Monthly Archives: May 2010

Mostly harmful

What a primitive world you humans inhabit.

A world in which the most successful at spreading fear and terror are those charged with the fight against fear and terror, who declaim solemnly that to secure freedom you must surrender your freedom.

A world in which a bewildered, misguided old man in a silly hat and a frock holds sway over a billion of you with his hate-filled, evidence-free invective.

A world in which having is fine, but sharing is not unless a complex set of criteria agreed by neither the giver nor the receiver are abided by, to the benefit almost entirely of the writers of the criteria and not those they claim to have written those criteria on behalf of.

A world in which statistical outliers and anomalies have massively greater influence over what happens than statistical likelihoods, resulting in death and destruction on a vast scale that, unlike the outliers and anomalies, is apparently entirely unnoteworthy.

A world in which the difference between truth and falsehood, between guilt and innocence, between libel and opinion and between fact and fiction is often measured in gold.

A world in which people are sometimes not allowed to know that they are not allowed to know.

A world in which belief in a mythical sky fairy endows legal rights to discriminate, and in which choosing not to believe in a mythical sky fairy, or in the most culturally appropriate mythical sky fairy, can result in a painful and premature death.

A world in which plenty is never enough, where your wealth is seemingly determined by people who are only interested in their own wealth betting other people’s wealth that your wealth will go up or down more or less than other people betting other people’s wealth think; and getting it wrong, and repeating it daily forever with nobody calling a halt to the madness for fear that all these people will bet all these other people’s wealth that your wealth will go down.

A world in which legislation to prohibit certain actions and stupidity trumps trust and common sense unless the acquisition of vast wealth via betting is involved, in which case trust and common sense trump legislation even where it is plain from experience that the people involved are untrustworthy and lack common sense.

A world in which the foolish and the gullible are neither protected nor educated but treated as prized markets to exploit.

A world in which the most fundamental, irreplaceable resources are mined, squandered, moulded and fashioned via the collective expertise of hundreds of generations, causing untold waste and pollution and permanently damaging the environment of the only planet you inhabit, then quickly discarded into large holes in the ground or thrown into the sea, all in the pursuit of wealth and frippery.

Time for the hyperspace bypass.


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Thoughts on the coalition

I didn’t vote Liberal Democrat for a Tory government. I voted Liberal Democrat because I wanted a Liberal Democrat government.

But I’m not naïve. Despite those heady days when the polls went mad, and a couple of secret what-if moments shared between me and the BBC’s election prediction applet, I never truly expected Nick Clegg to end up as PM. The most likely outcomes were always either a hung parliament or a small-to-workable Tory majority, with a faint chance – given the vagaries of our current electoral system – of a Labour minority government.

I would have preferred the Lib Dems to enter a coalition or confidence-and-supply agreement with Labour, if possible, and without Gordon Brown as PM. The election result made this unworkable: Labour plus Lib Dem still wouldn’t make a majority. There was talk of a “rainbow coalition” including every man and his dog, but such a government wouldn’t last the year. Not the best way to achieve anything.

So the only feasible outcome, discounting an immediate second election that nobody wanted and only the Conservatives could afford, was a Tory/Lib Dem agreement of some kind.

Not ideal. It’s no secret that I think David Cameron is a fake, a PR man. I think George Osborne will blunder his way through the job of Chancellor. I fear Cameron dragging back Tory grandees who still have a thing for Margaret Thatcher. I fear a return to the bad old days of Section 28 and the Poll Tax, albeit in different, better-branded forms.

But, but, but. At least we don’t have the “strong, stable government” that Cameron craved: a sizable Tory majority. That’s the goal of all parties, of course. They want to be in control, to use their electoral mandate to pilot HMS Britain to port or to starboard according to their manifesto or newspaper baron of choice.

People want “strong, stable government” too, but not in the sense that political parties want “strong, stable government”. Parties want power; people want a better life for themselves and their families and friends. People want governments that do the Right Thing. People want fairness, honesty, respect.

We’ve seen the results of the party political version of “strong, stable government” that large majorities give us – Thatcher’s divisive, dictatorial 1980s and Blair’s war-mongering, fear-mongering 2000s. In the last thirty years we’ve now had just two changes of ruling party, counting this one. Eighteen years of Conservative government – “strong, stable government”, gradually weakening and festering into corruption, sleaze, decay, a step too far, a change of leader, in-fighting, and back-stabbing – followed by thirteen years of Labour government – “strong, stable government”, gradually weakening into corruption, sleaze, decay, a step too far, a change of leader, in-fighting and back-stabbing.

I don’t want that again.

It’s my belief that a coalition government would never have passed the Poll Tax, or Section 28, or ID cards, or railway privatisation, or PFI, or the Digital Economy Act, amongst other bad laws. A hung parliament by definition means no party has a mandate to ram through its own legislative agenda: it must work with others.

A coalition government by necessity dulls the sharp edges of party purity and rabid dogma. Like the memento mori of ancient Rome, in a coalition government the leadership is constantly reminded of its own mortality, its own limitations. Instinct might drive Cameron right; Clegg’s reminding whisper should hold him steady: the desire to keep his job will be strong. Clegg can bring down the government, and Cameron knows it.

Joining a coalition doesn’t mean selling out and abandoning your principles: it means compromise. It means sacrificing some of your stuff to get some of your other stuff done – and at the same time stopping some of the stuff you don’t want done from happening. I’m sure I won’t like everything the coalition does – but then I never expect to like everything a government of any colour does.

I might be wrong. Perhaps the Lib Dems are walking, smiling, into an abyss and David Cameron’s perception filter has fooled them all. Perhaps we’ll suddenly be at war with Eurasia again. Perhaps Nick Clegg is actually a cyborg sent from the future to prevent John Redwood again from learning Welsh. I don’t know.

But right now it looks as though the Liberal Democrats finally have a chance to implement some of their policies. If we’re lucky – very lucky – we’ll change to a fairer voting system. And at the next election people might vote for what they want, rather than in fear of what they might get.


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