European Parliament Elections: You don’t have to scream into a pillowcase…yet.

In the wake of the European Parliament election results, the UKIP MEPs will be smugly dancing (the middle-aged, middle class, awkward white type of dancing) all the way to their well remunerated jobs. Of which, they are disgusted about; but will take them on with a sullen grimace.

With a portion of the electorate wondering what in holy hell went on in 27.5% of the voting booths, we are now left with a confused and fragmented citizenry.

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A true man of the people….

In response to this uptick in support for UKIP, more air time, column inches, and blog….space (?) has been devoted to mocking them, calling them racist, bigoted and homophobic. Whilst portions of the party may possess some, few, many or all of these traits, we should not ignore what millions of people are saying. It doesn’t need to be agreed with, but acknowledged. We can’t just ‘listen to the feedback’, the erstwhile response of a disappointed politician, we have to take action.

Mocking UKIP is not a viable strategy any more, we can’t wholly laugh away their policies. Candidates, yes, positions, no. During the run-up to the election, one of the refrains was ‘I don’t care who you vote for, just not for UKIP’; can a democracy really be founded on such apathy? Political parties, commentators and those who like living in a positive society need to start offering a real alternative to the yellow-toothed attraction of UKIP.

Parties should also steer away from pandering to the perceived wants of those that voted UKIP and actually try and steer public opinion. Yes, have more conversations about immigration, but be brave and defend those that come over and show up British natives. Yes, agree that the EU is flawed, but the UK will be floored without it. Yes, agree that politicians are usually quite a grey group of people but learn how to juggle or tell a decent joke. Be human.

In essence, don’t belittle, be big.

 

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Jay Rayner and Great Food Miles Simplification

Jay Rayner, the Observer food critic, a cross between a well-fed D’Artagnan and Marco Pierre White, is one of the go-to people for foodie opinions, and usually he is bang on. The extract of his new book published in the Observer yesterday, was for the most part a fascinating and at times dispiriting read (especially the grim truths of the abattoir). Yet the section about the over-simplification of the concept of food miles seemed too defeatist and happy for us to wallow in indecision.

Through research, it now appears that the idea that the farther food travels the more environmentally destructive they become, is far too simplistic. Whodathunk? What emerges is the need for a more holistic approach, one provided by Life Cycle Analysis (which takes into account the amount of petrochemicals to run the machinery, the materials for the farm buildings, nutrients for the soil amongst others); this then throws spanners in all forms of works as it shows that local doesn’t not necessarily equal more environmentally friendly. Though, as is pointed out, there are far more benefits buying locally than just the perceived environmental factor, but it does drive a (well-hung) stake through the argument somewhat.

But it is here that Rayner’s argument disappears and the resigned nihilism comes through, as it ends with a verbal exasperated arm flail instead of pointing to a real solution. I can imagine him in the corner of his kitchen sobbing into the research shouting’nothing matters anymore’. Whilst the simplicity of food miles is inadequate, surely we can found a new system on the LCA, one which gives the consumers the facts and the power to vote with our feet.

Maybe this is too simplistic again? Maybe the effort that it would take to compile all this data isn’t worth the effort? Possibly, but it would a boon for statistics nerds.

The Leveson Report – Reading between the criticisms

With the publishing of the Leveson Report on Thursday, after seemingly 237 years in the making, those instantly critical or dubious of the conclusions have come out of the woodwork faster than Gary Barlow on a slip-n-slide.

1. With the earnestness of a nun at the Vatican, all of the leading newspaper and TV organisations have dutifully focused on the importance of the report and its wide ranging implications for the future of the press, but no one has really taken a step back and questioned the place of newspapers in our society. With circulation diminishing year on year, it feels like regulating on a new type of stable door after the horse has bolted. There is seemingly little forethought as to how newspapers will operate in a world full of iPads and the Mail Online; if more newspapers reduce their publishing frequency or become a digital only entity, like Newsweek, then the difference between a regulated media outlet and one that is not, will be rather stark and absurd.

