Category Archives: Current Affairs

Dear Brussels

Dear Brussels,

Erm… well. This is awkward. So the UK went and did something daft. Let’s be honest though, the tone of voice you adopted while we were making the most critical constitutional decision of a generation wasn’t very helpful, was it? And it can’t be said there aren’t many folk in every other European nation that don’t share the feelings of those here who voted for the UK to leave.

You can pretend like you weren’t aware of this, that your attitude towards the inconvenient statistics that are the normal, working, struggling people of Europe, was the right one. This would of course be quite typical of you, being so viciously possessed of a disconnection between the ideals you’re striving for and the reality you’ve created for just too many people.

And what now? All we hear are your leaders trying to push us off the deep end, when in fact this isn’t something Europe wants or needs. And actually, as soon as the referendum result came out, wasn’t even something huge numbers of Leave voters wanted. The picture is clear – a terrible and embarrassing mistake was made, predicated somewhat on the basis of the lies these people were told, and that you failed to effectively respond to.

Really it should have been the easiest argument in the world to win. But somehow you lost it. YOU lost it, because while we were having the conversation, one worth having if we’re being honest, you behaved largely with irritation and scorn.. And now you’re acting like a pack of petulant infants, throwing your toys out of the pram and further risking alienation and the entrenchment of the minority attitude in this nation that the UK doesn’t want to be a part of the Europe.

As the clear message goes out, “Get out now!”, some of us are left to wonder who is having the quiet conversations in the wings at the highest levels as to how this whole mess can be resolved to the benefit of everyone. Because sure enough, if you now want to go about punishing the British political class and British people for saying, on one level, we are simply not happy with the EU, then actually is the EU worth defending?

I’d rather see some mature politics now, some recognition of what really happened here. It was a coin toss that fell heads and immediately told us we really, really badly wanted tails. The protest vote that actually did to our horror return the protest candidate. For the moment however, the whole bloody lot of you, including plenty of our own clowns, continue to be pathetic disappointments.

If the referendum was held again tomorrow it’d probably be a ten point swing. Chew on that before being so determined to make a stupid example of us.

Regards,

One of the 48.1%

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BREXIT

In this metaphor, my blog is a strategically sorted vampire. Staked, chained, soaked in holy water and wearing a wreath of garlic as it rests beneath a thousand looming crosses. It was put away, it was done. This was good, I had better things do to.

Then Brexit. FFS.

Nice one folks, we’ve gone and fucked it. We’ve stuck our fingers up, turned over the table and stomped out of the room. Whatever triumphalism there is about this will turn quick enough, and an associate is indeed already taking bets on who can find a Brexit voter by Christmas.

So here’s my quickfire assessment. The Leave camp are so self-evidently venal and toxic that little need be said there. They lied their way through the whole bloody thing, leveraging emotions and appealing to an unsubstantiated set of optimistic predictions. Gove, Johnson, Farage… remember these names, because further down the road they’ll be trying to stick their head in the sand. Which will not be permitted, thank you very much.

But really I’m angry in the most part at the Remain camp, and at the EU itself. From the moment it was clear that Leave were going to go about their business and play the game entirely on their own terms, the message should have been obvious.

Desperate, fawning, pleading. Please god UK, stay in the EU. You are desperately needed. We love you. Incessantly. Persistently.

Is it true? I don’t know. I don’t care! But it’s what was required. The UK public needed a little affection, but instead the Remain message was, largely – and in this regard Leave were spot on – fear. They spent the whole goddamned run-in trying to make us lay bricks at the very notion of Brexit, with EU figures like Tusk helpfully indicating that the draw bridge would pull up. Whatever time on the floor that remained was dedicated to simply looking indignant and scoffy at any number of Leave claims.

As far as a failure of politics goes, this is about as big as it has gotten in my lifetime. How utterly fucking tone deaf. Some antagonism in the response was almost guaranteed, and this was almost certainly the root cause of the swing.

There are already strong indications across the globe that attitudes towards Britain are not favourable, see… the news, everywhere, which is understandable given how much the already shaky tub has taken another major rattle. I suppose I would disconsolately remind everyone that 16m+ did vote for Remain.

