Aug 082014
 
TumblrShare

Dan Hodges suggests the following:

There’s only one thing worse then the US being the world’s policeman. And that’s the US not being the world’s policeman.

I’d take issue with the use of the monolithic singular (no state, however useful, is ever that monolithic – nor should be in a modern liberal democracy) and the exclusive gender – policeman (though my linguistic side understands why he’s felt obliged to use the idiomatic phrase this way).  But more importantly, I’d take issue with stuff he’s written previously on quite separate subjects.  This, for example:

Unfortunately, that’s just about all they came up with. Ed Miliband will say: “Clearly the next Labour government will face massive fiscal challenges, including having to cut spending.” But that’s just one of those tick-box phrases he likes to sneak into his tick-box speeches. He has this little throwaway line about cuts, but if anyone actually asks him what cuts he’s contemplating he refuses to answer. That’s because he doesn’t really mean it, and he secretly wants everyone to know he doesn’t really mean it.

Now, I don’t necessarily take issue with the ideas Hodges sardonically communicates – apart from anything else, he does sardonic very well.  But when coupled with today’s tweet, I do object to the underlying assumption that 40,000 Iraqis on the point of being butchered can be policed and rescued – should be policed and rescued – by Big Government and the Big State when the very same Big State and Government must not – is unable to – continue its historically ameliorating business at home in the UK and US.

Especially when the plans of some of Hodges’ fellow travellers seem to include brutal cuts to the aforementioned public sector which will lead to a drop in headcount of forty percent:

The biggest cull of public sector jobs for at least 50 years will see vulnerable parts of the state endure reductions in headcount of up to 40%, Britain’s leading tax and spending thinktank said today.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the reductions planned as part of the coalition’s deficit reduction programme would hit the poorest parts of Britain hardest, and warned they would prove “challenging” for those parts of government bearing the brunt of austerity.

Piling misery upon misery for the most unprotected in our societies.

So let’s try and be a little bit more coherent, shall we?  If Big Government and the Big State are still cool enough ideas to save the developing world from encroaching dictatorship and the cruelty of the backward (though I suspect the motives behind such strategies have more to do with a Western self-interest of wanting to keep political contamination well at bay in distant dirty countries, quite a la Ebola, than a truly pure perception of right and wrong), let us also accept that we in the West – ordinary people who live in Europe, North America, the Antipodes etc – have the very same right to be treated, by our own Big States and Governments, in the humanitarian way those currently suffering in Syria, Iraq, Gaza and Israel also merit and clearly deserve.


TumblrShare
Jul 022014
 
TumblrShare

The Guardian reports this morning that:

Facebook is being investigated to assess whether an experiment in which it manipulated users’ news feeds to study the effect it had on moods might have broken data protection laws, it has been reported.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is said to be looking into the experiment carried out by the social network and two US universities in which almost 700,000 users had their news feeds secretly altered to study the impact of “emotional contagion”.

Meanwhile, the original Cornell press release which let on to the experiment has also been altered.  Where it originally asserted the Army had co-funded the adventure, it now says (scroll down to the bottom of the page):

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that the study was funded in part by the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the Army Research Office. In fact, the study received no external funding.

Perhaps, in the event, it would be churlish of us to complain.  As Paul has ironically pointed out, the T&Cs we signed up to on becoming Facebook users (more and more the 21st century equivalent of passing over to the dark side of a club membership you can never leave once entered) are pretty broad-ranging and may allow for such abuse.

Even so, the situation is sufficiently serious for institutions like Cornell to follow up with these kind of assertions (the bold is mine):

ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell University Professor of Communication and Information Science Jeffrey Hancock and Jamie Guillory, a Cornell doctoral student at the time (now at University of California San Francisco) analyzed results from previously conducted research by Facebook into emotional contagion among its users. Professor Hancock and Dr. Guillory did not participate in data collection and did not have access to user data. Their work was limited to initial discussions, analyzing the research results and working with colleagues from Facebook to prepare the peer-reviewed paper “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion through Social Networks,” published online June 2 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science-Social Science.

Because the research was conducted independently by Facebook and Professor Hancock had access only to results – and not to any individual, identifiable data at any time – Cornell University’s Institutional Review Board concluded that he was not directly engaged in human research and that no review by the Cornell Human Research Protection Program was required.

So, then, it’s OK to use research that has been obtained without permission from any source whatsoever, as long as one cannot identify the victims unwilling participants social network users in question – creatures, incidentally, who occupy the lowest of all low strata in the 21st century litany of unobserved rights and excessive obligations.

Which doesn’t half me remind me of another constituency out there.  Indeed, it would probably be rather unfair to criticise Facebook for following on from where certain British political representatives have gone before.

Before #FacebookExperiment, surely we have had #CoalitionExperiment – a deliberate process of emotional manipulation of both the most defenceless in society as well as, in the event, the most determined not to see their rights trampled on.

And if the ICO feels that data protection laws may have been broken when Facebook experimented on the way that people reacted to negative and positive stories, without asking their permission first and even though they’d signed up to a wide-ranging set of T&Cs, who is to say this Coalition government didn’t similarly break human rights laws when they decided to experiment on how a nation might react to a barrage of false stories about immigrants “nicking” jobs, the “scrounging” poor, the “feckless” disabled and a well-packaged myriad of other lies, distortions and half-truths?

If Facebook is to be investigated by the ICO, or perhaps even a select committee which feels particularly (and rightly) aggrieved about the situation, who will have the guts to investigate entire governments such as ours?  And given the close ties between the aforementioned social network and the security arms of the latter everywhere, doesn’t it make you wonder whether in fact this story is little more than a softening-up of public opinion as we await ultimate revelations from the Snowden cache of documents?

Is the #FacebookExperiment an isolated example of an always-slightly-maverick social network going out on a limb – or, more likely, does Facebook simply reflect what others, less visible, are now doing all the time?  And does Facebook do what it needs to sustain a business model – or is it more a question of doing the bidding of those who most need to structure people’s feelings in times of unrelenting crisis?

That is to say, our unrepresentative, undemocratic, inefficient and incompetent political leaders various … excellent reasons all, in the light of the above, to investigate much more profoundly how our body politic is doing a Facebook.


