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It’s a Monster Raving Election April 25, 2010

Posted by markswill in Navel Gazing, Politics, Schmolitics, Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

I feel I should, like my friend and fellow blogster, Ian Marchant (see http://ianmarchant.wordpress.com) be writing more and more frequently about what is admittedly turning into an rather fascinating election campaign. However despite the emergence of the LibDems as serious contenders, my avowed cynicism about the outcome  (see Vote For… Who? – April 11th) has not been dispelled and I remain convinced that whoever wins we’ll still get another government of lying, self-serving nincompoops. Or perhaps I’m being a tad harsh? Many of them are not nincompoops, they are cunning, sharp-eyed career politicos who just happen to evade the truth and serve their own interests before those of their paymasters, (that’s you and me, buddy).

I am also unconvinced about the value of the televised debates which many hacks and observers who should know better claim to’ve energized the election process and will miraculously prompt a higher turnout than of yore. To me they are little more than the inevitable consequence of X-Factor Britain where celebrity is given full reign and cogent, fact-based argument is replaced by hectoring. To some extent of course this has ever been thus, certainly in my lifetime, but Macaroon and Cleggie’s failure to even mention Labour taking us into the Iraq way during the so-called ‘foreign policy’ debate, a war of eye-watering cost and one which the millions of Britons who took to the streets against were lied to and ignored, confirmed in my mind that politics today is just a cosy complicity of vested interests. And why are there no high-profile women MPs, ministers or their shadows in this campaign? If I was a female voter I’d be incensed at this, and indeed the way the leader’s wives are being given such prominence simply because they look good(ish).

It was equally telling (maybe) that I was staying in the People’s Republic of Stoke Newington this weekend where I saw only one New Labour poster, but a plethora of LibDem and even UKIP placards, and as Ian had observed in his daily blogs during the campaign, NewLab just don’t seem to be promoting themselves as they have in past elections. Mine hosts explained to me that here in Stokie this is because the egregious (in my view) Diane Abbott has a safe seat, but such smug certitude cannot be the norm throughout the land? Or can it?

If it is, then can I commend you all to catch Roman Polanski’s latest flic, The Ghost, in which a very Blairian-style ex-PM is gradually revealed as an indicted war criminal who was also, gulp, in the pay of the CIA. It’s a gripping piece of work with a plausible subtext which just about outweighs it conspiracy theory motifs. Don’t live near a cinema, ticket prices just too steep on your wages (if you’re lucky enough to have any) or simply can’t be arsed, then check out this clever YouTube pastiche of Pulp’s ‘Common People’ which, if you must vote, will have you – like me – running as far away from the Tories as you can on May 6th.

Which remains in my case into the arms of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Check it out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKFTtYx2OHc&feature=player_embedded

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Plunder the Volcano April 19, 2010

Posted by markswill in Media, Politics, Schmolitics.
3 comments

To London this past weekend where the talk was not of the impending election or even the Cleggster’s triumphant performance in the t.v. debate (Sunday’s papers outdid each other with frankly fatuous LibDem landslide predictions). No, the topic on everyone’s loose lips was volcanic ash and its likely devastating effects on mankind as we know it.

With the airlines losing £130million a day, Waitrose about to run out of Kenyan mange tout (a real worry in North London) and plucky Lord Mandelson openly contemplating sending warships to bring back stranded bullion dealers from Macao, the promise of more eruptions to come excited much speculation in my social circle. Yes, according to Prof. Bill McGuire of University College London, there is “mounting evidence” that increased volcanic activity is being caused by specific weather events such as the typhoons or torrential rains which are in turn the product of global warming. Oh yeah, and the melting ice shelves can “reduce and bend the earth’s crust” which in turn causes seismic and volcanic activity”.

This of course is very good news for the flat-earthers who are convinced we’re all, in the words of my playwright friend Mary C. “going to hell in a handbag” if we don’t immediately abandon our cars and erect windfarms on top of every hill in sight, but in the meantime I’m furiously putting the finishing touches to a series of inter-locking short stories revolving around disparate knots of mankind stranded abroad by ash clouds from the unpronounceable Icelandic eruption: It will be called ‘Tall Tales from Under The Volcano’ and I confidently expect it to become a t.v. mini-series in the style of Lost or 24, thereby making me a fortune which I shall squander on large, powerful cars and motorcycles with lethal emission rates.

However more seriously – well actually what could be more serious than me becoming fabulously wealthy on the backs of other people’s misfortunes? – I don’t think I met a single soul in London who didn’t have a friend, relation or colleague stuck in some foreign clime unable to return home to our depressing election campaign and shagged-out economy. (And an economy likely to be further reamed if Waitrose really does run out of amusing little culinary fripperies and BA finally goes bust). Indeed I am writing this on the chuffer back from London a day earlier than anticipated because the highly important media moguls I had meetings with couldn’t get their Learjets out of Monaco last night.

