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Sun, Jun. 18th, 2017, 10:09 am
Eat The Book

Well Boy! Was I wrong. At least I have company.

The thing is that just a week or two before I was more-or-less right. The local's weren't just a dodgy poll that undersampled young people, they were an actual election. It wasn't that the available information changed. The world changed.

That Corbyn was a good campaigner and the country would warm to him when they finally saw him properly, I'd priced in. Probably underpriced, but priced in nevertheless. Jeremy Corbyn should do the One Show and talk about fluffy stuff has been a mantra of mine for over a year.

That people would just refuse to vote for Corbyn because he's a seventy-year-old beared sandal-wearing wet, I was just plain dead wrong about.

That Theresa May was robotic and awful, I'd priced in too. Again. maybe underpriced, but I do not think by much.

That the Tories would make such a hash of their campaign obviously made the big difference. The dementia tax and subsequent u-turn is often sited as the turning point -I guess because that's when the idea of May as uber-competent ice-maiden could no longer stand. I actually think it was more to do with fox-hunting. Fox-hunting ranked higher on social media shares than any other policy announcement.

There is little doubt that the Tories thought the election was in the bag and they could use this once-in-a-lifetime chance to do all the unpopular things they've always wanted to do. Bring back fox-hunting, relax ivory-trading rules, try and introduce a private insurance driven approach to long-term care. Thing is, the first two of these, together with her citizens of nowhere speech, is Theresa May started a culture war on the losing side.

This was her big mistake. You can do nasty Tory things and the country won't care that much until there's a better looking Labour opposition, but you can't line yourselves up against them as people and expect them to hold their noses and vote for you. People don't vote for policies they vote for personalities, and May effectively told them she was a different person to them.

She won, just, but culture wars are thought in the culture not the ballot box, and there is no doubt that in the culture it is moving against her.

Mon, May. 29th, 2017, 03:44 pm
Books #159 - #165

#159 Exploration Fawcett - Percy Fawcett
Curious memoir of a 1920's explorer which had to be finished by his son after he disappeared in the Amazon. Lily picked this up for me at a free book exchange and it sat around the house for months until I got around to reading it, coincidentally just as a film about the same man (The Lost City of Z) came out, although I did not make the connection until I'd nearly finished the book.

It's an odd thing to be sure. It starts out fairly straight, with Percy Fawcett contracted to do some survey work for Bolivia. It can be a bit dry in places, long descriptions of tedious journeys, but the actual rainforest stuff is fascinating and often exciting. One thing I did want was another point of view, Fawcett struggles to find a companion he thinks is any good and I wondered how easy a man to get along with he was. As the book goes on he becomes more and more obsessed with the idea of an advanced lost, white (naturally) tribe somewhere in the darkest amazon. Finally he starts organising his own expeditions to find them, and it is from one of these, accompanied by his (other) son, that he never returns.

He was a member of the Theosophical Society (and apparently gave Conan Doyle the idea for the Lost World) and prone to all sorts of weird beliefs. But weirder still are the people who (to this day) believe he never intended to return from his final expedition, but was in fact planning to meet with a native queen and establish a commune where his son would be worshipped as a god. A remarkably similar tale to the plot of H Rider Haggard's She.

#160 Days Without End - Sebastian Barry
One of Lily's books. A really rather good tale of two poor American ne'er-do-wells who join the cavalry, kill indians, fight in the civil war, adopt a half-indian child, and eventually live quite happily on a farm. It is remarkable for focusing solely on the fact that they are in love, while accepting almost without note the fact that they are gay.

#161 - #163 A Wizard Of Earthsea, Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore - Ursula Le Guin
I've been meaning to read Wizard of Earthsea for years. When I finally did it was so good I had to read the next two before I was satisfied.

#164 Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton
A book that has been recommended to me a lot over the years by different people. It's set in the days before WWII, and is thick with the atmosphere of smokey pubs and cold boarding rooms. Took me a few chapters to get into it, but when I did I was hooked.