TumblrShare
Oct 132013
 
TumblrShare

I tweeted this idly yesterday:

So what’s the punishment for corporate blackmail? Or is it simply not illegal, like so much out there? #EnergyPriceFreeze #BlackoutThreat

Essentially it would seem that, as a first horrible step, some of the energy companies themselves, and now their political nominees the Tories, are doing for the energy industry what the bankers have achieved for financial services: make latterday greed and laziness overtake a former efficiency and ingenuity.  By threatening the nation with energy blackouts down the line, they are committing serious and life-threatening blackmail on an industrial scale.  “If you don’t agree to higher prices as per our demands, we will guarantee that blackouts take place.”  No spirit of striving to do better against the odds; just promises to scrounge even more out of rapidly emptying pockets.  This luxury is not allowed for the sick, disabled and generally struggling: whilst the energy corporations can continue to run their cash cows, the rest of us have to use our natural nous – nous they would claim not to have – to battle our individual ways out of very individual miseries.

As Peter Tatchell reminded us a few hours ago:

UK national minimum wage up by 75% since 1998 but gas cost up 175%, bread up 146%. Poor being squeezed @UKuncut

And that is the cost of living crisis Ed Miliband’s Labour is now foregrounding.  That is the reason this energy blackmail is so disgraceful.  For, in truth, these cash-rich suppliers – even if right about possible blackouts – care zero, zilch, in no way at all about those individual families already forced to black out their homes due to the horrendous increases in the cost of basic needs such as food, housing and energy in particular.

Just like the Tories, this.  Just like the Tories of old.  Just as a spiralling private debt makes the levels of public debt less unacceptable, so permitting an ever-increasing private suffering through the food versus fuel dilemma makes public acknowledgement – ie mainstream-visible recognition - less necessary, less likely and less possible.

To summarise, then: those energy companies of a mind to be this cruel, and those Tories in political cahoots with such unkindnesses, terrify the defenceless with the thought of blacked-out freezing winters, where all of us must share – in the unavoidably public domain! – seasons of national discontent.  They demand, in exchange for secure supplies, exorbitant prices which, by the by, maintain their equally cash-rich shareholders happy.  They deliberately forget, ignore and brush under so many living-room carpets the fact that hundreds of thousands of families – maybe millions! – are already being forced to turn off the heating.

You idiots!  There’s little point in guaranteeing energy supplies to a wider public if too many of them simply cannot pay what you prefer to charge.  What kind of service is that?  What kind of economy does this?  Managing demand through pricing policies instead of strategically meeting supply?  Is that what we’re now at – even here?  Even in basic sectors such as fuel?  Even when people’s lives are at stake?

Let’s change the frame.  Let’s change the focus.  If the disabled have to make do with far less than is humanely reasonable, and even then must still battle fiercely not to tip over into poverty, despair and suicide, let us make it clear to the energy corporations that they must now equally use their ingenuity to protect our futures.

You’re not telling me, surely, that what a disabled person must strive to achieve in Cameron’s Britain is beyond the capability of a mighty British corporate organisation …  Oh.  But I forgot.  Not all of the energy companies are actually British.  Nor would they behave in exactly the same way in their own countries of origin.

Funny that, eh?  Bloody ROFL time.


TumblrShare
Sep 292013
 
TumblrShare

I recently wrote a post on the paradox whereby liberal democracy can carry within it the seeds of its own destruction.  The example quoted, from Paul over at Never Trust a Hippy, went thus:

Paul says these interesting things in his latest post:

I’ve often been asked about what happens when a new electoral process results in an illiberal government. I’ve been told that “if you promote liberal democracy, for example, in many countries in the Middle East, you create a situation whereby a totalitarian-ish Islamist party can take power”.

Surely this presents us with a paradox?

Well… no it doesn’t. If you hold an election, and the resulting constitutional settlement allows the winner to abolish, or rig, subsequent elections, then the election was not part of a process that could be described as ‘liberal democratic’ in the first place.

I remember the above, once more, as the Muppet Tory Party hold their annual hatefest in Manchester this week.  When, for example, I read stuff about David Cameron and Chris Grayling saying they’re looking to repeal the Human Rights’ Act, I am reminded of how challenging such broad-ranging measures are to our liberal sense of freedoms.  If historical Conservatism has any virtue at all, it is in its instinct to move cautiously when amending the fundamentals of any complex system.  You can never fully appreciate the long-term impact on anything when you rush fairly headlong into the matter.  Witness, if you will, New Labour’s initial steps towards NHS privatisation which have tragically laid the crazy-paving path of disaster the Tories are currently marching along and extending.

Using the law to undermine the law is a dangerous precedent of those who would forge and refashion worlds.  If politicians of this ilk like to criticise publishers such as the Murdochs and Assanges of our time for the megalomania they exhibit to ordinary people’s points of view, they might also care to examine their own impulses and attempts to change the terrible basics of human conflict and existence.

Politicians of this kind are little more than megalomaniacs of lever-pulling rule.  Only they believe – and this is the worst of it – that they do it, in the end, for our benefit.

For it is quite one matter when political parties like New Labour overwhelm us with legislation which builds on and furthers existing moralities.  We may agree with them or not; but they are existing, all the same.  In this, I think we can see that the beast was far more truly conservative than these current Tories.

It’s quite a separate matter, though, when you aim to upturn received opinion; when you look to drive a country down the alleyways of prejudice where its unkindest instincts lie.

And when you use the law to undermine  such received opinion, I honestly – sadly frankly – believe we are talking about little more than a de facto takeover of liberal democracy by those who would destroy its essence.

I can only repeat what I wrote in the piece I opened with this morning, where I rewrote my beloved Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

Let’s rewrite them, then, but this time specifically in order to define how liberal democracy must defend human beings:

  1. Liberal democracy may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. Liberal democracy must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. Liberal democracy must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Or, alternatively, and perhaps equally revealingly, to define how human beings should defend liberal democracy:

  1. A human being may not injure liberal democracy or, through inaction, allow liberal democracy to come to harm.
  2. A human being must obey the orders given to them by liberal democracy, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A human being must protect their own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

If only some of the puppets peopling Tory Party Conference this year would take note of the importance of defending those basic principles of freedom – principles we should hold far more dearly than we do – perhaps, then, we could reach some kind of productive consensus in our broken politics.

For that, in truth, is now where we’re at.  Some of our politicians, who represent us from election to election (but don’t seem really to represent anyone except themselves), see the rest of us through a prism of broken politics: for them, it is our society which is broken and their responsibility to sort it.  But in reality what’s broken is Westminster itself.  It’s not us they need to mend but their own sorry front door.

It’s not us who have burgled the House of State at all.  It’s some of these society-reforming busybodies who have forgotten the very English concept of taking people with you when you propose change.

It’s some of these politicians who believe the law’s primary purpose is to abruptly upend everything that came before, instead of building on good practice and better beliefs.

Using the law to undermine the law is anything but good politics, business or governance.  And in the end, it comes back to bite you in the backside.  But in the meantime, before it does, very many ordinary citizens will suffer the awful consequences.

