Showing posts from April, 2010

The Election: Brown's Gaffe & The Clamour For Blood

It may be a tiny bit of a cliche, but someone has called the General Election a job interview with 60 million employers on the interview panel. (I think I have the population right.)

Now tell me truly. Is there anybody out there who hasn't, on occasion, met an interview panel when going for a new job, and after being sensibly gracious and friendly, told their family on the phone as they walked down to the bus stop what an idiot one of the panel was?

I have. Sometimes it was true and sometimes it wasn't. I was tired and stressed, in the latter instances, and my frayed nerves were affecting my well-known equanimity.

I've said different things to and about people more times than I can count, anyway, because it was expedient. Haven't you? I'm not especially proud of the times when I've done it, but expedient lies are the engine of the capitalist system.

This is why it irritates me to hear and read the apparently popular view that the real scandal emerging from yesterda…

The Election: That Key Word, Change

I wonder now whether there is a sufficient distance between the three major political to make voting for any of them worthwhile. After all, Labour has abandoned the unions and the strong stance it had on arms reduction when I became a Labour supporter in the early Eighties. It will support arms reduction, but only if America does it first. The Liberal Democrats support a degree of unilateral arms reduction but have a stance on unions that's no different, really, from the modern Labour Party's. And Labour, the Liberals and Conservatives will keep Britain in Afghanistan until the sky turns lime green and the rivers run with marmalade. We have "green" credentials tossed around by all the leaders in a kind of pathetic, insincere game of moral oneupmanship, but we know that when the fat is in the fire the environment will be sacrificed by the lot of them if it means keeping in with Business.

There is only one slight difference I can see between the so-called big three in 2…

The Domino Principle?!! Oh Dear.

Gordon Brown, on last night's Prime Ministerial Debate, said that Britain was in Afghanistan with the Americans because of the "domino principle" -- ie: that the other countries in the region will fall into the wrong hands if the enemy (is the enemy the Taliban now, or Al Qaeda?)  isn't stopped at its source.

His comment alarmed me considerably. The domino principle? That was the rationale behind American involvement in Vietnam forty years ago, and after the States had sacrificed some 50-odd thousand of its own youth in support of that unprovable supposition and left South Vietnam to the Communists, the only notable thing that happened in the neighbourhood was Cambodia falling to the Khmer Rouge, who made the Communists look like flower sellers. And that, history considers, was largely due to Richard Nixon's illegal and despicable bombing of Cambodian territory in the hunt for Viet Cong training camps.

The domino principle, in my opinion, and the view of switched o…

Why Ads

Keen-eyed readers will notice the sudden appearance of advertisements on this blog. How the mighty have fallen, you may think. The incorruptible Bruce Hodder. The doyen of the moral high ground. I certainly would have said something similar, once upon a time (such as when I had an income).

But in the words of Bob Dylan, "I'm just the same as anybody else/ when it comes to scratching for my meat." (Not that I eat meat, but you know what I mean.) One thing I've noticed about them that's amusing: they're linked to the content of the blog, by some automatic process, which is ingenious to my antiquated mind; but the one thing that process can't measure is the shades of opinion in the references made. So my continual negative remarks about David Cameron led yesterday to the placement of a video in which he defended himself and the Tories.

I didn't want that on my blog really, but that's the price you pay when you give in and let capitalism consume you eh?…

Don't Make Me Chuckle (II): The Tory Party Is The New Friend Of The Gay World

It's amusing to watch the Tories trying to reposition themselves as a friend of what straight people tend to call "the gay community". Eric Pickles was seeking praise this morning for sending an "openly gay" envoy to Poland to pay respects (I think) to the family of the deceased Polish premier, whose name I won't attempt to spell, and engage in discussions with the former president's party, which is a Tory ally, about the anti-gay legislation in Poland.

I suppose it's an important development in terms of gay rights, whether the Tory Party is sincere or not, that they have been talking to campaigners like Thatcher's old nemesis Peter Tatchell. Even if they are vote-grabbing in the most unprincipled way, the Tories could be engineered into giving sanction to gay marriage, so that it stands on the same legal footing as the heterosexual equivalent.

And David Cameron may actually believe in what he's directing the Party towards. He may accept the p…

A Free Press? Don't Make Me Chuckle

The dangerously engaging Tory chairman (or whatever his role is) Eric Pickles said on the radio this morning, in defence of the frenzied attacks by some newspapers on Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg since last week's Prime Ministerial Debate, "It's what the other two parties have to deal with...We have a free press."

No, we don't. We have a press that's largely owned and dictated to by multi-millionaire businessmen who are using the papers to advance a political agenda that they, the businessmen, benefit from. Which is to say, the one advanced by the Conservative Party.

And the scurrilous attacks on Clegg (and the Lib Dems) by those papers haven't been endured by both the other parties at any time in my memory. The Daily Mirror may, like that king of legend attempting to hold back the tide (yes, I know he wasn't really doing that), try to slice and dice David Cameron in its fairly ineffective way; but that high-minded cultural review The Sun -- which…


"If time were like a passage of music, you could keep going back until you got it right," as Joyce Johnson said in her book Minor Characters.

