Saturday, 14 November 2009

Can the right wing Tory internet nutters stop bullying Gordon Brown, please?

I have never voted for Gordon Brown....

I am a member of a different party...

I agree with some policies and not with others...

I am concerned about the war and concerned about the economy...

I won't be voting Labour at the next election...

But mostly, I find the attitude of the vast majority of low level (mostly white, male and unattractive) Tory acolytes towards Gordon Brown little more than an assault on his personal character as opposed to his professional nor political attributes.

So let me state for the record as someone who was embroiled in the current conflict and has lost friends and colleagues there, I applaud his decision to send a handwritten personal letter to the closest family members of those lost in action. Prime Minister's usually don't do this, it is a duty that normally falls to the commanding officer of the soldier/airperson/sailor concerned, so good for him.

Last night I read an atrocious series of blogs and tweets taking the piss out of the handwriting of a man who only has 27% of his eyesight functioning when compared to an able bodies person. I read personal abuse about his family, wife and children and all of it was done by a series of people who are predominately useless individuals who have no right to make any comments about someone who conquered partial blindness to do a PhD, lost one child shortly after a premature birth (my wife and I lost a child in late pregnancy too) and now has another one who will die an almost certain early death. His has been through and has learnt a lot.

So good on Gordon Brown for having some humanity.

And before some quasi-aspergers internet Tory with no social skills acts pedantic and as someone who has come across him, I roughly feel the same way about David Cameron, ever though I despise his policies.

These internet Tory's scream blue murder when challenged on the web, particularly when you challenge their binary world view based on spurious evidence and a lack of brains (a good chunk of them are doing "PhDs" over the course of decade, funded by their parents after scraping a 2:2 or 3rd somewhere dull, living apart from the rest of humanity and solely contacting the world through the web) and always claim they are being bullied and entitled to their opinion.

Maybe they are entitled to their opinion, but as a former squaddie, working, published academic, parent, husband and cripple I challenge them to justify their narrow, warped, misantrophic, hateful, bigoted and fascist world view in the contest of the reality the majority of the population.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Anyone notice that I can walk?

Hi Y'all,

As promised, here is a blog entry!

Just a quick one, but I want to state as someone who has used by the US and UK health care systems that I am pleased to use the National Health Service, have received fantastic care all my life and if it wasn't for the fantastic care by my local hospital, The Whittington Hospital in Highgate I would not have recovered from fracturing my spine six years ago.

Some of the bullshit being spread by the American conservative right are astounding: rationing (a lie), denial of treatment (a lie), bribery to get onto a waiting list (a lie), euthanasia (a complete lie) and lets not get onto the abortion debate! This is astonishing and whilst healthcare in America can be of a very high standard, the insurance payments are expensive, if you lose your job you could lose your employer provided healthcare and around 20% of the population have now insurance and depending on which state they live in, only a cursory safety net.

President Obama is someone who deserves a lot of respect for what he has done and for how he operates and he is not proposing a US version of the NHS, just better regulation, controlled costs, fair access and making sure no one is left behind. I find it ironic that it is the same idiots who said that we all should have supported Bush in 2003 regardless of what we thought of the invasion of Iraq (because to do so would be unpatriotic) who are spreading this nonsense.

So maybe that is the message of this post: there is a progressive President and a Democratic legislature but remember the forces of reaction, conservatism, hate, discrimination and selfishness are still out there and still have influence. We must be on our guard but we must also be prepared to open our mouths, write letters and confront backward ignorance wherever and whenever it shows its ugly head.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Dude is back!

Hello everyone,

Just a quick note to say that business as usual will commence shortly. In the past year or so I have been General Secretary of the National Postgraduate Committee, moved to Crouch End and am coming to the end of my PhD. There is still lots to do, so I won't be writing too much too soon, but I will be back to blogging in the New Year.

See you all soon,


Sunday, 1 July 2007

Weird World - A response to the paranoid

Hi all,

According some cowardly little custard that leaves comments on my blog without using his name, I am a closet member of the BNP and apparently write the Iznewmania site.

