Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hate Crime

News reaches the Towers that yet another pressure group has defined yet another thing as a 'hate crime', and that the Police (despite not having the resources to investigate murders or somesuch) are, of course, investigating.

This begs a simple question - What else must be banned?

What else do we ban because some pressure group or other deems, no matter how much of a stretch it might be, that something is somehow derogatory?

Equality is supposed to mean just that. Equal treatment, which includes sometimes seeing things that (whether related to you or not) may not present something you feel is 100% positive.

This was nothing - nothing at all - to do with transgender equality, and everything to do with a demand for publicity and special treatment.

So fine - let's ban the pantomime dames too because they apparently offend a small subsection of a minority. Let's also ban the 'Principal Boy' from pantomimes because that's both insulting to FTM transgender people, of course, as well as (no doubt) cultural appropriation. In fact, let's ban fancy dress altogether lest it offend someone. Let's also ban all forms of drama - I mean, Sarah Bernhardt and Maxine Peake both played Hamlet.

Best ban Pride, too - sometimes there are drag artistes or men dressing in a manner which may be construed as appropriating transgender culture.

For certain we had best bow to the pressure from the book-burning brigade and remove Mark Twain from libraries . My 1901 copy of the 'Imperial Dictionary of the English Language'? Racist in tooth and claw. Onto the bonfire of offensiveness. Shakespeare too - after all, there was cross-dressing in 'Comedy of Errors' and 'Twelfth Night'. And Falstaff would probably be triggering to recovering alcoholics anyway.

In fact, best ban all forms of speech and communication just to be sure. You never know who might be offended by something, and it's better to be safe than jailed.

When did 'equality' become "you can't say or do anything lest it potentially offend someone"? When did equality become 'special treatment'?

Best not show 'Married with Children' - it is stereotyping and offensive to middle-aged shoe salesmen with two children. And any British sitcom prior to 1980 would probably be grounds for the arrest of the writers.

It's bollocks, quite frankly - the whole fucking lot of it. We've gone from people justifiably asking for equality of rights to an ever-more sliced world of people demanding special treatment, even when it doesn't even have anything to DO with them, and screaming the nebulous 'hate crime' canard when they don't get put on a pedestal.

Hate crime is the poor bastard being thrown off a building by ISIS for loving someone of the same sex, or being beaten in the street for being transgender, or being tossed out of your job for your religious beliefs. It is NOT a completely unrelated CHARITY running a fun-run in the theme of a hundred-year-old theatrical tradition, and for pressure groups to even imply that it has any validity demeans the genuine hate, violence and discrimination that people have suffered in search of equality over the years.

Friday, August 21, 2015

On Jeremy Corbyn

Aaaah, look at all the loonie lefties,
Aaaah, look at all the loonie lefties,

Jeremy Corbyn
Picks up the reins of the mess where once Labour had been,
With Socialist dreams,
Thinks there's a window,
Which we want no more

All the loony lefties
Are cheering for this prong,
All the loonie lefties
How could they be so wrong?

Full of class envy,
Hasn't a prayer,

All the loony lefties
Are cheering for this prong,
All the loonie lefties
How could they be so wrong?

Aaaah, look at all the loonie lefties,
Aaaah, look at all the loonie lefties,

Jeremy Corbyn
Won't be a shame,
This silly frenzy,
Causes a split that will put Labour down in its grave,
It's not fit to save,

All the loony lefties
Are cheering for this prong,
All the loonie lefties
How could they be so wrong?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cameron Is Sending in the Jackbooted Fascist Thugs

....which headline is a direct quote from this article.

The other day I wrote about soundbites, and how they can be divisive and misleading, drawing you away from the truth of something towards the impression the user wants to convey.

And clearly politicos and journalists aren't listening to me, because they're using exactly the same methodology to try and convince people that the NASTY EVIL TORIES are coming to TAKE AWAY YOUR FREEDOMS AND RIGHTS.

The quote in question, currently being wailed throughout a lobby that have suddenly become devoutly pro-freedoms despite trying to introduce ID Cards, a DNA Database, 90-day detention without charge, Control Orders) is this:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone."

