Thursday, 30 October 2008

POLL: Who's run the greatest postwar US Presidential campaign?

As you might be able to tell, I've been very impressed by Barack Obama's Presidential election campaign. I think he's barely put a foot wrong and has certainly inspired a lot of people.

But is his campaign the best in recent US history? I thought I'd turn it over to you to decide, using the poll on the left hand side of this page.

In it, I've listed several of the campaigns which I think deserve to be considered among the best from the last 60 years. Please select the one you think is best overall.

And note, this poll is not about the policies of the candidates or on their record in office, just about the campaign they ran.

Please use the comments to give reasons for your choice if you want, and also to make the case for any campaign not listed in the poll.

The Barack Obama Show

Barack Obama's 30-minute infomercial was an effective piece of political advertising. Apart from the ritual denunciation right at the start of eight years of failed policies, it was almost entirely positive, focusing on what Obama would do as President rather than attacking his opponent.

It was a good blend of ordinary Americans telling their stories, interspersed with Obama talking about policies to address their issues, as well as a few biographical snippets. Nobody who has been following the American election campaign will have seen anything particularly new in this, but I suspect it will have won over quite a few wavering voters.

If you haven't seen the infomercial, here it is:

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Jumping on the Brandwagon

I must say I think the amount of fuss there's been over the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross obscene calls affair to be bizarre.

We've got a global economy which is tanking, we're on the verge of an American Presidential election which is likely to see the first African-American elected to the office, and there are continuing problems in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet the top story on all the news channels is that a couple of performers, who are known for being a bit risque and alternative, did something a bit risque and alternative?

Although I do listen to Radio 2, I rarely listen to either Ross or Brand - their style of broadcasting isn't my cup of tea. I therefore have no idea how bad the obscene calls to Andrew Sachs were. And nor do I greatly care. Yes, I suspect it probably did breach BBC guidelines on taste and decency, but I'm astounded that 10,000 people considered it a good use of their time to phone in and complain. Do all of them actually listen to Russell Brand's programme? If so, then surely they know what it's like. Or are they just Daily Mail readers responding to that rag's hatred of the Beeb? It seems nothing much has changed since the mid-1980s when the sight of bare buttocks in The Singing Detective prompted the Mail's fury and a campaign against the Beeb by right-wing Tory MPs.

But this episode has served one useful purpose, which is to remind us just how shallow and opportunistic both Gordon Brown and David Cameron are. Both of them have weighed into the row, even though I suspect neither actually heard the programme. But neither can let a bandwagon - or in this case a Brandwagon - pass by without jumping on the back of it. It's a good job that neither's got anything important to do like, ooh, managing an economy which is heading into recession or providing a clear alternative to the Government's policies.*

I've got a great idea. I'm going to phone up Brown and Cameron and call them both complete tossers and then get Radio 2 to broadcast it. Yes, it would probably get the BBC into more hot water, but at least it has the virtue of being absolutely true.

* At least, that's what Cameron should be doing as Leader of the Opposition, even though he hasn't managed it yet.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Obama on inspirational form

I know there's some people out there who are yet to be convinced about how inspirational Barack Obama can be. But I challenge them to watch this video of the concluding part of a campaign speech Obama made today and see if they can understand why so many people are inspired by him.

Yes, campaign speeches don't necessarily mean someone's going to be a good President - let's face it, JFK's record as President was probably less impressive than some of his rhetoric - but I don't think people should under-estimate the power of words to make a difference in politics.

If Obama governs as well as he's campaigned, both in terms of inspiring people and in terms of organisation, then he has the potential to be a very good President indeed.

Palin pallin' around with convicted felons

Alaska Republican US Senator Ted Stevens has been convicted of seven charges of making false statements about free gifts from contractors.
This means the Democrats now stand a very good chance of taking his Senate seat next week.
As this video shows, Stevens is a close associate of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin:

In other news, American authorities have apparently uncovered an assassination plot against Barack Obama.

Even McCain's staffers are voting Obama!

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I didn't realise that Republicans were in such short supply that McCain needed to hire Obama supporters to do his campaigning.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Obama within margin of error in Arizona

Following one poll which puts John McCain only four points ahead in his home state of Arizona comes another showing the gap at just two points.

