How Danny Boyle accidentally saved the Coalition

On Friday, 16th November, 2012 the General Election results reflected what had been the mood of much of the country since July of that year; increased support and continued mandate for the Coalition Government of David Cameron.  The early election had been called in early September by the 2/3 majority in the House of Commons required by the Fixed term Parliaments Act, with both the Coalition and Opposition generally feeling that they had it in the bag.

As Ed Miliband prepared to step down as leader of the Labour Party, and hence kick off a further period of in-fighting and introspection, he must have wondered how it had all gone so badly wrong.  As did ex-Chancellor George Osborne, who had been fired from his post in early October – quite a daring step for Prime Minister David Cameron but later regarded as a cost that that party had to pay.  New Chancellor Danny Alexander had spoken with the IMF and agreed that the stringent austerity policies of his predecessor would be slackened off.  The Coalition had some how survived – the next election set for 2017.

How had this come to pass?  The answer lay with a peculiarity of the British Electorate and the astonishing Olympic Opening Ceremony that the world had witnessed on July 27th.  It may also have been slightly helped by the antics of US Presidential Mitt Romney who, on the 26th July when visiting the UK, had managed to insult his hosts in quite a public manner.  And it certainly wasn’t hindered by a reasonable sporting performance during the games and the publication of a set of financial results in August that suggested that things were possibly coming along, even if many people in country were suffering badly.  And a couple of highly public firings of Tory MPs with extremist views, and their replacement with ‘party liners’ was highly regarded in the press.

The Games gave Cameron his Falklands moment; just as his predecessor Margaret Thatcher had been able to return to power on an increased majority on the back of a successful patriotic war, Cameron had been able to marshal the hype around the Olympics to his own advantage, making good use of the Olympic ‘feel good’ factor and taking a massive chance that the slight improvement of published financials and the October reshuffle would bring him votes.  Labour had failed to get traction as an opposition party; their own leaders realized that they would be forced to make some unpalatable decisions themselves and appeared to be almost paralysed by their honesty, as spokesmen repeated that ‘things  were not going to be easy’.

But that Friday morning, as Cameron started to plan for this new Cabinet, he knew that his victory started the instant that the spectacular Opening Ceremony hit the screens and fired up in the watching public that very peculiar form of national pride that has carried more than one Prime Minister to election victory by the ‘feel good’ factor.  Even the pointedly critical  ‘NHS’ segment was put to good use when, in late August, Cameron gave a speech in which he stated that he and his Government would take on board the Olympic Spirit and start by listening to the people; the outpouring of public support for the NHS triggered by the ceremony had made him rethink policy and in a massive U-Turn the NHS reforms would be reversed.

In the weeks up to and during the election campaign, Cameron deftly reflected on the Olympic ideal in virtually every speech he made; the fact that Britain had once again managed to produce a wonderful event in a time of austerity; that once again we had shown our abilities to the world.  Some early orders to business based on the Olympic Business Summit in the week before the games were heavily publicised, and various pundits of the left and ‘progessive’ movements in the UK were indirectly bought in to the campaign, as positive comments they had made about the Olympics were re-used widely in the media.

As the time approached for him to visit the Palace, he took time out to write a memo to his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood.  It was short: “Would it be too wicked to offer Danny Boyle a knighthood for ‘Services to the Conservative Party’?”  Cameron smirked and started thinking that some of those NHS reforms were pretty damn good and would have to be reintroduced….

Oops Apocalypse….or…..GET A FRIGGIN’ GRIP!

According to some folks, the Olympic Opening cermony on Friday night is going to go with a bang.  Not figuratively, but literally.  Apparently a bunch of ne’er do wells called the Illuminati are going to detonate a nuclear weapon at the Stadium which will open up an interdimensional portal and flood the world with… well, you get the picture.

Just as the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’ was built on an Indian Burial Ground, the Olympic Stadium in London was apparently built on an area steeped in Satanism and nuclear waste.  I would have hated to have been the Health and Safety at Work officer signing off on that one….”Look, we have protocols for dealing with low level radioactive waste, but 3 legions of Demons and Azrat the Merciless, well, you can’t just put THEM in landfill….” I’ve visited Stratford – not my cup of tea but by no means the Hellmouth.

I’m not going to link to this garbage – at one level I find it incredibly funny, but at another level I’m sort of concerned that a lot of people are taking it at least semi-seriously, and some are really giving it the works; whilst the choice of the Clash’s ‘London Calling’ by BA for their advertising campaign is bizarre to say the least, the way in which people have freeze-framed and analysed the advert to ‘prove’ that it’s actually a warning of impending doom is reminiscent of the ‘Paul Is Dead’ business with the Beatles ‘A Day In The Life’.

