Friday, May 29, 2015 

Justice.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015 

Film review: V/H/S.

You know what I miss? Stupid, dumb, meat and potatoes slasher films.  There's a killer, he kills people, mostly idiotic, annoying teenagers who may or may not have been in some way responsible for why he is the way he is, he does it in inventive, amusing ways, with or without wisecracks, until there's only one left, often a young woman, who manages to outsmart him.  The door is left open for a sequel, it's all accomplished in 80-100 minutes, the colour theme of the film is vibrant rather than washed out brown/green, it's not lensed by a cinematographer with Saint Vitus' dance, and the editor refuses the temptation to make a bazillion cuts every nanosecond.

Is that too much to ask?  Is it really necessary for every other new "horror" film to be a part of the "found footage" genre, or to follow the lead set by the Paranormal Activity series of films, which seemingly exist only so as to make life even more miserable for the zero-hour, minimum wage slaves at the local World of Cine who have to pick up all the spilt popcorn between screenings?  How is it I cannot think of a single horror film released in the past 5 years other than American Mary that I would watch again?  I haven't seen It Follows, You're Next or As Above, So Below yet, all of which have had somewhat decent reviews, but I'm really not getting my hopes up for any of them.

And so we come to V/H/S.  Not only is it a found footage horror film, it's a portmanteau/anthology found footage horror film!  That means there's not just 120 minutes of shaky, wibbly, constantly breaking up and decayed video to enjoy, but it's broken up into segments, sort of but not really tied together by the conceit of a gang of idiots breaking into a house to steal a tape, only they don't know what it is or what's on it.

Except the film doesn't so much as bother to follow that conceit, as on a couple of occasions the next segment just begins without one of our intrepid heroes pressing play.  Still, we're not really here for the plot, we're here for the spookums aren't we, so what does it matter?

The film then opens with a sexual assault.  Yep.  Turns out our narrators, or at least guides have been making $50 a pop by grabbing women on the street and exposing their breasts, all the while filming their attacks.  These are then posted online.  They do this, needless to say, in broad daylight, without covering their faces.  Only one of the group has found out they can make a whole heap more dough by just breaking into this one house and stealing a tape.  They don't ask for any more details, they'll just know when they've found it.

There is, of course, a dead guy in the house, in front of the obligatory stack of TVs and video machines.  Which tape is it?  Why do they not just gather up all the tapes and leave to review them elsewhere, as indeed one of the group suggests at one point, only to decide it's a fanciful idea?  Why are they filming everything they're doing?  Why I have not already switched this rubbish off?

The leery, nasty tone set from the off continues in our first segment, Amateur Night, directed by David Bruckner.  Our new group of 3 bros have only scored a pair of those spy glasses off the interwebs, the sort "used" by reality porn producers to film them picking up a random woman off the street and then having a rather jolly time together!  Guess what they're going to do with the glasses?  Do you think things won't go according to plan?  Do you think that despite the implication being this is meant to suggest objectifying women isn't a good thing it won't in fact do anything of the kind?  Do you think the pay off despite everything being wrong will be worth it, rather than a mess of CGI and shaky cam?  Does the director think everyone in the audience won't be asking themselves WHY HASN'T HE TAKEN THE GODDAMN GLASSES OFF?

Next up is director Ti West, known for 2009's House of the Devil, with "Second Honeymoon".  His segment ends with one of the goons asking, "what the fuck was that?".  My sentiments exactly.  The one thing that can be said in its favour is that if you were to find a tape with a real murder filmed on it, it would probably make as little sense as his section does.  Couple on a road trip, film themselves as they go along, only there's someone letting themselves into their hotel room who picks the camera up and records them as they sleep, only THEY USE A LIGHT AND YET IT SOMEHOW DOESN'T WAKE THE COUPLE UP.  Nor does the couple notice anything amiss, apart from some money having gone missing.  It's dreadful.

We then have Glenn McQuaid's "Tuesday the 17th", which as you would expect from the title is sort of playing with genre conventions except not really.  Best of the bunch which is saying very little is Joe Swanberg's The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger, which consists of Skype chats between a couple living apart, with the Emily of the title convinced her apartment is haunted.  It is, and yet it isn't.  In fact it's something far worse.  It's not in the slightest bit scary, but it does switch things up after what's gone before, although again there's some unnecessary leeriness.  Last is "10/31/98", and we are back once again into everything that is wrong with the found footage genre.  Our gang of slightly older bros don't think to call the police and instead steam in to save the victim of some crazies at a house where they thought there was a Halloween party, with the expected consequences.

The problem with "found footage" is it asks you to suspend your disbelief twice over.  While you can accept the horror genre's tropes of the victims of the masked assailant being stupid and either unable/unwilling to call for help, to do so when you're also being asked to believe that what you're viewing is a document of something that happened is a step too far.  It can work only in certain specific circumstances, whether it be in the woods like Blair Witch Project, away from a phone signal, or in the depths of the rainforest as in Cannibal Holocaust.  That the high point of the genre is still the one that started it all rather suggests it's not going to be improved upon.  Please filmmakers, for the sake of our sanity, give it a rest. 

