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….

70 Years of get out clauses…

Early today Israeli Defence Forces attacked a convoy of ships carrying aid that were heading for Gaza.  The details are sketchy; the IDF allegedly opened fire on the ships, wounding volunteers and damaging the vessels, and then boarded at least one ship.  The IDF claim that they were attacked by people on the ships with knives, and in the ensuing shooting (there is no evidence at all that the people on board the ships had any firearms) between 10 and 20 volunteers were shot dead.

Let’s just look at this. 

  • First of all, this attack took place 40 miles out – that’s International Waters.  Israel therefore committed an act of piracy.  Even if the crew of the ship boarded did resist, I think that they were justified in repelling acts of piracy.  There is no difference in what the Israelis did to what Somali pirates do.
  • If the organisers of the convoy were attempting a provocation, then the Israelis have proved themselves to be singularly incompetent at dealing with provocation.  Why not wait until the ships enter Israeli waters before stopping them?  Why not park a destroyer across the route of the convoy to force the convoy to stop or turn?

The Israelis will now no doubt spend a lot of time claiming that it was self defence – just like the many occasions when IDF members have shot dead aid workers or reporters.  Just as they did when they attacked the USS Liberty in International Waters in 1968.

There is, of course, a great irony here.  The action of the British Royal Navy in stopping the SS Exodus docking at Haifa in 1947, and the subsequent sending of the refugees on board back to Europe, was a massive propaganda coup for groups like the Hagen-ah fighting for the establishment of the Jewish State.  It may well be that this action by the Israelis will engender massive support for Israel.  The blindness to historical irony of a country so formed by history is astonishing.

This has also been the week in which the Israeli Government have expressed their fierce resistance to the idea of a nuclear weapons free Middle east as suggested by President Obama.  And let’s not go in to the business of the Israeli secret service ‘borrowing’ UK and Irish passports for the death squads to use.  Not a good year for Israeli PR…

As a child and a teenager, and right through to my mid-twenties, I felt great sympathy and admiration for Israel – they successfully resisted numerous invasion attempts from Arab nations, and stood firm against terrorism.  But in recent years I’m increasingly of the opinion that they’re becoming a serious threat to world peace.  In fact, I’d regard their antics serious enough to get them in to the ‘rogue state’ category.  Let’s face it – today’s act of piracy indicates that either the government has no control over it’s forces, or that the government has control over it’s forces and no respect for International Law.

70 years ago the world quite rightly had great sympathy for the formation of a Jewish state in the aftermath of WW2 and the Holocaust.  For the last 70 years the Israelis have traded on the guilt of the Western World in letting the Nazis get away with what they did, and with Israel’s position in the Middle East as a western ally in the Cold War and more recently in the ‘War on Terror’.  Well, sorry guys, the Cold War’s over, the ‘War on Terror’ is rapidly changing complexion and even becoming discredited, and you can’t guilt-trip Governments made up of people who were not even born until 20 or 30 years AFTER WW2.

From a one time supporter to Israel – please behave like a civilised member of the family of nations.

To my own Government – can we expect sanctions to be called against Israel?  If not, why not?

Why I’m fucking furious with David Laws….

A little history.

One of the reasons why there has been radical political change in the UK in the last year is that the British people have finally started getting truly fed up with MPs on the ‘gravy train’ who seem to prosper whilst the rest of the country goes down the plughole.  Until 2006, it was legitimate for MPs to pay expenses / rents / fees etc. to their partners or family members.  A change in the rules then stated that you could no longer do that.

David Laws fell foul of this by virtue of the fact that between 2004 and 2009 Mr Laws claimed money back from the State – that is, us – to pay rent to his partner a total of around £40,000.  I think it’s safe to say that had this been a story involving a couple of jobless folks claiming benefits there wouldn’t be an issue of paying the money back right now – it would be more likely to be an issue of someone spending a year at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

At first glance, Laws appears to have either been incompetent with money (never good for someone tasked with the job of implementing Government cuts) or dishonest (equally a bit of a downer for someone in that job…)   And then it gets complicated – apparently the actual reason for the…misunderstanding….involving the expenses was that laws was actually gay, and he was trying to keep this quiet for respect of his and his partner’s privacy.

