here, actually.
The phrase you are looking for is "Stinking, lying hypocrites", I think?

108:

In the USA, the very wealthy are working on becoming hereditaries, hence the attacks on the estate tax. It's as far against US founding ideals as it is possible to be.

109:

Would it surprise you to find that I am in large agreement with you? There are some aspects & some people in UKIP that I'm not happy with, shall we say?
But, but, oh SHIT!

111:

One of the joys of democracy is that the electorate can vote for candidates who have zero interest in your political opinions and no concern about your particular economic wants and needs, but can emit just enough bullshit to convince you that they do.

In that respect, UKIP are part of the problem they claim to be solution to.

But who cares what my opinions are...or yours.

112:

It is quite possible to design reactors that are inherently safe and cannot go into meltdown. Historically, the vast majority of reactors stem from their use in Plutonium factories and safety was a secondary consideration. If this were the 1950s we would be producing safe Thorium reactors within a decade. As it is, I doubt we will ever have a UK designed reactor again. We will buy them off China, a seriously "can do" nation in its ascendant phase (like America once was, and us before that).

113:

That's why I am more interested in throwing spanners in the works than voting.

114:

Why not just spoil your ballot paper [which is what I am planning to do in the continued absence of a better offer], or join the large minority of people who won't vote at all?

You must believe in something UKIP stands for?

115:

"It is quite possible to design reactors that are inherently safe and cannot go into meltdown"

Want to bet the literal future of life on earth on it?

Part of what worries me here is that the dangers are not so much in big scary disasters--there is no "Ebola, Ebola, Ebola," but in the centuries-long poisoning of the land, a thing we did not even contemplate when we started building civilian nuclear reactors. We aren't scared of the right things, and we so far we are not doing enough to prevent these horrific risks. And that is the Faustian over-confidence I fear.

BTW, IPCC V is sobering. Apocalypse now!

116:

Spoiling your ballot is not defiance but surrender.

"Of course it is possible to vote for the lesser evil. You get less evil."—Chomsky

117:

I'm a biologist. It would be nice to be independent of that charming supporter of human rights and gay rights in Russia, for sure, but although I'm not an ecologist I look at massive destruction of ecosystems, habitats and species and so on frankly scares me.

Not polar bears specifically, for all they make a nice cute picture - but rising sea levels is worrying at best, to frightening. I live in York, although I live close to hills, I'm not that far above sea level. Add 5m to mean sea levels and swimming out of my bed in the morning.

Despite what the nutty fringe says it's pretty clear we're seeing the impact of climate change manifesting in our weather. For example, a warmer atmosphere will hold more moisture before it reaches the dew point and we get precipitation. So we're likely to get longer periods without rain, and then when it rains there's more water to fall so we're likely to get more floods. It's possible, of course, the weather over the last few years in the UK that matches this pattern, with several months being either the driest X on record or the wettest X on record could all be coincidence. But they do fit the model quite neatly. As do the movements of the Gulf Stream and the associated very cold winters that we get sometimes. It's not predictable where they'll happen, but that they'll happen is perfectly predictable.

Personally I've not seen any of the big parties deliver on policies that seem likely to address my concerns on these. I've had five years of misery with austerity. I don't like all of the Green's policies but I think I'm voting Green next time. A good solid kick in the teeth for misery in a cause that I actually care about I can live with better than the crap I'm seeing from the rest of them.

If there was a Viridian party, my natural inclination might be to go there, but actually I think a Luddite kick is what we need now. The need to do something significant right now won't wait for a fix that's "just 5 years away." It sounds dramatic to talk about extinction events but I'd rather not be alive when the next one comes. Given my sexual orientation I'm not going to have children to worry about being alive for it and I'm not a believer that we have stewardship of the Earth or anything. But at some level I believe we shouldn't shit in our own backyard and we should tidy up our own mess. We've made this, it might be too late to tidy it up, but we should try, and, to my mind, that's our best bet.

118:

It's hard to specifically talk about what destruction of ecosystems and species means because we often don't have concrete examples or we don't see and properly understand the impact for decades.

Looking back, it's really to understand how doctor's were allowed to prescribe penicillin for everything in the way they did in the 1950's and 60's. We didn't have the understanding of molecular biology we have now, but we certainly had the understanding of population genetics and bacterial breeding rates to predict what might happen.

Fifty years later we're seriously facing the end of the antibiotic era. Things that 20 years ago were the stuff of nightmares in hospitals like MRSA (and are still nosocomial infections in the UK) are community infections in large parts of the US. This means they're faced with using Vancomycin or not treating them. If they use Vancomycin they'll get a Staph. aureus that's resistant to every antibiotic we have.

MDR-TB is making a comeback and TB is back on the WHO list of emerging infectious diseases 120 years or so after it "went away."

And this is stuff we monitor really closely because we know how it kills us. Working out how the extinction of yellow-tailed, green-eyed parakeets or some amazonian beetle we've never even seen affects is orders of magnitude harder.

119:

Thinking it over, we do seem to be seeing a resurgence of aristocratic politics, and establishing an aristocracy in the USA is one of the goals of the wealthy right; they have to make poverty policy, in order to be aristocrats.

120:

Thorium reactors aren't a panacea: did you miss the memo about them being used to breed weapons-grade U233?

They don't make an end-run around weapon proliferation issues, and while the fuel is cheaper and more abundant than uranium, uranium isn't exactly scarce. As for inherent safety features, those are possible with other reactor fuels; you don't need to migrate to a wholly new fuel cycle just to build reactors that don't overheat and slag down if you remove power to the cooling pumps and rely purely on passive heat transfer.

121:

Want to bet the literal future of life on earth on it?

Exaggerating much?

122:

El, you are living through the Sixth Extinction. We are the Sixth Extinction.

A true global Luddite kick would lead to deaths by hundreds of millions. It is only technology that lets us support as many people as we are, and that, probably, only temporarily. Still, we can hardly go on as we have, and perhaps the Greens can be persuaded to change their policies. At least they are on about the right issues.

My too-short notes on environmental policy, here.

As to the broader issues, I think what is happening in the UK is mirrored in the USA. In the USA, the Senate is balanced on a knife edge and we hold our breaths, waiting for November Fifth. The whole issue that started this discussion is the destabilization of the UK political system, and matters do not seem to be much better in continental Europe.

We wait, and work, and hope.

123:

Fifty years later we're seriously facing the end of the antibiotic era. Things that 20 years ago were the stuff of nightmares in hospitals like MRSA (and are still nosocomial infections in the UK) are community infections in large parts of the US. This means they're faced with using Vancomycin or not treating them. If they use Vancomycin they'll get a Staph. aureus that's resistant to every antibiotic we have.

I think you're over-exaggerating. Two points:

1. Resistance to Chloroquine (an anti-malarial agent) became so common among P. Falciparum in sub-Saharan Africa that we stopped using it. Guess what? Chloroquine resistance has declined so rapidly that it's becoming effective again. Antibiotic resistance confers a cost on a unicellular organism, and once the challenge is withdrawn from the environment it tends to wane. So in the long run, antibiotics will remain effective -- as long as we practice "crop rotation" with lengthy fallow periods to allow resistance traits to die out, and don't shovel the stuff into random animal feed.

2. We're getting to the point where high speed genome sequencing is cheap and easy enough to perform in GPs surgeries. And we have -- thanks to the USSR/Russia -- extensive libraries of bacteriophages. Put the two together and we have the prospect of sequencing and identifying specific pathogenic bacteria strains and hitting them with a very specific phage virus in a matter of hours. This is probably going to be a hospital-level treatment, but it shows one way forward towards an antibiotic-free future that is nevertheless also free from fulminating septicaemia.

My pet scare is that before we get to this promised land, the idiots in Downing Street will force people to pay for GP visits -- including those on benefits. And other neoliberal asshats elsewhere will follow similarly destructive anti-public health policies, because of course pandemics can be stopped by the Invisible Hand. At which point we will see XDR-TB start to burn through the UK. (MDR-TB; multidrug resistant, fast, often lethal. XDR-TB: extreme-multidrug resistant TB, about as lethal as Ebola and prone to aerosolization.)

124:

I know - my degree was in physics. However, Thorium is far more plentiful than Uranium, and making bombs is a bit more difficult. Irrespective of the technology, we need to do it now, and in massive quantity. However, it won't happen in Europe or the USA.

125:

A spoiled ballot paper will just get a laugh from politicians. It has not hurt a single one of them. They don't give a fuck about how many people don't vote, or sign petitions or march in the streets. Voting for "the enemy" DOES hurt them.

And do I believe in a single thing UKIP stand for? Yes - an in/out referendum on the EU. Do I believe the promise of "Call Me Dave" to hold one if he wins? LOL!

126:

Very minor nitpick: extensively drug-resistant, not extreme. And there are already cases of TDR-tuberculosis in the literature, which stands for exactly what you don't want it to.

127:

At least in the UK, spoilt votes are counted.

Can't see the point in voting for the sitting Conservative MP in my constituency, or the Labour candidate - who happens to be the husband of the Labour member defeated in 2010.

Self-perpetuating political elite, much?

As to your other point, the USA has always had a political-economic aristocracy - it just chooses not to identify as such, cf George [Bush] the first, and George [Bush] the second.

128:

"Exaggerating much?"

How, exactly? If, over time, nuclear accidents or wars render more and more of the planet's surface into places where decay, even, is not possible, is this not a threat to life on earth?

It all sounds very Lovecraftian, does it not?

129:

One point I often make is that you do not sell a low carbon economy, and the short term economic pain it inflicts on us, by appealing to our altruism about either polar bears or far off foreigners getting their feet wet in 100 years time. You sell it because we want to get out from under the thumb of Russia and out of the politics and wars of the Middle East. people would accept that. However, for some reason that is never the argument that comes from politicians.

130:

I'd be surprised if the Labour meltdown in Scotland is anything like as bad as the recent polls suggest by the time we get to the general election. The new leader will have a lot of work to do though.

In the same way, the squeeze on the LibDem vote nationally probably won't have as much effect on their parliamentary representation as the raw numbers suggest. Sitting LibDem MPs have generally got there by assiduously buidling local support, and consequently are as hard to shift as limescale. I don't see them gaining any marginals anytime soon though.

The biggest threat the Tories face is more immediate than the general election. If the Rochester bye-election returns the latest UKIP defector, expect a bunch of like-minded Tory backbenchers to follow suit. It's hard for UKIP to defeat mainstream parties under first-past-the-post, but it's real easy for a euro-skeptic Tory to switch parties, taking his local party workers with him (usually him) and retain his seat.

We need Nate Silver to crunch the numbers here, but the downside for the Tories looks a lot worse than for Labour

131:

Why don't you google Kerala sands, and its population. For example, this:

http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/10_02/natural_radio.shtml

And bear in mind that the levels of most of the Chernobyl exclusion zone are lower. BTW, are Hiroshima and Nagasaki uninhabitable ghost towns?

132:

It's also easy for UKIP to take money from the Conservatives by donors:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29438653

"Former Conservative supporter Arron Banks is donating £1m to UKIP.He said he had been intending to give £100,000, but had raised that to £1m after William Hague downplayed his past significance to the Tories."

133:

I don't want a referendum. I want a left-wing party that says it will initiate legislation to leave the EU if it gets a parliamentary majority at Westminster.

It's not going to happen, but hey...

If you want to leave the EU, fine, but you want the associated stream of anti-intellectual pollution that gushes out of UKIP on other issues, if you vote for them - you can't seperate one from the other.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ukip

Of all the issues UKIP stands for, leaving the EU has the LEAST day-to-day importance.

134:

You're entering into the field of my PhD, fair warning, OK?

I agree with your points but... we show no signs of actually stopping shoving antibiotics into animals. In fact according to a recent report about 60% of the antibiotics used in the UK are used in farm animals.

Treatment of Pl. falciparum and rotating drugs is a bloody miracle. We really ought to be able to do it, especially in the UK with the NHS and NICE having a level of control over what drugs get used but so far we've proven remarkably crap at it. In places where there's less regulation there's less hope.

Bacteriophage treatments have been a hope that's offered for a while now. It ought to work, there's lots and lots of reasons why it ought to work. I have yet to see a documented clinical trial of it though. I hope it's not a rolling "10 years away" like fusion power is "30 years away" but it's been "10 years away" for the last 20 at least.

XDR-TB is still a debated nomenclature - there's a lot of issues about how you characterise it at a genetic level for one. MDR-TB is universally recognised, unless it's changed in the last set of updates, which I haven't read yet.

I admire your optimism and I hope I'm wrong, there are several ways I could be, but I'm not seeing a lot of hope for it.

135:

I think the most apposite term for UKIP would be poujadiste

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Poujade

136:

I caught the panel on antibiotic resistance at the Worldcon.