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015 

The Queen's speech: the worst is here.

My yearly shtick when it comes to the Queen's speech is to bore on about how fantastically absurd the spectacle is.  People in full possession of their faculties walking backwards; the shutting of doors in faces in reference to something that happened during the reign of Ethelred the Unready; Lords and Ladies done up as though they're going to an especially classy fancy dress keys in the bowl party afterwards; the BBC in full obsequious mode, which still isn't good enough for the Mail and Telegraph; and its heralding, defining, dunderheaded centrepiece is Brenda, in full regalia complete with crown weighing the same as a new born infant, reading out an essay inscribed on goatskin vellum as written by a slightly dim 15-year-old GCSE politics student.  Liz, bless her, is 90 next year.  Surely the time has come for her to tell the idiots who keep insisting she involves herself in this pantomime to fawk off.

Only the point has finally been reached where it's not the pomp and circumstance itself which is most absurd, it's the speech itself.  Queenie has had to read out some nonsense in her time, and has managed somehow to keep her thoughts to herself on just what she thinks about having to say things like "Northern powerhouse".  Never before though has the speech reached such heights of fatuity, been so obviously and deliberately contradictory, to the point where it's obvious that the Tories are rubbing everyone's noses in it, and so aggravatingly obtuse.

It starts in the opening sentence.  "My Government (because it is Her government, just as we serfs are subjects, not citizens) will legislate in the interests of everyone in our country".  No, that's an impossibility; what the writer means is the government will legislate in what it believes to be everyone's best interests, which is a rather different thing altogether.  "It will adopt a one nation approach," which means whatever the government says is a one nation approach, "helping working people get on," meaning absolutely nothing, "supporting aspiration", which means precisely what it says, "giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged," by saying you're on your own pal, "and bringing different parts of our country together," presumably by uniting them in opposition to the Tories.

And so it goes on.  Apparently the long-term plan was, is to provide economic stability and security at every stage of life, which is a new one on me.  Legislation will be brought forward to help achieve full employment, as will legislation to provide raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, and provide more people with the security of a job.  Not with job security, take note, but the security of a job.  Nor is the referendum on EU membership anything to do with David Cameron's pathetic kowtowing to his backbenchers during the coalition; no, the government will pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all Member States.  What a kind, loving, generous, selfless gesture on the part of the Tories, eh?

On reading the Tory manifesto, it seemed fairly apparent that so bonkers was much of its content it had been put together with the intention of bartering away the more reprehensible parts in the coalition negotiations.  They weren't really going to cut £12bn from welfare, not least as they couldn't begin to explain where they could make such massive savings, and they weren't going to really legislate to make it illegal to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT, that's just unbelievably stupid.  They're not that stupid, are they?  No, David Cameron and George Osborne are sensible chaps underneath the laughable skin suits they wear, and the remaining Lib Dems will see they don't go through with this blazing idiocy.

If the Tories didn't expect to be implementing their manifesto as a whole, as we're told they didn't, then winning a majority put them in a happy conundrum.  Do they now row back from the lunatic bribes they came up with, like selling off houses they don't so much as own on the cheap, or abolishing inheritance tax, breaking promises they never believed in to begin with?  Or do they carry on regardless, as to not do so would be to aggravate the exact people, mainly the backbenchers, who did think the party meant it?

Well, now we have the answer.  The strange thing is all the comment on the decision to "delay" abolishing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a mythical "British" Bill of Rights, which while always a completely stupid idea and utterly pointless without leaving the European Convention is not even close to the barking mad imbecility of the manifesto promises that were in the speech.  That getting rid of the HRA is the one thing that seems to unite the disparate elements in the Commons, important as resisting such an act of vandalism is, says much of just what isn't going to face the same level of opposition.  It has at least shown precisely how the Sun and Mail intend to play matters from here on out: again, not for them concerns about putting moron restrictions on tax, but rage at how they still won't get their way, having been principally responsible for the demonisation of the HRA.  How dare the government they got elected snub them so?

As Rafael Behr wrote this morning, most Tories are taking their unexpected victory as proof both of just how brilliant they are and the uselessness of their opponents.  This is hardly surprising when the SNP, declaring itself the unofficial opposition, isn't content with its 56 seats in Scotland and would rather like to force Alistair Carmichael into resigning for daring to leak something that portrayed poor wee Nicola Sturgeon in a less flattering light.  In such circumstances are bad laws passed, not least when Labour as led by Harriet Harman is in such a supine, self-absorbed mood.  Deciding not to oppose the EU referendum which is now coming like it or not is one thing; to not continue to oppose the cut in the benefit cap to £23,000 is quite another.  Exceptional circumstances don't apparently mean anything to a party hierarchy convinced that it was not being quite harsh enough on those on benefits that did for them.

