So she resigned. What next?

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Imagine my disappointment  this morning when, over breakfast, the man on the radio told me that the subject of today’s blog had already resigned.

‘Damn it!’ I shouted as I launched my weetabix across the room with one hand, and slammed the other onto the kitchen counter, ‘what now?’

I had been gazumped, or, as my name is already Gaz, I had just been ‘umped’. All I had wanted from this whole debacle was to see the back of Maria Miller after I had written this blog telling people why.

But then, I thought, as the blood trickled from my knuckles onto a passing ant, maybe I can still do the blog, but about the reaction to her resignation?

I turned up the radio, and lo and behold, an interview was already underway between John Humphries and some of those politician types: one from each of the main two colours – you know, the red and blue ones, the Smurfs and the Hellboy’s.

Humphries started by asking the lady from the reds what she thought:

“It should have happened last week! It has further damaged politics and the public perception of politicians” she declared, rather more vigorously than her actual party did, but still with all the sentiment of a walnut.

The man Humphries jumped at his chance to ask if politicians should perhaps, you know, not ‘mark their own homework’. To which the red lady agreed in the strongest, vaguest terms possible.

The other, from the blues (you can tell by the way they talk usually, they sound ‘bluish’) – was a bit annoyed at only having 1 minutes and 20 seconds of air time left on national radio to defend his recently departed colleague, and wasted a whole twenty seconds in telling us so. But then, when he had got that slight off his chest, he said:

“I don’t think anything needs to change with how we monitor ourselves. If the media had actually read the report last week and reported on it accurately, this whole thing would have turned out differently.” Etc…

And then they ran out of time. Poor blue man felt very put out for only having such a short amount of time to reiterate that nothing needs to change and it was everybody else’s fault. He needn’t have worried, I think we got the picture (even though it was on the radio, which is really clever).

So I switched off the voices, muttering some violent swearword in regards to the last speaker, and came to my computer to find out more. Luckily, it seems the rest of the country was also listening to the radio, because it’s all over the news.

The little part of me that was relieved that Maria Miller had finally resigned, was soon quashed when I read the gushing acceptance of her decision by David Cameron. All of a sudden, I felt like, well, like, like, well, like – I don’t know what I felt, but it was somewhere between crushing inevitability and hopeless frustration. And here is why, in neatly summarised bullet points:

  •          It shouldn’t have happened in the first place
  •          Why should MPs have the luxury of managing their own departures/resignations after committing fraud?
  •          What does it say about the world-view of the PRIME MINISTER of this country, when he so obviously favours self-protection of his inner circle over the people of this country and basic moral decency?
  •          Why weren’t Labour officially calling for her to resign? Apart from a few dissenting voices, the cross-party political class basically closed ranks on this, VS ‘the public’. (the obvious answer is again, self-protection, should they ever  need to use this ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ system for their own ends).  You are meant to be the cocking opposition!
  •          She still isn’t going to be paying any more money back or facing criminal charges from the look of it, so she’s done rather well for herself, and no longer even needs to worry about going to work! She can probably retire on the profits she’s extorted.

On a positive note, in felt to me like the real proliferation of this story was taken up by ‘the public’, and only instigated by the media, who then recognised the anger it had caused and fed back into it. I don’t think we were led by them, I think this one was mutual. I’m guessing the 150,000+ signatures on the e-petition were a great help.

For instance, the first I heard of this was from a very dry article on the BBC news last week, and it was these things that flared up my anger immediately (before the furore really kicked off):

  1.        The arrogance of the PM in offering unwavering (and ‘warm’) support for someone who had quite obviously fallen short of the standards that should be required.
  2.        Learning of the way that the initial report and recommendations by an ‘independent’ committee was over-ruled by a separate MP led committee who exist, it appears, only for purposes such as this.
  3.        Learning that the ‘independent’ committee has only two independent (none party affiliated) members anyway, both of which don’t have a vote.
  4.        The whole obvious rigged game that is caused by points 2 & 3, and imagining the motivations of the kind of people who would come up with it.

So actually, the precise details of Miller’s affair were not as important to me as the above, because the above is indicative of the attitudes and systems that cause this massive gulf between ‘us and them’, and is in my opinion, the biggest problem facing our country (and much of the wider world). I don’t mean just these things specifically, but the whole approach to accountability and such like.

Was today a victory for people-power over politics? Not unless any of the above points are actually dealt with: not ‘tinkered’ with – dealt with.

