For once, it appears, the Small Data Forum three are ahead of the news.
So often in recent months and years, we’ve recorded an episode on a Friday morning and by the Sunday night before publication we’ve had to make rapid edits to the show notes because … a president has been impeached, a special adviser been sacked, or a new lockdown announced.
But today – today feels different. Is it because we were recording first thing on a Monday for next-day publication? Or is it because so much news had happened of late that we had the timing right for once? Time – of course – will tell.
On day 110 of Russia’s war on Ukraine – a topic that doesn’t delay us beyond a heartfelt appeal for the nonsense to stop – Thomas opens proceedings by reflecting on Prime Minister Johnson’s “victory” in his vote of (no) confidence handed to him by his own members of parliament.
Well, 211 MPs (59%) voted for the bloated bloviator, while 148 (41%) wanted to see the back of him. A smaller majority than that recorded by Johnson’s lame duck predecessor, Theresa May (a 63%-37% split), who was history less than six months on.
Big Dog, the Andrew formerly known as Prince (as per the cracking headline in the Irish Daily Star) and NoVaxx DjoCovid walk into a bar… Sadly, that’s not how we started our latest podcast on the uses and abuses of entitlement – oops, I meant data big and small in politics, business and public life.
Neville kicks us off our recording on Friday 14th by outlining the Politico perspective of possible scenarios regarding the future of Big Dog (although that label, uncovered by The Independent, wasn’t public knowledge by the time of our recording, what with events eventuating so fast and unpredictably these days).
The upshot: degrees of likelihood of survival pour Le Grand Chien.
Since recording, Operation Red Meat has been added as the tactical ops part to Operation SBD. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was the unedited plot of some third-rate D-Day / Nam / Iraq / Afghanistan war spoof script, when in fact it is the real-life UK government panto in all its glory. No it wasn’t a work event. Oh yes it was. Boo hiss Beeb. We don’t know yet what the Transformation Scene will bring, but Dishy Rishi and The Truss are leading contenders.
“It’s been a funny old year,” muses Thomas as we three kings of the Small Data Forum podcast begin our last ramblechat of 2021, with Thomas sounding like a football manager trying to sum up the most bizarre of seasons.
Sam believes that Thomas’ question as to whether we should see this oddest of odd years as “Plus ça change …” (and so “… plus ç’est la même chose”) is spot on.
Accusations of a series of catered parties at Number 10 are becoming more tangible and less tittle-tattle by the day – parties hosted when London was under Tier 3 restrictions and “mingerlin’” was definitely verboten. Screenshots and grainy footage of canapés and revellers crawl out of the digital woodwork to add the fire of verity to the smoke of accusations.
Spokesperson after government PR flack is being hung out to dry, resign, and spend more time with their families. The lies are mounting up like yet another set of Covid mortality statistics, and the mud sticks to everyone but the leader himself.
For Neville, the PM is deploying Steve Jobs’ notorious “reality distortion field”, and if Johnson declares black is white or up is down, everyone around him is required either to agree or get out … preferably by the back door so that no waiting media can spot and snap them, adding to the evidence pile.
During the Matrix Churchill affair – a conflict of interest and bit of political skulduggery so tepid compared with what’s happened in the intervening 20 years – the Tory MP Alan Clark conceded that he had been “economical with the actualité” in answer to Parliamentary questions.
Lying about arms export licences to Iraq seems almost innocent compared to the stodge we’re served up daily by our demagogic masters in the fibbing 2020s. Even if Clark was branded by his wife as a “total Ess-Aitch-One-Tee” in a puff-piece documentary in the 1990s, not least for his endless affairs that were satirised by Private Eye as “discussions about Uganda”.
We start our examination of the uses and abuses of data big and small with a focus on politics in the latest outing of the Small Data Forum podcast, episode 47.
Sam is inspired by the writing and the message in comedian Stewart Lee’s tragedy vehicle, his weekly Observer byline. In a recent column picking through the ashes of Labour’s shambolic performance in British local elections, Lee takes aim at Prime Minister Johnson’s record as one of the worst – and most transparent – liars in British political history.
“It is beyond moronic.” Yes, this might well have been a quote by Gary Neville, Alan Shearer or some other righteously outraged standard bearer of the purity of – in particular – the original English version of European soccerball, in response to the announcement of that ill-fated, short-lived ‘thought’ experiment in the commercial optimisation of said soccerball, the European Super League.
More of that – in Sam’s sober analysis: “arrogant imperialist cultural misappropriation” – later.
In this case, the quote refers to a story that broke on the morning of St George’s day, last Friday 23rd April, just in time for the recording of our latest SmallDataForum episode.
It should really have been a narrative about a hero slaying a huge fire-breathing beast (ignoring the Hydra problem that my dear friend and SDF guest illustrator Christoph alludes to in our title image, the English version of his German football cartoon), but as it turned out – perhaps more in keeping with the storytelling potential of the context and cast – this one was about a chatty rat, featuring prominently the near-forgotten Ghost of Barnard Castle, Dominic Cummings.
Neville (not Gary, but Hobson) kicks off SDF46 by relaying the highlights of the chatty rat saga, which he informed us had even made headlines in the Knutsford Chronicle. That turned out to be the Knutsford Guardian, but all the same.