Category Archives: Politics

The Left’s New Vampires

For hundreds of years, vampires have been regarded as safe Tory voters, but in 2017, for the first time ever, more voted for Labour than the Conservatives. Why?

Vampires. Rich. Aristocratic. Extremely traditional. Only a generation ago they were the safest of safe voters for the Conservative Party. Now, fewer than one in three admit to Conservative sympathies. I toured the country, speaking to vampires in marginal constituencies, to find out what has changed.

“I remember being hunted in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis,” says Andre Duvillier, who manages an antiques shop in Kensington. “Back then feeding in Crypts was illegal, and the police would come in with night stakes to beat us up. We’d fly out as bats whenever they attacked. I saw a lot of broken wings.”

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AIDS campaigner and vampire Gaspard Duval in 1984. Gaspard died of sun-stroke during  vampirism conversion-therapy four weeks after this photo was taken. Vampirism conversion-therapy is now illegal in all EU member states.

Andre sighs and runs a thin hand through his soft grey hair. The cobwebs around the shelves used to be for effect, but he doesn’t need to add artificial dust to his grandfather clocks these days.

“People don’t want paintings that bleed any more. They don’t want chandeliers that whisper ‘get out’ just as you’re falling asleep. They want iPhones and Nintendo Switches, and they buy them online. I’m two hundred and seven years old, I’m not going to change now.”

Unlike most vampires, Andre voted for Brexit. “The EU has changed. It used to be there to unify humanity under a global superstate. It used to be about power and control. Now it’s just a glorified trade organisation.”

Madeline Le Compte De Sade, a secretary at St Wulfram’s Mausoleum in Stockton South voted Conservative in 2015, but says she won’t next time.

“I thought Cameron were evil, that’s why I voted for him,” she says. “Gay marriage is right there in book of Satan. And Universal Benefit. On face of it, Universal Benefit appears good but actually leads to thousands of premature deaths. Sneaky. I like that.”

She locks eyes, and I cannot look away. Her gaze is bright, almost luminescent.

“I actually find Jeremy Corbyn attractive, in a strange sort of way. There’s something hypnotic about him. Almost as if he’s a vampire himself!”

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“Vampire” is used as an insult among formerly supportive national newspapers including the Daily Mail

Brexit, like Trump, was a shock to many commentators, but several prominent vampires made grim predictions beforehand.

“I remember speaking to Obama in May 2016,” says Juliette Washington, senior political correspondent for the New York Times, an African American, and a vampire. “He said Trump couldn’t possibly happen. I said that he definitely would and I had seen the coming nuclear war in a dream. Obama has always been an optimist.

“You learn some things if you’re not just an African American but a vampire too. You learn that you’re not safe walking the streets during either the day or the night. You learn that you might survive a police shooting, but a brother will still stake you in the heart.”

This fear of being impaled with a stake is a common theme among vampires. There is also much talk of intersectionality.

“A multitude of factors tend to cluster with vampirism,” says Estheban Surnáme, professor of ethnography at the London School of Arcane Sciences. “Vampires have high rates of depression, rage disorders, eating disorders, seasonal affective disorder and suicidal tendencies. Whilst vampirism is associated with extreme social motility and emotional intelligence, vampires suffer from social exclusion to a higher degree than non-vampires. Most vampires are LGBTQ+, and our studies show that even within this community, they are routinely ostracised, and described with words such as ‘terrifying’, ‘predatory’, ‘evil’, and so on.

Vampire all

A study by the University of Edinburgh found 74% of articles mentioning vampires in 2016 were either “highly misleading” or “totally misleading”

“Despite historically high rates of inherited and earned wealth, vampires report the second highest levels of social isolation of all groups in our study. It is this isolation, believed to be the consequence of increasingly open anti-vampire racism, that has driven vampires’ recent shift from traditionally conservative parties to liberal or socialist parties over the past 20 years.

“A smaller factor is the de-intellectualisation of the right. More than 90% of vampires are university educated. Vampire culture puts a premium on displays of intelligence. Brexit highlighted a change that was already under way.”

Margaux Martinez, who runs a start-up in London’s tech roundabout, agrees. “We deliver blood bags to tired company directors. [‘Blood bags’ is an industry term for graduates who have not yet completed their accountancy qualifications.] They all see it too. The conservative media go on and on about the ‘intellectual elite’. They mean vampires.”

Blood bag

“Blood bags” got their name in 1952 when Alessandro LaCroix, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, noticed the rosy complexion of graduate hires, and compared them with the pale, deathly faces of the senior civil service. 

