21
Apr
14

Professionalisation of Politics – Labour sign Axelrod

Same bollocks but now sent direct to your phone

Same bollocks but now sent direct to your phone

Labour have engaged Bill Clinton’s old political consultant David Axelrod on a six figure salary to be their strategic adviser. Good grief! Just what they need. Another spin doctor!

Margaret Thatcher is said to have been the first UK leader to employ a spin doctor but New Labour put the idea into hyperdrive with the likes of Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. During the New Labour years I was angered at the flagrant gibberish trotted out by Mr. Mandelson during interviews. He would start a sentence, introduce a clause, introduce a sub-clause and then wander off into nowhere and if the interviewer tried to bring him back to the point he would behave as if this were the height of bad manners. He trained Gordon Brown to attempt this and there is a fantastic bit of footage showing Brown’s driveling on to BBC political journalist Nick Robinson and then Mandelson looming up to the camera and grinning as if to say: Yes, we’re TALKING BOLLOCKS, you know it, I know it but there is nothing you can do about it. (And damn, I’ve lost that clip).

I even remember Mandelson stating “politics is about spelling out your policies” – No it isn’t, that’s marketing, that’s communications. Politics is primarily about setting policy and that is what Labour in opposition have failed to do.

The utter contempt that Mandelson showed for the public appalled me. While Blair cozied up to the mega-corporations and Brown continued to borrow even during the boom years, New Labour’s arrogance led them to assume that they could do anything they liked and trot out any old bullshit as justification. (45 minutes my arse!).
I applauded when New Labour were toppled and hoped that we had seen the end of this nonsense. Of course the shiny new Tory leader started spinning before getting into power. He changed the Tory logo to a little tree. Remember that? A quick look at the Tory web site reveals it’s been changed again to something a little more traditional.

But then we had the MP expenses scandal and the media phone tapping and the results of the Hillsborough inquiry and the pedophilia in the Catholic Church. It seemed that the whole establishment had been caught with its trousers down and no matter how much they spun the web just tightened around their throats.

So, with faith in politicians at a low and with no clear political winners I thought that we had come off that peak of contempt for the general public and that politicians now understood that talking the talk was not enough, they had to walk the walk.

But, oh dear. The Labour front bench. The Ed and Ed show. The Pinky and Perky of British politics. Both continue to base their opposition to the Tories on presentation over content. Their policies are oh so obviously contrived by the marketing department. Not so much “What do we believe in” but “What can we say that will win us votes”. Remember when Balls and Milliband could not open their mouths without saying the word “failure”? Eds obviously thought that if they said “failure” often enough we’d start associating it with Tories but we just associated it with anyone named Ed. And, oh GOD! Who on Earth thought that Douglas Alexander should be in the shadow cabinet? Nothing to say but wont shut up about it. The Labour leadership are a bunch of salesmen but they have nothing to sell. Just watch this video where Ed Milliband gives identical answers to five different questions.

All this emphasis on the “message” over policy comes about because our politicians are professionals. They have studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at University, they have worked for older politicians and they now understand the mechanisms of power without ever having done anything in their lives which would give them any understanding of the real world. When Ed Milliband talks about “families who work all the hours that God sends” he is talking in the abstract. He has no experience of these people any more than the rest of our political elite. Cameron and Osborne have not worked in mines or in factories. Clegg has never worked in a call centre. None of the current lot have worked as union representatives, charity workers, doctors, programmers, supermarket workers or taxi drivers. Just as bad, none have ever been captains of industry or entrepreneurs or bankers in The City. Their experience of life is gained through reviewing reports and statistical analyses. They study us like we are bacteria in a petri dish and no more empathise with our lives than a scientist empathises with a lab rat.

This week even The Economist ran an article which finished: “The risks of promoting awkward talent and sacking the spin doctor are obvious……..but the alternative….is worse. It is to become ever more ingenious, hated and irrelevant”. Labour seem oblivious. They think that hiring a bigger better media wonk from across the pond will hand them power on a plate. They’ll figure out what to do with power once they’ve got it.