Though as for the nearly 17.5m who did vote to Leave, let’s not pretend they’re a mass of xenophobes and idiots either. A few, sure. But if we’re actually saying the conditions that inspired this referendum weren’t easily read and that the matter was conducted with even vague competency…

Well then, screw ya’ll, no one is honest here, fuckedy-bye now.

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Eulogy

This blog is dead. Long live this blog.

More to follow.

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UK Election 2015 – Exit Polls

Initial reaction… huh!? I had to rewind the BBC broadcast a few times when Dimbleby first revealed the exit polls at the stroke of 10 there. Even though we’ve already heard by this hour repeated calls for a cautious approach to the figures, which give the Tories 316 seats to Labour’s 239, it was unquestionably a blind-siding start to proceedings. Now we can only wait for, or more likely sleep through until, the results proper.

Why by contrast the rest doesn’t surprise me, I’m not sure. It felt clear that the SNP were running away with the show in Scotland, and I’ve maintained unwavering faith in my prediction of five years ago that the coalition would result in pain for the Lib Dems. They did a deal with the devil as it were, chucked in their principles for a seat at the big boy’s table, and rightly are suffering. A German-inspired neologism springs to mind – schadenfreudegasm.

Favourite moment of the night so far? Without a shadow of doubt, the tantalizing prospect of Ed Balls losing his seat. I despise the man, in vast disproportion to my sentiment towards the Labour party, which is much the same as towards all parties – sceptical. This eventuality would appear to be a perfect encapsulation of why the Labour party appear to have come out so poorly. Not enough trust on the economy, and to be sure, Ed Balls inspires as much faith as a fox offering guardianship of the hen house.

Pardon my language, but he’s also a giant bell end, and by comparison I find Ed Miliband rather endearing for all his goofy qualities. But enough of that. How do I feel about the current prospect of another Tory government? Err… well, it’s better than a stick in the eye? Gonorrhoea is probably worse…

The markets definitely seem to like the idea. Honestly though, at this point I’m far too glued to the election analysis to really get into this consideration too deeply. And things may all change yet. And Jeremy Vine is doing more of his silly but curiously captivating 3D guff, so, more to follow…!

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May 2015

Dusting off the old blog again… always a curiosity to go back to old writings, and I’m pleased to say I’m not altogether ashamed of some of it. But being that I was graciously published by the New Statesman’s election-dedicated subsidiary May2015 last month, I figured I’d give my enterprise a tentative lease of life again.

If you do somehow find yourself reading this and have any kind of interest in UK politics and the upcoming election  you should check out May2015.com. Self-serving as I am, why don’t you explore it via the article I wrote, a small impassioned plea to actually get yourself up and go to the polling stations next month. I’m not being airy and idealistic about voting, quite the opposite, as frankly you’re a daft bugger if you can, but don’t. So read.  “If you don’t vote, you don’t matter

More to follow….!?!?!?!?

May2015 appears to have had a hosting issue or two lately, so just in case, here’s the piece:

As we stumble day-by-day towards the 2015 general election, the intensity of analysis and opinion from every conceivable perspective grows. The issues that matter to the people of Britain are made clear via so many polls: priorities crystallise, sentiments entrench, lines are drawn.

It’s all important of course, everything. The NHS, the economy, inequality, education, foreign policy, energy… they all matter. The complication is that they matter in unequal measure when put to one individual or the next. And from the analytical perspective there is no other recourse but to define these groups so as to make sense of it all.

Praise be to the good folk who have done the hard work, the collation and interpretation. Yet what their efforts reveal is the harrowing continuation of an already desperate and unfortunate theme. The “young”, broadly, haven’t got the message. Or perhaps, the young fail to recognise the clean gulf of daylight between their expectations and desires, and the system they’re confronted with.

A fairer voting system makes all the sense in the world. A government that listened to all concerns in fair proportion sounds completely reasonable. Democratic representation outside of the context of elections should matter. Herein is the crux. None of it amounts to a hill of beans.

