So I was having a minor row on twitter with Adam Bienkov the other day, about whether the Labour Party was right to put so much effort into attacking the Murdoch Party and especially the Secretary of State for Hulture. I think the London mayoral election shows I was right, for reasons that ought to be clearer to Adam than anyone else.

Essentially, it’s not just that reporting of London politics is biased. It is not reported. If you don’t consume the Evening Standard and don’t watch local TV, you won’t hear anything about it, except what occasionally bubbles up into the nationals. And that is pretty much always whatever Andrew Gilligan is floating this week. The local papers don’t really do City Hall. Dave Hill on the Grauniad is good but gets minimal space in the paper.

So, the choice is between propaganda, ignorance, or bloggers. I wouldn’t, actually, discount ignorance as a choice. The Standard is a newspaper whose editor was literally appointed by Boris Johnson, which is to say that it is not a newspaper. If you can’t get information you can at least avoid exposing yourself to disinformation. However, since it’s become a freesheet, it is actually quite hard to go a day without becoming aware of what the Standard‘s headline is, and availability wins. Further, it has influence in setting the agenda for the others, which is reinforced by logistics. National journos on deadline are likely to have seen a copy.

And in many ways, the history of Boris Johnson as mayor is one of the avoidance of politics. The Tory group in the London assembly has operated a policy of shutting down the assembly whenever questions are put to the mayor. They could do this because without the Tories the assembly was inquorate. This will no longer be true due to the bigger Labour representation.

Individually, you can deal with this by reading Tom Barry and Adam Bienkov and Dave Hill‘s blogs.

On the bigger stage, though, I think the upshot is that three approaches to the Murdoch (and equivalent) media environment have been tried. The Project 1.0, an accommodation, is sunk, full fathom five. The Project 2.0, full integration between the Conservative Party and Murdoch, is holed beneath the waterline, and the central fire-control is malfunctioning, water splashing onto the fizzing computers, even if the individual turrets (like Boris’s City Hall) fight on in local control.

Ken Livingstone’s unique approach was to pretend it wasn’t happening, to put up with it, to dig forwards street by street and parking ticket by parking ticket. It worked, some of the time, and not consistently. It’s necessary to change the circumstances, and finish off the Project, 2.0.

Rebuttal is futile, but sometimes it is necessary, and at least you can help people update their lists of people to ignore. Here’s Zoe Williams wilfully misleading the readers.

From two completely different sources – Ted Reilly, a road safety campaigner, and Alice Bell, a lecturer in science and society and part-time Sack Boris campaigner – I heard astonishing things about air quality in London. They say it correlates, not vaguely but absolutely precisely, with the traffic volume, that it is the largest threat to public health after smoking (seriously!), and that once you get any distance from its source – 20 yards – it vanishes.

In other words, if you pedestrianised major thoroughfares from 8am til 8pm, if you dropped speed limits, if you made public transport cheaper, if you consolidated deliveries to the periphery and got one provider to bring it all to the centre (“We used to call it the Royal Mail,” Reilly remarks, erm, wryly) you could do as much for the health of London as the person who discovered that smoking caused cancer.

Economically, it comes up repeatedly in living wage analyses that the cost of transport is not just a pest, it changes people’s lives. The tube has become a luxury, a young professional’s option. For someone with two separate cleaning jobs, most likely the only way to make that work economically would be by bus. Say that adds an hour (it’s probably more) to the commute, that will ricochet into that person’s stress levels, their parenting, their mental health, everything.

The mayor, whoever it is, can do a lot more with the powers he (or she, ha!) has than Boris Johnson is doing, or Ken Livingstone is suggesting. But it is also worth considering that, paradoxically, if they had more power, we would probably hate them a lot less.

Strangely, one mayoral candidate has in the past dramatically cut public transport fares, imposed a tax on motor vehicles in central London, and set up a low emissions zone to restrict how much poison lorries can emit in the city. That would be Ken Livingstone. I put it to you that someone who is unaware of congestion charging or Fares Fair shouldn’t be writing about London politics.

Another mayoral candidate gave up on the low emissions zone, abolished the western extension of the congestion charge, and put up the fares. That would be Boris Johnson. I put it to you that someone who is unaware of this hasn’t been paying attention and shouldn’t be writing about London politics.

