Sunday, September 19, 2010

Obligatory Papal visit-related post

I didn't think I'd find myself taking much notice of the Pope's visit. In religious terms, I'm an agnostic and in cultural terms, I'm a Catholic in the same way as you can be Jewish without believing in God.

I hear the complaints about the historical abuses of the Catholic church along with the idiotic social policies (particularly on contraception) and understand the fury that it causes, but in personal terms, my contact with the Catholic church was largely benign. There is, admittedly, something deeply evil about allowing women who have had celibacy enforced upon them to have access to canes and schoolboys, but if you were at school in the 1970s, being caned was an occupational hazard.

So I'm bored by the Pope's visit. There's nothing in it for me. I'm irritated by it in the same way that Flying Rodent is (but probably with fewer resulting laughs). But there was one aspect of the whole thing that did make me jump out of my chair. It's this bit:
"Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live..... we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny."
I started listing, in my head, the ways that this line of thinking was deluded before I stumbled on this post by Johnny that does it so much more comprehensively than I could have done.

The LibDems: keeping lines of communication open

Over on Freemania, Tom has what appears to be a good 1st draft for any Labour spokesperson in addressing the deficit.

As their conference kicks off today, I'm a bit concerned, however, that Tom isn't going far enough in terms of ensuring that we communicate how far we understand the LibDems predicament, and how far we're prepared to go in working with them if (and when?) the time comes when both sides think that it's the right thing to do.

If you're providing v1.0 briefings to any Labour politician, it also has to address how the Liberal Democrats have to be spoken of with a view to ensuring that a constructive relationship can be had with them - one where they always know that there is the option to abandon the coalition if it can be shown to be in the national interest, and one where bridges aren't burnt.

So I'd add the following:
  • In May, the LibDems felt that they had no option but to enter a coalition with the Conservatives in the national interest. They were right to do so, however galling it is for Labour to admit. Given the scale of the economic crisis, the instability of a confidence and supply arrangement would have been hard to justify. The figures made it very difficult to pull a majority together that included Labour and, as a party, an influential minority of our MPs were already ruling out the possibility of a deal anyway
  • We understand that they are the junior partners in a coalition that demands a degree of corporate responsibility, and Labour isn't here to take cheap shots at people who have tough choices to make
  • We think that the LibDems could have negotiated a better deal on social issues than they did - there seem to be a number of areas (not least, electoral reform) where they appear to have been sold a Pup. We understand the frustration of LibDem activists and back-benchers here.
We are approaching a point at which it is going to become clear that there are two responses to the current crisis. One is to act pragmatically in the national interest. The other is to adopt a vicious and opportunistic assault on the very idea of collective action and the enabling state. At that point, the LibDems are going to have to reconsider their relationship with the Conservatives, and if they need to act in the national interest, Labour will be there to help them.

Labour recognises the need to reassess many the assumptions that guided our day-to-day decisions in government. There are many aspects of public management that we could have handled better, but all of the evidence shows that Labour's policy approach was working very well - (and better than anyone knew in May) and that the ill thought-out ideological battering that the Conservatives are proposing is very likely to undo the progress that the economy has been making.


Personally, I'd add a bit of waffle around the need for the LibDems to at least be structurally progressive with tough demands around media regulation, I'd attack the bizarrely imperfect understanding within the coalition of what makes for good decentralised democracy (isn't it odd that a party whose defining demand has been electoral reform has such a shallow understanding of what makes for good democratic change?), and I'd acknowledge the opportunity that Big Society thinking has to reassess Labour's negligence in seeking innovation around collective action during our 13 years of government. But that would probably take the oul' eye of the ball, wouldn't it?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Top Left-wing Blog

I normally get a bit snooty about Iain Dale's Total Politics polls (and moreso since this blog dropped out of them a few years ago), but leaving that aside, congratulations to Will Straw and Shamik Das of Left Foot Forward for being chosen as the best left-wing blog this year - only a year into it's existance. It's certainly everything that a good group blog could be.

I've had a few modest contributions, but I've also thought about sending a few pieces in but decided not to. 'This one isn't good enough for LLF' I"ve said to myself at the time.

When tinfoil hat-wearers accept....

... an Invitation to Join the Government of Britain, it was always going to be a laugh.

I posted something on Twitter earlier asking if we can we make it illegal for anyone to use the word 'freedom' in the name of a political party / pressure group / think tank or even a blog?

In answer, via Mabel, I got a link to this excellent site that should be allowed to sidestep any such ban.

Peterloo 2010?

Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett appears to be suggesting - in a roundabout way - that his colleagues are there to act as the enforcers behind the Government's cuts agenda in the coming months. But at a price.

As Bad Conscience picks up the story, it seems that - when he pictures this service being performed in his own minds eye, he thinks of Peterloo.

Another thing to add to the list of things that Labour should have done better: Not reward the cops for this kind of crude budget-maximising. It seems to come so naturally to them, having been unchallenged on it for so long.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Local councils and (anti) censorship

Maybe it's something that everyone else knows, but I didn't. At the tail-end of this old-ish film clip about Shane Meadows 'This is England' film from a few years ago .....

... (now being sequeled with a TV series), Mark Kermode raises the question of why a film that incorporates an educational message should be given an '18' classification by the BBFC - on the grounds that it includes a bit of racist language and a few violent scenes.

Meadows makes the point that there are plenty of all-action flicks that qualify for a '15' cert while involving slaughter on a vast scale, and I'm sure I don't need to rehearse all sides of this argument for you again.

But for me, the interesting revelation is that a lot of local authorities chose to overturn the BBFC decision and instead apply a '15' certificate for local showings.

It's news to me that this can happen - and I think that it opens up all kinds of possibilities in terms of cultural autonomy. What I'd like to know (and I'll look into it if I get time - unless someone wants to explain it to me) is this: What is the process by which a local authority reviews the BBFC's classification, changes it and then communicates it to local cinemas?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Public speaking - a case study

Via Boing Boing: Here's a test for you. How long can you watch this video for before you have to turn it off?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Boris: Astute

As a piece of personal-positioning-cum-political-mischief-making, this article by Boris Johnson is well worth a read. In it, he...
  • casts doubt on the coalition economic strategy, perhaps anticipating it backfiring
  • endorses Ed Balls as the most competent leader for the opposition
  • applies a serious dig to both of the favourites for that job
  • underlines his position as candid friend to The City

There's lots to pick from there (read the whole thing) but this bit is worth repeating:
"...the People's Party is on the verge of making a historic mistake. They are about to elect one of the two Miliband brothers as their leader, when neither of these perfectly amiable north London intellectuals has ever said anything memorable about anything."

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Lone Wolf

This lot are really worth a listen. The best LP I've heard in ages. Well constructed complex and literate songs. I suspect that this lot will have a trajectory that goes outside the space that's normally reserved for rock bands. Listen to the whole LP here.