To date I’ve been impressed with the Coalition – both their politics and the way they’ve been implementing them. But the Coalition has come to power with a whole host of ‘issues’ around it – there are folks in both parties who don’t want it to work,  Labour are waiting for errors to exploit and people are expecting a lot from the new Government.  What folks are not wanting is a return to parliamentary expenses problems – especially when it features someone who’re responsible for implementing serious, albeit necessary, cuts.

  • Laws – this is why I am bloody angry with you.  I find it VERY difficult to believe that you:
  • Didn’t appreciate that your private life was going to be public at some point in the last year or so. 
  • Chanced your arm by carrying on claiming after the rule change.
  • Were hard-up enough to need to claim the rent back at all.
  • Didn’t realise that it would all come out if you became a frontbench Minister, especially in the Treasury.

It’s inevitable that whoever implements the Coalition’s Treasury policy needs to be pretty much whiter than white – or at least as white as any politician can be these days -for whatever reasons Laws didn’t meet this criterion. 

Whether he thought he was working within the rules or not, he wasn’t.  He’s now given an open-goal to opposition to the Coalition within the Tory Party, the Liberals and New Labour.  Personal hubris has yet again laid waste a political career, but with potentially bad implications for the country.

And that’s why I’m so fucking angry with Laws – he’s managed to drag the bad issues of the last Parliament through in to this one, distracting people away from the really major issues of getting the UK back on it’s feet after a decade of mis-rule.

Demonising Tories…or anyone…is so last century…

Now that the smoke of battle (and confusion) of General Election 2010 has cleared and we have a Coalition Government that hasn’t yet been proven to be the spawn of Beelzebub, can I make a suggestion that demonising anyone in politics – even Tories – is not a good move?

Twenty five years ago, during the Thatcher years, a few of us on the Left made the observation that it was potentially unhelpful to refer to the politics espoused by her Government as ‘Thatcherism’, even as a shorthand.  Our argument went that if you attach a name to a branch of politics in that very overt way, then as soon as the individual dies, quits or gets voted out of office then, almost by definition, that form of politics disappears from the scene.  There is a historical precedent; whilst 99% of everyone called the political beliefs of Hitler and his followers Nazism or Fascism, a few people in the 30s – often doctrinaire Communists – referred to it as ‘Hitlerism’.  Whereas we’ve been able to spot Nazism over the decades, spotting the politics underlying ”Thatcherism’ seems to have been harder – the monetarist and ‘Shock Doctrine’ policies of the Chicago School have come back repeatedly to haunt us in many ways, culminating in the years of Bush Junior Government in the US.

This last election has been truly bizarre, with people repeatedly warning me about ‘re-electing Thatcher’ in the form of David Cameron.  The irony is that some of the folks who’ve been most vociferously demonising Thatcher and the Tories were in the twenties and early 30s – in other words, when Thatcher was in power these folks were either foetuses or snot-nosed kids. 

Demonising any individual politician is fraught with danger for those doing it; unless your target is very obviously evil incarnate (in which case the vast majority of people will see it anyway and you’re ‘preaching to the choir’) then folks will just regard it as sour grapes and ‘ad hominem’ arguments.  One thing that has started happening in recent times in the UK is that people have become disillusioned with the political process, politicians and the whole schoolyard ethos that seems to have permeated British politics for the last 20 years.  The demonisation of one individual or party by others involved in the same ‘game’, so to say, has all the elements of ‘pot calling kettle black’ and people have responded to it accordingly.

It IS last century – just look at the nonsense at ACAS last night when BA Chief Willie Walsh was surrounded by a good old fashioned British ‘leftie rent-a-mob’ that seemed to belong more in the 1970s at Grunwick than in 2010.  The union chief was furious, ACAS was embarrassed and angry, Walsh commented on the disgust he felt in the situation he was in.  The demonstrators focused their chants on Walsh, and have probably significantly damaged chances of settling the dispute.  Seeing the placards from groups like ‘Socialist Worker’, for those of us who were in the Labour movement in the 80s and 90s it was like a return to old times with the ‘Usual Suspects’ – the professional hecklers and agitators who have no great desire to settle these disputes but simply seek to benefit from them.