Short version. We're in big trouble.

Less short. The delay between introduction of a new antibiotic and the appearance of resistant strains has shrunk from a decade or more, to months. No new class of of antibiotic, attacking a previously untackled point of bacterial life cycle, has emerged for decades. Developing new antibiotics is expensive and the potential cash-flow is small (drug companies like drugs for chronic diseases, that we take till we die, but a course of antibiotics last a week or two).

137:

In the short term, it's possible that the simmering pissing contest with Russia will nudge European countries into increased imports of fracked gas from North America.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/03/140320-north-american-natural-gas-seeks-markets-overseas/

... or to put it another way, Putin may be making North American gas more competitive in Europe

138:

the simmering pissing contest with Russia will nudge European countries into increased imports of fracked gas from North America.

How is it going to get there?

The huge fleet of methane supertankers it'd take to make a dent in the European gas market just doesn't exist. The existing fleet is largely tied up by Japan, which closed its nuclear reactors down after the Tohoku earthquake of 2011 ... and Japan is a lot smaller (population, geography, and demand-wise) than the EU ...

139:

That will almost certainly happen. However, if the EU/USA keeps pushing Russia they will find that when the pissing has stopped China will own Siberia and all its resources.

140:

Japan is thinking of restarting some of the reactors. We will have to see how the Japanese public balances its fear of nuclear power with the cost of not having it.

141:

Also AIUI & IIRC, the "original" antibiotics, the "Sulfa" drugs went out of use very quickly post-WWII & are still very effective. WIerd side-eefects I understand, but still a lot better than nothing.
[ My mother had vile blood infection, 1938(ish) & an early "sulfa" nuked it a treat, I was told. ]

Err ... in NZ you pay a small sum to visit your GP - I'm told it has always been that way - a preventive against Hypochondria, I think.
The rest of it is free, of course.
From recent experience, what's wrong with the NHS is NOT money it's the administration...
Someone I know very well had an emergency (like operation @ 01.00hrs) appendectomy - appendix in "wrong" place, thought to be Gall-bladder - suddenly realised it wasn't - quick! - and then hospital & home care.
The nurses, doctors & specialists did a 150% good job ... but the amount of time, effort, work & therefore MONEY wasted because the administration fucked-up, repeatedly was truly scary.
{ Lost personal property, recovered after 3 days, notes mislaid, District Nurse not informed, other info not forwarded ... how much does this cost ? }

And, of course, AFAIK none of the politicians of any party are looking at that, are they?

142:

It does turn out that radiation isn't quite as dangerous as people feared. The circumstances have to be right for it to cause lasting damage. The WW2 bombings, for example, were airbursts so there was relatively little fallout. Mostly just the material of the bombs themselves.

143:

The antibiotics problem is an example of market failure, to which the old remedy was public funded research in universities and the like, only with 30 years of neoliberalism, that route is ignored.
See also the destruciton of that plant place that starts with an R, and Kew gardens and their knowledge and experience with plants and growing conditions etc etc.

144:

I'd agree that the admin can be awkward. It doesn't help that there are so many admin fingers in the pie. In the case of my parents, I saw how the privatisation of Social Services messed up the admin. What has the system really gained from skilled care staff being transferred to private employers? The Social Services department of the Local Authority gets an info packet from the hospital, and has to make arrangements with one of several competing companies, and it all takes time.

And I am not sure that some of the private care homes were so competent, a decade ago, even when the council still ran care homes, and nobody seemed to want to ask questions.

Yes, people make mistakes. But nobody seems to want to fix them. Despite the promises, it doesn't get better.

145:

The reason there is an exclusion zone at Chernobyl has more to do with the danger of people eating contaminated food where the radioisotopes (mostly Cs137) accumulate in the food chain.

146:

Before the Great Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami Japan was generating about 40% of its electricity from nuclear power stations with the rest coming from a mixture of garbage-burning, LPG (not LNG) and a small amount of coal. They also imported a lot of gas for home heating, cooking, industrial chemical processing and the like.

After the Japanese reactors were shut down I heard an energy analyst say that the Japanese electricity producers had taken out buy options on most of the Pacific area LPG production for the next decade or so. They're also importing more and more Australian coal but gas is their main substitute fuel.

As for foreign companies building reactors in Britain, we have no real native experience in building light-water reactors. The only one running here today is Sizewell-B, a Westinghouse 1190MWe PWR built as a test in part to give the construction industry experience in building similar reactors to displace coal generation and provide cover for the ageing AGR fleet. Cheap gas in the 1990s put paid to followup reactor construction until the recent decisions to build more.

The Chinese are currently the world leaders in building reactors, constructing a standard GenII+ design 1100MW reactor (the AP 1000/CAP 1000) from first concrete to grid connection in about five years or so. They've got 27 units under construction at the moment so having them in charge of building the next generation of British reactors should mean they're on-line in a reasonable timeframe.

As for thorium, it's not fissionable. It has to go through a breeding cycle to convert it into U-233 which can be then fissioned to produce energy and neutrons just like U-235 is fissioned in a conventional power reactor. There's a lot more problems with thorium, especially the Magical Mythical Liquid Salt reactor designs so beloved of the Powerpoint Warriors, so for the next thirty years or so nearly all reactors built will be uranium-fuelled light-water designs. After that the next generation of liquid-metal-cooled fast reactors which can use spent fuel should be thoroughly tested and debugged and ready for rollout en masse.

147:

"What has the system really gained from skilled care staff being transferred to private employers?"

That's simply, the pension stuff gets dealt with by someone else, there's less moochers on the public payroll, they have worse working conditions and rights, and even better, the politicians can blame the companies when things don't work properly.

Which ties up with the problem of the lack of power in the UK because the people ostensibly in position to take responsibility in this representative government shirk it as much as possible.

148:

So. But that fallen leaves don't even rot there? Nobody anticipated that and it is very bad.

149:

... the simmering pissing contest with Russia will nudge European countries into increased imports of fracked gas from North America.

How is it going to get there?

Enlarged LPGC fleet ? (just learnt a new acronym) The current spike in demand for carriers is apparently driven by increased demand in China and South Korea.

http://www.drewry.co.uk/news.php?id=288

... still, if push came to shove, the capacity to satisfy the European market from North America could be created. The sticking point is simply price. Supplying gas by pipeline is a lot cheaper than by tanker. I guess the price difference is where the power politics happens.

150:

Yet again ... it's a matter of getting across "the gap" for want of a better word.
10 years to a set of baseload fission stations ... & in the meantime?
Or, if Lockheed are correct, 12 years to fusion on-line for everyone (?)
Meanwhile ... errr ... ummm

[ guthrie @ 146 - actually that ploy is slowly ceasing to work.
People are/have reailised that the politicians are still responsible for the fuck-ups, because they deliberately arranged it so.
One can hope that some rope might get employed at least once, if only pour encourager les autres

151:

Here's a link all you amateur psephologists might find interesting, comparing present electoral trends in UK and the Republic of Ireland, as demonstrated by current polls:

http://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/perfidious-or-precarious-albion/

Prognosis: UK is on the fast track to a hung parliament, but in RoI what we're seeing (in my opinion) is the actual death of a party system (FG/FF/Labour) that has ruled the country almost since the revolution of 1916 - 1923.

UK has had hung parliaments before, and it's seen the death of major parties (i.e. the Liberals). The death of a whole party system - I don't think that's been seen in the North Atlantic Archipelago since, well, ever.

152:

Gosh, lots of comments. Me, a couple of months ago I got so pissed off with the refusal of the UK Govt and HM opposition to take the climate crisis seriously, that I decided to get active with the Greens, so I'm standing for them next spring. If I actually find any hair-shirted 'Luddites'* in the GP I will be sure to denounce them, but I haven't encountered any yet: I suspect that they might be fiction encouraged largely by our enemies. So far it's all very evidence-based.

Anyway. Here's a link to Paul Mason on Shakespeare and post-capitalism, which is a half-decent article:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/02/sharkespeare-marxism-feudalism-capitalism

*A historian writes: don't diss the Luddites. Actual Luddites were into technology, they just had objections to it putting them out of work and thus starving them to death. The threat of starvation concentrates the mind.

153:

That angle on the Luddites might be what the austerity-mob are missing. Cut the benefits and you make people desperate. Desperate people will do desperate things, and they will do things that make sense to them.

So, Austerity, and what else? What will the current media propaganda suggest as sensible, if desperate, solutions?

Wilder speculation: are Anonymous the modern equivalent of the Luddites?

154:

You obviously received different materials form "Worse Apart" from the ones I had, if you didn't get that message from them.

155:

Back when he was in Glasgow Hillhead, George Galloway was talking to his Election Agent.

GG asks "Why do people seem to take such an intant dislike to me?"
The EA replies "Well, I imagine that they find that it save time later."


NB Charlie, originally published in the Glasgow Herald.

156:

Well, based on the arguments that Worse Apart presented, England, as the secceding state, would get to keep nothing except buildings physically in England, and have to renegotiate all treaties etc.

157:

I've neve actually met Nicola, but I have stayed in the same hotel as her, and she at least knows how to treat people.

158:

in NZ you pay a small sum to visit your GP - I'm told it has always been that way - a preventive against Hypochondria, I think.

It's still a TERRIBLE idea, Greg. Hypochondria isn't a vast, money-sucking time sink for the NHS. Whereas, you might ask who legitimately visits their GP most often? The answer is: the elderly, pregnant women and mothers with small children, people who are chronically sick or disabled, and the long-term unemployed. All of whom are likely to be poor. Being long-term unemployed correlates with poor diet, poor living conditions, chronic stress, and (often) psychiatric issues: being disabled, pregnant, or retired tends to be incompatible with working.

What may seem like a small sum to you may seem impossible to an unemployed person who's just been sanctioned by the DSS and has £10 to live on for the next two weeks.

Final note: pandemics don't give a shit about your income status, skin color, or lifestyle. They kill billionaires and paupers alike. We need free access to front-line medical resources precisely so that if someone is ill due to a new plague they get identified, segregated from the uninfected population, and treated immediately. We don't want homeless people incubating TDR-TB in public spaces, we don't want beggars with the Martian Death Flu coughing all over passers-by on our streets, we don't want long-haul travellers with suspected Ebola waiting for six hours in a public emergency room because the hospital hopes that if people with minor ailments are forced to wait they'll go away.

Public health is a public good, and "charge a small fee to deter hypochondriacs" is basically neoliberal ideological bullshit spouted by medically illiterate morons who don't have a fucking clue how hot the fire they're playing with can burn -- and who think it's a good wheeze to privatize everything, including the air they breathe.

159:

The WW2 bombings, for example, were airbursts so there was relatively little fallout.

Yes, only several tens of thousands of people died of radiation sickness or became chronically ill at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sorry: I've read accounts of what happened there, and you shouldn't discount the lethality of the fallout plume from even a "small" air-burst nuke.

160:

Per the paper "Smithsonian" (a non-primary source) cited, fallen leaves do rot there: just not as fast as they rot elsewhere in Ukraine. Smithsonian were putting a spin on a story because they wanted a bleeding leader, not a long-term weather report.

Because the paper is behind a paywall I can't assess their methodology -- this is just going via the abstract -- but I'd want to know a lot more about how their control locations were picked before I credit it. Nor am I in a position to assess the credibility of the researchers: but there's been a lot of bullshit spouted about the effects of the Chernobyl zone over the years, much of it by activist groups with axes to grind, and I'd take nothing at face value until I'd double-checked it.

161:

I am thinking back to my vague thesis about failure modes in late-stage democracy -- here conflated with neoliberal capitalist praxis -- and, looking at China, I am thinking, "does the neoliberal system need democracy?"

The answer appears to be "no, except as a distraction". Which leaves us heading somewhere very bad indeed.

162:

Well, good for you. (Guess who joined the Scottish Green Party a couple of weeks ago? I should get more involved ...)

163:

" If I actually find any hair-shirted 'Luddites'* in the GP I will be sure to denounce them, but I haven't encountered any yet: "

Just ask about nuclear power, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, manned spaceflight, synthetic biology...

164:

True, but that's nothing compared to the radioactivity you get if you take a reactor core and spread it around a bit

165:

Neoliberalism without democracy is worse than Fascism (which is arguably the Chinese model) The latter pays more than lip service to controlling the big corporations on behalf of the nation. Neoliberalism doesn't.

166:

I have two major problems with Greens. They're probably screwed by FPTP in most constituencies, although a wasted vote still makes a point, in aggregate. However, I'm more concerned about
their opposition to nuclear power .

The Greens in Germany have successfully closed down nuclear-generated power. Or rather, outsourced it to France. It's not something I want to see happen here.

