SMALL TOWN NEWS BULLETIN...
The headline story on ITV tea-time news was the "outrage" over people being able to book a doctor's appointment within 48 hours of calling their GP's surgery. Yes, you did read that right.
Blair is sweating a lot (menopausal?).
Brown very much looks like the leader-in-waiting.
A few thingies in the fire.
Had a good week. Not been feeling so much like a sticky cadaver with flies buzzing around my head. My Husband even said something like, 'Don't take this the wrong way, but you've been acting normal, are you all right?'
Meanwhile, my left eye is still bulging with the plastic buckles put in place to help keep my retina against the back of my eye. It hasn't hurt so much since the bleeding incident, but not being able to turn my eyeball left and having a lumpy eyelid is not an advantage in life.
Other News in Brief
Tom Cat stand off in the kitchen. Smoog and Maximus happen in the kitchen at the same time.
Bought new bed because the last one broke.
Went for a Moroccan meal last night. It was spicy. Good time had by all.
Expect all above items on the ITV and BBC news soon, very soon.
It almost makes you want someone else, to leak something else, so that they can rake over something else.
Friday, April 29, 2005
SMALL TOWN NEWS BULLETIN...
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Oh God. This morning the Daily Politics was saying that those who thought that Iraq would only have a walk-on part in this election were wrong. Five days on it's calling the disclosure of the Attorney General's advice "explosive" and "dramatic".
Well, I suppose if you go purely by front-page headlines then there's something to this.
Should you be interested in deciding for yourself whether or not this disclosure is "explosive" and "dramatic", most relevant information can be found below:
Guardian Unlimited Politics Election 2005 Full Iraq legal advice released
I've read through all this stuff (AGs full report/AGs "summary"/the Hans Blix thing/Jack Straw's 15th March thing/ security council stuff) and my head spins, my eyes are crossed, and I feel sick, and honestly the only conclusion I can come to as regards the Smoking Gun or Damp Squib question is that it's a matter of opinion.
Personally I don't think all this is "explosive" and "dramatic", I'd call it "well timed" and "distracting". On the 20th March this year, I remember a Panorama programme highlighting the legal issues and the Attorney G's advice, but this "leaked document" has suddenly given the whole thing legs at an awkward time for Labour.
That the Attorney G was aware that there were some areas where the legal case for war were shaky, but that in his advice on the 17th March these areas weren't mentioned, can be read in two ways. I mean you can, if you want, see this as the Attorney G thinking the war might be illegal, then someone 'made' him decide it was OK after all. Or you could see it as a man who had an immense amount of detail to shift through, with new information coming in all the time, was weighing up the case for and against, and ultimately decided that there was a legal case for war.
Well, the polls are showing no wobble in Labour's lead, and in fact show that Howard is becoming less popular as Blair becomes more popular.
Husband suggests that Iraq is headline news again because the papers have run out things to write about with this election.
Anyway, all of this is giving me nightmares. Last night I was reading about the worry of the Tories sneaking in through the back door (Labour voter's apathy, Tory voters wanting to give Blair a 'bloody nose'), and I'm thinking what if that actually happens? What if on May 6th I have to get my head around the fact that Howard is in power like the day I found myself having to accept that Bush was back in. It doesn't much matter for me. I don't suppose it will make all that great a difference to my life. But it will matter to a great many others. It will matter in schools and hospitals and it will matter in Africa. It will matter to the more vulnerable people in this country. It will make a difference to how my country is seen, what it stands for.
It still seems to me that the Labour government is a powerhouse of ideas and action, trying, at least bloody trying, to do the best that it can, in every area that it can. You don't get that with Tories. You get thumbed noses and slaps on backs, and a base instinct that says it's all right to tread on the weak as long as someone makes money out of it.
This time next week it will be nearly all over. I just hope it's not all over.
Posted by Helen at 12:59 pm
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
... so asks The Times.
Good question! I'm in her constituency and I can tell you that there is bugger all going on around here.
Sum total of Election Action in my small town neighbourhood:
1) All parties have hung up their little sign thingies on all the lampposts.
2) Leaflet for Labour pushed through door.
The leaflet shows the face of a warmly smiling Clare, next to the lines "Hello this is Clare Short asking for your support in this election. I hope that you will still vote for me so that I can continue to work for the people of our area and to stand for fairness and justice across the world." Across the the world? Steady on Clare! Gordon Brown's not PM yet you know!
And reading between the lines in this leaflet, Clare still has a problem with her (current) boss.
"Since Labour came to power in 1997 many good things have been achieved for local people."
Why the "for local people" bit? She might as well just say "I've done loads of good stuff for you as your MP", because she clearly can't bring herself to just say that Labour have done good.
