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)

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…

What kind of new lifestyle awaits the British public at the end of this Tory/Lib Dem detox?

I was unfortunate enough to read this pile of garbage by Matthew d’Ancona in today’s Evening Standard. It’s an oddly toothless piece considering it covered almost an entire page (that’s valuable advertising space), seemingly designed to push several of the coalition’s favourite narratives. My favourite has to be where d’Ancona casually, slavishly, refers to 10-20% cuts in defence and education as “efficiencies”. And thus develops a fresh piece of unspeak.

Trust me, the vast majority of d’Ancona’s commentary is crap and not worth even a quick scan. However, one remark did get me thinking:

Tell somebody he has to scale back his mortgage, his family’s food bill, his spending on his car, his holiday budget by 10 per cent, and he will wince. Tell him that he has to slash 40 per cent from his monthly spending and he will have to change everything about the way he and his family live.

What d’Ancona’s inadvertently getting at is that, thanks to our government’s excessive cuts, we’re soon to experience a dramatic change in our “national lifestyle”. Sounds quite exciting in a “change we can believe in” kind of way. Who reading this hasn’t pledged to reinvent themselves at some point in their lives?

The scary thing, however, is that nobody seems to have a clue what this new “us” looks like.

To use a personal analogy, so favoured by coalition politicians, if you make big, restrictive changes in your life you usually have some sort of desirable end result in mind. Partly to help encourage you through the difficult times, but also to help you structure and plan what to keep and what to cut.

For example, if you’ve lost your job, you’d do well to cut down on booze, fags, satellite TV and might consider selling the Xbox. On the other hand, you’d be foolish to cut spending on transport, broadband and may even want to invest in some shirts from Peacocks. Similarly, any company wouldn’t dream of “efficiency” savings or, let’s be more accurate here, huge fucking cuts, without some sort of strategy.

This is what bothers me the most about the Tory/Lib Dem hack-frenzy; there’s no clear direction. Like crime scene investigators we’re slowly discovering the victims of the coalition massacre piece by bloody piece, but we don’t really know the killers’ motives.

There’s a vague understanding, evident in the articles of certain columnists, that a crippled public sector is a desirable thing. It’s generally assumed that this is the Tories ideological intention, but this wasn’t communicated to the electorate by David Cameron before the election, this wasn’t what Nick Clegg promised his voters, and this still hasn’t been addressed since the formation of the ConDem alliance. Also, what does a small state actually MEAN!?

Ok, we’re being told that nobody wants to do this and it’s unavoidable. For the sake of argument, let’s say this is true. That still doesn’t make the need for a strategy any less valid. There must still be some sort of end result in mind that’s guiding these cuts. Or is it simply a case of hack away what you can?

I would speculate that the Tories have plans so hideous they intend to keep it silent or risk terrifying the voters. Unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen from the ‘new politics’ so far, I don’t think even they really know what they’re doing.

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.

Tory Europhobe wants to teabag you and your country

If you’re a huge fan of populist ignorance (as I am), you’ll love Daniel Hannan’s inauguration of the British Tea Party. This toothless vanity project is an attempt to replicate the so-called success of the American far right original. From what I’ve seen, the greatest achievement of the US Tea Party has been inspiring thousands of posts from liberal bloggers mocking their inferior conservative kin. Something to look forward to then.

Ignoring Hannan’s spurious motivation for the time being, what is he hoping for from this emulation of the “spontaneous” (Hannan’s generous description – The Smirking Chimp has an article revealing exactly how grass roots the US Tea Party movement is) American protest? I can show you…

Continue reading