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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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.

Santorum Suffers Suspension In Campaign – Will Be Out Indefinitely

Now Rick Santorum has left the Republican Primary race, slowly backing away from the mess he has made, Mitt Romney can march on into obsolescence, trumpeting his own patented brand of mediocrity. For what seems like a lifetime, Mitt has been the presumptive nominee, and Rick was the perpetual thorn in the side, chasing some imaginary showdown at the RNC. But now he seems to have understood the basic logic that overturning a 400 delegate lead is impossible, save for an Act of God (though I have some core doubts about the likelihood of that…).

The Man With The World's Most Forgettable Face

Santorum was the outsider’s candidate: outside politically, morally and psychotically, but he proved a necessary counter-foil to the straight-edged Romney. He was the threat dangled in front of the GOP membership: ‘Vote Romney or you get him‘. Granted for some people that was a boon! ‘A candidate as deeply conservative and offensively prejudiced as me’ they gloat mawkishly, obscured to the realities of reality. A true sceptic could be led to believe that Mitt asked Santorum to stay in the race as long as possible to keep the Republican agenda in the news and by dint of that, make Romney look palatable by comparison (an idea made doubtful by the lack of mention Romney received in the concession speech. Genuine animosity or superb petulance?). Sadly, for most voters ‘palatable’ is just about the best adjective Mitt can be associated with. In reality, it may have just taken him that long to tot up the results on his fingers, so distrustful is he of anything resembling education.

It surely now must be time for the other two candidates to turn their backs on aspirations for the nomination, as neither Newt nor Ron have made an ant jumping into a pond’s worth of an impression. Ron Paul, can do what he likes as for the most part, he is motoring under his own steam, but Newt must be proving a point to Mitt, possibly angling for a cabinet position.

With Romney coasting home, and the interminable Primary fight nearly over, it will be interesting to see how the Republican team can still grab the media’s attention between now and August. For everyone’s sanity, hope that they can’t.

Not So High and Mitt-y

With Mitt Romney lurching ever forward be the presumptive nominee for the Republicans, there seem to be two elephants in the room that no one dares to talk about:

1) he has less chance of winning the Presidency than the Tea Party has of seeing the world in colour. The Right don’t like him, the left prefer him, but why would they be voting Republican? The Evangelical Christians think he is a cult member, regardless of how shiny his teeth are. Actually the whiter the teeth, the more cultish the person. The ‘average’ (pah!) voter distrusts him from his time at Bain Capital, whilst simultaneously championing the further incursion of big business into American culture. From all concerned, Mitt is the second pick, only in this instance there wasn’t a first choice

GOP settle for Jeff Daniels lookalike

2) The GOP know this election is all but over save for Obama spitting on a child, and so will be using this election as a chance to reorganise and sniff out those ‘rising stars’ ready for 2016. Faces like Rubio, Jed Bush and the ever-present spectre of Sarah Palin will be glued to cameras; their names and Vice-President being uttered in the same sentence with growing frequency. They know that with a well shaped message and the traditionally destructive Democratic primary fight, the prize is theirs for the taking.

So for this election year the Republicans will be ‘pouring their heart and soul’ into the fight, but giving more than a half glance at what is down the road.

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.

To AV and to AV not

.Never before in the history of humanity has a referendum captured the interest of a population quite like the possibility of changing electoral system to the Alternative Vote; with the collective holding of breath ahead of the result, thousands of people have called NHS Direct reporting severe spells of light-headedness. The Daily Mail has latched onto this and dubbed this nationwide epidemic “AVitis”, a typically unfunny moniker from a typically humourless newspaper, blaming the outbreak on the inherent complexity of the Alternative Vote system, a fit of scaremongering not seen since the invent of the steam engine.

Whilst I have led us down a fictitious path, the truth isn’t located too far away with scaremongering from both sides characterising this debate over and above anything else. No longer are the public being educated about the various merits of either system, instead we are being subjected to celebrities, personal attacks and poorly judged comparisons. The idea that one system is intrinsically ‘better’ than the other fails my first law of political science, that everything is normative (I only have one law by the way, but it’s like a super-law; a law that can undo all claims, presumptions, assertions and declarations). As with any political system there has to be a trade-off and in this case it is between having a representative with a larger mandate and the possibility that the winner (least loser) after the first count may not be the winner at the end.

It is obvious that the escalating shrill claims by senior Lib-Dems are an attempt to stake a claim for their independence once again, after being flattened by the Tories, much like a dozing person crushed under the weight over their corpulent partner. Take Chris Huhne, he has called an emergency UN summit over idiotic exaggerations by the No campaign, single-handily burying the real debate beneath ten layers of coalition friction, party politics and the petty nature of politicians. Well done Huhney. Although in his defence, they did start it (crowing on about how important democracy is, whilst placing it at the bottom of the list of things to spend money on).

Then there is Nick Clegg, whose year-long rollercoaster ride has seen him induce Clegg-mania, Clegg-phobia and now on to the third and probably longest stage, Clegg-anus in which he is the butt of every joke whilst simultaneously forming the rear end of every political decision. Now in desperate pleas for attention, Clegg is resorting to more hyperbolic feats of oratory such as his recent assertion that David Cameron is “defending the indefensible”. Is a fully democratic electoral system ‘indefensible’? The Gaddafi-Past-the-Post is something that should have that level of vitriol aimed at it, along with the oft-copied Alternative Mugabe (with the Alternative also called Mugabe) instead of the slight blemish on the backside of democracy that is FPTP. Both camps are under the impression that the greater number of headlines they can generate, regardless of plausibility, the more the public will warm to their cause. Yet they would have misjudged the temperature of the nation; the thin, sniping remarks add to the apathy felt and the minuscule levels of public engagement that cannot be described as patronising highlights the large disconnect between the public figures and the actual public.