There's a bit of blurb about unemployment, education and health, burglaries and muggings, and so on, all a bit vague, don't know if she means nationally or just locally. Then - "But big mistakes have been made over Iraq and many other problems remain. I hope you will vote for me so that we can work together to build on the good things and correct the mistakes."
With Clare being Clare and with her stance on Iraq well known, you'd expect the Iraq bit, but "many other problems remain"? and "we can work together to... correct mistakes"? What problems? What mistakes? Why put such vague and negative statements on your election leaflet? About your own party?
At the bottom it says that she's working hard for Ladywood, Soho, Aston and Nechells, none of which I live in - that's how small town I am!
On the back Henry Wiltshire (who he?) says 'vote Labour', and 'Children are our future' we are told.
Clare was liked locally. She's got a massive majority which aligned with a natural aversion to bull-shit and bull-shitters means that she's often been the one to say what needed to be said. She's long impressed me in interviews, with that battle-hardened approach to sexism and snobbery in her workplace, and an obvious intelligence that comes through without need to condescend or show off. But her obvious bitterness towards Tony Blair was nasty. Her attacks would have seemed more point-of-principle and not pure malice had she actually resigned. But she didn't.
Falling off the radar at this time is probably the only way that Clare can negotiate the tricky path between not wanting to rock Labour's (Tony's) election campaign and keeping some integrity. But it's no fun for me. I want the election to come knocking at my door instead of me having to go looking for it all the time.
But this is what it's like, my small town world. The mighty take their great armies and fight their wars, but I'm miles away from the nearest skirmish, toiling in my little field, straining to catch snatches of the din of battle.
Posted by Helen at 8:44 pm
Odd dream this afternoon. I was in a Cathedral somewhere attending some blessing for something, and waiting in the queue to get to my pew we all had to fill in a form. One of the questions was a tick-box thing for what religion you are. There was no tick-box for atheist, and so I thought I'd leave that blank and ask the Bishop type guy about it who was collecting the forms at the front of the queue. When I got to him however, and I was just about to complain that there was no tick-box for atheist, it suddenly occurred to me that that's because this is a religious blessing and if I'm an atheist what the hell am I doing here? I felt myself go bright red and felt very, very stupid as I stepped out of line to have a bit of a think.
It was probably a result of being in Evesham today with the Husband. Evesham has two churches situated next to each other oddly sharing the same graveyard. It also once had a magnificent Cathedral, which didn't survive Henry VIII's thunderous tantrum with the Church. I always get very angry coming across the scars left on this land by that arse. I understand his beef with Rome, but did he have to send the thugs out to vandalise such magnificent buildings and all the art and scholarship they housed? I don't get how that bloater is not a hated historical figure.
Husband reckons it's because this country just loves the Tudors (all those mock-Tudor houses and films about Elizabeth 1st, etc). Probably also has something to do with centuries of enforced hatred of the Catholicism in this country. But now we don't hate the Catholic Church anymore, what with delaying a royal wedding for the Pope's funeral and everything, can we not start to review what we think of this lot?
Bunch of usurpers.
Anyway, my dream might also have been occasioned by my reaction to the knocking down of a plain, but oddly attractive, Victorian Methodist Church near where I live. They're building a new Matalan and Liddl, or whatever, and the church had seemed to survive being demolished alongside the scrum of scraggy looking houses. Then the other day I drove past and it was half down, only its main window-arch standing bare and ashamed above the surrounding rubble. It felt all wrong. Driving past again a few days later with the Husband he was also surprised to see that it had, by now, completely gone. I remember saying something like, 'they just shouldn't do that to churches.'
I shocked myself! Believe me, I am well versed in all the arguments of why it is so important that religion is not set 'outside' the rules of ordinary life (i.e that we should be as free to criticise, question, and represent in art form, all religions just the same as we do everything else). If you're going to knock down a load of Victorian houses, no matter how scraggy, why the hell not a church?
I think it's actually the aesthetics of churches that I feel so protective of. I mean, I like castles too, but i'm not a patriarchal-loving, aristocratic-supporting warmongerer. Like most people in this country, I just have a thing about old buildings. Pity for us all that Hooligan Henry didn't.
Posted by Helen at 7:06 am
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Last night on 'This Week', Portillo said that Blair had taken question-evading to a whole new level, and Andrew Neil said that it was 'art'.
Later Shirley Williams said that the question that needed to be asked of Blair was 'when' did he make the decision to go to war.
But those views were old news to readers of this Blog!
Posted by Helen at 11:33 am
Monday, April 25, 2005
Richard Norton-Taylor says in today's Guardian that regarding Iraq "Blair cannot continue to rebuff questions by resorting to bland phrases about doing what he thought was right. He has got away with it so far, but sooner or later his evasions and omissions will catch up with him"
Two things - yes he can continue to rebuff questions by bland phrases, and no his evasions and omissions won't catch up with him.
