Profiling Ed Balls’ personality through his pig doodle

Posted on June 12, 2011

There’s a simple personality profiling test called the Pig Test. You draw a doodle of a pig, and the way you do so is used to give a sketch outline of your personality type. (If you want to take the test yourself, please draw a pig now, because the details in the rest of this post will otherwise influence your results). It’s not perfect, but it’s an amusing little way to give a broadbrush insight into what you or your friends are like.

How convenient, then, that the Ed Balls Files released by the Telegraph this week feature a doodle of a pig drawn by Ed Balls himself:

So according to the rules of the Pig Test, what does it tell us about Ed Balls’ personality?

First, the doodle is located at the top of the page, which apparently should mean “you are perceived as a positive
and optimistic person by others.” (I did say it wasn’t perfect).

Next, we look at the direction the pig is facing – Ed’s piggywig is looking out of the page directly at us, indicating “you are a direct person; [you] neither fear nor avoid discussion and enjoy “stirring the pot” to promote change.”

The doodle also has more detail than you would normally expect in a picture of a cartoon pig, which means “you see yourself as analytical and cautious. Others must work hard to earn your trust and to keep it.”

The fact the pig has two rather than four legs indicates a sense of insecurity, that “you are living through a period of major change in your life”.

The pig’s ears aren’t unusually large or unusually small, so far as I can see that means Ed is a fairly good listener.

Finally, and most tellingly, there’s the tail. According to the rules of the Pig Test, “the longer the pig’s tail that you have drawn (including loops) the more satisfied you are with the quality of your personal relationships”.

It speaks for itself that Ed Balls’ pig has no tail at all.

Ken chickens out in public – but is Jasper still advising him in private?

Posted on April 27, 2011

You read it here first that Ken Livingstone would be sharing a platform with Lee Jasper at the TUC rally next week. Since I broke the story it’s been followed up by Andrew Gilligan, and the Evening Standard – and now Ken has backed out of the event, citing “family commitments” that he apparently didn’t know about last week.

There seems to be more to find out here – this looks very much like an attempt by Ken to rehabilitate Jasper by re-establishing a public relationship with him. The question is, did their relationship ever stop in private?

Jasper has taken up the case of Smiley Culture – the 80s popstar who recently killed himself during a police drugs raid – as his latest publicity vehicle political issue. On 5th April the Standard reported:

Mr Jasper, who quit as one of Mr Livingstone’s closest aides after allegations over his conduct, warned that the black community was at “boiling point” over the incident.

On 26th April The Sun reported on the Smiley Culture case:

Ex London Mayor Ken Livingstone said the black community is at “boiling point” over his death.

Spot any similarities?

Jasper was Ken’s race and policing advisor for 8 years – is he still advising him behind the scenes? I just put in a call to Joe Derrett, Ken’s media guy, who denies outright that Jasper is part of the Ken campaign team. As for whether he’s giving informal advice, it’s the uncertain press officer’s standard answer: “not as far as I know”.

Funny, Ken and Lee must just be so likeminded after their years together that they use the same words when giving comments to the papers…

Ken Livingstone and Lee Jasper reunited

Posted on April 23, 2011

Do you remember Lee Jasper? As Ken Livingstone’s Director for Policing and Equalities in City Hall for 8 years, Jasper was one of Red Ken’s closest advisors and confidantes. Having been suspended in February 2008 due to a storm over alleged dubious dealings at the London Development Agency, he resigned in March 2008 when it turned out he was secretly sending “sexually charged” emails to a woman who ran projects that he helped to get taxpayer funding for.

Jasper’s reputation soured the entire Ken campaign in 2008 – and since then Ken has steered well clear of him, at least in public. The message has been that this is a new, clean Ken Livingstone, without dodgy mates like Jasper on his bandwagon any more.

How surprising, then, to see the list of speakers at the TUC’s May Day Rally in an email sent out by Lambeth TUC, and since sent on to  me:

Ken Livingstone (Labour Party NEC member and candidate for London Mayoral election)
Matt Wrack – FBU General Secretary
Tony Benn
Sarah Veale – TUC
Lee Jasper – Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts
Eylem Ozdemir – Refugee Workers Cultural Association

It seems the old band is back together again. (And yes, you did read that right – Jasper really has set up a group that believes the cuts are racist, and he really has called it “BARAC” in a heroically desperate attempt to get some Obama-glitz-by-association.)

According to his propaganda, we are meant to believe that Ken Livingstone has changed, but here is, once again, sharing a platform with the same old cronies, banging the same old drum. The leopard hasn’t changed his spots – and who really believes he’s been trying to?