Boys and girls, that approach is over.  It was always pointless and now people see it for what it is – egotistical tantrum throwing by typically over-privileged, under-occupied political performance artists.  If you want to achieve change in our society – get involved with genuine community groups and put your  backs in to getting some work done.  Demonising the opposition is childish and pointless.

The farce of the 2010 General Election

Less than 2 hours after the closing of the Polls in the UK’s General Election, it’s clear that there have been some cock-ups in the logistical management of the election that makes most developing world elections look like the Acme of organisation.  Let’s face it – this is THE most important election for probably probably 20 years – and one might have expected that such an election would be run in the most professional, efficient and effective way possible.

Unfortunately, it appears to have been organised by people who make Fred Karno’s Army look like the SAS.  Let’s just take a look at what seems to have been happening in the last few hours of polling.

  • People turning up to find massive queues at their polling station, going away, coming back repeatedly, then finding themselves being turned away when the Polling Station closes at 10pm.  Although in some places, people queueing when the Polling Station has closed have been taken in to the Polling Station and allowed to vote.
  • Other people turning up to vote to find that there aren’t enough Ballot Papers and so they can’t vote.
  • People in some places have been turned away an hour BEFORE the Polls closed, and have been told that they Polling Station can’t handle the queues. 

In other words – some Polling Stations have been under-resourced, badly staffed and inadequately supplied.  How can the Local Authorities and the Electoral Commission have allowed such a sorry and anti-democratic situation to arise?  After all, it should not have been a surprise that there would be a higher turnout in this election than previous ones – people have been excited by this election in such a way that I’ve not seen for some years.  We might therefore have expected the Returning Officers and Electoral Commission to take this on board and plan accordingly.

In my own polling Station I saw no more staff than usual, but did witness a higher throughput of people than I’ve seen for some time.  It was the first time I’ve actually queued to vote for as long as I can remember, despite the fact that the turnout is only a few percentage points higher than previous elections, going by the current returns.

So what’s happened?  For what it’s worth, here’s my twopence-halfpenny.

  • Perhaps in some places people left it too late to vote; there were stories about people going to vote at 6pm, finding a queue, then coming back an hour later, finding another queue, then going away again and then finally getting in the queue at 9pm…..why not stay in the queue at 6pm?  Polling Stations are open for over 12 hours – perhaps folks could get their arses in to gear a little earlier if they are determined to vote?
  • Returning Officers clearly have lacked guidance and possibly understanding of the Law in the way in which they have reacted to the queues – some have kept the station open after 10pm, others effectively closed it before that time, etc.
  • Has there been additional time taken in distributing the ballot papers and handling enquiries about Council elections as well as the General Election?
  • Has there been enough staff at Polling Stations, and has the staff been used effectively – when I voted it appeared that 3 members of staff were only capable of processing one voter at a time.  Why weren’t additional staff deployed to reduce the queues earlier in the day?
  • Have some Local Authorities tried to save money by cutting staff?
  • Have attempts been made to save money by printing Ballot Papers to suit the projected turn out rather than printing one paper per voter and a few hundred extras ‘just in case’.  It’s not friggin’ rocket science!

So….if any of the seats where this nonsense has happened generate narrow results then we could see challenges and possibly re-runs.  It looks like the rules have been ignored, and there’s been clear incompetence at a local level.  Let’s hope that lessons are learned and at least a few heads role where needed.

Don’t Panic! A Very British Coup or a Terribly British Compromise?

 Over the last few days there’s been some very strange stories emerging and then submerging again in the UK Media – the General Election has made the silly season come early this years.  One story about a prospective Tory candidate has been apparently blocked with a gagging order, and another story about a possible car bomb in the Aldgate area of London fell off the radar.  Combine that with military ‘Chinook’ helicopters being seen operating in the vicinity of 7 or 8 towns and cities in Britain (whether the helicopters were black or not I’m not sure) and we have a very panicky media right now.

A story that seems to be pretty popular right now is that on Friday morning, whether or not he wins an outright majority or not, David Cameron will go to the palace, tell the Queen he’s forming a Government and basically trot back to Downing Street and demand Gordon Brown vacates the premises.  The various posts / Tweets / etc. are best seen here.  Whether Downing Street will be emptied with the aid of a team of crack chinless wonders from Conservative Central Office, or whether Brown would tell Cameron to bugger off is debatable.

