Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Monthly Archives: October 2009

If You Want My Advice…

Independent advisers can play an important role in government, bringing in expertise that might otherwise be lacking were one to rely on the chance appearance of a specialist among the green or red benches of Parliament.

They can also play a less celebrated role in being able to spark public debate about controversial issues – the legalisation of drugs, to pick a not-so-random example – without the government being implicated in trying to push its own policy in that particular direction.

However, these two objectives can be undermined by two things: one is if the adviser, having given his advice and had that advice rejected, then begins to throw his toys out of the pram and publicly attacks the minister. Making your advice public is fine – indeed it aids the second objective of opening the wider debate – but to go into a huff when you don’t get your own way is overstepping the line, as well as making yourself appear somewhat puffed up with your own self-importance (that’s the job of us politicians!)

The other problem with advisers can come when they are not independent. If they are drawn from an existing lobby, campaigning group or “fake charity”, then not only will their appointment be making a statement (even if unintentionally) about the government’s underlying thinking on an issue, but it will be all the more difficult for the government to distance itself from that adviser when they do the job asked of them.

“Advisers advise, ministers decide”, goes the mantra … but it’s the comma in the middle that is the most critical part of the phrase.


The Race for EU Preszzzz…

Sometimes an issue comes up that you think you probably ought to care about, but you just can’t bring yourself to.

So it is with the campaign for unprompted media speculation about “Tony Blair for EU President”.

Am I excited about the prospect of a senior British political figure becoming the head of Europe? Err, no. (In fact, much as Iain Dale felt on Monday, I see.)

I think I feel as the majority of voters seem to, who shun the elections for the European Parliament: I would rather there wasn’t one, I see no need for, or advantage in, having one. In the case of the President, I would rather have “none of the above”. Since the chances are absolutely nil of someone appearing whose first act would be to abolish his own office and most of the pointless bureaucratic monolith that is the EU, I really couldn’t care less who is sitting in the middle of the motorcade.

But then again, when have any of the European political elite ever cared what the ordinary voter thinks?

The BNP’s Nick Griffin on Question Time: “Barrel”, “Fish” & “Shooting”

To be honest, I thought it was a bit of an anti-climax. Perhaps even, dare I say it, boring.

You would have thought that Griffin would have properly briefed himself, polished his answers and done his research. What we saw was that the BNP are amateurs. Just as their councillors have proven to be useless, so their leader was clearly out of his depth. Even when asked his views on the Holocaust, he failed in what many perceive to be the politician’s dark art of Avoiding The Question. As many suspected, he was given the oxygen of publicity and choked on it.

What made it somewhat boring, in my view, was that all but one of the questions were about the BNP (inevitably, I suppose). In supporting the principle of Griffin appearing (which I still do) I was rather hoping he would have his policies examined across the whole range of current issues. For instance, there wasn’t a question about the week’s major issue: the postal strikes. Such an issue would have given us a glimpse of the BNP policies beyond race and immigration – something which their spokesman on the Today programme did this morning with a short rant about privatisation that could have come out of the mouth of any CWU spokesman. It would also have revealed the inconvenient truth about the BNP: that once you strip away the immigration and race issues, you’d be hard pressed to tell the BNP from the Socialist Workers Party (or whatever they’re calling themselves this month).

Even so, it did give many people a laugh when Griffin defined indigenous Britons as those who have been here for 17,000 years. And that is often the best way to deal with these people: sometimes mockery is a far more powerful weapon than any form censorship or intellectual dissection.

Update: As KRO notes, the BNP’s website (you can work out the address, I’m not helping their Google rankings) has become strangely truncated.

Frankie Boyle is Offensive

Oh dear, I’m starting to develop a habit of stating the obvious in blog post titles aren’t I?

It must be a couple of decades since comedians like Bernard Manning became regarded as “beyond the pale” for broadcasting. Most people, if they were asked where Manning was on the political spectrum, would put him on the Right. (I’m not going to get into the debate of whether racism is only the preserve of the (old) Right here.) Jim Davidson is another “right-wing comedian” who we see little of these days on television.

Now of course, offensiveness can take many forms. So why has it taken so long for the BBC to notice how offensive are the likes of left-wing comedians like Frankie Boyle?

BBC satirical show Mock The Week is in trouble for joking that Olympic swimming champion Rebecca Adlington resembled “someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon”.

The remark which has now fallen foul of the trust was made by Frankie Boyle, a regular on BBC Two’s Mock The Week, and broadcast in August 2008, soon after Adlington won two gold medals in Beijing.

Even so, it seems that being offensive about the Queen is fine. I’m not suggesting that Her Majesty should be immune from being the butt of jokes, but surely if a test for bad taste is being applied, then why should the monarch be treated any differently from a commoner? Isn’t such equal treatment what anti-Monarchists are always banging on about?

Every cloud has a silver lining, though: it was recently announced that Boyle has left Mock the Week.

Apologies …

… for the break in blogging service over the last few days.

If I feel inclined, I may, in the near future, post something very uncomplimentary about Fasthosts if they don’t pull their socks up.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Talks Rubbish

I appreciate that headline ranks alongside “Pope Is Revealed as Catholic Shock” but sometimes the obvious does need to be stated.

