Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Long overdue

For years I've been waiting for someone to start to put flesh on the bones of the argument for investment rules for media content-carriers. The NUJ and BECTU have started the ball rolling on this. 

Spread the word! More commentary from yours truly on this over here. Spread the word.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two for Friday

Susan has her roots in Mayo, god help us:

(Via the DSTPFW)

And from the same source - the Baby Preacher:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


From Jack of Kent


Hey! Go to the webby awards site and vote for this gorgeous site. 

For some weird reason, blogger has decided to stop my hyperlinks for working, so the links are....


Monday, April 20, 2009


Try nanoblogging instead.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

'Empowerment agenda'

One of many phrases that just drain the very life out of you when you read them.

Sometimes, pulling a great quote from a blog post elsewhere may stop you from bothering to go and read it.

Well, Will Davies said this about Labour's 'empowerment agenda':

"New Labour has the political psychology of an infant that has yet to work out the difference between 'world' and 'self'. It removes its hands from its eyes, and believes it has just produced everything it sees. Thus political truths that will endure long after Labour, capitalism or Britain have disappeared are there to be tweaked by an empowerment agenda. Utopian economic dreams can be achieved through changes in employment law. The cart is not dragging the horse, its dragging the forrests from which all carts are produced."

In this case, really, don't leave it there. Go and read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tories hate the BBC

Just a quick passing note as I'm rushing off:

The Conservative Party hate the BBC. They probably won't campaign openly on a 'shut the BEEB' ticket, but you can expect Auntie to be in something close to the position that PBS holds in the US after a reasonably short period of Conservative government.

The problem is that their position will go down reasonably well with a sizeable section of the paid commentariat, and Tory activists love it.

The Tories won't break cover and declare open hostility to the corporation in advance of the election either - yet I'd be inclined to believe that their approach to the BBC - if expressed honestly and openly - would be terrifically unpopular.

Just saying.......

Left decentralisation argument

This is a good post, this is.

Paulie somewhere else

This time, over at Common Endeavour.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Nasty Party

More on this later, but further to Mr E's post on Smeargate, the charge of Astroturfing is quite revealing isn't it?

The Tories have a rich hinterland of experienced and accomplished vicious lying scumbags. They've worked out an effective M.O. - how to do it all in a deniable way.

Labour haven't. This reflects very badly on the Labour Party.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This kleptocracy we live in vol CXXXIV

From pretty-well the opposite end of the political spectrum, Mr Eugenides writes a detailed and fairly perceptive post on the whole Smeargate episode.

There's plenty of counter-argument that I don't have time to make at the moment, but two questions leap out at me:

1. Does anyone with an ounce of sense - when they're not pointscoring - really think we live in a corrupt country? Or that UK politics is fundamentally corrupt? 

2. Is this a falsifiable position? One with a workable less-corrupt alternative that could be accepted by anyone who isn't a devil-takes-the-hindmost right-wing extremist?

Just asking, like.....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

So Labour should just bend over and take it like a man?

I don't suppose I'm alone in not enjoying the spectacle of Labour's black-bag ops being exposed.

However, let's be clear about this: The proposed 'Red Rag' site was a plain-and-simple plan to develop a Labour equivalent of Guido's site. Nothing more, nothing less. Though Guido is now universally being labeled as 'anti-politics', it wouldn't do to forget that he's a Tory blogger. He sees his blog as being an instrument of Conservative Party attack politics, and I'm not the only one that he has told that he regards himself as 'part of Project Cameron.'

As long as electoral attack politics have existed in this country, we have a history of accepting that it's part of the Conservative Party's M.O. - the deniable outriders such as the real authors of the Zinoviev Letter, The postwar anti-rationing Housewives League, and latterly, The Taxpayers' Alliance. No such leniency is available to Labour, it seems.

Guido has had regular direct contact with politicians and campaigners from all parts of The Conservative Party for many years now, and I've little doubt that evidence can be found of encouragement that he has received from them in conducting vicious personal campaigns against Labour politicians. And what Guido leaves to the imagination, his 'lightly moderated comments thread' doesn't.