Why not, for example, replace these two committees with a new committee selected from the public in much the same way as jury service? And give us the right to recall MPs (as they promised they would)? Oh, yeah, and Cameron has to go, obviously.

The question is, why don’t they ever actually introduce progressive legislation to enforce the accountability and transparency they so often tout in speeches and manifestos?  Why don’t they hand the responsibility to the people? The simple answer, I guess, is because they know what would happen if they did. Which when you think about it, is a really bad state of affairs, and all the more reason we need it.

So what happens now she’s gone? More of the same after a brief period of rhetoric about ‘change’ and ‘transparency’?  Probably. But if we can act together like we did this week, with common purpose and outrage against the presiding political class, who now seem to be more distant from us than ever before: maybe we can see a few more heads roll? Maybe even change things for the better. That’s a nice thought. I feel a bit better now.

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Syria. A good day for democracy?

A funny thing happened when I came to write this blog last week. I had just written my (now previous) blog on out TV viewing habits (available here: https://garryabbott.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-rise-and-demise-of-the-boxed-set/), but felt unable to post it due to certain more serious stuff going on in the world. The blog was all ready to go but it just felt exceptionally unnecessary at the time when we were poised on the edge of another conflict. So, I decided to shelve the fluff blog and look at Syria, see if I couldn’t get some thoughts together.

It was the day of the commons vote, and I was trying to pick my way through the bafflement of it all. I was (and still am) acutely aware of the myriad voices speaking on the matter, most of which carry more authority and knowledge on the issue. So, I didn’t want to add another opinion piece, pulled out of thin air, to the strata of loose opinion that is already out there, and instead decided to look specifically at the question itself, the question being:

What do I think about Syria? (specifically, what can I think?)

Bearing in mind that this was before the surprise vote last Thursday that ruled us out of conflict in the UK, I will paraphrase here some of the notes I made from the never-released blog (and when I say notes, I am literally trying to read my own hand-writing). Following this, I shall just offer a little update, now I know what happened last week.

***

(original blog, Thursday 29th August, afternoon)

The question isn’t what do other people think about Syria, the question is what do I think about it?

At this point I am totally flooded by a sense of ignorance, resorting to snippets and tit-bits gleamed from the news and other people’s social feeds.

A vocabulary emerges for people who like me, have not specifically researched the issue but who have rather ‘allowed’ the research to find them semi-distracted and sub-consciously absorbent.

The words that spring to mind immediately are:

Assad, regime, rebels, Damascus, terrorists, Islam, oil, Turkey … And now (with this latest development), chemical weapons, UN, resolutions, weapons inspectors, arms, Russia, China, allies, USA, Obama, Hans Blix, intelligence and so on.

But what do I think about Syria?! To be honest, I know next to nothing about it, and what I do know, I only think I know. I’m not getting all philosophical, metaphysical about it or denying reality here, it’s just true.

So, I could say that the Western interests are forcing its hand to intervene in the ‘civil war’, and that the stability of oil supplies and wider business interests in the region is actually closer to the true motive for intervention than any humanitarian concern. But I have this niggling feeling that Syria (like Libya) are not huge sources of oil production, or tactically as important as say Iraq or Afghanistan. But I don’t know any of this, I can’t even cite my sources.

Another possibility is that our leaders really do ‘draw the line’ on the use of chemical weapons, as hypocritical as that seems to me. I could justify this idea though, because I can imagine how the rich and powerful could foster a twisted morality whereby the reasons and the scale by which you kill people become less important that the means by which you do so. A kind of honour-amongst-thieves scenario. Yes, we happily go around killing civilians, but with drones and missiles, not with gas. Etc..

But I can’t be sure, who can other than the handful of people making these decisions? And even then, if they are ‘convincing themselves’ in order to make the organised killing of humans more palatable to their conscience, how can we trust that there thinking is clear and reasonable?

Another problem is that I can find a counter claim to every accusation made by our leaders, simply be reading the retorts of the involved parties. When a spokesman from the Assad regime says this whole thing is a set-up by the West to draw them into conflict, why shouldn’t I believe them? I’m not saying I do, but it’s not like the CIA haven’t created or encouraged ‘trigger’ events before, so why shouldn’t we entertain the idea that they are doing it again? After all, if the regime don’t want to be bombed into tiny pieces by the West (and I’m guessing they don’t), why would they do the one thing that looks certain to guarantee it? It would almost make sense for the none-specific ‘rebels’ to stage this, in order to bring about this set of circumstances. But who knows? I don’t.

