Friday, 30 April 2010

Bigot Gate - What would Gordon Brown think of you?

Mr Brown has changed my plans for this post to some extent, in the light of Wednesday's (28th April) events in Rochdale, but my original thoughts still fit. And I would refer anyone to my previous post, examining Gordon Brown's character and his 'substance'.

Well he summed it all up in a few unguarded comments. Through the day's unfolding events we saw all aspects of the man, I think proving a lot of things I've said about him.

The gaffe was essentially a socially irrational reaction from a man made clearly uncomfortable by a relatively amicable encounter with an elderly supporter of his own party. But it was honest. He can say what he likes now, but at that time, in that moment, they were his honest thoughts.

So what should we think? Opinion is divided it seems, well on the internet at least. And maybe I shouldn't be so harsh on the man, apparently he is trying his best. I mean he went back to this woman's house to grovel for over an hour, before emerging sporting the grin from the Tory posters.

Turn that one back on the Tories.

"I think you're all clueless bigots. Vote for me!"

No I think I'm just honest about Gordon Brown. The papers whip up the real fury about the man but then it seems a large section of the online community defend him and in many it was this that defined the whole story.

With Brown I'll just carry on as normal... I've said he quite clearly lacks social skills and I think this was the first aspect highlighted by the incident. He looked uncomfortable during their talk, though he answered her questions well enough and then the truth is the 'confrontation' ended quite amicably, with Mrs Duffy going away remaining a Labour voter. His reaction was completely disproportionate.

He said it was a 'disaster' and that the media would 'run with it', when it was a perfectly reasonable encounter and it would have been only a short piece in an otherwise dull day. He just remembered some of Blair's election moments in the past and what terrible judgement in the heat of the moment!? Obviously foremost; his judgement of this poor woman. However you look at it, in the moment he honestly considered her 'bigoted'.

Many have said that the media reaction was disproportionate, mostly his defenders and apologists, some have compared it other microphone gaffes (Bush/Blair, Reagan, Major, Prince Charles, Bush again...) and also to the defining moment of the 2001 election, the defining moment of John Prescott's political career.

The mark of the man

I don't agree with any of that. Brown's comments were much more significant and exposed something much more fundamental.

I mean many of the other gaffes I've alluded to were about journalists, politicians, even nations. I'm not denying that perhaps the media do like to jump on and use every little slip by Brown against him, but if he'd been caught calling a French journalist from a right wing paper a bigoted fascist frog, the reaction over here would have taken slightly different proportions... This was not a split second reaction to an assault as with Prescott and I think that incident did sum him up. Not a lot of analysis needed with a traditional Labour politician from the North, who was also a former boxer, never noted for his refinement... Brown's 'opponent' was elderly female supporter, not a relatively young mulletted farmer, who ironically, was probably a bigot (or is that bigoted of me to be so presumptuous?) Whatever, he deserved a slap.

One more time

This was an immediate dismissal of a normal Labour supporter, though obviously a bit too Old Labour for Brown's tastes. Not an off hand comment about a well-know journalist or a badly timed joke about an enemy nation (a la Reagan joking about bombing Russia). A Guardian commentator appearing on the BBC tried to compare it to the Reagan joke and directly compared the current uproar about Brown to the reaction by the US public at that time, saying the Americans laughed it off. Yeah, that was a joke about destroying their national nemesis in a very patriotic country, not an insulting reaction to a member of your party's former core support. The similarity to all the other microphone gaffe examples it that a microphone was left on...

So the first aspect was the clear discomfort and over-reaction in a seemingly unremarkable situation for a seasoned politician, then there was opinion that Gillian Duffy was 'bigoted' and 'used to be Labour'. This uncovered some true feelings about an individual who could be seen as representative of a significant number of the electorate, but more importantly part of the Labour party's former core support, the white working class. So forgetting his excuses for now, on the face value of what was actually said, he thought she was bigoted. He also possibly dismissed her as part of 'Old Labour', though of course he would deny that and it is perhaps playing semantics.

But to mention the issue of immigration, not offer a specific opinion because she didn't, is bigoted. This reaction was more than mirrored by a large section of the online community, it was amplified, by I don't know how many fold... On Twitter (#bigotedwoman) and in comments on media websites, there was a furore and I was surprised by the numbers defending him and actually agreeing with his 'honesty'. To paraphrase one left leaning journalist on Twitter he asked what was wrong with 'calling a bigot, a bigot?' This was a common perspective.

As I've said Mrs Duffy didn't actually offer an opinion on the subject, not on the people nor the effects of immigration, she even seemed to hold back from using the word racist. Gordon Brown offered his view in the moment, but the online community had complete objectivity and many saw fit to confirm that she was indeed 'bigoted'.

I saw many definitions posted, in defence of both sides of the argument and I have no doubt a lot of people did check their dictionaries. I did... Online and here's a simple definition from an old Collins Gem:

'Bigot - Person intolerant or not receptive to idea of others (esp. on religion, race, etc)'

She was clearly strong minded, but I don't think she exactly fits that definition, not on the face value of what was said. She actually seemed happy with most of his answers and she went away a confirmed Labour voter. All Labour party politicians have since said categorically she was not a bigot.

One online comment stated that she was clearly a 'nasty person' and I think most of the pro-Brown comments finished her sentences for her and filled in her opinions. Many just mocked her question, "these East Europeans, where are they flocking from?" Eastern Europe is just the simple answer, not the only answer.

I think presumptuously calling someone a bigot is quite bigoted actually...

A lot has been written but the reason I want to comment is that the reaction uncovered something I found quite sinister. Although Brown has since retracted all that was said; with his original candid opinion and the online opinion coming from what was quite clearly the Liberal Left (a largely internet adjusted group), what I saw was a disdain for someone from Labour's former core support. Whatever you make of what she said, let's face it she is not alone and from a relatively deprived town in one of Labour's heartlands, her perspective would be quite common.

