Some new confusion from the Ministry of Justice……

by Ray_North on December 12, 2017

I’m confused… I just can’t work it out and if any of our dear readers are able to offer me any explanation, it would be gratefully received.

The source of my confusion is this – for the last god knows how many years (certainly for the last 19 years, that I can testify to), when a defendant has appeared in the dock in a Court, he has been asked simply to confirm his name. They usually get this right and their case continues. However, for the last month or so, defendants standing in a dock have been asked to confirm their name, their date of birth and their nationality. Now, I suppose I can understand the request for a birth date in the interests of security – but, what about their nationality? Why must they confirm this?

If someone needs an interpreter then, in time honoured tradition, their counsel will inform the Judge; if there is some cultural or religious issue, then again the Court will accommodate, so why the sudden need for a person standing in a dock to make a declaration of nationality?

I don’t get it.

What I do get, along with everyone else in each of the Courtrooms I’ve appeared in since this introduction, is the slight uncomfortable air of tension when a young male charged with violence, declares that they are ‘White British’ or an Asian man charged with a sex offence states that they are ‘Pakistani British’. I’m not sure that the people who decided to add these new questions of identity would have foreseen the strange social divide which seems to make working class caucasians declare that they are ‘white British’ rather than just British, or second and third generation Asians declare that they are Bangladeshi British or Pakistani British – but that is how it is panning out (strangely the middle class and professional classes seem less inclined to add their ethnicity to their nationality when they answer the question).

And it’s weird, because the answer, in a court, where everyone is deemed to be equal before the law, seems to conjure up a division and a defiance that is unhelpful and unnecessary.

If there’s a good reason for it, then I await an explanation with interest, but if it is just the result of pen-pushing or worse, an attempt to root out those ‘who shouldn’t be here’ then I suggest that the idea is scrapped, because a law court is not about where you come from, it’s about who you are and what you have or haven’t done.


Sweet Jones Alabama?

by Jackie_South on December 10, 2017

This Tuesday sees the state of Alabama go to the polls to elect a new senator. But can Democrat Doug Jones really have  a chance in this deeply Republican state?

The accession of Jeff Sessions – Alabama’s former senator who Donald Trump picked as his Attorney General – created a need for an election that ought to have been very straight forward for the Republicans to hold. Earlier this month, FiveThirtyEight showed that Alabama is one of the six strongest Republican states.

In fact, the only way the Republicans could possibly blow the election would be to have a historically unpopular president, a party which was nationally unpopular, and a candidate who was both extreme and accused during the campaign of being a paedophile.

Perhaps the Republicans are on some sort of dare, as that is precisely where we now are in the Alabama senate race. And yet, their candidate is still the favourite to win.

A bit of electoral history…

Alabama wasn’t always such a Republican safe bet. Whilst Alabama’s politics were always very conservative, the Democrats used to be able to win elections there. The graph below shows the presidential voting in the state over the last 40 years. In that time, the state has only voted for a Democratic president once (Jimmy Carter from neighbouring Georgia in 1976) but it is clear that the gulf between the parties has got wider and wider as years progress. Trump’s margin over Hilary Clinton was a record 28%.

The Democrats have won other state-wide elections there. Democrats won every election for governor from the end of reconstruction until 1986, and held the position as recently as 2002. The last lieutenant governor of the state left office in 2011.

The Democratic record for senate is not quite as good, but as the graph below shows, the Democrats on the whole did better than the Republicans until the 1994 ‘Gingrich revolution‘. Until that point, only one Republican had ever won a senate race – and they needed a war hero to do it, former Hanoi Hilton prisoner Jeremiah Denton in 1980. But since 1994, and former Democratic senator Richard Shelby’s defection to them, the gap has opened up to one of a similar scale to the presidential results. The Democrats didn’t even field a candidate against Jeff Sessions in 2014.

(note: solid line links elections 2 years apart – Alabama elects senators for six years, on a cycle for one that last fell in 2014 and the other in 2016 – there will be no Senate election here in 2018. Dotted lines link elections further apart to show trends. The victorious senator’s name is shown in their party colours)

The politics of the Yellowhammer State

Alabama is home to 4.9m people: almost as many as Scotland, but in an area almost twice the size. This seems very rural, although three-quarters of the state’s population live in its dozen metropolitan statistical areas.

A quarter live in the area surrounding the largest city,  Birmingham, with its steel-making, finance industry and hospitals. The second-largest city is the state capital, Montgomery, but the second-largest urban area is focused around the high tech city of Huntsville in the north, on the Tennessee River (Huntsville is where both NASA and the defence industry build their rockets. George East and I also once got very drunk there). The port city of Mobile (where Donald Trump held his first rally on his route to the Republican candidature) is the fourth large population centre in the state.

