Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: democracy

The Papers and Politics: If in doubt, make it up.

It is only when you look back you realise that things are not what they first appeared or how they were actually sold. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If we learn nothing more from the last four weeks and the febrile previous months before the 23rd June 2016 it must be this. What any public figure says or is what written in our newspapers needs to be checked, at east twice and only then can you know it might be, could possibly be true. I wrote about this last year when my daughter had just died. And it has happened again to me with the news (is it actually ‘news’?) that I have split up with my fiancé. Grief is an unrelenting bastard.

The factual failures (again) of the Bristol Post, The Times, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail are in black and white for anyone to read and again the newspapers don’t care. You should care. You must care. Information does not come from one source. There isn’t only one book to believe. As a journalist you’re told should double source (at the very least) the facts of any story. If you can’t do this then you just don’t publish. Names, ages, time lines (all of which the Daily Mail and the Bristol Post could not have got more wrong if they had actively tried) are facts that can be easily checked. Then it’s down to you, as the reader, to check them again by reading, listening or watching another source. There really is no such thing as face value. Don’t read one newspaper and don’t believe one book. That is nothing but naivety.

The campaign surrounding the EU and Brexit was riddled with lies, half-truths and counter lies. Many of the wild claims made were, at best, beneath those who made them. The competing sides played on our naivety about EU, Europe and on our prejudices. From the black top tabloid papers to the extremes of both sides of the campaigns, the absolute nonsense and falsehoods that were trotted out as “truth” mean many who voted one way feel robbed and cheated of their vote and its result. Is it a surprise that by changing our relationship with the rest of the world, which we related to via the EU, it will cause problems for years? Did you think that the promises made about staying or leaving the EU, made as facts, were in reality nothing more that snake oil sales lines? Did you check them?

Despite the many falsehoods of the campaign the turnout for this historic vote was the largest since the 1992 General election. 52% voted leave, 48% voted remain and we must respect this democratic result. To campaign to have another vote because we don’t like the result is just silly. That would be like Germany campaigning to have another world cup final, as they didn’t like the result of July 1966. It is nonsense to have another referendum.

Maybe some of those who are calling for another referendum should have taken their actual vote in the last referendum more seriously. Maybe they should have all voted on the question being asked, having checked and researched the arguments being made by both sides? That hard-won X was not a protest against the government of the day or thinking it will get rid of immigrants from tomorrow or whatever other silly notion attached to the referendum question. If you are one of those who voted for anything other than then arguments behind the question and are thinking ‘’what have I done’’ then lets hope the next time you vote you will think long and hard about where your X marks the spot.

Now our leaders and politicians need to get on with it and stop asking us what they should do all the time. Why do they do this? To empower us? To blame us as it’s what we said we wanted? To abdicate the responsibility to us for their failures in leadership? Maybe we are just electing the wrong types of leaders and politicians. One thing is for certain. We are in serious times and while we deal with the result of the self-indulgence of our referendum the world is in a perilous state. The world is killing, creating hatred and division while we deal with this and years of self-inflicted uncertainty.

Again, whether you were an “Inner” or an “Outer” the result is the result. If you feel cheated or robbed then, maybe, you should have asked more questions, read more than one newspaper, listen to more than one politician. Maybe you should have thought more about your family and friends before you voted? Maybe the result of this referendum is the result of self in a the world of social media, which is all about self. Maybe that is the thing that needs to change most.

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For Facts Sake!

In or out it has certainly been shaken about and what ever happens the day after 23rd of June, Europe will never be the same again. This is not a vote for change or status quo (although their brand of four cord rock is very popular) it is a vote for change or change. Before “that” referendum you have the local elections on 5th May and even if you council is not up for X marks the spot this year, you will still have a Police and Crime Commissioner to vote for. Yes you do. Unfortunately it’s not like the one from Batman with a loveable Irish side kick and a red phone under a transparent cake cover, our Police and Crime Commissioners hold our police to account and set the crime plan to help us feel safe and be safe. Now you know. Do you know who is standing? You should.

So it is pencils to the ready and let’s wait to see who comes knocking our doors wearing a rosette looking to “count on our vote”. You might have a long wait. It’s just not like it use to be in delivery of politics or its outcome. The delivery seems to be more about reassuring the core voter that they are right to back you message (much like most newspapers assure their readers that they have bought the right paper and here is why we are as one by not letting the facts get in the way) or it is about bombarding “the undecided” with a material ranging from simple policy headings to good old-fashioned fear. Project fear.

And here is the real fear. Turnout. Look at the recent turn out for national and local elections. In 2015 the General Election turnout was 66.1% and the best we have managed on one of those since the Second World War was in 1950 at 83.9%. Still, could be worse. In 2001 it was 59.4%. At best nationally a third of the country can’t be bothered to vote. In the European elections of 2014 the turnout was 35.6%, the high point was 2004 when 38.52% of us voted and the lowest was in 1999 when just 24% bothered to play X marks the E.U spot. Our local elections are even worse when these determine our day-to-day governance and management! 2012 saw Bristol make a huge change to the way it was run to being governed by an elected mayor. This massive change to how the residents council tax was spent was decided by just 28% of registered voters. Some Wards didn’t get above 20%. 260,000 people either didn’t care or didn’t understand. This is what we proudly call democracy and this is what we hold as a standard against other countries in our foreign policy and its advocacy.

