The spectre of ignorance

As you read the next few sentences, let this sink into your consciousness: more than 20,000 people were slaughtered recently. I don’t fear the BNP. They’ll never be a serious force in British politics because I know that in this country people can tell the difference between right and wrong. Perhaps in Parliament people cannot tell the difference when it comes to public money, but I hope they can when it comes to life and death. More than 20,000 people were massacred in Sri Lanka. Unarmed and ignored, hidden from the world too toothless to demand to see and too distracted by our own affairs to care.

More than 20,000 people died, standing on a sandy beach in the sunshine. Mothers with children, people of all ages and abilities. As the sun beat down, so did bullets and mortar bombs. The shimmering, cerulean blue sea must have clashed with the blood red sand. Did you see? I didn’t. Did you know? I didn’t. Did you care? I’m ashamed to say I didn’t. I know I would have and you would have too.

I care about right and wrong, which is why I hungrily devoured news of MP’s failings. I joined the clamouring to decry their idiocy, even their morality. Yet as this issue raged, I didn’t ask to see more about Sri Lanka. As those unnamed innocents lost their lives somewhere far away, I wanted to hear more about a couple who sometimes live in Bromsgrove. More than 20,000 people were murdered.

Thank goodness for The Times

As they feared for their lives, I feared the BNP, who will never have power or influence past the dark, dank places where they pray on people’s fears. I ignored those in power; who held the power to save those standing in the sunshine; to stop the bullets before they sprayed indiscriminately; to see that sight that I didn’t see nor wish to see. No-one saw it but those faceless men behind the machine guns but no-one clamoured to see it, not like they sought to see what happened in Luton South.

The media were shut out of Sri Lanka and the world is a worse place for it. The same media who are greeted with a tut and a shake of the head, “the media”. The media that politicians love to blame and the media who are never happier than tackling a scandal in government. The scandal is that the government did nothing to get the media into Sri Lanka. The government did nothing and to my shame, neither did I.

UPDATE 6th June: Once again the power of imagery convinces me that a strong press is a great thing.


I’m sorry, what?

I’m trying to decide who to vote for in the upcoming European elections. Accordingly, I’ve been watching the party election broadcasts.

I was astonished to see this boob in the Conservative one – which covers the CameronDirect town-hall meetings being held across the country.

1min30 in someone stands up and asks DC, “would you raise university fees?” to which he responds

“I’ll give it to you straight: the tuition fees, the top up fees will stay. We won’t be getting rid of them.”

Eh? That wasn’t a straight answer, that was a dodge. See for yourself:

From the ISHR …

Thought you’d appreciate these posters from the International Society of Human Rights. I know, I know, they put my Hazel Blears ‘LOLPolitician’ to shame. We can’t all have ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Frankfurt create Clio Award winning posters, y’know.

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In defence of Hazel Blears

Odd timing, you might think. Blears herself has noted that this is the lowest point of her political career, and there is good reason for this. But, the campaign against her is indicative of the rot at Westminster – the tribal political urges that only ever lead politics into the mire.

Blears flipped her home three times. For a while she wondered what it’d be like to live in a boutique hotel in Clerkenwell. At £211 a night, presumably it was pretty good. There’s no denying that she stretched her expense allowances.

The 17% who voted for the BNP in a recent by-election in her constituency no doubt agree. The polling figures look even worse when you contrast 606 Labour votes for 276 to the BNP. There was only a 17.5% turnout so we can assume many felt the same as is being said up and down the country – that there’s no-one to vote for and major parties can’t be trusted. Listen to John Pienaar’s podcast this week as an indicator of public opinion: pavement political reporting at its best.

Yet public opinion is, as usual, being manipulated – both by the press and those they require connections with. ‘Smeargate’ – the Damien McBride emails – exposed the government’s way of dealing with the press. It did not cure it. Despite both Geoff Hoon and James Purnell avoiding capital gains tax on the sale of their homes – furnished at taxpayer’s expense – they have had an easy time of late. So too has Alastair Darling, who flipped his second home but lived in a grace-and-favour pad. Why the focus on Blears?

Blair'z Babe Blearz

Blair'z Babe Blearz

Because Blears brought it upon herself. She dared to criticise Gordon Brown in the Observer and knew the consequences of this. First, she damaged Gordon Brown’s credibility. After all, the phrase ‘YouTube if you want to’ was very witty and bound to stick, although if anyone thinks Brown’s disastrously comic video was anything other than an absolute failure, they mustn’t have seen it. Do please see below.

Second, she angered the Brownite cabal which was never enamoured with Blears the Blairite. The group of advisors surrounding Brown have always been effective at dispatching political enemies and excel at party infighting. Read the rest of this entry »

Expenses! David Davis’s pearls of wisdom

I spoke to David Davis, former shadow home secretary today. We are setting up an interview in the next few weeks – should be good.

In the course of conversation, I asked him about expenses (the Telegraph reported he claimed £5,700 to refurbish his portico). He clarified that actually the cash was for “a big door”. Then he said something that I found really interesting.

“Frankly, I’m just bored of talking about expenses.”

Struck me as an interesting remark. I wouldn’t make too much of it, certainly not before I get to chat to him for longer, anyhow!

UPDATE 23rd May: I have just read a post by Dizzy Thinks, courtesy of a link from Comment Central. I think it puts Davis’s big door on right side of a ‘necessary/unnecessary’ claim dichotomy. After all, I believe the old one was rotten.

Free Speech at the University of York

Here’s an interview I did last December. I’m proud of it. There’s a proper report of the story from my friends at The Yorker but I’ll tell you my side of it below.

One of the student papers here at York, Vision, published a piece rating student politicians on their performance. An hour after the copies were handed out, they were recollected. Copies were pulled out of students hands sitting in coffee shops and there was no information provided on the issue.

Two days later, the papers were handed out again. The article had been removed and there was a suspicious cut out in each copy where an opinion piece had been. I was intrigued and irritated that nothing had been said about this. Surely we had a right to know?

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Hilary Benn on Binyam Mohamed

This was quite a big deal for me, quite a while ago now. The Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn was none too pleased with my style. I stand by it, I wouldn’t be so forthright in every interview but I thought it was essential when discussing this issue. Why did I raise it with the Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Affairs? No-one else had raised it with any member of the cabinet, certainly not in the same amount of depth. I only wish I’d confirmed the interview earlier than on the morning of it … I would have loved to have had some notes and done more research than merely reading the newspapers every day.

See some of the critical acclaim it received below:

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