Tag Archives: Gordon Brown


If it is true, as H. L. Mencken suggests, that ‘no-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public’, perhaps it is equally true that no-one ever lost power in the UK by underestimating the stupidity of our electoral system.

The Tories attempt to win an election with a leader who is their own version of Blair-lite, then the leadership election looks likely to throw up the possibility of Labour fighting the next one with a version of Cam-light: David Miliband.

Still, at least there is going to be a contest this time, the powers behind the various Labour thrones having realised there is no sense in allowing another leader to be anointed, after how well that worked out for Gordon Brown.  Yet it is undeniable that Miliband the Elder is the front-runner.  Can I be the only one to find this strange?

David Miliband voted very strongly for the last parliament’s anti-terrorism laws, a stricter asylum system and for replacing Trident.  He was very strongly for ministers being allowed to intervene in inquests, brought in after the Kelly and Menezes inquests caused a few blushes on the government benches.  He was both strongly for the Iraq war and strongly against any kind of inquiry into the Iraq war, an exact reversal of the feelings of many Labour Party members on the subject.  He has some very interesting views on the torture of terrorism suspects and the public’s right to know what its government is up to.

In short, there is a real possibility that, once again, the party established to act for the interests of working people via left-wing principles and ideals may end up with a fairly right-wing leader.  How, one wonders, can Labour have the brass balls to call itself a left-wing party any more?

(For comparison: Nick Clegg was anti the terrorism laws, replacing Trident, ministers intervening in inquests and a stricter asylum system.  David Cameron was against the anti-terrorism measures and ID cards, for the war but also for the investigation and flip-flopped a bit on asylum, as you would expect with the right-wing press breathing down his neck.)

The party of the workers has always been slightly ashamed of its lowly routes, the first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was also arguably the first ‘champagne socialist’, much preferring hanging out with Duchesses at their country seats to sitting in pubs singing the Red Flag.  But at least the ‘s’ word did appear then!  Now Dave Semple wonders if Labour and socialism can have anything left to do with each other, while Obsolete sees this attempt at debate as a postponing of the inevitable.

It appears that as we head into our ‘future filled with cuts‘ those alleged to be fighting on ‘our’ side will be arguing straight from a Daily Mail editorial for the shrinking of the welfare state, tougher immigration laws and freeing business from pesky regulation.  As Chicken Yoghurt notes, the dividing lines between our rulers will be shaved until wafer thin.

Still, at least it gives me an excuse to post this intriguing insight into the future of British politics:

Three parties, in different coloured rosettes, with a broadly similar aim of shafting the electorate helping hard-working families.  Four legs good, two legs better!

*Or if I didn’t write the post myself would it be Milivanilliblogging?

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A good election to lose

There are still whole weeks to go and already my main thought when I consider the election is:

make it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stop

Slightly more than a week since I urged you to ignore the parties’ bells and whistles and concentrate on what we the people could get out of the election instead, I am very much in danger of not following my own sound advice.  Depressingly, since that day last week when the election began to a backbeat of circling helicopter blades, I have already discovered that I live in such a safe seat I may as well draw a big comedy cartoon of a knob on my ballot paper, in the manner of a bored teenager kept in for an after-school detention.

Now I have to contend with the Prime Minister throwing out such a poor retreading of Britney’s ‘Ooops I did it again’ routine that it almost seems like UK politics is now spoofing itself, being beamed to our TV screens straight from the brains of Messrs Iannucci and Morris.  How else to explain the former Chancellor coming out with this gem?

In the 1990s, the banks, they all came to us and said, ‘Look, we don’t want to be regulated, we want to be free of regulation’.  All the complaints I was getting from people was, ‘You’re regulating them too much’.  And actually the truth is that globally and nationally we should have been regulating them more.  So I’ve learnt from that. So you don’t listen to the industry when they say, ‘This is good for us’. You’ve got to talk about the whole public interest

NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.  Just fancy that, the banks asking the Government to please stop regulating them quite so much, if you don’t mind or else they would be on the first flight to Frankfurt, was actually a vague threat that they should have been called on, rather than an actual promise to leave a gaping hole in the UK’s finances… errrrrr.  Sorry, I am still not following this.  We mortgaged our futures to keep the bankers happy, yet we still ended up with the gaping hole, while the bankers are laughing all the way to the Cayman Islands but the man largely responsible for the mess now wants to say ‘sorry’ and hope that means we can move on and allow him another five years in power to fix it.  I have to keep pinching myself because I am having a hard time believing that we haven’t gone through the looking-glass.  What the fuck is going on?

