My favourite LP of that era [late 1960s] really was and remains, Country Joe’s Electric Music For The Mind And Body, and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t in the charts, ‘cos everybody I knew had a copy of it. But, of course, it was actually that everybody who had a copy of it was somebody that I knew – John Peel
Behind the self-deprecating sense of humour and the semi-obscure 60’s musical references, Peel had a point. We’ve all done it in our own lives; got so caught up in our immediate surroundings that we forget to keep an eye on the bigger picture, not thinking about the importance of the wider context of our selves and our societies.
Incidentally, I have particularly noticed this tendency in politicians (where it often runs side by side with a damaging short-termist approach to politics). MPs and ministers are all so convinced that their party, their policies are right (welfare reform, anyone?) that they fail to notice that those on whom such policies will impact the hardest really don’t see or experience things that way….
So it’s nearly all over. This time tomorrow, the polling stations will be open and the nation will be casting its votes. But who to vote for? That’s been a difficult decision this time round. I can’t tell you who to vote for – nobody can. That has to be your decision alone.
However, if you’ve read any of my previous Election Propaganda posts, you’ll be aware that I have made a few suggestions as to who not to vote for. Don’t vote New Labour unless you want another five years of more of the same, don’t vote for any of the far right candidates for all the obvious reasons, and please, please, please, for the love of all that is good and right and true, DON’T VOTE TORY!
Who does that leave you with then?
Everyone’s talking about the Liberal Democrats as the main third choice. Personally, I’m a bit dubious about this. I can see that they would be a better choice than New Labour or the Conservatives, but only just. They seem a little tame for my liking, although this will obviously increase their appeal to disaffected voters from the other major parties who would be unlikely to support a more radical policy programme.
They (whoever they are) say that a week is a long time in politics. And this last week or so has indeed been both long and eventful – as far as the general election campaign is concerned anyway. Thursday night saw the second of three televised leaders’ debates, this time on foreign policy issues. To this observer at least, the debate seemed to be more fiery and bad-tempered than that of the week before.
Voices were raised, impatient interruptions were made, very little of any actual substance was said, and there was much less agreeing with Nick this time – David Cameron publicly accused a sneery Gordon Brown of scaremongering and being an out-and-out liar, and they both laid into Nick Clegg in a seemingly pointless effort to flatten ‘Cleggmania’ before it can become truly politically dangerous.
It is interesting to see Brown and Cameron (as well as certain parts of the media) so obviously threatened by a man previously as politically anonymous as Nick Clegg. Both Labour and the Tories always knew that this was going to be a close-run election campaign, but the (perhaps not entirely unexpected) emergence of the Liberal Democrats has got them rattled now – the fact that the old two-party system is now being blown wide open can easily be read as further proof that the electorate is heartily sick and tired of the current, broken political system.
So it’s May 6th then. Now there’s a surprise.
In exactly a month’s time, the polling booths will be open and the British people will be casting their vote for a new/old government, but, finally, today Her Madge gave her consent to Gordon Brown dissolving Parliament – which means the election campaign really, actually, finally, officially starts now (despite the fact that some candidates have been at it for months already).
And what an exciting morning it’s been for all us armchair election followers!
I’m not entirely sure what was most (least?) thrilling about this morning’s frankly mindless media coverage. Forced by Freeview to choose between Sky or the BBC, the telly ended up being muted when my brain started dripping out of my ears. I did catch Gordon Brown’s thoroughly tedious speech – although I was slightly distracted by the phrase ‘as dull as ditchwater’ bouncing round what little brain I had left by this point.
Other media lowlights included David Cameron’s unpleasantly smug speech to the rapt party faithful, complete with its mysterious (hmm) omission of the same two words (“gay” and “straight”) which were so heavily emphasised in the draft version revealed yesterday.
Regular readers will be aware that I’m not a great fan of politicians generally. However, there are the odd one or two who somehow manage, against all the odds, to stick to their principles and hold firm in the face of our deluded political system, and it is they who have my respect and (in some cases) even grudging admiration.
Michael Foot, whose death at the age of 96 was announced today, was one such who fell into that latter category. A left-wing politician of the old school, who – unlike today’s rabble – was an idealist and a principled man, Foot was one of those rare politicians who did genuinely manage to stick to those principles, right until the end of his long and eventful life.
Like a lot of Labour politicians and commentators of his generation, Foot came from a relatively privileged background. Born into a Liberal and non-conformist family at Plymouth in July 1913, politics were almost a part of his genetic make up; his father was twice elected MP for a Cornish constituency, his three brothers were all involved in Liberal politics, and Foot himself became a Socialist during his time studying at Oxford.
