Friday, May 22, 2015

Enough of the untrue stories, preachers

I don’t really name and shame on this blog when I complain about people using stories that aren’t true in their preaching. I didn’t name the two well-known Christian speakers who told a completely untrue story about the violinist Itzhak Perlman. I also didn’t name the guy who told the most middle class story ever about God’s providence that came down to him having a generous godmother.

But I’m changing tack now. I see no reason not to call people on these things. Ultimately if you’re presenting truth then it should be true.

So, here’s a story that I heard last time Tony Campolo was in town. Before I start I need to say two things. Firstly, I quite like Tony Campolo. I’ve never had lunch with him or anything, so I’m basing this on hearing him speak and also a book I had as a teenager that covered some tough questions and that really helped me. I’m not disputing his theology or his relationship with Jesus or anything like that. I have no axe to grind.

The second thing you need to know is that he presented this story as something told to him by a church pastor from a church he was preaching in. I think he said it was in Hawaii, I’m not sure. But it was presented as a true story heard from someone for whom it was a personal experience. (That friend of a friend really should have tipped me off sooner, but anyway...) Here's the story:

This pastor had a kid in his church who lost an arm in an accident or somehow only had one arm. And for some reason the kid decided he wanted to learn a martial art. So he goes to a dojo and is taken on by an old martial arts master who proceeds to teach him one move.

Over and over they repeat the move and then the master says the kid is ready to compete in an upcoming championship. The kid is horrified. He only has the one move. He only has one arm. It’s crazy! But the master insists and they go to the championship.
At the championship the kid uses his one move and wins his first bout. Then, using his one move, he wins his second bout, then the next one, all the way up to the final, where he is facing the defending champion. The bell (or whatever) goes and the final fight is on. The kid uses his one move and bam! Down goes the defending champion. The one-armed kid is the winner.
On the way back home, the kid is talking to the master, saying how he can’t believe he won.
“After all,", he says. "I only had the one move!”
The master smiles and says, “I knew you would win.”
The kid says, “How? How did you know I would win.”
And the master says, “Because that one move you practiced – it has only one defence. Your opponent would have to grab your other arm.”
At which point we all went ‘Ahhh’. Obvious moral, right? The thing we thought was a weakness was actually a strength.

It’s not a bad story. It has a good moral. I don’t object to anyone using it. But the way it was used, it was presented as a true story, not an apocryphal myth. This was supposed to be a kid in the church pastored by a guy that Tony Campolo met while out doing his thang touring the world preaching. It was definitely presented that way, as if Tony had had a one on one conversation with this guy who told him this obviously framed story with a punchline as just a random thing that has happened.

That’s what annoys me. A quick Google proves this never happened. It didn’t happen in Hawaii. It didn’t happen anywhere.

Now maybe I’m doing Tony Campolo a disservice. Maybe he heard someone else tell the story and just sequestered it for himself. I know plenty of preachers who do that. But he could have checked. Or he could have said, ‘I’ve heard this story. I don’t know if it’s true, but...’ instead of telling everyone that he had heard it first-hand from the pastor of the church this kid went to.

Being honest, I don’t like the Chicken Soup for the Soul nonsense stories that preachers chuck into sermons that are obviously rubbish. Well-crafted parables are acceptable. Illustrations drawn from known fiction are fine (I reference Star Wars enough in my talks). But the sentimental stories with a point are a bit saccharine for me and I’m not keen.

But even though I don’t like them, if people want to use them, I don’t really object. My issue is when people present them as real, or having really happened to them. In the case of Tony Campolo, I know people who really rate him as a writer, speaker, teacher. But, because of the way he presented that story, it made me question the other stuff he said. Has he really done these things? Has he really met those people?

And that’s unfortunate, because when people talk about how great he is, I have a niggling little doubt in my mind that says, “Yeah, but he’s also a bit of a bullshitter...” And the only reason I think that is because of what he himself has said. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Five Quotes from Life after God by Douglas Coupland

I have discovered Douglas Coupland’s novels in the last few years. Life after God is both like and unlike his novels. Here are five bits from it that really spoke to me.