What can be done? Legislate to make us all vote, have a none of the above box, use the same technology behind Bitcoin to offer secure on-line voting? MAybe we could turn it into an X Factor or The Voice type thingie where Dermot O’Leary has all the contestants, err politicians on a Saturday night TV show standing in a row, complete with tension building, drum beating music and a long pregnant pause before announcing the winner? All of these have been considered.

Surely it is actually down to us. If we can’t be bothered to vote then why should our political class be bothered by us. If our political class seemingly can’t be bothered then why should we. It is down to us to change it. It is our vote not theirs.

Democracy is about the people, about and for us. We need and must be involved, to turn up, to seek out the information and ideas that best suit us and our loved ones and then vote for them. We need to read, listen, ask, check and qualify then turn up to vote as it is our tax that pays for it and our tax that the elected spend on everything. “Taxes are price we pay for civilisation” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr the noted US Supreme Court Judge. Our voting determines how we want our civilisation to be, whether it is for our local councillors or our place in Europe. So maybe it is worth a few minutes of our time to research, discuss and actually vote, stating on 5th May. It’s always much more fun when you take part rather than moaning from the sidelines.

Election Predictions

There will be an election, there will be a result, there will be a government and there will be a lot of coverage, an awful lot of coverage. Reporters will be standing outside doors and buildings talking about what is, isn’t or might be or not be going on inside. Or not. Old political faces who are not ‘in the room’ will be talking about what is going on ‘in the room’. All this, which could go on for weeks, will happen while we the voters wonder what was the point of our X marks the spot on Thursday 7th May. Please vote though, it matters. It really matters.

There will also be winners and losers, careers made and careers destroyed. From 10pm on Thursday 7th May until around 5pm on Friday 8th May it will be theatre and reality at its most brutal, without gallons of Kensington claret. Yet shouldn’t there have been something more to this whole General Election thing? It was briefly touched on during this ridiculously long and terminally dull campaign. The world beyond our shores.

Our world is in a parlous state and that world is part of our country whether we like it or not. We can no more shut the doors on our boarders and then ride around in a fantasy 1950’s England with baskets on the front of our bikes, doffing our hats to the vicar from the church we all go to on Sunday, than we can ignore what is actually happening in the world we all live in and on. And least we forget that the 50’s ‘Kath Kidston’ ‘I could leave me back door open’ ‘we was poor but we was ‘appy’ image was forged from two conflicts that cost us dearly in every way but required us to step up and be.

We can and we should influence our world today but this requires statesmen, stateswomen and statecraft. This requires real political will. It also requires our commitment to do better, to be better and to stop dwelling on the mistakes made in the past or use them as an excuse for our inaction to influence the future. Our duty, because of our history and our place in our world, is to do more and be more than just anxious bystanders claiming ‘its not my problem mate’ or that we ‘are not the worlds policeman’.

As a nation, as a people we are better than that and it’s about time our leaders, all of them, faced up to what is actually happening in and to our world. Our leaders, what ever combo is ultimately in government (NOT power), need to actively take part in our world to help sort it out. Why? Because I have four children who I want to grow up safe and happy.

Since the recession we have become insular and inward looking. Our national leaders have followed this. They have amplified this tune and, as a result, our politics have become the ideas of the niche. Political parties have sprung up like dandilions each with a ‘solution’ for a ‘thing’. There are no grand ideas, no proven track records, no statecraft of statesmanship just a lot of little parties dealing with ‘immigration’ or ‘equality’ or ‘pay’ or ‘rights’ but beyond their founding principles they fall apart once questioned and scrutinised.

Democracy is not easy. It’s not supposed to be. It is about the elected majority bringing the minority along with it and not leaving them behind while they are ‘in power’ to feel there is nothing in it for them. If any government uses that ‘in power’ phrase we should all be very scared. If the majority fails the minority then anger sets in with that minority and they do stupid things like hide in the shadows, graffiti cars and try to scare innocent people. They act like 13-year-old boys yet to discover masturbation.

The politics of the majority seems be about telling us what is wrong and who is to blame for it, usually the minority. That is an easy hit but it’s not so easy to actually do something about it. We have a generation of evidence for that. Politics must change and if there is a low turnout in this general election, say below 63%, that could finally be the tipping point toward that change.

In the coming months lets hope we can really consider our place in society and our place in the world. The coming months must also be about Governments first responsibility to all of us. To keep us safe, in everything that means.

One last thing. After the results and the pantomime, politicians please leave us alone.

War BUT is there something more to believe in?

So the UK is at war, notionally and actually. It was a decisive vote for the Prime Minster. Our Parliament, our MP’s and our democracy showed us and showed the world how the United Kingdom does business and means business. You may not like the outcome but democracy was served.

We have joined the 40 or so other countries who are completing air strikes against Islamic State, I S or ISAL. Two things on this. They are not Islamic as any scholar of Islam will tell you if you ask and listen and they are not a state, nation or country. They are an idea, a belief.