Politically, the other key feature that needs identifying is the ‘Black Belt’ – a crescent running west to east from south of Tuscaloosa through Selma and Montgomery to Phenix City on the Georgia border. Originally, this term reflected the colour of the soil of this low-lying region but with its use for cotton-growing and the resultant pattern of slavery, it quickly came to reflect the demographics of the area. The Black Belt is still predominantly African American in a state that is 68% white, 26% black over all.

This geography plays out in elections. The map below shows how each county voted in the 2016 presidential election: the darker the blue or red, the larger the percentage win for Clinton or Trump respectively.

Whilst Trump’s victory was larger than previous Republicans, the pattern of support has been fairly consistent. The Democrats perform strongly in the Black Belt – the band of blue counties passing through Montgomery. They also win the most populous county, Jefferson, but Clinton only did so by 7%. Whilst Birmingham itself is good for the Democrats, outlying suburbs are better for the Republicans, a trend that is clear in the GOP’s standing in the suburban counties surrounding Jefferson County. Trump’s lead in Blount County to the northwest of Birmingham was a staggering 81%.

Those Democratic areas are the ones that many of us most associate with Alabama, because of the Civil Rights era events in Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma. But these were always only a small part of the state and Trump won everywhere else. The Republicans perform most strongly in the area stretching north from Birmingham to the Tennessee River, and in the southeastern “Lower Alabama” counties around Dothan.

Whilst Birmingham and Montgomery vote Democratic, the other urban areas do not, although they are better for the Democrats than more rural and suburban counties. Trump had a 13% lead in Mobile County (which includes the city of Mobile) and a 16% lead in Madison County (Huntsville).

The Election Race

This election almost appears to be a model for post- Harvey Weinstein politics.

The Republicans have picked an extremeist: their candidate Roy Moore – a 70 year-old judge from Gadsden who provoked international controversy whilst he was the state’s Chief Justice for placing the Ten Commandments outside his constitutionally-secular court. That in itself does not necessarily mark him out as an extremeist: however his involvement in white nationalism, neo-Confederacy, homophobia, Islamophobia and Birther-ism does. He has said that the 1965 Voting Rights Act (that guaranteed voting rights to African Amercians) was a mistake.

During the Senate campaign itself, he has both suggested that George Soros was bound for hell, in comments many have interpreted as being ant-Semitic, and that there was a good side to slavery in the state.

If that is not enough to make the average Alabaman think that he might not be the best person to represent them in the nation’s highest political chamber, then perhaps his sexual conduct should. By his own admission, he had sexual relationships with teenagers when he was much older than them, but the allegations are much worse: nine women have accused him of inappropriate sexual behaviour, three of whom allege sexual assault. One says that she was 14, and he 32, when the assault took place. Another woman has stated that he started pursuing her when she was 15 and assaulted her when she was 16.

Senior Republicans have called for him to withdraw from the election, saying that they believe his accusers. Moore has not, and Donald Trump has since attended a rally to give Moore his blessing.

This is all in stark contrast to the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, who is most famous for having pursued, and convicted, the child murderers in one of Alabama’s darkest events.

On 15 September 1963, the Ku Klux Klan planted fifteen sticks of dynamite at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. The explosion blew a seven foot wide hole in the wall of the church, killing four young girls, aged 11 to 14, and injuring 22 others.

The first bomber was eventually convicted 14 years later but it took 39 years – and US Attorney Doug Jones – to put the other two living perpetrators behind bars.

Doug Jones sums up the best of Alabama, Roy Moore its worst.

Indeed, the polls since Moore’s selection have always shown the Senate race to be tighter than those previous recent elections. Since the revelations of Moore’s sexual impropriety surfaced last month, Jones took the lead in a number of polls. But recent polls have given Moore a narrow lead. Perhaps, given that no prosecutions have taken place, many Alabamans have chosen to give Moore the benefit of the doubt in a way that his party’s leader in the Senate has not.

The latest polling gives Moore a 4 point lead on Jones.

This is still nip-and-tuck though. Whilst Moore is now in pole-position, a Jones victory is not impossible.

Having looked at a number of past state-wide elections, for Jones to pull off a victory, he needs a map that looks something like this:

This is based on the swing needed to take the state being applied county by county against an average of recent state-wide election results. Jones needs some big wins in the Black Belt, although some of the necessary leads suggested there are staggeringly high: over 90% in Macon and Greene counties. But these are not very populous counties, and so the Democrats can afford a little slippage there if they do well in more densely populated areas.

What is clear though is that Jones needs to push out from the Black Belt to both its north and south and do well in the urban areas. Clinton’s 7% edge in Jefferson county needs to be around 30% for Jones to win, and he needs to take Mobile and Madison counties too (our model suggests that he needs to win Madison county by about 7% and Mobile County by 14%).

If you are watching the data come in, look at how the light blue counties above go. If Jones is winning these (and enough light pink ones to offset any missed) he can win through.