On page three of Ken Livingstone’s manifesto, he explicitly promises to cut public transport fares by 7% immediately and reduce pollution. The next eight pages consist of nothing but public transport. Page 8 contains the following quote:

Faster, greener, more efficient freight
I will ask TfL to look seriously at the possibility of more freight consolidation centres for London. This would mean deliveries are taken to hubs and aggregated together before being taken into central London, saving on costs and cutting traffic.

The next page is about cycling, and the one after that about the necessity of investing in public transport in order to reduce pollution.

Page 66 is devoted to air pollution, including the creation of clean air zones with much lower speed limits and a ban on idling cars around schools, and the issue of smog alerts by SMS (something Boris Johnson directly refused to do). I could go on.

The sad facts are that a lot of journalists, Zoe Williams included, are evidently just fine with the largest threat to public health after smoking so long as their petty personal elite vendettas, the ego wars of media London, get took care of.

David Cameron goes trying to sell Airbus A330s. In his chartered Boeing. Chartered, eventually, from an Angolan company on the EU air safety blacklist.

Well, this is interesting, both on the Bo Xilai story and also on the general theme of the state of the art in contemporary authoritarianism. It looks like a major part of the case is about BXL’s electronic surveillance of Chongqing and specifically of top national-level Chinese officials:

One political analyst with senior-level ties, citing information obtained from a colonel he recently dined with, said Mr. Bo had tried to tap the phones of virtually all high-ranking leaders who visited Chongqing in recent years, including Zhou Yongkang, the law-and-order czar who was said to have backed Mr. Bo as his potential successor. “Bo wanted to be extremely clear about what leaders’ attitudes toward him were,” the analyst said.

That’s Zhou Yongkang as in the head of the whole Chinese internal security structure, cops, spooks, and all. Bo’s police chief (and future sort-of defector) Wang Lijun is described as being “a tapping freak”, addicted to the productivity and hence apparent power of electronic intelligence. Not only that, Wang eventually began tapping Bo, who was also tapping the CDIC feds who came down to keep an eye on him.

The practicalities are, as always, interesting.

The architect was Mr. Wang, a nationally decorated crime fighter who had worked under Mr. Bo in the northeast province of Liaoning. Together they installed “a comprehensive package bugging system covering telecommunications to the Internet,” according to the government media official.

One of several noted cybersecurity experts they enlisted was Fang Binxing, president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, who is often called the father of China’s “Great Firewall,” the nation’s vast Internet censorship system.

It’s worth pointing out that the provincial networks belonging to China Mobile, China Telecom etc. are usually organised as companies in their own right, and they often have their own AS numbers, and indeed they often contract for substantial network development projects with Western vendors (Nokia Siemens recently had a big mobile network contract in Sichuan, notably) on their own right.

Anyway, Fang’s involvement is very interesting indeed. He is responsible for the state-of-the-art authoritarian solution to the Internet. This is not just, or even primarily, a question of blacklisting websites or turning off the Internet. The Great Firewall’s detailed design, as the Cambridge Computer Lab found out a while ago, is specifically intended to be a semi-permeable membrane. Rather like Hadrian’s Wall, it is more about the gates through it than the wall itself, and the defences point in both directions.

When a computer within it tries to initiate a TCP connection to one outside that is classified as dodgy, the Firewall sends an RST message back to kill the connection. This permits much higher performance than the DNS-based blacklisting typical of, say, the UAE.

It also means that it’s possible to ignore the RST and look through the firewall by using your own firewall utility (specifically, set something like iptables to drop any RSTs for connections in states other than ESTABLISHED before a suitable time has elapsed). However, it would be a fair guess that any traffic doing this is logged and analysed more deeply.

Further, there is a substantial human infrastructure linking the media/PR/propaganda system, the police system, and the Ministry of the Information Industry. This uses tools such as moderation on big Web forums, direct recruitment, harassment, or persuasion of important influencers, the development of alternative opposition voices, and the use of regime loyalist trolls (the famous wumaodang).

The firewall, like Hadrian’s Wall or the original Great Wall, also has an economic function. This acts as a protectionist subsidy to Chinese Internet start-ups and a tariff barrier to companies outside it. Hence the appearance of some really big companies that basically provide clones of Twitter et al. Because the clones are inside the firewall, they are amenable to management and moderation.

And none of this detracts from the genuine intention of the people at 31 Jin-rong Street, the China Telecom HQ, to wire up the whole place. Iran’s surprisingly important role providing broadband to Afghanistan and diversionary links to the Gulf reminds us that providing connectivity can be a powerful policy tool and one that you can use at the same time as informational repression.

