Saturday, May 30, 2009

The 'job-for-lifers'

When I made the Reselect.org site public on the 19th May with a post on the Liberal Conspiracy site, and another one on Common Endeavour, the sentiments behind it were reasonably well received.

Here (paraphrasing) are some of the criticisms

  • “I actually like my prospective parliamentary candidate - and they are above reproach by comparison with the worst MPs”
  • “Surely this will lead to a wave of populism that will swamp the positive sentiment behind the idea?”
  • “I don’t want to join any of the parties - it’s their policies I object to”

To these, I’d offer a few comments. Firstly, I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that every constituency party of all of the major parties should hold a wholesale reselection.

But there are also a large number of MPs who have not acquitted themselves particularly well over the past few weeks (and, it seems, over many years) who were not expressly guilty of the worst offences against propriety.

These may be MPs who have safe seats, and who have never shown themselves to be particularly responsive to their constituents - secure in the knowledge that they have a job for life. They may have originally been parachuted into the seat that they occupy. They may be people who have not broken the parliamentary rules, but have behaved in a way that is hard to justify to their local constituents.

Under the current electoral system, there are too many job-for-lifers. This is what the reselect.org idea can address.

Many of the constitutional ideas that are flying around at the moment - electoral reform, recall of MPs, celebrity white-suits as MPs, and so on, seem to ignore the real problem with Parliament: That our political parties have all ignored the arrogance of some of their least-effective MPs.

In addition, for all of the failings of political parties, I’d argue that they are still the least-worst way of organising a liberal democracy. They are the only real tool that can protect the the majority of people that don’t have the time, energy, commitment or vested-interests to be active in politics from the whims of newspaper proprietors or the time-rich. 

I’ve outlined this argument elsewhere here. I’d argue that our most pressing task is to reinvigorate the rottenest most inactive political parties. I suspect that there are a number of MPs or Parliamentary Candidates that have been….
  • less than honest in their dealings with Parliamentary expenses
  • parachuted into a local constituency to represent people with whom they have little in common
  • inattentive because they regard their ’safe’ seat as a sinecure
When the initial wave of revulsion dies down, I believe that it is these MPs, and these moribund local political parties that will fall under the public spotlight. It is these constituency parties that will be very easy to grow, and it is there that the reselect.org idea may take off.

Political parties have the potential to rescue democracy. It’s up to us to ensure that they start doing so before it’s too late. So, can you name any job-for-lifers, or moribund local constituency parties (from any of the major parties) that need a challenge?

This article is cross-posted on the Reselect.org blog

The Moyes / Arteta problem

OK. Obviously, like all decent people, I want Everton to win the FA Cup Final today. But I have a beef with Everton that is better out than in.

Mikel Arteta won't be lining up for Everton today - he is deservedly crocked, and that will make supporting them a bit more possible.

I've posted elsewhere in the past about 'cognitive polyphasia' - that unthinking mild hypocrisy that infects everyone's thinking at some point.

But then there is the Moyes / Arteta problem, where it spills over into straightforward hypocrisy.

  • Mikel Arteta - more than any other Premiership player, feigns injury and dives whenever an opponent comes near him in an attempt to deceive the Referee. I know of no player that does it as artfully or with as much commitment as Arteta. He plainly does it with the blessing and encouragement of his manager, and his calculated cheating routinely changes the course of games that he plays in.
  • David Moyes - more than any other manager - rushes to speak to TV cameras at the end of a game, complaining about the poor refereeing decisions and how they cost him the game.

If there were any justice in the world, Referees would be able to permanently brand players like Arteta as habitual cheats and would be able to ignore all challenges on them - no matter how brutal. Instead, they are placed in the impossible situation of having to pretend that every challenge visited on a lying cheating shithead has to be judged on face value with the benefit of the doubt being shared equally.

It's probably not the greatest sin in the world - a bit like mucking around with your designated second home when you're an MP - but it's one that I find particularly hard to forgive.

I don't hate (almost) anyone, but I'm pretty close with Moyes and Arteta. I suppose the best thing we can say for both of them is this;

At least they aren't based in Stamford Bridge...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PICamp. Looking for game-changing ideas

I don't usually use this blog to boost my work, but I'm doing PICamp - political innovation camp - in Belfast later today, and I think it picks up a lot of the things I bang on about here all the time.

The concept of political innovation - not agitation or caucusing or drafting demands, but coming up with disruptive ideas that change the game - is a really exciting one. It's not been tried before in this form and I'm really looking forward to it.

