Saturday, May 10, 2014

My prediction for the Eurovision final

I absolutely bloody loathe country music.  One fine sunny day when I was a teenager, my sister and I took some American relatives to Millport for an outing, not realising there was some kind of country-and-western festival taking place.  With the sea as the only possible means of escape, it was pretty much my idea of hell on Earth.  I literally walked two miles round the back of the island to try to muffle the excruciating noise of Tammy Wynette songs blaring out from a big tent, but to no avail.  So as you can imagine, I was less than enthused when I heard that the Netherlands were entering a country-flavoured song for this year's Eurovision. Strangely enough, though, I think the Common Linnets may just be the acceptable face of country music.  I've listened to their song several times without having my customary allergic reaction, and (whisper it gently) I think I may even really like it.  I'm not the only one - there have been impressive download sales since the semi-final on Tuesday, and the Netherlands have come out of nowhere to sit tonight as joint second-favourites with many of the bookies.  So could they pull it off?  It would be the most improbable winning entry in years and years, but that very distinctiveness is exactly what gives it a real chance.

Terrifyingly, this is the seventh annual Scot Goes Pop Eurovision prediction - just to prove it, here's the first one from 2008.  Of the previous six predictions, I've got the winner right four times, albeit admittedly two of those were extremely obvious runaway winners.  This year certainly isn't going to see one of those - Sweden are the favourites as of this moment, but only by a tiny smidgeon.  To make the picture even more unclear, most of the experts (of both the real and self-appointed variety) who have been watching today's rehearsals and jury final are more or less writing Sweden off.  I do wonder if there's some kind of group-think at play there - you don't have to actually be in Copenhagen to know that Sanna Nielsen's performance in the final is likely to be very similar to her performance in the semi-final, which came across extremely well on screen.  However, the most important point that has been made today is that Sweden's closeness in the running order to Austria is likely to harm both countries.  Indeed, two songs of a vaguely similar type being regarded as strong contenders would be potentially harmful for both regardless of the running order.

Talking of Austria, if anything Conchita Wurst made an even bigger impact in the semi-finals than the Common Linnets, and was the outright favourite for a while last night with Paddy Power.  I must say I don't quite see it myself - I think it's perfectly conceivable that Austria could win the televote, but I just can't imagine the juries (who have 50% of the vote) placing Rise Like a Phoenix even close to top.  Conversely, I suspect the juries will rate the Netherlands and the UK very highly, and the chances of victory for those two songs will depend on them finishing no worse than about third or fourth in the televote.  Highly favourable slots in the running order (the UK are last, and the Netherlands are third from last) means there should be every chance of that happening.

The other entry that looks like a plausible winner to me is Ukraine - I don't like the song that much, but the staging is absolutely sensational.  It reminds me a little bit of the inspired staging for Ani Lorak back in 2008, which of course helped Ukraine secure a strong second place.  However, I suspect the running order has killed their chances this year - they'll be the very first out of the blocks.

So that leaves me with three possibilities - Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK.  If you'd asked me 24 hours ago, I would have slightly favoured Sweden, but I've since taken the point about the similarity with the Austrian song on board.  The UK and Netherlands songs (in particular the latter) have the benefit of being completely different from the rest of the field, and when you factor in their better positions in the running order, they do start to look like more probable winners than Sweden.

But which one of the two?  In a strange way it's easier to think of arguments against both of them than it is to think of arguments in favour.  Try as I might, I find it really hard to imagine a song as understated as Calm After the Storm winning outright, and although I liked Children of the Universe when I first heard it, I've found that it doesn't bear repeated listens quite as well as some of the other entries (including Sweden, interestingly enough).  However, by all accounts both the Netherlands and the UK went down a storm at the jury final tonight.

For better or worse, this is the prediction I've come up with.  Click on the song titles to watch the video of the semi-final performances (or the rehearsal performance in the case of the UK).

Winners : UK (Children of the Universe by Molly)
2nd : Netherlands (Calm After the Storm by The Common Linnets)
3rd : Sweden (Undo by Sanna Nielsen)
4th : Austria (Rise Like a Phoenix by Conchita Wurst)
5th : Ukraine (Tick-Tock by Mariya Yaremchuk)

Possible dark horses : Greece, Denmark, Romania

Although this is an honest prediction, there's also a devil in me that hopes the UK won't win just because I've said they will.  For the avoidance of doubt, I don't think the Yes campaign would be in any way harmed by one night of Brit Nat crowing about a Eurovision victory and how it's yet more "proof" that Scotland can't succeed on its own merits, but it would be a rather tiresome spectacle all the same, and one that we could probably all do without.  I do have a long history of supporting the UK at Eurovision, but on this particular occasion I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for the Netherlands and Sweden (well, my heart is with Slovenia, really, but I don't think they've got much of a chance).

