Tag Archives: labour

Ed Miliband’s ‘progressive majority’ must learn the language of nostalgia

Ed Miliband’s belief that the Alternative Vote will unleash Britain’s “progressive majority” is looking more than a little bit presumptuous. A YouGov poll for Channel 4 News shows that while the big winners of voting reform will undoubtedly be the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives come off none the worse and Labour actually end up losing more seats than they gain. What’s worst, more Lib Dem voters have said they will choose Cameron’s Tories as their second preference than Ed’s Labour.

So, belief in this ‘progressive majority’ would seem fairly optimistic. Especially considering it’s far from obvious if there is a progressive majority within the Labour party itself.

A battle for the very soul of the Labour party currently rages* behind the scenes, with the notion of ‘Blue Labour’ being championed as a way to regain the support of lower-class voters. Blue Labour describes that ‘socially conservative, economically interventionist’ strand of the electorate who, it is argued, felt abandoned by the hyper-modern, change-frantic progressiveness of New Labour.

This idea is elaborated upon by Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian, who disregards some of the historical grandeur behind Blue Labour and focuses instead on the “value of nostalgia”. Still, the two lines of thought share the same core reasoning: Labour’s core voters have been abandoned. Bunting writes:

“…there was – and is – another account of betrayal in which a liberal elite, smugly superior in their metropolitan progressivism, championed globalisation and sold ordinary working people down the river.”

And so Bunting doesn’t just begin to define some of the frustrations felt by these “ordinary working people”, but puts them directly at odds with the smug, uncaring progressive majority Ed Miliband’s been fantasising about.

Intrigued by this dichotomy, I brainstormed** some terms I feel represent those ‘nostalgic’ values of Blue Labour voters and pitted them against the corresponding principles of the progressives.

The differences between the nostalgics and the progressives are, in many cases, vast. But the purposes of this little exercise was not just to highlight the foolishness of Ed Miliband campaigning for AV using language which will actively repel those it doesn’t simply bore. I also hope this list could help progressives step beyond their own values and connect with nostalgics by speaking in terms the latter can relate to.

Owen Jones offers some sage advice for anyone wanting to communicate with people beyond the echo chamber. His first rule is to start where people are. I don’t think you could go too far wrong using this list as a reference.

New Labour’s skill was in speaking to the impulses of the nostalgics, while shrewdly smuggling a form of pragmatic progressivism through the back door. Ed, unfortunately, does not have this skill. He’s in an echo chamber of one and quacking like a duck.

I’m not unsympathetic. I imagine attempting to unify the disparate groups of latent lefties must be like wrangling a schizophrenic hydra. But Ed’s ‘progressives’ are currently struggling to talk to the majority, let alone with them or even, heaven forbid, for them.

* Poetic licence – it’s really not all that raging.

** Powered using only my brain, I’m afraid. If you want to contribute your brain to either deride, improve or celebrate what I’ve attempted to do, please leave a comment.

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Extremes of stupidity: StartUp Britain vs. The March26 Anarchists

It’s my hope that by comparing two recent high-profile fuck-ups from both sides of the political divide, we might learn from their mistakes. Or, at least, sneer at their stupidity.

From the left, we have the anti-corporate, socialistic practitioners of the dreaded ‘black bloc’, who, in Central London on Saturday afternoon, unleashed their emo fury in violent protest of the government’s cuts. On the right, we have the champions of the free market, willing cannon fodder in the government’s war for growth, who launched StartUp Britain on Monday to widespread, often hilarious, occasionally furious derision.

The members of both sides are (despite what some may claim) essentially apolitical. The former are arrogant teens, latching on to the recent wave of popular protests to boost their egos, play the romantic revolutionary and bash shit with sticks. The latter are self-assured entrepreneurs, riding the waves of Cameron’s pro-business rhetoric to gain publicity and try to make some easy cash. Grappling with political realities they barely understand, the two forces have ignorantly suicide-bombed the causes they purport to advocate.

So what went wrong? A lot of things. But I’m going to focus on the misplaced confidence, political misjudgement and the perils of cyber-utopianism which characterised both efforts.

Join the Bevoiviions! (awesome photo via alethiaphotos.com - link at bottom of post)

“Well, I’ll smash this window with a brick and then, one day, they’ll build a fucking statue of me”

Both sides vastly overestimated how much other people think like them. The rioters may believe they’re at the forefront of a popular revolt to overthrow an unjust regime; but to most observers they’re seen as a thuggish minority of idiots. In a letter sent to UKUncut, they even identify themselves as representing a “highly visible radical presence” of the mainstream movement. I’ve seen supporters claim in online comments that left-wing critics of their actions are not displaying sufficient solidarity.