Then I read this from the London Review of Books*:

whatever the political hue of the new government, it has to walk a fiscal tightrope. It is probably going to be a very good election to lose

and suddenly it all makes sense.  This is a Brewster’s Millions, anti-Musical Chairs election, where the object of the game is NOT to be sitting in the Big Chair when the music stops.  Whoever wins, it’s likely that the bond market-spawned wailing and gnashing of teeth from the electorate is going to be enough to keep that party out of power for a time which will make Labour’s wilderness years seem like a weekend at the beach by comparison.  If, as John Lanchester hopes, the game is up and the bankers have realised that this maybe their last round of grotesque bonuses, maybe the politicians are equally aware that their time at the trough is coming to an end.

If true, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine and recreate our political and economic life, so perhaps we need to start to thinking about what comes next.  Now that really would be change we could believe in.

* Lanchester, J., 2010. The Great British Economy Disaster. London Review of Books [Online] vol. 32 no. 5 pp. 3-7. Available from http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n05/john-lanchester/the-great-british-economy-disaster [Accessed 14 April 2010].
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And they’re off…

Except it seems that this is going to be perhaps the most stupid election in history rather than ‘the most important one for a generation’ that we have been promised.  By the time Sky News had followed every second of Gordon Brown’s journey to the Palace, as neatly skewered here, I was already losing the will to live.

Still, I managed to banish the urge to take a daily overdose of mephedrone for the duration of the campaign as quickly as it arrived.  After the last couple of months (or even years?) of Phoney War, it is impossible not to feel a little frisson of excitement now the real crapshoot has begun.

So let us not be distracted by the parties’ bells and whistles, including but not limited to their fragrant wives, the gratuitous shots taken while riding public transport they are too grand to use at any other time and the block types of newspaper front pages trying to fudge our brains with a shitstorm of fear.  Instead, let us make this election about what we want it to be about: real reform of our electoral systems; honesty and transparency from our MPs and – above all – a sense of irreverence and humour not seen since the far-off days of the Monster Raving Loonys.

Make sure you are registered to vote, there are details of how to go about it here.  Then join in the fun with Power2010 and Democracy Club, both non-partisan groups running campaigns to keep candidates focused more on the things that bug us and less on how their hair looks on the telly.  Can we chuck some spanners at their carefully-crafted media onslaught?  YES WE CAN.

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Do it if you must, Labour, but make it quick

So the chickens might be coming home to roost for Gordon Brown. There I was, half-heartedly watching Andrew Marr on Sunday, when the great man himself appeared groaning on about something. It sounded like ‘…targets met… investment not cuts… we offer leadership for the future…’ and then I managed to rouse myself from the early morning torpor in a hurry to switch it off.

The worry for Labour must be if I, a life-long labour voter (yeah, sorry about that now. I’m repenting at length) who learnt at my Grandad’s knee that the Tories were no friends to the likes of us and who didn’t have that notion knocked out by the years at private school and university, can’t watch Gordon Brown on the telly for five minutes without thinking:

  1. what a liar!
  2. … and a bully…
  3. hang on, didn’t you help create our current financial doom?

then what hope do Labour have with the floating voters? The ones who vote because they like the guy’s smile are not going to save him at the polls.

That said, who amongst the intellectual pygmies would you see rule? Milibland Major or Minor? That guy who resigned?* God help us all – Harriet Harman?? Given that those who wield the knife never get the top job it’s unlikely to be Hoon or Hewitt. Again, thank any deities you care to mention because, given the mess they made of Defence and Health, any Labour troops they lead into battle are going to get shot down for lack of body armour and then left to die on a hospital trolley in a corridor while all the doctors fill out forms. Just like real people!