167:

I this last weekend I met the Chippie and her fellow mentor just outside the Goodman. The mentor, who is a political aid, said, 'vote for Quinn so I can keep my job'. I submit that this is what is missing from modern politics -- the tangible quid pro quo (at least, it's missing in the U.S. for most voters.) Say what you will about the old system being corrupt, at least it delivered tangible results. Nowadays? The voters get vague bromides about policy and 'tone' for the quo. The only ones who get the quid are the big boys.

168:

There's been a growing schism in the green movement over the past decade over nuclear power between the anti-nuclear fundamentalists and those who see it as a carbon-neutral baseload power source that should be evaluated on its merits. I'm inclined to think that the closer to actual power the Greens get -- outside of Germany, where the party got close to power during the 80s at a time where the anti-nuclear-weapons movement and the anti-nuclear-power policy were closely conflated -- the more pragmatic they'll get about tools for keeping the lights on without melting the icebergs.

169:

Don't hold your breath when it comes to genetic engineering, of any kind.

170:

It's a side issue but in theory I have no problem with charging for people who book a GP appointment and fail to attend.

We need a way to ensure that GP surgery time is not wasted by people either not turning up or failing to cancel appointments. And the only way to effectively do that would be to fine those who waste time by not turning up.

Actually charging to see a doctor however is a recipe for disaster as it will result in people just leaving things too late..

171:

Prognosis: UK is on the fast track to a hung parliament, but in RoI what we're seeing (in my opinion) is the actual death of a party system (FG/FF/Labour) that has ruled the country almost since the revolution of 1916 - 1923.

I'd like to see a full voting analysis. It looks like the blog simply translated voting percentages into seats, which doesn't work. However the trend is right: Collectively the (FF+FG+Lab) vote has been falling monotonically since the 1980s from 90%+ to 48% in the last election. At some point the falling vote gets you 1 seat out of 3 in a 3-seat consitutuency, not 2, and the dramatic change occurs.

But it is annoying that the media in general stare past this abyss. The general populace is very dissatisfied with the established parties and increasingly unlikely to vote for any of them, as seen above. The media still quote 28% "Independents" when Labour are at 7% ?? People are obviously examining other choices, and the media are doing their best to frustrate this.

172:

Observational evidence from the Irish health system is that nominal charges used to deter wasteful use a) become seen as revenue sources, b) metastasise to follow the 'waste' as people who can't afford the charge clog up some other part of the health system.
Exhibit A: the fact we currently charge people 100 euro to use A & E departments.

173:

".. still, if push came to shove, the capacity to satisfy the European market from North America could be created. The sticking point is simply price. Supplying gas by pipeline is a lot cheaper than by tanker. I guess the price difference is where the power politics happens."

If I were considering investing in that fleet (and/or the massive pipeline and (off-)loading facilities, I'd be very, very wary of Putin. He could drop the price for a year, take a hit, but crash the shipping market massively.

174:

"Cut the benefits and you make people desperate. Desperate people will do desperate things, and they will do things that make sense to them."

When they do, and far more importantly, when they do it against the elites more than the elites' forces can repress, then the elites will worry about it.

175:

I think you've missed the point that the UK still uses a first past the post constituency system, not any form of PR.

176:

Not necessarily; I'm old enough to remember Loch Striven in Argyll being used as a ship park for spare bulk tanker capacity (I think 1970s, possibly 1980s).

177:

Yes, but amckinstry was talking about another parliamentary system heading for meltdown that does.

178:

I have some theoretical qualms over this - it still acts as a potential deterrent to some who have a genuine need, low income and are worried they won't be able to get to the appointment for some genuine reasons. But I could be assuaged if there are mechanisms to drop the charge on any of a number of grounds.

I have a more practical problem with it too - just how tricky is this to administer and implement? I drop in to my GP twice every month, or every two months now, to drop off a prescription repeat request and pick up the form. I also go for a checkup every 6 months. (My GP's surgery is 2 doors past the local pharmacy and about 50m past where I go for lunch, it seems silly to organise them to do a pick-up service.) I wouldn't say they're rushed off their feet every time I go, but equally it's rare there's not a queue and/or I have to wait because the two receptionists are on the phone. Add to that flagging up missed appointments for sending out penalty notices, however it's done, is just adding an extra burden to their existing workload. Do we really need it?

Especially since there are ways that there is evidence small changes in how we confirm appointments could produce big reductions in missed appointments. If the receptionists ask the person to say the date and time back to them to confirm the details it produces a big reduction in missing appointments. It costs no time (a bit of training time maybe), no money and addresses the real problem directly.

179:

@paws4hot: Apologies, the first paragraph had html that got stripped. It should have been visibily quoted from O'Kanes OP.

My comment referred to Irelands STV voting and the meltdown happening here, not the meltdowns in Scotland/UK (or Spain ...)

180:

If this blog had a +1 I'd just have hit it until it broke.

181:

Also #178 - Ok. I'd read #170 as referring solely to single member FPTP where the stated assumptions do make sense; I'll happily agree that they don't work in multi-member STV.

[[ that was actually 3 spellung misteaks fixed for you - mod ]]

182:

"...member FPTP where..." even!

183:

"Not necessarily; I'm old enough to remember Loch Striven in Argyll being used as a ship park for spare bulk tanker capacity (I think 1970s, possibly 1980s)."

I'll bet that those were *already built* ships, which were being stored because the storage costs were low enough to wait on a market change.

I'm talking about building a very large new fleet.

184:

Thanks; guess why I am not seeking a career as a proff reider. ;-)

185:

True, but you might want to look up the history John Brown and Co's Hull Number 534, aka the RMS Queen Mary, before arguing that ships can not be left on the ways for a period during construciton.

186:

I was merely pointing out that a basically "free-at-the-point-of-use" syatem can be diferent in subtle (& not-so-subtle) ways.
For the record, I don't think it's a good idea, actually.

Also:Greens vs Nuclear power @ #167
I'm not holding my breath.
I think they will stick with the stupid, luddite route, because they're like that.
"GM is baaaaaad" - because a lot of GM is associated with Monsanto, is another example .....
So trashing blight-resistant potato crops @ Rothamstead is supposed to be a good idea?
The stupid, it burns!

187:

I wonder how many "watermelons" grow roses and/or fruit, or drink cider or wine? I think you see my point?

188:

Ref Loch Striven - ISTR a few tankers parked up there into the late 80s / early 90s, although I might be mistaken.

For a while, our war role was defending the NATO oil storage depot there against the depredations of fifth columnists and the Units of Special Designation; I have rather wet memories from overlooking it (the rain tends to come in sideways, although on the bright side the cold rather slowed down the Evil Mutant Piranha Midges of West Scotland).

189:

...and she knows how to deal with waiting lists, too...

Sorry, that should read: come to power claiming that waiting lists were inaccurate, become Health Minister, and then make several announcements to Holyrood:

- to refute claims that NHS Lothian lists were being fiddled
- to admit that it had happened in Lothian but not elsewhere; but try to claim that the investigation that proved this, had been triggered by her and not by the Board of NHS Lothian
- to admit that it had happened elsewhere in NHS Scotland; but during the investigation get slapped by Audit Scotland for trying to take over an independent audit (can't think why).

and then to leave post, possibly in case she had to go down with the ship (sorry, avoid reputational damage to the Deputy Leader)...

190:

I've stuck the paper on www.hep.shef.ac.uk/cartwright/art%3A10.1007%2Fs00442-014-2908-8.pdf (I can see it through my university's subscription).

There seems to be a real, but not very large, effect. Some of their statistics don't make a lot of sense (meh, biologists...): they say on p434 that "Two separate analyses for the litter bags with and without
fine mesh net similar to the statistical model in Table 2 produced
a significant effect of radiation in the absence of fine
mesh (F = 2.53, df = 1, 365, P = 0.0008), but produced
no significant effect of radiation in its presence (F = 1.13,
df = 1, 118, P = 0.34)" – this implies that what the radiation does is knock out larger invertebrates, e.g. worms. However, further down that same page they say "Thus, the effects of radiation on
mass loss were independent of tree species and presence or
absence of fine mesh." This appears to contradict the previous assertion that there is no significant effect of radiation in the presence of fine mesh.

Their figure 2 looks reasonably convincing, but their figure 3 seems very dependent on 3 points at their highest radiation level – if you took those away, the rest of the data don't show a very significant trend.

I find the conclusion of "a linear dose-response of decomposition" difficult to understand, given that all their radiation graphs use a log scale. Anyway, I don't think anyone has ever suggested that leaves rot more slowly in Cornwall or Aberdeen (granite) than they do in the Peak District (limestone).

It would appear that there is something interesting going on, but the analysis presented here looks a bit iffy. And I wish the bag analysis had been done blind, but I don't think it was.

While I'm criticising, Martin @187: she did not "refute" claims, she merely denied them. Refute means disprove: you can't disprove allegations that were in fact true.

191:

But we don't get to the long term unless we can survive the short term crises first ...

This. And there are a lot of potential short-term crises that we have to survive. Including the (IMO) substantial possibility that while no one of them may take us down, the collection could nibble us to death.

192:

I get a 404 at that url.

193:

I agree that the most dramatic thing about Fig. 3 is the difference between high and low radiation values, but there is also a modest trend in the intermediate values, though with an odd dip at 100 µSv/h.

"I don't think anyone has ever suggested that leaves rot more slowly in Cornwall or Aberdeen (granite) than they do in the Peak District (limestone)." Perhaps there is. It would be interesting to investigate.

The paper, Highly reduced mass loss rates and increased litter layer in radioactively contaminated areas is freely available at the Chernobyl and Fukushima Research Initiatives web pages. The researchers in charge are faculty at University of South Carolina, Université Paris-Sud, the University of Kyiv, and the University of Jyväskylä. They are not, at least, obvious cranks.

194:

Greg, from my viewpoint the scare stories get in the way of discussing real risks. GMO technology in the hands of Monsanto and other agribusiness firms is frightening. Similarly, TEPCO is as fine an argument against the use of the nuclear power as one could wish, and the Chernobyl management was worse.

There's a lot of people who are afraid of the "wrong" things, but they are not wrong to be afraid.

195:

The Raven, that's pretty much where I'm at. It irritates me mightily when idiot Green MP's stand up and say stupid stuff like "we should be sending homeopathic ebola remedies to Africa" (hello Steffan Browning), and then other idiots say "see, everything any greenie ever says is obviously nonsense". In shocking news, greenies are human and there's a whole range of opinions. You can assume that they are inclined towards preserving the planet with some assurance, but beyond that you need to know about the actual person. Much as you can't look at Charles Stross and say "all Scots are cursed, their speculative fiction comes true before the book reaches retail".

There's a lot of situations where you have to pick the least awful options, and for me at least The Greens occupy that political position more often than not. Luckily in Oz we have preferential voting so I can actually say "tiny microparty #1... The Greens #N... Meh Party #N+1... KillThePlanet #Last". And unfortunately in Oz we also have the "coal is good for humanity" party to put last (and a majority of voters disagree with me on that, so they're now in government).

196:

Hello Everyone !

I've taken the time to read, digest, and think about everything said here. I'll be pulling together as much as I can from everyone, because I need to emphasise that practically all notes made are valid (aside from that yellow flagged by Charlie). Why are they all valid ? Beacuse, without question, they are all true.

However, on the shores of R'lyeh (and as far from the action as possible in Auckland), its possible to synthesise a few conclusions and thoughts - and see whether there is more to add in forming a bigger picture. In addition, the 'beige dictatorship' is a component as well.

1) Decline of West ala Spengler
We are in the age of Caesarism, the final stage of a culture. The phrase used 'money is power' is a meme of Caesarism...and surveillance culture is part of it. With Caesarism we also get enfeeblment of political forces - the beige dictatorship. Although the political forces are getting more draconian, the dragon's teeth are getting weaker - witness: while evil evil evil, the world is big, getting better informed, and interconnected. So, having learnt what Caesar in London & Washington does not like, mems are developing to avoid this, and so live untrammelled.
Other symptoms of this political system are Winter in the Arts (Art Problems - calling a chair or a car art) and Mathematics and Science having had their concluding thoughts (Reimann, Feynman QED).
In Caesarism, money talks...and not much else.

2) The Final Political Form
This is tricky....I suspect sadly that the Beige Dictatorship is it. With increasing political enfeeblement, the representative form becomes increasingly hereditary - we are one generation away from children who go into politics because their parents did, and their children did in turn....contrast with Ancient Rome's Senate, though there are many other examples. Perhaps you really are President for life...everywhere !

