The story that victorians used to cover up piano legs for the sake of deceny is, I think, a bit of a fable.
The story that police in Iran are impounding mannequins in a morality drive, probably isn't.
Monday, October 31, 2005
The story that victorians used to cover up piano legs for the sake of deceny is, I think, a bit of a fable.
Just a quick note to inform of a change of e-mail address.
The new address is available, as before, on my "complete profile". Although the old e-mail address remains active, please use this new e-mail address from now on. E-mails, as well as comments, always welcome.
Happy Halloween everyone!
Posted by Helen at 9:07 am
Sunday, October 30, 2005
The simple answer to that question I suppose is poverty.
Asif Afridi from Birmingham Race Action Partnership says of the recent troubles: “Increasingly, post September 11, tensions like these are attributed to a breakdown in community cohesion and conflicts of values between religious and ethnic groups. Yet as an agency, we see segregation and breakdown of cohesion as symptoms of a much more systemic issue that pervades many UK cities… extreme poverty [has] a much larger effect on the relationships between communities than perceived incompatible views of the world.”
But, to me, it's not that simple.
I've read some really nasty stuff this week. Recent events have done nothing if not brought bobbing to the surface a scummy flotsam of racism from both the black and Asian communities. It would be naive to say that inherent racism did not play its part in what happened, and it would be stupid now to ignore it. Poverty didn’t cause that racism.
Nor did poverty cause the violent machoism that broke out from both communities. The so-called “violent element” of the black community who came out on Saturday night, the gangs of Asians and their “claiming back their patch” show-of-force on Sunday night. Although the second was a reaction to the provocation of the first, young men on both sides seemed out for blood. And too many times I have read or heard this week black and Asian men refer to “our women”, usually in context of perceived female morality. What this unwittingly reveals is an insidious idea that women are “owned” by the community, not equal members of it. And using women's sexuality as cultural currency I found deeply offensive.
And finally dirty business practice played it’s part. The 33 year old owner of the shop where the alleged rape was alleged to have taken place, and part accused, vehemently denies the allegation and claims this is all about a trade war. Accusations of Asian stores deliberately selling black beauty products at prices black shop-owners can’t compete with. Talk of a trumped up charge to unleash a national boycott of Asian businesses.
None of the above can be easily filed away under “fighting for resources”, as much as various community leaders or spokespeople would have us do just that. They too have their agendas.
This weekend has gone without incident as far as I am aware, so perhaps now Lozells can find a way forward. It would be easy for some to slip into thinking that what they have seen is the Asian community, is the black community, is Birmingham. But it isn’t. More people in this neighbourhood held back than took part. We would all do well to remember that.
(title quote taken from "Ghost Town" by The Specials)
Posted by Helen at 2:34 pm
Friday, October 28, 2005
On Wednesday around 70 women, black, white, Asian, staged a peaceful demonstration in Lozells after last weekend’s violence. They walked quietly in the soft rain, carrying placards that said “We Are One Community”. Reaching the place where Isaiah was killed they held a two minute silence and laid flowers.
You see what they did there?
No grand statements, no political point scoring. They simply wanted to heal some wounds, do some soul searching, and find a way forward.
They didn't smash shop windows, they didn’t wield planks with nails in it into shop keeper’s faces, they didn’t stab young men returning from the cinema, they didn’t burn cars, run in gangs, or talk of a race war.
Little black girl get assaulted
Ain’t no reason why
Newspaper prints the story
And racist tempers fly
Next day it starts a riot
Knives and guns are drawn
Two black boys get killed
One white boy goes blind
Little black girl gets assaulted
Don’t no one know her name
Lots of people hurt and angry
She’s the one to blame
Sent shivers down my spine.
Posted by Helen at 11:49 am
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Isaiah Youngsam was 24 years old, and being computer mad, had a promising career in IT for Birmingham City Council. He read a chapter of the Bible each day and his mother, Murna, says he was a gentle and private boy and had “good manners in a slightly old fashioned way.”
Last Saturday he had spent the afternoon in Birmingham city centre with his brother and two friends. The group were walking home after getting off their bus, and were 200 yards from their home in Lozells when two cars pulled up and around eight men got out and confronted them. Isaiah and a friend were stabbed; Isaiah fatally in the chest.
Isaiah’s mother was called to City Hospital, but she was too late. Her son had died in the arms of friends.