It's coming at a time when there is a sudden energy around constitutional change in the air.

Alan Johnson has called for electoral reform - quite a big thing I think - and something that I think he has been keen on for years. Personally, I think that voting reform isn't the most important thing on the menu. I'm lukewarm on the subject - electoral systems should be designed to facilitate a form of representation and optimal policy outcomes, not just meet some notion of fairness.

I think the big crisis in this country is one of representation - last week I tried out an idea over on Liberal Conspiracy and Common Endeavour - reselect.org that is designed to put pressure on the quality of representation. I hope it's an idea that will take off in due course, and it's one that should become relevant as this whole focus upon MPs behaviour matures.

I can think of a number of piss-poor MPs that are in safe seats and that won't be forced out by their party leaders. As this whole crisis of confidence in MPs plays out, the public mood (and that of the more active sections of the population) will switch to the lacklustre ultra-loyal careerists in the safest seats. They are the a part of the problem that can be removed by a fairly small bit of orchestrated activity. Reselect.org offers a suggestion of how this can be done.

Either way, rather than waiting for politicians to make the running here (they can't really do much at the moment), it's a moment for people to come up with innovative political ideas - ones that can boost local politics, promote decentralisation, bring over-powerful media owners and pressure groups to book, and promote better representation.

If you are at a loose end in Belfast later today, and on the offchance that you haven't heard about PICamp yet, come along.

Messiah

As a Forest fan (and one that got quite worked up at the prospect / disappointment of Nigel Clough's decision a few months ago), I'm not really in much of a position to say this, but I agreed with a caller on 606 yesterday who said that Newcastle fans had to share the blame for what's happened because they've always demanded a 'messiah' manager as opposed to one who could take them somewhere:

TTSBU has a very good photo from Villa Park yesterday that made this point with a fair bit more cruelty.

I also think that Mike Ashley may be getting a bit more stick than he strictly deserves. I'm told that he was horrified when he saw the real state of the books once he had his feet under the table. Sir Freddy has to be the most underacheiving long-term owner of a club in a long time.

Newcastle really are too big for this to happen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Morphic resonance

From Radio 4's very entertaining 'Museum of Curiosity', Morphic Resonance attempts to explain why people find it easier to do the Times Crossword the day after it's been published (without looking at the answers) or how Sheep have allegedly learned to get over cattle grids.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Posh people's disease

Further to that u-turn of mine the other day:




(Via Sadie)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Italy: A beautiful country minus Mussolini

Don't nitpick at the grammar. You know what she means. Chopsy Pete has found this video (below) of Emma Goldman. The post he's embedded it in is very good as well. Go and read it.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Time to demand reselections

For some time, I've believed that the problem with most political parties (or at least, the one I'm able to observe at close hand - Labour) is that the key relationship - between the political party and the people who are elected in their name - is broken.

Liberal democracy works very well if you have competent, independent minded people being put up to Parliament by a few political parties with broadly competing ideologies. The whole process of deliberation and legislation should, if this works, be optimised.

That's the theory, anyway. But this hasn't been the situation for some time now - and it's been getting a good deal worse. The current political crisis is, I believe, a symptom of this.

Because of the domination of the national agenda, and the sensitivity to the national media, a situation has been allowed to grow up in which the parties have been able to dominate the constituency parties, and have sought to parachute suitable candidates in.

Alongside this, in the 1980s, my own party went though a bout of turmoil where activists sought to deselect candidates on their policies (insisting they adopted policies that the voters wouldn't stomach) rather than on their abilities, their ability to interact at a local level, and their personal integrity.

The result is a slightly autistic and unaccountable political caste, answeralble only to small whithered political parties.

That's why I spent the weekend building this site: www.reselect.org - I've written about it in more detail over at the Liberal Conspiracy and I think you should support the idea.

Happy Slapping for postgraduates

I saw this in the comments on Slugger - here. I can't find the original to link to, but it's worth a read:

This from CBC News, 23/03/09, which demonstrates some of the harmful side-effects of internet social networking:

“The poor guy in the room is feeling pretty embarrassed and somewhat stupid, of course,” hotel manager David Goold told reporters at Edgewater Hotel in Whitehorse, near Toronto, “but we’re not going to hold him liable or anything. After all he can’t really be blamed for what he did when he was half-awake, and under the front desk’s instructions, which he thought he was at the time.

