Tuesday 31 March 2015

How about we ban crappy journalism?

Frank Furedi is blowing his own dog-whistle this week remarking that "barely a day passes without someone demanding a ban on something". Ironic that a man who complains about the shallowness of British politics would produce this superficial, lazy narrative by means of selection bias, peppered with florid language like "tinpot dictators, ecclesiastical zealots, illiberal judges" to sell it. Easy stuff to write. A lot harder to engage in the subjects he cites on more than a superficial level. 

Plenty of people moan for things to be banned. They are entitled to do so in our sort-of-democracy. They've tried to ban all kinds of things for years and not succeeded. But the examples he cites have some justification.

New products on the illegal highs market are potentially lethal. As an occasional user of illegal highs I'd rather take my chances with MDMA and coke than whatever the hell those shops are selling - not least because they seldom ever work and there's no public health surveillance on the effects. They have killed people. I don't want this stuff marketed to kids, I don't want it available to kids and if people want it they should get it from the internet.

Similarly you could make a very strong case that the fashion industry has much to answer for and its prominence means it does have a social responsibility not to promote unrealistic body types - photo-shopped waistlines and models who starve themselves. Ironically, an ideal promoted by fashion designers, half of whom are gay. The ideal female body type is not static in history and the fashion industry has a major influence in creating those ideals.

The attack on fast food is perhaps a little misguided but in an NHS with stretched resources and an ageing population, it has to look at prevention as much as cures and that includes regulating foods. Not least because we live increasingly sedentary lives and coronary conditions are on the rise again. Fast foods are the product of sophisticated marketing psychology and taste testing, using additives of all kinds creating burger meals with more calories than the average person needs in a day. Brits above all have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol too. Public health is part of the state's remit - and so is regulation of it. It's not too much to ask that supermarkets don't put advertising aimed at kids by the checkouts too. Will free society really cave in otherwise? So much around us is regulated - we don't notice and we don't care and we are no less free for it.

As to smoking, we're operating a policy of gradual phase out because like it says on the packaging, smoking seriously harms you and others around you. Sure, it might not kill you but there's certainly nothing edifying about spending your last twenty years on the planet unable to walk more than a few yards from your oxygen tank. And choking to death is a shitty way to die and a horrible thing to subject your relatives to. As to powdered alcohol. What could go wrong?

As to the DNA debate, there has never not been a fierce debate about messing with the genomes, and that's a good thing. Ironic that free speech crusaders Spiked are bitching about a very robust debate about something with not inconsiderable ethical considerations.

As to the banning of fraternities, that's an entirely imported cultural narrative from the US and it's a debate barely relevant to Britain. It's only going on because of US cultural hegemony encroaching on UK debate because our own politics is so shallow, not least because of Spiked's fatuous cherrypicking of minor bans from across the Northern hemisphere, painting a picture that we're fading into a nanny state oblivion - which is silly. His final example of the lady who wants to ban dogs on beaches in Clacton, well so what? Stupid thick person from a Ukip voting place says something stupid and is quoted in the local rag. Well shit the bed!

Then we get to the finally paragraph which is more florid and recycled verbiage, building a crescendo for the moneyshot so you come away feeling satiated with moral probity. 
Back in the fifteenth century, the word ban was applied to a formal ecclesiastical denunciation. It communicated the idea of anathema, interdiction and excommunication. In today’s world, the word ban likewise contains the sentiment of excommunication. But in contrast to the past, when the targets of ecclesiastical denunciation were relatively clearly defined, today the targets are far more arbitrary. That’s because, unlike the morally purposeful excommunicators of the past, today’s awareness-raisers have very little in the way of a clear morality or firm idea to communicate. In the land of moral illiteracy, all that’s left is the ban.
This is also known as pompous toss. Meanwhile, rather than dismissing regulation on a knee-jerk basis some people are actually digging into it, looking at the justifications and where it actually comes from, and finding some of it is entirely rational, reasonable and in fact it isn't faceless bureaucrats dreaming up "crazy" regulations for shits and giggles. Nor is it nannying fussbuckets. It's accountants and policy developers worrying that the public wants to gorge itself and drink itself half to death then expect a gastric band operation so the knee surgeon can do his work - and they have no desire to pay for it. But then narrative building is far easier than engaging in complex policy making. This kindergarden stuff has its own constituency so why bother doing any actual work?

Monday 30 March 2015

There is no place for Katie Hopkins in civil society

It's not very often I can be provoked by an idiot like Katie Hopkins. In recent months I have developed a lizard-like rationality because it's a useful tool. If there is a raging debate I find it more edifying to let it rage, sit back and watch and look for the missing element. In most cases both sides can be, and frequently are, flat wrong.

Lately I've become increasingly sceptical of free speech absolutism. Free speech doesn't exist, and it never will. We have plenty valid restrictions already such as restrictions on reporting that would prejudice a fair trail, contempt of court (for similar reasons) - and slander and libel laws. I think they serve a function in that people's livelihoods and reputations can be destroyed by wilful and malicious lying. That in itself is an excess of speech. All other offences are judged by their intent and if the intent is to cause harm by deed or by word then there is a case to answer.

Absolutism in any context is the lazy way out of a debate. With absolutes there are no grey areas, no complexities and no reason to think. And that's how most people like things. The notion that we should have unfettered free speech is one gaining traction and hasn't been subjected to any serious scrutiny. Writing in the Independent, Simon Danczuk spells it out.
Last week she attacked me on Twitter for attending a small ceremony to mark National Pakistan Day. I attend lots of events likes these, whether it be to mark St Patricks Day or remember the Ukrainian Holodomor. Some of the same people who attended the Pakistan flag raising will also be at the Saint George’s Day English flag raising ceremony next month. This is the nature of representing a diverse community, but we’ve been doing this for years and had no complaints.

That all changed following Katie’s comments, which pointedly linked the Pakistan flag to paedophilia. Employing her usual hateful and provocative shtick she went on to demand whether the nine men convicted in Rochdale of child grooming and sexual offences in 2012 were “my friends”. More abuse from Katie followed before she finished with a promise to come to Rochdale and “explain why no one messes with our white girls”.