3) Economic Final Form
This is tricky again. At the present time we are seeing increasing economic enfeeblement in the 1st world, as those traditionally in the 3rd world play catch up....and best part is, actually are.
Other things include the diversification of technology, spreading of knowledge, and a growing lack of differentiation of markets....internet again ?
Another very stirring proof..and think about this one a while: deflation.
We know what deflation is, of course. It has an effect you might not have realised though, but after thinking about it makes sense.. By inflation, the beige dictatorship borrows from each other. But there is a brick wall...if you are making things, your money inflates. This is helpful, as it means your monumental 1960 US$15 million loan from Upper Volta is payed for by the IMF Tea money in 2010.
But now that deflation is likely, what then ?

We stand on the brink of the largest default in human history, and the unseating of the Westphalian system once and for all. The modern economic model, as Charlie points out, is a creature of Westphalia. So, when the wheels come off, it smashes. Hard.

But the shock is not to the man in the street. At least not hilariously, as there are now so many counter systems in place (Bitcoin, anyone?) and defined debt instruments as well as money being earned both outside and inside a currency system, plus good information being shared, that local implosions...don't become global.
But by deflation, 0% interest rates...means that at long last several facts of life are coming to roost.

4) The Biological Crisis
What is this ? It can be stated quite simply - retirement is about to hit the West big time.
Those that worked for a living through the end of the C20 are, not unnaturally, wanting to retire. Well and good.
But they are the same set that put the beige dictatorship in place at about the same time...and political enfeeblement can be measured by their enfeeblement.
They have not procreated much. When I was born, in '78, the average western family was 3 children. When I was 10, it was 2.4. When I graduated from high school in 1996, it was 1.9 . Today, when I am 36, its now 1.3.
That's a diminishing exponential curve (I checked, I used Excel) And its now flattening out. Its also very bad news. Essentially, the population pyramid is not skewing towards the middle aged, and away from the young. There is a similar thing happening in sub-Saharan Africa due to HIV.
Biologically, the population is no longer self-renewing anymore. Its in a phase known in popdyn as die-off.

What impact is that having ? Deflation, for a start. Then there is diminishing industry, diminishing agriculture, diminishing...well, everything really. Extends to electricity, Sizewell B's, and so on.

Why is an easy one - at long last, the great carrying capacity oscillation has begun. We are now snow lynxes as a species....and in die off, perhaps.

Some of the results are that there are now going to be a smaller number of next generation of humans. They are going to be interconnected, less innocent, more well informed, and of course very much going to have a generation of resentment for the current retiring generation. Gramps and Grandma are not going to be respected, as Gramps and Grandma are hateful of their children and grandchildren now.

Here in R'lyeh for instance, parliament has presented bills to make the speed limit intolerable for long distance travel within the country, and to ensure that you cannot even legally have half a drink during dinner at a friends place and then drive.

We are going to see more of this. But there is a sting...when the next generation of voters vote, and the next generation finally replace the current beige dictatorship, there will be a political fallout never before seen since 1789 in Western democracy. Overturning the draconian behaviour of Gramps and Grandma will be sweeping and broad. Prohibition will finally end perhaps...the World of Yellow Snow is perhaps not too far off.

5) The Long View.
In the short term, the beige dictatorship gets weaker and weaker. Think it through - there was a period when a policeman on the streets prevented crime. Now its supposedly a CCTV camera, but I really have my doubts. Once, a period in Jail was for years on end, and do something really heinous and your would be executed. Now its a few months + a leg bracelet.

The forthcoming UK General election, and the increasing tendency to minority governments parallels a similar period in UK history. Want to hazard a guess ? Its the centenary of the last big one right now...and the parallels are stunning.

Continue the trend.....

In the medium term, as grisly as it sounds, there may be massive balkanisation in the offing. And it will be everywhere. Neal Stephenson's Disunited States of Snow Crash are a pointer in this direction. Charlie's Halting State is too, perhaps.

Continue the trend.....

We get to the end of our Century. I'll be safely and cosily dead I hope. But, the world will be both smaller and bigger at once. Nation states of C19 will finally be dead, with hope. Money will be different, economics will be different, agriculture will be different. I can guess in some ways, but as Charlie will agree, things are moving far too fast for any of us to be authoratitive...and thats perhaps the very best part of what is to come. It will escape the intellect...and this will be the death knell of the beige dictatorship once and for all. No one will give a toss, because no one will care.

Yours, from the shores of R'Lyeh in Auckland

197:

AND The Raven @ #192 too ...
No I don't get your point.
Are you suggesting that not very many supposed "Greens" actually grow crops or plants & are therefore ignorant, or something else?
The Raven - agreed. I'm worried about the misuse of GM
But it'a a TOOL - it can be used properly or mis-used.
The watermelons are against the tool itself,not its proper use....

198:

Way back, the model that was chosen as the basis for nuclear safety was simple: a linear relationship between dose and effect. They had some good numbers for people who had suffered a high dose, and what had happened to them.

It's not clear that the model holds for low doses, close to the natural background. We live in a naturally radioactive world, and it's arguable that we have biology which has evolved to tolerate those low level, so there is less effect that one would expect from the safety model.

This is not a bad thing.

But the evidence emerging from places such as Chernobyl is starting to reveal more of what happens at the low end. And some of the revelations get entangled with politics of the "nuclear=bad" variety. The effects of the fall-out plume were detected in Britain. Land was contaminated. And perhaps the "modern" radiation units scared people. The old Rads and Rems recording the same dose with lower numbers. 1 Rad is 0.01 J/Kg, which is less that the current unit. But the numbers for Chernobyl contamination were given in becquerel, which is a direct count of the disintegrations, and there are huge numbers of atoms in anything. I read the stories, and the reports in the farming press, and counting hundreds of anything is way beyond the basic territory of "one, two, many."

199:

and Mathematics and Science having had their concluding thoughts (Reimann, Feynman QE)
WRONG
Don't believe you.
Produce evidence to support your hypothesis.

Its the centenary of the last big one right now...and the parallels are stunning.

1914? 1814? some other '14?
And the parallels with 1914 just DO NOT match - who is replacing the Kaiser's warmongering Junkers?
Putin? Scrabbling for money as his population declines even faster than other peoples?
China - about to be riven with internal strife, because even their real dictatorship is slowly failing?
The religious nutters in Syria & elsewhere?
As a real, serious ( to our whole nation ) threat - forget it.

[ Incidentally, I had no idea it was that bad in NZ right now - my information is dated, from a long-term migrant to here ... ]

200:

Interesting...

I am, like OGH, old enough to be starting to see the world differently. You will experience the next half-century, and we're not likely to be around that long.

I suspect that there are a lot of people who might want the same changes, but who don't want to break the world they are living in. They want the problems, such as global warming, to be fixed, but not just yet.

You could describe it as people wanting pay-back on their investment. Retirement is one of the pay-backs. I am on the internet and I might well see a differently desireable form of retirement to those who are of the previous generation.

What is the pay-back for a politician? I doubt it would be the same as for us. It's not just about money, and it's not the traditional English view of Class. But they are not like us.

202:

I was specifically nominating a set of plants where most (maybe even all) presently cropped species are the result of genetic modification techniques.

This in no way makes Monsanto's development of species that won't crop except in the presense of Monsanto agrochemicals a good thing, but the ebil is the company rather than the concept.

203:

I think this post on interfluidity nails it, in particular, this much-quoted bit:

But the preferences of developed, aging polities — first Japan, now the United States and Europe — are obvious to a dispassionate observer. Their overwhelming priority is to protect the purchasing power of incumbent creditors. That’s it. That’s everything. All other considerations are secondary. These preferences are reflected in what the polities do, how they behave.

This is, of course, part and parcel of Charlie's beige dictatorship. Note how -- per Chomsky -- protecting these interests drastically narrows the scope of allowable discourse.

204:

I kind of hold with you analysis about the technical viability of nuclear to keep the lights on. But I think you can't opt nuclear for institutional reasons. You need to invest a lot to make the plants safe and the Tepco scenario shows clearly the power companies cannot be trusted with that. If you look at a few of the things Greg Palast has written about this industry then I don't think there is any way in which this can be made to work safely under present institutional conditions and even if our politicians weren't all bought off, the same reasoning applies here as for data retention (only keep data that won't hurt people in the long run even if there is a regime change, as in the "Rosa Listen" or "pink lists" in pre WWII Germany.

205:

Monsanto didn't develop the terminator genes, it was the US department of Agriculture in partnership with the Delta and Pine Land Company. Monsanto acquired the patents when purchasing said company in 2007, they have not used them in any commercial product and indeed in 1999 pledged not to commercialise them and display this pledge on their website.

It's also fairly hard to see any actual ethical problem with terminator genes.

Firstly if you are worried that there are some unknown risk from the use of GM then the terminator gene acts to prevent GM contamination as the GM seeds won't grow in the wild. Therefore the logical position is if you are worried about safety then you should insist on all GM crops using terminator genes as well as any other traits they may have.

Secondly the argument about seed saving is utter bunk. Farmers in the west basically stopped saving seed in the 1920s, for almost a century farmers have mostly used F1 hybrids for most crops which as they don't breed true have to be purchased each year unless you want to go to the considerable inconvenience of growing both parent varieties and doing the cross pollination yourself. It's cheaper and easier to simply have the seed companies do it on a large scale (benefiting from economies of scale) and buy the seed each year. Potato farmers also tend to buy new for a different reason. Seed potatoes are produced in areas where blight isn't really viable (like the west of Scotland) so you are much less likely to lose your crop if you buy new rather than grow from your existing tubers. Soya is unusual in that it's a crop where you most commonly grown commercial varieties aren't hybrids,l so in the absence of seed patents it would be difficult for a seed company to make a profit from developing new varieties of Soya. Seed patents don't just apply to GM seeds pretty much all new seed varieties are patented, including organic, it is an entirely standard business practise and in no way a demonstration of villainy.

By the way the connection between the old chemicals company Monsanto and the modern seed company of the same name is fairly tenuous. The chemicals division (responsible for most of the actually bad stuff (dioxin and PCBs)) was sold off as Solutia in 1997. Solutia went bankrupt in 2003 and was later bought by Eastman. Nutrasweet was sold in 1999. The parent company then later in 1999 it merged with Pharmacia & Upjohn to form Pharmicia, in late 2000 the agricultural arm was spun off as a new company which got the Monsanto trademarks. Pharmicia, the actual legal successor, kept the pharmaceuticals division and was later bought by Pfizer. The modern company is a seed company that makes one very safe herbicide (Roundup brand glyphosate is about 10% of sales).

206:

There are a lot of tech folks here, hence this request for a new app: real-time tracking and publishing of the Political Credibility/BS report (utterance vs. behavior) for every single politico and party. Update and distribute via Twitter for broadest coverage. If the app can accommodate different topic areas, i.e., medicine, transportation, military, you could compile a really good profile of each candidate and party. Because the data for this app would be based on what actually was said/done, it would be more accurate and credible.

Wikipedia article below also says that radiation resistance can be inherited.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioresistance

'What is a Public Good?' - This is an on-going argument in my family as each sib is located along quite distinct points of the political spectrum(*) Our discussions/ arguments often boil down to and stall when we hit the 'economics' of a public good. Why? Because there's next to no financial data/economic analysis for weighing different strategies/decisions such as the one Charlie mentioned above (no-fee healthcare). Why aren't the economists working alongside biologists, chemists and other groups on this? It's a massive issue, it's their (economists') area of expertise, plus many countries have moved toward instituting e-records for medical services so data are available, etc. So why is this analysis still being ignored by economists?

(* - This is why I'm not paralyzed with fear about political families. While such individuals' upbringing may help them better navigate the political process, they're not necessarily going to espouse the same political philosophies as their parents/sibs.)

207:

No need... simple rule of thumb: are their lips moving? Then they're lying.

But if you live in the UK, although it's not real time, Channel 4 news does a pretty good one. And being attached to broadcast news it does a decent job of being as objective as it can be and saying why it's doing what it's doing so you can see its methodology.

208:

That's odd, because the first page of google scholar results for such a banal search string as "effects of charging visit doctor" give a result like this:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=932025
from 2006, which says "Copayments in the German Health System: Does it Work?"

There's lots of research done on the best way to run a health service, but which is the best way depend on your priorities and values. IN some parts of the USA, the value is not spending public money on anyone, ergo not extending Obamacare and let the poor die as they will. In much of Europe, it's treat everyone, so a variety of insurance and other types of funding with the government supplying the money as a backstop for those too poor to be able to manage any form of insurance.

Like with drugs, we know well enough hoe to get the outcome we want, but the political etc system is borked.

209:

I'd be wary about generalizing from the German system to the UK or USA -- the Gini coefficient in Germany is considerably lower, the society much less unequal. Which in turn means the financial stress caused by co-pays to the poor will be less significant. (This wasn't always the case: the UK's inequality has skyrocketed over the past three decades.)