It's all the more dispiriting when there were quite so many breathtakingly awful laws proposed in the speech, including some that will directly target Labour.  Not given a direct mention was the reintroduction of the redrawing of the constituency boundaries, destined to make a Labour majority even harder, although you can bet it will return at some stage.  Instead the Tories made do with a surprise inserting into the proposed Trade Unions Bill of an opt-in system for the political fund element of union subscriptions, as clearly we can't have ordinary hard-working people funding parties, as opposed to the super-rich.  The obscene hypocrisy of a government legislating to require strike ballots are supported by 40% of those eligible when it won only 36.9% of the vote meanwhile is chutzpah defined.

Then there's the clusterfuck of Home Office bills, including not just the "extremism" bill, introduced by David Cameron saying that no longer would government leave alone those who obey the law and the return of a supercharged communications bill destined to give the intelligence agencies total legal cover to do whatever the hell they like with our data, but also an overarching criminalisation of (il)legal highs.  Only the government obviously can't call them that, and so has decided on "psychoactive substances" instead.  I joked not so long back it would be easier if the government started declaring what was legal as opposed to illegal, and yet this is exactly what they are proposing to do.  Yes, apparently under this new bill "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect" will be made illegal, except for those it defines are legal.  Older heads might be reminded of the difficulty government lawyers had in giving the police powers to shut down free parties, which led to the Criminal Justice Act of 94 defining in law the music being targeted as consisting of "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats".  It doesn't seem to have gotten through to our lawmakers the only reason the "legal high" market has flourished is precisely because of the illegality of and restrictions placed on the manufacture of MDMA and the rest, just as it didn't occur to them back in 94 that you'll never stop people from trying to enjoy themselves, but then what else is government for?  Someone, I forget who, once said the Daily Mail owed its existence to the outrage some feel that others are out there having fun, and so the same could be said of so many of our politicians.

There is perhaps one worthwhile bill in the whole lot, and that's the childcare act.  Except doubling the number of hours of free childcare available for three and four-year-olds looks certain to be giving with one hand and taking with the other, as tax credits will most likely be cut in the search for the £12bn from welfare.  Which just reminds us this is only the beginning of 2 years of unrelenting misery, with George Osborne due to deliver his second budget of the year on July the 8th, setting out precisely how hard and fast we're going to be screwed.  As someone I need to thank for yet again putting up with my shit recently said, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015 

A return to May the 7th (and everything that's happened since).

Shallow like a line of piss / You're just a motherfucker

(Hello readers!  This is rather long, as in 3,000 words long, but after two weeks of feeling sorry for myself you're hopefully ready to be bored stupid once again, right?)

Shall we, if we dare, return to May the 7th?  Now, of course, we know that Labour's campaign was a disaster, Ed Miliband had spent 5 years making the party unelectable and that not a single member of the shadow cabinet believed in so much as a solitary policy in the manifesto.  All these are now Facts, and cannot be disagreed with unless you are in Denial and clearly not on the side of the Modernisers blazing a trail towards a majority government in just another 5 short years.

Still, let's forget all that for a second while I relate two personal anecdotes that should have tipped me off that Labour was about to get fucked harder than a dead duck by a deranged and randy mallard.  First, where I work the polling station is next door.  When I got in someone had taken it upon themselves to stick up a laminated A4 sheet on the fence next to the building that said something along the lines of "All the main political parties have conspired to cover up child abuse in their ranks.  Are you really going to vote for people who have connived in the rape of children?"  Believer in free speech that I am, I swiftly binned it.  Second, previously the polling station had been in the community centre opposite rather than in the sports club slightly up the road, confusing plenty of people.  Thinking one young couple, the bloke expensively tatted up, were similarly perplexed, I advised them where the station was.  "Oh, we're not voting", he scoffed, as though the idea was only slightly less ridiculous than if I'd suggested they perform a Manumission-style sex show right there in the street.

Except I put such bad omens out of my mind.  If there was hope, it lay in the polls.  How could they possibly be wrong? "It couldn't be closer" was the Graun's front page.  "All the final polls so far seem to be showing a shift towards Labour", tweeted new king of psephology Lord Ashcroft, whose constituency polls implied Labour should romp home in the Tory marginals.  Why, even Finchley and Golders Green looked possible for Labour.  Everyone was preparing not for the unthinkable, a Tory majority, but the kind of result that could take weeks to unpick.  Clearly it was serious if not just the Mail and Sun were descending into paroxysms of fear at how a Labour minority government might abolish non-dom status and tax mansions, but the editor of the Telegraph no less was making impassioned pleas in the middle of the night to readers signed up to receive marketing emails.  The Tories were poised to declare Miliband illegitimate, Cameron was going to stay ensconced in Downing Street if the result was even remotely questionable, and saving Nick Clegg was deemed more important than some Tory target seats.  More than anything I was cautiously optimistic.  I'm never optimistic.  Something was horrifically, spectacularly, cataclysmically wrong, and yet I failed to see the signs.