So, Fang’s achievement is basically a package of technical and human security measures that let whoever is in charge of them command the context Web users experience.

Last autumn, several of the Chinese web startups were subjected to the combined honour and menace of a visit from top securocrats. Tencent, the owner of QQ and the biggest of the lot, got Zhou Yongkang in person. In hindsight, this will have been around the time the CDIC landed in Chongqing.

So, where am I going with this? Clearly, there was serious disquiet that somebody was usurping the right to control the wires. Even more disquieting, the surveillance establishment in Fang’s person seemed to be cooperating with him. And the systems he set up worked just as well for someone increasingly seen as a dangerous rebel as they did for the central government. (In fact, the people who like to complain about Huawei equipment in the West have it the wrong way round. It’s not some sort of secret backdoor they should be worrying about: it’s the official stuff.)

I do wonder, depending on what happens to Fang (he’s still vanished, but his Weibo feed has started updating again), if we might not see a relaxation of the firewall, which the pundits will consider “reform”. In fact it will be no such thing, rather a cranking up of internal chaos to facilitate a crackdown on opposition.

So I did a business-class review of Daniel Kahneman‘s new book over at the Fistful. Of course, AFOE is a very different blog to this one, being all liberal euro-technocratic and whatnot. Therefore I thought I’d write a different review. I therefore give you, in this week of Rupert, Kahneman for Thugs – which is at least appropriate given how much work he put into improving the Israeli army’s officer selection process. In this post, I’m going to be deliberately political and action-oriented, and I’m going to express myself in handy bullet points.

Availability

The first point is that rebuttal is futile and you can ignore nothing. The so-called psychological anchoring effect means that our intuitive judgments of anything are influenced by whatever information is around at the time. That includes information we know to be false and information that is completely irrelevant. Ask people to guess the weight of a pig, and they will guess higher if you mention a big number beforehand.

Also, intuitive judgments of truth are strongly influenced by cognitive fluency. Things that are easy to remember are true. Things that fit into a coherent story are true. Things that avoid conflict are true. This has some truly weird consequences – if you want people to learn something from reading a text, choosing a font that is hard to read actually increases how much they retain. However, if you want them to believe it and act on it, you want to be nice and sans-serif.

So, you can’t ignore anything, repetition works, and getting in first works. Smear politics is effective. On the other hand, the only way you can prevent Andrew Gilligan from influencing your opinion of Ken Livingstone is to just stop reading him. Filtering (on your part) or censorship (on their part) is effective.

Substitution

Thinking is work, and as a result, people unconsciously try to answer the easiest question that seems to fit. It’s therefore important to a) set up problems so they answer the question you want them to, and b) set up your own intuitions to work with your own interests. If you train yourself adequately, all you will hear from Simon Jenkins is “blah blah blah fishcakes” as Boris Johnson memorably said. Politics as a system of grudges is an effective way to operationalise the points above.

Surprise

Repetition, fluency, and availability dominate what we believe. But this is only half the point. What if you need to convince? The answer is surprise. Uncertainty is information, and learning is the process by which that information is trained into the near-automatic activity of System One. To surprise is to convince. This doesn’t contradict the point about cognitive fluency – the point is to create a coherent story that contains a surprise and therefore a change in opinion.

Depletion

Thinking is work. It requires effort, unlike intuition, which is associated with no sense of subjective effort and no change in psychophysical metrics. Therefore, as you get tired (or hungry, or drunk, or ill) you rely more on intuition. Judges are more likely to give you parole early in the morning (after breakfast) or early in the afternoon (after lunch). Therefore, it is effective to target the depleted and deplete the targeted.

What did you think all the anti-design graphic noise on the front of the Sun, or Fox News’s horrible screen graphics, are for?

Never quote base rates

People find it hard enough to make judgments that involve statistics, and tend to neglect denominators. You can help this process, by never providing base-rate information. Certainly, if you want to mention how many terrorist attacks, crimes, or whatever happened this year, don’t say how many there were last year unless that number was unusually low. And never, ever quote more than two data points.

Never question premises or permit them to be questioned

Many cognitive biases seem to disappear if the decision involved is taken in a wider context. Obviously, if you can control the context (see under Availability) that’s all to the good, but this is rarely possible in a pluralistic society. Very often, though, people take decisions without using any external reference, and over-focus on the exact terms of the question (known in the tech industry as bikeshedding), which of course means over-focusing on the easier question they substitute in. This inside view effect is a powerful source of error. Cherish it.