I ask Carolina about Brexit. “Vampires are extremely socially liberal. It’s hard for such an international community as ours to understand these arguments about national sovereignty. We regard all humans as equally edible.”

Later, I receive an email from Madeline Le Compte De Sade. She’s having a tasting party with her vampire friends at Gilling Castle. They’re drinking wines, sherries and ‘some special secret nectar of other sorts’.

I ask if she plans to kill me and drink my blood.

“You got me :P,” she writes. My stomach becomes heavy and I can feel myself frowning. I like to think of myself as a good progressive, but I still turn down a traditional vampiric ritual meal.

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Stone-Faced

A Zen master who was known to never smile received a student who came to inquire about Brexit.

“You told me Brexit means no phased negotiation,” the student said quietly. “But now we have phased negotiation.”

The Zen master was stone-faced.

“You told me Brexit means no divorce bill,” the student said. “But now we are paying between £35 and £39 billion in our divorce bill.”

The Zen master was stone-faced.

“You told me Brexit means no customs union” the student said. “But now we are staying in the customs union in the absence of agreed solutions for upwards of two years after we lose our seat at the table.”

The Zen master was stone-faced.

The student paced the dojo, becoming more and more animated with frustrated energy as he waited for a response. Finally he shouted.

“You have told me so many times what Brexit does not mean. What does Brexit mean?”

The zen master smiled.

“Brexit means Brexit”.

“My prediction for this election is a historic defeat for Labour. Would not be surprised if it is their worst since the Second World War.”

Right. Today’s post is about politics. It is also an opportunity for you to enjoy me having got something wrong. The title of this post is a prediction I made on 18th April, the day Theresa May called a general election, before she put in one of the worst ever Conservative campaigns, and Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour team ran an admirable and effective political campaign.

“My prediction for this election is a historic defeat for Labour. Would not be surprised if it is their worst since the Second World War.”

Lets do a comparison to see how wrong this was.

Here’s what Labour got in 2017:

Labour Seats: 262
Conservative Seats: 317

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I find myself strangely attracted to him.

And here are all of Labour’s defeats since the Second World War:

1951

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 295
Conservative seats: 321

Both Labour and the Conservatives won fewer seats last week than in 1951, so one could argue this either way. It was a Conservative majority but Labour were much closer to being able to win next time. Not conclusive.

1955

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 277
Conservative seats: 345

Both Labour and the Conservatives did worse last week than in 1955, so one could still plausibly argue this either way. But the Conservatives had a big majority of 60 in 1955, and the only other party with any representation then was the Liberals, with 6 seats. On purely Labour Vs. Conservative terms, Corbyn did better last week than Attlee did in 1955.

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Clement Attlee looking pensive.

1959

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 258
Conservative seats: 345

Corbyn had a better defeat last week than Gaitskell did in 1959. Unambiguous. Labour’s 1959 defeat was followed by Labour winning in 1964.

1970

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 288
Conservative seats: 330

Like 1951, one could argue this either way, as both both Labour and the Conservatives won fewer seats last week than in 1970. Interestingly, 1970 had Labour 12.4% ahead of the Conservatives in opinion polls, before the Conservatives won by 3.2%. A precedent for the late swings we have seen in the election of Trump and in the Brexit vote perhaps? Labour then won twice in 1974.

1979

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 269
Conservative seats: 339

Gosh there are a lot of Labour defeats aren’t there? Going through past elections is a healthy reminder that Labour governments have historically been a rare exception to Conservative rule, not a regular equal occurrence.

Although Labour won fewer seats last week than in 1979, I would still argue Labour had a better defeat last week. Corbyn had to contend with far more minor parties than Callaghan did, and on purely Labour Vs. Conservatives, he did better.

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Sorry Jim.

1983

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 209
Conservative seats: 397

Labour undeniably did better last week than in 1983.

1987

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 229
Conservative seats: 376

Labour undeniably did better last week than in 1987.

1992

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 271
Conservative seats: 336

One could argue this either way, as both Labour and the Conservatives won fewer seats last week than in 1992. This was followed by 13 glorious years of uninterrupted Labour rule. (We can have a discussion about just how glorious this was elsewhere.)

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He was the future once.

2010

Conservative largest party, formed coalition with Lib Dems

Labour seats: 258
Conservative seats: 306

One could argue this either way, as both Labour and the Conservatives won more seats last week than in 2010.

2015

Conservative majority

Labour seats: 232
Conservative seats: 330

Corbyn’s defeat last week was unambiguously better than Milliband’s defeat in 2015.

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Yet still my love for this man knows no bounds.

So how did my prediction fare? Not well. This election was a defeat for Labour, but one of their better defeats since World War Two. One could argue just how good a defeat it was, but it was in the top half. Well done Labour, you lost, but you lost better than usual!

