Time for a different approach?

There has been much talk of the Liberal Democrats failing to make any ground in the run up to this election. Like many others I joined up for a single issue and my belief that the LibDems simply could not fail to capitalise on their distinct position on Brexit. It seems I had misjudged their uselessness completely.

Having spent some (probably too much) time on a variety of LibDem forums it has become glaringly obvious that the LibDems are their own worst enemy. There is no central strategy, no evidence of any planning and no cohesion. The party is essentially a disparate group of people, many of whom are fervent believers and put in a great deal of effort. Imagine one hundred people in harness all pulling against one another. A great deal of redoubling of effort has gone on and the result is the same. An increase in effort with no change in outcome.

Being LibDems then most people are very pleasant to one another whilst all thinking that there is a different/better way to focus effort. Many do not feel encumbered by lack of knowledge of a topic and are happy to offer ill-informed and at times plain ignorant opinion that others are equally guilty of swallowing. If one contrasts this against the Conservative election winning machine it is depressing. The Tories may be toxic but when the time comes they manage to run with a modicum of discipline and focus that eludes the LibDems. In response many LibDems cite a ‘free-spirit’ vibe that they feels defines the party. That is as maybe but it is not going to win an election. Remarks like, “a solid second” are made. In UK parliamentary elections there are no medals for second place. Second is just the first loser. Bemoaning the unfairness of the First Past The Post (FPTP) System is no good. If you want Proportional Representation then the system requires change from within and that will only happen if they win under the present set-up. A game is being played whether you like it or not. Play that game, win at that game then set about changing the rules. Losing but consoling yourself that you remain on the moral high ground means that the party will never govern, but be relegated to the status of a disorganised think tank. To cap it all the leader, Tim Farron, may be a great guy though he lacks the charismatic leader qualities of Macron, Trudeau, Blair, Thatcher etc. You either have that or you don’t. Farron simply hasn’t got it.

There has been one superb article from Hugo Rifkind in The Times that describes very well the argument for a new centre ground party to emerge. Have this discussion with many LibDems and the amount of “yes but” replies is staggering. Funding, FPTP, no suitable leadership candidates within the ranks etc. All these excuses mean it is impossible: if they are listened to. A new party needs a great leader, funding and a bit of time.

If a start-up business approach was taken to forming a new party then it is a possibility. There needs to be a professional approach from the outset. This means a good team, a business plan and money. Rifkind observes that there are many disaffected Labour and Conservative heavy hitters that do not like the way their parties are lurching. They are career people and need to see a good proposition for themselves in much the same way as potential backers need to see an RoI. Why this can’t be pitched to potential backers in the same way a business idea is is beyond me. Capital wants a return and the added bonus of a political party is that it is selling a centrist ideology that I suspect many people will identify with. With the Labour party lurching to the left and insulting the electorate by being obsessed with itself in the form of infighting, whilst the Tories lurch to the right with the assumption of UKIP and their apparently useless stance on Brexit then there is a vacuum.

An economically sensible, environmentally and socially conscious middle ground party is something the current LibDems can never be. They are seeded with pseudo-marxists on the one hand and economically conservative liberals with a social conscience on the other. The two sides of this yellow coin will never see eye-to-eye. It is time for a new player.

Rarely has the political choice been so clear cut

Politics is ordinarily a highly nuanced topic and choosing can be difficult. However, the snap general election in the UK, coming so soon after the vote to leave the European Union has suddenly thrown the voting options into two very stark choices.

Choice one is either of the two largest parties in the UK. Presently: the Conservative party seems hell-bent on driving the UK into either a hard-Brexit or a no-deal scenario. Alternatively, you can could choose the Labour party which also has a pro-Brexit stance. Furthermore, the Labour party is in an organisational shambles. It is poorly led, riven with infighting and is in no shape to lead the country.

The arguments about the rights and wrongs of the decision to leave are behind us. The only thing left to exert any degree of control over is the way the leaving process is managed. As the Brexit vote is a reflection of a very narrow section of the United Kingdom electorate that got out to vote (note to the reader: this is what happens when you vote. Change. Not always for the good)  it signifies huge upset for this country long into the future, both economic and social.  This general election is all about installing a party that can help control the manner of our exit. Damage limitation.