Posted by Helen at 7:15 pm
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Woke up to news that the streets of Birmingham saw scenes of violence last night and that one man has lost his life. I'm sorry for the man and his family, and I'm sorry for Birmingham.
The MP for the area, Mr Mahmood, claimed he thought the incidents were linked to the assault allegation but a small group of people "predominantly from outside the area" were responsible for the violence.
Assistant Chief Constable David Shaw said: "It does not appear that a lot of people got together in advance, but I do believe that some people started the day, with intent to cause mayhem... Police and community leaders share their abhorrence with the loss of life.... This is the work of a small number of individuals and is not a true reflection of community relations in Birmingham."
Nobody seems to have so far suggested that these outsiders had anything to do with Lagali, a London organisation that "campaigns for cultural, economic and social justice on behalf of the African community", which organised yesterday's protest "campaign for silent victims" in Birmingham. Having read their comments on the Pickled Politics post yesterday however I wanted to know what their website had to say about recent events. According to them the violence last night was the BBC's fault.
I don't think you need me to add comment to that bit of logic.
Regardless of where those batten wielding thugs came from last night, a man now lies dead. I'd like to think that the loss of life would give these people pause for thought on their actions, but I doubt it will. I know, and you know, they'll make it someone else's fault and refuse to feel the shame that should be pouring into every part of their being right now.
Posted by Helen at 7:56 am
Friday, October 21, 2005
The house is gloomy, even with the lights on. I’ve drawn the curtains on the dark saturated streets and the sodden garden. The cats are bored because it’s been too wet to go out and play today. They hate the rain too.
But rain isn’t just an irritation here these days. In the same way that catching the strain of a police siren to me means “terrorist attack”, rain now means “tornado”.
Poor Birmingham. I don’t take nearly enough notice of what goes on here. Mostly because nothing much happens where I live. It all seems to happen in other wards, with names familiar to me, but otherwise unknown. I read local political blogs, watch the local news, and very occasionally buy a local newspaper, but I know I have a restricted view of the city I live in. Making an effort to get to know it better is on my list of Things To Do.
Especially when tonight Birmingham is back in the news again for all the wrong reasons. There is racial tension in Perry Barr since a rumour began to circulate that a young black girl had been raped by a gang of Asian men. The black community has come out onto the streets, presumably in a show of anger. The local news reporters interview Asian shop keepers who say they are afraid of a violent backlash.
And when something like this happens, how quickly a community of blended races becomes like oil and water. And why? Because of human nature. We naturally flush with righteous anger and want to band with our own against a perceived threat from others. Some revel in it. Spreading rumour, firing up the story, pouring fuel onto the flickering flames of outrage. Puffed chests, flexed muscles, all of that. The initial incident, and so too the victim, get used as propaganda until they become almost unimportant in themselves. And all the while every little bit of bigotry on both sides, previously hidden or unacknowledged, will come flooding out, and community relations in this area will be damaged for a long time.
The rape hasn’t been reported to the police, because it’s assumed the girl is in the country illegally, and so it’s difficult even to confirm the rumour is true, yet alone investigate any crime. And that can’t be helping the situation.
I hope tonight that there are many voices calling for calm in Perry Barr. I hope that people are trying to curtail their emotional responses. I hope that any nastiness exposed by this incident get dealt with. And I hope that the girl, if this did happen, is being loved and cared for tonight.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, wouldn't you just know it?:
Pickled Politics and Harry's Place. With thanks to Unity for bringing these to my attention.
I have just spent nearly an hour going through the comments at PP on this post, and all power to Sunny for being the voice of reason amidst some pretty fierce comments on the post. There's some nasty stuff there too, which makes you worry about the truly fetid thoughts that some people have festering up their heads.
I note that the demonstration today passed off peacefully. Perhaps now the puffed chests and flexed muscles of Ligali can piss off back to London.
Final word to Sunny (taken from the comments):
"I find it totally idiotic that such a heinous crime is being made into a racial war. I don’t see what that will achieve."
Posted by Helen at 7:22 pm
Two hundred years ago today, Lord Nelson and his 27 ships defeated the combined might of the French and Spanish fleet, sinking or capturing 22 vessels at Trafalgar. He stopped the planned invasion of Britain and our navy went on to rule the seas for another hundred years. The man is a national hero, and it is good and proper that all this weekend there are plans to celebrate his and his fleet's success.