While it is no surprise to me that they are being turned upon by those they saw as their ‘comrades’, overconfidence in their own righteous indignation blinded them to the inevitable divisiveness of their plan.

It’s a similar story with the brains behind Start Up Britain: a concept so vacuous and devoid of creativity, only other entrepreneurs could appreciate it.

Heroes within their own echo chamber, I’m sure they never imagined the ferocity of negative opinion their little website would incite. Unfortunately (for them), not everyone ‘gets’ the entrepreneur mentality. The inherent flaws and slapdash sloppiness of the product on launch may not bother the type of people who are focusing on the ‘bigger picture’ (whatever that is) and already working on their next ‘revolutionary’ idea, but the general public simply hasn’t bought in to that bullshit.

On Twitter, they seem genuinely surprised that people don’t understand where they’re coming from (and trying to get to). If they’d have tried thinking like ordinary people, they might have anticipated such a reaction.

Text expertly aligned by the broken ruler society

“I tried to get Nick Clegg involved, but he was worried about it damaging his credibility.”

The political misjudgement of the rioters hardly requires explanation. It was only a matter of time before measures were proposed to clamp down on such activity, and it’ll take a brave politician to oppose them. Protests will be a little less free in the future, wholly because of the rioters.

Did they really think such indiscriminate violence would be likely to attract popular support? For the majority of the country, watching Saturday’s events on TV or reading about them in the Sunday papers, the overwhelming impression is not going to be one of honest families, unified in support for a real alternative to the coalition cuts, but of masked yobs starting fights with coppers and terrorising shoppers. To what political end does this serve?

Of course, the rioters would angrily contest this portrayal. The entrepreneurs, on the other hand, wandered blindly into a political shitstorm. Following hot on the heels of the budget and Cameron’s pro-growth speeches, it’s unimaginable that they would not expect to be intimately associated with the government. Maybe they thought the presence of the Prime Minister and Chancellor at their launch party would have a positive impact? Big fucking mistake. They opened the floodgates and within hours spoof Twitter accounts, spoof news articles and even a spoof website had turned their vision into a joke. They failed to put their scheme in context.

One of the charges of incompetence thrown at the entrepreneurs was their recommendation of a US crowdsourcing site for logo design. ‘What’s wrong with that?’, they ask, naively. After all, new businesses don’t have money to throw around and the crowdsourcing solution is a practical, cheap alternative to a professional designer. In the context of growth for Britain, however, such a recommendation is understandably seen as undermining British graphic design companies – exactly the opposite kind of message the government wishes to promote. This wouldn’t be a problem for the average non-political startup, but has proven a disaster for the politically-loaded Start Up Britain.

God gave up on humanity the year "Speed-Networker" passed for a job description

“Just think, a little over a decade ago we’d have had to travel door-to-door to sell this shit”

I think both examples are products of cyber-utopianism, the belief that the internet, or, more specifically, social media, is the ultimate harbinger of enlightenment, liberalism and progress. Evgeny Morozov warns about the dangers of cyber-utopianism in his book, The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World, in which he chastises those who preach the internet as a panacea, while conveniently ignoring the poisonous elements.

What we’ve seen over these past few days are some of those poisonous elements.

If we are to accept the conventional wisdom that says social media better enables the mass mobilisation of politically active individuals, we can reasonably say that Saturday’s protests (both nasty and nice) were greatly helped by this technological wonder. However, we should also consider that the TUC rally (with its vast, largely offline network) could still have taken place, while the ‘anarchists’ campaign would’ve been far less likely to make up the numbers.

And let’s not underestimate the power of the echo chamber. Through social media like Facebook and Twitter, it’s now easier than ever to immerse yourself in opinions that support your world view while simultaneously dismissing anything you don’t want to hear. This will naturally distort people’s perception of reality and convince them their views are more widely accepted than they probably are.

The case of Start Up Britain portrays a different side of cyber-utopianism. Rather than being by-products of the internet revolution, these entrepreneurs are fully paid-up acolytes. In many cases, the ‘brains’ behind the ‘initiative’ owe their very success to the web 2.0 explosion. Their faith in the transformative power of the internet clearly lies at the very foundation of their idea. Crowdsourcing, blogs, social networks… seemingly, an expensive, expansive bureaucracy providing individual, personal advice to businesses to help them grow is no match for a single page website linking to a handful of online resources.

While all this social media jazz may be considered exciting (in some circumstances), when it comes to policy this approach has, yet again, been resoundingly rejected and ridiculed. The public obviously don’t share the cyber-utopians confidence that Britain can crowdsource its way to growth.

I suppose you could argue that this is only evidence of a lack of vision on behalf of the public. And, naturally, we should wait and see before making any final judgements regarding how effective this will be in the long run. However, the mistake the entrepreneurs made was assuming web 2.0 principles (iterative development, beta launches, internationalisation, crowdsourcing, etc.) would easily translate into public policy (or an extension thereof) and be widely accepted. How many times will people make the same mistakes before they learn?