Oh. My. God....

Cameron is sending in the jackbooted fascist thugs to stop us from criticising the NASTY EVIL TORIES over our organic morning granola!


Let's have a look at a bit more of the quote and see if it says the same.

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance. 

“This Government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation, and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality."(emphasis mine)

Wow, that looks a bit different, doesn't it? A bit less Mein Kampf?

The legislation itself hasn't been finalised yet and I'm not saying it's going to be good law - we've seen before how well-meaning legislation can be misused - but sources indicate that decisions on what constitutes extremism won't be lying with politicians either, but with the High Court. The point is we don't know yet, and journalists are using a selected quotation to drive traffic and whip up opinion without knowing either.

Cameron's speechwriters and spinners really need to have their heads banged against a desk for coming up with such a stupidly spinnable headline, but that's only half of it.

We need to read more. Rather than blithely assuming that the headline writers are giving us the facts, we need to recognise that they're steering our interpretation the way they want to.

Read more. Read multiple sources. But most of all, read past the apparent money quote.

Because this one was rather different to the headline, and many others are too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Labour Leadership Campaign: Staggerers and Fallers

So today brought us news that in the 'rats in a sack' race that is the 'Labour Leadership' election, we have two new runners - Andy Burnham, and Yvette Balls Cooper. Well, that's a challenge of all the talents there.

But in the spirit of political blogging, one has to assess the chances of the various contenders and their chances for capturing the 100-odd seats (an 11% swing) from the Tories they would need to win back power in 2020.

Andy Burnham:
Leaving aside that increased media appearances would pay off the national debt in mascara purchases, prepare yourselves for five years of Conservatives screaming, "Mid Staffs!". And quite rightly. Guaranteed to lose the election for Labour.

Chuka Umunna:
Privately-educated son and grandson of lawyers, member of the Metropolitan elite who wears beautiful bespoke suits. Reportedly briefed by Mandelson, which will ensure the hard-Left loathe him. Guaranteed to alienate whatever is left of Labour's non-metropolitan elite core vote. Guaranteed to lose the election for Labour.

Yvette Cooper:
Two words: Ed Balls. Guaranteed to lose the election for Labour.

Tristram Hunt:
Five years of THAT rhyming slang? Guaranteed to lose the election for Labour.

The other one:
Labour's real-life answer to Nicola Murray. I'm a politics geek, and I've never heard of her. Guaranteed to lose the election for Labour.

So let's be completely realistic. Nobody has a realistic chance of bringing Labour back from the wilderness in 2020, and they wouldn't have one even if they weren't engaged in an internal schism between deserting their ideological roots and deserting their funding.

So with a field of incompetent attention whores and nonentities campaigning for the leadership of a party in its death throes, it's really going to come down to the usual Labour Party leader selection method.

Who Dave Prentis and Len McCluskey want.

So it'll be Burnham, and that's perfect.

For the Conservatives.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Guess Who's Back...

So today brings the news that having resigned on Friday morning, UKIP's Nigel Farage has this afternoon un-resigned. Apparently he's so awesome that UKIP can't do without him.

This puts a song in my heart....

Nigel Farage: Without Me

"Nigel Farage/Real Name No Gimmicks"

two illegal immigrants go 'round the outside, 'round the outside, 'round the outside
two illegal immigrants go 'round the outside, 'round the outside, 'round the outside

Guess who's back, back again
Nigel's back, tell a friend
Guess who's back,
guess who's back,
guess who's back,
guess who's back
guess who's back
Guess who's back...

I've created a monster
Cause nobody wants Suzanne Evans no more, they want Nigel as their Leader,
Well if you want Nigel this is what I'll give ya
A bit of BNP mixed with a Mail reader,
A charter that'll jumpstart the left quicker than the shock when I claim we'll shut the hospitals coz the doctor really can't be operating,
As his latest visa status is complicated,

I raged at the Beeb in my debating,
Now I'm back, the Guardian can start the hating,
I know that I piss you off, Miss Penny, but the voters thought that I was entertaining,
So the NEC won't let me be or let me be free so let me see
I tried to quit my job on live TV but UKIP is useless without me!
So come UKIP, we took a hit but fuck that,
Throw out the Nips and rage at the Gyps and get ready,
We've still a chance in 2020
To send darkies back to their roots. FUCK YOU POLLY!