Hardly a galvanising thought, albeit true. What the young voter needs to understand is that the ideals of politics are removed from reality, the system doesn’t necessarily make sense, doesn’t seem fair and certainly doesn’t appear to serve everyone. So what to do? Disengage? Accept that things are as they are and carry on in the microcosm of your life in hope that the winds of politics don’t inadvertently rattle your tub too much?

Maybe it makes more sense to change the dynamics? Statistics show that increasingly the younger element of society believe more direct forms of democratic expression should count for more. Social media campaigning, petitioning, demonstration. Surely with enough voices singing loud enough no issue can be ignored by the political class? Nope.

The vote is everything, even in a system where the value of the vote seems diminished by structural factors like ‘First Past the Post’. Forget about that. Forget about every one of your electoral gripes. There is only one form of political currency that the people of this country can spend with any hope of true recognition, and that is the vote. The vote is binding. And all the votes together are the sole unimpeachable expression of the people that we have at our disposal.

Ask yourself these things. What did the march of millions achieve before the outbreak of the Iraq War? Nothing. What did the tear-soaked pleas of the deprived and their defenders achieve before the tenets of austerity kicked in four and some years ago? Nothing. What did so much outrage against such deplorable corporate contempt for society achieve? Nothing. I could go on.

This all may seem like fair cause to imagine that your input counts for little, that the greater movements of the world will proceed unabated by your opinion or needs. Well maybe that’s true. No one ever did say life was fair now, did they? You know this, you’ve probably lived it to some extent. But even if so, and I suspect it doesn’t have to be, the correct response to all this is so completely in your hands.

Engage. That’s your responsibility. This is a democracy, the mechanisms are in place. Stop waiting for that political angel to waft down from heaven and deliver the world that appeals to you, figure out what it is that you care about, and fight for it. Above all, vote for it, or near as damned as you can. Make others believe it so they vote for it too. Elder generations and their concerns are paid such deference by our politicians, because they vote. Take the hint.

If every young person of age voted in May, there would be change. Any career politician with two brain cells to rub together would but glance at the demographics and experience a strange and sudden recalibration of focus. All the logic and justice and common sense at your collective disposal, with regard to any issue, doesn’t constitute a moment’s concern in the politician’s mind until they recognise you as an electoral force.

I’m not preaching who you should vote for. And by all means hold your own council in the sophomoric halls, wax lyrical over how the world should be. But my god, never come complaining about politics and governance if you never bothered to hit the polling station. You have no right. You left yourself out of the critical conversation.

It may be that none of what’s been said here sounds right to you, that we should be able to demand the kind of politics, politicians and ideas that we want, up front, so that engagement would seem like a less wasteful thing. I’m sorry to suggest this is entirely not the case, unless you plan on running yourself and setting your own terms. Perhaps it could be, one day, but not yet. The vote comes first.

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Indyref Scotland

So it’s 3 in the morning. What else to do other than start rattling out thoughts for a blog more or less abandoned since the advent of having… an actual job. Obviously. But my fellow countryfolk north of the wall just made a fairly bold constitutional statement, which I’m eminently pleased to say fell favourably for those with any vestige of a rational mind.

The Union will remain.

Clearly, this issue isn’t over however. Crass chancers like Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are two a penny and if it’s not them in five or ten years time, it’ll be the next generation trying to lead Scotland by the nose into a cataclysm of redundant sentiment and needless division.

As emphatic as the results of yesterday’s referendum are currently appearing to be, albeit with most districts still to declare, this rankling little agenda of nationalism isn’t without some vigour. Something I think is a shame, because I might go so far to say that it’s all bull. Not the notions of self-determination and democracy, or giving Scots the opportunity to express an opinion on their nation’s fate, but the actual substance of the SNP and the frankly nauseating dishonesty of their campaign.

I wasn’t allowed to vote. I live in London, although my father still lives in Edinburgh and I have lived in Scotland in the past. The first black mark against the basic integrity of the Yes campaign. Salmond can publicly rationalise his decision to exclude non-domiciled Scots all he wants, but the truth of the matter is clear. The numbers never panned out for him were I and the hundreds of thousands of other outward looking Scots included.

