As the MPs from my party go to the polls today to decide the two people to put forward to the membership to be the next Prime Minister of this glorious country, I’ve been thinking about the influence of the media on the race and on politics in general. It is usually a good indicator that the writer is a (hate the term, but…) moonbat left-wing lunatic if he/she starts ranting about the press, calling for regulation, and usually wanting to ban the Mail and much of the Murdoch press outright. After this leadership election, I’m starting to worry that they might have a small point. Not in the banning part, of course, nor in the foam-flecked conspiracy theorising that they usually indulge in, but certainly in the fact that the media seems to set the agenda more and more in modern politics. In this leadership election, it is entirely possible, and indeed now very likely, that the media will have ended up choosing the victor themselves. There’s nothing wrong with an individual paper writing a leader column recommending a candidate of course, but when the press from day one seems to choose what they want to write, and then proceeds to shoehorn events into that narrative, something is deeply rotten in our democracy.
As a recovering theoretical physicist, I often have the urge to break things down into the smallest possible component to see why and how they work. For those not in the know about the king of all sciences, the general trend over at least the last hundred years in physics has been for reductionism. During the 20th Century, the holy grail of modern physics was to formulate a single set of equations that would adequately describe the behaviour of both the very largest and very smallest things in the Universe, up till now described fairly adequately by the predictions of General Relativity (at the big end) and Quantum Mechanics / Field Theory (at the little end). The problem comes when you try to combine the two, and to cut a long story short, almost a hundred years of hard maths and conceptual dead-endery has left the world of theoretical physics pretty much none the wiser. Although we have quaffed a lot of coffee, and in the long run, that’s all that counts.
Abortion. There, I’ve said it. That’s another 100 extra hits on the statcounter today, fellow Sharpeners. There’s nothing the political world likes more than a contentious moral issue, and this particular issue is one of the daddies. This post was going to be a collaborative effort between me and Katie, but alas she is too busy, so you lucky souls just get my bit. That’s nice for me, of course, because it means I’m the de facto winner. King of the debate, if you will. Lord of the argument. Duke of disagreement. Enough…
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
The British blogosphere is up in arms, some of them quite literally. We’re under attack by nihilistic terrorists, with whom there is no negotiation. Their goals are ludicrous enough that it is almost impossible to countenance considering them, and thus we are at war. Even if it were possible and even moral to withdraw all of our, and all of the the rest of the West’s, troops from the Middle East, a move which would almost certainly destroy any chance of democracy taking root in their soil and which would condemn the people to rule by despots, dictators, and fundamentalist medieval-mindset clerics, we still shouldn’t do it for purely strategic reasons. This post was prompted by this, over at Chicken Yoghurt, where a few of us agreed that we really don’t know much about terrorism, and that the discussion that the British blogosphere is having is missing the point.
A much wiser, fatter, and more Italian man than me may once have said, “Respect the family.” Family is the most important thing in the world, but in today’s Britain (that sounds a bit Daily Mail…), we don’t respect that basic building block of society (and as a good Conservative, I have to now deny that there is such a thing…). It is a sine qua non of the right – stable families produce good citizens, in every sense of that word. No politician would claim to be anti-family, but several generations of ‘liberal’ social policy have had unintended consequences, and I think it’s time for the left to reconsider some of their own sine qua non’s.
This place has been hideously left wing for a week while Blimpish and I have had our backs turned, so I thought I’d rustle up some hate-filled bile to even the score.
Today Gordon Brown announced his plan to save Africa from poverty, which he hopes, in vain, to tie up at the G8 summit in Scotland next month. Well done, Gordon. You’ve triangulated the master of triangulation, Tony Blair, by getting your own name in lights above this one. Political strategy aside, however, I really don’t get this plan. I’m not an economist by trade, and I’m certainly not a political theorist. I’m self-taught in both fields, and proud of it, but it does tend to mean I’m probably more rigid in my own ideas than if I were brought up with them. The well documented phenomenon of people moving to the right as they get older is probably partly to do with people being tribally left through upbringing until they realise that right is, erm, right.
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.
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.
It’s an odd curiosity that the two main political parties are going through a similar period of internecine warfare. It’s covert, with incursions and exchanges being made through the media, rather than using the more traditional armaments of quiet whispers in the right ears.
The polls are open, the people are voting, and, barring some form of catastrophic disaster removing the top half of the United Kingdom, it’s all really over. Tony is about to romp home to a 3rd successive, historic victory. The opinion polls are probably wrong (they historically tend to overstate Labour slightly), but there is a disturbing consensus around the result:
and even the betting exchanges are showing Labour with around 370 seats, the Tories on about 190, and the Libs on about 65, which would give an overall majority around 90 for our glorious leader.