Just how likely is this to happen – to be honest, I very much doubt it’s likely to happen at all.  To me it sounds like a good ol’ bit of Labour FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  If you don’t vote us in, the Tories will take over by the back door, so give us your votes.  This from the Government who have:

  • Remove Habeus Corpus from the statute books for certain crimes.
  • Gone to war on some very dodgy legal grounds.
  • Introduced a series of laws that have repeatedly eroded our civil liberties.

Of course, something like this would put the Queen in a rather bad position – were she to be asked to allow Clegg or Cameron to form a Government before Gordon Brown admitted defeat – even if he were leading a minority party – it would put her in the insidious position of being asked to support the new boy against Labour or Labour against the new boy – not at all a good place to be.

It’s times like this that I wish we had a written Constitution in this country and a Head of State of some sort to apply it.  As it is, we’re going to be relying on common sense on Friday morning to see us through the next few days, as I believe a hung Parliament is almost inevitable.

When slogans are not enough

I was 18 years old in 1979; people of a certain age will remember that year as being the start of the ‘Thatcher Years’ – the start of 11 years of Tory Government that was characterised by radical right wing policies, many originating from the Chicago School of Monetarism, jingoistic manipulation of the electorate in a popular war (The Falklands).  The economic policies ensured a destruction of large swathes of British manufacturing industry, steel and coal, and it might be argued that it was a ‘mild’ form (relatively speaking) of the shock and awe school of political change that alumni of the Chicago School had already inflicted on Chile and other countries in the 1970s.

I entered the workforce in the middle of all this, working in Education for 18 months or so before becoming self-employed in IT, and witnessed the destruction of the communities in which I’d grown up and the politicisation and vilification in the media of family and friends in the  mining villages and towns of Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.  I witnessed troops used as policemen and experienced roadblocks that prevented free travel within the UK.  It’s safe to say that those years coloured the political views of a whole generation – and still do today.

Which is why I could initially understand the surge of groups on Facebook and other online communities with names like ‘National Don’t Vote Tory Day’.

And after a while I began to think that this is rather a dumb and negative way to decide who to vote for.  To start with, it’s 13 years since a Tory Government – twenty years since Thatcher lost power when the great and the good of the Tory establishment decided that she was a liability and threw her out in a coup.  You need to be at least 31 years old to have actually been an adult under a Tory government, but it seems to be within the under 30 age group that this sort of group is popular.

As will be known to anyone who reads this blog or follows my tweets, I have little time for New Labour.  I have little time for the Tories or the Liberal Democrats either.  Which, I appreciate, means I have some serious thinking to do before the General Election.  I believe in small Government, subsidiarity and local, sustainable communities.  I believe in freedom of speech and expression, reduction in the intrusive powers of the state and controlled and managed immigration to the UK based on a points system for economic migrants and proof of oppression in the last country they were in for political asylum seekers. I believe in strong defence, continued possession of a tactical nuclear weapons capability, healthcare free at point of delivery, and a benefits system as a last ditch support for folks who genuinely need it.  I’m interested in seeing whether a flat rate of taxation would work, along with reduced red-tape for business, closer scrutiny of banking institutions, no further formal integration with Europe, repeal of the majority of Human Rights legislation and replacement with a written constitution.  And on a more personal basis, reform of copyright, patent and libel legislation to take on board the fact that the world’s changed.

In other words, a rag-bag, hodge-podge of policies which no party will offer.  But at least I’ve thought about what I believe in, and can make most of it join up.  Which is where the ‘Don’t vote Tory’ sloganising is ridiculously naive.  Wheeling out any party as a bogey man – especially one out of power for 15 years – is daft.  I demonise New Labour when, in my eyes and against the principles and policies I personally believe in, they deserve it – I’d like to feel that folks who’re signing up to the ‘Don’t Vote Tory’ sites have at least thought through their own political views and aren’t just signing up to the latest ‘slogan of the month’ based on what happened before many of them were actually old enough to directly experience it.

