Monday, 2 April 2012

Was nun, kleiner Mann?

George Galloway has just been returned to the House of Commons, this time for Bradford West. He has now repeatedly shown that, wherever there are large numbers of Muslims, they can be persuaded to vote for someone who appears, however improbably, better to embody their prejudices and concerns than the Labour Party candidate. Lutfur Rahman (sp.?), the mayor of Tower Hamlets, is more evidence for this.

Alex Salmond and the SNP have shown that the same applies to Scotland.

What does this tell us? I think it says that a party cannot force its own prejudices and assumptions on its supporters indefinitely without paying a price for neglecting them. That New Labour did not reflect a Muslim world view seems blindingly obvious. That the Scottish Labour Party has succeeded in reducing Scotland to a wasteland in 40+ years of virtual single party statehood equally. Having the adenoidenal Milliband as leader is simply the icing on the cake.

And the tectonic plates don't just shift on the Left. If Cameron attempts to sit in the centre ground, he alienates the lower middle classes and aspirational working working classes who formed the bedrock of Mrs Thatcher's election wins. These people have already got into habit of voting for UKIP in the European elections.

Not to mention LibDems disillusioned by the realities of power.

Remember that in 2005 the two main parties collectively polled some 70% of the vote. This was utterly pitiful; only the vagaries of the electoral system allowed Tony Blair to claim a comfortable third election win. The two party share of the vote fell in 2010 to around 68%, thanks to Labour notching up its second worst election result since 1918; the Tories were unable to form a government unassisted. The fundamental truth is that all parties are now busted flushes.

The current London mayoral election illustrates this perfectly. There are only two viable candidates. The policy differences between them are trivial (which, in light of their notional ideological baggage is quite remarkable) and their appeal to the voters is based almost purely on personality.

So what now?

Not necessarily mutually exclusive possibilities are:

- a prolonged period of coalitions and/or unpopular minority governments
- a realignment of party politics along lines (whether ideological in the traditional sense or not) which more accurately reflect the electorate's hopes and fears
- the charismatic man (woman?) on a white horse (but I do hope not!)

Incidentally, I think that this period of uncertainty started in 2005 (if not earlier) - we have only been able to recognise it since the accession of Gordon Brown and the financial crisis.

We have, in a sense, been here before. Certainly, in electoral terms (although not in political ones), the 1920s looked a lot like this. The decade even opened with a Liberal Prime Minister in a House of Commons with a Conservative majority. The situation eventually resolved itself with the collapse of the Liberal Party and the emergence of the National Government, first with the "Doctor's Mandate" to deal with the depression, and secondly with the War (when it became more genuinely national).

Neither of the main political parties emerging from the Second World War much resembled their pre-war nominal predecessors, whether in tone, personnel or policies.

What's it going to be this time?

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Osama bin Laden and the Archbishop of Canterbury

I am disappointed and not a little surprised to hear criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury for expressing a moral view on the killing of ObL. Surely that's what the church exists for. Moreover, the A of C adheres to a faith whose tenets include a prohibition on killing and injunctions to love one's neighbour and to turn the other cheek; it's scarcely surprising that he should have a few reservations about said killing. It seems otiose to point out that the critics generally belong, nominally at least, to the faith for which the A of C speaks.

It's also surprising that so little criticism of the manner of the killing should have been heard more generally. Provided that ObL posed no threat to the US Navy Seals carrying out the mission to apprehend him - and it's no doubt a truism that it could be very difficult to make a correct judgement on this in a matter of split seconds - it would surely have been preferable to render him up to a court for judgement and almost certain punishment. After all, even overlooking the example of Nuremberg, the Israelis chose to put Eichmann on trial, not to take him out in the obscurity of suburban Argentina.

Incidentally, would it not be far more punishing for ObL to be confronted to with his crimes while in the power of his enemies and to have years to contemplate the end rather than be deprived of life in a struggle of a few chaotic minutes?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Final cockamamie notion of the week

I gather that our own dear C of E is contemplating changing the service of Baptism because no one understands it.

Where on earth does one begin with this?

My children were baptised RC. The church insisted that parents attend a short course explaining what it was about. Problem solved. And if one doesn't understand absolutely everything, does that even matter. Take it on Faith. Accept that some things are unfathomable mysteries. Or, if you must, just sit there nodding politely until it's all over as many generations have done already.

Or, use your brain. Ask yourself this: "Why am I getting this child baptised? I have no idea what Baptism is or what the service means. I can't be bothered to find out, so the logical thing to do is not to go through with it."

Clearly, if you have a congregation who by and large never darken the church's doors, they are not going to understand what's going on. Funnily enough, the church managed to survive for centuries, despite the service being conducted in Latin. People just got on with it. I realise that a Christian priest finds it hard to say "that's their problem if they can't be bothered", but I would also suggest that it's not something that's going to be resolved by changing the words a bit. Or a lot. And undoubtedly for the worse (for an illustration of what I mean, compare the Book of Common Prayer version of the Catechism with the latest milk and water version).

People's brains have not, by and large, got any smaller since the Middle Ages. If they wanted to understand the Baptism, they would. If they don't, it's because they're not interested. And by making the service 'modern' and 'understandable', you will make it less interesting. Paradoxically, making the problem worse. Which is just one of many reasons why the Church has become less and less loved as it has become more and more 'relevant'.