It would be easy to dismiss this as the vacuous posturing of an ill-informed pundit except my timeline suddenly became filled with a deluge of racist bile from Katie’s supporters. Soon I was getting threats from the EDL. A far right group called the North West Infidels suddenly announced they would be marching on our town and the Internet was quickly awash with intolerant abuse directed towards anyone of Pakistani origin in our town.
He remarks further that "The problem is that Hopkins has never sat down with a group of taxi drivers who have been the subject of hate attacks just because they’re of Pakistani origin. She doesn’t know of the stories of innocent people being stabbed in the face and scarred for life." I urge you to read the whole article. As a Bradford man, this smells about right to me.

The free speech absolutists have it that the establishment censors in order to protect the masses from dangerous ideas. It doesn't. If you want to make a case based on faith or religion, one is perfectly at liberty to do so if approached in an adult fashion. This is not what Kaite Hopkins has done. Her incendiary remarks are designed to cause outrage among her fellow bigots and in a Northern slum, where education is poor, with a large Muslim population and a strong constituency of what we call the far right, misrepresenting Danczuk in such an opportunist fashion greenlights bigotry. For this I feel she must be held accountable.

Society regulates things for reasons of mutual access to shared space and public safety. It does not mean we are not free to do most things as we please, but it is on the understanding that in public one must be mindful of others and the consequences of your actions. If that applies to actions, I see no reason why it shouldn't apply to speech.

Words have power. Moreover, words can be deeds. If you know what the consequences of your words will be, and you know what the reaction will be, and you know full well someone could get hurt by saying such things then you have converted speech into a deed. This is what we call incitement.

The regulation of speech does not a suppress a thought, it merely forces one in public to be mindful of how something is said and where. Go into a rough pub in Glasgow and aggressively tell a big fat bloke in a string vest that his wife is a pig in knickers and is probably his sister, then you'll get glassed. Even the the most conservative judge in the country is not going to show you a great deal of sympathy. This is because we know that certain words spoken in a certain way have highly probably of consequences, and to an extent you take a share in the blame.

If we say that speech is wholly free of consequence I would be free of responsibility for finding a weak minded person, undermining their confidence, controlling them and intentionally driving them to suicide. The decision to end their life is theirs. But that's free speech right?

The fact is that while we are all moral agents, there are degrees of intelligence, there are degrees of maturity and there are degrees of stability, and when such things are known to be low, wilful exploitation of such is is a calculated and predatory means of committing an act through others over whom you have control.

By saying speech does not have limits in civil society you are saying words have no consequences - thus no power - yet we know the pen is mightier than the sword. The old trope about shouting fire in a crowded theatre is a mere thought exercise. Whoever is trampling other theatre goers is responsible for their own actions. But the guy who shouted fire is still a scumbag and shares in the responsibility for the chain of events. But then in Britain, if someone does shout fire in a crowded theatre, we would see an orderly queue for the exit. That dynamic changes if someone shouts that a bomb is about to go off. The reaction is predictable, thus the consequence is calculated, thus the motive malicious.

At the very heart of those seemingly elusive British values is how we hand out punishment in the courts. Very often we look upon liberal judges as though they were from another planet, but as citizens we have unrealistic uncomprehending demands of our legals system and in context of the crime, the motives and the context dictate the sentence or whether an offence has even been committed. And that same equation should apply to speech in the public domain. If the individual is aware of the consequences and calculates words to that effect then it is a malicious act - not the exercise of free speech.

I don't think all people are stupid and bigoted and need to be protected from dangerous ideas. But rather a lot are. And they do stupid and bigoted things. They can be manipulated and goaded and they can do dangerous things so we have a framework to protect against that. We have a framework to protect most people from the minority of stupid and dangerous drivers - where most break the law, but the authorities have the tools available to deal with the most egregious and dangerous cases where the context matters. Why should that not apply to speech?

Civic society is about boundaries in the public sphere. It is loosely defined and lightly enforced, but it exists to curb the wilful excesses calculated to cause harm. I don't see what is especially controversial about that. In the real world, you are accountable for the things you say as well as the things you do. To throw in a verbal grenade and shrug "not me guv" is a total cop out. To assume all humans are equal moral agents and that speech is free of consequence is to deny the complexity and variety of mankind and the power of words to destroy.

As bad as we are, we don't deserve our media

The media we have now is better described as the "controversy industry". Instead of serving the public, it mainly serves their balance sheets and corporate interests depending which has the greater priority in the moment. With its power and financial clout it is extraordinarily successful in freezing out other ideas and non-approved discussions, and refuses to even air contradicting arguments inconvenient to their collective narratives. The censorship is censorship by omission in tandem with its own unified propaganda line.

This works alongside a general dumbing down of media whereby politics is entirely masturbatory - generating toxic controversy for the purposes of entertainment, often giving house-room to the likes of Katie Hopkins. The abandonment of reporting of parliamentary debates and committee work, instead focussing on the biff-bam politics of PMQ's, paints a wholly toxic narrative of how our politics works. It is shallow, dishonest and damaging.

Because of it's crushing monopoly grip, any independent publisher simply can't break through the glass ceiling, except for those who join in and play by their rules spreading the same bullshit that the corporate monopoly media can then parasite off (see Guido Fawkes blog/Conservative Home). Then papers like the Telegraph move in with their own aunt sally blogoshere to kill off independent blogging. And it worked too.

The only people who get a look in are licensed dissenters with the same tribal loyalties - usually from their own inbred circle-jerk think tanks. Columns are awarded on the basis of celebrity status rather than expertise (and who your mates were at Oxford). Unless of course daddy can buy you a column instead of a pony. Few if any arrive there on merit alone, and the moment they leave "prestige" titles their profile drops to zero along with their influence.

The media is no longer functioning as it did traditionally having abandoned any public service duty, and what's worse is the public is simply not willing to look elsewhere for news or analysis, not least because half their news browsing is done at work where corporate internet filters freeze out alternative sources. It controls the debate, feeding in its toxic ideas, and the result is an increasingly ignorant public and a shallow, highly contained debate that actively works against the interests of the public. It's a toxic monopoly much like any other corporate strangled industry.

All the free speech dogma of yore failed to anticipate the heavily garden walled media industry, the shortening of attention spans and the wilful, deliberate manufacture of sleaze - with a desire to bring down governments not for any moral purpose, but because it can. And they're telling me this is an industry that doesn't need intervention.