I will follow up soon with an investigation into why things didn’t go as I predicted and what can be learned from this. If you have any thoughts, questions or criticisms, let me know.

HUMUNGO Games – Where We’re At

Hi everyone! Mungo here. Just a quick update to let you know the state of play for HUMUNGO Games at the moment.

Marketforce!

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I am more proud of the title screen than I deserve to be.

This satirical business RPG is free to download and available here. Described by a television producer who works with Anthony Horrowitz as “Genuinely hilarious. A great game.” Play it and be delighted.

Jaguar

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It starts as all thrillers should. With politicians swearing at one another in traffic.

“Wonderfully dramatic and I loved the format. Just the right amount of silliness too.” – Laurence Cook, Theatre and Television Director.

Go for it now on any device. The less you know in advance, the better.

Evil Badguy Fantasy RPG

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Your favourite RPG, with added sass.

Retired general meets fishmonster. All the love, revenge, tragedy, terror and humour of a AAA game with none of the production values. Don’t just take my word for it. Zoli Billics, one of the testing managers for The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, who has played through the game, says “This game is awesome! I can’t wait for the full release!”

Currently in the ironing-out-the-last-bugs stage, EFB is will be released later this year, date TBC. With an original soundtrack by music magician Odinn Hilmarsson. (Seriously give his music a listen it’s fantastic.)

The Black Crown

What’s this hair-raising sensation? Why do I feel nervous and excited and warm at the same time? Is this a mysterious new project?

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Final game may look different to these three question marks.

Key words:

  • Interactive fiction
  • Alternate history
  • World-shaping choices
  • Real consequences
  • Assassination
  • War
  • Sex
  • Colonialism
  • The British Establishment

Watch this space.

Two common beliefs that are problematic

It’s Friday morning, so time to take issue with two common beliefs:

1. “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wise people so full of doubts.”

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In fact, numerous studies have shown that all people, including the wisest people in the land, tend to overestimate their abilities. You can see this in economic forecasters’ statements (see the financial crash and the post-Brexit-vote recession that was predicted to have started by now), journalists’ predictions (see Trump’s election, Cameron’s majority, Brexit), and politicians’ understanding of the world (both Cameron and Farage said that remain would win easily for example).
These are some of the most intelligent people in the land and they frequently get things wrong. A more accurate version of the above quote would be:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and so are (comparatively) wise people, who are also frequently wrong, and some of whom have more exposure.”
foolish
Studies to back this up:
Cognitive Sophistication Does Not Attenuate the Bias Blind Spot
The Trouble with Overconfidence
Overconfidence in case-study judgements

2. “Liberals are knowledgable, conservatives are ignorant”

When liberals and conservatives were asked what one another thought on different issues, liberals were worse at predicting what conservatives thought than vice-versa. People with more extreme positions on both sides tended to be less accurate than those closer to the centre.
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In fact, liberals frequently fail to understand the moral basis of the positions of conservatives altogether.
Conservative MPs are bad at predicting the chance of tossing two heads if you toss a coin twice, but Labour MPs are considerably worse.
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This does not mean that liberal ideas are necessarily wrong or that conservative ideas are necessarily right, of course, and this does not mean that conservatives know more about public policy-relevant issues. But it means that (when it comes to understanding the morality of the other side at least) one should not assume that someone is smarter or better informed because they call themselves a “liberal”.

Trump is a Centrist and Everybody is Wrong

“I have never considered myself right, left or center. On some issues, such as law enforcement, I do sound like a Birchite: and on others, more like Fidel Castro after two quarts of Appleton’s rum.” – these are the words of Truman Capote, the great novelist, spoken in 1968. The Birchites were an advocacy group that argued the civil rights movement was a communist movement. Was Capote mad? No. Was he unusual? To an extent, but not nearly so unusual as he may seem to political pundits.

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Truman Capote looked a bit like British actor Toby Jones

The views of a typical member of the public, like the views of Truman Capote, are a long way from those of a typical UK MP. Polling shows that most Labour voters want less immigration than current levels and an overwhelming majority want tougher restrictions on immigration. Most Liberal Democrat and Labour voters support an oath of integration for immigrants, and most Lib Dem and Labour voters think prisoners should not have the vote. 72% of Labour voters support changing rules so NHS treatment is only available for people who have lived in Britain for at least a year.

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Even the reds oppose immigration.