For those of use that thought the UK should remain in the EU then either of the scenarios where the Tories win a huge majority or the Labour party gains power are unacceptable.

The only major party that has been consistently pro-EU has been the Liberal Democrats.

This election is all about Brexit, even the Tory Prime Minister said so. The only way to exert any control over the manner of our departure and our longer term relationship with the EU is to vote for the Liberal Democrats. It is that clear and simple.

I am aware that this is simplistic. Ordinarily you might not vote LibDem. This is about how you feel about our self-inflicted and messy break with the EU. For once it is a simple choice. Once the handbrake is on then we can attend to the regularity of day-to-day politics. If you are indeed a Remainer then the decision is a simple one.

(conflict of interest disclaimer – I joined the LibDems a few days ago for the simple reason outlined above)

In Which I Decide To Get A Job And Shelve The PhD Plans

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost is the oddest feeling in which I want a job after spending the last four years in permanent academia. The second is my growing frustration with this odd world that is academia.

To cover the second point first: Initially I was overawed by the proliferation of intellectual horsepower everywhere I turned, now I am just disappointed at the massive emotional immaturity of many of these late 20s to early 40s academics. Sure, they are v clever and have worked v hard to get where they are. What most have managed to dodge is the real world. In the real world there is a vast spectrum of people. In academia they probably get the top 10% or so of the population, with the obvious exception of Geography and Media Studies pupils. This means that they, the academics, navigate through life not having any strategies for dealing with thickies like me. I may be enthusiastic but I am definitely on the outside looking in. They just don’t get this. All they know is being inside the academic bubble dealing with other like-minded people. It has been a very frustrating experience so far. I can bleat on  about Sheffield being the wrong place to be for what interests me, but it isn’t the fault of the University. I only seem to be able to work these things out with hindsight and whenever I try and get in front of things the academic “help” (and I use the term help very loosely) has proved to be absolutely effing useless.

Getting a job though, that will be the next challenge. If the last 4 years has taught me anything it has been that the sort of job I want is helping/influencing or teaching. Obviously I write this in the full knowledge that any potential employer is likely to come across this. Hello, I hope you are enjoying reading instead of looking at predictably dull but non-existent pictures of me larging it up with the lads. Possibly saran-wrapped naked to a lamppost and doused in baby oil with inappropriately worded and mis-spelt remarks etched on my forehead in red lipstick? Nope. Just this.

I am looking at the UNHCR, teaching or working in some sort of policy formation/advice role, possibly with an NGO. I need to get through (pass) this semester and then write up my dissertation this summer. Working title of “The Anatomy Of Environmental Denial”.

More to come…

Yelling At The Radio

My rough rule of thumb for writing a post is if the topic, when covered on the Today Program on BBC Radio 4, caused me to yell at the radio. Today I yelled and was then reduced to mumbling dementedly.

The sharp decline is cosmetic surgery was being covered. All was fine until they decided that, presumably, for balance, the advances in  makeup and associated use techniques should be used as a reason.

This is when the yelling started. The expert  merrily explained how someone can radically change their look using various products and techniques. I am a complete loss regarding the idea of an industry perpetuating the idea to women (I know, they are targeting men as well now) that their appearance is somehow lacking and needs changing. The Army calls this camouflage and uses bolder green tones. The aim remains the same, deception.

Apparently, hiding the ageing process is key. Expertly applied makeup can take ten years off you at a stroke. FFS.  We are terrified of ageing and the inevitable conclusion, death. This fear is so ruthlessly exploited, and many people seem to have, unquestioningly, bought into the idea. The entire beauty industry revolves around first making one feel that somehow your appearance is falling short and that good makeup can hide these apparent inadequacies. Still deception. First of the self and then of others.