This is why Nigel Farage is like a breath of fresh air. People like him even if they don’t agree with him. They like him because his arguments are reasoned and sincere. They like him because his reactions are human and appear in stark contrast to the rows of pre-programed pillocks who front the other parties.

In the recent debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg it was interesting to note that the question of how much legislation the UK receives from the EU came up twice. In the first debate Farage quoted 75% and Clegg 7%. The topic arose again in the second debate only this time Farage had had the sense to research Clegg’s figure of 7% and had discovered this was for primary legislation and the very same document quoted an overall amount of about 50%. When confronted with this Clegg could only lamely restate his figure of 7%.

Clegg had come on telly to use his PPE erudition to dismiss a jumped up oik but was not on top of his brief. A researcher had obviously given him the 7% figure and he didn’t care where it had come from. He believed in the EU as an article of faith and used statistics as weapons of rhetoric not constituents of rational argument.

So, given New Labour’s appalling record on spin. Given the abject failure of the Ed & Ed show. Given Cameron’s ludicrous efforts to emulate Blair’s spin by dog sledding around Lapland. Given that Clegg’s professionalism was demolished by Farage’s charisma and homework. Given the massive discrediting of the whole British establishment. Given the fact that the UK is amongst the top 7 most unequal society in the world, with the rich hoarding power and the rest of us herded around by “nudge theory” embedded in a massive and ubiquitous marketing machine. On TV, on the radio, on billboards, on football pitches, on smart phones (on this blog site!) Everywhere we look the political/industrial complex is exhorting us that the only way out of our economic problems is more of the same. Work more, consume more and to hell with the planet.

Given the disillusionment of the British public with professional politics, what do Labour do? Do they have a policy rethink? Do they take a step backward toward socialism? Do they take a step forward with radical new policies?

No. They outsource marketing to America. You couldn’t make it up.

Why not just hand the Palace of Westminster over to Price Waterhouse Coopers and be done with it?

 

Roses

Roses

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20
Apr
14

Cook

I saw this shop in Church Road today. Pre-cooked meals for your freezer. Seems like a good idea. Why should ready meals be limited to Indians and Chinese? Open ’till 7pm weekdays. Prices seem OK. Four quid for a Lasagne. Haven’t tried it yet. They deliver too. Excellent. Phone the shop, then bung it in the microwave when it arrives. Basil Fawlty would have loved it!

Cook

Cook

03
Apr
14

I’m thinking of voting UKIP…..

Why?

Why?

The other day I told a friend that I am against further mass immigration to the UK and she gasped. This was tantamount to racism! Well, it gets worse. I’m thinking of voting UKIP!

For decades I have voted either Liberal (now Liberal Democrat) or Green. The Tories are the party for the elite and old Labor were too engrossed in a failing ideology. New Labor betrayed the working class and put Thatcherism on steroids. Further, I have always respected what I perceived as the calm rationalism of many Liberals with their emphasis on liberty and pragmatism.

William

Liberty

To quote Sir William Harcourt, former 19th century Liberal Home Secretary and Chancellor:

“Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world”

Even when Labour accused the Liberal Democrats of betrayal by raising tuition fees I did not flinch. The Liberals didn’t win the election but were a junior partner in a coalition and so could not dictate the agenda and most of the people screaming betrayal did not vote Liberal. If they had prized low tuition fees so much they should have put their vote where there mouth is.

I don’t say that I love the Liberals, just that they seem the best of a bad lot. The fact that they are pro-Europe did not bother me as, very broadly, so was I.

But for some time now I have believed that England, and London in particular, are ludicrously over-crowded. There are too many of us. The roads and trains are horrendously congested, house prices are obscene and gradually, what was once spare communal space is being converted into private concrete structures.

Here’s the point: Though mass immigration may drive up national GDP it does not necessarily drive up GDP per capita and even GDP per capita does not place value on shared communal “goods” such as open space, personal space and time not spent standing on railway platforms freezing your fucking nuts off. In 2014 I may be richer in material goods than my grandparents but I am much poorer in space and in time.

