Ed versus David

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Ed Miliband, ever since he worked like a dog through the almost pointless Copenhagen summit for climate change last year. Franny Armstrong's excellent "Stupid Show" videos on You Tube caught Ed, exhausted but still upright at the end, trying to maintain a politician's gloss on what was a shambolic failure. He really looked like he meant it. Maybe I'm a sucker.

It was Ed, let's not forget, who wrote the Labour manifesto going in to the election, and he put many straightforward green targets in, which frankly were a lot less wishy washy than the Tories/LibDems appeared to be. Good old Ed, eh?

We're told that Dave is a bit of a Blairite, and Ed's a lot more of a Brownite, so then it's time to look at the boys' voting records to see where those differences in their attitude toward key issues really lie. This data is taken from the excellent and indispensable site "They work for you". (Sorry my table making skills are dreadful. I left the borders in because it all got a bit lost in the page otherwise).

Topic David Ed
Equal gay rightsStrongly forStrongly for
Iraq warStrongly forn/a
Iraq war enquiryStrongly againstStrongly against
ID cardsStrongly forStrongly for
Transparent ParliamentMixed resultsMixed results
EU integrationStrongly forStrongly for
Replacing TridentStrongly forStrongly for
Student top-up feesStrongly forStrongly for
Autonomy for schoolsMixed resultsModerately for
Anti-terrorism lawsStrongly forStrongly for
Ministers intervention in inquestsStrongly forStrongly for
Removing hereditary peers from HOLForFor
Wholly elected HOLStrongly forStrongly for
Hunting banForFor
Laws to stop climate changeModerately againstMixture of for & against
Stricter asylum systemStrongly forStrongly for
Foundation hospitalsStrongly for
The smoking banModeratelyVery strongly for

So where is the wiggle room between these famous brothers? They both love the Iraq war and ID cards; they both want fewer foreigners in the country (don't we all! Er, no); they support PFI in foundation hospital building and Ed *really* doesn't like smokers. Either all of that, or they've just slavishly following the party whip. And why would two such independent enterprising, energetic, passion driven future leaders do that?

...because they're more of the same.

The General Election

As with most people who maintain a fervent interest in the way their nation is governed, I've just started coming down from a rollercoaster ride of quite magnificently chaotic proportions which has gripped the country for six days.

I was slightly unprepared for the affection I had, which must have been hidden deep down, for Gordon Brown, listening to his resignation speeches and thank you and goodnights. He supported the Iraq war, despite personal misgivings, because he didn't want to lose his job, and that is an insurmountable wrong. He supported PFI and understood profoundly that the gaping hole in the country's financial infrastructure left by the death of the country as an industrial force had to be filled with banking, and income being generated from the Square Mile. Yet that deep, and important understanding led to a de-regulated environment (to keep them all in the country); a London with housing stock so expensive that non-bankers have difficulty renting, never mind buying and most importantly, a culture where bankers were rewarded for taking greater and greater risks. It is Gordon Brown's undeniable understanding of the forces at work there which helped lead our economy, as much as everyone else's, in to a huge bust.

This Gordon as a banker was hidden from the electorate and from the party members who saw him as a battling middle lefty academic with his heart in the right place and here's the thing. I think that image is right. I think he did have his heart in the right place, apart from the war. Er, and PFI. But if the govt had not supported the banking community, what would have happened? GDP growth slowing down, the banks deserting for New York or Germany... unpalatable a truth it may be but the banking sector is vital to Britain's growth. The post-Crunch proposed legislation has been weak and vague in comparison to the public rhetoric - the reason? THey can't afford for the banks to piss off elsewhere. So it is with bonuses. There are vague noises along the lines of "Well, we'd rather you didn't", a one off tax which the city gritted its teeth over and soon forgot, but that's about it.There discussion as to whether to break investment banks away from high street banks will merely change banking company email accounts.

And what now? Cameron's doorstep speech was surprising in that it was long, sounded relatively earnest and in the first sentence he reminded the voting public how different the country is today than it was 13 years ago - and that's as a result of the Labour govt. If anything, I think the Lib Dems provide a good fit for *Cameron* if not the Tory Party as a whole. But that's to the good. Someone already commented this morning that he may well be using Lib Dem cabinet member appointments as a way of cold-shouldering old-school tories who would otherwise get the jobs.

I worry about the very poor, and those not capable of joining this 'big society' (ie: devolved community responsibility with no budgets, unlike the alternative state run funds or institutions) for the many variable reasons that never come up in statistics. I'm not sure that the schoolfriend of Nora's who has to live in a one room bedsit with her mother and nearly-teenage brother will benefit. The important question being will the be concretely disadvantaged. God knows. But all sorts of rumblings are also happening, as well as a referendum on AV (hmmm. I think it's a cop out but at least it's better, I suppose, then FPTP), the scrapping of ID cards, fixed term parliaments... go on. Be radical on the good stuff.

