We Earned Them Votes Tonight in South Shields 122

“We earned them votes tonight”, said Emma Lewell-Buck. The House of Commons has gained a social worker who can’t speak English. The auto-didacts of the early Labour movement would have been horrified. I am aware that the readers of this blog are among those who believe an inability to communicate in standard English is a mark of authenticity; I fear my view is that it has been a hundred years since the state education system in this country was so patchy that there is any reason beyond sloth for inability to follow the most basic of grammar.

But she spoke truth in one sense. They did indeed “earn them votes”. Producing fraudulent postal ballots by the thousands is very hard work, and the Labour Party in the North of England should perhaps be congratulated in bringing back aspects of manufacturing heritage in this regard.

*This was the first parliamentary constituency election in British history in which the postal ballots outnumbered the polling station votes. UKIP beat New Labour in the polling booth ballot boxes by a very clear majority, according to my mole in the count.

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122 thoughts on “We Earned Them Votes Tonight in South Shields

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  • doug scorgie

    Habbabkuk (La vita è bella)
    3 May, 2013 – 12:36 pm

    “Excellent post, Craig.”

    Habbabkuk says:

    “…you’ve probably upset a number of regular commenters by coming out with a couple of things on which they probably assumed you shared their line.”

    May I ask Mr Habbabkuk: what is this “line” that you say regular commenters “assume” Craig would share in regard to this matter?

    You say:

    “The first is the question of postal vote rigging by Labour in cities with high Indian sub-continent ethnic populations.”

    May I ask: which cities are you referring to?

    You go on:

    “This certainly exists and if anything you probably under-estimate the scale of the problem”

    If it “certainly exists” can you “certainly” produce evidence for that and share the details with us so that we can all benefit from being better informed?

    You go on: “… if anything you probably under-estimate the scale of the problem.”

    How do you know that the “problem” is probably [as opposed to possibly] under-estimated?

    I ‘m sure you won’t answer my questions in any meaningful way because you consistently obfuscate when you reply to the posters here.

    I think postal voting should be scrapped; it should never have been introduced.

    From the BBC:

    “The judge in a vote-rigging trial says the postal voting system is “wide open to fraud” and has strongly attacked the government’s attitude to the problem.”


    The Labour Party does not have a monopoly on postal-vote fraud.

    I await a meaningful reply to my questions Habbabkuk and I invite you to put forward your views on the use of postal voting in the democratic process.

  • ToivoS

    In the US elections that I have worked in it is not uncommon for the postal votes to differ significantly from election day balloting. There are two reasons for this:

    1) People who vote through the mails tend to be older, more established citizens than those vote on election day. That is they are tad more conservative.

    2) Postal voters vote earlier. Here in California, about 10 earlier on average. I just finished a campaign where we were behind the entire race but the polls were tightening. We actually won the vote on election day but lost the election because of the early voting.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    There are a number of issues Craig’s post has raised and I think it is important that these various issues not be confused with one another:

    1) Systemic vote rigging allegations wrt esp. postal voting. This is the most immediate of the issues wrt the actual mechanics of democracy in Britain. It requires urgent attention.

    2) Language is political, always.

    3) The importance of the class system in the UK, the nature of class mobility (or its lack), the packaging and marketing of ‘class’ and the specific ways in which these structural frameworks manifest through language/communication.

    4) The deliberate and/or internalised, non- or semi-deliberate modulation of language in relation to 3) and 4). The rise to power of PR/Communications and the differences b/w this and old-style, more overt propaganda.

    5) Education and the specifics of its relationship to language, social class, regionalism, centralisation, etc.

    6) The similarities and differences b/w the ‘mainstream’ political parties and the perennial role of the Far Right in providing a conduit for dissatisfaction with the ‘mainstream’ parties and their relationship to Wall Street/City of London, the EU, i.e. transnational polities, etc. The rise of UKIP-EDL as ‘boot and ballot’ of the Far Right, with the simultaneous decline of the BNP due largely to internal disputes and ineffectiveness.

    7) The place of the nation-state in today’s global world.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “I am aware that the readers of this blog are among those who believe an inability to communicate in standard English is a mark of authenticity.” Craig Murray.

    On the contrary, I believe that the ability to communicate verbally and in writing, in Standard English (i.e. in whatever is the Standard English of the day, because Standard English has changed constantly over the centuries) AND the ability to communicate, in speech and writing, in one or more other varieties of English (and other languages too) is also an excellent communication skill. It is not ‘either or’.

    I do not believe in ‘dumbing-down’ to try to appear more ‘proletarian’ (nor in the assumptions behind that tactic).