At the same time, 85% of Conservative voters and 81% of UKIP voters think mental illness is as serious as physical illness. 64% of Conservative voters support a ban on colourful cigarette packaging, and more Conservative voters support a mansion tax on houses worth more than £2 million than oppose one. A third of Conservative voters would prefer to live in an economy with a more even distribution of wealth, even if that meant there was less wealth to go around.

mansiontax2

Artist’s impression.

What’s going on? Why are Labour voters so right wing and Conservative voters so left wing? Well, what you’re seeing is the dislocation between the spread of political opinion in the country and the spread of political opinion in parliament.

The swing voters who decide most elections are not half way between Ed Milliband and David Cameron. Typical swing voters hate immigration and love the NHS. They think the EU is undemocratic and they want top banker CEOs to be in jail. There are differences between voters of different parties – mainly on the economy (which voters care a lot about), and foreign intervention (which voters care comparatively little about). The broad progressive vs conservative division you see in the news and parliament is not particularly helpful as a tool for understanding the public.

the-thick-of-it

Caption competition.

This leads to three conclusions.

1. If you don’t look at polls or focus groups you don’t know what the public thinks

If you have regular exposure to me you are probably highly educated, socially liberal and/or young and the people you hang out with are probably highly educated socially liberal and/or young. We tend to connect with people who are similar ages, sexes, professions etc. One thing that has changed in the past 20 years or so is it is much easier to connect and form groups with like-minded people. As a result, you have plenty of people you can talk to about Dungeons and Dragons or skydiving or indie computer games (or whatever floats your boat), which is great. But you also tend to connect with people who have similar interests and similar beliefs.

This can be resolved to an extent by looking at polling data, to an extent by considering what the opposite viewpoint might be when reading an article, to an extent by actively reading and listening to people you disagree with, and to an extent by having conversations with members of the public from a totally different demographic than your in-group. It cannot be resolved completely. Neither I nor you, nor Theresa May, nor Stephen Hawking will have a hugely accurate understanding of what the public is thinking. Accept and ingest this.

Side note – “the polls are always wrong” will not save the left

A lot has been said about the inaccuracy of polls. I may go into this more later, but the short response is that the polls are inaccurate, but they tend to be inaccurate in a fairly predictable way – the public is between 1 and 7 points further to the right than the polls present, usually about the 3-3.5% mark. This is what I have observed in the UK, and at a glance this seems to hold up in the US. (Please correct me if I am wrong here). The polls (especially with the caveat that they have a left-wing bias) are almost always a hell of a lot more accurate than the alternative. The EU referendum polling showed a narrow remain lead in the end, and what happened was a narrow leave win. They showed a narrow Conservative lead, leading to a possible minority administration in the 2015 election, and what happened was a narrow Conservative majority. If you take into account their left-wing bias, they could actually be used to guess the outcome nearly spot on.

polling

2. Trump is closer to the centre than you think

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Once you get a partial understanding of what the public believe, and what the public think is important, you begin to have a better understanding of how someone like Donald Trump can win over former Obama voters. You begin to understand why “Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week” was a winning message across the spectrum in the referendum on EU membership. Trump is often characterised by the left as a far-right figure, way outside of conventional political opinion. Perhaps he is – in Westminster, or on your Facebook news feed. But much of his platform fits with the broad sweep of American public opinion. Americans oppose both immigration and free trade. They want lower taxes and they want economic recovery for the working class. Americans want to Make America Great Again. On one of the biggest issues of his campaign – trade – Trump is and was to the left of the mainstream Republican establishment.

The centre of public opinion in the US and the UK (and possibly across the globe) is not half way between progressivism and conservatism. It is more accurately described as nationalist. It puts citizens and long-term residents first. It makes foreign policy about national interest. It’s tough on crime, and tough on terrorism. It says immigration should be low and controlled. But it’s also sceptical of globalisation, and supports effective public services (and sometimes the taxes that pay for them).

3. Everybody is Wrong

As an exercise, I want you to do a few things:

  1. Guess what the public thinks on some issue. One you haven’t seen polling data for before. Maybe an approval rating. Or voting intention. Write down what you think they think before you look it up. Then look it up. Do this a few times and be strict with yourself about not looking up the issue before. If you’re stuck for things to look up in the UK, read a few articles about a political party in another country and then make a guess on them.
  2. Guess what the odds are on something. Odds on betting sites are based on what people put their money on so they (to an extent) reflect public opinion. Write down your guess and check it against the odds.
  3. Actually make a bet or a prediction that can be falsified. Write this down somewhere. Give it a time scale. Make a note in your diary to check back against this afterwards.

If you do this regularly, you will soon find that there is only an extremely narrow range in which you have any reliable knowledge, if at all.

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Repeat this to yourself. Everybody is wrong.