Paul Newman writes that enjoyable site and he is certainly not a member of the BNP.

Well, the reality is I am quite mixed ethnically and mainly of Scottish and Jewish extraction, am a proud member of the SNP, have a multitude of nationalities and for my final point, look at this picture of my wedding day:

I am married to a wonderful Hindu lady whose family originates from Mumbai, although she admittedly comes from Hampstead herself and is a lot more British than I am, she calls Z ‘zed’ for example and hates the American breakfast.

So much for your Google search Anonymous!

If you want even a modicum of respect from me, you would be open about you identity and whilst I would not agree with your views or indeed what you say at least it would show maturity and courage of conviction.

Anyone can make blind accusations behind a veil, but it takes the many people who openly write a blog in the public domain to demonstrate what true courage means. I am talking about people like Paul Newman (who is also in a mixed marriage, by the way) who I may not agree with all the time, but I certainly respect for having the guts to say what he does in public regardless of what the wider world thinks.

That is a skill you lack, dude!

Later skater!

Sunday, 01 July 2007

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Fortune Smiles on the Brave - A Toast to Quentin Davies

The Conservative Party can call him a traitor, if they want and make snide comments about his performance to the camera that are oh so witty and whilst I am far from a fan of the Labour Party, I raise a glass to Quentin Davies for having the courage of his convictions and deciding to move across the floor of the House of Commons.

Here is the letter he wrote to David Cameron, sound familiar?

Islington, 26th June 2007

"Dear David,

I have been a member of the Conservative Party for over 30 years, and have served for 20 years in the Parliamentary Party, in a variety of backbench and front bench roles. This has usually been a great pleasure, and always a great privilege. It is therefore with much sadness that I write you this letter. But you are entitled to know the truth.

Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.

For the first 19 years of my time in the House, in common I imagine with the great majority of my colleagues, it never occurred to me to leave the Party, whatever its current vicissitudes. Ties of familiarity, of friendship, and above all of commitment to constituency supporters are for all of us very strong and incredibly difficult to break.

But they cannot be the basis for living a lie - for continuing in an organisation when one no longer has respect for its leadership or understanding of its aims. I have come to that appreciation slowly and painfully and as a result of many things, some of which are set out below.

The first horrible realisation that I might not be able to continue came last year. My initial reaction was to suppress it.

You had come to office as leader of the party committed to break a solemn agreement we had with the European People's Party to sit with them in the EPP-ED group during the currency of this European Parliament. For seven months you vacillated, and during that time we had several conversations. It was quite clear to me that you had no qualms in principle about tearing up this agreement, and that it was only the balance of prevailing political pressures which led you ultimately to stop short of doing so (though since then you have hardly acted in good faith in continuing with the agreement, for example you never attend the EPP-ED summits claiming that you are "too busy" - even though half a dozen or more prime ministers are always present.)

Of course I knew that you had put yourself in a position such that if you did not leave the EPP-ED group you would be breaking other promises you had given to colleagues, and on which many of them had counted in voting for you at the leadership election. But that I fear only made the position worse. The trouble with trying to face both ways is that you are likely to lose everybody's confidence.

Aside from the rather significant issues of principle involved, you have of course paid a practical price for your easy promises. You are the first leader of the Conservative Party who (for different reasons) will not be received either by the President of the United States or by the Chancellor of Germany (up to, and very much including, Iain Duncan Smith every one of your predecessors was most welcome both in the White House and in all the chancelleries of Europe).

It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you - and, more seriously, to the country - if you ever came to power.

I have never done business with people who deliberately break contracts, and I knew last year that if you left the EPP-ED group I could no longer remain in a party under your leadership.

In fact, you held back and I tried to put this ugly incident out of my mind and carry on. But the last year has been a series of shocks and disappointments. You have displayed to the full both the vacuity and the cynicism of your favourite slogan 'change to win'.

