I Aten’t Dead

Just as a brief explanation of why there’ve been few posts here for the last few days — I’ve been very unwell. The stress of the descent of Gamergater/Rabid Puppy filth on here a couple of weeks ago (which, again, pre-moderation stopped from getting through, but *I* saw it all), combined with the stress of the imminent election and my own general poor health, has meant I’ve been dealing with things like, for example, getting indigestion so bad I woke up at 3AM today choking on my own bile, which in turn also triggered an asthma attack that lasted an hour. On top of that, I’ve also been dogsitting my niece’s extremely energetic Jack Russell, who requires a great deal of attention.

I do, however, have next week off work. I’ll be spending a few hours a day trying to help get John Leech re-elected, and obviously all day polling day, but the rest of the time will be for a combination of rest and writing. I need to do more of both.

New Batposts on Patreon and Mindless Ones

After the month from hell dealing with the fallout from the Puppies, and the consequent backlog of posts, I’m back to a normal posting schedule at last, and so here’s the first Batpost for a month. Over on Patreon, for those who are nice, generous, kind, good people who like giving me money, there’s a post on The Ring Of Wax/Give ‘Em The Ax, looking at what it has to say about US military interventionism, while on Mindless Ones, for the cheapskates, a look at what is widely regarded as the worst story the series ever did, True Or False-Face/Holy Rat-Race

Political Journalists Really Don’t Know What They’re Talking About

When it comes to the Lib Dems, political journalists are utterly clueless, and this means that a lot of people have severe misunderstandings about the likely result of the election if there’s a hung parliament.

I *keep* seeing two subjects coming up, over and again, in these discussions. These are “a Tory/Lib Dem/UKIP/DUP block” and “Nick Clegg would prefer a deal with the Tories than with Labour”.

The first is impossible. The second doesn’t matter. And both for the same reason.

What political journalists on all sides simply don’t get about the Lib Dems is that no matter how much the leadership push the “centrism” message, the party is fundamentally different from Labour, UKIP, or the Tories, the right-authoritarian parties journalists are used to talking about. In those parties, the leader makes the decisions and that’s the end of the matter. The leader can be deposed, but otherwise what he says goes.

In this respect, the Lib Dems are hugely different. Party policy is decided by the party, democratically, and if there’s a deal with another party *that* has to be decided democratically, too.

If there’s a situation after the election where the Lib Dems may be able to make a deal with one or more other parties, there’s a process in place, it’s not just the leader’s whim. That process is as follows:

The party will talk with the largest other party first, but *will* talk with any other party that can reasonably make an offer.
There is a five-person negotiating team who will go into any discussions and try to hammer out an agreement.
That agreement will be put to the party’s MPs, who would have to agree with it.
It will then be put to the Federal Executive, the party’s elected ruling body, who would also have to agree with it.
And then it will be put to a special party conference, who would have to support it by a two-thirds majority. (And it was said at Spring Conference this year that this would apply even to a supply and confidence agreement, not just to coalitions).

Yes, Nick Clegg’s view (if he’s still the leader, which would depend on him being re-elected in Sheffield Hallam, the election going well enough that he doesn’t feel obliged to stand down, and other such matters that are for the electorate to decide) will certainly be listened to by the party — but so would the views of, for example, Andrew George, the long-time MP for St Ives, who’s ruled out a coalition with the Tories. So would the views of Tim Farron, the party’s former president who’s widely tipped as the next leader, who says he’d prefer supply and confidence to a coalition. And so would the views of party members throughout the country.

It may well be the case that Nick Clegg might have a preference for working with the Tories over working with Labour. It may also be that he’d actually prefer to work with Labour — he’s not said one way or the other. That preference, whether it exists or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what the other parties offer, and how much the Lib Dem party members trust them to deliver it. Last time, the coalition agreement contained a large number of things that were very important to Lib Dem members, but which the Tories later reneged on.

My feeling of the mood of the party, which may well be wrong, is that the membership as a whole don’t want another coalition — with either party — unless there’s an absolutely *spectacular* offer, and that between the Tories’ current position and their behaviour this Parliament, it’s very unlikely they’ll make one, or that we’d believe them if they did.

I think the party as a whole are most likely to go for supply and confidence rather than a coalition, and more likely to support a Labour minority government than a Conservative one, all else being equal.

One thing that will *never* happen, though, is an agreement involving the DUP or UKIP. The Lib Dems are a broad church, but what unites the entire party is liberalism on social issues — the rule of law, free movement, internationalism, human rights. These are anathema to extreme authoritarian parties like UKIP or the DUP, in a way they aren’t to at least the moderate end of the Tories or Labour, and there is simply no point at which those parties and the Lib Dems overlap in views (that’s even ignoring the fact that neither of those parties will get enough members to make a difference in forming a stable coalition).

An agreement involving the SNP is more likely, though still difficult. The SNP are nationalists, which causes natural suspicion in the Lib Dems, and there’s a lot of bad feeling between the two parties in Scotland in the wake of the referendum which might make a deal impossible on a pure personality level on both sides. Unlike UKIP or the DUP, though, there is a reasonable amount of policy overlap, including on several Lib Dem priorities, so it’s not completely impossible. I’d put the chances fairly low, though.