She was not a possible BNP vote, she certainly didn't say she didn't like Eastern Europeans, she just had concerns for her community. Not to get into the whole issue at this moment of immigration, EU and non-EU. There are arguments on both sides and I tend to think that immigration is not a problem, that the problem is the structure of British society. However, one aspect of the recent increase of immigration from the EU has been job availability (pre and post crash) and the widely recognised issue of wage deflation at the lower end of the employment market, these issues might be concerns for someone like Gillian Duffy.

I guess these people move in pretty high minded circles and have a low tolerance for what might be called right wings views, because if they think that what she said was 'bigoted', enough to react, then I know I have moved in very different circles.

So how concerned are the Liberal Left about such issues? When to even broach the subject might incur the scorn from a large number of opened minded and tolerant 'left-wing' individuals. I wonder what connection there is now between the more middle class Liberal left of Labour's support and its former working class support?

I would consider myself left of centre, but to me the left wing was all about the struggle of the working classes. So now when I hear Gordon Brown talking of expanding the middle classes, see his reaction in this woman and see some of vitriol from the Liberal Left following the incident, I know for certain (once and for all...) that New Labour is not for me. Maybe when Brown has increased the middle class as he sees fit and marginalised everyone else, he won't have to deal with such an awful woman again...

No the media reaction was not disproportionate, well maybe a bit... But for me it displayed something that has been rumbling beneath the surface for the last 17 years, since poor Mr Smith died and Brown and Blair muscled their way in. Mandelson, Miliband, et al, these people are of the new political class, who do they represent?

(Damn it, maybe I am alone on this one. Though they fight over the middle ground, in principle I'm probably more Old Labour, these days I feel stuck in the middle. Left or right, what does it matter now? Who's left, who's right...?)

(But I do appreciate a lot of the defence will have occurred because of Labour's abysmal standing in this election)

Many of the defenders simply said they admired the honesty, asked what person has not let slip an opinion and also defended the fact that he apparently has a temper. Well what do they think of his honesty after he has apologising profusely, grovelled for forgiveness in person and fully retracted all that he said? It was only honest in that he says he thought she was saying all foreign students should be deported (hastily arranged excuse by Mandelson though it appears to be...). But lots of the online commentators have stuck resolutely to their opinion that Mrs Duffy was a bigot. So if Gordon and his colleagues genuinely do not think so, then what would he 'honestly' think of any of those that do...?

And I ask, what would he honestly think of any of us?

Remember this is the man who 'understands our concerns', well he showed a great deal of understanding and empathy with Mrs Duffy...

Seriously this is the Prime Minister, he is supposed to be the Leader of this nation, strong, intelligent, our most senior representative. When some old granny, one of his core support, potentially 'vulnerable' one of those he cares about so very much and hardly a seasoned political debater, asks him a couple of questions and makes a few poorly articulated observations, he gets in a massive f***ing tizz! No matter what your political persuasion is, should this man be Prime Minister?

I mean he thought she said we should 'expel foreign students'? He molded to successive but unrelated points together to get that? Should this man be negotiating crucially important matters on the international stage for us? The potential misunderstandings in heated discussions are frightening, think of a few yourself...

It's no wonder he stuck to the script during these debates, he barely seemed to acknowledge anything that was said and just kept on repeating the same old sound bites. Repetition is the key, the key is repetition...

'Just stick to the f***ing script Gordon...'

He certainly remember the £6 billion line. Good Lord can he remember that one??!! A piddling amount when you look at the grand scheme of things, but the basis and substance for an entire election campaign...! The party machine has fallen back on Brown's strength as an economic manager, but I do struggle to understand how this has not been pulled apart. I will look at that again, but I really think the other tow did not take him to task properly in any of the debates, Cameron perhaps only partially, not intricately enough. Jeremy Paxman in his interview on Friday night (30th April) could have done pinned him down on his excuse about the old 'no more boom and bust' mantra, that he seems to have wheeled out once more. He is trying to get out of all his failings on technicalities, blinded the uninformed and I suppose Paxman has to maintain impartiality.

But I will come back to to that, there is so much to dissect...

I just have to ask again, now that I have pulled apart this incident and his personal ability as a Prime Minister over the course of the campaign, why didn't he just become a civil servant or an adviser?

Contrary to almost everything I have implied on this blog, I do not dislike the man and I used to support Labour, understanding Mr Brown to be the brains behind New Labour. He is clearly intelligent, a man with morals and some sort of vision and even though his actions are flawed, he articulates his arguments very well.

Even when he came to power in 2007, after I had almost lost faith with the party, I thought he might have brought in some much needed direction. Instead I saw no substance and his last action as chancellor came to pass, the 10p tax fiasco and now here we are...

He could have produced as many cunning plans as he wanted and had influence, but not had to deal with the public he is so uncomfortable with.

And so to my original post, I don't remember all of these problems and all this talk of the need to get back to policy when Blair was fronting the show.

The constant call to look past the Leaders Debate and get down to the substance reminds me of something someone said in an election many years ago

"We are going to fight this campaign on issues not personalities."
"Why is that?"
"Because our candidate doesn't have a personality..."

Mandelson and Brown

Brown has his 'excuse' explained to him by Mandelson after Bigot-Gate

Even though the programme was made over 20 years ago and was set over 200 years ago, it's still clearly relevant today. Not just with regard to the candidates on offer, but also the honest view of a corrupt, archaic and ridiculous political and electoral system.

Watch it again, it's comedy perfection.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

New Labour, New substance abuse

A week may be a long time in politics but it ain’t when you’re working… And already just as I post this Brown as shown himself up again. I will post again when the dust settles and I’ve had a chance to listen to what has was said in Rochdale today.

