Over on political betting Mike Smithson has a post on whether fuel prices drive voting intentions, accompanied by a graph showing that a peak in petrol prices in Summer 2008 co-incided with a low point in Labour’s polling, while a slump in petrol prices co-incided with a comparatively good polling position for Labour in January 2009. In the past I’ve had comments here from other people seemingly convinced that petrol prices are the sole driver of voting intentions.

Below is the same graph of average petrol prices, but overlaid with a line showing the Labour government’s lead in the polls (or in most cases, their deficit in the polls) throughtout the time period of 2007 to 2010, rather than just those two points. You can see the peak and trough in summer 2008 and Jan 2009, but you can also see the lack of a relationship the rest of the time – petrol prices dropped sharply in autumn 2006 with no corresponding increase in government support, rose throughout 2008 with no obvious drop in government support, from spring 2009 to spring 2010 there was a steady increase in petrol prices and government support.

There will be some indirect relationship between fuel prices and government support, simply because petrol prices are strongly related to the price of oil and the oil price is plugged into the wider global economy. The collapse in petrol prices between Summer 2008 and January 2009 came as a result of the economic crisis and a sharp retraction in demand for oil. The increase in support for the government probably came from their response to the crisis and a positive public reaction to the handling of the bank bailout – so the correlation between falling petrol prices and rising government support in 2008 probably wasn’t co-incidence, but it’s likely that the two events shared a common cause (the credit crunch) rather than any direct causal link. Outside that time period, there is no obvious correlation.


146 Responses to “Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day”

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  1. @ Nick Hadley

    “I think it was Churchill’s reference during the campaign to a potential Labour Government requiring a Gestapo-esque body to implement its policies that caused the greatest offence. it was ill advised and symptomatic of a poorly run Tory campaign. I didn’t live through the times that we’re commenting on here and consequently have no first hand experiences to draw on of Churchill as either a war time or peace time leader, but it would appear that he became a Father of the Nation type figure during the war. It’s a very early childhood memory, but I clearly remember his funeral in 1965 and the quite genuine outpouring of national grief as he was laid to rest. His was indeed an extraordinary life and while his domestic peacetime political record was patchy, his inspirational communication skills during the war provided succour to a beleaguered country and he became crucial to the maintenance of morale. In that sense, it has to be recognised that from 1940-45, he was undoubtedly a great Prime Minister leading a war time coalition cabinet of political giants from all the political parties.”

    I would imagine that a reference like that would be extraordinarily offensive. Even those who lived in Britain but weren’t fighters during the war suffered a tremendous deal and sacrificed a great deal to defeat the Nazis. I think the Tory campaign was poorly run because they didn’t expect Labour to win (Labour had never won before).

    “When I ran my last London Marathon in 2007, and on the day before the race, I visited Churchill’s Museum set in the underground Cabinet War Rooms in Westminster. I remember being particularly moved by looking at the cramped, claustrophobic room where the Cabinet held their meetings. I looked at the nameplates around the table and the names read like a roll call of some of the greatest political figures of the 20th century. Churchill, Chamberlain, Cripps, Attlee, Halifax, Morrison, Beaverbrook, Bevin, Eden, Woolton, Greenwood. I wondered, particularly in the dark days of 1940, what those meetings must have been like as they wrestled with decisions that would determine the future of our nation. Extraordinary times and extraordinary men (as indeed were those who fought and, in many cases, gave their lives).”

    I visited those war rooms as a little kid. I was too young to understand the full significance but I was still moved by it.

    Ot, what’s the London marathon like? My dad used to be a marathon runner (or he ran two marathons) though he gave it up a long time ago as he got too old. I’m still in awe though considering how poor my running skills are.

  2. @ Neil A

    The Libdems expect to win O&S. They’ve been canvassing continuously since early November. They were getting good results from it, which is why they moved the writ calling for an early election.

    The Tories also believe they could have a good chance. They were only 2500 votes short at the GE. David Cameron will be making at least one visit to the constituency.

    The Coalition’s team believe they can get a one/ two in this seat & will be working their butts off to achieve it. They believe the morale boost would be worth pulling out all the stops for – but they are trying to contain any such expectations.
    8-)

    BTW – Debbie Abrahams wasn’t parachuted in, she was the local LP selection but she lives in a neighbouring constituency.

    And FWIW – I don’t engage in hyperbole without a ;-) nor is expectation management my style. I’m usually a Labour cheer-leader!

  3. @ Sue,

    Welcome back! :-) We missed you here. And don’t worry – nobody will treat you differently because of your health problem. 8-)

  4. @ Amber Star (and Old Nat)

    “Women on average have a more pronounced amygdala – which is why more of them vote Conservative.”

    What is amygdala?

    @ Sue Marsh

    “The whole world knows I’m ill by now, so there’s not much point in staying away.
    The commentary here is just so intelligent, I can’t find anything that remotely compares elsewhere on the web.”

    I’m sorry you’re ill. I’m glad you’re posting here, you’re one of my favorites.

  5. @ Amber Star

    Nothing wrong with being a cheerleader for Labour. :)

    And I was only kidding when I said that I enjoyed your spin.

    Even though Labour has this seat currently, I think if they win it, it will be a major boost to Miliband, E. and to the Labour Party in general.

  6. @Social Liberal. Up early- cricket !!

    Very interesting stuff on Churchill, Thank you.

    You may know of the incident when Attlee took the young John Freeman to see him in the Tea Room after Freeman’s moving speech welcoming the King’s Speech in August 1945.
    Freeman was in his uniform, and looked very good.

    Apparently after Attlee and Freeman walked away, it was noticed that Winston was weeping.. possibly remembering himself as a young man and all the struggles of the War.

    To be fair, Churchill was awful in many of the things he said about his opponents- the Irish pre 1916, the miners, Nye Bevan, Gandhi, Attlee, Cripps are some examples.

    Great men have great vices, though and he saved the world.

    Possibly giving up Stalin’s enemies such as the Whites- at Yalta- may be the biggest blot?

  7. @ SoCaLiberal

    What is amygdala?
    ————————————————-
    It’s a part of your brain. Old Nat & I were having a joke about an article in the Guardian.

    Apparently whether you are right or left on the political spectrum has a correlation to the thickness of different parts of your brain. Thicker amygdala = more right wing.

    So, I was making a joke – & here’s another that’s equally lame – just for you, my American cousin:

    Sarah Palin’s amygdala is probably as thick as two short planks. ;-)

  8. It’s a little controversial… But I do not consider Churchill a great prime-minister.

    Even during war-time, he made glaring errors. His attitude towards India lead directly to a near-disastrous mismanagement of the Asia front. And Churchill had an attitude to collateral damage and ‘total war’ that not only goes against modern standards, but was questioned and disputed during the war! The “Holding the country together” aspects of the War were actually outside of Churchill’s remit, and were in reality Clement Atlee’s job as Deputy Prime Minister and head of the civil affairs Lord President’s Committee. These are the main reasons why Churchill was so effectively defeated in election, while the nation was still at war in Asia.

    Winston also won only one election long after the war, having been appointed to Prime Minister in 1940 much like Brown. He only won one election long after the war and basically on his Historical Figure credentials. And let’s face it, Churchill’s second term was a near disaster, with a string of failed military interventions and attempts to restore the British Empire.

    The repercussions from his very poor decisions in regard to Iran are still being felt globally.

  9. jay

    i would add that he was a terrible writer

  10. Going back to the earlier discussions of Maggie T, one area that those on the Liberal left may see as a positive effect of her time in office is the legacy of change in social areas. For all the bluster I would say that the media deregulation seriously moved forward the nations social changes eg acceptance of homosexuality and marginalisation of the nuclear family. I as more of a social conservative don’t view these changes positively but IMO this laid the groundwork for New Labour legislation.

  11. @Amber,

    Whatever. I will look out for your gaps of delight and amazement at the clear 10% plus Labour victory in the seat and try to imagine that your surprise is genuine.

    As I say, I don’t think it matters in the long run. The LibDems are wise enough to know that there’s nothing special about Oldham and Saddleworth that would see it produce results at 180 degree variation with the way the rest of the country is currently leaning.

  12. @ Jay Blanc

    “The repercussions from his very poor decisions in regard to Iran are still being felt globally.”

    We were the ones who really screwed up Iran….twice really.

    “It’s a little controversial… But I do not consider Churchill a great prime-minister.”