Some people though are worried about upsetting the French.
But I'm more worried about the MCB. Did anybody think to ask them if it is okay that we do this? As I don't think there were any Muslims at Trafalgar. I'm so afraid the planned celebrations might make these band of merry men feel alienated again.
Posted by Helen at 9:09 am
Sorry folks, didn’t get my questions picked and didn’t get to say anything. In fact, I ended up sitting in the very worst seat in the theatre, shoved right up the far corner, so there weren’t even any shots of me caught on camera. A nation mourns.
But I did thoroughly enjoy myself. It was odd to be amongst politically minded people in real life as opposed to the blogosphere. Oh, the joy of being amongst Tories and posh students again.
If you watched the program you’ll probably agree with me that it wasn’t one of the best. It never makes a good program when the panel generally agree with one and other. I even found myself clapping Greg Dyke and Mathew Parris on a couple of occasions, which, quite frankly, I’m still in shock about. But there was a lot of common sense talked. In particular I was glad that there was a general agreement about the media overdosing on this bird flu thing. Enough already. You plan and prepare for it, I’ll carry on with the ordinary miseries of life. Stop telling me I’m going to die.
Anyway, special mention must go to Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Health secretary and General Slimeball. They do stand out these Tories. I could sense them even in the throngs of the audience before the show. That whiff of arrogance, that need for an enlarged personal space to be centre of attention, and that vague sense of duplicity and underlying nastiness. Lansley had it in buckets. Note the way he slimed all over Cameron’s name. When Dimbleby (thoroughly nice chap, shorter than he looks on telly) pointed out that he was saying exactly the same things now about Cameron as he had been about Clarke, Lansley tried to slime his way out of it by saying what he was saying was still “consistent”. Yes, in terms of brown nosing, very consistent.
It’s odd though, what is not quite picked up on camera. The young chap in the front audience who pinned Lansley down about his own pension rights when Lansley refused to agree that public sector workers should keep their agreed terms over retirement – the one who noted that Lansley’s own terms of retirement were “rather good”? What you didn’t really see was how Lansley eye-balled that chap, for a long time, and very seriously, and did not let it go until he managed to get a word back on it. The message was clear – do not mess with me. What a tosser.
And as Lansley wriggled on his hook trying not to answer that question, talking a lot and saying nothing, so much so that Dimbleby asked him to clarify what he was saying twice, you might have noted some vague shout from the audience that got a round of applause? That was Mr Scribbles shouting out “Answer the question”. Sadly not picked up well on telly, but much appreciated by the audience. And by me. Rarely have I been so proud.
Other than that flash of glory, the best moment came pre-show. Settled in the auditorium the floor manager was getting us, the audience, to tell him little irritable things that they would ban if they could. This was both to warm us all up and to test the sound and camera angles. People jumped at the chance to put their hand up and tell everyone how they hate chewing gum, or traffic wardens, or whatever, as the fluffy mike on the end of a long stick hovered over their heads. All very amusing, ha, ha.
Then one chap, in a brummie accent, said how he would ban “self-obsessed middle-class people who wanted to ban everything.” Wild round of applause form me and Mr Scribbles… but no on else.
Give that man a blog.
Posted by Helen at 8:45 am
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Not sure how I'll get on having to keep quiet in a room full of people expressing opinions. If you see someone getting dragged out by burly security guards because they couldn't keep their mouth shut, that will probably be me.
I've got 'til tomorrow night to come up with two questions. Feel like a kid in a sweet shop!
As per Will's suggestion (in the comments) please leave possible questions for me to ask if you like. Especially as by tea-time tonight we might have a new Tory leader declared (although I'll be leaving the house at about 5pm so don't wait 'til then).
Posted by Helen at 1:14 pm
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
If you are one of those people who thinks that animal welfare isn't important, because, well, animals aren't as important as humans are they?
Well then, read this and this.
Then read this:
Small Town Scribbles: Meat is Bad For You...
Then think again.
Posted by Helen at 6:53 pm
I really want Dumbo Davis to win the Tory leadership because the man will provide endless blogger fodder. He's just so funny, is he not? He reminds me a bit of Peter Andre. Yes, really. With Peter Andre you get the idea that his advisors have told him exactly how to answer every question an interviewer might ask, but because he’s so dim-witted he struggles to remember what he's supposed to say, which results in an odd mumbling sort of none-answer that starts with nothing and ends up nowhere. So it is with Dumbo.
