Monday, 4 June 2018

Predicting the Presidential Divorce

A lot is made of the simpering acquiescence to Trumpism of the religious right-wing of the Republican Party in America. Commentators wonder at their ability to compartmentalise President Donald Trump's incredibly poor character and undisputed record of lies and promiscuity, away from their purported faith.

"He's not President Perfect", they say, before dismissing the question of his moral character as irrelevant, because "Voters knew this before the election."

With the fading, and since May 10th the outright disappearence, of Melania Trump from public view, coinciding with developments in court cases revolving around President Trump's promiscuity,
with the announcement that she has decided not to join him for his trip to Singapore, or at the upcoming G7 summit, people have been given to wonder if the former model has finally had enough of her husband's lies and promiscuity?

Lies and promiscuity are, afterall, his two main moves in a relationship, as has been shown in his two previous marriages. But if FLOTUS decides to remain a ghost for the rest of his term, or even if she outright leaves him, does anyone really think the so-called "religious right" would take her side?

Take the side of a woman against her husband?! Are you kidding me?! "The faithless harlot should stand by her man!", they'd say, "She's one of them immigrants! Really, if she can't satisfy her husband it's no wonder he has to go running to all-American gals like Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, or that he's led astray by a temptress like Summer Zveros: he's only human, after all!"

They would find a way to justify it to themselves, and maintain their veneer of religious pomposity, while utterly abrogating any core value they might purport to hold. I'd be surprised if these same arguments hadn't been muttered quietly in oh-so-publicly pious households in the Bible belt.

I can't say that Melania Trump is going to leave her husband, or simply refuse to appear with him in public (which some would say amounts to the same thing). I can't say if she's silently protesting that, on the very same day she released her 'Be Best' anti-bullying campaign, the Trump policy for seperating immigrant mothers from their children was announced, or if she just couldn't take being called 'Melanie' by her husband on Twitter.

Only a fool looks for reason in the human heart and, though I can see a good few reasons for her to take umbrage at his behaviour, her reaction is hers alone.

My interest is in saying, ahead of time, by way of prediction and perhaps innoculation, that this is the way things will go if she really has had enough:

The faithless, cynical cabal that is the religious right will attack her as above: for being an immigrant, for not standing with her man, for not satisfying him, for betraying him to the MSM deep state gay Jewish Hispanic liberal activist judges and the Muslim Brotherhood.

They will do this because they do not believe in God; they are radicals, who each believe they are Christ, or are Christ's chosen, and thus they are above the law of man and of God. 

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Why the Media are Saying the Local Election Results are a Stalemate

I keep on seeing posts about the Local Council Elections, attacking the media for reporting that the results have been disappointing for Labour. They say "Labour won 1,000 more seats than the Conservatives" so therefore "The BBC is BIASED!!!!!" for calling the election a stalemate.

So, let me sort this out - because the media, particularly the BBC, are not biased - at least, they are not as biased as the people who tell you that the media are biased.

Let's look at the figures for the Local Election in England, 2018:

                      Overall    Difference (+/-)

Labour           2,350       +77

Conservative 1,332        -33

Lib Dem        536          +75

UKIP             3              -123

Green            39            +8

So, that is pretty good, right? Labour got over a thousand more councillors than the Conservatives! OOOO Jer-e-my Cooooor-byn!

Well - sort of. They mostly held what they had and made some modest gains. Labour won Tower Hamlets and Plymouth, but lost Redditch to the Conservatives, and a couple of other councils to No Overall Control.

They gained about the same number of councillors as the Lib Dems, who are slowly rebuilding after getting torn apart for going into coalition. You do not hear anyone saying that the Lib Dems had a brilliant election.

But, still, these figures look good. They are by far the largest party - THE TORY BBC ARE LYING ABOUT JEZZA!!! - but wait... wait...: this is not a nationwide election: in this election, Labour were defending their Metropolitain strongholds of Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, Liverpool, Manchester and inner-city London. If the Labour party is anything, it is the traditional party of the people in these areas. 