Whatever happens in September, this won't be the last time that Scotland is nominally represented by a UK entry at Eurovision, but it will be the last time that we don't know whether that state of affairs is about to come to a long-overdue end, or will persist for countless more years.  I find that a rather scary thought.

Bizarrely, there was a YouGov poll the other day that asked the UK public how many points they thought Ukraine would give Russia this year.  By far the most popular choice was no points at all.  That completely misses the point of how neighbourly voting works - there's a huge Russian-speaking population in Ukraine (not least in the Crimea, which will still be voting as part of Ukraine), and they're the ones who vote for Russia year in, year out.  With support for the other entries split, I would imagine that Russia may well win the Ukrainian televote again.  The jury will dilute the effect of that, but I'd be absolutely astonished if Ukraine don't award Russia at least some points, and probably quite a few.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

From Holland, with love

Not, as you might think, a reference to the seemingly increasing chance that the Netherlands are about to claim their first Eurovision title since 1975, but rather to the lip-wobbling musings of English historian Tom Holland. Avid fans of Newsnight Scotland (if they exist) will recall that Holland appeared on the show with Tariq Ali, and made the extraordinary admission that he has "never been so upset about anything" as he is about the prospect of Scotland choosing its own governments, partly due to the fact that independence would ruin his cherished childhood memory of a British-themed jigsaw puzzle with pictures of Scotland on it. This led to the following little Twitter exchange a few hours ago -

Tom Holland : "Our country is fine the way it is and we don't need such dramatic change" - Hannah Campbell (16)

Me : But she didn't mention the all-important jigsaws, Tom. You must be appalled.

Tom Holland : I am sure that her enthusiasm for the UK is woven out of childhood memories & impressions, just as mine is.

Me : Tom, I respect her view, but as for your own interview, all I could think was "True Love Isn't Possessive".

Tom Holland : Your own nationalism is all head, is it, nothing to do with the heart?

Me : It's nothing to do with jigsaws, I can assure you of that. Why do you need to keep us hostage to maintain your identity?

Tom Holland : Love means telling someone who's contemplating leaving you that you'd rather s/he didn't. But the choice, of course, is yours.

Me : But we're not "leaving". I become ever more exasperated by that word. We'll be retaining our current geographical position.

Tom Holland : How am I keeping you hostage? I'm just letting you know that I'd be very sorry to see you go!

Me : That Newsnight interview suggested that your personal identity would be affected by another country's independence. Why?

Tom Holland : Because the country I currently inhabit will be radically altered, IMO for the worse. I like having the Scots as fellow citizens.

Me : Exactly. So us choosing our own government somehow diminishes your identity. That's an extraordinary proposition.

Tom Holland : You already choose your own government. But yes, of course we will be the poorer for losing the Scots as our fellow citizens.

Me : Your identity demands that we have far less say on how we are governed than we would under indy. That's correct, isn't it?

Tom Holland : It would only seem correct were you absolutely determined to attribute base motives to those who disagree with you.

Me : Your original motive isn't the point. I've now pointed out the reality of what you're asking of us - has it changed your mind?

Tom Holland : Not the reality - your spin on the reality (& yes, the same is true of my take)

Me : Inhuman weapons within 30 miles of where I live are not "spin" - they're all too real. Who put them there, and why?

Tom Holland : (no response)

I was sorry that Tom ended the exchange when he did, because I would have liked to press him just a little further on precisely how, if as he claims "you already choose your own government", we can currently go about vetoing the presence of Trident on the Clyde, and indeed our participation in illegal wars.

I must say that in my view, a national identity that is so fragile that it depends on 'keeping hold' of others is a frighteningly immature identity, and one that for the sake of its own adherents needs to evolve as a matter of some urgency. Look at it this way - in the unlikely event that the ultimate 'unionist' fantasy ever came true and Shetland decided to become independent, how many of us would feel that our Scottish identity had been diminished as a result? Very few, I would guess, because Scottish identity is not rooted in the possessive mindset of imperialism. And how many of us would feel that Shetland was even one iota more 'foreign' when we visited? Almost none.

Final thought : It's very telling that Holland just automatically assumes that Hannah Campbell is referring to the UK when she talks about "our country".  The balance of probability is that she is actually talking about Scotland.  That illustrates how there's a gulf of understanding, even between the unionist London commentariat and their natural allies in Scotland.

