Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Sorry, But Bodyshamers Are Insecure

I'm really sorry to state the obvious, and to delve into the atrocious depths of pseudo-psychological wankerism. But the people are Protein World are desperately insecure.

Like most defenders of the pro-sexism campaign., those at Protein World make a massive assumption. They think anyone who dislikes the pro-sexism campaign does it because they are insecure and jealous. They wish they could be as gorgeous as the sexists. If only they had bigger tits, and a flatter stomach, all their carefully constructed arguments arguments would disappear, and they would forget who Naomi Wolf even is.

One online comment, which has now been removed, was spectacular. It said it was a case of "wallflower" women being "jealous" of a "super-hot babe". Firstly, mate, nobody speaks in phrases like "super-hot babe" apart from the editor of the Sunday Sport and people's dads when they're drunk. You tried to make it sound like a cold put-down, but you sound like a French Exchange student who came over to learn English as a child and got trapped in the 90s.

Similarly, when challenged about their poster, protein world said:



Where did they get even get the idea of INSECURITY from?! Why are they suddenly talking about insecurity? It's not insecure to challenge a corporation's advertising campaign on twitter, is it? It's pretty confident. You also can't be that insecure if you're the kind of hero who does this:

Feminists respond to Protein World's Beach Body campaign

But, amazingly Protein World, Katie Hopkins, and every other klutz who waded into the pro-sexism side of this argument - instantly assumed this was all just personal. Individual women - and only women - feeling upset because their personal feelings were hurt. There was not even a flicker of understanding that some people object to things on political grounds, or on behalf of others. No idea that some people think of other people.

I feel this speaks volumes about the bodyshaming industry. In that world, in those mindsets, everything is personal. You are only as good as your dress size, as good as your abs. As good as your last instagrammable #healthydish. The bodyshaming industry is all about vanity, so unsurprisingly there is a pretty strong focus on the self, and your own 'achievements'. But the self only has value because of it's current appearance. Renee Somerfield has no intrinsic value to them - she just currently has a good body. A good person is not something you are, but something you are do.

No wonder they are all so terrified of the thought of becoming fat. Imagine the insecurities you'd be riddled with if you thought you would be totally worthless, if it wasn't for your six-pack.


Cameron Is A Really Horrible Boyfriend. He Ruins Your Self-Esteem So You Never Leave Him



David Cameron is like the world's most horrible boyfriend. He never does anything for you, and he doesn't even pretend to be a nice boyfriend. He just tells you "you'll never get anyone better". That's why Cameron has so savagely attacked everyone, and done little else.

We talk about "apathy","disengagement", and how disillusioned voters now think "they're all the same", as though it were a politically neutral sociological phenomenon, that has spontaneously arisen. In reality, mass disillusionment was a clever electoral tactic, which has been disseminated by the right-wing press. They they knew this was an uninspiring Tory party, with no positive message and an uninspiring austerity agenda. Therefore, all alternatives had to be savagely discredited from 2005, so they looked even worse.

Depressing our expectations and optimism was helped by the widespread disillusion that followed from Iraq, Blair, the crash, the bailout, the MPs' expenses scandal and the character assassination of Gordon Brown. Even after all this, Cameron only just scraped in, failing to win a majority which, says one insider, made many Tories "furious". It's easy to see why they didn't win. The electorate didn't actively vote for the Tories; Cameron's uninspiring war of attrition against Gordon Brown did not excite voters. It just begrudgingly convinced them change had to happen.

Lowering our expectations has been very effective. It has put people off Labour just as much as the Tories, so that Cameron could then - so he thought - win in 2015 by just claiming to be the more adept economic steward. For example, just woeful 23% of people think the current government have the best policies on the NHS - the most important issue to us today. You'd think this would be cause for an instant overthrow. But it isn't, because only 36% of us think Labour - the party which founded the NHS - has the best NHS agenda.

National negativity is what has kept Cameron supported. The message is clear: we might not be that great, but all politicians are terrible. Your safest bet is us. There Is No Alternative. That is the core of the Conservative message since 2005. 
Because of this despondency, the Conservatives still retain substantial support, despite the fact people are unhappy. 47% think the country has got more unfair under the coalition - and only 12% think it has got fairer. Substantial majorities of us support measures to reduce inequality: 65% of us support the idea of a wage cap to prevent bosses earning more than 65 times what their lowest paid employees do. Labour and the Green Party offer a number of policies to address inequality - the mansion tax, non-doms, wage cap, the bankers' bonus tax. And yet neither of these parties has 65% of the vote.