These are Labour seats, they have always been and they do not seem to want to change. 

Conversely, you could argue that Labour did not have much space to grow.

Looked at in isolation, the results of 2018 look good for Labour. Looked at by someone who has never looked at any other local election results, they might look phenomenal. But let's look at the results from May 5th 2017, just to place these numbers in some sort of context:

UK Local Elections 2017

                     Overall    Difference (+/-)

Labour           1,152        -382

Conservative  1,899        +563

Lib Dem        441            -42

UKIP             1               -145

Green           40             +6

As you can see, the +/- column has a lot more movement. These numbers were very promising for the Tories going into the General Election a month later, as a dysfunctional Labour Party seemed to be bleeding-out. 

This is what a convincing win in the local elections looks like - not double-digit gains, but gains in the hundreds; not consolidation of power and marginal gains, but taking hundreds of seats from the opposition. 

It is clear from these numbers that the re-absorbing of the directionless husk of UKIP benefitted the Tories massively in 2017. To be fair, that was the spin from Labour at the time and they were probably right. In 2018, with Labour's more pronounced pro-Brexit stance, this effect has been nullified.

This is why the BBC is not calling the 2018 elections a massive success for the Labour party - because, in the context of local elections in general, and this one in particular, 2018 was a stalemate. 

The argument from my Corbynista friends is that he is on the cusp of riding a wave of popularity into Downing Street, and the BBC are deliberately misreporting his incredible successes. 

This is not true. 

We know what it looks like when a politician is about to ride a tidal-wave of popular feeling into power, and it does not look like the Local Elections of 2018, or 2017. It looks like 1996:

UK Local Elections 1996

                      Overall    Difference (+/-)

Labour           1,744        +466

Conservative 518           -577

Lib Dem        641          +150

An absolute shellacking, a confident staging post on Tony Blair's rise to power. This is what it looks like to be on your way to Downing Street.

The BBC are not lying to you. The 2018 Local Elections were a stalemate, as you can see when you place the numbers in context. The BBC are doing you the service of telling you the truth. In general, journalists want to be right more than they want any party to win or lose. 

The Deep Left are lying to you. Jeremy Corbyn for PM are lying to you. Peter Stefanovic is lying to you. The Canary are lying to you. We Demand UK are lying to you. They are partisan groups and people who want their guy to win - which is all fine and dandy, until they start presenting you with Alternative Facts, and trying to convince you that honest journalists and analysts are conniving and conspiring to trick us, the public, with their phony 'expertise'. 

Their Alternative World made of Alternative Facts is a paranoid place, where every paid reporter is a faceless agent of a malevolent power. It is good news indeed that The Deep Left's shrill Facebook posts are baseless; it is wonderful that The Canary is simply mistaken in its view of the BBC as a Tory-run propaganda machine. 

There is no 'They' controlling 'The MSM'. Peter Sissons isn't a giant lizard. Moira Stewart's honeyed tones are not full of deceit. The Jews aren't conspiring to steal the world away. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE OVEN! IT'S OK! IT'S OK.

With notable exceptions (e.g. The Daily Mail), journalists just go to work and do their jobs and get published and airtime through their predictions and the quality of their commentary. 

And, of course, who their fathers are. 

Afterall, if "Daddy knows the Queen!" isn't a good reason to give a chap a job, I don't know what is.

So it is that the BBC does have its problems. They do show bias. But these biases are implicit, unthought and only partially blinding to them. 

To quote W.B. Yeats:

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity"

So it is for news sources. 

It is best to avoid the ranting preachers of paranoid fantasies, the delusional visionaries whose view MUST BE THE TRUTH!!! 

I trust the bloodless analyst who has been around the block, the jaded journo who has been hurt before and the geeks with their spreadsheets.

