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I came across a peculiar comment today about the massacre at the school in Pakistan.

“Imagine you’re one of the parents and you get a phone call in the middle of the day, telling you that your child has been killed at that school. How do you feel? A week before Christmas you find out your children have been murdered. How do you feel?”

I’m not sure there is any good way to point out that Christmas is probably not a big deal for most of the citizens of Peshawar, so I didn’t.
I have just finished reading Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, which is the homage to PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster by Sebastian Faulks. I enjoyed it very much, I thought it very good but it has left me very sad.

Wodehouse is difficult to emulate and Faulks has been very open about having to tread a fine line between inadvertent parody, missing the airy feel of the original and just regurgitating stock Wodehouse. I think he largely succeeds. Faulks is a writer of more serious works than Wodehouse and Jeeves and the Wedding Bells feels like a Jeeves and Wooster story written by Faulks. It’s a little more serious, there’s a little more at stake than in, say, Code of the Woosters. This comes through in three ways, one of which made my happy, one slightly irritated and one very, very sad.

I’m not sure you can have spoilers in a Wodehouse novel but here be spoilers.Those Spoilers as AdvertisedCollapse )

I really enjoyed the book. I hope one day Faulks will write another, although I think it unlikely.
I was up for Portillo. Every election has it's moments of drama and its moments that typify the whole event. Sometimes they are one and the same.

I am looking forward to the 2015 General Election for all sorts of reasons but perhaps the thing I’m most looking forward to is this.

It’s about four o’clock on Friday morning. Results are starting to come in. Early indications are that UKIP have actually picked up a few of their key seats.

Cut to the Thannet South declaration. By a whisker Farage has failed to win his seat. During the interview afterwards he attempts to talk down his personal disappointment whilst talking up the fact that it’s a been a great night for UKIP. His usually cheerful to the verge of smug face is tinged with the bitter realisation that, like Moses he has lead his people to the Promised Land but can not enter it himself.

Breaking news.

UKIP HOLD Clacton.
Unfortunately, Unfortunately Named Tim goes out but he goes down fighting and then delivers perhaps the most gracious and moving valediction in Strictly history. Whoever wins this year Unfortunately Named Tim is my favourite.

I thought he and Hey Judy might enough public backing to get through a few weeks. Sadly, Tim didn't and ended up in the dance off with Mark The Pro Wright. In a dance off with one couple averaging about 18 points and the other couple averaging closer to 27 there was only one way that it will end up. Barring a significant accident or Denise Van Outen’s boob popping out it’s game over for the lower ranked couple.

That said I enjoyed Unfortunately Named Tim’s Paso. I thought he danced with enthusiasm and joy. I thought he and Natalie performed better in the dance off than they had in the heat. I think Mark and Karen didn't dance as well in the dance off as they had in the heat. On effort and improvement Unfortunately Named Tim deserved to go through. On dance ability the right choice was made.

Which is a demonstration of why I think the Strictly Come Dancing electoral college works well. The judges have the final say. They will usually pick the couple with the best long term performance. Eventually popular but not great dancers are going to come up against one of the top ranked dancers and be put out. The finalists are going to be the best dancers in the show.

The result probably wasn’t unexpected for Unfortunately Named Tim but looked like a surprise for Mark Wright. He’d scored okay in the heat. His score of 29 being a Donny Adjusted personal best and ranking 8th . He has a huge Twitter following (who as one of his followers and fans wryly noted in a tweet re-tweeted by Mark seemed to have forgotten to vote for him). More worrying for Mark is the fact that both Hey Jude and Scott Mills in the AfternooOOoon leap-frogged him from bottom and third from bottom on the leader-board through the power of the public vote. As with Simon last week mid-table is not safe.

How did the odds move?

Reality Hammond has moved out considerably. Looks like a reaction to her actual dancing. Big movement in for Ohh Sunetra, again it looks like it reflects her dancing ability.

Mark the Pro has moved out. This looks like a reaction to him being poorly supported (this week) by the public. The fact that the market has movement out suggests that Mark’s poor support was news to the bookies. This in turn implies that either the bookies don’t have sight of the results of the public vote or that the public vote for Mark has shifted significantly and surprisingly this week.