I suppose it’s some form of Millienalism – I’m sure that it will get VERY crazy as the end of the ‘current’ phase of Mayan calendar approaches in December, but that’s another story – but I honestly wish these dingbats would shut the fuck up about it.  People.  It’s not going to happen.  If the Illuminati were so smart, how come it’s taken them 300 years and we’re still not all enslaved?  Why advertise the fact that they’re going to do this?  Are they some sort of Bond Villain who gives away their plot so they can be defeated and then have to go and create a new one to keep them busy for the next half century?  Why am I even trying to be logical about this?  Even if bugger all happens except what’s supposed to happen, the conspiracy theorists will have a brilliant explanation as to why Stratford isn’t a glowing crater surrounded by H P Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones.

The Internet seems to have allowed us to rapidly create instant mythologies, and then spread those mythologies far and wide.  Our leaders and Governments and institutions have failed miserably and ever since Kennedy was assassinated it seems that we’re happier to believe in conspiracy rather than cock up, in mind control rather than mindless violence.  Please folks, let’s just get a grip here; we’re in a big enough pile of pooh right now – just how we’re going to afford to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies in a year’s time is a bigger concern than a load of sub-X Files conspiracy fiction triggered by folks treating the Illuminatus! trilogy as historical fact rather than second rate, mildly pornographic science fiction.

And if I’m wrong, I’ll see you on Saturday in the Illuminati Death Camps that await most of us, and I will strangle any smart arse who says ‘I told you so….’


Denver and the progressive knee jerk point-scoring…

I rarely write about serious stuff like mass murders here on this blog.  It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I regard it as pompous and pretentious for me to pontificate on the bleedin’ obvious disasters that befall this world unless I’m somehow involved.

The Aurora cinema shooting is just another tragedy in America’s long and difficult relationship with firearms and the Second Amendment of the US Constitution (for those who don’t have a copy : “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.“)  It’s a combination of multiple personal tragedies, cultural and governmental failures to legislate and one person’s evil or psychosis. I guess that we may get some idea of why this young man did what he did – whether it will make any sense is another matter.

I’ll come straight out – I love a lot of Americans.  Their governments may make me weep on occasion, and they have some religious leaders that make we wonder whether we read the same Bible, and they also produce the Khardssians.  But – on the whole, I like ’em.  I like to think of myself as a left-wing libertarian in political terms, so I sometimes find myself dealing with a lot of people from the left who disagree with my views of the American people, and a lot of people from the US who think I’m a particularly weird type of Libertarian.

What I have found is that hatred of the US is one of the last remaining acceptable bigotries.  So I wasn’t desperately surprised to see this little gem pop up in my Twitter stream – still not sure whether it’s serious or a ‘joke’:

“What American’s don’t understand is that they’re insane.”

Now….let’s pretend I tweeted…”What Greeks don’t understand is that they’re insane.”  I wouldn’t do such a thing – they’re exhibiting some of the sanest behaviour in the world right now – but listen carefully….hear that low rumbling, that sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth, the sharpening of disembowelling cutlasses?  Good.  Because that’s the sound of ten thousand people who’d support that sentiment about the Americans on Twitter getting ready to turn around to me and yell ‘racist’.

I can’t see the difference in comments, but one would be acceptable to a lot of people who consider themselves to be liberal, free-thinking, non-bigoted progressives and one wouldn’t.

To my friends on the left – this isn’t the time for cheap political point scoring based on the actions of one lunatic, no matter how often this particularly American tragedy is played out. The shadow of the man with the gun is long in US culture – it will not easily go away and I’m sure that we’ll see this sort of thing happen again.  But I’d like to think that we could all have the decency to get through these dark times without point scoring and cheap jokes.


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-07-15

  • G4S – Greatly 4uckedup Stupidity? Pathetic and embarrassing. Can't even guarantee guards they did get speak English. #
  • #BankofDave if I were to be offered a banking licence, based on the current licensees I'd consider it a libel… Best of luck, Dave. #
  • The G4s theme tune. Dire and embarassing – at least it wasn't the tune from 'the Professionals'…. #
  • Lennox the dog killed by Belfast CC. Sad day for animal lovers, and shameful for Belfast CC and the shites within it. #

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There’s one thing we got to get, Heyes….

…and that’s out of this business!”

One of the TV highlights of the week for me in the early 1970s was the TV series ‘Alias Smith and Jones‘, following the adventures of two outlaws on probation, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, as they attempted to stay ahead of the law and out of trouble. At the start of every episode, we’d see the two being pursued on horseback, with Curry shouting the above lines to Heyes.