[Chorus 2x:]
Now this looks like a job for me so everybody just follow me
'Cause we need a little controversy,
'Cause UKIP is useless without me!

Romanians, an EU rebellion,
(While still claiming my wad of expenses),
I lost Thanet and fucked it for Reckless,
And my supporters claim it was an MI5 stitch,
I'm visionary, saner than Godfrey, could start a revolution, polluting the air waves, a rebel,
So just let me revel and bask, in the fact that that UKIPs NEC is kissing my ass
And it's a disaster such a catastrophe for you to see that I resigned cause I got one MP?
Well I'm back
 [batman sound]
Fixed the committee I'm back and now I'm gonna
Enter in and back on your TV like a splinter,
The centre of attention, claim I'm a winner
I'm interesting, rant about foreigners nesting,
Infesting in all our towns and working,
Testing "Attention Please" feel the Left wince soon as someone mentions me,
Doesn't matter I have one MP,
Cause UKIP is really about ME!

[Chorus 2x:]
Now this looks like a job for me so everybody just follow me
'Cause we need a little controversy,
'Cause UKIP is useless without me!

So vote UKIP, if you're really batshit, anybody who thinks the EU is shit,
Doesn't matter that I got my ass kicked,
Worse than those lefty Green Party bastards, and Tories?
Never forget you owe me, I shafted Labour's core vote so blow me,
And you know me, I'll never let UKIP go it's not over, don't listen to Manuel Barroso,

Now let's go, just give me the signal I'll be there with a whole list full of new insults,
You all know, and it's quite fundamental,
My need for publicity is really essential,
But sometimes the shit just seems, that the BBC wants to discuss me,
That's just because I'm disgusting, my policies are just obscene,
Though I'm not the first king of controversy,
I am the worst thing since Oswald Moseley, to do racism so selfishly,
And use it to get myself wealthy,
Hey! There's a concept that works
4 million idiots believed my words,
But no matter how many times you reject me, UKIP is useless without ME!

Chorus 2x:]
Now this looks like a job for me so everybody just follow me
'Cause we need a little controversy,
'Cause UKIP is useless without me!

(Hum dei dei la la Hum dei dei la la... la la la) [2x]

(with apologies to Eminem)

It's the Ideology, Stupid

There's a reshuffle under way as David Cameron constitutes his first majority Cabinet, but if you listen to Radio 4 or watch the news you wouldn't hear about it, as all the discussion is about the future of the Labour Party.

And I guess that makes sense, because they'll have 5 years to talk about the Government and the Labour leadership is going to be far more dramatic in the short term.

As all the analysis, navel-gazing and careful positioning of potential candidates so far shows, what we're seeing is a massive ideological schism within the Labour Party. Back in the 90's, the big discussion was on the Conservative side, with people talking about a 'divided party' on Europe. And it was certainly a problem - but the challenge facing the Labour Party is much greater. It's not a single issue, it's their entirely ideology and positioning.

Labour are broken between social democrat-esque 'New Labour' and old-school socialist 'Old Labour', compounded by a terror of being off message and massive pressure from the Unions, and unable to hear past the echo chamber of press and punditry they built around themselves to insulate them from public opinion.

Then you have Tony Blair, his grinning visage looming over the worried Party faithful as a reminder that electoral success doesn't sit well with a political position rejected by the Electorate since 1979.

Old Labour  detests personal aspiration, wealth and success, preferring instead nationalisation and redistribution at the behest of the Unions*. It has historically seen its opponents as "lower than vermin", and we've seen this same attitude in the 2015 campaign. It failed. Yet the call from most is to move further left, couching hard-core socialism in the vapid euphemism of 'progressive'.

New Labour, campaigning on a softer centre-Left platform without the hatred of 'the rich' etc, would clearly be more palatable to the Electorate. But not to the Unions, and not to those within the Party who believe that ideological purity is the only thing that matters.