210:

The French also charge to visit their GP. They have a complex paperwork system so if you're poor, pregnant, old or similar you're meant to be exempted (I'm not sure how well it works, although a friend of mine was pregnant and didn't pay throughout that).

However, prior to that, both she and her husband were working in fairly highly paid jobs, lived in a nice house, ran two cars and so on. They weren't rich but they were never hurting for money. The charges to go and see their GP were certainly enough to make them stop and consider whether they really need to go.

I'm certain it cut down on missed appointments. I realise generalising from one data point is dangerous but I'm pretty sure it cut down on appointments full stop. That's not good for any sort of system that relies on GPs as the front line for public health.

In fairness to the French, my friend also has a serious (potentially lethal) nut allergy. She was accidentally exposed at a posh do in the centre of Paris. They swung into action, she was shifted in an air ambulance to a military hospital where they also treat the President for treatment and that was all completely free.

While you could, in theory have anyone with an exemption on prescription charges (that's already administered by the NHS and fairly simple to check) not pay... I still have qualms for all the reasons Charlie listed in #157.

211:

Sure, but that's my point - there is plenty of evidence for what works and doesn't work with regard to health and healthcare and so on, it's just that politically things aren't being worked on in the way that most readers of this blog would like. There probably could be more economic based studies done, but I am sure that this statement by SFreader: "Because there's next to no financial data/economic analysis for weighing different strategies/decisions" is wrong.

212:

The decentralization of medical services in the U.S. ensures that such analyses cannot be done. This above all may be the reason REPs are against Obamacare: real, hard evidence, and statistical analysis would bury them.

213:

Dear Greg (Re Comment 197),

Proof of the concluding thought is very easy. the LHC in Schweiz is no more than an excellent tool for following QED to the bitter end, gauging the Bosons (snigger) e.g. the Higgs and other GD Particles. Its the largest scientific pirce of equipment we've got lying around, but it only concerns one element of physics.

Further afield, orbital space probes are merely refining QED on the large scale - the proto-universe.
At present, at least to the best of my knowledge (correct me please!) there have been no wild assertions, worthy of investigation. While it is true that truth does not change, and investigation allows an increase in detail - would that we saw something truly new.

I'll give an example in physics : the progression in truth goes Newton -> refined by Einstein -> Refined by Hawking. And the full stop is just that.

I will readily concede that scientific investigation takes time. I can vouch for that, having been in science research a decade ago. However, there does not seem, to me at least, to be any new frontiers being actively explored. And that is a symptom of a concluding thought in scientific development.

The LHC, as discussed, is a massive thing - peanuts on the scale of Solar System, attic gadgetry on that scale. It comes back to the subject of this post by Charlie. Where do we go to from here ? I do not see a direction, so do please correct me.

Similiar story on the biological science front. Genomics is now well developed, as is Proteomics. Excellent , and again - where to from here ?

One can correctly argue that ALL science faces this problem. And that is the problem, of course.

Re the parallels of 2014 and 1914....
A rather excellent and dated book is Violet Bonham-Carter's book 'Winston Churchill as I knew him' which is both a snapshot of 1912-1914, and gives great insight into the accession of Lloyd-George and Liberal Party politics in the UK at that time. Violet, of course, the Grandmother of the excellent actress Helena.

One thing that stands out, to me at least, is how at that time the UK was non-governed by a balkanised set of minority governments, all of which consisting of beige pettiness and entrenchment, in turn with its direct echoes of today.

It took a pair of World Wars to shake this up sufficiently to allow development of the representation of the people, and dare I say it, Maggie Thatcher. Then, with the end of the Cold War, the beige entrenched dictatorship crept back.

There are many good answers as to why, and I truly believe that a violent bloody purge on career civil servants would be a good start, or a reform which says that civil servants can only be pair the dole wage, and furthermore that they can stay in a civil service job for 2 years max....do this, and the civil service shrinks by 90%, and is rapidly pared down to : NHS, courts, police, FD, Armed Services. Municipal services remain under the control of electors in constituencies. A novel idea...but as noted, it would take a pogrom on Sir Humphrey Appleby to make it happen.

Politically, I am interested in that centenary parallel. A solution I cannot foresee.

Though I am quite firm in believing that Cultural Winter is upon the West, and that a new culture will surely come.

214:

I will note that Scotland abolished prescription tax (ahem: the NHS co-pay for prescriptions) a couple of years ago. England/Wales still charge it. Mind you, under-18s, pregnant women, and retirees don't pay at all: and as it's a tax you can pay in a lump (3 months, 6 months, or a year) and get everything thereafter without paying -- if you get through about 8 or more prescriptions per year it works out cheaper. Finally, last year I developed a medical condition that would exempt me from all NHS prescription charges (if Scotland still had them). Probably a good thing as I'm on 8 regular medical repeat items at 2 month prescription intervals ...

But here's the point: someone in England in my situation (prior to my exemption appearing) who was poor but not officially unemployed or a pensioner would be in a bad place, facing around £40/month in charges, or £90 for a one year exemption. And if they didn't take the meds, they'd be looking at a stroke or heart attack within a matter of months ... cost to the NHS: a couple or three orders of magnitude more than the prescription tax bill.

Charging people for medical attention at the point of delivery is penny wise, pound foolish -- every time.

215:

Similiar story on the biological science front. Genomics is now well developed, as is Proteomics. Excellent , and again - where to from here ?

Not actually true. We didn't even know short interfering RNAs existed 20 years ago; now they look to be a key modulator of the genome, if not the major player -- there's a whole lot of stuff we don't know. The protein folding problem is still a Thing, 35 years after I learned about it in school. We're barely scratching the surface of the neural connectome and we're still arguing about how much intracellular data processing goes on within axons and cell bodies (and at synapses). Indeed, the biological sciences are probably about where physics was circa 1910. A lot of jigsaw pieces are in the box, we know how some of them fit together, but the big picture is only just emerging.

(As for your proposal for how to deal with civil servants, it's too stupid to even comment on. Suffice to say, I don't think you know any civil servants, or know what they do, or how little they're paid in the first place.)

216:

Ah, you mean other members of your family refuse to believe that the rest of the world exists and does studies on healthcare outcomes etc? Reminds me that studies into death by guns from an epidemeological and medical viewpoint have been discouraged for years in the USA by right wing politicians, for the same reason - the facts are against their ideology.

217:

The thing is you could reduce the number of civil servants if you reduced the amount of paperwork and pointless stuff like hassling the unemployed. The latter requires offices full of people to organise and carry out the harassment, but you'd be better off getting rid of it because it doesn't actually work. Although in fact a lot of the harassment has been outsourced to private companies, there's a lot of government work done that way that plays fast and loose with the definitions to make it look like less money is going certain places.

218:

You could describe it as people wanting pay-back on their investment. Retirement is one of the pay-backs.

This post explaining why depression is a choice made by our elites addresses that dynamic. The salient quote is:

But the preferences of developed, aging polities — first Japan, now the United States and Europe — are obvious to a dispassionate observer. Their overwhelming priority is to protect the purchasing power of incumbent creditors. That’s it. That’s everything. All other considerations are secondary. These preferences are reflected in what the polities do, how they behave.

IMHO, this particular priority is one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- policy driver responsible for shoehorning diverse forms of governance into beige tyranny monoculture.

219:

Huh. That's two posts I've made that have vanished into moderation.

220:

Mathematics and Science having had their concluding thoughts

I think it's more reasonable to say they've reached a point of diminishing returns. If science hasn't answered a basic physics question at present, it's because the answer to that question has very few and very rare practical implications, so the answer to the question will be very nearly useless.

P.S. Don't ask about the "final" political form; the wheel keeps turning. Ask instead about the next political form. What comes next will ossify and fail in time, but that's some other generation's problem.

221:

...the biological sciences are probably about where physics was circa 1910. A lot of jigsaw pieces are in the box, we know how some of them fit together, but the big picture is only just emerging.

Indeed. Interestingly, a few decades before 1910 many people suspected we were nearing the end of what physics could be learned; for a while it looked as if pretty much everything was being wrapped up in a tidy package, or in a candle[1]. There were only a few dangling strings - the ultraviolet catastrophe, the question of how the sun manages to emit energy for the millions of years the geologists said the Earth had already existed, or whatever the hell is going on with radium.

It turned out all of those were important questions. So I'm not terribly concerned when I hear someone say again that we're reaching 'the end of science.'

[1] “There is not a law under which any part of this universe is governed which does not come into play and is touched upon in these phenomena. There is no better, there is no more open door by which you can enter into the study of natural philosophy than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle.” — Michael Faraday, The Chemical History of a Candle

222:

I think Wales has done away with prescription charges too. And I agree they're a daft idea - they're just an extant system with a group of exemptions that *could* be applied to roughly parallel 'too poor to pay' if you really wanted to without introducing an extra tier of administration and the associated costs.

I imagine if NHS England introduces them between now and May, NHS Wales and NHS Scotland will raise two fingers to the wonderfully spoonerised Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary, now Health Secretary.

223:

El, Charlie, Guthrie...
In England, there are prescriotion charges.
BUT
If you are under 16, pregnant, want birth-control or are over (it was 60 but is slowly creeping towards current retirement age) ... you don't pay at all.
AIUI the unemployed don't pay either, but there's "paperwork" involved.
So those who can't pay. or who really need it, don't pay.
Or so it seems, but then I'm prejudiced - I don't pay, because I'm 68 .....

224:

The misfit to several orders of magnitude between General Relativity & QM is still totally unexplained, isn't it?
Until that problem is solved we have a amjor difficulty with our science.
So codswallop ...
I've been hearing this "Spengler" rubbish since I learnt to read, back in 1949 .....

ALso: One thing that stands out, to me at least, is how at that time the UK was non-governed by a balkanised set of minority governments, all of which consisting of beige pettiness and entrenchment, in turn with its direct echoes of today.
REALLY?
The rgreat reforming (apart from female emancipation, thank you H H Asquith) Liberal governements of 1908 to 1914? Don't believe you.
I think your "argument" is procrustean.
I note Charlie suggest otherwise in the Biosciences, too!
Oops.

225:

If science hasn't answered a basic physics question at present, it's because the answer to that question has very few and very rare practical implications, so the answer to the question will be very nearly useless.

Err, no.
The QM vs General Realtivity problem is HARD.
I suspect that an answer, any answer will be very productive.

P.S.
My own oops - re post #219
I took no account of "Adminstration" costs - which given my recent observers' view of the fuck-ups causing expense in the NHS ( Utterly useless admin ) indicates that I wasn't awake, there ....

226:

Wales did away with Prescription Tax first actually, on the same argument as Scotland subsequently applied.

And here #219 comes in:-

The argument was that administering a system where about 1 prescription in 6 was taxed (and some of those were covered by a pre-payment certificate) actually cost more in moving money about (the entire PT payment goes from pharmacist to NHS, who then pay for the drugs actually dispensed) and policing potential fraud by both the public (falsely claiming an exemption) and the pharmacists (not rendering on all PT collected) than was raised.
Which I now notice goes part-way to answering #221's PS.

227:

Ah, thanks. I thought I they had but I was still waking up.

Shame it wasn't on more principled grounds but I guess everything has to bow to the almighty accountants.

And the paperwork for all the working age exemptions in England is pretty minimal - I've got to renew my prepayment certificate with my next prescription, but I can do that in the chemist, just fill in a form with my name and address and the current certificate number and hand over £108 or whatever the charge has gone up to. If you're claiming JSA you just produce your UB40 equivalent and tick a different box on the back of the prescription. Just how messy the admin behind the scenes is, I dread to think.

It's still a bad move, but (apart from the hit to the bank account) it's pretty painless at the point of use.

228:

There is one huge area left to investigate - and it doesn't cost much compared to the LHC. It is the Quantum Measurement problem. Related to that is the question of whether one can actually have (say) a 4096 qubit quantum computer, or will QM break down when we try and push it that far and beyond?

229:

Located and now released into the wild. (I'm not riding herd on the moderation queue daily because it can be weeks between items being automoderated.)

230:

Germany used to charge €10 for the first doctor visit each quarter year. Fortunately that folly has been dropped. That really was a nuisance and obviously didn't change the patient behavior in a way to reduce costs (increased the income of the Krankenkassen by a shitload, though. They got so much money that they had to be forced to reduce monthly payment rates).

231:

The main reason the QM vs general relativity problem is hard is that it's very nearly impossible to design an experiment that tests both theories at once. If the theories predicted different results in any but the most abstruse physical circumstances, we'd have experimental data to resolve the contradictions.

Instead we have two theories that are incompatible at the fundamental level, but that on a practical level suffice for any reasonable feat of engineering, to the limits of our inquiry so far. What practical effect do you think would be accomplished by unifying them?