Hopi has an ample case for the prosecution here. It's a testimony to the sheer fuckwitted cretinism of the Westminster Lobby that they are prepared to treat Labour people being exposed as planning to do something that the Tories have been doing for years as a stand-alone scandal.

It's undoubtedly wrong for Labour Party people to plan a campaign of personal smears. Like most people I know, I'd sooner see politics as a combination of high-stakes chess and a process whereby the best outcomes available to a democracy are realised.

But here's the thing: I'd be interested to know what everyone thinks Labour should be doing in the face of being on the receiving end of a similar campaign - over a number of years. These smear campaigns work. They do damage to the government, to the Labour Party and to the very concept of elected government. To simply sit still in the face of them and to not retaliate is not - as far as I can see - an option that anyone would urge upon any other organisation in any other walk of life.

If you add this to the charge of actively running informers within the civil service - and if it is true that the leaker at the fees office is selectively targeting Labour politicians, this becomes an even more serious question - then what should Labour do?

Should we just be more effective at it? More clandestine? More vicious?

PS: Pssst! Wanna job?

PSS: Smear latest.

Update: Shuggy's on the money over at Common Endeavour

Monday, April 06, 2009

From Grub St to Westminster

Here's Hopi asking why lefty columnists don't make the transition to Parliament in the way that right-wingers do*. I'd agree with all of his conclusions.

I'd add that the Tories seem to be able to tolerate people doing something that Labour has never managed. Right-wing journalists - in opposition, without any fixed positions to defend, have said the kind of things that Labour don't want to hear. 

These are often nihilistic messages. Like The Housewives League of the 1940s, The Taxpayers Alliance (to give one example) has help to shift the debate rightwards. They've been able to do this, not by being coherent, but by helping to spread a damaging meme that necessarily reflects more badly on the government than the opposition.

And they're good at tarring Labour with the brush of profligacy and illiberality. Any columnist that took that semi-detached approach to Labour's policies would be decried as an apostate. And Labour aren't stupid in doing so either - it's here that you see the real political orientation of Grub Street. As Hopi says, Boris doesn't cause Cameron problems because it simply gets ignored.

Labour has never enjoyed that luxury.

*There is Martin Linton though - remember?

Pastafarian Bus Campaign!

As a committed and practising Pastafarian, I've been very upset by the recent Atheist Bus project. Those of us that have been touched by His noodly appendage can only be offended and upset by the idiotic claim that 'there is no god.'


Now, over a pint with Jon Worth - one of the Atheist Bus activists, he told me that they bought a campaign on London's bendy buses for £5,500. A quick calculation tells me that we need to find 275 people to donate £20. Lets allow for a few extra pints overheads and call it 300.

If only we could get 300 people to commit to donating £20, we could show the blasphemers a thing or two with a campaign of our own.

Sign up now! Here!

How about a cap on MPs income?

I know I've developed a bit of a reputation as an apologist for MPs alleged abuse of their expenses. I was certainly not very happy with the campaign to force them to publish their expenses for all of the reasons set out in this post here a while ago.

My key argument that I've yet to have countered - is that...
  • Demands for transparency are an effective way of hobbling any institution - particularly when the things that are revealed are subject to a high level of public commentary
  • MPs have rivals who seek to coerce and compete with them
  • Not applying the same standards of transparency to these rivals essentially empowers them against the people elected to represent all of us.
I'd add to that the other old chestnuts that we apologists have been digging up: That the current system arises out of numerous successive 'nod-and-a-wink' deals whereby MPs have been encouraged to take up various byzantine allowances as a means of getting them to accept salary rises that don't keep pace with other sectors.

The idea of springing full disclosure under such circumstances strikes me as an ambush that is bound to damage the reputation of parliament - and, by extension - democracy in the UK.

All of that said, I'd like to offer a counter-argument in mitigation. Chris - here - applies a standard Public Choice Theory explanation of why MPs are neither all bastards or all angels.

But that's not good enough really, is it? All of this seems to come from a very misanthropic and deterministic place - one where collective action is only ever the product of a calibrated set of incentives. One where there no situation is so bad that it's not made worse by rational attempts to solve the problem.