*  *  *  *  *

I got eight out of ten qualifiers correct in my prediction for the second Eurovision semi-final, but I really should have known better than to put Israel in the 'near certainties' category.  It's not that there's no such thing as a near certainty in Eurovision, but the tag can probably only apply to countries that tend to qualify even when they have a weak song (such as Russia).  Even so, I'm slightly baffled as to what went wrong for Israel, because the live performance seemed absolutely fine to me, and the staging was dynamic.  The only thing I can think of is that the Slovenian entry was fairly similar, so maybe that led to a split vote.

Talking of Slovenia, although I explained my very convoluted rationale for voting for them, oddly enough I think I would have made the same choice even if I had been voting 'honestly'.  The song has really grown on me the more I listen to it, although due to my long-standing language rule I'll probably switch my vote to Montenegro in the final.

Passionate supporters of the UK at Eurovision (as I was myself until only two or three years ago) will be beside themselves with excitement to learn that the Danish producers have awarded Molly Smitten-Downes the prized final slot in the running order for Saturday night.  It's certainly a huge advantage to sing towards the end, although I'm not sure there's any evidence that the very last slot confers any extra-special bonus.  The Netherlands are only two positions further back, so the threat from that quarter hasn't receded.  But with excellent reports from Molly's rehearsals, this does now look like the UK's best chance of victory since Imaani finished a very close second in Birmingham way back in 1998.  I'd still slightly favour Sweden, though - they've been given a middling position.  The big losers are Ukraine, who have been placed right at the start - until that happened I fancied them to finish no worse than second, and certainly to beat the UK and the Netherlands.

My prediction for Thursday's Eurovision semi-final

This is the weaker of the two semis in the sense that it doesn't feature any of the favourites, but it perhaps has more strength in depth, and it's certainly the much harder one to predict. Of the fifteen entries, I think basically everyone but Georgia has got some kind of chance of progressing. I eventually managed to come up with a list of ten that I was reasonably happy with, and then I realised that I had left out Switzerland and Ireland, who instinct tells me are both likely to sneak through. But I compared those two entries with all of the ten I have on my list, and I just can't see who should drop off. So I'll stick with logic and leave Switzerland and Ireland out, even though it doesn't feel quite right.

Near certainties :


Fairly likely :


I'm not at all sure about these but I'll have a punt :


That would mean Switzerland, Georgia, Belarus, Lithuania and Ireland all missing out. I hope I'm wrong about Ireland, because it's the song I feel the strongest connection to, having voted for it in the barking mad Irish national selection a couple of months ago (it almost ended in a fist-fight!).

The UK votes in this semi, and that presents me with another dilemma. I normally follow a personal rule of only voting for songs with exclusively non-English lyrics, but for the first time ever it's literally impossible to do that. So I'll have to plump for one of only three songs that are at least partly in a language other than English, namely Israel, Slovenia or Poland. I have a feeling that it'll be Slovenia, by a process of elimination.

This one will make your head hurt

There's one advantage of Scotland being an independent country that isn't even up for debate - we'd have more seats in the European Parliament than we have as part of the UK. We currently have six, whereas independent countries of a similar size (Denmark, Finland and Slovakia) have thirteen. So surely having thirteen seats is better than having six? WRONG, say Scottish Labour in a leaflet I received the other day. See if you can make sense of this gibberish -

"Q. How does Labour make sure Scotland's voice is heard?

A. Smaller countries have much less clout but because we are part of the UK we have a voting block of 73 MEPs, and, along with 4 other countries out of 28, we make up half of all MEPs."

So Labour's explanation seems to be that MEPs representing English electoral areas (including UKIP and BNP members) are somehow representing Scotland as well, and not only that, but they're doing it as "a block". And it gets even better - the reference to "4 other countries" suggests that MEPs from France, Italy, Germany and Spain are also very kindly representing Scotland as "a block". This presumably includes French National Front MEPs. So by the end of one short sentence, we find that with just six MEPs Scotland in fact controls half of the entire European Parliament.

Crikey. No wonder Labour are so obsessed with the Union - we certainly won't see miracles like that after independence.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Ipsos-Mori mystery

There was a rumour doing the rounds on Twitter last night that the No campaign recently commissioned a poll from Ipsos-Mori, and have kept the results to themselves.  I've no idea where the rumour is coming from, but it did remind me of knowing comments that Channel 4's Gary Gibbon kept making about the internal polling for McDougall Central -

"You sense some exasperation at the top of the 'no' campaign and a bit of bafflement that the average of published polls is narrowing quite a bit more than their own private polling with bigger surveys."