    It’s fine to be controversial. I love it really. Americans instinctively love Winston Churchill (my family named our English breed dog after his wife) because he is viewed as the hero of World War II who saved us from Nazi oblivion. Where I’ve found fault with Churchill is his leadership in the battle of Gallipoli in World War I. He got a lot of people killed through very bad strategies.

  13. PREDICTIONS FOR 2011

    Since I am in a Delphi-oracle mood, here are my electoral predictions for 2011 (unfortunately I do not make career, health or love predictions):
    7 EU or EU-candidate countries wil have GE in 2001: Croatia, Denmark, Eire, Estonia, Finland, Poland and Turkey. I predict political change in Croatia, Denmark and Eire, with a shift to the center-left. Next PMs: Socialist Zoran Milanovic (Croatia), social democrat H. Thoring-Schmidt (Denmark), Labour E. Gilmore in Eire. Reelection of center-right governments in Finland, Poland and Turkey, but in FInland with an internal shift to the right, with KoK overtaking KESK and J. Kataynen as the new PM. Change also in Estonia, with K overtaking ER (but they are both liberals, albeit K is more center-left).
    In six state elections in Germany, the ruling center-right majority (CDU+FDP) will lose everywhere, and there will be Red-Green alliances (occasionally supported by far left Linke). Major focus in Berlin, where social democrats and Greens will fight for the first place, the CDU being a distant third, or even 4th, behind Linke. Overall, a total disaster for A. Merkel (the wraths of Greek gods upon thee!!). In Spanish regional elections, I sadly predict a bad result for socialist PSOE (one of my favorite parties). In Scotland and Wales, a clear victory for Labour and a catastrophe for LD (but there is no need to be Pythia to see this). There will be a snap GE in Italy, with a razor-thin victory of center-left, which will be translated in an OM in Parliament (because of the bonus seats attributed to the coalition that comes 1st), but a hung Senate (there the bonus seats are distributed on a regional basis), with the Third Pole (centrists) holding the balance of power. Possible PM: Nichi Vendola. (I cross my fingers). Dominique Strauss-Kahn will be the winner of the socialist primary in France for the 2012 Presidential Election. Will I vote for him or for Segolene Royal? The irony is that I can predict the vote of others, but not my own!!

  14. @ Amber Star

    “It’s a part of your brain. Old Nat & I were having a joke about an article in the Guardian.

    Apparently whether you are right or left on the political spectrum has a correlation to the thickness of different parts of your brain. Thicker amygdala = more right wing.

    So, I was making a joke – & here’s another that’s equally lame – just for you, my American cousin:

    Sarah Palin’s amygdala is probably as thick as two short planks.”

    To quote a line from the movie “Dick” (the 1999 comedy film staring Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams claiming who Deep Throat really was) that explains Sarah Palin, I’ve seen yams with more going on upstairs.

    The brain thickness argument is interesting. Last night while out at the movies, my dad suggested an alternative theory to me. He speculated that made a man more right wing or left wing depended on the size of a certain part of the male anatomy. I responded “oh, so that’s why black and Jewish men vote so overwhelmingly Democratic.” We were only joking of course. :)

  15. The single defining fact about Churchill wasn’t so much his war-leadership, which was a mixed bag (inspiring rhetoric and spirit, marred by some quite disastrous interventions in military strategy, such as the campaign in Greece), it was his early and passionate opposition to the Nazis in the 1930s and his constant urging for the British establishment to see Hitler for what he was, and prepare to stop him.

    Having been “Right” in a very big way, Churchill can be forgiven for being very “Wrong” on various issues during and immediately after the war.

    Personally like most commenters I find it hard to make a hero of a man whose views were so archaic on subjects like Ireland and India. He really was an extremely old-fashioned chap, at a time when Britain was desperately keen to try something new. That’s the true explanation of the post-war election defeat I think.

    I inherited a copy of his history of the Second World War, but having read the quite brilliant books by Basil Liddell-Hart on both world wars I have never really felt the need to read Churchill.

    If you haven’t read them, SoCalLiberal, I’d thoroughly recommend them. Liddell-Hart was a British officer who fought in WW1, wrote an excellent history of it whilst teaching at Sandhurst (he was an expert on armoured warfare, enthusiastically studied by visiting German officer-cadets). He then wrote a history of WW2 after that war ended, and the two books together are a real lynchpin of the record of the first half of the 20th century (in my opinion).

