The first social media Olympics: the highlights

Gymnasts being superhuman in handy GIF form.

This has been the first mass social media games. We’ve seen the dark side, with the Tom Daley troll incident, but you’d have to say the overall effect has been pretty positive. The public have been able to send the athletes untold numbers of supportive messages, I’ve been able to tell Ian Thorpe I love him at least five times a day, and above all, there’s been some really great Olympics-related stuff shared around.

Here’s a compilation of all the odds and ends I’ve not been able to include this week. Some will be old hat, some won’t...enjoy.

Excellent collection of games photos.

New Zealand’s goalkeeper has a VERY bad day.

Extreme volleyball skills.

What would the Olympics be like if everyone could take as many drugs as they wanted?

The compelling story of Gabby Douglas, the first African American woman to win all-around gold in gymnastics.

The aftermath of Ryan Campbell’s efforts in the rowing make for staggering viewing.

The Olympic score cards turn innocent scenes into something, well, less innocent.

Gymnasts being superhuman in handy GIF form.

So your brothers want an Olympic ticket. How do you settle it?

Katarina Johnson-Thompson has a wonderful Twitter bio. So does Usain Bolt, for that matter.

Ryan Lochte special: he’s very, very, very bad at interviews but he has a great dog and oh – that’s just nasty.

Funny name corner: someone from Mean Girls is competing. And so is Quentin Bigot. Whom I’m told bears no relation to this man.

The less said about this photo the better.

BoJo making an arse of himself, take two.

Nike advert: not quite an Olympic link, but great nevertheless.

There’s really only one way to display your Gold medal.

Yaping Deng – table tennis champ and all round impressive woman.

Which film star inspired Chris Hoy to cycle?

Granada's swimming coach Holly Bonewit-Cron talks to her father in the US using a tablet computer in the Olympic Village. Photograph: Getty Images.

Alan White's work has appeared in the Observer, Times, Private Eye, The National and the TLS. As John Heale, he is the author of One Blood: Inside Britain's Gang Culture.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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