Tag Archives: Labour

Well hung?

You would never have a ‘hung X-Factor’ or a ‘hung Britain’s Got Talent’, where Piers Morgan invites Stavros Flatley to form a coalition group with Susan Boyle. In fact, if there’s one thing that these shows are good at, it’s explaining, often ad nauseam, what’s happened, what’s happening and what’s going to happen in unnecessarily simplified detail. 

We could do with that in politics. But unfortunately it’s the polar opposite and it’s the reason that so few people are actually interested in it.

If you want to know the exact shade of vomit of Nick Clegg’s tie or the intricacies of Sarah Cameron’s tattoos then switch on the news or flick through a paper, but if you want any actual information about, say, the ramifications of a minority administration, or coalition government, then forget it. 

I don’t consider myself a moron, yet over the past few weeks I’ve come to feel that I’d have been better equipped and informed to vote in the Star Wars Galactic Republic than in the 2010 UK General Election. As I’ve said before, it’s impossible to get any real information or facts. We’ve already been made aware by the media that we will be financially shafted by whoever is elected, yet none of them will admit it. No wonder the average voter is so disaffected; I’ve only had the pleasure of voting a few times and I’m already considering a permanent move to North Korea. 

Politics in Britain (perhaps everywhere) holds little appeal to the average person because it is unclear in every vital area. We are all very aware of every politician’s latent ability to reel off an endless stream of baffling and often contradictory diatribe that we’re encouraged to believe is too complicated to be understood (even Brown has his own curious ‘stat-man’ version—reciting facts like a ticker-tape); frequently they bamboozle us with fabricated nomenclature that they never fully explain (Did you ever find out what ‘quantitative easing’ meant?); and they spend the rest of the time skirting round their flaws while sniping at their opponents. They drip feed us enough bullshit to keep us interested enough to trudge over to the polling station, without ever supplying us with enough actual information to know who or what to vote for when we get there. I expect it’s because if we did know we wouldn’t bother voting, but turn up at Whitehall en masse—a motley pack of rabid Dimblebys and Paxmans with pitchforks. 

Policies and politicians aside however, what has also become startlingly obvious in this particular election – and more interesting than the usual concoction of lies and spin – is the flawed way in which our electoral system operates. As the predictions for a hung parliament abounded I found myself asking questions . . . How on earth can a party win more votes but retain fewer seats? How can a party win fewer seats but remain in power? How can two parties that have both failed to win the majority coalesce to form a ruling government? Is any of this fair? Is it even democratic? 

It certainly doesn’t make any sense. 

If we’re to believe the news today then some of the political flotsam should coagulate to form a sort of government by the end of the weekend, and whatever else they choose to do, it is likely that they will reform the ‘first past the post’ electoral system to make way for a fairer, clearer structure, which should at least allow the voice of the people to be heard, even if we still have no idea what we’re voting for. 


“The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.” Charles Bukowski

  

 

 

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Ash Clouds

Oh the volcanic ash cloud. What will holiday makers do? They’re stuck in Madrid. They can’t get a flight, they can’t get a boat. Oh, the horror of it—the horror!

Now some of those people have managed to get on coaches and now they’re all arriving at Calais. There are too many people at Calais. THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE AT CALAIS! There will surely be crime. They’ll be mugged and robbed and buggered for all they’re worth. Oh, the treachery of that volcano! Oh, the misery for those poor people.

I’ve been stuck in an airport overnight in Menorca; I’ve slept in a train station in Malaysia; I’ve been marooned in places where no one can speak English with no feasible method of exit for a prolonged period of time; and I’ve taken a plethora of 15-25 hour coach journeys all over the world in vehicles you wouldn’t even deem roadworthy (sometimes while also suffering from diarrhoea); yet, even without someone bringing me blankets and cups of hot tea, I am alive and not horrendously scarred by these experiences, because, honestly, they weren’t all that bad.

But maybe I’m wrong. I am, after all, just one man with one opinion. Perhaps the reality of the grounded flights is truly dreadful. Let’s watch the BBC interview the people involved and listen to their tales of woe.

“Hello Sir, how are you bearing up?”

“Not too bad.”

“Hello there, how has your journey been so far?”

“Long, but pretty good to be honest.”

“How have you been treated by the embassy?”

“Very well.”

Right, so even the majority of the people experiencing this catastrophic humanitarian disaster first hand seem to be ‘bearing up well’ as one reporter put it. But still the media insist on portraying the ‘inconvenience’ as a challenge akin to Cook’s endeavour voyage.

Impossible to get the facts these days. Even at the source they try and warp it. And so this brings me, by a knight’s move, to the 2010 General Election.