You 'sense' here that Gary is 'sensing' exactly what he was supposed to 'sense', so I would take the reference to bafflement with a heavy dose of salt. However, if the No campaign are at least partly conducting this large-scale private polling via Ipsos-Mori, that would tally up with the rumour and the rest of what we know. I must say I've been very surprised by how easy it's been to find people who have been asked the referendum question by Ipsos-Mori. If the published polls were the only ones to have taken place, only a miniscule percentage of the electorate ought to have been contacted so far. But if Better Together have been commissioning telephone polls with a much bigger sample size, then there could be tens of thousands of interviewees out there.

By the way, don't be fooled into thinking that the private polling must be much more accurate due to the higher sample sizes. The standard margin of error for a published Ipsos-Mori telephone poll is 3%, and even if the internal polls had sample sizes of 10,000, the margin of error would still be 1%. So the difference is not huge. In any case, margin of error is a theoretical concept that assumes the methodology is absolutely correct, which to put it mildly is always open to question in this campaign.

There was a separate rumour a few weeks ago that an anti-independence trade union commissioned an Ipsos-Mori poll and withheld the results after it showed a Yes lead. I would give absolutely zero credence to the latter detail UNLESS it was an online poll rather than a telephone poll. It's perfectly conceivable that Ipsos-Mori's online panel would produce completely different results, but as a telephone pollster the firm is by some distance the most extreme No-friendly outlier, and without an overhaul of their methodology it's highly unlikely that they would be showing anything even close to a Yes lead.

Wisdom on Wednesday : Eurovision Edition

"Why, darling, you don't come?
The day after marriage, I went in the streets with my bride
She wanted coffee - oh no, I'm voting for beer
You see how good is she - my caring, lovely fiancée
We walked into the bar through light
Oh God - there's girls from last night."

Profound stuff from Latvia's classic 2001 entry 'Too Much'. Oh no - I'm voting for Estonia.

Went to desert, made it rain, swam through a shark tank bloodily

Isn't it amazing the effect that lower expectations can have?  Based on my poor opinion of many of the entries, I fully expected the Eurovision semi-finals to drag a little.  But the first one absolutely flew by, and if anything I think I enjoyed it more than the semis last year.  A number of the songs seemed better than I remembered, which is probably the effect of good staging - it's weird how that can trick the brain into honestly thinking that a song is significantly better than it would sound if you were blindfolded.  The most dramatic example of that was the Ukraine "hamster wheel" effect.  From previous listens I know full well that I don't rate that song as highly as some people do, and yet as an overall package I thought it was probably the best entry of the evening.

Ukraine now look much more plausible winners than Armenia.  Nothing I saw led me to revise my observation from last night that Armenia's status as favourites was unwarranted, and sure enough I see that most bookies are now placing them slightly behind Sweden.  But in all honesty Sweden didn't strike me as being a nailed-on winner either. This could be a much more open contest than we were led to expect.  In some ways, the act that stood out the most was the Netherlands - it's probably too understated a song to win outright, but being both good and completely different from everyone else is like golddust, as last year's Dutch entry proved.

My prediction was almost right - I got nine out of the ten qualifiers correct, and I'm thrilled about the one I didn't expect, which was San Marino.  It's bizarre that Valentina Monetta was regarded as a potential winner last year and failed to make it through to the final, but this year turned up with a much less promising song and qualified.  Perhaps it was just that the live performance was more engaging this time.

On the other hand, I'm gutted for Estonia, Portugal and Albania.  With the quality of Montenegro clearly shining through for the juries and televoters, I briefly harboured hopes that the same might prove to be the case for Portugal's equally 'ethnic' entry, but it wasn't to be.  And I was really surprised when I checked my list of ten predicted qualifiers to see which one I'd got wrong, and discovered it was Estonia.  I had them in the middle category of 'fairly likely' qualifiers, and based on the dramatic visual side of the performance I would have rated their chances even higher than that.  So I don't understand it, but there's always one or two aspects of the result that don't make a lot of sense.

The one big disappointment about the show was the presenters - Danish television have taken a big step backwards after reasonably good choices of host from their Swedish and Azerbaijani predecessors.  Recruiting the chap from Borgen initially seemed like an inspired choice based on his undoubted screen presence, but unfortunately someone seems to have hypnotised him and turned him into a gibbering idiot for Eurovision week.  And he was the best of the three.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Free Pork

Not an offer, alas, but a moral imperative.  Long-term readers who recall the Kafkaesque nature of my own banning from Political Betting last year will probably not be surprised to learn that the Smithson regime has gone a step further, and is now seeking to moderate people for what they have allegedly said on other websites.  It really is only a matter of time before the tiny remaining number of left-wing and/or pro-independence PB posters find themselves hauled before the OGH Committee on UnSmithsonian Activities (chair : Richard Dodd Esquire), and asked : "Are you now or have you ever been someone who makes insulting and inaccurate comments about Mike Smithson to your wife over the dinner table?"