However. I value free movement in Europe and can see that commons rules, a cosmopolitan society and various other Euro-paraphilia are advantages so I had thought that congestion is just a price I have to pay. Up until now I have accepted the pro-Europe stance. The world is coalescing into large power blocks. In a world of super powers Europe needs to stick together. We are economically and politically better off as we can get better deals if we negotiate as a united block. Sounds reasonable.

So what’s changed?

What’s changed is the abject failure of the leader of the main pro-EU party to mount any reasoned defense of the UK’s membership of the EU. What’s changed is that rather than Nick Clegg seeking to convince me with rational debate, he sought to bamboozle me with deceitful statistics, absurd slurs and patronizing rhetoric. (Try saying “wind the clock back” one more time Nick). Far from being a reasoned pragmatist I can see he is another arrogant establishment know-it-all who thinks the public are too stupid to understand the truth. He was TALKING BOLLOCKS and could quite easily have fitted in New Labour along with so many current MPs of all parties.

Of course there are right wing racist in Britain that we should be wary of and since parties like the BNP are going nowhere it’s probably true that some of these people will switch the UKIP.

But I am becoming increasingly aware of a different and equally distasteful form of bigotry that goes un-criticised, overlooked and is now so prevalent that it is acceptable even for national politicians. It is the bigotry of the Left. One only has to read the comments to articles in The Guardian or The Independent to recognise the hysterical and hate filled lunatics which slaver over each article attempting to connect Farage with Putin or brand the Tories as racists for daring to even consider an immigration policy. Many of the articles in these papers are not much better and some Labour MPs treat the allegation of racism like a dog smelling the blood of an injured animal. They throw the term racist about without thought and now even insist that merely wanting Britain to be out of the EU is racist. This is deeply stupid and deeply insulting to a nation that has accepted millions of people from all over the world.

Of course we should be wary of populist parties given what happened in Europe in the ’30s but populism is not a definite indicator of fascism. For years British politics was dominated by the Tories and the Liberals until the newly populist Labour party were propelled into power in the 1920s. Also, the main goal of Nigel Farage is merely a referendum on EU membership which, incidentally, should have been conducted before the Maastricht Treaty was signed. If a referendum were now held then, one way or another, UKIP’s raison d’être should evaporate.

I had heard much of the argument between Farage and Clegg before but Farage made one new statement that made me think. When the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed the world was comprised of separate countries with industries protected by trade tariff barriers. The creation of the EEC was a way to create a large free trade zone which encouraged trade and promoted prosperity. Partly because of the example of the EEC the whole world is tearing down trade barriers and entering free trade agreements. Given this, how did political union get onto the agenda?

Farage made some excellent arguments against EU membership but there are reasons in favour that Clegg (and mindless left-wing bigots) seem too stupid to discuss. However, I no longer believe that British membership of the EU is good by default. I need to be convinced and am  having a rethink. Prior to the upcoming election for the European Parliament in May I intend to do some research and perhaps the pro-European lobby will find someone who knows what the fuck they’re talking about.

It’s said that the main reason for “ever closer union” was to put an end to the devastating conflicts between Germany and France. Very good. That’s their reason for remaining in the EU.

What’s ours?

Buy Art Prints

Buy Art Prints

 

22
Mar
14

Plastic, Plastic, Everywhere……..at ONCA

Steve McPherson

Steve McPherson

I popped in to the ONCA Gallery on St. George Place this afternoon. ONCA stands for One Network for Conservation and the Arts and they have an exhibition on which highlights the damage that plastic is doing to our environment. Works by Steve McPherson are made up of small pieces of plastic collected from British beaches. On one work Mr. McPherson lists the probable provenance of each item and the wide diversity emphasises just how dependent our society is on this substance. Other exhibits highlight the dangers that small plastics objects pose to sea birds and downstairs a short film discussed Charles Darwin‘s expedition aboard The Beagle.  Darwin catalogued numerous flora and fauna which led him to wonder about the power of Natural Selection – survival of the fittest. The film went on to describe the vast Trash Vortex which is collecting in the Pacific Ocean and may be three times the size of the UK. The film asked: what type of life would be fittest to survive in a world choked with plastic?

