The problem with political jokes…..


So the election is less than a week away and so far I’ve managed to avoid blogging about it but as tomorrow is the 13th anniversary of Labour coming to power it reminds me of what happened last time there was a change of party in power. The difference back then was that we all new there was going to be a new party in power – after 18 years of Conservative Government everyone knew it was time for a change, they’d run out of steam, their leader was weak and the party was tainted by sleaze. I still remember that morning the spring in my step as I walked to the polling station. It was Mayday the traditional workers day, I had been up since 4:30 having gone to the Mayday sunrise event on Bluebell hill. I had a knowing smile on my face, happy that we were finally going to get a Labour Government – shame it turned out to be a crock of shit!

So what of now? What is going to be the best outcome from this election. Is it time for a change as the Tories suggest or would another Labour government be best to allow the policies that have slowly dragged us out of recession to continue to work. Alternatively can we think the unthinkable and see a Liberal Government elected for the first time since 1902! Over the last couple of weeks there has barely been more than a few percentage points between each of the three major parties especially after Nick Clegg did so well in the televised debates. The possibility of a hung Parliament is certainly on the cards but who, if anyone, will lead that Parliament remains to be seen.

So who to vote for? Now there’s the million dollar question! A lifelong Labour supporter but for the first time ever I’m not sure whose name to put my x against. At the last election in 2005 Gillingham returned Labour’s Paul Clarke with a reduced majority down from 2272 to 254. Since then the boundaries have changed but the calculations of what would have happened in 2005, if the new boundaries were in force then, show that it would still have been very close but there was a possibility that the Conservatives could have scraped a victory. Hence we are one of the key marginal seats.

According to the BBC website this is the choice that we have:

Gordon Bryan Independent
Rehman Chishti Conservative
Paul Clark Labour
Dean Lacey English Democrats
Trish Marchant Green
George Meegan Medway Independent Party
Robert Oakley UK Independence Party
Brian Ravenscroft British National Party
Andrew Stamp Liberal Democrat

So straight away I can rule out about half of them – there’s no way I’m going to vote for the BNP or UKIP. I have no idea who the English Democrats are or the Medway Independence party so they are out too.  The Independent candidate Gordon Bryant only has one policy and that is to vote how his constituency tells him to! Quite how he intends to do that he doesn’t say. He stood last time and lost his deposit so I think I can rule him out too. That leaves a four way contest between Labour, The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. This is where it gets all tricky!

Ok well lets narrow that down to three straight away – I’m not going to vote for the Tories. I’ve watched their campaign and to be honest their only policy seems to be to knock the opposition. They have put up posters slagging off Gordon Brown, they have criticised Nick Clegg but they haven’t really told us what this change they are offering is. In the debates Cameron has consistently come off worst, his constant refrain of  “If you elect me as Prime Minister” was annoying for two reasons. Firstly it was inaccurate, we don’t elect a Prime Minister we elect a Government and the leader of the party with the most seats becomes Prime Minister. Secondly it was an obvious attempt to subconsciously  plant the idea of him being Prime Minister in our heads – sad the depths to which they will stoop!

And to be honest I don’t think they can be trusted, the problems we see now in this country all stem from the Thatcher years, the destruction of industry, the rise of the banking sector and the never ending push to line the pockets of the minority while screwing the majority. They say a leopard can’t change it’s spots and it will take a great deal more than an open necked Cameron riding his bike to convince me that they are the future. Having said that our particular leopard has changed his spots Rehman Chishti used to be a member of the Labour party before defecting to the other side!

Now one of the great achievements of this election has been to get people interested in Politics again. At the last election only 61% of people voted and the turnout for the European Elections was even lower (and I confess I forgot to vote in them!). However two things have made people sit up and take notice – firstly there was the expenses claims scandal. The general feeling is that our representatives in Parliament were taking the piss and were just pigs with their noses in the trough trying to fill their pockets with as much cash as possible. The second factor has been the performance of Nick Clegg in the TV debates but I shall come back to that later as I want to look at the expenses issue a bit further.

Our MP Paul Clark was ordered to pay back £11,000 for a second home allowance as well as an additional £164.94, after claiming £549.95 for a new washing machine in October 2004, above the guideline price of £385. He argued that the reason that he was ordered to pay the money back was due to an administration error and that he was actually entitled to the cash but he hadn’t provided the evidence in time. He was entitled to this money as payment on interest on the mortgage on his second home. Well Mr Clark lets have a look shall we?

I live in Gillingham and every day I commute either to South London or Central London depending on where I am working. It takes me about an hour to drive to my office in Beckenham or about 50 minutes into Victoria by train. Like our MP I work quite long hours and often have to be in London at 4 or 5 am or get home at 2 or 3 in the morning. I don’t feel the need to have a second home in London, if I have to be in early or get home late I will drive into London and although my parking, congestion charge and fuel will be reimbursed by the company as reasonable expenses I don’t think I could get them to pay the interest on a mortgage for a second home let alone buy me a £400 washing machine. I’m sure there are many more people in the constituency who commute to London each day so why shouldn’t our MP?