I just hang-out with the revolutionary zealots because they're more fun.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Nexus of Wikileaks, Breitbart, Trump and Russia

This is a story of two men, both of whom have been acclaimed as heroes, both of whom have fallen from once lofty perches. It is also a story about journalism and why it matters.
Back in the days of George W. Bush, the lies about WMD, the doublespeak of neo-conservatism and the tragedy of the Iraq War, the world looked for heroic whistle-blowers to step forward and lay bare the hypocrisy and criminality of the United States' government. The media seemed unable to provide this: in the UK, they were gun-shy after the David Kelly affair, elsewhere they were reduced to feeding us reassuring briefings, seemingly incapable of speaking truth to power (with some exceptions). We, the many, the awake, could see we were being lied to. We just needed someone to give us the proof.
That hero stepped forward, in the shape of Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks website released a video of a US Airforce helicopter over Baghdad, killing unarmed civilians and journalists on the ground. The whole incident was profoundly distressing, as we could hear the group-think developing between pilots and crew, that cameras were guns and journalists were enemies. Their malpractice led to the deaths of innocent people.
I and many others saw this video as proof of the sick mindset of the US forces occupying Iraq; a mindset shared and encouraged by their commanders and, ultimately, their president. Julian Assange had provided the platform for us to view this attrocity, and his citizen journalism seemed a beacon to all of us who were disturbed by the US's turn to the dark side; invading and occupying a sovereign country, raping its resources and killing its people, all with impunity, with no justice for the weak.
Julian Assange's name appeared at the top of the credits of this video - a video showing the murder of innocents - as "Producer, Creative Director"... in retrospect, perhaps this should have served as some kind of a warning.
But it came as no surprise to us that soon charges were levelled, not at the pilots or the soldiers who carried out this war crime, but at Julian Assange. These charges were of rape, but not as we knew it. Just understanding these charges required understanding new terms for many: I and others learned to say "withdrawn consent" and "explicit consent" because of these accusations. The charges seemed overly convenient for those in power: it was easy to believe they were trumped-up charges to try to silence the truth teller.
While Assange went into hiding at the Ecuadorian Embassy and his Wikileaks project entered a long period of virtual hibernation, broken only by sporadic activity, the political winds changed. Barack Obama had become President of the United States, the Iraq War ended, the Afghanistan War ended, the US Government finally had a face that could be trusted by the world, the project of neo-conservatism was dead.
Which was good news for everybody... except American conservatives, who bayed for proof that this Obama was corrupt, that his election was a fraud, that he was a Muslim, a Kenyan, that he was a terrorist, or at least a terrorist sympathiser. The American Right picked up the mantle of grievance the world had held against them when they were in power. Now powerless, they aped their critics, and hurled those accusations of criminality and brutality at the new administration.
They were acting out of profound resentment.
But one hero stood up for them - a young, brash citizen reporter called James O'Keefe, who targeted an organisation called ACORN, which served as an advice centre and community hub across the United States, offering support services to disadvantaged people, registering voters and advocating for the poor. ACORN was everything that Barack Obama stood for: community organisation, egalitarianism, a hand-up for the lowly, a voice for the voiceless. The Right hated it and saw it as a corrupt organisation that had stolen the election for Obama.
James O'Keefe made a video confirming the right-wing's view that ACORN was a morally bankrupt vessel built to corrupt the whole United States with its socialist cancer. The video showed an ACORN employee seemingly giving advice on how to traffic underaged sex workers into the country, and how to hide the income their prostitution ring would generate.