And what of the contender-to-the-thrown snapping at Dumbo’s heels? Seeing those pictures of a younger David Cameron in the tabloids on Sunday, sat behind a table littered with bits and pieces which might (or might not) have been used to snort coke, the very expression on young Camos face screamed TORY (not a compliment). And all this talk of having the usual university experience when asked about drugs, the suggestion being that taking class A drugs at university is normal, wink, wink. Well, Camo, I didn’t take class A drugs at uni. They’re illegal you see, and even if that hadn’t bothered me I didn’t have the kind of money to be able to afford them anyway. I had to work through uni, you understand, just to be able to buy such luxuries as Ragu pasta sauce and gas to heat my flat.
And we all know that the only reason it matters whether or not a Tory candidate has a druggie past is that it compromises their ability to take a tough stand on drugs. And the Torys must take a tough stand on drugs. It’s one of their core principles. The Daily Mail likes that sort of stuff, as does Mrs Blue-Rinse-Fox-Hunter-Chummley from Middlenglandshire. They could hardly come out and say they are getting tough on druggies, but the right kind of druggies, you know, those from council estates, not nice middle-class boys at university.
As for Liam Fox, because he didn’t make a crap speech or refuse to answer a question as to whether or not he had taken drugs, he hasn’t blipped my radar much. I will say, however, that he looks surprisingly geography-teacherish considering his right-wingness. Will we see him one day, as he stands at a podium pouring forth bile on asylum seekers and single mothers, in socks and sandals?
For the sake of Labour, I want it to be Davis. I suspect it will be Cameron.
Posted by Helen at 5:40 pm
Well, what do we have here?
Just got around to taking a look at the league tables and I see that WBA appear to be 15th in the Premiership. This is after their win over Arsenal at the weekend you understand. Yes, you did read that right, WBA beat Arsenal on Saturday. I'll just write that again; WBA beat Arsenal.
Next question, where be the bluenoses? Hmmm, looking from the top down, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man U, nope not there. Mid league? West Ham, Middlesborough, Blackburn, but still no Birmingham City. Where could they be? Oh, hang on, I spot them, there they are, 4th from bottom and two places beneath WBA, who in case you didn't know beat Arsenal at the weekend.
Next question, where are the Villa scum? Oh, I see them right away, just ONE place above WBA.
Hmmm, interesting. (cackles maddly and rubs hands together in glee)
Posted by Helen at 4:16 pm
Monday, October 17, 2005
There was a 64% turnout for the referendum on the Iraq constitution on Saturday.
I think we all knew this was more than a referendum on the constitution; this was a referendum on democratic political process. And once again the Iraqi people, under threat of death, showed us what kind of future they want for their country. That the Sunnis have joined this process suggests they believe it has a chance of succeeding. If they can be drawn in from this point onwards then that must only be for the good, no matter how complex and arduous the political disputes become in the future.
If the Iraqi people can keep the faith, even after all the mistakes that have been made, even after all the chaos, even through all the bloodshed, then I don’t see that we have any right not to keep faith with them.
Posted by Helen at 12:53 pm
Friday, October 14, 2005
Why all the fuss over the man's hair colour?
There are only two questions that need answering to determine whether or not an actor is fit to play James Bond. One, does he look like he knows how to handle a gun? Two, would you want to do the Wild Thing with him?
I think this photo answers both of those questions. Well, does for me anyway.
Posted by Helen at 8:12 pm
It was my mom who told me Harold Pinter had won the Nobel prize. I see I’m going to have to visit her more often because she obviously has her finger on the pulse these days. She probably knew before Pinter did.
I used to read Pinter plays over and over trying to figure out his trick. The closest I can come to saying how I think they work is that he appears to break down human thought processes to atom size, then build his plays up purely out of those atoms. He sees that every individual has their own thought processes built up of differing thought-atoms, and so we each see the world differently. Consequently there is no truly shared experience, no solid definition of the past or present, and no one single truth. Reality is seen as multi-layered, irregular and constantly shifting.