Maybe Labour goes down without a fight or maybe they should be concentrating on the opposite benches. But either way, it’s probably too late. A hung parliament would be the best they could hope for but even the Libbies don’t want to cuddle up to them. In addition, the scheming required to work around an inconclusive result in the election will mean that key financial decisions which are likely to be unpopular will be ducked. Aged relatives who remember the late Seventies and early Eighties are offering this advice: get out now if you can, because it’s going to get painful.  Not least because you’ve got six months more of this to look forward to!

* Just saw him on Channel 4 News. His name’s Parnell. Oh yeah, you don’t say.

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No alternative

marie meets the guillotine

Quote from a ‘senior source’ talking about the latest expenses scandal:

We were led up the garden path by Gordon. I have never known a prime minister to be heckled at a meeting of the parliamentary party as he was on Monday. Not even Tony during the Iraq war got such a rough ride.

(my emphasis)

The most damning statement about politicians in the UK today and it comes from their own lips.  They care more about feathering their own nests, more about lining their pockets, more about stealing from us, than they do about the utter mess which was our involvement in Iraq.

Never mind the thousands of dead we leave behind in that country as we involve ourselves in another misadventure in Afghanistan; disregard the fact that public opinion was ignored and manipulated on the issues to an unprecedented degree in the build up to war.

Instead, keep your mind on the fact that what really incenses our elected representatives is their right to bill us for their trips to Waitrose, plasma TVs and duck houses.

And for that reason, ten minutes hate considers it time to stop negotiating with them on a rational basis and move directly to tumbrils and guillotines.  The fuckers leave us no alternative.

Picture borrowed from here

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Cartoon from the ever-excellent xkcd

Ok, so I know I should know better than to bite.  I know I should just move on.  I am trying to, honest.  There I was, innocently reading an eminently sensible and thought-provoking post by David Osler about how to today’s youth it is Labour who are the evil ones and the Tories who are to play at being the saviours, while to anyone who grew up slightly ahead of this generation, it will forever be the other way around.  Perhaps this is just the way the pendulum swings, I thought.  You grow up under one set of bastards, vowing never to vote for them as soon as you have the power.  Then the other lot gets in, they screw it up so badly that the next bunch of kids makes a similar vow and the cycle is repeated forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

And then I got to the comments.

‘ZanuLiebour are like Nazis!’  ‘The Tories will put poor people in camps!’

‘You want to privatise the NHS!’  ‘Your lot already have!’

And I want to say, grow the fuck up.  I want to point out that people are being left behind, whole lives chucked on the scrapheap, just like the 80s, while a bunch of professional idiots scrap over who gets to play with the levers of power and their respective gangs of cheerleaders yelp encouragment across the ‘blogosphere’.  I want to, but it is impossible to get a word in edgeways.

Meanwhile, the news gets more ridiculous by the day: Alistair Campbell is tipped for a return; the Tories will sell the BBC when they get in; Gordon’s on the happy pills; Mandelson would work for a Conservative government if they tickled his chin when they asked. As if any rational human being outside of SW1 gives a flying one for any of it, they would rather just be left alone to try to clear their credit card debts before they lose their jobs.

And I don’t know if it is better to add to the chatter, or instead to ignore it all in the hope that it will go away and focus instead on nice things, like this:

(found via It’s Nice That, again)

So I can’t decide.  You tell me, in the comments below.  Just remember to play nice because, I promise, the first mention of Liebour and you’re banned…

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Pick a pocket or two

Gordon Brown taught Cameron and Osborne everything they know

Gordon Brown taught Cameron and Osborne everything they know

When the recession started last year, most British households cut their cloth accordingly. Reduced unnecessary outgoings, started to pay more off the credit cards and, despite rates that are the lowest since the Bank of England opened its doors, they even began bunging cash into the savings accounts.

But not the Government.