“He was asleep in his room last night when he was woken by a phone call, just after 11pm. The caller identified himself as the front desk, said there was a gas leak in the building, and told the guest it was essential to urgently increase the air flow in the room. He then told him to pick up the room’s television and throw it through the plate-glass window, then do the same thing with the mini-refrigerator and the other window. The man did as he’d been told, and was then instructed to pull the fire alarm. This woke the hotel’s other guests and brought the staff up to his room, at which point the guest realised that he had been the victim of a pretty ingenious but cruel hoax call.

“I understand that the people responsible for the hoax have been bragging about it today, in an online chat room. The police are investigating. We do not think that it is very funny.”


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Understanding the Tudors

My kids are doing the Tudor monarchs at school at the moment.

I promised to help them with their homework.




This should clear up any questions they may have. 

MPs expenses: Where your host makes an abrupt about-turn and apolgises to former adversaries

OK. I'm trying to write this without it sounding like one of those Private Eye retractions, but it's a bit difficult: But here goes:

A few months ago, I described the MySociety campaign to force MPs to disclose their expenses as stupid and anti-democratic. And while this description could be read as praise if you squint, I don't think that this is how it was taken.

An apology is in order. Reading it back over the events of the last few weeks, it's very hard to maintain the position that I did then. As it happens, there probably isn't a substantial point from that post that I'd withdraw - I do still think that we have one of the least corrupt political cultures that has been found at any point in history, or for that matter, anywhere in the modern world.

When I read the'perceptions of corruption' index and see that the UK is 16th, I still think that even this partly reflects our notoriously hysterical and dishonest newspapers.

I do think that this exercise has played into their agenda and that the end-result will not necessarily be a more effective democracy (I'd still say that there is a real danger that things could get considerably worse as a result of these revelations) - that the result of this 'clean hands' investigation may be a form of corruption that is simply more acceptable to our odious Fourth Estate.

I also still share Shuggy's view that the 'it's our money' argument doesn't always hold water either. People who moan about MPs spending our money often don't really want MPs to run things in the first place. 

But, all of that said, these revelations have foregrounded something that I wasn't factoring in, or that I underestimated: The petty greed, the chiselling little fiddles, in some cases, the manipulative way that standards have been applied to MPs but not to the people that MPs legislate about. When I worked in politics over a decade ago, you heard rumours, and I put them down to political backbiting. It seems that the worst suspicions about the squalid little fiddles that people said MPs were up to were often actually true. 

The scale, and the sordid crafty behaviour of a minority (and so far, you wouldn't believe it, but it is still a minority) of MPs - particularly their 'the rules said it was OK, so I did it' excuses are just stomach-turning.

That the Fees Office connived in this doesn't excuse MPs - it makes it worse. Even the MPs that didn't take the largesse of offer were prepared to accept a culture that was dishing out freebies. This week has confirmed that almost the entire professional political class live on a different planet to the rest of us, and that they really need to be brought to account in a way that they haven't been for a long time.

So there you have it. I was wrong about a lot of this. And I think that there is the potential to turn recent events into something positive.

But I still worry that the end result may not be to increase public faith in democracy, and it worries me that the person who moved the no-confidence motion - Douglas Carswell MP - has an utterly odious anti-Parliamentary Direct Democracy agenda, and that one of the people mooted to replace Gorbals Mick is the arch-libertarian Richard Shepherd MP.

People who hate elected government are loving this. But I'm now prepared to concede that the legitimacy of democracy would continue to have eroded until this particular pill was swallowed.

The big question, then, is what can we do reinvigorate politics? To make sure that MPs aren't these freaks that live in a world where you just decide to buy a fucking big TV system because the rules don't expressly tell you not to.

There really are some utter wankers in Parliament, and I hope that they end up with dramatically curtailed careers as a result of this.

Gamechangers and the futility of strategy

This is an interesting paraphrasing of former 'On The Blanket' editor, Anthony McIntyre (from a review of his book that he's reproduced onto his blog):

"... people are more loyal to the movement than to the aims of the movement.... therefore republicanism is whatever the leadership says it is. 'Loyalty to the Big Lad' is stronger than ideology and political consciousness."

It seems to me that this is what is eroding everywhere in political movements - and that it casts doubt upon the future of political parties (and, perhaps more pertinently in McIntyre's case, the viability of a disciplined vanguardist revolutionary movement such at the pre-Good Friday Agreement Provisional IRA).