"If you even think about spinning that bottle I'll cut your fucking balls off" (another aletheiaphotos.com pic)

Final thoughts

I hope everyone’s cheered by the thought that both anti-corporate thugs and free market-loving yuppies can be equally incompetent. Sadly, both sides of the political divide have to deal with the respective consequences.

A rare, passionate and awe-inspiring gathering of those much talked about ‘hard-working British families’ was pushed off the front pages; the message of a real alternative was lost amidst the din of shattered glass and the more media-friendly context behind the forthcoming strikes has been irrecoverably muddied. This only helps the Tories.

For the blue team, their first thunderous shot at a growth narrative has turned into yet another embarrassment. Within just a few hours of an enthusiastic launch starring the biggest players in the coalition, Start Up Britain was desperately trying to distance itself from the government. Dave and Gideon’s strategy for growth once again appears as shallow, vague and unwelcome as their Big Society.

So that leaves us still locked in a brutal programme of cuts, unemployment and inflation, but without even the pretence of an intelligent plan for growth. Thanks, wankers.

The sad thing is how easy it would’ve been to avoid such gross errors. If the rioters and the entrepreneurs had simply broadened their world view to include, y’know, normal humans in their plans, many of these mistakes could’ve been averted.

More importantly, if any one of them had genuinely cared about the cause they claim to exemplify, maybe they would’ve been motivated to look beyond their own ego and narrow self-interest.

*****************

Alethiaphotos have some awesome shots of the anarchists. Well worth a look.

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The guy who is currently running the country has the support of only 12% of the population (and other such stories)

Apparently, the honeymoon is over. But at least we’ve all been fucked. Last week, the Daily Mail unleashed a report based on a Harris Interactive Poll that contained some genuinely interesting findings. In true Daily Mail fashion, their summary is a lesson in spin:

The Coalition Government’ s honeymoon with the British public is all but over… the survey finds that some of the shine has come off the Coalition, with 57 per cent of people describing its performance as ‘disappointing’.

But the Harris Interactive poll also identifies strong support for Mr Cameron personally, along with backing for the Coalition’s programme of cuts.

I suppose that’s true (and are we supposed to be capitalising coalition?). But while 57% described the coalition as ‘disappointing’, 52% described it as ‘effective’. “Strong support” for David Cameron turns out to be that 26% of those polled thought he was performing better than expected – only 4% more than the 22% who said worse than expected. What the Daily Mail reporter Jason Groves interpreted as backing for the Con/Lib’s cuts was presumably based on the 56% who said yes, deep cuts are essential to tackle the deficit. What this analysis doesn’t seem to take into account, however, are the 41% who disagreed with the coalition’s programme of cutting quickly, compared to 37% who agreed, and the 38% who believe the coalition has the wrong balance between cuts and taxes, compared to 32% who think they have the right balance. (It could be more accurately said, in this case, that the country was divided on the issue, but with slightly more people seeming to favour Labour’s system of cuts).

But I suppose that’s what makes this such an interesting poll: the questions are vague enough so that any interpretation is valid. With this in mind, I’ve made a few observations of my own…

Why aren’t the Lib Dems doing their own bit of soul-searching?

According to the Mail, 28% of those polled said they would vote Labour at the next election. This is down slightly from 29% at the election. This election loss has triggered an immense period of reassessment and analysis from those in the Labour party, with many members calling for a rethink of just about everything that made the party electable since 1997 and, unsurprisingly, a major lurch to the left. This followed a crushing 5% loss in share of the vote compared to 2005.

Meanwhile, after the most high profile Lib Dem campaign ever, in which Nick Clegg was widely hailed as the winner of the televised debates and both the Independent and the Guardian came out in support of the party, their vote share increased from 22% in 2005 to… 23% in 2010. (I’ve rounded these results up to the nearest whole number; for the record the actual increase was 0.9% – for those who prefer mathematical symbols, that’s <1%). Of course, votes didn't matter to the High Prophet of Politics 2.0 after he'd secured entrenchment in Cameron's government.

But with the Lib Dem vote having now collapsed to just 12%, I find it strange that Clegg's party appear completely unresponsive to these damning figures. Of course, they are technically in government, so I don't expect them to embark on the sort of excruciating process of introspection currently boring anyone following the Labour leadership contest, but Clegg's arrogance seems inversely proportional to his support. If an election was called tomorrow, the man who is supposedly running this country in his boss' absence might only expect 12% of the popular vote.

