What’s for sale in the party conference gift shop?

One of the weirdest things to be seen at this year’s party conferences, the Tories are cashing in on the Iron Lady’s departure occasion by selling branded memorabilia in their gift shop, featuring such shockers as the Little Iron Lady bib (below).

The range got me wondering what other parties should be selling to up their image before 2015, so here – in a series of increasingly bad Photoshops – are a few ideas.



Are you a lefty Directioner? Then look no further than this poster, featuring the teen pop sensation EdMili Band. Peddle the Labour leader’s favourite catchphrase while securing the youth vote which has been fair game since its forfeiture by the Sorry Party in 2010. #EdMyCatDied



It’s blunder after blunder for the Views Your Grandad Holds Party, which has attracted lots of negative attention online. Celebrate the party’s melange of 21st century web presence and 18th century policies with this YouKip t-shirt.

Liberal Democrats


Are you a Lib Dem who’s not sure where they stand on key issues? You’re not alone! Get all the answers with this magic policy 8-ball, as used by all your favourite Lib Dem cabinet ministers.



Marry your nationalistic sentiments and fascist tendencies with this Union Swastijack flag, the best thing since sliced Hovis Best of Both. Perfect for waving at sports matches or for hoisting up the mast in your garden.

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150 clues for 150 Brands

Update: feel free to help each other out in the comments section below, but no spoilers please!

Every day, London’s commuters are bombarded with ads. Without wishing to go all Derren Brown, how many do they remember without realising it?

To celebrate the Tube’s 150th birthday, TfL have teamed up CBS Outdoor – the guys behind the dangerously addictive Look for Longer campaign last year – to create another game that’ll drive everyone crazy. What you have to do is guess the 150 brands from the zoomed in images and slogans before 25 August to be in with a chance of winning free travel for a year.

I won’t spoil the fun by giving away the answers, but below are some (hopefully vaguely cryptic) clues. There are some tough ones in there, but you might be surprised by how little information you need to identify a brand.

You’ll have to highlight the text to show each one. If you’re still stuck, feel free to comment below.