When I think honestly for a moment about all the people I've been, it makes me want to run and hide down the nearest cellar.

A strange reflection? Perhaps one we all share as we approach, and then slip our knees under the picnic blanket of, middle age.

"Every place we go together it's like a pilgrimmage," my girlfriend said yesterday, as we walked around Kettering (where a bird defecated on my shoulder, which everyone assures me signifies good luck).

She's right. Memories are everywhere, and the compulsion to revisit them is overwhelming. It's as if your journey can't be rerouted away from the past and towards whatever lies ahead until you have been back to all the places that figured in it so significantly.

Little Harrowden, for me.
Wicksteed Park.
Emberton Park and Olney.
The streets and back a…

The Leaders Debates: Ninety Minutes In The Company Of The Small And The Weird

I found the much-trumpeted Leaders' Debate on Domestic Issues rather dreary last night. Anybody well-versed in the arguments of the three main political parties probably would have done, as they only trotted out all the things they've been saying on the campaign trail already. What I was watching for, I suppose, was to see how they interacted; what they were like face to face without the pantomime elements of Prime Minister's Questions obstructing any meaningful analysis of the men themselves. But I was pretty disappointed.

Gordon Brown, of course, is famously dour. He can't help it. He looks, permanently, as if he's just come back from a funeral. David Cameron, to me, resembles a senior estate agent. He's slick, but the polish is just beginning to wear off because he's been in the game too long; and even when he tells you his name is David Cameron you suspect him of insincerity. Nick Clegg is liked by a lot of people I know but he looks physically small, an…

Brown & The Banks: Some Humility From London. How Refreshing.

This blog isn't intended just to be a fan page for Gordon Brown or the Labour Party. Far from it. I have questions and objections regarding Labour policy that could keep my vast readership here until Christmas; and there are elements of the Liberal Democrat approach (though I haven't read the manifesto) that I find more persuasive than I ever have before. But I found it refreshing to hear Gordon on the news this morning acknowledging that he'd been mistaken when, as Chancellor under Tony Blair, he didn't act on his instinct to regulate the banks. They assured him no regulation was needed and he accepted their assurances. Time, and the recession that followed, proved they were lying and Gordon Brown was wrong.

Commentators wonder how this unexpected admission of Mr. Brown's will play with the public. Whether it will be seen as a confession of liability for the recession, which damns him and Labour straight to the Opposition benches with no hung parliament in between…

Be Honest, Mr Cameron, We Deserve That At Least

The nature of political debate, especially around election time, is rather depressingly childish in this country. Instead of convincing us of the rightness of their cause, all of the parties would prefer to destroy the credibility of the opposing view, and frequently by disingenuous or dishonest means. Everybody is a little right, after all. We could probably even find a crumb of truth in the blatherings of the Conservative Party, if we looked hard enough. What we should be doing is making an informed decision about which party seems the most right, according to our sensibilities and our outlook, and voting for them.

Take David Cameron's response yesterday to the news that three former Labour MPs were seeking legal aid to defend the charges against them relating to fraudulent expense claims. Yes, it is reprehensible that they should do so; but it was equally reprehensible for Mr. Cameron to be declaring in rabble-rousing tones out in the street that the Tories would seek a review …

They're Profoundly In Love With Pandora, But The Bard of Semilong Seems To Make Them Itch

The Chronicle & Echo seem remarkably unkeen to give me column inches. (Remember I wrote to them requesting space to counter their right wing anonymous "common sense" columnist Pandora?) Where does a freelance writer with an independent mind get a paying gig these days?

The Chron just doesn't want someone challenging their own nice, easy, lazy, conservative editorial stance I think. It's often described as the most typical town in England, Northampton, and the paper's view seems to be that the average reader of the Chron has an average intelligence and an average opinion about everything. Their present columnist Pandora's default setting of self-righteous indignation against political correctness and Gordon Brown and anything else that has happened in the UK since Margaret Thatcher left office suits that patronising view of their readers; and it probably comforts their advertisers too, who after all are local businessmen, and I would bet in 98 cases out of …

A Modest Proposal

Do you know what would cause a wave of peace, tolerance and liberalism among the young? The reintroduction of the draft.

I'm not advocating that, by the way. I'm just pointing out how easy it is to support a war when all that you have to do is join a Facebook group saying you hate peace protestors.

There Is No Such Thing As Society, Arsehole

Even if we accept the Tory thesis that a hike in National Insurance will be a "tax on jobs", which I think is something that requires more intelligent and more objective analysis than either I, David Cameron, Stuart Rose or the editor of the Sun is capable of delivering, why are none of the newspapers or those legions of Tory-voting businessmen getting exercised about the £6 billion in "efficiency savings" the Tories are promising to make from public services?