Last night saw the three main parties tackle foreign affairs. I’ve recorded it with the vague idea of watching it at some point today, but already, having watched just a snippet of today’s television, I’ve had the whole thing summed up for me from multiple angles by multiple people. Not the party policies on foreign affairs though. I’m still no clearer on them. But I do know that last night’s debate was more evenly weighted than the first one, with none of the three men emerging as the clear victor, which apparently heightens the prospect of a ‘hung parliament’. Is that good? I can’t find a conclusive answer. This morning I read contradictory pieces in the Times and the Telegraph, one of which expounds the virtues of such a parliament and the other lambastes it as sure fire economic disaster for Britain. It’s all conjecture and, as such, I have no way to form an opinion on which outcome is the more likely.

I’m told that a vote for Nick Clegg is pretty much deemed to be a vote for a hung parliament, which means that I’m not actually voting for a man, I’m voting for a government coalition that I don’t fully understand. Understanding the implications of these things is important if we are to make reasoned, logical decisions, yet all we are really told about is how tall or short the three party leaders are; how garrulous or reticent they seem; are they posh or common? What are their wives like? The real information – the party politics – is shunted behind a layer of spin and treachery and, as voters, we must grope through this oomska to find out what the difference is between them. And when you do, guess what, it’s virtually nothing.

The difference between Barack Obama and John McCain was the difference between black and white (and not just in looks). What’s the difference between Nick Clegg and David Cameron? They could practically be brothers. Gordon Brown could be their weird uncle. The three men are virtually indistinguishable (and not just in looks).

I keep waiting for someone to say or do something that I consider worthy of a vote – something bold and brave – but it’s not forthcoming. So then, on the flip side, I wait for someone to blunder in epic style so I can write them off. Holiday pictures of David Cameron shooting White Rhino’s with an AK47 would work, but, to date, that hasn’t happened either.

A friend of mine recently summed up the reason for this similarity between the Lib. Dems, Labour and Tories by stating that, although Britain had problems, they are not problems major enough to warrant radical reform and, therefore, the main objective of the three parties – as they were so closely matched in polls – is to seem more appealing than their rivals in order to edge the votes in their favour.

It’s not a new thing; the politics of appearance has always been important, but today it seems to dominate. How you look is more important than what you have to say. Style over content. Celebrity politics. And the media continue to play it up. The papers take sides. Impossible to get the facts these days. Ah, the news is on . . . The stranded Brits are coming home on a luxury cruise liner . . . The volcanic ash cloud has blown away from Britain . . . But I can still see a haze in the air. I can’t see clearly. May 6th. All will be clear after May 6th . . . But will it be better?

 

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Tower Block of Commons (Monday 9pm Ch4)

Pick people that are easy for the public to hate and make them live with people that are impossible to hate. This is a new format for documentaries currently doing the rounds, examples of which include: Blood, Sweat and Takeaways, which followed a group of solipsistic, mollycoddled twenty somethings, leaving their throw away, carefree existence to experience the real cost for those who make their bargain buckets a bargain; Famous, Rich and Homeless, went a step further by throwing various celebrities out on the streets to live with the homeless, shattering their preconceptions that all homeless people are lazy, work shy, freeloaders blocking the door to M&S; and 7 Days on the Breadline, forced the company of several celebrities on a few poor families (in both senses) in Leeds, so that they could learn that some people in this country don’t have enough money. Gasp!

Tower Block of Commons is the latest take on the theme, which sees four (that soon became three) politicians move in with families in dilapidated, poverty stricken council estates across Britain. They are: Austin Mitchell (the fat, old, loud one), Mark Oaten (the one who had the rent-boys), Iain Duncan Smith (the one who quit after a day following his wife’s cancer diagnosis), Tim Loughton (the one who looks like Richard Nixon might have if he wore glasses).

What becomes abundantly obvious early on – as with any of these shows – is the dichotomy between what the politicians hope they will achieve and what the producers know they will achieve. It is a sad irony that the politicians who opted to take part in this show probably did so due to a staunch belief that they were a bit more streetwise than their peers – after all, most middle class people would break out in a cold sweat if a tradesman asked them the time – and by broadcasting themselves side-by-side with the poorest in society they would improve their standing among the electorate, their colleagues in Whitehall and perhaps even change the zeitgeist of negative feeling towards MPs in general. This optimism serves to highlight their naivety in two primary ways.

First and foremost is the delusion that going to live on a council estate with those less fortunate is going to prove that you are fundamentally the same as them and, as such, they will respect you for it. This conviction is rooted in the politicians’ misguided belief that the poorest people in society will be equally interested in politics and as responsive to their policies as the richest. They won’t. The richest tend to get what they want and the poorest tend to get what’s left. The people they are staying with will more than likely have lived a life where politics has had little or no impact on their day to day activities, aside from the constant and belligerent anti-politician propaganda that they read in the tabloids. This engenders a deep seated mistrust in politicians, which is unlikely to be erased over a cup of tea, or a rational debate – such as Tim Loughton attempted with a group of youths outside a shop – because, since when did The Sun give a rational balanced point of view? In Parliament, arguing that MPs should be held accountable for fraudulent expenses claims is a sure to be an argument clincher. On a council estate, “What the fuck are you gunna do about it?” is a winning retort.