The clocks struck ten, David Dimbleby revealed the exit poll projection and Big Ben rang out death knells.  Contrary to much that has been written since, the polls were only fantastically wrong on a single score.  The 37% Tory share was just about within the 3% margin of error of most of them.  They got the Lib Dem, UKIP and SNP shares more or less on the nose too.  Only on Labour's dismal, catastrophic 31% (or 30.4%, if we're being precise) did they not manage to get close to just how short Ed Miliband's party was going to fall.  Everything had been predicated on the polls being right; the parties since have claimed they either had an inkling or knew the Labour vote was being hideously overstated, but if that's really true they didn't share their insight with anyone, not least the same journalists they spend much of their time leaking to.  The failure was pretty much total, even if at their most pessimistic/optimistic the leaders had imagined just such a scenario.

How were the polls so wrong?  At this stage, you can still take your pick.  Probably the best indication so far nonetheless is the breakdown by ICM of their final poll for the Graun, which shows that rather than it being down to a late swing or "shy" Tories, both two of the most immediately popular explanations, including from myself, it's more likely the problem is the sampling.  The raw data for the poll, before the weighting was applied designed to counteract the shy Tory phenomenon blamed for 92's debacle, had Labour and the Tories neck and neck on 35%.  Indeed, it was the demographic weighting that did the most damage, boosting Labour up to 38% and the Tories down to 32%, before the subsequent weighting for past vote, turnout and adjustment for those who refuse to say who they're going to vote for now but will say who they did last time brought the figures back to 35% for Labour and 34% for the Tories.

In other words, the best explanation we have thus far is polling, whether on the internet or by telephone, isn't able to reach the people necessary to produce a representative sample, and that unrepresentative sample is then made even worse by weighting that either needs fundamentally reconfiguring or ripping up and starting again.  This doesn't mean there wasn't something of a late swing, or still some shy Tories, as the exit poll also underestimated the number of seats the Tories would win, but neither can plausibly explain just how massively out of whack the Tory and Labour share of the votes were.

We must then return to my personal anecdotes, as frankly we have little else.  First, there's an awful lot of people out there who aren't apathetic so much as apoplectic at a political elite that doesn't in fact exist.  Yes, it probably was just a lone nutbar who stuck that sign up, and yet that person spoke for a lot of others who believe the absolute worst of what they read in the papers.  There has yet to be the slightest evidence presented there was anything like a cover-up of child abuse at Westminster, as opposed to the possibility there was a lot of looking in the opposite direction, as we've seen in places like Rotherham for varying reasons, and already people are convinced of the depravity of those in high places.

Second, and much more fundamentally, is the failure of Labour and the left in general to get out the youth vote.  Estimates vary as to how many 18-24 year-olds did turn out: a poll with a 9,000 strong sample for Ipsos-Mori suggests it could have been as low as 43%, which sounds far more realistic than the British Election Society's estimate of 60%, which was still below YouGov's "certain to vote" 69%.  When less than half of those with arguably the most at stake couldn't be motivated enough to do something that only needs doing once every 5 years, there encapsulated is why we now have the Conservatives with a majority.  Yes, you can blame wannabe messiahs, the vacuous stupidity of youth culture, if not the young themselves, the failure to counteract the they're all the same fatuity, which among the older saw the UKIP vote skyrocket, the fatheaded selfishness of a distinct minority and all the rest of it, but if you can't convince 18-24-year-olds to vote for something better than the whitest, most middle class bloke on the face of the planet, then frankly you deserve what you get.

Finally, and interconnectedly, we have the Tory everything we do must be for the retiring boomers philosophy.  So much of the talk since the election has been about how the Tories won because of how they were on the side of the aspirational, weren't going to tar and feather entrepreneurs in town centres or tax the rabbit hutches of children in central London, most of which has been from the Labour leadership challengers and other assorted "modernisers".  Bullshit.  The Tories won because they dedicated so much time and energy to keeping their core vote on side, with every ploy and bung going.  Hate inheritance tax?  We're abolishing it.  Want to be certain we won't do anything to your benefits, although we certainly will to those of the low-paid and in-work?  Triple locked.  Want to blow your pension all in one go if you so wish, or buy a flat or two and then rent them out to the brats you spawned to replace yourselves?  Already done.  Want to generally fuck over everyone younger than you, which is funny because you don't know them?  Hey, that was the entire point of our manifesto.  Welcome aboard.  We, or at least I said this is going to be no country for young men, and lo, so it did come to pass.

Labour did not lose on the basis of the manifesto.  The manifesto lacked passion, anger and failed to radiate strength, but it didn't want for policies which were popular, or at least the polls at the time said they were.  Labour lost because of the above, and a few other distinct reasons.  Ed Miliband, much as I came to love the rubber faced goon as only another sad, lonely weirdo can, just wasn't seen as prime ministerial.  He faced a mountain and only began to scale it when it was too late to reach the summit.  I thought the Paxman interview, when he replied with his defiant and yet sympathetic "who cares?" to how he was presented in the media, along with his refusal to play the referendum game in the Question Time debate were the kind of answers that won people over, not necessarily because they liked or agreed with what he said but because they could respect him for doing so.  Almost certainly more damaging and what everyone else saw was the battering he received on the same show for "overspending", even if those assailing him were Tory stooges, as at least two were.  Labour lost because it wasn't trusted on the economy.  The party that brought the economy back from the brink, only for George Osborne to push it over the edge with his austerity programme, took the blame over and over for something it didn't do.