“Sometimes I think the people to feel the saddest for are people who are unable to connect with the profound... And then sometimes I think the people to feel saddest for are people who once knew what profoundness was, but who lost or became numb to the sensation of wonder – people who closed the doors that lead us into the secret world – or who had the doors closed for them by time and neglect and decisions made in times of weakness.”

“And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened.”

“...humans are the only animal to feel the pain of sorrow that has been stretched out through linear time ...our curse as humans is that we are trapped in time – our curse is that we are forced to interpret life as a sequence of events – a story – and when we can’t figure out what our particular story is we feel lost somehow. “Dogs only have a present tense in their lives,” ... Humans have to endure everything in life in agonizingly endless clock time – every single second of it. Not only this, but we have to remember having endured our entire lives as well.”

“I think that death is not just dying. I think death is a loss that can never be found again, words that can never be taken back, damage that can never be made whole. It is a denial of any possible future giving of love.”

“...we are living creatures – we have religious impulses – we must – and yet into what cracks do these impulses flow in a world without religion?”

(I’ve typed these up without permission. I would recommend you buy and read the book and all Douglas Coupland’s other books.)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My football season review for 2014-15

The dust has settled on another football season for most clubs. Admittedly there’s another round of matches to go in the Premier League and, of course, the final of the FA Cup, but I don’t think I’ll be going to any more games this year, so I’m calling it over.

It’s been a good season for me. I went to the most matches in a season since I was a teenager in 1994-95. It was a good season for Shrewsbury Town too, as they got promoted as runners-up of League 2. I saw them get presented with the trophy on the last day of the league season. The last game I saw was a cup final that ended in a penalty shoot-out; exciting and awful in equal measure.

I’m going to go through the games on an individual basis, but here are some overall stats:
Season: 2014-15
Total games: 13
Most goals in a game: 9
Least goals in a game: 0 (twice)
Total goals seen: 37 (not including a penalty shoot-out)
Number of football grounds visited: 8 (4 of which I’d never visited before)

Shrewsbury Town v Newport County                    
20/09/2014, Skybet League 2
Shrewsbury had been on a great run of form, winning all 4 home league games before Newport visited. I can’t remember much about the game, except it was pretty dire. Newport set up to defend and Shrewsbury couldn’t break them down. It was not an auspicious start to my season.  Result: 0-0

Shrewsbury Town v Cheltenham Town
11/10/2014, Skybet League 2
The problem with writing this up so long after the event is it’s hard to remember what happened. Fortunately I made some notes at the time: “All the goals came in the second half and Cheltenham scored first. There was a rainbow over the opposite stand at one point. It poured down just before kick-off, all during the cheerleaders’ routine, then stopped when they’d finished. God must hate cheerleaders!” (I’m glad I’d made a note. I’d forgotten about the cheerleaders.) Result: 3-1

Paulton Rovers v Poole Town
25/10/2014, Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division
Close to the action at Paulton Rovers
My friend Steve has followed Poole Town – the Mighty Dolphins – for many years and invited me to the depths of Somerset to see them play. I was glad I went as it turned out to be an eventful game. Poole were challenging near the top of the table, but were soon 2-0 down. They pulled it back to 2-2 before conceding a third to trail 3-2 at half-time. I then stood in the slowest-moving tea queue in the history of civilised snack-bar patronage. We swapped ends at half time to stand behind the Paulton goal. We were so close to the action, several Dolphins fans engaged the goalkeeper in humorous comments. But the play was at the other end to start with and soon Paulton were 4-2 up. Poole fought back, getting a goal and then getting a very dodgy penalty, which they converted for 4-4. With two minutes to go, Poole finally went in front, to prove the fans who were singing “We’re going to win 5-4” right. Result: 4-5