Mind you, Smithson's cowardly Tory henchmen really ought to learn that "insulting" and "inaccurate" are not actually the same thing.

I'll largely let the following exchange from an earlier thread speak for itself, but just to set the scene, long-term pro-independence PB poster Mick Pork (who has been 'accidentally' banned by the moderators on literally dozens of previous occasions) found a few days ago that he was once again unable to post.  He left a message on this blog asking fellow poster TheUnionDivvie to put in a word, which he did, and the highly plausible explanation came back that this was yet another technical fault, and that once an unblocking was "requested" the problem would be resolved within a few hours.  On past form this wording was presumably chosen so that "PB Moderator", aka the serial fantasist, cheat and liar "The Screaming Eagles"/"TSE" could later pretend that no such request had ever been received.

Sure enough, several days later Mick was still unable to post, so TheUnionDivvie chased the matter up again.  Apparently the situation had changed out of all recognition in the interim - the moderators had received disturbing reports that Mick may have made "insulting and inaccurate" comments about the saintly Mr Smithson somewhere else on the internet.  This indeed would be a serious charge, because as every right-thinking person knows, the proprietor of Political Betting is beyond reasonable criticism (as curiously is Peter Kellner, even though Kellner amusingly banned Smithson from the YouGov panel for openly boasting he had lied in surveys to get more cash!).

So the moderators naturally took advantage of that astonishingly convenient 'accidental' banning of Mick, and simply left it in place as a punishment, pending further 'investigation'.  (I cannot confirm the rumours that this will involve Mick's neighbours being waterboarded.)  Well, how fortunate these moderators are - they don't even have to take positive action against the bastard SNP evildoers.  All they have to do is just passively "delay the resolving of a technical fault".  I don't know about you, but I can't see anything remotely fishy about that story.

By the way, when TheUnionDivvie first mentioned that Mick couldn't post, the hardcore anti-independence Tory troll "Carlotta Vance" was once again on hand to reinvent the story of my own banning, claiming that it only came about because I thought I was "bigger than Smithson's rules".  Well, let's just remind ourselves of the priceless response that Smithson came out with when ex-MP Nick Palmer pointed out that nobody actually has a sodding clue what these supposed "rules" are -

"The basic rules Nick are not to do anything that could put the site in jeopardy - libel etc - and not to piss me off. The latter is quite hard to define."

* * *

Mick Pork : Sorry to bother Theuniondivvie again but if he has time could he please point out on that I am still being completely blocked from posting on PoliticalBetting. I would have asked him myself through PB long ago but completely blocked from posting means exactly that. The ability to use PB's messaging system has been blocked for me too. It won't work.

TheUnionDivvie : Hi Mick,

pm-ed the PB moderator with your situation this am, but no reply so far. I'll post here if I hear anything.


Mick Pork : Thanks TheUnionDivvie.

To be perfectly frank I'll be surprised if you do get a reply as the only reason Richard Tyndall was allowed to post again was because it was pointed out on the site repeatedly that he had been 'mysteriously' prevented from posting so the same will almost certainly apply for me.

We all know the Tory PB moderators are spineless cowards so if they can get away with banning those who disagree with them secretly and with nobody noticing then they will.

Mick Pork : Just saw your post on PB TheUnionDivvie. Thank you very much for making it and standing up for me on there mate. It takes a bit of guts considering how nasty the moderators can be.

One thing though, I can log in to Vanilla, I am just prevented from doing anything on PB while I am there which includes posting or messaging. A rather telling "YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO DO THAT" comes up whenever I try to post anything which obviously points to it being the Moderators who have sneakily and cowardly changed my access parameters since self-evidently nobody else can do that on PB.

Mick Pork : Thanks again for having the guts to stick up for me TheUnionDivvie as I just saw your post as well as AlanBrooke making a complete t*at of himself trying to excuse the pathetic PB mods.

Apparently it's my computer's fault the mods and Smithson are so pointedly ignoring you and this is a "consistent" 'fault' despite it never happening before and me posting for months without any such trouble.

Bit much to expect any of the right-wing cowards on PB to care about posters being blocked for no reason and with nothing even close to a plausible excuse.

The herd also don't seem to have noticed that BobaFette is also strangely absent from posting of late as well as compouter. Though that might just be because PB is such a far-right zoo at the mo to be fair.

Can you imagine the volume of the shrieking if it was one of the PB Tories being prevented from posting on PB?