Given the thought process I’ve just briefly set out, are our MPs really able to make such informed choices? If they deny evidence produced by those who rule them and want war, would they not be branded unreasonable and risk losing the little power they have been allowed to keep?

If an answer is incompatible with any logical puzzle, it cannot be a solution to anything. A bit like ‘Jeopardy’, the American game show where the answer is stated and then the question must be guessed. But in this version, the question and answer must constitute a positive truth. So the answer could never be ‘a unicorn’, because the only question could be ‘name a mythical flying horse’, which would constitute a myth, a negative reality as such. For me, ‘war’ as we know it (not self-defence), will never be the answer to a positive reality question. It will never justify any possible question that can be asked. This is why no amount of thinking or debate, or evidence, should ever lead us logically to military intervention. Which leaves us only with other factors, less honourable intentions.

***

So that was my blog, but I decided to wait for the vote before posting it, and as I guess you know, our house of commons voted against any military action in Syria. Big hooray yeah? I think so, but then…

It was hard to fathom at first, as I sat listening to the live house of commons session. An amendment was made to the bill by Labour, specifically Ed Miliband, that called for a second vote at a later time once the weapons inspectors had actually finished their task of you know, inspecting weapons. I must admit at this point I was confused, having been out all day and only just sat down to hear the process, I wasn’t aware of the structure of debate. As far as I could tell, whatever happened, there would be a second vote after the UN had published its findings, which I thought was at least better for our elected representatives to make an informed choice.

So, as I listened, Nick (what-is-the-point-of-me) Clegg was defending/explaining (badly) how it would work if a second vote was needed, and quite rightly being questioned by a stream of confused MPs as to why a need for the first vote, if a second vote was going to happen anyway. As usual, the pointless voice of Clegg evaded and danced around the question, while constantly assuring them that the result of the first vote wouldn’t be taken as licence to act. So why the vote at all? I wondered, as did most of the house, it seems.

Then, the house withdrew to vote on the amended version, and the amendment was defeated. Immediately the house withdrew to vote on the original bill, and it was only at this point I started to grasp that this meant no second vote, if this was passed, we were as good as signing up for the conflict. I tried to reconcile why it was then that I had just heard Clegg defending Miliband’s own amendment to his own party members, but before I could unpick this, the vote came back and the original bill was also defeated! Cameron said one of the most clear things I have heard him say, that it was obvious the house didn’t want to take action and that he would therefore respect that, and that was that. No war!

But wait! Was this a victory for Miliband? Well, no. If his amended bill had of gone through, the vote for war would have happened again the next week, which by then, no doubt, plenty of ‘compelling’ evidence would have been compiled. So Miliband, Clegg and Cameron all had a position that led us to war/intervention, whatever you want to call it (killing people, basically). It was only the surprise overturning of both bills, by rebels in both parties I expect, that prevented all our leaders (opposition and all) from getting what they wanted. Conflict.

So now, am I meant to be happy with this? I get a suspicious shudder when I think that actual ‘democracy’ happened last week, because I have learned not to trust the power people, and now don’t know if I should just be happy, or wary. I’m certainly weary.

I can’t shake the feeling that something good happened, but that there will be repercussions. And I don’t mean, more chemical attacks etc… Conflict is conflict, solving it with conflict, that doesn’t add up. I mean, in our processes that allowed us to actually say ‘no’ this time. And then (the even more suspicious side of me) worries that this was engineered in order to show a glimmer of democratic control at a time when so much vile and damaging domestic policy is being shoe-horned in against the will of so many people, and no real opposition exists. But hey, at least we aren’t going to lob some missiles at another country right?

What has happened to me that makes me think everything our governments do is so suspicious? Even when it is something I want? Is it me? Is it paranoia?

No. I don’t think so. I am perfectly able to conceive of a world where the kind of inequalities I see, the kind that lead to conflict, disease and death, are not present. And in this world, the only factor that is different, is the lack of the ‘kind’ of people that are running things currently, and the systems that support them and that they utilise, i.e. massive financial backing. Sorry, MASSIVE FINANCIAL BACKING and access to machines of war, that just isn’t made available to the rest of us, because if it were, we just wouldn’t accept the lots we have been granted, across the world.