Such a victory would be a massive victory for the Democrats given the state’s recent history, and a body blow to both the Republicans and Donald Trump in particular.

But if Moore holds on to places like Madison, Talledega, Tuscaloosa and Lee counties, the Alabama senate race will end up being just another Democratic near-miss in the South.


Brexit and the case for an Election Misinformation Act

November 23, 2017

I was sitting in my car yesterday when I heard the headlines from Philip Hammond’s budget – like everyone else, I heard the depressing figures for growth and wages and living standards, and initially, I just let them pass me by because I wasn’t surprised by them. Then, I considered them further and the implications […]

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Brexit Britain – Where Did It All Go Wrong?

November 17, 2017

How did Brexit happen? This is a question that will be analysed and debated for decades to come. It’s complicated. Many Leave voters right across the country feel disenfranchised but they wrongly believe that the EU is the cause. It is the decades of UK government neoliberal economics that are the true problem – which […]

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Is This The Most Clueless Conservative Party Ever?

November 13, 2017

Despite my praise for Richard Ratcliffe and the very measured way he is dealing with the total mess being made by the Foreign Secretary, we cannot get away from the fact that we are currently being run by a government so poor that it is starting to give the Trump regime over the water a […]

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In Praise of Richard Ratcliffe

November 13, 2017

Richard Ratcliffe would be quite within his rights, some might say, to go around to the Foreign Office, seek out Boris Johnson and give him a ruddy great bunch of fives; Richard Ratcliffe would be within his rights, most would say, to go on the airwaves and call for the resignation of the same Foreign […]

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#1091: 2017, Portugal, The Man – Feel It Still

November 12, 2017

As a rule I hate my kid’s music. They’re little, they’re yet to listen to anything that remotely has an edge to it, indeed most of it appears to consist of shouting the same lyric over again, because it doesn’t scan with the tuneless nonsense that passes for a melody. I suppose it’s not meant […]

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The Fallacy of National Sovereignty

November 10, 2017

Reclaiming our nation – they told us. National Liberation Day – is what Farage described it as. Finally making the UK independent again – is what they said. Throughout the debate on Brexit, we were told that a vote to leave the EU was a vote to reclaim British Sovereignty from the scourge of the […]

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#1090: 1988, Michelle Shocked, Anchorage

August 26, 2017

This year, my almost annual visit to the USA has taken me to “the largest state in the Union” – both the USA’s and my 49th state. There are a number of songs I could have picked to reflect this: perhaps Dwight Yoakam‘s North to Alaska (or the Johnny Horton original). Or, if I was […]

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A Tale For Our Times…..

July 31, 2017

Pick, as they say, the bones out of this…. I was in Court last week – the case involved a horrible road traffic accident, where a young Albanian delivery van driver had attempted to overtake a HGV when it was clearly dangerous to do so and ploughed headlong into the path of an oncoming car […]

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General Election 2017: now that we’ve stopped laughing, what next?

June 12, 2017

Forgive me readers for it has been bloody ages since my last blog. In that time, I have committed many sins, including the sin of confusion, hopeless optimism, blind despair, excessive elation, false elation and wicked gloating. Why? Because I, like every other poor bastard in this country of ours, has been subjected to the […]

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Georgia’s Sixth: Democrats First Test for Sunbelt Strategy

April 2, 2017

On 18 April, the southern US state of Georgia sees a ‘special election’ to find a new congressman. The election could be a key indicator for the way forward for the Democrats. One of the key questions for the Democrats to face in the aftermath of its electoral defeats last November is its election strategy […]

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What Brexit really means…

March 27, 2017

“Brexit means Brexit.” ~ Theresa May To many Brexiters, what Brexit really means is: The British Empire Rule, Britannia! Britannia Rules the Waves! Last night of the proms Sticking it up Johnny Foreigner Union Jack bunting Foreign muck The plucky Brit The Great Escape Dambusters Mother Country British bulldog Imperial chauvinism Born to rule Land […]

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Theresa May is the wrong prime minister at the wrong time

March 20, 2017

“I think the economic arguments are clear, I think being part of a 500-million population trading bloc is significant for us. I think, that one of the issues is that a lot of people will invest here in the UK because it is the UK in Europe. “If we were not in Europe, I think […]

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The United Kingdom: A Union of Unequals

March 17, 2017

I will always consider myself both British and Scottish. I have spent years wrestling with my own opinion on Scottish independence. I hoped that it would never come to this, but, from 2014 onwards, I made my progression from being a unionist to a supporter of Scottish self determination for the following reasons:- Independence is […]

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Corbyn’s Copeland Catastrophe?