I also don't see the mockney sex tourist SeanT being prevented from posting despite his death threats on PB and posting of Tim's family's personal details, tellingly enough.

TheUnionDivvie : Mick, I finally got a response from the mods last night. Apparently some kind soul has been trawling the internet looking for comments from you re. PB & OGH, and has scampered back to PB to grass you up (I'm sure we could both make a list of likely candidates):

'We haven't fixed Mick's problem yet, it was brought to our attention Mick's been saying some inaccurate and insulting comments about Mike Smithson elsewhere.
So we're looking into that before we restore his posting privileges.'

Still, it indicates that the PB Tories are monitoring James's site on a regular basis, if there was any doubt!

Mick Pork : Sorry?? So the tory moderators on PB are now SERIOUSLY claiming that they are in charge of moderating OTHER internet sites to see if the comments there meet with their approval as well?? That's absolutely f***ing incredible!!

I notice this supposed mod didn't even have the balls to say what comments and on where lest they look even more ridiculous.

If I actually wanted to spread stuff about Smithson or the PB moderators elsewhere then I could do it on the biggest Scottish political sites like Newsnet or Wings but I could go wall to wall on the Telegraph, Mail and plenty of other media outlets. For that matter I could do it on ANY of those websites and change my name or go anonymously just as I could easily have gone anonymously on James' site.

The reason I didn't is not only that I couldn't care less about the fragile ego of PB's mods and I wouldn't waste my f***ing time, but that only a deranged power mad lunatic would think they can police the ENTIRE internet for comments from everyone as they moderate one particular site as this mod on PB jaw-droppingly thinks.

What's to stop someone posting under the name of anyone else on PB and using that as cover while they smear other posters elsewhere? Didn't that occur to the mod who you were talking to?

Are you certain it was a mod posting to you TheUnionDivvie? As what you've told us sounds about as reasonable and sane as SeanT posting on PB when he's pissed.

You've not only had it confirmed that you and the site were lied to with "the few hours to fix the problem" bulls**t but you've also had it confirmed that somebody posting to you as a moderator on PB now wants to police the entire internet just in case someone who posts on PB also posts something they don't like on any other site.

And they ACTUALLY GENUINELY want those who post on PB to know that is their new moderating stance and that mod told you that?? Whoever wrote that to you has flipped their lid TUD. It's the only possible explanation.

If they keep trying to ban me for no reason (because this new insanity isn't even f***ing CLOSE to being one) then by all means feel free to point that staggering fact out. Even the herd and the PB Tories would be hard pushed to justify that lunacy considering how many of them post elsewhere and with even less inhibition than they do on PB.

The fact is I was prevented from posting on PB long BEFORE this moderator started to desperately look for other (frankly crazy) reasons to justify it. You know it, I know it and he knows it.

Mick Pork - or is AlanBrooke or Carlotta in disguise? LOL : It gets even better!

So you DID point out that was the reason this supposed mod gave you and the PB Tories apparently couldn't care less that anything they say on another site can be taken down and used against them by this eccentric mod.

Even Shadsy joined in with the hilarity.


Do the mods even realise how utterly insane this new moderating policy makes them look??

You now have the PERFECT comeback to any PB Tory by simply asking if they have said anything more unpleasant on another site and whether that meets with PB's mods approval.

You can even turn up the laughter by positing if Carlotta (or anyone else) was posting as someone on Paul Staines (or any other) site and whether that meets with PoliticalBetting's new moderating rules.

Imagine the fun as everyone starts to look for aliases for everyone else on other sites and whether what is said elsewhere meets with this mods approval. Pure Comedy Gold.

It's not even as if this mod has left any wiggle room as he has told you I'm not allowed to post, not because not because of what *I* said, but because of what someone ELSE has told him I supposedly said on another site. Completely and utterly bonkers.

Thank god the mod didn't just allow me back on like he did with Richard Tyndall or PoliticalBetting and TSE could have ended up a complete laughing stock by now.

Hugh : Mick,

Interesting to read of your PB experiences. A similar thing happened to me.

I was banned without warning or explanation. Needless to say, attempts to find out what the heck happened have met with silence, so I remain genuinely mystified as to what exactly my "offence" was.

This happened during a period when TSE was "guest editing" in Mike Smithson's absence.

I know for a fact similar has happened to many other non-Rightwing posters. Bannings and moderation for minor breaches of the (increasingly bizarre) "Site rules". Or in my case no breach of any rule.

Meanwhile, Rightwing posters get away with serious and repeated breaches of those same rules. I have even seen clear libels go unmoderated and unpunished.