Unless you are talking about the Iraq war of course. In which case, for the great man, the world suddenly pulls into sharp monochrome focus. There is nothing multi-layered for Pinter when it comes to the present international situation. Just, America Bad. That's it. There are no nuances, no moral dilemmas, no complexities. But then if you wipe clear your own personal Reality Landscape of dictators who oppress, murder and torture whole populations, your view will naturally become very constricted. You won't ever be able to think that deposing tyrants might be a good thing, if for you they never existed. And so blinded, you might as well grab for the hand of the one that shouts the loudest, and Galloway does shout very loud.
Oh, Pinter. Where did it all go wrong?
Posted by Helen at 11:10 am
Thursday, October 13, 2005
This article on sexual liaisons between boys at private schools took me back to my uni days. That might need some explaining, I know, so let me just say that uni was the first place I met the middle-classes proper. Not just families with nice cars and detached houses with front lawns, not just teacher types and other white collar professionals, but the actual bona fide middle-class.
I was one of only two in my year who didn't attend a private school and I found my fellow students quite alien. When I asked them where they came from, for instance, they often couldn’t say. They had lived in six different countries growing-up perhaps, because daddy was a foreign diplomat or something, or their mother was half-Korean half-German, their father Russian, but they'd been brought up in the south of France. There were so few points of reference between us. When they talked about school plays they talked about professional directors and touring China. They’d travelled the world; walked across deserts, snow-biked on the arctic, climbed Kilimanjaro. Sister was a barrister. Brother was an actor in a Howard Brenton play at the National. Money to spend was as air to breath.
Anyway, what really used to interest me were their school stories. The world of the public school, particularly boarding school, made scary listening. The one story that sticks in my mind was the student who told me about his form teacher. He was also the PE teacher and he’d have a good look at all the boys’ penises as they showered and then would comment on the size of them, and how they were coming along, in form class the next day – “yes, Jones, your penis is struggling still, but Parker, yours is coming along at a corking speed! You really are going to have a stonker me boy!”. Mutual fumbles in dorms, he told me, were frequent and normal occurances even though most of the boys knew they were not gay.
And yet another boy who’d been to Eton said he had found it the most homophobic of all the schools he’d attended, which really surprised me because I would have thought of it as buggery-city. He said there were a few elite Queens who might get away with it, but sex between boys was taboo. Oddly, of all the public school boys I met, he was the most normal; he didn’t affect that I AM MIDDLE-CLASS AND LOUD type accent we all know and hate, shunned designer gear for unravelling chunky-knit sweaters with egg down them, and was unassuming rather than competitive in class (oh God, the competitiveness of these people!). I seem to remember he got a third and was glad to have passed, but I imagine he’s never had to work in a call centre to make ends meet since leaving.
An unusual proportion of the girls in my year were bi, or what we now call bi-curious I suppose. They slept with girls, but had relationships with boys. In fact I found the casualness of their promiscuity, well, to be quite honest, shocking. Sex was as much a part of their lives as TV or taking showers. It was no big deal to them. One girl told me that she thought all the bed hopping at her girls’ boarding school was just out of a need for affection, but that once you’d done it with another girl it was hard to stop (I wouldn't know, in case you were wondering). That craving for affection though says a lot. They did seem oddly detached from their families the ones who’d been to boarding school - the boys and the girls. They were startlingly independent. They obviously had none of the angst of leaving home that most students have because they’d never really had a home. Subsequently their confidence levels on entering university were high, so high I couldn’t see the top from where I was. But then the confidence levels of all of my fellow students were higher than any other type of person I have ever met. They never assumed that life was ever going to do anything other than roll out before them, an endless stream of abundance. And they assumed that because that’s exactly what was going to happen of course.
Full of life, experience, and curiosity they weren’t all bad. But there was something disturbingly soulless about some of them. Most of them, to be honest. When they talked to you, you got the impression they weren’t seeing you, but were seeing an image of themselves. Their conversations were affected, droning, unconnected as if they were all just listening to their own voices. They were not that interested in learning because they didn’t need the knowledge, and they looked down on the professors. They weren't that bright or politically aware. There was something false about the friendships they formed, choosing alliances by social status and beauty. One of them looked right through me once as I stood in front of him talking to him. I see him on telly now, acting small parts in quality dramas with prominent actors. He was a good looking golden-haired boy, tall and muscular, with a rich voice. He once had photographs taken of him having sex with a girl at a party, and when threatened with having copies of these photograph pasted around the department, his only response was that he wanted to choose the best ones to be posted. I could imagine for all his beauty that having sex with him would be a lonely, despairing sort of experience.