The Government couldn’t act like us because, if they had, we would now be looking at something much closer to the Great Depression than the Vera Lynn revivals and fascist outrages on the streets would have you believe we are. The taps had to be turned on. But even accounting for the bank rescues, the guaranteeing of the bonuses and the increased welfare costs, it is impossible to escape the fact that our debt as a proportion of GDP is growing to astronomical ‘chop-the-credit-card-with-the-kitchen-scissors’ levels and that, worst of all, we have next to no intention of paying it all back, preferring instead to let deflation take care of it and no matter if that screws the savers and the pensioners.

Still, at least our leaders and would-be leaders are, at last, pledging to get to grips with our free-wheeling, high-spending public services, because – you know – it was those hospitals with all the crazy drugs they were buying and the spendthrift social workers that caused the meltdown, not a bunch of over-paid coke heads in bad suits acting like their nations’ economies were a roulette wheel, right?

So, much as a couple argues the toss over classing spending on a holiday or that new plasma screen TV as ‘essential’, our politicians are now trying to convince us that the other side will do the evil cutting. Emotive accusations that they will stop paying to educate the leaders and wealth-creators of the future while they won’t be able to afford to have the bins emptied weekly will drive us all mental between now and Election Day. Meanwhile, each will be spinning that they are the only ones able to rid us of all the troublesome bureaucrats and unnecessary ‘costs’ that we won’t miss when they are snipped.

Instead of Tory Cuts v Labour Investment (as the last three elections have run) this time, they will be arguing debating the nuances of millions and billions spent on paperclips and kidney transplants in an attempt to persuade of the stirring ideological differences existing between them.

Don’t fall for the bullshit.

The Tories, always chief cronies to the wealthy, and Labour, up the arses of the fat cats for 12 years and counting, are not our friends. They are equally guilty of allowing the people who caused this shitstorm to run away laughing while we carry the can for their hubris. Not all bankers are evil, but the mud-slinging between them and the politicians over who to blame is the show to distract from the sleight of hand that picks our pocket, even as the seeds of the next catastrophe are already being sewn.

Stay alert and keep a tight grasp on your wallet.

Picture from Wikipedia

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News review

a right pea-souper

a right pea-souper

In other news this week, the Labour Party continued its efforts to ensure that the Conservatives win the next three General Elections.  A Party spokesman was quoted as saying:

“whatever you do, for fuck’s sake don’t vote for us”

As the number of jobs evaporating into thin air continued its inexorable rise, the Prime Minister and his closest advisors were caught taking tips on political strategy from the film ‘Mean Girls’, the Westminster press corps was otherwise occupied in trying to locate one single solitary spine amongst its members and the sound of fiddles being played drowned out all attempts at meaningful debate in the House of Commons.

A nation looked on in disbelief and incredulity, before managing to grab the remote control back and switch over from ten minutes hate to ‘Britain’s Got Talent‘.

Picture of London in the fog from the rather excellent Encyclopedia Sherlockia.

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Riot of my own

declaration of intent

declaration of intent

There were riots in Northern Ireland earlier this month.  As the news showed pictures of balaclava-wearing youths with petrol bombs in their hands, I thought ‘how old fashioned’ – as if this kind of thing had died out a long time ago.  You knew that our rulers thought they would never see the like again: a young, disaffected population, prepared to burn their world down over something that irked them.  Meanwhile, on this side of the Irish Sea, business continued as usual: the Government made promises to throw a few more billions after the good ones already lost and we were all too preoccupied with the redemptive death of a former racist to notice.

I look around me at the way that people live and think that either you must all be mad, or I am.  Constantly failing to make choices that would bring happiness, as if afraid of it.  Grinding out a dance towards ruin accompanied by a soundtrack of ‘that’s the way it’s always been’ while humming the refrain ‘what can I do to change things?’ to a backbeat of ‘why should I care?’  Watching my peers at play in the bars and dens of East London, I am afraid for us.  There can’t be enough great jobs, stylish loft apartments and beautiful girls and boys to go around, can there?  Which means that most, if not all, of us are going to miss out, consumed by a sense of failure over an unattainable dream, created in an advertising storyboard and sold to us by a magazine, instead of conjured up inside our own heads.

