antisocial media

One early episode of The Simpsons – maybe even the very first – showed Homer attempt to throw away the family television on the advice of Marvin Monroe. Crudely drawn and not particularly funny, the episode is also ludicrously unrealistic. Homer would no more give up TV than Duff or hotdogs.

Rather than giving up the idiot box, it has given up me. Or given up on me: my eleven year old TV/DVD combo finally stopped working earlier this month. Visiting my house recently has been a course in regression therapy; no television, no internet access. I would be a perfect candidate for David Mitchell’s “The Bubble”, although I would not be able to watch the final result. It could be edited to suggest I wasn’t there at all; or contributed nothing to the programme other than staring with desperate eyes at Victoria Coren (oh come on, she’s bound to me on, it’s a panel show).

Not having television only began to become quite annoying after the general election campaign, proof that being within the election process puts a person off the whole thing for life. It’s not just missing the football (or even cricket) that has started the process of growing tetchy at the empty box in the corner of the room. Rather than flipping open the laptop to discuss the provisional England team or the new Foals album, or whatever it was I used to do after work, (I’ll hear nothing about spending hours playing Runescape. It just didn’t….Well, okay, once. More than once. Shut up, I’ve lost my train of thought….)

….Football, yes, that’s it. I spent an hour or so putting up with Mark Bright on Radio 5 Live making the case for Glen Johnson, followed by a man whose voice I couldn’t place arguing that Phil Jagielka could still be an outside bet for South Africa. Unlike the talking heads on Sky Sports News (usually a couple of Chelsea players who last put on the shirt in 1987 and are even too Z-list for Question of Sport), I had no other option but to keep on listening. Unless it’s late enough to switch to Radio 4, channel hopping isn’t an option. It’s an analogue radio, for one, complete with competing frequencies bleeding into whatever I’m listening to; it’s like listening to the radio on acid, presenters voices turning into knife-sharp Dalek noises.

(All that said, is there still an outside chance for Villa’s Agbonlahor? Okay, okay, I know he has “Walcott Disorder”, combining a sprinter’s pace with all the shot of accuracy of a NATO bomber over Serbia, I’m a traditionalist with forwards….)

Listening to recent events on the radio only adds a certain atmospheric flavour. Athens and Bangkok going up in flames has all description and atmosphere of a radio play. I fall asleep to Radio 4, waking up to the final broadcasts of the World Service before the Shipping Forecast. In short, I’m going slowly insane. One more night where dreams are infected by the commentary of South Asian farming communities or interviews with Bulgaria’s most high-profile opposition backbencher, and I may very well go on a rampage.

It’s not that I ignore the bigger pictures here – Britain has far too many low- and middle- income earners who cannot afford digital television or access to broadband internet, and the previous Labour Government failed to do anything about our lobsided telecommunications industry stifling the introduction of superfast broadband – it’s just after a month of not having even the chance to slump in front of Come Dine With Me has finally taken its toll. I am going to start taking brisk walks around town or cleaning up more often or something else equally out of character.

All things being well – and my financial state means, this could be a lofty boast – I should be purchasing a new netbook in two weeks time. Until then, no iPlayer, no messageboards, no late night MSN sessions sharing 80s theme tunes with my mates (what do you mean, ‘how old am I?’). From a distance, maybe it seems like a good thing, not having any access to the world outside bar the crackle and hiss of an analogue radio. Thing is, I know what not to be romantic about, and this sure ain’t a situation I want to fall in love with.

and in other news…

North Korea news, first. It would be quite typical – if slightly scary, all told – if the latest nuclear development news from the Peoples Republic was missed out because of some gossip or publicity puff-piece on the Western Media.

(Unless, writes a cynic, we’re not supposed to know about Kim’s nuclear ambitions?)

A mate of mine supposed that, if the growing rumours about the skining of the Cheonan turn out true, if the attack was an initial attempt at a coup d’état, such as they are permitted in the North? Not that those responsible may be around any more

[cf. Russia ‘casting adrift’ Somalian pirates. Hint hint. Ahem cough. Aitchoo.]