This is THE issue. How do you bomb an idea, a belief, a version of a religion? ISAL do have a flag, always something that has been fought over throughout history. You take the flag and you win. With the flag comes the castle, the country and the spoils but there is none of this to win. If ISAL are bombed to oblivion Iraq is still as failed state that the west created and Assad is still president of Syria, spported by Iran, China and Russia. This is going to be a long process and it will cost many lives. It has already been a long process from the birth of Islam and its divisions into its various forms and the conflict resolution by the hands of the British and the French at end of the First World War. The Sykes Picot agreement at the fall of the Ottoman empire created the division of the Middle East regardless of tribe or creed. The division of the Middle East then are the lines on the map we know today. Division; never has a single word meant more as the world lines up to fight the idea and belief that is ISAL.

Wars based on ideas or beliefs and their execution are flawed. History is replete with those failures, the most recent of which being the War On Terror. You can’t win against an idea because it is not a castle to be won any more than you can wage a war against a belief because you can never kill every believer. It is just not possible. You have to marginalise the belief and give those who harbour the ideals of their belief something better to believe in. Nor can you just tell believers they are wrong, that you are right and bomb them into agreement.

Here is reality. Bombing ISAL is right because the Gulf States are part of it. It is they who can show ISAL they are wrong in thier ideas and beliefs. They can show them that there is something better to believe in, the real Islam and not some crack pot, nutty, vile version of a faith that has no place in a modern world. The Gulf States, these Muslim states have a duty to their faith, their God, their Prophet and what they believe in, especially this week with the Hajj beginning on Wednesday. The greatest enemy to Islam is ISAL.

The beliefs of the Gulf States, the ones we like, the ones we do’t like and the ones that don’t like us need to get through to those who have chosen ISAL. ISAL can’t seem to see any other way than their warped version of Islam, which we in the west find abhorrent. It is vital the Gulf States make this clear having got ISAL’s attention through force, with our help.

Islamic State bares no resemblance to any decent Shia, Sunni or Sufi. This needs to be as clear and loud as the bombs we drop, for all our sakes and for Muhammad, peace be upon him and on us too.

Cut the efficiency crap.

All local councils and unitary authorities are about half way through their cuts, austerity programmes or whatever you choose to call them. Bristol City Council have implemented just shy of a 150m of cuts by slashing grants to service providers and charities, cutting services and making efficiency savings. There will be more to come. Bath and North East Somerset have cut, so have North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Have you noticed the cuts so far? Have you? Really? Probably not as the cuts so far have mostly been ‘efficiency savings’, changing what councils do and how they do it so the cuts actually doesn’t bother you. They should.
You will soon begin to actually feel the Council cuts too, and there will be little you can do about it. Or can you?
Take BANES. One of their cuts, proposed last year, was to close public toilets. ‘No’ said the residents, one of whom ended up sleeping in one the toilets slated for closure in centre of Bath. The Council decided to not go ahead with the cut. In Bristol, the council have 19 members of their Parks, Crematorium and Cemetery tending these council grounds and gardens. They were late in recruiting them, maybe as a result of wage saving or a wage bill cut. On my radio programme we heard that Bristol City Council were not looking after these parks, that cemeteries were over grown and one widow told me she fell into an over grown grave trying while trying visit her husbands grave because the grass was so tall. Two weeks later these cemeteries have now been tended, of sorts, and the grass has been strimed. Why? Simply because pressure was brought to bare on Bristol City Council.
Is this the answer? Shout on local radio and council will do it? Maybe, but it is a little more complicated than that.
The liberal democracy argument is that you vote for your councillor (or Mayor), the one with the most votes gets in, they act in the interests of all the electorate and then, in due time, you vote for them again (or not) depending on how they have done. The reality of our actual relationship with our council is that they don’t really effect most of us beyond paying out council tax and them collecting our rubbish and filling in the pot holes on the roads we drive.  It all seems very simple. But it isn’t.
Local Government effects you more than you realise and to not get involved, to just do your recycling and drive repeatedly over a pothole riddled road without reporting it is NOT good enough. You need to get involved. The money you pay every year is enough for a good family holiday or a better pension when you retire.  You need to hold your councillor and your council to account. If you don’t the leaders of each council or the elected Mayor of Bristol will end up being responsible for managing the waste management contract and adult social care and they will be unable to do anything for you or your neighbours. They will do what they have to do and not what you want them to do, with your money.
So what has happened to your money so far? Here is a clue. Most of the cuts so far have been achieved through ‘efficiency savings’. Bristol achieved 50m through ‘efficiency savings’. Why was any council allowed to ever be inefficient with your money. Every penny you pay should go towards what you want it to, for the benefit of you and your neighbours. Any council inefficiency is not acceptable. It’s your money, it’s your vote and between you voting it is your right to hold your councillor and council to account.
To put this another way, would you give someone you know a £150 a month, every month and not ask questions about what they were doing with it? It is your democratic right to make sure that your council do what you want or, at the very least, you know what they are doing even if you don’t like it. Never again should we allow any council to say they are making ‘efficiency savings’, and if they do you must ask why. And then ask why again.
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