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Lord Leveson with his magic report

2. The new Ofcom style regulatory body that will be established (Ofpap anyone?) will herald the first press law since the 17th Century, and the Conservatives don’t like it. Their main reason for ‘hating on’ Leveson is the ‘mission creep’ fear that politicians today have about their counterparts in the future. Apparently they are creating a vehicle for the future government control of the press, which in turn raises many interlinked points:

  • A ‘vehicle’ that can alter the future sounds like a time machine – is that where George Osborne has been hiding whilst it is being built?
  • When is this expected government takeover of the press likely to take place, as we can keep a look out for it?
  • Do politicians really distrust the future iterations of themselves that much? Though saying that, I suppose they know the wants and desires of politicians better than us mere mortals. Maybe we should take their warning with a greater seriousness than we have so far.

3. The reaction of most of the newspapers is of collective shock at how their industry has been slandered by Leveson. But lest we forget the ‘last chance saloon’ of the 1990s, and to be able to drink in such a salubrious establishment there must have been one or two other bars they were thrown out of because of raucous behaviour. Newspapers are a public entity with a moral duty to upload to society, and that was destroyed with phone hacking, profit maximising, politician entrancing behaviour.

4. People bought the papers out of their own free will. So surely we, the people should accept some share of the blame

There isn’t a magic elixir to solve the ills of press behaviour whilst maintaining the ideal amount of freedom, and I think it is time that that fact was acknowledged a bit more by those in power. Much like a teenager that has misbehaved once too often, the press will have to be grounded until it has learnt it’s lesson and only then will it be allowed to go out by itself again, but hopefully with more wisdom and greater responsibility.

Downing Street Fighter

The newly installed leader of the Labour Party has issued an ultimatum ahead of the next General Election: that their politicians will be more ‘human’. Gone are ‘the living embodiments of dull. The Minster-Bot 3000s. The grey, soulless, vacant and examples of Parliamentarians that have been inflicted upon the country for too long.’

‘Re-selection for a seat will now be based on a Hit Point system,’ said Tom Jenkins, who sprung from nowhere to take over as Leader of the Opposition after Ed Miliband stood aside due to being stuck in a state of permanent incredulity one day at Prime Minister’s Questions. Jenkins, who studied Computer Games Design, said that MPs were rewarded for good deeds within their constituency, well thought out verbal displays (in interviews, local council or Parliament) and advancing general Labour Party aims.

A bunch of..

Conversely, any evidence of the type of behaviour that would have been permitted under the ‘Old Regime’ causes a deduction in the ‘life’ of an MP. Mr Jenkins says that this can include a deduction per evasive answer (one point for every piece of business speak), or petty politicking.

‘We want to return to a more representative politics, one where MPs actually appear to be in touch with the people they are meant to be elected by. This is rewarding solid, hard-working politicians, those that are standing up for their community’s interests, whilst punishing those who only seek to slither their way through Westminster like the Basilisk through Hogwarts. No longer do we want to see the kind of Punch and Judy debates that have blighted Parliament. We aren’t seven any more; they’re not fun.’

Jeremy Paxman, foil of so many aspiring politicians had mixed feelings about the move, ‘whilst this is obviously beneficial to the link between the electorate and the elected, it makes my job nearly redundant. Ever since the much recognised nadir in 2013, politicians have fought hard to regain the trust of the public; an effort that died before it was even born as they continued to stand around saying how much they were listening to the public.’

Of course, this was best shown during the Night of the Long Whines when Transport Secretary, Justine Greening (‘barely a human’ said Paxman) made one of her campaign staff change his name from Ed to George in order to ‘refocus the message’.

‘That would have been a knock out blow in this new system’, said Jenkins, ‘and quite rightly too. We want a new type of politician, ones that are unfamiliar with the language of the past.’

