Mind the Gaffe…

28 04 2010

In two days there has been two stories about two of  the men who would be Prime Minister. Neither reflect particularly well on the candidates, but Cameron seems to have escaped the media barrage which has firmly, and perhaps finally, destroyed the Labour Party. Even though Brown put a lot into the repair work following the ‘bigot’ remark, one cannot help but feel that in one small moment, a seemingly private moment, Brown revealed his true self to the nation.

I have long been a sceptic of Brown’s public persona. I have heard rumours of a fearsome temper, one which can be particularly short. Of course ‘his people’ do their best to mask this trait, and whilst the attempts to dress him up as warm and likeable seem destined to struggle, the effort is there on their part. So it was meant to be demonstrated today, and, in large parts of the meeting it was. He had most of the answers to Mrs Duffy’s questioning. He was inquisitive and friendly, asking how her grandchildren were dong at school. He looked damned uncomfortable, but he was doing what his rivals seem to find easy. The wolf was tarting up well in its new sheepskin clothing.

And then he threw it all away. As the leader of the Labour Party he is meant to be both accountable for and representative of the party as a wider whole. If this is what his party thinks of Joe Public then heaven help all of us. I realise, of course, that it isn’t what the party think of Joe Public, but that is what the newspapers and media outlets will run with. And that is what people will care about. A PM who isn’t willing to listen to his public. A PM who is willing to cast slurs on widows. Not even the apology was convincing. He apparently ‘misunderstood’ what Mrs Duffy had said. Except that, of course, being the intelligent guy he is, he hadn’t. He knew and understood everything that occurred. The trouble was that the only way out was to cast himself down, making it seem like he was not worthy of having a conversation with her. Like she was operating on some sort of higher educational level to him. She wasn’t, of course. She was, seemingly, a typical voter with typical concerns. The Labour Party as a whole should be concerned that for a party so defined by its concern for Joe Public, its leader does not seem to share that concern. The public wooing of the electorate seems so forced by Brown. He wants to get on with things. It’s like a particularly snobbish person coming into the shop where I work and treating me like I’ve just climbed out of a bin. It seems as though there is an air of it being almost beneath him to talk to the public. Or maybe I’m just reading it wrong.

The trouble is for the Labour Party, there is no-one to replace him. All the candidates are limited, and, in the case of Ed Balls, pretty unlikeable. When the election is lost the Labour Party will collapse, firstly into two factions (those who support Brown, and those who don’t). Then this will sub-divide further as those vying for consideration throw their hats into the ring. The party has become stale. It is no longer the voice of the working people it once was. If any further evidence is needed of this fact, just look at how the Conservatives are campaigning, using many of the traditional Labour watchwords. I wrote many, many months ago that the Labour fightback had already begun. It has. However, for the party there is likely to be a long period of grey days before there are any sunny ones.

On a lighter note, if you haven’t seen Newsnight’s musical campaigns, then you’ve missed a trick. Check out the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem songs designed to promote politics and voting to a younger audience. Especially check out the croquet playing Tory rappers. I kid thee not.





The Choice…

7 04 2010

So I sit here having just submitted another job application. Whilst I do not fall into the “record youth unemployment” that Mr Brown has apparently created, I am, as most are, feeling the effects of the past few years. Finding work is difficult, yes, but there is something even more difficult approaching us. The question of who to vote for.

This will be the first general election that I am eligible to vote in. I missed the last one by a few months. So I feel that I should be feeling a sense of excitement. A sense of knowing that finally I am able to have a say in the country beyond local elections. A sense of arrival into the adult world of taxes and crime and pensions and housing.

But I’m not. I’m feeling disillusioned. I’m feeling like I don’t particularly want to vote on 6 May. I know I will vote, of course I will. But I don’t know who I will vote for. I know it will not be Labour, I’m frustrated by Brown and his ‘old guard’ who seem intent on red-taping everything that can physically be taped. That choice isn’t particularly hard.

The question is, should I vote Tory? I could, I mean, it seems to be the ‘easy’ thing to do. It’s probably the only rational choice if I’m keen on really having a say on who governs. But there’s something making me pause. Something holding me back from casting off my youth and throwing myself into the arms of Cameron et al. Something which looks like this. And I really don’t like it. Negative campaigning is as destructive to yourself as it is to the opposition. It reinforces the idea that the Tories don’t have all that much to say. It reinforces the idea that this election is not about ideas, but about personality. Most of all, it reinforces the idea that the Tories are desperate. They know they’ve lost significant ground in recent months, and are now trying to play with the suggestion that it’s pointless, and, by implication, dangerous to vote for the other guy.

But of course there’s more than one ‘other guy’. Ask Nick Clegg. There’s always that option too. Voting for the Lib Dems. Middle of the road politics with little hope of achieving much beyond a parliamentary footnote. That could be an ‘easy’ vote too. Except then of course, in the event of a hung parliament (one caused, of course by my own indecisiveness), the Lib Dems suddenly have all the cards. They probably would throw their weight behind Cameron, but the parliament would be weak, and probably even more of a threat to economic recovery. That might not happen if I stick with the Tories. If enough people like me realise that not voting Tory would hinder us in the mid/long term, then perhaps we could avoid a problematic hung-parliament situation.

Of course I could play my own moral card. I could vote for the Greens. I’d feel better in that I’d be lending my voice to a specific cause. However then there’s the issue of throwing my vote away, because, in all likelihood, the Greens are going to achieve nothing in the election. The sense of feeling ‘adult’ and concerning myself with taxes and crime and pensions and housing would be gone, stripped from me for the next five years. By that time, of course, there may be a clear path, someone who has said something which has made me sit up and listen. Something which has really made me think that they are the right person to support as they are the person who is engaging with the things I’m concerned with. Then again, there may not be that path, and my hope for feeling ‘adult’ may not happen for another ten years. Or fifteen. Suddenly I’m at the point where my mid-life crisis has hit and politically I’m still not feeling ‘adult’ as the things which the politicians should be speaking to me about are not being said.

And so the choice is a hard one. The options and implications are not good enough for me whatever path I choose. The Tories don’t fill me with confidence, and whilst I’m more optimistic about a government under Cameron than I am under Brown, this is only, for me, the lesser of the two evils. It’s like being optimistic that you’re only going to get burned by your toaster this month, as opposed to your toaster and your kettle last month.

There is of course, one final option. I could turn up, put a cross in all the boxes, leave my paper spoilt and feel that I’ve made my own political point. Ultimately meaningless, of course, but it would be my own message to the politicians. Except that this feeling of rebelliousness would fade very quickly, and the feeling of regret that my determination to pass into the land of the ‘adult’  has been ruined by a petulant act of teenage rebellion would stick around for all of the next five years.





Televise That…

5 09 2009

And so, it seems, I was wrong. In part. And it’s not often I say that. I wrote, back in July that Mandleson was considering a TV debate, and how it’s something I would like to see, but not something I thought would happen as I didn’t think Brown or the Labour party would fare well out of it. Nor did I think the Lib Dems would get a look in.

Then I saw an advert today whilst watching Sky Sports, it was on behalf of Sky News, and it encouraged me to sign a petition. Now I sit up a bit when I see such requests on TV in advert form, as it is obvious that some thought has gone into this advert, rather than a chain email being passed around. The petition, available here to sign, is for a live TV debate with the three main political leaders. Apparently, since it was set up at the start of this month, Clegg and Cameron have both agreed, in principle, to the idea. Brown, as I suppose we’ve come to expect, is dragging his heels.

I’ve just put my name to it, and it seems I was the 6861st person to sign the petition, which goes to show just how popular this thing is. Which returns me to my original humble thoughts. I was wrong, I didn’t think this thing would happen. However I’m delighted to say I was wrong as it means that there will be some form of political engagement on a national level where the credentials of the party leaders are examined and scrutinised. From here the nation as a whole can begin to judge who the next PM should be. This is an important step on the road towards public re-engagement, it should be the first step of many made by MP’s over the course of the next few months.





Televise This…

30 07 2009

Apparently, according to Lord Mandelson, our esteemed leader is considering the idea of a presidential style television debate with David Cameron in the build up to the  forthcoming general election. Of course, when this news broke yesterday, Number 10 were quick to distance themselves from the reports. The consequences of such a debate could be disastrous for Gordon Brown and the Labour party.

Don’t get me wrong, I for one would love to see such a debate. It would be, if nothing else, pretty good political tv. The opportunity to see Cameron against Brown in a one-on-one debate is intriguing. Free from the heckles of party backbenchers, this would be more interesting than PMQ’s, with the men on the spot having to think fast, answer convincingly, and remain cool. Obviously the Lib Dems wouldn’t get a say in this, nor would any other political party. This obviously would create the idea that Britain is aspiring towards a two-party state, much like America, which would create a large amount of unrest amongst the smaller political parties.

Nor should it be entertained by members of the Labour party. Brown would, in all honesty, struggle to maintain his composure in such an environment. It has long been rumoured that he has a short fuse, and by being placed, alone, in such an environment, it is possible that this would be exposed. He is not the most engaging public speaker as it is, and the more charismatic Cameron would, I believe, score big points with the voting public in such a debate.

The idea perhaps raises a bigger question though. The issue of how to re-engage the public who feel let down, angered and uninterested in politics is one which will dog all politicians (as well as Esther Rantzen) in the forthcoming months as we build up to the general election. Such a consideration by Brown is an attempt to re-engage the public. Expect more ideas such as this over the rest of the year.





The World’s New Superhero…?

25 06 2009

Perhaps the post should have been entitled “Can the Internet Save the World?”. But the above sounds better. Anyway, it’s an interesting question, which perhaps should be expanded to include ‘technology’.

I ask this bearing in mind Gordon Brown’s recent comments about Rwanda. It is an entirely debatable issue of course, but it is an interesting starting point. Would the Rwandan atrocities have happened had Twitter, YouTube, Facebook et al been in their pomp at the time? I think they probably would have, except that the world would have been much more aware of what was happening at the time. Fergal Keane’s writing about the subject was, for me, a brief glimpse into the events of the massacres. It’s well worth hunting down his book “Season of Blood” and giving it a read. It’s pretty harrowing in parts, but worth it. However, they have largely escaped media attention, and indeed, analysis. Perhaps, given how far the internet reaches into the lives of millions of people, if not billions, a crude youtube video of some of the events would have brought home the atrocity of the Hutu actions.

But what would the reaction have been? Perhaps the same as that towards the video of Neda Agha-Soltan that is now doing the rounds. I am not going to provide a link simply because it is there to be found, if you can bring yourself to watch the last thirty seconds of an innocent womans life. It’s not a comfortable watch. I find it is made worse because it is obviously in a foreign language. For me it increases the sense of helplessness I feel just watching it. Anyway, the point was that it has, despite some comments, been largely ignored. The Independent had a small article on the story on page 18, a page after it had declared that Silvio Berlusconi was like Teflon, with nothing sticking to him. Ok, so a story about Italian elections is important, but more attention should have been paid to the face of a cause that Neda has now become, at least in my opinion.

I’m not sure why there has not been more coverage than this, but I suspect there is something to do with uncomfortability floating around somewhere. By which I mean, it is not easy viewing for the public, despite it’s presence on the internet. The version of the video I saw had had 131,123 viewings in little over three days. Yet people will not know about Neda, who she was, or what she has come to stand for, despite this internet presence.

So I return to the original point, does Brown have a point when he says that the internet has made foreign policy very different now? Again, I’m not convinced. Yes, things such as this will be put online. But that’s just a by-product of the events. People in Iran know about the power of the internet, yet there are still disturbing scenes pouring out of the country on a daily basis. It has done nothing to stop the problems, it simply has made it more accessible to the rest of the world. The internet will not stop violence, it will not stop murders, or indeed, genocide. All it can do is to make them more internationally condemnable.