Shrewsbury Town v Chelsea
28/10/2014, Capital One Cup (League Cup) round 3
The view from the South Stand as Shrewsbury and Chelsea line up
This was my first Tuesday night Shrewsbury game since they moved into their new stadium in 2007, and it was the first time I’d been in the South Stand behind the goal. It was the place to be as well, as Shrewsbury’s Andy Mangan scored an equaliser in the second half right in front of us. The goal prompted Jose Mourinho to send on some of his first-teamers. For a brief few minutes it really felt like Shrewsbury could have the eventual Premier League Champions. But Chelsea got a second goal and killed the game to avoid an embarrassing reverse. One Chelsea player, apparently the Egyptian captain, struck the worst mishit shot I’ve ever seen. From the left hand corner of the area, it eventually went out for a throw in on the right hand side further away from the goal than the player was when he hit it. World Cup winner Andre Schurrle also played for Chelsea, one of his few games before he got transferred back to the continent. It was a great game, but unfortunately the road south through Shropshire was closed for roadworks, meaning I had a detour through nether Mordor (as I call it) in the dark. I was thoroughly knackered when I got home. Result: 1-2

Shrewsbury Town v Wycombe Wanderers
28/12/2014, Skybet League 2
Both teams shake hands. Horrible away kit!
Exactly two months after the Chelsea game, I was back in the Greenhous Meadow for this game on the Sunday between Christmas and Easter. This was a real top of the table clash, but it wasn’t a great game. Wycombe were wearing a horrible change strip that faded from yellow to orange (the photo doesn’t do it justice). My Mum commented that “It looks like they are melting ice lollies.” Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg was the man in the middle. He seemed pernickety, although he didn’t really have a lot to do. Town got the ball in the net twice, but both efforts were ruled out for offside or a foul in the build-up. It was definitely a case of missed opportunities and my second 0-0 of the season. I was beginning to think I was a jinx. Result: 0-0

Newport County v Shrewsbury Town
31/01/2015, Skybet League 2
The closest ‘away’ game of the season, ten minutes on the train and a fifteen minute walk on a sunny January day. Newport share their ground, Rodney Parade, with the rugby club and the pitch looked like a rugby pitch. One end of the ground is completely open to the elements and a keen wind blew through it. The game wasn’t much better than the pitch, settled by a single goal when Shrewsbury's Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro shimmied past two defenders and beat the goalkeeper at the near post. It surprised everybody, including, it seemed, him. Result: 0-1

Caerau (Ely) AFC v Carmarthen Town                     
07/02/2015, Welsh Cup round 4
My friend Steve mentioned that Kieran, a lad we both know, played for Caerau Ely in the South Wales League and we could go and see him sometime. Then I saw they were playing Carmarthen Town of the Welsh Premier League in the fourth round of the Welsh Cup – the furthest Caerau Ely had ever progressed in the competition. So we decided to go. Kieran wasn’t playing as he was recovering from an injury. (He was on the bench though). The game was pretty even and Caerau probably had the better chances in normal time. But it finished 0-0 after ninety minutes and went to extra time. Carmarthen scored a minute into extra time then got a penalty, with Caerau’s central defender getting a red card as well. The penalty was converted and Carmarthen scored twice more before the midway point of extra time, to win by a flattering four goal margin. Result: 0-4 (aet)

Queens Park Rangers v Everton
22/03/2015, Premier League
One of the QPR mascots
Along with Poole Town, Steve is also a lifelong fan of QPR, so he invited me to go see them. This was the second game of the season that I went to on a Sunday. QPR were desperate for points near the bottom of the league and played like it. Everton led with a goal out of nowhere in the first half. QPR equalised in the second half and were pushing on to get a second when Everton hit them on the break and Aaron Lennon scored the eventual winner for them. This was the first time I remember seeing a ref using the ‘vanishing spray’ at free kicks, and also those moving electronic advertising hoardings around three edges of the ground – they don’t bother putting them on the side where the TV cameras are as they wouldn’t show on TV. Coming back the M4 was blocked by an accident, so we turned off and moseyed through Berkshire, meaning I saw Windsor Castle close up for the first time. Result: 1-2