If Blair had wrecked the country and things were generally crap, then Mr Norton-Taylor might be right. Iraq would be the weapon of choice to kill him with.
But Labour have proved themselves in office, the Tories are ridiculous, and the Lib Dems whilst well intentioned just aren't in Labour's league. What good would killing Blair do?
It's a bit like when Glen Hoddle was ousted from his England manager job because of his views on re-incarnation. No one cared that he was saying that disabled children were being punished for something they did in a previous life before he started to prove himself crap at the job.
And no one can say that Blair is crap at his job.
Except Howard, but you'd expect that. But Howard just can't get his Attack Blair on Iraq thing right. Mostly because he supported the bloody thing. Yes, he says, it was right to go into Iraq, but we could have done it without being lied to. Oh, very hard hitting.
Whilst CK bumbles on. Today he's trying to tell us that there is evidence that the Iraqi people would have got rid of Saddam themselves. A Lib Dem candidate on the Daily Politics show today tried to say that if Blix had been left to do his job and prove that Saddam had no weapons, then the people would have realised that they had nothing to fear from Saddam and would have risen up against him. Yes, that's right, they would have faced death/mutilation/torture/their families being slaughtered/towns burnt to the ground, just as long as they knew that no WMD was going whiz through their front window. Utter bollocks. (Why are the Lib Dems going down this route? Why?)
You may note that I am less fearful in this post than in my previous "Who and When" post, about the spotlight going back on Iraq wrecking Labour's chances to win this election. That's because neither the media nor the political parties seem to know what to do with the Attorney General disclosure. It doesn't seem to have re-ignited the Iraq debate in the way it should have done, a fact that may just prove (almost unbelievably) that the Blair/Iraq issue is a spent force in British politics.
I think the Attorney G should be made to answer why, after obviously having reservations, he ultimately gave Blair the legal go-ahead at the 11th hour. But I bet he won't.
Posted by Helen at 3:13 pm
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Very Excited! Just seen the trailer for the sixth episode of Dr Who next week. Dr Who peering into the gloom, 'is there somebody there?' Two lights suddenly glow in the dark and that oh-so-familiar vibrating robotic voice - 'Doctor?' Dim lights rise, and there it is, held in chains and looking cold, hard and evil - a Dalek.
Oooo, I've gone all shivery. Respect to Russ T Davies for his work of genius in bringing all this back to life in such a lively and intelligent way. He even gets sex into it - did you see Billy Piper's twitch of a smile when the Doctor stared at her earnestly and said, 'I could save the world, but lose you.'
Yesterday's episode was the second of a two-parter. Aliens took over Number 10, convinced the country there was imminent danger from a mother-space ship above them which could deploy 'mass weapons of destruction' in 45 seconds, and then got the UN council to sanction a war. Of course there were no mass weapons of destruction - it was just a ploy by the aliens to make some money. Luckily, the Doctor saved the planet by getting a missile to flatten Number 10. Fanciful plot (the UN would never have sanctioned a war - the French would have vetoed it), but very entertaining.
Actually, it was apt timing, because Blair's bogeyman is back - the Iraq war is news again. Of course, it's never not been news, but now someone has leaked the full 13 pages of legal advice that the Attorney General gave to the cabinet. It gives six reasons why a war with Iraq might be illegal, reasons missing when a summary of the document was later published in the House of Lords.
But we already know about these legal arguments don't we? The question we should be asking is why the Attorney General changed his advice and decided, in the end, that the war wasn't illegal.
Which brings me to something that's been bugging me about the Paxman/Blair interview - the question that should have been asked that wasn't. Part of Blair's script for answering questions on the war is to try and round things up by saying something like, 'Look, a decision had to be made about whether or not to go into Iraq, and I made that decision.' Blair said this a few times to try to batten down the hatches on the whole subject. What Paxman needed to ask then was 'when' did he make this decision. I mean specifically. When exactly did he get that lurch in his stomach and know with absolute certainty that he was going to put the country to war.
Because you would remember a moment like that wouldn't you? And if Blair could tell us of it, remember the snapshot details of it - what was he wearing, where was he standing, what time of day was it - then at least we could be sure that that moment did actually happen. And therefore, that before that moment there actually was some indecision. There was actually a time when he didn't know whether or not he was going to commit to war. There existed a period of consideration.
Because from the first whispers over a possible invasion of Iraq, Blair never acted like a man who had a decision to make; he acted like a fanatic. Unquestioning, determined, bulldozing his way through the UN, through parliament, through legal advice, and through protesters marching through the streets of London, because he absolutely believed that going into Iraq was the right thing.
Nothing short of a missile fired into Number 10, with him in it, was going to stop him.
And that's Blair's problem - had he not acted like that, if he was not the strong leader that he is, the man of conviction that he is, if he had demonstrated indecision or caution, and yet in the end had still taken us to war, the result would have been the same, but Blair would not be being so vilified. Blair would at least have respect for making such a difficult "decision".