  1. Scottish tipple
  2. Similar to 6
  3. For cleaning metal
  4. This one might have slipped through the filter
  5. A pedal cocoon
  6. Similar to 2
  7. Exceedingly good, this one
  8. Such a sucker
  9. Not the one with the bunnies
  10. Anyone for a hamper?
  11. Only apply to one part of the body
  12. 1’s American cousin
  13. Ingredient used for making bombs
  14. Fancy a break?
  15. Welcome to the Latin Quarter
  16. Similar to 46 in name, but not clientele
  17. It shoots in more ways than one
  18. Eau de Coco
  19. It’s got a bite to it
  20. 0 to 70 in no time at all
  21. Add to 47 for a black velvet
  22. Beverage of kings
  23. The trouble, I’m told, is that they taste too good
  24. Probably a good idea to use these
  25. Made by Tinkerbell’s mates
  26. Urinary beverage
  27. A more practical cure for a broken heart
  28. The best a man can get. Fact.
  29. All the stars wear them
  30. Say cheese
  31. Beans
  32. Both fizz and bits
  33. Such a stock answer
  34. You could also wear one
  35. Italian brew
  36. Feeling kinky?
  37. Snack in a box. Well, pot.
  38. Monkeys, monkeys monkeys
  39. For sfresh sbreath
  40. Audrey has her morning meal there
  41. Gin’s best friend
  42. Smooth or with bits?
  43. Like a possum cuddling your feet
  44. 59’s arch rival
  45. He is a guy who make clothes
  46. You dance around this bush
  47. On the other end of the spectrum from 55
  48. Add 59 for explosive results
  49. For getting hench
  50. Astronomically good
  51. People who use this to describe themselves are generally idiots
  52. Named after founder’s daughter
  53. Buy this and bikini women will DEFINITELY chase you
  54. Once just for miners, now for everybody
  55. Carbonated sewage
  56. When is a book not a book?
  57. Breakfast in a cuboid, seemingly
  58. A juicy one
  59. The most famous drink in the world, except probably water
  60. It’s sweet, but you can’t actually stay the night
  61. Gives you wings
  62. A pair Martin Clunes would be proud of
  63. Amerikan konfectionary
  64. Sounds edible, but it’s not
  65. Oats from an obscure denomination
  66. Classic shades
  67. For the skin
  68. Swedish summer tipple
  69. Have you had yours?
  70. Jaundiced listings
  71. The UK’s best selling sweet treat – when it’s around…
  72. Petroleum, essentially
  73. Pick it in Autumn, then use it to send an email
  74. Makeup, the French way
  75. Cow in a can
  76. This time it’s the name that’s in the clue
  77. Californian tipple
  78. Maybe lean, maybe not
  79. A newspaper, according to the Danes
  80. Early internet giant
  81. A chemist you can wear
  82. Taking health into your own hands
  83. It takes two
  84. Finnish mobile goodness
  85. Don’t eat it, Eve!
  86. Probably the best answer on here
  87. One time sponsor of the Eiffel Tower
  88. They probably have a sale on right now
  89. The answer is almost certain
  90. The ocean that’s yet to pop its cherry
  91. We all live and breathe this company
  92. Apparently not somewhere in Greece
  93. You might fill your car with it
  94. Banks, bikes, whatever next?
  95. Video games
  96. World’s biggest energy company
  97. Flights from the Middle East
  98. French automobiles
  99. You can meet them, but they may not do much
  100. Belongs to 109
  101. Military chicken
  102. Far East money managers
  103. Not a world away from 106
  104. P&G’s answer to 67
  105. You’d use it to do the colouring
  106. Partners with 123
  107. This
  108. Don’t bank on this being an easy one
  109. Worlds biggest cosmetic company
  110. They deliver more than just excellence
  111. Making the lonely non-lonely
  112. P&G’s answer to 100
  113. “Hark!” said the Roman
  114. A big tick for this one
  115. Owns 38 and 72 among others
  116. Look up
  117. Bargains galore
  118. The life of a gamer shopaholic with a job
  119. City and year
  120. An inuit god meets a blue Hedgehog
  121. Swedish cars
  122. Middle market 123
  123. Up market 122
  124. Harder th>n some of the others
  125. Primary port of call for package holidays
  126. As 90, but with energy
  127. 80 for the real world
  128. A sweet ride
  129. You’d expect to find them underground
  130. Dutch 35
  131. Walmart of the UK
  132. The corner shop that works together
  133. Does exactly what it says on the tin, but it isn’t Ronseal
  134. Formerly palindromic and numeric
  135. Where would you watch one?
  136. Rarely said after visiting here
  137. Literary haven
  138. Youngest of the broadsheets
  139. Swiss banking city
  140. Babies, babies, babies
  141. It could be you!
  142. Good high-brow reading
  143. For all your electrical needs
  144. The 107 from across the pond
  145. This one will drive you mad
  146. You can buy 105 there
  147. In 114’s league
  148. Another like 91 and 134
  149. Former pick n mix champions of Britain
  150. You’ll find them all around the country

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Twitter is on board to fight abuse – now what?

Back in April, a small group of women took on the Bank of England in a campaign to keep a woman on British bank notes. Four months and over 35,000 signatures later, they were successful. But what happened next was the ultimate kick in the proverbials: streams and streams of abuse. Rape threats, death threats – you name it, it was there.

Aside from some deep-seated misogyny, the verbal abuse many women on Twitter have endured this week – and indeed in all the other weeks before that – tells us something else: in all of our excitement to get surfing the net and merrily tweet away, watch YouTube, and post gifs of Benedict Cumberbatch to Tumblr, we went and forgot to decide on a few ground rules and how we would enforce them.

Granted, the basic “don’t behave like a dick” was a given, but no one ever stopped and said “Right lads, we’re about to open the internet to everybody now, but before we do that let’s make sure that if people start threatening to blow each other up, we can deal with them properly.”

Fortunately, after much pestering, Twitter’s UK chief finally made the important first move of committing to doing something about the toerags on his service who – driven by an embarrassingly obvious fear of outspoken and confident women – insist on threatening to rape any woman who dares express an opinion.

Making Twitter a safer and more pleasant place will be a difficult task, but in a world where Doctor Who and Malcolm Tucker can be the same person, anything is possible.

Here are just a few things that Twitter should consider doing so we can all get back to talking about the X Factor and retweeting Buzzfeed articles without worrying about some of our number getting inundated with horrific abuse.

Abuse button

One of the original requests from some of those who were attacked, it’s a surprise the feature didn’t exist earlier. Twitter has since responded, and a button has been added on the iOS app and mobile web. Great, now let’s see it in the browser version as well.

“But that would be expensive! Twitter isn’t a charity! If people don’t like it they shouldn’t use it!”

Yes, it’d cost money. But Twitter owes a duty to its users to prevent them from being bombared with abuse on its service, and can you imagine what it would say about the company’s position on misogyny and death threats if it told the offended users to go elsewhere?