No chance to write during the last week and one day I’m hoping to get a chance to write about the ‘issues’, but I’m always taken by the live debates, and the relentless spin. There’s just not enough time in the day and with so much bull***t to decipher, it’s been hard work, so I’ve been sifting through it this week.

I’d rather spend my time off work doing very little, but some of the stuff they’re spouting really gets my goat.

I was trying to write over the weekend, but it was sunny and I thought seriously about going into the streets and haranguing some canvassers. I mean that incident with Prescott and the Tory councillor last week looked like fun.

Obviously trying to drum up some of the high-jinx from the 2001 glory days.


Never to return…


Pale imitation…

A major issue for Labour this week has been the media coverage. Well it’s been an issue for me as well, the fact that they talk non-stop about the issues and this mysterious ‘substance’.

Alastair Campbell (and many, many more Labourites) is constantly banging on about “substance” and getting on to the issues, but spends all his time blogging talking about ‘substance’ or on Twitter doing the same. And how much substance can you get in 140 characters? It’s barely a sentence. Here are some recent extracts from @campbellclaret, the first two during the second debate:

“GB walking it on substance”

“Cameron winning on waffle”

‘Walking it on substance’? Are they drug testing these events…?

And I like this one:

“GB strong in 2nd debate but can we please get onto policy in media?”

Pesky media, always looking at the candidates, when Labour have a got a duff one. Don’t remember this kind of moaning when they were ahead in the polls and Tony Blair fronted the show.

I know it’s not necessarily the likes of Campbell who needs to talk about the policy; he could say he’s directing attention to policy and what Gordon Brown has to say on it. But when I hear what he does have to say I don’t get a feeling for the ‘substance’, more on that later.

I think Campbell fully acknowledges the irony of what he’s doing, talking about talking about the issues, but never actually talking about the issues. Twittering away to his heart’s content, again along with so many others.

As it always has been with New Labour, it is a simple matter of saying things enough times, hoping that people will believe it. All about the spin.

If Campbell could send out a mind control signal; “Vote Labour (And buy my book…)” I honestly believe he would. Or perhaps if he could put some sort of serum in the water. Maybe the next election, when Mandelson has had more time to perfect it in his laboratory.

Mandelson’s second home

Only joking. This is his real second home.

He’s in the process of renovations and I think he was recently quoted as saying “Soon it will be fully operational…”

And then we will pay, for everything…!

Following the first debate and some of the allegations aimed at Nick Clegg by the right wing press, Peter Mandelson has accused the Tories over the matter

Some have even made suggestions that Mandelson has shown ‘sympathy’ for Mr Glegg. No, I very much doubt it. He’s not capable of human emotion…

Anyway I like Twitter for these political purposes, in fact I think it’s brilliant. A real chance of engagement with people you see in the media. I’m not sure what attention the politicians, supporters and commentators, pay to the average person’s replies to ‘Tweets’, but it is an opportunity for everybody to get involved and an interesting platform, certainly new to British electioneering. Pity Mandelson’s not on there…

So the second debate, well for some balance I’ve got to say Cameron is actually looking a little out of his depth, which is bizarre considering the shouting match that happens weekly in Prime Minister’s Question Time. Maybe he needs hundreds of toffs sat behind him jeering and guffawing. Reminds him of his schools days… Well surely someone can tell him to imagine that’s happening???

After the success of Clegg looking directly into camera, and apparently into the very souls of some viewers, Cameron has obviously been advised to give it a go. With his first turn in the last debate, halfway through, he mechanically turned to the camera.

“And I would say to…


I thought this was Cameron’s game! He has his moments yes, but they’re patchy and at times he looks uncertain. I swear when Cameron looks at Clegg, it looks like he’s thinking “Oh, you’re ruining this!”

It’s not a confident winning look.

At least Gordon Brown, apart from the manic smirk, looks relatively natural. He’s naturally a social cretin and it comes across very clearly.

The fact is the other two should be tearing Brown apart, he’s got the record, and he’s made the mistakes. I’m not sure if Cameron will unleash the forces of hell (actually affiliated to the Conservative Party…) on Brown in the last debate, but he has been slightly tame in the first two. Perhaps his advisers have told him to be more positive and tone down the slagging off.

I would hope that changes on the economy, the ammunition is there. I can’t believe on the BBC politics show one commentator said the economy was Brown’s strongest card. Jesus, that’s not saying much for him. A bit like saying Bernie Madoff’s strongest card is his accounting…
I think he meant to imply that he saved us from the brink and the economy is in recovery. I will look at that soon, but I hope Cameron and Clegg do before me.

They need to rip into Brown. I don’t think the positive talk about a “Big Society” has worked. It’s not as catchy as he thinks it sounds, in fact it sounds cartoonish, like a caricature of society… When he tries to give details it doesn’t sound particularly appealing and is actually quite vague, partly because its effectiveness would depend on so innumerable factors.

In the debate he said ‘government has responsibilities’ and then ‘we’ve all got responsibilities’. Oh it’s us again! Not talking about what he can do, just about what we can do for ourselves. Oh cheers mate, so you’re not gonna do f*** all? You want the f***ing job or not?!

Labour have already tried that gig with social justice and social responsibility, it was part of the ‘Third Way’. Did it work? It just proves they are just fighting over the same ground.

So Nick Clegg has won the debates on all counts, it’s undeniable. His style and his debating have been the most natural. I suppose one thing that could be said for Labour is at least they have some dignity and admit their man’s unlikeable. I say ‘some’ dignity.

Labour’s ‘substance’ has become tediously irritating. It is quite clear, as I have alluded to previously, that by substance they mean repeating the same mantras, over and over again. The same things, perhaps with slight variations, repeated ad nauseam.