But this vague form of gerrymandering wasn’t enough. So the SNP had to include voters over the age of only 16 in the hope that undeveloped minds would be easier to appeal to in the manner they knew would be most effective in advancing the cause. Emotion and the leveraging of dissatisfaction.

To hell with complexity and empirical evidence to back the raft of claims that Scotland would undoubtedly thrive, despite the raised voices of concern and caution against basically every one of those claims. Westminster isn’t implicitly serving every one of Scotland’s professed needs in terms of political and social identity, so let’s just piss off into the sunset, undoing over three centuries of a union that unquestionably brought stability and a long era of prosperity to the Isles.

What Salmond and company have done is so audacious that it might actually be impressive if it weren’t also preposterously reckless. Asking a nation to take a leap of faith into the unknown is… insane. It was insane. Romanticism be damned, this is the lives and livelihoods and well-being of millions of people potentially at jeopardy for the sake of a politician’s gambit.

Currency union? We’ll figure it out. Lifespan of the resource that would theoretically underpin the Scottish economy for generations? Inflate it, how can important can that be. Can we realistically and adequately fund our own healthcare and education systems based on an independent Scotland’s tax haul? Errr, sure why the hell not! What about the sensitivity and logistical and diplomatic burden of, say, redistributing shared military assets including Trident? And so on…

Like a petulant adolescent Salmond swatted away these legitimate questions as pessimism, sure signs that the institutions of the UK and broader global community had it out for the dreams of a small nation that only wanted to govern itself. It still utterly astonishes me.

So why am I ranting after the fact? And why I am being so entirely negative, you might wail? Or not, as who the hell is reading this anyway. Because the issue isn’t dead and buried. I daresay Scots independence is a bit like our favourite Black Knight, and likely can’t be killed whatever murderous blow it’s dealt. I would also counter that far from being negative, I’m simply being ruthlessly pragmatic. I mean, as mentioned… it’s only a nation we’re talking about here. Recall momentarily that thing called cruel reality would you? Hate to say it but the world at large doesn’t necessarily give a shit about Scotland and it’s dreams. Sink or swim chum.

Moreover though, it may surprise you to know that I rooted my hope that Scotland would stay in the United Kingdom out of a sense of optimism and pride. The No campaign may go down in the history books as a pathetically conceived beast as far as strategy went, and yes John Oliver nailed it when he said “Better Together” sounds like the anaemic rationale of a couple who haven’t the energy to bother breaking up, but they were pretty exclusively in the right as far as I was concerned.

The UK is a good thing. I won’t launch into an impassioned speech in support of it, see anyone from Gordon Brown or Bob Geldof or any number of public figures who have done the rounds this last week. Anything that closely and positively ties nations together, especially over existing bonds of culture and history, is worth defending.

Don’t call it rigid or antiquated. It has in fact just evolved yet again. The coming months will see further powers and control divested into the Scottish parliament, if the party leaders weren’t speaking total lies. I’m a happy chap for now. Although I hope that Scotland stays with the team for as long as the course of history permits, I would say that the next time the conversation arises, and it will, all Scots deserve a more honest, and plainly better, enterprise than the SNP to lead the charge.

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The Brandian Revolution

Oh hi there! It’s been a hwee hwhile. The last thing I wrote a little over a month ago was lending relative praise to British politics when compared to US politics as they were in the midst of the shut-down crisis, which was itself comprised of so many farcical elements that I haven’t the energy to go through them again now. It turns out this was a little ironic, as within days, if not hours, I descended into a murk of cynicism regarding all forms of politics everywhere, at all points in time, past, present and future. Eloquently I say, I stopped giving a toss.

Thanks to Twitter I even have a record of how exactly this happened, my various tweets prior to this sophisticated number, “Temporarily lost all interest in the world, politics and society. Total cynicism attack. Socialists, liberals, conservatives… #suckmyballs,” telling me that it was the Tory party conference wot did it. Or at least, the last of several apathy inducing conferences that served to me precisely the opposite effect of being politically energised. Add a dash of Richard Dawkins taking another pathetic jab at religion completely devoid of intellectual value and the looming final of the Great British Bake Off, and one can see why I might have switched off from matters of import.

