Archive | April, 2015

Random rambling thoughts on the UK election

26 Apr

A general election in the United Kingdom is always a wonderful thing to observe. Even from afar. More entertaining than a French one. More dynamic than the US, more constrained than an Italian. It’s a thing of wonder. Even from afar. Is it important ? Does it matter ? I don’t know.

The ritualism is still alive, the mix of tradition mixed with slight modernity and innovation, it is simply the farmers market of elections. And this one in particular looks like it is providing more entertainment than normal. It is an election that gives leaders debates without leaders, where candidates who no one can vote for ( I know they are not candidates ) seem more relevant than many of the candidates you can vote for. An election where everyone knows the outcome but no one knows the result.

And yet , it’s all so tedious. Do elections matter ? Of course they dont…both in terms of power and interms of the actual result. Most people wont change their minds in 4 weeks if they havent over 4 years…and even if they do, even if the blue team beat the red team does it make a big difference.

But the election spectacle. I shall remember the 2015 UK election for one story and one story alone. The UKIP candidate investigated by the Police for selling sausage rolls at a meet Jimmy White snooker event fundraiser. This is the work of Chris Morris for sure.

Its odd now that the UK has debates. The last election the debates overtook everything to the expense of many traditional aspects of the leaders campaigns and from an outcome point of view added little. This time they have been nullified, run to ground, happened but not really. There was a 57 way bun fight where oddly Plaid Cymru were at but the Democratic Unionists werent. I’m sure there’s a story to it but what does it say ? The Nationalists did well from the debates but that’s another story. Nullification seems to be everyone’s strategy these days.

The general media story though is one of the potential coalitions. Maybe it’s because I remember 1992, but somehow I still hold out a small doubt, despite everything. Maybe one party Government is over…maybe not. This seems to be driving a unseemingly large amount of polls. There is a problem with measuring the same thing over and over, it creates its own randomness. There is simpleness to the polls that you overlook at your peril. The major parties have ground each other into a stalemate. Nothing is moving…yet.

The risk for Labour is that the Tories are trying hard to make this 1992, there is a constant fear factor put around about being held to ransom by the SNP. Just pause for a minute on that. 8 months ago these same politicians were desperate to keep Scotland in the union…and now they are calling the elected Mps out as immoral. Its democracy you idiots. Oddly Cameron would be home and dry if Scotland had the position is illogical on so many levels.

The other election from the past that gets bandied about is 1974. This isn’t 1974. The parallel that fits is the risk of a party not getting a majority , and also the most votes not getting the most seats. There is a major difference though. 1974 had 2 main players and one minor. The rise in votes for celtic nationalism was significant but not powerful. This time we have so many players at the table, the main parties seem to be unable to make a coalition without at least 2 or 3 others. Some of these are strange bedfellows. The Conservatives it appears will need the homophobic DUP, the party that hates foreigners who are ill in UKIP plus a party that espouses to be liberal and democratic…make that one work Dave ? Labour will need the Scottish Nationalists even though they opposed Scottish nationalism at the referendum. In 74 the parties had the option of another election, now this isn’t the case with the strange Fixed Term election act which went in under many people’s radar. We could have a change of Government mid term with no recourse to the electorate, rather like in Gladstone’s day.  There is also a feel that this election might break the system or reflects that it is broken. A second inconclusive election is dangerous, especially if say UKIP get 14% of the vote and the Lib Dems 12%, but between them they may only get 10% of the seats. A democratic issue whatever you feel about those two parties. Similarly the SNP , or DUP for that matter will be over represented. Someone should advocate for a change to the system ! Oddly the debate isnt surfacing, but it may well after the fact. This may be what keeps happening until people realise the system is broken.

This election does seem to be the first one to see the full effects of the devolution that occurred in the 90s. Now we have separate power structures. The Welsh and Scottish nationalists are well armed campaign machines. They have agendas and power bases they didn’t have in the past. They are playing multiple sources of power against each other….and the reaction sadly focusses on the fact that the two leaders are women and what they wear and sound like or look like. The media though seem apoplectic at this election. For a start they have Milliband, his father was an immigrant marxist, he used to work for Gordon Brown. What more do the tabloids need to dispose him. Oh apparently he didn’t marry his first or even second girlfriend ( this is 2015 remember !) which seems to have caused huge alarm.