So let’s look at some of what Brown says, let’s look at some of the ‘substance’:

I’ve mentioned before ‘schools, hospitals, policing’, he has repeated these key words many times, so that people will pick up on them and they stick. I think they might have reined him back on that, “Alright Gordon, that is sounding parrot like now…”

He talks about initiatives and benefits he has and will introduce. They will have told him to be specific in these areas, though the overall effects and outcomes of any such initiative or benefit are essentially intangible; individuals can identify their own benefit and he is being specific by definition, so they can claim he has substance.

But you only have to look at one aspect of that, the fact that they have been in government for 13 years, he has a major advantage over all other parties. No-one else can talk specifically about initiatives they have already introduced.

He talks about the recovery and being a player on the world stage (his G20 influence). Again the advantage of being the incumbent Prime Minister helps in the case of the latter. But considering we’re stumbling out of a deep recession, I still think it means his hands are bloodied over the former.

Of course the G20 influence is dubious. He claimed in the debate to have persuaded Obama to come to the G20 summit, but it is true that it was a global crisis and America’s financial sector was crippled as this was affecting the wider US economy and in turn the world. I think the US and all of the others, would have gone to the party wherever it was held, and it’s quite often you don’t even notice the host at a hastily arranged party.

It’s not like Brown would have been Djing. Those responsibilities would have bee shared between the USA and China, maybe Japan as well. Everyone just wrecked our house…

Jobs have been a focus over the last week. “Jobs, jobs, jobs”, he stated as his priorities recently, I assume to be deliberately reminiscent of Blair’s ‘education, education, education’, not sure if that’s a good idea? I haven’t heard him say it before and though it was only a couple of days ago, he hasn’t reiterated it.
Maybe he just forgot the whole chant he’d been going through with Mandelson and he could only remember ‘Jobs, (Er…) Jobs, Jobs…?’

But “Jobs, jobs, jobs”? Is that public sector, supermarkets and oh it looks like the financial sector is picking up again…? I am going to write more about the employment make up in this country and the so-called “knowledge economy” we now have.

Overall Brown’s substance seems to be ‘spend, spend, spend’ and the Labour party say the Tories will ‘cut, cut, cut’. The questions are now being raised, by the media and think-tanks alike, and might be addressed in this week’s debate; we’re in record debt, so where’s the money coming from? The Tories and LibDems have at least stated the need for quick cuts, but Labour seem to deny this. So they’ll go on spending and racking up the debt?

One of Brown’s most overused sound bites on this issue has been about the Tory cuts and the NIC rise. He says they will take £6 billion pounds out of the economy (saying it is ‘taken out’ depends on a specific definition and which perspective you choose), but he has repeated “six thousand million”, just to SPELL IT OUT TO US, so we’re all sure and can remember it.

‘Oooh that sounds like a lot…’

There is a lot of negative ‘substance’ coming from all of the Labour top brass and a large amount of their campaigning is aimed at attacking the Tories.

But it is the context in which Brown has stated a lot of this ‘substance’, particularly in the debates. Again repetition is vital.

At the beginning of the second debate if said if the election was ‘popularity contest’ then we could count him out. I take issue with this as well; elections have always been partly about ‘popularity’. The most popular candidate wins in a constituency no matter which way you look at it, people don’t go out and vote for a right c*** do they?! Of course a candidate doesn’t have to be liked by everyone, but there has to be some connection with enough voters and it is partly on a personal level.

Brown said in the debate “You might not like me,” ‘but I’m damn good at my job’ was the gist of it. So ‘I’m a c***, but I’m the best!’ Well that’s difficult to prove, Brown being best at the job, but it’s been a ridiculous angle to take and it’s just another thoroughly patronising aspect of their campaigning.

The nation has changed and there is a lot of talk about the debates being X Factor politics but the country has also radically changed socially, economically and politically. Unfortunately I don’t think it has changed as much as it should, but I would hope that Labour couldn’t put a pig up as candidate in one of its safe seats and get it elected.

I think the X Factor claim is a weak argument in this age of digital media and increased social interaction, when in times past bias and prejudice were often more important to gaining votes.

Gordon Brown quite simply struggles to connect. He says ‘If you do the job I do’ and ‘I understand your concerns’ when it sounds like he is actually thinking, ‘but you don’t do my job and you don’t understand; I see the bigger picture.’

Similar to the Tories not wanting to change the First Past the Post system and decrying the idea of a hung parliament, Brown seems to be saying ‘give me a mandate and I will rule you’. ‘You mere mortals do not know what it is involved, but I know what’s best for you’. I think his tone is deeply condescending and he treats the electorate an inconvenience, and we’re ‘tricked’ like so many business leaders.

Mandelson certainly looks at the rest of humanity as such…

Why didn’t they just go for a poster campaign like this?

"Vote for me you w***ers!"

But seriously, this is a man who makes John Major look charismatic… And since he apparently understands his social shortfalls and he wants to have power or influence in government, why didn’t he just become a Civil Servant or an adviser?

Personality does matter in politics and has for a long time. So if a man with limited interpersonal skills is so certain of his right to be the Leader of this country does that make him a megalomaniac…?

Labour were trying to play on the fact that people don’t like him and up until now he had stuck with the ‘I’m your man’ for the job and I am getting on with it and so on. They’ve wanted to focus on his ability and the policies, but it’s clear that hasn’t worked, so this week they wanted to “raise his profile”. He’s the Prime Minister! He’s on the telly everyday and has been in two live debates!

The squirming is sickening.