ACORN perished in the light of this video, it's funding was immediately cut by the new administration, who were eager to be seen as whiter than white. It was later proven that the video was misleading and the ACORN operatives in it had acted properly - what was actually happening in the video was the employee was getting as much information from these criminals as she could, so the police could arrest them.
O'Keefe was eventually ordered to pay $100,000 to the employee he had smeared through his reporting. He had, however, become a hero of the right and they loved him. His original, misleading video ranked high on the Fox News rundown; its debunking was barely mentioned.
O'Keefe had a sponsor in Andrew Breitbart, who founded Breitbart dot com, and launched it's rebirth off the back of this seemingly damning video, with millions and millions of views from the American right-wing, who were ravenously hungry for stories that proved Obama was in league with Satan. Incidentally, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's Cheif Strategist, now runs Breitbart.
James O'Keefe has since repeated his trick at Planned Parenthood and at National Public Radio, among others, editing videos to incriminate innocent people and smear those organisations. His version of events never lasts beyond the publication of the unedited footage. It is no exageration to say that he is a known con-artist, whose every publication should be treated, not just with caution, but with utter contempt.
O'Keefe and Assange seemed to exist in different worlds, except that they both have tried their hand at guerrilla journalism and neither have regard for traditional journalism. For example, Assange has published reams of e-mails and diplomatic cables that he has not even read, simply to 'expose' the powerful. However, when it comes to suspect information pertaining to payments made through a Russian bank, Wikileaks have chosen not to 'leak' it.
As noted, Julian Assange once claimed credit as the 'Creative Director' of a real life tragedy. What those who still believe in Wikileaks say is that it provides us with the raw intelligence of journalism, without bias. But that simply isn't the case any more, if it ever was.
James O'Keefe and Julian Assange both selectively release information to paint a version of events that suits their ends. Now, for the first time, we can see that O'Keefe and Assange are on the same side.
Yesterday, (28/06/17), Wikileaks - which eight years ago brought us the real story and video of the deaths of journalists - published one of James O'Keefe's blatant smear-job videos, this time targeting news organistion and Trump administration bogeyman, CNN. In it, you can see the hack editing of a secret recording of CNN host Van Jones, seemingly calling the Russia collusion investigation "a nothingburger", before quickly cutting away. It is obvious that the unedited version of this video will tell a different story. It is obvious that it has been selectively edited to smear the people who appear in it.
That is plain for anyone to see.
But what is interesting is that Wikileaks would, without pause, present this report - from such a dubious source as James O' Keefe! - as fact. Perhaps Julian Assange is so twisted by his years of confinement that he does not care, or he is so in the thrawl of Trump or Putin that he simply augments every argument thrown against the rising tide of suspicion of collusion between Trump (& asoc.) and Russia. Wikileaks, afterall, is one obvious conduit through which such collusion would have been conducted. Remember Trump saying "I love Wikileaks!"? There is evidence that there was much more to this relationship.
It is significant, not to mention ironic, that the O'Keefe/Assange axis has formed targeting the real journalists of CNN. People who are accountable for their work, who have to answer to demanding editors, who have to stick to certain practices, who cannot simply shock their way to success, or destroy reputations with falsehoods.
The free press itself is one true bulwark against a tyrant. In the light of real investigative journalism, corruption is exposed, lies are laid bare, actions are put in context and the powerful are challenged with the facts.
The free press is the first casualty of tyranny, and it has been under sustained assault from the Trump administration at every turn.
If there were an effort by a foreign power to co-opt the government of the United States, they would need, as an insurance policy, to undermine public trust in the journalists whose job it is to root out the truth. At the point when or if a news agency pulls on the golden thread between Trump's collar and Putin's hand, the only question left for the American people will be: who do you believe?