Wales U21 v Bulgaria U21            
31/03/2015, UEFA U21 Championship Qualifier
Bulgaria turn to face east during the anthem
A young lad called Dom Smith who has come through the ranks at Shrewsbury was called up to the Wales Under-21 squad for this game, so I hoped he would get a game. It was at Cardiff City Stadium, within walking distance of home, so I went along. Dom made his debut, coming on as a substitute after one of the starting centre backs was concussed in a challenge. Bulgaria scored while the guy was prone on the halfway line, but by then they were 3-0 down so in the end it didn’t matter. Bad sportsmanship, though. Result: 3-1

Shrewsbury Town v Exeter City
11/04/2015, Skybet League 2
Steve hadn’t been to the Greenhous Meadow, although he had seen QPR play at the old Gay Meadow a couple of times. With Shrewsbury doing quite well in the league, I hoped this would be a game worth going to. I was not disappointed. I have never seen Shrewsbury play this well. They dominated their opponents, who were not a bad side. Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro got two goals, but the best goal of the game was right at the end, a thunderbolt from the edge of the area from Tyrone Barnett. There was also a funny moment when a load of rubbish escaped from the wheelie bins in the corner between the stands and blew on the pitch, prompting a chorus of "What a load of rubbish!" from the fans. A steward ran on to pick up the cardboard and plastic, which kept blowing away from him, prompting a chant of "You don't know what you;re doing!" Fair play, he laughed as well. Result: 4-0         

Cheltenham Town v Shrewsbury Town
25/04/2015, Skybet League 2
The Cheltenham mascot chats
 to a Town fan before the game

Cheltenham were staring relegation out of the league in the face for this game, while Shrewsbury needed to win to guarantee promotion. The game was decided by a farcical first-half goal credited to Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro, although it bounced off a defender and into the goal. Cheltenham really pushed to get something back and Shrewsbury’s Swiss goalie Jayson Leutweiler (playing on his birthday) made some tremendous saves, including a double save in the second half. It was Shrewsbury’s 23rd clean sheet of the season – a record for them. The away end was a sell-out but the seat next to my brother, Dave, was free, mysteriously, so we spent the second half cheering the lads on together. At the final whistle loads of Shrewsbury fans ran on the pitch to celebrate. I didn’t, as I felt that was disrespectful to Cheltenham.  Result: 0-1            

Shrewsbury Town v Plymouth Argyle
02/05/2015, Skybet League 2
This was meant to be the promotion party, but Shrewsbury were a goal down after two minutes and just never seemed likely to get back into it. Plymouth needed to win to get into the play-offs. If Shrewsbury had won and Burton Albion had lost, then Shrewsbury would have been champions. This time round I had the spare seat in a sell-out stadium next to me, so Dave joined me for the second half. It's strange how these things work out. As we heard news that Burton were trailing, it looked like Shrewsbury were throwing away the title. But in the end Burton won 3-2 and Town's result was moot. Shrewsbury got presented with the runner’s up trophy instead. It was not a great way to end the season, with the heaviest home defeat of the year, but it was a good season over all, with Town amassing a record number of points. Result: 0-2

Caerau (Ely) AFC v Taff's Well FC              
15/05/2015, South Wales League Cup Final          
My friend Kieran did get to play in this game, held at Jenner Park in Barry, a ground I’d never been to before. Caerau had three very good chances in the first half, but somehow didn’t score. They got as close as hitting the inside of the post. Taff’s Well led 1-0 at half time having hit Caerau on the break with a very good cross finding a man in the box to strike home. Caerau equalised late in the second half to force extra time, by which time there were a lot of very tired players out there, particularly as both sides had been reduced to ten men. Extra time played out and it went to penalties. Caerau scored their first three, while Taff’s Well missed two of their first three. Leading 3-1, Caerau had the opportunity to win the cup for the first time in their history. They were already league champions. This would be a historic double. But it was not to be. They missed their next three penalties, including the first one in ‘sudden death’, and it was Taff’s Well who took home the trophy. It was the third time they had won it in four seasons. A penalty shoot-out was a very exciting way to end the last game of the season. Result: 1-1 (aet), Taff’s Well won 4-3 on penalties.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

General Election Viewpoint: What no Westminster Declaration this time round? Wonder why?