On the other hand, it’s almost a cliché that mediocre candidates answer the exam paper while brilliant ones question it. Disputing the terms of the question is an effective defensive tactic.

Always isolate questions

Many cognitive errors that appear when choices are isolated disappear in so-called joint evaluation. If the choices are isolated, people often make decisions which are mutually inconsistent. Very often, if you put the questions together, they succeed in integrating the information involved into a common picture. Therefore, it is necessary to isolate questions and prevent joint evaluation. Whether Saddam Hussein is a bastard or not must be isolated from the question of whether there are ways other than war to limit the consequences of this bastardy and from the question of what the costs of the war might be.

All clear so far?

So, that Total Defence plan. Not long after blogging about the weird way becoming an NHS Foundation Trust member is mostly about the staff discounts, my Google Alert tail-warning receiver lit up. Specifically, it caught the fact that the Haringey Clinical Commissioning Group was going to have a public meeting, so off I went with a little notebook of talking points.

My first impression (as I was on time) was the usual depressing one – they’re all 117 years old, there’s four of them, and Christ, they’re odd, and one of them’s reading something called God’s Word Made Plain. Why did I volunteer again? But the room filled up, and then filled up some more, and eventually we counted up 53 MOPs who turned out.

The original agenda was all about “how the CCG can communicate with the public”, but when it got communicating, the message from the public was that the public wanted no part of that. It turned out that the local “Patients Panel” hadn’t met for years. An effort was made to explain the new NHS structure, and at this point, astonishment and disbelief set in as the CCG vice chair and the (existing) NHS finance director tried to draw the organisation on a flipchart. (It reminded me of the enchanted PowerPoint presentation in one of Charlie Stross’s novels.) So, GPs were meant to commission everything, and the PCT and SHA had been shut down, with 54% cuts imposed on their staff, but to keep the wheels turning, they were reorganising as a cluster in the meantime. Then, the GPs would take over, but the GPs themselves couldn’t be in a position to commission their own work, so they would be commissioned nationally, while some other services would be carved out of local commissioning.

One of the CCG doctors said of the re-org that “in terms of human pain it’s quite remarkable – managers are people too, you know”. Before the CCG took over, it would be allowed to have a “shadow budget” but no actual money, because it didn’t have an accountable finance function. And before it did, everyone would be sacked again. The national commissioning board would replace the SHAs, but would have four or possibly more regional branches that might be quite a lot like them.

The questions kept coming and eventually they abandoned the agenda in favour of just standing there fielding. It turned out that there was a 93 page national test that the CCG would have to apply, but nobody had seen a copy and nobody was clear about who set the test or how. There was a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, carried out by the cluster and the local authority, but how that fed into this process was a mystery.

On the question of specialist services that would be carved-out of local commissioning and reserved to the national level, the chair had to be told that it wasn’t right and it wasn’t OK to say that “normal people” wouldn’t need to know about it because a lot of them are psychiatric in nature. It turned out that they represent 40% of the budget. The service-user activists got angry. As well as a Health and Wellbeing Board, whose makeup a Lib Dem councillor told me was still being debated, there is a Mental Health & Wellbeing Board, but the GPs have yet to deign to meet them because after all they’re only nutters (I paraphrase, but not much).

It turned out that the NHS organisations being butchered have a variety of huge databases of information vital to the commissioning process. Nobody seems to know what will happen to this.

The specialist/local interface seems to be enormously crucial, and a completely undemarcated frontier. The GPs are hugely keen on “continuous follow-up”, but it’s far from obvious why anyone would want follow-up by someone who has no specialist knowledge of their condition.

The FD confirmed the following figures in my talking points: the Government has budgeted £25 per head per year for the CCGs and the Commissioning Support Organisations. Of this, the NHS North Central London cluster says it can do the CSO job for £15/head/year, which leaves £10*225 kilocitizens in Haringey or £2.25m a year in funds flowing to the CCG as such. The CCG plans to have CSO staff co-located with it, and in fact to rely on the CSO for pretty much all its day-to-day functions.

Apparently the Government arrived at the figure of £25 by halving the existing Londonwide figure and dividing by the population.

Anyway, my take-home points: CSOs are crucial (although we knew that). Status of staff – are they civil servants? Who has responsibility for the public money flowing through them? What happens to this database? Further, the frontier problem between central and local is important. And I’ve got to get on to some of these assorted boards.

I was really pleased by the turnout, and the degree to which the crowd were intelligently angry. A surprising number of people had evidently taken the time to brief themselves in advance.

