Friday, June 18, 2004

Showbusiness for ugly people no more?

Nick Cohen is peturbed by the rise of the celebrity politician. (they've done that annoying limited access thing with it, so try the link in hope rather than expectation)

Cohen sees, in the tanned face of Kilroy Silk the emergence of two worlds where knowledge, and facts no longer matter. Instead, celebrity power takes over. Do we care what Kilroy-Silks attitude to his new party is? Do we care about the fact that the Deputy leader of UKIP sttod for election for the New Britain Party? Of course not. That Joan Collins is doing a photo opp. Do we want Simon COwell or Peter kellner to do our political analyisis? No contest!

The problem is that when specialist knowledge is less important than star power, good hair and smooth delivery then conventional wisdom and bullish prejudice become the stock in trade of politics.

This is evident in America, where Rush Limbaugh, Joe Scarborough, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter have taken fact-light invective all the way to well paid careers and great influence. The consequences for political debate here are huge.

Let's say the issue is the Patients Passport. Who can talk about the impact of the Dead-weight costs of a voucher system on spending, when confected outrage from a few half-knlowlegable pundits about Health Tourists, office staff, "choice" and 94 year olds is what makes the story come alive journalistically?

When the Conservatives announced their revision of their health policy and education policy last week, the media analysis was about as in depth a half a coat of varnish. I seriously wondered if many of the reporters covering the story actually understood the policies.

The first paragraph in the article I link to was "A grammar school place for every parent who wants one and whose child is qualified for it was the prospect held out yesterday by Michael Howard, the Tory leader." Did the author care about the obvious tension there? Did they not consider that perhaps there might be more of one group than of the other? Or how about how much of the Tories touted extra investment in Public Services will be deadwieght transition costs?

Then I realised, how could they know? They were probably relying on a 2 page briefing from the CCO press office, a quick phonecall to a couple of usual sources and a call to the Labour press Office for a stack rebuttal line for the last para. No wonder their reporting is third rate.

We have a system that favours speed and style, not substance. It's as true for politicians as for journalists. The lord loves an MP who is easily contactable on deadline. The question is, how to reinforce the primacy of content?

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

I hate EU summits

I really do dislike EU summitry. They are the apotheosis of everything the horny handed son of toil (such as myself) dislikes about the European Union.

Consider the following.

An EU summit takes the following form. A group of men whose identities we HHSOT are only vaguely aware gather together for a secret meeting.

(Dispute that we don't know who these people are? I'm an anorak, and my off the cuff EU heads of government score is seven. Try it yourself. No googling allowed.)

The meeting discusses a document we haven't read and the contents of which we are only dimly aware. There are a number of complex and myserious crucial issues that are referred to through an argot that is unrelated to our own political discussion. There is reference to Tax harmonisation of the CFP via the council of ministers, with a review thoe be carried out during the Belgian presidency by the High representative. Or something.

The content of the meeting is explained to us by news reporters who aren't there and don’t know what’s going on. Occasionally our Prime minister will be seen on TV talking to a man whose identity we often don’t know about one of these issues we don’t understand. However, they're seen very far off and microhpnes are not allowed so no-one knows what they’re saying.

Then they have their photo taken, in the Fat middle-aged besuited football team pose beloved of summits.

At the end, the crucial issues are resolved and the Prime Minister or Chancellor or President return home to proclaim the summit a triumph for their home country. The opposition leader in every country declares it a failure of the first order.

Approximately a week later somewhere refuses to sign up to Part seven of the directive we haven't read, and as a result everyone agrees there is a need to make Europe more in touch with ordinary people, and a Conference centre in Munich is booked for the next Summit.

and that's why I hate EU summits.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Dick Morris is a political genius.. or something.

Dick Morris’s great success as a Political Consultant for UKIP has been mentioned by every major national newspaper.

I wondered what magic he had brought to the UKIP’s campaign and today in the Times, the great man reveals all.

“Denied access to media advertising and unable to penetrate the wall of censorship by the Euro-friendly news organisations, the party resorted to billboards animated by its one- word slogan: “No”.”

