Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Slinky!

Susuration identifies another Islamic demographic that suffers from rigid dress codes.

It can't be much fun being a transvestite over there, can it?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sósablogg

Other people's worlds: Click the 'next blog' button at the top of this page. I did. And I found this.

Also, the Uncylopedia variation on Wikipedia is worth a look.

Cover version: requests

Try this yourself?

Three songs that would sound better done by someone else:

  1. I’d like to hear REM’s ‘So, Central Rain’ covered by The Beautiful South
  2. I’d like to hear The Bee Gees’ ‘To Love Somebody’ covered by The Small Faces
  3. I’d like to hear Richard Thompson’s ‘I Feel So Good’ covered by Franz Ferdinand

I’d slow REM’s song right down and let Paul Heaton’s vocals do the rest. The Bee Gees number has loads of passion, but a bit of Steve Marriot’s grunt – and perhaps a heavier bass and thicker guitar line – would lift a song that’s already great (perhaps Ocean Colour Scene are more realistic candidates for this?).

And Richard Thompson’s song needs some of the ping-pong rhythmic treatment and staccato vocals that only Franz Ferdinand can offer. Well, FF or The Gang of Four...

Notice Nottingham - update

As a defender of Nottingham's honour, I am now on the mailing list for the excellent 'Notice Nottingham' newsletter. Read it and learn. In fact, bookmark it.

I'm surprised they have missed one bit of bad news that, nevertheless, reflects well on the city. Forest's loss will be Wembley's gain.

Now I'm sure that our ex-groundsman deserves congratualtions on his appointment, but I suspect that he had an unfair advantage over other interviewees.

When they inspected his pitch, it was bound to be in good nick - no-one's played any football on it for quite a while...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Stages of seperation / cheap shot alert



Nazis & Homeopathy (via)
German nudists as hippy antecedents
Prince Charles - he's German, isn't he?

All of that speculation about Harry not looking like Charles must just be groundless.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Gerry Fitt

Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam in one month. But Gerry Fitt's personal fortunes were as close as any politicians were to his community. His eventual defeat was a defeat for everyone in Northern Ireland.

It is so rare that someone can say with complete confidence that "only one politician in this place has even an ounce of common sense."

In a statelet that is absolutely cursed with it's politicians, Gerry Fitt was possessed of a unique common sense, a personal bravery, and an unshakeable commitment to democratic socialism.

Ashes latest

99 for 5 already!

Oliver (he works with me) said "it's time to phone my Australian friends."

Someone else pointed out that "a gentleman doesn't HAVE any Australian friends."

(image from www.tshirts365.com)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Perspective

The commonplace is that satire died when Henry Kissenger was given the Nobel Peace Prize.

It would be foolhardy to suggest that it actually died when Liverpool was named as the European City of Culture.

Foolhardy because I can't afford the train fare, and I'm no good at apologising to crowds.

When Boris Johnson was rude about Scousers, he was packed off to Liverpool on a train to apologise. How we laughed. The Religious Policeman, however, has a new twist on how people can be sent on journeys as a punishment for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

The Religious Policeman offers us a glimpse of real satire. It puts Private Eye and the wider British media in perspective. Our little vendettas. Our obsession with apologies. Portadown News had a similar mission - it's passing is a shame. The targets of satire should be assassins, beheaders, and slave-traders. By contrast, our pressure groups refer to Guantanamo Bay as a 'Gulag' and expect to be taken seriously.

(another Blogger spellcheck update: Portadown = Partition. Don't tell Dr Paisley!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dunkirk moment

This is the lowest point in our history. The only way is up.

"beaches ..... landing grounds ..... fields ..... streets ..... hills..."

More consolation can be from other new found blogs.

'The Unbearable Shiteness of Being' - must surely speak for all of us here.

Also, take another opportunity to laugh at the SWP. Go on! You owe it to yourself. Read this.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mondays just got duller

The best website in the world has been decomissioned.

I can't speak for anyone else Newton, but I'll miss you.

Reconsider?

If this weeks edition had been published, I'm sure Newton would have noticed that that the shinners should be able to can come up with a better prize than this? (scroll down)

It probably wouldn't be paid in Euros though?