Turmoil and Rationality…

5 06 2009

Apparently, following the departures of four members of the Government in the past four days, Gordon Brown’s time as British premier are numbered. It is apparent that the Labour Party are in turmoil, they are suffering in the local elections (I am writing this before the results are all in, but the early results do not seem good for Labour), they are suffering in the media, and, depending on what you read, they are suffering thanks to their backbenchers. The overall problem is that they are suffering. And, according to some sensationalist parts of the media, and a growing number of public voices, the only solution left is for Brown to walk away from the post he coveted for years.

This is irrational, illogical, and as far as I can see, will not happen. These may prove to be famous-last-words, but Brown will only leave No.10 when the results of a general election have seen him off. And, seeing as how he has the choice of when to call an election, I simply do not expect this to be any time soon. To my mind it makes no sense for him to call an election from his point of view. He wanted this job for years, and now he’s got it, he won’t give it up without a fight (which, according to Simon Carr in Thursday’s Independent, he has “got the hang of” now). Why call an election when he is suffering badly?

From a party point of view it makes little sense either, why call an election when you are guarenteed to be hammered pretty much everywhere, thus making the (presumably) Conservative majority even stronger? Would it not make sense to wait until 2010, ride out this storm, recover some ground somewhere, and really give the election fight a good go, thereby making some dents in the Conservative majority?

The other point is that there really does not seem to be anyone to take up the post. Alan Johnson has made a good job of distancing himself from the position, despite rumours persisting that he would be the most likely to succeed should Brown make way. Other names, such as Cuddas, the Milibands or Balls, hold only bit-part support. There is not much in the way of other options for the Labour party.

The public may want an election now, but this is the result of two things. The first is the media, who have been driving this frenzy pretty much since the Telegraph broke the first expenses story. The second is public naivity. They want to have a say in who is actually running the country, rather than watch someone, who was, in their mind, unelected, blunder his way from problem to problem. They do not seem to understand that a party was elected to govern, rather than an individual.

To dam the cascading torrent of problems with a cabinet reshuffle seems to be akin to stopping up the Niagara Falls with a rotten branch. However, today Brown has brought forward the resuffle to divert some of the attention away from the local election results. The one key thing which stood out for me was that Alistair Darling remained as Chancellor. To my mind this makes sense from Brown’s viewpoint. It is obvious that the economy is in dire straits, by keeping the same guy in the position of Chancellor, this can dissipate the blame away from Brown. If he had appointed someone else, the blame-game consequences would have seen him take on more, rather than less, responsibility for the state of British finances. By keeping Darling, at least he can be consistant in sharing the load for the predicament.

These are testing times for Brown and the party as a whole. The Telegraph revelations have now written their way into the history books. The results of these revelations are still being written.





Idiocy…

7 02 2009

So Jeremy Clarkson has got into trouble again. This time for insulting the PM, the blind, and the Scottish, all in one sweeping statement. Only one of which he did. As a voting member of British society, is Clarkson not allowed to express an opinion? Of course he isn’t because he is part of the BBC (the organisation with charred fingers following a series of high profile gaffes).

The reaction to what he said was grossly over the top. It was interpreted, deliberately, in the wrong way. And he was later made to issue an apology to the various groups he had apparently offended. He insulted the PM. He is not the first, nor will he be the last to say such things about our esteemed leader. It is, apparently, fine for cartoonists to point out Brown’s visual deficiency, or indeed his Scottish heritage, and it not to be interpreted as some form of slur on either the blind or the Scots. As soon as these observations are put into words, suddenly there is uproar. It is, quite frankly, pathetic.

It is symptomatic of our society, in which deliberate misinterpretations of any given statement frequently land the person making such a statement in hot water. It is almost sickening. At some point we will not be allowed to say anything derogatory at all, ever. We will, of course, be deliberately offending some part of society. Which, of course, we won’t be doing. Not that that will matter.

Both the blind, and the Scots need to get off their high horses about this. Clarkson was not insulting them. He was insulting the PM, and I, for one, think he should be allowed to express his view with all the freedom of free speech that our democratic society has given him.