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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EU’ve got to be kidding me

Yes, I couldn’t resist the title, it is like a headline from The Sun but that is probably the only positive contribution they make to the debate.

Like a farter on a roundabout, the debate over the EU smells and returns all too often. Migrants this, straight bananas that; only negativity makes its way through. Of course a few of the thousands of EU employees do something stupid once in a while, but it must be said that Westminster doesn’t manage policy roll-outs all that much better. Yes, the EU has a tendency to over-reach and develop it’s own governmental logic, but resolving that can be achieved by active collaboration with other member states, rather than cutting off your nose to spite your largest trading partner.

As the Eurosceptics grow ever more feverish, like Gremlins after midnight, those that are pro-EU need to step up and be more than mere Euro-apologists. There needs to be a proper articulation of why membership matters, especially as it isn’t a difficult case to make. For a long while, politicians have been content to be led rather than lead public opinion and yet we still wonder why our public sphere is weaker. Elected officials have to counter the lazy claims of UKIP and use facts (sadly a rarity in this debate) to trump scaremongering.

The EU isn’t a perfect democratic vehicle, but it would be hypocritical to criticise it from our beaten up banger.

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.

Fucking Jonnie Marbles

Is there anything more desperate than an unsuccessful comedian? A person convinced that they are just one joke away from Mock the Week, one gig away from the Comedy Store, yet they can’t even make their mums laugh. And to prove a point, here’s Jonnie Marbles and his shaving foam dispenser.

Mr Marbles (even his name is tediously ‘zany’) is like the action hero that tries to solve a tense negotiation by annihilating the other side. Yet somehow this is worse. Murdoch was already on the ropes; he didn’t need anyone to make him look stupid or foolish, his old man schtick saw to that (or at least I hope it is an act, because if it isn’t, then Presidents and Prime Ministers are fighting over HIM?!).

Jonnie Marbles has a very linear thought process: (Murdoch= bad)+ shaving foam = untold adulation. But thankfully for a general public spared from his humour, it backfired.

Moron

Anti-Murdoch forces knew this would play into the hands of the News Corporation owner, with headlines showing a young protestor assaulting an elderly man.

So thanks Jonnie. We all know you want to be famous, but just run it by us next time.

The Dizzying Heights of Lib-Dem

Will the zero-to-zero rise of Lib Dems from everyone’s whipping Party to the belle of ball being too steep for the party to handle? With moral never seeming that high (possibly because they never get a full section of Parliament to themselves) and their ideas never really getting the true scrutiny they deserve, could this stratospheric rise come at a terrible cost for the party? If by some electoral miracle (they need about 40% of the vote to win a slender majority) they do get into power, their lack of experience could shine through rendering it a weaker party at the end of the Parliamentary session. Just a thought, but I’m sure in the end their knowledge will shine through!

Party Leader Debate #1 – Yay?

*Cue 2001: A Space Odyssey music*

Tonight, Britain will head into the unknown, into the abyss, heading into uncharted territory, for, yes, the leader’s debates will commence. Picking up where the United States left off 50 years ago, our main Party leaders will be standing shoulder to shoulder for the first time and ‘having it out’.

*screeches to a halt* Yet for all the artificial buoyancy created by the media, I predict this will be a colossal waste of 90 (x3) minutes. Gordon, the man with the deflated face, Dave, the man with the inflatable face and Nick the man who looks like the man with the inflatable face will be so tightly scripted, infused with the biteyest of bites that nothing of any true import will happen. This is especially true considering the 70-odd rules governing the whole affair, placing truth and spontaneity at a more removed location. The result of this will be similar to sitting in a First Class carriage on a train, listening to three different conversations bloated to the max overlapping yet never gelling cohesively.This is not the essence of debate, the verve, the passion, the ability to see people’s assumptions, rather than their ability to market us into voting for them. Everything will be aimed toward the centre that it will be impossible to think of the terms ‘left’ or ‘right’ afterward, they will be collectively deleted from the national memory banks.