    I trust this clarifies my position.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    And so, we can see the alliance b/w the amazingly well-financed and organised boot-boys of Inglistan and the equivalent of France’s and Italy’s Far Right electoral parties. There is no question that the selling-out of the Labour Party to Wall Street/City of London, the resulting economic crisis and the systemic collapse of credibility of the Left to provide a coherent alternative has led to this situation.


  • technicolour

    As to people’s grammar – rather more important is what people say, than how they say it.

  • Amadeus Minkowski

    Suhayl Saadi

    To understand not only the evolution of a given language one needs to understand the concept of Universal Grammar; i.e., one should not overly focus on the particular conventions that any particular language uses at any particular time, but rather focus on the persistence of grammatical functions.

    P.S. You might enjoy reading History of English Grammars.

  • Fred

    “Actually she said it last night on Sky News, at approximately 12.50 I think, in an interview after the count. You didn’t see the question, but I presume she was being asked about postal votes. She went on to claim that in four weeks she had knocked on every door in South Shields.”

    I have looked on the Sky News web site, they have a video of an interview after the result but not one matching your description.

    As for electoral fraud it undoubtedly happens, committed by candidates of all the main parties in many forms, there have been investigations and there have been convictions. If you have evidence of fraud in South Shields you should go to the authorities. Though I would think that the party which did surprisingly better than expected would be a more likely candidate than the one which did worse than expected.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thanks, Amadeus. I am not a linguist, but am aware there is much controversy over the concept of universal grammar propounded by Chomsky, etc. I agree, though, whatever the differing views from various researchers, it’s a fascinating area. I was approaching the issues on a more prosaic, political, rather than a deep linguistic, level. But any thoughts on the deeper levels would be most welcome – we will need to don our deep-sea diving outfits, though!

  • Amadeus Minkowski

    Habbabkuk (La Vita È Bella)
    Suhayl Saadi

    Anne Dillard’s “The Writing Life” presents an interesting anecdote about the key to good writing.

    She recalls being asked by a student “Do you think I could be a good writer” to which she responds
    “Well, do you like sentences”

    Consider now the the extent to which you view Dillard’s response as profound, or otherwise.
    I would argue that your response to that is a litmus test to where you are on your writing journey! 🙂

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “As to people’s grammar – rather more important is what people say, than how they say it.” Technicolour.

    Yes, of course. Yet ‘what one says’ is mediated through how one says it; the two cannot be separated. In my view, there is effective communication and less effective communication and the broader and deeper the skills of the communicator (and this might mean having access to regional forms of expression, used not in a cynical ‘advertising’/PR manner, but as part of a genuine, solidarity dynamic), the better they are likely be able to communicate whatever it is they are trying to communicate.

    So, I’m a great champion of maximising the scope and depth of the use of language and see this as entirely consistent with striving for excellence in all forms used – including Standard English. The better one can express onself in one accent/dialect/language, the better one is likely to be able to express onself in others. The brain seems to function in that manner. It is a complex thing.

    There’s also the discourse around orality. These dialectics (!) are all common in Scotland, where there are several commonly-used languages and even more dialects (I don’t want to get into the debate about what is a language, and what, a dialect – another hot potato). I love listening to Doric, Gaelic, Scots in its various forms and so on. Personally, I’d like to see more teaching of languages; the varieties of English and other languages too – in our schools.

    I do think that learning grammar is important (and am so grateful to my old and stuffy teachers who, in the early 1970s, held out against the then-prevailing trend of ditching deep teaching of grammar). We learn grammar when we are learning foreign languages (non-one would suggest that it is useless to do so) and so we ought to be learning grammar when learning English, a highly complex, mixed-origin language with many differing rules and then some. To play about with the rules – to be a more effective communicator, to enhance one’s brain, and those of others, in that positive feedback loop – it is helpful if one first knows what they are. The radio is a superb medium for this – every word can be a drop of gold.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “I would argue that your response to that is a litmus test to where you are on your writing journey!” Amadeus.

    Amadeus, ha! Good one! I am 20,000 leagues under the sea, and moving down…

  • Amadeus Minkowski


    By “what people say”, you mean the intended semantic content; i.e., there intended meaning.
    By “how they say it”, you mean the syntactic structure they use; not necessarily a grammar, more an ad-hoc set of parochial conventions.

    Sadly, one cannot generally place semantics before grammar, though most try to. One can if the information and ideas being conveyed are limited and familiar; pub talk, street talk, etc… . But not so if one want to scale the dizzy heights of original ideas.

    Sentences are grammatical structures first and foremost, and it is from such constructs that one infers their semantics.
    So, Grammar first, semantics later, there is no escape!

