Undecided – updated and downcast

In which Dr Aust wavers

Dr Aust first voted in a general election in 1983. I voted for the losing side that time, both locally and nationally. The MP elected in my constituency was a Tory mediocrity, later to be an Education Secretary whose record I recently saw described as “appalling”. He is now in the House of Lords.

At that General Election, as at every subsequent one, I voted Labour.

Though I come from a middle-class academic, rather than working class, background, I come from a long-time Labour family. My parents were students socialists in the 50s, and CND marchers in the 60s. I sometimes joke with my friend Professor David Colquhoun that we must have gone on some of the same Aldermaston Marches -though he was walking, while I was there being pushed in a pram. Newspapers in the house I grew up in were the Guardian, the Observer, the (long pre-Murdoch) Sunday Times, Private Eye and the New Statesman.

My father was even a two-time Parliamentary candidate for Labour, and came within less than 600 votes of becoming an MP. As children my brother and I used sometimes to get towed along canvassing with him, and I even have an old election leaflet with a family portrait of us all on it.

When we had a class election at my school a few years after my father’s brief political career, I naturally stood as the Labour candidate, plastering the classroom with my dad’s old Labour posters (they had the advantage of only bearing his and my shared surname). I ran on a platform of redressing inequality, stressing the fact that the richest 5% of the population owned almost everything. (Sound familiar?)

I lost.

In mitigation, I should say this was at a private school. And the Tory candidate did bribe any wavering voters with cash money to use at the tuck shop.

After that first 1983 vote, and despite Mrs Thatcher, I managed to vote for a winning Labour candidate at following election (1987), and at the three after that (1992, 1997 and 2001).

1997 is, of course, the one that sticks in the memory. I sat up into the small hours watching the results come in. For me, as for many others, what summed up the night was the downfall, seemingly totally bemused (though in today’s Guardian I see he claims he knew what was coming), of that arch-symbol of Tory smugness Michael Portillo. Once that result was in, I knew I could go to bed. It felt like the world had actually changed. The following election, 2001, was again a cause for some celebrating, though more muted.

And then came 9/11. And the “War on Terror” And the War in Iraq. And the succession of Anti-Terror Acts authorising extended detention without trial.

The last of these made me more angry than the War. Hundreds of years of hard-won civil rights gone. All in order for politicians to strike poses about being “tough on terror”.

Come the election of 2005, the sixth one I have voted in, I wrote a long email to my sitting Labour MP telling him why I felt I could not vote Labour again, citing the Iraq War & extended detention without charge. He wrote me a plaintive letter back telling me he had voted against the war.

That time I walked into the polling station having more or less decided to register my protest by voting Liberal Democrat. But the Labour loyalty of a lifetime was too strong, and I voted Labour.  I ended up on the losing side, though, as the sitting MP was ousted on a large swing to the LibDems.

And this time….

Well – I am a floating voter – something I never thought I would say – vacillating between Labour and the Lib Dems.

What are my friends in the blogoverse doing?

For most of mine – with the lone exception of that right-wing maverick Henry Gee – the choice seems similarly to be between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Gimpy is sticking with Labour – he explains why here.

Dr Petra Boynton articulates some of the reasons many Labour supporters I know are drifting to the LibDems.

Prof David Colquhoun is voting Lib Dem, having given up on New Labour as early as 2001.

The Jobbing Doctor, like me, is still undecided.

Dr Grumble is keeping his powder dry, though it is clear he is not a fan of the Tories.

The commentators at the Guardian and the Observer are seemingly also divided. Among them, George Monbiot sums up, perhaps most eloquently of all, the reasons why many Labour supporters feel so disillusioned after thirteen years of Blair and Brown

In one way I am lucky. As I live in a LibDem/Labour marginal. I can be sure that, whichever way I vote, I will not end up with a Tory MP. And both the sitting LibDem MP and the Labour hopeful would do good jobs for the constituency.

But still. It is a dilemma.

And my family, once rock-solid in Labour unity, is split too, between Labour and the Lib Dems.

And I am undecided.


I suppose I will just have to sleep on it.


Update 1 – Election Day: lunchtime

Usually vote in the morning, but had early class this morning so couldn’t make it.

Anyway, now lunchtime and still wavering. Stomach uneasy.

There is a general atmosphere of foreboding around the University. This is typical when people are anticipating a Conservative government.

The typical reason given by my fellow academics for not wanting a Tory Government: “They don’t care about the poor. Or the North. Or anywhere outside the South East.”