So if you read anything talking about a deal with UKIP or the DUP, you know the journalist is either clueless (and therefore not to be trusted on anything else in the article either…) or deliberately misrepresenting the facts. And if you read anything about Nick Clegg’s opinions, just think “that’s interesting. I wonder what the opinions of the other 45,454 Lib Dem members are?”

Linkblogging for 24/04/15

Sorry for the lack of posts the last couple of days; my insomnia has been particularly bad, and I had to do two hustings this week, on Wednesday and yesterday, as part of the election campaign. I don’t like public speaking, it’s not my political strength, and it used all my brain power for the week.
I hope to get an early night tonight and then write up a backlog of posts this weekend, so those of you who are missing my Cal Dreaming, Cerebus, or Batposts, or wondering what happened to the Heinlein and Pratchett reading guides (Sid & Doris Bonkers), will be pleased. I also want, probably tomorrow, to post something about how the Lib Dems deal with coalition-forming, because everything I’ve seen from supposed professional journalists has been at best a misunderstanding and at worst outright lying. Between life stuff and the Rabid Puppy fiasco, I’m about a month behind where I wanted to be with blog posts — I still need to review The King In Yellow, The Locksley Exploit, and Liberating Earth on here as well.
But right now, you get links, as I’m too sick with exhaustion to write:


An Amnesty petition to stop the drownings in the Mediterranean
.

Jonn Elledge on what he wants politicians to say
. Warning to some: this is on a New Statesman-affiliated site, but it’s not actually on the New Transphobe itself for those boycotting.
An oral history of the making of Airplane!
On autism, the Big Bang Theory, context, labels, and responsibility
Andrew Rilstone has released a short ebook about Winnie The Pooh for his Patreon subscribers. He’s also reviewed the Superman vs Batman trailer.
I’m sure you’ve already seen a link to Phil Sandifer’s 13000 word piece on the Rabid Puppies, but if not, here it is.
And speaking of the Rabid Puppies, here’s Charles Stross on hippo arse leeches

Flash Fiction: The Fair Folk

[Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge is to take an opening sentence from his previous challenge and write a story, under 2000 words, based on it. I chose one submitted by Catkins. Like all these flash fictions, I’m writing this without knowing where it’s going, and I’m trying to complete it in half an hour…]

Let’s see, yes, I think this is where it starts.
It starts, as these things so often do, with a promise. A promise I made to a girl, a long time ago.
No, I don’t remember her name. As I say, it was a *very* long time ago.
But she was pretty, as all the girls were back then, or at least as they were in my memory, and she was willing, and she was there.
Blonde, I think. “Golden tresses”. Well, not golden as such, more straw coloured, probably. But the memory cheats.
So there was a promise, and a pleasant spring day in the field, and a few months later a bump.
I’m sure you know where the story goes from there. I take her down to the river, for to wash her pretty hair, and in that lonely river did I drown that maiden fair.
With a too-ra-lally-ay on a bright and shiny day. You know how it goes.
But promises, you see… promises had meanings to her people.
No, I didn’t know she was an elf. She wasn’t even full-blood, just a bit elvish on her grandmother’s side. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have touched her. I wasn’t that stupid, not even then.
I found out that night, in my dreams.
She came to me, that night, and said “My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”. I’d kind of expected a dream like that, to tell you the truth. I’m not a… sorry, let me rephrase… I didn’t normally feel very guilty about anything much, but I’d never killed anyone before and… well, you expect *something*, don’t you? I mean, it’s murder we were talking about.
They found the body the next day. I hadn’t gone to any great pains to hide it, after all. There was no real need — there was a gypsy camp not two hundred yards from where I killed her, and they[‘d hanged one of the gypsies for it practically before the body was cold.
I went to the funeral, of course. All the village did. What a tragedy, et cetera.
And again, that night, I had the dream. “My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”.
My hair started growing lighter the next day. Not going white with shock, though. Just… a little lighter. But then it *was* the summer, and I was spending a lot of time out in the sun, because there are always more willing girls and more promises. Your hair does get lighter in the sun.
It was when my ears began to grow that I started to worry.
Only slightly, mark you. But there was a noticeable point to them. Much like the one on the girl’s ears, actually.
A few days later… well, my trips to the fields suddenly stopped. There would have been questions. Serious questions.
I started asking some questions myself, in those dreams. But all she would answer was “My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”. Nothing else would she say.
Within a week, I was hiding indoors all the time. I looked like her. I sounded like her. I spoke to no-one and saw no-one, except for her, in the dreams. I begged and pleaded for an explanation, and got none.
None, that is, until that night.
That night I dreamed that I was walking down to her grave. I knelt on it, and I said “I made of you a body, so a body you may have”. I dreamed that I lay down, and that I sank into the ground, as I felt something rising.
And yes, I think that’s an end, of sorts.
She comes to visit the grave, you know. Every day. Elves, even part-elves, have very long lives, and she’s been doing it for so long that I’ve lost count completely. Could be a hundred years, could be a thousand. What does it matter?
I think… I hope… that when she finally does die, I’ll be allowed to pass away as well. But how long that will be… well, who can tell, with elves?
And every day she calls me by the name I told her, the name by which I made the promise, the name as false as I was.
“My darling Johnny, you promised that together we would be”.