For no other reason than it’s rather funny, let’s all laugh at Real Madrid for a bit.

(And then boo at Atletico. Watched the Europa League final at the fourth pub of asking, thought Fulham’s equaliser had all the hallmarks of a Woy Comeback Special…only for Forlán to completely spoil my pint of something-real-ale-I-forget-the-name. As it goes, the pub was worth three shakes of the head and befuddled looks on the faces of bar-staff who hadn’t imagined anyone would have actually wanted to watch the game.)

Whilst at work recently, it was proposed to me that all terrorist attacks in this country are set by “all these immigrants coming in, taking our money, then blowing themselves up” (sic, sic, and indeed sic). News that white supremacists were potentially only weeks from causing “carnage” is a reminder that idiots and extremists abound from all corners of life. Ignorance clearly has no care for colour (although, of course, the previous Government’s kneejerk immigration and crime legislation makes black and Asian Britons more likely to be stopped for questioning than white Britons, a point which may underline why the assumption in the minds of some people that “they are all the same”).

Some lighter relief. There’s the one and only way to deal with a Ferrari after its MOT.

My commute into work just got that little bit harder….

And finally….there’s an answer to that ever vexing Middle East problem


A new dawn has broken…has it not?

The country has got what it voted for, Labour defeated and LibDem policies at the heart of Government. Nick Clegg, Deputy PM? Vince “Fibre Optic” Cable in charge of banking reform? Is this the real life, or just a fantasy?

It is, of course, the result of the historic Conservative/LibDem coalition, replacing Labour’s 13 years of peaks-and-troughs (sorry, boom-and-bust). The final legacy of Gordon Brown – a surge in unemployment – just indicates the challenge ahead.

Labour’s final record really is abysmal. Record government borrowing, massive public debt into which millions must be poured immediately to avoid a Greece-style meltdown.

Of course things are going to be tough, I am not hiding from the facts. Sadly, I guess VAT is going to have to rise, and local government funding will be cut in such a way that some sacred cows will have to see the action end of many knives. Something must be done to steady the ship; we as a nation cannot continue to overspend. While billions of tax payers money shores up the banks, the companies make mammoth profits and dish out mega-bonuses. This cannot continue. Let me borrow a phrase from our new Prime Minister; we cannot go on like this.

I have no doubt that Nick Clegg’s fairness agenda has a place in the centre of this new coalition. Look at some of the agreed policy decisions; the phasing in of the £10,000 income allowance, scrapping ID cards, scrapping the planned NI increase, reviewing the DNA database, enhancing freedom of information, scrapping the planned inheritance tax changes, promising a fully elected House of Lords…

I remain a loyal Liberal Democrat, and a liberal from top-to-toe. There is no point in being stuck in the past, using the Conservative Party’s previous lives as some kind of stick with which to beat the present. Using “Thatcher!” as a warning from history is no more useful in 2010 as my use of “Winter of Discontent!”. I am frustrated that this new administration is not being given a chance. The problems put upon this country by Labour’s 13 years cannot be covered up by the catch-all phrase “Global Recession”. It’s like the Family Guy episode where Lois whips up a crowd with the words “Nine Eleven”.

This new Government already shows great promise. The challenges are going to be tough, of course they are, and when errors are made there is no doubt I will comment on them. But this country could well plunge into deeper trouble if the exhausted, bankrupt Labour Party are given half a chance to return too soon.

Election 2010 – solitaire on speed

British elections have been known to throw up some unexpected, unusual results in the past – “They’ve elected a Labour government! The public will never stand for this…” – but polling day 2010 is something else entirely. It’s not just a shake-up of the political map; this was a deconstruction. When you order a bacon and egg sandwich, you do not expect to receive two thin slices of toasted brioche, a poached quails egg, slivers of Prosciutto, atop droplets of a tomato and basil jus….

Well, that is what seems to have happened on May 6th….