And even in the internet age the campaigns have played by the rules set by the traditional media: reducing their message to fit in the suffocating space of the headlines, allowing a simple difference of opinion to be framed as a clash with no commonality between the two sides and pandering to cheap sensationalism over true analysis. With only a week to go until polling day, the state of political discourse will only plummet further into barrel scraping territory:

“With Growing Innumeracy, AV Is too Complicated. Vote No”; “AV Can Help Stem Growing innumeracy. Vote Yes”.

Thankfully, slogans are purely in the realm of satire and will never see the light of day:

Sigh.

Bigoted Woman – The Culture of Offense

As the story breaks that Gordon Brown called Gillian Duffy, a Rochdale resident a ‘bigoted woman’, now begins the start of the media twisting it out of all proportion. Whilst her level of bigotedness is unknown at the moment, the BBC said the pair were discussing immigration so it’s more than likely that the view wasn’t reasoned, informed and measured to say the least.

Within the time it takes to rewind a tape, the media have already blown it out of all proportion; my guess is that by the end of the day, the story will have been changed so that the poor old defenseless lady will have been kicked to the floor by the Prime Minister and had the word ‘BIGOT’ carved into her forehead, whist Mr Brown stood triumphantly and laughed.

When she was pounced on by the media after this occurence, her head still intact, she didn’t seem to be as offended as the media have been making out. Whether it was her northern hardiness shining through or her ability to see that people are allowed to have an opinion, she was happy to live and let live. But valiant as ever, in rode the media to her defense! The one hundred miles per hour groupthink spewing junket blew past the stranded sense of perspective garbling things like: “She must be offended. This is the PM. I’m offended. Apology. Britain is offended. This is the worst thing ever.”

One reporter, the lead stalker shall we say, asked a rather leading question about an apology. Whilst the PM should indeed express sorrow for any offence caused, the media stuck some Grade A explosives under it and made it appear that Ms Duffy was sobbing into her handkerchief over the incident and would accept nothing less than Mr Brown lying  prostrate and to pull himself from London to Rochdale in order to apologise. Her attitude was much more laissez-faire, unless her real anger was hidden deep inside.

Obviously ‘bigot-gate’, as it is being hopefully ironically called in the Guardian,  is going to be the main story rather than an exploration into the discussion the pair had and the reasons behind Mr Brown making the ‘bigoted’ comment. A lack of explanation on this issue, and what might be described as ‘journalism’ (a concept quite lost on most news agencies) would play perfectly into the hands of far-right hateful politicians. I’m looking at you BNP and UKIP! They can stand up and once more herald themselves as the voice of the outsider, those not in the political establishment, the bigot. Instead this story will rumble on rather superficially, ignoring the elephant in the room (should that be the bigot in the room) which of course is what was actually said between Mr Brown and Ms Duffy.

Want a Future Fair For All? The shit on the BNP from a great height

St George’s Day saw the launch of the BNP manifesto, of course it did, because only the most English of parties would wait until the feast of the Middle Eastern born patron saint to declare an “end to immigration from Muslim nations“. Maybe they should have started with the man dressed as the dragon slaying Saint.

The BBC manifesto summary (link given above) gives a rather charming and reasoned sound to their policies, rather than the rabid, just-wiped-the-foam-from-the-mouth feel that is found on their website. The lack of costing is painfully clear from the commitment to withdraw from the EU (cherry picking the ‘policies’) with thousands of people depending on the European market for trade purposes, so to beat a hasty retreat would commend the economy to the doldrums. The commitment to a ‘greener’ Britain (calling the actual Green Party”a front for the far left of the Labour regime”) whilst simultaneously calling the research behind climate change an “unproved science” smacks of duplicity.

In their moment in the spotlight, the BNP were clamouring to state that their policies are not just on immigration yet immigration forms the backdrop of all their policies: “we’ll improve the economy – just get rid of the foreigners; we’ll stop terrorism – just get rid of the immigrants; want the perfect lasagna – kick out those who have come over here and nicked all the bechamel sauce”. It’s shallow, scaremongering and racist to make such claims, but we know that; they know that.

The BNP speak for those who feel disenfranchised, and this is a claim that cannot be ignored. With Labour moving away from their working class roots, they lost the right to lead, the right to set the direction, instead all they gained was a nice comfy position in the back pocket of Big Business. This left the BNP to encroach on to old Labour ground, to whisper sweet nothings (in this case ‘nothings’ is quite apt) into the ears of the workers and unfortunately some took the bait.

The BNP only lead through lies and misinformation, not trust and confidence, which is why the battle to regain their supporters is one that is not futile. Organisations such as HOPE Not Hate form the necessary vanguard against this new cleverer brand of racist bigotry, tackling the BNP head-on wherever they decide to stand. The success of HnH shows the message of positivity can triumph over that of hate, that the tables can be turned, that Britain is not how the BNP see it. And it is that last point which fills my heart with joy. The sheer number of people who are willing to give up their free time and volunteer for anti-fascist organisations is phenomenal, and the results that are achieved are tangible.

But that does not mean the race has been won, not by any stretch of the imagination. This election could possibly see the first BNP Members of Parliament, or the first BNP run local Council, so work needs to be done. This is my appeal to you, if you have any free time please see if there is any way you can help HnH pull the rug from under the feet of the racists, if not please vote and tell your friends, family, neighbour, other secret family that no one knows about, to vote as this time every vote truly matters.