Now, it would be a major surprise if McCain couldn't win his home state, and I fully expect him to do take it. But the fact that it's even competitive tells you a lot about how badly McCain is doing.

With today's polls showing decent leads for Obama in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, and Ohio, I think it's going to be almost impossible for McCain to turn things around at this late stage.

Playing the blame game

Even with more than a week to go before the American presidential election, it looks like the McCain campaign is already trying to lay the blame for their expected defeat.

Apparently vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has lost confidence in her advisers and is starting to 'go rogue'. And McCain's advisers are preparing to lay the blame at her door for their defeat.

I have to say, such a reaction would be utterly unfair. Yes, she is utterly unfit to be President, yes she's been found guilty of acting unethically over 'Troopergate' and yes, her $150k clothing and $22k for make-up have damaged the campaign.

But who is responsible for her being on the ticket? The only person who should accept any sort of blame for the disaster that is Sarah Palin is John McCain. It was his decision to appoint her as his vice-presidential nominee, without properly vetting her. Her appointment undermined his arguments about experience and raised questions over his judgement. The fact it has proven such a disaster is nobody else's fault but his own.

This election can't come quickly enough for the McCain campaign. It will at last put them out of their misery and will leave them free to indulge in a bout of blood-letting.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Today is D-Day

I steered the car into a parking space, stopped, put on the handbrake and turned off the engine. The examiner looked at his clipboard and said: "I'm pleased to tell you that you have passed your test."

That was exactly one year ago today, D-Day, the day I at last passed my driving test. I'm not going to tell you how many attempts I took, as it dozen matter anymore.

I can't tell you just what a relief it was to pass. Until a few years ago, I had been quite happy to rely on public transport. But then the local bus company decided to change the timetable and made it impossible for me to get in from the village I live in to work on time. I looked at various options but in the end the only practical one was to start taking driving lessons.

But learning to drive wasn't as straightforward as I thought it would be. My instructor kept telling me that she thought I was a good driver, but I was a bundle of nerves when it came to the tests. As a result, I kept finding new and inventive ways to fail.

But I kept going and I'm really glad I did. Having my own wheels has made a real difference to my life. I feel much freer, able to go where I like when I like, without having to worry about timetables.

To take a couple of examples, earlier on this year there was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon which I decided was too good to waste at home. So I got into my car and headed out toward the west coast, eventually ending up at Ullapool. This was just stunning, with the sun shining on the boats in the bay. I had a delightful meal sitting outside looking out over the harbour, and the whole trip was just perfect. And it's not one I'd have been able to do had I had to rely on public transport.

Another trip I was able to take was a holiday to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Yorkshire Dales, Shropshire and north Wales. I clocked up a total of 1642 miles over the fortnight, and it was an excellent trip, apart from the weather. Again, I wouldn't have been able to do it - or it would have been a great hassle - if I'd been relying on trains or buses.

But the greater freedom has also resulted in greater responsibility. I think my alcohol consumption has dropped significantly. I've also discovered the delights of low or non-alcoholic beers. I'm also far less likely to go out to a pub, as previously if I missed my bus home, I would normally just head to a pub. Now after work I just jump into my car and head home.

And over the past year, I've also discovered just how badly some people drive. Now, I'm by no means a perfect driver and I occasionally make mistakes, just like everyone else. But I do know enough to recognise that when I'm driving at 60 or 70mph, it's a good idea to leave a safe gap between myself and the vehicle in front. But not all drivers think the same way. The amount of drivers who think it's a good idea to sit right on someone else's tail is frightening.

Similarly, I think it would be a good idea for all cars to be fitted with flashing yellow lights which drivers could use to indicate when they're turning or changing lanes. You could even call them 'indicators'. The amount of drivers who never indicate when they're changing lanes or turning off is quite impressive. Why?? It's one of the few things in life you get to do for free, so what's the problem with actually using indicators?

And as for those who think it's a good idea to use their mobile phones when driving: Grrrrrr!

Obviously, becoming a driver has not been cost free, especially with fuel being at such a high price over the past year. And being a car owner also resulted in me becoming a victim of crime when a local ned decided it would be a good idea to smash my taillight. I also had the slightly frightening but ultimately rewarding experience of suffering a puncture when I didn't have any credit on my phone, but ultimately being rescued by a couple of good people who changed the tyre for me.

But overall, being a driver has been a positive experience for me and I now could hardly imagine living my life any other way.