Slogans aren’t enough; I’d say one thing – if you disagree with a party’s politics, know WHY you disagree with them.  Think about it.  If you don’t like any of them, vote for the one that you disagree with least.  There’s an assumption of trust and competence here, which I’m not sure we can give or expect from any of the major parties this time around. 

I’m still to make my mind up.  I have significant issues with New Labour and the Tories; I was sort of leaning towards Liberal Democrat until I looked at their policies on Europe and Immigration policy, and I’m not convinced that their finances add up.  And I’m still not capable of trusting them on civil liberties and issues of Government intrusion in to the lives of citizens. 

But for crying out loud – please, please, think about it.

Mrs Duffy, the PM, and what politicians REALLY think of the voter…

For a senior politician to be filmed ‘meeting the people’ is a feat of great courage that is fraught on all sides with danger.  The voter may hate your guts, may egg you, may tell you things you don’t want to hear.  And you know what?  If you’re a smart politician you smile, listen, say your platitudes, maybe even argue in a civilised and sensible, statesmanlike manner.

You then walk away, talk to someone else, smile alot and maybe kiss a baby.

A piece of free advice for all politicians in the UK….what you don’t do is, whilst still on a live mike, call the person who you were filmed being nice to a bigot.  Especially if the person concerned is a female old age pensioner who’s only saying what lots of folks in the UK may feel.

So…here’s where ‘Wee Gordon’ embarasses himself in front of the whole TV watching population of the UK.

I genuinely feel sorry for Gordon Brown on a personal level – I hate to see anyone drop themselves in the shit.  He’s not the guy for this sort of ‘one on one’ interview with the voter, particularly when it’s not at all certain what the voter concerned is going to say.  But on a political level – come on, people, this is Political Campaigning 101.  Whatever you may think in private, you don’t say it in public.

I’m gobsmacked at some of the nonsense and bollocks I’ve heard uttered by people from the Labour Party today – apparently Mrs Duffy is a plant, the whole thing’s a Murdoch Media setup, it’s a conspiracy to embarrass the PM, it was Nick Clegg’s fault, etc.  The facts are quite simple:

  • Mrs Duffy made some comments about immigration to the UK that didn’t fit the NuLab policy sheet.
  • Mr Brown debated the point slightly, and walked away in a dignified manner.  All good, clean, politics.
  • Mr Brown neglects to take the mike from Sky News off.
  • He then shows clear annoyance at whoever it was in his entourage who set up the conversation.
  • And finally calls Mrs Duffy a bigot.
  • And realising what he’s done apologises profusely to Mrs Duffy and the Labour Party.

Now…to all the NuLab people I know who I’ve annoyed this evening – and who probably aren’t reading this anyway… 🙂 – Mrs Duffy’s comments seemed totally fair, Brown’s ‘on camera’ reaction reasoned and sensible, his off camera reaction totally out of order and poorly judged, reinforcing the numerous stories we keep hearing about the Prime Minister’s intolerance.

It was his press officer’s job to keep an eye on the mike and media presence.  It was Brown’s job to keep his mouth shut until he knew he was ‘off air’.  Unless the press officer was working for Murdoch, the Tories or the Lib Dems, and the Prime Minister was brainwashed to open mouth before engaging brain, the only people here to blame are the Press Officer and the PM.  The reporter was doing his job.  Sky was doing it’s job – they played hardball and took advantage of the situation to get a ‘scoop’, but that’s what the media does.  the media are no-one’s friends but their own.

Labour were made to look hypocritical incompetents – get used to it, folks, and stop whining like spoilt children.

So, in the broader picture, what does this debacle tell us about Labour and their leadership?

  1. They don’t like hearing what the voters say when the voter doesn’t toe the party line.  Sounds familiar?  It should do.  Those of us who’ve been in debates with New Labour over recent years have come to know that NuLab is tolerant whilst you toe the line.  There is a strong hint of dishonesty and hypocrisy here.
  2. The Prime Minister really misjudged the situation here– there was a camera crew around when the comment was made, let alone a live lapel mike.  The PM made an error, but this is not a politician on his first election; this is an experienced political leader who wishes to be Prime Minister of the UK.  He also exhibited petulance and bad temper – and not for the first time.  I would expect better judgement from Mr Brown and also greater competence from those around him.
  3. There was clear contempt for the voter concerned – and by extension all of us.  This current election is by no means an open and shut ‘shoe-in’ for any party.  It’s there to be lost by the parties, and in the last week the leaders of all three major parties have worked hard to put their foot in it in one way or another.  But this must be the biggest cock up yet. 

