Sunday, 29 November 2009

Is there anything likeable about the Swiss?

One of the top stories over at the BBC today is the Swiss minaret vote; according to exit polls the Swiss have voted to ban the building of the Islamic spires:
the BBC's correspondent in Berne says if it is confirmed, it would be a surprise

I can only suggest that the BBC needs a new Berne correspondent. The Swiss are a particularly conservative country (never a nice quality), with a tendency towards isolationism, and their particular form of direct democracy enables some of the more abhorrent public opinions get passed into law. I would have been surprised if the vote went the other way.

Switzerland is one of those countries Europe would be better off without.

Friday, 23 October 2009

BNP on Question Time: Reflections on a sad day for the BBC

Thanks to a ratings-hungry BBC, the revolting British National Party have now become a legitimate part of the political establishment. Despite the best efforts of Unite Against Fascism and others, last night the leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, took his place at the Question Time table. For the sake of an evening's bear baiting, and the name of 'free speech', the liberal(-ish) majority have given a platform to a party that can't help but gain from the exposure.

Unsurprisingly I followed the live event, and about five hours of preamble, on Twitter. I even set up a new Twitter account so, if I felt the need, I could call Nick Griffin a 'Fascist Cunt' without offending my more sensitive regular Twitter followers. By the end, however, I was equally exasperated by the mainstream Twitterati. There were two main twittering themes:
1) Unite Against Fascism were as bad as the BNP.
2) Nick Griffin showed himself to be a bigoted fool and he would lose credibility.

"Unite Against Fascism were as bad as the BNP"
This sort of comment was particularly forthcoming from Tories (probably because they have much in common with the BNP), although seemingly no faction was immune to such stupidity. The problem is that the majority banging on about 'free speech' come from very secure white middle-class liberal backgrounds, and are unlikely to suffer the repercussions of a rise in racism. If I had been the victim of the sort of rascist crap that the BNP peddle, and I was worried about the rise of the BNP, I would go to bed happier knowing that there were people willing to take to the streets rather than sitting on the sidelines twittering 'tut tut, bad show'.

Nick Griffin showed himself to be a bigoted fool and he would lose credibility

Whenever Griffin looked uncomfortable, or gave an un-PC response, I thought Twitter would melt from the unrestrained joy of the people updating about Question Time. However whilst the middle class Twitterati were seeing a man showing himself to be a moronic racist, there will have been great swathes of the population seeing a man being ridiculed by 'the establishment' and the 'politically correct majority' for having similar opinions to them. There are concerns about immigration and changes in modern Britain, and in the bear pit of Question Times these concerns were not addressed.

Last night's Question Time was news because it was the BNP's first appearance. Next time it won't be such a big deal. Thankfully there are organisations like Unite Against Fascism that won't take it lying down.

Monday, 19 October 2009

BNP Debate 'illegal': Hain regains some credibility

Once upon a time, based on his work as an anti-apartheid campaigner, Peter Hain had a lot of credibility. He then fell from grace in 2008 due to failure to declare donations in his campaign to be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. As Jeremy Hardy said on the News Quiz at the time (if memory serves me correctly), something strange happens to people when they enter the House of Commons. It is therefore good to see Hain speaking out on a topic he believes in and is respected for.

There is no place for the BNP in British Politics or on the BBC

Amongst the majority there is no debate about the BNP: They are a disgusting party built on fear and ignorance. There is however a debate on whether the mainstream parties should engage in political debate with them. Whilst some argue that you can only expose their ignorance through open debate, others argue that providing them with a forum provides them with credibility they don't warrant. I'm with Alan Johnson on this one, as he said on the Politics Show a few weeks ago: "I’ve gone 59 years without sharing a platform with a fascist, and I don’t intend to start doing it now."

Question Time will offer a forum for the BNP to offer very simplistic solutions to very complicated problems. It is a format that generally leaves me exasperated by the stupidity of the general population; panelists play to the crowd and those offering the opinions of the most popular papers get the biggest rounds of applause. When the popular papers are the Daily Mail and the Sun, both of which love to support the ignorance of the little Englander, it is easy to see how the stupidity of the BNP can appeal to the stupidity of the masses.

Whilst I have little hope that the BNP's trip to question time will be canceled, it's good to hear that there are MPs still willing to say that it is wrong.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Goodbye Conference Season, Hello Campaigning

The conference season is finally over. The parties have stopped dragging out the idiotic celebs and sports people, and now prepare for the run-in to an election that I believe will be much closer than the polls suggest.

At the moment it looks like it will be an easy win for the Conservatives, but as the big day approaches (no later than June 3rd 2010) there will be a sharp narrowing of the polls. It is one thing to vote for the party of privalege in local and European elections (however despicable it may be), but people will hopefully realise that it is another thing to hand over the running of the whole country to a network of Old Etonians.

The internet provides an opportunity for every person who wants to see a more equal society to contribute to the online discussion. To highlights the good of the left and the evils of the right. Even if people feel there is a need for change, and don't want to support the current Labour government, then few would disagree that the Liberal Democrats are a more acceptable alternative.

