Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Mention in today's Guardian re Osborne's 'anti-elocution' lessons

Dear readers (all three of you!) you will have some Guardian readers for company today as the paper's Diary mentions my anti-Tory efforts in the blogosphere....

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Osborne's anti-elocution lessons try to obscure his wealthy background

I've just watched George Osborne's Budget response party political broadcast.  I knew the content of what he said would be dubious, but what amazed and amused me was his delivery.  His anti-elocution lessons must have been going well, for he uttered some howlers, including:

"We're gunna" - We're going to
"We sedout" - We set out
"And that means gedding" - And that means getting
"To geh our economy moving" - To get our economy moving
"That godus into this economic mess" - That got us into this economic mess

His spin doctors must surely have been working hard to make him sound more like an 'ordinary' chap, rather than a top public school-educated millionaire who has risen to be potentially the second most powerful man in the country without ever seeming to have done a normal job in the real world. 

The Tories must be rattled if they think some anti-elocution lessons this late in the day will convince voters that Mr Osborne is just like them and understands their concerns.  And this on the day that the Tories showed just how panicked they are about the reduction of their lead to 2 points in their main propaganda sheet The Sun that they've engaged M&C Saatchi once more.  It's falling apart for the Tories and no doubt the daily poll in their main propaganda sheet - The Sun - will show their lead over Labour dropping even further in the coming days.  Afterall, it's at a pathetic 2 points in today's Sun.  Tony Blair's New Labour consistently led by between 15 to 20 per cent in the weeks before May 1997.

We're all like Byers, Hoon and Hewitt in the Modern Age

Much of the opprobrium heaped on Byers, Hoon and Hewitt over their lobbying claims was justified yet very little of the coverage has sought to place their behaviour in the wider context.
While their behaviour should not be condoned, it can perhaps be explained if viewed through the prism of our current cultural mores. The affair should be viewed in the context of three modern-day trends.

First, we live in a talent-free celebrity age in which not only do we celebrate the talented, beautiful and rich, but exhibit a tawdry obsession with celebrity itself. Critical faculties are suspended as the talentless are packaged up as celebrities via television shows.

Second, the post-modern celebrity age has arrived, first prophesised by Andy Warhol with his talk of everyone having “fifteen minutes of fame”. If post-modernism is the disintegration of cultural reference-points then modern-day celebrity has heralded the age of the ‘citizen celebrity’. The genre of stars who are ‘famous for being famous’ is now a mini-industry fuelling the belief amongst mere mortals that because anyone can become a celebrity then so can they in the National Lottery of fame.

Third, everyone, apart from nurses, charity workers and nuns, is on the make. Everyone is imbued with the notion that they must maximise the financial benefits of any given situation. Ordinary folk sell their story to the press, no matter how macabre the subject matter might be. Those involved in scandals immediately engage the services of Max Clifford. Ghost-written autobiographies are published before the ‘author’ turns 30 in order to cash in on their brush with fame. Inconsequential politicians publish diaries to capitalise more on what they’ve seen than what they’ve done. People who have suffered bereavement or tragedy quickly rush out books, often serialised in the Daily Mail. Journalists hop between short-term contracts and different channels and can now be paid a million pounds to read the news. The proliferation of ‘no-win-no-fee’ legal arrangements has meant many people would rather chase their own ambulances than play fair.

We live in a society in which financial wealth, material possessions, career success and ambition are the new articles of faith. Our society, through the free market system, gives far more financial ‘value’ to the job of a footballer, reality TV star or City banker than to the doctor, nurse or paramedic on whose judgement human life depends. Our children are constantly told by the media and government of the importance of entrepreneurialism, of business. The dragons of Dragons Den are multi-millionaires because they maximised profit at every step of the way. Actors prostitute themselves doing voice-overs in adverts and anti-establishment rock bands allow their songs to be used to sell cars and Coke. People at the bottom of the income scale exhibit such behaviour too. A hairdresser with talent will seek to work in more and more exclusive salons and command higher and higher fees. These days they may even seek a TV career.

We even see such behaviour in the public sector. Teachers become ‘education consultants’ and GPs set up independent practices to maximise their salaries. Name the employee who wouldn’t consider moving job if a head-hunter rang to say their unique skills warranted the doubling of their salary? Even the left is at it, with trade unions going out on strike to protect wages and conditions. Money talks and we all know that it also buys better schooling for our children and better lawyers if we get into trouble.

Such behaviour is commonplace, is human nature and most would say essential to the success of our economy. In short, we live in a society in which almost everyone seeks to maximise the financial reward they can receive for the skills they have to offer. When people pass judgement on Labour’s current crop of supposedly dishonourable Members, they might consider just how far removed their behaviour was from the cultural norms of the day. Being MPs makes it appear worse, but if we’re really honest, we’re all at it to some degree.

Cameron must be sweating as polls narrow

David Cameron's favourite newspaper, Tory-supporting The Sun, is publishing a series of daily YouGov polls.  This must have seemed a fantastic idea when the paper came out in support of the Conservatives and began its run of overtly anti-Labour reporting and propaganda.  Not so now, for the Tory lead over Labour is down to 2 points in The Sun's daily poll today.  Even they admit that this is too close for comfort for the Tory leader given that we're six weeks away from a General Election.

I'm looking forward to reading future editions of The Sun as their own, presumably costly, polls show the Tory lead vanishing and being reversed as voters wake up to the dangers of electing Cameron and co.  The Sun always likes to back a winner.  How long will it be before they admit that Cameron will not probably become Prime Minister?  I suspect that a large portion of humble pie may need to be consumed, or else The Sun may have to spend another five years in opposition to the government of the day!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

David Cameron slips up over gay rights in TV interview

In this interview on Channel 4, David Cameron shows just how tricky it can be when as a conservative, you are required to hold firm to your supposedly progressive ideals.  I don't doubt David Cameron's sincerity over believing in gay rights.  I do doubt whether he has brought his party with him.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

My letter on Michael Foot published in The Times


The Editor
The Times


It is ironic that a key policy in Michael Foot’s “longest suicide note in history” — the 1983 general election manifesto — the pledge to nationalise the banks, does not seem quite so naive after the recent financial crisis and the many billions that the State has spent propping up the banking sector. Who knows, perhaps his opposition to nuclear weapons in 1983 might soon be viewed as evidence of great foresight and moral integrity?

John Slinger

Rugby, Warks

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

New e-petition calling for Lord Ashcroft to pay taxes he would have owed had he not been a non-dom

I've set up a new petition calling for on Lord Ashcroft to pay to the UK exchequer the tax for which he would have been liable had he not decided to be non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes since 2000, so that it can be spent on the NHS, schools, police and other front line services. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/ashcroft-should-pay-a-decade-of-taxes.html

If anyone agrees with this, please do publicise the petition and of course, sign it!