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Video Fallacy and Soapbox Toss

I find this video problematic on a number of levels. The first is the rather selfish discomfort that, by commenting on it, I'm commenting on comments on media that is itself comment. Once one gets three-times removed from any actual *thing* or *content* or *fact*, one really is blowing hot air. So I'm painfully aware of what insubstantial effluvia this is.

That said, LET'S DO IT TO IT!!!!

1) The guests are introduced by their stances in relation to the Labour party leadership election, which is what the segment is about. They are given their credentials in on-screen pop-ups.

If the first guy is introduced only as the leader of the Socialist Party that would not tell you that he wants to join the Labour Party, or that he was in the Labour Party in the 1980s when the Militant thing happened. The same goes for the lady: if she's introduced as only "a new member of Labour's NEC" that does not tell you she supports JC.

Essentially, it would be confusing to the viewer to introduce them in any other way.

2) (1.00) i) the 'broken' graphic is fair enough, seeing as the party is certainly not unified currently. It's a completely fair summation of the situation where differing factions are competing to run the party. And, besides, it's a bloody graphic. ii) "JC's Labour" Well, this chap didn't want to join when it was Tony Blair's Labour, or Gordon Brown's, or Ed MIliband's. Maybe there's something about JC that he likes. Maybe JC likes things he likes. It is completely fair.

3) (1.20) "Violent revolution": this is the presenter interpreting what is meant by "revolution" - revolutions are real things, usually violent, the interpretation is shrill, but still what many might read in the word "revolution", especially coming from the leader of the Socialist Party. He is given the chance to rebuff it. He rebuffs it. All fair.

4) (1.55) "Trot". It's a tough word, designed to challenge the guest. He seems to deal with it well. Being challenged is not unfair treatment. (I could just reduce this entire thing to that statement: "Being challenged is not unfair treatment"). Equating "Trot" with "Paki" is offensive and absurd. The guy who made this video has clearly never been subject to racial abuse. There is a vast difference between a disparaging term for an ideology and racist language.

5) (3.00) Webbe requested not to be involved in the preceding discussion or any back-and-forth with the other two guests. I don't know why that is: no-one does. It is perfectly fair of C4 to be upfront about that, even if it does reinforce the point that the Labour party is in trouble. Because: the Labour Party IS engaged in a bitter argument with itself: it is fair to say so.

6) (3.15) "The Soapbox Shot". Said no-one. Ever. It's not a term in use in television production. The author of the video has just pulled that one out of his arse. I have it from someone who worked on live TV for 15 years who has never heard of "the Soapbox Shot". I've googled it: no results. It's just bollocks.

7) (3.45) Phrasing a question as a statement is common both in television interviews and in the course of my job, collecting statistics for the ONS. Webbe has the point that she is there to rebut put to her in the strongest possible terms. That is, again, completely fair. If you forget the fiction about the 'soapbox shot', it is altogether less sinister.

8) (4.20) Webbe was not called a trot - that is an outright lie. Webbe herself did not want to take part in the earlier part of the discussion, so C4 are certainly not to blame for her only being brought in at this point. And, yes, she had to listen to someone she disagrees with: that's called "politics". She did seem nervous. "Politics", as they say, "ain't beanbag".

9) (5.30) I don't know which polls the author was looking at, but I didn't see any with Labour ahead. They have been consistently lagging behind the Tories in most polls since the GE. And saying "well, it might all change after the leadership election" is not a point the presenter needs to make. It's the point that Webbe needs to make. Again: Being challenged is not unfair treatment.

10) (6.10) The point being made by the Owen Smith campaign and by others within the Labour Party is that JC is too far left. The presenter is trying to get Webbe to address this criticism in relation to pandering to the far left. Being challenged is not unfair treatment. Saying "Trotskyist" is not insulting or off topic: the guy across from Webbe is a self-confessed Trotskyist and Jeremy Corbyn introduced an early day motion recently to "Rehabilitate Leon Trotsky". I'm not saying that's wrong - I think he probably should be officially rehabilitated, as all thought on how the world could be made a fairer place should be encouraged. But, in doing this, he's clearly showing some ankle, as it were, to TUSC and Socialist Worker, etc.

11) (6.25) Webbe, as the presenter points out, is not answering the question. To be fair to Webbe, she's not a TV regular and is clearly struggling, so to call her evasive or anything like that would be unfair. She eventually addresses it by saying that there is a small proportion of far left people who have re-joined the Labour Party under JC. Now: what's so wrong about that? I happen to think that's a good thing - for the Labour Party, at least.

In conclusion: I need a shower.