And then there's Tony Blair. And I think it's arguable that Labour hate Tony Blair a lot more than they like winning elections.

So they're faced with an insurmountable problem - admit that Tony was right, risk abandoning the Unions and old-school Socialism - and thus the bulk of their funding - and move back to the centre? Or keep the Unions, keep the money and keep the Red Flag flying?

My money is on the latter. The Unions carry so much sway (as we saw with the election of Ed Miliband over his brother), and their money is so important, that Labour will end up with a leader who makes Ed look like Lady Thatcher. The Blairite element - what's left of it - will end up splitting off and either joining the Liberal Democrats or forming a split-off Centre Left party as happened with the SDP, which will then end up merged with the Lib Dems anyway.

So the likely outcome? An unelectable hard-left Labour Party, hankering back to the Winter of Discontent, British Leyland and wildcat strikes, stuck in the wilderness - and a deservedly resurgent Liberal Democrats, arguing from a sensible (and popular) centrist position.

And that is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

*who, of course, are bang alongside their own personal wealth. Four legs good, two legs better.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Soundbites make Hate

Normally by this point after a General Election, we'd be seeing the Internet returning to normal sanity levels, with the return of the usual banalities and cat videos. Obviously this one's been slightly different with three Leader resignations so far* (plus Harriet Harman) and the speculation about the next Labour Leader, whether we'll have New New Labour or New Old Labour etc etc...

And yet it hasn't calmed down. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In the short span of hours since the Prime Minister went to the Palace, we've had outraged screams that the Election result wasn't proportional AND ITS'NOT FAIR!!! (conveniently ignoring that Tony Blair won the 2005 General Election on a lower vote share of a lower turnout). We've seen excrement smeared on the constituency office of a Conservative MP, the scrawling of 'Fuck Tory Scum' on war memorial, and so much outrage from the Left that some have insulted their own customers and even (apparently) respected University professors have spoken of their refusal to associate with friends who voted Conservative or UKIP.

Hatred. For having a different opinion as to how the issues of the day might be dealt with.


Think about that for a second.

It would be easy to take that hatred to its illogical conclusion - and I will, in another post. But for now I want to look at one of the things I believe is responsible for this swelling of hatred in politics, and explore it a little. And it's soundbites.

More than ever before, the 2015 Election campaign was fought on social media, on Facebook and Twitter, and in the hyperspeed world of the Internet and 24-hour news cycles. This led to ever-shortening windows to get a message across, and a reduced attention span - ten words of a headline, 140 characters of a Tweet, to hammer a message home. And the soundbites the Left chose were those of hatred, division and class war - all the while knowing that their message was false.

A few of the choicest:

"24 Hours to Save the NHS"/"Tories Privatising the NHS"/"NHS Sold to Dave's Rich Chums"/"Can't run the NHS on an IOU"
All repeated constantly, all utter bollocks. NHS under threat from the Tories? Did that one yesterday. Privatisation of the NHS? Deliberately misleading, conflating outsourcing with privatisation, and debunked by the King's Trust. Sold to Dave's chums? Class-war bullshit and not only untrue, but there are plenty of well-connected Labour peers doing quite nicely from outsourcing too.

"Posh Tories"/"Out of Touch Toffs"/"Tory Tax Dodgers"
David Cameron went to Eton. John Major came up from a Brixton estate. Ed Miliband went to the same primary school as Boris Johnson, Harriet Harman to St Paul's. Chuka Umuna has property in London and Ibiza, Margaret Hodge is part of the Oppenheimer clan (and they're both tax avoiders). Laurie Penny went to a private school (on a scholarship, the same way Boris Johnson went to Eton), Owen Jones to Oxford, Polly Toynbee owns a villa in Tuscany and works for a media group that is exceptionally skilled at minimising its tax liability.

"Tax cuts for Millionaires"/"Tories the Party of Millionaires"/"More for the rich, less for the poor"
Labour were in power for 156 months 5 days. The 50% rate of tax on salaries over £150k was implemented on April 6 2010 - 155 months 5 days after Labour took office. Yet when it was cut to 45% Labour claimed that was a cut for Dave's chums - which was not true. It increased the tax take from that income group. The 'rich' now pay 30% more than they did before. The increased personal allowance and other changes have reduced tax on the lowest earners and increased the take from the highest. Ed Miliband, Margaret Hodge, Tony Blair, Shaun Woodward, Harriet Harman, Michael Meacher and Hilary Benn are all asset millionaires.