For The Party of Perpetual Opposition, a stubborn, high-minded adherence to so-called principles, at the expense of the will of the people, may have held a certain noble/underdog charm. In just over 100 days of government, however, we've seen how easily such self-righteousness has been channeled – at the glaring expense of the righteousness. If the Lib Dems ever want to be anything more than a prop for whichever of the two main parties are found the least unpopular at the time, maybe they should start the difficult job of figuring out how a clique of disaffected idealists can build support in advance of the next election.

In 100 days, super-slick “Call me Dave” transforms into Calamity Cameron… and yet is considered to have performed “better than expected”. WTF?

Cameron’s litany of gaffes has been well-reported. And with one of the more prominent examples elevating the non-existant role of the U.S. as Britain stood alone against the Nazi war machine, it can hardly be said that this wouldn’t have touched a nerve. Despite this, Cameron has the exaltation of being the only minister in the Mail’s poll to exceed public expectations – in that 26% of people said he’d performed ‘better’ and 22% said ‘worse’ than expected. Crucially, 42% said he’s performed “as expected”, with no indication of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Regardless, as the other ministers (Cable, Clegg and Osborne) were deemed to disappoint, Cameron must be doing something right. If it’s not pissing on our country’s “finest hour” or pissing off the Iranians and Pakistanis, then what is it?

Cameron’s greatest skill has been distancing himself from almost every decision and action being made by his government. Instead, he’s touring the country, visiting the downtrodden and answering questions ‘from the hip’. He’s flitting around the world, hitting it off with The Hope Incarnate and leading a vast entourage of seemingly important businessmen, doing seemingly important things. He’s encouraging tourism, not in the despairingly modern New Labour sense, but in a proper English sense using words like heritage, in a way that will, presumably, attract the ‘right’ kind of tourists. Cameron’s been reassuringly traditional and superficially ineffectual: a perfectly non-threatening example of aristocratic folly.

I wonder if, as a schoolboy at Eton, he was perceived as ‘keen’. He certainly fits the type. And you can’t dislike the ‘keen’ kids. Though they may not be as bright or as imaginative as the others in his class, you’ll always give them an A for effort. Osborne can’t pull this off. He comes across as the spiteful little tosspot cheering on the bullies in the hope that they’ll leave him alone for another hour. Clegg is the egotistic overachiever, and Cable the sanctimonious nerd. The problem with the ‘keen’ kids, though, is that they too can be right little bastards. Only worse, because they seem so utterly harmless (after all, they want to do right, they really do). Behind this facade lies… well, that’s the point, who knows? 100 days as Prime Minister and Cameron is still playing the act of facile do-gooder, saying whatever he must to get people to like him. That may mean slagging off Israel in Turkey, Pakistan in India, or… uh, Britain in the US. As an example of his super-teflon mutant powers, which of this government’s cuts can you really pin onto him?

He doesn’t want these cuts. No, no, no. To cut hard and cut now is a difficult decision, made unavoidable due to Labour’s legacy. These next four years are going to be painful and he wishes there was another option. But there isn’t.

When asked in one of his PM Direct town hall meetings if these “painful” cuts will be reversed in better times, he stressed that these are “once and for all” measures. As Hélène Mulholland reported in The Guardian’s live politics blog: “He is not for turning things back once the country’s finances have improved.”

Something doesn’t add up here. But, I have to admit, he has performed better than I expected.

“We want the troops home as soon as practically possible!” Define as soon as practically possible…

The final question that caught my eye in the poll asked, “when should British troops pull out of Afghanistan”. A whopping 66% replied, “as soon as practically possible”. The Mail chose to present this piece of information with the headline, “Voters Want Troops Home”. Which is understandable really. I’m sure the Independent would have opted for a far more decisive angle, probably along lines I’m already overly familiar with due to excessive exposure to left wing bloggers: the war can not be won, we’re making things worse, the Taliban weren’t so bad, we just don’t understand their culture, women like to have their noses cut off… stuff like that.

The beauty of such a vague question means I too can choose to read it in a way that suits my world view…

Only 14% of voters want our troops out of Afghanistan within 5 years. Two-thirds say they believe we should wait until practicalities allow us to withdraw – presumably, this means waiting until the country is stable, secure and the people finally have some hope that, after decades of being fucked over and forsaken by foreign powers looking after their own interests, they can enjoy some of the comforts taken for granted by these invaders. Even if this takes a generation.

Whose analysis are you going to trust, dear readers? The Mail’s or mine?

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Nick Clegg’s Letter to Justin Sane (from a kinder, gentler liberal conservative)

Nick Clegg - ArchMage of Political Reform and Scourge of Inequality

Me? Gay!? Have you seen my wife's yams!? Ohhhh yeah...