This shrill nonsense dressed up as media analysis is exactly the sort of partisan twock that convinces people to switch off from politics and the real world altogether. The underlying idea is that C4, along with the BBC, Sky, ITN and every other news outlet, is purposefully targeting JC in a massive conspiracy to deny the country his policies. It uses fake terminology ("The soapbox shot") and sciency-sounding terms ("neuro-linguistic") to convince you of a concerted effort over the course of an interview to attack and belittle Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

This ignores the treatment EVERY OTHER POLITICIAN GETS ON TV.

Do you remember when Jon Snow served Tony Blair delicious crumpets on the 6 o'clock news after the invasion of Iraq? No? What about when Jim Naughtie tossed gentle soft balls at Ed Miliband before the 2015 GE? Nope: didn't happen. Do you remember the time Jeremy Paxman lay down and let David Cameron pee in his mouth? No: nor do I.

Jeremy Corbyn is inspiring many people to join the Labour Party and take notice of politics for the first time. He is an inspirational figure for many and someone who widens the appeal of politics to the young and to the disaffected within society. Thus these people are experiencing political dialogue, either for the first time, or from a new perspective: instead of rooting for the interviewer to tear the evil politician to pieces, they want the politician to shine their light of truth on national TV. Well that's not how it works around here: here the media challenges politicians in the strongest possible terms, which is fun when it's not someone you like or believe in, but hard to watch when it is.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

False Dichotomy of Socialism and Capitalism

The emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a (the?) leading contender to become chief lunatic of the Labour party has sparked much hoo-ha from all sides. Last night I listened as an ultra-Tory (probably called "Tristram" or maybe "Hugo"? I neither know nor care) on Radio 4's Any Questions? tried to say that Corbyn represented the ideology that LOST the cold war and was exclusively responsible for all the privations, corruption and slaughters of the 20th century.

Of course, he was wrong. But that's not why I'm writing.

I'm writing because of the apparent misunderstanding; this country is held together by socialist institutions like free education, free roads, free healthcare, free police, free fire brigades, free army and free political representation. People can live in this country without ever having to trouble themselves with working within free-market capitalism. This is not a 'pure' free-market economy by any stretch.

Socialism did not "Lose": it was inbibed by the many-headed beast of common sense, who built monuments in honour of its folly. Free-market capitalism has no place in the process of politics or policing (this is known as "corruption"), nor in what concerns public safety, e.g. fire and healthcare (this would be known as "inhumanity") nor in the keeping of a standing army (this is known as "stupidity") nor in the realm of public education (this is "corrupt, inhuman, stupidity").

Where socislism falls down is in the regulation and mainenence of goods, i.e. the market place. The free market should have well regulated rein in the sphere of markets, but not be unleashed on social goods as if, say, 70 years of the NHS hasn't been a vast improvement on what came before, when healthcare was for those that could afford it.

Free-markets are fine concerning goods, and are arguably better at amenities and aspects of transport, but a decent, humane, intelligent society must let social goods be taken care of through socialist methodologies, where the many help the one to the detriment of none.

The debate is not "Socialism against capitalism" but rather; what is a social good and what is a market good? Where does one end and the other begin? Should amenities like broadband and gas be seen as social goods and therefore provided by the state to all for free? Or should they be left to the market to provide, and therefore people's access survive, fold or thrive due to market realities?

Both capitalism and socialism are proven governing philosophies in their own spheres, all there is to argue about is what exactly those spheres are?

Monday, 11 May 2015

In Defence of Our Undemocratic System

The First Past the Post electoral system in the UK has been under renewed scrutiny since an election where the party with the third largest number of votes got all of one seat in Parliament. This is 55 fewer than a party that got about a third of its votes. The bare numbers (thanks, BBC) look like this:

Conservative: Votes: 11,334,520 Seats: 331
Labour:                     9,347,326           232
UKIP:                       3,881,129            1
Lib Dem:                   2,415,888           8
SNP:                        1,454,436            56
Green:                      1,157,613           1

On the face of it, these figures speak of a system that fails to reflect the will of the electorate in the division of Parliamentary power. Discounting the two largest parties, there is no sense in these figures.