There is never an excuse to vote for the right, and it's everybody's job to make sure we get that message across.

Friday, 21 August 2009

A Conservative, is a Conservative, is a Conservative...

I can't help but be disappointed by the continuing story of Conservative attitudes to the NHS. It is not that I don't consider the NHS an important news subject, or that I am not proud of the NHS, but rather that I don't believe a Conservative MEP being disparaging about the NHS is news. It is about as much a news story as the Tories having blue as their official colours, their harking back to the 'halcyon' days of empire, or their disdain for the working classes. The 'news story' is merely the brief slipping of some members' masks.

Daniel Hannan was described by Charlie Brooker as “... a boggle-eyed, slap-headed, unpleasant, revolting, heartless, shit-brained, attention-grabbing, foetid excuse for a prick.” Let's just apply the description to the vast majority of the Conservative party and be done with it (excluding 'slap-headed' as necessary).

The biggest mistake in the whole affair was not by Daniel Hannan, but seemingly by Channel 4. Charlie Brooker's apt description is seemingly no longer available on YouTube due to copyright restrictions. Such web 1.0 thinking.

Monday, 8 June 2009

We're All to Blame for the BNP

In my last political post I wondered "How ashamed will I be of Britain after today?" The answer: very ashamed. Fear and stupidity ruled the roost as the seats racked-up for the self-serving (Conservatives), the ignorant (UKIP), and the evil (BNP). These are the sort of results that justify every rant I have ever had on the stupidity of democracy and the population in general. So, when fear and ignorance rule, who is to blame? We all are.

As always I stayed up late watching the election results, but this time I had a Twitter window open as well. It was interesting to not only see the results, but to see people's reaction to the results. When the BNP got their first seat in Yorkshire and Humber there were the usual "shame on yorkshire" comments from people outside the region, with lots of "don't blame me", "we didn't all vote BNP" and "I voted something-besides-the-BNP" from inside the region. This morning, as the country awoke to the news that a second BNP MEP had also been elected, the comments have blamed the failure of the main parties: "it's all thanks to you expenses-fiddling crooks." But in a democracy it is the fault of every person who fails to engage fully in the political process.

Democracy works, in theory at least, by each of us contributing to the political discussion. However, somewhere along the line, we got confused. We've come to believe that in a representative democracy the professional politicians will have this discussion on our behalf. All we have to do to be engaged in the political process is get out and vote according to our national newspaper of choice. Whilst a few 'truly dedicated' people will Twitter comments on election day, and write the occasional blog post complaining about the latest political indiscretion, for the most part we just have to sit back and let the system do the work for us. Last night's results are a reflection of this attitude to democracy.

If you are one of the few people who really try to contribute to the political system, and not just the glamorous-Gurkha-politics but all the way down to the wonky-pavement-politics, then you can hold your head up high. For the vast majority of us, who fail to fully engage but instead act as occasional pundits on the sidelines, we must accept our own share of the responsibility for Britain sending fascists to Europe.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

European Elections: Labour and Proud!

Is it my imagination or did the ballot paper have a decidedly isolationist/right-wing feel to it this year? Whilst I fear the Labour party will do badly in the polls (the public/press are now little more than a pack of wild dogs that can smell blood), I am nonetheless interested in the results as an indication of the state of the nation. What is the mood of the British public?

As I have mentioned before, I don't particularly like democracy. I would no more give the average person the vote than encourage them to start drilling holes in my head. It is, however, the political system we are stuck with, and whilst the decisions are often disastrous (e.g., ten years of Thatcherism), from a sociological perspective it is an interesting indication of the nation's mood:
- Self-interested greedy bastards in the 80s
- Confused in 92.
- Hopeful from 97.
And I think probably:
- Scared in 2009.

Whilst people may talk about voting to give the government, or all the main parties, a 'bloody nose', they are at the end of the day voting FOR something. Seemingly people will be voting in rather large numbers FOR the far right. I was ashamed last year when enough Londoners voted for the BNP for Richard Barnbrook to get a seat on the London Assembly. How ashamed will I be of Britain after today?

Maybe I will be proved wrong. Maybe the electorate who (hypocritically in my opinion) have been ranting about MPs' expenses will vote for the naive idealism of the Green Party rather than the fear of the right. I doubt it.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

You can't 'smear' a Tory: They have no credit to discredit

In my busy life 'Politico-mania' always ends up at the end of the queue. Today, however, I finally have a few moments to comment on the McBride & Draper emails. Basically they exchanged emails about possibly having a 'smear' campaign against certain members of the Conservative party on a gossip web site. It is a nothing story that keeps trundling on: today Gordon finally apologised, and still that is not good enough for the Conservatives.

Whilst I would have no time for the proposed site, I also have no time for the holier-than-thou attitude of the Conservatives or the media. I am sure that if the emails of Conservative MPs and journalists were open to the public there would be plenty of outrageous suggestions about the government. That doesn't excuse the behaviour of McBride, but it does remind us to keep it in perspective.