We want more equality but we don't vote for the parties that promise to tackle it? Why? Probably because of our woeful, carefully engineered cynicism about politics: 63% of us think Labour will "say anything" to get elected. Therefore, we don't even vote for the parties that promise to address the issues we feel need changing!

This is the real coup of Cameron's era. He doesn't have to inspire us, he doesn't have to be lovable, and he doesn't even have to address the issues that we think should be addressed. He doesn't have to worry about not being popular - because his rivals have all been made just as unpopular too. We've been convinced that there are no alternatives, and we don't have a hope in hell.

Cameron is that horrible boyfriend who ruins your self-esteem so you never leave him. You know he doesn't make you happy any more, but you don't think you could do any better.

We don't think we ever could have an honest politician, good public services, economic equality and security. We've got uniquely downcast national expectations. We don't really believe that it's possible to be well-governed; though of course it is. 

The current national cynicism is stifling, and makes it hard to believe in better alternatives. Or, we imagine that the only alternative would be something stupidly reactionary, such as UKIP.

But, by driving voters hopes downwards, Cameron accidentally pushed them towards a Pandora's box of alternatives. Voters' expectations in politics were depressed - and it helped Cameron get one term in office - but then thousands decided to do something about it, and voted elsewhere. UKIP they have bled the Tories of votes, so that they end up no more popular than the rivals they have sought so hard to malign. Hence the current stalemate. Hopefully, that is a sign of people reasserting the fact that they do deserve a government that they actually like.

However, 

Leaders Shouldn't Follow Us. We're Idiots.

Leaders Shouldn't Follow Public Opinion. The Public Are Stupid. They Should Challenge Public Opinion And Change It.

But Simon Jenkins has a strange opinion:

"Only fools criticise (or praise) politicians for what they say. It is what they do that counts."

Polly Toynbee has a similar opinion on Ed Miliband. He might say he’s going to continue austerity, but he isn’t really. He wants to save public services, so he's only going to balance the budget by 2020 - so he doesn't have to cut at all. This Toynbee sees as a disguised blessing. Miliband just can’t come out and say that spending cuts are unnecessary, because everyone thinks they areHe has to play by the rules.

Closet fairness. Secretly, he cares about the poor and vulnerable, and wants us to have a fair country. But he won't say it too loud because it isn't popular enough to say that. It's more popular to shriek hysterically about the deficit. 

But what kind of a leadership is this? Should leaders dishonestly kowtow to popular opinion? Should they follow the direction in which popular opinion is already moving, until they gain enough power to – in some degree – enact their actual beliefs? Leaders shouldn’t be play by the rules; they should make the rules.

Certainly, courting public opinion is what Blair did. And he's a paragon of virtue and integrity. Thatcher had won the cultural battle over public discourse in the 1980s, demonising Trade Unions and the working classes, and turning greed into a good. Tony Blair didn’t try to challenge this – he just went with the flow. He turned Labour into the country’s second Thatcherite party, so that he could win votes from the neoliberalised electorate. This is why Thatcher said her greatest achievement was creating New Labour. And why many think they no longer have a choice. 



Firstly, we need leaders to challenge public opinion because public opinions is so often wrong. The shrieking media keep us in such a state of blind, confused hysteria that we very often work on the basis of what we’re told; not what’s trueWe think that 15% of girls under 16 become pregnant every year, for god's sake. Come on.

Secondly, if we don’t challenge discourse and opinion, you are not a leader – just a technocrat. And you will never have as much impact as those who do. The society we live in is made up of more than just the laws that constrain us; it is the beliefs that animate us.

It highly important politicians lead and address public opinion. This is why we have leaders, rather than anonymous technocrats. In fact, it is arguably more important to change discourse than to change laws. Laws can be repealed a year later. It is only by changing discourse that really deep, broad and long-term changes in society happen.

Millions currently feel no qualms about avoiding tax. This can’t be changed merely by punishing it and making laws. You’ll never catch them all. A far more effective – and cost-efficient – way to change behaviour is to make people want to behave differently. Let’s make tax avoidance despicable.

