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Showing posts with label Blair Jenkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blair Jenkins. Show all posts

Saturday, 13 September 2014

My response to an email on a Blair Jenkins/Jo Coburn Daily Politics interview


I recently came across the Bella Caledonia website and have been reading a few articles. 

I was born in Glasgow and lived there until I was 21, when I moved to London. This was in 1978, when the IMF had to bail out the UK under the Labour government. The point of my email is not to discuss party politics or the Referendum, but to take issue with your description of the above interview.

Blair Jenkins is described in almost saintly terms, rising above the endless interruptions of the interviewer. That isn't what I saw from the extract on your website. He certainly remained calm, but refused to answer the question that he was asked regarding how Scotland would deal with the panic that would arise in the markets in the event of a 'Yes' victory. That was the reason for interruption by Jo Coburn.

The other interviewees were given their allocated time to put forward their point of view. I wasn't aware of any 'spluttering' or 'raving' from any of them. They were each interrupted by Jo Coburn while they were speaking. I think Jo Coburn was even handed and each individual made their points well.

Looking through the BC website, I'm left with the impression that all the contributors are preaching to the converted, so they can employ insults to anyone with whom they don't agree. I think the arguments have to be won on their merits and not by insulting and demeaning the opposition.


Clair (surname witheld by me – happy to publish it if Claire so wishes!)


Thanks for your email.

The question "How would Scotland deal with the panic that would arise in the markets in the event of a 'Yes' victory" is a loaded question. No politician or political activist, indeed, no sensible person would answer it, because it is pejoratively loaded with a negative assumption - answering involves accepting  a false premise.

I have spent my life as a professional negotiator - I am an expert at framing, asking -and answering questions. This question type is known to American negotiators as the "Have you stopped stealing apples?" question and to UK negotiators as the "Have you stopped beating you wife?" question.

Competent interviewers don't need to plays such puerile games - they elicit information more successfully by properly framed questions.

The Scottish referendum debate has been characterised by the most disgraceful behaviour of any media group in any democratic country in the world. The BBC - and especially their insulated metropolitan commentators - locked in the Westminster Village bubble, have been particularly egregious in this.

Blair Jenkins is a senior media journalist and manager by profession and background - he is not saintly - he is a calm, courteous man who knows his profession. He has transformed a group of volunteers from an enthusiastic, but uncoordinated group into the greatest political campaign Britain has ever seen in its long, disreputable history. Right now, some 35,000 of them are active across Scotland to secure our country's independence on the 18th of September.

It's a neck and neck race, and on Friday morning we'll know the democratic decision of the Scottish electorate. I hope it is a YES, and if it is, I will give Blair Jenkins my heartfelt thanks and congratulations for his pivotal contribution in making Scotland the world's newest independent country, joining the family of more than 200 independent countries across the globe.


Monday, 8 September 2014

The money markets panic – polls and scaremongering, plus currency union lunacy prime causes …

Financial Times headline: " Pro-union camp ‘in chaos’ as poll puts nationalists ahead"  As George Robertson might say "cataclysmic" ...

Better Together has the Worst of Both Worlds - behind in polls, sterling scaremongering causes pound to drop, hurting their rich city friends!

The latest Better Together strategy appears to be to tell voters Westminster has ****** the £ by scaremongering and lunacy on CU - so vote No. G-sus!

Jo Coburn thinks it's all Blair Jenkins' fault, asking questions and interrupting frantically at every second word. Blair is quietly amused, dusts her off with impeccable politeness, then waits calmly for Unionist panellists to rave impotently.

 Blair Jenkins smiles seraphically, taking  occasional sips at his coffee, as Jo Coburn's guests splutter inanely and impotently over polls, markets  and independence.

King Impotent Splutterer himself, Ming Campbell, failed leader of a failed party in a failing Coalition - doubtless a "A proud Scot" -  does his share, indignation and gloom oozing from him.

Blair gives a neat little summation and says bye-bye. Jo switches with relief to the triviality of the Daily Quiz.

That was fun!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Where are we going on independence?

The answer I want to give to the title question is a confident – To  a decisive YES vote on September 18th 2014!

That’s what I and any independence supporter is expected to do – be gung ho, celebrate the polls that bode well, attack the methodology, pollsters and those who commissioned the poll when things don’t go so well. Forward to victory! Don’t be deflected! Find increasingly ingenious ways to interpret poll results that don’t suit us until they yield a positive message.