Shameless self promotion

Over at Fistful of Euros, my review of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Coming up here, far from the eurocratic business-class lounge of AFOE, my action-oriented Kahneman for Thugs post, at least when I get away from debugging Project Lobster scripts. Am I on crack, or does ScraperWiki’s datastore do an implicit cast to unicode strings on Python objects you send it?

Look what he’s up to now. It’s amazing how common the “that hillside is full of warbirds/jeeps/whatever” story is, and how geographically widespread. I worked on a north-west Australian cattle station that included an abandoned WW2 airfield, and more than a couple of people had wasted time and money digging into bits of it looking for them.

Near my dad’s home town in Hertfordshire, there was an old 8th Air Force base and relatives of mine knew about people who claimed there were whole P-38s, motorbikes, trucks, jeeps etc buried, although the status of the story was “you don’t want to listen to old Stick, he’ll believe anything”. Oddly enough, if they waited long enough they were almost right, because the Americans continued to use part of the site, and allegedly some of it was used for something spooky during Iran-Contra. There are similar stories I’m aware of about a couple of places in Yorkshire.

I presume it goes back to genuine tales of how much surplus kit there was sloshing about, and how much of it was basically thrown away, and perhaps to a deeper awareness of the wastefulness of war. It’s also very similar to the cargo cult – like the intersection of buried treasure and cargo cultism.

Ed Miliband joins Total Defence!

Labour councils across England will act as the “last line of defence” against the controversial health act, Ed Miliband said as he pledged to overturn its “free market, free-for-all principles”.

Speaking at the launch of the Labour local election campaign in Birmingham, Miliband said Labour councils would use the public health and well-being boards to resist the most damaging aspects of the Health and Social Care Act.

Meanwhile, the NE London Foundation Trust wrote to me to confirm that I am now a member. An amazingly large proportion of the letter is devoted to encouraging me to join the NHS staff-discount scheme, which apparently I now can. For some reason this reminds me of a remark my old college mate Tim Lewis made in San Francisco the week before last, to the effect that Virgin Atlantic is the New Labour airline. And on the flight back, yes, there is something distinctly Blairite about their general aesthetic. Boomer nostalgia/exciting purple/lower-case type/gratuitous Ginger Spice Union Flags/forced jollity/total lack of anything like dignity or design austerity.

Berlin’s city fathers destroyed the world’s best airport once, and now they’re going to do it all over again by killing off the wonderful spaceship/cold war modern, 20 metres from the kerb to the plane, German architecture and French Army engineering Berlin-Tegel so you can damn well traipse in from Schönefeld, which will become a giant shopping centre with a runway.

France, delightedly nuclear-armed power to our south, has absolutely no doubt about sticking with the Bomb and indeed maintaining both a submarine and an air-launched capability. The BBC interviews Jean-Dominique Merchet, Francois Heisbourg, both well worth reading.

Bruce Sterling apparently didn’t hear about the whole homeless-person-as-support-structure-for-WLAN-box thing so he hasn’t stuck SXSW right there with the CBOSS stand at Mobile World Congress, but he does have some interesting remarks although as always his commitment to staring right into the future’s eyes seems to render him less critical than he should be.

He has company. The New Aesthetic has the “scenius” of London’s Silicon Roundabout to support it. These people are working creatives of Bridle’s generation, with their networked tentacles sunk deep in interaction design, literature, fashion and architecture. They do have some strange ideas, but they can’t all be crazy….It’s also deep. If you want to get into arcane matters such as interaction design, computational aesthetics, covert surveillance, military tech, there’s a lot of room for that activity in the New Aesthetic. The New Aesthetic carries a severe, involved air of Pynchonian erudition.

So, ah, it appears to be me?

“Theory objects” from the Internet are squamous, crabgrass-like entities, where people huddle around swollen, unstable databases

And he thinks that’s a good thing. Squamous = either skin cancer or Cthulhu. Swollen, unstable database = big problem. Huddling around it = pointless. And what the North American-blinkered fuck is crabgrass, I’ve not seen any growing around Telco 2.0 Towers in the Curtain Road heart of Sillyabout? I’m tempted to use it as a synonym for vague futurist-y guff. “Hmmm, I see your point, but I think the next slide is nothing but crabgrass.”

Coming soon

A review of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow for the Fistful of Euros. That will be the high-style eurocratic version.

Another review of Kahneman for this fine blog. That is tentatively titled Kahneman for Thugs and will be a sort of juddering, noisy remix of the other one concentrating on action-oriented political advice derived from it.

