Monthly Archives: May 2005

As a nation, the past few years we Brits have become pretty adept at getting wound up by things that, in the grand scheme of things, are not really that important. The march against the Iraq War was one of the few instances in which the British people did get something right. But since then, we’ve hardly done anything, and a lot of people have been naive enough to believe Tony Blair that Iraq really is better now. Such people need to consult Today In Iraq.

But this post isn’t about Iraq. Iraq is the only exception to the thesis I am about to launch into. I believe that Britain has a problem. It’s not one that people will be prepared to admit to, and it appears to be something buried deep within the psyche of the nation. The symptom of this problem is responsible for some of the problems we see in society in terms of a small minority of people (not just children) who have no respect for the law. On top of that, we have people who like the law only when it is on their side. But underneath all this is one of the problems: Britain’s obsession with abuse; that violence solves all, and feeding a general culture of misguidance.
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Judging by the reaction to previous posts here at The Sharpener, you, dear readers, cannot get enough of this electoral reform stuff. So, in the greater service of interested humanity, I thought I would write on the subject (hereafter re-branded the Fair Vote) once more.

But this time I’ll try to answer a specific question: how would the political map of Britain look if we went ahead and introduced this foreign, European electoral muck?
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(Regular readers of my own blog will be aware that I’m quite a Doctor Who fan. However, you can all rest assured that this post relates to Who only tangentially.)

In his 1995 article ‘What have we got to lose?‘ Douglas Adams made an interesting point about the BBC:

Television companies are not in the business of delivering television programs to their audience, they’re in the business of delivering audiences to their advertisers. (This is why the BBC has such a schizophrenic time – it’s actually in a different business from all its competitors)

One of the most interesting developments of the last couple of years has been the BBC’s realisation of this, and how it’s now making a fairly sizeable move to take advantage of it.
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Now that the government has made it a priority to introduce the law against incitement to religious hatred, the time has come to consider whether Osama Bin Laden is right.

I don’t mean right in a blowback, arab-streety kind of way. I mean specifically and exactly right. I mean that his policies and actions, and those inspired by him, correctly interpret the will of God in every particular and that we should not only change our attitudes to 9/11 but fervently hope for another revelation of a similar kind.

And in the light of the proposed legislation, I believe that we are not only morally bidden to consider whether Osama bin Laden was right, but also legally obliged to do so. Read More

I blog partly because I like to write, partly because I’m arrogant enough to believe people will read what I write and like it, and partly for interactivity. I’m not a professional writer (no cheap cracks please…), so I like to play around with writing and words without being too constrained by any conventions of particular media. This post is a bit experimental, and I’m focussing on the interactivity aspect of blogging. Part of the reason that The Sharpener was set up was to create a forum for proper debate between lots of people who disagree, whether it stems from party political tribalism, from genuinely differing axioms / prejudices / Bayesian priors / fundamental views, or from different logical paths stemming from those priors. In view of that, I thought I’d set out my views on healthcare in the UK, a subject which both interests me ideologically and academically, and which affects me personally, as my wife works deep within the bowels of the NHS. What I want you to do is to read it, disagree, and tell me why you think I’m wrong. Then, I’ll tell you why you’re mistaken.

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My first post at The Sharpener, but – in typically lax fashion – rather than apply myself to producing witty bon mots, dazzlingly fresh insights, sharp apercus, etc, I thought I’d warm up something I wrote over here in the immediate aftermath of the general election, complete with unashamedly partisan appeal (that I hope my quasi-editors don’t object too greatly to.) Rest assured, dear reader, fingers will be pulled out for future postings. In the meantime, this:

With the dust now settling around us, certain new features have emerged in the grey and unpleasant land of British politics. New Labour continues is determinedly self-destructive bearing towards plain authoritarianism, seemingly unabashed; elsewhere, a definite series of new settlements are emerging. Read More

Before I raise the blood-pressure of at least one of my fellow Sharpener writers, let me be clear at the start. I am in favour of the new EU constitution, albeit in a somewhat guarded fashion. My vote on it will almost certainly be a yes.

What I object to is more fundamental – I simply hate referendums. They are a blot on the electoral landscape, they provide craven politicians with an excuse to abdicate responsibility and they undermine the very nature of representative democracy. They should simply never happen.

Many commentators have bemoaned the Labour party’s perceived mangling of the British constitution. They have claimed that devolution is dismantling the kingdom, that Lords reform has resulted in a half-way house that pleases nobody, and that the abolition of the post of Lord Chancellor has shown the incompetence of the whole enterprise. Arguments can be made for all these statements. But for me, the most damning legacy that Labour has left on our way of government, and one of the least mentioned, is its headlong dash to hold referendums whenever the going gets tough.

Let me explain.
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With the French referendum vote too close to call, if you’re a pro-EU pessimist like me this is getting a tad too nerve-wracking. Given that Britain will almost certainly opt for a “No” vote in any referendum, the whole exercise of constitutional ratification also seems rather futile.

To turn Britain’s vote around would have taken a long, sustained period of campaigning which simply hasn’t yet materialised. Now there is too little time – especially as the campaign won’t kick off until at least after Blair’s managed to consolidate and work out his post-election position, and thanks to the European Parliament voting to overturn the UK’s opt-out from the working time directive, looking like yet more Brussels meddling, if a referendum happens, Britain will vote no.
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On the 1st of March I wrote a post complaining that the nation is slowly whipping itself up into a frenzy about ever smaller and smaller things in terms of national significance.

This hasn’t been better summed up than in the nonsense of the past couple of days. I’ve been finding it hard to believe that people are seriously getting themselves worked up over an item of clothing, but when the Express announced its new “Crusade!” today that hoodies should be banned, I realised that this nation is in the grip of a seizure of stupidity, led by the moronic “free press”. We love to hail our free press as the finest in the world, holding the government to account. But they sure are pillocks.
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I’m free to be whatever I, whatever I choose and I’ll sing the blues if I want…
I’m free to say whatever I, whatever I like, if it’s wrong or right, it’s alright…

The week after an election is a strange time. We political junkies start to shiver and shake, craving our next fix of electoral stimulus. We long to test the theories and ideologies of policy against public perception, in the forlorn hope of finding acceptance. It also throws our blog-writing mojo out of whack, it being a particularly dull week in comparison to the months of campaigning that are now over.

Having said that, a few interesting snippets of information and strange moments of candid reflection have cropped up, and of such things, lengthy blog opuses are made. Take my hand, dear reader, and follow me down into the rabbit hole of British politics. It’s a funny old place, where words mean exactly what politicians want them to mean, nothing more, nothing less, and there’s a strange toothy grin with not a Cheshire cat in sight.

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