Consolation: The Religious Policeman is a bit of a find (via Hak Mao).

Idealist!

I bet Guardian columnist Gary Younge would take being called 'idealistic' as a compliment.

Instead of writing this drivel, he should have taken the day off to read this. Then he'd understand that for every 'lightening rod' like Rosa Parks and Cindy Sheehan, he'd find a dozen hangers, floggers and deporters.

Far-Right "article worth a read" shock!

In a previous post, I highlighted James Hamilton's take on the psychology of pseudo-lefties(summary; it gets you laid more often - in theory).

But what about writers of all stripes that appeal to something fetishistic in their readers? Julie Burchill, for instance? Some of her arguments are obvious twaddle (I doubt if even she'd deny this after a dry weekend), but some of them aren't. And the sweep of her rhetoric is fabulous.

I don't know about you, but after reading Shelley's Mask of Anarchy or Orwell's 'Lion and the Unicorn', I usually feel a bit giddy. A bit compromised as well. As a devout aetheist and a citizen of the world, I struggle to get through the second verse of 'Jerusalem' without choking up. A writer capable of flourishes such as these could sneak in an argument for almost anything. Michel Houellebecq is another one whose argumentative prose is often thrilling - and perverse in more ways than one.

There is something sexy about bold prose. I was talking to a friend about the way fetishistic properties of Nazi uniforms and he repeated the observation about people rarely having fantasies about a Liberal Democrat. Then I stumbled across this while Googling something innocuous (er... "agnostic materialism" if you must know....). It's a copy of a book-review - by a far-right American writer (O'Meara) of a book by a far-right Frenchman (Faye) The website in question is called Stormfront. It's yer full-blooded Fascism so give it a miss if you're easily riled.

Connoisseurs of James Ellroy's pessimism will enjoy it though. It reads like one of his fantasies. It's a cataclysmic portrayal of European urban life - crime, immigration and culture - and how it fits in to a wider geo-political picture in which the US, duped by 'Zionists' have threatened Europe by drawing on attempted Islamic annexation of our continent.

With a anti-racist establishment run by Zionists (again), white Europe will become - like America - culturally incoherent and unable to resist the eventual inevitable showdown with China.

Dig it's casual use of terms like 'lebenstraum' and it's deft dismissal of the US as "not a nation in the European sense, but simply une symbiose étatico-entrepreneuriale." It repeatedly introduces terms like "cataclysm" and "rebirth." Elsewhere, it's casual asides that demonstrate the difference between Fascism and the rest of the body politic: Phrases like this (on high-crime areas in Europe):

"....such zones, whose deteriorating conditions politically correct public officials persist in describing in socioeconomic rather than biocultural terms..."

And what about this?

"For like every great struggle affecting human’s natural selection, war privileges the elemental and the vital. With it, the subtleties and distractions that sophists and simulators have used to misdirect Europeans cannot but cease to count, as will those minor differences that have historically divided them.

Then, as "money and pleasure" cede to the imperatives of "blood and soil," only the traditions, the way of life, and the genetic principles defining them as a people will matter."

Most of it manages to maintain a pseudo-academic tone that makes it all the more thrilling to read. But in the final paras, the geo-political analysis blended with (remarkably) the only overt racial slur in the whole piece:

"The situation the white race finds itself in today may therefore be unconditionally bleak, but in that hour when everything risks being lost, Faye believes a final opportunity for renaissance will present itself.

In this vein, he predicts that the dominant musical theme of the twenty-first century will be neither an orchestral ode to joy nor the doggerel of an urban savage, but rather a solemn military march based on ancient hymns. Europeans on both sides of the Atlantic, he advises, would do well to keep step with its strong, marked rhythm."

It's thrilling stuff. It's got echoes of cyberpunk - pseudo-science mixed with dystopian landscapes. It recalls the lurid 'hate sheets' depicted in Ellroys 'The Cold Six Thousand'. If anything, it's more compelling because of it's faux-sophistication. It's author is less interested in making a point than in acting out. It's tone is more narcissistic than it is Fascistic.

There are also a few cheap points that could be made about the similarities between the subjectivity and reductionism of this perspective and the pseudo-left's insistence that all problems are rooted in the nexus of the American model of capitalism, the Christian right, the geopolitics of oil, Zionism, and the corruption therein.