The odd tale behind the Barnsley by-election Honey Badger

Posted on March 01, 2011

There’s a typically perceptive piece out today by the BBC’s Brian Wheeler – one of the nice guys in political media – about the Barnsley by-election.

One of the background bits of colour he reports brought a smile to my face; the slightly unusual codename the Labour candidate has chosen for his campaign. It is called “Operation Honey Badger”.

The name has quite a few undertones. For a start, the Honey Badger sounds like a lovely creature but is actually notoriously vicious (find out more from the engrossing HoneyBadger.com) with a sweet name, but packing a nasty punch if you get too close.

The thing that it particularly brought to mind, though, was one of the weirdest incidents in the history of war reporting.

Considering that the Labour candidate in Barnsley, Dan Jarvis, recently left the Parachute Regiment, you may not be too surprised to learn that the Honey Badger’s most recent brush with notoriety was in relation to the British operation in Iraq.

Back in 2007, the Army was forced to go the remarkable length of publicly denying a rumour sweeping Basra “that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating, bear-like beasts into the area to sow panic”. What one Basra housewife referred to as a creature “as swift as a deer…the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey” later turned out to be – you guessed it – a Honey Badger. Presumably Mr Jarvis heard the story at the time and it’s stayed with him.

It’s an odd little tale, but whatever his other political sins Dan Jarvis certainly can’t be accused of lacking a sense of humour. Presumably he is hoping that his campaign spokesmen won’t end up having to put out a statement as weird as that the British Army released last time a Honey Badger graced the media:

UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.

Celebrities in politics: Does it ever work?

Posted on February 07, 2011

James Frayne, a predecessor of mine as Campaign Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, has been blogging for some time now at the excellent Campaign War Room. He mused over the weekend about celebrity endorsements in political campaigns and whether they actually bring any benefits. He concludes:

Sometimes celebrities can make a campaign look normal and mainstream by having celebrity establishment endorsement, and in such circumstances then why not. But I don’t think it substantially changes the way a campaign is perceived. More often than not, in Britain at least, you’re probably better off focusing on sorting out your message and developing case studies / endorsements from real people who genuinely do amplify the message you’re pushing out.

By and large I agree. As I see it there are four possible outcomes that a celebrity endorsement can bring for your campaign, which are worth pondering:

1) The “Eh? Who?”

Smaller parties and campaigns who are frustrated that the mainstream media are neglecting them can often fall into a state of clutching at straws. This means that when a so-called “celebrity” turns up on their doorstep, they will grab them and shout it to the rooftops – even if they are either unheard of or completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Or both.

The outcome is normally that your campaign will suffer from the embarrassment of being visibly proud of the dubious endorsement of someone a bit random – causing harm rather than the supposed gilded benefits of having a celeb on board.

The classic example in this category is Rustie Lee. I know, I hadn’t heard of her either. Rustie Lee is – apparently – a TV presenter and chef, who enjoyed her heyday in the ’80s. In 2004 it was announced with great fanfare that she was joining UKIP, and she’s since stood for them in one General and one European election. She’s not a bad candidate  so far as I can judge, she’s just a bit random. When UKIP sing about her as a celebrity, it just exacerbates their key problem of people assuming they are small fish in a big pond.

2) The Liability

Far worse than a little-known celebrity is one who you initially welcome on board but who then proceeds to become an embarrassing liability. The famous are particularly prone to this because by definition they tend to be unusual, driven characters and because they are normally quite naive and unpracticed when it comes to how politics actually works.

There are quite a few examples of this phenomenon, ranging from Jim Davidson speaking at the 2000 Conservative Party Conference, through David Icke acting as co-leader of the Green Party before discovering the “truth” about how giant lizards run the world and announcing he was the new Jesus, to Frank Maloney refusing to bring his UKIP campaign to Camden because there were “too many gays” there.

Even Sir Michael Caine, with long experience of learning scripts, managed to fluff his lines last year by praising the Government rather than the Opposition when he was supposed to be endorsing the Conservatives.

3) The Backlash

The other risk you take on board when you given prominence and importance to the political views of a celebrity is that they will later change sides – slamming you with the Backlash. It’s difficult to shrug such a change of heart off – after all, if the voters were meant to listen to them when they were on your side, why shouldn’t people pay attention now your pet star has decided you’re actually rotten to the core/personally rude/a massive let-down/a danger to the nation?