That is the real tragedy of this dreadful Muppet Show.  That is the real tragedy of incompetent governors like Cameron & Co.  We suffer, they don’t – and all the while, the United Kingdom no longer will be.

Roll on One Nation is all I can say.  Even where this will only mean I can contemplate a tidy little England for myself.


TumblrShare
Sep 072013
 
TumblrShare

“Lavadora” is the Spanish word for “washing-machine”.  I’ve just woken up from a siesta, so it was the Spanish word which first came to mind when I read this story from the Guardian this afternoon:

One million of Britain’s lowest paid employees will be classed as “not working enough” and could find themselves pushed with the threat of sanctions to find more income under radical changes to benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions has said.

DWP internal documents seen by the Guardian reveal that people earning between £330 and around £950 a month – just under the rate of the national minimum wage for a 35-hour week – could be mandated to attend jobcentre meetings where their working habits will be examined as part of the universal credit programme.

Some of those deemed to be “not working enough” could also be instructed to take on extra training – and if they fail to complete tasks they could be stripped of their UC benefits in a move which departmental insiders conceded is controversial.

Now the above, I feel most strongly, is one of the wildest and most juggernauting examples of this government’s spin we’ve yet to witness in this Parliament.  Let’s examine, quickly, what it’s really aiming to do.

The government, rightly or wrongly, feels that it’s paying too much benefit to too many people.  It’d like to reduce what it pays out from month to month.  Imagine, however, the uproar it’d raise – even, perhaps, amongst its own supporters – if it suggested that anyone earning above 330 quid should have their rights, in the round, to access state benefits summarily withdrawn from their (“grasping/undeserving”) fingers.  Even those who’ve been fortunate enough never to experience rank poverty would find a headline figure like 330 difficult to stomach.  That’s a nice round number which easily matches a nasty filmic hovel of a renting experience – a hovel anyone, however rich or poor, could internalise in their consumerist mindscapes.

Then, of course, there’s the battle some are waging around not only not giving up on the minimum wage but – even – proposing the introduction of a “living” one.

Or, horror of horrors, do away with benefits altogether – and, instead, issue a flat-rate “citizen’s wage” for everyone who lives here, whatever their age or circumstance.

So how does the spin session – the “lavadora Britain” stratum (for it’s not just the government who’s choosing to play this game) – deal with this complex little conundrum?  Well, not much which the government hasn’t already done in the last three years.

Something go wrong with IT procurement?  Blame everyone and anything – but blame not oneself.  Parents feeding their children stuff which they really should know better not to?  Blame the parents, their lazy habits, their inability to care for their offspring properly – anything and everything, that is, except those who spend billions deliberately moulding our impulses.  Families not earning enough to get to the end of the month without state support?  Blame not their employers for paying too little; blame not the landlords for charging too much; blame not the food suppliers, the banks, the petrol companies nor the utility corporations for ripping off the British consumer (and all this, year after bloody toilsome year …).

No.  Let’s just think about it carefully.  Let’s just be a teensy-weensy bit cleverer than that.

What can we do instead of looking to re-establish some kind of properly free-market equilibrium?  What should we do instead of making capitalism something half-decent again?

[And so he hears himself laugh in a hollow and finally futile way.]

How about blaming the workers for their own penury?  Instead of aiming to fix capitalism so it’s no longer a licence to destroy ordinary people, instead of returning to some kind of honest baseline the sacred exchange of goods and services, how about we blame the workers – even more than before – for the rip-off Britain we’re all still struggling to value and abide by?

Great Britain, Mr Cameron?  You do bloody well have to be joking, right?

Washing-machine Britain, more like.  Washing-machine Cameron, in fact.  Now spinning at a disgraceful 2015 rpm.


TumblrShare
Aug 232013
 
TumblrShare

Trotsky is quoted as having argued:

A means can be justified only by its end.

There is a less well-known second half to this quote, though:

But the end in its turn needs to be justified.

Under Trotsky’s rationale, then, the ends justified the means – but the ends still needed debating first.  Under the Coalition’s, however, it would appear the means serve to justify the ends.  And so the ends, themselves, need no discussing at all.

Take, if you will, the case of the NHS.  As the service weights more and more patient needs towards a crumbling A&E provision, the government is privatising ever-greater swathes of the institution.  And whilst one might – for ideological reasons or otherwise – be for or against such a programme of privatisation, what no one can be happy with is the Coalition’s deliberate obfuscation of a direct line of ultimate responsibility (the bold is mine:)

“Reading headlines last week, such as ‘Struggling A&E units to get £500m bailout’ and ‘NHS managers to get price comparison website’, one might be forgiven for thinking that the current coalition government views the NHS as a failing bank or business,” [the Lancet, one of Britain's most prestigious medical journals] said.

“This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a healthcare system that has patient care and safety at its heart.”

The journal, which has been publishing on medical matters for almost 200 years, said the coalition’s NHS reforms meant the health secretary “no longer has a duty to provide comprehensive health services”, having handed over responsibility to a “complex system of organisations”.

“The exact responsibilities are at best complex, not easily understood, and at worst deliberately obfuscated. Who exactly is leading and to what end is even less clear,” it said.

Couple all the above with the realities of very real, grave and upsetting parliamentary conflicts-of-interest, and it becomes clear what we’re having to deal with here: essentially, the means – private ownership of everything from health to postal delivery to education to democracy itself – now justify the ends.  That the ends equal everything from increasing waiting-lists to the reintroduction of Section 28 in schools to the loss of the public right to demonstrate – in an extra-parliamentary manner – any disagreement with parliamentary behaviours, tendencies and legislation … well, this really does not matter in this post-Trotsky world: by making the means equivalent to the ends themselves, a substitute and replacement, we forge a perfect and invincible political circle.

Trotsky only knew the half of it.  He was too good a soul to believe the ends should remain unquestioned.  Cameron, on the other hand, is about as devilish as they come: he’s removed all requirements to even define or track them.


http://youtu.be/VuFw9DT-RlA

So.  There you have it.

On the day the European Union has set aside to remind us of the deaths on our continent under the regimes of Stalin and Hitler, perhaps we ought to be reminding ourselves more constantly of more recent history.

There’s tons of it about, at the moment.  And as we’ve now all become publishers and potentially visible presences on the web, we’ve now all become potential threats to be seen with grand and terrifying suspicion.  So the moneyed and wealthy turn in on themselves, and replace societal intelligence with a profound belief in individualistic and self-rewarding process.

Was this always going to be the destiny of democracy?  Could even Trotsky have imagined where freedom’s instincts might lead us?

