Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
There are good victories and there are bad victories. Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the day my fellow citizens danced in the fountains of Trafalgar Square to celebrate the fall of Hitler and the Nazis and the triumph of Democracy.
Yesterday was also the day I woke up from not much sleep, having listened most of the night to the results of the General Election as they came in, to the prospect of a majority Tory government and 5 more years of a very different austerity to what faced the victorious nation in the aftermath of the war. Instead of bold visions of the future like the National Health Service this is a prospect of the NHS being sold off to rapacious corporations who actually don’t perform any better than the incumbents and cream off cash for shareholders at the expense of the service-users. The last 18 months has seen not only an obvious deterioration of the NHS, in particular A&E, but also a blossoming unfairness. We’re not all it it together and never have been. The Conservatives aren’t capable of doing One Nation, it’s not in their nature.
Last week Richard Rogers, the architect of 124 Horseferry Road, Channel 4’s HQ just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament, came in to his building to talk to us, the staff of C4, about his work and life and the building we work in. He was interviewed by Channel 4 News’ Cathy Newman in our cinema and among the most interesting revelations was that he hadn’t intentionally created the Channel 4 penis. It’s long been an urban myth that when you look down on the two revolving doors and the see-through entrance canopy it was deliberately designed to look like a todger.
Rogers was genuinely surprised at the revelation so the urban myth was officially put to bed. At the amusement no doubt of the lowly member of Richard Rogers’ draughting team who probably snuck it in.
Rogers also spoke about how, when he comes home to his self-designed Georgian conversion in Chelsea, most of the buildings he walks by at night have next to no lights on since they are not homes but investments of the rich and foreign, they are laundered cash and expressions of no faith in their own nations. They are emblems of the last 5 years of Tory-driven government, empty, an insult to the sufferers of the nationwide housing crisis, dark, undermining of this great city, my native London. For the first time in my life it is deteriorating before my eyes – as I discussed here in Blitzed Again.
So I woke up from the kind of sleep you’d get in an Underground tunnel at night with German bombs falling above, shell-shocked by the unexpected result of a majority Tory government in the face of weeks of polls and punditry to the contrary. Not only that but the excellent Labour candidate in my constituency (and I’m not a Labour supporter) also failed to get elected in spite of a truly exemplary campaign – well organised, committed, personal and with heart. Sarah Sackman is a talented local candidate, young and with energy, not cynical but engaged and hopeful. Instead we got 5 more years of a tired party hack who can’t even be relied on to protect the Grade 2 listed library at the cultural heart of our community. After writing this I’m off on a march to call for the saving of easyCouncil Barnet’s library service – another aspect of public life the last Cameron regime failed hopelessly to safeguard right across the country.
I actually voted for Sarah but it was the result of a vote-swop facilitated by Swap My Vote www.swapmyvote.uk through which I had my Liberal vote cast in the West Country where a slim LibDem majority was being defended. In return I voted for Labour on behalf of a total stranger who I met through the site and exchanged a few messages through Facebook to get a sense of his bona fides. His vote, which would have had no impact where he lives, got to contribute to a very tight Conservative-Labour race here. It was an uplifting contact through new technology and for me was the only silver lining of the horrendousness of this drawn-out election. Apart from the unelection of the horrendous George Galloway of course (if only Scotland would take that son of theirs back). It represents the upside of the internet age in that this clever application of web technology means that if we don’t get given Electoral Reform (4M UKIP votes gave them 1 seat, 1M Green votes gave them 1 seat, while 1.4M SNP votes yielded 56 seats) we the people can take it for ourselves. Those numbers should leave a lot of frustrated and disempowered and angry people in their wake. I have never voted tactically before in the whole of my adult life but I just couldn’t face 5 more years of being all in it together with the complacent, hypocritical, greedy and out of touch.
Swap My Vote was set up in typical internet start-up MVP style by a Channel 4 colleague, Tom de Grunwald, and a PhD scientist, James Allen. It is a ray of light in the looming darkness.