Stanley Fink: "I did what any Average Joe would do - I put some of the £180million I made in hedge funds into a Swiss Bank account. so I don't have to pay for plebs like you to be kept alive by the NHS".

Former Tory chair Stanley Fink is a politician who decidedly does not shrink from entering the culture war. He pronounced in the Evening Standard this year, that “everyone avoids tax”. This kind of sermon sets a paradigm. It normalises and justifies a certain way of thinking. If we hear enough that we are entitled to avoid tax, we are sure to. How many millions will be lost to the treasury in tax avoidance by the words of people preaching tax avoidance? It’s impossible to quantify, but important to ask.

Thankfully, Miliband’s rhetoric on tax avoidance is strong – he evidently wants to challenge this idea. But to do it well, he needs to challenge a lot more misconceptions.

Tax is seen as a burden. Let’s make paying tax a noble privilege. Let’s argue that tax is the price you pay for living in a civilisation which cares about you. 

Similarly, the NHS is already a beloved institution; let’s make Jobseekers’ Allowance just as adored – it is the safety net that we are lucky to have. Let’s stop assuming GDP growth is how you measure improvement, and make equality the test of a healthy economy. Let's challenge the negativity towards immigration, because in reality it brings in 34% more to the Treasury than it takes out. Let's not let the Daily Mail win that argument, just because they shout louder. They have no facts on their side. Let's "stand up for migrants" as the Green party do. Also, if possible, let’s challenge the hatred of Westminster and make the word ‘politician’ conjure up images of passion and dedication. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

6 Things The Papers Don't Tell You

1. Immigration brings money into the UK


Nigel says benefit tourists are coming over here, using our "international health service". The Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration have tested this idea, through research of the facts (an interesting way of working which Nigel thinks is 'bloody foreign nonsense').

Between 2001 and 2011, EU immigrants to the UK contributed 34% more to the budget than they took out.

In the case of non-EU migrants, they paid in 2% more (through taxes) than they took out. Overall, immigrants brought in an extra £20bn to the Treasury's budget. We have more to spend on the NHS, thanks to immigration. Thank you, migrants!

2. Immigrants are not all benefit tourists



Immigrants are actually 45% less likely than UK citizens to claim benefits

3. Public spending is not all going to lazy alcoholics on Jobseekers allowance


55% of the welfare budget goes to pensioners, who haven't suffered from any cuts. Of the money that does go to Jobseekers allowance, they are not all Benefits Street delinquents. Just 0.3% of people on benefits have been on them for over 5 years. There is not a "culture of dependency”.

4. You are not alone in thinking that it doesn’t feel like a recovery



47% of us think the country has got less fair under the Coalition. Just 12% think it has got more fair. Pay has gone down by between 5.9 - 9%, depending on how you measure it. These are not the “good times”.

5. It is not entirely Labour's fault that the 2008 crash happened



Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England, was asked if it was Labour's fault that the banks were unregulated, allowing the crash to happen. He said:

"I am not going to talk about individual parties’ culpability because I think the real problem was a shared intellectual view right across the entire political spectrum and shared across the financial markets that things were going pretty well”.

All mainstream politicians were fairly blind to the risks in the banking sector. The Tories blame Labour, calling it “Labour’s Great Recession”. But most the deregulation had been done by Thatcher and Major, and in 2008 the Tories were not exactly screaming for more controls on the banks.

In fact…


6. The Tories wanted there to be less regulation of the banks in 2008.


In 2007, Cameron endorsed a report which called for “the regulatory burden” on banks to be "reduced year on year”.




Monday, 27 April 2015

12 Myths We Need To Call Bullshit On

There have been some massive porkies flying around recently, so let's set the record straight...

1. Labour did not create the national debt through public spending


Total public spending was 39.9% of national income when Labour came to power in 1997. They swiftly reduced this figure to 36.3% by 2000. It then grew, which was largely inevitable because of the growing and ageing population - but only to 41.1% by 2007. So after that decade of Labour tax and spend - total public spending had gone up by just 1.2% of national income.

It was actually the crash that caused public spending to boom - not Labour policy. The crash and bailout increased the deficit to £158bn, and made public spending skyrocket up to 48.1% of GDP.

