Category Archives: UK

…Well, you know, we all wanna change the world.

  1. It’s absurd for Jeremy to suggest that someone who lives in a society, whether they vote or not, could in any way have no authority to speak on political subjects. All you need to have that authority is eyes, ears and a brain.
  2. Russell seems to confuse “voting” with “voting for Tories”. Although in the UK voting system with first past the post, single member electorates and no preference voting, the system massively favours the big established parties and if you vote for someone else, like an actual progressive candidate*, you are with respect to the contest between the big two parties making it easier for the one you like the least to win government – you’re at least having your voice heard. Opting out entirely (or, in Australia, voting informal) just makes it even EASIER for the big parties to ignore you, and makes it even harder for alternatives to grow.
  3. The fact that the current parliamentary system in the UK is fundamentally broken and undemocratic doesn’t mean that anarchy is better. For one thing, the main flaws in their system could be remedied without abandoning the whole idea of democracy. For another, remember that it’s the Tories who are cynical about the idea of “society”, and the poor and vulnerable who tend to do particularly badly when it collapses entirely.

I look forward to reading Russell’s plan to move towards a better world. Hopefully his gig at the New Statesman will help him push us in that direction.

*Surely even in the UK progressive people do actually run for parliament.

UPDATE: Here’s his piece in New Statesman.

Please –

Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics.

What you’re doing is politics. When you read people arguing things you agree with, or against things you despise, that’s politics. Maybe be a bit more specific? “I am utterly disenchanted by all three big political parties in Britain and the electoral system which locks them in”, perhaps?

Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.

Again, define “politicians”.

Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,”

Actually, voting AGAINST THEM is the only way not to encourage them. Abstaining just encourages them to ignore you and people like you.

and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”

Ha ha, but useless. If by “politician” you mean “MP in one of the big establishment parties”, sure. But if by “politician” you mean “person with political views who genuinely has ideas to push the world in a more equitable direction and can persuade people to support you through the strength of those ideas and your advocacy for them”, then no – you’re exactly the sort of person who should make politics your profession.

Young people, poor people, not-rich people, most people do not give a fuck about politics.

But they DO. They just don’t give a fuck about what they’re being told is “politics” (the Westminster farce) or what they’re being told are “the politicians” (the establishment MP jerks).

They see no difference between Cameron, Clegg, Boris, either of the Milibands

…because there’s little.

…or anyone else.

THAT IS A MASSIVE CALL. “Anyone” else? There’s no-one else advocating for the things they believe? NO-ONE? Or is it that there are people who are representing the political views of the young, the poor, the not-rich, it’s just that the establishment media are ignoring them? Maybe let’s go and find these people, or if we can’t, become those people instead?

…There’s little point bemoaning this apathy. Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve.

Sure – so we should be fighting to FIX THAT SYSTEM, or consider a better one if one’s on offer. We can opt out of what they call “politics” without opting out of POLITICS.

You know who wants anyone who believes in equality, fairness, social justice, compassion to give up on politics? The people who want the opposite.

Remembering the awful things someone did whilst alive is not the same as gloating ghoulishly about their death

Let’s be very clear about this.

When a public figure dies, someone who has caused significant change to the lives of many people, it is important to discuss their legacy – and not just if you’re a supporter.

Those who are grateful for what that person did, will certainly put the most positive case for the person who has died. If they have large soapboxes, these hagiographers will have significant influence on the way history views that person. And this matters when the ideas and actions of that person continue to have advocates who would like to see them repeated.

So it is critical that if the person who has died actually caused damage to the world, and hurt people, that the negative consequences of their actions be discussed just as loudly as the claimed positives.

It’s not rude. It’s not inappropriate. People don’t become saints when they die, and their bad ideas are still bad ideas that need to be called what they are, lest people hear the hagiography, forget that they’re bad ideas and think about trying them again.

But please don’t go gloating about people dying. It’s a dick move, whoever they are. It’s a dick move if it’s Chavez. It’s a dick move if it’s Thatcher. It’s a dick move if it’s a hideous dictator. It’s also silly, because it’s hardly a victory that they died – they were always going to. It hardly undoes the damage they did while alive.

For example, Thatcher was a terrible PM who did great damage to the UK. Her policies caused real harm to people in Britain, and have led to many of the problems the country faces today. Anyone trying to promote her legacy is either unaware of what she did to the poor and vulnerable, or doesn’t care. Here’s hoping history remembers her more accurately than the hagiographers would like.

Just don’t be popping champagne corks because some sick old woman has died, okay?

Reasonable citizenship questions

Do you speak English? Do you know a passable amount about the UK? You should test your suitability for life in the UK with their Citizenship Test, via The Guardian:

20. When was the census first carried out in the United Kingdom?
A 1785
B 1801
C 1851
D 1912

Also, “Why were recruitment centres set up in the West Indies in the 1950s?” and “In which year did married women get the right to divorce their husband?”