But I'll leave that kind of thing to Harry, Norm and the Popinjays.

On the other hand, it also puts a lot of the backlash against multiculturalism in perspective. I don't think I'm alone in worrying about the way that (my) secularism is being invoked to undermine a cultural project that is still largely a remarkable success. When you read a Nazi trashing it in similar terms, it gives pause for thought.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Digital Divide

It seems anything that refreshes and deepens class-division is as welcome as a drink in a desert.

Estate Agents have started offering a chav locator apparently. A 'here be draggones' for housebuyers everywhere. The way it effects the housing market is creating a series of self-fulfilling prophecies. I expect it draws on ONS statistics that are paid for by the taxpayer?

And Nottingham has been on the receiving end of the journalistic equivalent of this recently.

Who's next I wonder?

(Anyone planning to single out Liverpool had better get their apologies ready in advance....)



Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Rossport Five

More on the weekend in Ireland. The big local fuss in Co. Mayo at the moment is the Rossport Five who are protesting about a Shell gas pipeline a few miles out of town.

I don't know all of the ins and outs of this project, but local support for them is patchy, and far from being anti-globlisers (yes, the Irish SWP have arrived to sell their papers), there is a bit of a NIMBY character to the protest.

The downside of this is that it's the same attitude that results in wind farms not being able to get planning permission anywhere. And if North West Mayo has one abundant resource, it's wind. The grounds for objection I heard were...

  • They interfere with TV signals
  • Noisy
  • Ugly
  • Roads not wide enough to carry the equipment needed to set them up
  • A general suspicion that they will damage the health of the people and the beauty of the area
As is so often the case, one reason to object trumps ten reasons to support a proposal. Having said that, my experience of watching campaigns in Ireland is that - as long as you don't make an enemy of the church - that people are open-minded and positive about change as long as it's put to them in the right way. And as long as you don't ask for support with a referendum.

If the virtues of wind farms are recounted and the heroic nature of the locals in saving the planet is rehearsed, I think they could get enough support.

If a few bob can be even be found for more 'regeneration' it would probably clinch it.

Things are possible in Ireland - things that would be a quagmire in the UK. If they can get smoking banned in Dublin pubs, they can certainly sell wind farms to the good people of Erris.

Perhaps they can find an way of showing that Wind Farms = more sex - it appears to be working for the smoking ban. I doubt if it would need much creative PR to make objections to wind-farms look like a rejection of civic virtue.

But where are the pressure groups and protesters making these points? Why aren't they out there making the case for wind farms and patiently dealing with objections? When will these bastards ever risk their precious popularity by protesting FOR well as against things?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Peace that Passeth All Understanding

You take all of that eastern mysticism and stick it up your arse as far as I'm concerned. To find The Peace That Passeth All Understanding, all you need to do is...

a) Go to an airport
b) Fly to Knock in County Mayo (Eire)
c) Get a lift straight to Belmullet (about 90 mins with your toe down)
d) Order a tall drink from McDonnells bar and open your copy of the Irish Times. (camera phone quality interior pic - see right)

You will need a lift home but there's a decent new hotel nearby.

I just got from a long weekend doing exactly this. It wasn't quite as blissful as normal because there were a few local festivals in swing and my first visit to the shrine found it full of a lively wedding party. But a bit of activity has it's consolations. Perhaps too many of them.


Just down the coast, in a pub in Geesala, an old friend of mine didn't seem too upset when he told me that he wasn't working. "When an army is marching, it isn't fighting" he explained.

I know all of this Oirishery can be a bit of a cliche, but the pace of life and the attitude to stress is quite different to anything in London - and different in a way that I never find in the English countryside.


At the races on Doolough beach on Sunday (note - I still have one of the betting slips - in fact, none were redeemed) the organisers spent the whole day moaning on the loudspeakers to the owners and jockeys who couldn't get round to actually getting the horses into the parade ring or onto the course any time near the start time for the races (which were themselves delayed by the tide).

But no-one else minded.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What Channel 4 didn’t want you to know about Nottingham

This text is lifted unaltered from a press statement by Nottingham City Council. I'd have linked to it, but for some reason, they've not put it on their website.

