Matthew Parris

It wasn't just pollsters who were useless in the election; pundits were too

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

It takes some agility to shoot yourself in the foot and saw off the branch you’re sitting on, while hoisting yourself with your own petard, all at the same time; but that is what I shall now attempt. In this analysis of general election commentary I shall argue that over the last two months Britain has been all but choked by a surfeit of comment and analysis on the general election. Can any reader remember when there was an election that produced so much?

Or, in the end, produced it to so little useful purpose? If last Christmas Day one had fallen into a coma only to awake on 8 May, thus missing every word that has been spoken by broadcasters or written by columnists like me, if one had never read an opinion poll about voters’ preferences until the real poll on 7 May, if the machine-gun fire of mindless soundbites and the drone of endlessly repetitive party leaders’ speeches had never once this year impinged on one’s consciousness … would one be any less capable this weekend of forming an intelligent view of the result?

Some of us, like the Telegraph’s estimable James Kirkup, have apologised for wasting readers’ time; others (like me) continue to waste it; but surely nobody now seriously maintains that the unceasing stream of analysis masquerading as news that has filled airwaves, news pages and cyberspace this year, and the explosion of advance explanation of a result that in the event would not occur, left those who take a serious interest in politics any the wiser about what was going to happen last Thursday, or why.

It isn’t just that almost everyone including the pollsters got the result completely wrong. Heaven knows, picking over the entrails of that disaster has itself become a growth-industry of the ‘What went wrong?’, ‘Who’s to blame?’ and ‘Why?’ variety. No, it’s worse than that. Even if the pollsters’ science had accurately predicted the result, and the columnists’ art had supplied an interesting discussion of the reasons for it, there would still have been something sterile about the whole very 21st-century exercise.

Have we lost the confidence to think about the destinations of politics, retreating instead into a kind of displacement activity: talking about mere process?


Imagine yourself a 22nd-century historian. Suppose the subject of your study is the British general election of 2015. You decide to conduct an exhaustive review of published and broadcast discussion and commentary in the months leading up to that election. What especially will interest you? You will surely want to know where the Britain of that time thought it was going; where it wanted to go; what were the directions being proposed by the major parties; what were the real and perceived strengths and weaknesses of their manifestos; how the rival policies stacked up; and what was the public mood.

So you gather the data — the newspapers, the blogs, the polls, the broadcast assessments, the online traffic. The first thing you notice is the sheer volume: a multiple of any harvest you could gather from 20th-century elections, or even the elections of 2001, 2005 and 2010. Why, the polls seem to be almost hourly, the comment columns prodigious!

You’re encouraged. ‘I shall be able to form a most detailed picture of the mood and mindset of the time,’ you suppose, ‘and a clear idea of the competing strengths of the offers being made by party leaders.’

‘Here,’ you will think, ‘I shall learn where a nation thought it was going.’ You plough on in.

But all you find is vast quantities of the sort of commentary we associate with the Grand National. ‘True Blue’s just a nose ahead — but — oh! Red Devil’s taking an early lead… No — True Blue’s straining every sinew maintaining the pace… and — oh! What’s this? — Scotland The Brave’s obstructing Red Devil and True Blue inches into the lead.

‘Maybe they’ve picked the wrong jockey for Red Devil … — oh dear — Orange Book has dropped back badly at the fence and Purple Wizard’s hanging in there. But True Blue just can’t seem to pull a commanding lead — did his trainer choose the wrong feed? Oh dear — Green Natalie seems to have stumbled …’

And so on. Everything is discussed, often breathlessly. Everything is picked over, often tediously. And every few hours we freeze-frame for a pollster’s snapshot of the race so far, and an expert’s analysis of the horseflesh. It’s great for the punters and riveting for the bookies, but this is the politics of the Racing Post. The trainers — Crosby and Axelrod — have taken centre stage.

At least in racing you get interviews with the jockeys. But for the past two months in British politics the key figures — the senior ranks of the principal parties — have been under a collective vow of something not far from silence. They babble, of course, babble without end; they parrot their election strategists’ chosen phrases; but to the best of my recollection neither Ed Miliband nor David Cameron nor Nick Clegg said anything interesting, let alone significant, that wasn’t immediately seized on as a ‘gaffe’.

This was the election in which a Tory leader ate a hot dog with a knife and fork, and a Labour leader caused six entirely vacuous sentences to be chiselled on to an 8ft slab of limestone. This was the election in which, if we commentators had to endure as much as 36 hours without a new opinion poll that we now know to have been utterly useless anyway, our hands began to shake like an alcoholic’s after closing time.

So, super-trivial in substance yet super-abundant in output, super-cautious politicians and a supercharged media twisted and jived together towards an election outcome of which — now we know it — we can say only this: that we are about to get a government of whose actual intentions across whole swaths of policy we have not the least idea. Somehow the subject never came up.

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Show comments
  • rick hamilton

    Meanwhile in a country far, far away……………..namely Japan, they are planning their first moon landing. Also building a brand new maglev train line which will run at more than 300mph, building a satellite which will guide ships through ice-free arctic waters and cut the sailing time to Europe substantially, working on a geothermal plant which will use hot gas from a volcano to produce hydrogen for fuel cell cars and to power the 2020 Olympic Village. Their nuclear power stations are slowly coming on stream again after a period of upgrading safety standards and methane hydrate is being extracted from the seabed as a future fuel to reduce imports. It has hardly been noticed that Honda have just launched their first executive jet.