The truth is I appreciate what Labour are saying, their principles. I supported them in 1997, but then aside from the odd change I saw little substance. They talk about renewal and so on, but they have had 13 years in power. They would of course claim the problem was the world economic crisis, but they can be held accountable for a lot of the problems and things don’t seem to have changed over the last couple of years

From the very beginning New Labour were all about the spin and that has not changed one bit, it’s just been turned into a crude bluff, because they had been rumbled. They know that everyone knows they were all style and no substance, so now the spin is about substance. Their hand was slightly forced because they know their leader has no ‘style’, so their trying to spin it to their own advantage, not very successfully it seems. But just look and you will see…

(Written weekend of 24th April)

Brown’s ‘substance’ includes quotes like; ‘I’m getting on with the job’ and ‘dealing with decisions everyday’ and so on and so on.

In a recent interview David Miliband said they’re trying to “do something”. Never mind everything else; these annoying opposition parties, we’re trying to ‘do something’. Does anyone swallow this b****cks?!

“Hmmm yes, he’s right, they are certainly ‘doing something’ and Gordon Brown is most certainly doing ‘a job’”.

He’s the bloody Prime Minister I should hope he’s doing something (like his ‘utmost’ speech, I should bloody hope so! In fact I expect a bit more. If I got the chance to play premier league football, I’d try to do ‘my utmost’, not sure it would fucking help anyone!). ‘The other two (Cameron and Clegg) are just talking’. Well of course they are. They want the job but they haven’t got it. Should they just walk into Downing Street when he’s groveling to some foreign dignitary and grab the phone out of his hand “Yo Obama! Get this…”?

I might want to be a footballer or a film star, but all I can do is talk about it. I can’t just rock up to a stadium with my boots…

Ok, no need to extend the analogy. The point is… It’s all bull***t. Just wipe it off and look at the ‘substance’. It’s not very substantial…

Those kind of sound bites really get under my skin…

I’ve pieced this blog together over the week, but in the last couple of days Labour have now even gone so far as to say they were going to write to broadcasters to effectively complain about the focus of their coverage. To say that there has been too much coverage of the likes of polls and not enough on the issues.

Well to quote a popular modern phrase, you only sing while you’re winning…

As I said before, not sure they were moaning so much when they had Blair on centre stage.

This time they had to trawl out Elvis…!

Elvis? Really? After all the talk of ‘substance’?

And we know what happened to Elvis, maybe some of that star dust will rub off on Brown…

Monday, 26 April 2010

The General Election 2010 - One joke too far?

It’s been a week since I've posted anything and I need to get something on here. It seems like there is no time in the day and the way this election is moving, anything I think of writing soon becomes out of date and irrelevant.

Gordon Brown is acutely aware of a similar problem. During the debates he gets his ‘jokes’ in whenever there is a window of opportunity, but if the window is closing he gets it in any way. I refer you to his “Big Society at home, Little Britain abroad” quip to DC in the second debate. The next question was approaching and he knew he had to get that ‘gem’ in, but it barely made any sense in the context of what had been said prior to the gag. I think the other two just ignored him and the Sky man called time on the subject.

All ‘jokes’ supplied by Labour party aides/amateur comedians, including the one and only Alastair Campbell (he’s on Twitter all month…). He no doubt rehearses them with Gordon Brown until Brown is transformed into a grinning lunatic…

His smirk before the “bath time” joke; truly unnerving…! That wasn’t polite laughter from the audience, it was nervous laughter! You could see them shifting in their seats.

“Easy Gordon, just calm down, it’s over. They’re leaving quickly this time…”

Anyway I know the manifesto launch was a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve seen very little mention of Labour’s thoroughly patronising cartoons. I know I will have missed some, but the TV debates have probably let them get away with it, to some extent.

They’re trying to cover all bases; they’ve got a policy for all the family! And they’re trying to show what their policies are all about in nice little bit sized pieces, for people with short concentration spans (and I fully admit I’m in that bracket, I just like to think I can handle more than a badly drawn cartoon).

They’re also trying to reach to those people via YouTube and the internet at large. They’re going “viral”… (And I’m quoting there).

Labour's Cartoon

Mandelson and Brown prepare for the final televised debate…

(I couldn’t find any pictures of the manifesto cartoons. Maybe they will be forgotten forever, as is likely because of the debates, but they could in future be used as evidence that the Labour party had lost the plot…)

This is the link to the manifesto:

Well I’m all for embracing technology, but in the right manner. Right time, right place… They do know they haven’t lowered the voting age yet? I’m not sure they’re planning to lower it to 10…?

I’m sure they’d like to go further, in their use of technology. They’re certainly wh*ring themselves on Twitter and on every available media, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to go one step further…

“So let’s say you’ve lost your job, your house is about to be repossessed and your life’s going to shit?

We’ve got an app for that…!”

"The Labour Party (in conjunction with Apple), we’ve got an app for just about everything!"

Apple didn’t go for it…

And no amount of formula can help with some messes.

But thinking about it, Labour wouldn't have anything for that. If kids or having kids was involved, I’m sure Labour could come up with sort of app for that. Oh let's see, something financial…?

These blogs take up a lot of the very short amount of personal I seem to have at the moment. I have a job where they actually make me work! It’s a bloody liberty. But I’m looking at getting me a job in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. After seeing that leaked memo about the Pope's visit, I’m thinking it looks like a good laugh in there…!

This is not party political of course, but it does basically say something about the culture of Government. It must be a right laugh in there if any of those ‘junior’ civil servants thought it would be acceptable to circulate (apparently as far as Downing Street) a memo ripping the piss out of the Pope and Catholicism in general.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong in making jokes about religion, but surely there’s time and a place? I have to work when I’m in work, and when I do skive and take the piss, I don’t circulate the results of it to all senior bosses!!!