March 1, 2017

There is no doubt that Labour’s performance in the Copeland by-election last week was historically bad: a government last won a by-election seat off an opposition in 1982. But Jeremy Corbyn’s most die-hard supporters have tried to explain this poor result away. Do their arguments hold any weight? You have read the headlines: this is […]

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Should the Lords have stopped Brexit?

February 27, 2017

There is an unfortunate irony that, sadly, one of the most interesting periods in national and international politics has coincided with us here at Allthatsleft going into self-imposed stasis. I write this, because I’ve been considering just how bad things could get – I write this because things that seemed absurd only a year or […]

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Trumpton, USA – A Place Called Hate

January 31, 2017

“I still believe in a place called Hope.” ~ Bill Clinton, 1992. In America 2017, hope has left the building. Hate has walked in, pimped out the White House with gold furnishings and started a real life version of Lord of the Flies. Obama was in the White House for 8 years, and managed to […]

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#1089: 2012, Viv Albertine, Confessions of a Milf

January 31, 2017

Last weekend, the lads of All That’s Left went away for a weekend in the country. As well as drinking what the experts tell us is the safe amount of alcohol for a month over 36 hours, there was a lot of music. One of my picks was this, my favourite find so far of […]

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Labour: dying before our very eyes

December 9, 2016

Another week, another by-election where the Labour Party candidate has seen his vote decrease. This week its Sleaford, where Labour eventually finished fourth behind UKIP and the stirring Lib-Dems. Should those of us on the left be nervous about this? Too right we should. Labour is currently embroiled in a slow and painful descent towards […]

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Can a Democrat be Elected as President in 2020?

December 8, 2016

Last month, the Democrats faced the most unpopular presidential candidate in the last thirty years, and lost. The victory of someone as dangerous as Trump against such an experienced figure as Hillary Clinton, the unexpected nature of the outcome by most commentators and the fact that she won the popular vote by over 2.6m have […]

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#1088: 2016, Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker

December 6, 2016

It seems like years ago since I last posted a song. And, it’s true, in that time, much seems to have happened, and most of it seems to have been bad. One of the worst things has been the death of Leonard Cohen – one of the true giants, a poet, a musician, a legend, […]

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Speeding Down To Trump-ton

December 3, 2016

We are only 48 days away from the beginning of the Presidency of Donald Trump. For me the very idea still seems so absurd as to be almost conceptually impossible. How could any electorate vote for someone so singularly ill-suited for office? But as every day goes by with more freak show appointments from the […]

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#1087: 1978, Kate Bush, The Man With The Child In His Eyes

December 2, 2016

2016 really has been a godawful year in so many ways.   Perhaps the winner of the ‘worst year since the Second World War’ competition.  Politically – Brexit, Trump, the Labour Party descending into an unelectable leftist cult, the rise and rise of Marine Le Pen in France.  Artistically – the deaths of David Bowie, […]

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What does the Richmond Park By-Election tell us?

December 2, 2016

I don’t know what to make of Zach Goldsmith – man of principal or man of huge arrogant ego? A couple of years ago, I’d have given him the benefit of the doubt and plumped for the former, but, after his mindless London Mayoral campaign, I feel that perhaps Zach Goldsmith is just a poor […]

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Cine-East Film Club Presents #70: 1964, Dr Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) (Stanley Kubrick)

November 30, 2016

General Jack D Ripper: ‘Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water?’ Group Captain Mandrake: ‘Well, no, I can’t say that I have’ Three weeks after the US Presidential election, it is still hard to come to terms with the fact that the American electorate (or at least that part of […]

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‘Taking Our Country Back’: A Day in the Life of Nigel’s Slogan

November 18, 2016

Perhaps it’s the lawyer in me, but I’m not a big fan of slogans – Making America Great Again: how? And what do you mean by ‘great’? Working Hard and Playing By the Rules – don’t even get me started on that load of nonsense. But, what is perplexing me, and has indeed perplexed me […]

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Too Much Polling Can Make You Blind

November 15, 2016

If it had happened once, then ok, maybe they could be forgiven, but in the last few years, pollsters have consistently fed us information that has at best been unhelpful, and at worst, down right wrong. The last general election was too close to call they said – no it wasn’t, the Tories won quite […]

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The rise of the Alt-Right: This is not normal

November 15, 2016

John Oliver laid into the result of the US Presidential election, on The Last Night Tonight he said, “A Klan-backed misogynist internet troll is going to be delivering the next State Of The Union address. This is not normal. It is fucked up.” Exactly. We have got to a point where major elections or referendums […]

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Lazy assumptions about Trump and Brexit voters is bigotry on the other side of the coin

November 11, 2016

One of the most disturbing themes to come out from the post Brexit and post Trump landscapes is the lazy assumption that all Brexit / Trump voters are bigots. While I don’t agree with their direction of vote, I am uncomfortable with a narrative that moves towards the demonising of all Brexit/Trump voters. Such assumptions […]

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