Brilliant. Staggering. Mind Blowing. Surely “He Brought Billboards” will be his epitaph. The man is undoubtedly a seer and a visionary.

Funnily enough, that’s not how I remember this election. Frankly, after Kilroy-Silk announced, and You-Gov released a poll putting UKIP in double figures, UKIP was the media flavour of the month.

To be honest, I didn't see a single UKIP Billboard, though I did see their Press adverts, which were the typical low quality press advertising beloved of 2nd teir political parties.

Mr Kilroy-Silk (who I did notice) isn’t mentioned by Mr Morris, which seems odd, but heck, they had billboards. What else could matter?

His contribution was clearly first rate and well worth the fees.

(and is it just me, or is this paragraph just loaded with Freudian double meanings?

“A small party, with only three members in the eunuch-like European Parliament, it was clear that the Independence Party was expressing the will of a huge, but neglected, part of the British electorate. It remained only to penetrate the political and media monopoly of the pro-EU establishment....”)

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Monday, June 14, 2004


The elections are over, the votes counted, the shocks absorbed.

Now we have calls for a period of reflection, of sober contemplation of the results that will involve in depth research, considered policy developments and listening to this new mood of the British people.

After saying that, everyone will get on with the real business of blustering about their fortunes, issuing weighty platitudes on the results, then rushing through a couple of panicked reshuffles and making a few policy announcements on the hoof, all to the sound of hours and hours of pontificating.

The prospect of the ill informed garbage that is going to be pumped out by politicians and journalists over the coming days terrifies me. I may have to ban the Sunday newspapers and talk shows this week.

Anyway, here’s your cut out and keep guide to the Election results


Bad results mean bad consequences.
Someone is going to catch the flack and the spinning bottle seems to be slowing down in the vicinity of Ian MacCartney and Geoff Hoon. Lots of campaigning cabent ministers will spend the next few days whistling and looking angelic.

Top questions Labour strategists should be asking themselves.
How do we get back middle class white collar voters? Dammit, is the swing voter really the chattering classes?

Oooh… what about UKIP?

Who cares, it’s the Tories problem. Unfortunately that ain’t so. Labour voters are eurosceptic too you know. Since the constitution is coming up, is it time for Tony to channel a little Gaitskill? (much more acceptable to channelling Thatcher)

Oh, and that EU constitution referendum campaign looks like a rough fight..

The Eureka moment someone is bound to have… and be ignored anyway.“Hold on, it’ll be a low turnout election- why don’t we try and turn out the base vote in marginal seats?”


Bad results mean bad consequences.
Damn, they already did their panicked reshuffle. Apparently it’s Tim Yeo’s fault. New Shadow cabinet mean a new stress on Health and Education blahblahblah. I just want to say Tim Collins scares me.

Top question Tory strategists should be asking themselves:
Do we try and get UKIP voters back or will they come back anyway?

Oooh… what about UKIP?
Oooh… do we toughen our stance against Johnny Euro or cross our fingers and hope that those cranks and swivel eyed loons come back to their natural home.

The Eureka moment someone is bound to have… and be ignored anyway
“But surely the General Election won’t be fought over the future of the EU?”


Bad results mean bad consequences.
Woo-Hoo.. they won. So Charlie is safe. Liberal Future activists cry selves to sleep.

Top question Lib-Dem strategists should be asking themselves:
Do we want to try and win right-wing middle class seats from the Tories or left wing middle class seats from Labour?

Oooh… what about UKIP?
The Lib-Dems are staunch pro-European federalists, except where the area is euro-sceptic, when they morph into hard headed Euro-Realists.

It’s like Transformers, robots in diguise. But with Nick Harvey.

The Eureka moment someone is bound to have… and be ignored anyway
“Our target voters want completely different things… how can we resolve that without breathtaking hypocrisy? Oh.”

Special BykerSink line about the War.
Yes, it was a factor in Labour’s loss of votes. Happy now?

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