There’s just too much diatribe sometimes, whether it’s fronted by big dick intellectuals, warriors for justice, cold and robotic government suits or populist ranters, and that’s hardly not the case at present. Strange that I’d wade back in now when a month ago I was even getting completely sick and tired of my own cognitive involvement in whatever bollocks it was, Miliband vs Cameron vs the energy sector vs the people or Greenwald and the Guardian vs… Christ, everything it seemed at certain points. As a side note, and although I do profoundly care about security services acting wildly beyond the brief, the less I see of Greenwald’s endlessly and eminently affronted person, the better.

So along comes Russell Brand, encapsulating precisely the reason I think I shut down in the first place, with another impossibly unanswerable dilemma for us all to chew on. Nothing so well contained as the Big Six making us choke on our winter porridge as we digest our energy bills, or the issue of the NSA or GCHQ or whatever, but actually the dilemma of… everything. It’s all crap apparently, the whole system and all of its enablers, and we ‘the people’ are in dire need of a wake up call to arms to turn it all on its head in, I kid you not, a “utopian revolution”.

I’m not going to go off on one against this bewildering comedic figure and all of his loquacious eloquence, that’s just kind of tired and Mr. Robert Webb and a thousand other commentators already had a fairly well-rounded crack at criticising most of Brand’s semi-constructions of politico-socio-economic dissatisfaction in his interview with Jeremy Paxman. I won’t even comment much on the “live chat” that Brand had with The Huffington Post’s Mehdi Hasan last week or his various articles penned lately, as it was all essentially more of the same thing, eliciting more of the same kind of varyingly disapproving or admiring sentiment.

What makes me grind my teeth more than any commercially golden posturing (if you choose to see it that way, the Brand brand is growing increasingly lucrative with so much attention) is the broader complaint of the global movement that at least here in the UK has temporarily and slightly unwittingly anointed Brand as its guru. Not just the Anonymous hactivists with their trite Guy Fawkes mask, (references to V for Vendetta aside, the history behind Fawkes and his movement speaks very little to the desires of these people today, Papist Catholic hegemony I’m sure not being the intended destination), but also Occupy and the entire anti-establishment family.

It’s not that I don’t sympathise to some small degree, my own aforementioned disillusionment being hypocritical otherwise, it’s just that the conclusions these folk reach and their employed means of promoting these conclusions are just so… f@cking immature! Just because the system isn’t currently working for them, or us, or indeed many, many people, is the practical response really to want the whole thing to come tumbling down? Really? Are you going to rebuild it? With your masks and twinkling fingers of democracy? Oh that’s nice of you, because there for a second I thought you were all full of shit and couldn’t provide the change you seek even if you were endowed with the power to do so. Why? Because there isn’t a fully fledged concept among you to speak of, beyond your points of criticism, rampant as they are.

To quote a representative of the Million Mask March, regarding the weekend’s slew of anti-establishment demonstrations across the globe, “It was a march against many things; political corruption, capitalism, the global dominance of the financial services industry, austerity, the democratic deficit in people’s lives, the assault on the welfare state, soaring bills and falling wages.” Flipping hell… while in this fully loaded statement are the fractured pieces of the narrative that the majority of people in the world aren’t adequately reaping the benefits of global systems, they, the protesters, heinously fail in forcing these elements to coalesce around a single actionable goal.

Silly me, why should it when you can just launch a few fireworks at Buckingham Palace, hug Russell Brand and go home feeling like you were a part of something. You were a part of nothing, I’m afraid, you are not organised enough, you are not disciplined enough, not concise enough and no where near representative enough of the sort of changes that most people would be happy with, which are largely simple and achievable. Living with some degree of comfort, as far removed as possible from the economic desperation that many today feel. Forget sea-changes, revolution or uprisings, most of us aren’t so contrived as to call for anything that grand.