Dear Punk Rock star,

I’m just kidding, but if I can claim to have any influence over this government I may as well call you that. I like your attitude. I like your songs. I’ve been a really big fan since I can’t remember when. Well, since last week. But if you look at my speeches over the previous years, you’ll see that I never explicitly said I wasn’t a fan.

See, there are some times when I feel really alone, cause I don’t really have any friends in my party and I don’t fit in at work. David Davis called me part of a “Brokeback Coalition” in front of the Financial Times, so now the Labour Party puts me down by saying I’m gay. But I don’t care because I have nothing against homosexuals and David Davis is an arsehole!

I think the personal opinions I express are important (though NOT representative of the views of the government – Dave). Thanks a lot. Keep fighting – but not too much or we’ll have to get the police to move you along.

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister and Saviour of Our Civil Liberties)

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The Tories twisted view of crime (or the only thing worth fearing is fear itself – and Tory policy)

So, yet another set of crime statistics are released showing crime has fallen since Labour came to power in 1997. Not just a little, but by a whopping 43%. And what has been the public reaction to this piece of reassuring news?

Let’s take a look at a fairly representative comment on the Daily Mail:

Of course, the statistics are wrong! After all, didn’t David Cameron stand up during Prime Minister’s Questions the other day and say with a straight face that violent crime had “nearly doubled” under Labour?

Is it possible that David Cameron, the Tories and the majority of Daily Mail readers are all deluded idiots, clinging on to a world view that is scarily out of touch with reality? Yes.

The fact is the British Crime Survey (BCS) does not base its results on police records. Its researchers speak directly to the public and so it covers both reported and unreported crime. The claim then that this decrease is only due to people “not bothering” to report crimes is absolutely absurd.

Furthermore, the statistics quoted by David Cameron are the police-recorded crime figures. These do indeed show an increase in certain crimes under Labour, but are considered a far less reliable measurement because methods in how police record crime vary over time. They’re also affected by factors such as government initiatives that lead to a higher number of people reporting crimes they otherwise wouldn’t have. That’s right. Despite the wailing of the Daily Mail masses, public experience of crime has dramatically fallen while reported crime has gone up. The exact opposite of what they believe to be true!

But back to Cameron, who really should know better. He’s deliberately cherry-picking a different set of measurements to pander to people’s fears and try to create the illusion of a crimewave – the “broken Britain” of his dreams.

Such casual cynicism is bad enough, but there is a distinctly sinister side to this story that goes beyond just another case of bullshitting politicians speaking bullshit.

According to the BCS, the only category that has shown an increase has been sexual offences. This particular offence is based on reported crime figures from the police and has seen a 6% rise compared to last year. This includes a 15% rise in rapes against women.

So, while the Tories aim to cut police numbers and roll back crime prevention measures, such as CCTV and speed cameras, the most significant piece of crime legislation suggested so far has been to grant anonymity to men accused of rape! Even Tory MPs (the female ones, at least) object to this on the grounds that it sends a negative message about women who accuse men of rape, and campaigning groups claim that such a move would deter victims of sexual abuse from identifying their attackers.

Why have the Tories chosen rape to introduce laws that will protect the accused? Let’s check in on another fairly representative comment from the Daily Mail:

We can mock the Daily Mail for its shoddy journalism and laugh at its readers for their ignorance, but when the government appears to echo such sick sentiments and actually believe it as well, you start to realise that the “nasty party” is even worse than you ever imagined…

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Liberal sellouts need to STFU – now is not the right time for prison reform

Predictable reactions all round to Ken Clarke’s “surprising” and “radical” declaration that the government should revisit 20 year old Tory thinking and significantly lower the prison population. Right-wingers who bought into Cameron’s ridiculous “broken Britain” narrative can justifiably complain that they didn’t vote Conservative to be softer on crime than Labour. Meanwhile, lefties are practically salivating over the apparently progressive bone thrown by this, thus far, unsurprisingly regressive coalition. Amusingly, Lib Dem supporters are attempting to claim this as a further example of their laughably minimal impact on this unholy union of the damned (and damning). A theory that was expertly and succinctly countered by Sickboy47 in a comment on the Guardian:

Keeping up the trend of predictability, Jack Straw, writing (to his eternal shame) in the Daily Mail, continues Labour’s mission to alienate the progressive types they occasionally claim to represent, by aggressively defending the y-axis shaking increase in prison population under his watch.

It’s all a bit of a mess – and worth pointing out that Ken Clarke has yet to offer any specific policies. The problem is also predictable: a total lack of joined-up thinking.

The problem faced by the hoodie-hugging liberals is the clear evidence that crime has fallen hugely since Labour came to power. Whether massively or minimally responsible for this decrease, it does take the edge off the “prison doesn’t work” argument. Working around this, Sunny Hundal from Liberal Conspiracy writes that “rising prosperity cuts crime, not putting more people in prison”. As rising prosperity is relative, I’d be interested to see a historical comparison between personal wealth and crime to see if there’s real-life evidence to support this theory.

Still, I’m inclined to accept the essence of what Sunny’s saying: less poverty, better opportunities and greater equality keeps our streets safer – albeit with the caveat that while slowly creating this utopian society, putting more criminals into prison also helps.

Which brings me to my point, and the reason why I think the sanctimonious liberal lambs, with their shrill bleating of “evidence-baaaaased policy!”, are misguided, short-sighted and more ideological than analytical.

Thanks in no small part to the Liberal Democrats, we’re soon to be entering an awful and avoidable age of “austerity”, in which the poorest are likely to face the worst of it. Even assuming we avoid a double-dip recession, the rising prosperity Sunny Hundal posits as the cause of falling crime has ended. In fact, things may even get worse. The evidence does not say that fewer people going to prison is a solution in itself. The answer is a lot more complicated, involving education, rehabilitation and support. All of which costs money the coalition are either unable or unwilling to invest. I haven’t heard or read a single sensible debate on prison reform that doesn’t position the progressive argument in these terms. As Conor McGinn from the excellent Left Foot Forward also explains (although not in these terms), it’s pointless to attempt to reform the prison system in a half-arsed way.

Now, I know the buzzword of the year amongst Liberals is the need to “compromise”, which, in the glossary of the New Politics (TM), is defined as sacrificing all your long-cherished principles in exchange for over-exaggerated concessions that, in reality, have been so watered-down they are either ineffectual or achieve the opposite of what was originally envisioned (e.g. raising the income tax threshold and electoral reform). I hope in this case, they see that half-measures could weaken the case for effective prison reform in the future. Sadly, Clegg, friends and followers are so desperate for any perceived victories I fear they’ll be on it like a bunch of pricks on a pin cushion.

Prison reform is much needed, but will be a tough sell to the public. Executed intelligently, reform could transform our society and change the way we view criminality. Executed poorly, it could further entrench the “bang ‘em up”, Daily Mail mentality.

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The arrogance of Tom Harris MP

This post is my response to a rant by Tom Harris MP, Labour, calling for the ejection of the protesters at Democracy Village. He closes his impassioned cry for the forced removal of a legal protest by writing:

What arrogance must motivate you to believe that you have the right to monopolise an area to which other citizens should have free access; to protest, yes, but to enjoy also, to take a stroll in, to have a quiet sit down. And what arrogance must motivate someone to believe that their compulsion to shriek incomprehensibly (and to absolutely no effect whatsoever) through a megaphone is more important than the comfort of others who might prefer not to be harangued aggressively as they pass by.

Such encampments would be dealt with swiftly by the authorities – and with overwhelming support from the public – were they to be inflicted on any other part of the country. That this eyesore still afflicts Parliament Square, that it has been allowed to grow and spread like a malignant infection, is a testament to the failure of politicians who should have acted decisively long before now.

Of course we should – and do – respect the right to protest. But though it might sound bizarrely counter-intuitive to say so, the democratic credentials of elected representatives must be respected also. Just because you’re elected does not mean you represent no-one, and just because you’re unelected and self-appointed does not mean you’re representative of a wider community.

I say, to Mr. Tom Harris…

This is a bad argument. You object to “Democracy Village” for the same reasons as people like Iain Dale: because it is an “eyesore”, an “irritant”, and “pointless”. None of these are good reasons for forcibly removing protesters – regardless of the amount of passion you inject into your rant. You could make the same argument against fat people in leggings.

Your point about the “arrogance” of the protesters is again very weak and raises the question of which citizens have the greater rights. Is it those who are nicely behaved, sitting on the grass for a quick lunch break, or those ugly, noisy non-conformists? You seem to have decided the former, and I’m sure many people will agree. However, I’m sure many others would argue that it’s more arrogant to assert that the right for a quiet place to eat sandwiches overrules the right for someone to protest against the killing of lots of people.

What about the arrogance of elected officials who think they have a mandate to decide which protests to tolerate and which to shut down?

More importantly, how arrogant is it to base such a decision on purely aesthetic, superficial reasons?

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The Wankathon Special: General Election 2010 (lowering the tone considerably) – NSFW

Enough. Clegg, Cameron and Brown, we know all your policies. We know all your values. We know between 13 to 26% of the spending cuts you’re planning on disembowelling us with over the next few years. As the waxy-faced vessel of vacuity himself would say, “we can’t go on like this”. This election’s become a drag. We’ve reached the last leg of this marathon and have hit a wall. We need a pick me up.

As Meow Meow is now illegal, we’ll resort to something closer at… ahem… hand. In this General Election 2010 Wankathon Special, I present to you the erotic electorate. The question is not which party has the right policies/values/suit and tie combination, but which party has the support of the hottest celebrity lady-types. Who says women are being ignored in this election, eh?

So here we go, three parties and their sexiest celebrity supporters. Who will you go with? The choice is yours. And that choice is either fuck or chuck…

Labour Lovelies



Cheryl Cole (nee Tweedy, aka The Tweedster)

Famed for her sage judgement when it comes to picking the right man for a long term commitment, Tweedy has voiced her support for Labour. Admittedly, this was only because her family are life-long Labour supporters (let’s hope she doesn’t have a Granny Duffy…). I wonder if the extra £3 a week marriage tax break promised by the Tories might’ve been enough to keep her and Ashley together? If so, that’s another reason to keep those bastards out. She’s on the market now and I’ll be there to dry her working class tears when Labour crash and burn come May 6th.

Lily Allen

I’ve read that Lily is a Labour fan, though that may not be accurate. Nevertheless, after David Cameron labelled her expletive-filled tunes unsuitable for his six-year-old daughter, I don’t think she’ll be supporting him. I mean, what a snooty prude. I force my five-year-old niece to listen to home recordings of me singing “David Cameron’s a cunt” to the tune of yankee doodle dandy. Besides, I think she agrees with Labour’s approach to socio-economic equality and the redistribution of wealth. Unless I’ve completely misunderstood the meaning of the popular song from her latest album, Not Fair

Tory Totty



Geri Halliwell

I don’t think UN ambassador and Ex-Spice Girl Geri “why the fuck is she a UN ambassador” Halliwell has publicly declared support for the Conservatives in this election, but she did famously say in 1997 that “Margaret Thatcher was the first Spice Girl, the pioneer of our ideology”. I was too young to remember Thatcher, but I can’t recall reading anything about any policies of hers that promoted talentless slags. Still, after being virtually irrelevant for more than a decade, there’s a lot Geri and the Tories have in common.

Brooke Kinsella

To be honest, I have no idea who this woman is. But considering she’s the only person on this list who has actively participated in this general election, it’d be silly of me to miss her out. In what has been described as a “coup” for the Tories, former Eastenders bint Brooke Kinsella is “heading” (yes, heading – the Mail’s words not mine) an initiative to cut off the gonads of knife crime (those were my words). Her qualification for this role is that her younger brother was stabbed to death two years ago. Now, I don’t want to be insensitive or anything, but I’ve a track record of having NO members of my family stabbed to death. By my reckoning that makes me 100% more suitable at preventing knife crime than she is. I’m just saying.

Lib Dem Dolls



Kate Winslet

Kate is the embodiment of a liberal lass. She’s intelligent, cultured, compassionate and willing to whack her tits out at any opportunity. Undoubtedly she’ll be enjoying the Cleggmania infecting the country like coquillettidia fuscopennata – at least until someone points her to page 14 of the Lib Dem manifesto where they announce their mansion tax. In what could be a positive omen for the perennial runner-up party, Kate Winslet finally ended her long-time Oscar losing streak only last year. Could that be the start of a winning trend? The answer is no. Don’t be stupid.

Honor Blackman

Umm… yeah. To be honest, this entire list was pretty tough to cobble together and, truth be told, the Lib Dems really didn’t have that much celebrity support. Especially amongst the hot female type. I suppose after the Tories cream off the posh daddy’s girls and Labour scoop up the future Wags, there’s not much left. Still, Honor Blackman is something of a British legend and, let’s not forget, once upon a time she was a Bond girl. Of course, looking at her now at the grand age of 84, the name Pussy Galore takes on a rather less appealing meaning. Will she live to see a Lib Dem prime minister? Again, the answer is no. Pay attention.

That’s all. I hope this helps.

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Has Brown blown it with bigotgate?

As I’m not a right-wing tabloid, I can only speak for myself. Has the bigotgate debacle cost Labour my vote in this election?

No.

Let me tell you why.

It’s not because I think Gordon Brown didn’t do something exceptionally stupid (which he did).

It’s not because I think Gillian Duffy said some genuinely bigoted things (which she didn’t).

It’s not because I think Sky News displayed any of the typical Murdoch media bias and shouldn’t have broadcast the recording (who can blame them!?)

It’s because, despite being one of the minority who seems to respect Gordon Brown, I’ve never, ever considered him to be the BEST thing about Labour.

Alistair Darling, Jack Straw, Alan Johnson, Yvette Cooper, Douglas Alexander, Andrew Adonis, Ed Miliband, David Miliband… these are just some of the Labour ministers who’ve impressed me over the last couple of years with their intelligence, integrity and passion. All have their own flaws and (I’m sure) their own cringeworthy gaffes. Regardless, they’re a competent team who leave me with no doubt that they share a vision of Britain I want to be a part of.