That’s what I think of Syria, I think. I hope that the suffering is alleviated by greater wisdom than we seem to posses at the moment. I hope that ‘Nobel peace prize’ Obama is defeated in his congress vote to happen soon, but I guess he won’t be. I hope we do not get consistent with the shame and pressure we should be pouring on all the leaderships of our democracy who tried so sneakily to dupe us into conflict, and that we stand up more often to be counted against the multitude of sins that are taking place both at home and abroad by people who would convince us they are helping us, while they are really feeding off us.

But then, I hope a lot of things.

 

We’re all in this together?

I’m sure you’ve heard the line ‘we’re all in this together’ before. It came from Cameron in 2011 and has since (quite rightly) been used as a stick to beat him with as every new divisive and top-heavy policy has been introduced.

Well I think we’ve been getting our assessment of this statement wrong. I think we erroneously assumed that when he said ‘we’ he meant, you, me, them, everybody, everybody… (cue the music). However, I think it’s much more likely that when he said ‘we’ he meant, the conservatives, the liberal democrats, labour, large swathes of the media and the business community, plus a few billionaire types. ‘We’ are not part of the ‘we’.

I am what you could call a ‘disillusionist’ – that is, I am disillusioned by the whole framework of this country (and others) and believe that to be a legitimate position in itself. Unfortunately there is no place in this democracy for people like me to have our say, as we are by our very nature, not interested in engaging with the people who currently run it and the systems that prop it up. Also, by the fact that our position crosses over with that of anarchists, we are easily attacked and dismissed.

For example, I don’t really want to vote for any party. No-one is saying the things I want to hear, given that I want to see a truly radical overhaul of the way things are done. Therefore, if I don’t vote, I am ‘apathetic’. I’m not. I am very engaged with this country, just not the people and business interests running it.

I want to see true redistribution and an end to speculative and destructive financial practices that benefit a few at the expense of the many. I believe this world has enough resources to support this vision. For that, I am called an ‘idealist’, which apparently is a bad word (probably because it has the word ‘idea’ in it). It may have other definitions, but for me it means that we can and should be better. We have the capacity to be so  much better. But those who mock ‘idealism’ are usually the people running the show, who either can’t or won’t think past the structures and restrictions we have placed on ourselves, and incidentally, do very well out of keeping the status quo.

I don’t believe that most, if any, of the wars we have started or supported, at least during my lifetime, have been necessary, and I have a strong suspicion that they have been motivated for the greater part by the acquisition and security of foreign resources for our own needs (and when I say ‘our’ I mean the western central banks, arms and energy trade etc. We suffer for wars, they profit). For this I am called unpatriotic, even though I appreciate the bravery of the armed forces, I just don’t want to see them dying for unjust reasons (or any, ideally).

When I have my ‘1984’ moment and see the mainstream media gradually ‘flip’ the news so that a financial crisis, caused by speculating investors and dodgy hedge fund schemes, turn into a ‘public services structural deficit’ and my reasonable brain starts thinking, hang on, we didn’t cause this, and every major political party seems to be going along with it, and the banks keep on going, and the bonuses keep on flowing, and trillions of currency is taken out of our countries and given to private companies, and we suffer – I am called a conspiracy theorist.

I can’t win really. I don’t want to try and ‘change’ the system from within, and even if I did, I doubt I’m the only person who thinks and feels like this, and I guess there must be a lot of people who have these thoughts and have tried to do this in the past. Where are they? Where are the voices in the system that say, “it’s not about percentages and statistics and interest rates and GDP and immigrants and benefits, it’s about you, it’s about those people who ‘benefit’ phenomenally from the system you maintain and uphold. How is taking £50 quid a week from a family who needs it going to compare to the trillions of unpaid tax sitting in offshore accounts? One persons unpaid tax could be our NHS, our schools. This whole system is corrupt.” – Where are those voices? I hear them in the streets, on the internet, but not in the media, not in the commons. So they either a) Don’t exist (unlikely given the times we live in) or b) try and fail to enter the system or c) try and are prohibited/blocked/blackmailed or threatened out of the system.

Have you seen the party funding from donors? You can download them. I did. (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/party-finance/PEF-online-registers) Millions of pounds pumped into the parties by individuals and businesses/organisations. How can one person stand a chance unless they are the basically the mouthpiece for a vested interest? Even for the emerging parties, even for the old liberals, it is nigh impossible for them to ever get a majority because of the construct of our democracy. So one person, who has the answers, but doesn’t have the money, has no chance.