The most important aspect, however, of the miserable failure that is or will be this movement, is the fact that its constituents have situated themselves squarely outside of, and in opposition to, any recognisable manifestation of the establishment they want to change. Beating on the windows or doors as loudly or as violently as you care to won’t change the fact that you’re out in the cold while the grown-ups are inside making all the decisions. This may indeed appear to be a symptom of exactly the problems you are railing against, but in truth the only way to have a reasonable impact on the conversation is to be a legitimate part of the conversation. That is, short of breaking down the doors and causing the sort of drama that no-one should ever wish for (see the details of… every genuine revolution that ever was).

Mr Smith went to Washington and stayed there, he didn’t rock up, shit on the doorstep and run off to high-five his mates, or start taking heads for that matter. While it would clearly be delusional to hope that in real life one would ultimately claim victory with something akin to Paine’s climactic mea culpa, the point stands that we already have this wonderful mechanism for change called elected government that is only further neutered by calls to reject the system, (allowing the corruptible, invested and entitled to dominate affairs) instead of becoming involved and enriching it and being a part of the change you want to see.

Don’t tell me politics are just an inaccessible bastion of hereditary elites, as despite whatever lingering strain of that we still see, politics are in fact just about open enough to those who are passionate and committed to them. It’s defeatist to claim otherwise, a guaranteed lease of life for this status quo that you find so terrible. Simon Jenkins threw down the gauntlet to Brand. Serious about your own message? Why, there’s an upcoming race for Mayor of London, what a perfect opportunity to enter the system in a substantive fashion. But I doubt it will be seized upon. When offered the chance to support his critique with some solutions, Brand has simply said, “It’s not my job.”

Whose is it then? The people he wants chucked out of the doors of Westminster and onto the streets… what’s wrong with this picture? It seems to me that a surge of fervour for the current system, as it should be, would take us further towards desirable change. Active democratic participation is actually what makes politicians serve you. Younger voters get a raw deal because they don’t vote and political jobs aren’t threatened by ignoring their interests. How on earth can we expect the government we want if we’ve only just in 2010 crept back up to 65% eligible turnout after 2001’s pitiful 59%, and are already hearing calls to reject voting altogether?

The Liberal Democrats provide the best case I can think of for putting the shaft up that argument, having inspired some of the spike back to a lukewarm turnout and then appearing to consummately betray or fail their base with anything from tuition fees to social welfare reforms and much more. But then being on the verge of a hung parliament that forced the current coalition dynamic and all this unsavoury compromise is itself a symptom of democratic laziness and indecisiveness. We’re waiting for the political class to serve us up with something fresh, getting all worked up in a huff for not getting it, when all the while that something has to come from us.

This is a democracy, the political class is us, you, me and everyone who resides on the Isles. The sooner we remind ourselves of that fact and inject some enthusiasm back into the system, rather than embracing anything so Brandian* as saying, “Bugger it all,” the better. As disenfranchised as I felt this past month, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to feel from time to time (we can’t all have one eye on the state of affairs all the time), it is beyond important that we occasionally renew in ourselves at least some sense of constructive involvement in our political process and never reject it wholesale.

Also ironically then, I could perhaps thank Brand for providing what to me are some heavily objectionable opinions and for forcing me back to the keyboard. At least one of his stated goals in all of this was to get people thinking and talking, which I daresay he has achieved to an impressive degree. I just hope people are thinking practically and independently enough not to prescribe to the other specific points of his strain of wisdom, or rather the strain of wisdom that is prevailing among certain circles.

And by the way, if you didn’t hear much about the Million Mask March, it’s probably just the corporate media conspiracy keeping it all under wraps, but don’t worry. The established media is to be the next target of ire for these masked crusaders, further proving they have less focus than an addled puppy that can’t choose between eating dinner and licking its own balls. I would say to them that the established media probably lost interest in their ilk back in 2011 when the best they could elicit from the grimy hippies of Zuccotti Park were statements of lesser cogency or coherence than the aforementioned addled puppy could provide.

Methinks the protester doth protest too much. Or too painfully ineffectually. Right then, enough. Fin.

*Brandian, phrase coined courtesy of Suzanne Moore of The Guardian, who shall be paraphrased to provide the definition of, “endlessly see-sawing between braggadocio and yoga-ed up humility”

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