Does Britain bust a left or hang a right? (British Social Attitudes Survey Part II)

I think we can safely assume the majority of Brits don’t define themselves in crude political terms. So, let’s look at some of the detail of the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS) to understand how closely the sympathies of Britons align with the aims of the coalition and the right-wing press.

Inequality and Fair Pay

A majority believe the gap between those with high incomes and low incomes is too large, that this contributes to social problems and that it is the responsibility of the government to reduce income inequality.

The government are not ignorant of this, having commissioned Will Hutton to produce a report looking at fair pay. However, the report’s remit was restricted to the public sector with the brief to investigate a pay ratio of 20 to 1 – according to the BSAS, people think the ratio should be 6 to 1.

You have to question whether the government’s aim with this report is really about fair pay. Both the Tories and the right-wing media appear more concerned about government spending and mythical “public sector fat cats” than income inequality across the whole of society. The right-wing media, in particular, are strongly against government involvement in reducing income inequality across the private sector.

This puts the British public further to the left than the Tories and completely at odds with the right-wing media.

Just over half of people believe the government should provide a decent standard of living for the unemployed, but only 27% believe more should be spent on welfare benefits for the poor.

The 27% figure is the statistic most favoured by the right-wing press. And it is significant, especially considering support for higher welfare spending has decreased from 58% in 1991. However, considering this survey comes off the back of a Labour government which has increased welfare over the previous decade, the massive drop doesn’t necessarily reflect a desire to greatly reduce benefits.

This finding is therefore inconclusive. Other findings of the survey show that people aren’t unsympathetic to the poor and, in fact, favour distinctly un-Thatcherite policies: 62% want better education or training opportunities to enable people to get better jobs, 54% want the minimum wage increased, and 40% want higher income taxes to be increased.

Investment in public services

Secondary schools have been seen to improve in every way under Labour and there is widespread support for an increasing emphasis on non-academic areas including practical and life skills.

While Tory (and Lib Dem) rhetoric before the election uncontroversially focused on limiting top-down interference over schools, the policies of Michael Gove since then seem at odds to what the public clearly perceive as a successful decade for education under Labour.

In particular, Gove’s peculiar fixation on ‘traditional’ lessons (including Classical Greek, Biblical Hebrew and Latin) is not shared by the people, 72% of whom believe the teaching of life skills is more important than academic subjects.

While happy to trumpet the parts of the survey that support with its own agenda, the Daily Mail sneers at the ‘alarming complacency’ suggested by the nearly three-quarters of people who think our schools teach basic schools well.

Regardless, it’s not obvious how Gove’s plans will improve schools in the way people want. His anachronistic baccalaureate idea and intent to abolish coursework conflicts with the view, agreed with by six in ten people, that “schools focus too much on tests and exams and not enough on learning for its own sake”.

Satisfaction with the NHS is at its highest level ever, reflecting that people recognise and value the improvements made by Labour, particularly the successful introduction of maximum waiting times targets.

I never understood the right-wing war against NHS targets, especially considering (if my memory serves me correctly) they were introduced as a result of right-wing media pressure.

When Labour entered office in 1997, satisfaction with the NHS was at the lowest level (34%) since the survey began. In 2009, satisfaction reached the highest level since the survey began (64%). Even among Conservative supporters, satisfaction with the NHS is at its height.

Against this backdrop, you really have to wonder why the Tories are embarking on a highly controversial and extremely risky reorganisation of the NHS. Many would suggest the motivation is ideological. If this is the case, Tory ideology (and that of its right-wing supporters) is clearly not shared by the British public.

So what?

This is just a scraping of findings from the report’s executive summaries available online. Still, I think it’s pretty damn supportive of New Labour’s record and suggests the Tories should be careful.

The unexpected ambition of their education and health reforms are controversial at the moment. Considering they are completely out of line with what the public actually wants, when they are introduced the shit, as they say, could well and truly hit the fan.


Distortion comes naturally to climate change deniers

This video is an edit of an exchange between Phelim McAleer, journalist / climate denier, and Stephen Schneider, Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University.

It was posted on YouTube by the people behind Not Evil Just Wrong, an anti-climate science “documentary” directed by Phelim McAleer. Not Evil Just Wrong is closely tied with a lobbying group called Balanced Education for Everyone. Together, their mission is to bring a “fair and balanced” perspective of global warming to classrooms in the United States. The first step towards achieving this aim, parents are told, is to suggest McAleer’s documentary to teachers – available online for the bargain basement price of only $79.99 per DVD (with the required educational and library licence of course).