So, I just keep on watching, waiting for something I can get behind that doesn’t smack of compromise or appeasement, and actually seems to represent this view*. In the meantime, I continue in this country, this world, much as everyone else does. Yes, there is always someone worse off, but why should we aim for the lowest common denominator? Where is the evidence that this world won’t continue to work without people doing dead-end low paid jobs for their entire lives in order to satisfy some bond-holder or investor? But that’s what we are told needs to happen so that the little green arrow behind the newsreader can point up and we can ogle over some decimal points while all around us the services are being strangled, the poor are getting poorer, the sick are killing themselves to avoid the misery of enforced work or destitution. We are told by rich people to work in poor jobs (spiritually and financially) and live poorer lives than they do, and we take it.

If you are spiritual, then you should aim higher for yourself and others, if you are atheist, then you should live by your mantra that this in ‘one life to be used’ and not accept this one spark of existence to be subdued and dimmed by others. Because we are all in it together, we physically exist in this space and time, and those few people who cling to wealth and power need to be brought back into the fold with the rest of us so that we can move on from this ridiculous situation they have put us in and start looking after ourselves and each-other in a balanced and fair world. And if you say things like that, they call you a hippy. Good. I’d rather be a hippy than a greedy, power crazed bastard any day.

* A common response to this argument is ‘well, what’s the alternative?’ – Well, I honestly believe that it is enough in itself to simply express concern with how things are now, so that people can come together and start figuring out the alternative. Most people don’t have the time and resources to dedicate to writing manifesto’s and canvassing others opinions within the current system, so it is paradoxical to expect them to have done this. Let’s start with the ‘no suitable candidate’ box, or true power of recall for our MPs and see how quickly the system collapses anyway unless they make genuine changes. Let’s start dedicating some air time to the many groups who have devised alternative social models and hear what they have to say first. But to do this, we need first to know that it is us who are in control of our our future, and not the defenders of the old guard, even if the current system has to continue for some time in the interim.

Lobby versus Lobby. My guide to Lobby.

Firstly, some definitions:

Lobby (n, Food):

A hearty stew often made from the leftovers of previous meals and any vegetables that are in danger of going out of date if not used. A low cost and efficient use of ingredients, popular in the North of England for those on a budget, or those who just want to make the most of what they have.

Lobby (v):

An apparently legitimate practice of accepting payments or other benefits in kind in order to influence parliament and introduce or affect legislation beneficial to the sponsoring party.

I much prefer the first definition of ‘Lobby’, it doesn’t leave such a bitter taste in the mouth. Coincidentally, these definitions shared by a common word do go some way towards highlighting the division that is becoming ever present in our riot-ridden societies.

For me, a bowl of Lobby conjures images of bubbling pressure cookers, soft white bread, and big chunks of meat amongst the limp yet tasty vegetables all suspended in a rich, thick gravy. The frugal use of perishables and left-over’s to create such a rustic delight characterises a very British rendering of the working-classes ability to make the most out of the little they have: Chin up, on with the overall’s, back to work, and on way ‘ome, pick up a loaf an we’ll av some lobby with what’s left of Chicken from roast eh?

I can imagine the BBC article, “Lobby: Austerity Food Special! How this hearty Northern dish can help you out through hard times. Our reporter Brian Beluga writes about the week he ate nothing but Lobby to see if this could be the answer for a hungry Britain.”

                In true BBC lifestyle, er, style, at some point in the week, the intrepid reporter would mention that “combined with some left-over Caviar I had in the back of my fridge, and washed down with some, nearly flat, Chardonnay, by Wednesday I was getting quite used to Lobby twice a day, but was craving a little variation”. The Lobby itself would probably be “A mix of what I had in the fridge that day, nothing else, all boiled up in a big pot. Luckily, I had rather a large joint of Venison and some rare-bread Pork left over, that was my meat, and what’s this? Courgettes? Artichokes? Aubergine? Okra? Asparagus? And some good old potatoes. At this point, I wasn’t just ready to spend a week on Lobby, I was looking forward to it!”