If the site had launched there would be a case for further investigation. As it is the Tories should accept the McBrides resignation and move on. This is nothing more than the party politics Cameron said he would put aside amid the global financial crisis.

Personally I don't see how it is possible to smear a Tory MP anyway. If you are willing to publicly stand for a party which backs the interests of the privileged at the expense of the underprivileged is there really any way down? Of all the suggested smears, I think "is a Tory" is the one I could never live down.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

How old was Titian when he died?

Surprisingly such a seemingly simple question is worthy of discussion at Prime Minister's questions! The problem is Gordon Brown referred to him as living until at least 90 when in Davos, and Cameron, under the impression he had died at 86 decided to mock the Prime Minister.

The truth is that no one knows how old Titian was when he died, as the Encyclopedia Britannica states:
"The traditional date of Titian’s birth was long given as 1477, but today most critics favour the later date of 1488/90"

Meaning that when he died in 1576 he could have been anything from 86 to 99! Was Gordon Brown wrong? Possibly, but so was David Cameron. Unfortunately Cameron added to his ignorance by choosing to mock the Prime Minister when there are far more important issues in the world, and Cameron's woes have since been compounded by it being discovered that a member of the Conservative Party had changed the Wikipedia entry to fit their version of the facts.

Conservatives rewriting history! At least we don't have to rely on Wikipedia to remember how bad it was under the previous Conservative government!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Cameron & Voderman Show...I'm lost for words

Whilst it all happened over a week ago, I only just discovered the buddying up of the new double act of Carol Vorderman and David Cameron. I am absolutely lost for words. Whilst I appreciate she is perceived as the face of maths in this country, that is exactly the problem: the public thinks someone with a third class degree who can add up is a maths genius!

Whilst I have always found Vorderman one of television's most annoying 'personalities', I think on this video she reaches new lows:

Whilst we should always be striving for higher standards of education, it doesn't mean we can just make things up. Unless my ears deceive me Cameron's dolly-bird states in response to whether exams have got easier(at approximately 1 min 25):
"...where in 1988 for instance, if you had been failed at A-level maths, in 2006 you would have achieved a grade B or C"

Possibly one of the most misleading statements by a 'genius' ever: surely getting zero percent in 1998 would by no means mean you get a B or C in 2006. Obviously the finer points are unnecessary when you are playing to an audience who believe Britain has gone to the dogs, but if you are interested in following up the study the duo are happy to point you in the right direction ("one last year, one a couple of years ago").

Hello Comrades! I've joined the Labour Party

I am now a card carrying member of the Labour Party...or at least I will be the moment my membership pack comes through the post. Whilst I swapped my allegiance to the Labour Party a couple of years ago (from the Lib-dems), now feels like the right time to throw my weight behind my party of choice: ready to pledge my support in the real world and online. Whilst I'm willing to post leaflets along with the next man, social media provides a great new opportunity for individuals to support the party, a fact that is recognised by the team. Whilst social media won't win the election on it's own, it will definitely play a part.

Whilst I'm sure there are a million and one ways to help New Labour online, I have decided that I will start small. Very small in fact. Attempting to convert the only Tory I know (or rather the only one who is a Tory to my face). I have decided to contact him on a daily basis to emphasise the positives of the Labour Party and the negatives of the Conservative Party, until he eventually breaks down. I have to admit it will be a hard task, after all he comes from Ken Clarke's constituency, and Clarke is (at least to the general population) a nice Tory.

Advice on Tory-to-Labour conversions always welcome.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Twitter draws me back into politics

I first signed up for Twitter over a year ago, and then proceeded to post approximately seven posts in the first 12 months. The reason was simple, I could do without the Twitter noise in a life that was already suffering from severe information overload. However, after seeing the popularity of Twitter with fellow social-media-bods I decided throw myself back in head first: an ethnographic approach.

As I expected it is mostly information that I could do without:
"Lying in bed listening to Radio 3 and wondering whether I need coffee more than I need to lie here."
Not quite the same calibre as the same Bill Thompson's interesting BBC stories. It is however quite addictive, and I have slowly been drawn in not only to the world of social media, but also to the world of politics.

I love politics, and political discussion (hence this blog), but rarely have time to give it the attention it deserves (hence the emptiness of this blog). I was lucky throwing myself back into Twitter at the time I did, a time of Twittering amongst some of the greats of the New Labour Party: Alastair Campbell joined on Wednesday, whilst John Prescott joined back in January (albeit he still isn't following anyone). Following some of the comments and the links, I can't help but get a good feeling by Labour's grass roots Go Fourth campaign. When Labour were elected in 1997 you couldn't have paid me to vote for them, it was all about spin. Now I'm starting to believe that they could get a fourth term, and the first vote from me in a general election, by being open and honest....but maybe I'm just an incurable romantic.

Twitter is background noise, but maybe that is what I need for background subjects: those subjects I am interested in but don't have time to give my full attention to.