One day in January, I think a Wednesday or Thursday, you and George Osborne discovered that Gordon Brown was to make a speech on the environment the following Monday. You wished to pre-empt him. So without any consultation with anyone - experts, think-tanks, the industry, even the Shadow Cabinet - you announced an airline or flight tax which, as you have subsequently heard from me in a long paper (which has never been refuted) and I am sure from many others, is certainly defective and contradictory - and in my view complete nonsense. The PR pressures had overridden any considerations of economic rationality or national interest, or even what would have been to others normal businesslike prudence.

Equally it seems that your hasty rejection of nuclear energy as a 'last resort' was also driven by your PR imperatives rather than by other considerations. Many colleagues hope that will be the subject of your next U-turn.

You regularly (I think on a pre-arranged PR grid or timetable) make apparent policy statements which are then revealed to have no intended content at all. They appear to be made merely to strike a pose, to contribute to an image.

You thus sometimes treat important subjects with the utmost frivolity. Examples are 'inequality' (the 'Polly Toynbee' moment - again you had a paper from me!), marriage and the tax system (even your own party chairman was unable to explain on the BBC what you really meant) and, most recently, mass consultation of the public on policy decisions. (In view of your complete failure to consult with anyone, within the party or outside it, on many of the matters I have touched on, or on many others, the latter was perhaps intended as a joke).

Of course I could go on - up to three weeks ago when you were prepared to stoop to putting forward a resolution on Iraq (demanding an inquiry while our military involvement continues) which it was admitted at a party meeting the following Monday (by George Osborne in your presence) was motivated by party political considerations. That was a particularly bad moment.

Believe it or not, I have no personal animus against you. You have always been perfectly courteous in our dealings. You are intelligent and charming. As you know, however, I never supported you for the leadership of the party - even when, after my preferred candidate Ken Clarke had been defeated in the first round, it was blindingly obvious that you were going to win.

Nor, for the same reasons, have I ever sought office in your shadow administration. Although you have many positive qualities you have three - superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions - which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve.

Believing that as I do, I clearly cannot honestly remain in the party. I do not intend to leave public life. On the contrary I am looking forward to joining another party with which I have found increasingly I am naturally in agreement and which has just acquired a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share.

Because my constituents, to whose interests of course I remain devoted, are entitled to know the full background, I am releasing this letter to the press.



Friday, 15 June 2007

The Mercy Seat


I’ve been busy recently, so updating my blog has been somewhat far from my mind. However, as you all know, from my time living in the US I have been a rather vocal opponent of the death penalty on moral and ethical grounds. Now, I am not naive enough to say that there is no such thing as a bad person, nor do I believe that many people should be sent to prison, but as someone who has seen an execution (that was the first time I’ve stated that in public) and had lived with the psychological scars for almost a decade now and even though I used to be in the armed forces, I am against the killing of another human being, in any form and by any person.

Now, there is always a time to kill and a time to die, wars happen, we have to defend ourselves and that is a fact of life. Nevertheless, if we as a society hold ourselves up as a moral people, then we who claim to be civilized should practice what we preach and therefore try not to perform the acts we hold so abhorrent. Justice, from the earliest principals of the Common Law and Henry the Second in 1154 AD is blind and restorative, and therefore once someone has been put away, (in the many instances for the rest of their life) then the interests of society has been served.

But this is a morally and ethically ambiguous area and the cold light of reason is only ever reflected in shades of gray upon the subject matter, particularly in this post ‘moral-majority’ victim culture and vilification of the other. So, I will leave you, with some lyrics from that great poet of modern moral ambiguity, Nick Cave and let you mull upon the subject.

Islington, Friday, June 15, 2007

PS: If you are feeling voyeuristic and want to discuss the details of executions, please don’t even ask to do so.

The Mercy Seat, by Nick Cave

It all began when they took me from my home
And put me on Death Row,
A crime for which I am totally innocent, you know.

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
And all things either good or ungood.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

I hear stories from the chamber
Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
He died upon the cross
Might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that's what I'm told

My kill hand's tatooed E.V.I.L.
Across it's brother's fist
That filthy five!
They did nothing to challenge or resist.

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of his Testament is stowed
A throne from which I'm told
All history does unfold.
It's made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away.

Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And anyway I never lied.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this twisting of the truth.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
And anyway there was no proof
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smoking
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all these looks of disbelief.
A life for a life and a truth for a truth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is smoking
And I think my head is melting
And in a way that's helping
To be done with all this twisting of the truth.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
But I'm afraid I told a lie.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Electoral Reform - Another trick the Conservatives are missing

Did you know, in the UK the average population in a predominately Conservative constituency based in the South East of England is around 100,000 - 120,000 whereas in a predominately Labour constituency in the North East for example, the average number of people is around 65 - 80,000. As a result, under the current system fewer votes are required to return a Labour MP than a Conservative one. Moreover, in many seats the winning politician was returned to Parliament with only a third of the votes cast in his favour. This is a situation easily remedied and indeed Australia has successful done so and it would be to the advantage of not only many political parties but the nation as whole to shift over to a more equitable system.

You don’t even need Proportional Representation or a mixed system to do so, either!!!

Three simple points to restore democracy:

Point one: All constituencies should be based on electoral districts of 100,000 population, the boundaries of which are decided by law in the 6th year of every decade, 5 years after a census has been taken by an independent commission. This would remove the innate bias towards particular parties and would allow for an ‘evening up’ of party strengths in Parliament that reflects the genuine demographic reality on the ground

Argument against: I always find some stereotypical floppy haired ‘Tory-boy’ will argue about the significance of historical constituency boundaries, stating it would be a crime if his historical constituency of Bumblefuck upon the Wold was subsumed into the 123rd electoral district of the UK. Utter crap and guys like that should have a reality check, it is about winning elections fairly and squarely, something which doesn’t happen right now.

Point Two: Get rid of a single vote and have an Alternative Vote (AV) system. We all know how this works, instead of putting a single X against a name, you write 1,2,3,4,5,6 et cetera instead. This is not Single Transferable Vote , (which is a bullshit system par excellence) , but rather an ‘instant run-off’ and was invented by the Australians in the early part of the twentieth century because of a high number of candidates splitting the vote. By doing this, you keep the link between your local MP and the electorate, you can still have strong independent candidates and finally parties can pick up votes from similar parties, for example the Conservatives would benefit from UKIP votes (which cost them at least 15 seats in 2005) and Labour with votes from Respect.

Argument against. Floppy haired Tory-boy will say that he is a Conservative and will only want to vote for the Conservatives. Okay, cool, but the simple reality check is that UKIP and the vile BNP are costing your party seats and these are votes that in a preferential AV system would go your way on the 2nd or 3rd count. Again, it is about winning elections.

Point Three. Have a 4 year fixed term parliament, with elections set out as being on the first Thursday of every May, every leap year. Additionally, no more quick changes of Prime Minister and the Executive, but a fixed changeover date of the first Monday of June in every election year. This allow an element of predictability into the system, will give the electorate a guaranteed chance to bring politicians to account and will remove the long-term problems of an incumbent that cannot be removed because it is he/she that decides when the election will be.

Argument against. Sorry, I’ve just kicked floppy haired Tory-Boy’s head in and thus he is unavailable for comment, so I will say that this works in the US, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands et cetera and I, plus the populations of these countries cannot find any fault with such a system.

So there, fixed size constituencies, preferential voting and fixed term Parliaments, easy and simple. Also, this isn’t PR, so you would more than likely still have a firm winner and therefore stable government but on the one hand you will have a fairly split of the available seats amongst political parties and on the other you will have shades of political opinion represented better in the allocation of votes to the eventual winner.

However, Labour prefers party machines and the Conservatives appears to have an inverse relationship with reality when it comes to their cause celebres and lets face it, first past the post is one of them! However, David Cameron might win an election, but his term of office will be short, painful and unrewarding because of his lack of vision and reactive way of dealing with policy and the public. By adopted a sensible programme of electoral reform, however, he could capture the imagination of many and show that rather than being an establishment reactionary pretending to be a moderniser, he is the real deal and capable of doing something creative and worthwhile.