But apparently they weren’t skiving this was a brain storming session. Well in these tough economic times I’m just glad our well paid civil servants, in charge of Britain’s international affairs and influencing trade and relations, have plenty of time on their hands…

Apparently the Civil Servant responsible has been “put on other duties”. He’s doing warm ups for Richard Dawkins on the seminar circuit…

This is not the best example of it, as obviously it was in some way deemed acceptable somewhere within the FCO, but it does add some credence to my notion that you would have to kill someone to get sacked from the civil service.

What if Ed Miliband's Labour party manifesto team got together with these bright young sparks at the FCO to come up with poster to commemorate the Pope's visit?

Worth the sack..?

Monday, 19 April 2010

Does Liberal Democrat success mean a third way? Or are we on the fourth way..?

No I’m not going to get anywhere with those Manifestos, they make for depressingly repetitive reading.
Can’t someone else read them for me? Well yes, they can and they do. Journalists and commentators, people without proper jobs, have plenty of time to read them and give everyone the outline. All we really need then and I think everyone has a lot of more important things they want to be doing with their time than reading what is fundamentally, the same drivel… Like going to work and keeping this recovering economy ticking over…

And speaking of similar drivel, there is the ongoing fall out from the TV debate and we have a lot of bitching going back and forth from Labour and the Tories, occasionally going for the Lib Dems because of the polls. In the Independent yesterday, Mandelson attacked the Conservatives saying only Gordon Brown set out a ‘clear mission’ to secure economic recovery, protect public services and reform politics.
No, hang on now Peter. That isn’t any different to what either of the other two parties are saying. You’ll find all of that in the Tory manifesto (and I know from only a cursory glance at it…). They are just using different terms and phrases to describe the same objectives and in the debate they didn’t set them out in ‘clear’ sound bites, like Gordon Brown.

“This way Gordon, we’ve got to find you a personality before Thursday! I’ll give you bloody substance..!

Is it a mistake not to be as annoyingly clear and repetitive? Perhaps, but we’ll see what’s been decided during the next debate; which of them changes aspects of their approach or even hijacks tactics. It could be Brown with the anecdotes and Cameron with the statistics.
It could cause a bit of a scrum at the end, when one of them breaks to go for the audience!

Things turn ugly when Brown drags Clegg in close to drop the nut on him..!

But similar to the likes of ‘No more Tory boom and bust’, if I hear Brown repeat that Labour will protect ‘Hospitals, Schools and Policing’ one more time, well I’ll… I’ll… Well I’ll probably just moan about it on here again, but at least that’s a bit better than screaming at the TV… Maybe I’ll Twitter some ****er.
These repeated mantras are the ‘substance’ the Labour party are talking up after being forced to admit that their man did not win the debate, because personality does count and Brown is clearly a social cretin. In which case, it would be fitting if they just focus on the internet campaigning they’re doing…

Mandelson mentioning this ‘clear mission’ and the talk of substance; should cause people to look more closely at the policies and maybe they will see that there are more similarities than clear differences between Labour and the Tories. In areas such as education, health and policing, the very areas Brown chooses to highlight, the talk is very familiar, give or take the odd budgetary commitment and Cameron’s talk of the ‘Big Society’.
In terms of employment and economic structure they don’t seem to differ greatly, aside from some changes (e.g. temporary workers’ rights) that Cameron wouldn’t yet reverse, we’ve seen that clearly over the last 13 years.

I’ve mentioned this convergence in our politics already and I will look at it again, it’s part of the reason so many people are sick of both parties.
In Milton Keynes on Saturday, Brown said that David Cameron and his party were like ‘the old Conservative party with new public relations’. So a bit like New Labour then Gordon? When they got into power Labour just added an inflated public sector and expanded welfare state (that was the social justice part of the 3rd way…).

So Nick Clegg has every right to be confident after the debate and at last the Lib Dems are able to offer some choice. Personally I do feel there are some dubious policy areas, but at the end Clegg called for a consensus on public sector pensions and deficit and that got me interested. Whatever happens during the election, the likelihood is Brown won’t be able to hold on radical change in the public sector for long…

I think the extent of the shake up caused by the debate will have surprised a lot of people and though you can’t be certain about the accuracy of some of the polls and how the support will hold, it is amazing when you compare it to previous campaigns.

If they maintain an increased share then it could starkly illustrate the gross unfairness of the electoral system. It appears that Labour could actually come 3rd in the polls and yet retain the most seats. No matter how much people like the First Past the Post System for its local representation and its past propensity to produce strong Governments, such a paradox cannot be allowed to stand.

So in the long term and the short term, the Lib Dems’ improved standing is what's needed and it’s just good to see this election becoming a genuine three horse race with a new dynamic.
But I still find it slightly concerning that it took a selection of TV performances to make people consider them. In past I thought people were put off by the wasted vote, but all that was needed were a few good lines, a slightly different angle on the issues, some name dropping and a few winks to camera…

“That’s right, I’m talking to you”

If that’s the way it is then so be it, it is the digital age. As long as it doesn’t involve too many cartoons for YouTube purposes I can handle it!
I don’t want to read the manifestos, but I can handle a synopsis and I would hope that most people of voting age can. I may have a three minute attention span and the manifestos (at some 70 to 130 odd pages) make my head hurt, but the cartoons made me want to tear out my eyes and throw them at the screen!!!

I exaggerate only slightly, they just sadden me really. They fit in perfectly with Labour’s patronisingly optimistic attitude. ‘No, there’s nothing wrong here…’

More to come on the ‘clear mission’ and the ‘substance’, hopefully this week, but of course most of the week will again be dominated by the debate and it’s shaping up nicely.

Cameron sums up

“I’ll be there for you…”

Steady on now Dave… And didn't you say that you’d reduce the size of government with increased community involvement? So who will you be sending to “be there” for us..?

Gordon Brown learnt his presentation skills from the team behind Tony Blair’s best moves…

“I’ve got two thumbs aloft, Blair only ever managed one at a time!”

