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Saturday, 20 March 2010

Who is David Rowland?

Unless you're a Conservative Party insider or a City trader, I'll bet you've never heard of David Rowland. Number 66 on the Sunday Times rich list, the son of a scrap metal dealer who left his comprehensive school without a single 'O' level, Rowland is currently the Conservative Party's largest donor. The following graphic from The Economist is illuminating;

As the combined membership of the three main parties has now fallen below 1% of the electorate and the three have now become centralised 'brands' rather than mass-membership political movements so each is increasingly dependent on a small number of large donations. The consequences of this are interesting.

Smaller parties or brand-new parties now don't need a substantial national membership to compete - just a few wealthy donors and enough local activists to fill a small shop. Thus one of the most substantial 'barriers to entry' into UK politics is being rapidly eroded. This isn't a bad thing. Secondly, an ideology is no longer necessary for a political party, just an appealing brand identity. The influencing skills of large marketing firms have overtaken the zeal of ideological followers in importance. Once you've found the brand icon, the coke bottle, that connects with the public consciousness you're more than half way there. This is a bad thing.

Whilst few would lie in front of a train to defend the survival of the three main parties, this evolution also poses obvious dangers for our democracy. £5m a year to buy Britain's government is peanuts to a foreign power, even a small one. And there's no such thing as an unencumbered donation, as Brown found to his cost this week, unable at the despatch box to condemn the BA strikers.

Cameron of course is willing to forego the large donations, and a £50k cap on individual gifts is a smart move for his party. Labour's continued blocking of this move for wholly selfish party interests also places the health of our democracy at risk. If Cameron wins this election, along with equalising the electoral quotient and combing-out the corrupt electoral registers, legislating to limit individual political donations would be the mark of a government truly committed to the reform of our corrupt and unhealthy political system.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Not much of a servant in the Squeaker

The Speaker is the servant of the House, not its master. It is not a role that comes easily to 'I wanna be a sleb' Squeaker John Bercow. You see, he's a small man, and I've had the same nonsense from small men for most of my working life.

As a big chap I'm a bit like a benign Labrador. Children can pull my tail, cats can chase me away from my food bowl and I regard it all with good-natured tolerance. Even when little, irritating, yappy dog-things with delusions of alpha-dogness run around my legs yap-yapping away, I'm rarely tempted to swallow them. Bercow is one of those irritating little yappy dog-things, obsessed with alpha-male status. Like most small men, he means trouble. I'll always avoid having a small man on my design teams these days; they're always more likely to cause discord than big men.

Tip for MPs; when you elect the next speaker, if they're male, make sure they're over 5'9" tall.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Unions should recruit BNP members, says Guardian editor

For anyone who has seen the London Transport recruitment poster from the 1950s that declared unequivocally 'We don't employ blacks' (though they were forced to, when their deal with the Unions to have an all-white LT labour force left the capital without enough bus and tube crews), or anyone familiar with the Trade Unions' long history of excluding ethnic minorities and women from the white, male workplace, there are obvious parallels between the unions and the BNP.

Both are far-left wing authoritarian organisations, committed to central State command and control, restriction of free markets and both are profoundly illiberal.

So when the Guardian's diary editor Hugh Muir writes in this morning's paper that;
Look at constituency parties up and down the country and it is clear that the party has hollowed out. The unions and many of the sorts on the left despised by New Labour provided the link for the party to operate in many poorer, inner-city communities. New Labour cut the cord and in so doing left those communities to drift.
To drift - and to join the BNP in record numbers, as New Labour were deaf to the voices of 'the sorts of the left'.

Muir is right. The unreconstructed old-left still lives, and can barely restrain itself from uttering when meeting Ms Harman "Cup of tea please Luv, two sugars". No doubt in darkest Lancashire the phrase 'Nig Nogs' still lives alongside 'Comrade' and 'Brother'. The Unions and the BNP are natural bedfellows. Why split Labour's core vote?

Same Old Labour - Spin, lies, distortion and omission

At 00.01 this morning, the Home Office announced a major new initiative in tackling knife and youth crime. Actually, it was an old initiative. And, er, funded only to the tune of £5m across the country, which is absolute peanuts. OK, let's start again.

At 00.01 this morning, the Home Office announced a minor continuation of an old initiative that has not succeeded in tackling knife and youth crime. Ah, you say, but the press release is filled with selective statistics from 2008 / 09 showing how successful Labour has been in reducing youth crime. It may be a minor initiative, and it may be an old initiative, but surely it's working?

Why, in that case, has the government embargoed the publication of the Youth Justice Board's annual summary of youth crime stats for 2008 / 09, due to be published in March 2010, but delayed until the Autumn for reasons that have left Home Office civil servants squirming in embarrassment at the lameness of the excuses they have been forced to make? The Indie has the story here. Surely, if youth crime has fallen, they'd be eager to publish the evidence?

Same Old Labour. Same old spin, lies, distortion, omission and misrepresentation. Brown's government are so twisted in lying and mendacity that I doubt even they can keep track of the truth any more. What a way to run the country.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Apple Corp bans naked Huns

The Hun, as I've mentioned before, once the age of forty is reached will disrobe at the slightest encouragement. Naked Huns are as ubiquitous to mittel-Europe as Coke and Hershey bars to middle America. There's nothing sexual about this; it's about communing with nature and the pine forests, and embarrassing their teenage children.

So what happens in a global world when the naked Hun meets the Puritan New-worlder? The Americans don't mind sex, just as long as nudity isn't involved. Americans certainly don't like the idea of body hair, either; as Updike has pointed out, American women spend their years not only eliminating every trace of body hair, but every hint of natural human scent, believing that the Barbie doll is exactly what a woman should look like without clothes. The Germans not only sprout abundant body hair all over their generous frames, but are often subtly scented with overtones of pork and breast-milk.

So Apple has banned naked Huns. Or rather, banned 'apps' that feature naked Huns from the iPhone. And the Germans aren't happy. Being naked is a basic human right if you're German.

American cultural hegemony or simple good taste? You decide.

Quote of the week

From Norman Tebbit's column in the Telegraph;

Immigrants who don't assimilate aren't immigrants, they're colonists

Monday, 15 March 2010

Back to the '70s with Unite-Labour?

The Unite-Labour party (and it's fair to call it that; Unite sponsors 60 Labour MPs and the coming election will see scores of union officials standing for safe Labour seats) will probably not return to beer-and-sandwiches at Number 10. Co-op own brand mineral water and Polenta Patties, maybe. But the fact is, Brown's Labour are trying like mad to distance themselves from the unreconstructed 1970s union. Too late. They pay the piper, they call the tunes.

Looking at Unite's website, one really does get a feel for '70s retro. "Media as a political weapon", "Sisterhood, solidarity and socialism" (with Sister Joyce Moloi-Moropa MP [ANC]) and the evergreen "Free Columbian political prisoners". Jack Dromey, soon to be Jack Dromey MP after successfully passing Unite-Labour's all-women shortlist requirement, is shown leading a mob of demonstrating strikers. All that's lacking is Nanny Ashton leading a "Wombs against the Bomb" sit-in at the LSE.

But don't be misled. Union power is very different now from the clout they wielded in the 1970s;

UK Union membership
1970 - 45%
1990 - 39%
1998 - 30%
2009 - 25%

There are several reasons for this including globalisation, Mrs Thatcher, immigration and a shift from Fordist to post-Fordist employment structures. Perhaps the greatest impact in recent years has been the deregulation of the legal services market. An aggrieved employee with an ounce of nous these days goes straight to an employment law specialist solicitor who can take the case under a Conditional Fee Arrangement (CFA), at frightening cost to the employer, far worse than any approach from the Comrade District General Secretary of the Amalgamated Arseshufflers Union.

Still, we're seeing a little demonstration by Unite to make clear to the NEC who will actually run the new Unite-Labour party. So BA will strike at Easter, and Bob Crow will take his RMT members out at the same time. The Civil Service has already been on strike for two days, but no-one noticed.

I think I'll sort through the old vinyl this evening to pull out some Bread, Hall & Oates, some vintage Steely Dan, and have a look on eBay for some black velvet loons and cheesecloth shirts. I rather liked the late '70s ....

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Rage ascendant

There's a lot of anger about. Yesterday morning in the corner store stubbly track-suit man came in for his 'Sun', saw a queue of three for the till and left his twenty pee on the counter. The Sri-Lankan checkout girl tried to give it back to him, motioning him to join the queue. Suddenly he exploded with rage; "I'm not queueing! You've got your money!" and stalked out. It woke us all up. It even woke the Nigerian security guard up.

In the office I caught a senior colleague, a man known for his equable temperament, kicking the photocopier, jammed with papers he needed for a meeting for which he was already late. The IT manager is having a breakdown and his PA fields phone calls with 'he's gone home sick' with increasing frequency; abusive emails have mushroomed recently as work pressures mount and the office systems are unequal to the task.

On the train last week, as a large baby buggy blocked much of the door zone during the rush hour, a professional thirty something bloke squeezing into the available space looked directly at the guilty mum and asked "Oh for f...s sake! How sensible is this?" to which there was no reply. We've all been harassed and inconvenienced by 'buggy rights' for years now, but this was the first time I'd heard anyone fight back.

This was also the week in which with my red pencil I'd removed £40k's worth of ludicrous self-indulgent crap from a construction drawing, bling geared only to the designer's portfolio photograph on completion, not to the client's needs or the prescriptive design brief I'd issued. The architect was incandescent with rage and sent me a very foolish email. I replied that I was perfectly willing to determine his contract immediately, and would he prepare a final fee account. Cue abject grovelling from his partners over the course of the afternoon.

In Tesco last week, bag-rationing led to a massive row three tills down. The store is apparently issuing each till with a box of free bags a day, and once these are gone customers are asked to pay 9p each for a 'bag for life'. An Afro-Carib granny wasn't standing for it. The supervisor was summoned. The manager was summoned. Her inspired invective against global warming brought a smile to my face.

At least another half a dozen minor incidents recently - queue rage, trolley rage, general impatience, people voicing things they don't usually voice - and I'm sensing there's an ascending general rage building up. The speed with which Old Holborn and Anna Racoon raised Nick's freedom money was driven by the anger of suffering smokers. In smoking shelters across London there's an inchoate anger against authority in general - 'the council', 'the government' or more often 'they', the 'they' that are the great grey indistinct suffocating presence of the State in one guise or another. The most popular rallying cry of the day is 'Get off our backs!', raising a heartfelt cheer of support whenever it's vocalised. If any party wants an election slogan, 'We'll get off your back' will win a few million new votes.

But it's not about party differences. That the three main parties are all the same is a truth universally acknowledged. Whenever politics is discussed there is absolute consensus that we loathe them all. Immigration is a running sore. Food inflation, less noticeable to those with mortgages enjoying low interest rates, has hit those on low or fixed incomes hard.

Neighbourhoods filled with boarded-up pubs as they are here, destined to be redeveloped as homes for immigrants by the hated Housing Associations, as they are here, are a popular provocation. There's no doubt that the white working class are the angriest, but the white middle class are close behind them. And our Afro-Carib population, the most assimilated of all the new Commonwealth cohorts, close behind them.

Targets of this anger are also inchoate; Muslims, Africans, East Europeans, the priviliged, bankers, the amorphous political class, the tax-wasters, those who make and enforce rules, 'they'.

Quite how this rage will manifest itself on 6th May I don't know.