#165 The Fifth Head of Cerberus - Gene Wolfe
A Sci-fi novel I picked up on spec. Bit obtuse maybe, but definitely well written.

Mon, May. 29th, 2017, 10:40 am
Gigs #61 -

#61 James McMurtry @ The Lexington 8/2/2017

We had hoped to see McMurty in Austin on our honeymoon, so this chance to see him in London - the night before we fly away for a 1st anniversary break - seems like the stars aligning.

Support was by Alice Drinks The Cool Aid, who are good and all, but also fronted by the owner of Lagunitas Brewing Company and provide free beer for the whole audience. Free Beer!

#62 The Oysters3 @ The Ivy House, Nunhead 31/3/2017

Gig number #62 was to have been Jim Moray, and then VNV Nation, but we were struck down by sickness and did not feel up to either, but the Oysters3 (a kind of cut-price Oysterband) arrives just as we are feeling fully recovered and the weather has turned warm and sunny. They tell stories about the long history of the Oysterband and remind everyone just how good their back catalogue is.

Support was by Julian Lebender, an earnest young man with an acoustic guitar who was rather good, and Hadrian's Union, a sort of everso slightly tongue-in-cheek folk band.

#63 Grandaddy @ The Roundhouse 3/4/2017

Not a band I am particularly mad about, but I go along to accompany a friend. They make an thoroughly enjoyable racket, at its best when it is at its loudest and most chaotic, but, not knowing any of the songs, I quit before the encore in order to beat the rush to the tube.

Support was by Amber Arcades who we only caught the end of, but were a similar mix of wailing guitars and synthesizers.

#64 Einstürzende Neubauten @ Kentish Town Forum 4/5/2017

Neubauten at their loveliest, mostly picking through their recent back catalogue (from Tabula Rasa onward) for their most starkly beautiful tracks.

Thu, May. 4th, 2017, 05:56 pm
Big thinks on the election

Probably a good time to look back at these thoughts on Theresa May.

As to my inexpert analysis, I'll award myself a low passing mark. C perhaps.

Things I got wrong:
- I thought May's rise by acclamation was an assertion of the centre ground over the far-right, in hindsight it looks more like she just jumped on the bandwagon.
- Trouble did not come from the right because May now is the right.
- Consequently trouble did come from the left (forcing a commons vote on article 50), but not from within the party though.
- I thought business interests would push much harder for a soft Brexit.
- I thought there'd be trouble between Johnson, Fox, and Davies. I guess there has not because A: May runs a very tight ship, and B: Johnson and Fox have been successfully sidelined.
- I thought Priti Patel had been put into Int. Dev. to destroy it, but apparently not.
- I thought the economy would wobble. I still think it will but it hasn't yet.
- I thought May's poll lead would die back down to 'mid-to-high-single-digit(s)' but it did not (obviously it has now - just).
- I thought the summer would be politically peaceful.

Things I got right:
- May obviously agreed with me that Article 50 needed to be triggered by spring.
- There has been little noise from disappointed Cameron/Osbourne followers.
- Hammond did have a tricky time, being unable to pass a budget.
- Universal Credit appears to have been quietly left to die.
- There was no early election until 2017.

In particular my reading of Theresa May was way off the mark. I thought she'd be a good commons performer but she's miserable. I thought she was quietly competent but, particularly with hastily rejecting freedom of movement and the ECJ, she's been rash and dangerously foolhardy. Her plan for grammar schools seems to be no more than conservative (small c) instinct with no intellectual weight behind it at all, and requires an electoral mandate to be passed. The attempt to raise in Class 4 NICs suggests she never even read her own manifesto.

I had always thought her famous 'nasty party' speech was her telling the conservative party it had to control its worst instincts and find some compassion or the country would never let it govern again. In hindsight she was merely espousing message discipline; just say what the rubes want to hear until you get their vote.

Message discipline is the one area where she's excelled. Wednesday after Wednesday I've been impressed at her ability to stick to a line no matter how patently bollocks it is. Angus Roberston regularly forces her into insulting the intelligence of the house, but even Corbyn's haphazard approach to follow up questions frequently makes her look robotic and witless. Yet I suspect in the country, where nobody's paying all that much attention, her easily discredited soundbites work very well.

