Dead Men Left

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A prize! A prize!

There ought to be one for this sort of thing:

Mary Creagh, [MP for] Wakefield

"I would remind MPs that the bill also contains in full the child food measures - the so called 'Jamie Oliver bit' and that is here in it's entirety. I had my concerns - admissions and assets - and I've had my mind put at rest."

Phew. Who cares if you're on the scrapheap, age 11, as long as you don't have to eat turkey twizzlers whilst you're there?

March for Racism

Liberal wog-bashers! Western civilisation needs you!

Since we are in favour of free speech, and because the reason why newspapers and magazines across Europe (though not, shamefully, in the UK) have republished the infamous cartoons was principally "We are Spartacus" - we stand together - we will be happy to see reproductions of the cartoons in question at the rally.

Maybe I should go with a big banner saying "MURDER THOSE WHO INSULT VOLTAIRE"? Just to show my support for Western values, you see.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tom Lehrer all over again

It's been difficult watching The Day Today for some time: the gap between the satire and reality appears to have closed, producerts now apparently basing their news programming on dim memories of Chris Morris' inspired spoofs.

It's one thing to see the format begin to parody itself. It's more disturbing to see the news itself start to resemble its own satire:

British pop star Morrissey was quizzed by the FBI and Britain's Special Branch after he called President Bush a "terrorist". The singer said he was "baffled" to be held and interviewed by the authorities. But he was released when they realised the melancholic warbler was not a threat to the free world.

There are plenty of reasons for wanting to lock Morrisey up, but this probably isn't one of them. This comes straight after the detention, at Heathrow, of actors who played alleged terrorists. It's either frightening, or rather funny. Or both.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

We'll Treat You Fairly (tm)

Another quickie for the oh the glorious irony of it all file:

President George W. Bush rejected congressional pressure to step in and suspend an Arab company's takeover of operations at major U.S. seaports on Tuesday and vowed to veto any legislation to block the deal...

Bush said he was trying to conduct a fair foreign policy.

"I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a great British company," Bush said.

"I'm trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world 'we'll treat you fairly.'"

"Freedom of Speech"

Been meaning to link to David Renton's website for some time, mainly because he's been hassling me to do so... but it's worth a look, lots of interesting stuff - including this nugget, posted on the 7 February, that caught my eye. Dave's discussing one of the organisations that called reproducing racist cartoons a "free speech issue":

...In a previous incarnation, 'Spiked' was the magazine Living Marxism, the publication of a party called the 'Revolutionary Communist Party'. As the RCP started to go down the pan, in the mid-1990s, it dissolved its activities into a series of front organisations, pushing the issue of free speech. I remember being in Sheffield in 1995-8, when the main activities of the group were to promote showings of such films as Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. Leading BNP activist Mark Collett always boasts that he joined the BNP, through the activities of one such RCP front, 'When I came to Leeds University I joined the Free Speech society to fight against political correctness. Then a BNP speaker got expelled, which I thought was absurd. He invited me to a BNP meeting in Burnley and I felt right at home. They were my kind of people.'

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"The Great Wen", and John Prescott

Iain Sinclair, on his (now-released) book, Edge of Orison:

It kind of continues or completes the trilogy of Lights Out and London Orbital because the actual journey was exactly the same distance as the journey around the M25, but out into the country. It traces something that I've passed through in London Orbital which is Epping Forest and the asylum were the poet John Clare was kept; he did this phenomenal three and a half day march back to his village north of Peterborough and I always wanted to repeat that journey.

So the book starts with a reprisal of his journey, walking at exactly the same dates in July when it's sweltering hot and it was weirder than the M25 because I found that the whole of middle England was just deserted. There's nothing there once you're off the motorway. In the villages the pubs are shut, there were no obvious farmers, abandoned airfields, huge industrial fields of corn and a very very weird landscape. Whereas walking around the edge of London there were always people you'd bump into and stories to hear. This was like emptiness. Emptiness all the way.

It's a version of what's coming up which is John Prescott's motorway growth cities - Thames Gateway and another one that's going to go up Stanstead, Cambridge, Peterborough - that's the future. So without really intending it this third book has become the conclusion to this movement out of London.

(via) This little paen to a disappearing London put me in mind of something else I'd seen only recently, Patrick Keiller's London, a quite brilliant collage of documentary and narrative fiction, filmed in 1992. (Keiller surpassed himself in the follow-up, Robinson in Space, here rightly described as "the best British film of the nineties".)

Keiller's thesis, as related by the arch narration of "Robinson", was that London was slowly dying: neglected by a corrupt establishment of Tories and financiers, deprived even of its own government, the entire city was steadily sinking into more or less inglorious ruin. London's own citizens were abandoning it in droves, as the population figures attest.