But no one can see that a decision was ever made, there just never seemed any choice, and for want of that Labour's victory in the general election seems shaky again. Not only because of this published report, but because it's timed with both the Tories and the Lib Dems plan to push the Iraq war issue this week, and only next week we're at the polling booths.
And I've stopped laughing at the ill thought out, unworkable, potentially devastating Tory "policies" again, because I'm scared the enemy is not yet defeated. I thought it was over, but the lights have just come up and there Howard still is, looking cold, hard and evil. For the moment the Tories are still in chains, but we'd better pray that those chains don't break. Because we're in trouble if they do and Dr Who's not real you know.
Posted by Helen at 1:36 pm
Saturday, April 23, 2005
West Bromwich Albion lost 4-0 to Middlesborough, and Palace and Norwich won which (as my dad would say) really shot us up the arse.
Particularly peed off at Norwich. They should be dead and buried by now, but have the cheek to keep fighting.
Now got to put up with a tense, moody Husband all weekend.
Posted by Helen at 1:35 pm
Friday, April 22, 2005
The words "shooting" "fish" and "barrel" came to mind.
Along with "babbling." True, this made Howard sound less scripted than Blair, but only because he ran out of script when pressed on details. And what the hell was all that with pulling bits of paper out of his pockets to read off? I bet some backroom boy came up with that idea thinking it would make him look cavalier and dangerous, but it actually made him look a bit unhinged. Paxman looked at him at one point like he expected him to pull out a rabbit or trick bunch of flowers or something.
I missed the very beginning driving Husband to his Friday Night Thing. Despite giving nearly an hour to do a forty minute round trip, the traffic held me up. Felt like when you've left especially early to get home to watch an important England match and everyone else has had exactly the same idea and clogged up the roads. I don't think the roads were clogged because everyone was rushing home to see Howard though. Think it was road works.
Slowed in traffic at one point Husband opened his window and shouted at two men putting up a Tory signboard - 'It's not racist to hate the Tories,' and one of the men shouted back 'Good.' Direct Action! I almost kicked over a pile of Tory posters in town the other day, but I had too much time to think and chickened out. Wanted to though.
Can't remember feeling this angry at the Tories since the Thatcher years. The sheer amount of rage I felt when Howard did that 'We're going to test asylum seekers trying to get in our country because, as we all know, all wogs are dirty and disease ridden' speech.
Well, after a wobble the polls are now consistently showing a strong Labour lead and the Tories are right back where they were last election. Despite hoping before the election that Labour would have a reduced majority this time, so that Blair was a bit diluted and controlled, I can't stop the animal part of me that just wants to crush the Tories into the dirt once and for all. I'm slavering for a Labour landslide again. It's like when you're out and you want to keep knocking back the Vodka and Cranberries because you're having such a good time, and though a part of you knows that you will really regret it the next day, you can't help yourself.
What the hell. I've only got one bullet to fire in this war. I might as well sit back in my bunker and enjoy the enemy's downfall.
Posted by Helen at 4:33 pm
Thursday, April 21, 2005
When I used to work in Customer Relations ("complaints" if you will) the same customer concerns would come up time and time again. So we had standard paragraphs for many different scenarios which were easily slotted into a letter of response. Similarly, when dealing with customers over the phone, there were certain phrases we had ready to trot out to keep the conversation under control. Customers could pretty much throw anything at us, by letter, e-mail, or down the phone, and by and large we had a handy ready made response.
And so it is with politicians. The more political interviews I watch, the more I realise that there is just no point in asking these people anything. Take the Paxman/Blair interview last night. Granted, starting off the interview with 'anything you'd like to apologise for?' was funny and attention grabbing, but it was also pointless. What did Paxman think was going to happen? That Blair was going to break down and start blubbing about Iraq? No, Blair just reeled out his stock response for the thousandth time. I could almost lip-synch his reply as he said he couldn't honestly apologise for getting rid of Saddam.
You can't judge politicians on answering questions then, but you can judge them on how well they dodge answering questions. I used to be very good at that (with customers). I considered it an art. Here are some techniques that I used to use, which your common or garden politician will also regularly employ:
- Talk in the broader sense (keep it vague)
- Find something safe to apologise for
- Answer a different question to the one that was asked
- Flirt (or joke if same gender)
- Talk for a loooong time in a monotone voice
- Throw lots of boring statistics about
- Keep repeating the same thing over and over like a stuck record (Good one, eh Blair?)
Try some of those next time you get into a tricky situation with your mom/partner/boss/the police.
It gets us absolutely no where, all this fudging. Customers don't get to make a difference, voters don't get any closer to knowing what's going on, but what the hell. Art for arts sake, that's what I say.
Posted by Helen at 3:56 pm