Indeed, I think her overwhelming popularity (at least, as it was at the beginning of the month) was down to being a blank slate. Normally the country would have had three months of Tory selection campaign to get to know the eventual winner, but this time there was nothing. Also the alternatives were appalling. I still look back and remind myself that I'm actually glad she won rather than any of the others.

Despite saying it might happen in 2017 the election took me by surprise. In hindsight there are a three very good reasons for her to call it now (her own stated reasons are actually kind of valid, a large majority would give her the necessary room to compromise in negotiations, but I've long since lost all trust she sees it that way):
1. Because she can't even pass a budget.
2. Because 2020 risked falling just a year after crashing out of the EU, just when the economic damage would be hitting hard and when any resulting chaos was fresh in the memory.
3. Because it was beginning to look unlikely that Corbyn would stay on to 2020 and it would be a shame to waste him.

So, predictions (apart form an increased Conservative majority, obviously).

I started drafting this post before the campaign had really got underway (and before the locals). I said that the polls would tighten with Labour and that the Lib Dems would do a bit better than 2015 but nowhere near as good as 2010.

Obviously the polls have tightened, but I don't think that was any stroke of genius on my part. What I wrote in the draft was:

Corbyn is a good campaigner and will come across well once people start to pay attention. Similarly May is a soulless soundbite-droid and will come across badly once people start to pay attention. Plus I suspect a lot of previous Labour support will be more sticky when push comes to shove.

What I didn't forsee was the Tories mismanaging their campaign so badly. They obviously had not properly thought out the Dementia Tax and a vow to bring back fox hunting just reminds people that they are the Nasty Party ((c) Mrs T. May).

As for the Lib Dems it looks now that even my cautious prediction was way off the mark. In the draft I said this:

My feeling is they have a strong Brexit line to be in opposition with, but a poor one to take to an election.

I still think that, but the effect is even worse than I though (plus Timmy Farron is useless). I reckon they're actually going to lose seats.

So, proper falsifiable predictions:

- Lib Dems will lose seats.
- Labour will under-perform it's polls.
- Labour will increase its vote share where it's are already safe (London, basically).
- Conservatives will take between 40 and 60 seats off Labour.
- Corbyn will stand down (this is the one I am least certain of).
- Theresa May's personal popularity will take a big hit after the election and continue to fall over the next two years.
- Brexit negotiations will be very difficult (it has become obvious that May does not have the temperament for complex divisive negotiations. I'm still not certain she's grasped the reality of what she's up against).
- We will nearly pull out of negotiations at one point, but sensible heads will prevail.
- Bexit will be a fucking disaster, but you knew that.

Fri, Mar. 10th, 2017, 09:20 am
In other places

I largely direct this blog at, well, me. I'm aware a couple of people read it but really it's more a diary I don't mind being public. Somewhere to put down the random thoughts which would otherwise clog up my brain. Also lists of books and gigs. None of this is very well thought out.

For, again, no particularly good reasons, I also have other blogs:

http://secretgoldenkeys.blogspot.co.uk/ Is brand new and shiny and will be used for wittering on about movies (and possibly also books).
http://lovelinessunfathomable.blogspot.co.uk/ Is the place where I witter on about programming. Possibly also other stuff but so far just programming.
http://captainmcdan.tumblr.com/ Is just pictures of street art I like.

Small prize* for anybody who can spot the common theme.

*so small you won't even know it's there in fact

Mon, Mar. 6th, 2017, 11:05 pm
Some Ramblinbg Thoughts On Logan

I have some small issues with Logan: that the genetically modified super-children are a somewhat tired trope, that the evil-Wolverine never really works very well, that the seemingly endless reams of burly men with guns are nothing but anonymous claw-fodder, that the adamantium bullet is a clunky plot device you can see coming a mile away. I think the last three could have been solved together without too much difficulty and a better movie made as a result. The first would be much harder to deal with and would necessitate the film becoming something else, not a superhero movie.

