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Archive for April, 2010

Those of you of a creative disposition may be interested to know that the theatre company Supporting Wall have commissioned the first five plays of a new Parliament.

For those not familiar with them, Supporting Wall are a small but exciting company of players who have received rave reviews for their production Moonfleece, an exploration of the inner-city, urban-myth psychology of BNP activism.

In an exciting experiment in political theatre, all five plays will be written, cast and rehearsed within twenty-four hours of the polls closing. The one-off performance will be at 8pm on the 8th May at the New Players Theatre.

Those playwrights announced so far include:

  • Che Walker (The Frontline, Been So Long);
  • Rex Obano (Slaves);
  • Anders Lustgarten (A Day at the Racists);
  • Phil Willmott (director of Once Upon a Time at the Adephi)

Tickets are £10 each and are available online or by calling 020 7478 0135 (Soho Theatre)/08444 771 000 (TicketWeb). All profits will be donated to the Hansard Sociey.

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Having posted on eagle-eyed web-watchers spotting the Daily Mail manipulating their polls to ensure Cameron won the debate, reports are appearing of The Sun manipulating its polling information by withholding data that contradicts the pro-Cameron political message it wants to send.

View London reports:

“The unpublished poll showed that if people believed the Lib Dems had a significant chance of winning the election they would get 49 per cent of the vote, compared to 25 per cent for the Tories and 19 per cent for Labour.”

i see this as an obvious challenge to Liberal Democrats and their Rage supporters the length and breadth of the country.

Get yourself to a seat with serious Lib Dem prospects, campaign yourself into the ground until polls close on May 6th – and show the electorate exactly how serious Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats are about securing fundamental and lasting change.

And in the process thoroughly enjoy watching the Barclays-Murdoch-Rothermere press froth and foam and howl as ordinary people reclaim their election from what Bibi van der Zee describes as “a small collection of white middle-aged men in bunkers in London…”

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Further to my post earlier today on the dark machinations of the Barclays-Murdoch-Rothermere media establishment, it would appear that the media mischief continues.

The Daily Mail has been caught out by sharp-eyed web-watchers, rigging its online debate  poll against Nick Clegg. It appears that as the Mail’s debate poll was showing a colossal lead for Nick Clegg, someone took the decision to pull it and start over.

Check out this blog post here for a more detailed account. Pay particular attention to the screen shots and remember you can never trust a word you read in the papers of these desperate men…

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“He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—‘The horror! The horror!’”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

The sudden surge in support for the Liberal Democrats was accompanied, predictably, and properly, by increased scrutiny of the party and its policies.

However, until the television debates, breaking up the self-serving establishment consensus between Labour and the Tories on the one hand, and Fleet Street’s finest on the other, was not regarded as a real likelihood in any election. The balance of probabilities afforded the mainstream media the opportunity to to relax into complacent clichés about the Liberal Democrats, from gentle teasing about beards and sandals to attempts to portray them as out of touch loonies.

Nick Clegg’s clear and robust presentation of the Liberal Democrats’ key proposals has put paid to both those tired canards – and the likes of the Barclays, Murdoch and Rothermere are now in a blind panic for two reasons. Firstly, Cameron, their favoured son, is not walking it, despite the combined might of their media empires and Labour’s dismal record in Government. Secondly, they have woken up to the fact that they have absolutely no handle on Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, and the grass roots-led political insurgency that is threatening to take this election out of the clutches of the press and hand it back to the voter. (And if anyone believes that rumours of political interference are exaggerated, remember Murdoch’s explicit admission of political editorial control in his newspapers.)

Their panic became very clear in the headlines of the last forty-eight hours.  The Telegraph screamed sleaze in 9/11 point headlines about donations that were properly accounted for and properly spent, insinuating that Clegg had pocketed the cash. (Amusingly, the subsequent debunking of this particular untruth revealed that Clegg actually paid out more money than he received.) At the same time, the Daily Mail attempted, outrageously, to slur Clegg with Nazi allusions. (The hypocrisy of the Mail is breath-taking – you may remember their “outrage” when they attacked Chris Huhne for  condemning William Hague and the Conservative Party for the Tories’ European associations with right-wing homophobes and climate change-deniers.)

