Duracell radio-god Jake Yapp & I are doing a daily podcast called Date Fight. Every morning, we hurl historical facts that have happened on this day at each other to see which are the most significant, funny and generally pleasing.

We’ve done 60 episodes already. SIXTY. Please like, subscribe, share with your friends and do something – anything – to make the whole thing worthwhile…

You can get it here…

I keep seeing this, and having to rant about it, so here it is in a handy post. Simply: anyone who gives blanket advice to just vote for the biggest Remain party either doesn’t understand how the D’Hondt electoral system works, or is a Lib Dem activist trying to shore up Lib Dem votes.

“Vote for the biggest Remain party” is terrible advice, and, in many regions will actually reduce the number of Remain MPs.

It’s usually more efficient to distribute votes in a region so that multiple parties get single seats in a region rather than trying to pile up seats for a single party (as long as those smaller parties are likely to meet the threshold for a singe seat).

This is because the way that D’Hondt has been implemented in the UK (on a regional rather than national basis) means that it’s not as proportional a system as it was designed to be (interesting blog post from the LSE about the complexities here: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/…/when-a-tactical-vote-may-not-wor…/)

As the LSE blog post says: “If, for example, tactical voting pushes one pro-Remain party close to 15% but reduces the two others to 5 or 6%, the bigger party will not have enough to win multiple seats (look again at Figure 1 and the threshold for winning more than one seat) while the others could both fail to win a single seat. That could reduce the pro-Remain parties to a single seat where three could have been won.”

The effective number of votes = votes / number of seats already allocated + 1

So say the result is:

Brexit: 10,000
Con: 6,500
Lab: 7,000
LD: 4,000
Green: 4,000

And the region has 7 seats. They’ll be Brexit (10k/1), Lab (7k/1), Con (6.5k/1), Brexit (10k/2), LD (4k/1), Green (4k/1), Lab (3k/2)
=5 Brexit MPS, 2 Remain

BUT if 50% of Remain voters vote tactically for LDs:

Brexit (10k/1), Lab (7k/1), Con (6.5k/1), LD (6k/1), Brexit (10k/2), Lab (7k/2), Con (6.5k/2)
=6 Brexit MPs, 1 Remain

With both the Lib Dems and Greens polling higher, it might even be tactically possible vote for Change UK.

However, trying to vote tactically is very difficult in this system (much more difficult that ‘vote for the biggest Remain party’). You’d have to believe the polls and ignore the results of the last time we had European elections.

We also have to remember that this isn’t a referendum, the people you elect will have to serve in the European parliament, and they will have little or no ability to stop Brexit.

So, essentially, I’m saying, research the candidates in your region, research the polls of your region (although how much you trust them and the tactiucal voting sites that rely on them is up to you), possibly visit one of the reputable tactical voting sites (not one of the Lib Dem fronts posing as tactical voting sites), but make sure you try and elect people you want representing you.

So, I’m voting Green for a number of reasons: they are the only party vocally defending freedom of movement, we already have a Green MEP in my region, and don’t want to lose them, we’re in the middle of a climate crisis and they seem to be the only party willing to address it.

REMEMBER: The most important thing you can do to increase the number of Remain MEPs is to get people out to vote. Getting someone who’s never voted in European elections before into the polling booth today is more important and effective than trying to second-guess the polls.



Ian went on the March For Europe the other day. This is what he found…

The Article 50 Bill has passed, Ian has a brand new job, what could go wrong?

A new Ian Bowler video for you…

Right, with PMQs coming up tomorrow – here’s a look at last week’s jokes, what they got right, and what they got wrong…

“Not so much the iron lady as the irony lady” (3:41)


This one’s just a disaster from start to finish. Badly written, badly delivered, and vague enough that it sounds like it might be a compliment.