This is exacerbated by the, shall we say, flighty nature of a lot of celebrities. What little benefit the Lib Dems got from Colin Firth’s backing swiftly evaporated when he withdrew it over tuition fees. Labour got a flush of embarrassment when D:Ream-star-turned-celebrity-physicist Brian Cox announced that while he had hoped things could “only get better” in 1997, he would in 2010 be voting Lib Dem due to Labour’s “cock-up” on science funding. In 2009 UKIP learned the danger of getting a newspaper columnist on board when the Telegraph’s Robin Page used the paper to denounce them and announce his resignation after a personal spat with Nigel Farage.

4) The Smooth Runner

Sometimes, of course, celebrity endorsements do go well – or at least don’t go badly.

Plenty of celebrities are uncontroversial  political players – Tony Robinson has played a prominent role in the Labour Party since the 1980s, Daniel Radcliffe announced his support for the Lib Dems but hasn’t apparently done much for them and William “Ken Barlow” Roache is apparently a lifelong Tory. The thing that really stands out about those celebrities who aren’t actively bad news for their chosen cause, though, is that none of them really stand out as stunning successes either.

Best of all was probably Joanna Lumley as an advocate for the Gurkhas. As well as being articulate and media-savvy, she had a genuine reason to be interested in the issue at hand and stuck with it throughout the campaign. It’s telling as to the value of celebrity support that she is notable mainly for having been pretty good at it – an almost unique example of a successful endorsement that didn’t backfire.

Of course, these four categories are slightly artificial distinctions – things get really tricky with celebs when they appear to be one of these categories and then turn out to be another (or even several of the others). Most dramatic was Robert Kilroy-Silk, who when he joined UKIP at first appeared to be a bit of an “Eh? Who?“. He swiftly shifted to the appearance of a Smooth Runner, giving UKIP a poll boost and romping home in the European Election. Unfortunately he then almost immediately became a Liability, jumped quickly into Backlash mode by slagging off the party and then left – to become a Liability for his own ill-fated outfit, Veritas. Let that be a warning to all others who are tempted by the siren call of a celebrity saying “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Crime mapping – power to the people

Posted on February 03, 2011

Finally – after years of arguments, promises and u-turns on the part of both Labour and the Conservatives – the Government has introduced crime mapping right across the country at www.police.uk.

Anyone who doubted that there was an interest among the public in finding out what crimes are committed in their neighbourhoods was immediately given a firm slap round the chops by the fact that the site received so much traffic it has at times struggled to deal with it all. At its peak it was getting 18 million hits an hour – a remarkable number.

Obviously, the Guardian chose to lead on the fact it crashed without reflecting on the fact that this proved what huge demand there is out there for this kind of transparency.

I’m personally delighted about crime mapping coming to the UK because it has been a massive hobby horse of mine in recent years. I first wrote about it for the TPA almost 3 years ago and since then I’ve met ministers, spoken at the Police Federation conference, addressed the Association of Chief Police Officers and generally banged the drum for this idea endlessly – not always making myself popular, it must be said.

This is a genuinely exciting reform. For the first time, everyone has the right to know what the real picture is of reported crime in a given area. That helps people moving house, scrutinising police performance and communicating with their MP.

It’s still just the start of the transparency and accountability revolution, though.

Giving people this information is a great start, but there’s plenty more to give. Other police forces are apparently experimenting with ways to provide even more data in greater accuracy and more informative formats. Yvette Cooper has called for full transparency on police numbers, which I can’t see a problem with. Ideally in my view each crime on the map would also be updated when it is either solved and prosecuted or shelved into a cold file. The possibilities are myriad.

Once you’ve given people information, you should also give them the power to do something with it, too. Now people are being given some data about how effective or ineffective their local police are, it is high time they were given the right to elect, scrutinise and – if necessary – sack the people in charge of the force.

The internet makes it possible for us to be given access to all that state data which our public employees compile about all of us in our name and at our expense. The digital revolution, if properly applied, can be a real revolution – handing power from hidden officials in back offices to the people. Crime mapping is an early and crucial step on that road to empowerment.

Sluggish Peers threaten the future of direct democracy

Posted on January 13, 2011

The AV referendum is incredibly important for British democracy – not so much because of the actual question on the table but because the way it runs will heavily influence the future of direct democracy in this country.

I, like many others, want to see a lot more referenda in Britain. We deserve votes on the EU, on any constitutional changes and on local tax rises, to name but a few. Ideally citizens should be able to initiate a referendum on any issue of their choosing via a right of initiative.

The chance of that happening rests largely, though unofficially, on the AV referendum. If it becomes a farce with a tiny turnout, then there is a risk that it will discredit the idea of asking the people about anything – the defenders of the Westminster elite will crow at any and every opportunity that people just aren’t bothered.

But if the AV vote does turn out to be an absurd waste of time, it will not be because the people aren’t interested in being consulted on things.