By the same token, the Conservatives did not win on the basis of their dismal, hate-filled manifesto.  They won because David Cameron, as essentially David Cameron was the Conservative campaign, was seen as more plausible.  He spent one half of it going through the motions and then the second half trying to convince everyone just how "up 4 it" he was, talking to empty cowsheds and specially chosen farmers about where milk comes from, and yet it was enough.  George Osborne meanwhile was kept as far away from voters as possible, doing work experience at various businesses presumably as part of community payback for stalling the recovery, while all the other favourites who have since returned to our screens and newspapers like Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and Theresa May were locked away entirely lest they scare the horses.

And you know why else?  Because let's face it, there are a substantial minority of people in this country who aren't just ignorant cunts, they are proud and positively revel in being horrible, ignorant cunts.  I don't mean in the oh, people who don't vote Labour are ignorant sense, as that itself is completely ignorant.  What is ignorant is the increasing tendency on the part of very intelligent people to do themselves down on the basis that they don't talk what the common people do like.  Oh, they're not like us, they don't talk like us goes the wail from people who are in fact mostly very well represented, they don't understand the life of the everyday man, when they very much do and most politicians spend far too much time if anything trying to understand exactly what Mr and Mrs Average Voter want at any precise moment in time.

We seem to have reached a point where it's increasingly seen as snobbish to use words longer than three syllables, or indeed any word that your average 8-year-old doesn't use everyday, as ordinary people don't talk like that any more.  No, perhaps they don't.  Then again, to a lot of ordinary people it's perfectly normal to use a variation on fuck in every sentence, and excuse me if I'd rather our politicians didn't emulate that trait.  This ignorance doesn't always but often does go hand in hand with the they're all the same cuntery, and rather than fight against this bigotry of low expectations, low aspirations (yes, because that's what this is) and low everything, we in fact have everyone wanting a bit of it.

Something else some otherwise very intelligent people took from the election results was, well, at least the BNP got about ten votes.  Why was that?  It couldn't be down to how we now have a party that says yes, it's perfectly OK to be ignorant, insular and proud of it, could it?  The fascist vote collapsed precisely because in UKIP there's a home for them where they don't quite feel the same level of self-hatred, nor is the media as visceral in its distaste; if anything, quite the opposite, such is the hard-on they've had for Nigel Farage if not his party as a whole.  Not every UKIP voter fits this depiction, of course; many of those who voted UKIP in Labour's heartlands in the north for instance did so as a protest, out of a sense of being ignored and abandoned.  All the same, many of those who did vote UKIP are hateful pricks, and if anything considering just how much of popular culture is currently dedicated to uncovering "the other" and then wiping their faces in their own vomit, it's a surprise "only" 4 million joined the Farage bandwagon.

Lastly, *gasp*, we have to consider the sheer horror that has been the Labour leadership contest thus far.  Within 24 hours the manifesto had been abandoned, disowned, insulted, shat upon, as had Ed.  Looking at Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and all the other wastes of flesh that frankly don't deserve to be referred to by name, I cannot see a single thing that I should care about or ever want to believe in.  Who knows exactly what it was that caused Chuka Umunna to drop out before the contest had even begun, whether it really was he wasn't ready for his friends and relatives to be dropped into the media maelstrom, or if he was about to be exposed as a dog botherer, as it doesn't really matter which.  That he couldn't face up to it just shows what a bottler party Labour now is, and the lack of empathy it has for those who do take on the worst that can be thrown at them.

Ed Miliband spent 5 years having every little bit of shit that could be found directed straight back into his face.  The surprise if anything was that by the election campaign, everything had been used already.  There was nothing left.  Ed's reward for having chosen to do things the difficult way?  For his entire leadership to be treated as something that couldn't be repudiated fast enough.  I know it's not just about his electoral failure but also how his leadership was long viewed within the party, with no one prepared to stand against him for fear it would make things worse, and yet he still deserved, deserves far better.  Indeed, I challenge anyone to seriously tell me how any of the current line up will be a better leader, or any more capable of winning the next election.  Rather than take a good hard look at where Labour has gone wrong across the UK, from Scotland where it certainly didn't lose because it was too left-wing, as John Curtice among many others have argued, to the north where the threat to the party is not the Conservatives but UKIP, to the cities were the problem the party faces is defectors to the left, the party is still, still, obsessed with how the right-wing media depicts it rather than how real people in the marginals weren't convinced.

Labour is haunted by the spectre of Tony Blair, despite the bastard being very much alive.  The party doesn't seem to have realised we aren't in the 90s/early 00s any longer, where triangulation worked so long as the media was kept (somewhat) on side and the economy grew.  We're in the 2010s, wages are still barely growing, only the luckiest among the young can afford to "aspire", and the previously dominant centre-left parties of Europe are in crisis.  And yet all we're being offered is reheated, regurgitated, reconstituted processed mechanical bullshit of the most shameful quality from meatheads who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  John Harris said it best: most of the Labour elite simply don't have the wit or humility to involve themselves in the debates that are necessary at the margins, that are outside of the comfort zone of consoling themselves with it's all down to how the party wasn't on the side of hard-working people and hard-working families and hard-working wealth creators and hard-working businesses.