A Conservative Party spokesperson that ‘this is another gimmicky Labour proposal that misses the point. The public don’t want accountability; they want strong figures, ones that are willing to make tough decisions in these precarious economic times. In wasting time over this, it highlights Labour aren’t up to the job.’

‘Sigh’, said Mr Jenkins.

Noses to the Grindstone

Dear old Phillip Hammond, a man whose face is the very picture of despair, has said that he does not support the Government’s push for gay marriage, as it has to focus “on the things that matter to the people in this country”.

This oft trotted out bit of tripe allows me to imagine all MPs and Civil Servants working their damnedest in a forge, or foundry, sleeves rolled up (as they mean business), ‘trying to save the economy’. And it’s obviously wrong for two reasons: the first is that the thought of MPs doing practical work is enough to put the majority of people in a cold sweat. But secondly, whilst everyone in Government is working to better the country, it is fatuous to suggest there is a ‘national aim’ and everything outside that is trivial.

With the UK LGBT population estimated at 750,000, this policy will affect over 1% of citizens in Britain. So Long Face Hammond, this seems like an awfully large number of people to still be ‘not a priority’. What about those 10,000 millionaires you made richer, was that deemed important enough to warrant Government time? Was that that a good use of legislative powers? Government doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) rule for the majority. These ‘people’ he mysteriously refers to are not beacons of social change, more like Conservative stick-in-the-muds reluctant to agree to any change. The point of Government is to transcend this group of people not kow-tow to them.

At least other Conservatives have had the bravery to say they don’t support gay marriage; I don’t agree with them but they have the courage of their convictions. It is this pathetic ‘public service’ mantra that really marks out a wimp; too scared of being controversial, but also not wanting to get on the wrong side of the Daily Mail.

So come on out Phillip. Don’t be your usual uninspiring self, myself and the faceless ‘people’ want to see what you’re made of. Time for you to get us out of recession, single-handidly. That’s what the people want.

No More Local Heroes

I’m sure the morning after the local council elections was the time that Ed Miliband finally put the order in for Labour leaders business cards and changed his job title on his LinkedIn profile. After 18 months in the role, this is the first time he has appeared safe; not election-winning safe, but moving away from the hushed calls for him to return from whence he came.

But is Labour a viable alternative again or were they just there? WIth confidence in the establishment at an all-time low, with politicians at  the nadir of a very downward facing bunch, no mainstream party can claim they have caught the public’s imagination. Labour in particular have repeatedly failed to learn lessons laid out very clearly on the table by the misdeeds of the Brown and the Coalition Governments. There were even big neon signs and an instructional video to help them find their way.

Blindfolded, Labour have waddled on, blithely ignoring opportunities like they were mirages in the desert. Whilst they were gaining favourable press, their message has not been translated to the public at large. Take the pasty debacle as an example, Labour had a clear run to broaden the debate beyond petty pasty politics, but instead pranced straight to Greggs and paraded in front of cameras brandishing their Cornishes like local fundraisers holding an oversized cheque. If I was a Labour Party activist, I would be embarrassed.

Ed and the Pasties

Labour now need to translate speech in to action. Move beyond rhetorical scoring points, and actually change the face of politics, lest they be stuck in the public’s apathy for a generation. And with the Conservative  and Lib Dems doing their best to distance themselves from public support , it is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss out on.

Now is a time, that more ‘ordinary’ (a word with such beige connotations, it makes Coldplay seem exciting) people to get involved with politics. To realise that the world is not what it is but what you choose to make it. Any party worth it’s upkeep should be recruiting more people off the street that broadly share their ideals to be the rising star’s in the party, and not just the sweaty fisted careerists that adjust their tie every time a camera and a baby are in the same room.

