We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate

tv debate

After whole minutes of thought, The Bemolution decided not to watch last night’s seven-way leadership debate, and took in a 1997 episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer about hyenas possessing people while simultaneously watching Twitter watch the debate instead.

To lazily quote an old blog post rather than have to think of a different way of saying the same thing, the debates are an “awful development, further chiselling down what should be a vast, complex, citizenry-engaging discussion about how societies are run into a rubbish squabble over who gets the top job. They’re a stunningly shallow American export we never should’ve touched, and need scrapping immediately”.

We did actually watch the first thirty seconds while fiddling with the DVD player. The announcer burbled some codswallop about Salford. There were some sub-Apprentice/Spooks stop-start swooping camerawork over the Mancunian skyline, set to plasticated techno that sounded like it came from about 2001. Presenter Julie Etchingham said something about the ‘big iss-oos’ facing the country. Clegg looked terrified, Nicola Sturgeon looked stilted, Miliband looked calm, Leanne Wood gave a nice happy smile and looked delighted to be there, and David Cameron did a face that made him look like Michael Howard. All of which are the kind of profound, substantive judgements the debates encourage you to make. No-one ever really offered a satisfactory explanation for why the Irish parties weren’t invited. Then the DVD kicked in.

After two hours of watching 140-character opinions dribble out from the #leadersdebate hashtag, we’d gleaned many an insight into the woeful state of twenty-first century public discourse, including 1.) that a lot of people labour under the misapprehension that you can calculate the definitive winner of something as subjective and un-scientific as a debate, 2.) that a lot of people were just going to declare victory for the person they already liked the most going into it and 3.) that according to numerous self-appointed arbiters of truth – more numerous than those calling it for any other leader, anyway – the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was the most impressive. Continue reading

Vote Defensively (But Voting Isn’t Enough)

Generic voting image

Generic voting image

The biggest political event of the year, if not the decade, is obviously going to be the General Election in May. You’d struggle to describe the mangled, dystopian thing we’d be left with after another five years of the present government as ‘a society’.

The Bemolution’s political views aren’t especially well represented within the Westminster mainstream, what with pledges to essentially dismantle modern civilisation and start again tending to go down like a lead zeppelin in the key marginals. This makes elections morally challenging.

A lot of fuss was made in the media last year when Russell Brand supposedly endorsed not voting. Brand – someone we unashamedly like – clarified his position after a fusillade of criticism from across the political spectrum: he doesn’t vote, he said, because there’s nothing worth voting for.

Broadly, in our irrelevant opinion, he was right. But we’ll still vote, and would encourage other similar-minded types to do the same. It’s what we call ‘defensive voting’.re Continue reading

Party Conferences Are Fairly Meaningless

party conferenceIt’s that time of year when arch-politicos and the commentariat take to the provinces to splash around in our puddle-shallow political mainstream.

Radically, party conference season involves the Westminster set actually leaving London, which must lead to many sleepless nights beforehand wondering whether mochas and running water have spread beyond the M25. For everyone else, the abiding question should probably be how so much time, money and media coverage can be blown on events where no-one really says anything.

Last week, the Labour Party – or at least the bits of it that could spare the £100 entrance fee – met in Brighton. This week, the Conservatives are congregating in Manchester.

The Tory Conference is unlikely to tell us anything we didn’t already know. Thanks to the kind of journalists who take DWP press releases as unassailable fact and churn out televisual variations on the theme ‘Why Are You Scrounging On Benefits, You Feckless Scroungers?’, we already bask in borderline-sociopathic Cameron-rays every day of the week. Labour might well be a neoliberalised sham of its former self, but at least hearing from Ed Miliband and co makes for a bit of a change. Continue reading

Catch my (frighteningly hard right) drift

Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage

Britain’s Rightward slide continues apace. The news media continues to jig to Nigel Farage’s tune. Grassroots Tories, clearly shaken as UKIP woos their core supporters, rowdily call for action from Downing Street. And with its assault on benefit claimants already plumbing new lows (taste, humanity, common decency), the government eagerly bolts Right to meet them on immigration too.

We’re living through a kind of social democratic End of Days. In a political culture that holds up Mrs Thatcher’s social blitzkrieg as the height of state-shrinking excess, people are struggling to comprehend that what the Coalition government is doing now is worse. Even hardened activists who fought Thatcherism in the 1980s can’t quite bring themselves to accept that the situation we’re facing today exceeds the one they tackled thirty years ago.

The Conservatives are trying to permanently end the convention whereby the rich pay for the upkeep of the less fortunate. By surreptitiously pulling apart what remains of the welfare state, they’re trying to drastically reduce what their descendants will have to shell out for in taxes. Existence-threatening cuts to the public sector mean that thousands of people are being ejected from secure, less profit-oriented jobs and forced into the private sector. Private sector workers, meanwhile, are forced to work harder, for longer, for less, with less job security – which guarantees bigger profits for the companies they work for, and bigger pay packets for the kind of rich Tory supporters that run them. Continue reading

Boris and the Local Elections

The Mayor of London

The Mayor of London

Last week’s local elections trundled past with leaden midterm predictability.

Clearly peeved, a significant slice of the electorate stayed at home, and those that turned out roundly rejected the Coalition parties. Labour made huge gains, largely by default.

The Tories and Lib Dems were soon scrabbling to write off palpable public discontent as typical mid-term blues. Ed Miliband, on the other hand, was extrapolating growing public trust in his leadership from the protest votes begrudgingly cast in Labour’s favour.

Behind the dubiously rose-tinted interpretations, the cold hard statistics remain grim for the government. The Tories lost 419 councillors and 12 councils. The Lib Dems suffered a second successive electoral wipe-out: they lost 44% of the seats they were defending, leaving them with their smallest amount of councillors since they first emerged from the ashes of the SDP in 1988. Labour picked up 780 council seats, but based on the lowest voter turnout in 12 years. Continue reading