  16. Chris Lane thinks Churchill ‘saved the world’.

    I see it was 4.30 am, Chris, and congrats on the well-earned result. I think you deserve it for staying up to watch a fore-gone conclusion.

    By the way, I think most historians would not identify any single human being for the outcome of WW2.

    A while back I identified Lord Dowding, and his brave young men for saving the UK. Churchill was of no influence in that struggle but certainly capitalised on its outcome and his words were good for morale. Words don’t win wars.

    Perhaps the single most identifiable person for saving the world was Hitler who decided to invade Russia. ‘Big mistake’, as one or two before him had discovered. Also Imperial Japan’s Tojo was not too clever either.

    Good that we see no identifiable madmen on the horizon currently, except perhaps Palin. One trusts that the majority of USA inhabitants see that also.

    Forgive end-of-year musings.

  17. virgilio

    you must vote royal, strauss-kahn has been turned by his time ay the IMF/world bank

    also it would be good for france to have a female pres

  18. To add my penny’s worth to the Churhcill discussion…

    I have mixed views about him. Certainly he made big mistakes throughout his career and also as PM during the war. But IMO he gave Britain hope and also portrayed absolute determination and resolve. Some of his speeches were extraordinary and inspiring – perhaps on a par with those of say Henry V (via Shakespeare, of course) and Elizabeth 1. The UK people needed someone like him to lead them in probably the worst/greatest war we have ever faced.

  19. @ Chris Lane

    “Up early- cricket !!

    Very interesting stuff on Churchill, Thank you.

    You may know of the incident when Attlee took the young John Freeman to see him in the Tea Room after Freeman’s moving speech welcoming the King’s Speech in August 1945.
    Freeman was in his uniform, and looked very good.

    Apparently after Attlee and Freeman walked away, it was noticed that Winston was weeping.. possibly remembering himself as a young man and all the struggles of the War.

    To be fair, Churchill was awful in many of the things he said about his opponents- the Irish pre 1916, the miners, Nye Bevan, Gandhi, Attlee, Cripps are some examples.

    Great men have great vices, though and he saved the world.

    Possibly giving up Stalin’s enemies such as the Whites- at Yalta- may be the biggest blot?”

    You’re up early and I’m up late. Lol.

    I don’t actually know who John Freeman was. So I am not familiar with the incident. I think Churchill deserves the credit he gets for World War II. He did make mistakes. All great men and women and all great leaders do. George Washington was for most of his career a lousy general who lost battles far more than he won them. Abe Lincoln attempted to preserve the institution of slavery initially and completely mismanaged the Civil War effort.

  20. @ GrahamBC
    “media deregulation seriously moved forward the nations social changes eg acceptance of homosexuality and marginalisation of the nuclear family”

    Not quite sure what you’re going on about there. What media deregulation? Just because people are more accepting of gay people (me among them), it doesn’t mean we are part of a movement to destroy the nuclear family. It’s not exactly gay people’s fault if straight people choose to divorce more, is it? I don’t see any marginalisation of the nuclear family at all.

    What did happen during the 1990s is that gay people were given visibility on TV rather than being totally marginalised and excluded. So viewers were able to judge for themselves whether we were the ogres we were painted as or not. They eventually decided that we were human beings just like the rest and that was what allowed legislation to be passed to grant us equal human rights.

    Margaret Thatcher was an active opponent of that movement, with vindictive legislation like Section 28, stirring up anti-gay animosity, so how you can argue that she paved the way for the liberal left is utterly beyond me. At the height of the Thatcher era, in 1983, 62% thought homosexuality was wrong, but by 2009 this had fallen to 32% (British Social Attitudes Survey).

    However, I do worry about the future. According to the May 2009 Gallup Coexist Index, out of 1,001 Muslims polled, not one believed that homosexuality was “morally acceptable”. (58% of the overall population said they thought it was acceptable). Having been brought up in a multicultural area of London, I am naturally inclined to be open minded about these things, but with the Muslim population growing rapidly, I think my perspective on this might be changing.

  21. socal

    why do you have george washington as one of the three greatest pres. why no mention of jefferson

  22. @Richard in Norway
    Deep in my heart I know you are right, plus I am a S. Royal fan, but the important thing is to defeat Sarkozy,and DSK seems to be more capable of attracting centrist votes. On the other hand, the FMI argument that you evoke is a strong one, and it might incite voters of the far left to vote blank in the 2nd round. Anyway DSK’ s candidacy is not certain yet, and maybe this indecision will eventually hurt him.
    Godt Nytt Ar!