That's dedication for you

If anyone's in any doubt about the enthusiasm which Barack Obama's candidacy is creating, check out this story.

My task made easier

I was going to blog about Jeremy Purvis's article in The Scotsman about the Gnats' target setting culture, but I find that Stephen Glenn has beaten me to it and said pretty much everything I was going to say.

I was then going to blog about SNP Highland councillor John Finnie's email to party supporters in Inverness, but I find that Caron has already made the points I was going to.

This blogging lark is so much easier when other people make the arguments for you.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Mind the Gap!

While Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has blown $150k on a fashion spree since her nomination, the Obama family's fashion tastes appear rather more modest, as this video from July makes clear:

And if you want a further contrast between the campaigns, check out Obama's shoes.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

McCain staffers: we can't win Colorado

If this is true, it's virtually an admission of defeat by the McCain campaign. With Iowa and New Mexico looking like virtually certain gains for Obama, Colorado would be enough to put him over the top at 273 electoral votes, regardless of what happens in Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Florida and North Carolina.

If McCain really does think he could turn Pennsylvania around, I think he's out of touch with reality. Electoral Vote has Obama 52-40 ahead there, so I don't see McCain having a hope there.

The only Kerry state which could potentially turn (but almost certainly won't) is New Hampshire, where the gap is listed as seven points, 50-43. The trouble is, New Hampshire's four electoral votes would not be enough for McCain if Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado all go. That would leave the electoral college vote tied at 269-269, putting the decision to the House of Representatives. With the Democrats likely to hold a majority of state delegations, Obama would therefore win.

If John McCain is to win this election, he has to win Colorado. Period. If his campaign is admitting they won't, they might as well give up now.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Obama's lead is tightening but he's pulling away

Thanks to the excellent Political Wire, it seems apparent that Barack Obama's lead in the national polls is probably slipping.

It quotes a new CNN poll which puts Obama's lead at 51-46, down from eight points a couple of weeks ago. It also says the latest Diageo/Hotline survey shows Obama ahead 47-42, its smallest lead for two weeks. However, contrary to that, the latest Gallup poll shows the national margin widening to 11 points, 52-41, although this is based on registered voters and its two models of likely voters show 5 and 9 point gaps respectively.

Yet, even if Obama's national lead is being cut, the state polls seem to be showing a different story. In Virginia, Rasmussen has Obama up by 10 points, 54-44, an increase from a three-point lead. Survey USA puts the gap in the state at six points, down from its previous 10-point gap, admittedly, but still a healthy advantage for Obama. At the same time, the latest poll in Ohio gives Obama a whopping nine-point lead. And according to PPP, Obama has a seven-point lead in North Carolina.

Let's just repeat those figures for a moment. Obama is possibly as much as 10 points ahead in Virginia, nine points in Ohio and seven in North Carolina.

So what on earth is going on? I think the best explanation is that Republicans who previously had some doubts about McCain are now coming round to him, showing an apparent rise in his national polling numbers. But those voters are most likely to be in already strong Republican areas, or in Democratic states where Obama knows he's going to win anyway and is not putting in the same amount of effort - eg New York or California. But where the fight is fiercest, in the battleground states, people seem to be responding to Obama's message - not to mention his significant advantage in TV ad spending and field campaigning - which means he may be pulling away in some of the key states.

All this means that even if John McCain can even things up on a national level, he still faces a big uphill struggle to make much headway in terms of the electoral college. And that is very good news for those of us hoping for an Obama victory.

Lembit Opik, blogging and Ros Scott

Earlier today, some of you will have seen a blog entry from Irfan Ahmed in which he welcomed Lembit Opik's commitment to start blogging should he get elected as Lib Dem president. He then mistakenly claimed that Ros Scott had not revealed any plans to start blogging, apparently unaware that Ros has been blogging since January. Irfan has since apologised for his error and updated his posting.

Now, I'm not criticising Irfan for his error - everyone makes mistakes from time to time when blogging. But to me this sums up the differences between the presidential candidates and makes me glad I've cast my vote for Ros. Lembit, for all his talk about changing the way the party campaigns, merely gives a commitment to do something should he get elected. Ros has already been doing it for months.

This comes on top of Lembit having an election address which included lots of tightly-packed text which would be difficult for many members to read. In contrast, Ros's looked good and gave a clear message of what she wants to achieve.