    Contrast that little snapshot of only a part of the high tech world of Japan (and China, Taiwan, South Korea are not far behind) with the endless babble in the UK about the distant prospect of an HS2 or expanded airport capacity and with the obsession with welfare, the NHS and basically how to spend the taxpayers’ money. Not to mention all the childish -isms and -phobias that each party slags off its opponents with.

    Is there any political party that knows or cares if the UK can rebuild its engineering and science capabilities which have been so run down under governments led by Oxford PPEs and phalanxes of arts graduates? For that matter are there any polticians who can tell us exactly how the country is going to earn its living in the 21st century?

    • Picquet

      You are entirely right, and this is the first time in the past six months of discussion on little else but how we fund our vast NHS, whose purpose is to de-fat our obese, sew up our drunks and possibly cure our ills, that I’ve read anything to seriously show that life in this little country needs to compete with life outside of it. All of those spinners whining about the sickie service, all those voters worrying about HS2; why weren’t they bitching about the quantity and quality of engineers, accountants and business leaders our universities and colleges pump out? Because the principal Parties know that we’re self and now obsessed, that’s why. The public are wallowing in self-pity; we need to get a grip.

      • Pacificweather

        There is a name for that self pity. UKIP Syndrome.

        • Picquet

          Oddly, I’d have never thought that; UKIP seems to me to have the very antithesis of a self-pitying philosophy. Now, anyone voting for a Labour candidate/party, it seems to me, has an instinctive ‘give-me-your-money’ reflex. The idiot conditioning absorbed by the public for the ever-expanding NHS is part of it, and isn’t sustainable – it might be if we trained enough doctors and nurses, but we merely steal them from the Third World, which strikes me as hypocrisy at its most socialist.

          • Pacificweather

            Pity me I am to poor to give to the third world. Pity me I am being overrun by immigrants. Pity me the EU is bleeding me dry. Pity me I voted for FPTP in 2011 to ensure I would only get one MP. Pity me I am old and white and live in a seaside town with few immigrants but still nobody comes here on holiday so it’s all the fault of the EU. Recognisable? It’s never their fault. Trash like me who live off the state know its our fault but whilst there are UKIP mugs out there who can’t even work out how to increase their number of MPs I am happy to live off their taxes. The poor darlings.

            You never hear Ukipers complain about employer subsidies which is the very worst kind of socialism. Let’s get the workers to subsidise capital said Brown and Blair. Jolly good wease that said Cameron and Osborne and they increased it. All their faux grievances and they can’t see how their own government steals more from them than the EU.

          • Picquet

            Sorry, I lost all interest at “I am happy to live off their taxes”.
            Now bore off.

          • Pacificweather

            That is any UKIP trait. Lack of interest in reality.

          • blandings

            You post a great deal, Nowhere Man, but have so little of consequence to tell us.

          • Pacificweather

            I like to blend in with the crowd.

          • blandings

            Then stop posting

          • Pacificweather

            Surely if you take the trouble post to me I should have the courtesy to respond. If you don’t want a response you could always set the example yourself. I won’t be offended. I have never understood why some people post when they don’t actually want a debate or haven’t any arguments. It does always seem to be the ones without anything to say who dislike reasoned debate.

          • kazdix

            Are insults all you have as debate?

          • Pacificweather

            Give me a debate and we will find out. So far no one has done so.

          • UKSteve

            It doesn’t. Speak sense.

          • Pacificweather

            You are right. It doesn’t speak sense and neither do it’s adherents. More sense and more backbone is what’s needed from them.

          • UKSteve

            “Backbone”? From the British MSM?

            Good luck with that!

          • Pacificweather

            The EU cost us £9 billion net in 2014. Employer subsidies cost us £12.5 billion in the same year. Which is the greater theft?

          • UKSteve

            Well, I’ve got this:

            “The net figures – which take into account the UK’s rebate – show the
            UK’s contribution to the EU was £2.7bn in 2008, rising to £3.8bn in
            2009, £7.2bn in 2010, £7.5bn in 2011, £8.5bn in 2012 and £11.3bn in
            2013.”

            But I can’t find antthing resembling your £12.5 bn figure?

          • Pacificweather

            It’s on the NAO website.

          • UKSteve

            Nope.

          • Pacificweather

            Yes

          • UKSteve

            Thought so . .. .a tw4t.

          • Pacificweather

            Lazy bones.  If you wanted me to do the work for you why didn’t you just ask for a link?

            http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Departmental-overview-a-summary-of-the-NAOs-work-on-the-department-for-work-and-pensions-2013-14.pdf

            As you will see it doesn’t just give one figure for those that like to be spoon fed but with paper and pen you can calculate the number.

            You may prefer this from the OBR

            http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/wordpress/docs/Welfare_trends_report_2014_dn2B.pdf

            Start at page 123 for Tax Credits and page 161 for Housing costs.  Again, the analysis is presented from the governments perspective not the taxpayers.