If asked to choose which was more corrupt between our media and our political class, I would pick the media every single time. The notion that the narrow band of corporate entities with a stranglehold on debate represents a vibrant free media is risible. We would be better served if they were forcibly shut down. If there is any censorious idea killing influence in the public domain it is our media. In the age of the internet, we don't need their pundits or their crass reportage and nothing is served by them setting the agenda. They are parasitic and they are corrosive.

Sunday 29 March 2015

The least worst option

David Cameron says he wants to win back disaffected Tory voters. Had I ever actually voted Conservative I would be one of them. Few detested Cameron more than I when he took the leadership. In a very short time he jettisoned everything I thought was right wing, driving people like me into Ukip. I cannot think of a more suicidally stupid plan than to go after Guardian reading liberals while insulting most of your base. It took a special talent not to come back with a Tory landslide after New Labour and Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, but our Davy boy pulled it off.

Fast forward to today and no liberal types would vote Tory and for all the so-called detoxification, the Tory brand is still pretty toxic. Nobody fell for the husky-hugging and the green crap and what was left was a shell of a Tory party that needed the likes of Nick Clegg to form a government. That said, it turns out the most toxic aspect of the Tory party, pushed out to Ukip, has created an entity so toxic that the Tories look palatable by contrast.

I argued back in 2009 that the Tories needed to be more robust in their conservatism. Now when we see in Ukip what that would actually look like, I have many doubts. On offer we have the aggressive miserablism of Ukip, the demented ramblings of Tim Mongomerie in The Good Right or David Cameron's quasi-conservatism. What does it say that Cameron is the least stomach churning option?

But the Prime Minister is right. This is the most important general election in a long time. On the one hand we haves some promising economic metrics and even with applied cynicism, it's impossible to deny that there's a confidence in the air that things are better and will continue to improve. Then on the other side, Labour's whole campaign message is that millions of poor families are eeking out a living waiting to be rescued from the oppression of their low wages, zero hours contracts, benefit sanctions and food banks. That simply doesn't describe Britain right now.

What we're seeing is more people in work, fewer people on benefits and government getting to grips with welfare dependency, cutting council waste and getting a handle on the problem of Child Sexual Exploitation. For sure, the welfare bill is going up, the deficit isn't closed and weak growth is being dressed up as a boom, but another term of more of the same might just stop things getting any worse. What categorically will make things worse is Labour.

I know some of you hate Tories, I respect that, but voting Labour or Ukip in May puts this ponderous creature in office. It's a sort of sanitised Blair clone in the early phases of development before they've added the personality subroutines. The hammy mockney accent we're supposed to relate to is bizarre! However urgent you might think it to be rid of Mr Cameron, I really cannot imagine any circumstance where having this automaton proxy in office would be beneficial to the country.

Ghastly spiv though the PM is, these qualities at least let us know he is actually a human born of another human. Whichever test laboratory which unleashed this unfinished Miliband entity has tried to run before it can walk. If they can come back at some point with a finished product it might be worth considering automating the job of Prime Minister but until then we need a human in charge, not whatever this thing is. The thought of that thing working in tandem with Alex Salmond keeps me awake at night.

It's taken me up to the age of 36 to finally realise that politics is a choice between bad and worse. To be remotely satisfied one has to lower your expectations then drastically lower them again. If you then see a party that reaches something close to mediocrity then that is your only choice at the ballot box. It is with that sense of resignation that I support David Cameron. That and one other factor. Having closely examined who Ukip are and what they are, I've had to re-examine much of my own politics and have concluded that I'm not so far from Cameron after all. It seems the Prime Minister has a secret weapon in winning back Ukip voters. It's called Ukip.

Saturday 28 March 2015

The right doesn't want to know the truth about Rotherham

The complaints came in the wake of the Jay Report, which described how 1,400 children, mainly girls, were routinely raped, trafficked and groomed in South Yorkshire between 1997 and 2013

A reader has been kind enough to direct me to the case of Adrian Schoolcraft, a former NYPD officer who secretly recorded police conversations from 2008 to 2009. He brought these tapes to NYPD investigators in October 2009 as evidence of corruption and wrongdoing within the department. He used the tapes as evidence that arrest quotas were leading to police abuses such as wrongful arrests, while the emphasis on fighting crime sometimes resulted in underreporting of crimes to keep the numbers down.

After voicing his concerns, Schoolcraft was reportedly harassed and reassigned to a desk job. After he left work early one day, an ESU unit illegally entered his apartment, physically abducted him and forcibly admitted him to a psychiatric facility, where he was held against his will for six days. In 2010, he released the audio recordings to The Village Voice, leading to the reporting of a multi-part series titled The NYPD Tapes. That same year he filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and Jamaica Hospital. In 2012 The Village Voice reported that a 2010 unpublished report of an internal NYPD investigation found the 81st precinct had evidence of quotas and underreporting.

In spite of this Jamaica Hospital is defending its actions. New documents claim Schoolcraft was so on edge at his Queens home Oct. 31, 2009, that he needed to be hospitalized. Medics described his “paranoid and persecutory delusions because he believed he was being persecuted for having reported his supervisors’ irregularities and corruptive behavior". "They are all against me," he told medics, according to documents. Schoolcraft also allegedly complained of an aching stomach and not feeling well. Thus proving that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

From the beginning to the unresolved end of this case we see the whole of the body corporate closing ranks and excusing itself for gross misconduct. Sound familiar? It should. There are many parallels between this case and Adele Gladman, the former Home Office researcher who describes a bullying culture at Rotherham Council which led to her warnings of child sexual exploitation being suppressed in 2002, years before action was finally taken.
She says the council sent her on race awareness training and effectively suppressed her report. "I had every aspect of my professionalism questioned," she said. "I had every aspect of my work questioned. I had data removed over a weekend so that I couldn't substantiate my findings. Fortunately I had made copies." She says the bullying she faced went beyond the local authority and remembers a police officer approaching her outside her office.