A decade later, and quite a different film could be made: London's newly-constitued government now boasting - pace Sinclair - that:

London is growing - and at an unprecedented rate - that's the message from a new Mayoral report launched today...

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London said: 'These figures show that London's growth is by far the biggest regional issue in the UK. Population and employment growth on this scale demonstrates London's success and is good news for London's economic and social vitality, and for the wider UK economy.'

With the minimal spin, London can be presented as a New Labour success story. A succesful new local administration, a population boom, a massive inflow of investment, the Olympics: a veritable triumph for Blairite governance, even down to Red Ken's rehabilitation.

New Labour is more than happy to talk up London. It is less keen that we examine the rest of the country: as the GLA press release quoted earlier notes, whilst London's population has been expanding at an unprecedented rate, those of "Merseyside, the West Midlands, Tyne and Wear, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire all fell." The regional differences in real income, productivity and employment growth remain very large by international standards (PDF). All this, whilst London and the south-east surge onwards - flattered, now, by an extraordinary southern bias from the Cabinet's token Northerner.

John Prescott can, of course, be blamed for many things. Curiously - or not - media criticism tends to focus on the superficialities of his alleged stupidity, his maulings of the English language, his handy way with his fists. The significant criticisms that should be made of the debacle that is New Labour's regional policy have been far too muted: Prescott has presided over an utter farce. The regional assemblies died a quiet death, bereft of meaningful political support or purpose; the North-South is reasserting itself with a venegeance; and the best response of New Labour can make to all this is to hawk a regeneration scheme on the back of the biggest circus in the world - to be located, naturally enough, in London.

This regional failure is starting to bite. Larry Elliot, in passing, noted how these concerns came through in the Dunfermline by-election; Scottish politics is a different creature, of course, but there is no reason to think the same issues do not apply in the deprived and almost-forgotten regions of England.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Biting the media on its backside

After a couple of weeks of clampdown, it's rather satisying to see the old order rebuffed:

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has urged Labour to fight on following a shock defeat to the Lib Dems in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election.

The Libs Dems took the seat by 1,800 votes, overturning an 11,500 Labour majority at the last election.

Mr Prescott said the government had to "get on" with delivering its programme.

Lib Dems, somewhat predictably, are ignoring the obvious reading of this result - that Blair is an albatross around Labour's neck - to crow about Gordon Brown's "embarrassment". For a group so recently skewered by a witch-hunt against deviant minority parties, they're ludicrously keen to play the big boys' game: they're also ignoring the humiliation this result is for the supposedly rejuvenated Tories:

And while a more unlikely setting for a Tory triumph would be difficult to imagine - Willie Gallagher, Britain's last Communist MP, represented this part of the world - Mr Cameron arrived in Fife yesterday determined to give Mr Brown a bloody nose in his own backyard.

The upshot was more excitement than Dunfermline's High Street has seen since 1968 when the local football team, nicknamed the Pars (short for Paralytics), last won the Scottish Cup. Mr Cameron was mobbed in a way Tory leaders aren't used to in Scotland...

Surely not...?

...The Cameronian message, although not universally accepted, managed to get through the huge media scrum to a few somewhat bewildered voters.

What a nicely revealing moment: the "mobbing" and the excitement the media report is entirely the result of the media itself. The actual voters barely matter - except when they deliver an amusingly significant swing against the Tories.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Freedom of speech, ahahahaha, and the Alliance for White Liberty

Gosh, lawks, fancy that, cor stone the crows, etc:

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.

The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.

It's a tribute, I suspect, to the impact of the antiwar movement that not one newspaper in the UK has dared reprint the cartoons. I've no idea if the bar will hold, but it's mildly reassuring that a basic decency has ruled thus far.

Only the political dregs have decided racist provocation has its merits: the BNP, reproducing the most offensive of the cartoons on its website - I won't link to the site, but they helpfully parallel Griffin's acquittal with the actions of European newspapers. The fascists' response is predictable; more disturbing, in its way, is that an organisation allegedly on the "anti-racist" left, the ill-titled "Alliance for Workers' Liberty" has seen fit to republish the pictures, with some ludicrous bleating about "not letting religious authorities" decide what's unpublishably offensive and what isn't - as if a genuine organisation of the left can't see racism for itself. (Clearly this shower can't.) The site seems to be down at the moment - perhaps a last flicker of principle has prevailed - but you can view the Google cache here, should you wish to.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Slightly unexpectedly:

How will Hamas make its internal decisions?

"Why are you interested in that? We have no problems. We are not using guns to choose our representatives. We are not using guns in the primaries. We use knives. (Joking.)

Brief letter to assorted European newspaper editors

Dear fuckwits,

Hooray! You've struck a mighty blow for freedom of expression. Rather like these two. Europe, arise!

Yours, &c.