Co-operate with the police

Threatening to rape or kill someone is a crime. Even mild harassment brings you within the realm of the law. Twitter needs to put the safety and comfort of its users first and pass any potential evidence on to the police if requested. No ifs, no buts.

Mobile account verification

Trolls are persistent buggers. With seemingly little else going on in their lives, they sit and create multiple accounts so when one gets banned they can continue spreading the hate with another. Doing that is easy, but if they had to verify their account before they could tweet – say by typing in a code that was texted to them à la Facebook and Google – the fact that Twitter has their phone number means they’d be less likely to go nuts.

The only problem with this is: do we really need to give up any more personal data? Maybe in this situation it’s a sacrifice worth making.

Split mentions from people you follow and those you don’t

It’s a fair assumption that the main bulk of your chat is going to be with people you follow. It’s an even fairer assumption that you’re not following the people likely to be hurling abuse your way. In this respect, Facebook has nailed it with its messaging – by separating mentions from people you follow and people you don’t, there’s no need to wade through pages of calculated misery to be able to see when someone has contacted you that you actually want to hear from.

It’s not a perfect solution on its own, but aside from shielding users somewhat from any abuse, it would be quite a useful tool for users with lots of followers who want to avoid tweets like these:

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Looking through a prism: snooping governments are the least of our worries

On this day in 1949, a book was published. It’s called Nineteen Eighty-Four. You might have heard of it. As it stands, Orwell’s masterpiece is set to celebrate its anniversary in style by becoming the biggest ‘I told you so’ in modern history after the Guardian’s uncovering of the US government programme PRISM this week.

The top secret programme allows officials to collect material including search history, the contents of emails, file transfers and chat logs directly from the servers of major US service providers such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple. And because the companies are American, any of their users around the world can be spied on.

Such a stark invasion of privacy will no doubt come as a shock to many, but this isn’t only about snooping governments. The problem begins with the information we choose to share and the culture that has built up around that attitude.

Social networking privacy settings are the internet’s take on ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’. Accepting a Facebook friend request is no far cry from handing over a shoebox full of your photos from the last five or six years for your new pal to look at whenever they like. And these aren’t the sort of photos you’d want out of your control: let’s face it, you’re probably semi-naked in a few and off your face in others. Not a pretty picture, and certainly not one to be shared.

It’s not just photos, either. Names, addresses, locations – all are regular features on social networks and are encouraging by features such as ‘checking in’ and adding family to profiles.

Instagrammers rightly kicked up a fuss last December when the company tried to lay claim to their photos, but Facebook users have an even worse deal. You may own your data but so does each of your friends, and it only takes one bad egg to open you up to all sorts of abuse.

By tapping into the virtue of sharing instilled in every primary school child and marketing it as something to be encouraged, social networks have successfully fostered a harmful culture of unquestioning openness. Most people have no qualms with the fact that both Twitter and Instagram accounts are public by default. The once evasive Facebook newsfeed, delivering you conversations between friends that really have nothing to do with you, is now an accepted feature.

And it’s only going to get worse. Hailed by many as the next big step in consumer electronics, Google Glass will strap cameras to the faces of its users, giving both Google and users unbridled power to capture information without the necessary consent. It’s a concept that the company is no stranger to, and one that it took steps to protect itself against this week after it banned the use of Google Glass at its shareholder meeting.

PRISM is just the latest in a series of privacy invasions that users tolerate in return for the use of services that we rely on more and more. As the social web grows these attacks will become increasingly commonplace. But before we can expect anyone else to look after our data, we must first learn to control it ourselves, and limiting what we share is the first step.

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Cambridge ‘drinking society initiation’ exam question

Trigger warning.

Drinking societies have secured themselves an even deeper place in Cambridge culture after an initiation was used as the subject of an exam question on sexual offences.

The question appeared in the 2013 Criminal Law paper which was sat this morning by over 200 students, the majority of whom are in their first year.

Sexual offences have to be examined on in either an essay-style or problem question format, so there will often be a hypothetical scenario set.

The events and the drinking society involved are both fictional.

It reads:

Sandra is President of The Vizards, a College drinking society. She is organising the initiation of new members. After a great deal of alcohol has been drunk, the members of the society form a circle around Billy, Gilbert and Richard who are to be initiated.

(i) Sandra blindfolds Billy and tells him that Tracey will suck his penis. Jonny does so.

(ii) Sandra penetrates Gilbert’s anus with a bottle. Although Gilbert appears to resist, and has to be held down by Tracey, he actually enjoys the experience.

