What will October 2013 be remembered for, the storm of the decade or the disillusioned jester?
When Russell Brand appeared on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman, viewers couldn’t believe their eyes. Was this a joke, were “they” having a laugh? Afterall Newsnight had interviewed the Cookie Monster weeks before, why not follow up with a spoof interview. In anticipation we waited for the funny bone strike with a Red Nose or a cuddly Pugsy bear, neither came.
Enter stage left, Mr Serious Brand. But who is this imposter talking about politics wearing a respectable white shirt? He tells us that he has never voted and suggests others should do the same. The political class is full of lies, treachery and deceit . “Planet first, politics later” is the general message and he doesn’t limit himself to TV to voice his discontent with British politics. He also writes an essay in The New Statesman [NS] magazine, one of the country’s top political publications.
While I meandered around Brand’s colourful words of lacquered adjectives something struck a chord. For Red Nose day, celebrities become witnesses of extreme poverty, travelling to forgotten places, usually in Africa, where children fight for survival, scratching for their very existence. Brand describes visiting a rubbish dump in Kibera, watching children scavenge for bottle tops to make enough money to eat, the same tops he so casually throws away at many of the various luxury hotels he frequents. Polar extremes.
The humanitarian in all of us knows this suffering is wrong. We know how fragile life is yet we find ourselves helpless in reaching out, questioning why governments in such places fail to provide the very basics of life for their people .
The morality in Brand’s outcry is without question, no one wants to accept such poverty in the 21st century but what can austerity Britain do about it? It’s human nature to put your family first and those around you second. At some point, like me, you may have forgone the temptation of a gamble on a single lottery ticket in favour of donating to one of Britain’s big charity events instead.
Charity is something we are good at in England, bringing people together, organising events to raise funds, promoting awareness to those who can make a difference. So if you have listened to Russell and feel depressed, remember we are doing something to help and will soon have an opportunity to make a contribution no matter how small. Where I lose Brand’s rant is when he talks about losing the only voice we have in government, the vote.
Another comedian stepped up to the soap box to say his piece! Robert Webb said that the essay motivated him to join the Labour party and that Brand was being an arse and should not tell people not to vote. “It’s irresponsible for him to do so. He’s too influential”. Whilst I agree with this, let the party leaders give us a reason to vote, make them stick to their promises and let our local MPs give us a reason to vote.
I admit to questioning the motives of the current government especially the Tory party. Do they represent what I believe in? Not really. The self-interested, aggressive, front bench Politician at Prime Minister’s Questions is an ugly thing. Yet my local MP has done a lot for the town and we did just survive the tempest of the decade, with much infrastructure investment to boot.
And it’s the British constitution of the weather that returns me to our very own entertaining Shakespeare jester, Trinculo, aka Russell Brand, to which I say, keep being Russell and let those around you vote for what they believe in.
Ed Miliband, Labour, the party of opposition announces he will freeze energy prices if elected.
Energy companies raise prices.
David Cameron, Conservative, says energy rises are disappointing and you can always switch.
Ed Davy, Liberal Democrat, coalition partners says “put on a jumper”
I say they’re all full of hot air. Hence fart joke with conflated red tape in EU bureaucracy and British media regulation.
British Gas have increased their price above 10% and sought feedback through Twitter using the hashtag #askBG. You can imagine the response they got.
It’s Autumn and in the UK it’s conference party time and this means lots of political speeches, some with vigour, some without but all with repetition, hesitation yet sadly a serious lack of deviation. During Ed Miliband’s speech he spoke for a little over one hour and repeated himself 17 times, “Britain can do better than this” in the many variations possible. Many more PMs dazzle us with their refined speaking skills yet appear to blurt out their controversial vision with one or two carrot dangling sound bites in front of friendly comrades all too ready to cheer. Lucky for us that’s not all that happens.
For Labour’s Ed Miliband it was the political book launch of the year that casted its toxic cloud across Brighton’s sunny day. Author, Damian McBride, previous Labour spin doctor reveals interparty tricks in his book “Power Trip”, dropping the veil from career sabotaging tricks used to ensure the rise of self-interested politicians. Its ugly, its true, its untrue, funny? Who knows but by all accounts worth a read if you have the time or care. How did Mr Miliband deal with this timely publication that has his very self on the front cover? Completely ignored it. It’s not part of the plan and not it’s not in the script.
Lets not dwell on the role of the Prime Minister, were the Labour policies sound? As someone who votes I don’t mind a healthy carrot or two: Capped energy prices, extended child care, two hundred thousand homes a year, the repeal of the bedroom tax or the bedroom subsidy? The word out about the ConLib coalition’s bedroom policy, is that there’s not enough social housing to downsize to. So the Labour policies appear to pass the altruism test but are they realistic, economical and affordable?