By the end of the article, after a small bump in the middle of the week where the reporter allowed himself a “comfit duck leg or two from the conference buffet, so as not to be rude, you understand”, the reporter would proudly proclaim that he had managed a week of living like a poor person, calculate the cost of the lobby (by carefully weighing each ingredient, allowing for lack of freshness and discounting accordingly) as being less than 2p a day, and a respected dietician (because the article tells us so) would give some vague appraisal of his health, saying that it perhaps lacked fruit, but was in general quite nutritious. And we can all be happy that, if we have not started eating it already, Lobby was the food we should use to console ourselves for being poorer than the journalist who wrote the piece.

But of course, in the interest of fairness, and possibly the recent revelations about Lords and MPs accepting money on behalf of fake lobby groups to influence our countries laws and policies, we are now treated to another ‘idiot’s guide’ to lobby, but this time, don’t try to dip your spoon in it, unless it is silver and you were born with it in your mouth.

Yes, the pre-predicted ‘lobbying’ crisis is now in full swing. David Cameron, being the astute fellow he is, warned a few years back that this would be the next scandal to hit parliament. I don’t know what tipped him off, maybe it was the fact that he and other senior members of the parties were constantly being asked to stand around on balconies at champagne receptions and talk to representatives of specific interest groups who had somehow managed to appear in front of them, guided by a fat Lord or MP who had insisted they spare at least five minutes to ‘hear what they have to say, I hear that these pay-day lenders are having a rough time in the US, and it would be a shame for the UK not to be the kind of country that allows such a necessary credit to flow for those who need it most.’… or something similar.

So what is Lobbying? I ask myself, and turn to my not-at-all state endorsed/influenced news vendor the BBC to explain, as it does so here:

“Lobbying in order to influence political decisions is widely regarded(?) as a legitimate part of the democratic process. Lobbyists are firms or individuals that are paid to influence such decisions.”

Oh good! That’s clear then. They are a legitimate group of people with money able to influence the democratic process. That’s good. I suppose that means if I ever find myself with a bit of cash and a cause, I have the same access to my elected representatives to push my agenda and that of other like-minded people. I knew there was something missing from this democracy that was making me feel alienated from it and totally unrepresented: Money! So, how much will I need, BBC?

“£4,000 to lobby for business interests in Fiji.”

                Well, that’s not really that helpful. I don’t know much about Fiji and I certainly don’t feel like spending that kind of money on it. What else? How about say, pushing the solar energy industry interests?

“Make that… £12,000 a month. I think we could do a deal on that.” – Lord Cunningham.

But actually, as much as renewable energies are probably needed, I don’t run an energy company so that’s not much good to me. What the problem is here, obviously, is that the prices and issues vary so widely we need some kind of I don’t know, regulation, in order to make the process a whole lot easier to understand and a little less morally bankrupt sounding. So lucky us! Now it has been exposed, that’s what we can look forward to:

“A register of lobbyists … would assist MPs in making sensible decisions about who they should be talking to (and ensure) greater transparency about the workings of Parliament”. – MP Robert Buckland.

Brilliant news. So if the likes of Mr Buckland get their way, we will still have private individuals and groups with access to wealth paying for undue, unethical, morally repugnant influence over the democratic systems, but at least we will know who they are, because as you and I know, we are forever perusing the published lists of members interest registers and so forth, as is our inalienable right as citizens. If something pops up on a register somewhere, online or accessible through nothing but a simple freedom-of-information request (which I know we are all forever submitting), and we think it is a bit dodgy, then we will be able to wait a couple of years and then vote the individual out of his seat… if we live in that constituency… or vote out the party he represents…if you believe it is a problem systemic to that party…or we can…?

So who do we turn to in order to solve this crisis of confidence and vested interests rife within our democracy? None other than Nick Clegg! (what a guy). He and the Prime Minister are “determined” no less, to stamp out this practice and reform lobbying, just as they were three years ago, just as Clegg was determined not to introduce tuition fees, just as Cameron was determined not to privatise the NHS (which is happening right now), just as the both of them were going to introduce the ‘right of recall’ for the electorate to banish corrupt or incompetent MPs (still waiting). So we can rest assured that this problem will get resolved just as all those other issues did.