(iii) Sandra waxes Richard’s pubic hair and pulls it off with such force that she removes a significant part of his skin. The wound becomes infected, but Richard is so embarrassed that he does not get medical help and dies.

Consider what offences, if any, have been committed.


This has subsequently been featured in:

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I’m sitting finals at the moment, so the only writing I’ll be doing over the next couple of weeks will be during three-hour stints in exam halls.

Having said that, I’ve found some interesting figures on diversity in certain areas of the Establishment, so there’s plenty to share once the storm has passed.

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Bin the banknote boys’ club

In a few years’ time, everybody on British bank notes who isn’t the Queen will have a willy.

My last post triggered a few responses from people who were totally cool with that. Here are some of their arguments, each followed by my response.

1. It’s positive discrimination!

The only criterion for appearing on a bank note is being a meritorious British figure. Therefore, it should be pretty unlikely that every single one of those people is male. It should be even less likely that this is the case in another 20 countries around the world.

Evidently, society favours men.

So it’s not positive discrimination. It’s redressing the current imbalance.

2. There are just way more notable men than women in history!

Easy mistake to make – history is told with a masculine bias. But are we going to celebrate that fact or are we going to put it right?

Oh, and: Jane Austen, Betty Boothroyd, the Brontë sisters, Agatha Christie, Emily Davison, Princess Diana, George Eliot, Millicent Fawcett, Audrey Hepburn, Margot Fonteyn, Rosalind Franklin, Vera Lynn, Edith Nesbit, Emmeline Pankhurst, Beatrix Potter, Jacqueline Du Pre, JK Rowling, Mary Seacole, Margaret Thatcher, Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf.

(Also, for maximum Queen-related confusion, Helen Mirren)

3. It’s only a bloody bank note!

Yes, that’s exactly the point. The more mundane and arbitrary something is, the more it enters our subconscious and changes the way we look at our society. This is especially dangerous for young children who are particularly impressionable. It’s also an outward-looking thing – our currency reflects who Britain thinks are some of the most notable figures in our history.

It’s all terribly perpetual and at some point or other it really needs to stop, so why not now?

4. Churchill was a dude!

Great, slap him on a note, but why replace the only woman? She hasn’t even been there the longest (Darwin has).

5. What about the Queen?

Quite a common one floating around on Twitter, this. The fact of the matter is that, whatever you think of the royal family, the only thing the Queen has done to get herself onto our currency is to be born. It’s a tough life…

6. The designs change all the time anyway!

The turnover for the design on banknotes is roughly one change every 6-7 years. There are five notes in circulation. Assuming that every change after the one in 2016 replaces a woman with a man, the earliest that at least 50% of banknotes would feature women would be in 2034. By that time I will be old. And grumpy.

If you fancy signing the petition, click here.

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Ratio of women to men on bank notes

In 2016, Sir Winston Churchill will be replacing Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note.*

When this happens, the only woman on British currency will be the Queen. This news left me wondering what the proportion of men to women looks like on bank notes around the world. I figured that the ratio would say a little bit about the state of gender equality in each country (though of course it’s not wholly representative – recognition of a few doesn’t mean equal opportunities for everyone).

A few things to bear in mind about the graph:

  • Most of Western Europe doesn’t feature because of the euro.
  • Only notes that are currently in circulation have been considered.
  • People who have appeared on more than one note are only counted once.
  • Reigning monarchs have been excluded because I’m concerned with figured who have been selected to appear on notes because of their own merits.
  • Although there are different notes in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they’ve been presented together as it’s all the same currency.
  • Being the hardcore statistician I am, my source is Wikipedia. If you notice anything not quite right, do let me know.

* Annoyed? Make your voice heard.

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How the Daily Mail works

Logging onto Facebook today, I’m seeing a lot of this:

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 16.59.59

So, in light of the latest offering from Samantha Brick currently doing the rounds, here’s a quick reminder of how the Daily Mail works:

  1. DM publishes a straight-faced article saying blatantly outrageous things.
  2. A few level-headed but bored people venture onto the DM website and find said article.
  3. (DM makes a bit of money from advertising.)
  4. Readers react predictably, get into a bit of a tizz, and share/tweet to express their horror.
  5. Many other level-headed but bored people read the article.
  6. (DM makes a bit more money from advertising.)
  7. Repeat from step 4.

This, folks, is how the Mail has managed to become the most visited newspaper on the web. You already knew that, but letting them provoke you is only going to keep them there. Their ACTUAL JOB is pissing people off.

So be a dear, and next time they churn out some filth, keep it to yourself, will you?

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