The importance of those Socialist beliefs were forcefully brought home to him after his graduation when he spent some time working as a shipping clerk in Liverpool; an experience which exposed him to the realities of contemporary poverty and the social inequalities that were part of many ordinary people’s everyday lives. It was here, in 1934, that he joined the Labour Party and determined he would stand for Parliament.
Now we’re a month into it, I suspect that it’s still too much to hope (perhaps) that 2010 will be a better year politically than the last. I suspect things will pick up where they left off at the end of last year and we’ll get another twelve months of bitching and moaning – but very little action on behalf of our elected ‘representatives’ in Westminster. Quelle surprise.
I can’t help being so cynical. I used to be a full-blown idealist (and I still hold firm to an arguably idealistic belief in the necessity of peace, equality and fairness, despite everything), but the more I learned about and the more I understood the way the political system in this country works, the less convinced I was by its weasel words (ie, not at all), and the less I believed in the possibility of it being an agent for and a necessary force in creating positive change.
Cynicism comes naturally after that.
2009 did little to disabuse me of this belief. All in all, it was a pretty sorry year, politically speaking – although no matter how much you despise the government of the day (and no matter how enjoyable the schadenfreude), it is never comfortable viewing to watch them dig themselves deeper and deeper into a pit of infamy; that same pit of infamy which Tony Blair played such a prominent role in originally (re) opening up back in 1997.
This evening, while faffing about on the UK Parliament website looking for something I couldn’t actually find, I came across this.
In its entirety, ‘this’ is actually a snappily-titled document which goes by the name of The Code of Conduct Approved by The House of Commons on 13 July 2005 together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members Approved by The House of Commons on 9 February 2009.
Basically, this is school rules for MPs. And, as we know, they have a tendency not to follow those.
I can assure you, if you have never encountered this document before, that it’s a truly thrilling read (not) – in fact, it should probably be prescribed on the NHS as a cure for insomnia. However you can, should you so desire after all that, download it here.
This particular passage, which comes from section IV (General Principles of Conduct), immediately jumped out at me for obvious reasons. I reproduce it here without comment, mostly because I don’t think it needs any:
“It’s not a war on drugs, it’s a war on personal freedom is what it is, OK? Keep that in mind at all times. Thank you. They lump all drugs together. It’s not going to work…” – Bill Hicks, 1990
Hicks had a point, you know. But, then again, he frequently did. On that showing, and if he were still alive, I’d probably be lobbying for him to replace Professor David Nutt, the scientific advisor to the British government on the subject of illegal substances, who was unfairly sacked by the Home Secretary Alan Johnson at the end of last week (two of Nutt’s colleagues have since resigned in support of his stance).
And why was Nutt sacked? Simply because he dared to take a stand on the relative dangers of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy that actually took into consideration the scientific evidence, rather than simply toeing the government policy line on the assumed risks associated with such substances.
Final proof, if any were needed, that drug policy in this country bears no resemblance to scientific fact and has everything to do with the assumptions and prejudices of politicians; many of whom seem to be stuck in the 1950s in their attitudes towards drugs anyway – Gordon Brown’s public pronouncement in April 2008 that cannabis is a ‘lethal’ drug being but one example of how out of touch this government is on the matter.
The drug issue has always been a complex and emotive one. There are and will always be risks associated with drug use, risks which cannot be underestimated or ignored – but the vast majority of illegal drug users in this country (and there are many) have positive and enjoyable experiences on their substances of choice, much like those who enjoy a social and legal pint or two in the pub of a weekend.
Oh really? I wouldn’t have guessed this from tonight’s performance:
“I am not a not Nazi and never have been. I am the most loathed man in Britain in the eyes of Britain’s Nazis. They loathe me because I have brought the British National Party from being, frankly, an anti-Semitic and racist organisation into being the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists”
And so most of the country falls off its collective chair in hysterics. We just don’t believe you, Nick. Particularly not when you make additionally silly comments like this:
“I regard the BBC as part of a thoroughly unpleasant, ultra-leftist establishment which, as we have seen here tonight, doesn’t even want the English to be recognised as an existing people”
Oh, yeah, all that and those highly deniable KKK links, Nicky boy…
My god, that was car-crash TV. Nick Griffin’s debut (and hopefully final) appearance on Question Time was one of the most evasive, offensive, incompetent and downright funny televisual performances of all time. And not in a so-bad-it’s-good way. For a start, the man is clearly not as intelligent as he thinks he is; he’s incapable of giving a direct answer to a direct question – and is in no way good enough an orator to have the charismatic authority he thinks he has, although he has the necessary sense of self-delusion, as evidenced by his comments to the media afterwards: