Archive for the ‘UK General election 2015’ Tag

When comedy comes into its own

Still reeling from the election result, I turned again to comedy to try to manage the situation. I have not been a great fan of Frankie Boyle (below left) in the past. I have found his comedy a bit close to the bone and unnecessarily Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights - C4 promo imageoffensive. Until last night.

His latest show, Election Autopsy, helped me understand why offence is necessary. It was not a belly laugh, but it was funny. And there is one scene where a Conservative voter, in the audience, shows herself to be crass and is only mildly embarrassed. If at all. Rather like the Tory leadership, I thought.

However, this was not just about the Conservatives. Boyle’s position is one of non-voter advocacy because, ultimately, the system is broken. To vote would be to endorse, or at the very least, patronise the system. His audience and guests did not wholly agree with him, but it was as informative as any of the leaders’ debates I witnessed in the campaign.

The best ‘joke’. “Some of my best friends are racist. First of all they are black…and they have got a point.”

For readers in the UK, the show is for a short while available to stream on the BBC website. I recommend it:

The exceptional contribution of Akala on structural racism in the UK is embedded in the Guardian newspaper’s review of this show:

By contrast, I started watching Rory Bremner’s equivalent, Election Report. Everyone loves an impersonator. He’s not bad.Bremner Some of his observations were also cutting. And in the spirit of BBC balance, aimed at all parties. However, unlike Boyle, Bremner accepts the system and makes fun of it on its own terms. So, whilst one may chuckle along with it, one is left feeling underwhelmed. With Boyle, I felt emboldened.

Bremner’s programme is also available on the BBC:

Pics: Channel 4 through Wikipedia

BBC screen grab

The Economist would say that, wouldn’t it?

Economist_election_coverRegular readers will know that I recently ended my long-standing subscription to the New Statesman on the grounds of poor writing, bigotry (relating to transgender discrimination) and all-round listnessness and lack of progressiveness. I have maintained my subscription to the Economist on the grounds that one needs to know what the enemy is thinking. Its endorsement of David Cameron and the Conservatives for the election on Thursday 7 May (left) justifies this decision.

Here are some of the arguments presented in favour of a Conservative-led government after 7 May with some easy responses:

1. The Economist says: reducing the deficit is the priority. At 5 per cent of GDP that has to be reduced and public sector cuts are necessary in order to achieve it.

Strassenbahn13 says: the deficit is not the issue. It is a finance question, not an economics question. The economics question says, is the deficit manageable? What economic policies are necessary to ensure growth such that social utility can be maximised across all constituencies? If the deficit is the priority, economics goes out of the window. We have austerity for the sake of it, or to meet the neo-conservative objective of the limited state; that is limited public provision of services ranging from the NHS (ongoing privatisation) and housing (forcing housing associations to sell their assets) to public transport and street cleaning. The deficit does not make us poor. An under-productive, non-inclusive economy that does not make tangible and socially useful products makes us poor. That is the one the Conservatives are promoting.

2. The Economist says: the Conservative’s record in public services is good. People are more satisfied with services such as the NHS than they were before the cuts from the first term in government.

Strassenbahn13 says: essentially, the Conservatives argue that we can have cuts to services without quality being affected, or at least the sense that the quality is diminishing. This is nonsense. The good ratings have been achieved by proud and loyal public-service workers working harder. I am one. I see it every day. The tipping point will come. Just look at Accident and Emergency in hospitals.

3. The Economist says: the UK has a higher proportion of people in work than ‘ever before’.

Strassenbahn13 says: whatever is meant by ‘ever before’, the economy is dependent on low-paid immigrants, zero-hours and temporary employment contracts, insecurity and exploitation.

Here are the arguments against a Labour-led Government made by the Economist with some even easier responses:

1. The Economist says: It is harder to believe Labour will be successful with the deficit. The numbers are ‘vaguer’.

Strassenbahn13 says: As noted above, the deficit is a red-herring. But vaguer than the Tories £8bn savings from some undisclosed source proposed by the Conservatives?

2. The Economist says: tax the entrepreneurs and wealth creators and they will go somewhere else.

Strassenbahn13 says: is that the best argument there is? There is no evidence of this because people come to London in particular not because of the tax rates, rather it is a modern, liberal, tolerant, multi-cultural and global city. Some of them, I would very much welcome to leave. But often their threats are empty. I’m still waiting for that great entrepreneur Paul Daniels to leave after Blair claimed power.

3. The Economist says: Labour believes that living standards are being squeezed because markets are rigged and that the Government can fix them. Markets such as energy (dominated by six big oligopolistic players); zero-hour contracts and housing (private-sector landlords in the ownership of a basic of life and in limited supply).

Strassenbahn13 says: Miliband might just be right by this. Markets are rigged. They are imperfect. They work for some, but most of us are usually fleeced. Regulation is inadequate. And that deficit is caused by market failure, not public-sector workers. Where the Economist wants more markets – particularly in the NHS – most of us want fairness.