"He and a colleague said words along the lines of 'Wouldn't it be a shame if these perpetrators found out where you and your family lived'. "And I took that as a direct threat to my personal safety. The message was very clear."
This is the only real substantive instance where political correctness is mentioned in the whole debacle, yet we can see it is the proximate tool of suppression rather than the actual reason. But having settled on the lazy narrative, the right have taken their answer and moved on. Meanwhile the work to address the multifarious failings goes on, but is ignored by those who pretend to care about the issue.

This blog has repeatedly made the case that it a multi-agency approach is required to tackle child sexual exploitation. Not only does the Casey report highlight the fact that such an approach is non existent, we find that there is nothing in the inspection regime that looks for the presence of one.
Safeguarding children from criminal predators is not a simple or single agency task. The children are intimidated into silence by their abusers, and the criminals seek to cover their tracks and stay unnoticed. This is why it is a shared task for schools, youth services, the community at large, sexual health clinics, licensing authorities, social workers and, especially, the police, to be watchful and informed. They need to work together to gather information and intelligence about vulnerable young people and the networks of potential perpetrators. They need to be available, accessible and acceptable, with what is being called assertive outreach, so young people can tell and be heard and believed.

But this is not how Ofsted inspects services. Its single inspection framework concentrates on local councils and their social workers. Inspectors are restricted and limited by Ofsted’s methodology when it comes to multi-agency working. In many areas, multi-agency teams and action has developed to protect children and pursue and prosecute offenders, with comprehensive strategies to identify and build contacts and relationships with vulnerable young people. These achievements and progress is likely to go unrecognised by Ofsted.

Recent experience of Ofsted is that safeguarding activity is measured by whether a young person has had a social work assessment. This is not necessarily the most appropriate process for engaging and building relationships and trust with young people and gathering intelligence about what is happening in communities.
Adding weight to this is Rotherham’s director of children’s services who has condemned an “astonishing” lack of engagement by schools to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the borough while urging a greater focus and respect for youth work. Ian Thomas, speaking publicly for the first time since taking the role in January at a CYP Now conference this week, said: “I found it astonishing that in Rotherham, schools see themselves as being outside of the problem, throwing darts at the local authority. That’s the reality of what we’ve been dealing with in Rotherham over the years. “Many of the head teachers will have taught the perpetrators and the victims. One school head has told me point blank he doesn’t have a CSE problem.”

So long Ukip, and thanks for all the laughs

The main story this week has been a sad tale. Plummeting into oblivion with a madman at the controls who won't let anyone else at them, deliberately locking the others out with a single-minded determination to take everybody down with him with absolutely no sense of remorse. And I'm not talking about that Germanwings Airbus.

Rod Liddle too is writing Ukip's epitaph. It won't be the last of its kind and will continue on long after the election. In it we find the usual extruded verbal material, nothing of which is original and has not been noted already. When Ukip does perform far worse than even the most conservative estimates everybody will pile in to point he finger at the media and "the establishment". The blame will be everyone's - except for Ukip.

Since November we have seen Ukip MEPs contradicting each other, bickering, multiple car crashes, a failure to produce a manifesto, all marked by excuse after excuse. We have seen a Ukip website operating wholly independently of any campaign, failing to provide any intellectual substance to the utterances of Farage, not least because Farage plays everything on a whim, thus there is no coordinated campaign or intelligent response to events.

In place of that we have seen Farage sending out dog whistles to the Islam haters and the old right - all of it based on tired and discredited rhetoric, prompting some pretty odious remarks from Kippers who should know better. The net effect of this was to give the Kippers free licence to parade their bigotry at will, making Ukip an angry nativist aggressive mob more likely to drive voters away.

The media has rounded on the laughable policies of Ukip and it has mocked the venality, the corruption, and the stupidity of Ukip's MEPs. And why shouldn't it? But the question must be asked why such low grade and shallow people made it to the top of Ukip. Ukip had plenty professors, doctors, thinkers and doers back in the early nineties. Why doesn't it now? We were told there was extensive professional profiling and interviewing of MEP candidates yet what we ended up with was a gang of halfwits and sycophants - not least Janice "lightfingers" Atkinson. That's no accident. Any big beasts would have been competition for Farage. Farage himself was "surprised" at the actions of Atkinson. I wasn't.

As to strategy, anybody who did the math early on knew that immigration was a loser. All the lessons were spelled out by the rise and fall of the BNP. The lessons were there to be learned - and this blog saw it coming the moment those immigration posters went out. Y'see the thing about taking on "the establishment" is the establishment has the power. Any tactician knows that you never take on a big force head on. You will lose every time.

This is why Ukip needed to have its intellectual arguments, policy and a strategy in place before taking the issues head on. As it happens, it would have been better to go around the issue of immigration because even with good arguments, it's still an issue that won't win elections. Michael Howard proved that much as leader of the Tories. And could Ukip have been accused of racism had it spelled out a detailed and nuanced approach on immigration? Similarly, could Channel 4 have rounded on Ukip in the way it did if it had a detailed Brexit plan?

Having boxed itself in on the issue, Ukip can no longer make a rational, measured case for leaving the EU, having insisted any exit must include an end to free movement of people, sine qua non. That means an end to the single market which in turn means business cannot and will not support Brexit, making an EU referendum a loser before the campaign even started.

Liddle points to a dynamic this blog has likened to the Rite of Sping, with the sacrificial girl being chosen to dance herself to death, but for everyone who wanted to round on Ukip, it was Ukip who kept dishing out the goodies. It takes two to tango.

It is wholly consistent that Ukip will blame everyone else because that's what it takes to be a Ukipper. But for all the scandals, controversies and the lack of policy and substance, it really falls down to the arrogance and ineptitude of one man. Nigel Farage.

It is for this reason I have been vocal in my displeasure that certain vessels have given Ukip house-room, soft-pedalling Nigel Farage, when he was the architect of Ukip's demise. Far from poking the establishment in the eye he has systematically gone about discrediting every good idea, losing every argument and making Brexit a much bigger mountain to climb. If the establishment ever wanted to design a vessel to discredit the ideas of the right, it would look a lot like Ukip.

Liddle indulges in a spot of whataboutery in that the media did not round on the Greens as it did Ukip. But any serious commentator knew the "green surge" was baloney and the Greens never promised to be anything more than an entertaining distraction. Ukip however, had the potential to capitalise on a large cultural constituency which could have held a gun to the establishment's head.