So I got up with effort and went off to work. I felt the need to talk to people so on my way in to the Richard Rogers penis-less edifice (will this lot of Tories sell off this bit of the family silver?) I went to a meeting at the media cliché that is the Groucho Club in Dean Street, Soho where I had the privilege of watching Nick Clegg’s dignified and masterful resignation speech, truly historic, with the historian Simon Schama. I recently saw him deliver his own masterful speech at Names Not Numbers in Aldeburgh where he spoke without notes for over an hour in a fluent and inspirational way which was the quintessence of what a university lecturer/professor should be. We also watched Ed Miliband’s resignation speech, an interesting contrast, not because it was poor or unfelt, but because it lacked the same insight and historical scope.
From there I walked towards the office in the company of a Cambridge mathematician I had also befriended at Names Not Numbers. We picked over the ashes together. We took our leave at the new 4th plinth, Gift Horse, a sculptural statement by German-American artist Hans Haacke about austerity in contrast to City excess.
I walked across the square to look again at the fountain captured in the VE Day photo which opens this, enjoying the joining across seven decades through photography:
The VE Day 70 display boards, courtesy of the Mayor of London who re-entered the House of Commons yesterday as a potential rival to Cameron, Dougal to Cameron’s Ermintrude, afforded an opportunity to link then and now:
I then headed straight down Whitehall an hour ahead of the wreath-laying commemoration for this special VE Day at the Cenotaph. I didn’t have the heart to glimpse over at 10 Downing Street.
There are bad victories and there are good victories. I did my best to drown the bad in the good, like empty cans in a fountain.
I’ve just been re-watching this TED talk by TV presenter Rick Edwards, stalwart of E4 and Channel 4, about young people and voting.
It’s an interesting enough watch, clear, addressing a critical topic, not least just a few weeks out from a hard-to-call general election. But I’m having my own mid-life election crisis. I’ve managed to get to my silver fox period without missing an election but without ever having a vote that truly counts. I’ve lived in constituencies that are not marginal and I’ve voted for neither of the two big parties because neither represents my views. I’m having a crisis this time out and for the first time ever I’m going to vote tactically because I can’t take 5 more years of Toryism. Our MP seems to be hard working but that just makes him a hard-working cunt. He still comes from a mind-set that would sell its own grandmother. Does sell its own grandmother. Does sell the city I love. Does want to sell the library I love. Does sell the electoral roll data. Does sell the ground underneath my house and your house. Does sell our national health service.
…Ok, I just took a little rest after that rantette and watched this – it was made in 1976, just watch the first 30 seconds – nothing’s really changed in 40 fucking years…
I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!
Actually I probably will, like the rest of you schmucks. We’ll all get loaded up with debt from the minute we’re old enough to open our own bank account and be turned into wage slaves.
So here’s what I want help with – How is this Democracy…
- I get to vote once every 5 years (in a general election)
- I’m voting in a constituency and borough which is not marginal – so one party I loathe impacts on my life both locally and nationally
- When, in the past, the constituency was under other control, it was the other main party that doesn’t represent my views or philosophy either
- The two parties I’ve voted for have Big Fat Zero chance of being elected nationally, a bit more locally though it’s never happened so far
- I didn’t want to vote tactically on principle – I wanted to express what I actually think by voting for the representative closest to my views
- So my vote has made no direct impact on anything in over 30 years, both in the general and local elections
- Now I’ve cracked – I’ll be voting for the Lesser Evil – how rubbish is that as an option?
- So how is that Democracy? How can a first-past-the-post system be fair or genuinely democratic?
I genuinely would value your thoughts on this…
Rick Edwards’ and others’ ambitions to get young people to vote are laudable but while the UK system is like this for the many citizens in situations like mine (i.e. all non-marginal seats) it really does beg the question what’s the point?
