Monday, 10 February 2020


The Iowa Caucus has caused great mirth as has the abortive attempt to impeach Donald Trump. Even Brexit seems quite grown up in comparison.

Iowa has always been first to declare in the electoral campaign for Democratic Presidential candidates and thereby sets the agenda for the rest of the campaign. There are 1,680 precincts where they vote for their preferred candidate. Now Iowa is quite large by UK standards, about twice the area of Scotland and just over half their population. But that makes Iowa less than 1% of America or in terms of importance in UK terms,  a city like Sheffield. Not so important then.

What seemed to happen was this.

A young person was appointed to run the caucus to get Iowa into the 21st century ( “It isn’t 1886 anymore” he allegedly said). He set up the Iowa App whereby the chairman of each of those 1680 precincts sent in their votes. It was apparently not simple. But nor were the Chairmen but many were over 75.

The App crashed. 

Many Chairmen ignored it anyway and phoned in results. Some by e-mail. But this broke all the rules and couldn’t be accommodated.

The numbers of voters and votes unsurprisingly didn’t quite add up.

What I liked about the story was technology meeting truculent old age and being trounced. Ironic that Saunders and Biden are approaching their 9th decade.

In the week where Donald Trump was cleared of the impeachment charges and saw his ratings rise and his opponents were clearly incapable of organising a piss-up in a brewery let alone run the country, we seem to heading for a second term of Twitter and fake news. As the song goes:-

"who could ask for anything more?”

It could be worse of course – you could be cruising on your holiday of a lifetime with P&O on the Diamond Princess around Japan. P&O have a comforting strapline “travel with certainty.” Erm, well not necessarily. The ship is currently stranded, quarantined at Yokohama with all 3700 passengers and crew confined to their cabins for a fortnight. So far there are 60 cases of coronavirus on board and the constant sounds of painful coughing.

But in the midst of black-swan doom and technological cock-ups I had a strange experience. On my way home from Brighton Station I heard a gentle Canadian voice say “Make my evening. Buy a Big Issue”.

Was I hypnotised? Because I did and then for 10 minutes was transfixed by a clean, smart-casual, bearded young man who launched into a cogent, interesting diagnosis of global politics and the collision of political scale against individualism. He spoke rhythmically without a pause taking me from the Ukraine to China to the USA - like a rapper but more persuasive. For a crazy moment I wondered if I’d met Jesus.

With surprises like that in our lives we can look forward with pleasure – so long as we stay on dry land. And focus on “big issues”.

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