39.9% in 1997. 41.1% a decade later. Then, after the bailout, up to 48.1%. 

It's wasn't by paying for benefits and nurses that we got such a national debt.

2. The last Labour government did not ruin the economy

In 2009-2010, the economy swiftly recovered from the 2008 crash. In Labour's last year in power, GDP grew by 2%. This was because of Labour's VAT cut - which the IFS says had a "substantive" effect on causing recovery, and Labour’s 2009 bailout, which was praised by economists as having "defined the worldwide rescue effort".

 
After the 2008 crash, GDP growth steadily recovers under Labour, until the Tories take power and growth falters

3. Cameron's government did not "save the economy"


The Conservatives strangled this recovery as soon as they came to power. They announced "tough" cuts and a VAT increase and then - sure enough GDP growth suddenly halved, then fell to zero. By 2012, the economy was shrinking again during some quarters and, in 2013, the UK lost its AAA credit rating. In this quarter we just left - some 7 years since the crash - growth has again dropped to 0.3%. That's lower than when the Tories took power.

 
"The "measures David Cameron has put in place to... build a stronger, healthier economy" ensured that the steady growth stopped soon after they came to power, and the economy shrunk by 2012

 

4. The UK did not need Osborne’s cuts in 2010

The IMF and the OECD both said the UK economy was too weak for spending cuts in 2010-2011. Oliver Blanchard, of the IMF - said cutbacks were "playing with fire". Osborne announced £81bn of cuts anyway, and the recovery stopped. Maybe the IMF and OECD were correct..? 



5. You do not always have to cut spending in order to reduce national debt



The way out of a recession - and to rebalance the budget - is not necessarily to make cuts. You can spend a lot of money, and still reduce the debt as a percentage of GDP. Clement Atlee's government, while spending millions on an NHS and welfare state, reduced national debt by 40% of GDP.


Attlee, Clement

6. The UK did not need a VAT increase in 2010


As mentioned, when Brown reduced  VAT, this was proven to help recovery. However, Osborne increased VAT to 20%. Little wonder the recovery was stopped in its tracks.

7. Osborne has not 'got borrowing under control'.


Osborne borrowed more in 5 years than Labour borrowed in 13 years. He has borrowed £219bn more than he said he would. 

 
All this is partly because...

8. Osborne has increased spending 

Osborne pretends he has squeezed spending, and claims this is why we recovered. In reality, we haven't recovered all that well. And if we have survived, it's because - thank god - he has not been able to decrease spending too much. After his initial devastating attempt to cut in 2010, Osborne U-turned, and has increased spending every year, from 693bn up to £702bn, then £714bn, £722bn and £731bn this year. For comparison, Brown's public spending in 2009 was 635bn - which would be just 704bn in today's money, according to some estimates. So Osborne has increased real-terms public spending by 27bn. This is inevitable, because of the growing and ageing population. The difference is: Osborne has just made sure some people face cuts.

9.  The Tories have not done all they can to balance the budget


False. By giving away tax cuts, the Tories had lost out on £24bn by just 2013. This is 48 times the amount of money they gained by introducing the bedroom tax. Giving away tax gifts has cost the Treasury dear.

It’s no surprise then, that…
 

10. Osborne has increased the national debt


We all know the Coalition has made savage cuts. But they only did that so they could decrease the national debt, right? Wrong. Osborne has increased national debt by 26.1% of GDP.  National debt is now rising at £3000 per second.
As we all know, the last Labour government were a bunch of profligate maniacs, who got a disgusting sexual thrill from borrowing money, and ruined the economy in an orgy of irresponsible idiocy. However, they only increased the national debt by 11% of GDP – and that was largely because they had to bail out the banks. Osborne has managed to increase national debt by more than twice that.


11. Scottish people have the same political rights as English people – and slightly more than animals!


Despite what you might hear, Scottish people have exactly the same political rights as other people - and even more than most breeds of cow! If Scottish people want to vote for a certain party - such as the SNP - then they are allowed to. If that party ends up having a lot of MPs, and forming a coalition government with another party - that is allowed too. This would be just as legitimate as when English people voted Lib-Dem, and then the Lib-Dems formed a coalition.

DANGEROUS: But Allowed to Vote, and have a say in the running of the UK.