I don't know if Mike Smithson is aware of what some of his Moderators are up to. Or whether it's deliberate on the part of mods, or they're simply unable to put their political biases to one side.

Either way, it's clear that PB's Rightwing moderators are discouraging or (in my case) actively preventing left of centre / non-Tory posters.

As a result PB is now nothing more than a sterile Rightwing talking shop.

My predictions for Tuesday's Eurovision semi-final

Marcia is quite right - it's high time for Scot Goes Pop to revert to being a Eurovision blog for a good few days (albeit a Eurovision blog that reserves the right to immediately drop everything if a new referendum poll is published!).  I must say I'm a touch underwhelmed by the standard this year - there are certainly songs that I like, but not a huge number, and there's nothing that has really got under my skin in the way that I Feed You My Love and Crisalide did last year.  However, if you go back to virtually every Eurovision that took place up to and including the year 2000, there were rarely more than a tiny handful of good songs, and yet the contest was still a great spectacle in a variety of other ways (the utter chaos of Rome 1991 being my own favourite example), so hopefully that will be the case again this time.  I do worry that the semi-finals may drag a little more than in recent years, though.

Of course what any Eurovision fan looks out for in the line-up of entrants is old favourites from the past, and as usual there are a few.  Most obviously, Valentina Monetta (aka "the only singer in San Marino") is representing her country for a third year in a row. I would imagine that must be some kind of record - Peter, Sue and Marc famously represented Switzerland four times in the 70s and 80s, but not in consecutive years.  Monetta's first two entries couldn't have been more different, which is odd because they were both written by Ralph Siegel.  The first was an excruciatingly awful - but strangely compelling - novelty song about Facebook, while the second was the aforementioned Crisalide, a powerful pop ballad which in my opinion ought to have been a strong contender to win the whole contest, but which ultimately failed to even make it out of the semi-final.  I'm relieved to say this year's effort Maybe is much closer to being in the Crisalide mould, but it's considerably blander, so logic would suggest it probably isn't going to make it through.  Strangely enough, though, it's still one of my six or seven favourite songs in the contest - it's got the slightest hint of a "60s/70s Bond theme" vibe to it.

Also returning - although we won't see them until Thursday's semi - are Romania's Paula Seling and Ovi, who finished third in the contest back in 2010 with the song Playing With Fire (which I seem to remember Doug Daniel saying was just about the best Eurovision song he'd ever heard).  This year's entry Miracle doesn't have quite such a strong hook, but it's still got tonnes of energy, and up against an unusually weak field it wouldn't completely surprise me if Romania sneak into the top five again.

And last but not least we have Sweden's Sanna Nielsen, who has never actually appeared at Eurovision before, but who has nevertheless been associated with the contest for years and years due to her multiple attempts to win Melodifestivalen - a massive annual Swedish television event in its own right, but which doubles up as the Eurovision national selection.  (Although she came closest in 2008 with Empty Room, the one that sticks in my mind the most is Du Och Jag Mot Världen in 2005 - and she certainly looked a bit different back then!)  Not only did she finally seize the Melodifestivalen crown this year with Undo, but she's also rated by the bookies as one of only two entries with a serious chance of winning Eurovision.  The other is Armenia, which I've listened to a number of times and somehow can't quite picture as a winner - I think the style of the song is going to divide opinion too much.  So almost by default I've come to the conclusion that Sanna Nielsen will probably emerge victorious.

In many ways, that wouldn't be great news for the contest, because it would mean a third Scandinavian winner in a row, and the second Swedish win in three years.  However, maybe my expectations will be different after watching the semi-finals, and there's always a chance of a slightly weaker song coming out of nowhere to win on the basis of some inspired staging, as Latvia did in 2002 and Azerbaijan did in 2011.

So here's my prediction for the ten qualifiers from tonight's first semi...

Near certainties :


Fairly likely :


I'm not at all sure about these but I'll have a punt :


That would mean San Marino, Latvia (who are singing a song about baking a cake), Belgium, Portugal, Moldova and Albania all missing out.  Of those six, probably Belgium are the most likely to make it through - it's an intensely irritating song, but it does have a big finish.  In my personal opinion San Marino, Portugal and Albania all thoroughly deserve a place in the final, but I just can't see it happening unless the juries go for them very heavily.

Marcia pointed out the other day that everyone's new favourite Tory astroturfing campaign 'Vote No Borders' were tragically too late to put forward Flowers of the Union as the UK's Eurovision entry, although of course we shouldn't entirely exclude the possibility that Children of the Universe was originally entitled Children of the United Kingdom before falling foul of the EBU's rules on political lyrics.  But it set me thinking about previous Eurovision songs that extolled the virtues of Europe as a united entity - perhaps those could have provided some kind of model for our anti-independence friends?  Take for example the Irish entry from 1990, which managed to finish joint second mainly by name-checking pretty much every country in western Europe...