I'm no expert on Islam, but they seem to do all right with scriptures written in classical Arabic, a minority language even in the Muslim world. That's because they have faith. If you don't have faith, you're not doing to understand Baptism, even if the service is written in Janet and John. Get over it, move on and love God.

Another cockamamie notion

I gather that John Prescott has gone to the police to find out whether or not he was a victim of the so-called phone hacking scandal.

I say so-called, because numpties who leave important information on voice-mail don't deserve the protection of the law, but should be charged with wasting police time, as should the numpties who leave their voicemail on the default PIN number. I mean, it's hardly the kind of sophisticated hacking you see in the movies, is it?

I digress. My real point is that if you don't even know that your privacy has been breached until the police tell you IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN - given that (I'm fairly sure) the police know only that the voicemails were accessed and not (yet) what information, if any, was obtained - then your privacy has not, in fact, been invaded in any significant way.

What is more, I gather that the egregious oaf, the noble Baron Prescott, may be contemplating legal action against New of the W. etc. for breach of privacy. Even if such a right does now exist and even if he can show it was infringed, he should be reminded that the courts award damages on the basis that harm has been suffered - what harm will Lord P be able to show? Given that, thanks in part at least to his own craving for publicity, we now know that he is a gluttonous adulterer, what revelations can possibly yet lurk unknown....

A cockamamie notion

Heaven knows that I am not a compulsive blogger. But this week brings a flood of nonsense against which one can only rage.

My first apoplexy inducing piece of twaddle is the news that Radio 4 must change because it is:
a) too white b) too Southern c) too middle-class d) too old (and I confess to all four of those). One the nuggets that emerged was that non-listeners found it "too didactic". Yeah, right, that's exactly what the chip-stuffing oiks mumbled. Too didactic. So look forward to shows which are "chattier" and "less formal".

Incidentally, Radio 3 came in for the same criticisms more or less, but as I rarely listen to it, I take it as read that whatever applies to Radio 4 applies equally to Radio 3.

Christ on a bike. If you happen to have Radio stations which broadcast high quality or elitist or whatever other label you wish to apply programming, then what else do you expect? How on earth can you change what they broadcast to change the audience without reducing the quality? People who don't listen to Radio 4 are missing out - but THAT'S THEIR CHOICE. If you don't like classical or otherwise obscure music LISTEN TO RADIO 1 OR KISS OR HEART OR WHATEVER.

Or better still, only have one national radio station. Then it will have one unique demographic which you can never criticise for being too anything!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

More EUreferendum nonsense

Strange that EUreferendum is the only thing to get me cross enough to post. After, the fact that someone is wrong on the internet should not ever be a sufficient reason for wasting one's time in correcting them! Still, here goes.

The latest from the egregious one(s) is:

"Thus, we end up paying more for energy than virtually any other consumer in Europe (and the developed world). No one knows why, and even the experts disagree. Different sections of the media have different explanations, but all are quite happy to use "corporate greed" to hide the cost of the greenery."

Now, suffice it to say that this is reasonably easy to check, since the DoE or whatever it's called now do surveys on this very question (see, which include pages of international comparisons. Now, it's true that diesel is very expensive here, thanks to high taxes, and petrol too. But on electricity we are in the middle of the table and on gas, we are close to being the cheapest.

EUreferendum has a style all its own. It manages to make the most commonsense positions seem utterly repulsive simply by espousing them. It's therefore most delightful to catch them out (no doubt, if they ever rose to the bait, they would engage in one of their lengthy and tedious rebuttals), thereby disproving the general rule that one should never, ever, correct anything wrong on the internet.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Winter Fuel Allowance - EUReferendum nonsense

As EUReferendum makes it too difficult to post comments (what are they afraid of?), I cut and pasted the nonsense on Winter Fuel Payments in italics below.

The point is that everyone gets the Winter Fuel Allowance - the qualifying factor is not need, but age. So rich OAPs get, OAPs whose rent includes heating costs get it and OAPs who spend the winter in Spain get it. It's a straight supplement to the Old Age Pension.

The government's energy policy may be foolish (fuelish?) - although I would suggest it's too early to say. But it's got nothing to do with payments to old people.

Incidentally, they use the stupid socialistic phrase "fuel poverty" as if it was something special. Presumably, if you are poor, you are also "food poor", "clothing poor" and "package holiday poor". If you are on a low income, you have to choose what you spend it on more carefully than if you are on a high one. It would be perfectly rational to decide to spend less on keeping a house warm in favour of spending more on something else. That is what being poor means. The winter fuel payments are a way of making these choices less keenly felt, and are in many ways (non-means testing for instance) a good thing.

Anyway, here's the nonsense:

There would be some very great sense in tightening the qualifying criteria for winter fuel payments, as this administration is considering doing, if at the same time efforts were being made to keep fuel costs down.

However, it should be remembered that the core policy of the Cleggerons – as it was with the previous administration – is to increase the costs of home heating, so to promote fuel economy and thereby reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The winter fuel payments, in this context, are a mechanism for mitigating the inevitable effects of increased fuel poverty and the concomitant increase in the death rate amongst the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia.

Not least of the problem here though is that the Cleggerons have such a limited grasp of the effects of their own policies. They are unable to link the effects of two diverse actions.

But then, such an activity would require them entertaining two separate ideas in their foetid little minds at the same time – something entirely beyond the capability of our current rulers. Unfortunately for the soon to die prematurely, the consequences of the linkage are going to be all too apparent.