(update 17.8.05: It's here now)

I've been consistantly astonished by the way that The City I Love has been defamed in the press in recent years, and this sums it up.

On Tuesday night Channel 4 broadcast a programme called The Best and Worst Places To Live in the UK in which Nottingham was ranked second bottom. Channel 4 claims its rankings were based on five key categories – crime, education, employment, environment and lifestyle. The programme made several exaggerated references to gun crime in Nottingham.

Apart from a brief mention of Nottingham being a great night out and a Mecca for developers, it said nothing about education, employment, environment and lifestyle in our city.

But if the programme misrepresented life in Nottingham, Channel 4’s pre-show publicity told lies about Nottingham – some of which were perpetuated in subsequent media coverage of the programme. The suggestions that Nottingham had nearly one gun-related incident a day last year and that Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre deals with more gunshot wounds than any other hospital in the UK were themost ridiculous. They are also wholly untrue.

So, for the record, here’s what Channel 4 could have told you about Nottingham but decided they didn’t want you to know.

Crime
Nottingham did NOT have nearly one gun-related incident a day last year. This is a work of fiction. According to official Home Office statistics, for the whole of Nottinghamshire, not just Nottingham, there were 233 recorded firearms offences in 2003/04. The level of such offences, per head of population (which takes into account differences in the size of cities) was 52% higher in Merseyside, almost twice as high inthe West Midlands, and more than twice as high in Greater Manchester and London.

In terms of guns being fired, in the 2004 calendar year there were 59 recorded incidents of a firearm having been discharged in the whole of Nottinghamshire, not just Nottingham. And the Queen’s Medical Centreactually dealt with 19 gun and air rifle casualties in 2004. So far this year there has been one fatal shooting in Nottingham.

Education
Nottingham has one of the top rates of improvement in GCSE attainment in the country. The number of pupils in Nottingham gaining five good GCSE grades has climbed from 26% in 1998 to 38% in 2004. To build on this progress, more than £143 million is due to be invested in building new secondary and special schools and modernising existing ones in Nottingham as part of the national Building Schools forthe Future initiative. The vision includes three more schools becoming city academies and a new special school.

Nottingham’s two universities are also among the most popular in the country and, together with local further education colleges, they attract 55,000 students to the city – giving Nottingham the fourth largest student population in the country.

Employment
Nottingham has one of the highest rates of job creation in the country. It is – or has recently become –the home of several major UK employers, including Boots, Experian, Capital One and the Inland Revenue. Unemployment rates in Nottingham have halved over the past 10 years and the city’s Gross Value Added output per head of population is well above the national average.

Environment
Nottingham has one of the most pedestrian-friendly and least congested city centres in the country, with the soon-to-be refreshed Old Market Square at its heart. The city has been commended as a world leader in restricting traffic growth and its integrated public transport system, which includes a comprehensive busnetwork and Britain’s newest tram system, is acknowledged as one of the best in the UK.

Wollaton Park, a 500-acre deer park, just three miles from Nottingham city centre, was recently ranked thesecond best urban park in Britain by The Independent newspaper.

No fewer than six of Nottingham’s parks have Green Flag status from the Civic Trust, more than in anyother part of the East Midlands. The city also has Sherwood Forest on its doorstep.

Lifestyle
Nottingham is consistently ranked among the top five shopping centres in the UK, with many top names choosing the city for their stores, including Nottingham’s own Paul Smith.

Nottingham is the cultural and commercial capital of the East Midlands. Its vibrant, cosmopolitan city centre is a first choice destination for business, entertainment and nightlife.

The creation of pedestrian-friendly streets sprinkled with pavement cafes and the transformation of the Lace Market and canalside into stylish residential and commercial quarters have given 21st Nottingham adistinct European ambience.

Nottingham has several acclaimed theatres staging top shows, plus the Nottingham Arena at the National Ice Centre. It is also home to Trent Bridge, scene of the forthcoming Fourth Test between England and Australia in the delicately-poised Ashes series.

As a postscript, I'd suggest that Nottingham's problem is that it doesn't have a strong civic voice. This is partly because it doesn't have some of the sense of insecurity that other cities have.