If I were an MP, I'd want to make a point of driving a bog-standard family saloon. I'd not want to spend my holidays in the Galapagos Islands watching Turtles fuck in the sun. I'd be happy with a couple of weeks in Ireland and a week in Marbella at best.

I wouldn't want to eat at anywhere as vulgar as The Ivy any more than I do now. For work, in the past, I've had to go to these places, and I can honestly say that they give me the creeps.

Wealth is positional as much as it is a means to acquire resources. Once you've got food clothes and shelter for you and your family, the rest is largely about chauvinism and one-upmanship.

If MPs are to promote a public service ethos - and Labour MPs really should be looking at this as a response to the changing attitudes towards the excessive lifestyles of the rich - then they need to start shifting this positioning around.

It's a state of mind: If people who were perceived as powerful were living ordinary lives, it would have a significant positive impact on the rest of us. I'd not go as far as the 'Workers Wages for MPs' argument, but I'd be happy to go close to it.

A few weeks ago, Sadie explained why respectable MPs salaries were a key Labour demand - a way of ensuring that the job wasn't just toff's monopoly. I'd turn it around now: Anyone can be an MP, but if they do, subject them to a salary ceiling. Get rid of the fiddles and raise the base, by all means - but cap it as well. That may shake a few Baronet's kids out of the place for a while?

On that basis, perhaps getting MPs to be seen to be managing their finances in a respectable way can be turned around in Parliament's favour?

Waddaya think?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility

From today's Observer: Corporate Social Responsibility done over quite neatly.

(Via Sion on LinkedIn)

Oh - Sion works for Calverts - a great worker-co-op printing outfit in east London. If you buy print, buy it from Calverts - not just because they're a co-op - the quality of their work is really good, and they seem to be able to relate to customers as human beings rather than as predators.

The repair manifesto


Caring Conservatives

Here's No.1 on the Tory European Elections list in the South East.

The NHS is a '...sixty year mistake.' 

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Small C?

I saw this in yesterday's Guardian: - a feature that starts off talking about Long Eaton - my old stamping ground when I was a kiddie, where I was at primary school. I remember the local journalists on The Advertiser - people knew who they were - they'd nudge each other when one of them passed on the street - did you see who that was?
"A lot of people are missing the Advertiser," says Keen. "This used to be a beautiful town. But it's not the town it was: it's got scruffy, it's got rough, and now we even lose the paper." For the older generation, these things matter. "They want to know who's passed away," says the barman at the Corner Pin down the road, "and to check it's not them."

But the younger generation don't much care. Carl and Katrina Smith, a married couple in their mid-30s, not only didn't know the paper had closed; they didn't even know its name - and they were born nearby and have lived in the town most of their lives. They did, though, occasionally buy the Nottingham Evening Post -mainly for the jobs. For this generation, Long Eaton as a place has almost ceased to exist, lost in a more amorphous Nottingham-Derby conurbation.

"It's only the older people who think of communities now," says Carl. "For us it's more a place to live than a community." He was an electrician's mate and worked all over the country (until he was laid off two months ago - people are as vulnerable as papers in the slump); Katrina works in Leicester. Long Eaton is a dormitory for them; they rent a house and say they have no idea who their neighbours are.

"It used to be a proper community, with the railway, the canals and the upholstery industry," says Carl, "but look round at the shops now. You've got Tesco and Asda, and everything else is in decline." There is one new shop in Long Eaton - selling Polish, Russian and Lithuanian food, to cater for migrants from eastern Europe. The shop even has free papers in those three languages, as well as Ukrainian. But they are UK-wide and won't record deaths in Long Eaton, in any language."

I know that everyone has acknowledged most of this, but it seems to me to be one of the great unanswered questions of our time: The small-c-conservative question: Do we want those communities back? The local paper, the street where everybody knows your name? The high street with a High Class Victualler that makes his own sausages, and the baker that isn't Greggs?

Do we want a locality at all? Or do we really want (as appears to be our revealed preference) dormitory towns?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Spread confusion among the enemy

Your mission: Before noon today, phone the Newcastle United fan that you know and tell them that this is an April Fool - and that Joe K is still in charge.