Interestingly enough, or sort of, a backlash is now developing against not just ashen-faced (sic) Brown for failing to address the collapse of Britain’s civil aviation industry, but also Cameron and even Clegg the Wonder Puppy for not picking up the baton he couldn’t even see.  Needless to say this sentiment was most loudly articulated in The Mail on Sunday but if, as this morning’s media was suggesting, flights could be grounded for several weeks more, then pity the foolish politician that doesn’t at least promise to Do Something About It before we go to the polls on May 6th.

As you’ll know from my last blog, or rather the responses to it (and thanks again to Mary C.), I shall be voting Monster Raving Loony this time around, but I might just be tempted to change my mind by any more mainstream politico who threatens to invade Iceland and put a cap on the volcano (as opposed to their reckless bank lending), or pipe all that hot air into specially converted but now redundant oil tankers and ship it over to Blighty to warm all those council blocks left freezing this summer by global warming.

But perhaps it’s merely a conspiracy theory for I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing was (literally) stoked up by the Icelandic government to teach us a lesson for demanding our cash – as opposed to our ash – back?

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Vote For… Who? April 11, 2010

Posted by markswill in About me, Politics, Schmolitics.
18 comments

So at last the election process is officially underway. I’ve voted in most British elections during the last thirty years – before that I was hippie, then a closet anarcho-capitalist (go figure) – but I’m not sure if I’ll bother this time or if I do, who’ll get my vote. Abdicating one’s democratic rights by not voting is a mantra bleated by political parties large and small, but I share the disillusion of many when I say that whoever wins will make little or no difference to the common good, and certainly not my own situation.

Why? Well the sheer scale of the financial deficit the incoming government have to deal with in my view renders arguments about which services might be cut, which taxes might have to rise and consequently how many jobs will be lost as facile waffle. To mop up £160billion of red ink on the national balance sheet will require a substantial change in the way the country’s economy is run and none of the political parties are being honest about it for fear of striking even more anguish into the hearts and minds of the electorate than already resides there. And it is this failure to fess up that cements my disillusion with our arrogant servant-masters in Parliament Square, both current and future.

IMPOTENCE ‘R’ US  

This isn’t just a consequence of the expenses and bribery scandals, nor the arrogance of a Labour government that took us into two futile, costly and geo-politically damaging wars on bogus premises despite overwhelming public protest. No, my main disillusion is with a political system that is a) designed to cocoon those who decide to clamber up its slippery pole from the economic and moral realities that beset the rest of us, and b) is, frankly impotent.

Taking my last point first, we as a nation are in thrall to the European Union and such laws as the UK can implement unilaterally are mainly on the parliamentary periphery. Fully three quarters of new legislation in the UK comes from unelected Brussels bureaucrats and since the European Economic Community as was came into being, over 100,000 new laws have been imposed on us by that body… over twice those made by the sovereign UK government during the same period. Moreover our net balance of payments in favour of the EU currently runs at some £60billion, with an almost similar bill for the cost of EU-imposed red tape. Apart from UKIP and the BNP, who for their other, variously racist policies I could not vote for, no political party will admit to this neo-totalitarian absurdity, and indeed I must ruefully acknowledge that some of the cultural benefits of living where I do are due to subsidies handed out from the EU coffers… even if we put the money there in the first place. But the reason our politicians do not challenge, at least publicly, the omniscient power of the EU takes me back to my first point.

STAYING ABOARD THE GRAVY TRAIN

Most modern politicians are self-serving. They whine about public service, but reading the CVs of most of the current candidates – or at least the sanitised versions delivered to the media – they overwhelmingly come from relatively privileged backgrounds (Bullingdon Club, anyone?), few of them have ever held a job outside politics and so even if we took their fine words at face value, how could they know what it actually feels like to be working class, to be poor, or to have to support, school or keep a family healthy on an average, let alone a minimum wage? As one time editor of a local newspaper and more recently a campaigner on (admittedly generally unpopular) rights of way issues, I’ve had quite a lot of firsthand exposure to politicians both local and national and I’m afraid to say their overwhelming responsibility is not to those who elected them, but to staying elected, staying aboard the gravy train. Oh, and by the way, exploiting public fear is a dandy way of doing that.