Do we really believe that public services in this country are so bloated the aforementioned sum can be taken from them without savage cuts being made to things we really rely on as a community, like (and forgive my sentimentality) the Police, the NHS, Libraries, Social Work Departments? You might think we have no need at all of the last two on that list, given that most people either can't, or don't, read anymore and all Social Workers do is let dirty people strangle babies. But wait and see what sort…


Interesting that David Cameron feels having some 70 completely impartial, entirely objective businessmen backing the Tories' stance on National Insurance supplies him with his most persuasive argument yet that raising NI constitutes a "tax on jobs".

Their overwhelming public endorsement of the Tory alternative view would have convinced me to vote Labour if Gordon Brown was calling for the invasion of the Moon.

Political News In Brief

Much loved Peer Peter Mandelson ate crisps while being interviewed on the radio yesterday. Many witnesses felt the incident proved how in touch the Labour Party are with the common man and said it had increased their resolve to vote Labour on May 6th.

Meanwhile in Northampton yesterday, incumbent Conservative MP Brian Binley pulled a six-month-old baby out of an Alsatian's mouth while canvassing, getting severely bloodied in the process but saving the life of the baby. "I am hurt, but there's nothing I won't do for my constituents," he declared, swatting away the attention of paramedics.

The General Election

Today, we are told, Gordon Brown goes to the Queen and the complicated constitutional process of preparing the country for a General Election is set in motion. I believe that means the Queen dissolves parliament and sends everybody back to their constituencies to catch up on what they have to pretend to care about for the next month.

The radio stations were full of it this morning. At least, the ones I listen to were full of it. I'm not a fan of that local Northampton station which tries to fit snippets of news in between the 95th airing of Cheryl Cole's latest three minutes of derivative drivel, and some delightful piece of nostalgia from the Eighties.

Most commentators are still talking about the possibility of a hung parliament after our votes have been cast and counted. The polls indicate it, apparently, because they continue to be close. But anything can happen in those four intense weeks between Gordon having tea and biscuits with Her Majesty, and the closing of the town h…

Jesus and Easter.

Somebody put a leaflet through my door about Easter last week. It was an invitation to a seminar (if that is what you'd call it) at one of the local churches about why Jesus died for my sins. Had a pretty accomplished picture of the Man Himself on the back of the leaflet wearing His crown of thorns, blood oozing from the wounds it made in His forehead.

I get lots of leaflets through the door in Semilong. It was one of the differences I noticed when I moved to Northampton after years of living in the country. Out there you get the free papers and not much else. But in the town you are bombarded daily by pizza houses, Chinese restaurants, charities wanting your old clothes (okay, it would take a mean cur to argue with that one), even -- perhaps this is peculiar to Semilong -- the Police boasting that they've driven the hookers away with this or that new programme.

Which is fine, although somebody ought to be considering the number of trees that have to die for this wastefulness. I…

What Would The Pastor Think in 2010?

THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. THEN THEY CAME for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote that about the inactivity of German intellectuals in the face of the depradations and ravages of Hitler. But it's as relevant today as it was then. Except that in Britain the majority side actively, not passively, with the authorities eliminating anything that gets in the way of their programme, which is the righteous accumulation of money. Look at the widespread condemnation of the strikes sweeping the country. Nobody has asked why they're happening. Nobody seems to be prepared to accept that some of those striking w…

A Murder Threat

It would seem, unless I am being grossly paranoid again, that your beloved correspondent has been threatened with murder. In the comments field under the post about the Election I wrote a couple of days ago, someone has left the anonymous warning: "Drive carefully. It is not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker."

I responded, of course, by daring the author of that cryptic remark to identify and explain himself. I doubt he (or she) will do that, or that their threat was anything other than a spasm of indignation at the breakfast table about something I've written, forgotten by them as soon as they'd finished their morning ablutions.

It was the anonymous nature of it that annoyed me. I make my feelings public. I stand up for my beliefs, and trust me, I lose a lot of friends and make a lot of problems for myself in the process.Conviction comes at a price and if you're not prepared to pay it, you really have to ask yourself how strong your convictions are.

I …

The Job Hunt: A "Disappointment" And Then A Satori

I had an invitation to an interview a few days ago. I didn't particularly want the job, but I do want money, funny little bundle of strangeness that I am. I was pleased, too, that it wasn't frontline care, which I have promised myself I will never do again, even if I have to sell my own kidney for a dinner. This morning, unfortunately, I got an email from the company telling me that the funding for my post has been frozen so interviews are off. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

I responded by firing off a challenge to my local paper the Chronicle & Echo to give me sufficient column inches, freelance, every week to counter the Tory-leaning copy pumped out by their writer "Pandora". Typical me, in a way, responding to a disappointment in the real world by withdrawing into fantasy. But sometimes fantasy becomes reality if you push hard enough at the door, and it's not like I haven't done the freelance journo bit before, albeit in my dad's magazine and a…

Hypocrisy Thy Name Is Justice

Did you hear about the pet shop owner fined £1,000 and ordered to wear an electronic tag by the court because she sold a fish to a 14-year-old? Animal cruelty, they called it. Wonder how many of the people who sat in judgement of her were meat eaters.