Okay I admit it, I’m childish! Whenever I hear of the words “special relationship” accompanied by a couple of middle aged men, two countries steeped in years of military history is not my first thought! Instead I think of bickering, life long companions wrestling over the last whiffs of vintage port whilst listening to ABBA. Don’t get me wrong I’m not reaching for the popcorn ready to sit down for a screening of Broke Back Mountain, its just the word “special” when added to “relationship” adds some mischievous distraction.
To take my mind elsewhere, I will very briefly explore the history of the “special relationship”.
When were these words first recorded?
Winston Churchill? Not him again! It was a soundbite used in a 1944 Churchill speech which has stuck since. Perhaps repeated so much because of his American roots or because of the post war fatigue felt by so many in need of transatlantic optimism. Yet Churchill wasn’t the first to use the phrase, its goes back before him but his timing presented an opportunity for something purposeful and poignant.
Okay enough of this history lesson! What do the words mean and why are UK politicians and journalists so concerned about a label?
In a nutshell it’s a… wait a minute, nutshell! Yes lets use that analogy! A protective layer of armour surrounding a kernal of information or intelligence about those peeping over the fence. Add this to safety in numbers and the precious is fortified from the big fat furry squirrels that lurk outside ready to pounce on your nuts. That kind of thing.
When Cameron & Obama originally discussed Syria the media machine was set in motion, reporting the probability of military action whilst suggesting both countries had an agreement to do something about the Assad regime. If that was the case it must have been embarrassing for the British Prime Minister to go back to Obama and say “Sorry can’t do it! Mum said NO”. Mum being Parliament, and Parliament must have all her facts to escape the shadow of Tony Blairs’ case for the Iraq war
The use of the word embarrassing is petty with so much life lost. If the world leader’s wanted to save lives, they should have acted long before the use of chemical weapons but how do you referee a war with more than two sides?
It turns out that Assad is about to hand over his chemical weapons to Russia, which is a bit like taking a wild lion to the family vet to have its claws clipped, only to allow it to roam free again. How safe would I feel with the knowledge of a man eating lion roaming the streets? Not very and it would certainly put the willies up Mr & Mr Special Relationship trying to enjoy their afternoon tea.
At the time of writing the UN estimates 100,000 casualties during the Syrian conflict. The Assad regime is now suspected of using chemical weapons in an attack on the 21st August 2013. Although no hard evidence has been reported by the UN (not for the want of trying) numerous personal accounts of the atrocities on social media has led the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron to make a judgement call and act.
Both coalition leaders, Cameron and Clegg, agreed to recommend a surgical attack to remove the chemical arson and this was put to Parliament on the 29th August 2013. The narrow majority, called for no military action.
Those in support of action registered 272 votes and those against 285.
This now means that the UK will not participate and that America will most likely be joined by France.
The foundation behind the decision has been mainly due to the Iraq war, where many were mislead with the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
Other concerns were: why stop at chemical aggression when more conventional weapons have done so much more? Surely those cannot be ignored. What is the objective and where will the UK draw the line?
The personal accounts in Syria are truly harrowing. The inhumanity being carried out can never be justified and the line was crossed a long time ago.
In this age of social media, I hope the many voices calling for a cease of all fighting is heard.
6th September Edit: Join the masses at AVAAZ to do something
Is the George Osborne’s Help to Buy scheme a route to debt repeating of the housing bubble of 2008?
Hurrah for the silly season, aka August! Thank goodness for the distraction from the usual frustrating political spin and economic despair. Except there’s no escaping the task of doing more with less and for anyone starting out in life without support, you have my sympathy.
Why do they call it the Silly season? Apparently news is thin because the politicians are on holiday and any alternative news is usually…. silly. However there’s been plenty to keep us ticking over and no doubt our MPs will be making headlines whilst taking to the streets in eggshell smashing distance or through daily revelations of convenient inconsistencies.
What has been the news? A new governor for the Bank of England, Mark Carney, first foreign “guvnah”. A Canadian who’s bottom barely brushes the stressed leather chair, takes a common-sense tact to our economic woes, “Fix employment Mr Cameron, and I’ll look at the interest rate later” or words to that effect. Sounds reasonable, even clear! However if you’re like me you’re probably wondering whether or not someone sitting at home on a zero day contract not working, counts?
So here we are, August 2013 with news of: a tepid economy, a brand new Help to Buy scheme to the rescue, fracking or hydraulic fracturing to the rescue, cost of train travel increases so passengers to the rescue, cost of HS2 increases tax payer to the rescue, the mammal discovery of the century; Olingu-thingy the carnivorous teddy bear, “no need of any rescue, doing quite nicely on my own thank you”, Labour’s lost leader message – desperate for a rescue , Eric Pickles wheelie bin issue (sigh) and Gibraltar diplomacy in need of a diplomatic rescue. News continues around government data snooping and whistle blowers blowing continues to snowball. And in the background, the sorrow of Egypt and Syria to which I pay my silent respect.