Yet, I wonder.  If, as Orwell noted, when ‘the comfortable were uncomfortable, the professional optimists had to admit that there was something wrong’, it becomes easier to convince that things can’t go on as before.  For in recent years, the sense that our way of life was crazy hovered in the background, but it seemed disingenuous to point it out while the good times rolled.  Like a dream or a retelling of the Emperor’s New Clothes, to suggest that the bubble could pop at any time seemed the action of a killjoy.  After the Battle in Seattle, the accidental death of an anarchist in Genoa, protest seemed dangerous.  But it must be obvious now our foolishness has been exposed for all to see, that the days of keeping quiet on the sidelines are finished.  The sight of the ruling classes displaying their innate drive to maintain the exact structure and neatly chaotic flows of information and capital that keep 200 pharaohs watching six billion slaves toiling at the pyramid demands a response.

But what?  I can only stand and point at politicians suckling at the foul paps of softly grunting swine, briskly wanking the dwindling cock of an embarrassed banker, murmuring soft words of reassurance and telling them it doesn’t matter, we will soon have their icy black ejaculate streaming over our faces once more.  They leave us to rot without work, signed up to a dazzling array of benefits, happily ignoring the jizz dribbling down our chins so long as they don’t get in the way of our 42” plasma screen.  Watch the telly for any time at all and it is obvious that we are more loyal to corporations than to each other, less likely to change our bank than to cheat on a lover.  ‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears’, drowning out all whispers of endearment.

Eighteen years of the Tories plus twelve of New Labour has added up to the creation of a ruling class completely focussed on the lining of its own pockets at our expense, gone even the pretence of contributing to the social weal.  The Home Secretary, caught claiming £116,000 expenses for her second home, breezily asserts that she could have had more, e.g. £40,000 per annum for her husband to fiddle ineffectively with his flies and expenses.  Army personnel purchase their own kit before deployment to war zones, while the Ministry of Defence spends millions on the redecoration of its office building.  Resigning offences once, now politicians on either side are happy to lie to our faces and then, on the rare occasions they are caught, even happier to amend the rules to allow their thievery to become law.  What call for writers when the satire is writing itself?

Reality is only going to alter for Britain when we realise that it is us v them, but not Tory v Labour, asylum seeker v native, British workers v Italian ones.  Not Left v Right, like two football teams in which a victory for your side results in a defeat for the other.  Instead it is us v Mandelson.  Us v Brown.  Us v Cameron.  Us v Osborne.  Time to realise that they do not have our best interests at heart.  They are all in hock to the spread betting billionaires, the formula one team owning billionaires and, er, the steel plant owning billionaires.  Meanwhile us poor, ordinary, non-billionaire folk are ignored apart from during elections, our rulers content to dole out the prolefeed to distract us as the numbers become more meaningless – it is bubillions, cajillions, flabillions, chenkuibodillions of nonsense.  Wherever you mark your cross the outcome is the same: the shafting of our hopes and dreams, until, like an abused cellar-child, we have actually grown used to it.  We have to stop dancing to their tune.  Ignore the opinion polls, the leader writers, the professional soothsayers who want you to believe that a Tory victory is the only true outcome, because it is another victory for them.  We have to hold them to account.  And when there is nothing else left, we have to riot.

Words by Julia and Ampleforth

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You can look back to the thirties and forties and think how much easier it was then, when the bad guys wore the hooked cross so lusted over by the toffs and the good guys were the ones who were against those guys, by whatever means were available to them.

Yet a look beneath the surface shows a time that was as conflicted as our own.  For instance, Orwell thought he could tell the difference between friend and foe when he headed to the front in  Spain – by the time he made the return journey in an ambulance he had been taught by events not to assume that his own ‘side’ were any less dangerous than the nominal enemy across the valley.  Naturally sympathetic to the causes of the left after his experiences in the pits around Wigan and the kitchens of Paris, he came to despise both the be sandalled socialists and the jackbooted communists who suppressed with enthusiastic ruthlessness the anarchist militias he fought with against the fascists.  He was no respecter of the adage that the enemy of your enemy is your friend, recognising that the enemy of your enemy is just the next arsehole on the list to be dealt with once you have finished kicking the main pig.