  • There’s no link between setup and punchline, Delivered separately it’s quite difficult to remember what the irony is that Jeremy mentioned in the setup. It might even have been worth mentioning the word irony before, because there’s quite a conceptual leap to be made.
  • This is a laboured pun. Not impossible, but more difficult than some kinds of jokes to deliver well. It requires getting the audience on board and acknowledging that the joke is weak and that you’re enjoying its weakness. Jeremy does none of this. He doesn’t make eye contact with anyone except the Speaker, and delivers it like he thinks it’s a good line. It’s not a good line.
  • The inflection is wrong. I’d advise using a rising, incredulous inflection or putting a huge pause after “Not so much the iron lady…” and seeing if the audience will do some of the work for you. Again, acknowledging the weakness of the gag is the key to pulling something like this off.
  • However, there’s no such thing as an “irony lady”. It fundamentally doesn’t make sense as a statement. That hobbles this joke as it’s always going somewhere that isn’t going to make sense when you arrive.
  • It’s hugely context-specific, and isn’t going to stick in anyone’s memory unless you’ve done a lot more work to establish that Theresa May is full of irony somehow. Maybe at the end of something like: “She wants to represent the will of the people, but has never won an election to anything; she wants to being back parliamentary sovereignty but sideline parliament; she wants Britain to be a global power, but seems determined to annoy large chunks of the globe! She’s not so much the iron lady…”
  • Eye contact. Throughout this exchange, Theresa May, as ineffective a speaker as she largely is, makes eye contact with the Opposition benches, and is unafraid to turn and gesture to her own. She makes a point of closing her notes as she’s getting up (with a finger in so she can find what she might need to later). Jeremy Corbyn only makes eye contact with his notes or, occasionally, the Speaker. This does him no favours at all.

“I’ve got a plan. He doesn’t have a clue.” (4:55)


This is solid, but so confident is Theresa of her delivery here that she veers into actual caricature of a disapproving gossip serving tea at a jumble sale.

  • Much better written than her jokes usually are. This is a simple balancing statement with a contrast between its two halves. Here is one statement (“We have a plan”). Here is another (“He doesn’t have a clue”).
  • The lengthy petard-hoisting quotation works better for her than it does to Jeremy, although he tries in at least three question to do the same to her. Partly because she’s quoting his own words at him, whereas he’s trying to tie her to other ministers, and partly because it’s simply a better-selected quotation. It ends with its killer line.
  • The quotation – of course – isn’t saying what she’s saying it is, but it doesn’t matter because the look of incredulous despair and change it tone sell it utterly and distract you from the fact that the quotation is entirely reasonable.
  • This is the best performance I’ve seen from her. Withering contempt seems to be effective as a stance from her, and she seems to actually relish it, as opposed to the concerned statesman she’s tried to pull off before.

Not many jokes this week. Theresa had the much easier job, in that hers was better written and easier to deliver, but she also did a better job with what she was given.

If you are intending to use humour in a speech it’s essential that it look like it’s coming organically from you. Very little is more awkward than someone trying to do a joke they’re not happy with. Corbyn’s pun seemed forced on him, May’s scorn seemed real.

Full disclosure: I’m part of TTW, a company that teaches this sort of thing to people who have to talk in public. If you’d like more of this sort of thing, do get in touch.




Scrolling down FB I saw this on a friend’s post: “Stop comparing it to the rise of Hitler. We are in a different age. Social media, tv and information is readily available. We are not going to wake up one morning and want to ethnically cleanse the earth.”

Neither did the Germans, of course.

They wanted to restore order to their country in the aftermath of a huge economic shock. They wanted to right the wrongs they felt were done to them after the end of the First World War. They wanted motorways and Volkswagens and huge Olympic ceremonies, and to be respected in the world again. They wanted to take their country back from the liberals and put on a show of strength. They wanted to take back control. They wanted to make Germany great again.

And, in order to do it, they were willing to overlook some anti-semitism. And then some more. And then some more.

Of course there were virulent antisemites in the party, but there were also those who liked most of the package of what Nazism offered, and ignored those bits they didn’t like. I’m rereading Victor Klemperer’s diaries and he tells a story about how they are having friends over to dinner who say, knowing Klemperer is Jewish, they’ve joined the Nazis. They are educated, employed academics, personal friends with Jews who feel “Everything has gone wrong. Now we have to try this.”

That’s why it’s important to keep our eyes open now.