No patterns emerged. The anti-everything vote saw the Greens win Brighton Pavilion, their first ever MP; but saw both independents in Wyre Forest and Blaenau Gwent lose. George Galloway failed in his attempt to be re-elected; so did Esther Rantzen, who at one point was favourite to win Luton South. She barely reached 2,000 votes.

The north-east stuck solidly Labour, as would be expected. But hang on, there’s Redcar (REDCAR!), former seat of Mo Mowlam now LibDem controlled, the 2010 equivalent of Hove in 1997.

(It was Jeremy Paxman who spotted it first, in 1997, seeing “LABOUR GAIN HOVE” run across the bottom of his screen. “Are your ready to drink hemlock, yet, Mr Portillo?” )

The BNP were roundly, soundly, fantastically, undeniably defeated, struck down by sense and reason, hope not hate.

And now there is the hung parliament situation, with “grubby 1970s style deals”, to use the Daily Mail phrase. Nothing of the sort, of course, but then again Nick Clegg isn’t a baby eating Nazi. As Clegg has consistently said throughout the campaign, the party with the most votes and seats has been given the mandate to attempt to form a government. I still agree with Nick. The Conservatives won more votes and seats, Labour lost nearly 90 along the way, Gordon Brown cannot claim to have the moral argument on his side, never mind the mathematical one.

Simon Hughes told Radio 4 this morning that Tory and LibDem ideologies are, by their very nature, different. He sounded concerned, although not enough to put any credence to the rumours that he is about to defect to Labour.

In this new age, without a uniform swing, the idea that any party can exist in isolation is outdated nonsense. The choices Nick Clegg has to make this year are hard; our party does not have everything dove-tailed with the Conservatives, and the electoral arithmetic makes it almost impossible to join with Labour. Compromise and consensus are the watchwords; blind ideology has no place in this reshaped political situation.

I want Clegg to push through our fairness agenda into the governance of the country, whoever is ultimately in charge. Supporting a Conservative administration will be difficult for some to take; we may lose votes in the short-term, we may have arguments with our supporters and members to contend with in the coming months. Britain needs help – our economy is suffering after years of Labour misrule. Change is a concept, not just a word or slogan, and although there could yet still be a Labour minority administration, I just cannot support Brown continuing to run the country.

This mad, crazy sport of politics often elbows from the centre of the screen the real issues; there are people, employees, mothers, doctors, teachers, students, who need to know there is a government focusing on their needs. The closed doors behind which the talks are happening need to be opened soon. Whatever happens, let’s get on with running the country.

Election 2010 – my prediction

It’s all over bar the postal vote rigging allegations, and injury claims against RisoGraph manufacturers.

History will decide which factors from this election will fade into footnotes – the arguments over the increase in National Insurance, Mrs Duffy, the strength of Peter Hain’s tan…What matters now is the direction of the country after May 6th. From the real truth on public spending and how to slow down the rate of Government borrowing, through to the consequences closer to the home of the ongoing Greek financial crisis and relations with the USA and Russia, this country is facing one of its most uncertain futures. A vote tomorrow could change your life in a way no election has done for a generation.

This election has had many highlights, especially for Liberal Democrat supporters. But the important day is tomorrow – not the “I Love Nick” memes or anecdotes about meeting black men or Alex Salmond whinging like a drunk on a platform; the simple act of a “X” on a piece of paper could well decide the fate of millions.

I have never known an election like it. So predicting the result was never going to be easy. With my finger in the air, the runes and stars consulted, tea-leaves studied, and such like, my gut feeling is below….Let us see what happens when the real votes are counted at 10pm….

CONSERVATIVE 35% (BBC Prediction – 238 seats, Electoral Calculus Prediction – 241)
LABOUR 33% (BBC 310 , EC 305)
LIB DEM 25% (BBC 73 , EC 73)
Others 7% (BBC 29, EC 13)

BBC – LABOUR Short by 16 EC – LABOUR Short by 21