Yes Gordon, but even through the deliberate, broken delivery and bleeding heart sentiment, Blair seemed effortless. Like a man who knew what he was talking about, a man you could trust.
He even convinced himself that military action could be used a force for change... Shame really...

Nick Clegg reaches out to voters

“Come with me if you want to live…”

Do I have a choice..?

Friday, 16 April 2010

Bright lights and sound bites

Generally speaking the debate was superficial so I just want to quickly comment on the performances, superficially.

The spin is endemic so when I read comments about any of the Leaders in the debate, I know they are subject to some form of bias, or possibly unbiased and just taking the actions and words on face value, so I try not to be amazed by them, but with some comments about Brown I am almost taken aback.
The whole thing was sickeningly stage managed and practiced, I’m not saying there was no content to pick through, but the format was not true debate, more an over formulaic platform for mini speeches.
Clegg and Cameron are relatively-speaking natural, but every action from Brown; every single grin, shake of the head, sound bite and “joke”, had been conceived, practiced and then clumsily delivered. He was coached to within an inch of his life and even then he only appeared vaguely human..!

The “joke” that bizarrely got a laugh about his smiling on the Tory posters would have been devised weeks in advance and practiced ad nauseam, until it sounded like they were actually his words and he wasn’t just reading it from a card.
I’m thinking Mandelson came up with the “This is not ‘Question Time’, it’s Answer Time” jibe at the Cameron. Quite clearly not an off the cuff remark, left in the bag and could be used at any time. I can almost hear him practising the delivery, over and over again. “This is Answer Time David, I’m not a Question! No, no wait… What was it again Peter…?”
We could be in for some gems if he slips up in one of the other debates. In a pre-election speech he rolled out “The only thing I haven't been accused of is murdering that guy Archie Mitchell in the Eastenders”. Shows the potential to drop a clanger but was only enough for a piss take on Have I Got News For You…

And then the shaking hands with the audience…! I’ve heard comments that this was a great “idea”, as if Cameron hadn’t suggested it beforehand! If Cameron or Clegg had made move first he would have forearm smashed them out of the way! These were people who sat in almost complete silence for one and half hours, “Hello, er, you. Yes thanks for coming, you sat, er, very quietly. And yes, you… You were also silent and motionless. Thank you…” As he lumbered towards them I bet they were thinking “what the fuck does he want?”, “shit! I thought he caught my eye a couple of times, it’s hard to tell…”

Anyway his comment about the smiling posters was apt because Mandelson and Campbell have turned him into something close to what the Tories have portrayed on their posters, a grinning lunatic!


Finished article, ready for anything...

As superficial as it was, I think it will have interested a lot of voters. It would be naïve to hope that voters won’t make their final decision based on these shows and they are likely to be crucial to the outcome.
Nick Clegg has been given a perfect platform to drum up genuine support for his party. Cameron really needs to take some of the shine off his face and his team need to spend more time on his answers and less on his make up…
And we can expect more of the same from Brown, which could actually become amusing especially when contrasted against the positive spin and titbits on Twitter.

More to follow on the issues, the important part…

I swear I’ve got to read some of the manifestos soon and look more closely at the issues; otherwise I’ll be basing my vote on the opinion sections of various newspapers and mainly on this glorified debating society!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Nobody's Changing

The Tories launched their manifesto yesterday in Battersea Power Station cleverly using its symbolism with their talk about the need for ‘Regeneration’, whilst walking into some simple jokes referring to the cover Pink Floyd’s Animals (including Prescott quick off the mark with little better to do than twitter his life away..) and apparently ignoring the possibility of it being considered a symbol of decay and Britain’s industrial past, never to return, that was shut down for good during Thatcher’s reign. Never mind…

But even before this launch and the subsequent lukewarm response to the content, with all the talk of a ‘Big Society’ and the realisation that David Cameron is suggesting that is up to us, the voters, the people, to sort out and run the country..! (When his work is done and Government has shrunk to the running of Parliament’s gift shop and bar, do you think David will retire to become the country gent we all know is bobbing around underneath that polished, caring, sleeves rolled up, exterior?) Even before that, the Tories lead in the polls had slipped. Just a little, but in this election we’re talking a few seats between outright power and sharing… The Lib Dems having some sort of say in Government.

So what’s happened? Because from where most people are standing, nothing much has happened at all. The campaigns have been as devoid of inspiring content as I expected them to be. And Prescott’s too busy socially networking to be out swinging hay bailers…
Why are Labour still apparently appealing, when they have a record to be torn to shreds and why are the Tories floundering, when… Well, when they’re up against Gordon Brown and his mob?!
Now I’ve asked the question I should probably provide some sort of answer.
Well who knows, they are only polls. But it could fear of and general uncertainty about the Tories, combined with Labour’s potentially guaranteed vote (which I intend to write about). I saw David Cameron speaking to an assortment of young voters and when asked if they would vote for him, he got maybe 20%. About 4 people put their hands up, right in front of him… I think the polls fluctuated with the support from business about the NIC cut, maybe some suspicion there. The marriage tax certainly can’t have helped and I saw that immediately. There is more I'm sure.
But I gave them way too much credit in recent times thinking they were holding back ideas, because with this tricky political middle ground everyone's scrapping over, they might be worried Labour would steal their ideas (which they kind of have done already). But no, nothing in the tank… Not gonna get you anywhere Dave… Certainly not back to the estate, letting the labs out of the back of your Range Rover, flat-cap on, shotgun over your arm.

The TV debate tomorrow might breathe some life into this election. But I know what we really need…

When politics meant something!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

What's that coming over the hill...?