          • UKSteve

            Not interested. You’ve proven yourself a troll-muppet on several occasions, and half decent poster would have provided it up front – as I always do.

            As I say, “Finis”.

          • Pacificweather

            Go on, do the work for once in your life.

            I didn’t give you the link at first because I was convinced you were not really interested or too lazy to overcome your prejudices. I am always disappointed to be proven right once again. At one point I had some hope that you might actually want to learn something. It was a case of hope rising above experience but experience won as it does all too frequently.

          • UKSteve

            “Learn”. What a window-licking retard you really are.

            I have one book of 148,000 words ready to go to a publisher, and a second well advanced. Plus additional materiel for the anti-EU cause.

            The borderline deranged rubbish you post on here might fool some, but not me – I’ve seen right through you. You are a troll-muppet with absolutely nothing to say – nothing more. Go back to your Meccano set. Or whatever.

          • Pacificweather

            So much for “Finis”. It is interesting that UKSteve uses French when he doesn’t mean what he says. Positively Freudian. You tell me you are only prepared to work on your monomania that the EU government is stealing from you and you won’t put half an hour into learning how much your own government is stealing from you. Still, that’s the nature of monomania I suppose. When your book is published post a link for me and I’ll be your first customer. I would like to read your arguments even if you are not interested in mine.

            BTW, you do realise how unintelligent it makes you appear to publish your puerile abuse here. Not a strategy to use in the book review interviews, especially on television. Just consider what might happen if some keen eyed reporter located and published your posts. Not good for either book sales or the campaign. It might be best to turn it down a bit. You don’t want people to think you get rattled when you are corned in a discussion.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            A lot of it goes straight back to the bumpkin millionaire farmers to pay them not to produce food.

          • UKSteve

            And mostly French.

            10 years ago Newsnight ran a piece showing Aryan EU tomatoes dumped on market stalls in Ghana, where locals couldn’t sell their wares, so starved. Obscene.

          • Dogsnob

            Have you factored-in the amount of tax which was then paid by those employers, having made use of the subsidies?

          • Pacificweather

            You will have to ask the ONS and tha NAO how they arrived at their figures but do you think the subsidsed employers, even including foreign employers like Amazon and Starbucks, pay £12.5 billion in corporation tax? You think they are subsidising themselves with the amount of tax they pay? Do you think it is even sustainable for one half of the population to pay taxes to sustain employees in full time work? Employment should create taxes not taxes employment. You don’t want to give your taxes to the EU but don’t appear to be concerned that you are subsidising multinational American companies. I find that somewhat perverse.

          • Dogsnob

            I didn’t say I was not concerned about companies who don’t pay tax. They need sorting out just the same as our EU predicament needs to be.
            We need a party that takes action on both these, and on other fronts.
            Or we can sit here like you saying ‘pity me’ the multinationals aren’t paying the exchequer enough and so I’m not getting enough for sitting on my backside.

          • Pacificweather

            Excellent. I am sure, like me, you will take it to the next meeting of the local party and try to get them to make it party policy to eliminate employer subsidies by raising the minimum wage to £10 per hour in stages over the life of this parliament.

          • Dogsnob

            I have in the past attended meetings, but I’m alright now.

          • Pacificweather

            I have every sympathy.

          • Malcolm Stevas

            Trash like you who live off the state – you said it, chum. If your spelling improves so will your CV, and you might not have to live off the state.

          • Pacificweather

            But I want to live off the state and I am so grateful for the support of Ukipers. What’s a CV?

          • Dominic Stockford

            The job centre tell you how to put one together, but they can never give you anything to put in it…

          • Pacificweather

            You have not told me what it is? Do you have to be good at mechanics to put it together? What sought of things do you put in it? What’s a job centre?

          • Dominic Stockford

            A Job Centre is where people who have no jobs gather in order to discuss (with experts) how they can avoid getting one.

            No mechanical skill required, lots of double-talk required though. A CV is apparently made of tissue, and you have to make it up whilst lying down. I’m sure you can work out the rest…

          • Pacificweather

            The world is a strange place now for us old folks. Thanks for the information.

            People used to come to the door and ask for work. Can you dig ditches I said. Yes. Ok, so show me how good you are. Dig a ditch for me. When they had done it I would say, “You are a very good ditch digger, but I don’t need one.” How we would laugh. I usually gave them half a pig for their trouble. The world has become too complex.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Gosh, what fun life used to be. To whom did you give the other half a pig? I think you should share this pearl with us…

          • Pacificweather

            I usually sold it but sometimes it might go in the freezer. Only half pigs were bought in those days. I am not allowed to slaughter and butcher anymore but everything I produce is sold within 20 miles. People don’t come to the door asking for work. It must be 30 years since they did that which is a shame because I have many jobs I can no longer do.

          • The government steals off us to give to the EU. If you can’t recognise that simple fact then the rest of your diatribe is irrelevant.

          • Pacificweather

            Certainly it does. It just steals more to subsidise employers. Why do you hate the one but approve of the other?

          • Terry Field

            too not to.
            Try Inglish.