From fracking to national security, all they care about is the dosh.  Absolutely no politician in power right now cares about what the dosh does.  And that, my dear friends and virtual colleagues, is more than a matter of indubitable interest: it’s a tragedy of democratic integrity and representation, writ humongously large.


TumblrShare
Jun 062013
 
TumblrShare

On the subject of welfare, I have the following to say:

  1. When a system breaks down because the wealthy have buggered up, you don’t have the right to blame the system’s victims.
  2. Demonising poor, sick and disabled people is evil under all circumstances.
  3. Lying about statistics is an act of intellectual criminality.
  4. Manifesting incompetence in the face of severe socioeconomic crisis is an act of unaffordable luxury.
  5. Not being honest about one’s failings is stupidity squared – and infuses in absolutely no one the otherwise necessary confidence which our society needs to properly function.

To blame welfare for the crisis we’re suffering from – as well as arguing it needs to be controlled in order to recover a semblance of economic normality – is like saying you can have an overdraft facility, which, by the by, they charge you for, exactly when you don’t want it, and then withdrawing it precisely at the moment you go overdrawn.

(This, by the way, once happened to me.  I shall never forget the moment.  I shall always remember, from that moment on, how it coloured my view of life – and banks in particular.)

But then that is how politicians, business leaders and hangers-on various – who don’t do or need welfare personally at all – all prefer to see the lie of the land.

We’ll charge you for welfare until and unless you actually need it.  And then, particularly if it is our fault, we will take away what is becoming in our eyes a disproportionate right to access it.

Never mind that the suffering is more than equal to its disproportionate access.  Never mind that disproportionate access is symptomatic of terrible suffering.

To cap it all, let’s go and cap welfare.  Sounds much less painful – don’t you think? – than capping people.

Yes.  Kind of like capping the knees of the most defenceless.  And whoever needed to care at all when those that hobbled were the least vocal in society?


TumblrShare
May 182013
 
TumblrShare

If we believe in a history of the masses – not just in one of heroes and heroines – there has to be more to what is going on between Cameron & Co and the rest of civil society than simply the bald intention to fill corporate pockets with even more dosh than they already possess.  There must be bigger movements at play here than simply stupid incompetents being stupidly incompetent.

Firstly, it would appear there is a massive battle being fought between a society of professionals on the one hand and a society of the unprofessionalised on the other.  So it is we have doctors, nurses, teachers and lawyers fighting painfully disagreeable rearguard actions with people who have few actual qualifications to be what they end up acting out: in the main, alpha businessmen and women and politicians of all colours and levels.  These latter two “professions”, if the label can (or should) be usefully applied, currently have few training paths to prepare them for the roles they carry out – supposedly on our behalf but more generally on their own.

Secondly, there does seem to be a recognition out there that specialisation – the very stuff of both charlatans and experts – may in some insidious way itself be destroying society.

In another universe then, quite parallel to Cameron & Co’s, we might appreciate the attempts of what we could charitably describe as Wannabe Renaissance Men (WRM) (there would appear to be few women, thankfully, of the same mettle) to break through the Chinese Walls of self-interested sectors.

The problem, of course, is that these WRMs I describe really aren’t.  They’re not doing what they do in order to break down barriers that divide society but, instead, in order to re-establish – using the most unpleasant methods possible – those barriers which most benefit them at a quite individual level.  It would seem they have so convinced themselves their might is right that anything can be justified – precisely and simply because of who or what originates the acts in question.  And we are so taken aback by the astonishingly unexpected nature of these acts – so massively and confusingly outside our moral scope – that we find ourselves mainly giving in:

Govt using practices we instinctively know are wrong but our inexperience of such immoral behaviour is restraining our outrage. #Disabled

Yes.  It’s possible that Cameron & Co are able to sleep at night because they truly believe themselves on a crusade against evil and interested parties.  They see themselves as cavaliers – as latterday buccaneers of magnificent breaking-the-rules ambitions – in much the same way as top-flight businesspeople often feel themselves hard-done-to by a comfort-seeking society which fails to appreciate the real emotional hardships they run the gauntlet of in their uncertain rise to the top.

No wonder these creatures all become self-seeking and selfish.

No wonder they believe we must become like them.

But, in reality, Cameron & Co are anything but Wannabe Renaissance Men – anything but the far-sighted finally able to shrug off a lazy society’s shackles and liberate a democracy of the dreadfully slumbering.

They sense something that perhaps all of us should sense, it is true, but they are utterly incapable of performing the service civilisation requires of them.  As Pope Francis mentioned the other day, their money is ruling the vast majority instead of serving the same.  And unable to reconfigure it, they have given up at the first hurdle; they have given in and become its hugely detrimental servant rather than its master.

Renaissance Men?  They wouldn’t know a flying machine if it hit them on the noggin.  They’d assume it was a brutal and violent attack by dangerously trained beings on their self-taught, unqualified and intuitive impulses.  Out of such inferiority complexes are born the actions of the essentially brutish.

So who’s lost their moral compass?  Is it ourselves – lost in a sea of society-defining media?  Is it the journalists themselves – as yet another suspiciously discrete body of professionals too?  Or is this actually a case of the pyramid so taking over everything we do, think, say and believe that a 21st century of gloriously compulsory education has only prepared us properly for outright submission?

Maybe, even, Cameron, Gove and their cohort of evil politicos are right in some of what they say – even as they wrong in most of what they do.  Specialisations are destroying society; sectors which know so much about their own workings are never going to be entirely direct about the changes which might prejudice them.

Maybe we are all Wannabe Renaissance Men (and Women, of course).

Maybe that’s the problem.

Capitalism’s ultimate revenge: the diarrhoea of an amateur democracy.

Coalition Britain, in fact – multiplied, now, a thousandfold.  And controlled by those with the biggest chips on their shoulders history has seen.

From a society of supposedly meritorious conduct, those who least deserve to be in charge are those who have most benefited from a social democracy that urged us to value citizens in terms of what they were instead of what they did.

And so it is that the moral black hole this Coalition of half-baked humans inhabits is bound to fail, time and again, to properly impact on our sense of right and wrong.

We’ve been taught for far too long that what you do isn’t what you are.

To such an extent that what they are is affected in no significant way by what they do.

And even as they lambast us for our relativistic ways, they continue to ruthlessly take full advantage of the room for manoeuvre such generous morals do allow.


TumblrShare
May 092013
 
TumblrShare

I love the web, I can’t deny it – but, curiously, I’m not a real fan of all those money-saving websites out there.  There is one, however, even I have heard of – founded by the always excellent Martin Lewis.  So it was that when I got an utterly unsolicited email from what I believed to be his site, I thought perhaps there was more to it than met the eye.