It wasn't just despair over the election result and other things that led me to take a two-week break, and I apologise sincerely if anyone was truly worried for my wellbeing.  I was for a while too, but the worst has passed, thankfully.  It was despair over where I, we go from here: I've never been a Labour party member and I very much doubt I ever will be.  And yet Ed Miliband's Labour had convinced me we were getting somewhere; yes, it was barely anywhere, but for once Polly Toynbee has it right in how different a Labour Queen's speech tomorrow would have been to the Tory one we'll get.  Labour at this moment in time looks finished, and Labour in the UK is the only leftish party that has ever won, may ever win power.  How do we begin to build a movement that can replace it, that can have that wide-ranging appeal, that can offer the despondent hope and the hopeful a better alternative?  How can I change anything when I can't even change myself?

I see the parts but not the whole / I study saints and scholars both / No perfect plan unfurls

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Monday, May 11, 2015 

I'm not working.

I hurt myself yesterday / To see if I still feel

I've written before about self-harm.  It's not cool, kids.  Do as I say, not as I do.  I didn't expect yesterday to be lying in a field, listening to a bird singing barely 10 feet away, giggling away to myself.  I didn't expect that my brain would react to the absurdity of a 30-year-old man scratching at himself with a blade in such an incongruous setting by being precisely that, triggering a laughing fit that didn't stop for 10 minutes.  I thought I remembered that hurting myself before hadn't done anything except leave scars.  Perhaps it didn't then.  All I can relate is that for a good few hours yesterday I felt euphoric.  I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I walked home.  Grinning, laughing.  Then once I was home it quickly wore off.  The pain remained, still does somewhat.  It pulses, burns slightly, like your skin does when the heat of the sun on it becomes too much.

Doctors will tell you there are a number of tell-tale signs to depression.  Loss of appetite, or rather you all but stop eating.  Loss of enjoyment of everything, or rather you return to what you know best, to comfort yourself.  You listen to that music, you watch that TV show or those movies, you listen to that man rant about those things.  Inability to sleep, which thankfully doesn't concern me as I've been on medication that helps me with that for umpteen years.  Alternatively, and this does apply to me, sleeping more.  Where before you were getting by on 6 hours you can now go for double that.  I speak in a monotone.  I stop finding attractive people attractive.  I shake.

Petrified for the millionth time / Slowly my soul evaporates / No parachutes no dismal clouds / Just this fucking space

You don't expect these things.  You do expect other things, but you do it anyway, because you've got no self-control, or you use that as an excuse.  Let's put it at best, that you're an annoyance, rather than something more visceral, that you disappoint rather than bring someone else down with you because you're such a fucking imbecile.  You beat yourself up about it, but that's not the real reason you turn against yourself, is it?  You can't leave well alone because you don't know anything else, isn't that it?  Can't you admit that you do this because you want to, that it's no one else's fault, despite you saying over and over again you're the only one to blame, do you really mean it?  Because it sure as hell doesn't seem like it.  Haven't you just proved you're a masochist, and that at root that has something to do with it?  You like the pain.  You might not want it, but when it comes as it always will you secretly enjoy it.  You tell yourself you can't change, and when you demonstrate just that, or think you have, it just reinforces your spectacularly immature world view.  There is only one solution, and you're still far too cowardly to let it envelope you totally.

It's worse than you think.  Yeah, thanks Guardian, tell me something I don't already know.  You see all the old barely human faces, the skin not as thick as it once was, stretched tauter over bone.  What this proves is I was right all along.  These people can't even wait until the corpse is cold, their glee total at what has transpired.  Had it been the opposite they would have been nowhere to be seen, muttering to themselves about how it couldn't, wouldn't last.  Aspiration.  The centre ground.  Working hard and getting on.  Wealth creation and cultural affirmation.  Those words coming just after the writer tells us that politics has to be emotional rather than public policy seminar or data collection exercise.  This, friends, is what awaits us in the next Labour leader.  It doesn't matter that no one has come up with a prescription so far on how you can win back voters in Scotland that went to the "left" while convincing those in England that went to the right that you aren't going to launch a pogrom on white van men, clearly where Labour went wrong was in not remaining on the centre ground.  Like the Lib Dems, who clung to the centre because Nick Clegg decreed it and were duly squashed flat.  Labour was just slightly to their left, and apparently that was enough to seal their fate.  Pull the other fucking one.