If you ever wanted to know the value of Scottish-English union it’s perfectly captured in John Martyn – born in England, educated in Glasgow, genius fruit of the union of an English mother and Scottish father – and if you voted today in the Scottish Independence referendum I hope his words guided your hand:
Can’t you see it in my eyes? I’m saying
Don’t you go
So many reasons you should stay here, baby
Don’t you go, don’t you go
So here I am sitting in a land colonised by Scots (at the Beech Hill in Derry) following the outcome of today’s vote. I’m genuinely and deeply concerned about how things turn out. As I watch this non-television let me set out 4 of those ‘reasons you should stay here’, 4 reasons why it would be a shame (in its true sense) for this family of nations to be torn apart…
1. The history of the world is one of the ebb and flow of the scale of our nations, seeking the optimum size to organise ourselves at. Roman Empire too big. San Marino too small. Scotland is too small too. It is not a substantial enough market to thrive. You only have to look south from here to the Republic of Ireland and, for example, to my industry, television/media to see that 4-5M people does not enable you to compete effectively or have a stable base from which to work outwards. 63M constitutes a really good market from which to radiate.
2. Diversity strengthens, tribalism diminishes. Genetics makes this very clear.
3. If Scotland leaves the UK, by definition it becomes a competitor and although a neighbour, effectively only on the same basis as Ireland, Norway or France. Any business with a UK remit will no longer have any duty or strong rationale to buy from Scottish suppliers.
4. There’s so much conflict and shit in the world, we need to find family and friendship, unity and co-operation wherever we can.
Here’s hoping unity and being greater than the sum of our parts wins the day.
Update 06:08 19th September 2014
The voting results have reached their conclusion. We remain together, for which I’m grateful. My hopes are these:
That the incredible energy released by this exemplary exercise in peaceful democracy with its turnout of a standard-setting 86% is channelled into [Alex Salmond is just making making his speech of defeat as I write – he just used the words “at this stage” with reference to Scotland’s decision, typifying once again his weasel nature, given his promise to respect the result] is channelled into making the future of Scotland an even greater success.
That Scotland with all that energy becomes a powerhouse alongside my own native London in driving this union forward.
That the massive issues facing our united kingdom of inequality and poor representation, the need for social justice and sustainable living get tackled by all our populations. As a lifelong non-Tory, non-Labour voter I’ve never had a vote that truly counted.
That we do not take one another for granted as nations and revel in our strength together.
Another year, another day reclaiming my birth date.
I kicked off the day with a jog round St Pancras & Islington cemetery (at this juncture I’m the world expert on that place) listening to David Crosby on BBC Radio 4’s Master Tapes, great stories from late 60s LAlaLand. I bought a copy of If I Could Only Remember My Name when I got back to the house, struck once again by the odd pricing of music these days – £7 for the MP3 album, £5 for the CD with free MP3s. I hope the Great Digital Rip-Off on books and music gets addressed before too long – you corporate feckers, you’ve got no manufacturing or distribution costs these days, do the right thing.
First food of the day – a blackberry off the bush on our fence.
First work of the day – looking at rough cut of Episode 2 of the short form series I’ve commissioned about Bez, Happy Monday and aspiring politician. This episode was shot in Portmeirion, famed for The Prisoner and suppression of freedom. They probably would have had fracking there if it had been invented. Needless to say this episode is called: I am not a Number.
Next a meeting at Temple tube with Steve Moore, former Channel 4 colleague and always good for a great chat. And this one was a humdinger! Better than a novel…
We went on to visit the Temple to discuss an interesting project of his for 2015. I got a private tour of the Temple Church, a location made popular in recent years thanks to Dan Brown, conducted by the very expert Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the church, who explained the essence of the Magna Carta to me. I hadn’t grasped he was the Master/some kind of vicar and took him at first as a trendy lawyer with a taste for round-collared shirts.
In the tradition of Video Arts (where are my royalties?) and other such learning there are a convenient three points to grasp:
- no taxation without representation
- equality in the face of the law / fair trials
- constitutional restraint / the monarch is not above the law
Pretty civilised – especially in contrast to the 9/11 fuckers and their ‘values’.
The barons negotiated with King John (was not a bad man, he had his funny ways) in the safety of the church (Joe Public was keen to lynch KJ), a tough week of negotiations guided by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, evidently the hero of the day. They then all went up West and signed the mother (of all bills of rights).