Okay, there’s going to be less gravy sloshing around for the next few years, but as we edge towards the one-party state that the EU is slowly but inexorably herding us into, they as a breed can look forward to jobs for life and pensions to match… providing of course they don’t rock the boat. So with the aforementioned exceptions, no politician does. Indeed this was arguably set in stone in 1971 when the Foreign Office circulated a document, FCO 30/1048, to all MPs which stated that there was “a major responsibility on HMG and on all political parties not to exacerbate public concern by attributing unpopular measures nor unfavourable economic developments to the remote and unmanageable working of the Community.” (Now the EU).

Please don’t cast me as a little Englander railing Canute-like against the tide of onerous, freedom-sapping legislation from across the channel or the waves of immigrants from poorer EU countries that Daily Mail readers are so fond of blaming for all our economic ills (that responsibility truly resides with bankers and Gordon No-More-Boom-and-Bust Brown), for I love the rich and varied cultures of continental Europe and hugely enjoyed my years working there.

MORE DUCK HOUSES, PLEASE

But just as county councilors and their executive staff  benefit from the funding handed to them by national government and, increasingly, the EU to feather their nests (if not their duck houses), then so too do all national MPs and their subordinate, mushrooming quangocracy who are already and will in future be increasingly dependent on Brussels for their livings. In other words, none of them will or even could make any tangible difference to our daily lives, at least not in a benign or constructive way.

So who to vote for, if at all? Well if they still existed, I reckon Monster Raving Loony would be the way to go. But they don’t, so I think I shan’t.

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Petrol Prices To Fall? April 1, 2010

Posted by markswill in Cars and Bikes, Politics, Schmolitics.
9 comments

Generally speaking, I ignore any kind of round-robin e-mail… An entirely hypocritical attitude of course as I send most of my friends just such a communiqué alerting them to every new blog. However double standards aside, the first sentence of one I recently received did actually encourage me to read on, primarily because it itched a particularly provocative sore for anyone who lives in the country and is forced to use a car for personal transport. And it’s currently an even deeper wound having just shelled out the thick end of £150 as a penalty for losing my sole car key whilst in London a while back.

In (im)practical terms this meant borrowing a car to drive 40 miles to and from the nearest Citruin dealer (misspelling deliberate) to get a new ‘basic’ key which would let me into the car but not start it, then having the damn thing towed to the dealer so’s to get the immobiliser re-programmed, all of which took the exactly a week. And I thought the Lancia was a bit of a money’n’aggro pit…

Anyway with the price of oil being as low as it has been for a while, the aforementioned round-robin pointed out that the oil companies have simply jacked their prices up and the government won’do anything as they rake in extra tax for every increase. And of course if you live in the sticks and like me you’re paying as much as £119.9/litre, soon you’ll be faced with the £1.50 litre, so the originator of the e-mail made an interesting suggestion.

The oil companies just laughed at the ‘Don’t buy petrol on a certain day’ campaign last spring because they knew we wouldn’t continue to hurt ourselves by refusing to buy petrol. Indeed it was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. But this idea makes much more sense and from now on I’ll just reproduce more or less verbatim what I received:

“Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations, aided by the Green Lobby, have conditioned us to think that the cost of a litre is actually cheap, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that the buyers control the marketplace, not the sellers. And the only way we are going to get petrol prices to fall is to hit someone in the pocket by not purchasing their petrol! And we can actually do that without hurting ourselves.

“For the rest of this year don’t purchase any petrol from the two biggest oil companies (which are now as one anyway), Esso and BP. If they aren’t selling any petrol, or in reality just selling a lot less, they’ll be inclined to reduce their prices. And if they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact we need to reach literally millions of Esso and BP petrol buyers.

“Now, don’t wimp out at this point… keep reading and I’ll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!

“I am sending this note to a lot of people. If each of you send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300), and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000) and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we’ll have reached over three million consumers! If those three million get excited enough and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, then you guessed it… THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!”

Like the man said, all you have to do is send this to 10 people (and not buy fuel at Esso or BP stations). How long would all that take? If everyone who reads this – and gives a stuff of course – sends this email out to ten more, all 300 million people could conceivably be contacted within the next week or two. Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on either by passing the link to my blog onto ten people, or just cutting’n’pasting the text into an e-mail (or Facebook notice) you send to your gas-guzzling friends.

But in any case, just buy your petrol at Shell, Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons Jet, Texaco, etc., etc. Of course quite apart from anyone who abhors pyramid-stylee missives (e.g. yrs. trly.) some of us don’t even have the choice of not buying from these two petro giants because there simply aren’t any in the vicinity. Or alternatively, we might have to drive dozens of miles out of our way to avoid them.

In which case ignore all this and just enjoy what at least down here, looks like being a rather sodden Easter.

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