He was supposed to have been in love with one of the bright sparks in our year. A girl who had won Young Musician of the Year award and whose looks and dress spoke of Manor Houses with moats, grand pianos, and red wine drunk before log fires in crystal glasses. I thought they might end up being the new Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh (this was the mid-nineties), but despite him popping up on ITV twice a year, I have never heard of her since. She spoke Italian as I remember, and is probably living a boho life directing Commedia dell’Arte and making love to Italian Counts in ruined castles.
Well, somebody has to I suppose. I quite liked her as it happens, as impossibly beautiful and talented as she was, she was one of the few that could and would engage with other human beings. Trained to compete, to achieve, to win, most couldn’t engage with anyone or anything; they could only consume. Gobbling through their bountiful lives, unthinking and glassy eyed, tasting absolutely nothing. And feeling nothing I’ll bet. They don’t know what they have, the middle-classes, but they’ll go ahead and screw it anyway.
Posted by Helen at 5:40 pm
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Will at A General Theory of Rubbish has tagged me (ta) for the following thingy:
1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
The post was called "Labour Keep Edgbaston" and the fifth sentence is:
"Paxo not even pretending that things are going well."
The Paxo in question is Jeremy Paxman, and the thing that was not going well was the BBC's coverage of the election night. It's a pity though it doesn't ask for the seventh sentence which was:
"Had bananas, but still shaky."
Hmmm, who want? Paul of Pulpmovies?
Posted by Helen at 8:44 pm
After an earthquake that took more than 20,000 lives, we do this, whilst they do this.
Yes, they care so much about the suffering of fellow Muslims around the world these insurgents, don't they?
If only hacking the heads off inccocent people and blowing up random citizens could help here, these boys would have had the whole situation under control by now.
Posted by Helen at 6:27 pm
The work and pensions secretary, David Blunkett, today published eight principles for reforming the welfare state, preparing the ground for the government's controversial attempt to get hundreds of thousands of people off incapacity benefit.
The eight principles are:
· help people to help themselves by offering a ladder to self-reliance and self-determination, not merely a safety net in time of need;
· see work as the best route out of welfare;
· promote understanding and enable people to make informed choices for themselves;
· balance rights with responsibilities, while recognising the need for support and care where appropriate
· recognise our mutual interdependence and obligation to each other, promoting solidarity between generations, and the importance of using the resources of government to help people cope with rapid economic and social change;
· ensure the role of the state is active, liberating and enabling;
· address the root causes of poverty and overcome intergenerational disadvantage and exclusion;
· contribute to a stable and growing economy through investment in the potential of every individual, and flexibility of support in and out of work.
Something’s missing, methinks. Can’t quite put my finger on it though. I think it’s missing, erm, oh you know, what d'ya call it? Erm, oh yes, I've got it! It’s missing meaning. Yes, that’s right, the above eight principles seem to be completely devoid of meaning.
Will somebody please tell Labour to stop spouting this kind of guff? Not for the first time I ask – who writes this stuff?
Posted by Helen at 5:57 pm
Three things from theguardian today.
Lu Banglie, the Chinese democracy activist beaten-up this week by hired thugs, believes that oppressive rule in China can be combated with dialogue, teaching, learning, petitions, and following a doctrine of non-violence. What? You can change the world without using bombs and guns? Why weren’t we told?
Next up, the New Orleans police. Officers under investigation for stealing 200 cars before the storm hit. But, didn’t the news tell us it was the poor black people doing the looting?
A Tory MP, John Bercow, on immigration: “Political extremists love to peddle myths about massive benefits to asylum seekers in order to whip up racist feeling in a grubby quest for votes. Whenever democratic politicians are confronted with these falsehoods we should see it as our responsibility to rebut them with facts.” Yes, alright, he said it because he understands that having cheap labour flowing into the country keeps all low-wages very low, but, you know, a nugget of truth shining in a heap of muck.
Somebody please put the world up the right way for tomorrow, thanks.
Posted by Helen at 5:17 pm
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
You know, I thought I would enjoy the Tory conference and I was right. But I’m not enjoying it for all reasons I thought I would.