          • Pacificweather

            Give me the sentence number or word count. I am just a poor foreigner and English is not my first language. “Too many foreigners to count just not one or two to ensure social cohesion” was the sentence I was taught in order to remember all those different words with the same sound.

          • Dominic Stockford

            ‘wheeze’

          • Pacificweather

            Wease as in weasel. The sort of thing a weasel would do. Not wheeze as in good idea. It’s a very bad idea.

      • lakelander

        Yes. Self-pity and over-dependence are our twin diseases.

    • John Brocklehurst

      I have huge respect for Japan, but they aren’t without their own problems and the UK is now slouch when it comes to science and innovation. We may not be great at infrastructure, but talking ourselves down is as destructive as underestimating our challenges.

      • johan berger

        Talking themselves/yourselves down is what was done according to the Code of the Amateur some years ago, but a WILLED destruction is surely worse than shortsighted ‘action’ just to prove you are somebody.. Mrs Thatcher long ago – and in the movie shot in her name(2011) – rejected the idea of BEING someone and then forgetting to have DONE something!
        Johan Berger(ret. teacher of British culture and history/sec. comprehensive, Drammen(NORWAY)

    • Pacificweather

      I like the idea of ships being guided by a Japanese satellite. Does it transmit sea shanties in MP3 format for the ships to follow? More competition for Iridium. They won’t be pleased.

    • John Carins

      We have lost the guts to follow through on science/engineering projects. We have also as you rightly identify lost any ambition. It’s not just the obsession with welfare and the NHS that hobbles us. It is our membership of the EU and sadly we have given the Europeans our scientific base on a plate – nuclear, airbus ,trains, defence industries to name but a few. Even the so called renewable technologies are owned and built by foreign companies. The global/European corporates have become our unaccountable safety blanket.

      • lakelander

        Professor Eric Laithwaite invented the Maglev train. We have rarely followed through.

        • John Carins

          Hovercraft, Concorde……the list goes on

          • Pacificweather

            The Vietnam war was a blessing to the hovercraft. In the U.S. Marine Corp they found someone who thought they had a use for them. Harrier jets too. Model hovercraft were all the rage when I was a teenager. Very good for knocking toddlers off their feet. Steering is rubbish.

          • John Carins

            The big cross channel hovercraft were put out of business by the removal of duty free. Something else that we have the EU to thank. There is still military use.

          • Pacificweather

            We also have to thank Mrs T. for subsidising the tunnel. The one and only time I crossed the channel by hovercraft the cabin crew had just sold us G&Ts before we reached the open sea and all the drinks jumped out of the glasses and into our laps. When the sea calmed they would not replace them. I new then the service was doomed.

          • UKSteve

            TSR 2, English Electric Lightning, Vickers Valiant, Black Arrow….we led the world in aviation research and development – all trashed by Harold Wilson.

          • Pacificweather

            Just don’t mention the Comet. 4mm aluminium. Now that was a great British idea. We led the world in aviation research and development but didn’t sell the world any planes. The world liked its own planes better than ours. Still, the Saudis are using our Tornados to kill Yemenies which is some consolation.

            Raise a toast to Mr W and Mrs T. The great industrial vandals of the 20th century.

          • UKSteve

            ….The Lightning sold to many counties in teh Middle East and “friends” in Asia.

            Ah dear, this is where you fall down. This country was bankrupt, borrowing form the IMF, and had zero working industries by 1979, when St. Margaret came to the rescue.

          • Pacificweather

            Mr Wilson cut subsidies to unsuccessful arms firms. Mrs Thatcher subsidised Bitish and American car firms and even subsidised the Channel Tunnel after saying she wouldn’t. She decided not to build a sovereign wealth fund with our oil bonanza but keep 4 million people unemployed and wasted billions on the poll tax. Still, you pay your taxes and you take your choice. Pipe or handbag? Six of one and half a dozen of the other to me. One day I must do some research to see which cost the taxpayer the most money. I’d put a bet it was Mrs T.

          • UKSteve

            None of that is true about Thatcher (apart from the Chunnel) – it’s all usual Leftist BS.

            The Poll Tax was the fairest system of local taxation we’ve ever had, and look what the brain-damaged sheeple did with it. Now, all they do is complain about Council tax. Sheeple!

            Do that research but trust me, after you see what she did for this country, you’ll have a lot more respect for her. Like I did.

          • Pacificweather

            We both know what she did for the country and all those lies about the DeLorien investment and BL won’t sway us from our devotion. The poll tax may have been fair but facing the miners is one thing but facing the voters was too much for her. The implementation and abandonment cost billions but god she was worth it. I sent flowers to her funeral.

          • UKSteve

            You puzzle me. Maybe it’s in your “expression”.

            Scargill’s sole aim was to bring down Thatcher’s government, using pit closures as an excuse. The UDM guys confirmed this. She couldn’t afford to let that happen.

          • Pacificweather

            A strong woman who showed her strength but, when she lost it, it was undeniably expensive for the taxpayer. As much as I admired her I won’t wear rose tinted spectacles for her any more than I would for lesser politicians. If you won’t look at the flaws as well as the strengths then you are looking for a god not a human being.

          • UKSteve

            You are one of the strangest posters in Disqus.