I'd have to say, if there is one candidate in this election that's campaigning in primary colours, it's Ros and not Lembit.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Powell's endorsement of Obama

General Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama is well worth watching. In it, although he makes plain his respect for both sides, he accuses McCain of adopting a different approach every day to the economic crisis and says that his selection of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate raises question over his judgement. In contrast, he says that Obama is ready to lead from day one, has been cool and steady under pressure and is more able to bring the country together.

Powell is also very scornful of McCain's campaign tactics, particularly over the Bill Ayers (non-)issue. He also lambasts those in the Republican party who have been whispering that Obama is a Muslim, saying not only is it not true, but that it shouldn't matter. He also points out that Muslims do play a significant role in American life, including in the American military.

You can watch the full video here.

American elections: my predictions

OK, I think we're close enough to November 4 to start making predictions about what will happen in the American elections.

Barack Obama will win the presidential election. He will win all the states which Kerry won in 2004, plus Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada and Virginia, giving him a 310-228 win in the electoral college. McCain will just hold on in Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, West Virginia, Indiana and North Dakota. Obama will win the popular vote by six percentage points, 52-46, with 2 per cent for others.

In the Senate, the Democrats will have a 58-42 advantage (or 57-43 when Lieberman is expelled from the Democratic caucus). They will win all the seats in which they are currently ahead in the Electoral Vote predictor, with the exception of Minnesota where Al Franken will be beaten by less than two percentage points.

In the House, the Democrats will have a 245-190 advantage.

Please feel free to use the comments to make your own predictions.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The American Future - not perfect but worth watching

I've just watched the second episode of Simon Schama's history of the USA, The American Future.

This is probably a must-watch series for anyone interested in America and its history. It helps set in context some of the contemporary debates about America's future as it gears up for another election.

Schama has been taking a thematic approach to the subject. Following on from last week's look at 'American Plenty', which looked at the economy and resource use, this week he was focusing on America's war record.

By taking a thematic approach, of necessity some things are going to feature more heavily than others. The American Civil War was a key element, and mention was also made of World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and the Spanish-American War. However, this focus did inevitably mean some other things lost out and it's possibly a bit surprising that there was no mention of World War I, Korea or Afghanistan. Nor was there anything about America's isolationist tradition, or for that matter the 'War on Terror'.

But it was still a worthwhile insight into a key aspect of American history. I think Schama was right to examine the potential tensions between citizenship and military power and his conclusion that America still retains its tradition of civilian control of the military is still valid, although he probably needed to talk more about the relationship to the military-industrial complex.

Overall, this TV history does have its flaws, but it's still a fascinating series to watch for anyone with an interest in America.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Clean sweep for Obama

I haven't yet had a chance to see it, but the instant polls conducted after last night's final presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain indicate a pretty decisive victory for Obama.

Coming on top of victories in the previous two debates and also a win for Joe Biden in the vice-presidential debate against Sarah Palin, that makes it a clean sweep for the Obama ticket in the debates.

This was probably John McCain's last chance to swing the terms of the election his way. Having failed to do so, it's difficult to see what he can do to turn the situation around in the last two and a half weeks of campaigning. Short of Obama walking into a branch of McDonald's wearing a belt of explosives, I can't see anything stopping the Illinois Senator from coasting to victory.

Electoral Vote shows just how tough the prospect is for McCain. The headline figure on the project electoral college count is 352-171 in Obama's favour with 15 (North Carolina) down as tied. With Iowa and New Mexico looking like certain Democratic pick-ups, McCain could not afford to lose any of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Missouri or Colorado if he wants to win. In all of those states, Obama is currently ahead.

That sound you can hear is the fat lady tuning up.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

My vote's in the post

I filled in my ballot paper for the Lib Dem presidential election today, adding one more to Ros Scott's tally. She will be an effective President, who will really try and reflect the views of grassroots members to the leadership. She will also be a real asset to our campaigning.

I hope as many as possible of my fellow Lib Dem members will vote - party democracy doesn't cost you anything and it's your chance to shape the future strategy and organisation of the party.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Tavish: Let's learn from Obama

I see both Caron and Stephen have begun to write up their pieces from the interview we did with Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott at the weekend, so I suppose I'd better get myself in gear and do likewise.