It was always the case, even in moderate democratic movements such as the one I've always belonged to, that 'build the party' rapidly became the means to whatever ends drove us into political engagement in the first place. It reflected a touching belief in collective action and tactical success from a big movement.

Is it now, instead, the case that a well-placed disruption - a gamechanger - based upon an understanding (or conjecture) about how a mechanism works, and what happens to it when one cog starts unexpectedly turning in the opposite direction.

I can think of a few examples recently from British politics by movements that have a discernable political agenda:

1. Disclosure of expenses. Anyone who has been around Westminster politics for any length of time knew this to be a time bomb, and that the interpretation of the results will disproportionately change the game.

2. Ross / Brand. The culmination of a gradual weakening of the BBC by it's political rivals. Seizing upon this incident and dominating the headlines for a week convinced the BBCs enemies as well as it's friends that it was unable to defend itself

3. The Tax-Payers Alliance: Talking, as I do, to local government officers, it has become clear that this group now exercise a veto over almost any initiative that local authorities would engage in. The same is true to a lesser extent with central government.

These are all trifles, of course, in comparison to the bloody struggle that IRA volunteers, their enemies and their victims went though at the end of the last century. But in the face of gamechangers (and what better word could there be for black-bag operations run by deniable elements within HMG - handing over lists of known Republicans to the UVF for example), political coherence was always going to be for the fairies.

When I finally get around to reading McIntyre's book (it looks worth the read as well), I may know what he would have done instead.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Teresa Pearce is selected for Erith & Thamesmead

No Labour seat is that safe given the current state of the polls, but Labour's selection of Teresa Pearce to fight the Erith & Thamesmead seat - against a backdrop of dirty tricks and interference from the courts of Gordon & Tony - is unqualified good news for the party.

Teresa's a long-standing activist, from the constituency, and someone who is Labour through-and-through.

Our party has suffered quite enough at the hands of career politicians, and it's good to see the right thing happen in the end. If only every party could have a full open selection now with no incumbent advantage - it could attract new members, get some new blood into politics - and it may even help renew Labour while in office?

That would be some trick to pull off!

70s 80s - Nightmares on Wax

I love this record - been playing it fairly constantly for about a year now and it always makes me smile - "Singing Lip Up Fatty chasing ghosts around the Ghost Town"


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Time for a clear-out?

Here's Shuggy mentioning (in passing) the gradual corrosion of political authority that all long-standing governments go through:

"We saw this with the twilight of the Tory years too - only these revelations were more sexy and interesting. Thankfully I don't live in London so I haven't disappeared into the Westminster-media navel-gazing loop that some of y'all live in but doesn't it work something like this: you stay in power too long, you expose yourself to this type of revelation because a) you've made too many enemies, b) as your power visibly fades, those in a position to leak lose any interest in loyalty to their political masters, assuming that they won't be the masters for much longer?"

I'd go along with that. A few years ago, a political scientist (it's his day-job) I know said to me that politics is a lot more boring and straightforward than you think. His gist was that the public don't care about politics half as much as the political class think they do. 

The critical voters - the ones whose change-of-heart decides an election - are often motivated less by any strong feelings about policies or the conduct of the government, and more by a simple decision (taken fairly lightly) that 'it's time for the other lot to have a go'.

I dimly remember another writer (was it Gerry Stoker?) saying something about how there is a fair amount of evidence showing that when you iron out the kinks, governments generally lose 1% of their voters each year as part of the process outlined above and that it's a good thing because their fitness for government wanes as they lose touch with the public.

All of this is, on my part, completely unscientific, but it reflects my prejudices. I mention this because another one of my prejudices is that people who work in politics or write about it, massively magnify the public's response to the subject.

Many times over the past few weeks I've seen politicos and hacks talking about how 'people are furious with us.'

I really don't think this is the case. They are, for the most part, annoyed about something that they don't really care about very much. Those that do say they are furious would be furious anyway. Like Shuggy's republicans who want the Queen opening Parliament in a tracksuit, people who hate politicians in general have placed themselves at the front of an imaginary army Whose Day Has Come.

And on issues like this, newspapers can play a huge role. They can switch the music in a way that will probably benefit UKIP in June (and may have unintended consequence of benefiting the BNP as well).

And while I really think that Gordon Brown's leadership in recent months has been appalling, I similarly doubt if that soap-style narrative that obsesses Westminster types really makes much difference in the long run.