For that reason alone, as a newcomer, it demanded the full attention of the media and close scrutiny. If we are looking at a real revolution in politics we must know if what we are replacing our establishment with is deserving. What we found with a bit of applied pressure was an organisation with no discipline, no ideas, no intellectual capital and conduct that equals if not surpasses that of the establishment in its corruption.

The value of an immovable establishment in politics is continuity and stability. Sometimes it steps over the mark and must be challenged. Ukip in its own blundering way has done that, prompting a little introspection, but the public have rightly concluded that while the establishment must be brought to heel, Ukip is not the party to do it. Ukip has been thwarted, and we should be glad of it. The party that does overcome the establishment will be the party that deserves to.

That said, my schadenfreude at Farage being hounded out of the pub last week was perhaps a tad misplaced. While I think it an inevitable consequence of the path Farage has chosen, if anyone should be chasing Farage out of town, it should be Ukippers. Perhaps they will when they realise what he has done to them. They'd be right to go one further than simply jumping on his car. I would. 

Thursday 26 March 2015

A second look at political correctness

Every now and then when you write on a political subject, one has to refer back to the dictionary definition for a quick sanity check, in that such terms often mean many things to many people. When looking at Political Correctness, it is described as attitude or policy of being careful not to offend or upset any group of people in society who are believed to have a disadvantage.

The notion of the culture war is that PC is being used to undermine domestic culture and to promote "multiculturalism" and to make commonly held perceptions unacceptable in public life so as to control public discourse in such away that it controls the outcome. 

But when we look at Rotherham, there was no desire not to offend anyone - but that has served as a weak excuse for political corruption. As to the descriptive terms in use it's less a matter of being politically correct as being specific and accurate so as not to cause unnecessary offence and also not to reinforce inaccurate and damaging public perceptions. Nowhere in that is anyone prevented from identifying cultures and subcultures and traits common to them. Many debate such difficult subjects without anyone reaching for the race card if the approach it with the necessary accuracy and distinctions.

Some would have it that this exists to sanitise the debate, but I think it enhances it because it rules out the possibility of inaccuracy and broad-stroke assumptions. The resistance to it was when it became known as a concept in the early 90's where the public, they who make up the public services didn't quite understand it and didn't know what they could and couldn't say without being subject to a disciplinary. That's not altogether a bad thing so long as due patience was shown first. Which in most cases with training, I think that has been the case, and those who persist in using inaccurate and stereotypical terms do so from a position of either bigotry or obstinacy neither of which is particularly conducive to the formulation and execution of public policy.

I actually think on the whole it's a good think if people consider what is factually correct and polite before venturing opinions which have repercussions. I don't think it's a great imposition on anyone to ask that they think before they speak, especially in public service. If we are in a position where public officials lack the intelligence to make the distinction then we might question how we get such thick public officials in the first place.

Far from it being a war against the ignorant public, it's a war on casually racist attitudes, and a means of educating the public that there is a higher standard expected in public discourse. A debate has raged about the necessity for that, and coming from a working class part of Bradford, I can make a case that there is. That said, it is a decade old debate and the public, not least the public sector are a lot more familiar with it and a lot more open to the necessity for it than they once were.

And this links in with my earlier piece about the BBC in that it does have a role in educating the public, promoting certain values and changing public attitudes. Some would have it that there is no such need, and I vehemently disagree. London bubble dwellers might think so, but I'm not convinced. But since the BBC also exists within that bubble and its isolated outstation in Salford, it barely interacts with the world it preaches to thus is out of touch and is certainly more than a touch condescending.

But the BBC does do a fairly good job in educating the public, not least informing the immigration debate, as per a recent documentary by Andrew Marr. One might have wished for a more thorough venture, but it at least touched all the bases. With that kind of television it has done a lot to improve perceptions of immigration and contextualise many of the irrational fears about it, which is why public attitudes are changing and it goes some way to explaining why Ukip does not get the traction it otherwise would. 

I'm not sure you could go as far as calling it a culture war, rather an establishment with an ill-deserved impression of it's own superiority. One might ask if that was ever not the case. There appears to be a suspicion by the establishment that without their paternal guidance that the unwashed masses would be incapable of cohabiting, but given the tribal stresses of the 1980's, and the Troubles along with rivalries in Glasgow and the overt racism in Northern towns, that's not an entirely unjustified view, and much of what we see today is a hangover from that era. In some respects that authoritarianism is seeking a revival of its glory days which is why we have Trevor Phillips coming out of the woodwork - looking for relevance in the new order, resurrecting old demons.

But in retrospect, the sum product is a less violent, less racist and more liberal country, where only the throwbacks want things to go back to the way they were, to be able to parade their bigotry in public and not be called out on it. If we can really say there was a culture war, then the liberal establishment won it. I'm rather glad they did. 

It's not what you say...

In answer to the question “What message does your party have for the tens of thousands of people currently forging UK careers in renewables?” Ukip MEP Roger Helmer replies:
“Your jobs cannot be sustained, and are damaging the economy. Start planning to work in real, value-added industries, not in wasteful projects that are little more than gesture politics.” 
Again I find myself in complete agreement. But the way the Mirror spins it tells its own story. There is a good reason why politicians are mealy-mouthed. There are ways to say things and there are ways not to say things. That is an example of how you don't say something. Better to say those jobs should be refocussed on building a fit for purpose grid that delivers value for money on the basis of sanity, not the vanity of politicians. But to tell an entire industry that their jobs are worthless and damaging is hardly the "straight talking" that wins elections. Helmer might have point, but he's still a bloody fool.

There are consequences for lack of political skill - and now Ukip is in the process of discrediting ideas that were gaining traction until Ukip picked them up. And that's Ukip all over.

Bringing it into sharp focus is a valedictory speech by Gordon Brown to the House of Commons. He's misguided and wrong but still dignified and eloquent. In it he speaks of a "common Britishness – a shared belief in tolerance, liberty and fairness that come alive in unique British institutions like the National Health Service and in common policies for social justice – ideas which we have given to the world, but now seem to be losing sight of at home: unifying ideas that we need to champion anew at the core of a common British national purpose that binds us together in a shared future."