The Tories to much amusement have released their 3 top weapons. First unleash the anti scottish brigade, then unleash the Johnson and finally unleash the Major. John Major, a man who never had winner written on him, to make a warning he made in 92,97 and 2001. Labour for its part seemed uncertain about the support of Blair. He still seemed a million miles away from the current leaders, our own Clinton. In oh so many ways. In terms of policy though there is nothing to excite just to consolidate. Non Doms, who even knew that was a thing. So much time seems to be spent on the SNP it’s almost a fetish.

But then there’s still UKIP. Not as stellar as it felt they might have been. Perhaps the spotlight is melting them. Farage is admitting to illness, his candidates have been poorly vetted and come out with all kinds of nonsense. However so does he. His Mps are reasonably quiet, we wonder why ? Farage likes old colonials more than east european. Mmm.


Twerking to Turking.Everyday Analysis Vol 2

13 Apr

Write about what you enjoy..and what you shouldn’t enjoy or cant explain why. The world is in front of us, a world of “new” enjoyment. Enjoyment we no longer easily understand, yet that enjoyment is at times piped.
Take the wonderful essay on the gender alignment of Kinder surprise eggs. I have always taken Kinder eggs to be a symbol of the modern world. All substance, agreed form, no real surprise. And now they are narrowing down the surprise risk with pink and blue eggs. If Kinder are doing this they must be onto something.The essay sees Kinder eggs as part of desire over functionality, shit and sugar perhaps. They are now pink and blue because …that’s how we express our desires.

I nodded intently at ” if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all ” and the premise that whilst we can express negative energy without speaking, when we get the chance to express ourselves we should take it, grab it and use it.

Theres a Gramscian element to the media analysis. Poversion. Do makers of reality TV shows about the poor reflect the poor ? Is the reflection artificial ? The mirror reflecting them is more like a Victorian hall of mirrors, a new reality created to reflect your ideological viewpoint of the poor and their plight. Of course for all reality tv there is no reality. The reality issue is also reflected in an essay on the BBC media hegemony. Red wedge is used as a focus point , that people created an artificial reality around its political pulling power. Those of us who remember it , remember it as weak, wet, political light( Weller had advocated for Thatcher in 79 so was hardly the socialist spokesman , Bragg went on to ask us to vote Lib Dem and look what happened then !). The BBC though would like us to think that its historical safety makes it factual. If they can recreate a myth around Red Wedge what wouldn’t they do ?

It was the Politics section of essays that caught my interest more than any others. Though I was sure McCarthy were being sarcastic when they sang about writing to your MP it’s a great intro to any essay. The Home Offices anti-immigration tweets are looked at for what they really are and Cameron as a knave not a fool makes interesting analysis.

Its Brand/Badio on (non)voting that stands out for me though as a subject close to my heart. The rise of a gaggle of commentators and pundits to dismiss the idea of not voting with the usual lines of ” then what do you expect” or “you can’t complain” need fully juxtaposing with the reality of Lib Dems betraying everything they asked you to support once they took your vote. Not voting is an action with as much meaning as voting, it can have an effect as well.

Theres plenty also on the language of UKIP and its demonization of “others” and “politicians”.which of course they are not! Depoliticization further re-inforces that there is a them and us and we will never be them even if we look speak act and think that way. Where this all ends is anyones guess.

I think the book got it wrong , it’s not write about what you enjoy its read about it, and this is a wonderful way to open yourself to the task.



Learn Cricket with Geoff Boycott

9 Apr

What a book , and it only cost me 50c. The cartoons are hilarious and you cant read them without dropping into a fake Yorkshire accent.


This for starters, classic dismissal. WG Grace, nonsense lad, cant be done.


Then this, early jazz hands from Geoff.


Play yourself in….over and over. In Fact the book could have been called that.


Be honest , we all could probably have guessed what the answer would be…


Don’t hold back Geoff, tell us what you really think…


Im 42 I don’t get a playtime anymore.


Perhaps the friend in question is Ian Botham ?


Save money with Boycott.