232:

Haven't a fucking clue mate ...
If I did, I'd be right out there, right now, beavering away for my Nobel award!

What practical effect was there from the photelectric effect (Uncle Albert's award)?
What practical effect was there from the realisation that energy was quantised (Max Planck's award)?

IIRC, the LASER was claimed to be a solution looking for a problem to solve, back when Theodore Maiman made the first one!
"Why, Sir, there is every probability, that one day, you will be able to tax it"
M. Faraday to (supposedly) W E Gladstone ....

233:

The fact that the rules of QM can apparently be recovered from the assumption of an infinite number of Newtonian universes interacting suggests that geometry is fundamental and not QM

234:

"True, but you might want to look up the history John Brown and Co's Hull Number 534, aka the RMS Queen Mary, before arguing that ships can not be left on the ways for a period during construciton."

Irrelevant. We're talking about building a large fleet of large vessels, given that the market will be strongly influenced by a 'authoritarian' government which has a strong interest in seeing that fleet no built.

235:

Going back to the false meme of "Nothing new - so we are in decline".
How about this ??
Or another take on the same thing ?

If subsequent trials show that this works regularly, not only should that be an automatic Nobel Prize, but it is a really significant advance in both medicine & our understanding of physiology ....

236:

It's not that we see nothing new. It's that we see a vast reduction in the rate of new things, relative to the rate 100 years ago. If technology were the only factor, I'd say we're reaching a plateau.

237:

Disagree
The number of inventions & discoveries is almost certainly greater now, than it was 150-100 years ago.
BUT
The base from which we are starting ( the sum of present knowledge & experience ) is much greater now than then, so that it seems smaller ....
Try again?

238:

You literally do not see them because much of modern innovation is too small to see - it's all happening at the molecular and atomic levels.

239:

I'm not talking about the number of discoveries (how would we count?) but the collective impact. Compare society in 1910, 1960, and 2010; the world of 1960 was more primitive than 2010, but a recognizable version of the same thing. People had radios, cars, antibiotics, electricity, plastic, phones. In 1910, on the other hand, most people were farmers, animal power was widespread, doctors were largely helpless, and electricity was uncommon. Going further, in 1860 hardly anyone had even heard of electricity or gasoline, germ theory was in its infancy, and Darwin was still musing.

When we're talking about the effects of technology, "discoveries" isn't a useful metric (I found a quarter under my couch cushions). Life is full of meaningless discoveries (Higgs boson, I'm looking at you).

240:

IIRC, both Boolean algebra and quantum physics were "meaningless discoveries", right up until they weren't.

241:

It may not be hugely relevant to "most people" but you could say the same of Bayesian statistics until it was realised that it had applications in, for one thing, reducing the uncertainty of radio-carbon dating.

242:

In 1910, on the other hand, most people were farmers,
NOT in Britain, nor any of the other well-developed countries, but for over 50 years, in fact ....
and electricity was uncommon Also false, certainly in the towns & cities, where most of the people lived - the house in which I'm sitting was certainly connected to the mains before that date, there were electric underground railways in London already working & the sub-surface lines had been converted to electric working 4-5 years p[reviously.
[ See also Wuppertal Schwebebahn, 1900 ]
in 1860 ... [snip] .., and Darwin was still musing.
Flat wrong.
"Origin" - Published 24th November 1859.

If you want to mount a convincing argument, it might help if you had some actual facts, not a collection of mistaken assertions?

243:

Well, there are a couple of Biggies not far down the road - true AI and enhancement through Human genetic engineering. Will they count when they arrive? Or are you a frog who is being boiled slowly?

244:

" and electricity was uncommon Also false, certainly in the towns & cities, where most of the people lived - the house in which I'm sitting was certainly connected to the mains before that date, there were electric underground railways in London already working & the sub-surface lines had been converted to electric working 4-5 year "

Ah, hem! How to say this in a convincing manner?

GREG .... LONDON is Different!!

Way back in the 1960s my Grandparents lived in the remnants of a Disease ridden Slum - not joking on the Disease thing for in the late 1920s my mum’s entire school was swept by an attack of Rheumatic Fever that left my mother’s sister crippled and mum only survived intact by being diagnosed fairly quickly and then given "Bed Rest " which was all that they had back then by way of treatment. Way back then in the 1960s on my visits form the council estate, that my mum’s efforts had promoted us to as a family, my Grandmothers cold water flat in a decrepit Victorian terrace house used something like this. Hereafter linked for its principle source of heat and of course cooking plus laundry water for the shared laundry room out back in the yard that had that high tech device The Mangle... but non electric cooking and heating ..

http://www.1900s.org.uk/1900s-cooking-range.htm

Gran baked really good bread in that coal powered oven in the late 1960s, and on the wall to one side and up high was the non functional gas mantle that had been replaced by electric light in the 1920s. The highest Tech entertainment system that they had was a ...Radio! Gosh wow eh wot?
And that back yard “Laundry “ .. non electric ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangle_%28machine%29
They didn't even have an indoor toilet - lav out back in the yard and it was shared by 6 families - water indoors was a jug and a water basin on the landing outside of their flat ...that really was in late 1960s ... Space Race time, and at that time up here it was absolutely commonplace.
In the meantime in the council house that I grew up in we had an indoor loo and a bathroom and all of the water from that bathroom was heated by a coal fire down in the tiny sitting room .

We did have electricity as standard though and so visiting my Gran was like stepping back to the age of Victoria that the Steam Punk enthusiasts are so in love with.


Electricity really was a fairly new thing to many people up here even as late as just after the Second World War.

I could go on.. if you really wanted me to?

London was different way back then. London remains different to the rest of the U.K. Slums you had in plenty way back then of course but ... maybe those slums were in close proximity to the well off middle classes who had new fashioned stuff and even the most modest of middle class families would have a Maid servant and thus there might have been fostered, way back then, an illusion that the underclass was also ever so modern and Electrified?

245:

OOPS !! Just realised that, in my haste, I failed to identify my low technology Location. It was in Sunderland that we lived,but, honestly, the conditions as described were fairly commonplace accross the whole of the North of England.

246:

It can't be said if you know history. Strong central governments aren't a modern invention. Shogunate Japan, China at many periods, the Incas...

Widespread national identity might be, but it would seem to flow from mass communications and ease of movement. Which may have come in with the Industrial Age, but certainly haven't gone away.

"the old style nation state no longer works in the modern Information Age"

I don't see any basis for saying that. And if we try to apply it to the UK, we might argue that the UK never *was* a "nation-state" but always had residual national identities within it.

Modern circumstances also make ever higher levels of government more urgent, up to the global level. Environment, financial markets, infectious disease control... this is not a world in which global governance (meaning, coordination and enforcement of norms over destructive self-interest) are less necessary.

247:

Human genetic engineering can only advance if we're willing to ruin a few thousand babies for life in the experimental phase, so it's probably not in the cards for the foreseeable future in the more civilized areas of the globe. "True" AI isn't even defined except that it thinks like a human, which is like defining a "true" boat as one that swims like a frog.

This whole tech optimists vs. tech skeptics argument is as close as we'll ever get to a perpetual motion machine. Let's just agree to disagree.

248:

Arnold
The future is already here ... just unevenly distributed.
True in 1910 as now.
BTW - don't talk to me about primitive.
My granmother's house in rural Lincolnshire had empty-the-bucket-one-a-week "sewage" collection one a week until approx 1963 .... ( The pong! )
And gaslight .... (Though it did have "The electric" also installed some time in the late 30's

249:

Coming back to the start-topic for this thread (!)
Two disparate news pieces caught my attention this morning.
FIRST: The "Today" programme, talikng about the Rochester bye-election.
It could almost have been Scotland ... "the politicians don't lsiten, they are remote ( In the Westminster bubble, all of 34 miles away ), they don't care ..." etc.
All the familiar themes.
The Ruling Party are becoming uneasy, but they still haven't a clue, have thay?
Like the two politicains at Charlies' greoup-discussion @ Worldcon ... the Lem-o-Crat fought her corner valiantly, but failed to see that she was part of the problem, & the Green (after the main discussion - we ran out of time) took all criticisms of her party's policies as a personal attack & refused to engage in discussion.
Pathetic, the lot of them.

SECOND: Does THIS have any relevance to our ongoing discussions.
Either as guvmint "control", or as significant technological advances, or people not connecting with their "rulers" ??

251:

Biggies not far down the road - true AI and enhancement through Human genetic engineering. Will they count when they arrive?

I'm a skeptic about both, for sociological reasons.

AI: I think I made my case in "Rule 34". Nobody wants true artificial consciousness. What we want are smart systems that respond to our desires. Sort of like google. By which yardstick, we're already on the slop, and it turns out to be pretty much invisible: things just work better for you (when they're not confusing you). "Siri, make me a cup of Earl Grey, Hot."

Genetic engineering of humans ... isn't going to happen without a major change in how we evaluate the utility of human beings, and probably a switch to a very totalitarian mode of government whereby your body is seen as the property of the state. Yes, we're already seeing some rather radical techniques deployed to correct embryonic developmental disorders and to produce viable fertilised ova for couples with genetic diseases. But these qualify as remedial techniques that have a definite positive outcome for the recipient, evaluated as a [future] human being with [future] human rights. It's much, much harder to make an ethical case for applying experimental genetic modifications to unborn future-people that may or may not have positive effects but don't actually fix something that's clearly broken. How do you ask for informed consent? It's nonsensical. Yes, a dictatorship might contemplate creating super-soldiers (but, arguably, machines are so much better at fighting anyway that ... see AI, above), but elective germ-line genetic modification of humans for non-therapeutic purposes seems unlikely.

What I expect to see is a lot more effort going into life prolongation and -- if it becomes possible -- genetic modification of subsystems of adult humans who can give consent. But that's still beyond the current practicality horizon.

252:

Ahem: citing an evolutionary psychology crank's incredibly racist orientalist rant is a new low for you, Dirk. Please pick your sources slightly more carefully with respect to their credibility?

253:

A new low? I seem to hit one every week with you Charles. Last time I merely "disgusted" you. Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that when it comes to genetic engineering, if we are squeamish about the ethics of it I doubt the Chinese government will be. They have, after all, enforced a one child policy through compulsory abortions or severe financial sanctions. They execute thousands of people per year and have a fully working system of concentration camps.

Oh... and just to help correct any mis-impressions raised by my quoting an "orientalist rant", I am a great admirer of the Chinese people and generally support the way the CCP has run the country in the past 30 years. I doubt if "liberal democracy" would have done anywhere near as well for China.

254:

I disagree with you about AI and its impact. What happens when the slope hits the point where almost every patent is generated by an AI? More to the point, where said patent cannot be understood by Humans and the technological application it manifests cannot either, because it was evolved by a genetic algorithm?

As for who wants true AI (consciousness is, IMHO a red herring)? I would say people like the NSA, to understand Human minds and things like irony, sarcasm, euphemism. And far from being reassured by lack of consciousness I would be far more worried by what would appear in its place ie something far closer to that of an autistic psychopath that "just follows orders".

OTOH, if consciousness does seem to be a benefit and can be created, who exactly is going to stop it? Some kind of "world government"? It would be as difficult as trying to ban "drugs", especially since every govt that could solder up a CPU would be trying to circumvent the ban. And year on year the task would become easier. And before you bring up a comparison to nuclear weapons (which is apt in one way) a more accurate comparison would be with biochem weapons. Anyone these days who seriously wants one and has the knowledge (available online) could whip up a batch in their kitchen. Aum Shinri Kyu

255:

"What I expect to see is a lot more effort going into life prolongation and -- if it becomes possible -- genetic modification of subsystems of adult humans who can give consent. But that's still beyond the current practicality horizon."

Myostatin blocking gene tweaks can probably be done now.
And you are correct about life prolongation, although I would add "healthy life". We are right at the point where the technology looks like it could be feasible, with some modest progress made (in animals). Convergent with this is the rapidly rising medical costs of ageing populations throughout the developed world.

I also think you neglect the gigantic impact an anti-ageing drug would have if it added (say) 10 years to the life of the average retiree. Pension funds and insurance companies sinking wholesale, for one.

256:

It all looks pretty dodgy science from here, even if there's something to the history. But, in the last couple of centuries, just about everywhere has been moving from tradition to science in their handling of health and childbirth.

It's why large numbers of children in a woman's life have become so unusual in the West. Even fifty years ago, in the UK, the modal age of death was still 0. More people died before their first birthday than in any subsequent year of their life.

That's not eugenics.

257:

In view of Dirk's later comments about his views on GM of humans and AI your views about hair-shirt luddites within the Greens and his may well not match up in the slightest.