‘He may be a bastard, but he’s OUR bastard’

is not a thought that ever crossed Orwell’s mind, or so I think.  Nor would he have enjoyed the sight of tracksuit wearing secret police on our streets, imported from China like knock off Gucci handbags.  Or the vision of the Labour party walking around on two legs trying to convince us that they are the autocratic masters, while the Tories trot around on four, snuggling up to hoodies, trees, Shami Chakrabati and anything else that looks like it needs a hug.

What the people of this land should realise is that if we stop shooting, knifing, cheating and dragging each other onto the Jeremy Kyle show for a good shout, stop paying any attention whatsoever to Kerry Katona and the latest skid in her car crash of a life and instead, say, started taking out Cabinet Ministers in hand-to-hand combat, we would pathetically quickly gain the upper hand.  Those Kevlar vests they wear still leave a few major arteries open to the imagination.  Imagine Harriet Harman taking a Hummer trip around her constituency because she cannot be protected from us any other way.  Imagine Ed Balls fleeing from the kids’ playground because those same kids are chasing him off their turf, intent on pounding him with baseball bats.  I wonder if you can?

Let’s make them fear us for a change, Britain.
Let’s give them sleepless nights instead

Don’t lie there worrying about your mortgage payments; ponder which one of Brown’s bull-shitting bastards you would like to take out first.  Let them see that power brings consequences other than a shed-load of free John Lewis furnishings, great responsibility other than making sure your kids have a job for life.  Well, you can keep the £4,000 a-roll wallpaper, Lord Chancellor, but with it comes a free Battle Royale style death match involving both Houses on Canvey Island. Last wo/man standing gets to rule.  Perhaps it would also follow that seeing their backbench colleagues brutally massacred by feral teens would make them less keen on creating carnage in other people’s backyards?

Instead of Gladiators, let’s see Brown and Cameron really battle it out: just how bad do you want it, fella?  Dave, want to see a wind turbine on every roof so much that you will gouge out Gordon’s other eye to triumph?  Come on, Ken, now that there’s nothing to lose, let’s see how much of a class warrior you really are. I hear the argument that the landed gentry fight dirty and have been doing so for generations, but have always felt that in a street fight Red Ken would be naturally adept at the no-holds-barred style – after all, you can’t be that close to Stalin and Castro without picking up a few tricks.  Boris pleading, claiming to be a lover not a fighter, while the newt-fancier stomps on the usurper’s crown jewels might be the best, most crowd pleasing way to decide a future Mayoral contest since Dick Whittington started talking to his cat.

I for one am sick of a no-choice vote deciding between competing mediocrities

I think it is possible that you, my fellow electors, are with me on this.  Dwindling turnouts cannot only be blamed on a clash with a crucial episode of Eastenders.  What is the point of getting off the couch to mark an X if all it serves to do is duck out of taking responsibility for another few years?  Where is the incentive when 862,415 Irish voters can say they don’t want something and their rulers decide that actually, in fact, they do?  Whaaat? is never happy advocating violence and I am sure there will be a lengthy editorial disclaimer somewhere about leaving minister’s arteries alone (Eh?  Oh, yes.  Very bad.  Absolutely – Ed) but perhaps, just this once, it is time to act with aggression.  Our marching taught them nothing.  They need to be shown that they can no longer rely on the passivity of our implied goodwill.

Four hundred years after the last one, Britain needs to reclaim the brand of civil war she has been exporting in recent years and set it free to run amok on her own streets.  Violence is a game we are playing from Basra to Kandahar – why should Basingstoke and Kensington miss out?  Except that we are not going to turn brother against brother, putting fellow victims up against the wall: it is going to be strictly US v. THEM – the ones who presume to rule us based on flimsy margins, taken out by an electorate that have taken enough.  They have squandered the peace our grandparents bought for them and in return given us nothing but penury, cronyism and state interference.

We have been complacent for too long; it is time to discover if there is sand underneath the cobble stones after all…

First published September 2008 in issue two of whaaat?

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