I suspect that, when the dust settles, the over-riding '1% disillusion a year' pattern will continue to assert itself until there is a change of government.

One final thing: I'm firmly of the view that this expenses storm is over-stated, that there is something of a reasonable explanation for a lot of claims that seem superficially evil. There's clearly a culture in Westminster that has grown up over time, and has been actively nurtured by staff in the Fees Office - that has been exposed in a way that reflects very badly on MPs. I'm also of the view that the the whole question of transparency has to be viewed through the filter of it's assynchronous nature - a point that Stephen Fry and George Foulkes makes about journalists and that Tom P regularly makes about company directors and shareholders.

All of that said, some of the fiddles really have pointed to a handful if sleazy shifty bastards who deserve to be chucked out by their constituency parties. Both Labour and the Tories have a few - and I hope they get deselected.

I'd like to see more politicians deselected more often - not on matters of policy, but on their character, their conduct and their willingness to be flexible, conversational and vaguely human.

I'd love the professional politicans - people with no real background outside the Balliol >>> think-tank >>> safe-seat gravy train to get chucked aside and replaced by people with a record of activity in local government and their constituency parties.

Anything that chucks out a few professional politicians will not be entirely a bad thing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Proportion and MPs expenses

Here's a Lib Dem view that I'd largely agree with. (Via S&M)

A bit of context

Remember that link I posted yesterday to the interview with Cloughie - where he talks about what John Robertson was going to do to Manny Kaltz?

I assumed that everyone understood why this was such a brilliant insight, but apparently this isn't completely obvious to 100% of the football-watching world. So here is a clip from that game that followed that interview just to clear things up:



Limits of liberalism

An illustration of how social democrats (however timidly) do things that liberals regard as unthinkable - and the world improves as a result:

From this article by Jenni Russell.

"All the old arguments in favour of chaps who know how the world works have been blown away in the revelations about how group-think in politics, business, finance and journalism created the financial catastrophe."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Nowhere To Run

I don't know anything about the video below, but this is the only way I've found to link to even a not-very-good-sound-quality file of the fabulous Tina Harvey's version of Nowhere To Run that I heard at a cracking R&B, Soul and Ska night last night at Highbury's Buffalo Club.

Two minutes and thirty-seven seconds of TV heaven

Reading this (very good) post over at James' More Than Mind Games sent me off on a search - I found what I was looking for.

Eye-wateringly fantastic TV - worth watching every second - especially the bit at the end where Brian acknowledges the most underrated player the British game has ever had.

This is Clough at his zenith. Serious, purposeful, intelligent, audacious and mischievous. And funny.

Behold and weep. Absolutely beautiful.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fascism? Or populist demagogues?

On the Telegraph's MP's expenses story, Dave Osler says:
"....the new anti-politics can only find expression in either further depoliticisation if we are lucky, or a surge in support for the far right if we are not."

(for some very weird reason, Blogger won't let me put a hyperlink in this post - wtf? It's this post I'm referring to: http://www.davidosler.com/2009/05/daily_telegraph_feeding_the_an.html )

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but haven't got around to it. He here's a quick summary:


Are the left obsessed with fighting the last war rather than the next? Is there really a realistic chance of a conventional far-right party succeeding in this country, either of the formally fascist variety such as the BNP, or one that is instinctively racist, xenophobic and socially regressive, such as UKIP?

I don't think that either the BNP or UKIP or any other such party are really a threat. Sure, a strong showing from the BNP has been shown to result in an increase in racist violence, and it slows down the speed of progress towards a less discriminatory society, but the chance of the BNP ever leaping the protest vote barrier is, to my mind, very slim.

But having said that, I'm at least as alarmed as Dave is about the anti-politics mood in the country. I think it presents a genuine threat - in so far as it can result in a new populist politics emerging. Populism of the Berlusconi, Putin or Pim Fortuyn variety.

Asking a few friends who are professional political scientists, when I ask them if the public really want their politicians to look like clerics, jurors or judges, the response is often that the public want none of that: They want story-tellers.

The place we're in at the moment, I suspect we may be a good deal more vulnerable to the emergence of a story teller than some wannabee f├╝hrer.

Where I don't agree with Dave is that he claims that the public anger about expenses is both understandable and justified. The liberal left is quite happy to run with the trope that we live in a corrupt and undemocratic country. Corruption has not been eradicated, and our democracy could be improved. But corrupt / undemocratic?