Five years ago, in the run-up to the General Election, I posted an objection to the ‘Westminster Declaration’, which was an attempt to get every Christian to sign a petition to protest against various medical ethical issues and, of course, only allow heterosexual marriage to be called marriage. I wrote about it at the time because I felt it was deeply flawed when it talked about stem cell research and the plight of embryos, but didn’t mention IVF, which struck me as hypocritical.

I also didn’t like it because I thought it was mainly about the typical ‘micro-morality’ self-marginalising issues that Christians get het up about. And I felt it was probably, on balance, homophobic.

(Now I think it is definitely homophobic. There’s nothing in there about preventing divorced people from getting married again – something Jesus clearly said was a sin. There is a reference to marriage being "lifelong", but nothing explicitly about divorce. I suspect the hypocrisy is because there are lots of divorced-and-remarried people sitting in the evangelical churches this Declaration was pitched to, but not many gay people.)

Anyway, this gained traction. Some of my Christian Facebook friends signed it. I know people who were at churches where everyone was asked to sign it. It was supported by groups like Christian Voice and bloggers like the self-styled Archbishop Cranmer (who in reality is an ex-teacher from Slough with no real ecclesiastic credentials). It was supposed to be a big deal.

I also knew Christians who didn’t sign it, for a variety of reasons – the language, the way it sought to enshrine Christian privilege, the distillation of the gospel into medico-legal nitpicking, the blatant homophobia.

But what’s interesting is that the Westminster Declaration hasn’t been revived, revised, updated or promoted this time around. Nobody has been posting it on Facebook saying they’ve signed it and all other true Christians should sign it too. The website is still running, but the latest news on there is from 2012. 

Why not?

Is it because gay marriage is now legal and therefore the Declaration is irrelevant? The battle has been lost.
I don’t think so. I think it’s something else.

A quick run-down of the major exponents reveals some very small-c conservative organisations. I say ‘small-c’ because none of them would publicly advocate any particular party. I know one of them, CARE, provides a rolling supply of free interns to Conservative MPs. I know someone high up in an organisation linked to CARE described their organisation as ‘conservative at heart’, although I don’t know how big the C was when he said that. It was in a discussion about party politics, so there’s an implied large C. And supporters of the Declaration were certainly right wing. Cranmer has a list of Conservative Heroes on his blog’s sidebar, starting with Maggie Thatcher, so we know whose side he’s on.

And you know what... cynically, I’d say this was an operation to swing Christians towards voting Conservative. The Westminster Declaration website listed the opinions of all the candidates on these ‘crucial’, ‘Christian’ issues. And of course, the Conservatives were more likely to be against them. Generally right-wingers get more agitated at the thought of people having control over their own bodies and freedom to express themselves in a way that doesn’t conform with the majority view in society. Independence of action implies independence of thought; not following the rules implies questioning authority. And where would that lead?

But then it was David Cameron’s Tory-led coalition that made gay marriage legal. That must stick in the craw of the organisations that led the Westminster Declaration. Imagine persuading people, firstly, that these issues really mattered, and then secondly, implying that they ought to vote Conservative to avoid these terrible things happening. And then, when they got their wish – a Tory government in all but name – those things happened anyway.

Talk about duped. Cameron actually called gay marriage a cause he passionately believed in. After he was PM, of course. He’s many things, but he isn’t actually stupid. You don’t alienate a group of people who might swing the election for you. There are about 6,000 Christians in most electoral seats. That’s a large lump of electorate.

CARE have gone for a different tack this year, which is much less bombastic and preachy even if it about the same old personal morality issues. The only people trying to repeat the work of 2010 are the decidedly fringe 'Christian Party' who have turned it into a 'Declaration of British Values.' Generally it seems like Christians aren't getting sucked into this again this time round.