For a start, AV is in itself a boring and obscure system which is a peculiar choice of referendum topic. That puts this referendum at a disadvantage in terms of turnout.

To counteract that, campaigners and politicians have a serious responsibility. The Yes and No camps must run active, interesting and exciting campaigns to ensure that people are exercised about the topic (difficult as that may be). I think they have both got off to a pretty good start on that front.

The real weak link in the chain at the minute is in Parliament. The BBC today reports that Labour Peers are blocking the Bill to such an extent that it may not go through in time to actually hold the referendum on the planned date of May 5th.

If they persist in their delaying tactics and the date does have to be moved, it would be a disgraceful disservice to democracy. Allowing campaigns to get up and running only to delay the vote will turn this referendum into a farce and further confuse and alienate the public.

I don’t like AV, so I don’t think it would be a missed opportunity on that front, but if this harms the prospect of future referenda on things that actually do matter, there should be hell to pay.

Kevin Brennan MP’s violent language

Posted on January 11, 2011

I’m at an absolute loss as to how the appalling attack on Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents has somehow become a debate about political semantics. People suddenly seem to have noticed the existence of military metaphors – which are inevitably part of the English language, particularly in a combative (see, there’s the military creeeping in) environment like politics.

Obviously this is mainly a debate in the US, but now some in the UK have started posturing about it, too.

Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West tweeted this:

“Let’s all give our thoughts to #GabrielleGiffords and eliminate the crosshairs mentality from our democratic discourse online or anywhere”

That all sounds very nice, but perhaps Kevin should have given some thought to his own record before jumping on this bandwagon. He has used some pretty violent language himself:

“It is important to dispose of the ACT argument—the argument that the shortfall has been caused by the removal of advance corporation tax. I shall kill that stone dead once and for all” 25th March 2004  

“I just reminded him that there were such creatures as Liberal Democrat special advisers and perhaps fired a shot across his bows8th May 2003 

I don’t think that Kevin Brennan is a violent person, or that at any stage he intended to incite violence or even to create a hostile environment with these terms. Nor do I think these terms actually did contribute in any way to any violent culture. That’s because I think military terms and metaphors are an embedded element of our rich and beautiful language – like it or not we are a species which has been at war since time began and these terms have been around since time immemorial.

If you look at any politician’s record I am certain they will have used terms like “shot down in flames”, “blow up in your face”, “destroy the opposition”, “turn your fire”, “set your sights”, “strike a blow” and so on. Given that, it’s probably best that all of us resist any temptation to jump on bandwagons by criticising others for doing the same.

Has Ed been hitting the (hair dye) bottle?

Posted on December 22, 2010

It’s a Miliband family trait to have a tuft of white hair – both David and Ed have one. Or at least Ed did, prior to today’s speech. Compare and contrast his thatch at a recent PMQs and at today’s speech:

Has Ed been at the hair dye? If not, he’s the only man in history to have a new baby in the house and yet get fewer grey hairs…

UPDATE: Over at PoliticsHome the inestimable Paul Waugh has succeeded in getting an official statement on the issue from the Labour Party Leader’s Press Office…

“No, he does not dye his hair. He had a haircut recently and the grey is less visible. After careful checking, I’m confident the grey bit is still there.”

The image of a press officer carrying out “careful checking” on the Rt Honourable scalp is a memorable one.

Brown in the USA

Posted on December 16, 2010

Gordon Brown is treading the traditional path for ex-Prime Ministers by going Stateside to lecture our American cousins about how he “saved the world”. On Monday he was hawking his book on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. So how did he do?

Tony Blair remained very popular in America even when his approval ratings were languishing back home. Judging from the reaction on Twitter, though, the Yanks didn’t really warm to Gordon. Here are just a few choice snippets:

The guy’s a complete idiot“…”unfunny“…”Oh God“…”slightly scary….shivers down your spine“…”Not exactly shocking that Labour got smacked around“…”demented“…”oh, crap“…”too weird-lookin‘”…”what a dick“…”reinforces why the Yank Patriots conducted the American Revolution“…

Really, the Americans got off lightly – most British viewers felt they were seeing a jollier, more relaxed Brown than ever before.

The old Brown still shone through, though – that “weird thing with his mouth” was picked up, and the smile was as worrying as ever. In classic, embarassing Gordon style he also committed his old sin of using the same lines at different gigs, opening on the Daily Show and the Late Late Show with a cringeworthy “what a great country!”

Americans evidently know how to spot a wrong’un when they see one. It’s hard to imagine Gordon Brown ever winning an election in the USA – much like in Britain, in fact…