Here’s a screenshot of the email in question – it should be clear enough for you all to be able to read it and fully understand the implications of the content.

Money Expert unsolicited email

So.  What do we conclude?  Under this government, and as is all too apparent (or, at least, as is all too apparent according to this email), numerous areas of the NHS are now officially unable to guarantee either the safety of patients or “their welfare needs”.  Clearly the situation demands drastic action, but instead of focussing on the funding and support which the NHS should be receiving, sites like Martin Lewis’s moneyexpert.com are encouraging us to buy into privatised health.

Or are they?  Because, if you look carefully, Martin Lewis’s site is famously called moneysavingexpert.com – though to a sad soul like myself, only interested in wonky politics, at first glance this information had escaped my less-than-beady eye.  And this is the (admittedly and self-confessedly “out-of-date”) information it currently provides on private health insurance – essentially, stay away from it because the NHS will do us very nicely, thank you:

Private medical insurance is a luxury, not a necessity. There are three main reasons to buy it: to leapfrog the queue for non-urgent treatment; to choose when and who operates; and to get more comfort and convenience during treatment.

Don’t assume private always means better.

The NHS provides comprehensive medical treatment to anyone in the UK who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay – although you may have to wait. Getting fast NHS treatment may be something of a postcode lottery. Yet a good GP is worth his/her weight in gold.

What’s more, the “squeakiest hinge gets the grease”, so by being persistent, you may be bumped up waiting lists, especially if you’re prepared to grab a cancelled appointment at the drop of a hat.

Remember even if you go private, the doctors and specialists aren’t “private” doctors – the vast majority are NHS medics boosting their income. And it’s often the NHS specialists who are at the cutting edge of modern medicine.

Compare and contrast that with my above-mentioned unsolicited email.

So who then is moneyexpert.com?  Well, the limited company which appears to be responsible for it dates from May 2003, some two or three months after Lewis’s site was created.  The former claims to be no more than an intermediary – yet the content of its email hardly gives the impression of a simple hands-off enabler of financial transactions.  Lewis’s approach is much more consumer-focussed: the customer being the user of his web.  In the case of the moneyexpert.com email above, however, it would appear the real customers are the organisations selling the health insurance.  And, potentially and indirectly, perhaps those who are pushing wider government sell-offs in the area of privatised healthcare as well.

I would be interested to know how Martin Lewis feels about such competition.  Both sites are clearly established on the web; both are clearly looking to capture similar markets.  Nothing wrong in that either.  True competition does, after all, tend to guarantee better deals for consumers.  But I do wonder whether moneyexpert.com is as clear as it should be about the chances that its sales approach might be confusing people into believing it is actually Lewis’s site.

Especially when the content of such emails uses the highly-charged and tendentious issue of NHS privatisation to lever new business.

And especially when – in relation to all the obfuscation surrounding the NHS and the Coalition – ordinary people really don’t know who to rely on, or turn to, in order that they might understand the truth.

____________________

Update to this post: someone who appears to be doing a fairly even-handed and evidence-based job of sorting out the obfuscation is Steve.  His latest post has this to say on mortality figures at NHS hospitals:

[...] There is growing consensus among statisticians, academics and, increasingly, among sections of the media (the Straight Statistics and Computer Weekly websites and even, very quietly and cautiously, one BBC News writer) that the claims of ‘excess mortality’ at Stafford hospital are – at best – utterly spurious and inaccurate.

And yet they continue to be recited, rote-fashion, as simple, unchallenged fact by the right-wing press and even by the BBC (just this evening on Look North during a segment on the inspectors’ visit to North Cumbria Hospitals Trust, one of the 9 hospitals targeted in spite of having average or lower SHMI mortality rates).

The weaknesses of HSMRs and of the data entered to create them are not difficult to identify. The articles on these weaknesses are not encrypted or hidden. And yet they continue to be conspicuous by their absence in the mainstream media while false figures are recited as fact.

You really do have to wonder just why that is.


TumblrShare
Apr 162013
 
TumblrShare

Sue has posted an appeal to common sense today.  After much detailed argument in favour of her position on welfare reform, detail I urge you to read before we continue, she argues the following:

This week, William Hague assures us we can afford £10 million for a ceremonial funeral for Margaret Thatcher. Opinion polls show the public don’t want it, commentators from left and right are mystified, yet 2,200 people have been invited to a decadent funeral for a divisive PM who lies at the heart of many of the problems facing our society today. When I scanned the invitees yesterday, it felt surreal. A mish-mash of variety club has-beens, world leaders she shunned and elite aristocrats who shunned her when alive.

And concluding of the cuts that affect the people she most knows about, those with support needs at the cruellest end of our current government’s stick, she says this (the bold is mine):

[...] it’s that 11 million pounds. £11 million. In Westminster terms it would barely pay for the DWP’s paperclips. It is a drop in the ocean of a welfare budget spanning 10s of billions. It only applied to a few thousand of the most disabled children in society (children just like Ivan Cameron, had he lived into adulthood.) But Lord Freud, failed investment banker and Minister for Welfare Reform, insisted that we could “no longer afford it” We could no longer afford to allow such profoundly disabled children lives of dignity and independence. No more security. No relief for worried families that they would be safe once they were gone. A cross-party consensus of decades, stripped away by ministers who didn’t even know what they were doing.

As she also rightly points out (again, the bold is mine):

Many like me, were fighting the welfare reform bill way back in 2011. We know every last detail, every twist and turn, every sweeping change and every technical detail. [...]

In those three telling paragraphs we have the whole story of this government since May 2010.  A government we should be attacking not just on its policy record, but on its massive inability to involve the people who best know.  Any modern corporation would say, at least from an HR and comms point-of-view, that those best placed to engineer real change in our processes are those most involved with the implications of each and every one of them: that is to say, the personnel who carry out the tasks and the end-users who are our reason for being.  Properly-implemented continuous-improvement philosophies everywhere start with those most affected – not end up with them when everything’s been decided.  And if we need to begin to attack this government of the inept on anything new, then it must be on their manifest incompetence to follow the mechanisms, values and beliefs their better corporate sponsors already follow in their own businesses.

What we have in this government isn’t successful corporates writ large.  What we have in this government is traditional old English graft, grafted slyly – as it were – onto a sleek and supposedly business-focussed series of ever-increasing lies.

Sue and her people, all of us without exception, me in my invisible disabilities, others with their all-too-overpowering, are surely resources to be used for a wider good: people, finite and perishable, short-term in the grand scheme of things – but terribly terribly clever and knowledgeable about the details which, when ignored, are what really metamorphose bright ideas into grief-stricken – even devilish – realities.

If only the government could see its people as this resource I speak of: a resource for a broader understanding of how to improve our society.