Update 2 – early evening:

Nip out to vote at 6.45 pm, figuring to make it back in time for The Archers.

No chance – huge queue at the polling station means a 25 min wait. And as I leave the queue has lengthened considerably, suggesting more like 40 min. Turnout must be unusually high. Usually this favours Labour rather than the Tories. Not sure what in means in a LibDem-Labour marginal.

The kids have given Mrs Dr Aust and me a  low level fever/’flu bug so likely I shall always associate 2010 election with a feeling spaced out / shaky and slightly detatched from reality. Perhaps that is appropriate

Talking of Election Day associations, as I tweeted a couple of hrs back:

“Similarly, always associate Mrs Thatcher’s 3rd electoral triumph of 11 June 1987 with vicious attack of norovirus. Oddly appropriate.”

Update 3 – 10.30 pm

Watching the first results come in – swing against Labour, but in rock-solid seats so “protest” votes will be making size of margins largely meaningless. And less impressed  with Exit Polls since I found an online one earlier today which predicted result in my constituency on basis of how 26 (!) people voted.

Crikey – turns out I was lucky to actually manage to vote!  The BBC reports that 200-odd people in this constituency – which is a marginal, of course – were locked out at 10 pm and didn’t get to vote. Not clear if this was at polling station where I voted.

Similar reports from other parts of country. What a total balls-up.

Despite the lack of hard data, have sense of foreboding that am going to wake up tomorrow to Tory Twit Boy braying about how he has a mandate. A nasty thought. Fingers crossed for hung parliament and electoral reform.

Update 4 – 2.00 am.

And, contrary to this time in the morning at the last “key election” in 1997, haven’t got a blind clue what result is going to be.

And neither have any of the experts on the media.  Though it doesn’t stop them talking.

Seems pretty likely Tories will be largest party, but swings all over the place, tactical voting rife, prospect of legal challenges in constituencies where people were locked out.

And no Portillo moment as yet, though Peter Robinson losing his seat in Northern Ireland to a “cross community” Alliance Party candidate was pretty good.

Anyway, time to go to bed and see what tomorrow will bring.


The Day After – lunchtime:

Been busy lecturing this morning. It is all rather as I would have predicted when I went to bed. The biggest disappointment for me personally is that Dr Evan Harris lost his seat, by less than two hundred votes, to a  Tory airhead of rather unctuously religious tendencies.  As others have pointed out, science is the loser – though also the people of Oxford West and Abingdon, at least in my opinion.

On the overall picture, I think the Jobbing Doctor and Dr Grumble have it about right.

PS Talking of evangelical Christian Tories, at least Phillipa “Purge the demons” Stroud failed to get elected. Although sadly we still have the truly appalling Nadine Dorries – Britain’s answer to Sarah Palin – in Parliament as the standard bearer for the religious right.


55 Responses to “Undecided – updated and downcast”

  1. HCTR Says:

    I am voting for Dr Evan Harris after 23 years voting Conservative. I think it must boil down to your local candidate. It’s easy here, there are few as impressve as the good doctor.

  2. draust Says:

    Yes, it would be very easy if I was in Evan Harris’ constituency. He is actually my mother and father’s MP – pretty sure he will be getting both their votes.

    I suspect I would be leaning more strongly LibDem – as the “party not of the current impasse and with progressive ideas” were it not that the local Labour candidate is actually quite impressive. Though the LibDem MP, who I suspect was rather surprised to get elected last time, has done nothing wrong. I write to him occasionally about scientific things – find I am usually telling him that he should do whatever Evan Harris tells him to.

  3. Cybertiger Says:

    The only sensible way to vote is with a 1,2,3 for STV. The downside of this, of course, is that proportional representation may give folk like Herr Dithery Draust and that silly Colquhoun fella a vote that actually counts in selecting slippery slugs like Evan Harris.

  4. Betty M Says:

    I am in a Lib Dem/Labour seat. I would be going LibDem except I have had some deeply unsatisfactory correspondence with my MP on MMR – she clearly is not one to follow Evan Harris who my sister is lucky enough to get to vote for.

  5. rpg Says:

    I actually voted blue. Not that it will make a difference–it’s the safest libdem seat in the country.

    What I’m hoping for is the Conservatives to do a deal with the LDs. I think that would make for interesting times.

  6. draust Says:

    Hi Betty – I guess voting for a constituency MP with a “reality-based” take on the world is as good a reason as any to choose. This is what Times Science Editor Mark Henderson was arguing a few weeks back.

    rpg – does that mean you and Henry Gee are agreeing about something? That must be a first!