I could split hairs and find much to disagree with in his speech, but his words are of a proud and optimistic Britain with a future beyond the confines of our borders. You might call it boilerplate but it has a certain gravitas from an ex Prime Minister, albeit a dreadful one. In just a few short words exalting the virtues of Britain he taps into self-confident idea of Britain, not the shrinking, shrivelling gripes of Ukip.

My own vision would differ to that of Gordon Brown, but it would be spoken in the same spirit. And its easy to see why, as we feel promising signs of economic renewal, there is a cross party rejection of Ukip's throwback ideas. Too bad it has to take down a few good ideas with it. Not least leaving the EU.

Like it or not, the BBC called it right

If anything, from the passions it has sparked, we can fairly say Top Gear is not just a TV show. TG has done a couple of unforgivable things over the years but is still a brilliant TV show and I've seen every episode at least twice. This all actually makes me pretty cross at Clarkson because it's not just about him. It's something more than that and it belongs to everyone in a way. But we do have to look at the impossible position he's put the BBC in. It is the national state broadcaster. It has to live up to a code of ethics and cannot be seen to be showing favour, and I don't see how it could have done anything else but sack him. A huge disappointment and a real shame something so significant has to go out with a whimper and not a bang.

Clarkson has been off the rails in more than a few ways in the midst of a midlife crisis, it's gone to his head and he's assumed he's untouchable. That brings out the very worst qualities in anyone and his abusive manner behind the scenes points to a tolerance of bullying which couldn't be permitted by the BBC. You can tweak the nose of the politically correct, you can even push the boat out now and then but you can't beat up on the junior staff and you can't behave like a petulant thug.

Some are saying it makes no odds to Clarkson in that he can get work elsewhere, which I'm sure he can, but he has to eventually look people in the eye and admit that it was him and his behaviour that killed off the best TV show on the BBC, not the BBC. It's an unenviable position for the BBC to be in to axe their best show and a much loved presenter, and I don't think any such decision would have been taken lightly as if the "PC liberal elite" couldn't wait to push him out the door as some suggest.

The BBC is not a commercial operation and it can't just buy off the staff and brush it under the carpet. It is wholly different and has to balance its commercial imperative with the overall values of the BBC, which despite all that is said about the BBC, it still stands for something. With shows like Doctor Who, Sherlock and all the other smash hits that most people seem to love, it is our primary cultural export, and with that we're exporting British values, British humour, British culture and one thing we hold above all, which is why there is such anger at our political classes, is British fairness. The BBC simply can't uphold any of those values if it will tolerate a bullying spoiled oaf on the basis of how much cash he generates.

This brings to light the necessity to reappraise our jaundiced view of the BBC and remind ourselves just how important it is to promote British culture here and overseas, lest our own culture be absorbed and subjugated by US cultural exports, including US politics which is debasing our own as imported US political culture and debate is transposed onto our own unique society. This country is increasingly liberal about things like abortion, yet we're importing the US debate which is polarised and is in fact irrelevant to British discourse in that we do not have powerful religious vested interests running parties as the US does. We need something to counter US cultural hegemony and we need to keep reminding the Septics now and then that anything they can do, we do better.

In recent years, the BBC has underperformed in that regard and though I have argued for its abolition, I now think twice in that binning the Beeb is cutting our nose off to spite our face. It's time to ask why it's under-performing, and what can be done about it. I don't think carving it up and allowing it to show adverts its progress. Adverts and the commercial imperative is the main reason I can't really cope with television. We don't need to scrap the BBC, we just need it to be a bit more self-aware. It is inappropriately PC, it's comedy is trite and unchallenging and Radio 4 comedy is just left wing propaganda bilge dressed up as entertainment. The BBC needs to admit this and it's right that people to continue to beat it with that stick, but we shouldn't be so hasty to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Any Answers on Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago had a lady on who phoned in to describe how she assisted someone in dying. That confession in itself was extraordinary - and the phone call immediately after made for a disarming, frank and extremely powerful debate. Two composed, eloquent and considered opposing views on a very potent subject discussed at a level unsurpassed by any other media entity. Heart-stopping radio. To hear two ordinary citizens debating at that level really made me proud to be British at that very moment. And the BBC is a big part of what stimulates that culture.

The BBC must walk a fine line all the time, it doesn't always get it right and when it fails it fails badly, but it's time for a recognition of its other virtues and a mature debate about its future and how we can make it continue to serve British interests in the way that it always has. Petulance and dogma gets us nowhere - and significant though Top Gear is, the BBC is about more than just old men playing with toys. We need the BBC because it's integral to our culture and essential in defending it. It's an assertion of who we are as a people and that's why the BBC is so concerned with the BBC representing all of Britain, including grumpy un-PC men. But not by oafs who beat up the staff. That's not part of who we are.

As to who should replace Jezza, front runner is Jodie Kidd. A sexy supermodel obsessed with cars. What's not to like?

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The EU spin machine in action

"Brexit threatens to write-off the booming UK car industry" says Professor David Bailey.
The impact of membership on the UK’s auto industry was explored last year in a detailed report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and KPMG, entitled The UK Automotive Industry and the EU. The study found some big benefits for the UK’s auto industry from staying in the EU, particularly in relation to investment, growth and job creation (all the things that the UK’s auto industry has been enjoying of late).

The report stressed that EU membership boosts both the attractiveness of the UK as a place to invest, and the competitiveness of the domestic automotive industry. Not surprisingly, it notes that access to the Single Market is fundamental to UK auto manufacturing, thereby supporting sales and facilitating supply chain growth.
Readers of this blog will know that the EU is not the single market - but the EU spin machine is keen to have us believe they are one and the same - thus the scare that millions of jobs depend on the EU. It is a nonsense. It should be noted that Bailey himself is funded by the EU. Bailey says:
At the moment, UK-based niche firms like Bentley, Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover can benefit from the British government having a seat at the table when regulations are thrashed out that impact on the industry. They would lose that voice if the UK was no longer a member.
But Bailey has a PhD in Industrial Development Policy in and for a Globalising Economy, yet expects us to believe he doesn't know the EU is not the single market, and that vehicle industry regulations are not made at the EU level but by UNECE and the WP.29 World Forum. That makes him a liar and a propagandist.