And there-in is the point, that all my issues are with it are with its superheroyness, the necessarily silly fantasy elements that drive the plot, give Wolverine something to fight for, a lot of someones to fight, and a final someone you don't see how he can beat, and a way to beat him that has hung on the mantelpiece from the first act; but the rest of the film is so good, so not silly, so not comic-booky, that they stand out.

And it is very good, from the opening scene where we not only see Wolverine reluctant to fight and then explode in berserker rage with brutal results, but also see one of his claws fail to extend - a beautiful visual metaphor that tells you exactly where you are with the character; to the penultimate shot of a boy clutching a Wolverine toy having just buried his hero, having learned that hero was all too human, but then learned that he was still a hero after all.

Seriously, just because I am still a bit excited, here are some other very good bits in no particular order:

- At the end of the first act the Mexican lady precisely explains how the third act twist is going to work, but even while you are feeling clever for having spotted the bullet you don't spot that.

- In his short time with her, professor Xavier expertly teaches Laura everything she will need in life. Firstly in the conversation about the lioness, which is not even addressed to her, where he simply says: we know you are a killer and we accept you and value you for it. Secondly in watching Shane with her, saying: this is the moral code you will need. Finally in showing her a family, saying: this is what you are fighting for.

- The high camera angle when evil-Wolverine enters Xavier's bedroom, alerting you that something is up.

- The fundamental power fantasy of superheros writ large in the final child fight.

- Wolverine can't remember if he killed Richard E. Grant's father or not.

- It has the balls to kill off two major franchise characters.

- The mutants are not supermen. Caliban describes himself as a glorified bloodhound. Wolverine is checked by just a handful of well trained burly men. Professor X's very powerful brain fails him and becomes a danger to those he cares about. The children at the end are still just children, maybe lethal, but easy to overpower.

- Genuine throat-slashing, skull-skewering, limb-chopping violence.

- Every scene with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Literally every one.

X-Men has always ladled on the internal tensions: Rogue's inability to touch another person, Cyclops' inability to look anyone in the eye, Professor X's inability to use his powers without violating his own moral code, Mystique's inability to settle on a form that does not disgust the world, Magneto's inability to reconcile his fight for survival with his friendship with Charles. These are Alan Moore's 'superhero but with a bad leg' 2-dimensional characters to be sure, but this is comic books and they work.

In this light it is a surprise that Wolverine, who is on the face of it quite a weak character (kills people but then feels a bit bad about it), has proved so strong. I think the secret is his effective immortality and his lack of memory. It makes Wolverine a character disassociated from the world. He lives entirely in the present with no investment in the future. His tensions is his inability to reconcile his morality with his nihilism. He can protect but cannot belong. Only his anger makes him fight.

You also can't downplay the role of Hugh Jackman who has always been the chief source of humour and charm in all the (generally strong) X-Men casts, only Patrick Stewart's chummy sparring with Ian Mckellen has been more fun to watch.

An old and fading Wolverine makes perfect sense then. He's always been old so the only place for the character to go is to finally die. To truly be in the world he has to leave it. When he know's he's going to die he worries about those he'll leave behind.

X-Men has always worked well because the mutants are an all purpose metaphor for oppression, racial when they can't pass - homophobic when they can, and the argument about how to fight it (Martin Luther King vs Malcolm X in a transposition of the role and the initial).

This one is obviously meant to be viewed through the lens of immigration, the border with Mexico is a prominent background feature, Laura is fleeing toward asylum in Canada, but it's a theme not the plot. There are no excitable fox-news style cutaways vilifying mutants, there is no sense of the general public being afraid of them (quite the opposite in fact). The movie avoids politics and focuses on the characters, which is what makes it feel like something more than a comic-book movie, which is why the comic-book aspects of it (far better than robot samurai or any of Magneto's silly macguffins though they may be) grate a little.