And when people say otherwise, they can count themselves among a growing anti-politics movement that should worry us all.

Why Gordon Brown deserves everything he gets this week

Given my habit of saying what I think rather too quickly (do most bloggers have an abnormally short cable linking their Id to their typing fingers or their gobs?) I'd probably not make a great adviser to the Prime Minister.

But I know one thing for certain this week: That I'd be a couple of dozen times better than the shower of useless stupid incompetents that surround Gordon Brown at the moment.

No-one (probably including the PM, who is the root of the problem here) should survive this week's carnage. The handling of the 'expenses' issue has been appalling. These 'revelations' have been in the post for months.

Every minister that has had their motives questioned has had ages to prepare the ground - to get their side of the story introduced to the public on their own terms, and to limit the damage that this is doing. And the damage isn't just happening to Labour either: It's happening to the very concept of politics as we understand it.

Instead, what did they do? They've waited for the The Daily Telegraph to do it for them. The defence that the Torygraph jumped the gun with a leak is no excuse - rumours of receipt-packed DVDs have been doing the rounds for ages.

Even the most loyal Labour supporter can think of a dozen reasons to have a go at the government - every government has some ropey politics, makes mistakes, bad decisions, presents things poorly, loses fights, and so on. But to be completely bumfucked on the grounds of a corrupt political culture in a place and point-of-history at which we have almost the least corrupt political culture that the world has ever seen - really takes some doing.

Labour could - and given its origins, should - always have been seeking a dialogue with the public about what kind of representatives it wants from the start. It's not a subject that falls into the category of 'terribly-important-but-impossible-to-address-in-a-political-hothouse' and anyone with an understanding of the way that issues are scrutinised and re-modelled in the information age has known that it's an unavoidable issue these days.

Modesty forbids me for pointing to a place where it's been a near-obsession for years.

The reason that Party and the government are getting reamed so comprehensively is because we do not have, at our heart, a commitment to representative democracy. The most important element in a democracy is that we get the relationship between the voters and the electors right.

Labour has ignored this issue throughout it's time in office. A Labour government - a Labour government - has sanctioned e-Petitions, elected mayors, referendums, elected officials, the sidestepping of Parliament to talk to directly to the media. There has been a systematic surrender to pressure groups and managerial Tsars, an abject retreat in the face of demands from the permanent civil service and their modern day replacement, the Consultariat.

MPs have never appeared so irrelevant and worthless as they do today. I'm obsessed with the concept of parliamentary democracy, but even I think that MPs aren't worth much more than a clagg-nut sweeper's wages at the moment, given the fact that they've been prepared to sanction their own impotence over the past decade.

Many of it's approaches to government have - as Tony McWalter pointed out masterfully a few years ago - pulled us in the opposite direction to the one we should have been taken.

Labour has not asked the public what kind of representatives it wants. Had we done so, I'm confident that the public would have generally pointed to the type of people that dominate Parliament today rather than the ones who will almost certainly dominate it in fourteen months time.

For a brief moment, I contemplated the notion that David Cameron would at least be capable of defending democratic politics if he wanted to. Perhaps a politically competent Tory government wouldn't be as hopeless as the current inept shower.

However, on reflection, nothing I've seen from the modern Conservative Party has shown me that they have any of the traditional Conservative's laudable adherence to representative government that was still evident even as recently as when Kenneth Clarke was in the ascendancy.

It's been a bad week for everyone, apart from populists.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Fingerstyle upside down

Here's Elizabeth Cotten doing Freight Train - one of the first things any fingerpicking guitarist has to master is the alternating thumb - normally on the bass strings.

Elizabeth did it a bit different:

In ur gardenz....

... liberatin' ur sox.

(via Mark O'N.)

Little Barrie - Pay To Join



Newish white British boys with guitars. Somehow reminds me of a lot of Northern Soul for some reason.

Like 'Baby Boy' by Fred Hughes:

It's coming some time, maybe....

This reminds me: I used to work with a fairly active anarchist. A few years ago, he was one of the ... er... organisers ... of a cannabis festival.

I think that the general idea was that about a thousand crusties would turn up on Clapham Common and smoke joints at the same time, defying Dibble to nick them all at once (it was a bit before it was reclassified downwards).

The night before the big day, I was sitting in the pub with him, overhearing him yelling into his mobile phone:
"Oh no, man! I thought you were booking the sound system..."