The media is very much the fourth major party in the 2010 general election; it’s loyalties are split across the parties, as they always are, but this time around everything that happens gets Tweeted and blogged as quickly as it happens.  Our political leaders seem to be having difficulties dealing with this – and the winner will be the one who screws up least.

BNP support increase – why the surprise?

For anyone who’s been asleep or under a particularly soundproofed rock for the last few weeks, here’s a quick ‘catch up’.  Nick Griffin, leader of the UK’s Far Right British National Party, was invited on to BBC Television’s flagship political debate programme, ‘Question Time’.  This generated a great deal of fuss and bother.  Anti-Fascist groups demonstrated, Griffin himself objected about the format of the show, and it was one of the least edifying sights I’ve seen on TV for some years.   A survey today reveals that after Griffin’s appearance on the show, support for the party has increased.  Peter Hain is saying that this was exactly the sort of thing that led to Nazi Germany…sorry…that was Basil Fawlty…Peter Hain is saying that this was exactly the sort of thing he was afraid of.  And even insiders at the BBC are stating that the way the program was handled was a farce and that Griffin was subjected to ‘attack dogs’.

Woooo…..serious stuff.  Let’s just stop for a moment shall we?  First of all, let’s make it clear to all and sundry that I’m no BNP supporter or fellow traveller.  I say that now because I know from experience on certain Internet Forums any attempt to look at the phenomena that is the BNP or any aspect of multicultural politics in Britain tends to result in you being called a Nazi, racist, sympathiser, etc.  So let’s nail that one first and now discuss the issue like grown-ups. 

In terms of voting intention for an election tomorrow, the proportion who said they’d vote BNP was 3%.  Last month, it was 2%.  So, oodles of free publicity, massive TV coverage, the sort of profile that Griffin might have only gotten by leading a Wetherspoons Putsch and all that happens is an extra 1% of firm vote support.  Pardon me, Peter, if I don’t get too panicky just yet?  Yes, 22% of voters suggested that they might seriously consider voting BNP, but there’s many a slip between poll and ballot box.

What was obvious from the furore surrounding this edition of ‘Question Time’ is that :

  1. A large number of protesters attempted to prevent the leader of a legal UK political party – how represehensible we might find  the opinions of that party is irrelevant – from taking part in a debate on UK television.
  2. Various high ranking political figures appeared to apply pressure to the BBC to not allow the broadcast to take place.
  3. The format of the broadcast DID appear to be different to usual – it had all the hallmarks of a bear baiting session and I venture to suggest that the chairing of the programme could have been better.

The overall result of this has been to allow Griffin to be able to call ‘foul’ and play the ‘Martyr’ card – that well beloved ploy of all political extremists who know that their chances at the ballot box are pretty slim in any other circumstances.  Griffin performed incredibly poorly on QT – despite the possibly loaded deck, which to be honest he and his advisers might have expected – his answers were not brilliant and he made teh error of getting a few cheap shots in at his political opponents.  But, the overall impression that his supporters will take away and propagate through their publicity machine is that ‘We were censored and muzzled by the political establishment, the BBC and the far left’ – the very last impression that this appearance SHOULD have been allowed to give.  The UAF, Government and BBC have managed by their total cack-handed handling of this issue to give the BNP the origin of their very own ‘stab in the back’ myth.

The ‘No Platform’ issue is a well worn one.  Basically, it’s a policy by the left to attempt to remove any possible platform for Far Right parties in the media – or on Internet Forums, discussion groups, public venues, etc.  Short for ‘No platform for Fascists’ it is supposed to starve the Far Right of the ability to publicise themselves and gain recruits.  There’s one problem with this approach – it doesn’t work.  It simply allows the sort of nonsense we’ve encountered over the last week to play out, gaining the Far Right more recruits and support than if they’d been allowed to quietly get on with making total arses of themselves in public.