    I just have a visceral aversion to the Tory Party. Whether it’s my family and upbringing, my private school and posh Univ education (which means I’ve seen an awful lot of Cleggy-Cameroons up close in my time), my young adulthood with Mrs Thatcher in power, whatever… but I couldn’t see myself ever voting Tory. And the same goes for my brother, even though he is a high-powered private sector type and definitely in the top tax bracket.

    I agree that a hung parliament – if it happens – is going to make for some interesting times. If it happens, and delivers electoral reform, I think I will be content. Anything that would decrease the tedious name-calling of UK politics can only be an improvement, really.

  7. rpg Says:

    Heh heh.

    Y’see, a ‘visceral reaction’ is what really pisses me off (hang on, I’m not directly criticizing you. Yet). People generally vote because of how they’re brought up, not because they’ve actually thought about it. And they get all shouty and aggro on Twitter and Facebook and everything. For God’s sake, let’s have a civilized discussion. Your last sentence really resonates with me (even if I think that electoral reform won’t make a huge difference, really, and is a bit of a smokescreen).

  8. draust Says:

    Well, let’s say that the “visceral reaction” is a reflection of the Conservative Party being historically the party of inequality – or which sees inequality as representing a natural order, or simply the fruits of peoples’ own efforts. And another “visceral reaction” is that Labour is the party in the UK that historically believes in trying to lift people out of poverty and give those who started life with less advantages more chances.

    That is really the post-war appeal of the Labour Party, I think, and underpins the whole ethos of the Welfare State – and it was very much the view I grew up with in the 60s and 70s. Mrs Thatcher’s and John Major’s governments did little (or more accurately nothing) to dissuade me from it.

    Of course, under the current (1997-2010) Labour government, although they have done much to help the bottom end of society, inequality has actually increased. That is one of the reasons traditional Labour voters like me are disillusioned. But equally, I don’t see any chance that the Tories see the inequality as a problem either.

  9. rpg Says:

    Yah, ‘inequality’ would have been my major anti-visceral Labour point, but you made it for me. Plus things like a vastly increased legislative load, CCTV on every fucking street corner, an unjust war, and a complete dick as prime mangler :)

  10. draust Says:

    The repetitive and default micro-managerial interfering is certainly a big issue, especially for people in the public sector. Of course, the tendency began under Mrs Thatcher and John Major, though the New Labour Governments have taken it to new heights (or rather lows).

    It is an interesting question whether one really believes the Tory Party (or the Lib Dems) would actually reverse much of the target-driven micro-managerialism. I have certainly met people in medicine who think they would. But, equally, I have met rather more people who think that politicians of all stripes now have a kind of reflex inability to trust any profession or public sector organisation to run itself without constant central control.

  11. Lindy Says:

    I live in a safe tory seat. The MP has retired at age 60+, having been an excellent constituency MP. I have never voted for him. Like Dr Aust, I had a private education, but unlike him came from a (mostly) tory family, but ended up in total rebellion in that respect. I have a passion for the welfare state and violent aversion to the tories, and the idea of call-me-Dave’s smug mug as he enters no 10 fills me with dread.

    I also do not trust the lib dems at all, despite their having a few good people. Their chances of power being so remote, it has always been easy for them to tell us of all the things they would do. But we know that in local government they frequently gang up with the tories. Clegg sounds just like Cameron, though has a bit more oomph about him. I do hope for a hung parliament so there is a chance of a fairer voting system

    I have found the past few years very hard to stomach, specially under “I’m Tory plan B” (anag – Tony Blair MP), with his intimate relationship with GWB, Iraq invasion, then the continuing attacks on the NHS via privatisation. BUT, I know that the tories will be worse and that the NHS will likely all but disappear under their axes.

    So I closed my eyes, held my nose, and, in what will be almost a lost vote so safe is the tory here, I voted labour.

  12. draust Says:

    Heh – I’d forgotten that anagram, Lindy. Nice one.

    I share some of your misgivings about the Lib Dems and their leader. There was a rather grimly amusing feature in the Observer last Sunday where they asked correspondents from various foreign news services and newspapers how they were covering the British election, and what they thought of it all. The comment from the German was that they found it hard to see why people said there was such a difference between Cameron and Clegg, since they shared so much in their background.

    [Though to be fair, Westminster is not Eton, and when Clegg went there in the 80s it was the leading “progressive” public school in England, run by the notable educationalist Dr John Rae.]

    Nonetheless, it is hard not to see Clegg as being to the LibDems much as Blair was to Labour – a leader well to the right of the party and chosen with an eye to not “alarming” the Tory-friendly floating voters of SE England.

    As I said on Twitter, for me the best “personnel” reasons to vote LibDem are Vince Cable and Evan Harris, not Nick Clegg. Plus the LibDems have been far more forthright than the other two parties on certain key issues, like the libel laws.

    Labour’s problem beyond the election, it seems to me, is where they go after Brown. I find it hard to see him staying as leader given their likely loss of power, but equally I find it hard to see who else stands out as a candidate for leader. Alistair Darling, though competent, is too grey and uncharismatic, Alan Johnson is not bright enough, and David Milliband is too young (and seems even younger), and also has not convinced many people he is a figure of real weight.

    Although, as the Tory rebirth has shown, if people are fed up enough with the ruling party, then having about as much political weight as a powder puff (mentioning no George Osbornes in particular…) seems to cease to be a problem for an opposition.

  13. Cybertiger Says:

    Hurrah, the slithery mollusc has lost his seat! Dr Evan ‘the slug’ Harris is no more. God, be praised!

  14. Cybertiger Says:

    Slugs who don’t play cricket, don’t win runs.

  15. Lindy Says:

    Pity about Evan Harris losing his seat. I was expecting to wake up to a smarmy tory leader and his tag-along shadow chancellor crowing.

    But I haven’t. It is not all bad: there is refreshing greenery in Brighton, with Caroline Lucas winning the seat. Whatever wacky bits of policy the greens have, they have always been committed to redistribution, a proper state sector and abandoning nukes. I feel sure she will be an excellent MP and will be amongst those pressing for a fair voting system.

    Then there is the horror-show’s failure to win Barking from Margaret Hodge.

    And of course if Merrvyn King is right in that whoever wins and introduces all the austerity will then be lost in the wilderness, then we may hope for the tories ultimately to disappear, at least for a while.


    If I were the labour party I’d consider ED Milliband for leader, but I doubt they will. He has a tendency to answer questions sensibly………….

  16. Cybertiger Says:

    Slugs win pellets: Evan Harris is an arse full of buckshot.

    PS. I did what I could to oust Mad Nad of Mid Bedfordshire. But despite my efforts she increased her vote by 5%. What more can an agnostic Atheist do?

  17. draust Says:

    Goodness, Shabby. Do you mean we actually agree about Mad Nad…?

    You’re way off on Evan Harris, though. He was best friend science had in Parliament – and also a big, big loss to the campaign to reform our idiotic libel laws.

    Is your dislike of him based on anything other than his spotting your Hero the Utterly Discredited and Gratifyingly-Soon-To-Be-Struck-Off St Andy (Wakefield) as a Wrong ‘Un?

    A view of Wakefield which is, as I have frequently stated, shared by every single scientist and doctor with whom I have ever discussed Wakers/MMR/vaccines/autism. Well, except you. Though I wouldn’t really call that discussion.

  18. Cybertiger Says:

    Dithery delivered the nonsense that,

    “You’re way off on Evan Harris, though.”

    Methinks the voters of Oxford West and Abingdon could smell a rat. But then Herr Dithery Draust is a big fat LibDemoc-rat with a bad sense of rodent slugs.

  19. draust Says:

    Hmm. Precisely how I voted is not something you will find on this blog, Shabby.

    Oxford West and Abingdon had some boundary changes which

    (i) removed a lot of the Oxford Colleges and their student voters from the constituency; and

    (ii) added some rather more rural/suburban wards out to the west and south of the city.

    The net effect of these was to make the seat (which actually was solid Tory prior to Harris winning it in 1997) far more marginal, since the changes were adding more Tory-leaning areas and removing LibDem-friendly student voters.

    [The colleges moved to the Oxford East constituency, which is a Lib-Dem Labour marginal and was won by Labour.]

    Anyway, the boundary changes were not kind to Harris, and combined with the national swing to the Tories in the South that was enough to unseat him.

  20. Cybertiger Says:

    “Hmm. Precisely how I voted is not something you will find on this blog, Shabby.”

    No, but we know where you voted, Herr Draust.

    “Anyway, the boundary changes were not kind to Harris …”

    Shabby thing, this democracy … for sluggish LibDemoc-rat rodents.

  21. Bellerophon Says:

    I have to say that, when those who declare support for socialism, and espouse egalitarianism, admit in the same breath that they had a privileged upbringing and went to public school, it all rings a little hollow.

    At least the tories are not hypocrites in this respect.

    I managed to become a NHS Consultant coming from a working class home and through the state school system. I made it by being able to go to a Grammar school, the very schools abolished for being “elitist”. It seems the true elitists don’t like a decent education being available to us proles.

  22. draust Says:

    Ouch. I’m not sure if you mean me, Bellerophon.

    Schools is a perennially difficult issue. In fact, my going to a selective private school ended my dad’s embryonic political career. Having fought two losing elections he would probably have got a safe seat to fight third time out. However, I was just reaching secondary school age at the time and the local comprehensive was a legendary sh*thole. There was a well-known and highly academic private school just up the road, which gave tuition scholarships based on an entrance exam. The nearest grammar school was six miles and three bus rides away across London.

    Anyway, I got a scholarship to the private school and went there (we could not have afforded the fees); and my dad had to ditch his Labour political ambitions, since at the time sending your kids to selective education was a no-no in Labour circles. Most of the Labour Nomenklatura of the era got around this by moving house so their children could go to Holland Park Comprehensive in West London, or Camden School for Girls, or a few other similar “unusual” state schools. I was reminded of all this when Tony Blair sent his kids to the London Oratory faith school.

    I wouldn’t have abolished grammar schools myself; all that the abolition did was turn the grammar schools (free) into private fee-paying schools, thereby making the selection wealth-based and cutting off access for people like you describe yourself. I’ve always reckoned that the time to abolish grammar schools would only have been when the comprehensive alternative could truthfully say it did as well by the academic kids as the grammar did. Of course, that would probably never have happened. But the system should at least have aspired to it.

  23. Cybertiger Says:

    Bellerophon wibbled,

    “I made it by being able to go to a Grammar school … ”

    Bully for Bellerophon! No doubt, Bellerophon has a lot in common with Dr Evan Harris and his simplistic ways of thinking. I expect Bellerophon believes that wheat can be separated from chaff at the age of eleven. How many decent NHS Consultants didn’t make it because they failed an arbitrary 11 + exam? My partner passed her 11 plus – and went to Grammar school – and after working in a chemist shop has spent the last 10 years as a GPs receptionist earning about £11,000 per year. Her brother failed his 11 plus and has become a multi-millionaire working in the Far East. Who is successful? Who is happier? Who is elitist? It’s a funny old world … but parliamentary medicine can certainly do without elitist cretins like Evan Harris. What about you, Bellerophon?

  24. Cybertiger Says:

    I should have added that both Parliament AND Medicine can do without slugs and scientific rodents like Evan Harris. It is pleasing that the folk of Oxford West and Abingdon have had the good sense to put down slug pellets and rat poison to deal with such vermin.

  25. Bellerophon Says:

    Sorry, did most definitely not mean it as a personal attack. I think you have enough trolls already afflicting your site.

  26. draust Says:

    Cheers, Bellerophon.

    Education, and where kids end up going to school, is a subject that by its nature – the collision between political beliefs and the reality of making decisions for one’s own children – makes hypocrites out of a lot of people, and certainly out of politicians. That was as true back in the 60s and 70s as it is now.

    For once (actually, for the second time on this thread – extraordinary) I partly agree with ShabbyTibbles, at least to the extent that educational attainment at eleven is NOT a total predictor of success in life. (Not that anyone was ever saying otherwise, of course).

    However, I do believe that at some point in education – I’m undecided whether it should be at eleven, or at thirteen, or perhaps better a double chance at both ages – there needs to be some form of “streaming” of kids into more classically academic, or more vocationally-targetted, schooling. This is what the Germans do, and it seems to work for them.

    The difference from the UK, of course, is that in the Fatherland going into the non-academic (vocational) school really does mean you are going into well-designed education FOR something. In Britain it too often means you are being dumped into “All the rest that don’t matter”. That is a terrible state of affairs, and it is to the lasting shame of the post-war British political system – and, dare I say it, a consequence of the adversarial set-up we have, and the way that education is another political football – that less academically-inclined kids are still too often comprehensively failed by education.

  27. Cybertiger Says:

    Bellerophon throws in the bait with a pompous plop,

    “I have to say that, when those who declare support for socialism, and espouse egalitarianism, admit in the same breath that they had a privileged upbringing and went to public school, it all rings a little hollow. At least the tories are not hypocrites in this respect.”

    Bellerophon enjoys a bit of innocent trolling … Bellerophon trails the fishing line indolently behind Draust’s sluggish canoe … and is rewarded with a bite and a little meiow of anguish,


    Draust licks his wounds and Bellerophon trolls out loud,

    “Sorry, did most definitely not mean it as a personal attack.”