When politicians offer strength, and confidence and religious bars to citizenship and ends to freedoms of movement and religion and the media is full of hateful rhetoric for religious or racial or marginalised groups, and when hate crimes rise and there are fascists on the verge of being elected across the world, when the nationalists and nativists and far-right are on the march, let’s be careful.

Even if we really, really want that Volkswagen.

(Politicians Telling Jokes is an occasional series devoted to politicians telling jokes. The first is here.)

Jeremy Corbyn opened with a gag. After a fractious conference, an attempt to unseat him, and the publication of a book the central comic premise of which is that Jeremy Corbyn can’t tell jokes (The Little Red Book Of Corbyn Jokes which is very, very good and something you should definitely go and buy), he opened with a gag.

Let’s see how he did.

The answer is surprisingly well.

The first thing that works about the joke is the context. After a year of seeming awkward, earnest and humourless, the challenge was to change that perception.

It’s was also a self-deprecating joke about one of his most notable recent cock-ups, and having the confidence to do it so soon after a leadership election is a good move. By making a joke of it, he’s deprived Theresa May of the opportunity to do a similar in her speech next week, as well as defusing the issue. It was a good joke made at the right time.

In terms of delivery, he’s improved hugely since last year. He genuinely seems to understand the structure of the joke and is prepared to give a long pause before he trundles on to the punchline. Again, it seems hugely confident.

Which is where the writing lets him down.

We all know what the joke’s going to be at 00:09. He knows it, the audience know it, they’re laughing. He could quite easily have stopped there and let a gesture do the rest.

Instead, however, he gives a punchline that neither raises the stakes or changes the imagery to get a bigger laugh, nor flips it to make a political point.

For me, the biggest disappointment is the repetition of the word “hall”. First, it’s a terrible word to try and get a laugh from, an echoing, empty syllable that’s all aspirated and labialised without any nice, crunchy consonants to cling onto.

It’s also displeasingly vague. “Foyer,” “narthex,” “vestibule”. None of these work contextually, but all are funnier words for “part of a hall”. Picking a specific place would have worked, especially if it reinforced some of the facts from the story. Even “They’ve told me there are 800 seats in first class” would have worked. It would have added a surreal element, but the idea of a Labour conference having a first class section is a nice one and gives you room to play.

So, can we get more specific or just more funny? The simplest fix, I think, would be just to make it “They’ve told me there are 800 seats up the back.”

It’s a nice final consonant to end on, avoids the repetition, gives you a nice rhythm to attack at the end, and is slightly more conversational.

Leave your suggestions for better punchlines in the comments below.

(Natt Tapley teaches this stuff with TTW Training)


We’ve got a show coming up. Ahem.

It’s traditional at this point to write a thing about how it’s going to be the best show in town that night, and you should drop everything to go and see it. But I can’t write that. Because we’re not the best show in town that night.

We’re not even the best show at the Leicester Square Theatre that night.


Playing in the main house, when we’re in the Lounge is Barry Crimmins. If you haven’t heard of Barry, go and watch Bobcat Goldthwait’s documentary about him right now. It’s on Netflix. you have no excuse.


He’s going to be amazing. If I weren’t in a show approximately thirty feet below him at the time, I’d definitely be going to see his show. Because it’s going to be brilliant, and angry, and a life-affirming experience.

So, we’re definitely not the best thing on there that night.


And then Bridget Christie’s on. She’s almost guaranteed to be better and more thoughtful and more worth telling your friends you’ve seen than us.


Oh, and Will bloody Franken’s on. One of the most naturally-gifted character comics you’ll ever see will be on a stage close enough for you to touch his mad brilliance.

So we’re possibly the fourth best show at the Leicester Square Theatre this weekend.

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Except that Aatif is excellent, too…

God, this is depressing.

Not that ours isn’t brilliant. It is. It’s a life-affirming hour of Wombles, Rumbelowses, ruminations on the philosophy of lookaliking, OHP shadow theatre, and a lots and lots of jokes.

It’s also short enough that you can see it and then go on and do something else.

Like seeing one of those other shows.

Buy your tickets here!


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