The reason that people are getting increasingly frustrated with politics is that it is always a competition,, but one with a very infrequent winner (if it can be called that at all). Citizens don’t care about who is right about the economy; anyone with half a brain stuck to the top of their skull can see that both sides of the debate are crossing their fingers when they proclaim they know the answer. Instead we just want action, a true understanding that Government is made for not against us.

Democracy at a local and national level is now more like the end of a night at a club; only the groping drunks are left and we have to decide which one we want to go home with, if any at all. In a clear sign, this time around the voters chose abstinence. Which is a first for  Britain.

Respect-able Turn Out

With George Galloway winning the Bradford West by-election, the BBC left a rather sneering comment: ‘Turnout in the by-election was just over 50%, compared with 64.9% in the General Election’.

Whilst it is easy to compare 50 to 65 and found it wanting, any serious journalist would also look to previous by-elections. Take Feltham and Heston for instance in December, only 28.8% of the population managed to struggle out to the polls to vote. In the article, no comparison to the 2010 Election.

With a sense of perspective, a 50% turn-out is massively respectable. Shame about Galloway but he deserved it.

Cash for Crapsticks

I found Peter Cruddas outside the Palace of Westminster two weeks ago in a withlong trench coat. We made eye contact and he knew what I wanted: ‘Get your access, buy your Cameron here. Two dinners for £300,000’. Sadly, I only had my Oyster Card and £2.70 in my wallet so had to pass, but with such brazen tactics, it was only a matter of time before he was rumbled.

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Cruddy Cruddas

Thanks to a Sunday Times investigation, Cruddas is now out on his ear and the Tory Party has run from him quicker than Georgie O from a poor person. The former Party Treasurer was recorded selling access to the Prime Minister in a rather unConservative manner: using a football analogy. A £250,000 donation was said to be in the ‘Premier League’ thus guaranteeing access to DC & GO.

Now Number 10 have slowly but ever so surely realised the level of public (or media) dissatisfaction with this and issued a carousel of u-turns culminating in the publishing of a list of all of Cameron’s meetings with Party donors. Alongside this, is an assertion that no donor was given exclusive access to policy chiefs, which if I had just given a man promising just that, a large bundle of cash, I would be wondering who to speak to regarding a refund.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Labour have gone on the attack, rounding on this practice. But whilst trade unions offer a more democratic voice than single donors, they must realise a full blown attack on ‘cash for Cameron’ leaves them open to cries of hypocrisy. A meeting with a donor is a meeting with a donor regardless of whether it is a rich man or a trade union. That is why Labour should focus less on the act of meeting with the donors and start placing the individual donors on the proverbial (alas) racks, asking why they are donating. Even a monk taking a vow of silence could make the case for supporting a body with the intention of protecting the individual rights of workers to a man who probably owns half a county. And to beat the punch, Labour should have shown their transparency by publishing their meetings before this issue turns to taint them. The Lib Dems could do the same if they had donors to begin with.

This corrupt practice is awful but are people too naive to think that people will donate huge sums of money just because they like the Conservative Party logo. We shouldn’t be focusing on these knucklehead issues, but instead take a few steps back and see that lobbyists are embroiled in the same mess (in fact it was a Labour lobbyist that helped to start this). As are newspaper proprietors…isn’t that correct Sunday Times owner Rupert Murdoch? There has to be a greater concerted effort to exclude money from the echelons of power. Or alternatively, you can give it to me. I can give you all the access you want.

The Race for Adoption

The issue that has annoyed me most this week has also left me a bit shaken and unsure of my footing, like a mountain goat with oiled hooves. I’ve agreed with the Tories over the Guardian. Or to be more exact, Lemn Sissay’s article about adoption in the Guardian. Thankfully solace can be found in the comments section, usually the preserve of those with only a finger’s grasp on sanity yet possessing the same unwavering belief in their opinion as a petulant teenager, though this time the voice of sanity.