 

12. The SNP could not "hold Labour to ransom” 


Ed Miliband has ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP ages ago, and has now also ruled out a looser "confidence and supply" deal with them. So there will be no "coalition of chaos". The SNP will have have less influence over a Labour government than the Lib-Dems currently have over the Tory government - and we all know that's not a load of leverage.

In parliament, though, Labour would need extra votes on top of its 270-odd MPs. The 54 SNP MPs would probably provide these, because they agree with Labour's ideas. Both want to address inequality quickly (Miliband's got the ban on non-doms and the bankers' bonus tax; Sturgeon recently scrapped the SNP's commitment to lowering corporation tax). Both parties agree with each other - so the SNP do not need to hold Labour to ransom: Labour already have a similar ethos.

Most importantly, as Sturgeon says, "this election is about getting rid of the Tories". Her party want Miliband in power. So they would not, and could not, threaten Miliband. If he doesn't do what they want, what are they going to do? Walk away away and let him lose power? That would mean another Tory government. The SNP couldn't stand that. So they have to support Labour.

 


The new Conservative Party poster
"DO AS I COMMAND! Or else I will...I will...erm...I will put the Conservatives in power? Oh wait, hang on, that would make me physically sick."



The reality is very different to the story we're told. Labour spending on public services did not give us a national debt; their once-in-a-generation banks bailout did. And this policy, and Brown's other decisions, helped the country recover again by 2009-10. So no, Cameron, this is not your recovery. This recovery - if it exists at all - begun under Labour, and you promptly crushed it. 

Osborne made cuts for the poorest, while making tax cuts, increasing borrowing, and adding to the national debt. There has never been any plan to cut the debt, or be more 'careful' with finances. The Tories have never been the ones we should "trust" on the economy. They lie about what they are doing, and make hopeless mistakes. All because they seized, in 2010, an opportunity to stop helping ordinary people, and build a more unfair country - which they think we all need.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Press Let Liars Get Away With It

"COME ON YOU YOU VILLAS!" screams Dave Cameron, every Saturday, on the terraces of the OLD ANFIELD ROAD. He's a massive fan of the WEST VILLA, better known as the MIGHTY CHERRIES! Also - did he mention - he can see off a can of FOSTER'S SPECIAL BREW in 2 seconds and his wife's got TRIPLE D BOOBS. Not to mention, his dad used to be in The Who, and he can do a wheelie on his BMX with NO HANDS. He's brilliant. A totally ordinary bloke's bloke who is definitely a person.

Grant Shapps, on the other hand, is not any of these things. He is "elsewhere" when these things happen. Elsewhere? Elsewhere from reality? Elsewhere from this dimension? Inhabiting a shady dimension of multiple shifting identities, as the many-headed dragon who owns a number of plastic surgery and identity-changing businesses.

It is absolutely hilarious that the liar Grant Shapps edits the Wikipedia entries of his rivals, and even more hilarious that he's been caught. When trying to deny it, he is so bad at it that he very,very unconvincingly repeatedly tells us he was "elsewhere at the time". He thinks we are genuinely so stupid that we will believe there is one, single, magic portal in the countryside through which Wikipedia can be accessed - and that slippery Shapps was several miles away from it.

It is even more hilarious that someone in Conservative HQ spent a whole day trying to decide which football team they would make David Cameron pretend to support, and decided Aston Villa would win him votes. Then, today, he tried to keep up the ridiculous pretence that he's a FOOTY BLOKE  - and got the team wrong, accidentally pretending to support West Ham instead.

One of the many murky identities of Grant Shapps, who - on this occasion - was not elsewhere

They are both massive liars. But it is not surprising. We already knew many politicians lie (but not all). It is a systemic, inherent flaw of representative democracy that it encourages and almost requires lying. Our electoral system gives power to the winner of a popularity contest; winning the favour of voters becomes the first and main skill of any politician. Chicanery and exaggeration are important parts of this. There is every motive to 'lie'.

Our democracy is also a massively unfair playing field, in terms of controlling discourse and opinion. Politicians, who are very well-informed, and for whom politics is a full-time job, have to to persuade and convince voters, who are less well-informed, and who cannot make politics their full-time job. This is an unfair advantage, and leaves all the resources needed to control popular opinion (time and political insight) controlled by a few. This gives them the opportunity and means to bend the truth to their advantage.