Well, I’ve done my share of that for six years, in arguments, in blogs, on Twitter, on YouTube, in letters to newspapers. Why? Partly to reassure myself, mainly to bolster the morale of the faithful and to encourage the undecided to look deeper into poll results.  Such things are legitimate in politics because, rather like the stock exchange, it’s part rational but significantly irrational and emotional, and confidence plays a significant part in success in any endeavour. The hard core of independence supporters will never be persuaded to change their allegiance by a poll, but their energies can be blunted, their enthusiasm dulled, and some may retreat into a blame-the-stupidity-of-the-Scots-electorate mode, and reduce the amount of work they do for the cause.

I’ve been tempted myself to say - “I’ve done enough – they can have my vote on September 18th 2014, but that’s it. Hell mend Scotland if it votes NO…”

But so far, that mood has never lasted, because events have triggered my adrenalin flow, and exasperation, astonishment or even mirth at the latest manifestation of ‘Britishness’, unionism, or the ever-idiotic Better Together spokespersons has driven me back to the grindstone.

So what is the proper attitude to the polls? Saying they don’t matter, the only poll that matters is the ballot box, or perhaps what-we’re-hearing-on-the-doorstep-tells-us-different etc. is a counter-productive reaction.

An opinion poll, conducted by a reputable organisation with sound sampling and interpretation methodology, in its raw data at least, is a vital and valuable snapshot of opinion at a point in time. Like any snapshot, it can be crisp in detail and capture the essence of the moment, or it can be blurry and unrepresentative. And, like any snapshot, those viewing it can offer multiple interpretations of what it means; and in this regard, the psephologists are the art critics of polls and, if we have any sense, we will pay attention to what they say and draw our own conclusions as to what action is necessary to move the next poll in the direction of independence.

The focus tends to be, naturally enough, on the polls that are published, but additionally, all parties conduct private polls for their eyes only, to guide their strategists. On the rare occasions the media get wind of this, commentators generate much synthetic shock that a party should take a poll and not publish the results. This is compounded on occasion by the stupidity of politicians who are unable to resist the temptation to make veiled allusions to such polls, with predictable results – demands that they publish immediately, accompanied by accusations of skulduggery. (There has been one such example recently.)


Here are some of the questions on a straight independence choice asked by pollsters -


Do you support or oppose Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the United Kingdom?

Do you agree or disagree that Scotland should become a country independent from the rest of the United Kingdom?

Do you agree that Scotland should become a country independent from the rest of the UK?


Would you approve or disapprove of Scotland becoming an independent country?

TNS System 3

Do you support or oppose Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the UK


Do you support or oppose Scotland becoming an independent country, separate from the rest of the United Kingdom?


In April 2005, TNS System 3 found 46% said YES, 39% said NO

In April 2006, same result by YouGov/SNP.

By November 2006 ICM/Telegraph got 52% YES and 35% NO. That might have been an indicator of the 2007 SNP win, then again it might not, because …..

January 2007, four months before the election, YouGov/Channel 4 poll gave 40% YES, 44% NO

Because of these poll – and because of the shock 2007 Holyrood result, unionists were jolted out of their complacency, none more than the supine Scottish Labour Party. “This wisnae meant tae happen, Tony!” bleated a shell-shocked Jack McConnell, and great menacing beasts stirred uneasily in the bowels of the British Establishment.

And so the first historic Scottish Nationalist Government was elected – a minority government, yes, but as a party in power, not as a coalition. And what happened at the next poll?

April 2008 YouGov/the Sun 34% YES, 51% NO

Spooky, or what?

14th January 2012 Survation/Mail on Sunday 26% YES 46% NO.

I hear your cynical cries already - “Ha! Mail on Sunday! and Survation? Who the **** are they?” etc. because the day before we had this -

13th January 2012 ICM/Sunday Telegraph 40% YES 43% NO.  Had the electorate flipped overnight – or had the Mail on Sunday just behaved like the Mail on Sunday?

I could go on at length with poll results and interpretation of the mind-bending cross-relationships and implication of other questions to each other, on more powers, and support for remaining in UK, but I won’t, because my interpretations would be that of a layman, not a professional psephologist or political strategist, and would have correspondingly little value.


What do we know? 