To what extent are we to believe Tory denials of involvement in any conspiracy to smear Nick Clegg?

Not at all, if Nick Robinson is to be believed. He wrote on his blog last night:

“I now learn that political reporters from the Tory-backing papers were called in one by one to discuss how Team Cameron would deal with “Cleggmania” and to be offered Tory HQ’s favourite titbits about the Lib Dems – much of which appears in today’s papers.”

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a brutal analysis of man’s duality and the conflict between the idealistic projection of civilised values and the savage reality of desperate men. If Nick Clegg on a resurgent Liberal tide is the Barclays-Murdoch-Rothermere Establishment’s nightmare vision, then yesterday’s headlines are the result of his media henchmen attempting to fulfil the political equivalent of Kurtz’s scribbled instruction: “Exterminate the brutes!”

Perhaps this is what lay behind the showdown at the offices of The Independent, when Murdoch’s son, James, and News International stooge Rebekah Brooks (formerly Wade), stormed in carrying copies of the Independent and its wrap-around advert proclaiming “Murdoch won’t decide this election – you will.” One experienced journalist described the episode as being “like a scene out of Dodge City”. Very interestingly, the Guardian reports that the Indy showdown was preceded by a meeting between the Murdoch and Rothermere camps.

They should beware.

Those who remember Conrad’s book, or are familiar with its allegorical Vietnam War reinterpretation Apocalypse Now, will know how this story ends: with Kurtz’s isolation precipitating a descent into a destructive madness of self-obsession and self-aggrandisement, rendering him even more irrelevant to the world around him.

Life in the political wilderness and isolation from political civilisation destroying these faux-mythical beasts of the media Establishment?

As Michael Wolff writes of Murdoch’s flailing around: “this is one way for empires to end”.

Let’s hope.

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Yet another refreshing twist of this election campaign is the way that Twitter has provided a ready platform for creative expression in the moment. Ironic comment has long been the preserve of columnists, writers and the chattering classes. Twitter particularly has also allowed ordinary people to demonstrate they are more than capable of cutting wit and irony – and in a deliciously mischievous twist have sought to parody the attacks of the Tory press.

The Tories may have thought that they were being clever by briefing the Rothermere and Murdoch press to smear Nick Clegg. Reassuringly, however, the backlash against the smears started online almost immediately, with savvy voters seeing straight through an obvious dirty-tricks campaign and starting an ironic hash-tag #nickcleggsfault for Tweets attributing the world’s ills to Nick Clegg.

Here are some of those I liked best that ran with the #nickcleggsfault tag:

“Beethoven and Mahler didn’t complete their 10th symphonies #nickcleggsfault”

“Goose dying in Top Gun #nickcleggsfault”

“Haven’t done any of the work I was supposed to do… It’s #nickcleggsfault”

“Kennedy assassination. New footage confirms hidden gunman on grassy knoll is Nick Clegg. #nickcleggsfault”

And my personal favourite?

“Nick Clegg was seen two weeks ago poking Eyjafjallajokull with a stick #nickcleggsfault”

If you’ve spotted any others you like, please feel free to share… 🙂

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Interesting news from Luton South where Esther Rantzen is running a campaign to clean-up politics following the atrocious abuse of expenses by Labour’s Margaret Moran.

Whilst I am always keen to see people get involved in politics, in all parties and none, celebrities throwing their hat into the ring, seeking to trade on that celebrity, always raise my hackles slightly. I accept that is quite possibly unfair, as I know Rantzen is involved in some very worthwhile causes, like Childline.

She has set out her stall very clearly on her website:

  • “The recent past has shattered our trust in our Parliamentary system. It is crucial now to change things for the better.”
  • “I promise I will work for you transparently and with integrity and you can hold me to account…”

Transparency and integrity is about honesty in the conduct of your politics. If you present yourself in that way, you should conduct your campaign in that way.