Representative democracy encourages truth-bending. 

Moreover, when we hate politicians for bending the truth, we are barking up the wrong tree. "Democracy can only work if all the parties are telling the truth", says one online commenter. "They should be forced to tell the truth", agrees another, suggesting they should be hooked up to a lie detector by their "knackers". 

But it is a mistake to believe there is only one objective "truth". The topics politicians talk about are political history, sociology, philosophy, ethics, demography and geography. All of these are areas in which disagreement and debate flourish at academic level. These issues are open to interpretation.

It's futile to try and view, or discuss, matters 'without any bias'. We're all, always, interpreting something 'with a slant'. We all have to be selective in the evidence we bring to bear on our interpretation, even if only because if we used all the available evidence on a topic we would be reading, and writing, all day. 

The fact an analysis comes with a perspective does not make it any less true. It just means that the analyst is engaged, and has made the effort to find an interpretation for the facts he examines. As Zizek says, "truth is partial - accessible only when takes sides, and is no less universal for this reason".

All we can do about bias is be aware of it and interrogate each other's interpretations, so that biased views do not become mistaken for and accepted as objective truth. This is the principle behind the idea of academic peer review and the legal system.

It would be ridiculous to chastise a prosecution lawyer for only offering a selection of evidence which suggested the defendant was guilty. That is the prosecution lawyer's necessary job. But the prosecution lawyer operates within a carefully constructed framework of antagonistic forces. The defence lawyer will interrogate the prosecution lawyer's interpretation of the facts, and ask whether it is a reasonable one, given the evidence. He may offer an entirely different interpretation of very similar facts, or offer an interpretation using different facts.

It's the same with politicians. It's ridiculous to expect David Cameron to tell us every minute detail, in everything he says. He tells us that the economy is 'back on track'. What he doesn't says is "the economy is now back on track, 7 years after the crash, after a double-dip recession, and after we suffocated the burgeoning 2009 recovery". See? There I go, doing it again. Offering a partial interpretation of the facts. I can't help it. Impartiality is impossible.

Because politicians, like all of us, are always biased, it is very important that what they say is rigorously interrogated. Most of us are too busy to do this full-time, because we have jobs to go to, friends to have fun with and football teams to support LIKE THE MIGHT WEST VILLA, AMIRIGHT DAVE! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOONN YOU REDS!

Therefore it's very important that a thorough, investigative media do the interrogation for us. And yet they are tragically supine. A politician says something and they slavishly report it, as though it were automatically a valid and reasonable opinion. Journalists report tantrums of politicians as if these tantrums are news. Far too many 'news' stories go:

Immigration is a problem...(says Farage). 


Yesterday, the Evening Standard reported that Ed Miliband was in a "storm" over comments he made about drowning migrants. "Ed Miliband was today accused of trying to "weaponise drowning migrants" in a row". Accused by who? David Cameron, it turns out. A row between who? The Tories and Ed Miliband, it turns out. 

Well there's a surprise. What you're reporting there, Evening Standard, is that the Tories criticise Labour. Well noticed.

HORROR as man says people drowning is a bad thing


This is not journalism. Journalism would have been asking whether Ed Miliband's comments were flippant and offensive or not. It was a good opportunity to ask another good question, too: which issues are so grave that should politicians give up debating, and unite together in agreement on? Remembrance Day and the World Cup seem to be the main ones; are there any others?

Journalism should be at one remove from the politicians' messages - it should examine them, not just repeat them. The journalists should be doing the defence barrister's job, or that of the peer reviewer: hold up one interpretation to scrutiny, and see if it withstands criticism. Instead, they allow one version of the truth - one necessarily partial interpretation - to become widely accepted as though it were objectively true. It is not the politician's fault that their interpretation is partial: everyone's is. It is the journalist's fault, though, for making that one opinion become common currency, without a challenge.

When David Cameron says Ed Miliband is a dick, this opinion is not examined, but is passed onto us, as though it were fact. The same vice versa. We end up thinking they are all dicks. Politicians have negative opinions of each other, and these are fast-tracked down to us, as facts, without any filtration.

