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

It’s Flooding: Moral sickness and the Daily Mail school of mob psychology

somerset floods
The famously low-lying Somerset Levels haven’t mixed especially well with nigh-on two months of sustained heavy rainfall.

The worst hit settlements have been gutted by floodwater, and hundreds of people have been evacuated. Prospects for the future look grim – and not just because the rain shows no sign of letting up.

The bill for repairing extensively water-damaged homes and replacing destroyed household appliances looks set to run into the tens of thousands of pounds, and if the big insurers prove as compassionate as usual, stricken residents could be left paying for most if not all of the reconstruction themselves. That’s on top of the emotional hammer-blow of seeing your home suddenly and unexpectedly ripped apart before your eyes, along with the kind of sentimentally valuable bits and pieces you care a lot more about losing than your microwave.

It’s a horrible predicament for anyone to find themselves in. That doesn’t stop The Daily Mail’s campaign to suspend Britain’s foreign aid commitments and divert the funds to flooded parts of the South-West being morally sick. Continue reading

It’s Flooding: Austerity Bites In Sodden Somerset

Moorland

Moorland

It’s not stopped raining in Somerset for about a solid month. Arbitrarily, Bem Towers happens to be up a reasonably steep slope, water runs downhill, and thus our books, pot-plants and stacks of David Bowie CDs remain nice and dry. A few miles down the road in the villages of Moorland and Burrowbridge, though, people are dealing with a level of devastation you don’t often see in First World countries.

It’s quite inconvenient for the government. Ministers have been relying on the worst effects of their budget butchery not being felt for years, giving them time to finish the job then bail out into lucrative post-political careers on the boards of big private companies before people start brandishing pitchforks. 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

Question Time: Worcester, 25th April

The place: Worcester, the West Midlands

This week: the UK’s economy registered a slight return to growth (0.3%); Britain fumed at the continued failure to deport murder-inciting radical Islamist Abu Qatada; and Tory Education overlord Michael Gove continued his scholastic party-pooping by calling for longer school days and shorter school holidays. Continue reading