Good cup of tea and no silly stuff.


Is it the same friend with the heavy bat..or does he have 2?


Nothing about going on mercenary tours to South Africa or how to take quick singles….but a joy none the less.


Cult Cricketers – CB Fry

5 Apr


What can you possibly not say about Fry. I don’t know if he is related to the chocolate Quakers? Stephen says they are related but that may be a joke.

In an era where sportsmen seem devoid of character, where they create their own media lives, possibly commentate or coach, Fry was something else. Herculean perhaps, Olympian certainly.
He wrote a novel, published a magazine, played in the FA cup final , captained the national cricket side, played football for England, scored a blistering 144 against Australia. He held the world long jump record for 21 years, held a first class classics degree, ran in three UK elections, met Hitler, stood in for India at the league of nations, ran a youth training ship and considered becoming the King of Albania. In short he was busy. Shane Warne he was not.

As a cricketer he scored over 30,000 runs for Oxford Uni,England, Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey. He averaged over 50 with the bat. Not bad for a player who said he only had one stroke…but that it went to 10 different places. Fry developed a more conservative batting style, one that didn’t involve going forward to everything. In 1901 he hit 6 centuries in consecutive innings over a fortnight, a record he shares with Bradman. Fry could also bowl and took a hat-trick at Lords… twice.

His life story seems almost cartoonish, yet is often overlooked. He put down his cigar to take his world record long jump. Unwittingly he ended WG Graces test career. Sadly he suffered from a variety of mental health issues all of which were probably overlooked in the times he lived. In 1923 he came within a whisker of being elected MP for Banbury. There have been few more accomplished sportsmen and few with such well-rounded lives. he got everywhere and should be seen as more than a novelty. Often noted as an amateur it is his love of what he did that has been remembered.

The Antinomies of Winston Peters

2 Apr

The dust is settling. Bar some strange action against Focus NZ for advertising people to vote Winston, the election is settled. Settling. The Northland by-election will be remembered in NZ political folklore for some time. Not just because the Herald insist on the word byelection. No its the election that seems to justify whatever proposition and question you hold. Yet at the same time its the election that possibly gives nothing. Try some of the common themes.

National got a bloody nose. – undoubtedly true. The most embarrassing by-election under MMP for any government and probably for any party. Heartland National turned away. But it’s not reflected in national polling. It was a real local message. The line up of the scandal and cover up over Sabin, a poor choice of MP due to some local politics, a slow star and the throwing of national money at local projects, add the only politician outside of the Government with real name recognition and it all goes sour. Brand Winston. I doubt it will ever be repeated in my lifetime ( im not that old either before you start). Key is undoubtedly watching his Government go downhill, the wheels wobbled during the 2014 election and Key is in his untrustworthy on his way to the door phase. But Northland might not accelerate that.

It was a message to the Government. I’m not convinced. Winston’s dog whistles to send them a message is muddled. He’s more engrained in Wellington’s political culture than just about any politician around. He’s as likely to prop up a National Government in 2017 than a Lab-Green. He picks fights with the Conservatives/United Future/Greens and ACT.This wasn’t the Greek elections.

The opposition is coming together. I find this wishful thinking, putting an agenda and narrative to an event with no real logic. The greens didn’t stand but I never saw them advocate for a vote for anyone, let alone NZF. A strong NZF is a big risk to the Greens. Andrew Little fell in line when he realised the voters had switched. It wasn’t the first polls but the second ones which nudged him..even if he said don’t do it, the vote was going Winston’s way. Winston who has been rude and derogatory about Labour voters only last year. Winston the scaremonger, the anti-Asian. Does this bring together the progressive left ?

Winston is on the left. Bollocks. How on earth do people see this. Yes he’s an interventionist but so was Muldoon. Only the rabid right really moan about Muldoon being a socialist. One for Bob Jones and Richard Prebble I imagine. The left may need the numbers Winston brings but he’s a conservative through and through.

I can’t ever see the Northland experience being repeated, and at a general election it will be difficult. Can you think of any other politician who could pull this off in say Southland ? I can’t see Shane Jones riding in…or Dover Samuels…both of whom seem to be vying for Winstons heritage.