Whilst I worry about the very poor, I worry more about environmental policy. Whilst the Labour Party was far from perfect, Ed Miliband had become synonymous with strident, strong campaigning from within. You could tell he'd written the party manifesto for the election given that he'd put the party down strong targets, with strong accountability for carbon reduction. the other two (who are now of course in power) were dithery in comparison. Cameron's view seems to be "Let the markets decide" which is exactly what the markets have been saying they *don't* want - needing a strong legislative framework to innovate against. I know from people who have worked with them though that the Civil Service environmental experts are a superb, concerned bunch. I'm hoping that the new Environment Secretary (whoever they - or should I say he, will be - and he won't be a Lib-Dem) will end up going native as Miliband did, because faced with the evidence of what's happening, I don't understand how anyone couldn't.

Anyway - all this change is going to take some getting used to. We'll see where we are in a year - I suspect back bench ructions will end up breaking out if Cameron is seen to be giving Clegg / progressive policies too much leg room. Reading The Labour Party twitterer, there  seems to be a massive registration surge in membership, as presumably disaffected Lib-Dems leave in disgust. Will their MP's all pull together? They've got way more to lose if they don't.

Watching home video of 9/11

I made myself watch "102 minutes that changed America" the other night, although watching it with the ridiculous number of advert breaks that it had made me feel queasy and slightly ashamed of Channel 4.

But then they stumped up for it, I suppose.

The film was a heftily edited selection, in timestamped form, of the whole of the 9/11 terrible saga, from a few seconds after the first plane hit. We were in France on that day, and only got hold of the news via me reading my email over a standard 56k modem, and saying "Er, there's a rumour that a plane has hit the World Trade Centre". We switched on the satellite news and I think we emerged, blinking in to the Catalan afternoon sun some 5 hours later.

Watching it, it surprised me just how long there were between the first and the second hits. There must have been a good ten, fifteen minutes and good god, the utter horror of the second hit - the sheer terror in the voices of the people who were videoing. Not to forget, obviously, that every so often, a person could be clearly seen jumping out and hoping for a swift death, rather than burning. The phone calls to desperate people in smoking and burning offices were there too. Sit tight, smash the windows if you have to, we're coming.

The handheld nature of the thing gave the film a screwed up, post-Cloverfield sheen, because of course it was New York. And to make matters even more emotionally confused, the viewer already knew the ending - they'd seen the spoilers and the inevitavle fall to earth hung like a spectre over the unfolding events. Waiting for the second plane to hit was unbearable. That shred of time felt real, and miserably unchangeable.

It is as important to bear witness to the events that take place in affluent countries as it is to listen, and watch, straight backed, to the horrors meted upon people by other people, or indeed natural events, in the developing world. There is no cynical response to the unbearable shock, grief and misery of that day. What came next could not be laid at the door of these New Yorkers, shaking with fear, trying to shield their children from what was going on, or burning alive, or being crushed to death. So many firefighters on video, I was left thinking  - How many of those guys are still alive now? Our friend Emma, who lived in Brooklyn at the time, had good mates in guitar bands who fought fires by day. She didn't see them again.

Watching it from that personal perspective through the shaky camera's untrained eye - how the hell can anyone who was there, and saw it happen, get over that day? Even people blocks away were covered with the volcanic dust cloud as the towers spread in to a dust storm across the city. They must still think of it, every day.


Oh God. I am so tired I want to curl up in a heap and sleep for a week.

On top of which I have been feeling nauseous all day (hmm, I believe that my general "put out the flags" notions will swiftly be swapped with "oh God, make it stop" ones).

Meanwhile in other news it appears that the Iraq war may be over bar the shouting.

And the looting. And the lack of water. And the rest.

Life and moderating

I spent the morning volunteer moderating on the open (ie: no registration required) post-moderated forums on F... (cough) where I work. Never have I seem such a parade of miserable racism. If anything, the action being post-moderated allows a forum (albeit hopefully brief) for those whose voices are rarely heard in the media. Reactionary (in the true sense of the word) people whose emotional response to a situation is to find an easy answer - an easy villain. In this case it seems to be all Muslims. Moslems. Towel heads. Pakis. asylum seekers. These are the search words used to try and get these messages off the forum.

Continue reading "Life and moderating" »

So. To begin.

I wanted to do this in January, and install MT myself because I wanted to learn about it, as well as start a diary / blog / whatever (ha, more on that particular debate at a later stage, I think). However it turned out that my job now entails me getting home at approx 9 every night and working most weekends or else zonking out. So sitting down for hours at a time cranking my brain in to action didn't seem likely although I clung, desperately to that hope for a couple of months.

Why now? Why has it been such a long gap between this one and the last one? For a long time I didn't actually have anything to say, about my life or anyone else's. The first one it turned out wanted me to say something very important, and seemed to let me come to terms with several rather horrible things that had happened in my past.

This one? This one is hopefully a whole bunch different.

Continue reading "So. To begin." »