It could even be the case that more Christians have realised that after five years of exponential foodbank growth and bedroom taxes and disabled people killing themselves before they starve to death, and tax avoidance by the very rich, and a government that went to war with Brussels to make sure bankers could get their bonuses, and scandal after scandal, there are more important things than stem cells and whether gay people can commit to love each other until death parts them.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The day after Star Wars Day: The Revenge of the 5th

I said this a bit on Twitter, but I’ve been reflecting on why Star Wars means so much to me. A lot of it comes down to this: Return of the Jedi was the first film I saw in the cinema after my family came back to this country from Africa.

I didn’t really understand what was going on. I hadn’t seen the first two movies. I knew there were goodies and baddies and I liked the Ewoks beating the Stormtroopers and Jabba the Hutt was disgusting and the fight over the Sarlacc was dangerous and Luke Skywalker was brave and things exploded and spaceships were cool, especially the Millennium Falcon.

And for two hours I forgot that I had left the warm and known environment of Africa behind and been made to come back to this cold, unfriendly place that people said was my home, but wasn’t really.

As a young teenager I saw Empire Strikes Back for the first time and loved it. We taped it off the telly at Christmas and watched it so often we almost wore out the tape. I still remember where the advert breaks were in that recorded copy. (It was a big Christmas premiere for ITV.) I know most of the dialogue off by heart. It edged out Jedi as my favourite film of the trilogy.

It’s kind of fashionable to beat up on Star Wars and the people who love it. They aren’t the coolest films out there. There are clear plot holes and unlikely coincidences and for some reason Stormtroopers can’t shoot straight and their armour doesn’t work against arrows. Yeah, all those things. And I will line up with anyone else to pour scorn on the prequels, although The Phantom Menace probably gets more vitriol than it deserves whereas the third one should be coated in lead and sunk in a very deep hole somewhere.

And, yes, the trilogy is good for jokes and pastiche. I’ve always loved Spaceballs. I really love the Robot Chicken feature length Star Wars episodes. But you can tell Robot Chicken is done with love and affection for the films, not to poke spitefully at the people who love them. (Even if we are all depicted as weedy nerds by the Chickeners.)

I think the reason May the Fourth has taken off in just a few years from geek joke to major Twitter event is down to the attachment people have for the films.  The original trilogy holds such emotional importance for me I turn to them when I’m poorly or feeling low. Return of the Jedi was my first comfort film; the first movie to transport me away from a difficult situation that I was struggling to adjust to. It helped a confused and, I realise now, grieving, little boy to believe the world could be a place where good triumphed in the darkest of circumstances, where evil could be defeated, where heroism would be rewarded, where little people held the fate of the universe in the balance, even if the big people had guns and scout-walkers and speeder-bikes.

Even now I get a lump in my throat when I watch the scene at the end of Return of the Jedi where Luke throws away his lightsaber and tells the Emperor that he won’t turn to the dark side because he is a Jedi. Like his father before him.

Faced with that choice I wanted to be as brave as Luke Skywalker. I wanted to be a Jedi.

I still do.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Election communication review 2015

I can’t believe it’s three years since the last review I did, back when we had a by-election in 2012. I’m getting quite an archive of reviews.

This year some parties are standing who haven’t been in touch yet. According to one website the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, the Class War Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are standing. But no election communication, no ratings on this blog.

The rules for scoring this time round are: 
Candidates score points for:
~ number of pieces of bumf through the door
~ number of definite promises they make
~ number of ways they offer you to get in touch, not including generic websites
~ number of different candidate photos, with bonus points if they are with the party leader
~ a point for bilingual Welsh/English leaflets
Candidates are dinged points for
~ the number of other people they blame for the mess we're in,
~ number of negative comments about other parties
~ photos of politicians belonging to other parties
~ meaningless ‘slogan’ promises e.g. ‘I’m going to fight for Welsh jobs’
As before, I'm going to list them alphabetically by candidates’ surname. That means we start with our current MP, Stephen Doughty. I’ve also included who they think will win.