Then into Channel 4 HQ for a meeting about Don’t Stop the Music (“Give us yer focking instruments!” – Bob Geldof) (“petition donations here dontstopthemusic.co.uk” – Stephen Fry) – no, we mean it, give that old unused instrument of yours here and now.
Followed by a meeting with cake kindly provided by the gals at Antidote Media, a new indie (cake monetary value technically below declarable levels but sentimentally worthy of an entry on declaration of gifts).
In the evening went en famille to The Bald Headed Stag. That was a tip of the hat to my grandmother Rita who used it as the orientation point for all her car journeys regardless of where she was going. Nice drop of green gazpacho, a pint of Normandy cider, then back to ours for a family viewing of Educating the East End.
No nutters in the sky. A flawless day.
Writing this one in Terri Hooley’s kitchen with Terri at the table sorting out his Facebook and emails. On the fridge door is a magnet saying “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. The weird thing is that is from 4Talent, a Channel 4 talent development initiative I was in charge of establishing in my first years there. It couldn’t have ended up in a more appropriate place after all these years (it must be a good five years old by now, more probably).
I spent the whole of Day 75 in Belfast with Terri, mainly at his Good Vibrations record store on North Street. I picked up a copy of Teenage Kicks there for a fiver. How could you not? – it was on the wall crying out to me. I also picked up a New Order LP with a Saville cover and not much by way of writing – no title or band name as was the Factory way, just FAC153 on the spine.
Terri took me on a tour of the area past the site of Wizard recording studio where Teenage Kicks among other Good Vibes things was recorded. We also went by the site of the Harp Bar, hub of Punk Belfast. We ended in the John Hewitt for a swift pint or three. I’d been there in the past, originally with Peter Logue, then Channel 4’s Man in Northern Ireland, and later with Kev Largey aka KVLR, a (street) artist who I first met through 4Talent – then known as Ideasfactory Northern Ireland – and one of whose pieces appears in Terri’s book Hooleygan.
We headed back to East Belfast to Van territory and Terri’s place to do an interview which was quite revealing about the kind of person Terri is and therefore some of what fuelled his catalysing of Punk in Belfast, which proved to be an important act in the context of the bleak days of The Troubles. He has many things in common with Tony Wilson (and some key differences) but the political dimension and the urgency of need to provide an alternative were particular to Terri’s situation and enabled him to help deliver the Needed Thing at the right time.
As we sat up late partaking of some grapejuice, listening to Stuart Bailie’s show on Radio Ulster (with roots in John Peel), news came on about a failed incendiary device attack in Belfast city centre around the time we were in the Hewitt. Some eejit ended up setting himself on fire. Kingdom of the Blind.
Today’s editorial in the Daily Mail [and some commentary]
An evil legacy [“evil”: that familiar touch of religious irrationality] and why we won’t apologise [welcome to the angry world where apology, change of mind, compromise and growth of understanding are not on the agenda]
By DAILY MAIL COMMENT [and Adam Gee Comment]
PUBLISHED: 00:11, 1 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:48, 1 October 2013
Red Ed’s [an improvement on Red Ken but still childish] in a strop with the Mail. Doubtless, [aren’t these the Lynn Truss school of zero-tolerance language fascists? if so, why the comma?] he’s miffed that his conference was overshadowed by the revelations of his former friend, the spin doctor Damian McBride, serialised in this paper, which exposed the poisonous heart of the Labour Party.
Nor did he see the funny side when we ridiculed the yucky, lovey-dovey [boarding school sexual hang-ups emerging] photographs of him and his wife, behaving like a pair of hormonal teenagers in need of a private room.
But what has made him vent his spleen — indeed, he has stamped his feet and demanded a right of reply — is a Mail article by Geoffrey Levy on Saturday about the Labour leader’s late father, Ralph, under the arresting headline ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’. [for “arresting” read ‘bears little connection to the substance of the article’ / ‘attention grabbing’ without the need to substantiate its meaning]
Of course, it was not the Mail that first drew the prominent Marxist sociologist Professor Ralph Miliband — a man who was not averse to publicity — into the public arena. This was the decision of his son who, for two years running, has told Labour conferences how his refugee father fled Nazi persecution to Britain. [we wouldn’t want our politician’s showing any humanity would we?]
More pertinent still, McBride argues that Miliband Jnr is obsessed with maintaining Ralph’s legacy.
Winning the leadership, he writes, was Ed’s ‘ultimate tribute’ to his father — an attempt to ‘achieve his father’s vision’. [The son has made it clear the father did not agree with his politics or have any love for New Labour.]
With this testimony before us, [undue weight on the testimony of a proven unscrupulous spin-merchant and a flimsy hook to hang a whole article like this on] from a former Labour spin doctor who knew Mr Miliband inside out, the Mail felt a duty [dishonourable behaviour dressed in fake duty and unmerited honour] to lay before our readers the father’s vision that is said to have inspired our would-be next Prime Minister.
How can Ralph Miliband’s vision be declared out of bounds for public discussion [no-one said that, it is the lie of the headline which is the problem – Ed Miliband explicitly stated in The Times (2/10/13): “It’s legitimate for the Mail to talk about my father’s politics”] — particularly since he spent his entire life attempting to convert the impressionable young to his poisonous creed? [nobody mention Viscount Rothermere here or his treacherous attempts to “convert the impressionable young to his poisonous creed”]
Today, we stand by every word we published on Saturday, from the headline to our assertion that the beliefs of Miliband Snr ‘should disturb everyone who loves this country’.
In his tetchy and menacing response, which we publish in full on these pages, the Labour leader expresses just pride in his father’s war record as a volunteer in the Royal Navy.
But he cites this, and his father’s affection for his shipmates (which, as shown on these pages, was riven by class hatred), as if it were conclusive proof that he loved this country.
So how is it that shortly after his arrival in Britain, the 17-year-old Miliband senior had confided to his diary [the evidence of a teenage diary not in the child’s mother tongue, a bit low and flimsy?]: ‘The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. [The likes of Viscount Rothermere bear this out to a reasonable degree] They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world . . . you sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are’? Isn’t it permissible to surmise that a man who had expressed such views joined the Royal Navy not so much to fight for Britain as to fight, like the Soviet Union, against the Nazis? [It’s permissible to surmise but surmising isn’t worth a hill of beans.]
Yes, as his son argues, Mr Miliband Snr may have felt gratitude for the security, freedom and comfort he enjoyed in Britain.
But what is blindingly clear from everything he wrote throughout his life is that he had nothing but hatred [strong word – where do they get that from? Isn’t it permissible for an academic in a democracy to question its institutions? We are talking about a country in a period where the Police have been proven to have lied on a mass scale over Hillsborough; the Journalists have been proven to have breached the privacy of all manner of citizens; the Members of Parliament have been proven to feather their own nests with public money; etc. etc.] for the values, traditions and institutions — including our great schools [that must mean the private ones e.g. ‘One in four boys is labelled as having special educational needs as state schools rake in funds’ (Mail headline 31 July 2013)], the Church [oh, is that this Church? ‘Church of England to admit ‘deep grief and shame’ in an historic apology for child sex abuse’ (Mail headline 6 July 2013)], the Army and even the Sunday papers [like The News of the World?] — that made Britain the safe and free nation in which he and his family flourished.
The constitutional monarchy, the bicameral legislature, property rights, common law . . . even ‘respectability’ and ‘good taste’ — all were anathema to this lifelong, unreconstructed Marxist who craved a workers’ revolution.
Significantly, when he defended students for silencing a visiting speaker with whom they disagreed, he wrote: ‘Freedom of speech is not always the overriding criterion.’
As for the Falklands war, our defence of British sovereignty so appalled him that it moved him to four-letter words of disgust.
At the London School of Economics, he was taught and heavily influenced by the extremist Left-winger Harold Laski, who said the use of violence was legitimate in British elections. One of his closest friends was Eric Hobsbawm (though, as we reported, at least Miliband wouldn’t join his fellow Marxist in refusing to condemn Stalinism’s mass murders or the brutal Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956). [According to Ralph Miliband’s obituary in that known hothouse of left-wing views, The Times of London: “he was in no sense a rigid Marxist, never a member of the Communist Party and a strong anti-authoritarian”]
It is all too easy today to forget that Marxism supplied the philosophical underpinning to a monstrously evil regime.