The economy! The news from the economists is that there is minuscule growth. Which is better than nothing and yet difficult to digest! I look around and notice that the ubiquitous cardboard coffee cups last longer than the coffee shops they came from. We have more people in work producing less stuff! More people in part-time work, increasing stories of people on zero day contracts probably propping up employment statistics, people taking short term pay day loans with ridiculously high interest rates, increasing stories of food banks, news of communities keeping school kitchens open to feed hungry children and ongoing reports failing businesses. Has the recovery really begun?
One of the government’s keystone programs is, Help to Buy, but does anyone believe this will save the day?
In 2008 banks handed out mortgages to anyone who wanted them. This was possible by purchasing unconventional financial deals to offset any risk of default, and the companies offering these ‘insurance deals’ (for the sake of a label) were falling over themselves to sell because they were so lucrative. This resulted in high levels of lending and that led to more mortgages, which led to more money being made, eventually concluding in grotesque greed. Everyone gets a house and the bankers do well, very well. Great! The rest is history, lets just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.
The difference we have today is lack of housing, combine this with easy lending and it doesn’t take long to reach the conclusion that prices will soar whilst buyers queue up even though they are financially stretched. The demand issue will continue to escalate, planning offices will be pressured to approve new builds and properties will be popping up everywhere. This could turn out to be the silliest financial offer of the decade.
Instead of encouraging an undesirable housing market the government needs to help those starting out by exploring better opportunities to learn and work, not encourage debt just because that is a rash fix to a broken economy! Unfortunately under this government education is more expensive and we now have the biggest youth unemployment for 10 years!
1.71 million 18-24 year olds were economically inactive (not in work and not looking for work) in April to June 2013, an increase of 69,000 on the previous quarter and 51,000 higher than in the same period last year.
Is the key to unlocking the economy in these numbers or enabling borrowing? Surely we should fix this instead of making debt easier with programs like, Help to Buy and this is why I call the cartoon aove Help to Debt. Looks like the silly season is going to stick.
Every year in the UK we hear the announcement from No. 10 Downing Street about some folk we don’t really know getting into the House of Lords. The place where peers have the last say on law after the Lower House youths wrestle with their visions of Great Britain.
Unfortunately for those appointed their first five minutes of residency is at the mercy of the media who report the why and the how they got there with a whiff of malice garnished with a few petals of scandal or anything else that will sell a newspaper.
Big party donors aways get a mention, and I can see why! They have so much cash they’re able to throw it away at any party that bats an eyelash, with only their pure altruistic selves knowing the real payback. Jealously and hairy corruption tickles the mind, big money for big titles always worthy of speculation. No one wants to hear how filthy rich someone is, especially when they’re handing it to someone who I wouldn’t trust to fetch me a 100% beef gourmet sandwich. As for the ordinary hard working, I salute you.
At the beginning of the coalition government in 2010, Nick Clegg promised to reform the House of Lords, putting right the wrong of an aged out of date draconian establishment in what can easily be described as Hotel California. You know, the song by the Eagles “check in any time you like but you can never leave”.
The reason why I use the song as a comparison is because there are 785 appointed Lords andno ones budging. That’s one hundred plus more than the House of Commons which seats 600 elected MPs and some Lords don’t bother to attend for one reason or another. “Why not Retire?” you say? They can’t, they quietly shuffle out of the door and take an “extended” leave of absence.
Whilst we’re chatting about Eagles this has always tickled me. “Why soar like an Eagle when weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.” Thanks David Brent or should I say “Lord Brent” because you never know who will be next.
Parliament breaks for summer so no more Raging Bull Cameron on Parliament TV for the next few months. Perhaps the Rage has something to do with the Aussie venom the PM has hired to scare out the skeletons from the Labour closet whilst squeezing the pessimism of Tory back bench rebels. Who knows. If the polls are to be believed at time of scribbling Conservative and Labour are level while UKIP and the Lib Dems scavenge over 3rd place, but if you’re like me, tired of the Raging Right and disappointed by the Limp Left, choice has never seemed so bleak and with the Governments recent management of health issues my opinion doesn’t hold much hope.
The Department for Health failed to make a decision whether to do anything with branding on cigarette packets to discourage smokers. I doubt seasoned smokers will be bothered but there might be some mileage in making these little cough sticks less attractive to the younger generation. And we know what less smokers make! Less burden on the health service but lack of government action doesn’t stop there!
Look back in recent history and our PM told us how cheap plonk was costing the nation. So he backed a minimum price of 45p and told us that this would result in 50,000 (magic number again) less crimes and 900 less deaths. Today, July 2013, he changed his mind because he’s uncertain of the facts. Lets turn our attention to the NHS.
After three years of coalition we are left to trust the endeavours of the ‘second’ Secretary for Health, Jeremy Hunt, who has been cited for his desire to privatise the health service. Jeremy Hunt recently commissioned a report and its findings condemned 14 health trusts. A good opportunity for Tories to attack Labour so naturally they did. Does this now mean that our hospitals are unable to provide reasonable care under current conditions. Now I wonder what could be done to help with that issue?