It is unthinkable that the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have not at some point found themselves chin-wagging to a complete stranger at some fund-raiser about some business-specific tax or legislative issue that it would be really handy to get rid of or amend, and ‘oh look! I seem to have decided I want to donate to your party also… I know you haven’t seen me before, but your right-honourable(!) ‘friend’ over there says that we would really get along if we spent just a little more time chatting together…’. Cameron knew it would be the next scandal because he, like all the others, knew that it was, and is, rife in the halls of Westminster and beyond, and worse of all, they aren’t even really pretending that it isn’t. I get nervous when politicians stop pretending that there isn’t a shit-load of corruption and bribery going on and just admit it – because nothing ever happens. So what, a few MPs and lords that no-one really knows about are going to retire happily from duty with all the money they have made by unduly influencing parliament for the last few decades? I’m sure they will be mortified. A new ‘register’ will be created to show who is paying who what and for why, and we are meant to be happy that this practice still happens and that they have taken ‘decisive action’? All the while, this is just the stuff we know about – let us presume that this is the visible tip of the iceberg, and people still want to chant the old mantra – ‘It (UK democracy) might not be perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got…’ when you dare to venture that the whole system is working against the majority and is unfit for purpose… what else is going on that we don’t, and possibly may never know about? Or do you really believe this to be the antithesis of the problem? That corruption in this country only reaches ‘Fiji’ on the scale? (the scale by the way, goes something like this):

(From Most Corrupt to Least Corrupt)

  1. Lying about wars
  2. Recapitalising failed and corrupt private industries with taxes and then pretending this never happened and blaming it on the welfare state and public services.
  3. Causing the deaths and despair of hundreds of thousands of disabled and economically/socially destitute people as a result of the above and the reformation of the welfare state.
  4. Allowing major businesses to exploit tax loop-holes introduced by the same accountancy firms contracted by the government to write the tax rules who are simultaneously advising the corporations as to how to break them.
  5. Lying about expenses
  6. Fiji

And again, these are just the ones we know about.

My favourite quote in today’s coverage of this not-so-new-but-all-of-a-sudden-current scandal was this:

                “What would really solve the problem would be to make it a criminal offence for any lobby group to offer cash,” – Jonathan Tonge, Professor of Politics at Liverpool University.

This really is my favourite quote, because I agree with it,  but it will never happen and I doubt you find many MPs asking for the same. For me, no MP, Lord, or senior civil servant should have any other interests outside of the little task of running the country. None, whatsoever. But this would be absurd! How can MPs survive on as little as £65,000 a year? I mean the Lords don’t get paid, except for expenses, which include up to £45,000 purely in housing costs, let alone the £150 or so each day, just for turning up (expenses of course, not a salary, that would be WRONG!).

The media circus will dance around this for a little while, some legislation will be promised and maybe even introduced (all be it in a watered-down, unworkable and largely symbolic way) and we will all just carry on usual. We forget that we are just animals on an island who at some point decided that it was easier to work together if we voted to resolve disagreements and set our priorities, but instead, over time, rather than voting on decisions, sociopaths convinced us that it would be easier to vote on a person who could just make those decisions in your stead. From that point on we were doomed to suffer the whims of the powerful who keep many of us just happy enough to forget that we can remove them in whatever way we want, not just within the framework that they control and contort to their own ends. If we decided the whole rotten bunch of them need to go – go they will. There are 62 MILLION of us, and only around 1500 mp/lords. I think we would win. Wouldn’t it be nice if they remembered that now and again and stopped being such corrupt bastards?

As always, I’m sure there are the honest few who would never dream of allowing themselves to be corrupted, bribed or influenced, but they must know that it is going on all around them. How can you operate in such an environment? How can you not make corruption the top of your personal and professional agenda if you ‘believe’ in democracy? How can you prop up the likes of such people? Where are the whistle blowers? Where are the great reformers? Hello? Are you out there? Because if you are, a lot of people would probably vote for you if you stood up to these landed, privileged, career politicians and spoke some truth to power on our behalf. I look forward to your candidacy and your manifesto that promises to shut down the party donor systems, shut down the lobbying systems, prevent elected representatives having any other interests other than that of the electorate, introduce a true recall system, embrace technology and the power of the referendum to return responsibility to the citizens and just represent us, don’t rip us off or repress us, just represent us.

It’s not much to ask for, is it? So in the meantime, let’s just tuck into a bowl of lobby instead, it’s much better for you and it doesn’t cost £12,000 a month.