No wonder people have no faith in politicians. As well as stoking up hatred of politicians, the press have totally failed in their duty to interrogate the messages emanating from Westminster. This means we have all believed total nonsense, and then later found out it was nonsense, and felt disillusioned. It also means - since political rivals necessarily have to bad-mouth each other a lot - that we end up hearing a lot of uncritical, unexamined character assassinations of politicians, and consequently 63% of us think they'd all "do anything to get into power".

It also means that liars (Cameron) and idiots (Farage) have been able to disseminate total nonsense. And, because of that, voters have no clue about the issues they are supposed to be voting on.

The public to, on average (out of a sample of 1015 in a 2013 Ipsos Mori survey) think that 24% of benefits are fraudulently claimed, rather than the reality: 0.7%. They also thought 31% of us, on average, were recent immigrants, rather than 13%. Laughably, they believe on average that 15% of girls under 16 become pregnant every yearThat’s 4-5 in every single year 11 class, every year! Can you imagine?



Has Cameron Ruined Politics?

A lot of people assume Britain's political disillusionment stems from Tony Blair's New Labour project. For example, Peter Oborne says "something went horribly wrong with British politics in the 1990s. The modernisers drained the meaning out of political engagement". Certainly, Blair was slick, and his Iraq lies did incredible damage to public trust. But maybe it's the Cameron era - not the Blair era - which really ruined British politics.

1. Cameron's Era Is The Era Of Uniquely Negative Politics

Most governments in postwar Britain have had a mission. Atlee built the welfare state; Macmillan carried on with massive Keynesian housebuilding projects. When Thatcher came to power, although her slogan was "Labour Isn't Working" - this wasn't all she had to say. She was quick to offer and promote an alternative solution: freemarket neoliberalism. Then Tony Blair swept to power with a similar, new vision: neoliberalism fused with welfarism. A neoliberalism with a bit of heart. We'd still let corporations trample all over you with grindingly low pay. But we'd give you tax credits to make up for it.

But Cameron is rare in that he has offered us no positive vision. He has instead offered us only criticisms of others. No other PM would make criticism of his predecessors his main message throughout an entire 5-year government. No other PM would think "There Is No Alternative" is an encouraging and vote-winning slogan. No other PM would still be shrieking in the 2015 debates that "there was no money left" in 2010. No other PM would have used his final speech in Downing Street to fire shots at Labour again, saying he is "turning the country round" after the Labour chaos. Any other Prime Minister would be talking about where we were going by now, not just ranting about how bad it had been. No other Prime Minister would have used the same speech to attack an imaginary "economic chaos" under Miliband. No other political campaign would have made the top EIGHT out of EIGHT stories on its website ALL about the terror posed by the SNP - and forget to include any of their own actual policies.

Cameron is the UK's first entirely negative politician. It seems to have had some effects...

2. Cameron's Era Is The Era Of Woeful Cynicism

63% of us think they will "say anything to get to power".

3. Cameron's Era Is The Era Of Small Parties

In 1984, only 2% of people supported a party other than the big three: Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. . By the late 1990s, it averaged around 4-5% of people. By December 2005, when Cameron took over as Conservative leader, it was at 7%.

Then, under Cameron - as he preached that There Is No Alternative - millions more have decided that there should be an alternative. As the graph shows, the proportion now supporting a non-mainstream party has soared to 27% last June, and 24% now. 

Rise in support for parties other than Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Source: Guardian/ICM


4. Cameron's Era Is The Era When No Party Is Popular Enough To Win


Partly because of the rise of small parties, the Cameron era is the also era of coalition governments. Don't mistake this as a sign of increasing dialogue - it is a result of the fact people are so cynical and negative about politics that not one single party can get as much support as even John Major got. 

All the non-mainstream parties - UKIP, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens, the Trade Union and Socialist Congress (who field 130 cadidates) and Yorkshire First (fielding 14 candidates) and Socialist Labour (fielding 8 candidates in Wales) - present themselves as radical alternatives to the traditional politics. That's why they produce posters like this:


Surprisingly, 4 out of 5 UKIP voters think that the gap between the richest and poorest should be the government's top priority - and the fact they produce these posters - strongly suggests that the rise of small parties is an anti-establishment movement, one borne out of the prevailing disillusionment that the right-wing press have so carefully fostered. The graph above could be interpreted as a crude measure of increasing disengagement, dissatisfaction and disillusionment. It represents the failure of any party to gain substantial support. This is the decade of mass lowering of satisfaction with the status quo. 