Under Stalin’s Communism, countless millions were murdered, tortured, starved to death, executed or sent to endure a sub-human existence in the gulags.
Religion, the family and the very spirit of the individual were brutally crushed. The arts, newspapers — justice itself — were ruthlessly controlled by the commissars.
Freedom of expression was purged. Even as late as the Seventies, dissidents were locked in mental asylums, while the Press was controlled by the State for another two decades.
Truly, Ralph Miliband and Hobsbawm were, in the withering phrase often attributed to Lenin, the ‘useful idiots’ who validated this most pernicious doctrine, which has spread poverty and misery wherever it has triumphed.
That’s why the Mail — which is not Pravda — said that readers who love this country would be truly disturbed if they understood about Miliband’s father’s views.
We do not maintain, like the jealous God of Deuteronomy, [not so subtle Jewish reference] that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons. But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father’s teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done [no evidence, in fact signs to the contrary], the case is different.
Indeed, his son’s own Marxist values can be seen all too clearly in his plans for state seizures of private land held by builders and for fixing energy prices by government diktat. [better to let them get fixed by fakely competitive semi-monopolies and cartel-like behaviour, with a bit of mis-selling and deliberate obfuscation of pricing thrown in for good measure?]
More chillingly, the father’s disdain for freedom of expression can be seen in his son’s determination to place the British Press under statutory control. [ah, so that’s what this is all really about…]
Next week the Privy Council, itself an arm of the state, will meet to discuss plans — following a stitch-up with Hacked Off over late-night pizzas [the Mail must be miffed they didn’t have the obligatory Byron burgers] in Mr Miliband’s office — for what will ultimately be a politically controlled body to oversee what papers are allowed to publish.
Put to one side that Mr Miliband’s close involvement with degenerates [the degenerate whose testimony is the rationale for this whole article? “degenerate” “entartet” a good Nazi word] such as Damian McBride gives him scant right to claim the moral high ground on anything.
If he crushes the freedom of the Press, no doubt his father will be proud of him from beyond the grave, where he lies 12 yards from the remains of Karl Marx.
But he will have driven a hammer [a bit too blunt?] and sickle through the heart of the nation so many of us [“us” – now there’s a poser] genuinely love. [hate masquerading as love – the essence of the Mail]
The debate about Syria and the use of chemical weapons as conducted in the UK and beyond these last few days has been marked by lack of clarity and thoroughness in the thinking. In such circumstances it never hurts to fall back on Kipling’s Six Honest Serving Men to make sure you have the basics addressed:
I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
- What happened in Syria last week? Were chemical weapons used?
- Who used them?
- What can be done about it?
- Who should carry out the response? Where is it most in the national interest to get involved?
- How will military action help?
- What will happen as a result? And when will it end?
I’ve traded in my Why for an extra What because the Why is very complex in itself: Why should we respond to the use of Chemical Weapons? Why do we distinguish them from say cluster bombing? Why do the current lead voices reckon they have moral authority when they have used napalm, agent orange, white phosphorus, depleted uranium and the like themselves, even in recent times?
I have a strong conviction, for these and other reasons, that any action to be taken, diplomatic/political or military, needs to be multilateral, preferably through the UN. Whether the United Nations Security Council is up to the job will be tested again. With two major powers who seem to conduct their foreign affairs consistently with no moral dimension it’s a body which really needs to justify its existence. It would be good to find a way to get Russia and China to actually suggest solutions. Likewise it would be good to put a bit more of the onus on the Arab League to see if they can contribute something positive to the world.
In the meantime I’d strongly encourage UK citizens to make their views clearly known by writing to their Member of Parliament via MySociety’s brilliant Write to Them service, the easiest way to get an email off to your elected representative in a matter of moments.
2nd edition of today’s historic currant bun