But for all these rules regulating their behaviour and that of the audience: “don’t clap, don’t shake hands, don’t run with scissors”, there remains one question. What happens if one Party breaks the code? If Nick Clegg decides to follow in Bill Clinton’s example and engage with the audience and leave the podium what will happen? Will Davey C break out a knuckle duster and once and for all erase the public schoolboy image, or will the PM send in *dur dur duurrrrrrrr* Mandy to sort things out. The Lord of Darkness could end someone’s life in half the time it takes to give his full job title. But the answer is nothing; he will look compassionate, compared to the others shocked yet stilted approach, resulting in the other two complaining bitterly in the press and end up sounding like bad losers.

So that’s the plan: be a bad boy, look empathetic and debate victory will be yours. Unless your Brown and it may just seem threatening. Poor lad.

Speechless Speeches

Could Chris Grayling have joined Boris Johnson and John Prescott in the small group of politicians who are willing to stray from the party line and say something resembling an opinion? Whilst the shadow home secretary’s comments were ill-informed, wrongheaded, prejudiced not to mention promoting an illegal discrimination, it was the whiff of honesty coming from a politician that really took me back. For here was someone willing to say something contrary to the Party line, something on which he can be judged. In Britain at least, we are used to half-cocked denials, a promise for a future that will never arrive, and identikit policies, rather than frank and honest exchange between parties who have more than just a titular difference.

Candidates are whipped into place behind the party leader so there can be one clear ‘brand message’, one diluted obfuscated ideology, one wipe-clean face who can sell their politics to the ‘consumers’. In pitching their Parties to the median voter, they have subsequently erased everything they stood for previously; the work of Attlee, Foot and Thatcher has now dissolved into vanilla politics. So what if Labour has links to the Trade Unions, where do you think the Party originated? Be proud of that and do not try to dismiss it like an adolescent tries to disown their parents. So what if the Tories are bankrolled by millionaire businessmen? Stand up and say that these people have made the country what it is today (financially bankrupt with a soupçon of waywardness). So what if no one really knows what the Lib Dems stand for? Create a position and stick to it.

Politicians are wondering why people are disenchanted with politics, well it is simply that much like sex with a supermodel, there is nothing to hang on to . Politics is now a defensive game, with everyone constantly thinking about how to not get hit in the nards. In order to gain people’s trust and attention, those in charge have to differentiate themselves from one another, to say what they really feel. It is impossible for one person to be as interminably dull as the average politician appears to be, everyone has at least some opinion of national events, and if they start expressing it, people will respect them for it. The opinions given in interviews derive from the Beige School of Politics (with the motto: ‘Where True Feelings Should Be Neither Seen Nor Heard’), as now do their faces or is it just me who think that Dave Cameron and Nick Clegg look similar. Both look slightly dead behind the eyes, but it is only Cameron who looks as if it you stuck a pin in him he would deflate, possibly leaving us with Thatcher. At least Gordon Brown’s jowls set him apart.

So they need to grow a pair (breasts or balls) and go out and start campaigning. There needs to be at least three clear visions for the country, yet from the two main parties we have one vision that is dressed up differently; it’s a choice between teal and turquoise. For instance no one will get hot under the collar with Labour’s plans to alter the way rail tickets are sold; yes that does yank my chain like everyone else, but is that really the level of thinking you are approaching an ill economy with?

So to return, Chris Grayling is giving the voters something to latch on to: his lack of comfort around gay people. So we should all thank him for that, he’s made the voter’s task much easier. But for the rest of the politicians, their cookie-cutter sound bites would not be out-of-place coming from a middle-manager in the Stoke Newington branch of NatWest. People need to realise that politics is worth fighting about once more, that not everything is as cut and dry as it is made out to be, and that the people can make a difference. It’s time to cry out: NO MORE MEDIOCRITY.

Poll Position

Well it’s official. The General Election will be on May 6th. The Conservatives knew it; the Lib Dems knew it; the public knew it. I even think that Gordon Brown knew it, which judging by his performance as PM might come as a surprise to many. When the date came to make the trip to see the Queen, I wonder if the PM was tempted to change the date just to annoy the press, who collectively strut around the airwaves like the cock of the walk. The monolithic mass media feeds on information, but not the ordinary facts and figures, no, only the rarefied cuts of fresh meat, tender slices of “exclusives” will do. So they stood there looking ever so smug about knowing it was happening before it had actually happened yet when Mr Brown stood on the steps of Downing Street and officially announced, the media reported it as if the population had suffered collective amnesia and that this was news to us. But that’s by the by; something for another time.

