peterbirks: (Default)
2017-05-21 09:34 pm

Election thoughts: Week Four

 Election thoughts: week four.

Last week's trends have continued. The Conservative manifesto was, well, odd. It seemed as if its main aim was to piss off the core Conservative demographic.
The thing that will really hurt the Conservatives from their manifesto is not so much the triple lock (of which,more later) but the new policy on paying for care.
It matters not that the current system is unsustainable and that something needs to be done -- the statement that anyone with more than £100k in assets *including their home* will have to pay for their care, to be claimed back from the sale of the home on death, strikes at the heart of middle-income conservative philosophy. And I'm not sure what planet the Conservative leadership is on, but more than £100k is not a penalty on London and the South-east; TBH, people like me are shrugging our shoulders already and accepting £50k a year care-home costs either for our parents or for ourselves.
But in the conservative rural heartlands, where properties come in at around £200k to £300k, this will be an entirely new cost.
Now, let's be real here, it is not a *tax*. The removal of benefits is never a tax. But it is a *cost*. And it's a cost which will hit those more naturally disposed to vote Conservative.
And, no, I can't work out the thinking either.
As for the removal of the 'triple lock', this is, if anything, even more stupid, although it is unlikely to cost as many votes. Why is it stupid? Because it gets a lot of negative publicity for virtually no likely gain. The remaining "double-lock" is likely, for the next decade, to result in pensions increasing at exactly the same rate as they would have under the triple-lock. (See graph from Institute of Fiscal Studies below).

On the Labour side; well, it doesn't matter if the numbers don't add up, provided you present them with a sense of sincerity and gravitas, rather than swivel-eyed mania. And McDonnell is good at this. He sounds reasonable and sympathetic. It's not the substance of what you say, it's the way in which you say it.

On the LibDem side, well, it just gets worse. The phrase "it's the economy, stupid", goes back a long way when it comes to fighting and winning elections. But one would have thought that, this time at least, the LibDems would have benefited from being a "single-issue" party -- that of Remain.
But it's failed, and looks to be failing very badly. The soft Remainers who now want to get on with making the best of Brexit are splitting roughly according to the opinion polls (proportionately a few more Labour and LibDem, a few less Con and UKIP,but nothing radical). Meanwhile the hardline Remainers (some 22% of the electorate) seem to be splitting two-thirds to Labour and one-third to LibDem (with a very few going to the Conservatives and one dementia sufferer in Norfolk going to UKIP). This is just dreadful for the LibDems, and their only hope now for a decent showing is to focus on those few seats that they might regain after losing them in 2015.

Now, what good news is there for the Conservatives? A little -- just as Labour can suffer a serious hit on their national popularity and still come out with 150 seats, so they can get a serious boost to their popularity without gaining a lot of seats. So, even with the most recent opinion polls (i.e., the ones in the newspapers tomorrow, Sunday) my prediction for the result still runs at a Con majority of about 60. See below.

Con 353: Lab 217, LibDem 10, SNP 46 PC 4, Green 1 Speaker 1 Northern Ireland 18.

peterbirks: (Default)
2017-05-21 09:35 pm

On aging and the loss of language

 62-year old Anthony Horowitz has said that in recent times he has become "more guarded, more careful and more discreet". All of us old white guys are the same. I hesitate to open my mouth outside the house any more. Our world has become a miserable one of being frightened to talk in case we say the wrong thing, even though we mean no harm. The intolerant Stalinism of youth takes no prisoners.

Horowittz's (I think, reasonable) point was that Bond (as written by Fleming) was an upper-class Empire colonial. Elba, thought Horowitz, was not right for Bond as Fleming invented him. However, the phrase generated accusations of racism. Horowitz apologized to Elba and Elba was gracious rather than rude in accepting it.
Subsequently, Horowitz wanted to feature a black protagonist in a new novel. An editor in the US warned him off doing this, effectively saying that white people could not create black characters (we are here entering the world of cultural appropriation, and the feeling by people that those not in their own social history are incapable of writing "genuine" characters). As Horowitz observed, that presumably means all of his characters in future have to be 62-year old white Jews. The nature of fiction-writing itself has been annihilated by a US editor.
From my own point of view,the problem is slightly different. But I am not alone.
As people age, their linguistic "free recall" deteriorates. You forget names, you can't get the right word, even though you know you know it. What also happens is that names you learnt later in life disappear faster than names you learnt early in life. And words you learnt later in life also disappear -- get harder to remember.
A few months ago I found myself unable to remember the words "Down's Syndrome". I could remember the world "mongol", because that was the word used to describe someone with Down's Syndrome when I was a child. I first heard the term "Down's Syndrome" when I was about 16, because I remember having to ask what it was.
Anyhoo, I was now in the situation of trying to describe an actor in a TV series without being able to remember the "right" terminology. This was solely because the synapses in the brain, the connections, age just like the rest of your body. Free recall gets weaker. But the synapses, the connections formed when you were aged 0 to 16, they last longer.
Another time, I found myself thinking of the concept of "mixed race" and, once again, the phrase that came first to mind was "half-caste". because, once again, this was the phrase used in my youth. I can't remember when I first heard the term "mixed race", but I was probably at University, mixing with the middle classes *en masse* for the first time.
The "polite" term for people of colour was "coloured" "Negro" was okay and the "n' word was rude. There was the National Association of Coloured Peoples and Martin Luther King referred to "the Negro". "Black' as the de rigeur word came in in the late 1960s.
The word "spastic" was the norm (remember it was called "the Spastics Society" at the time. I did now know the words "cerebral palsy" or "spina bifida"). But the terms "spaz" and "mong" were insults. They were rude.
As recently as a decade ago the term, "third world" could be used without insult. Then it became "North" and "South". Today it's called (somewhat inaccurately) "emerging markets".
Other terms that did not exist before I was 18 include "African American", "Native American" (we just said "Red Indian").
Now, my point here is, I might find myself unable to recall the "correct" word or phrase, but I would still know that a new phrase had supplanted it. But someone in their 80s might refer to "coloureds" not because he or she is a racist (although of course they might be!) but because that is the word they used when they were younger. Learning new words gets harder and harder.
So what if that starts happening to me? I start using "unacceptable" words because those are the ones hard-wired into my aging brain. It's not my attitudes that are locked in the past, it's my linguistic capacity.
Youth seems unable to comprehend this, and, by god, if you should happen to use an old-fashioned word, you soon know it from that smug purse-lip smile that they deploy -- meaning "without saying "look how enlightened I am compared to that old fool".
So, far easier to avoid mixing with such people, so that you don't risk the silent mockery.