This in itself is not conclusive evidence that my Efficient Market Hypothesis based theory that the bookies are getting intelligence on the public vote is wrong but it does look like the evidence might be there to be gathered.

Twitter Followers

Bit of a blow to the hypothesis that Twitter followers are indicative of popularity at large and the ability to Get Out The Vote as the top ranked Twitterer Mark Wright ends up in the bottom two. It may be that the theory is cobblers.

On the other hand Twitter followers probably is indicative of popularity & reach. However, in widely contested elections votes are diluted & small swings & tactical voting can have a surprising effect. Scott Mills, with his 1.2 million followers, on the other hand avoided the dance off.

Looking at the movement in Twitter followers this week’s biggest change looks like That’s Your Lott and The Flack Jacket with 10,000 each. This is probably more to do with the way twitter profiles round twitter followers once you have millions. Highest percentage move is Unfortunately Named Tim at 22.4% with Dangerous Steve second on 18.6%.

Trent Whiddon picket up the biggest percentage movement of the pro-dancers up 14.6% from 9.4k to 10.8k. Ola The Baby Faced Assassin has the biggest absolute movement of 3,000. She’s just a whisker away from breaking the 200k followers barrier.

So far my original predictions don’t look that far out apart from Jake Can’t See the Wood. Perhaps a lesson in the irony of moniker selection there.
Not Jennifer Grey, Jennifer Gibney fails at the second time of asking and the Irish combo of Gibney and MacManus go out losing to an underwhelming Simon From Blue.

Mmmh, Frankie continues to dance well. As does Caroline “the Jacket” Flack and That’s Your Lott. That Kevin Clifton is a smart guy and I think his shot selection is excellent. When Frankie wins a lot of that will be down to Kevin’s ability as pro-dancer.

Jake seemed poorer this week than he has been. I think he’s still a finalist pick for me. Sunetra had a good week but I’m of the view that she’d caught a bit of a lucky break with a dance that suited both her and Brendan

At the other end of the leaderboard I wasn’t enjoying Not Jennifer Grey, Jennifer Gibney’s efforts. Not great dancing and not a huge amount of entertainment. On the other hand Unfortunately Named Tim did put on a very entertaining Charlston. Of the celebs who are struggling with the dancing I think he’s the only one with sufficient charisma and humour to be kept in for entertainment value. By the time the rest of the bottom tier of dancers have been cleared out by each other he’ll have had a good few weeks in the competition but eventually he’s going to come up against someone better than him in the dance off. Week Six or Seven I’d say.

Simon being in the bottom two was a surprise. He looked visibly upset by Craig’s harsh remarks. I’d expect a former boy band member to have more public support but looking at his twitter followers he doesn’t seem to be in the public affection like The Jacket or Mmmmh Frankie.

Last week I was worried that this year’s show was being too generous and too safe around the marking with too many Se-HE-Vens. Comparing the first three weeks of this season with last season it actually looks pretty comparable. 25% of marks this year are 7 compared to 30% last year. 5-6-7 gets 70% of the scores this year compared to 66% last year. There were a good deal more 8’s last year. Craig is only judge to use the full range of the paddles. He has 16 scores below a 5. Darcey is only other person to award marks below a five handing out two 4’s. Last year had a little more bottom weighting with all of the judges handing out at least one 4 and Bruno awarding one 3. I’ll go back and compare 2012 and 2011 over the next few days if I can find the data.

I’m enjoying the interplay between Tess and Claudia. The popcorn down the cleavage incident and Claudia’s reaction to it was the highlight of the show. I did think she was actually going to wet herself in an attempt to keep from bursting out laughing.

I’m still not convinced that Tess would be my first choice of MC but she’s doing a decent enough job. She seems to get on with Claudia which makes her more fun to watch and no one is groping either of them so they seem more relaxed. I expect as she gets a bit more settled she’ll find her own way of hosting the show with a bit of sparkle. At least we are spared the awful spectacle of a pre-senile old man forgetting the set ups to his own awful jokes.
As part of my continued commitment to bringing you the best psephological commentary on Strictly Come Dancing and in consultation with key stakeholders and partner organisations I have expanded my routine data collection exercise to include Twitter followers.