            “If you won’t look at the flaws as well as the strengths then you are looking for a god not a human being.”

            As ridiculous as it was unnecessary.

            Finis.

          • Pacificweather

            So glad you agree. I hoped you weren’t looking for a god. It is good to know you weren’t .

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            Liar. Scargill sought to defend vulnerable pit villages.

          • UKSteve

            Tw4t. Learn to read.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            Git. Learn some morals.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            How is a flat tax fair, idiot?

          • UKSteve

            Your comment is too moronic and abusive to warrant a serious reply.

            Go and learn to read.

            Finis.

          • Terry Field

            You have a large open space between your thick, cauliflower ears.

          • Pacificweather

            And you, my dear Terry, have demonstrated your lack of ability to defend your point of view or an argument you disagree with.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            Thatcher cost us more. She cost us our dignity and our trust.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            In 1979 the UK was the Worlds fourth largest economy with 38% of people working in manufacturing and only 1.2 m unemployed.
            Thatcher reduced us to eighth, with 18% in manufacturing and 4 million out of work. Thatcher took the Great out of Britain.

          • UKSteve

            Absolute rubbish.

            I went into manufacturing engineering in 1976, and was told “what he Hell have you come into this game for, were fckued!” Verbatim!

            Your figures are as bent as a 7 quid note.

            She knew we could never revive manufacturing industry with a bankrupt economy, and the UK government STILL owing money to the IMF on the day she entered office (thanks to Callaghna / Healey). So she had to transform the economy to a service-based model, following the advice to the letter of some massively important economists. The growth after 1984, was phenomenal, and laid the foundations of the prosperity we enjoy today. She put the Great back into Britain, and retook the Falklands in her spare time.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            Big deal, some piss ant little rocks near Antarctica.

          • UKSteve

            LMAO – you Leftytrash!

            That “….some piss ant little rocks near Antarctica.” has one of the world’s largest oil reserves.

            How’s that piss-ant, solitary brain cell doing for you, Clueless?

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            What do you mean calling me trash, you imbecile gobshite?

          • Malcolm Stevas

            We certainly made a few good aeroplanes and you’ve mentioned a couple: TSR2 certainly was radical, a potential game changer; the P1154 would have been similarly ahead of its time; the Lightning was very fast, but notoriously leaky and with very limited range; don’t know this “Black Arrow”…
            But we also built some bummers, and in general we were outstripped post-WW2 by the USA, USSR et al, whose front-line fighters were supersonic while we were still making curious transonic creatures like the Javelin, Sea Vixen and so on.
            We seem to have chucked away most of it. Don’t know whether we could still design and build cutting edge military aircraft on our own.

          • UKSteve

            Indeed.

            Wilson cancelled TSR2, and just a few years ago, some aeronautical engineers told a mate (in the industry) that if the TSR2 was built today with modern engines, it would still be “interesting”

            Black Arrow.

            Cancelled on the insistence of the Americans, as was RY Brittania decommissioned.

          • Malcolm Stevas

            Thank you. Having followed your link, I have a faint recollection of Black Arrow.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            Kippers hiding in the past.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            The plane spotter is sad about the “bummers”

          • Malcolm Stevas

            It’s time your mum called you in for tea.

          • John Carins

            Indeed. The so called “white heat of technology” was a fundamental lie. The Black Arrow/Blue Streak work was lost to the French as they developed Arianne. All Labour and Conservative Governments have lacked the will to properly support science/engineering. The French have and will reap the rewards.

          • Johnny Foreigner

            Trashed by Labour, encompasses a lot more of history, than using just Harold ‘White Heat’ Wilson.

          • UKSteve

            It does, but he closed more coal mines that the Tories, as well.

            And of course, it wasn’t just industry that got trashed.

          • Johnny Foreigner

            All true, UKs maternity wards will be bursting with Labour’s future and ours of course, becoming marginalised in your own country will be fascinating.

        • UKSteve

          Extraordinary man. Did you ever see the BBC2 series “Heretics” from the 1980’s (back when they used to make TV programmes that kept people riveted- – it included Rupert Sheldrake?

          • lakelander

            Don’t remember the programme but I have a lot of time for Rupert Sheldrake. He defies the modernist, humanist movement with original thought.

          • UKSteve

            It’s a very poor copy from VHS tape, but this was it:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eQp4grGdqY

          • lakelander

            Thank you, indeed.

    • Gerschwin

      Sure, but they don’t have Andrew Strauss.

    • They can put their plans for navigating ‘ice-free arctic waters’ on the back burner. That’s not going to happen for a long time.

      Considering Al Gore et al warned us that the area would be free of ice by last year’s summer season and the ice is currently running above the median, ice-free arctic waters is another fiction to go along with all the other global-warming fictions.

      • Pacificweather

        Well not in winter but the North West Passage is ice free in summer and now the North East Passage also. Every cloud has a silver lining.

    • Closedshop

      By British standards and politics Japan would be a Socialist state.