Dirk is perfectly entitled to his opinions but I'd say he's not typical in his views of even people on this blog, and a lot of the readers here are pretty pro-AI and the like.

258:

"not far down the road" is one of those one wonderfully unquantified statements. (True AI is another one with ever shifting goalposts and you could argue that by many standards we've got it.)

As I've suggested in my previous comment, I now understand why you consider the Greens to have a lot of hair-shirted Luddites. I don't think of myself as a pessimist. But "not far down the road" for human GM and something there's a consensus is true AI? I'd be surprised if either happens in my lifetime. Not shocked, but surprised. I'll be 50 just after the new year to put a timeframe on that, so probably not in the next 3-5 decades.

China *could* do statewide GM - although it's unlikely. They're moving away from that level of really tight control. They're still authoritarian, but GM on the population is becoming less and less likely over time. They're moving in the direction of personal freedoms, although with limits on criticism of the state rather than the state directly controlling everything. North Korea is the only place it might happen on a state-wide basis without a reversal of policy. Russia under Putin and his successor might move that way, that's likelier than PRC at that moment.

259:

Russia under Putin and his successor might move that way, that's likelier than PRC at that moment.

I don't see Putin (or Russia) going there. I see Putin as having started out as a loyal late-Soviet apparatchik -- and a very bright one (a fairly senior officer in the KGB's industrial espionage directorate, tasked with modernising the USSR) -- but since the collapse of the Soviet Union he's cut his jib accordingly and can best be seen today as a Peronist authoritarian leader: although somewhat more reactionary, more corporatist, and with a strong Russian Orthodox religious angle (rather than Catholic).

From this angle, Putin is part of a reaction against the Soviet modernist era (and immediate post-Soviet interregnum of chaos) and a reversion to a Russian historical pattern -- conservative, somewhat paranoid, emphasis on consolidation and defensive rearmament (defensive from a Russian perspective -- rather alarming if you share a land border with the bear). He'll probably be followed eventually by another modernizer/reformer as the reverberations from the Soviet period work their way through the generations -- ideologically driven modernizing revolutions can take centuries to settle down (case studies: France, the United States, even the UK in the wake of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms).

But I digress: Putin may be authoritarian, but he's based a lot of his mass appeal on an alliance with a church that's even more reactionary than the Catholic Church (which seems to have accidentally appointed a radical reformer as pope). Can you see the Russian Orthodox Church supporting a state eugenics/GM strategy? Nope, me neither! It might have flown under Stalin (but, see also: Trofim Lysenko), but the combination of an authoritarian maximalist state and a technocratic orientation just ain't there any more.

China: a different case. China was traumatized between the 18th century (opium wars, western imperialism) and the early 20th century (one damn civil war after another, then invasion by Japan, power vacuum when the USSR kicked the Japanese army out of Manchuria, and finally Maoism). The Party is barely an ideological construct any more: it is devoted to stability above everything else, and is desperately running to stay ahead of the rising tide of expectations by pushing for growth. If there are two things that people get upset about -- sufficiently upset to consider revolting -- it's God and Babies: they've got the God thing under control, mostly (Uighur muslim terrorists aside; Falun Gong aren't exactly the Righteous and Harmonious Fists), but they've already realized that the One Child Policy is having gigantic, far-reaching and unanticipated side-effects, and I think it'll be a very long time before they dare meddle in that area again.

260:

Sorry, I'm building up to a migraine and I didn't finish the thought clearly. I agree with you, I think it's unlikely but I could construct a series of events where Putin agrees it should be done for the good of Mother Russia.

I just think the PRC is even less likely to go that way.

261:

Allow me to quantify what I mean by "not far down the road" when it comes to true AI (AGI).

First off, I have always believed it a rather naive position to assume that AGI will succeed on computers that are less powerful than the Human brain. What that actual number might be is a matter of various opinions, but I think it fair to say that exascale is probably where it lies.

So my prediction for AGI is the point where exascale computers are common. That probably puts it between 2020 (the first exascale supercomputers) and 2050.

262:

What mechanism will deliver your genetic enhancements for life extension and/or improved health?

The one specific disease that I'm familiar with where a relatively new type of 'drug' (monoclonal antibody) is the 'gold standard' requires an infusion every 2 weeks, for life. The infusion takes at least a couple of hours and is usually done at a special clinic. Price is extremely high and not all of the price is profit-taking. There's a real production problem with these substances because it takes technology, living tissue(s) and time to make these things up. On the positive side ... if this pharma sector can figure out a quick-grow method for this therapeutic class, they'll make a fortune in royalties.

It is quite likely that people will need to get more than one disease fixed as they age ... co-morbidities generally increase with age. And if we ever really get into personalized medicine, then it's likely something like monoclonal antibodies will be needed.

What we really need is 3D-ish molecule printing.

263:

I think you misunderstand how modern eugenics works. It is about screening for genetic defects and offering abortions, or possibly in future remedial gene therapy. The number of "defective genes" discovered is going to rise, as is the definition of what defective means.

Here is one example (not meant to be definitive):
http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/15/2241.full

"Recently, naturally occurring and functionally relevant genetic variations (single-nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs) in the genes encoding the serotonin 2a receptor (HTR2A) and the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were found to influence medial temporal lobe (MTL)-dependent short-term memory capacity in healthy human subjects "

How long before tests for that are available? Eugenics will be something people demand, not something imposed upon them. So there will be three choices:

a) Ban such testing
b) Only those who can afford it will screen
c) Everyone gets the option.

Which would you go for? What do you think China will do?

264:

As Arnold says in #242, Larndarn is "different" in this respect. The best reference I can come up with is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dam-Builders-Power-Glens/dp/1841582255/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415612437&sr=1-1&keywords=power+from+the+glens which discusses not only how little electricity there was in most of Scotland, but how a state-owned business expanded from a few towns to serve about half a nation (by area) without taking a penny piece in state funding.

265:

Having said which, I've jsut heard an interview with Ray Brooks talking about Cathy Come Home (filmed and first shown 1966) where he was describing a research visit to the East End of London where they found 5 people living in a one room flat with no toilet.

266:

Sounds like modern London if you are a recent immigrant or young and unemployed not living at home.

267:

What mechanism will deliver your genetic enhancements for life extension and/or improved health?

Speaking hypothetically, it looks to me as if there's a fair body of research indicating that "old age" is a bunch of cumulative degenerative processes that aren't selected out in evolution because they only kick in after the age at which reproduction occurs. A bunch of these relate to stem cell malfunctions: a wildly unexpected but consistent result is this recent paper on olofactory loss as a 5-year predictor of mortality in older adults. Another bunch of problems we face include organ failures (a classic is the heart -- it's a single point of failure), tissue repair errors, immune failures, and cancers (replication control failures followed by immunological response failure).

One may speculate on eventually replacing damaged/absent organs by implanting stem-cell derived replacements, or transplanting stem cells. One may speculate about modifying immune system stem cells to improve their detection rate for cancers. And so on. These are on-going (and potentially highly profitable) areas of biomedical research. But they're about as close to deployment today as monoclonal antibody therapies were in the 1980s: the watch-word is "hurry up and wait".

268:

Err ..
even more reactionary than the Catholic Church (which seems to have accidentally appointed a radical reformer as pope).
I disagree ... the RC church have elected an apparently reforming front-man.
IF & only if they allow the marriage of priests & birth-control for married couples will I bleieve a singe word even hinting that "Georgie Gigolo" is an actual reformer, rather than someone making soothing noises.
Though I may be wrong - we will see, won't we?

As for Putin, your description of "Peronist" is briliantly incisive, cough, but, do you think he is trying to engineer an millitary incident with a NATO member (any member) in order, not to have "A short victorious war" but to try to bind people ever closer to his entourage. The shit-stirring in Ukraine has played well (mostly) for him in Russia, though nowhere else, but he still has massive financial problems & a declining, ageing population - not a good pointer for going to war. Or is he very dangerously borderlining it, gambling that "the West" will back down rather than fight over, say slivers of land in Estonia & Lithuania or Königsberg, of course.
See here - the sort of thing that could easily tip it over would be a repeat of the SAS airliner incident between Köbenhavn & Mälmo ...
After all, he's "got away with" murdering everyone on that Malaysian airliner, so far, hasn't he. Or has he?

269:

oops - pressed "send" too soon.
"uighur muslim terrorists"
Well, there weren't any - but I suspect there may be now......
The Han have been following their usual racist mass-overspill & slow repression tactics, that they have applied for hundreds of years, on the subject peoples in their far West - as well as Tibet of course & other places.

270:

You know, when a bunch of men turn up at a railway station with machetes and start randomly hacking commuters to death for the crime of belonging to the wrong ethnic group, I'm willing to bite the bullet and call them "terrorists", Greg.

Terrorism isn't defined by goals or identity, it's defined by methodology.

271:

Consider:
'Family planning' is more than not getting pregnant - it's about being prepared to raise a child. Average age of first-time moms/dads has increased a lot since the 50s.
Adoption has become more widespread: child of the heart vs. child of the loins.
Many would-be parents just want a healthy baby that they can love. (No, not to make a superbaby, but to spare their potential progeny pain/suffering, early death - see Tay-Sachs.)
Divorces have become less ugly, kids commuting between their divorced parents' separate homes actually works quite well - and is less stressful for all concerned. (A family is forever; a marriage 50/50. And societally, we've accepted that families come in various shapes and sizes - with or without kids; his, hers, ours, etc.)
Internet-arranged romances/marriages are increasing - more trust in psycho-social algorithms than the local yenta/match-making auntie.
Sperm banks have been around for 50+ years.
Genetic profiling for both inborn and acquired traits(?) is getting cheaper and more widely available, e.g. 23andme a commercial venture, and americangut/ britishgut - research ventures.

Britishgut: "The UK's largest open-source science project to understand the microbial diversity of the human gut, British Gut, has been launched by the Department of Twin Research at King's College London, in collaboration with American Gut."

- See more at: http://www.domain-b.com/technology/biotech_pharma/20141009_british_gut.html#sthash.cExOaT4w.dpuf

All of the above taken together, suggests to me that internet-facilitated baby-making where different individuals mix-and-match genetic profiles to produce a baby may be not so far away. We've known/accepted that a human child has never been a 100% clone of only one parent - the next step is moving away from a child having to be exactly a 50%/50% mixture.

272:

A question:

How does one conduct a clinical trial on personalized (genome/exome/other-ome based) medicine? What are the rules re: study design, methodology, stats testing/analyses, etc.?

273:

Oops - sorry - didn't know about that ...

However - my general remarks about the way non-Han are treated by the Han still stand.

274:

"After all, he's "got away with" murdering everyone on that Malaysian airliner, so far, hasn't he. Or has he?"

I think you might be getting your knickers in a Daily Mail twist. It is unlikely in the extreme that Putin knew about it beforehand let alone ordered it. The most likely scenario is that he supplied weapons to a bunch of rebels who then (probably accidentally) killed a bunch of innocent people.

Of course, we would never do such a thing would we?

275:

The first rule of the H+ longevity fanclub is "Don't Die!"
It doesn't matter what's coming in 30 years time if you don't live to get there.

On a more personal note I assume you are taking drugs for your high blood pressure? If so, consider using Verapamil if you are not already doing so:

http://wiat.com/2014/11/06/uab-cures-diabetes-in-lab-mice-preparing-for-human-trial/

276:

No we don't
We murder in ones & twos, like J de Menezes'
Or the guy "armed" with a chair-leg ......

277:

Talking of the Scottish Political Singularity, it seems that the SNP proposal to emulate the Nazi's mass appointment of Block Wardens is finally running into opposition.

278:

So we never supply "rebels" with weapons, who then go on use them in mass murder? How refreshingly naive your worldview is.

279:

Be fair Dirk, we're better at it than that. We also sell military or quasi-military hardware to authoritarian regimes that they then allegedly use to oppress their own citizens. And yes, I'm being lawyerly careful mostly so Charlie doesn't get in trouble if someone out there reads the comments.

280:

I think both El & Dirk missed the SLIGHT IRONY in my comment @ # 276 ??

281:

Late reply ...
CHarlie, I noticed that paper's report second-hand, elsewhere ...
But - tie that to the ( also recent) reports of successful spinal nerve regeneration, & look at how that was done.
The experimenters used constantly regenerating nasal nerve tissue to kick-start the spinal regeneration process.
So, the loss of nasal function (may)/indicates that the telomeres have run out & the short-term (5-year) clock is now ticking.
Conversely, regrowth of nasal nerve tissue in "clone tanks" (for want of a better term) may lead to longer life-spans ?? And/or more regenerative therapies.