Bailey relies on the ignorance of the public to perpetuate these scares knowing that Ukip doesn't understand the origin of EU regulation and will not make that case. Meanwhile Open Europe, the supposedly eurosceptic think tank, is assiduously briefing against the EEA Brexit option because they themselves are not eurosceptic. It is therefore an urgent imperative that we get it out there that global bodies are behind EU regulation, and that the EU takes our seat at the top table instead of us having a direct voice. We must also get it out there that the EU is not the single market.

This morning we heard Richard Branson eulogising the EU on Radio 4, also conflating the EU with the single market, reminiscing how he used to have to pay export tariffs, (when he himself actually dodged VAT on everything) - and this went unchallenged by the BBC. I can't be sure if this is due to deliberate bias by omission from the BBC or just an overall ignorance of what the EU is and how it works. But one thing's for sure, the referendum campaign has already started, and eurosceptics are without informed allies. Sadly too many are distracted by the Farage mirage. That's seriously bad because this is urgent.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Economic babytalk and false promises

Ukip's economic spokesman
It's commonly accepted among virtually everyone I interact with that we need to leave the EU. With that I have no argument. The critical question is how. What we have seen is a procession of ideal world "solutions", all of which fail to address the fact we do not live in an ideal world, we're not going to get everything we want up front, and we are going to have to make certain comprises for mutual benefit.

Leaving the EU doesn't necessarily free up billions to spend on nurses as the idiotic Ukip would have it. This is the economics of infants. Few have really thought about Brexit in the terms that actually accomplishes. It is assumed there will be billions to spend on nurses, billions to spend on defence from ending foreign aid, and jobs aplenty by slamming the doors shut at the borders. Oh, and booming business thanks to a bonfire of regulations. That's Ukip's message. Does that sound even vaguely adult to you?

For a long time saner folk have been banging their heads against a brick wall while Ukip continue to make promises that Brexit alone cannot deliver. Closing the borders doesn't come without a cost and it doesn't come without red tape either. Differing regulatory regimes closes down trade and doubles up red tape for exporters. As to the billions leaving the EU will save, this is a fiction. I can't envisage any scenario where we will not have to cooperate with the EU to curb immigration, not least by tackling the causes of it. Ukip's proposition is a false one, and so pure in its naivety it would be funny - if it weren't coming from the supposedly eurosceptic party.

Even the he IEA understands that Brexit cannot deliver on those terms. "We’ll thrive if we’re open to the world" says Ryan Bourne of the IEA over at City AM. He said "At the border, we would need to maintain a fairly liberal approach to the movement of people, if not the complete free movement of EU citizens we are currently bound by". Amusingly, having made my case for me, he then goes on to eulogise Iain Mansfield's IEA Brexit plan in which Mansfield says "The Government should end the automatic right to free movement to EU citizens and treat future immigration from EU nations in the same way as immigration from outside the EU". Helps if they actually read their own amateur drivel.

But while Ukip and the IEA flail around, struggling with their ignorance, we have Flexcit. As much as Flexcit is a Brexit plan, it is one derived from how we anticipate a referendum battle will be fought. Referendums very often favour the status quo. Anything perceived as change is often met with fear and uncertainty and people change their minds at the last minute. That means there is a massive mountain to climb to win over the public and that means neutralising the tactics of fear, uncertainty and doubt the media will use. 

Big business will fill the airwaves with FUD about "three million jobs" along with all the usual boilerplate scaremongering, but by staying in the EEA (the single market) as Flexcit proposes, it removes that entire argument. That is primarily the point of the EEA option. It makes the referendum a lot easier to win in that we can say it's entirely risk free to business as nothing immediately changes. We can also say it puts us into what we thought we were voting for in 1975 -which DID have a mandate.

If we take their arguments head on, assuming we can deregulate and close the borders then we enter unwinnable arguments (such as the three million jobs meme which still stands to this day), to which even the IEA has only assumptions and optimistic assertions. We are then making promises that Brexit alone simply cannot deliver - and those weak arguments will be demolished. Our model shifts the goalposts and changes the shape of the debate to one which the opposition is not prepared to argue. THAT is the strategic merit of it.

We have to acknowledge that the status quo effect in referendums is what loses referendums, so you have to play to that dynamic to win it, otherwise you're making promises based on guesses and selling ideas it won't deliver. In or out of the EU, regulation isn't going away, nor is globalisation and if you think the establishment is conspiring against Ukip, wait until you see what they do to keep us in the EU. And if hardline libertarians and kippers, with their babytalk and hackneyed liblabconnery make the case for Brexit, making wild and unverifiable claims about what it will achieve, we'll lose it and will deserve to.

Monday 23 March 2015

Boxed in on all sides

I am now confident Ukip will poll less than 10%. The economy is improving and household debt is going up because of improved confidence, where only one in ten according to a new PwC report is in fear of losing their job. And so gearing the Ukip message to the "dispossessed" has proven a pretty poor strategy. Ukip's base is shrinking, making it a party of losers. The boats anchored down so heavily with rage that a rising tide sinks them. 

By sending out dog-whistles to that shrinking demographic it distances Ukip from everybody else - and now it is cornered into making stupid comments on the spot because it has failed to put its intellectual arguments in place.

So now it comes over as an ever so slightly thick, angry nativist party lead by an opportunist - and all the while Ukip branches are playing host to mainland EU MEPs known for their far right activities, while Farage himself prates on about "multiculturalism" (which most normal people perceive as something else entirely), describing Islamists as a fifth column. Listen to the song their rhetoric sings. All the Left have to do is keep pushing at all the sore spots and Ukip walks into the trap time after time.

The net effect of this is that Ukip cannot present any winning arguments and taints good ideas by association thus is actively damaging the very cause it was set up to fight, ie leaving the EU. That is all entirely the doing of Nigel Farage, and it was inevitable this latest nonsense would be the product. It was predictable, it was predicted.

Sticking the knife in further today we have Matts Persson, director of Open Europe, saying "Mr Farage faces some "very difficult political decisions". He said: "You have some questions to answer about exactly what you want to see. Is it a free trading, Hong Kong Britain with very Liberal politics including on migration - or is it what probably most of your [Ukip] voters want, to shut the borders and shut the world out which would mean a loss in terms of Britain's GDP and economic competitiveness?"

