Antagony (and cleopatra)

October 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Politicians are tricksy slippery creatures created from an ancient alchemy of snake-oil, stain remover and smoke machines.

Of course they aren’t to be trusted, but at least their empty-eyed smiles aren’t overly offensive or offending, and they are just so eager to please. Politicians are just narcissistic puppies – somebody love them pleease!!

So why is it their press officers feel they are allowed to be so vile and antagonistic to us poor innocent hacks?

Has nobody mentioned what we do?

Of course I get why they hate us – we ruin all the fun of parliament. Thanks to the titans of the trade there are no more John Lewis toasters or plump brown envelopes stuffed with fun-time cash.

But being defensive and shrill is not going to stop me asking questions.

I was speaking to a press officer for a rather sleek, contented Northern Irish MP today, who shall remain nameless – (which he would hate).

Bearing in mind all I was doing was asking the PR if the MP might be interested in writing a comment piece for http://www.politics.co.uk.

OK – so I did ask if he’d do the piece about racism in his constituency as a meeting he chaired recently apparently descended into racist attacks – but considering he’s currently involved in a high-profile leadershi….. oops – I’ve said too much – I thought he’d be over the moon to have a chance to defend himself against allegations that he colluded in the racism in a shameless attempt to win favour from those in his constituency who traditionally vote for ‘the other guy’.

And from the shrill reaction of his press team – I imagine that’s exactly what he was doing.

She tried to accuse the press in general of scuppering the meeting and also told me it was none of my business, adding that it was ‘out of respect to the residents’ that said MP hadn’t openly commented on the racist tone of the meeting.

Now, if she had merely said something along the lines of ‘thanks so much for thinking of us, put that in an email and I’ll get back to you.’ – I would have thought no more about it – But the fact that the reaction was so vitriolic suddenly, inexplicably makes me think there is a story there – so, apologies Mr notoriously safe seat MP – but I’m suddenly very interested in how you’re dealing with racist bullying in your own back yard.

The Missing Link

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Health Minister Edwin Poots

Northern Irish Health Minister believes the earth is only 6,000 years old

The new health minister of Northern Ireland does not believe in evolution.

Aah scientists with their degrees and experiments and thoughts, clearly we all popped out of the earth (onto the earth? already I’m spotting holes in this theory), fully formed, speaking English and all the animals were there as well, even the really old-looking ones and the ones that were extinct already.

The fact that an influential member of Stormont is an ‘out’ evolution denier should come as no surprise to anyone in Northern Ireland.

After all we once had the DUP’s Sammy Wilson as an environment minister who was really very vocal in his dismissal of global warming.

But, there are problems inherent in this apopintment.

Can a man who is openly pushing creationism over evolution be the best choice for a health minister?

What about gene therapy?

What about genetically inherited diseases?

What about genetic research?

At their heart all these medical treatments are based on the assumption that we have a DNA structure due to evolution.

Will he deny people these treatments, or withhold money from medical research teams because he feels it ungodly to suggest that this planet is more than 6,000 years old?

I’m sure the long-suffering teams of civil servants who work under these ministers will make sure that doesn’t happen, but it is deeply troubling that the largest party in northern Ireland seems to celebrate blind faith over science to such an extent.

It is interesting that this party supports selective education. Well, keeping over half of the population confined to under-supported and resourced schools is could be one way of making sure the electorate never spot the holes in your argument.

Told Ya So! (and other such teenage sayings)

February 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

Mark Bergfield will stand for NUS presidency and Aaron Porter will not run for a second term, even though he was widely believed to want one, right up until well, yesterday.

Porter’s vacillation and calls for calmly discussing things ‘like grown-ups’ made him weak.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, angry twenty-somethings braying for the blood of any lib/con within twenty feet are not going to warm to a man who was sitting cosy in a studio while they got forstbite and criminal records (not neccessarily in that order) ‘fighting the fight’

They want a man of action, of inspirational speeches, foreign exotiscim and a knack for being on the front line of battle. And so Mark Bergfield steps into the breech.

I’m not saying he’s going to win the presidency, popular NUS scotland leader Liam Burns

Students have been fired up by Bergfield's speeches

Student protest would continue under Bergfield's leadership

is also in the mix as is less popular Shane Cown (he of pelted with eggs in Manchester fame).

But he might.

And then what’ll the next year hold  – Bergfield will have lots to fight – with some Unis already saying they plan to charge the max £9,000 for their courses and teaching and research budgets slashed in the academic year.

And in fact, for the more militant wing of the NUS, those who holeheartedly supported the occupations, demos and riots of late, the fact that he is standing is hugely significant.

Even if he doesn’t win – it shows that these guys have clout now – more so than the politically ambitious but essentially directionless Porter.

Considering that before Chritsmas there were hints that a Bergfield-led new union of students could break away from the main body of the NUS – the next few months should be pretty interesting for student politicos.

Send ’em up chimney

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Government are keen to promote vocational training

Coalition has already pledged 75,000 more apprenticeships

Why bother studying for GCSEs when you can learn how to fix a car or perform an expert blow-dry?

So Robert Halfon hints at in his article on Epolitix this morning.

There have been whisperings of apprenticeships starting at fourteen, and reading between the lines, it looks like the government is hoping to allow some students to opt out of formal education earlier than at any time since the second world war.

