Friday, February 16, 2007


First impressions

I'm not really awake right now, but I just thought I'd pop on to give my immediate reaction to the new climate change deal:


*tap-dances in dressing gown*

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Real politicians infiltrate fictional world

If anyone is in any doubt about the fact that the Internet is really in charge of our lives, check out this post on Wonkette.

Yes, that's right - a campaign volunteer from the entirely real John Edwards '08 Presidential campaign has set up an entirely fictional campaign headquarters in the online game Second Life, bringing an entirely new meaning to the phrase e-campaigning.

I must say, it's certainly a novel way to reach the much vaunted "gated generation" - those awkward young souls who frustrate us by not having letterboxes, telephones or even front doors.

Could this be how elections will be fought in 20 years time? Will we be organising doorknocking parties on Ultima Online, promising residents to sort out that pesky ogre problem? The possibilities are endless, surely!

So - any volunteers to set up our virtual Cowley Street, then?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Will we end up paying for tuition fees?

Who will win the argument over tuition fees? Today's big increase in University applicants is certainly good news for their advocates. But should the Lib Dems ditch their commitment to scrap fees in England?

This piece, as so often happens, started off as a reply on another blog. Stephen Tall's is the blog in question which today carries a thought-provoking piece on tuition fees:
"The Labour Government was hypocritical to introduce tuition fees, having explicitly ruled them out in its 1997 manifesto; and even more hypocritical to introduce top-up fees having explicitly ruled them out in its 2001 manifesto. As a result, parents were given less time than they should have been to prepare for their introduction, and many have found it harder to fund their kids through education as a direct result.

"But it is the right policy - indeed, the only policy - which will give our universities any chance of standing on their own two feet. The Lib Dems need to start facing up to that reality."
My big problem with tuition fees is that they discourage the idea of academic pursuit for its own ends. People now seem to see their degrees as purely a means to attain a higher salary. It makes me worry about where the next generation of top scientists, historians, linguists etc. are going to come from...

Maybe that concern is ill-founded. It will be difficult to tell until we've had, say, 10 years of top-up fees. But it still makes me feel... uneasy.

It may seem uncharacteristic for a free-marketeer like myself to be so cautious. Theoretically the marketisation of education should be a good thing. But there's some question as to whether growth and the all-elusive progress necessarily follow from one another where academia is concerned.

My major worry is whether an academic community that is predisposed to worry about the monetary value of things will be as inclined to fund truly independent, undirected research.

So where does that leave us? Well, I know "wait and see" is a crap answer, but that's the best I have at the moment. My expectation is that English tuition fees legislation will eventually be reformed to filter out some of the unintended consequences I've touched on here, but keeping the fees themselves. But it will certainly be interesting to see how the fate of English higher education compares to that in Scotland over the next decade.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Lib Dem recovery continues

By common consent, Communicate Research's polls are a volatile and unreliable thing indeed. But since ConservativeHome can run news stories on them, and put them in their Poll of Polls, it allows me to mention that we were up EIGHT PERCENT in this one.
CON 34% (-2)
LAB 29% (-8)
LDEM 21% (+8)
It's awfully funny how ConHome only seem to update the Poll of Polls when it's good news for them, isn't it? Exactly the same thing happened earlier this month - the PoP didn't get updated with the results of this ICM poll (Tories down 3) until the later YouGov one showing them up two...

Kind of puts Tory moaning about the "Lib Dem bar chart department" into perspective, doesn't it?

Update: We're up 1 in Populus and 1 in Mori. Not us much as I expected, but a gain's a gain. And ConHome has finally updated their poll! Hurrah!

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