It's hard not to wonder if it has something to do with the man so negative he uses "There Is No Alternative" as his inspiring slogan.





Friday, 24 April 2015

All Cameron Does Is Attack Others

This week, the Tories' negative campaign plumbed new depths of combative aggression. As Cameron appears to give up (look at the sheer not-giving-a-toss you can see in his eyes in every speech: he wants to quit, say Tory insiders), they resort to something unprecedented. On their website dashboard, which previously provided multiple reasons to vote blue, the first eight top stories are now the same argument: "The SNP will hold a weak Ed Miliband to ransom".


Boris rams the point home, saying: “There is a kind of chop-smacking relish with which the SNP and Labour in Scotland approach the idea of taxing the sassenachs in London and the South-East in order to pay for things in Scotland.” Worryingly, Tories are not even attacking a single political rival anymore; they're attacking the entire Scottish electorate, and its right to participate in politics and benefit from tax raised across the UK. Rather than running a pro-Tory website, they are anti-Scotland one.

This is unsurprising, though. If there's one thing that's certain about Cameron's Conservatives, it's that they've always defined themselves by what they are not, rather than what they are.

Always on the attack, rarely providing a positive message and vision; the most inspiring part of the Tory message, since 2005, has been "the others are terrible". They've given us the era when politics was mainly about hating others, not any passion for your own cause.

Tony Blair may have made politics all about self-promotion. But David Cameron has reduced it to mere enemy-degradation.

1) Not Gordon Brown 

First they were not Gordon Brown; their campaign was little more than character assassination, with even the Tory press them conceding that Cameron's "genius is that he manages to illuminate Mr Brown's weaknesses, and somehow make them appear more egregious than they are". Cameron would, in every comment, spend more time belittling and attacking Brown than suggesting alternatives. 

2) Not 'Profligate Labour'

Then they were not the 'terrible mess Labour have left us'.Never before have a government berated the previous government so much. The main Tory narrative for their entire premiership has been the myth that "Labour ruined everything". As Cameron reiterated in the 7-way debate, "there was no money left. Let's think about the consequences of that, think about the consequences of what we inherited and what we had to do". The focus on historic failures allowed them to retain support, despite not offering anything positive, as Cameron admits (although he euphemistically describes it as making "difficult decisions" and "efficiencies in government spending" - nicer phrases than "driving one million to use food banks"). Theirs' was never a government sustained by hope, aspiration and drive - merely by acceptance. People don't love and embrace austerity - they just believe the Tory line that "There Is No Alternative". I know we're uninspiring and depressing - but you're stuck with us.

3) Not Ed Miliband and the SNP

Recently, their selling point became that they were not Ed Miliband. Their hate campaign against Ed didn't work - because not every voter is a 10-year-old bully who wants to - so now they have became not the SNP. Miliband was childishly bullied; and Murdoch chastises his journalists for not being cruel enough to Ed. Even the one self-promotional message that the Tories occasionally flirted with (that they are safe guardians of the economy) was always delivered as an attack on Labour; a contrast with their hopeless profligacy. We are not outstanding accountants; we are just better than Labour at it.


A poster from the CONSERVATIVE PARTY . Sorry, but where is the information about THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY? What reasons are you giving me to "vote conservative"?


Where Was The Conservative Message? 

Cameron's Conservatives have always had to go on the attack, because they don't have anything to defend. They have never had a strong vision, aims, or values. They briefly pretended to be Green Conservatives, then reached for the 'Big Society' fig leaf. They worship Thatcherite neoliberalism, and are therefore anti-statist, which is hardly a political philosophy for a state's government can espouse. When you haven't got a substantial, positive message, all you can do is drag your rivals down and perpetuate the cycle of negativity.


Looking as impassioned, visionary and inspiring as ever
Tony Blair may have emphasised style, but he also had a big idea: New Labour was a novel synthesis of socialism and neoliberalism. Cameron's lack of beliefs or passion, on the other hand, is why he doesn't want a third term, and doesn't even want to win this second term. He is just - quite literally - a Public Relations consultant, and his attack skills are good. They have ruined several enemies, and they are ruining British politics.

Instead of Cameron, we need a visionary leader: a person with ideas. We need someone who's going to do a lot more than just belittle and berate their rivals. We deserve better.