Strange, then, that Rantzen should be found out by Luton Liberal Democrats for her own attempts to mislead the viewing public. I presume she was attempting to present herself as more popular than she is for a piece on ITN News, taking down Liberal Democrat posters and replacing them with her own.  Take a look at Andy Strange’s blog for a fuller account.

It is a curious and rather sad incident that has reinforced my dislike of that bulldozer sense of entitlement which often accompanies celebrity forays into politics. To my mind, “transparency” and “integrity” do not sit comfortably with the blatant distortion of other people’s political views, solely to further your own interests.

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Robert Maynard Hutchins once opined that “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

As this General Election began, there was every chance that it would be just another painfully lingering stage in the atrophication of our politics. Even those of us who have been a part of the reforming insurgency for years have felt alienated from our own political processes, disenfranchised by constitutional arrangements which have advantaged a cosy establishment deal for sixty-five years. For decades we have been told by the Labour and Conservative parties what our democratic choice is. It is a political narrative that has been reinforced by a media establishment that, as David Yelland rightly pointed out on Sunday, has become indistinguishable from those two old parties.

The television debates have changed everything.

By giving Nick Clegg the exposure that the Liberal Democrats have sought for years, they have shown that there is a credible third choice. They have revealed, comprehensively, that the Liberal Democrats can survive appropriately intense levels of public scrutiny, outside of the exhausted – and exhausting – monologuing of Brown and Cameron.

However the debates are only half of this extraordinary political story.

The Rage Against The Election Facebook Group is symbolic of the other.

The debates have combined with the democratisation of comment through mediums like Facebook and Twitter to demonstrate exactly why Labour and the Conservatives were right to fear offering choice to voters: people want to make their own minds up.

Voters are sick to the back teeth of smug politicians ignoring their fears and concerns, whilst abusing expenses paid for by the taxpayer.

They are no longer prepared to be told how it has to be.

Labour and Tory politicians, and their media conglomerate friends, have always been very quick to scoff at the idea that people are interested in subjects as dry as reform of the way we vote. Very late in the day, and terrified of the implications of a huge surge in support for a reforming third party, they are now waking up to the fact that, in an era where people expect there to be clarity, logic and fairness in the decision-making process, the electorate are far more sophisticated than they had hoped. Even more terrifying for parties that have thrived on being able to control the political message, they are terrified that people now have the tools to express their anger.

I wonder what that anger will look like if the creaking constitutional arrangements that inform our decrepit voting system fail to reflect their wishes?

Tom Stoppard once wrote “It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting.” He could not be more right and Vernon Bogdanor, writing in today’s Telegraph, shows how comprehensively our electoral system could fail an electorate that is determined to change the way in which politics is done in Britain. The Conservative manifesto proclaims support for the system on the basis that “it gives voters the chance to kick out a government they are fed up with.”

Oh yeah?

As he points out, on current projections, “In some polls, Labour is pushed into third place. But, through the quirks of the electoral system, the party could still win the most seats…”

People are not stupid. More over, as Stoppard identified, it’s the counting that matters.

The fundamental misjudgement that commentators make is to think that people, particularly young people, are disinterested in voting.

They are not.

They are disinterested in a rotten and unrepresentative politics that ignores them.

In fact, young people are some of the most savvy, discerning and committed voters, doing so on a regular basis. Crucially, the vehicle for their engagement, like the debates, is television. And worryingly, for Brown and Cameron at least, they expect the result to reflect how they vote.

Remember the reaction to allegations of vote-rigging on X-Factor and Big Brother?

If Labour get least votes, but end up with most seats, I can’t believe their won’t be fury  at what could only be described as constitutional vote-rigging. Just as importantly, the Tories’ defence of the status quo, that has served them so well in the past, will be demolished by an absurd and outrageous political reality.

Vernon Bogdanor asks “Is first-past-the-post on its last legs?”

Even before May 6th, Rage Against The Election suggests the answer is a damning yes.

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