Although I didn't vote for Tavish as leader, I think he's made a confident start to the role. And that was apparent in our session on Saturday, where he coped very well with everything we threw at him.

One thing I was impressed by was when I asked him what we could learn from Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Tavish spoke of the ways in which Obama had built a real grassroots effort which had helped create a sense of excitement about the message he wanted to put across. He noted that Obama had used the internet very effectively, building on the foundations Howard Dean had laid during his presidential bid four years ago, not only as a fundraising tool but also to help inspire a whole new generation to get involved in politics. I must say, I hadn't really thought Tavish would be quite so clued up about American politics, so this was an unexpectedly thorough answer.

But it's on domestic issues that Tavish's reputation as a leader will be made and he was equally good on those. On local government, for instance, Tavish welcomed the fact that ring-fenced funding had been reduced, but was concerned that the SNP government's approach was too rigid and top-down. Similarly, on local taxes, Tavish indicated he was open to the idea that local authorities should be free to raise revenue from a range of taxes, rather than solely looking at local income tax as a replacement for the unfair council tax. He said that any tax system had to conform to certain principles such as fairness and collectability and added that the Calman Commission would be looking at public financing in Scotland as a whole - including both personal and corporate taxation.

On another tax issue, Tavish clarified that his idea to get the Scottish Parliament to use its tax varying powers to cut 2p from the basic rate of income tax in Scotland was independent of the UK-wide Lib Dem proposals to cut taxes. He pointed out that his plan was to find savings from the £30 billion Scottish block grant for an immediate tax cut in Scotland to help people who are struggling now, whereas any UK-wide tax cut would probably have to wait until at least after the next General Election in 2010.

He also said in response to a question from Caron about the feasibility of tax cuts in the current economic climate that he was certain that Vince Cable and his Treasury team would be able to find the savings required to reduce government spending overall, although he admitted that the financial crisis did make things tougher. However, he said there was no point in us putting forward detailed proposals just yet, as any good ideas would only be stolen by either the Tories or Labour.

It's clear that Tavish is settling in for the long haul and is relishing the political challenges ahead. When asked about the popularity of First Minister Alex Salmond, he pointed out that both Blair and Brown had also enjoyed honeymoon periods, but that the responsibility of having to take decisions in government usually means this doesn't last.

Tavish is also keen to ensure that the Scottish Lib Dems become a forceful grassroots campaigning party again, saying that he doesn't want to spend all his time playing political games in Holyrood, but instead getting out around the country spreading the Lib Dem message as much as possible. And he's also keen to make sure that the party does become far more representative of society as a whole, although he noted that the party had consistently opposed some measures such as all-women shortlists which other parties had adopted. However, he didn't really come up with any proposals as to how this could be addressed.

Finally, Tavish was asked who he would be supporting in the upcoming Lib Dem presidential election. As party leader in Scotland, I thought he might have been non-committal, but his answer was clear: "I hope Ros [Scott] wins. I don't think Lembit's the right person for the job." Remember folks, you heard it here first.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Thoughts on the presidential election

For once, this isn't about Obama v McCain, but instead the contest to become the next President of the Liberal Democrats.

This is not something I've talked about publicly before, mainly because it seemed quite a long way off. But now it's getting towards decision time.

I'm going to look at the three candidates in turn. First up, Chandila Fernando. Chandila is not someone I know much about and I suspect most people in the same party are in the same boat. All I know about him is that apparently he's the director of Liberal Vision, a group which seeks to get the Lib Dems to adopt an extreme libertarian position. His politics are probably anathema to the vast majority of party members. And if you look at his website, all you'll see is contact details and a big picture of him. If you try to click on the enter site button, nothing happens. Frankly, not only is his political stance questionable, but if he's unable to get a proper website up and running which gives some indication of what he would do as president, he's really not worth voting for.

So, what about Lembit Opik MP? Now, I have to say that I quite like Lembit. He can be funny and charming and he is a natural liberal. I think he does have a fairly good political brain and a good understanding of the world. I also remember one time, before he became an MP, when he came to visit my university Lib Dem group to give a talk about the situation in Estonia, which was then in the throes of takings its first steps as an independent nation again. He is also someone who does work very hard for the party, often doing things which aren't immediately visible to many people.