I expected to bear witness to a party in terrible flux, one without direction, flaccid, lacking in moral fibre. I expected the speeches to be self-conscious, boring, full of empty sound-bites and a bit eggy.
Boy was I wrong!
I have managed to catch Rifkin, Osborne, Clarke, and Davis, and every single one of them has taken my breath away. I thought the Tory party did not have the calibre of staff to match the Labour party, but having watched these political tigers in action I see I was wrong.
And what they have said makes so much sense. That flat tax thingy and the way they keep going on about how they let people buy their council houses – in all honesty, could anyone ever see Labour reaching out to people in this way?
I find myself very excited about who will win this leadership contest and go on to possibly be PM. Clarke I feel has taken some of the ground from Davis as the front runner with his juicy speech. But Davis gave an impressive speech too. His careful, slow, laborious delivery was reminiscent of the great IDS. And they say it’s not his strongest point! Well, even if it’s not, what does it mater? How many times does a party leader or PM have to give speeches for goodness sake. It’s not as if it’s that important.
I know I’ve always been a bit of a lefty, but I find Davis’s fresh approach very attractive. I think I might be on the turn, and don't try and pretend that you haven't been similarly touched.
Posted by Helen at 2:24 pm
Monday, October 03, 2005
Staying with local stories, how bizarre is this one from the Birmingham Mail?
"Birmingham Liberal Democrats were in turmoil last night after regional officials suspended the Perry Barr and Ladywood constituency party amid claims of infiltration by militant Asians.
At least 60 new members face an investigation to discover whether they are true Liberal Democrat supporters with a belief in the party's constitution and aims, a source revealed. "
First question - what the hell are "militant Asians"?
Second question - The Lib Dems have aims?
Posted by Helen at 5:49 pm
I was at mom’s yesterday and she happened to mention how Dudley council had banned their staff from having anything to do with pigs in their workplace so as not to offend Muslims.
Patronising daughter here patiently explained to poor misguided mother how these type of stories were almost always invention and myth. Don’t fall for this claptrap, I said, it’s all lies.
Then I went to Harry’s Place today and found they had posted on this article.
At first it seemed I owed my long suffering mother an apology. But then, you know what? Thinking about it, I just feel there’s something fishy smelling about it, like there is with all of these sort of “political correctness gone mad” stories.
But I don’t know which bit stinks.
Firstly, I’m thinking any Muslim who finds pigs offensive because of their religion is surely ill-advised. Not being able to eat pigs is not the same as being offended by them, surely?
Secondly, and confusingly, at the same time I also find it hard to believe that anybody would actually make a serious complaint about pigs in the office. Thinking of all the Muslims I’ve worked with and the ones I knock around with, it just seems bizarre.
Thirdly, I can’t believe that Dudley council would have taken any complaint, seriously made or not, and gone to the silly lengths to ban all pigs, rather than just taken the stress-relieving pig (I’m curious) off the complainer and promised not to give them one again.
Fourthly, the agenda of a press story like this? Look how we have to bend over backwards for them Muslims.
Reading the Harry’s Place comments this afternoon (there were about 100 when I read it, there are probably more now), this piqued my interest:
"It's almost as though the BNP planted someone in the council to do this thing with the aim of creating anger amongst white christians against these uppity "ethnics". Because that's what the predictable outcome was. What matters in this toy pig case is not the actual complainant, who is a buffoon, but what the silent muslim majority feel about this. If they secretly endorse it, then we've got problems. From the muslims i know, i'm sure they would regard it as absurd… but they need to find a voice and quickly. Because they and other non-muslim asians like me are the ones who will feel the resentment stories like this create and are seized upon by the BNP and such like."
And Sean Fear adds:
"A thought which has often crossed my mind. IIRC Dudley does have one BNP councillor, and a big BNP vote in certain wards. This is a splendid publicity coup for them."
As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m crap at conspiracy theories, but I think I’ve been fed a line and on the end of it is one big stinky fish.
Posted by Helen at 5:29 pm
There, I’ve said it.
I know this makes me look naïve and right-wing, but I can’t seem to help it. I don’t hark back to the old days, I don’t think that Blair has kidnapped Labour, and I don’t long for the day when he’s gone.
A lot of New Labour people, I know, are people scooped up when Labour moved into the political middle. Not so with me. From where I come from two things were mandatory – voting Labour and supporting West Bromwich Albion. Deviating from either carried the threat of being banished from the town and disowned by your entire family. We were big Kinnock fans in our house, Tory haters, and Labour diehards. Being left-wing was to truly be on the side of good against evil.