4. The Economist says: Labour would have to be in coalition with the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) ‘which leans strongly to the left’. This leads to ‘the certainty of economic damage’ arising from a Labour-led government.

Strassenbahn13 says: I would have thought the certainty was on a future Conservative-led government. Their economics are hugely damaging and the social unrest that these policies may unleash is real. And with less money for the police, that is going to be yet another management challenge (though, presumably, that is why Boris Johnson has bought the water cannon for London?). Actually, a coalition with the SNP seems like a very exciting and progressive option.

For all politicians and commentators – where is climate change?

There’s more, Cameron will push for the legalisation of fox hunting. If ever there was an indicator of a de-civilising policy, that is it. How we treat animals matters in itself. But to openly advocate cruelty to animals as an election promise is positively sickening, if not sick.

And let us not forget that the Conservatives are pathological liars. They have published two ‘independently written’ letters from business people endorsing the Conservatives to have been shown to be dishonest. And then Grant Shapps lying about his business interests and having an unusual relationship with  his own Wikipedia page. What can one say about him, other than he is the Co-chair of the party?

Oh, and, the Conservatives cut the budget for helping refugees crossing the deadly Mediterranean Sea. They have this and other blood on their hands.

I could go on.

How to make the housing situation worse – basic finance

Labour-Party-Manifesto-2015On listening to Ed Miliband launch the Labour Party’s election manifesto on 13 April, I despaired. Like in the time of Blair in 1997, Miliband is committing the Party to an austerity programme that is false. It is a construct of the Conservative neo-liberals who want to roll back the state and are using the deficit as a justification.

So when it came to David Cameron, the following day, launching the his party’s manifesto, I  had noConservative-Party-Manifesto-2015 real expectations. But they were met, nonetheless. Back in the 1980s, Thatcher forced local authorities to sell their public housing at a discount to tenants under a programme called Right to Buy. Gradually, but surely, this policy reduced and denuded the public housing stock and made a lot of people wealthy. And they were not the people who bought them, necessarily.

We’ve since had help-to-buy, a dangerous incentive to people unable to buy because of the inflated price of property relative to incomes and the deposit levied by lenders. The Government will now subsidise the deposit for applicants. This further inflates house prices and subverts the whole point of deposit guarantees. And largely because of the Conservative Party’s policies and dogma associated with ownership.

And now what might we have? A Conservative Government would force Housing Associations, the privately-owned successors to local authorities charged with building and managing housing for eligible people largely disenfranchised from market housing provision, to sell, at a discount, these dwellings.

It seems that austerity does not apply when the Conservative Party is building its own constituency (or making war). Essentially the policy represents a money transfer to its own supporters (or anticipated supporters). Notwithstanding the immorality and legality of this, the policy is finance madness. Let me get this right, Housing Associations take out loans to build dwellings. Having built them, they sell/part sell a few and rent out the rest. They then go back to the banks and borrow more money with these dwellings as security. Take away this security and the banks will not lend, or certainly not cheaply. The whole model collapses. Genius.

These Conservatives are vile.

Culpability for the desperation of migrants crossing the Mediterranean

It has finally made it to the top of the political agenda; though the discussions amongst EU ‘leaders’ yesterday (including David Cameron) comes up with a sticking plaster rather than a solution. The suggestion that we should use bombs yet again, this time to destroy the vessels used by the human traffikers, is quite shocking in its stupidity. No doubt it suits arms manufacturers.

Ed_Miliband_2This morning, the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband (left), effectively put his hands up and said that the Western Powers – particularly the UK and France – failed the people of Libya by having “inadequate postwar planning”. He noted that “In Libya, Labour supported military action to avoid the slaughter Gaddafi threatened in Benghazi. But since the action, the failure of post-conflict planning has become obvious. David Cameron was wrong to assume that Libya’s political culture and institutions could be left to evolve and transform on their own.”

I’m not sure that was the ultimate reason for bombing Libya. In response, David Cameron, the Conservative Leader, presented himself as a statesman (and great military strategist) and suggested that the electorate will decide what to make of such criticism in the face of so much death on the seas. Perhaps we need to remind Mr Cameron that it was his Government that withdrew the funding from the EU rescue mission on the grounds that it only made refugees more likely to attempt the crossing.

Okay, if it is post-(post)war planning that we are after, then these so-called leaders should be sat around a table working out how to facilitate the integration of migrants into Europe. Not finding ways of preventing them from coming (some hope on the part of politicians) or repatriating them after weeks or months in internment camps.

Oh, and Mr Farage, your advocacy of some sort of egalitarian Australian quotas approach needs some careful Nauru_regional_processing_facility_(7983319037)consideration. There are plenty of refugees trying to enter Australia. They are held in camps run by our good friends Serco (and previously G4S). A number of these camps have witnessed serious human rights abuses,  Amnesty International described the extremely offshore Nauru detention centre (right) as “a human rights catastrophe … a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions”. Meeting that challenge is a test for civilising politicians and a civilised society.