Unfortunately, Lembit does have his down side. Although he is undoubtedly one of the best known Lib Dem MPs, what he is best known for is being Lembit. The celebrity girlfriends, the Hello spreads, the appearances on TV entertainment shows featuring men doing strange things with their manhood, the asteroids, the paragliding and the Segways. It all gives the impression of an ego-driven desire for attention, rather than someone who is serious about getting across a Lib Dem political narrative.

Which brings us to Ros Scott. I must say, I had hardly heard of her this time last year. But then she launched her candidacy for the presidency at last year's party conference and since then I think it's fair to say that she's become one of the best-known figures in the party. I've been impressed by the dedication she's put into her campaign, by the hard graft she's put in travelling all around the country. I happened to go to a couple of fringe meetings at Lib Dem conference at which she spoke, and she is a good speaker. She gives the impression of being approachable and of listening to what the members say. Unlike Lembit, she has the advantage of being able to devote herself full time to being President in a way that a constituency MP can't. Her website also looks good, in contrast to Lembit's rather staid affair, and she also has her own blog.

So what it comes down to is this. Lembit, I'll do you a deal. Knuckle down and prove you want to be a serious politician rather than just a C-list celebrity and in 2 or 4 years time I might consider voting for you as party president. But this time, I'm 4 Ros.

Reminder: Tavish Scott bloggers' interview

Just a quick reminder that Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott has agreed to take part in a bloggers' interview this Saturday. It will take place at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Edinburgh at 3.25pm.

The interview is open to any Lib Dem blogger, so if you're planning on being in or near Edinburgh (perhaps on your way to Glenrothes?) this Saturday, why not come along.

The only requirement is that you write up the interview on your blog. If you don't have a blog of your own, you could write it up for a site such as Lib Dem Voice.

Anyone wishing to take part should email me at bernardsalmon[at]cix[dot]co[dot]uk

Monday, 6 October 2008

Let me see if I've got this straight

Not only is Barack Obama a cheese-eating surrender monkey, he's also a Commie-loving terrorist.

Oh, and he's a Muslim, so he'll be crashing Air Force One into the middle of Disneyland first chance he gets.

Coming up next, Barack HUSSEIN Osama Obama's recipe for sauteed baby in barbecue sauce.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The Veep debate: it wasn't even close

I finally got round to watching the Vice-Presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin, courtesy of More 4.

The comments I'd seen about the debate earlier on today (checks clock on computer, realises it's yesterday now) had led me to expect that while Biden had done better, Palin had at least performed creditably.

But that wasn't how I saw it. If that was a decent performance by Palin, I'd hate to see her on a bad day. Actually, that's wrong, I'd love to see her on a bad day. It would be the ultimate car crash TV.

Palin very rarely gave an answer to the question put to her, whether on healthcare, deregulation, nuclear weapons or the role of the vice-presidency. She relied almost totally on pre-prepared statements, which were sometimes only tangentially related to what was being discussed. And she didn't even read them well. If any actor read lines that badly, they'd soon find themselves doing far more waiting on tables than waiting to go on stage.

On just about every measure I can think of, Biden was better. To illustrate, I'm going to answer some fairly standard polling questions.

Who has the greater knowledge of the issues facing America? Biden.
Who has a greater understanding of the issues facing ordinary American families? Biden.
Who has the greatest experience needed to be Vice-President? Biden.
Who has the greatest experience to take over as President if necessary? Biden.
Which of the two candidates for Vice-President did a better job of setting out a vision for the future of the country? Biden.
Who has the greatest understanding of the economy? Biden.
Who has the greatest understanding of foreign policy? Biden.
Which of the two would you be most comfortable with as Commander-in-Chief? Biden.
Which of them did a better job of answering the questions in the debate? Biden.
Which of them did a better job of thinking on his/her feet during the debate? Biden.
Which of them did a better job of attacking the opposing Presidential candidate? Biden.

I could go on, but I won't. Biden was a clear winner of the debate and it wasn't even close.

It's just a shame that the Veep debates rarely if ever affect the outcome of the presidential race. But maybe this time it will be a bit different, given that Sarah Palin is so obviously unsuitable to be anywhere near the presidency, let alone a heartbeat away.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Obama and the Bradley effect

Jock Coats, in a comment on my posting yesterday about Barack Obama's lead in the polls, raised the issue of racist voters saying to pollsters that they'll be supporting Obama but then voting against him in the privacy of the polling booths, the so-called Bradley effect.