I haven't yet had a chance to look at any of the manifestos and I will but I'm stuck on Labour's manifesto cover. I haven't got round to the cartoons yet...
See below the last four Labour party manifestos and spot the difference? (Hastily arranged and not sure about 2005 one, not sure if Tony Blair is actually holding it...)





Do you think the family would be staring in wonder at their apparently bright future, if they knew what was over the hill...?

Yes, I can see the PR thinking behind it. Especially if John Prescott was involved…

I don’t actually believe in bringing personalities (or appearances) into an election campaign. It's not right and quite often it's not fair... However, with a presidential style TV debate in the offing and a campaign that is almost certainly going to be devoid of original and/or potentially effective policies, it's what’s going to happen anyway.

There’ll be time for policies later, so back to Labour’s cover art. I’m really enjoying the look of it and I’m thinking this definitely could have been lifted from some WW2 or Cold War propaganda. That could be a nuclear attack they’re witnessing. They’re cowering in the second picture of a sequence, or perhaps the father shrewdly remembers to ‘Duck and Cover’…

Prescott could have altered this one

Put Brown’s face over Mao and you’re away...

Anyway I can’t wait for the weekend, so I can actually get some time to look at the campaigns properly. But everyone should be careful during this election…

Monday, 12 April 2010

Manifest Vacuity

Time is never on my side. Eight hours at the coalface and four hours commuting a day... Only my own heart bleeding so far.
The launch of the manifestos and the impending televised debates are the main stories from the election campaigns today. I wonder how many average voters will take the time to read any of the manifestos and if they do will they find much of interest? Anything that sets out a clear agenda and differentiates the parties.
No I think the debate is more likely to interest the viewers. Though again will there really be any substance to it. There won’t be any heckling apparently, so most of the fun will be taken out of it… Except the leaders might heckle each other, if and when the debate goes beyond reasoned arguments. In which case it’s a pity John Prescott won’t be there. Rambling nonsense in never ending sentences and repetitively talking over the opposition, maybe ending the debate with him lamping the presenter, is exactly what the campaign needs, at some point…

I want to have a look at all of the manifestos, not sure how far I’ll get with them, but Labour’s did look particularly interesting today and I’m sure there will be plenty in the press tomorrow. They have a cartoon. And I won’t comment until I’ve seen it in full (or as much of it as I can take), but I’ve used the word ‘patronising’ a couple of times for good reason. Perhaps they’re taking that accusation head on and trying to be deeply ironic and it’s terribly amusing. But I doubt it…

And I love the poster. I know Prescott came up with the barely intelligible slogan, but did they let him have a go at the poster as well? He just copied that from the Giant Book of Propaganda!
If they win I’ll be looking forward to this ‘Future Fair’. Will there be dodgems...? I know for certain they’ll plenty of skanky geezers on every corner out to stitch us up and take us for a ride…

Sunday, 11 April 2010

We're in this together - We don't have much choice...

It’s Sunday evening and I’ve got to get up for work early tomorrow, but the election campaign has already been running for a few days now, so I have to get something down for my ‘Election Blog’.
So this is rushed, but what does it matter? Like a lot of people I feel frustrated by politics and all the b**locks that is spouted, especially in recent times, and I would like to have my say. Even if no-one is listening (reading)...
This may turn out to be the electronic equivalent of a drunk shouting at the sky, waving a fist at the moon. Except it has been recorded and it will potentially be available to see forever…

You can say what you like on here, and even though it won’t necessarily change anything, that is something great. I will try to be objective and not to be patronising (and I'm getting older so if I find myself verging on the edge of Daily Maildom, I will claw my way back). There is no need to lie because unlike politicians I am not trying to be all things to all men (and women)… That is the common thread of modern politics and one reason this election, though one of the most eagerly awaited for a long time, is not going to involve particularly engaging campaigns. The expenses scandal could swing voter apathy either way, but the inane bulls**t and slanging matches won’t see the parties connecting with the voters.
In times gone by when there were ideological differences, there were fundamental disagreements; between politicians and between politicians and particular sections of the electorate. Now everyone is fair game and they’re trying to please every single one of us. Since the Tories joined the rest in the middle ground, the last thing you would hear a mainstream politician say is that there are losers in this society and that’s one reason you’ll never get a straight answer from any of the main parties (except maybe the Liberal Democrats, but we all know every one of them would p*ss their pants if a miracle occurred and they were voted into power on May 6th).
If politicians disagree on an issue, they will doubt each others’ understanding and intellect, but if a member of the public were to offer the same opinion, then watch the patronising and/or squirming begin…

With the internet and digital technology this is going to be the most talked about election ever and it is also going to be one of the most uncertain. The Conservatives and Labour have both had a good long go at Government in recent times, neither with particularly satisfactory outcomes, so for a lot of reasons this one will go down to the wire.
The kind of euphoria and hope that surrounded the Labour victory in 1997, will not be present no matter what happens (though that LibDem win would create a new and bizarre atmosphere…). That was during the halcyon days of my youth and after the Tories reign, there was a lot of naïve optimism flying around. Those times have gone but new times abound, partly helped by the access we now have to politics, this election is going to be interesting…

Well I wasn’t going to write this much, but I’ve got to comment on at least one election issue from this weekend. Probably against the grain of a lot of what I have planned to mention (Labour are the incumbent Government so have the current record to attack…), I have to say I can scarcely believe the Conservatives’ marriage tax break. They’ve been going on about it for months, but now the figures have been produced I can’t work out why they built it up so much!?!
£150 a year is going to help mend “Broken Britain”?! £150 to parents who can already afford to have one of them not in work. I won’t go into why this is unfair in the first place and they’ve just managed to come across as the same as the moralising Tory party of old and handed some very easy ground to Labour.
Gordon Brown was ready with Labour's "fair" response. His words were compassionate and they were delivered in hushed tones. He almost seemed like a normal human being...!

Thank you