    • Chamber Pot

      It is called a poverty of vision. Dave, like MacMillan before him, a member of the patrician class, is prepared to preside over ‘ managed decline ‘ all the while ignoring the opportunity of building a compelling and inspiring alternative future that could await this fantastic, industrious, country, and its endlessly creative people. ‘ I’m alright Jack ‘ is this empty man’s mantra, as well as consigning us to irrelevance as part of the Fourth Reich.

      • Pacificweather

        A man who built 300,000 houses a year should not be compared to Mr Cameron.

        • Dominic Stockford

          The planners and the lawyers would prevent anyone building that many houses today – it doesn’t matter who you are.

          • Pacificweather

            So much for the sovereign parliament. I thought it had been sold to the EU but now you say it’s been sold to planners and lawyers. What is the world coming to? Parliament sold twice. Is that a fraud or is it software.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Our country and our army are now run by lawyers, so you can bet your last penny that it is neither, even if it is both.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            The MoD now has more staff than the Army.Thanks to Cameron.

          • evad666

            and the Navy and the RAF.

          • Pacificweather

            I like to meet a fellow philosospher. There aren’t too many on this web site.

      • Alina_Thamson

        ~~➼↝➳➼$77 /hr 0n the computer@me8//

        ➨➨➨ http://FrontRowsNetsM0ney Club.com/dream/maker…

      • Caractacus

        Be fair – in order to get to where Japan is, the Unions don’t just have to be neutered, they have to be destroyed. They are utterly destructive and reductive.

    • Johnny Foreigner

      I loved reading your post and agree completely with every word, but the last time there was any rhetorical traction on this subject was with Wilson’s ‘White Heat’ speech, more than fifty years ago. As for any genuine practical policy implementation or real money being thrown at it, I can’t think of or see any tangible result in science or engineering support, in the last fifty years. I think this ship has sailed, in its place we have the foreign aid budget, makes the elite governing us feel better, but not our own country do better.
      What could we have done for teaching, inventing, research work, built and re-built with over £12 billion a year, for the last five years? There is a fascinating counter factual to be written one day.

      • Pacificweather

        We do, however, have Mr Dyson who sells very expensive vacuum cleaners built in China. We also have Numatic who sell lower priced vacuum cleaners built in the UK. Numatic don’t own as much land as Mr Dyson but then neither does the Church of England.

        • Johnny Foreigner

          But Dyson wasn’t backed by a Govt., initiative or money, was he?

          • Pacificweather

            He would be running an unusual company to have eschewed all grants and tax breaks. But the issue is whether companies should act in the interest of the country where they make their money or should they act like the Barclay brothers and Mr Dyson. Mr Dyson talked down Britain by saying he could no longer afford to make his vacuum cleaners here. But his competitor manages to make cheaper vacuum cleaners here. They are also as effective and quieter into the bargain.

        • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

          Malaysia, not China.

          • Pacificweather

            Mr Dyson said China. I can forgive him if it was Malaysia but I doubt that his former employees can.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            Dyson sacked 750 people in Wiltshire
            and moved the work to Malaysia.

          • Pacificweather

            That is just the half of it. He built a factory in Singapore to make digital motors; jobs that could have been in the UK. The only thing he expanded in the UK is his land holdings.

    • John Andrews

      Britain undertook that type of project in the 1950s – and look where they got us.

    • valois777

      A thousand recommends (if I could). Well said.

    • Dogsnob

      Amazing isn’t it, how Japan seems to do very nicely without having to ship in millions of immigrants. Japan’s equivalent of the CBI doesn’t insist that the business leaders of his nation cannot keep their operations running without the help of Polish and other East European engineers.

      They have the radical approach of educating their own young people and training them to join the workforce.

      • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

        ….and only letting the rich have five times average, not twenty times.

        • Dogsnob

          Another boon. Their concept of ‘wah’ is something we are sadly without.

    • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

      Japan is the most equal of developed nations. Japan has an enormous welfare state.

    • evad666

      Quick answer is No.

  • BigCheddar

    Enjoyable piece once more Matthew, thank you. You are too modest, I found your pieces during the election interesting, thought provoking and insightful even when I didn’t agree with your conclusions.

    You make a very important point here IMHO. The election for certain parts of the media was pure drama. The puerile TV debates helped no one understand the issues, (except perhaps when the TV audience did the journalists job for them). I wonder, if we were to do a public poll on questions such as, what is the deficit, (i.e. definition not cost), what is the national debt, (definition and cost), what are the top four items of public expenditure etc. how many voters could answer those questions?

    At the end of the day, the media treated the campaign like a soap opera and large swathes of the electorate remain ill informed about vital issues despite the masses of banal media output.

    • Chamber Pot

      Nailed it. The overwhelming triviality of the media is what is disappointing. The BBC no longer sees its role as one of enlightening and educating the viewer but more and more resembles a bland Third World propaganda organ trotting out the same old ‘ verities ‘. The baying group think on show on QT is instructive.

    • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

      I agree totally.

  • Pacificweather

    Dear Mr Parris,

    When were journalists anything other than purveyors of light entertainment for the masses. Why would anything written have any effect. The press reflects the views of its readers (panders to them with great skill and precision) but does not influence them.

    Yours in eternal gratitude

    Pacificwetherman

    • UKSteve

      For one example, when Max Hastings edited the Daily Telegraph. Incredible and influential newspaper, sold almost as many as The Sun at its peak.