Instead, all it sees is an enemy to be vanquished – in an awful and pitiless cloud of no alternatives.

And I wonder where I’ve heard that mantra before.

A religious concept indeed.  For where there is no alternative contemplated or effectively permitted, we are dictatorship enshrined.


TumblrShare
Apr 022013
 
TumblrShare

I’ve been swept up, like most people in my echo chamber, in the emotion of the thing.  But one issue seriously worries me: what emotion can make, emotion can undo.

Not long ago, I tweeted as follows:

By all means rally around emotion. But we must begin to criticise the govt on basis of incompetence; lack of leadership; inefficiency. #IDS

As a clarion call to bring together a motivated activism, this outpouring of anger is a very useful tool if channelled appropriately.  A contained anger can drive one to many positive acts: it makes one aware of injustices; it makes one remember the real reasons to fight on; it generates the resilience the battle-weary require not to give in to fatigue.  But, in itself, the shrill cry of the righteous is not enough to win the war.  And we must remember one fact.  Powerful men and women are tempered by adversity:

#IDS acting like lightning conductor for Tory Party at moment. Mind you, lightning conductors designed to weather storms. #warning

So yes.  As I say, a sequence of warnings: we mustn’t be shrill; we mustn’t be conceited; we mustn’t aim to think that winning the arguments on welfare is enough.  The Tories will continue not to care about the arguments anyhow: they operate at a much baser level.  It’s a level which works for them, and we must accept that it does.

It is our job, then, not to overwhelm the people with statistics most of them will have no time for (though for convincing evermore convinced activists, these statistics serve a real purpose).  Nor should we express ourselves with a self-righteousness which only preaches to the converted (and even then only partially).  Instead, it must be our controlled and controllable goal to demonstrate the Tories are measurably incompetent.

In terms of their own economic markers in the sand; of their inability to lead a country – not through medieval fear but a real and tangible hope – out of the quagmire most of the less well-off will now find ourselves in; of their absent understanding of where a natural justice must lie; and of their abdication and giving-up of a sovereign England to transnational corporations with very foreign ways of seeing and doing.

Essentially, of their manifest lack of a humane and socially acceptable efficiency to attempt to do the very most for the very many.

No.  They won’t try and win the arguments on welfare – and we shouldn’t face them down on this.

Whilst we must use our sense and sensibility (both our contained fury and our rational pensiveness) to bind our core activism together, what we really need to express to the outside world is a simple chipping away of the edifice the Tories have built around their fairy tale of efficacy.

So how many words are there in the English language to say “bollocks”?  Probably quite a few.  Six, today, will suffice for our purposes: “The Coalition: our programme for government”.

And this is where we most go back to from today.  This is what we must draw the country’s attention to from now on in.

Don’t aim to win the arguments on welfare or immigration; don’t battle with triangulation.  Aim, instead, to win them around their increasing inability to deliver on their sacred promises.

Hold them to these promises: it’s the basest human instinct of all.

It’s what drives parents to bring up children; it’s what drives children to do what they’re told.  You can’t get much baser than that.

You’ll see.  It’ll work.

Mark not my words but this post!  And now, if you’re sitting comfortably, read on.


TumblrShare
Mar 162013
 
TumblrShare

Peter has just kindly pointed me in the direction of a film I should’ve stumbled across much sooner in my life.  It’s called “Odd Man Out”.  It’s directed by Carol Reed.  You can find out more about it here.

Now watch this clip below – and focus in particular on this saddening reflection.


http://youtu.be/SqctI12CBzo

“I am nothing.”  Not even charity.

Feel lonely?  It’s hardly surprising.  Making us feel lonely has become the weapon of choice of politicians in crisis.  And as the BBC reports on the awful implications of the Cyprus crisis:

The deal also involves a levy on bank deposits intended to ensure investors contribute to the bailout, the BBC’s Andrew Walker in Brussels reports.

People with less than 100,000 euros in Cypriot bank accounts will have to pay a one-time tax of 6.75%, while those with more will have to pay 9.9%. It is expected to raise 5.8bn euros in additional revenue.

A European Central Bank (ECB) official said the Cypriot authorities had already started to take action to ensure that the levy can be collected. Otherwise, there would be a likelihood of massive withdrawals to avoid it, our correspondent adds.

All of a sudden, people with savings become investors.  Amazing, isn’t it?  From bank deposit levies to bedroom taxes, our rapacious and single-minded political overlords are struggling – as we write, speak and exchange our saddest of thoughts – to hold things together with even a smidgen of coherence.  Whilst millions of children are thrust back into British poverty, billions of pounds in bonuses are distributed by failing British banks to their employees.

No wonder we all feel lonely.  “This cannot be right or just – or even efficient,” we think.  “There must be some other way forward.”

In 2003, when the Iraq War approached, I definitely felt I was the Odd Man Out.  It drove me spare; kind of drove me mad.  It took me a long time to recover.

But what I most fear today is that this same process, to a lesser degree, will now affect millions of thinking citizens.  When powerful owners of communication processes tell us over and over again that what we see and feel is wrong and misplaced, how else can it be?  How else can we react?  How else but to go into some kind of shell and begin to hide away from the reality they deny us?

The tactics they now use are to make us all feel we are odd men and women.  And although we perceive in our calmer moments of understanding that you cannot have a whole nation made of square pegs, they have managed to debilitate our comprehension of what’s going on to such an extent that nothing at all surprises us any more.

Nor do we protest very much – or, at least, that’s the way it seems to be going.  From initial despair to an overwhelmingly resigned misery, there are so many people out there who will begin to give up even on their lives.

They will, you must accept by now, be thinking about giving up on anything more than simple survival.

And so we take it slyly onboard.  And so we seamlessly absorb the implications.

Disabled people thrown out of their homes?  Unemployed people blamed for the consequences of government austerity?  The sick and elderly seen as a drain on our economy?  Privilege defined as the solution to a dysfunctional economy?  “Meh!  Meh!  Meh!  Meh!”

My advice?  Understand loneliness as a litmus test of injustice.  Externalise your fears; don’t blame yourself.  Remember your child and comprehend the unkindness of others.  And above all, face up to this undeniable fact: this Coalition government of ours is psychologically ruthless and without qualms of any sort.

Democracy provides us with no tools or processes to get rid of a government which – more than anything – uses psychological abuse to control, organise and impose its political impulses.  Physical violence would provoke a response from the courts.  But psychological violence at a state-engendered level is still not to be found in the rule books.