This week I finally decided that I need to get ‘out of the business’ of freelance web development.  I have a nice part time day job, involvement with a startup, and currently enough freelance work to keep things ticking over.  But teh freelance web work will never, ever, make me a good income again, and if I’m going to do anything with my freelancing time, I need to find something else.

What triggered this?  I quoted for a WordPress related job – install, configure, tweak the theme and apply a few small mods to the installation. Admittedly not one of the world’s great technical tasks, but a nice job.  I quoted at my ‘lowest rate’ – £20.00 / hr – this was a UK based customer, and I expected to take about 10 hours to do the job.  I replied a mail later in the day telling me that I’d not been successful as another UK based freelancer had come in at a lower rate.  Of £5.00 per hour.

A fiver an hour.  Less than I’d get sweeping floors in McDonalds. Rates like that are pretty common from suppliers of services based in the Far east, but from a UK based develoeper, it’s scary.  Because it means that the market for some types of development work has become commoditised, price driven and almost at the level of ‘will work for food’.

So…time to get out.  It’s no longer worth it.  Fortunately I have a few ‘specialist’ areas of software development I can fall back on, but am wondering now whether it’s time to take a while different approach.  With a flexible permanent job available to me, maybe it’s time to look at other things to do and leave software development work to the sweatshops of the far east and the UK?

I’ve been thinking of things that are not ‘commodity’ – maybe get my old woodworking skills back?  Or try something new? Art? Something to do with my interest in vintage radio? Who knows.  Perhaps focusisng on the permanent job and doing bits of freelance work or something new for ‘beer money’ is the way forward these days.

Very, very sad.  How long before other parts of our technology and ‘creative’ industries become sub-minimum wage sweatshops?

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-07-08

  • Just testing! #
  • Billie the dog has been found on the other side of Sheffield – for a small dog she traveled far! Safe and well, owners collecting! #
  • My Godchildren have lost their dog in Hillsborough, Sheffield – please RT – #
  • If people have to build something like the #shard then they must have a really tiny todger… #
  • Hmmmm….#Sheffield to get access to lots of Government money to reduce youth unemployment and improve economy. What madness will emerge? #
  • Staffordshire Police no longer treating #terrorbus incident as terrorist incident but as a stupidity incident… #
  • Sykes – a show with gentle humour and lovely characters. So long Eric. #
  • Happy Independence Day to my US friends! #
  • Interesting program about eo Wilson on #PBS right now. #
  • If uk is as reliant on financial services as we're told then stories of incompetence and corruption will stuff our GDP beyond all rescue. #
  • Mark Lawrenson – the Victor Meldrew of soccer commentary… #euro2012 #
  • What does Diamond have on Agius if Agius goes and Diamond stays? #Barclays #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-07-01

  • #instagram – amateur night in dixie when a billion dollar company is knocked out because….the hosting company had a power outage. #
  • .@DavidAllenGreen I'm also wary of anything containing 'Fact.' as a 1 word sentence! Especially at end of tweet! in reply to DavidAllenGreen #
  • At 8-15 this morning my neighbours started demolishing their bathroom. Can we put such activities back to later, please? #
  • When I see the EDF advert featuring the female 100m runners who start dancing I'm reminded of 'Springtime for Hitler' from The Producers #fb #
  • Alleged #Childabuser Husband of U.K Ministry of Justice policy maker has his Extradition refused: #
  • Eurozone Banks given bailout fund access…again… They must be laughing themselves silly. #
  • #barclays bob diamond says he won't resign – classic arrogance and hubris. Hope he gets hammered. #
  • #euro2012 Mrs Merkel will be SO annoyed. I guess Italy won't be getting any bail out any time soon… #
  • #euro2012 ze German defence may well be shot after that second Italian goal… #
  • #euro2012 if the score stays 1-0 to Italy the tanks will no doubt be rolling south from Berlin tomorrow…. #
  • #euro2012 German captain may have been encouraging respect and tolerance but STILL sounded like he was announcing an invasion… #
  • #Murdoch throws his rattle out of the pram on tv as he splits News International…. #
  • Trying to resolve a Worldpay reporting issue. …clearly not shaping up to be a good day for bankers and their ilk. #
  • #Sheffield Open Meeting TONIGHT : What do you want from a resource centre / social centre? #
  • RBS try to dodge bullet by blaming minion in Hyderabad…. #
  • #cheerupchloe a vicar, a priest and a rabbi walk in to a pub. Barman says 'Is this some kind of joke?' #
  • #cheerupchloe A man walks into a bar. Ouch. 🙂 #
  • Re. #sheffield olympic torch – last time something made of metal with Nazi symbolism came here was december 1940… #
  • Rooney – the glue used on your hair will withstand short bursts of speed… #EUR02012 #
  • #Blair #eurozone With regard to European unification, how much do you bet that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Greece…. #

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