Lazy journalists wouldn't get away with slagging Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, or Leeds off the way Nottingham is.

That's why they do it. It's almost worth suggesting that the PR departement at the City Council should start press releasing every incidence of crime that happens elsewhere. One mischeivous freind suggested to me that they should just pick another city and pay a PR company to rubbish it a bit. With the standard of modern journalism, that ploy would actually work to Nottingham's advantage. Not that I'd seriously suggest it mind....

Nottingham needs to start speaking up for itself more loudly - the fact that this statement (above) isn't even on the website speaks volumes. I know that too much confidence in your PR can backfire (scroll down for an example...) but a little bit won't hurt, surely?

They'd never have got away with this in Brian's day....

(By the way, there is a prize for the first smartarse who puts "Why don't you move back there then?" in my comments box. And it's not the massively hubristic new Forest away shirt).



Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It doesn’t matter who you vote for....

.....the government always gets in

Union-bashing is a bit non-U on this blog, but I think it’s time that the government did to this lot what Thatcher did to the NUM.

Not only do we have to put up with job-titles like ‘Permanent Secretary’, these gits take home between £130,000 and £264,000 per year (according to Public Finance magazine, and they should know).

Either way, the government seem likely to kill-off the proposed Civil Service Act that would have limited the activities of Special Advisers and ‘enshrined the independence of the Civil Service in law’. Enshrined, mark you.

So, for the time being, winning an election will continue to allow the victors the right to appoint a tiny fraction of the bureaucracy that will make sure that the manifesto can be delivered. And it will mean – once in a blue moon –that the civil servant who actually buggered something up may have to take a fraction of the blame.
Hurray!

Perhaps this is too optimistic a reading of the situation though?

Political parties should be able to establish ‘shadow administrations’ of their own. They should be able to recruit budding civil servants to do this, and build up a cadre of committed capable administrators who take control of a department once their party wins the election. A bit like they do in France.

Then the role of the political party would be to concentrate on getting things working (like in France) and not just on bossing their MPs around (like they do in Britain).

Rhyming slang / Turkey Twizzlers

Apropos of nothing, Inspector Sands over at Casino Avenue notices an example of rhyming slang that I’m amazed had escaped me. Also, any obscure profanities that rhyme with Jamie Cullum will be gratefully received.

On a different matter, Julie Burchill (peace and blessings be upon her) says;

“The idea that all that is stopping working-class children from achieving is that their dumb working-class parents are stuffing them with Turkey Twizzlers - rather than the whole rotten system of class, privilege and nepotism - is a sickening and dangerous lie.”

For more, see the Popinjays back Burchill.

On that subject, a snooty neighbour told me a few weeks ago that it was disgusting the way that some people allow children to eat a meal that is different to the one the adults in their house are having. Too right! If I’m having Chicken Nuggets, my kids can damn well have Chicken Nuggets as well.

Blogger spellcheck update: Burchill = Broccoli.

Surely some mistake?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sickness statistics

Let's Be Sensible on the perceived risk of sickness.

I'm always a bit puzzled why Spiked - which is quite transfixed by the way that a misunderstanding of risk effects public policy - never draws the conclusion that most of the distortion can be blamed on the way the media report statistics?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sinn Féin - Fish or Fowl?

Are Sinn Féin timorous fowl, more worried about an internal split than they are about their long-term goals? Or are they bold fish who are poised to transform Northern Ireland’s political stalemate?

On the one hand, they have the problem of holding their movement together. This job is more difficult for Gerry Adams than would be for, say .... Tony Blair. A serious New Labour split could leave Tony with no option but to seek a high-profile role in global diplomacy. Gerry would have to be a bit more worried about making himself scarce under similar circumstances.

On the other hand, if this is to be anything less than a blip – one that briefly wrong-foots Unionist rejectionists – Republicanism needs to be bold. It needs to go faster than expected. It needs to confound expectations.

This is no small task. A quick visit to this nutcase’s site provides a measure of the problem in hand. This is the most voted-for politician in Northern Ireland today. To anyone outside of the Ulster Protestant population, he is quite obviously a paranoid fantasist.

Yet, if Republicans are to form the kind of Historic Block that could deliver some of their goals, they will need to engagement with some of the people who vote for the DUP. It will even have to involve some of the people who have been elected as DUP candidates.

The DUP, however, have learned the value of stuborness. They are not going trot back to Stormont just because Alex Maskey is telling them that the Good Friday Agreement says that they have to.

On this basis, I think that a lot of the confidence within the Republican camp may be misplaced. This piece (via – hanx!) provides an insight into the current mindset of Irish Republicanism. It argues that ….

“…many grassroots IRA members have been weened off notions of armed struggle by the potential success that may lie in the political path.”

If this is the case, it appears to be a very small advance on the mid-1990s ‘TUAS’ mindset. If republicanism has still only got that far, it’s a slow crab-wise movement that needs to be re-directed and accelerated by the Republican leadership.

Furthermore, ….

“The furious reactions of the DUP and the Ulster Unionists [to the disbanding of all three Northern battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment] have, as one Northern commentator put it, put the ‘icing on the cake’ for republicans.”

Not being an Irish Republican, It’s probably not my place to offer advice to Sinn Féin, but if they are serious about making a productive political breakthough, they will have to stop making concessions though gritted teeth. Committing yourselves to ‘exclusively peaceful means’ is not really something you do just to …..

  • get the ‘on-the-runs’ turned into ‘off-the-hooks’
  • get the Columbia Three back into the country without much fuss
  • really piss Unionists off
  • get the Brits to give the DUP a telling-off for their intransigence
  • get other (slightly) constitutional nationalists to shorten the spoon they sup with
  • get rid of the RIR and army observation towers
  • get everyone to just shut up about the McCartney murder

It’s something that you do to signal a major change. There is surely a bigger picture? A society disfigured by sectarianism and organised crime? One that is probably further away from achieving fairness and equality within a functioning modern state than it was in 1969?

If there is one thing that Sinn Féin have been absolutely wrong about since the Downing Street declaration in the early 1990s, it’s the assertion that the job of ‘persuading Unionists’ is one that the British Government need to take on. And even if the British had a moral duty to do this (I’d argue that they don’t), they are hardly likely to actually do it, are they?

Republicans may end up doing the opposite of what they intend to do. They could cash in all of their military chips for a minor political gain. If the internal dynamic – reluctant and militant – stops them from taking such a step, it’s almost worth asking them why they are bothering at all? (... er ... apart from the minor argument that killing people is wrong...)

I don't envy them at the moment.

Republicanism needs to take a truly bold step in the near future. A ‘Clause Four’ moment. An ‘historic compromise’. A ‘Bad Godesberg Program.’ It doesn't need any of the transparent choreography that usually accompanies their gestures.

The more moderate Stickies went the long road and were fully absorbed into the Irish Labour Party. But I doubt if Sinn Féin would accept a similar relationship with Fianna Fáil for long – and it begs the question of where all of that Socialism that Republicans say they are so fond of will fit in?

On the positive side, perhaps enough of the ex-prisoners are familiar enough with Gramsci ….?

July 2005

Now the football has started again and The Ashes have got interesting, it's easy to forget just how odd July was.

Click on this link - Diamond Geezer's blog - and bookmark it. Put a note in your diary to revisit it in - say - nine months time.

Not just the 31st July posting, but the whole thing.

It's been quite a month to be in London.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Robin Cook

From Paul Anderson's blog:

What's right with Robin Cook 1 2

Relief x 2

The end of a football-free summer is usually a relief.

This came as something of a relief as well. But there were a few people wearing Forest shirts at St Pancras waiting for the train up to Nottingham. And passers-by were smirking.

It's going to be a long season...

Also, Forest are 9/2 favourites to win the League One title. And David Johnson is a 14/1 bet as top scorer. My money's staying in my pocket. I'd only give us a 'perhaps' on promotion after today's display.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sporty!

Discuss this.

(thanks Antonia)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Leave it!

Tom at Let’s Be Sensible flags up a big bunfight about the concept of the ‘pro-war left’.

It was all started by a posting on a blog called Talk Politics. Lots of people now appear to have taken up the gauntlet.

I think they’ve been tricked by the name of the blog concerned – ‘Talk Politics’. It sounds a bit official doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s the official forum of the Institute for Advanced Applied Political Debate (you know the one, slightly musty place, just off Tavistock Square – Bernard Crick used to teach the M.A. course there?)