  23. @ Robert C

    My point rather clumsily put was that the changes brought about by the media deregulation (specifically TV; Channel 4) hastened the change in societal attitudes. This was a consequence of Thatcherite policy, perhaps unintended, perhaps not.

  24. @SocialLiberal

    “Ot, what’s the London marathon like? My dad used to be a marathon runner (or he ran two marathons) though he gave it up a long time ago as he got too old. I’m still in awe though considering how poor my running skills are.”

    Bloody hard work, is the direct and honest answer! I’m now blissfully retired, still running but confining myself to the odd half-marathon every now and again. I did three Londons (first in 1997 during the GE campaign of that year!) and seven marathons in all. The highlight involved my first visit to the US when my wife and I ran the 2005 New York Marathon. I’m still cursing that last hill bound two miles in Central Park to this day, but I still get shivers down my spine recalling that cold crisp morning when we started the race at Staten Island and I gazed across a mist shrouded Verazano Suspension Bridge. The starting gun went off and away we went to the sound of Springsteen’s “Born to Run”. It made all the pain I endured later on worthwhile, as did the millions of New Yorkers who thronged every inch of the course. A wonderful. life enhancing experience that I”ll never forget.
    New York actually became my second favourite city on the planet after that visit, and I’ve returned since with my family. I still treasure the look on my youngest son’s face when he saw the lights in Times Square for the first time. Sydney is still ranked first in my list of favourite cities visited but, then again, Birmingham takes a lot of beating on a Saturday night after my beloved Villa have won!!

    Happy New Year to yourself, your family and everyone over the pond!

  25. @Neil A

    “I inherited a copy of his history of the Second World War, but having read the quite brilliant books by Basil Liddell-Hart on both world wars I have never really felt the need to read Churchill.”

    Churchill’s six volume history of the period from the end of the First World War to the end of the second, entitled “Second World War” is generally regarded as one of the finest historical accounts of that period ever written. If I was you Neil, I’d dust down that treasured old heirloom of yours and, if nothing else, read the first volume, “The Gathering Storm”. It’s a masterpiece.

    That said, the Liddell-Hart book you refer to sounds an interesting one and I must seek it out.

  26. I think the wartime Churchill is getting a hard time here. In a situation without the 20:20 hindsight that we now have he was certainly the least bad of the major leaders (US excluded as they weren’t there from the beginning).

    He made, or allowed, a number of inspired decisions: not least funding, and then not overusing ULTRA (MAGIC was only saved by the unwillingness of the Japanese to accept their codes were broken, even in the face of overwhelming evidence). He didn’t make mistakes as terrible as those on either side of the Eastern front…

  27. Looks like the AV referendum will be won by yes people now that Nick Clegg has finally told us he approves of it. ;-)

  28. Amber, Oldnat, Roger Mexico, Socal (sorry for anyone I missed)
    Thank you so much for the lovely comments. I missed you all very much too.
    From Virgilio to Alec there really are some incredible talents here and Anthony’s encyclopaedic knowledge of everything political is quite remarkable.

  29. @ Richard in Norway

    “why do you have george washington as one of the three greatest pres. why no mention of jefferson”

    I think Jefferson was one of the greatest presidents. Hence my difficulty with ranking a top or greatest. Jefferson has created another legacy. During his lifetime, he kept a copy of the Koran. It’s stored at the National Archives. When the first Muslim, Keith Ellison (D-MN), was elected to Congress in 2006, this ahole Republican began asking whether this newly elected member of Congress would swear in on a bible (Jesus Christ, do people have anything better to do with their time?) and made a big a stink about it. Ellison swore in on Jefferson’s Koran. And he’s started a tradition for Muslim members of Congress. When Andre Carson (D-IN) was sworn in after being elected in a 2008 special election, he also used Jefferson’s Koran.

  30. @ Graham BC

    I think the changes in societal views and attitudes as well as the movement towards sexual orientation equality in the UK came in spite of, not because of Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher pursued anti-gay policies as Prime Minister and appealed to the basic bigotries of people. It was Labour, particularly New Labour, that led the opposing tide. That’s one of the reasons why Stephen Twigg’s victory in 1997 was so iconic. He was the first openly gay person elected (along with Ben Bradshaw) as an MP.

    FYI, some of the greatest Brits were LGBT….Alan Turing, John Maynard Keynes, Brian Epstein come to mind.

  31. Sue – “Anthony’s encyclopaedic knowledge of everything political is quite remarkable.”

    Thank you, but secretly I am just very good at Googling ;)

  32. Socallib – Stephen Twigg and Ben Bradshaw were the first gay MPs who were first elected when already out.

    I think Chris Smith was the first openly gay MP to be returned at at general election in 1987 (i.e. to have publically announced they were gay after being elected, and then to have to retained their seat at the next election. Smith was elected in 1983, and publically announced his sexuality in 1984.

    I think Maureen Colquhoun was the first MP to publically come out as gay, confirming it to reporters in 1977. She lost her seat in the 1979 election though.

    (Not of course, that there weren’t plenty of gay MPs who everyone in Westminster knew was gay before that – Tom Driberg for example – but I don’t think there were any who were “out” in the modern sense.)

  33. @ SOCIAL LIBERAL.

    John Freeman was the young Labour MP for Watford.
    Red haired, in uniform, very handsome.

    He was chosen to give the thanks for the King’s 1945 Speech which had outlined the Labour Programme in 1945 after the Election.

    The speech moved the House. Many were in tears. It gave people hope that Britain could be better than it hd under the Coalition Government before the War.

    Attlee took Mr Freeman to see Winston after the debate.

    Tragically for Labour John Freeman resigned the Government in 1951 with Bevan and Wilson over the NHS charges.

    A lost leader

    He then went into TV documentaries.

    Hansard is now on line and the speech still moves me today as it reminds me of my Grandparents’ generation who defeated Hitler, built the Welfare State, created NATO, the OEEC, the UN, drove primary poverty out of this country, and created universal education up to 21, while re building the economy and standing up to Stalin

    Mr Freeman was one of those men, like Ernest Bevin,, Stafford Cripps, Herbert Morrison and Major Attlee.
    (Bevan is more chequered).

    Peter Hennessy’s NEVER AGAIN history concludes that no other administration has ever come close..And now we have Ed Miiliband.

  34. @Anthony Wells

    “I think Chris Smith was the first openly gay MP to be returned at at general election in 1987 (i.e. to have publically announced they were gay after being elected, and then to have to retained their seat at the next election. Smith was elected in 1983, and publically announced his sexuality in 1984.”

    We mustn’t turn this into some sort of Westminster gossip column, but wasn’t the Tory MP, now Times journalist, Matthew Parris, one of the first openly gay parliamentarians?

    The reference you make to Tom Driberg and the number of other well known, but not outed, gay MPs from that era, is a good one. In Driberg’s day being openly gay, even in the Labour Party, was a political death sentence and there must have been many like him who concealed their true sexuality from the public eye. Of course, rumours and innuendo dogged Ted Heath for much of his political life too. Was it possible, I wonder, that we had our first gay Prime Minister in 1970 without knowing about it? We’ll probably never know.

  35. Nick –

    Sort of. Matthew Parris came out after stepping down as an MP… but says he actually mentioned it once in a speech in the House of Commons, but no one noticed! ;)

    Apparently he told the then Chief Whip he was gay after being elected, who said to him “Matthew, I’m going to tell you a secret. I don’t believe in God. But I go to church regularly and no one is any the wiser” – in other words, keep it under your hat old chap.

    I think the first out Tory MP would have been Michael Brown, but again, he was not re-elected after being outed. I think Alan Duncan was the first openly gay Tory MP to win at a general election.

  36. Just a couple of comments on Churchill,the first frivolous
    the second not.We visited Chartwell recently and his wife
    has the most beautiful bedroom.In fact the house and
    gardens are beautiful and full of detail and memorabilia.I
    particularly liked the half smoked cigar in his study.
    However, as Home Secretary he gave the order for the
    suffragettes to be force fed.