I can hear the argument being trotted out that it is a woman’s right to choose. Indeed it is. They wouldn’t even have to face this dilemma if the feeling  hadn’t been created that deception is necessary. I look around at university and see young women who have swallowed this pill and are slathered in makeup. Why does this make me mad? Partly because I have a 14y old daughter. She is pretty balanced (has a grumpy old man) but I know she is subjected to a barrage of messages that normalise the idea that there is an inherent inadequacy in her appearance. But, fear not for there will be a YouTube channel that can show her how to cure this fault.

Come the revolution, anyone who works to create a consumer demand by preying off fear and creating feelings of inadequacy  will be the first to be put up against the wall and shot.

 

It Is War. Class War.

I have just listened to a vox pop piece on the Radio 4 Today program with the ‘woman in the street’  interviewing the various parties in the Southern Rail strike. Both sides levelled accusations of unreasonable behaviour at the other. The lady pronounced them childish, and on the basis of what was said it does sound like petulant kids arguing over the toys. However, no one seems to be able to describe the real toys at issue, because they sure ain’t the ones they speak of.

This is not an argument about safety. That one has been put to bed long ago. Technology moves things on whether you like it or not. The Luddites fought it, the rail unions are attempting the same. Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, said as much about the advances in safety enabling driver operated trains only yesterday, and one would reasonably expect him to be a union ally. However, Khan sees the massive disruption to the people of London that is being caused by the ideologically motivated actions of the few and he is condemning the unions behind both the Southern Rail and London Underground disruptions.

Still, the ASLEF and RMT  bods scent blood. There is no gaping wound of safety, they think they are inhaling heady scent of a wounded right wing bastard. Fighting ‘the right wing’, the filthy capitalist bastards who are all Tory,  is the single most worthy and exciting thing a class warrior can do. Going down in flames and possibly dragging everyone  around you into your fiery victory pit is pretty de rigueur for a good Marxist/Stalinist/Trotskyite (I am never sure of the terminology, and rarely are the protagonists).

[As an aside: to defeat the left one merely needs to ask them to agree on an ideological question, close the door and come back in the morning. There will be one left who may be right but has killed their fellow interlocutors to reinforce their point] 

The media is talking about the discontent spreading to other parts of the country and that is fanning the flames of class-war. The unions want to take us back to a previous time where the unions were powerful, they had a voice in government, they have a story of success to sell back to the workers who pay dues. It is all so financially grubby. The capitalist railway owners are doing what capitalists do: increasing operational efficiency and increasing market share. Both sides need to be controlled.

The sides are now at loggerheads and oddly the union(s) are making a claim that is very Trumpesque. They claim to their supporters that the Tory Transport Secretary is pulling the strings thus making this strike a working class versus the Tories battle. Trumpesque because it cannot be proved or disproved. It plays well to the audience and that is all that matters. In case you are grappling with it: this is what ‘post truth’ means. You make shit up that your side believes. End of.

This strike has assumed a great importance for both sides. The Tories – who have recurrent wet dreams about Thatcher and often set everything in the light of Maggie and Ronnie – fear that this is the top of a slippery slope that saw Maggie set against Arthur. The left are similarly scared of being crushed.

My experience is that the hard left are on a constant war-footing against the right. This is a very tiring position to adopt. Being born ready is one thing, hyping oneself up into a state of heightened alert and staying alert just doesn’t work. The ones that maintain anything approaching this state of hypervigilance  rapidly become dull. They fail to see their own hypocrisies and have a very limited focus. It makes for boring company.

The right rarely seem to invest the same amount of effort in setting themselves to ready against an attack from the left. They are too busy trying to make money and amongst them there are the people who are similarly fixated and therefore dull. The difference is that they are looking outwards to this mythical market in search of opportunity and not at their immediate foes. This infuriates the left. They are always trying to entice the right into a battle and the right just feels they are a tiresome interference in the quest for growth and profit.

Who is right? Not sure. As ever I believe that it would be wonderful to have a sensible middle ground. In the meantime, ASLEF and pals will destroy the lives of millions of ordinary people to prove their ideologically correct stance.