Now, compare McAleer’s edited version of events above, with the longer, unedited version below.

And this is why, despite a persistent and well-funded campaign of obfuscation from the right, my trust in the science of climate change remains firm. Every piece of denier propaganda I’ve seen, every impassioned anti-climate change polemic I’ve ever read, quickly falls apart under scrutiny. This example clearly illustrates how quick these people are to mislead and distort in pursuit of their aims.

For the record, the undistorted view of events has received fewer than 2,000 views. McAleer’s edit has been viewed over 270,000 times.

One final thought: normally it takes quite some digging to discover the duplicitous nature and ignoble intentions of climate deniers. In the case of Not Evil Just Wrong, it’s easy. The main focus on the front page of their website is what appears to be an embedded video, complete with a big play button and message saying “watch the trailer”. If you click on it, what do you think happens? That’s right.

It takes you to their online store.

(via The Guardian)

The Other Boleyn Girl – reviewed like a whore

Bowling Girl

First off, if you’re intending to watch this movie in the hopes of seeing the breasts of Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman bursting provocatively from their bodices, you’re wasting your time. If you’re planning on watching The Other Boleyn Girl for a sexy and entertaining blend of historical fact and Hollywood drama, don’t bother. The movie is as historically accurate as The Flintstones and as much fun to watch as an actual stone. If you wanted to go see it because you liked the book – again, think again. I read the beginning of my girlfriend’s copy while sat on the toilet and the cinematic translation shares none of the flare, intrigue or punch I barely found in the novel.

In fact, the only decent reason I can think of to watch this is the promise of getting laid by the girl you’re taking. Of course, that doesn’t help if you are in possession of a womb – in which case, I would advise you don’t go to watch this with your boyfriend in case the grotesque loser you’re currently fucking out of pity expects anything as a result. Go watch it with your other vagina buddies instead – and then be severely disappointed by the incredibly dull movie.

There seems to be a trend amongst a certain kind of film-maker that, when making a historical drama, there is no need to make it believable or interesting. And that was the main problem I had with The Other Boleyn Girl, I was just wasn’t buying it.

One such example; How much do they need to labour the fucking point about every fucking person being forced to do stuff they don’t want to fucking do? Bizarrely, they thrusted this unfairness in our faces at every opportunity (thereby convincing me this was the norm of the era) but all the characters continued to act shocked whenever such a thing happened – surely they’d have gotten used to that shit?

The movie was basically a re-telling of the relationship between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Anyone who knows anything about English history will be well aware on Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, and their marriage which tore England away from the Catholic Church and almost ripped the country apart. Seriously, read a history book – It’s pretty interesting stuff which was completely lost by the movie’s infactuation with misplaced sentimentality, by-the-book romance, and heavy-handed moralising. It was probably an intentional decision to show the destabilisation of the country as a backdrop to the events in the King’s Court, but it didn’t work. Voices calling Anne a witch from the outside of the castle was not quite sufficient to demonstrate the effect of the relationship between the two main characters, and so the story came across as just another complicated love story – rather than the world-shaping passionate affair it should have been.

Well, that paragraph was unintentionally heavy and not very funny. Allow me to get back on track:

Half-way through the movie I suddenly noticed that the girls were acting bloody well. It was like sitting on a bus and staring at the tasty cleavage of the slutty girl opposite you for a good fifteen minutes before realising she’s pointing a gun at your face and clutching a bomb. You start to wonder if you should give a shit about her and offer her some respect, but then the bus hits a speed bump, you catch them jiggle out of the corner of your eye and realise it’s just easier to sit back and stare. Anyway, I may finally have forgiven Natalie Portman for her role in the new Star Wars trilogy.

Eric Bana as Henry VIII was as broody as an Emo kid whose mum had just bought Shockwaves styling gel instead of styling wax. This made the King come across as so two-dimensional his motivation appeared to consist entirely of eat, fuck and rage – so it was a bit like watching a shark but not nearly as cool.

Ultimately, The Other Boleyn Girl was a flawed concept that was directed ineptly. This is what happens when you take history and replace all the good bits with a lame, distracting love story. And that’s why they killed off Mel Gibson’s wife early on in Braveheart – so he could concentrate on killing people and screaming.