    Eh? Is it possbile that the trolling fishwife is being a little economical with the truth?

    And then Bellerophon, the fishwife, whistles out tunelessly …

    “I think you have enough trolls already afflicting your site.”

    … having been surprised when a little indolent trolling had landed a catfish-snapper.


  28. draust Says:


    You are outstaying your welcome here. Either behave, or go back to your own litter-tray to play with yourself. Otherwise we may have to send you off to the vet for treatment.

  29. Cybertiger Says:

    “You are outstaying your welcome here”.

    Eh? I don’t recall ever being welcomed into your playground, Draust.

  30. cromercrox Says:

    draust – I am only a ‘right-wing maverick’ according to the views of your own limited circle of friends and colleagues, whose views are so similar that they can do little but congratulate one another on their own perspicacity, while having very little means to analyze them critically.

    If I am a maverick, then so must be all those who voted Conservative, giving them the largest vote share and largest number of seats of any single party, by a large margin. It is true that academics tend to vote left-of-centre – something that’s always surprised me given that they pretend to intelligence. In my view, the sheltered little world of academia blinds academics to the real world, such that they feel the same sense of entitlement as those who spend their whole lives doing little or no work in the expectation of being supported by the taxpayer.

    I’d also say something about Labour voters, at least, those with whom I have interacted during the campaign. They justify their position by appeal to ancient grievance and the extravagant, meretricious and somewhat nauseating nursing of old wounds, rather than any consideration of the state we’re in now – a state brought on very largely (or at least made worse) by the profligacy of a Labour administration that rewards indolence, that has beggared the old age of people who have been saving for their pensions, that has been entirely powerless to even know who is in the country (while legislating for ever greater intrusion into private life) and that has squandered Britain’s gold reserves when gold was cheap (oh, boy, could be have had them now).

    Electroral reform? Most people don’t give two hoots about electoral form – if they did, they’d have voted for it. For most people the issue can be expressed in four words – It’s The Economy, Stupid. Fiddling about with PR, or educational reform, or whatever, won’t amount to a hill of beans unless the economy is sound.

    Educational background? It doesn’t matter, does it, provided that the products of the education are good. What never occurs to socialists is that the pupils they patronize – sorry, I meant ‘attempt to educate’ – at most schools (including those attended by my children) are blighted by an all-pervasive poverty of aspiration – something that’s eaten Britain like a cancer since socialism took away grammar schools, the reliable means whereby children of little means could aspire to do better than their parents. It’s no accident that social mobility under Labour is all but stagnant. But, then, Labour needs a good supply of ill-informed proles around, doesn’t it – for these are the core of their electoral base.

    Maverick? Not me, mate. Look to yourself for that label.

  31. draust Says:

    Cybertiger: I’m being too metaphorical, obviously. Perhaps I should have said:

    “You are trying all our tolerance of your tedious nonsense”.


    Sorry if “right wing maverick” offended. It was a quick and probably rather lazy piece of shorthand. I don’t think “maverick” is too far off, though, even if – as you say – only by the standards of the circles you and I usually inhabit work-wise. And saying “only the Tories can save Britain” – well, isn’t that right wing, by what most people usually understand?

    If you’ve read the comments thread (as opposed to just the post) you’ll know I’m not in favour of the abolition of grammar schools. They – and the Gymnasia in Germany – were (in my opinion) an engine of social mobility, and, yes, aspiration. Both of which I think are good things. I think the grammars should have stayed, the key point being that they were free rather than fee-paying.

    I don’t agree with you on the economics, or the public sector – I wouldn’t on the latter, given I work there, of course. Though I do share your view that too many students now go to the “academic” Universities.

    On electoral reform, the argument about “…or they’d have voted for it” doesn’t hold up. I don’t vote LibDem at national elections, on the whole, but their getting 25% of the vote and 10% of the seats speaks for itself – it is ridiculous and profoundly undemocratic.

    Finally, on the economy, which I think we would both actually agree is the key issue facing the country. The only real difference between the parties, it seems to me, is the speed of the cuts. I take the Lab (and LibDem) view that too much cutting, too quickly, is dangerous. I would also say that cutting straight across the board is dangerous. Some thought should be given to what areas are actually creators of wealth. I think the UK University sector is one of them. It is certainly one of the rare things the UK is actually good at on a global scale.

  32. Cybertiger Says:

    I can’t abide dishonesty and I hate injustice.