It seems incredible that, as a race, we were able to ban CFCs for the damage that they do to the upper atmosphere yet our society continues to churn out plastics which damages what might be termed the “aqua-sphere”. Surely by now we could devise plastics which break down over time or after contact with saltwater?

Buy Art Prints

Buy Art Prints

22
Feb
14

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Last night I saw Dallas Buyers Club at the Duke of York. I was looking for anything; a film that wasn’t a silly action thriller and this seems a good candidate. Grabbed a large glass of red and we took seats half way down.

Ron Woodroof is a gambling, drinking Texan who is told by a couple of doctors that he has HIV. His friends ostracise him and the only treatment the doctors can offer is to put him on an AZT double blind trial where he wont even know if he’s getting the drug or a placebo.

The film traces his attempts to obtain various medication which had not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. He teams up with a transgender woman (Rayon) and, to avoid prosecution for selling drugs, they set up a club to supply HIV sufferers with various pre-trial medication which will at least alleviate the symptoms of AIDS.

The one fault in the film is the way Woodruff suddenly morphs from alcoholic looser into an intelligent, organised and single minded powerhouse but this is easily overlooked and we gradually warm to this new character as his affection for Rayon grows through their shared struggle.

The major achievement of the Dallas Buyers Club is that we begin to understand how the United States medical establishment, though built to help patients was, in fact, an obstacle to alleviating their pain. The film brilliantly shows how the gay community came together to help themselves and how, eventually the establishment realised that its lengthy drug trial processes are a luxury that had to be streamlines for the emergency.

This is an intelligent film which avoids black and white characterisation of good guys and bad guys. As much as we cheer for Ron we also sympathise with the doctor as he rages that allowing patients to treat themselves makes it almost impossible for him to carry out legitimate (and it must be remembered, vital) drug trials.

Spilling out into the street we headed straight for the pub opposite, Circus Circus, which was quiet and where I learned that my friend had worked for an AIDS charity in the 80s. After a number of Kronies I found a £20 note in the Gents. A successful night I’d say.

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

31
Jan
14

Skiving rife at UK Met Office

boffins?

boffins?

Hundreds of staff at the UK Met Office have not attended work since early December and are spending the winter in luxury hotels in the Caribbean at taxpayers expense it was alleged today by a British blog site. The British boffins spend their days lazing by the pool, scoffing slap up dinners of Lobster Thermidor and quaffing magnums of champagne said a man.

The allegations came to light after boat owners observed that the gale warnings graphic on the Met Office web site has not changed for months. “It’s bloody obvious” said someone, “the bastards know that British winters are always crap and they’ve just pasted up a picture of constant gales everywhere and pissed off to the Bahamas”.

Nobody from the Met Office was available for comment.

No Change

No Change

Yachts

Yachts

16
Jan
14

Nikon release the Df – Bastards

In 1982 I bought my first Nikon, an FE. The SLR everyone wanted in those days was the Nikon F3 but that was too expensive for me so I bought an FE. An aperture priority 35mm SLR with a large bright viewfinder. I carried it everywhere, the controls became second nature and I loved that camera. I still have it tucked away in a cupboard having been replaced, first by a pretty miserable Nikon D70 and then by a full frame D700 just prior to the release of the magnificent 36 Megapixel D800 – Bollocks!

The D700 is a good camera but I still miss the manual controls and positive feel of my old 35mm SLR and last year I added a new compact camera, a Fujifilm X20. A little retro rangefinder camera with a neat manual zoom and some physical controls with a very nice feel to them.

But what I really want is a digital back for my old FE. Well I haven’t seen that yet but Nikon have just released what they deem a digital replacement for the F series!

Bollocks! Having already lost a chunk of money on the perfectly usable D700 can I really justify over £2000 for a Nikon DF?

Nikon Df

Nikon Df

Nikon FE

Nikon FE

Fantastic Art Photography

Fantastic Art Photography




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