As I proofread the High Priest of the left is on, Jeremy Corbyn. He makes some sense but we know he has been coached. Hilariously (one can imagine the press people doing yet another face-palm) he leaks hard left ideology about 1 min in. They have got him onto the strike, the union leaders and it is all unravelling as he disagrees with Khan. It is about the struggle, not the issues. He signs off with the usual verbal tropes, none of which will get him (Labour) elected.

This or this?

Class War is so boring.

An Imbalance In The (Charitable) Force

Fo a bit of context: I have moved 150 miles away from home to pursue an MSc at a good university. It has a great big Students Union (SU) building and more often than not there is a gentleman in the foyer selling the Big Issue, about my age. This means that he is homeless and is working to rectify that rather than just expecting others to do the heavy lifting. I find that most inspiring and endeavour to give him my spare change. However, this post is not about my charitable choices though, it is about Rob.

Today I spoke the the gentleman, he is called Rob. Rob stood there talking to me telling me a bit about his story and how, after 10 years, he has got his first flat and doesn’t have to live rough anymore. All the time Rob is holding a bulging rucksack and after a few minutes excuses himself to put it down. I asked what was so heavy and Rob astonished me with his reply.

Rob pointed at the SU foodbank collection and explained that he has brought in some tinned food for the foodbank. My jaw hit the floor and I checked that he, Rob, the chap selling the Big Issue, who has been homeless for some time, who is clearly just making it with a frayed shirt collar etc etc, was giving food to the food bank. In his soft voice he said, without any hint of irony, that there were people worse off than him, it was from his spare income (WTF???) so he was just giving the little bit that he could.

Capitalising on the shock on my face he wordlessly reached in his bag and produced a Christmas card for me, a regular. I was humbled and had to thank him and walk away as I thought I was going to cry from the huge mix of emotions that welled up in me. Shock, shame, relief, wealth etc. It really was rather overwhelming, for moments before I was cursing the feeling of deep fatigue brought on by my endless petty sicknesses that I have had since coming to Sheffield. It was a really sucky feeling that was jolted into perspective by Rob.

It is easy to intellectualise about the plight of others distant from you, share in a sense of empathy and be horrified at the people around you that don’t seem to care. If you want to do anything to make a difference this Christmas go up to a stranger like Rob, engage them in conversation and prepare to be surprised. Me? Stuff like this throws me more and more. Perhaps it is age.

 

Dear Labour, Here Comes UKIP.

In Great Britain the Labour Party (the party of the left, in all its guises) has pulled off the astonishing trick of disappearing so far up its own arse by squabbling amongst itself that everyone can see it for what it has become; Labour is a bunch of power-hungry people, so focused on their own gain, that they will commit collective suicide rather than back down to one another. This public, Faustian style death pact that all the warring elements have bought into is very worrying. These self-obsessed clowns are no longer representative of the voters and nor do they provide an effective opposition, so the Tories just march around doing what they please.

Labour used to be the antidote to the so-called ‘Nasty Party’ (the right-wing Tories) and provided an effective opposition, sometimes got into power and occasionally mitigated some of the more egregious things the hardline Tories do. However, these days there is a new force and it is going to subsume Labour.  I watched the address of the new leader of UKIP on a Channel 4 clip and it was terrifying. Terrifyingly good and terrifyingly dangerous if you are the Labour party. In fact, just scary for any person with even a semi-liberal outlook on life.

In this post-factual political world Paul Nuttal, the new leader of a very unpleasant right-wing party, has marched up to the centre ground and declared that UKIP is the voice of the working classes. His message and delivery are very convincing. An apt metaphor is the new dog in the neighbourhood seen peeing higher on all the lamp posts. These lamp posts are the parliamentary constituencies that the Labour infighting has let go unattended. Anyone who has had a dog knows that they regularly remark their territory, lest the other dogs forget. Labour has failed to do this and the new dog is here.

Nuttal is appealing to traditional Labour voters and I believe that – important caveat now – if he can galvanise UKIP he will decimate the Labour party. If they think he won’t because commonsense dictates that no sane decent person will vote for such a bunch of unpleasant people as UKIP then I have just the one word: Trump. People identify with his message and he is skilled in its delivery. Watch out.