    I passed my 11 plus but rather than a grammar school my parents sent me away to boarding school, to a public school in Cheltenham. I had flunked my common entrance and was in all the bottom sets to start. But I had unwittingly entered the ‘cream of society, rich and thick’ and I lapped up the comprehensivness of it. I worked my way up to the top sets and won a sixth form scholarship before going on to Sheffield University during a Labour administration and finally gained an MB ChB degree during a Tory one. We are not all equal. Super capitalism doesn’t work and neither does rigid socialism. Why is a GP partner worth more than ten times the income of his full time receptionist? I spoilt my vote by voting 1,2,3 for STV at the last election and voted tactically (and wastefully) for the LibDems at this one – in a different constituency.

    I hate dishonest doctors and I can’t abide the injustice that the profession seems capable of meting out. I suspect I would have felt the same whatever education had been meted out to me, privileged or otherwise. And I dislike pompous prats, especially if they’re doctors. Evan Harris is a silly nag who has fallen at every one of those hurdles.

  33. Cybertiger Says:

    Who would you want as your MP? This one (yummy) …

    … or this fat slug?

    As if making choices were so difficult! And I’ve never, ever voted for a Tory, bearded or otherwise.

  34. draust Says:

    WordPress spam-filtered you automatically, Shabby. Like most blogging systems it does that to any comment with links in. ‘Cos most of them are spam.

    I have now restored your spammed comment it in all it’s glory (?).

  35. Cybertiger Says:

    Drippy said,

    “WordPress spam-filtered you automatically, Shabby”.

    But the cat-mangler has filtered spam before but never indicated my feline link-droppings were to be moderated. I naturally assumed Herr Droopy was now in full censorship mode.

    PS. Aren’t you full of admiration for the beauty that has replaced the beast of Oxford West and Abingdon? No doubt she’ll be an outstanding member of Parliament … Just a shame she’s a Tory.

    [Edit: tired old double-entendre removed]

  36. draust Says:

    As a point of principle I try not to censor comments, but I DO adopt a:

    “It’s my house, so please behave and don’t piss on my carpet”

    – standard.


    Most direct insults / libel directed at people OTHER than me will be deleted.

    Tedious repeated spamming/swearing that will cause any readers to switch off out of sheer boredom will also be deleted.

    As to the auto-censoring, WordPress blocks “first comments” for moderating. After a comment is approved, subsequent ones from the same commenter go through UN-moderated unless the system decides they look like spam. (Too many links. multiple repeats of same link, etc. etc.).

    If a previously approved commenter’s comment is re-labelled as spam by me (as I have done in the past with some more unpleasant ones), then their next subsequent comment gets automatically held for moderation (i.e. they go back to being treated as “as yet unapproved”).

    One can also permanently block people (i.e. send all their comments direct to Spam). So far I have only ever done this with one person (not Shabby).


    ShabbyTabby/CyberTiger: In the case of this thread I have now edited one of your comments, and deleted another. This is because they consisted of nothing but the same old boring insults directed at Evan Harris (and you have already made them multiple times on this thread), plus boring sub-Carry On double entendres which everyone has heard before.

    On the bright side, I’ve tidied up the HTML in your earlier comment so that the links go to the intended pictures.

  37. Cybertiger Says:

    Oh, Draust, I do love it when you play so macho and assertive. Who would dare to piss on your carpet or even drop a small warm turd in the middle of your front lawn … ever again?

  38. Cybertiger Says:

    I’ve just watched the late news on BBC1 and seen Doc Harris pontificating about the ToryLibDems cosying up before getting into bed together. Don’t the BBC realise that he’s a has-been? Don’t the LibDems realise that he’s an utterly discredited never-really-was sort of washed up bit of flotsam?

  39. Cybertiger Says:

    Even in defeat, Evan Harris is a plausible rascal. And he’s no one-trick pony neither,


    “He also considers that all I campaign for is secularism, which suggests that he unaware of the work I have done on science, health, human rights, torture & rendition, human trafficking, organ donation, parliamentary reform, libel reform, higher education, loan sharks, asylum rights and so on. Not really a one trick anything.”

    Ho, ho … but I’ll bet our Evan can turn a trick for the vaccine industry

  40. Cybertiger Says:

    And I’ll bet he can turn a trick or three for the drugs industry … ho, ho, humm …

  41. draust Says:

    Yawnsville, Tabby.

    I think Harris’ comment speaks for itself. In addition, Mark Henderson, the science editor of the Times, has written an eloquent defence of Harris. I would agree with every word.