  37. @ Nick Hadley

    “Bloody hard work, is the direct and honest answer! I’m now blissfully retired, still running but confining myself to the odd half-marathon every now and again. I did three Londons (first in 1997 during the GE campaign of that year!) and seven marathons in all. The highlight involved my first visit to the US when my wife and I ran the 2005 New York Marathon. I’m still cursing that last hill bound two miles in Central Park to this day, but I still get shivers down my spine recalling that cold crisp morning when we started the race at Staten Island and I gazed across a mist shrouded Verazano Suspension Bridge. The starting gun went off and away we went to the sound of Springsteen’s “Born to Run”. It made all the pain I endured later on worthwhile, as did the millions of New Yorkers who thronged every inch of the course. A wonderful. life enhancing experience that I”ll never forget.
    New York actually became my second favourite city on the planet after that visit, and I’ve returned since with my family. I still treasure the look on my youngest son’s face when he saw the lights in Times Square for the first time. Sydney is still ranked first in my list of favourite cities visited but, then again, Birmingham takes a lot of beating on a Saturday night after my beloved Villa have won!!”

    7 is impressive. I think my dad managed two. If I remember correctly, he did the LA marathon in 1985 and the Big Sur, CA marathon in 1987. Big Sur nearly killed him and was one of the toughest marathons to run because the route follows a mountain range.

    I love NYC. It’s a great place. I went up there for Thanksgiving this year (as well as the 4th of July). I shopped till I dropped, ate way too much, and celebrated a great election victory by singing aloud in a restaurant (this is what alcohol can do…..fortunately, no one really heard me).

    I would imagine that the view of the Verazano Narrows Bridge was beautiful. It was one of Robert Moses’s more famous creations. FYI, Hollywood is NOT Republican territory, Staten Island is though. :)

    “Happy New Year to yourself, your family and everyone over the pond!”

    The same to you Nick! Thank you for the warm wishes.

  38. @ Neil A

    “I inherited a copy of his history of the Second World War, but having read the quite brilliant books by Basil Liddell-Hart on both world wars I have never really felt the need to read Churchill.

    If you haven’t read them, SoCalLiberal, I’d thoroughly recommend them. Liddell-Hart was a British officer who fought in WW1, wrote an excellent history of it whilst teaching at Sandhurst (he was an expert on armoured warfare, enthusiastically studied by visiting German officer-cadets). He then wrote a history of WW2 after that war ended, and the two books together are a real lynchpin of the record of the first half of the 20th century (in my opinion).”

    I have not read them but if I have the time, I will look for them and read them.

  39. @ Anthony Wells

    “Socallib – Stephen Twigg and Ben Bradshaw were the first gay MPs who were first elected when already out.

    I think Chris Smith was the first openly gay MP to be returned at at general election in 1987 (i.e. to have publically announced they were gay after being elected, and then to have to retained their seat at the next election. Smith was elected in 1983, and publically announced his sexuality in 1984.

    I think Maureen Colquhoun was the first MP to publically come out as gay, confirming it to reporters in 1977. She lost her seat in the 1979 election though.

    (Not of course, that there weren’t plenty of gay MPs who everyone in Westminster knew was gay before that – Tom Driberg for example – but I don’t think there were any who were “out” in the modern sense.)”

    That’s right. I think Keynes was gay but he wasn’t out in the modern sense because he eventually married a woman (even though apparently, they didn’t consumate the marriage and he continued to sleep with men). In that way, I think he might have inspired Nathan Lane’s character of Bobby Fine in the Season Finale of Sex and the City in Season Five (where an obviously gay piano bar owner marries a woman).

    I think Bradshaw and Twigg were significant in that they were not already in their seats when elected. What was incredible is that they both took long held safe Tory seats, Enfield Southgate obviously being more safely conservative than Exeter (which as at the top of Labour target lists unlike Enfield Southgate in 1997). Like Chris Smith, there were three U.S. Congressmembers who were outed and stayed in Congress afterwards, Gerry Studds (D-MA), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ). But Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) was the first elected who was out at the time of her election.

    I find it incredible that there are now more openly gay Tory MPs than openly gay Labour MPs. I told my friend about this at lunch one day. I then asked him, what might happen the day that there are more openly gay Republicans than openly gay Democrats in Congress. He turned to me and said “That’s the day Jesus returns to the earth.” A revealing comment since my friend is Muslim.