So then.  A revolution we need – the question is which.  You cannot abuse an abuser if you want to remain at all emotionally whole.  You cannot fight violence with violence and hope to remain aloof.  Where are we now?  What next for those finite perishable goods we call human beings?  Creatures whose lives are simply drifting down that 21st century gadget-ridden creek without a single bloody empowering paddle to their names.

And all this while, these politicians and business leaders whose crises I mention flailingly attack the entirely blameless citizens they still rule over.

In order to make such citizens feel entirely blameworthy.

In order to make them feel entirely odd.


http://youtu.be/KrkwgTBrW78


TumblrShare
Mar 112013
 
TumblrShare

Paul Burgin asked an intriguing question this afternoon.  I retweeted it and answered it thus (for those of you not familiar with Twitter’s syntax, you have to read the second part first and the first part second):

What Ed M is doing right now? Rock boat, but not too much. RT @Paul_Burgin: What does it take to ensure that Cameron remains PM until 2015?

Is it, in fact, time that the leader of the Labour opposition, Ed Miliband, gave David Cameron, the Tory Prime Minister, the helping hand it would appear he so desperately needs?  After all, this judgement of Cameron’s efficacy and historical potential is biting – and eye-opening:

My friend writes:

“I’m struggling to get the incredulity of the commentariat regarding leadership threats to Cameron. Why should anyone expect that a Party leader who failed to win an unlosable General Election, did nothing with being PM, and apparently has no chance of winning the next General Election would survive unchallenged?”

Ouch. And, as he points out, it is often forgotten that later this year Cameron will have been leader for eight years.

“Eight years after becoming Conservative Party Leader … Thatcher had got inflation from 22 per cent to 4 per cent and beaten the Argies. Heath had joined the EU. Churchill had won World War Two. Baldwin had seen off the General Strike and the Great Depression and broken both the Liberal and Labour parties, utterly. (No other Conservative leader lasted eight years post World War One). Cameron, on the other hand has … well, there’s … umm …”

Now I’m not entirely sure that in that poverty-stricken “umm” everything is necessarily lost.  Blair’s abiding achievement, after all, was a bloody conflict in Iraq.  It may have been the case that history was cruel to him – but the energy, resource, financial weight and body count which the conflict in question required of us leads me to wonder if a cipher of Blair wasn’t exactly what we were looking for in Cameron.  So did Cameron really fail to win an “unlosable General Election” – or was it, rather, that he instinctively comprehended the British people’s need to tether just a bit more definitively their next leader to their evermore parochial kennel?

Sometimes, the closed system that is politics has its own karma.  You give up a country’s sense of itself to a foreign power such as the US, however apparently justified at the time the deal may have appeared to be – and the next leader but one who comes along has no alternative but to reverse the ship of state.  No more foreign adventures for the moment – no more Falklands, no more Kosovos, no more Iraqi conflagrations.  If you must lie to the people, then divide the country cruelly up into deserving and non-deserving; get your communications paid for by the viewers via the TV licence fee; and tell those huge lies as hugely as you can, whilst history – or at the least the next general election – remains firmly on your side.

But whether Cameron is the cipher we needed or not, I think it’s pretty clear we in the Labour Party now need him to remain.  We need his frantic straddling of supposedly detoxified Toryism on the one hand and the lurching to the right which UKIP’s current bounce presages on the other to continue for as long as it might.

And it is in Paul Burgin’s original question and in Iain Martin’s perspicacious friend that I think I finally discover the reasons behind the modest approach which, to date, Labour’s Ed Miliband has taken.  Miliband has had Cameron’s measure since the very beginning.  After all, Miliband was an MP under Blair – had the opportunity to observe at close quarters the very man Cameron has surely modelled himself on.

In both Cameron’s strengths as a professional obfuscator and his manifest weaknesses as a professional salesman, Miliband will have seen it all before.

Miliband knows Cameron’s laying his own traps.  He just has to be there for him – with the kind of helping hand all enemies proffer.

Enough rope to keep him hanging on.

Not too much to hang him.

Not yet.


TumblrShare
Feb 232013
 
TumblrShare

I know it shouldn’t any more – but what people say, the words they use and the underlying assumptions such words reveal still has the power to shock me.

Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, for example, has this to say of the future nature of the priesthood:

“It is a free world and I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own.”

I notice two things here – both of which serve to shock me.  Firstly, the reassuring reminder that it’s women these free spirits are looking for as companions.  Secondly, that it’s a free world Cardinal O’Brien is observing.

Amazing, isn’t it?  And there was I, thinking the real problem has been a not insignificant number of priests who – through the decades – have demonstrated how they’ve wanted anything but the onerous obligations of marriage and family, when engaging in the perverse delights of illicit flesh.

These words are almost as revealing as the following comments on the poor.  Again, we get a representative of the powers-that-be uncovering their most primitive prejudices:

Germany’s development minister has suggested food tainted with horsemeat should be distributed to the poor.

Dirk Niebel said he supported the proposal by a member of the governing CDU party, and concluded: “We can’t just throw away good food.”

A German church concurs:

[...] Prelate Bernhard Felmberg, the senior representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), has backed the proposal.

“We as a Church find the throw-away mentality in our society concerning. How and whether to distribute the products in question would have to be examined,” the priest said.

“But to throw away food that could be consumed without risk is equally bad as false labelling and cannot be a solution.”

Quite.  No solution at all.

So how about, instead, we serve it up for as long as it lasts to all those politicians, church representatives and other moneyed members of society who believe, in their innermost sanctums, that the poor are truly deserving – but only of the crumbs from the high tables that clearly plague us?

This is verily beyond the palest of pales.  If the poor are deserving right now of receiving “tainted” beef, if – as the German development minister argues – “unfortunately there are people [in Germany] for whom it is financially tight, even for food [...]“, then these very same disadvantaged were also just as deserving before recent events took their sorry course.

That the powerful now argue the poor have suddenly become deserving of our charity, and at exactly the same time that metric tonnes of mislabelled horsemeat need to be summarily shifted, is a rank duplicity of the very worst sort.  One hardly needs to be an expert in stratospheric spin to understand that heavy business interests will be pulling in all sorts of favours from their meek and puppet-mastered politicians, as someone tries to salvage as much resource as possible from the disaster.  And what better way than make the poor pay for their poverty?

What better way than via taxpayer-funded graft?

We’re back, I fear, to those prejudiced Tories of yore – for they’re all the same, whatever political allegiances they pointedly profess – who are always trying to slap taxes on plebeian caravans, Cornish pasties and grannies.

We’re back, in fact, to those very plebeian sausage rolls.

Money buys everything.

It just doesn’t buy it for everyone.

Now does it?


TumblrShare
Feb 142013
 
TumblrShare

The idea of a ghetto is a painful one.  It represents everything that humanity essentially isn’t.  Walls between peoples – walls which perpetuate and make fiercer existing historical divisions – are surely not what being a human should at all be about.