    The comments of some of Harris’ enemies from the “faith community”, like George Pitcher and the dreadful Dorries, are beneath contempt. Though it is always enlightening to see religious people demonstrating just how vindictive and nasty they can be.

  42. Cybertiger Says:

    I think fundamental secularists are as much a danger to society as the fundie religionists of whatever pursuasion. It’s safer to be agnostic. Paradoxically, science has been stabbed in the back by Harris, that mental fundie secularist. Wakefield too.

    PS. If you’re so tired, draust, why don’t you go and lie down in a darkened room?

  43. draust Says:

    I disagree. Casting Harris as a “fundamentalist secularist” is a straightforward slur from Pitcher and Odone, as some religious commentators (see here too) have noted. What Harris has is principles.

    And I’m not tired – well, no more than your average working late 40-something with two small children. What I meant was that I was tired of your trotting out the same old boring snide digs at Harris.

    Have you any actual, you know, evidence that he didn’t do the stuff he says he did?

  44. Cybertiger Says:

    You’re tiresome, draust. I think you should go and lie down.

    Harris has principles? Eh?

    Well, he’s a principal prat, I’ll agree with you that far.

    And there is ample evidence that Andrew Wakefield was stabbed in the back. The police should pull Harris over for questioning on that particular atrocity. And what about Professors John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch? These men have suffered grievously. The principal-prat may well be implicated in GBH with malice aforethought. Harris’s dirty prints are everywhere: I reckon there’s enough forensics to send the felon down for a very long time.

  45. Dr Aust Says:

    If Walker-Smith and Murch were blind-sided by anyone, I would say it was by their buddy “St Andy” Wakefield, Shabby. But I’m sure you won’t agree.

  46. Cybertiger Says:

    You are trivial, tiresome and pathetic, draust. All that’s self evident: who cares whether you disagree?

  47. Bellerophon Says:

    I would have blocked this loon by now. Clearly an anti vac nut and conspiracy theorist (big pharma etc.) Mad as a bucket of frogs.

  48. draust Says:

    Bit hard on the frogs.

    Shabby, you seem to care, otherwise why are you still here sniping? Has everywhere else banned you?

    As I said before, Feel free to push off back to your own kitty litter tray.

  49. Cybertiger Says:

    Birds of a feather, Bellerophon & Draust have proved themselves to be tiresome, trivial and endlessly pathetic. You sound unwell, Draust! Go and lie down before your conscience gets the better of you.

  50. Cybertiger Says:

    They shoot horses, don’t they? The BMJ have done a story today about the nag who fell at the Oxford West and Abingdon horse trials.


    Apparently, the fallen nag has long been in bed with Professor Sir Roy and Professor ‘baby saver’ Southall, as well as happy Simon ‘bogus promoter’ Singh.

    “Dr Harris headed the cross party libel reform coalition in parliament, which supported the science broadcaster Simon Singh’s defence against the British Chiropractic Association, and was one of the main defenders of both Roy Meadow and David Southall at the height of their professional crises.”

    Why was I surprised at the news? Flying reptiles flock together, slithery creatures hide under similar shaped stones and pond-lives drink the same slime.

    The GMC cocked it up over those two scallywags, Meadow and Southall. If the GMC can cock it up over those two rascals, then why would Evan Harris be so confident that the GMC hadn’t cocked it up over Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch? Draust, I think you’ve backed a lame nag. What does one do with nags who’ve gone down at Beechers Brook? I know you know the answer, Draust.

  51. Cybertiger Says:

    “Any resemblance between Professor K and any living person is purely coincidental; any resemblance between the CMG and any British Institution is purely coincidental.”


    There’s a lot of it about, this coincidence malarkey. Coincidence is an evidenceless-based diagnosis beloved of modern day vaccinologists like Herr Draust and ex-LibDem MPs with medical degrees. Who ordered this trial? Was it a fortunate coincidence? Herr Draust, lover of evidenceless-based malarkey knows the answer for certain.

    PS. Coincidentally, Dr Evan Harris could now have been sitting round the cabinet table as ‘Science Minister’, all prim, proper and evidence based … if he were not the nag to fall at the last coincidental hurdle.

  52. Cybertiger Says:

    Herr Draust: your conscience, assuming it exists – and there is little scientific evidence that it does – must be feeling somewhat sickly. I’m glad you’re being sensible and having that lie down.

  53. draust Says:

    I’m just keeping quiet in the hope you’ll go away, Shabby

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