  40. @ Nick Hadley

    “The reference you make to Tom Driberg and the number of other well known, but not outed, gay MPs from that era, is a good one. In Driberg’s day being openly gay, even in the Labour Party, was a political death sentence and there must have been many like him who concealed their true sexuality from the public eye. Of course, rumours and innuendo dogged Ted Heath for much of his political life too. Was it possible, I wonder, that we had our first gay Prime Minister in 1970 without knowing about it? We’ll probably never know.”

    I think it’s still true for many that coming out can be considered the end to one’s political career. And you could have had a gay PM without realizing. No one thought David Laws was gay until the Daily Telegraph outed him. He could have become the first Liberal Prime Minister since David Lloyd George or Henry Asquith.

  41. @ Chris Lane

    “John Freeman was the young Labour MP for Watford.
    Red haired, in uniform, very handsome.

    He was chosen to give the thanks for the King’s 1945 Speech which had outlined the Labour Programme in 1945 after the Election.

    The speech moved the House. Many were in tears. It gave people hope that Britain could be better than it hd under the Coalition Government before the War.

    Attlee took Mr Freeman to see Winston after the debate.

    Tragically for Labour John Freeman resigned the Government in 1951 with Bevan and Wilson over the NHS charges.”

    Thanks for that. He sounds like a fascinating guy and very effective at promoting the views of Labour after the war. I just looked him up on Wikipedia and he’s still around.

  42. @ Anne in Wales

    “Just a couple of comments on Churchill,the first frivolous
    the second not.We visited Chartwell recently and his wife
    has the most beautiful bedroom.In fact the house and
    gardens are beautiful and full of detail and memorabilia.I
    particularly liked the half smoked cigar in his study.
    However, as Home Secretary he gave the order for the
    suffragettes to be force fed.”

    First part good, second part not so good. :) Not frivolous though.

  43. Anne (in Wales)

    “However, as Home Secretary he gave the order for the
    suffragettes to be force fed.”

    Consequently, he would have been a perfect Home Secretary for New Labour. Protecting the status quo at any cost to civil liberty would have been a breeze for him.

    From a Scottish point of view, Churchill’s policy of transferring labour from Scotland (and other areas) to the Midlands and concentrating industry there would have been disastrous. Fortunately, Tom Johnston was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1941-45 and was powerful enough to overrule Churchill as far as industry in Scotland was concerned.

  44. @ Old Nat

    “From a Scottish point of view, Churchill’s policy of transferring labour from Scotland (and other areas) to the Midlands and concentrating industry there would have been disastrous. Fortunately, Tom Johnston was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1941-45 and was powerful enough to overrule Churchill as far as industry in Scotland was concerned.”

    And people say that that cabinet position isn’t important and should be abolished! :)-

  45. Virgilio- if you’re still about, I was thinking of a post you wrote a while ago about most European countries having right of centre governments being cast aside for left of centre parties – or have I got it the wrong way round?
    Anyway, if you still have a copy somewhere I’d lo e to read it again.

  46. MY MOTHER-LAW MARTHA CAIRNS WAS A FOUNDER MEMBER OF THE LABOUR PARTY IN INVERCLYDE SCOTLAND AND WOULD BE TURNING IN HER GRAVE TODAY? SEEING HOW HER LIFE MISSION FOR THIS PARTY HAS DID A COMPLETE U-TURN OF THERE POLICYS ESPECIALY FOR THE MORALS AND CHRISTIAN FAITH OF ONCE GREAT NATION? NOT FORGETTING ALL OUR BRAVE SONS AND DAUGHTERS DIED IN TWO WORLD WARS TO SAVE IT FROM THE EVILS OF EUROPES DICTAITORS ? ONLY TODAY TO BE BETRAYED BY THE VERY SAME GOVERMENT OVER THE SIGNING OF THE EU TREATY? PAUL NUTTAL WHO MY WIFE AND I MET IN KIRKCALDY AT A UKIP HUSTINGS IS A VERY PATRIOTIC AND CHRISTIAN YOUNG MAN , WILL DO OUR NATION PROUD IF ELECTED , GOD BLESS HIM GOD SPEED UKIP VICTORY

    http://WWW.PETERCAMPBELL.FAITHWEB.COM
    UKIP .SCOTLAND
    UK COLUMN
    M.A.D. MOTHERS AGAINST DRUGS FOUNDER MEMBER EASTERHOUSE GLASGOW SCOTLAND
    MOBILE 07906877404

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