This is not evidence Britain is a "fundamentally conservative country", says Matthew d'Anconservative, as if it were neither the NHS or BBC would exist.  No, Britain in the era when both were created was not a fundamentally conservative country.  It was a fundamentally social democratic country.  Then it stopped being such and the only reason we retain both is because they remind us of what we once were, that and no one has come up with a better alternative.  You can't replace an entire health system.  You can get rid of the BBC though, and don't be surprised if that process begins under this glorious government.  The Tories would be quite wrong to interpret the election result as a green light to cut welfare, Matt goes on.  Why not?  Rather than deploring the politics of heartlessness, a good percentage of the public seem to have embraced it.  They've displayed a very funny way of saying they disagree with the bedroom tax, for instance.  As the inestimable Flying Rodent has repeatedly said, no one makes people watch Benefits Street or all these other gawping documentaries on the poors.  See, that's where Labour went wrong: too much emphasis on the poors and the riches, not enough on the middle.  Because Labour didn't spend years going on interminably about the squeezed fucking middle, did it?

Half of me wants to scream that Labour needs to have the shortest leadership contest possible, regardless of whom comes out at the end of it, because it was during the navel gazing of the contest last time that the Tories banged on endlessly about the crash being all Labour's fault.  With neither a Labour or Lib Dem leader in place, although hey, thank heavens for small mercies that Nigel Farage has been preserved for the nation, we can expect the same again.  The other half of me though just doesn't give a shit.  This result has pretty much proved there's only one thing that does for the Tories, and that's a disaster like Black Wednesday followed by the party obsessing over itself.  Even then Labour can only win by going one foot to the left of the Conservatives, and as the more perceptive have pointed out, it wasn't Ed Miliband that screwed Labour in Scotland, it was a certain Mr Blair.  It was a very delayed reaction, but reaction it was all the same.  Hunt, Kendall, Umunna, Burnham, Cooper, whoever wins they look set to accept in full the prevailing message already dictated.  None of them look quite as weird as Miliband did, although Burnham has some especially sensual eyelashes, but you think they're going to be fellated like Blair was by all comers?  There's no one, and they have nothing to say.

All that's left, all I have left is to point and criticise.  I'd like to think I'm reasonable at doing that, I'm dedicated at least if nothing else.  I'm also always unexpected.  Dedicated and unexpected.  What a fantastic epitaph.

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Saturday, May 09, 2015 

.

Ever have one of those days where, regardless of anything else that was happening, you should have done everything differently?

Yesterday was one of those days.  And to be truthful, I don't just mean yesterday.  I mean every single day of my life since I was oh, 13, just to put a figure on it.  17 years later and I still haven't learned a thing.

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Friday, May 08, 2015 

Acedia's blackest hole.

Where do we even begin?

Perhaps it's best to start with what I and so many others got spectacularly wrong.  First, the Lynton Crosby "crossover" happened.  It happened at the very last minute, but it happened.  Second, the mainstream, overwhelmingly right-wing media has far more influence than anyone on the left or on the internet as a whole has given it credit for in years.  Their screeching appeals to their readers not to vote Labour over the past couple of days are almost certainly not the reason the Conservatives have a slender majority, but the months, years of attacks on Labour and their depiction of Ed Miliband as a mixture of Stalin and Mr Bean, to borrow from Vince Cable, have exacted a heavy toll.  If you want a reason why UKIP won just shy of 4 million votes, almost as many as the SNP and the Lib Dems combined, you need only look as far as a media that depicts Britain as a country where the power lies not with the white, upper middle classes but with immigrants, benefit claimants, the EU, and a constantly being bent over and sodomised BBC.  The real metropolitan elite has succeeded in creating an image of a phony metropolitan elite, where politically correct limp-wristed Guardianistas allow children to be raped and everything that's wrong with the country is down to their smug, sneering attitude of knowing best.  You can't support England!  You can't talk about immigration!  You can't say anything anymore without someone jumping down your throat!

Where I would maintain I wasn't wrong is in that no one won this election.  Now, plainly, the Conservatives did.  They didn't however win on the basis of anything in the Conservative manifesto or almost anything that David Cameron said the whole campaign.  The Tories have increased their share of the vote yes, something not achieved since 1900, but the swing is a miniscule 0.5%.  The Conservatives won because at the last minute more decided to stick with what they know than risk a Labour minority "held to ransom" by the SNP.  Apart from a few exceptional results, like the defenestration of Ed Balls, the Tories have their majority thanks to winning the seats they needed to from their former coalition partner.  Nick Clegg's message of dead centrism, which even to me looked as if it might in the end pay dividends failed catastrophically.  Why have a Lib Dem MP supporting Tory policies when you can have the real thing?

The Labour result is though throat-slittingly, jumping into a gaping chasm, blowing your own head off with a howitzer bad.  It represents everything the party must have feared in its darkest moments combined with the very worst of its most gleeful enemies' fantasies.  To gain an overall swing of just 1.5% after 5 years of austerity, real terms losses in earnings and hacking away at the public services as only a Tory led government can is not just nightmarish, it suggests Labour as a party is in terminal decline.  As we've seen on the continent, it isn't the centre-right parties that have been most squeezed post-crash, it's been those on the centre-left.  Unlike in Spain and Greece where parties of the radical left have been the beneficiaries of the collapse, we're seeing a refracted image of the situation in France, where the Front National looks set to become the unofficial opposition.  Clearly UKIP aren't going to play that role here, but what has happened is that as all the main parties have moved to the right on immigration and the economy, it's the establishment parties of the left that suffer most.  As the Greens will never be a working class alternative to Labour for a whole myriad of reasons, the major shift has been to UKIP, but there has been a much smaller if still significant shift to the left also.