Why is this bad? Because too many people only read the headlines, only hear the soundbite. They don't check, especially if the soundbite in question gels with their political leanings or what they would like to believe. So the soundbite builds the belief, and depersonalises the opposition, and then you've Labour hashtag campaigns like #neverkissedatory and before you know it you've people on Twitter calling for Conservatives to be shot.

The reality is out there. I'm on the right, you may be on the left, the truth may be somewhere in the middle. But it won't be found by believing only the headline or the Twitter timeline of people in your own political echo chamber. While we seem to be losing trust in politicians, at the same time we seem to have lost the ability to think for ourselves, and to go and search for the truth behind the spin. It's something that allows politicians to play on division, foster hate - and it makes us all just a little more stupid.

Right or Left, we all actually want the best for the UK. We have different ways of getting there, different ideologies that influence that thinking, different personal circumstances. We must argue, we must debate - but we must also be open to the ideas of other ideologies and basing our thinking on the soundbites, rather than the facts themselves, leads to what we've seen now - division, hatred and the refusal to accept that anything other than your own groupthink is correct.

The end result of that is not pleasant - to take it to its illogical extremes, you end up with the English Civil War or the Soviet Union. I'm sure that none of us really want either of those options** or the terrible outcomes that would result.

Stop hating each other for thinking differently, start reading more than the headlines.

*And Jim Murphy, if Unite get their way...
** Except Owen Jones, who thinks Venezuela and Cuba are way cool.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Prime Minister Announces Radical New Unemployment Policy

Newly-elected Prime Minister David Cameron has today announced 'a new and radical approach' for his new Government to face the challenges of a wholly new political landscape following the unexpected success of the Conservatives in Thursday's General Election.

Mr Cameron, who was returned to Downing Street with a majority of 12 and a 100-seat advantage over the Labour Party, spoke of the need to 'finish the job' he had started in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010.

Mr Cameron said, "it's vital that we act in good faith to address the issues raised from this General Election. We have seen an unprecedented result from Scotland in the rise of the Scottish National Party, and it is right that we acknowledge that and find a way to address their legitimate issues going forward. But that is not the only issue that this Government must continue to work on. Unemployment is still an important challenge, and this is especially true in two key areas - Scotland and the Labour Party. This administration will make it an absolute priority to deal with both."

Speaking movingly of his admiration for Herbert Hoover's 'New Deal', which brought America out of the Great Depression in the 1930s, Mr Cummberbund said, "we need major infrastructure projects to create employment, to help Scotland and England at the same time. It is vital that we act now to build momentum, and I am pleased to announce that my Employment Plan for Scotland will be starting immediately."

Under the terms of the Employment Plan, all former Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, now unemployed, will be moved to new taxpayer-funded accomodation in Scotland, where they will be engaged on a new project to chisel through the Earth's crust just south of Gretna. Project finance will be handed by Ed Balls, and consultations are under way to appoint Owen Jones and Laurie Penny as on-site Public Relations Officers.

Mr Cameron said, "This is a major project but one that will both resolve the Labour unemployment crisis and answer the wishes of the Scottish people. Upon completion, the newly-separated Scotland will simply float away, granting the jocks their independence without a third-world Socialist country attached to us and, at the same time, get rid of a bunch of lefties. Good stuff."

Anyone suffering from uncontrollable wailing and gnashing of teeth as a result of the election of a Conservative Government is invited to join the project team, and will be guaranteed a place.
Reports that Russell Brand has been engaged to entertain the workforce remain unconfirmed. 

Ed Miliband was unavailable for comment.


2015 Labour NHS poster

After an astonishing, unprecedented Election night and an equally unprecedented Friday morning, there's now a great deal of navel-gazing and outraged squeaking from those of a leftish persuasion about how and why the Election was lost, how they were robbed by Murdoch, victims of a stupid/evil Electorate*, denied by an unfair voting system**, let down by Ed Miliband, weren't left-wing enough.... choose your reason.

