Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Calling a Scotsman's bluff

Will someone in Scottish politics please find the guts to stand up and face down Alex Salmond, he's been allowed to prance around as the court jester of British politics for far too long.

Scottish independence is not an issue that will go away if we keep dodging a straight fight over it, the SNP are far too well established for that. The only choices we have are how we meet it.

Evading a straight argument does three things,

1. It postpones the inevitable, to no advantage I can see, the opposite in fact.
2.It gives Salmond a campaign target to unite his party around both as a long term aspiration and an achievable short term goal. It motivates the party and supporters to campaign, vote, etc.

3. It makes us (and the other unionist parties) look weak and scared of the issue (and vice versa for Salmond).

Not only is the policy hurting us but it's missing a golden opportunity. We get few enough issues where we can take the initiative distinctively from the other main parties, even fewer where we can make a difference with our voting power on them.

Sooner or later the SNP will have the power to call such a referendum and will have to call one. Our choice is being seen to be dragged unwillingly and fearfully in front of the Scottish people to argue the case for union (and hidden behind the other parties) or we walk in confidently, head high, and ahead of the other two main parties still dragging their feet. Make the choice as stark as possible, in or out, yes or no. No complicating middle grounds, no third choices. Show that you've got something under your kilt.

We're currently taking an issue that is potentially a major benefit and turning it against ourselves. Tavish Scott seems to be holding firm against a referendum but there are rumblings of a rethink. Hopefully it'll result in a policy reversal.

We should never be scared to take our case to the public, least of all on an issue that could be so beneficial to us.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Handy government hints for drug drivers

I'm not a fan of most of the British government's advertising efforts that we get bombarded with regularly, most of them seem more aimed at convincing potential voters that the government is doing a good job (i.e. effectively a government funded advert for the Labour party) rather than having any positive effects (especially the "we're closing in series").

To its credit this latest effort doesn't seem to be in that mould and is actually aimed at reducing the numbers of people drug driving. The downside is that it is mindblowingly stupid. Here it is from youtube for those lucky enough to have escaped seeing it.

As I said, on first watching I was vaguely pleased that at least it wasn't a covert Labour PPB. Then another thought struck me, the message that you get from that advert is not "don't drug drive". What you get is "here's how the police might spot that you've taken drugs" and what this leads on to is the obvious strategy of: if you have taken drugs and there's police around then don't let them see your eyes. Whether that's not staring at a police car as it goes past or not looking them in the face if they're talking to you for another reason.

In short not only is the advert unlikely to stop people drug driving, it's going to help them avoid detection for it. I don't know what the creators were on when they dreamed this up (all bad puns are as ever completely intentional) but hopefully they'll think their next advert through properly.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

'New' Politics and the Parties

As I said I'm not the first to recognise this and the parties are working hard to exploit it, so I thought I'd do a short look into their setups.

First the Lib Dems

It's a fairly standard list of campaigns with links and thumbnails, nothing special really (I can't say I rate the general Lib Dem site much, to busy and difficult to navigate, particularly in terms of policy. Click on the link on the left and it offers you a hundred different places to go for different purposes and results, just needs simplifying heavily). Then you need to go through secondary links to open PDFs to find the info. The banners on the right easily available to add on the sidebar of blogs are the best part and the only really good idea within it.

Second the Conservatives

Same basic idea as the Lib Dem one, just much better presented (as the site is in general, particularly the policy section, an easily available summary on a simple web page with an in-depth link. The social networking links are a major plus since as I've said I think these'll come to be major driving forces in organisation.) The 'What you can do' section within each campaign section is a good idea if slightly limited.

Lastly, Labour. Also LabourSpace

I kept it until last because (despite all the criticism Labour's web efforts get) I think it's the best and most interesting of the three. The Labourspace seems to reverse the focus of party campaigns. Rather than them being official party campaigns and inviting people to support it. The structure is for campaigns to be started easily and people to try and recruit supporters, with the most popular ones being brought to the attention of party bigwigs and possibly taken on as official party policy.

The caveat to this is that I've no knowledge of how it works in practice and how much far up popular campaigns can go. Ed Miliband appears to be on there a fair bit, make of that what you will. But whatever the practicalities the concept at least is interesting, a more direct form of how parties can potentially become more grass roots influenced as I mentioned in my last post (namely if there are pre-existing factions looking to use them as tools to achieve their aims)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The 'New' politics

I've seen this mentioned by others but I think it's worth repeating.

Politics is undergoing (or has undergone, depending on how you measure such things) a fundamental shift in emphasis, from broad movement politics to single issue campaigns.

What has caused this splintering is an interesting question. You can see factors of it in a general disullusionment in politics and in particular politicians. Single issue campaigns don't ask you to sign up to a particular ideology, or believe in a particular person, etc. In short there's a lot less trust required. And I don't if you've noticed, but trust in politics and politicians has reduced recently.

The second major factor would be social networking sites. Facebook, and twitter particularly, but the other ones as well. The quick spreading of popular campaigns and the ease of joining them (one click and you're part of a group backing something) means being (however minimally) politically active is easier than it ever has been. That is not to say that many of these movements can actually achieve much on their own. A large facebook group is nice but has little direct influence.

What is allows is for those with more influence in the world of politics to use them as a tool. An extra piece of the narrative to keep a story running a bit longer, or an extra way to prevent a politician from dismissing it as unimportant.

Take today with the Alan Duncan gaffe (for anyone reading this after a fair amount of time has passed, I probably need to specify which one, it's the "MPs living on rations" thing he said to the journalist (from the magazine that'd previously dug a £ sign in his garden during the expenses scandal) that he'd invited to Parliament. On BBC News it was reported as "David Cameron has said he apologised and no further action needed" (paraphrased) but it mentioned ConHome as running a survey saying he should go.

In the era of strict party discipline the media is going to increasingly look to sites like ConHome or bloggers who the party has less control over for dissenting voices (and the media loves dissent in the ranks). With the added bonus that it's harder for leaders to shrug off apparent criticism from ethereal 'grass roots'.

The supposed grass roots revolution will happen, but I doubt it'll go exactly as predicted. We're not going to head towards some sort of direct democracy or grass roots control etc. I don't think there's much bite in these movements in terms of what they could or will actually do in terms of traditional methods of exerting influence, but the bark will be enough, the need to be perceived as not ignoring the grass roots that applies the pressure.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


This has been out for a while already, but I thought I'd share it on the off chance the few lost souls wandering by here haven't seen it and need a chuckle.

Florida man blames cat for

illegal downloads

Dogs have been blamed for eating homework - now a Florida man says his cat downloaded child pornography.

Police are charging Keith Griffin of Jensen Beach, Florida with 10 counts of possession of child pornography after finding more than 1,000 images on his personal computer.

Griffin told police he had been downloading music, and that his cat jumped on the keyboard when he left the room. He said "strange things" appeared on the computer when he returned.

He is being held in Martin county jail on $250,000 bond. No word on any charges against the cat.

First post

I've finally decided to add my voice to the crowds of political blogger that seem to be everywhere these days. As the title (hopefully) suggests I don't intend on taking myself seriously or expecting much of it. Just a place to muse, rant, and pass on anything I find amusing.

If you want to comment, then say what you like, I've been around the internet long enough to develop a thick enough skin for it, and a reader is a reader, even if it is Martin Day (Hi Martin if you're reading this, sorry if I nicked a blog title you wanted).

About me, I'm young, a student, Lib Dem, Welsh/British (never had trouble identifying as both), and an avid sports and politics fan (and occasionally mix the two).

So wish me luck, here goes...