Part of me misses that. There’s no one to spa with these days. Until the last election the Tories were too pathetic to hate, and I have often over the last few years had a wander over to the Lib Dems to see what they have on offer. But Tony Blair’s conference speech made me realise that I am with Labour now perhaps more than ever. Twice in the last week I have declared myself a Labour voter, which even during the election I struggled to say.
But any difference between me and the party has not been over either its political shift towards the centre or over the war. I have felt most separate from Blair and Labour over civil liberties. I found their determination to lock people up without trial, refusing even to contemplate a sunset clause, quite frankly disgusting. The powers they are giving the police trouble me, even though I know the police need their hands untying with the new al-Qaeda threat. But it’s not just civil liberties. The whole faith school thing frustrates and angers me, and the whole flog schools off to Christian evangelists thing fills me with despair. We are sowing the seeds of something that is going to be reap us real trouble in the future.
And there is something managerial about a lot of New Labour politicians that is very off putting. Patricia Hewit for instance. A soulless automaton, barking out party speak like something out of an Orwell novel.
All of this nearly turned me away from voting Labour last May.
But I find that Labour’s core values still hold. They are the best hope for social justice that this country has had in a long while. New deal, Sure Start, the minimum wage. The culture down here in the bottom third of society is different. We are not disdained by the political elite for not living in the right postcode area, or earning enough, or falling sick. We are not made to feel a burden in society that can only be patronised and tolerated. We are now “hard working families” and “decent people”. Just as how during the 1980s I was witness in lots of small personal ways to the crushing hand of the Tories, I am now witness in lots of small personal ways to the breath of life from Labour.
I know there is still much inequality. Despite the minimum wage there still exists an underclass of people who are not paid a living wage. Tax credits are one answer, but let’s face it, the government should not be subsidising companies to exploit its workers. And tax credits do not help people without families. In their third term, this section of society who have benefited the least from the rise in living standards, must be the focus of good Labour work.
Because the unions won’t help them. Sharp intake of breath, but I don’t get all dewy-eyed over the unions. A small reason for this is that I can’t shake the image I associate them with of a bald man in a blue boiler-suit shouting “everybody out” across the factory floor to a groaning workforce. The unions did good obviously, but let’s not forget that they had massive failings. At the height of their power in the 70s, fuelled by the mass support of male workers in steel, mining, and manufacturing industry, they did not support the Equal Pay Act. In fact, I don’t think as organisations they liked women very much. And worried about a loss of power and control, they did not support the drive for a minimum wage.
And on a personal level they have been rubbish. In many a job certain benefits such as time-and-a-half payments, unsocial hours pay, entitlement to days in lieu for Bank Holidays worked, have all been taken away right under the noses of various unions. I know Thatcher broke their back, but they did nothing. And every union rep I have ever met on shop floor level, without exception, has been too filled with their own self-importance to care about anyone else but themselves. Many have seemed only to want to use the union job to bounce their status and thumb their nose at management. I have often paid my subs, and never felt a part of any union, although glossy magazines falling through my letter box told me I was.
Rather than only being able to gain protection from nasty companies through joining a club and paying, much better for all to have certain basic rights in law. This will reach the low-paid far better than the unions ever had a chance of doing.
And so Blair does it for me. How I will feel after a few more years we shall see. I’m keeping an eye on civil liberty issues, and also on the use of the private sector in our public services. In particular I don’t get this whole “choice” thing. But I’m happy that we have a government not content just to sit in power, but one that will stick its neck out time and time again in order to try and make things better. I like that Blair calls himself a changemaker. I like that he is utterly incapable of playing safe. I like his attitude – lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Perhaps now I’ve got that off my chest I can sleep. I’ve just heard the first twitterings of the dawn chorus.
Posted by Helen at 2:08 am
Saturday, October 01, 2005
So they want to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in southeast Asia.
Can anybody tell me how this gets them closer to that aim?
Perhaps it does. Perhaps there are people tonight who are saying we should talk to this organisation. Negotiate with them. Let them have what they want so they stop shredding innocent civilians to pieces. Let there be peace in our time.
I'm sorry Bali.
Posted by Helen at 9:32 pm