Happily, this posting indicates that might not be such a problem.

Brown's reshuffle statement in full

We face a new era and new challenges, different from those we faced in 1997, which is why I've decided to bring back into government a bunch of has-beens who faced those other challenges in 1997.

We need serious people for serious times, plus Peter Mandelson.

We need to reinvent government in these serious times, which is why I'm going to create several new quangos and committees, to give people the impression I've got a Scooby how to get us out of the economic mess I helped create, which of course I don't. None of these new bodies will actually have any power, but hey, it makes it look like I'm actually doing something.

We need to change the way we govern in these serious times, but don't expect me to do anything silly like introducing fair votes or revitalising local democracy. What do you think I am, a Liberal Democrat?Exercising total power on just 36% of the vote is the way we do things in this country.

Although Peter Mandelson and I have had our ups and downs in the past - which as you know is code for 'we hate each other's guts but I can't admit it in public' - I am delighted to have him back in government in these serious times. He has been a brilliant European trade commissioner, despite not actually achieving a deal in the Doha trade negotiations.

Did I mention that we face serious times and that I'm a serious person - unlike Cameron or David Miliband?

I'm Mandy, why me?

Last year Gordon Brown promised an end to spin. This year he brings Peter Mandelson back into government. That is all you need to know about the bankruptcy of Brown's government.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

He who lives by the sword...

Sir Ian Blair's resignation as Metropolitan Police Commissioner had an air of inevitability about it.

I have long thought that Ian Blair was the wrong person to lead the Met Police. The aftermath of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes indicated that either he was prepared to make statements to the press that he knew not to be true or his senior officers failed to keep him informed of the true situation. Neither inspired confidence in his leadership.

What is slightly surprising about his departure is that what did for him in the end was not the shooting of de Menezes, the various racial discrimination cases or the allegations that contracts were awarded inappropriately: it was politics.

And this is a highly appropriate reason for him to go, as Blair himself was one of the most politicised police figures I can remember. His interventions on the debates on detention without charge for 90 or 42 days were highly inappropriate for a serving senior policeman. Blair allowed himself to become very closely identified with the New Labour establishment, which made his position rather fragile when Tory Boris Johnson was elected as Mayor of London.

That said, the manner of his departure is highly questionable. As Lib Dem mayoral candidate Brian Paddick said when interviewed about Blair's resignation on Radio Five Live this afternoon, this looks like an arbitrary decision by Johnson. Paddick pointed out that the correct procedure if Johnson had concerns about Blair would have been to have organised a vote of no confidence in him on the Metropolitan Police Authority. It is utterly wrong that Johnson has now given the impression that the police should be subject to political diktats.

The job of Met Police Commissioner is a tough one. I just hope that the next Commissioner realises that his or her job is to concentrate on policing rather than politics. And I hope that the politicians allow that person to do their job without interfering at every step.

Is it turning into a landslide?

Barack Obama's lead in the polls and in the battleground states appears to be increasing, and it's looking ever more like he's on for a substantial victory next month.

Real Clear Politics has Obama ahead in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico, all states won by Bush four years ago. McCain is also only just a whisker ahead in Missouri and Indiana - the latter a state which Bush won by more than 20 points in 2004.

Electoral Vote has similar figures, although they have North Carolina listed as a tie. Their electoral college count shows Obama currently on 338 and McCain on 185, with the 17 votes for North Carolina down as a tie.

Those figures are backed up by the latest national polls. CBS/New York Times has Obama leading McCain 50-41 while AP/GfK has it 47-41. It looks like Obama has benefitted both from the financial chaos (and McCain's bizarre antics in response to it) and from his performance in the opening debate.

Things look even worse for the Republicans if you look at the situation in the Senate races. Republican incumbents are currently behind in Alaska, Oregon, North Carolina and New Hampshire, while open Republican seats in Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia look like almost certain gains for the Democrats. Republican candidates in Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota (where comedian Al Franken is the Democratic candidate) are also in very tight races.

It looks like Republicans are in for a real pasting on November 4. And, short of a disastrous performance by Obama in one of the final two debates or possibly a major terrorist attack in America, it's difficult to see what they can do to turn things round.

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