282:

I don't believe that it was a Cunning Plan to get here, but it occurs to me that an S.N.P. left fairly alone to govern Scotland but potentially able to call on the resources of the national government---and able to deflect blame thereto, perhaps more importantly---might be better-off than if they had more official power, fewer resources, and full responsibility.

283:

Greg, you stupid fuckwit, comparing SNP plans to those of a fascist repressive regime determined to wipe out those who don't fit their ideals is insulting, nasty and all the rest of it. Stop it with the fuckwitted comparisons.

284:

Do I really need to ask people to not engage in personal attacks?

Even with Greg, please.

285:

This isn't an actual defence, but as a statement in mitigation, the only reason that #283 wasn't me is that I was having a good day and couldn't be bothered to sign in just to say something similar. Yes, he is being that annoying.

286:

I'll just leave this here:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Bills/Children%20and%20Young%20People%20%28Scotland%29%20Bill/b27bs4-aspassed.pdf

"The functions referred to in subsection (1) are—
(a) subject to subsection (5A), doing such of the following where the named person considers it to be appropriate in order to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person—
(i) advising, informing or supporting the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person,
(ii) helping the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person, to access a service or support, or
(iii) discussing, or raising, a matter about the child or young person with a service provider or relevant authority, and
(b) such other functions as are specified by this Act or any other enactment as being functions of a named person in relation to a child or young person."

287:

guthrie
THANK YOU
I hope that readers will be able to see how dangerous a slippery slope this represents?
The SNP guvmint is proposing to appoint a state-sponsored spy on evrey child & therefore every parent in the land.
How very convenient.

288:

Of course, had "SNP" been changed to "UKIP" every left minded liberal would be cheering the comparison

289:

You see spies under the bed, and the cradle.

I see you being paranoid and a not unreasonable response to situations like the death of Daniel Pelka.

It might not be the right approach but one of the lessons that ought to have been learnt from that case was everyone that should have had a hand in looking after him seemed to think someone else would pick it up. From what I've read of this act this says that someone, a specific someone, is actively responsible. If they have concerns then they have a duty to pick up the phone and ring the GP, ring social services, get the ball rolling. If they're wrong and the parents don't like it - tough, they're doing what they're supposed to and acting in the best interests of the child. If the named adult messes it up, and a child dies of preventable abuse again, there will be enough shit to throw at the health care system, the social services system and so on but there will be a specific person who is front and centre "Why didn't you think this child was at risk? Why didn't you intervene?" It won't work perfectly of course but there's a decent chance it will work pretty well because it designates people with whom the children are coming into frequent contact anyway - it's not an extra busybody visiting your house, it's the health visitor, the teacher and so on.

Maybe I'm missing something but that's certainly what it looks like the relevant bit of the legislation is aimed at. The rest of the act looks like its aimed at getting various bodies to report on what they're doing to make sure that children in Scotland thrive and are in a better, healthier and happier place than they were X years ago. (A lot of this will be form-filling and bureaucracy inevitably, but it's form-filling in the right way, I'd rather them fill forms that say that kind of things than forms that say "we've made the lot of children meaner, crueler and nastier.")

Assuming I've read this right, if UKIP proposed this, or the Tories, neither of whom there's a cat in hell's chance I'll be voting for, I might faint in surprise. But every now and again they can get something right. Callmedave got the equalisation of Gay marriage right after all.

290:

Interesting
But the propsed "cure" is worse than the "disease" ...
So, SOME parents abuse & maltreat their children.
As was always the case.
To (hope to) prevent his "we" are going to spy on everyone, the whole time, & OF COURSE, no petty official or jobsworth are NEVER going to use their personal prejudices or powers to make someone they "don't like"s - life utter hell, by instituting "offical" proceedings.
There was a case recently where a couple were, at tha last minute, rejected for allowing to adopt ... because they were UKIP supporters.
Now then ... the official (esp in Scotland) is a committed (as in should be committed) christian & discovers that one of the children they are spying on has parents who are (shock horror ) atheists ...
You can just imagine the spurious allegations & tricks to be played on the parents by petty officaldom, can't you?
[ See also: "Orkey Satanic abuse" libel & scam ]
Never mind any offical guvmint program.
I mean the parents might be ENGLISH ( or tories )- so they must be bad parents, mustn't they?
etc, etc... - make your own pairs of opposites up.
It is just much, much too dangerous to go near, even with someone else's

291:

I agree it's possible for this system to be abused. Any system can be abused. However, there are already people around with the powers you're describing, certainly to institute official proceedings - and even in rUK teachers, health visitors and the like (who are the named people you're objecting to so vehemently) are already identified as part of the child anti-abuse network and are meant to report their suspicions to the police and/or social services. They're the ones who have statutory powers of entry into the home and all the rest that might constitute the spying in the home you seem to believe is the inevitable outcome.

But for all your hyperbole what this act does is not grant specific extra powers, rather it dumps extra responsibilities on someone, or rather a series of people as a child grows older. Not to mount a crusade but to phone the relevant authorities and say "I think this child is at risk." Please note they're supposed to already do this, even in England* where they're clearly not being run by whatever your foul-mouthed abusive term was for the SNP, now, in Scotland they have a specific legal duty to do so, no excuses.

It does not say anywhere "spy on everyone, the whole time" anywhere. That really is a paranoid fantasist reading of the act. It requires people the child comes into regular contact with, in the course of their normal contact to note and act on any signs of abuse: to report them. (As noted above, they're already supposed to do this, but it says at every point through the child's life, everyone else *can* still do it, but you MUST.) It doesn't grant them extra powers to enter the home, to go home and investigate (although some like the health visitor will visit the child at home routinely).

It also requires them to do a lot of really high-sounding things that add up to "try to make the child's lot better." That bit is really open to interpretation. I'm not sure about Scottish Law, but it's very similar to a number of duties and responsibilities that exist under various laws in England and Wales. I can't point you to the laws, but the form-filling I have to do for college for each lesson I have to record what I've done against a very similar looking set of criteria. Perhaps that's why I'm mellow about them - I know they're already there in rUK and I assume they're already there just being reinforced in this act for teachers in Scotland.

I'm not a believer that "we must do absolutely everything to protect the children, whatever the cost to anyone else." I've worked with far too many teachers to believe they're all nice people. However, unlike you I don't see a sweeping array of new powers, I see a not-crippling but not-insignificant set of new legal responsibilities. Does that increase the likelihood someone will abuse their existing power, knowing they're mandated to do it? Maybe. These days teaching doesn't attract that many martinets but there must a few out there. Unlike you, I'm not racist and don't believe that Scottish teachers are more likely to be power-hungry petty officials than those in England and Wales. Nor are the health visitors and the other named people in the act.

It's quite possible this act might have to be amended - many, many acts of parliament are after all. I'm not going to pretend it's perfect. But I honestly think you're being paranoid and sipping from the anti-SNP Kool-Aid here.

* Yes, I'm absolutely sure of this: I recently took on some temporary work teaching in an FE college and as part of the induction programme I was told precisely what my legal duties to report suspected abuse as part time teacher were and how they are different to a full time teacher and a teacher in a school. There were people in the same induction process coming from teaching in school who asked about the latter and people who were taking on full time work who were being trained about the former.

292:

Your very first sentence shows, unfortunately, that you still don't "get it" ...
Oddly enough I think we have a large degree of agreement here - but I'll come to that later.
Now then:
I agree it's possible for this system to be abused. Any system can be abused.
No.
Not CAN BE abused - it will certainly 100% be abused by more than one petty & spiteful official jobsworth.
Dont go there to start with, please?
It's the supposed trade-off between an imagined "security" & freedom ... & all that actually happens is that freedom is lost.
Agreed that you are correct in saying ...It does not say anywhere "spy on everyone, the whole time" anywhere. That really is a paranoid fantasist reading of the act. But, that is what is going to happen, & very quickly, so no, it isn't a paranoid fantasy, but based on examples seen in the media, & knowledge of how (some) people will always abuse any petty imagined power they have.

Examples: 1.The antics recently where an attempt was made to take away a couple's very ill child, because there was disagreement over possible thrapies, so the parents fled to Spain, to slammed by an EAW from Britain ... that then collapsed, I'm glad to say in embarrassment due to publicity.
2. A man denied entry to a public park to watch a falconry display, "because he was on his own & "therefore a possible paedophile"
3. The previously referred-to adoption case-example.

Do you really, really want to trust all these petty offcials?
After all, it's going to be so much easier to moount a personal spite campaign, rather than, you know do some actual child protection work - "Baby P" comes to mind .....

Now, the other side, the really horrible things crawling out from the rotting woodwork.
THIS, specifically
I heard this on the radio & it left me shuddering.
It has the potential to become as disruptive as the Marc Dutroux case was in Flanders, with a strong possibility that those higher-up were seriously involved.
Come to that the deafening silence in S Yorkshore about how the Rotherham (& other) abuse went err "undetected" for so long.

So, I agree with you completely, that not enough was done &, quite possibly not enough is being done to put a stop to this sort of thing.

BUT

I am also of the opinion that the SNP's proposed "cure" is worse than the disease.
In the same way that "CRB" checks are inhibiting &/or preventing a large number of perfectly harmless actvities taking place, incidentally.

OK?

293:

You're perfectly entitled to your opinion on the SNP's actions. I disagree. Let's leave it there shall we?

294:

"I agree it's possible for this system to be abused."

Unless there is legislation on the intended limits of a particular law, then it cannot be "abused". The first use of the new stalking laws, designed to prevent evil men stalking innocent women (whipped up by tabloid fervour) was against political activists.

If a law appears to be a catch-all that appears ripe for abuse, that it is because it is intended to be so.

295:

Dirk - yes ... though you have omitted the distinct possibility of politicians being terminally stupid & not seeing the consequences, or dismisssing them as irrelevant (because they are stupid).

I re-iterate my stance that the certainty that this proposed system will be abused, most likely by officials with religious or political "convictions" that are in opposition to those held by the parents whos children are being "controlled" ...
True thoughtcrime will have come to Scoltand.
Imagine that a child has parents who are catholic/protestant (perferably wee free) & the bolck warden is protestant/catholic - or worse, the parents are atheists ....

The proponents, including those on this blog are really turning a dangerously blind eye to the depths to which some people will descend in petty spite & viciousness & are failing to put any safeguards against this in place.
I'm reminded of the case, about 3 years back where a man of over 80, in hospital, was refused a second egg, "because too much cholesterol is bad for you" ...
Or the jobsworths on railway stations trying to stop photography - "because they might be terrists".

Enough of this.
We will only have to wait & see ... frist if this scheme is actually implemented as planned, & then (I would guess) about a year, before the vile abuses of power start crawling out of the woodwork.
And, of course, the block wardens will be able to commit children of "dissenters" [ NOTE ] to the dreaded secret Family Courts, won't they?
What fun.
Or the warden is a fervent English-hater & the parents are "English" ... which reminds me, who is going to be block warden for George Alexander Louis - that could be highly "amusing" - or not.
]NOTE: Yes, I used "dissent
ers" deliberately, given the history of religio-political persecution & strife in Scotland & worse than anything seen in England (I think)
REMEMBER Thomas Aikenhead OK?

296:

It is amusing and convenient to believe politicians are stupid, but most are not. They are very bright people pandering to the stupid. And certainly the lawyers and civil servants drafting these laws are far from stupid.

297:

Just about any legislation can be abused.

To use an example as relevant (at least from my skimming of the act) as the bulk of Greg's ranting about this piece - the Gloucester Cheese Rolling was cancelled one year because of "Health and Safety." As the director of the HSE went to great pains to point out NONE of the legislation under which they operate is relevant because it applies to the workplace and not to leisure activities without any form of actual workforce or workplace. Someone was abusing those laws as surely as a named person under the Scottish act with a vendetta reporting a child for suspected abuse with no grounds will be abusing that one.

Someone actually listened to the director of the HSE though, and reinstated the cheese rolling.

298:

NOT ranting, please!

Just very, very worried that this will come to pass ... not least because of bright-faced "optimists" like you - who remind me of the totally brain-fucked morons at "occupy" who were completely against "US corporations" - & were using iPads, yeah.

To repeat. YOU said: Just about any legislation can be abused.

And, in this case will, definitely be abused, big-time, all over the landscape & several people & families & children will get seriously hurt (Shades of Orkney Satanic rubbish), meanwhile the SNP will (being a political party) lie, bluster, claim there's nothing in it , offer a cosmetic re-write that means nothing & finally, afte 3-5 years of misery, half-reform that which should never have been enacted in the first place.
Simpler idea:
Don't go there to start with.

OK - simples.
Shall we wait?
And, if this legislation does get passed unaltered, I predict that the first gross abuse of power by some petty offical shit wll take place within less than 18 months.
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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 31, 2014 3:42 PM.

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