To me, ‘No platform’ is simply a censorship operation by the Left, in the style that Stalin and Mao would recognise.  Totalitarianism is alive and well on both sides of the political fence.  But it is counter productive and dangerous in a wider sense than that of stifling political debate.  By permitting teh right to say that they are being censored, their words are heard by more and more people.  The British people are not getting more racist; but many are now perceiving that the country is changing it’s cultural make up in a way that doesn’t benefit them:

  1. The Government and main political parties are thought by many people – particularly working class and those in the poorer economic groups – to be totally out of touch with people’s fears and concerns about immigration.  Until very recently it’s been difficult to discuss these issues without being howled down in ‘Islington Circles’ as a racist monster who eats babies for breakfast and kicks small dogs.
  2. People have seen the economy got to hell in a basket, and in many cases are now experiencing real pain.  They also start noticing immigration – note I said NOTICING – for the first time.  Even with no proven factual, causal link between their decrease in standard in living and the number of immigrants that they feel are coming in to the country, they irrationally believe and fear that there IS a causal link.
  3. When the Government produces statistics that disprove any link between immigration and economic well being, or even suggest that there is a positive link, people are not believing it.  This is partially because there are often other reports and statistics that prove the other point of view.  Debating the issue then turns in to a game of ‘URL Tennis’ as participants fling references around like intellectual hand-grenades, attempting to trip up the logic or mathematics in the report and, if that fails, the credentials of the authors.
  4. The Government is seen as being a bunch of lying bastards.  The Government have been seen to lie on numerous issues – the 2003 Iraq War being a biggie, for example.  If they’ll lie to take us to war, folks quite rightly believe they’ll lie on other policies.  And as if by magic…in today’s Daily Mail there is a story of how Jack Straw and Tony Blair  planned to pull an immigration ‘fast one’ on the people of Britain
  5. People wonder why the main parties are unwilling to discuss immigration and multiculturalism.  People perceive an ‘elephant in the living room’ event taking place.  The lack of debate or willingness to debate makes people fear the worst.
  6. Media stories and programs bolster peopel’s fear of immigration and multiculturalism, especially in the absence of open, factual debate.  For example, we get the ongoing ‘No Christmas Decorations’ sort of bollocks every year, programs like UK Border Patrol that show the efforts of the UK’s Border Agencies to keep undesirables out, etc.

In other words, there is an overwhelming perception for many people that this country is changing – no, is BEING changed by the Government – to a multicultural wonderland in which the views of the indiginous majority are being ignored.   And the only people who’re paying attention to this is the BNP.  And when these folks feel and fear that the BNP is being censored – and the BNP themselves can point to violent demonstrations to attempt to stop their leader speaking on TV – then people may well start thinking ‘What are these bastards trying to hide from me?

So, what’s to be done? 

  1. First of all, there needs to be an open discussion on all aspects of immigration and multicularal policies in the UK.  It needs to be wideranging and it will involve engaging with very unplesant people on all sides of the argument.  there can be no ‘No Platform’ nonsesne.
  2. It must be possible for people to think and say the currently unthinkable in discourse without being howled down.  You don’t destroy ideas by stopping them being expressed.  You destroy them by exposing them to teh light of reasoned and factual analysis. 
  3. Government, opposition and opinion formers MUST realise that they are first of all dealing with perception and belief – in other words, irrational feelings that must be addressed before people can engage in this sort of debate.  This will not be easy but is essential.  The first stage is to simply say to people ‘We appreciate you’re a bit worried; we’re hear to listen.  And then feckin’ LISTEN and don’t hear just what you want to hear.

Put bluntly, we have a fine campaigining season ahead for the bigots, the true racists, the thugs and the idealogues of both political extremes; economic recession, out of touch and dishonest Government, a few instances of corrupt and dishonest politicians stealing public money in their expenses, bankers bonuses getting stupidly high again, increasing unemployment, unpopular wars.

It’s time for Government and the political and media establishments of the UK to do soemthing before it all goes pear shaped.  Censoring and demonstrating is not enough – it’s time to engage and defeat the ideas of extremists of both political colours.

Thanks for reading – go forth and get defeating.