The second big mistake – and it’s more stupid than the first – lies in trusting that the programme’s producers have set the show up with the politicians in mind, as a vehicle for their political resurrection. This is an obvious blunder. Television portrays things as it feels fit, and in most cases, this is in the simplest and most shocking way. Tower Block of Commons could have been used as a vehicle to show politicians in a better light, connect them with the electorate and hopefully reinvigorate a lost generation of voters – which, judging by the enthusiastic opening monologues, was what the MPs had hoped for. But why put the effort in to do that when you can just make a 75 year old back bencher dress in a gaudy tracksuit and mock his gaucherie when confronted by the horrors of heroin addiction?

TV in this form is reductive. It doesn’t try to find meaning or solutions, it aims to belittle and humiliate. It follows the current capricious wave of public feeling and in this instance that means creating a show with the express intention of making politicians fail and look foolish.

Sadly though the programme is a double bluff. The politicians are the easy butt of the joke, but ultimately it is the poor families they stay with that suffer the most humiliation; the humiliation of having to live a life limited by poverty, poor health care, lack of education and job prospects. At a time when the focus is on filling the void between rich and poor we aren’t half bad at digging.

As David Cameron says, staring intensely from his poster, “We can’t go on like this.” . . . But what the fuck is he gunna do about it?

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We’re all fired . . . from making any decisions that govern our destiny

The desk I sit at is grey in parts and brown wood effect in others. The parts that are brown are where I rest my hands most frequently – around the keyboard and mouse – because once upon a time, before I came to sit here, someone decided – in an ill fated attempt at modernisation – to paint this desk grey. So, each day I must sit, write what I must write, then carefully peel the flakes of grey paint from my palms, as the brown mass continues to spread. I can’t do much about it; I could remove everything from the desk and strip it back to the original brown, but it seems like a painful waste of my time to only return something to the old; I could re-paint it grey, but I could never match the colour exactly and it will likely peel off again in the near future. My dilemma – trivial as it may be – highlights the plight of Alistair Darling and the future of this small island.

 

The Chancellor is doomed. He cannot regress to the old, nor can he hope to patch up the new. His hands are sullied like mine, but unlike me, he cannot simply wash away the dirt and leave the problem to deteriorate. No! He must fix everything—we demand it so! Luck is all Darling has now. After all, politicians only get right the things they’ve been doing for years about half of the time, so to rectify a problem that has never happened in their entire lifetime is a real longshot. I can’t see it happening. Brown’s borrow and spend tactic seems to have failed – like pouring liquid money into a drain – and now we (you and me!) will be lumped with the payback of this mad, Vegas-style, high stakes betting.

 

More concerning to me though, is how this dreadful and expensive future existence will be managed, because, although there may be changes to the economy – tax hikes, tax cuts, tax the rich, tax booze and fags, don’t tax the poor etc – if these spread bets are to be successful, then they must be accompanied by a change of attitude in those that control them.

 

If The Apprentice is to be taken as “not just a game show: a business school.” as The Sunday Times described it, then we’re truly fucked. When every other TV programme is recession orientated: ‘Make cheap meals’, ‘Buy cheap clothes’, ‘Grow your own home’ etc, The Apprentice relentlessly bulldozes through the zeitgeist, dishing out all the hate filled, cut throat, survival-of-the-biggest-bastard mentality that got us into this financial sink hole in the first place.

 

The contestants are smug, self centred, morons, creating pointless shit to sell to people who don’t need or want their shit, who are then appraised on their shit, by a shit, then invited to stay if they can be more of a conniving, back-stabbing shit than the shit sat next to them.

 

Yet apparently these people are the cream of the UK’s entrepreneurial business minds. These are the people that will be in positions of power; the decision makers of our future. They are probably not evil people, but they are moulded that way by a potent capitalist system that, no matter how much it adapts, will always reward the most narcissistic. You can see the success of the system all around; we suffer tax increases, while elite bankers pick up bonuses, we bail out the banks, while MPs claim second home expenses. Those at the top will always exploit those below, as that is the nature of how they got to be at the top.

 

So, the political Apprentice is hotting up, with David Cameron taking the lead by cleverly hyping yesterday’s ill fated budget as the ‘Day of Reckoning’ – which has passed with little change for you or I – but has garnered some much needed points for the Conservative team (I’m sure Alan Sugar would approve). I will continue to watch both the televised and real life versions of the show unfold, whilst picking the paint from my hands and watching the deterioration (of the desk?).

 

 

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