Further action on the Lobster Project. I ported quite a bit of it from the pile of scripts on my laptop into ScraperWiki today, and I now need to debug and shake down those sections of the workflow. ScraperWiki now has the awesome NetworkX war-on-some-kinds-of-terror social network analytics lib, so I’m scraping in data, creating NX objects, and then reading out analytics in a string of loosely coupled scrapers. I’ve even been giving the look and feel some thought…sorry…oohing over fonts.

Here’s some “why the Bradford West result means we should support my politics” that supports my politics: Next Generation Labour.

  1. Don’t take support for granted
  2. We have to realise that the wars still matter
  3. Mobilised youth are a polical force to be reckoned with
  4. Labour has to examine its relationships with Muslim communities
  5. Austerity needs a fighting response

See also Matt Turner‘s point that Bradford West has had the biggest percentage rise in unemployment in the UK. NGL (which seems to be some sort of Ken Livingstonian tendency, fair enough by me) also say:

One of the more unpleasant responses to Galloway’s victory has been the suggestion that ‘the Muslim vote’ is somehow tainted and invalid

The best thing you’re likely to read on this is Irna Qureshi’s post here about the day-to-day, dogshit’n’forms processes of Bradford West politics.

She explained that her family had this time boycotted the “apna” (our own, referring to Imran Hussain, although she couldn’t name him either) because he’d stopped making time to attest her extended family’s passport photographs. And here’s my point. This woman and her clan’s vote had nothing to do with policies or even an inkling of research – the only thing that seemed to matter was accessibility

It’s easy to forget that quite a significant number of people don’t know anyone in the odd, class-based list of professions who are allowed to sign across the back of your passport photo. On Twitter, someone described this as “patrimonial” politics, but it’s more than that. Democracy itself is an institution that is meant to cross class barriers. If Hussain wouldn’t do it, that’s a very clear message about where the local CLP sees itself in the class system.

Also, if you swap out “clan” for “family”, this sounds pretty much like the sort of politics that are stereotypical of France, where there are officially no ethnic or religious communities in the secular republic. The explanation of this is that it’s just politics, stupid. It’s like that everywhere, just the bullshit differs.

Over here, the following excellent points are made.

British people are stereotyped for a tendency to turn to the weather as a means for finding some common ground for smalltalk. In Bradford, it’s the failing regeneration projects first, then the weather if there’s time. Everyone seems to have a better idea of how to run the place than the people currently doing it, and they’re always agitated enough to tell you. Not a great sign.

This is why I knew he would win, despite the answers to my Twitter question: ‘Would Galloway be good or bad for Bradford and why?’ coming back with 50% negative responses based on his showboating, lack of substance, self serving nature, and worse. His policies were quite simple: regenerate the Odeon. Sort out Westfield. Sort out education. He either succeeds, in which case, great. Or he fails, in which case, we’re not exactly losing out are we?

There’s been much made of his appealing to Muslim voters, which he did as well, but 18,000+ votes in Bradford West makes a mockery of the accusation that this is the real reason he won. His policies were pretty broadly relevant and Twitter was buzzing with ‘I wouldn’t normally vote for him BUT… ’. This shouldn’t have been an angle that any of the big three should have had to worry about, because they should have had it covered.

I didn’t know he took a view on the Odeon; no wonder he won. One theory I have about this is that the Labour HQ remembered him making a fool of himself on TV, and reasoned from a TV-centric, airpower theorist perspective that anyone who went on Celebrity Big Brother (and doesn’t that sound dated) and made a cock of himself would be a permanent laughing stock. Nobody was more obsessed with reality TV than Blairites. In this sense, not only didn’t they worry over much about the street campaign in Bradford, they also didn’t remember that there are two iconic video clips of him. 1) is him being a cat, 2) is him ripping into the Republican senators. You’re unlikely to see 1) again on TV, but there’s nothing to stop 2) circulating virally on the web.

Consequently, I do worry that the London election campaign is so virtual. Boris Johnson is a deeply virtual character, of course, a media construct built out of grinning on TV and mildly controversial newspaper columns, and Brian Paddick’s public image has apparently been designed to look exactly like a mildly corrupt town-hall politico in a Danish thriller. But it’s not as if the campaign is very visible on the streets – I’ve seen precisely two posters (one this weekend, Ken, in a window in Waterloo, and a Lib Dem billboard which has now ended its run).

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