Twitter followers ought to be a decent proxy for general levels of name awareness and popularity. Levels of Twitter support might also have a Get Out the Vote function. Both factors should point in the same direction. The more followers the better chance of winning.

So here is the table of celebrity twitter followers as at this morning. I’ll be tracking this weekly along with the bookies’ odds.

Alison Hammond 166,000
Caroline Flack 1,690,000
Frankie Bridge 1,270,000
Gregg Wallace 149,000
Jake Wood 240,000
Jenifer Gibney 10,100
Judy Murray 119,000
Mark Wright 2,540,000
Pixie Lott 1,670,000
Scott Mills 1,200,000
Simon Webbe 149,000
Steve Backshall 23,600
Sunetra Sarker 15,800
Thom Evans 30,800
Tim Wonnacott 3,572

I was surprised that Mark Wright tops the table but also by the big difference between him and the next on the list Caroline Flack. I’m surprised that Simon From Blue has so few.

One over 2 million followers. 4 over 1 million followers. 5 over 100,000. Only one under 10,000, poor old Unfortunately Named Tim Wonnacott. Second contestant out Not Jennifer Grey mustered only just over the 10k mark.

Turning to the Pro Dancers

Alijaz Skorjanic 46,100
Pasha Kovalev 63,800
Kevin Clifton 53,700
Aliona Vilani 73,600
Janette Manrara 25,900
Tristan MacManus 56,200
Anton du Beke 102,000
Karen Hauer 34,100
Trent Whiddon 9,428
Joanne Clifton 16,200
Kristina Rhihanoff 92,800
Ola Jorda 196,000
Bredan Cole 106,000
Iveta Lukosiute 28,200
Natalie Lowe 73,500

The Baby Faced Assassin Ola Jordan tops the table with 196,000 followers. This may be a function of her longevity and relative success on the show. It may be related to her cover photograph being a topless modelling shot of her covered in sand.

Unsurprisingly, Trent Whiddon, comes in bottom of the table with 9,428 followers. He’s the only pro dancer with fewer than 10,000 followers.

Both long term contestants Brendan Cole and Anton du Beke weigh in at over 100,000 followers and Kristina Rhihanoff falls just short of this milestone.

Judging by the difference in followers between Kevin Clifto and Anton du Beke I think pro dancers tend to gain followers very quickly and then slowly accumulate them. I’m not expecting Cole, Jordan, Lowe etc to gain many followers over the course of the show.

Based on Twitter followers I’d expect Mark Wright to do well and for his more than 1 million followers to keep Scott Mills in the show for a while.
So the first elimination has come and not even a fetish fueled Charlston could save Pudding Loving Geoff. He goes at the first time of asking. I had him going out in week 8. I think that fundamentally my bottom half is sound except for Can’t See The Wood.

Can’t See The Wood turns out not to be as wooden as I thought he would be. Following last weeks decent Tango he impressed with a Salsa garnering three nines in week two. Despite the cognitive disonance of having picked him for an early exit even I was impressed by his salsa. His combined score sees him top ranked over the two weeks.

Pixie and Frankie look pretty nailed on for a semi-final place with good dances in both weeks. On combined scores they are ranked second and third.

In terms of the public vote Not Jennifer Grey would have hoped to avoid the Dance Off. Her score of 37 had her ahead of four other contestents. Perhaps her legions of fans thought she was safe. Perhaps her legion of fans have read the same reviews of Mrs Brown’s Boys that I have.

I’m going to have a look at the average scores by week. I have a feeling they are higher than at this stage in previous years.

7 is the most popular score over the two weeks with 36 appearances or 30%. Last year over the first two weeks 28 7’s had been awarded, 23% of the total scores. 7 was still joint favourite mark. Last year the scores 5,6 and 7 accounted for 67% of scores awarded. This year 79% of scores are in the range 5-7. This is something I’m going to delve into more over the coming weeks. I’ll also be looking at any gender bias in the scoring.
In the wake of #IndyRef I’ve seen many suggestions that Scottish Labour are dead and that the SNP will win a majority of seats of Westminster seats in the 2015 General Election.

