Friday 30 June 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2016-06-30: Quincy

Our campus cat and his shadow on patrol.

Peculiar Institution

The American healthcare system is a moral abomination and a practical failure. This matters to me for personal reasons. For the world at large, it's a human tragedy; and a cautionary example of where bad policy decisions can lead, and how difficult they are to undo.


Friday 23 June 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-06-23: Joni

Scene from last week when the temperature hit 31 degrees Celsius in Cambridge; that's 88 Fahrenheit for Americans and other aliens, so Dave's Syndrome was an ever present risk. Joni was very hot in her fur coat and had no intention of moving.

He shall rise and on the surface die

I started to write a longer and more serious piece on our post-election chaos, but the weather was nice so I went outside in the daylight instead. Maybe next week.

I must admit, I also lacked motivation. There are only so many ways to say we are led by a crew of complete and utter nitwits; and Theresa May is the worst of the lot, perhaps even eclipsing her predecessor David Cameron.

Shortly before the 1997 election, Tony Blair and New Labour had a gigantic lead in the polls. The late Roy Jenkins compared Blair to a man carrying a priceless antique vase across a highly polished floor, terrified that one slip could smash his hopes into a million pieces.

Theresa May, then, is the hapless individual who tripped over an untied shoelace and shattered a couple of Qing Dynasty vases in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Cameron had no plan for losing his European referendum. May had no plan for losing the Conservative majority in her snap election. Nobody has any plan for how to manage Brexit without making us all substantially poorer. Oopsy daisy, where did all these bits of porcelain come from?

(Some NSFW language below the fold, if anyone is concerned about such things.)

The Kraken. Source:

Friday 16 June 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-06-16: Churchyard Cat

A few days ago we went to the island of Sark, which has about 600 inhabitants and no motorised vehicles other than tractors. Here is a Sercquiais cat surveying his territory in the churchyard.

Sunday 11 June 2017

UK Election Explained for Americans and Other Aliens

By request, I am attempting to explain the 2017 UK election to Americans and others unfamiliar with the weirdness of British politics. This is a high-speed tour of:
  • How British elections work;
  • Why this election happened in the first place;
  • Why it turned out as it did;
  • What the results mean.
The UK has an archaic, complicated and illogical system of government, so what follows has been drastically simplified. I've tried to give a balanced view, steering clear of partisan bias, but other opinions are available.

The Palace of Westminster, home of the UK Parliament.

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Election night drinking game 2017

Election night is upon us once again. I'll be on Twitter at @iainrobertsblog and @ElectionMorbo for as long as I can stay awake. It might not be too long, as I've been up since 6 am and will be travelling for much of the day, but we'll see.

I've composed an update to my 2015 drinking game. It's simple and not especially partisan. Play with the beverage of your choice: Wine, beer, tea, Ardbeg, lemonade, or whatever. I won't judge.
  • Sip:
    • "Strong and stable"
    • "Coalition of chaos"
    • "The many not the few"
    • Fringe candidate is wearing a ridiculous costume.
    • A seat is gained by one of the underdogs:
      • Labour
      • Liberal Democrats
      • Greens
      • Plaid Cymru
      • UKIP
  • Gulp:
    • Cabinet minister loses seat. (Unlikely given the opinion polls, but you never know.)
    • Shadow Cabinet minister loses seat.
  • Finish drink:
    • Candidate has epic meltdown on camera. You'll know it when you see it. The template is Peter Mandelson's "I'm a fighter, not a quitter" rant in 2001 (video below).
    • Theresa May announces her resignation as Prime Minister.
    • Jeremy Corbyn concedes the election to Theresa May.
Have fun, and see you on the other side.

The Good, the Ugly, and the Astoundingly Bad

Thoughts on the major UK-wide parties, as we enter the final days of the campaign:

Liberal Democrats

I am voting Liberal Democrat. My reasons for backing them in 2015 still stand. I agree with their principles, more so than any other party. Their candidate, Julian Huppert, was an exemplary MP for Cambridge from 2010-15 and I would be happy to see him return to Parliament.

The shadow of Brexit hangs over everything now. I believe it is a dreadful mistake. The LibDems promise a referendum to allow us to reverse it.

I encourage anyone in a constituency with a viable Liberal Democrat candidate to support them. More Liberal Democrats in Parliament would provide a badly needed voice in support of human rights; accountable government; and international cooperation, including but not limited to the European Union.

Friday 2 June 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-06-02: Joni

Watching our toddler race around the garden. Whatever will that small excitable human do next?

Before A Fall

Labour is gaining ground in the polls. I'll admit it: I did not expect this.

Some perspective is in order. The Tories still enjoy a lead outside the margin of error, in every single poll taken so far. Let's look at the last five polls, released between 27 May and 1 June. The Conservative lead varies from +12 (ICM, 29 May) to +3 (YouGov, 31 May). Taking the mean of these five, we have Con 43.4, Lab 35.6, LibDem 8.2, UKIP 4, for a Tory lead of +8. Plugging this into the UK Polling Report swingometer results in a Conservative majority of 46.

Conservative Central Office. Displeased at recent developments, but still planning for victory.

Twenty-five months ago, David Cameron would have given his left testicle for these polling numbers. The boost in Labour support won't necessarily hold up; and it appears to be driven by younger voters, who may or may not turn out on election day.

That said, this election was widely expected to be a walkover for the Tories, with excitable talk of a landslide of 150 seats or more. Expectations were driven so high that Theresa May could win a majority of 40 or 50 seats, the best Conservative result in 30 years, and it would still feel like something of a defeat.

How has this happened?