Candidate: Stephen Doughty
Party: Labour
Bumf: 3 = 3 points
Definite promises: 12
Contact: 4
Photos: 9 (including one in an orange jumpsuit and hard hat). No pictures of him with Ed Miliband.
Bilingual: 2 (both leaflets are at least partly bilingual)
Blame: 0
Negative comments: -9 (mainly the Tories, one reference each to the Lib Dems and UKIP)
Photos of other politicians: 0
Sloganeering: -10
Comment: Nice use of endorsements on one leaflet and also a list of things he’s done as MP. He’s apparently responded to over 5,000 letters in his three years as an MP.
Who will win? Stephen would like you to re-elect him as part of a Labour Government.
TOTAL: 30 – 19 = a score of +11

Candidate: Ben Foday
Party: Plaid Cymru / Party of Wales
Bumf: 2
Definite promises: 6
Contact: 0 – all generic contact details
Photos: 6 (one used twice on the same leaflet). There’s a picture of Leanne Wood in each leaflet, but evidently Ben hasn’t met her or didn’t have his camera with him when he did.
Bilingual: 2 – (both fully bilingual with Welsh first)
Blame: 0
Negative comments: 0 (although they do say that ‘Westminster isn’t working’ and ‘Don’t let the others take your vote for granted’ so they neatly side-step getting dinged)
Other politicians: 0
Sloganeering: -5
Comment: Ben needs a better designer as several of the photos in his leaflet have been stretched out of proportion. One leaflet included a good bit talking about what Plaid have done in Parliament in the last few years.
Who will win? Plaid reckon it’s going to be a hung parliament so vote for them to ensure Wales has a stronger voice. Interesting strategy.
TOTAL: 18 – 5 = a score of +13

Candidate: John Rees-Evans
Party: UKIP
Bumf: 5 (but 2 don’t mention the candidate at all)
Definite promises: 49 (mainly based on a detailed ‘Policies for People in Wales’ leaflet – not counting any that just say UKIP supports... or UKIP opposes...)
Contact: 3 (including a QR code)
Photos: 3, possibly 4, it’s hard to be sure. Being generous, so will give him 4 points.
Bilingual: None
Blame: 2 (“the Tories and Labour have failed us”)
Negative comments: 11
Other politicians: 2 unflattering pictures of Ed Miliband, including the famous bacon sandwich pic
Sloganeering: 40 (Again, a lot of these came out of the Policies for Wales leaflet.)
Comments: UKIP are at least up front about what they want to do, but there are times when they are a bit disingenuous, e.g. talking about developing shale gas without using the word fracking. There is also a laughable disconnect between their leaflet’s promises to prevent the privatisation of the NHS and what their leaders are on record as saying. But no one gets dinged for that, so, they are off the hook.
Who will win? “UKIP are trailing Labour only very narrowly in Cardiff South & Penarth and the final result may be extremely close.” So, predicting Labour to win then...
TOTAL: 61 – 55 = a total of + 6

Candidate: Emma Warman
Party: Conservative Party
Bumf: 1
Definite promises: 2
Contact: 4 (including a Facebook profile)
Photos: 5 + 1 bonus point for a picture of her with David Cameron
Bilingual: 1
Blame: 0
Negative comments: 2
Other politicians: A bumper crop of 5
Sloganeering: 5
Comment: Emma needs to smile more in her pictures. She looks downright miserable in the photo of her handing over a big cheque to charity. (Insert your own joke here.)
Who will win? Vote Tory or get a “Coalition of Chaos” says Emma. Serious warning because the last coalition has been chaotic, I guess.
TOTAL: 16 – 12 = a total of + 4

The verdict. It looks like the Liberal Desperates have finally got tired in this constituency and given up. There’s been nothing from them. Plaid Cymru seem to have a nice candidate. UKIP are regressive, most of their definite promises are about repealing stuff or leaving various different parts of the EU. The Tories have parachuted in someone, although she did get to go down Cardiff Bay with a camera to take some photos. Shame she didn’t smile in them a bit more. Our current MP is proud of his record and his local links to the area. It’s a shame there haven’t been any minority parties pushing stuff through the door. That’s always good for this kind of blog post. 

The other thing I wish I'd done is ding people for using obvious stock photography. Ah, well, maybe in 2020.

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