What is really irking me so far in the election campaign (including the unofficial period) is the focus on polls. These statistical ubiquities seem to be the be all and end all of election coverage; no news segment is complete without a mention of the ‘latest YouGov poll’, or Mori’s latest findings. As an additional cricket bat around the head, the BBC has Jeremy Vine dancing around CG-land showing us a plethora of ways the same information can be displayed, replete with a paternal condescension. Maybe it’s just because he’s on the radio.

Whilst a simple nod to the polls is all well and good, this information is more useful for the Parties involved than it is for the citizens. The focus on what is termed the horse-race (who’s in front, who’s behind) comes at the expense of serious examination of policies, but of course these simple, easy to digest statistics are easy to sell to the public as opposed to a fusty news piece about fiscal stabilisers (I’m not sure if they exist, but if you put two words like that together, they generally mean something important yet incredibly dull). I’m not advocating a return to the dry old days of news broadcasting, where the Queen’s English was the only regional variation heard, and presenters used starch to maintain their stiff upper lip, but focusing on relatively pointless opinion polls is not conducive to an informed electorate.

What difference does it make to the average voter that the Conservatives are 7% in front of Labour two weeks before the election? Democracy does not revolve around the backing of a winning horse, or the feeling of peer pressure to vote similarly to compadres; it is a personal choice based on at least a base consideration of the party’s platform. But the media could not give two hoots about such a reflexive process, as that is not going to sell papers or gain market share. Instead this is another example of the future trying to be predicted. By stating as fact the latest opinion polls we are invited to see the provisional make-up of Parliament, which consequently disregards the methodological weaknesses of such poll data (margin of error, is it generalisable?). Yet such trivialities does not feature on the media’s radar as their desire, their bloodthirsty need to consume and regurgitate all information before it happens leads them to reporting more on the future than on the present. The implications of polling data are irrelevant two weeks before the election; the possibilities of a Hung Parliament based on ICM’s research should not sway people’s perception of actual policy positions.

But this distortion of the true course of Party Politics will of course continue. Maybe some time in the future they will scrap the General Election hand that over to Gallup to perform, but until that day comes we should all focus on the only Poll that matters, the one on May 6th.

Budget Boredom Busters

By all intents and purposes today’s Budget was quite dull. Realistically it had to be, with Britain’s debt halfway up to its left elbow and growing at a shattering £450 million per day (that is a Lib Dem figure, they might have made it up to appear relevent) there could be no handouts and due to Labour’s plans, there would be no major cuts either.

So with that in mind, I thought there must be a few ways of making the Budget more interesting:

1) Don’t watch it – you can get a precis of it from the news. Lazy yes, but come on, it is a soporifically dull process.

2) If the entire ‘scandal’ of Government Ministers (is scandal the collective term for them?) had to deliver one word of the speech each. Knowing Mr Brown, he would mess it up somehow, bless.

3)  If the monetary figures he was talking about was brought into Parliament in the form of pennies, I’m sure it would help somehow:

Darling: And the deficit has been revised downwards to £168 million. Watch out……Lib Dem leader, whassiface, errrrrrmm, you know the guy that speaks after Cameron. He’s going to get crushed…..errrr……………ah, too late”

4) If it had to rhyme.

Darling: As I was saying about the quantitative easing,

The results in the end were really quite pleasing

To that end the deficit will be reduced,

Which will be good in the election, we have deduced

(I’m the next Byron)

5) If the Chancellor had to read the Budget whilst cooking,  ironmongery, farriering , construction a mottle and daub house. I honestly think people would be much more receptive to a politician who proves themselves adept at performing some more hands on task.

It could be argued that the introduction of any of these would coincide with the crumbling bedrock of our entire political system but it’s already started making its way up shit creek. With the implosion of the true Labour movement, leaving only its bitter and twisted husk; the smarmy circling of the Conservatives who don’t know how to present themselves so as to appear all things to all people, without revealing that they in fact haven’t changed and still hate everyone with only one surname and the Lib Dems to are getting closer to becoming electable, but still seem mildly surprised that they are allowed to speak at times, which is a real shame as they do have good ideas, but again, they don’t know who they’re appealing to. I for one, cannot wait until the election, as it promises to be bland followed by beige, followed by Brown.