This is the idea of a ghetto as defined by a website which remembers Jewish pain:

In contemporary usage, “ghetto” means “separate living quarters” for a specific racial or ethnic group. In this sense, many inner city areas in the United States may be characterized as ghettos. This was, clearly, not the case for Jews in Poland between 1940 and 1942. The ghettos created by the Nazis were transitional areas between deportation and the “Final Solution.” Many, though not all, were enclosed areas; barbed wire at Lodz, a brick wall in Warsaw and Cracow. Almost all were heavily guarded by armed military personnel.

This is how it happened in wartime Poland:

The creation of ghettos in Polish cities proceeded systematically.

…It was in April 1940 that the first ghetto was created, in Lodz. The steps taken were gradual. Warsaw came next, in October; then Cracow in March 1941, Lublin and Radom in April; and Lvov in December. By the end of 1941 the ghettoizing process was almost complete.(Milton Meltzer, Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust, NY: HarperCollins, 1976:78)

And this is what Camden Council, on the back of government-initiated cuts, is planning to do today:

A council is planning the largest single displacement of poor people from London in the wake of the coalition government’s controversial welfare reforms, singling out more than 700 families to be moved up to 200 miles away.

It would, of course, only serve to cheapen Jewish suffering to compare what the Nazis began to do to their subjects with what local councils here in Britain are now contemplating.  But if truth be told, Thatcher’s alleged meme of “There is no such thing as society” was never more relevant than at this moment.  Underlying all government thinking is the idea of maintaining and sustaining hierarchy and privilege – even as, at the same time, those communities which have served to support and unite like-minded individuals in their suffering are unremittingly taken apart and destroyed by such actions as Camden’s.

In fact, the only thing missing from Camden’s move is precisely that final step of an analogous Final Solution – a solution which, at least right now, is barely visible.

Barely visible – but not entirely unseen (the bold is mine):

One single mother in Camden with four children, all under the age of 10, told the Guardian: “I want to stay where I am for my children’s education. What it seems like is the government just want London for the rich. They want to move people on benefits to poor areas.” Her rent is £340 for a two-bedroom flat in Camden. When the cap comes into effect, the government will reduce her housing subsidy to £204. This leaves a shortfall of £136. The council has offered to rehouse her in Liverpool.

This single mother is absolutely spot-on.

Under Cameron’s sardonically named Coalition government, the ghettoisation of Britain proceeds violently and forcefully apace.

And what’s more, it’s a cheap death that awaits its miserable victims.

A death which delivers a lebensraum without the distracting political cost of all those difficult-to-spin gas chambers.

Clever buggers, these Tories, aren’t they?

Clever buggers all round.

____________________

Update to this post, 15/02/2013: just in case you thought (as I wondered) that by alluding to the Nazi Final Solution I might be pushing this too far, here’s a story published by the Independent yesterday which exactly goes to show how Roosevelt’s fascism of private power is creeping back into all levels of society.  Read it and be shocked: allegedly neo-Nazi-connected security guards regularly rifling through the rooms and possessions of immigrant workers who work, under miserable contractual conditions, for the online giant Amazon in Germany.


TumblrShare
Feb 052013
 
TumblrShare

The BBC reports that:

MPs have approved legislation for same-sex marriage in England and Wales, despite the opposition of dozens of Conservative MPs.

The Commons voted in favour of the The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on the bill.

This is clearly a good thing – one we can all be happy about.  The article goes on to tell us that:

Prime Minister David Cameron has described the move as “an important step forward” that strengthens society.

And I think he’s right.  My questions today, however, circle around how he reached his conclusions.  Was his desire – a very personal one it seems – to ensure this legislation was passed driven entirely by honest conviction or, alternatively, was there more than a pinch of old-fashioned triangulation behind the horse and cart he’s smashed through his party?  After all, as the BBC also indicates:

Former children’s minister and Conservative MP Tim Loughton told the BBC that he believed “140 or so” of his party colleagues had voted against the plans, along with “a small rump of Labour MPs” and “four Lib Dem MPs”.

He added: “Apparently there are 132 Conservative MPs who voted in favour, so I think what we’re going to see is that more Conservative MPs voted against this legislation than for it.”

The Lib Dem leaders are, of course, clearly delighted with the measure – it allows them to go back to their faithful with a truly liberal concept on the table.  But, as is perhaps too often the case, I am suspicious of the motivations.  And it begins to make me wonder if the name-calling that situates Clegg on the conservative (where not Conservative) right of the spectrum is encouraging us to simplify what it is happening in British politics.  Perhaps, indeed, for our own traditionally located interests.

As Clegg drags – in a complex but certain manner – his political party to the first taste of real government in generations, so Cameron may be aiming to hollow out in some constructive way the noisy and nasty party that is the Tories.  We on the left have looked to (maybe) simplistically paint the Lib Dems as just hanging onto the coattails of an unpleasantly irrelevant and Etonite England.  But (maybe) the process is a tad more engineered than that.

If we see the Coalition of Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems in terms of a corporate merger between a large and untidily ancient behemoth of contradictory decisions and a small and guerilla-like company of instant advantage-taking – the former perhaps an IBM before it reinvented itself, whilst the latter perhaps an Amstrad in its awfully excitable heyday – then the massive adventure which the two leaders have embarked on, both its downsides and upsides, both its potential risks and paybacks, becomes far far clearer.  Here we could argue that it’s the Alan Sugar/Nick Clegg-type pick-and-mix opportunists who visibly have the vision and agility of perceptions, even where they do not have the distribution network and other infrastructures various.  Meanwhile, the transnational corporate/David Cameron-led thinkers, dinosaur-like and history-riven as they are, have all of the infrastructures and contacts, even as they are unable any longer to provide the “market” with exactly what it needs.

Maybe the Equal Marriage bill was driven by conviction.  But I truly wonder if it wasn’t part of a much greater and broader understanding to revise and restructure the populist centre ground in, at the very least, England and Wales.  And that could mean just as much allowing the rancid Tory right to destroy themselves in their echo chambers as it could mean dragging a traditionally reflective and thoughtful strand of often principled political thought into the unhappy but (maybe) necessary glare of rather cruel 21st century government.

With these words, I’m not saying I agree at all with the vast majority of policies that have resulted from this process.

But I do wonder, honestly wonder, whether the nexus of Cameron and Clegg – and its implications – is as easy to accurately describe and define as we sometimes seem to assume.

Especially for those of us on the left of political activity.  But possibly – with the exception of the two men in question – for almost everyone else as well.


TumblrShare