How is Labour meant to win those voters back?  The more hawkish it is on the deficit and the harsher on immigration the more it loses voters like me to the alternatives on the left.  Meanwhile those on the right aren't satisfied as Labour won't go further than merely copying Tory policies.  It's utterly stuck, and has next to no room to manoeuvre.

For the left to win, it seems the only hope is to have a charismatic leader.  They can be an utter bastard, like a certain Mr Blair, or they can be a sign of change rather than stand for anything, like a certain Mr Obama.  If you look slightly nerdy, decide that you'd rather than country was just a little bit more equal please sir, and that it's not the best idea in the world to chuck bombs at countries without thinking it through first, or to spend the whole of your life brown nosing some of the most despicable cunts on the face of the planet, then boy are you fucked.

Ed Miliband's gambit was that the country had on a few really quite slight measures shifted all but imperceptibly to the left.  In their heart of hearts, perhaps most people do feel that way: they do want a higher minimum wage if not a living one, they do want a job that provides a way out of poverty, which is secure, they do want the corporate behemoths that now run so much of our public services to be just that, rather than service only their shareholders.  When it came down to it though, they held onto nurse in case of something worse, the worse being an inconclusive result where a nationalist party set on breaking the country up would hold the balance of power.  Yes, the failure to correct or challenge the media/Tory narrative that Labour was responsible for the crash did have an impact, but then on so many other fronts Labour and indeed all the parties have failed to do the same.  For far too long the main three have been too scared to confront voters' prejudices and instead have given in to them.  You celebrate the way the country has become diverse and yet you tell us you want an end to immigration right now; you tell us you hate scroungers and yet the welfare bill is increasing because benefits are topping up low wages and subsidising landlords, not to pay for layabouts; you complain about the wait to see a doctor and the threat to the NHS, and yet you're not prepared to pay the taxes to fund it to the same level as health services elsewhere.

Who Labour should choose to replace Miliband seems almost moot.  It clearly can't be someone else from the Blair/Brown era, which rules out Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham at a stroke.  Chuka Umuuna would, should be a frontrunner but while he has steel he lacks said charisma and passion.  I'd like to think it's time the party chose a woman, and on that front Liz Kendall would probably be the best bet, only yet again there's no reason whatsoever to believe she would make the needed difference when there is so little scope for policy change without losing more voters to UKIP or the Greens.  If there is the tiniest, most minute squib of brightness, it's that nothing can possibly get worse for the party in Scotland.  It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, but it can't get any worse.  Whether Scotland will still be part of the UK by the time it's ready to challenge again could be the real question.

Finally then we must turn to our new overlords.  The Conservatives have won a majority, regardless of how, on the back of the most right-wing manifesto since the days of Thatcher.  They promise to rip up the Human Rights Act, if only to replace it with a British Bill of Rights codifying the same things, to slash social security to the absolute bone in ways they refused to let us in on, to further ramp up the housing market, to all but abolish inheritance tax, and to run a surplus from which tax cuts in time for the next election will be handed out.  Let's surmise that in fact it won't be that bad: Osborne will now look at the books, realise that cutting as much as they say they will is complete lunacy, and that a further delay to reducing the deficit is sensible.  We still though will be facing cuts that look unachievable, if that is the party doesn't now renege on its promise to not raise VAT, to posit just one thing it could do instead.

As promised by Cameron, the starting gun on the EU referendum has sounded.  Let's assume the best: that Cameron gets something from Angela Merkel and the rest that allows him to claim he has successfully renegotiated our membership.  Regardless of that, his backbenchers, looking over their shoulders at UKIP once again will be campaigning for the exit.  The poll will not be about the benefits of the EU so much as what are seen as the negatives: the open borders, the loss of power, the amount we pay for barmy EU bureaucrats, and so forth.  Even if the vote is a yes to stay in, the Scottish referendum has proved that once you've asked the question you will sooner or later have to ask it again, as it's guaranteed the result will be as close as the 55%-45% share north of the border.

Then we have the issue of Cameron himself.  We know he's not going to serve a third term, so the party leadership battle begins here.  At the same time as the EU referendum we're going to have Osborne, May and Boris battling it out, with all that implies for infighting in the party in and around the referendum.  When you've won a majority on the back of being right-wing shitbags and those whose support you're trying to get are right-wing shitbags, why on earth would you then head back to the centre?

I could go on but that's probably enough and I'm sleep deprived as it is.  To be slightly optimistic again, the Tories are still going to have trouble governing: their majority is smaller than it was in 1992, their backbenchers will be just as fractious as in the last parliament, and by-elections will dwindle it further.

Let's not lie to ourselves, all the same.  Today's result is a disaster for those at the margins of society.  It's a disaster for those who believe in internationalism, rather than nationalism.  And it's the evidence we should have seen before that the left in England is fucked, probably irrevocably.

Have a good weekend.

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