People you disagree with?

Everybody is wrong.

People you agree with?

Everybody is wrong.

Your favourite idols?

Everybody is wrong.

Me?

Everybody is wrong.

You?

Everybody is wrong.

I have highlighted a tiny area (public political opinions) in which I believe I am less wrong than most. But on almost everything I don’t have active expertise in or verifiable data, I will be wrong. And I will probably be quite confident that I’m right, because I’ve read about it and seen it on the news and talked to Facebook friends about it. Let’s repeat that again.

Everybody is wrong.

Everybody is wrong.

Everybody is wrong.

If you want to play a computer game that I believe to be amazing based on what my Facebook friends have said, then check out Marketforce!

Ground Troops Alone Don’t Win Elections – We Need Values and Vision

Some have said that Labour’s half a million members will somehow make up for our lack of a clear values or vision for the country. How much did Clinton’s far more sophisticated ground game help in her campaign against “The Donald”?

Hillary Clinton had the united support of her party and lost. Trump had the revulsion of his party and won.

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Trump letting rip.

Trump is criticised for lying and being a bad speaker, and for supporting policies that are both cruel and ineffective. But these criticisms miss a deeper strength of Trump. Politicians are not judged when campaigning on the details of their policies. Politicians are judged mainly on two bases – firstly on their values, and second on the broad vision they are putting forward.

What are Trump’s values? It may be tempting to reflexively say “racism”, “dishonesty” or just “being a nasty piece of work” but that is incorrect. These are not his values. Yes, he said a judge was biased against his plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico because “he’s Mexican”. Yes, he insulted the parents of a war veteran, insinuating that the soldier’s mother was forbidden from speaking due to her Islamic faith. Yes, fact checkers during the campaign found him saying upwards of 20 lies a day. Yes to all these things. But these are not how he defines his purpose in politics.

If we listen to Trump’s speeches, and those who voted for Trump, his appealing values can be approximated to something like the following:

  • Standing up for America in foreign affairs
  • Saying what you think, when you think it
  • Supporting American workers (no, seriously)
  • Protecting America against foreign influence and dominance

And what is his broad vision?

  • Make America’s allies pay more for the support they get from America
  • No bowing to any conventions – Trump says what Trump wants
  • Renegotiate trading relationships to help the American economy

 

These, not his acidic personality, are what voters listened to. In fact, they’re not just appealing to right-wingers. People from across the political spectrum could plausibly get behind the Trump proposition when framed this way. (Except possibly when it comes to “saying what you think”, and “Trump says what Trump wants” – that’s just being a blabbermouth.)

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Listening to Trump may be like eating a lemon, but that didn’t stop him becoming president.

Now, please note, I’m NOT saying that Trump is likely to achieve his goals. I think he is the wrong person going about this in the wrong way. But very little of the national debate was focused on whether Trump’s vision was actually plausible. His opponents either needed to express values that trumped Trumps, or express a vision that followed through on those values better.

For all his endless missteps and distractions, Trump was better at staying on point with values and vision than Clinton.

What were Clinton’s values?

  • Not Trump
  • Ermm…
  • Here’s a list of Trump’s flaws
  • Trump is a racist/sexist/homophobe

Obviously I’m exaggerating for effect, but not by much.

And what was Clinton’s broad vision?

  • Gun background checks
  • Healthcare reform
  • Tax cuts for the middle class
  • Basically the standard Democratic platform

It’s worth noting that the outcome wasn’t a million times worse for Clinton than Trump. Trump is such a brash, distractible man, so unconcerned about the truth, that even though Clinton’s moral, value-based appeal was unclear, she managed to win in numerical, popular-vote terms.

But Clinton’s vision had less impact than it could because it wasn’t justified by any values. Her only answer to the “why” question was “I’m not Trump”.

And this brings us back to Labour in the UK.

I believe that Labour is not just doing badly, but will pull off a historic loss at the next general election. Let’s have a look at our values and vision as perceived by the general public.

Values:

  • Opposing the Tories
  • Not New Labour
  • Closed borders
  • Open borders
  • I mean closed borders
  • Opposing foreign wars

Broad vision:

  • Leave the EU quickly
  • ????????
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Labour’s pitch to the voters at the next election.

Again, I’m exaggerating for effect, but not by much.

Most of these half a million new members will not do a huge amount for the Labour Party, but even if they did knock on hundreds of doors each, it would be futile, as they would have nothing persuasive to say.

What do you think? I’d be keen to get your views!

P.S. If you want to experience something fun and engaging, that has nothing to do with depressing political home-truths, you might like my latest game.

Marketforce! is free – download it from this page.