I don’t think the end has come for Scottish Labour. I think Scottish Labour is in long term decline with an existential threat. Nothing that is acceptable to them will repair their situation. The end is nigh-ish.

Read more...Collapse )
Pretty decent shows over the weekend. The opening number on the Saturday night was perhaps the best opening to any Strictly Come Dancing show ever. The combination of Tess and Claudia seems to be working okay so far. I remain to be convinced that Tess has the necessary gravitas (1) to keep the judges under control and balance the judges, audience and contestants.

One thing I’m going to be watching is how much Craig, Bruno and to a lesser extent Darcey play up to an exaggerated version of themselves. How grumpy can Craig be? How mad as a box of mad frogs out of their heads on LSD and being carried on the back of Salvador Dali’s bicycle can Bruno be?

Now, the dancing.

Lovely waltz from Mmmh Frankie. A clear and deserved lead. Decent performances from Flack Jacket Caroline and That’s Your Lott. My draw in the office sweeper looks okay for the time being. Perhaps the surprise dance of the night was Can’t See the Wood’s Tango. A bit stompy but very dramatic. I also enjoyed Dangerous Steve’s Tango. Good pro tips from Craig on how to manage his muscular arms. Dangerous Steve may be a good outside bet.

I was surprised by how well Reality Hammond did. I was not expecting her to perform so well. I thought she flagged a little at the end of her routine. I wonder if we’ll see a virtuous circle of improving physical fitness leading to improved performance leading to staying in and getting fitter.

The usual caveats about this only being one poll, you have to look at the trend, and individual constituencies enjoy differential incumbency factors only being one week, you have to look at the trend and different couples suit different dances.

At the bottom end of the leaderboard Pudding Loving Gregg, Unfortunately Named Tim, Hey Jude, Not Jennifer Grey and bringing up the rear Scott Mills in the AfternooOOOoon. No surprises there. Time to see who the public favour. Anyone in the bottom five gets put out in the dance off by anyone not in the bottom five at the moment. Will a week and another dance be enough to shift the scores.

With the exception of the surprisingly good tango from Can’t See the Woods the general trend of predictions look okay. I might be tempted to swap out Thom “Dripping” Evans from the Semi-Final list and put Can’t See the Woods in but I think Evans will have the public vote behind him.

Which leads me to Bookies’ Corner.

This year I’m recording the William Hill straight win odds for each contestant each week.

The favourite before the dancing was Pixie Lott at 3/1. She’s now fallen back a little 4/1 with Mmmh Frankie the new favourite at 3/1 from 9/2. She’s the big mover. Going the other way Thom Evans moves out from 4/1 to 6/1. At 16/1 I think I’d fancy Dangerous Backshall. I’m going to run a shadow “investment” portfolio and see if I can come out ahead. (2)

I’ll mainly be watching to see if the odds move in unexpected ways which might indicate that voting information is leaking out.

(1) You Want Me To Grab Its What? ROU (Murderer Class)

(2) Or if not ahead at least only behind the Baby Faced Assassin.
Well now it’s time for the psephological highlight of the year my series of Strictly Come Dancing prediction and voting analysis blogs.

For my first post the ever popular (1) initial assessment of the celebrities and their professional dance partners. This year I’ll be basing my initial assessment on a reading of the celebrities Wikipedia entry, my assessment of their performance in the group dance in the preliminary show, my understanding of how SCD celebrity constituencies operate and how I view the strengths and weaknesses of the professional partner (2)

Cut for lengthy discussion of Strictly, those watching Strictly and inappropriate use of the word DrippingCollapse )

(1) How do we know, there’s never been a vote.

(2) He’s making it up as he goes along.

(3) As there are no cricketers in this years’ show I’ll be (over) compensating by using large amounts of inappropriate cricketing terminology. As I regular readers are also often huge cricketing fans I know this won’t be a problem.