No. It’s just a blog. A fairly obsessive one at that. The author is anonymous and uncontactable as far as I can see. And it doesn’t seem to say anything that hasn’t already appeared a dozen times in Harry’s comment boxes.

Yet there appear to be plenty of takers for this mudslinging. And it all seems to be a bit of a dialogue of the deaf.

Despite what Peter Wilby says, ‘revisionism’ is obviously a good thing. Having thought something in the past is not a good enough reason to keep thinking it. (Paul Anderson has already tagged this PoV as 'Wilbyism'...)

This doesn't mean that the way that some of the more obsessive 'stoppers' close down any serious discussion should drive people who've always thought of themselves as progressive, into a general alliance with the centre-right. Or worse.

James Hamilton hints that this is his position - yet he wrote a good deconstruction of the stopper mindset only a few weeks ago.

But I’m a bit bothered by the obsessiveness of it on all sides. Why do those good people at Harry’s and the Drink Soaked Ex-Trotskyist Popinjays for War seem to be determined to prove something that everyone else already knows - over and over again?

It's time to move on. They should all relax, because....

  • Almost everyone knows that the SWP aren’t ever worth listening to. Most of the people who take their infantile leftism seriously are usually too self-loathing to ever do anything about it anyway
  • Lots of us - the 'million marchers' who started out as anti-war - have been tempted to change our minds half-a-dozen times by the idiocy of many on our own side
  • There are plenty of reasons for perfectly respectable lefties to be sceptical about the war in Iraq without being ‘apologists’ or ‘appeasers.’
  • Those who think that British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq as a response to the London bombings are a vocal minority that most people just humour. They are not likely to be taken seriously - so why get worked up about it?

The debate among the general public is a lot more important than the headbutting going on between ‘stoppers’ and ‘revisionists.’ It’s a lot more interesting than the staged brawl that we are offered in lieu of ‘debate’ on TV as well. The BBC's Question Time is just a disgrace these days.

So, OK. Some of the people I speak to think the troops should come home anyway. Some think that the war has created a context that has magnified existing grievances among Muslims.

But I rarely hear these views expressed without a hint of doubt. Yet the obsession with ‘root causes’ on some blogs is to imagine that the Guardian op-ed pages are a reflection of a mass debate that is gripping Britain.

It isn’t. Everyone I speak to on this appears slightly confused and fairly open-minded on most of the issues.

The textbook appears to be anti-fascism here: The notion that there is an ideology here that – if unchallenged – will take hold and strangle us. The SWP, Respect and Hizb Ut Tahrir do not, between them, have an appeal that will ever rise above 'marginal'. George Galloway weaves his own noose every time he speaks.

So we can all relax about them.

There is no doubt that the Muslim community in Britain conceals an uglier underbelly than most people seem to realise. But shouting ‘Islamofascist’ louder than everyone else is hardly going to do the trick, is it? A more subtle engagement is more likely to work.

Most people that I speak to have a much more complex point of view. And most accept that it’s a big complicated picture that none of us really have a handle on. That’s why a lot of the certainty on display lacks credibility.

I've argued before that much of the most important information that anyone would need to draw conclusions about Britain's role in Iraq is not available in a form that most of the public can understand it. That's why I bang on about 'representative democracy' so much on this blog.

There is a much more interesting conversation (one with a lot of agreement to be had) between moderate supporters and opponents of the current UK foreign policy.

The Popinjays, Harry’s et al would do themselves no harm by turning the TV off, leaving the op-ed pages alone for a few days, and just going to the pub with their workmates and neighbours.

That's where I'm going now.

Ta-rar.

Update - 5th August: QED

Time for restraint?

Over at Shuggy's...
"the present situation provides a temptation for us secularists to have a pop at everything about organised religion we don't like but that it's a temptation that perhaps should be avoided..."
Sounds a bit extreme to me, but I'm happy to hear him out. I'm glad that there is a 'perhaps' in that sentance though...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Not one inch

Peter Tatchell: inspirational,
Tony Blair: Churchillian.

Can we have normal service renewed please? Go on Tony and Peter. Start saying really irritating things again? Don't make us have to beg...