On the other hand, despite being a slimy, Thatcherite, lightweight, superficial, excruciatingly wanky git, David Cameron is not the WORST thing about the Conservatives.

The Conservatives you don’t see on TV are (deep breath) ideologically anti-European, anti-BBC, anti-equality, anti-immigration, anti-homosexuality, anti-minimum wage, anti-unions, anti-human rights, anti-environment, anti-electoral reform, anti-NHS, anti-public service, anti-welfare, pro-jails, pro-big business, pro-free market, pro-war, pro-tax cuts for the stinking rich…

This is the party David Cameron keeps hidden. How long do you think it’ll stay hidden if he gets into power?

Here’s a reminder of what Gordon Brown (and team, of course) got up to when not creating a media shitstorm:

And this (in case you haven’t been paying any attention) is what Labour stands for:

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5 essential resources for voters who give a shit – General Election 2010

Whether you’re a first-time voter or grizzled veteran of the ballot, political nihilist or unquenchable optimist, you probably couldn’t help but notice that General Election 2010(TM) is something of a big fucking deal. Every party promises exciting change and the polls indicate the results will be so close the next parliament may very well be hanged – sorry, hung.

Speaking to people who are kind enough not to throw stuff at me, there seems to be a niggling sensation (like crabs) that they should vote, but without knowing who for or why.

As I tend to keep rather young, intelligent and creative company, I know they’re interested in and affected by what’s going on but have little patience for remote politicians and journalistic hackery. This list is for them and all the others out there who give a shit about having their say in the future of this country but aren’t sure exactly what to do about it.

1. Finding out the truth behind the headlines

I subscribe to over 100 RSS feeds, follow the top stories and columnists of all the major British broadsheets and regularly watch or listen to the main political programmes on the BBC. From this abnormal perspective, I think I can safely say with a modicum of authority that it is almost impossible for anyone in this country to know what’s actually going on by relying on traditional news sources.

Documented examples of the institutional bullshittery, sensationalism, spin, obfuscation, incompetence and ignorance prevalent in the British press can be found here, here, here and here. As far as I can tell, the best option for the undecided voter looking for objectivity is the BBC website – but only because after you give up trying to find anything of substance you’re just a few clicks away from the latest episode of Doctor Who on iPlayer.

In terms of revealing the unelectable reality behind the claims and counter-claims strewn about by politicians, Channel 4’s FactCheck is possibly the only semi-authoritative route to the truth around.

2. Finding out which party best represents your interests

This is a task made infinitely easier thanks to the Vote for Policies project. Taking personality and image bias out of the equation, the surprisingly slick site presents the policy promises of six parties across nine key issues including crime, health, economy, the environment and immigration. Policies are shown without reference to the party they belong to, which is perhaps the only honest means of discovering who you really support.

3. Finding out which party to actually vote for in your constituency

After you’ve sorted out which party you agree with, it’s time to forget that and work out which party you should actually vote for. Pah, naive n00b, you think they’re the same? Wake up, asshole.

I know, this sounds bullshit, and it is, but the reality of the British electoral system is that tactically voting against the party you don’t want to win could be the only way to make sure your vote gets counted.

For example, in the Surrey South West constituency in 2005, the division of votes was as follows:

con: 51 lib: 39 lab: 8 other: 2

In such a battle, assuming similar voting trends this time around, for a progressive, left-wing lifelong Labour supporter, a vote for the Reds would be wasted. While a vote for the Lib Dems may not be their ideal choice, to not vote this way would only divide the left-wing vote.

The situation’s even worse when you get down to the “other” category. To use a right-wing example, a die-hard Eurosceptic may be more naturally inclined towards UKIP but be forced to vote Tory – the alternative is to see their vote, which our brave boys fought and died for in the Second World War against the bastard krauts, lost within the “other” category. The same obviously applies to the Green party. An honest vote could be a vote discounted from history.

You can find the voting history of your constituency on the BBC website here.

4. Finding out what to do about our stupid electoral system

So, where are we? You’ve found out that the free press routinely lies to you, you’ve excitedly discovered which party you want to vote for and you’ve dejectedly realised this isn’t always the same as the way you probably should vote. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that this democracy thing we practice is a crock of shit.

You’re not alone. The Electoral Reform Society and Vote For A Change are campaigning to make our system fairer. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are both making electoral reform part of their manifestos (though not for the first time) and with public faith in politics currently at an all-time low, this may be the time when enough popular support can introduce a system that makes every vote – for the first time in British history – count.

5. Finally, finding out how to vote

Visit About My Vote to find out how to register (if you haven’t already done so) and engorge yourself with more information about what to do come May 6th.

Happy suffrage.

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