This is a pet project of the conservatives, why bother wasting resources and time on kids who mightn’t even get their five grade Cs when you can stick them in the woodwork shed instead?

If  we do see the introduction of apprenticeships starting at fourteen, it could have a profound impact on the education system. It will also mean a deepeding divide between the haves and have-nots.

Mind you, after what Mervyn King hinted at today, in a few months we’ll all be have-nots.

Living la vie da local

January 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Do local tv channels spell the end for regional BBC?

Tories as enamored of US TV as they are with all americana

Star of Radio 4’s most googled spoonerism, Jeremy Hunt, announced today that he wants to introduce a brand new local tv channel.

He’s been unabashed in his love of US style hyper-local broadcasting for a while. Apparently he finds cat fashion shows and water-ski-ing hamsters riveting viewing, (don’t we all).

“It’s crazy that a city the size of Sheffield doesn’t have its own television station”.

Is it? Or is it crazy to think that one city could sustain an entire raft of news and entertainment programmes without becoming even the teensiest bit parochial?

I’ve lived in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where regional channels are crucial. I know how important it is to provide a good local news service. In Northern Ireland most people did, and still do get their daily “sectarian style shooting” news from BBCNI and UTV. And if people in Scotland depended on National news to find out what was happening in their country, they’d think that Scotland had been detached from England some time in the nineties and was currently floating around the North Sea in an undisclosed location.

This idea isn’t going to make for great quality local television, it’ll drive down standards. Already there isn’t enough money in the regions to make quality television programmes, more competition means viewing figures for the BBC regions will decline further, meaning even less investment from the BBC in making great programmes in and for NI, Scotland and Wales.

Less overall viewing figures for the BBC will also make it easier for this government to axe the license fee.

Focusing on what’s happening on your doorstep is all very well, if your doorstep happens to be a lively hotspot for late night snail parties or there’s a homeless badger camped on it, but it can make the bigger picture seem more and more remote.

America does have lots of local broadcast stations, but it also had a president who couldn’t name the president of Pakistan. Now I’m not saying the two things are related…but I’m also not saying they’re unrelated.

Tory MP: “I want to be in Ameeeerica, everything’s free in Ameeerica”

January 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

Tory MP condemns 'political' charities

Halfon lashed out at 'campaigning' charities

Apparently, government are ever so keen on the American model of no taxation and lots of philanthropy.

Just one teeny tiny problem lads, America is not known for its fabulous public sector. It is known for massive unemployment, huge gap between rich and poor, ghettos, disenfranchised crazies with guns and a health service where the poor die because they’re poor.

In fact, I feel I have to quote Jack Lemon here; “The founding fathers never meant the poor to live past 40”

In a public administration select committee meeting this morning, tory MPs asked two witnesses how the model of giving in this country could be made to match that in America.

Well, firstly, completely change the British character so that everyone brags about how much they give to charity, rather than being adorably coy about all things financial.

Next, completely cut taxation back to zero, never mind there’s no actual relation between how much people pay in taxes and how much they give to charity, (anyone remember the eighties?)

Lastly, give all crazy people guns, no sorry wait, that’s tomorrows proceedings.

No, they think that regulating on how much charities should spend on advertising and lobbying is a much smarter way to do it apparently.

In a useful bid to counter the idea that all Tories are heartless money grabbers, Robert Halfon MP robustly condemned NSPCC, Shelter and Comic Relief. Apparently we need more homelessness, more child abuse and less comedy.

Of course. that’s always been my belief too!

He went on to slag off that evil, good-for-nothing, show-off umm…. charity, Christian Aid.

Yes, little did we know it but their campaign to help citizens of the Gaza strip who are without food, water and medical supplies because of Israeli blockade is actually a political move driven by, he implied, HAMAS.

Yes, Hamas are coordinating a grand scheme to trick a Christian (or as I imagine they prefer to be called, infidel) organisation into funding some home-made mortars.

Of course, we’re all fools for not spotting it sooner.

Call me a cynic, but I’m not entirely sure Christian Aid is the one with the political agenda here.

In other news, I then watched as he strangled a puppy and pulled the wings off a variety of insects. I made that last bit up.

He shot the puppy.

Who ate all the (money) pies

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Local government cuts or local government gut?

Eric, is all the money in your tummy?

Eric Pickles did of course!

Covering a westminster hall debate yesterday about cuts to local government’s funding (and I thought learning about the difference between RSGs and UBRs was a waste of time – tch!), one thing became clear.

We’re all doomed.

There’s no money.

For anything.

Ever.

The most deprived areas are being hit hardest (those with the biggest grants are facing the biggest cuts).

Bizarrely both sides of the debate seemed to be making the same point. It’s all very well getting rid of a few libraries and leisure centres.

But its the knock on effect of that apparently which will plunge us back in time.

All non essential programmes will be cut, almost right away. Which I think means society is going to look a bit like this helpful diagram

Young offenders/drug addicts/kids in care + no money for their support = bigger costs for the police

Cuts to the police = compensate lack of numbers with use of force

Schools failing due to fragmentation of lea funding = more disenfranchsied angry kids

All of the above combined = inner city problems, increased tensions between communities and police, tensions amongst communities.

And we all know what happens when there’s angry people and well armed police, well those who’ve lived in Northern Ireland do.

It’s riot time!!!