Could Laura had been, say, Logan's daughter from just a fling, not a genetic experiment? Could it be, say, the police pursuing her rather than a shadowy force of cyborg soldiers? Maybe because of something as prosaic as a murder? Or simply because she's only a child and her legal guardians want her back? The situation escalating because of her and Wolverine's tendency to solve problems by slicing throats. Could the final bad guy have been not yet another mutant but, say, a swat team and Wolverine's own weakened state?

The best bits would still be there, Logan and Charles would still swear at each other in a filling-station toilet. Daddy and daughter would still team up to stab people at the end. They would still watch Shane in a casino hotel room. But would it still have been an X-Men movie? I guess not. And maybe if the rest of it became more serious then it would be the silliness of Wolverine and the Professor that grated.

And so it has it's own tension; its inability to be as good as it could without becoming something else entirely. But maybe that's actually what makes it so strong.

Tue, Feb. 28th, 2017, 01:27 pm
Books #152 - #158

#152 Name Of The Rose - Umberto Eco

I'd been put off this years and years ago (about when I saw the film) because somebody said it was very heavy going with loads of untranslated Latin and so-forth. It does have little fragments of Latin, and I have little idea what any of them meant, but that did not bother me because it's such a rich enthralling murder mystery. Loved it.

#153 One Wild Song - Paul Heiney

In which a father who's son committed suicide sails to Cape Horn and back in his memory, or something, with many ocean legs sailed solo. It seems churlish to be mean about this when the author has been so generous as to put out such a personal account, but the quality here is variable and the lack of any real aim to the journey robs the book of any real force. Pretty much only of interest for sailing people.

#154 Hawksmoor - Peter Ackroyd

Deeply weird and deeply creepy tale of 18th century satanism and it's echos in the 1980s. Not a page turner, but impressive.

#155 Brexit, what the hell happens now - Iain Dunt

Far, far scarier than the scariest bits of Hawksmoor.

#156 The Default Line - Faisal Islam

Been dipping into this for a long time now and finally completed it. Excellent account of the financial crash, the reasons behind it, and some of its repercussions.

#157 A Dance With Dragons - George RR Martin

More Game Of Thrones. Now I am waiting for him to write more like everybody else. Not as good as the previous one's maybe but still cracked along painlessly.

#158 English Passengers - Matthew Kneale

Funny and occasionally horrifying book about Manx smugglers forced to take a vicar on a ludicrous expedition to Tasmania in 1857, and the slow slaughter of the aboriginal population there. Angry in that way that only comedy can convey.

Sun, Jan. 1st, 2017, 09:33 am
Gigs #55 - #60

#55 False Lights @ Water Rats 11/10/2016


False Lights doing their thing again, more or less the same as when we saw them last time and more or less as good.

Support by Said The Maiden, who we liked a lot.

#56 Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker @ Shoreditch Town Hall 26/10/2016

First time seeing Josie and Ben and first time at Shoreditch Town Hall which is way fancier on the inside than on the outside. They do a sort of chamber music/folk thing with a large band and in the second of two halves play the entirety of their new album with no chat (even though the first-half chat was great) and occasional poetic interludes.

No support (that I can remember).

#57 Jon Boden @ Union Chapel 11/11/2016



There was about three different gigs we could have gone to that week but the promise of a Friday night seeing Jon Boden at Union Chapel was too good, so the Oyster Band, the Oyster Three, and maybe somebody else all got passed up. Jon was great as always, though doing a one man show with no backup whatsoever, I felt he struggled a little in a large venue. It was also the week that Trump was elected and that Leonard Cohen died. 'I only know one Leonard Cohen song,' said john, 'but it's the one everybody knows so maybe you'll join in.' He did a delicate unamplified version of Hallelujah on an acoustic guitar, but it was the crowd singing the chorus, quietly and desperately fragile, allowing the church acoustics to do the work, that nearly brought me to tears.

Support was by Blair Dunlop, who we have seen before and is good.

#58 Nerina Pallot @ The Tabernacle, Notting Hill 10/12/2016



Someone Lily likes who I didn't know from a hole in the ground. This is apparently her regular Christmas show in Notting Hill and the audience is overwhelmingly middle-aged and middle-classed (think tall yoga-honed women in knee-high boots with identical small daughters), the venue is much the same, an arts center selling Caribbean food and home-made cake and bearing no resemblance on the inside to the church it used to be. Nerina Pallot is dead good though, and very funny when chatting between songs. She apparently always shows a Christmas movie on the screen behind the stage and this year it was Muppets Christmas Tale, the best Christmas movie.

Support was by Two Cities, all the right notes in all the right places but not a lot else going on.

#59 Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker @ The Courtyard Theatre, Shoreditch 17/12/2016

Basement theatre would be more accurate, I saw no evidence of a courtyard.



A second chance to see Josie and Ben on a Saturday night in Shoreditch. This is an event called Folkroom's Blue Christmas and also features Jack Harris, an earnest young man with an acoustic guitar who is comically bleak and really very good; and the great John Spiers, once of Bellowhead, playing squeezy things.

Unlike the Town Hall gig down the road Josie and Ben are just a duo here (although even that was in doubt for a while as Ben was rushing there from a delayed flight into Gatwick and only just made it) and the set is much folkier. They get the two support acts onstage a regular intervals to do Christmas songs and it's all very merry.

#60 Belshazzar's Feast @ The Oval, Croydon 21/12/2016



An identical gig (same gags and everything) to the one we went to last year, although this time Lily is working in Croydon so the logistics are a lot easier. Belshazzar's Feast are brilliant as always, mixing musical virtuosity with humour like a pair of Les Dawsons. It is one of the cheeriest gigs I know.

Mon, Nov. 21st, 2016, 11:15 am
Brexit: The Board Game

I present Brexit: The Board Game. A fun game for 28 players.

In Brexit: The Board Game one player nominates himself as the Brexiteer. He is then dealt a hand of cards detailing which prizes he must secure.

UNDER NO ACCOUNT MUST THE BREXITEER REVEAL HIS HAND TO THE OTHER PLAYERS.

The prizes are then distributed randomly among the other 27 players. The Brexiteer has until the timer runs out to persuade the other players to give him the prizes listed on his cards WITHOUT REVEALING WHAT HIS CARDS ARE.

If the Brexiteer persuades the other players to give him the prizes listed on his cards he wins the game. If, after the timer has expired, he does not have all the prizes listed on his cards, he loses.

IF AT ANY TIME THE BREXITEER REVEALS HIS CARDS TO THE OTHER PLAYERS HE INSTANTLY LOSES THE GAME.

Play continues until nobody wants to be the Brexiteer anymore or everybody gets bored and dissolves the European Union.

Fri, Nov. 18th, 2016, 03:52 pm
Big Thinks on Trump

When I predicted the UK would vote to remain in the EU it was because I thought I had some great understanding of the national mentality (that we were fundamentally cautious) and losing was doubly hurtful because I had to accept I was wrong. When I predicted Hillary Clinton would win the US election I had no such delusions, I just trusted the experts (my chosen experts were FiveThiryEight, who gave Trump something like a 30% change of winning). Consequently I was not that shocked when he won, and have not been as distressed by it. It's very not good, but it didn't really shake my view of humanity.

I don't just want to celebrate my mental well-being though, I want to rail uselessly against the cottage industry of articles explaining how Trump won. How Trump won is a fundamentally useless question because he quite patently fluked it. Electoral colleges tend to flatter winners so it is important to remember Trump lost the popular vote and won only the thinnest majority in the swing states.

Here are two far more interesting questions.

1. How come he was competitive at all?

He polled somewhere down near Corbyn levels on questions of competence, must surely have turned off the family values brigade (which we're told is big over there), had a walk-in gold-painted closet full of skeletons the size of most New-Yorkers' apartments, and... My! God! He was just awful. It's hardly rocket science that he won a big swing from the working-class white vote after he batted for it so very very hard, but how did he not lose everyone else along the way?

The answer, it turns out, is simple. He won because he was a Republican. He didn't win huge swings from unusual places, he didn't turn out non-voters in unprecedented numbers, he mostly just got the same bunch of rubes who voted for Romney four years ago.

2. How come the vote was so close?

People sometimes talk about a Beige dictatorship, or if they're more up on their political theory, Hotelling's Law; the way in which, in a democracy, the two main party's will draw so close together as to be indistinguishable, both attempting to occupy the sweet spot in the centre ground that will win them all their side's natural constituency and a sliver of the other side's.

I've said before that this is bollocks (by which I mean, the parties might try it, but it doesn't work), and Trump vs Clinton surely blows it out of the water. Never has there been two such vastly different candidates. The supposedly right wing guy was advocating a debt led stimulus, the supposedly left wing woman was the experienced serious candidate, plus one of them spouted racist slogans and was a serial sex-pest. It defies belief that they pushed the vote so close to 50/50 by chance. Something else was going on.

I think the answer to question two is the same as question one. Nobody, at least nobody who voted Trump, and nobody who voted Obama but stayed at home this time around, gave a flying fuck for the serious business of competence or policy. America, remember, is the country where you register as one side or the other which would already make the vote a bit sticky (it being human nature to double down on your earlier stupid opinion rather than risk the embarrassment of publicly changing it) but this was like Gorilla Glue. The whole country got vigorously shaken and hardly anybody budged an inch.

My guess: nobody voted for Trump or against Clinton, they voted with the 50% of the population they feel they belong to and against the 50% of the population they feel they don't. They don't divide ideologically but culturally, and they self-organise based on who they do and don't want to be with.

Brexit, because of course

The Trump vote looked a lot like the Brexit vote in that it showed a willingness to take a really stupid risk with the country, and featured a marked display of cross-cultural anger, and a nasty racism.

The first of these, the willingness to gamble with the future, is often put down to nearly a decade now of slow growth and stagnant wages. The 'unhealed scar of 2008' as Ken Clarke & Nick Clegg put it in a recent talk, but two groups most hurt by this, blacks in the US and young people in the UK, voted for Hillary and Remain - so it's not that good an explanation (although the UK young, we're told, will gamble everything on Corbyn, so the desire for stupid risks is there, just not any old stupid risks).

The second, the venom of both campaigns, does perhaps have a good explanation. The last couple of decades have seen a lot of what you might call cultural progress on both sides of the Atlantic. Gay marriage is the most marked but there are other things: increased European migration over here, liberalisation of drugs over there, a black president, the Black Lives Matter campaign, the huge popularity of the Paralympics, women 'leaning in' (whatever that means), white kids liking hip-hop, a tendency for the protagonists of TV shows, movies, and computer games to look a lot more like the population as a whole and lot less like straight white blokes.

However a lot of people have been left behind, dragged into a brave new world they did not want. If you had a referendum in this country gay marriage would be annulled, hanging would be brought back, and we'd close the border with Northern Ireland, let alone the rest of Europe. They are the bigots, the nationalists, and the grumpy authoritarians (I like to call them The Coalition of Arseholes). They are a majority but they are a shrinking majority, and up till this year they were consistently losing their battles.

It's probably worth pointing out why they were losing when they were a majority. The answer is simple: the people in charge of the country, and in charge of the culture, were not them. One similarity between the Trump demographic and the Brexit demographic is that both divide markedly on education. Put simply, going to university cures bigotry (it genuinely seems to, it's amazing!), and movies and laws are all made by people who went to University. But now they've realised they're losing, and are aligning themselves politically to fight back. This is typical of a losing groups backed into a corner, and they are dangerous (as they have shown), but the demographics are against them and they are dying off. Culture wars are fought in the culture not the ballot box, and in the culture we are still winning.

The interesting difference is that while Brexit is a political realignment (and how much of it will remain come a general election is the scary thing), in the US politics already separated along this divide and has done since it shifted massively in the wake of the Civil Rights movement (when the south went from strongly Democrat to strongly Republican). This is why it was possible for Trump to rise up in an existing political party and get elected as President whereas Nigel Farage had to form his own and consistently failed to get elected as an MP. The US system was ripe for takeover by Aresholes, the UK system (not the referendum) has so-far proved more resilient.

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