      Now? Pfff!

      • Pacificweather

        When it gets far enough down market and still doesn’t increase it’s circulation then the barrow boys might sell it and the new owner take it up market. I long for the day, in this digital age, when there is a news publication worth paying for on line. My test for a newspaper was to pick up one two or three days old and if it was still worth reading then that was a paper to buy. There are no papers to buy by that test today.

        • UKSteve

          Sounds like a good test!

          And I completely agree with you, the Tele went downhill slowly after Max left, and now it is in the hands of the Barclays …..shudder.

          I have seen – printed and online – this business of single, unrelated, disconnected sentences, which they seem to call a story – as prevalent. Someone posted on Disqus that he Tele had sacked all their sub-editors – and it shows.

          Good job we’ve got the Speccie!

  • Ivan Ewan

    “We’ve got to keep it occupied,” the Doctor concluded. “Feed it with lots of useless information. I wonder if we’ve a television set handy.”

  • lakelander

    You were right about the Tory majority though, Matthew. Well done.

  • Brentfordian

    I’m sure the pollsters will be back. They remind me of the old gambler’s joke:

    Chap studies the form for years. Finally cracks it, withdraws life savings and sets off to the cane the bookies. After a week his family receives a telegram: “System working, send more cash.”

  • Augustus

    Speaking of ‘displacement activity’, an election rally separating men from women comes to mind.

    • Pacificweather

      Damn the suffragettes. Winston Churchill was right.

  • WalterSEllis

    Matthew clearly does not believe that columnists are useless. For a start, he has been a columnist for, I would guess, 25 years and I doubt he’s about to head off to be re-trained as an insurance salesman. Moreover, he presumably thinks that his column above, dealing with punditry, is well worth reading – which it is. Is there a paradox here, or is Matthew just being disingenuous?

  • rtj1211

    I must say that I did comment in the back end of 2014 that this had the ring of ‘1992 voters saying ‘You don’t know what you’re doing!’ to Labour…’ or the like. I also said early in 2015 that I had absolutely no clue how the election would pan out. Mostly, it seemed to me that politicians believe that there is no mileage in having serious political philosophy discussions with the voters in language they can relate to.

    You know, things like: ‘what’s the truth about the EU, it’s advantages and disadvantages?’ ‘Just what is it that we CAN do as politicians and what is it that, currently, we can’t do? How would we go about changing what we can’t do if we felt we ought to be doing it?’ ‘What percentage of you lot actually get motivated by derogatory insults and how many of you simply become an automaton?’ ‘How many of you would like the responsibility of employee-ownership of your place of work?’

    Real politics, not fluffy bollocks/soundbites which stroke the egos of vain narcissists wearing rosettes. Not to mention the rottweilers of the media who forgive 100,000 dead people because they lived the same place as that monster Saddam Hussein but can’t forgive negotiating away manifesto pledges when forming a Coalition.

    I think most people have come to the conclusion that the media in the UK is run according to an Establishment agenda decided very privately by a small number of highly influential/very rich people.

    I came to the conclusion that an aging rocker called Brian May was more of a statesman than most Uk politicians last night. Calm, quietly spoken, addressing the issues at hand and genuinely asking that the country be run for the benefit of the people.

    Perhaps he didn’t partake in all that sex n drugs n rock n roll all those years ago? Or maybe, in moderation, it actually helps a man to mature healthily, eh??

  • Malcolm Stevas

    “Can any reader remember when there was an election that produced so much?”
    I don’t think there’s been a huge variation: the commentariat routinely engages in an orgy of (90%) fruitless speculation prior to elections. The circumstances in 2015 might have goaded hacks to a slightly more febrile level but really, not much different from before.
    Useless columnists? Parris would come close to the top of my list. This piece of fluff is fairly typical of his output.

    • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

      The benefit of hindsight. Only Malcy knew what was coming.

  • Howard

    While clueless and utterly bored UK journalists nit pick and bicker in discontent at seeing no action, people in the third world were watching our election with nothing but awe and wonderment. They can only dream of seeing something so peaceful, fair and well organized by the people in power. Of elections being defined by trivial, boring occurrences as opposed to murder and rioting. Where opposition leaders resign immediately after losing as opposed to attempting an armed coup.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Brilliant. Is it any wonder there’s hardly any real productivity happening in the UK? Everyone is wasting time and resources looking for stuff that might be missing, in order to create a complex web of potentially valuable explanations. Thus we have become a culture that produces work/debt out of stuff that’s missing..

    Democracy doesn’t have to be like this.

  • Richard Eldritch

    You’ve always been useless Matthew, we never doubted it. To be honest we need to ignore you silly old queens as you represent a Britian of Yesterday. Abit like Clacton.

    • Sten vs Bren

      You have trouble ignoring the queens, I notice.

  • Mc

    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything insightful or original coming from Parris’ pen. The fact that Parris and the majority of journalists are able to make a living from writing is a sure indication of the attrocious quality expected by their publications and the near-absence of competent journalists.