YA-B was at it yesterday in the Evening Standard, talking about how undemocratic it is to allow a democratically elected party to air their views on television. Of course, it’s about the BNP and their appearance next week on Question Time.

Firstly, let me get the obligatory caveat out of the way: I do not support the BNP … abhorrent views … you know how it goes.

Right. Let’s have a look at Yasmin’s pearls of wisdom. I don’t have the time for a full fisking, and I suspect neither have you, so let’s pick out the highlights:

“The excuse used [for allowing them on] is that more than 900,000 people voted for the party during June’s European elections and the bulldoggish Griffin is now an MEP.”

It’s not an excuse Yasmin, it’s a reason. It’s called democracy. The annoying thing about democracy is that sometimes you don’t get the result you’d like. Take 1997 for example (of course, you wouldn’t).

“Yet this week two young BNP officials – who were allowed by the BBC to remain anonymous and unidentified as such – were brought on to Radio 1 to racially insult the footballer Ashley Cole – and they were not challenged once.”

Sometimes the examples of (left-wing) BBC bias are just sloppy journalism, and so it was, I suspect, with the “pro-BNP BBC bias” (it’s laughable just saying it) in that interview.

“Democracy, is it? To open the most respected TV programme in the land to those who would deny millions of us our democratic rights?”

Yes. Whereas you implicitly deny those 900,000 misguided souls who voted for the BNP their democratic right to see and hear from the second-raters they gave their support to.

“Jack Straw, Chris Huhne and Bonnie Greer should not have agreed to appear with any BNP representative on the show.”

Why? Because “no-platforming” them has worked so well up to now?

“For rational and reasonable arguments with bigots are wasted breath.”

Something we agree on. That’s worrying.

“I tried last Friday to argue passionately on BBC Radio 2 with UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom, who cheerfully calls his Asian contacts “Pakis” ….”

I was listening to that very programme. What struck me, apart from the cringe-worthy Godfrey Bloom, was Yasmin’s story about how she and a friend had got lost in a village in the countryside. After knocking on a few doors for help, unsuccessfully (the occupants were out), she found herself questioned by the police – presumably because someone had noticed strangers acting suspiciously. In Yasmin’s eyes, though, it was because this predominantly white village was naturally stuffed full of racists who had reported them for being non-white (or, to use her words “Pakis and terrorists”). Without a hint of irony, she was using the story as an illustration of racial prejudice (but not hers).

“Who next to debate with the great and good? A Ku Klux Klan leader? Holocaust denier David Irving? It would make a terrifically edgy programme.”

People like Irving need pity or ridicule, not a prison sentence. Far from being an edgy programme, I think it would give most decent people a good laugh.

There Is Hope Yet

So mob rule has, for the time being at least, been thwarted. Geert Wilders, whilst admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea, has successfully overturned the ban on entry to the UK that Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary, had imposed on him.

Wilders wants to screen his film “Fitna”, which is less than complimentary about the Koran.

The Home Office is disappointed, reports the Telegraph:

“The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence.”

I seem to recall, though, that the veiled threats seemed to come from closer to home. Lord Ahmed, as far as I can see, is still to comment.

You’re Wrong! You’re All Wrong I Tell You!

This just in from our correspondent in cloud cuckoo land (a.k.a. the Number 10 bunker):

Mr Brown says … that it is “simply not true” that tough years lie ahead.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister insists that he is optimistic about the future and predicts strong growth over the next 12 months.

“If you have a growth policy for Britain, get unemployment down, get the economy moving forward, then Britain can have upgrowth,” he says.

His remarks will surprise many economic experts, whose growth forecasts are far less optimistic. He is also likely to face Tory claims that he is failing to be “honest” with the public.

“Upgrowth”? Is that, like, the opposite of “negative growth”? Doubleplusgood then!

Whatever Gordon Brown is on*, can I have some?

In the meantime, I have an appointment with a roll of draught excluder.

(* Sorry – I forgot we’re not supposed to discuss that subject)

The Morning After

Well, what did you expect? The speech of a Prime Minister in waiting, or the “everything is hunkydory I saved the world Tories will eat your kittens” skit that Gordon Brown treated us to last week?

George Osborne setting out some policies on how to tackle the debt crisis, or the Alistair Darling approach of donning the rose-tinted spectacles while waiting for said Mr Osborne to give him his next policy idea?

And whatever happened to Europe? On Sunday the media had decided that it was going to be the Nineties all over again, with Tories tearing each other to pieces over the Lisbon treaty … in the event, it seems the media had only put on the seven-inch radio edit of the mood music, rather than the long concept album that would have been the norm fifteen years’ ago.

Yet this year I was not there to get caught up in the usual post-leader’s speech euphoria (it’s powerful stuff – even IDS’s “turning up the volume” thing got us going in 2003). So I was seeing the speech in the same way that many “ordinary voters” would have, and through the media filters. Cheery? Not really. Honest? Yes.

All in all, a good workmanlike leader’s speech. Then again, I would say that wouldn’t I?

Obama: Peace Prize Winner

No, really. President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Not bad considering he’s only nine eight months into the job.

He was awarded it for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.” Ah yes, I remember.

Clearly a far more deserving choice than front-runner Morgan Tsvangirai – I mean, what has he ever done for ending strife and conflict in a politically unstable part of the world?

Oops … I think I broke the irony meter there.