If you can’t answer such basic, everyday questions, then “you have insufficient knowledge of the English language or of life in the UK to remain”. Get out, foreigner what speaks bad English.

Clearly, we need something equivalent here.

Suggest your equally reasonable Australian Citizenship Test questions in the comments.

Apparently Ball-less Corporation caves to Clarence House

The ABC is supposed to be an independent public broadcaster. So is the BBC. And yet the royal family – our royal family, still – can apparently exert so much pressure over the two public broadcasters that they will cancel a program that might satirise a public event:

New wedding coverage conditions issued over the Easter break state that footage cannot be used “in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content”.

The restrictions were agreed between Clarence House, the private office of the Prince of Wales, and the BBC.

With the consequence that, in Australia:

The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary was due to air on ABC2 from 7:00pm AEST on Friday, offering viewers a satirical take on the royal extravaganza.

But just two days before Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot, the one-off live special – promised to be “uninformed and unconstitutional” – has been cancelled due to restrictions imposed by the royal family.

Oooh. Because the BBC has control over all footage of central London taken on Friday.

There will be no other people around here with video cameras on Friday

I don’t care whether The Chaser are still funny – that’s not the point. The point is the extraordinary attempt to impose control over a public broadcaster in relation to a public event, and its craven caving to that pressure. Oh, the BBC threatened to refuse to let you use its wedding footage? So bloody what! It’s being broadcast on every other bloody channel. Call their bluff! Go in much harder! Have some bloody balls!

The ABC’s credibility as an independent and fearless media organisation is at stake here. Because if the pathetic would-be autocrats in Clarence House can get this sort of leverage by threatening to withhold footage of something that’s going to be on every Australian TV channel anyway, then what will the really powerful get away with when they’ve got some serious leverage to wield?

ELSEWHERE: Joshua Gans is likewise unimpressed.

What you get if you piss off the authorities

Julian Assange leaving Westminster Magistrates’ Court, courtesy of the ABC:

When I first saw the image, small on the website, it looked like a crowd of supporters expressing outrage and pulling at the van. But no, it’s just the media and photographers trying to get a shot through the window so they can continue focusing on the man and not the content of the material his organisation has revealed.

Assange was not granted bail, which means he’s in prison for at least a week until the next hearing. But he’s hardly a flight risk – he’s known this was coming for weeks, and handed himself in.

Although the charges do look awfully like Sweden making it up as it goes along, one of the allegations (the sex while asleep one) could, if proven, constitute rape, but it’ll be one person’s word against another, and I don’t see how they could ever get “beyond reasonable doubt”. Which makes it fairly unjust that the process, if unfairly and capriciously applied – which, based on its conduct to this point, seems likely – could take Assange out of circulation for quite some time. Of course, given the timing, that would appear to be the point.

ELSEWHERE: The US embassy apparently didn’t like Kevin Rudd much. Well, there’s a point in his favour.

AND: Publishing Assange’s defence of the messenger in The Australian, the paper even editorialises that “The case has exposed the passivity of modern journalism.” (Although I suspect that’s more a pitch for the company’s upcoming paywall services.)

UPDATE 9/12: One of the US cables released by Wikileaks reveals a cover-up over a private firm employed by the US in Afghanistan providing underage male children for sex. The US knew about it and, instead of coming clean and punishing the perpetrators, tried to prevent journalists finding out about it. As in, a real scandal about something that’s been DONE (not politicians talking about each other) and precisely the sort of thing the media should be following up, hard.

UPDATE: Malcolm Turnbull writes a reasonable piece putting it in context (obligatory Labor bash notwithstanding).

Helping young women “depraved”

More from the what-do-we-do-about-teenagers file:

“A CONTROVERSIAL program that allows girls as young as 13 to get the contraceptive pill without parental consent was launched in the UK today.

The pilot scheme on the Isle of Wight – an island county five kilometres off the southern England coast – will allow girls who ask for the morning-after pill to also get a month’s supply of the contraceptive pill.

So, young women who are by definition sexually active (since they’ve asked for the morning-after pill) are to have the option of taking proper, much-less damaging medication in order to avoid an unwanted pregnancy for which they’re not ready.

Naturally that has sparked outrage:

Parish priest Father Anthony Glaysher described the program as “depraved,” adding it would encourage promiscuity.

No, it’ll encourage sexually-active young people to get the necessary help.

Some girls do start menstruating at 13. They can become pregnant from that point on, and some do. What principle is achieved by denying them the options that other women have to avoid conceiving? What is the point of making them more likely to have babies at a time when they’re unprepared and unwilling to take care of them?

Obviously these church groups are determined to see more abortions, and ruined young lives. Young people having sex deserve to be PUNISHED! God said so!