Bluntly, that -

the polls currently show a minority of the Scottish electorate in favour of independence

we have a mountain to climb before September 18th 2014

we must start to see some upward movement in the near future if we are to have any chance of success. 

Despite the fact that these three statements are undeniably true, simply to state them is to enough provoke cries of protest, and a range of ingenious interpretations of poll results, brandishing of poll results that were favourable, denial of the validity of poll results that were less favourable, attacks on the media, the pollsters and their allegedly flawed methodologies, and invocation of magical events in the past (the lead-up to the 2011 Holyrood landslide) and magical events in the future (the White Paper).

Bluntly, some independence supporters are going to have to grow up fast, politically and arithmetically, if we’re going to win.

I take comfort in my belief - which I hope to God is well-founded -that this mindset only exists among some of the support, that the SNP and YES strategists are rooted in hard psephological and political realities and can tell a standard deviation from a bull’s arse.

The 2011 result was astonishing, unpredicted by the politicians, but anticipated by the pollsters, albeit late in the day (because the shift in the electorate occurred late in the day), and nobody knows what caused it, although speculation, informed and otherwise, is rife. There is nothing in that past event – an election to a devolved Parliament – that is a reliable indicator to how voters will decide in a referendum of such historical importance, with such enormous constitutional implication as 2014 – except maybe hope …

It’s in the past, and the past is not a reliable guide to the future in politics.

The White Paper is clearly of enormous significance. It offers a huge opportunity for the independence argument, but also represents a huge threat to it. The formidable forces of the British Establishment, the monarchy (yes, the monarchy – the Queen has already pinned her colours to the mast), the UK Government, the UK Civil Service, the compliant media and press, the military/industrial complex, the nuclear industry - and shadowy overseas interests - are already preparing their attack plans. 

The White Paper will be leaked in part (inevitable, leaving aside the presence of spooks in the Scottish Government!) and will be subject to a dissection and onslaught against it that has rarely, if ever, been seen in British politics.

The Scottish electorate in the main will not read it (how many of you have ever bought or read a white paper?) and will be offered partisan and simplistic headlines, mainly hostile.

The Scottish Government and YES Campaign will be unable to match that in volume and coverage, and won’t want to match it in virulence and misrepresentation.

They will therefore be totally reliant on the brevity, quality and originality of their message, delivered in the main online and through volunteers, and with luck, through the national public service broadcaster - the BBC - if the independence movement can stop trying to alienate and antagonise every last journalist, presenter and programme editor in the entire corporation.


There are really only three key questions as a guide to action for the time remaining till the referendum -

1. How many Nos and Don’t knows can be shifted to YES?

2. What are the arguments that will shift them and how can they be focused and targeted on the various demographics and interest groups?

3. How are the frustrated pro-union devo-maxers going to divide, denied their second question  and faced with a polarised choice – YES or NO?

What I know to be true is that the vital and dedicated workers on the pavements, in the car parks and public places, at the letter boxes and on the doorsteps - and the less-important but still relevant backroom contributors such as me - are just getting on with spreading the message of independence as best they can to the widest possible audience they can reach.

Friday, 18 January 2013

L’Europa and other matters


The UK parties fight like ferrets in a sack over Europe - Scottish Labour MPs don't know their gluteus maximi from their elbows on the issue, and don't matter at UK level anyway. UKIP doesn't exist in Scotland, thank God, and we are spared a farrago of Farage, except on metropolitan media, which he is all over like a rash.

The SNP is solidly committed to Europe, and Scotland will continue to be a member after independence after negotiating relevant aspects of their changed status. They will be welcomed with open arms by the EU as a rational new country untainted by UK European divisions.
Some independence supporters are Eurosceptics but will not change their vote from YES - they will rely on influencing an independent Scotland to think about membership. Most are fully committed to Europe.

In contrast, among the undecided are many Scots wholly committed to Europe who may well be tilted to a YES based on UK indecision, confusion and even an opt-out of EU. There may even be hard core NO voters who are wholly committed to Europe who will be shifted by UK divisions and threats over EU membership.


The voters of Glasgow re-elected Labour councillors in the local elections last year.

Fears for Glasgow council leader's future over sex act

The poverty campaigner who walked away with £500k of poor kids' cash

Glasgow City Council in action against the poor

Spectacular fall of Glasgow Council Leader Stephen Purcell shocks Scotland's political world