The bulk of the outraged squeaks in the echo chambers of social media are, of course, about the 'death of the NHS'. From the wailing and gnashing of sandals, you would fully expect to see all hospitals turned into luxury hotels by next Tuesday, with top-hatted doormen herding the sick into giant plague pits to decompose, at which point they can be used to mulch the country estates of the 1%.

Hmmm. Maybe reports of the NHS's death are perhaps exaggerated? Let's have a quick look behind the screaming and the soundbites.

1948 NHS poster

Every single Labour Election Manifesto from every single General Election, from 1959 to 2015, has claimed - that the NHS and its principle is under threat from the Conservatives. Every single one.

1966: The review we have undertaken of the much publicisedConservative Hospital Plan has confirmed our worst suspicions.The money they allocated was utterly inadequate to carry out thePlan, and to provide the new and modernised hospitals we so urgentlyneed.

1970: The greatest single achievement of the post-war Labour Governmentwas its creation of the best universal social security systemand the first comprehensive health service in the world. The greatestsingle condemnation of Tory rule was the appalling neglect ofthis social programme.

1974: Labour created the National Health Service and is determined to defend it. Immense damage has been done to it by Tory cuts in public expenditure, by the Tory Government's policy or rigid pay control and by the upheaval of Tory reorganisation on undemocratic lines. 

1979: We reject Tory plans to create two health services: one for the rich, financed by private insurance with a second-class service for the rest of us.

 1983: The creation of the National Health Service faces a double threat from the Tories: a lack of resources for decent health care; and the active encouragement of private practice. Labour will act to defend the basic principles of the service. We will ensure that it is free at the point of use and funded out of taxation, and that priority depends on medical need not ability to pay. 

1987: Labour's proudest achievement is the creation of the NationalHealth Service. The Conservatives voted against it then. All who use and value the service know only too well how it has been neglectedand downgraded by today's Tories.

1992: Labour will stop the privatisation of the NHS and return opted-outhospitals and other services to the local NHS. We will halt thecommercial market which is creating a two-tier health service.  

1997: Labour created the NHS 50 years ago. It is under threat from theConservatives. We want to save and modernise the NHS.But if theConservatives are elected again there may well not be an NHS infive years' time - neither national nor comprehensive.

2001: In social policy their renewed commitment to cuts and privatisation and to withdrawing the support helping to heal social division, is just a throwback to the 1980s.

2005: Today’s Conservatives want to do what not even Margaret Thatcher would countenance – introducing charges for hospital operations so that those who can afford to pay thousands ofpounds can push ahead of those who cannot.

2010: The Tories will not introduce the necessary reforms, would fail to guarantee access to services, usher in a care postcode lottery, and put the interests of patients second. 

2015: Our NHS, care services, schools, colleges and other public services make up the essential fabric of our society. People need them to be able to live secure and fulfilling lives. Britain needs them if we are to succeed as a country. But under the Conservatives they are under threat.

Under Lady Thatcher, the Conservatives had sufficient of a majority to push for full NHS privatisation at a time when it would have been popular to do so during a surge of privatisation and share ownership. They chose not to do so.

The principle of a Health Service free at the point of use has never actually been threatened. The means and costs of that Health Service have been questioned as well as its quality of service, and rightly so (but that's a discussion for another post).

It's understandable that Labour have wanted to keep the NHS front of mind - when first created it was an amazing thing - but they seem trapped in a cycle of using the same message, whether accurate or not, and people who look past the soundbite start to notice. And they remember that you said the same thing 5 years ago, and 5 years before that, and 5 years before that. And they start to realise that you just might be crying wolf.

For over 60 years, Labour have warned that the Tories will dismantle the NHS, and for 60 years they haven't. The constant cries that the NHS is under threat of privatisation or destruction have become as meaningful as the strident announcements of the latest sale from DFS.

*Yes, the Grauniad did actually say that.

**Conveniently ignoring that Blair won the '05 General Election on a lower vote share of a lower turnout - in fact, the lowest popular vote share in history.