"Don't you remember those Adriatic days?
I miss your laughter and all your little ways
I can still see you in London, walking on Trafalgar Square
And drinking wine in Old Seville, how I wish that we were there

Meet me in Paris on a Champs Élysées night
We could be in Rome again, 'neath the Trevi fountain light
We should be together, maybe we just might
If you could only meet me somewhere in Europe tonight"

A Rory Stewart twist on that song might have reminded us that the 'baa' noise that sheep make in Lanarkshire is uncannily similar to the 'baa' noise that sheep make in Lancashire, before building up to this rousing chorus -

"So I've driven all the way from Penicuik to Hull
Oooh yeah baby, just to get it through your skull
That I don't really care where you hold my hand
Just so long as it's somewhere in the Middleland"

* * *

Sticking to a musical theme, you might remember that at the end of Celtic Connections I mentioned a band called The Cask, who were brave enough to perform a song at the Danny Kyle Open Stage that explicitly called for a Yes vote in the independence referendum. Well, Michael McElligott (who wrote the song) got in touch with me the other day to mention that he's just made a studio recording of it. I've had a listen, and it's rather wonderful. I'm not sure whether I was being given permission to post the sound file here, so to be on the safe side I'd better not, but it'll be available on iTunes soon. Be sure to look out for it - it's called Make Alba Shine.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My version of Better Together's cinema ad (I've made a few minor improvements)

You'll have to forgive this being an audio-only version.  I don't want to cramp Better Together's style, because after all my face doesn't quite fit into their apparent target demographic (under 21, pretty but not abnormally so, nattily dressed, laughs a lot at random things that probably aren't actually going on just out of shot).

Transcript :

This is a massive decision.

And there'll be no going back.

If we say no to independence in September, there's no guarantee we'll ever get a second chance.

At the very least, this will be the last independence referendum for a generation.

It may be the last in our lifetimes.

And it may be the last one ever.

So if we vote No, and end up being ruled by Tory governments we didn't vote for for another thirty years, it'll be too late for regrets, or for wishing we could turn the clock back and have another go.

This isn't a dress rehearsal.

We have to get the decision right THIS time.

It'll affect not just us, but the opportunities of future generations.

We don't need to be ruled by Westminster to be British.

I don't need to vote against independence to feel British.

I watch Doctor Who.

I appreciate the popular music of Ms Sophie Ellis Bextor.

My favourite stretch of coastal scenery is in Pembrokeshire.

And I think Peter Gibbs is a damn fine weatherman in the finest traditions of Michael Fish.

So what is it about me that is not British just because I want Scotland to choose its own governments?



Can you explain that to me, Mr McDougall?

We CAN have the best of both worlds.

Governments we choose ourselves AND an ongoing social union with our friends and neighbours south of the border AND a currency union.

Yes, I know that's three things.  I'm THAT greedy.

But luckily, as exclusively revealed to the Guardian newspaper on condition of anonymity by a senior UK government minister, an independent Scotland will "of course" be welcomed into a currency union by the rest of the UK.

So that's a relief.

It means that all we have to do to get the best of both worlds is to vote Yes.

Or we could vote No and get the worst of both worlds - George Osborne AND Richard Baker.  (And he's not even the one who used to present the Proms.)

I live here.

But my world goes beyond our borders.

Independence gives us the chance to be part of not just ONE of the biggest economies in the world, but THE biggest economy in the world.

The European Union.

The EU single market is bigger even than the economy of the United States.

But we can only be sure of being part of something bigger if we vote Yes.

If we vote No, UKIP and David Cameron could be taking us towards the EU exit door, and there'll be nothing we can do about it.

That's the story of our lives as part of the UK, isn't it?!

Together in Europe, we are stronger and secure.

Together in Europe, we can make our world the place we want it to be.

But alone and adrift with Dave and Nigel...well, what's our comfort blanket then?  Nuclear weapons on the Clyde?  We didn't really ask for them either, did we?

Never mind, I suppose we'll be invading another Middle Eastern country soon.  That'll keep our minds occupied in the long Tory years ahead.

We want to choose our own governments.

For our jobs.

For our opportunities.

For our future.

And most of all because that's how democracy is supposed to work.

We want the best of both worlds.

So let's not leave!  (Like all those multi-millionaire Tory supporters are pretending they'll do in the event of a Yes victory.)

We are Better... choosing our own governments.  Vote Yes.