Ulster Loyalism explained

Protestants Against Republican aggression.

P.A.R.A.

From (London)Derry btw....

(thanks Deaglan)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Situations Vacant

Jackie Ashley calls Simon Hughes' plan for the Lib Dems to advertise in Good Housekeeping magazine for their candidates 'refreshingly radical'.

I'd call it a quick-fix that will only tackle the symptoms - not the cause - of the current electoral malaise.

Brushing aside the welcome Burkean thrust of Jackie's article, it is worth looking at the ante-room to Parliament: Local government. Local Councillors have the same obligation to focus on the needs of the community as a whole - not just the residents of their wards. I'd argue that the staleness in Parliament is a symptom of a constricted local democracy in Britain.

Find a way of recruiting the right people as Councillors and Parliament will improve hugely within one generation.

The argument against Simon Hughes that was presented by a Labour hack (see David Taylor-Gooby's response in the Guardian letters page) illustrates why the headbutting competition in local government needs to be ended. D.T-G dismisses a local Lib-Dem group that was enticed non-politicos to stand for election. "Most of them got fed up and didn't stand again."

I don't blame them - and I hope that it isn't a note of satisfaction that can be detected in David's letter? (Depressingly, it probably is).

In my line of work, I speak to a lot of local political leaders. I recently met one who, though new to local politics, found themselves elected as leader of their party group and - as a result, leader of the Council. It was a baptism of fire.

With loads of experience managing a business, doing charity and community work, this person was suddenly confronted by a level of negativity and venom that was completely new.

If the need to 'route around' the vindictive obsessiveness of opponents wasn't enough, the other big challenge was to avoid being strangled by the 'can't do' attitude of local civil servants.

Another Council leader reported a conversation with the editor of his local paper. He was quite disarmed by the honesty (and there's a first in local journalism!). Significant successes, he was told, would usually be ignored. Minor shortcomings would be magnified. The only source his paper was really interested in using was 'off the record' briefings from disgruntled officials. This is what sells papers, he was told. Other Councillors have spoken to me about the flat refusal of their Council's press office to give any publicity to successful initiatives because it would be construed as 'politics on the rates'.

The point is this: It's a waste of time tricking innocents into the futile snakepit that often characterises local politics. We need to make elected representation worthwhile. This means that steps need to be taken to increase the power and status of elected representatives. It also means that we will need to diminish their rivals. We need an improvement in the standards of local journalism. Councillors need the resources to match the power of unelected interest groups.

We need to be able to reward virtue as well as punish corruption and incompetence.

This would attract the wider sections of society that Jackie rightly wants to see standing for election. But it is a big job. Bigger than just sticking an ad in the paper.

Disclaimer:
Apologies to my regular reader. I know I've gone on and on and on and on and on about different aspects of this in the past. I never find anyone who actually disagrees with me on this. This is either because I'm absolutely right or because no-one can be bothered arguing against a monomaniac.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Popsensible & Pootergeek - a 'Not Trusting a Hippy' masterclass

When you call your blog NTaH, you shouldn't wait for someone else to write this. An attack on John Harris and prog rock in one posting is hard to beat.

Popsensible - the blog that says all of the right things, but has a layout and design that makes most of it almost completely unreadable. I like The Ramones as much as anyone, but this is ridiculous....

Meanwhile, over at Pootergeek, another good combination. A perceptive post on our sinister class system combined with an attack on the vile singer-songwriter James Blunt.

Pootergeek falls short of demanding that a workers militia should be sent round to Blunt's house (via Jamie Cullum's) so that he can be dragged out and kicked to death.

Such moderation marks PG out for great things.

Under arrest in Italy

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes looking at the way Italians turn every act of political violence into an inpenetrable web of conspiracy will be sceptical of this.

I've no idea whether Osman Hussain (also known as Hamdi Isaac) is really linked to any terrorist group, but an Italian copper's opinion that he isn't adds nothing to our knowledge. This is a country where lawyers can have the audacity to claim that someone who carried a rucksack full of explosives onto a train is a 'pacifist' who 'intended no harm to anyone.'

Don't just take it from me. Ask Tobias Jones what he thinks.