But I'm here to tell you that this election is the perfect example of the beauty of the first past the post system. The sense it has made of the will of the British people is sublime; the product of a genius beyond the imaginings of mortal man.

What it has so successfully reflected is not the capricious whims of a significant percentage of eligible voters, but rather the will of those with actual, real-world concerns, actually affecting life in this country.

Liberal Democrats have one and a half million less voters and eight times the seats of UKIP, not because the system is in any way unfair, but because the Lib Dems have assisted real people with their local concerns and addressed actual issues within communities to the satisfaction of enough voters in those constituencies to return those 8 MPs. UKIP have not.

The SNP have successfully transferred the support they have garnered for their stewardship in Scotland, and for their pro-independence platform, to a significant share on the national stage. Communities feel they have benefited and can benefit from the SNP having more power. UKIP have done nothing for any community.

UKIP's support is dispersed across the country, with no one place actually feeling that UKIP's policies would benefit the community significantly. Almost 4 million individual voters, and no one place where community-wide concern was addressed or harnessed into a UKIP victory, aside from Clacton, where Douglas Carswell, a popular MP when he was a Tory, had his majority slashed.

Their issues (by which I mean "immigration") are not a dominant, community-wide issue in any one place. They are a party that has done nothing for any part of the country. They have no specific constituency. They speak for no particular community.

Labour purport to speak for the working classes; the map of their constituencies reflects that. Tories speak for men called "Tristram"; their domination of rich, rural areas near, but not actually in, Slough reflects that. The SNP speaks for Scottish people who like the idea, if not the actual option, of independence, so they swept the board in a Scotland that's still happily within the Union.

UKIP speak for a minority of people who are generally concerned when they see someone with a different skin colour. They have no particular reason for this, apart from their underlying fear of difference and insecurity when faced with colours other than beige.

These people may not actually be racist, they are just so isolated from their communities, and insulated by wealth or by ignorance, that they have lost sight of the actual concerns that actually fester in their communities. Their share of the vote reflects this fearfulness within the country; their share of parliamentary seats reflects the lack of any specific, real-world justification for their fears within any specific community.

So it is that our much derided, undemocratic electoral system of First Past the Post reflects the reality that racial animus and ignorant xenophobia are not, in fact, justified; that those who cower in fear against the possibility of change do so for reasons not reflected in the world around them but for reasons residing primarily in their own heads.

I hope that we do not bow to the instinct to simplify our electoral system and that trite rationality shall never replace the beauteous teacher of this elegant lesson.

P.S. Perhaps everyone would have voted Green if they understood what ecological disaster would mean for their children and grandchildren; not all issues that matter are issues that are obvious to any one community. 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Election 2015: Post-Mortem and Prepartum

With the election results yesterday a media narrative of a crushing victory for the Tories and the SNP, with Labour and the Lib Dems bereft of hope and leadership, with the first past the post system likely to be reformed any day now. I think things are a little more complicated than that. For every party there are challenges both immediate and long term which I'd like to name and propose solutions to.

The Conservatives

Yes, they have a majority, but just barely. The last time the Tories held the majority after a General Election was 1992, and the Major government was the weakest government of my lifetime, with division over Europe hobbling much of their term. David Cameron's majority is even smaller. His challenge is to keep the back-benches in line - a challenge I, unfortunately, do not see him as succeeding with.

My prediction is that, with increased popularity of some figure of the left, the Tories will become as hated as they were in '97. However, with leadership of the party changing before 2020, they still might avoid total electoral disaster.


Oh, dear. Their plan must be to find a unifying voice that is authentic, probably coming from someone who has never served as a special advisor or policy wonk.

Dan Jarvis would be my pick: as a former Major in the Parachute Regiment, he will be immune from criticism of being naive or out of touch, and will certainly not be accused of being a "north London geek." Whether the union bosses would allow him in is another matter; having coronated Ed "The Wrong" Milliband, will they once again stand in the way of the broad opinion of party members, should Dan Jarvis, or another candidate, garner a groundswell of popular support? The answer is "Yes". Why? Same reason as last time: nannying know-betterism.

