Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘UK’

UK Election Analysis: Expectations vs. Reality

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2017

Yesterday’s UK parliamentary elections are being spun in the media as a disastrous result for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, despite the face that the Tories remain by far the largest party in Parliament, losing 13 seats from their pre-election tally of 331. To understand what is really going on here, let’s look at the the difference between expectations and reality.

Elections are increasingly viewed not so much by the significance of the actual result, but by the difference between the result and what was expected going into the election. These expectations are themselves the product of media reporting and polling, which vary wildly in the accuracy of their predictions. In the case of this recent election, the Conservatives were originally expected to increase their majority, given the perceived unpopularity of Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn. Against this expectation, losing any number of seats seems like a failure for May and the Tories. They no longer have an absolute majority in the Commons, although May should be able to count on the support of the small DUP party of Northern Ireland to create a very slim majority. (It is also important to note that Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party refuses to actually take up their seats in Parliament, which reduces the practical number of votes on the opposition side.)

In reality, then, May will be operating in an environment similar to what has often prevailed in the US – a very narrow parliamentary majority in which a few defectors can derail the government’s initiatives. This forces the government to obtain at least some support among opposition MPs in order to get things done. It’s harder to pass legislation, but what does get passed usually ends up being better for having broader support. So the “disaster” for the Conservatives is really just business as usual in the US and many other countries.

Now, it’s certainly true that the result is a setback for May, particularly because the results suggest not so much a repudiation by the voters of Conservative values, but of May and her leadership team. A number of her ministers were among those who lost their seats, even while the Tories increased their percentage of the vote among working-class Britons. May is widely perceived to have run a poor campaign, alienating both older and younger voters with poorly explained social policy proposals. Meanwhile, Corbyn comes out as a winner despite his party still being in the minority. Not only did his leadership improve rather than worsen Labour’s numbers, he was particularly effective in motivating Labour turnout among students and young people. The results should bolster his position as Labour’s leader which had previously been on very shaky ground.

One bright spot for the Tories is in Scotland, where the party has been effectively reborn with its best showing since 1983. The Tories, as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, gained at the expense of the previous dominant Scottish National Party. The SNP’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, had been calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and will now probably have to shelve those plans for the time being.

A number of writers seem determined to try to interpret the results as being a referendum on Brexit. In fact, most voters seem to have been more concerned with domestic economic and social issues, understanding that whether “hard” or “soft”, some form of Brexit is now inevitable regardless of who resides at No. 10. It is also interesting that the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London do not seem to have greatly affected the results one way or another. My personal sense is that the typical gain that the “law and order” Conservatives would normally get among some voters was offset by the alternate view that the Tory government, being already in power, is responsible for not doing enough to prevent the attacks.

Speculation about Theresa May being unseated as Tory Leader and Prime Minister is probably extremely premature. This is not because May is beloved or will easily be forgiven by the party for the perceived election failure. Rather, there simply is no obvious choice to replace her, nor is there a significant ideological divide within the party from which a challenger could draw strength. Instead, May will have to make her leadership style more inclusive and put more effort into keeping her MPs happy.

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British heroin addicts warned of anthrax risk

Posted by sanityinjection on February 5, 2010

Apparently it’s not safe to get your heroin in the UK anymore. Supplies there are contaminated with anthrax:

I’m sure that British heroin addicts will take this warning to heart. I guess they will have to stop using heroin for a while now that they know it’s dangerous. After all, they don’t want to die accidentally from anthrax before the heroin kills them, now do they?

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Britain: The 51st state?

Posted by sanityinjection on March 6, 2009

Submitted for your entertainment: A Swiftian article by Matthew Norman in the Independent arguing that the UK should petition to become America’s 51st state:

I encourage you to read through the reader comments, which are every bit as entertaining as the article itself. Including the ones who wouldn’t recognize satire if it hit them over the head, and the puzzling anti-Semites who seem to each think that injecting identical Israel-bashing into unrelated articles is their personal clever invention.

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Transatlantic point and counterpoint

Posted by sanityinjection on September 10, 2008

Submitted for your approval:

The following commentary from Mr. Jonathan Freedland, columnist for the British newspaper, the Guardian:

And, yours truly’s response to Mr. Freedland, sent via email because the Guardian has “closed off” further public comments on the article:

Dear Mr. Freedland:

I hardly know where to begin in responding to your above-referenced column. Perhaps I should start with your main point: that the “world”, or “Europe”, or some other nonexistent polity, will punish the USA if we are naughty and don’t do as we are told – if we persist in the delusion that we have the right to choose the leader of our own country rather than allowing you, our betters, to choose them for us. Tell me, Mr. Freedland, does the UK allow the EU to choose the Prime Minister of Britain? Should it?  (Never mind that the EU can’t even agree on the simplest aspects of governing itself, much less come to a consensus on relations with the US.)