Any unaccredited quotes can be found in these articles:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22749803

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22742327

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22739943

Not good enough for the BBC part 3

Good morning world! (If you are indeed reading this in the morning)

I think I will loosen up my fingers this morning with another post about my failed topical one-liners. If you haven’t read the first two parts, check them out now! (and then I won’t have to go into the description of how these jokes were submitted to the BBC Radio 4 Extra topical comedy program ‘Newsjack’ and were not used… even though I did get a couple used. Oh, well there we go, I’ve done it now.)

So, all these are from my last page of submissions for the last episode in the series. Starting with the return of the pun!

‘Hundreds of scratch & sniff cards containing the scent of cannabis are to be sent out in order to help people identify cannabis farms in their area. The scheme has been set up by the Police and Crime-stoppers as part of a joint operation.’

This is one of those jokes that make you want to grab people by the collar and shout ‘JOINT OPERATION! JOINT! Get it?!!’… and that may have been the problem. Funnily enough, when I saw this story, the first thought I had was of people using the cards to make roach with (the little circles of card that are used instead of filters in joints), but I couldn’t think how to make that sound funny, and I wasn’t sure how okay with that sort of thing Radio 4 would be… as it happened, they used exactly that joke from another writer and I didn’t think it was one of the best, so my better judgement prevailed. Though it would have been nice if they had of used my superior gag instead. (Joint operation?! I mean, come on!)

Anyway, next up.

‘Tony Blair has said he has ‘no regrets’ over his decision to take on a tyrannical monster all those years ago, and despite all the difficulties that followed, he and Cherie are still going strong.’

Blair had been stroking his ego on the Andrew Mar show on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion… yes that’s right, invasion, not rescue mission. I tried to do a ‘make them think it’s about one thing and then come in with another’ style joke, which I’m sure there is a snappier title for. Maybe Cherie Blair jokes are a bit old-hat, but any opportunity to poke a bit of fun at war-criminal Blair is welcome, even if it didn’t get used.

Moving on…

‘This week a Greek footballer was banned from playing for his national team when he did a Nazi salute to the crowd. The footballer defended himself by saying it was an accident. Yeah, Reich. Oops! I mean… right.’

… So this is another one that depends on the reading. I like the idea that when reporting about someone who ‘accidentally did something Nazi’ that the reporter would do it themselves. The word ‘Oops’ jars a bit – I presumed that it would be interpreted differently from the page to the microphone. Not much else to say about this one really.

Getting down to the desperate last scrag ends of the submission page…

‘Doing something funny for money was taken to new records last Friday when millions and millions was raised by normal people (BEAT) in Cyprus.’

For those of you unfamiliar with scripts, ‘BEAT’ is really just a pause/breath. You try not to use them too much, as it can be seen as dictating to the actor/director how they should interpret your words, which is their job, not yours. However, I though this was needed here at the time but in hindsight this sentence could have ran in one flow. I was of course, combining Comic Relief with the Cyprus ‘levy’ atrocity. Could have been better I think. I was desperately trying to think of funnies about the Cyprus affair, but it made me so unbelievably angry it was hard. (they’re coming after our bank deposits now! Yay!)

So last of all in this post, which may be the last, I don’t know…

‘Boris Johnson’s sister has said that David Cameron still looks up to Boris, much like he did back at Eton public school when Boris was head boy and Cameron was his junior. The only difference is that nowadays he doesn’t have to lick his shoes clean and warm the toilet seat for him at the same time.’

So this is a bit unwieldy (like the one ring to rule them all…). Too many words to make too slight a joke. But still, it was worth a shot. More time and practice and I would have boiled this down or found something better, but then, I heard worse on the show (though mostly I heard better) – so I think it does come down to the person reading the submissions being able to ‘hear’ the joke in the their minds-ear, and I think they get that wrong sometimes too. It would be wrong to say that Newsjack is consistently hilarious, as with all comedy shows, it has it’s hits and misses. Who knows if these one liners would have been hits? It is really hard to tell from the page. For example, this next, and last, joke is the second one I did get broadcast… who would have thunk it?

‘Scientists are now saying that it’s not just about how much you weigh, it’s about where you store your fat. Apparently if you are storing it in your body, that’s bad’

Success! And it came from a scientist joke (again) and it got a big laugh from the sound of it (Justin Edwards delivered it perfectly).

So there we have it. Not good enough for the BBC, except for the last one, which was…

Newsjack is back in the Autumn I think, and in the meantime there is another new submission show on the way featuring sketches on a theme. All my submissions are made and I eagerly await the upcoming round of rejections, and who knows, possibly, a hit.

Garry x