I can see Chuka Umunna getting very enthusiastic backing, and I think he would make an excellent candidate. The obvious problem with both my picks is that they are both just coming through their second election and may not have the political chops to navigate a leadership election, or have the alliances necessary to corral enough MPs to endorse them. And if they do, will they fall flat on their faces at the dispatch box?

The Liberal Democrat Party

Eight MPs? Should they even be on this list? This is for main parties.

I really feel bad for Nick Clegg, who took his party into coalition five years ago in order to avoid constitutional chaos. He forsook hasty campaign promises to bring political stability to a country riven by economic crisis.

The Lib Dem support disappeared into the aether after contact with power, as if it were steam evaporating from a hot hob. In my view, the voters who deserted the Lib Dems for, primarily, UKIP, are a bunch of vapid buffoons with no conception of what it is to wield real power - as they were seemingly affronted to see their party making decisions that didn't represent their purest ideology, but rather reflected political, social and economic reality.

I applaud them for compromising like adults.

I see no way back for them soon.


Mission accomplished. Brilliant. Question: Once you've won 95% of the seats you are running for, what are you running for next time? Only to maintain your gains. They can only fight a defence from here on in. In Scotland, they are now the establishment.

Ask Nick Clegg what that's like.

My suggestion is for them to seize the opportunity they now have to become a national force by becoming a national party. Of course, they will need to change the name, but not the pro-independence-referendum policy.

As Bob Dylan said "He not busy being born is busy dying". They even have a ready-made, social media-friendly name already associated with their policies and faces and close to the hearts of their core supporters.

Ladies and Gentlemen, go with me on this, I give you "YES!". What more positive, inspiring message could be conveyed in a party name than that? They are the political mavericks, the party everyone sees as the upstarts, the underdogs, the ideological, starry-eyed dreamers - but they are also a party with real power in Scotland through the Scottish Parliament, where they can display assured maturity and intelligent stewardship (with the safety net of not quite having enough power to completely destroy their country with naivety and recklessness).

"YES!" conveys their socialist zeal to spend every last pound China has on double the number of nurses in your new local hospital where you can go for a fully funded seven year degree course in panda wrangling... OK, OK, I'm being slightly facetious. But I want you to think of this completely seriously.

They can either stand still, having maxed-out their potential, and wait to fall apart, or they can grow. If they grow, they need to change their name. "YES!" is such a positive message, which conveys their optimistic view of the potential of the electorate. They will invest in the electorate though social policies like increased funding for the NHS and free university tuition, paid for through canning Trident, drawing down military spending overseas, and real financial reform. "YES!" can co-opt and sweep away the Labour strong-holds of Liverpool and Sunderland by offering those supporters what they really want, which is a full on, peaceful, left-wing revolution.

Labour are there for the taking; a tired, jaded, sad party who don't have a clue what they stand for any more, who will barely defend themselves when challenged. How can they? The Blair and Brown governments betrayed and disappointed the Labour base by invading Iraq and leading the country to a financial collapse that hit everyone except the well-off. Labour supporters, faced with a YES! candidate preaching social egalitarianism at home and peaceful coexistence overseas, will have no convincing argument - their words would turn into ashes in their mouths.

YES! would sweep away Labour and have a huge swell of optimistic youth support. If played right, YES! could form the next government. I'm not joking. If the SNP strike now, before Labour regroups, and announce that they are going to go national, they would take a massive slice of the Labour vote, they will hoover up the outsider vote of UKIP, Lib Dem and Green, as they do not represent an establishment party, but a beautiful idea: YES!

Set against a government that will doubtless be at war with itself, arguing about Europe and the severity of austerity, YES! would become a beacon of hope, a party for the people, for the little guy, not stained with establishment or power, just representative of the blue skies of tomorrow growing ever brighter: YES! YES! YES!