  • Amadeus Minkowski

    Suhayl Saadi

    Quite the contrary. Your are moving up, as is anyone whose quest is to deepen their understanding of the universe. 🙂

  • Sophie Habbercake

    Thanks. Suhayl Saadi (9 25 am). You hit the nail on the head.

    What those old fossils don’t seem to get is that it’s…………..

    Different Horses for Different Courses.

    I vote for you to replace Miss Purvis.

  • technicolour

    “Well, do you like sentences”

    I like that sentence a lot.

    I was taught very little grammar, as such: I learnt it by reading a lot of good writing. Looking at German friends’ English textbooks, which attempted to cast a living and often entirely contradictory language into a rigid structure, I was quite relieved. But otherwise, of course the fundamental rules are quite easy and important – the fact that I know people with degrees who don’t understand the apostrophe, and the ignorance about the apostrophe in general, makes me unnaturally distressed – it’s such a simple thing. I think it could indeed be a useful political tool, keeping people in the dark, and insecure, about their own tongue. But I disagree with the idea that it’s ‘sloth’ – sometimes teachers don’t understand the basics, so of course their pupils will not either, and not many people understand the joy of playing with, say, the comma; or the semi-colon.

    I still affirm that it’s preferable to have an elected representative who sayss ‘we will not bomb them people’ than one who says ‘we will bomb those people’ but I don’t think there’s any real disagreement here. And I’m also grateful for the analysis of language, class and power, above.

  • Sophie Habbercake

    Yes. Right Mr Technicolour.

    So, the poor wretches come to, amid the dust and shattered walls, and tell each other “That was a bit of a bummer but it’s OK really cos after all they did threaten us using grammatically perfect language.”

  • Sophie Habbercake

    Mr Technicolour. Of course you did.

    But seriously for a moment, you write “…of course the fundamental rules are quite easy and important…” Well yes, as simple as that!

    Maybe, so long as a poerson is paying attention generally to all the myriad conversations and written language around them, the basic grammar and it’s logic and rules will sink in anyway. Like a kind of linguistic osmosis. So we can sack Miss purvis and enjoy focusing on grammar if and when the fancy takes us and trust that the rest of the time we’ll get by with whatever language pops up. And if everyone is always giving us puzzled looks or misunderstanding us maybe that’s the time to ask Uncle Craig or Dad to help explain the rules.

  • Sophie Habbercake

    And before all you Smart Alecs start correcting my latest offering, my excuse is that I was too lazy to find my glasses, but maybe that’s just as well cos I’m sure even that vast herd of most erudite and intellectually superior readers of this blog will have understood what I was driving at.

  • technicolour

    Well, don’t shoot the messenger, but the basic rules are quite easy. For example, an apostrophe plus an s is there to indicate possession, which is why you put one at the end of ‘my friend’s trousers’ (the trousers of my friend). If you’re referring to lots of friends’ trousers, it comes after the plural, with no need for another s. Or, it’s there to replace a letter or letters – in the, commonly misunderstood, case of it’s, the apostrophe is replacing the i of is. In the case of didn’t, it’s replacing the o of did not. And so on. Takes maybe five minutes to get your head round and you’ve (replacing the h and a of have) got a lifetime of free punctuation 🙂

    You’re quite right, it should be a question of enjoyment, but the way schools are focussing on targets and exams leaves no time for grammar, or anything much, to be enjoyable – it’s made to seem a desperate and difficult business, and a sign of whether you have intellectual value or not, and most children’s – and teachers – brains naturally freeze in panic as a result, which is no way to learn or teach anything. The most striking thing about this post is that the quote made what the person said hard to understand when written down – I thought she was initially saying that Labour had won other people (them) votes. Which, given the various failings of that party, would also be true, but wasn’t what she meant to say at all. Verbally, the emphasis would be on ‘them’ so you’d have heard the point.

  • technicolour

    and of course spot the deliberate (damn! I knew it would happen) omission of an apostrophe in the second para (gives up grammar, goes for pint)

  • Sophie Habbercake

    Mr T. Well I think we have all that “Grammar” business just about wrapped up then. Thank’s….I mean Thanks’… or should it be Thanks?

    Enjoy your pint.

    I’m getting outa to plant some spuds (Sarpo Mira, they just don’t get the dreaded blight.).

    Sorry for monopolising the blog folks.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella)

    @ Sophie

    Perhaps you didn’t realise it, but you’re funnier when you’re trying to be serious than you are when you’re trying to be funny.

    PS – don’t worry about ‘monopolising the blog’ : given the competition, you still got a way to go 🙂

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