You suggest that this peculiar American attitude of not enjoying being told what to do is some new phenomenon, when in fact it is a fundamental current running through our entire history going back to the American Revolution, another occasion when superior Brits such as yourself tried to tell us what to do. (How well did that work out for you, guv’nor?) Further, the evidence suggests that our judgment is usually better than yours. Americans were governed better under George Washington than under George of Hanover, and the entire world acknowledges that America got it right when we chose Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter in spite of the strong European preference for the latter.

In a final act of o’erweening arrogance, you suggest that if Obama is defeated it might be because we are all a bunch of racist rednecks. Let us shine the harsh light of history on your sense of superiority, Mr. Freedland: How many minorities have been Prime Minister of Britain? (I suppose you can count Disraeli if you like.) How many minorities have been elected MPs in the whole history of your country? And you dare call us racist?

In closing, I leave you with an adage whose age does not belie its truth: Pride, Mr. Freedland, goeth before a fall.

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Warning from Britain: Don’t let the elite squelch the voices of the people

Posted by sanityinjection on September 9, 2008

Great peace in the Telegraph today by American expatriate Janet Daley. Having lived in the UK for 40 years, Daley contrasts the political atmosphere of America with that of Britain and finds the latter wanting:

This is important because there is no shortage of persons among the American Left who believe, and sometimes even state out loud, that Europe and the ways Europeans do things are better than America and the way we do things. They bemoan that we are not more like our European cousins, with their high unemployment, high-tax supported welfare states. Daley’s article argues the opposite – that more than two centuries after the American Revolution, we are still at the forefront of freedom ahead of Europeans. 

In particular, Daley references British legislation which regulates the content of British news and opinion programmes:

“In Britain, television and radio are heavily regulated in their content: in their news and current affairs coverage broadcasting organisations are required by law to be officially neutral and “balanced”, which effectively means that they must all subscribe to the premises of what constitutes acceptable mainstream opinion (as determined by the “enlightened few”).”

The American analogue of this is the push for expanded regulations to mandate “equal time” and “fairness in broadcasting”, being sponsored by – you guessed it – the American Left. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for objectivity in news reporting, but that doesn’t mean that media outlets can’t take a political stance. The Left misses the point: that the problem is not that we have biased journalism, but that our journalists hypocritically pretend to espouse objectivity when they are not objective at all, disguising and denying their biases.

“Fairness in broadcasting” isn’t just making sure that media outlets give differing candidates an equal opportunity to be heard during an election contest. That is a good thing, and our laws already require it to some degree. Fox News, for example, may lean to the right, but they have to allow Barack Obama’s campaign to buy commercial time on their network, for example. Rather, the proposed expanded law would bring “legislated equality of outcome” to the airwaves. For every right-wing radio talk show, there would have to be an equal left-wing radio talk show – despite the fact that left-wing talk radio has so far proven to be economically non-viable. (For the Left, the only non-viable thing that doesn’t deserve to be protected by the government is a fetus.)

Let me give a more concrete example. Near where I live there is a radio station that broadcasts almost totally in Portuguese. That format was the decision of the station’s ownership group which pays the federal government for the right to broadcast on that frequency. They can choose whatever format they want, and they chose one they thought would appeal to the area’s Portuguese and Brazilian communities. To the majority of residents here, who don’t speak Portuguese and whose interest in Brazilian music begins and ends with “Mas Que Nada”, the station is useless. But not to the Portuguese-speaking minority, especially the community businesses which support the station heavily with their advertising (presumably to their ultimate profit.)

However, under an expanded “fairness in broadcasting” law, another minority group – say Native Americans, to take a random example – could complain that the government is favoring the Portuguese community by licensing a Portuguese station and not a Native American one. (Never mind that the Native Americans have just as much right to purchase a station and do what they want with it – in fact there *is* a Native American station in Connecticut.) The law would then require the Portuguese station to provide some programming in the appropriate Native American language. Of course, every other group would quickly make the same complaint, and the Portuguese radio station would soon become a Portuguese/Native American/Hindi/Swahili/every other group station. The Portuguese advertisers could no longer be sure of their audience, and would pull out, not to be replaced in sufficient numbers by businesses from the other communities. So eventually, the station would run out of money and be sold to someone who would turn it into a music or news format just like every other station on the dial. Instead of empowering minority voices, the law would ultimately have acted to suppress them.

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