  • Hugh Jeego

    What makes anyone think columnists have ever been important or useful? Most readers regard columnists as a form of entertainment, don’t they? After all, they are just giving their opinions. The only people with opinions that may possibly be of some use to the rest of us are those who have some reasonably valid claim to be well-informed. Which is something less than 10% of all columnists, in my experience.

  • Terry Field

    Parris predicted a Cameron victory some time ago.
    He was correct.
    He is correct in his assertion that the rococo encrustation of absurd, excessive and intellectually fragile bull the so-called commentariat have spewed out for a very long time indeed concerning British political matters obscures the fact that the building’s structure is ROTTON TO THE CORE.

  • tolpuddle1

    The world is in a dark place.

    And Britain, despite its (flimsy) affluence, is too.

    No politician can change this.

  • DrWhy

    Surely, it is the lack of agility that increases the chances of shooting oneself in the foot and, indeed, another’s foot, or feet, in the wayward display of incompetent weapon discharge.

    It is the columnist’s duty to cut through the political rhetoric and bullshite, and present a counter-balance, or alternative perspective, of opinion and press the facing of pertinent factual knowledge – this requires an erudite flexibility of disposition (BBC please note!).

    The media, supposedly a reliable (please don’t laugh) conduit between politicians and the electorate, has a responibility to filter bullshite and attempt to attain some approximation of the truth.

    I believe the electorate is, at no other time in history, more conversant and more attentive to how the political, and associated business classes, manipulate the power structrure.

    The electorate deserve truth – else, what is the basis of informed decision?

  • jeffersonian

    ‘We columnists have never been more useless’

    Well, it certainly applies to Mr Parris himself. And I applaud his honesty….let’s all hope it continues.

  • ronnat

    The London/Twitter centric media bubble are out of touch with the rest of the country and so had no instinct for whether polls were accurate.

  • Sean L

    According to your and James Kirkup’s logic the value of these columnists is contingent on the accuracy of their predictions. But that can’t be true because their predictions are based entirely on the opinion polls. It follows necessarily that they *don’t have* any arguments independently of the opinion polls.

    • Callipygian

      Hi Sean. I also fail to see how it is a journalist’s job to make predictions as such in any case. We don’t need bleedin’ oracles, we need educated people that can help discuss the issues and shed light on them. It is for the voters to decide the outcome of the election, and they will do so on election day. It’s actually better if the electorate feels uncertain of the outcome, as it encourages them to vote — and to vote responsibly.

    • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

      You cannot predict the future. Hence 99% of economists could not see the credit crunch coming. “Experts” reassure the present ,while a few guess correctly and are applauded as clever.

      • Sean L

        What a foolish thing to say. We’re predicting the future all the time. It’s pretty much what life consists of. We can’t *not* predict the future. It’s not even an option. Everything we think and say and do is oriented to the future and implies some form of prediction as to how it will turn out for us. Even when you tap the keyboard you’re predicting the appearance of the relevant character on the screen before you. And so it is more or less with every thought or word or deed which anticipates another. . .

        • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

          You are talking about risk assessment.
          I am talking about Black Swans.

  • blandings

    “It wasn’t just pollsters who were useless in the election; pundits were too”

    Perhaps you would be less useless Matthew, if you weren’t such an appalling snob.

    • Callipygian

      He’s even a snob about sleep patterns, believing as early risers tend to do that they are morally superior on that account and that the rest of us are undisciplined slobs. In short, he praises himself for what comes naturally to him and looks down on others for what comes naturally to them. But humans, according to the brain book I’m reading, do actually fall within general chronotypes — the owls, the larks, and the hummingbirds in between — with some hummingbirds more like the owls and some more like the larks. One can choose to get up or go to bed as one sees fit, but those that will do the best thinking and be healthiest are those that schedule their lives in accordance with their genetic chronotype. People such as Matthew have an advantage in that modern corporate life (and non-higher education) begins very early in the day and so favours the lark chronotype. I could never be a high school teacher because I couldn’t get up early enough and still be happy.

      • blandings

        My father used to get up singing a happy song, whilst my mother was death warmed up. I took after my mother, but decades of iron discipline have taken their toll. This is not an important contribution to the discussion, but it just came back to me that’s all.

        • Callipygian

          To the contrary, I enjoyed every word of your contribution.

      • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

        Rubbish. The World is simply divided between “putters” and “leavers”

        • Callipygian

          Oh, so you’re a brain scientist, are you?

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            Putters are essentially lazy, but efficient/tidy.
            Leavers are busy, but only due to inefficiency and untidiness.

          • Callipygian

            I don’t recognize myself in either description.

          • pedestrianblogger

            There are three kinds of person: those who can count and those who can’t. Yvon/Barry is an idiot, btw, or had you already guessed?

  • Bobby Mac

    Both main parties pursued a 35% strategy and neither addressed the fundamental problems facing our society and economy. And they, or at least, the Tories got away with it pace the SNP, Greens and UKIP. Those problems will still be there five years from now, perhaps to an even more dangerous degree. If Labour doesn’t get that now, it never will.

    • Callipygian

      Labour never got anything. It should pack up and go away for the good of all. It’s a Dodo well past its old age.

  • ManOfKent

    Why has this pr1ck still got a job?

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