But Ukip has now boxed itself in on that question by going up the "take back our borders" cul-de-sac, (and in case you were wondering, this is what it looks like), when even Alan Sked knew this was a dead end. This is why, up until Farage, Ukip was smart enough to go around the subject rather than meeting it head on. Ukip cannot now present a viable case for leaving the EU without making a u-turn on everything it has campaigned on while it has been in the public eye. There is a totally realistic way of achieving Brexit according to Persson's vision, but Ukip have categorically ruled that out. So too has Open Europe by the looks but that's a whole other story.

Now the Brexit camp looks like it's going to have to fight against the perception it is seeking Ukip's empty, backward vision for Britain as well as countering the disingenuous spin of europhiles. And if you were wondering why I detest Nigel Farage... that's why.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Well who didn't see that coming?

You didn't have to be Mystic Meg to see something like this happening. A mob of baying left wing sheep ambushing Farage is probably a new low for the far left in living memory. That, however, is an inevitable consequence of adopting far right rhetoric and pandering to the prejudices of idiots.

The left wing outrage is mainly manufactured in that Ukip is a pastiche of the BNP but it does appear that this is how politics is done these days. A smarter operation than Ukip and a smarter man than Farage would predicted this and chosen a more discreet path.

I can't say I feel any sympathy except for his children - but this isn't the first or last time they will suffer for his spectacular lack of judgement. There was always going to be a price to pay for steering Ukip up the immigration cul-de-sac with such casual abandon and Ukip keeps on having to pay it with interest. 

Saturday 21 March 2015

You will be called a racist if you say racist things

"While on their own facts cannot be racist, the way they are chosen certainly can be" says
"Blaming the Rotherham abuse on a fear of being branded a racist is ludicrous". I could not agree more. Together these two pieces succinctly tie up all of the estimations of this blog and I feel a huge weight lifted knowing I'm not the last sane person on earth.

The fact is that officialdom does has to be careful what it says and how is because of how the media, namely The Daily Mail, wilfully distorts the news agenda providing all the selection bias a self-indoctrinating zealot could ever need to fuel the rage on which they thrive. The details matter, the background matters, the specifics matter - and without them public perceptions are distorted - to the point where it has become a generally conceded point that political correctness was the cause in Rotherham. How relieved the guilty must be. They got away with it.

But this is also not a race issue either. As we discussed just the other day, the same distorted perceptions of MP's exist because of pernicious reporting of the facts and similarly warped percpetions exist about people on benefits on the basis of some carefully selected examples spoonfed to readers on daily basis.

The narrative that people are afraid to say things because they fear they might sound racist is not really true because all the lazy and ugly things have been said on the internet, and where people have called them racist it's because they are racist - or at the very least so indoctrinated they are impervious to new information. Half the reason that dynamic exists is because if you have to admit one perception is wrong then chances are all your perceptions are wrong and then your entire worldview rapidly unravels. I know this because I speak from experience. Anger and hate are very difficult things to let go of. I'm actually a little cross with myself that I spent so many years dancing to their tune.

And it is because that dynamic exists that we get surges from what we call the far right. And now Ukip has all but joined in, exploiting the anger and ignorance of ordinary people to advance Farage's own agenda. What we have seen from Ukip is a lazy and and crass construction of a narrative which is a dog-whistle to Ukippers, and the rage expressed against Hugh Muir in the comments tells you all you need to know. Similarly, a quick browse of the Ukip Reddit page or Kipper Twitter feeds will show up similar. We've seen Ukip spouting 2008 BNP mantras and Kippers on Twitter posting memes about the Prophet Muhammad being a paedophile, along with language that alienates not only Muslims but also anyone with a basic sense of decency.

So yes, we do need to do more to educate the public and about matters of race and culture, we do need to expand the debate and authorities must be cautious in how they acknowledge race sensitive issues because people can and do get the wrong impressions - and the results are toxic. That the race relations industry is inept at doing that is another matter and that's the main reason we should question its existence, but its continued existence does not explain the multifarious failings of systems that should protect people but don't.

But more important than that, we need to educate the public in how the reactionary elements of the media, propped up by pseudo-intellectual contrarians, are stoking up prejudices for their own entertainment, their careers and for their own political agendas. We have already discussed how Ukip is actually the media's own bastard creation and there are games within games we are not even party to. Were I to pick the greater of two evils - government, or our media as it now stands, I would pick the media. The words of



13%. Despite everything that's said, that is Ukip's national polling. While true believers hold firm, the fact remains that despite all the issues out there, and the near desperation of voters for a sensible and respectable alternative, when asked about which parties they would vote for, very few want the Ukip option.

The only people for whom that statistic doesn't seem to get through, is a tiny, hard core, vocal minority, who dominate internet debates, who are Ukip because they dislike the system and the establishment parties more than most. It just doesn't register with them why Ukip is unable to breakthrough and why it has become the most hated party with the most hated leader.

It's a dustbin for ranty, foamy kippers. Spiteful, unhinged, unpleasant cranks who basically think Anders Breivik was right - and get aggressive at even moderate criticism of Ukip, making enemies of people eurosceptics need to win a referendum. Any party that attracts such misanthropic losers should be treated with deep suspicion. As crappy as establishment politics is, I don't want people like that in office. These days there is not a fagpapers distance between the rhetoric of the BNP and Ukippers as they are today. Farage is just the sanitised front for it.

Ukip's message is based on anger and resentment - and that is its cultural constituency. It says nothing to those ordinary folks now in jobs on higher than ever salaries, doing well and getting on with life - And that's a very big constituency these days. The shrivelled and retreating message of Ukip can't win. And it doesn't deserve to.

All this "liebore", "LibLabCon", "EUSSR" crap is hackneyed, aggressive babytalk. It's the language of losers, and it's the language of zealots. Any reasonable, normal person looks at that stuff and thinks "wanker".  And rightly so. And thus every time a kipper makes the case for Brexit, it becomes the politics of wankers. Now everything they touch turns shit and good ideas are discredited by association. We can really do without it.

If you are really are serious about leaving the EU, you need to tell the Farage cult to Foxtrot Oscar.