In the article Sissay was sets out a case against the Government’s new plans to speed up mixed-race adoptions. He felt that we were reverting back to the pre-1985 consensus where there was no importance placed on the cultural needs of the child, leading to some abuses at the hands of adoptive parents. Whilst these stories cannot be ignored, I do wonder if he feels that any progress has been made in nearly 30 years? Is Britain still populated by mini-Alf Garnetts lamenting the growing diversity? I don’t think so. It is fatuous to claim that everything is like a United Colours of Benetton advert, but neither is it acceptable to extrapolate one unpleasant experience of someone in Wigan across the nation. Not least because Wigan is not the most diverse place in the UK (according to the 2001 Census) thereby lacking the ideas of cultural sensitivity so inherent in the metropolises. Sissay urges us to throw down the shackles of colour-blindness in order to live (apparently for the better) in a world where we are demarcated in terms of race. That sounds like a step forward doesn’t it?

At the core of the arguments both for and against is a desire to house the child in a loving household and a tacit acceptance that the longer a child spends in care, the worse it is. How Sissay can’t see the neon-rimmed, arrow pointing solution is beyond my understanding. Having more prospective adoptive parents is a good thing, regardless of their race. To think that it is reminiscent of colonialism is appalling and surely a nice hearty slap in the face to those who gladly open their homes to children in care. And whilst it would be ideal to have more black prospective adopters, I am not sure if it is the duty of the government to do so.

How someone so intelligent can have such a conspiratorial idea of how government works is also beyond me. By no means perfect (by no means…), those at the top aren’t seated in a ‘Secret Cabal Room for the Disenfranchisement of the Poor & Minorities’, no matter how much the Tory Annual Conference seems like it. Moreover a policy supported by the NSPCC and Barnardo’s cannot be totally fascistic; now call me odd, but I would rather back two organisations who’s raison d’etre is child protection. We cannot afford to place race above the needs of children.

Politically Apathetic…Well, nearly.

I am not 100% sure when it happened. My best guess is that it slowly grew over a long period of time. Like the tide of excrement lapping against the shore of disappointment, washing grains of hope out to sea, I have been eroded.

I am now politically apathetic.

That might be brushing things with a tad too much colour, but my belief in current mainstream politics as a force for good has reached an all-time low. This is Politics with a big P. The type to be found at Westminster or in your local MP’s surgery. Now this might be something called ‘growing up’, (an idea that I sincerely doubt), or most probably this is a sign that I am an eternal optimist as it sees that I am the last to reach such a conclusion.

But why is this the case? Why does politics seem to be so ineffectual? Is it a sign of the times or symptomatic of  this current breed of PR driven publicity bots? Simply, the ‘all things to all people’ approach that seems to be de rigueur with politicians is driving people to the middle of the road, where their company will be Nickleback, CSI and Galaxy Chocolate. Innately there isn’t anything wrong with a small dose of them, but anything more than that is like an overdose of beige.

Regardless of what I say in the post, they had one good song. That's it. Even that was only good when merry.

For me, my own apathy began with ‘The Great Clegg Betrayal of 2010’, where both his popularity and my opinion of politics performed a ‘J Turn’ – which charts an immediate and stark plummet followed by, in this case, a retrospective elimination of all traces of their previous popularity. Now all the previous Clegg-lovers have been cast out, with only the meagre spectre of Ed Miliband to sate their appetite.

This disavowal of myself from Politics has been steadily weakened by the NHS saga, the Fees ‘debate’ and the backtracking of the Government over environmental issues.

That has left us with a gap in the political market, one that needs to be filled very quickly for if it isn’t then another new generation could be lost to the power they have over politics. And sadly that is the best case scenario; at worst it could be the alienation of everyone not connected to Westminster. So where are the new parties wanting to represent me? *silence*

All I ask for, to feel re-engaged is a party to be open, honest and to work on behalf of it’s members/constituents. Is it that hard? If nothing emerges in the next year or so, I might have to go it alone.

I’ve seen the West Wing, It can’t be that hard, can it?