And talking about commuting he also claimed £3,290 in travel expenses mostly for car travel so what exactly did he use his second home for? And why does he need to drive into London all the time when there is a fast train service into Victoria (you’d think being a transport minister he would know that!) which is a brisk 15 minute walk from the House of Commons. I except that there may be times when he is working late but in these circumstances surely a hotel would be a better, more cost effective solution.  Here is he talking about the expenses situation right at the start of the scandal:

So back to Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem’s! If he has achieved nothing else he has turned what had become a two party system back to a three way contest. I have been very impressed with him on the bits of the televised debate I have seen. He has held his own with the other two Political heavyweights and that has meant having to suffer and fight off the attacks from Cameron and Brown which after the first debate they felt that they needed to launch in order to discredit this upstart! I agree with some of their policies but then you could say that for all three parties. And like the other two they have ducked the issue of how they will reduce the deficit after the election in order to stop the UK economy following the likes of Greece and Portugal.

So do I vote for the Labour party? This is the not first time since I started to vote that I have asked myself this question but it is the first time that not voting Labour is a distinct possibility. I don’t like Brown, never have, and I blogged on here back in 2007 in a blog called “The Beginning of the End” saying that Gordon Brown was a mistake. In my opinion he has been, until recently, an invisible leader. It has only been since the election has loomed that he has come out from his bunker and look what happened then! I do believe that the past 13 years of Labour government has been a disappointment – I think this is because they followed too many of the previous governments policies and moved the party towards the centre. They’ve allowed the banks to become all powerful and that has lead to the current situation. Then after we bail out the banks they still allow them to call the shots and continue as if nothing happened – shameful!

So what about my last choice The Green Party. I have voted Green before, back in the European elections about 10 years ago. They would, after all is said and done, be an obvious choice for an old hippy like me! There is of course one major problem – the chances of them winning are quite remote and if I voted for them it would it would simply amount to a protest vote and a weak one at that. That would be fine if I lived in an area which was a safe seat for the MP but I don’t and a protest vote could let the Conservatives in. A vote for the Liberals could have the same effect if not enough people in my area have been convinced by them and they have a huge amount of ground to make up and it would take a massive swing to get them elected.

So am I to vote Labour by default? The most likely outcome is a hung Parliament which, given the last 31 years of first a over powerful Conservative government and then an over powerful Labour government, might make things a bit steadier. A move away from Boom and Bust Politics may just move us away from a Boom and Bust Economy. the main question is who would lead it and who would hold the balance of power. It could also mean that the electoral system in this country could change so that the Government more represents the views of the people and stop parties winning landslide elections with 45% of the votes cast. This would allow people who live in a safe seat the feeling that their vote could make a difference and take the pressure off people like me who are unfortunate enough to live in marginal seats!

But you know what they say……



The Reunion

On my way to work this morning I listened to a program on Radio 4 called the Reunion. The premise is that the program brings together people who were at a particular event in history to discuss the events surrounding it. Today it was the Dunblane massacre which 14 years ago touched so many people and even now I found myself being affected by it.

On the morning of 13th March 1996 Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary school armed with 4 handguns and 700 rounds of ammunition. He entered the gym and opened fire on the teachers and children, who were aged about 5 years old, and in a matter of minutes he killed 15 children and a teacher ( a further child later died in hospital). He then left the gym and fired further shots in a corridor and into a classroom before returning to the gym, putting the gun into his mouth, and shooting himself dead.

On the program were one of the teachers who was shot in the gymnasium along with two of the parents whose children died, a journalist and a social worker who worked with the families who lost children and was there when they were told that their child was among the dead. The witness accounts gave an insight into something which you had only been able to imagine up until now, what it was like inside the gymnasium or the pain and grief suffered by the parents as they waited for news of their children and of being given the news. Even after all this time I found myself crying as I listened to their stories.

The teacher told how it had just been an ordinary day, how she chatted to the class teacher (who was killed) while she waited to start her gym class. She said that the door suddenly burst open and a man walked in wearing earmuffs, raised his hand, pointed at her and opened fire. In all she was shot 4 times. She described how the innocent children were running round, she thought that some of them may have thought it was a game as it was beyond their understanding at 5. She managed to get some of the children into a store room along with another member of staff where they hid while the gunman continued his shooting spree. Then she told how she heard the door go and that for a while she was relieved that he had left but then she heard him return. She told of the fear that she felt as she lay there expecting him to come in and start shooting at her again but then she described how he put a gun into his mouth and shot himself. She said that after the noise of the gunshot faded away there was complete silence for about 20 seconds and then all at once everything started to happen.

The parents told the story of how they first heard about the event and how once at the school they were kept in the staff room for a long time while the Police built up a picture of who was alive and who was dead. They said they kept being told that there would be news in 2 minutes by the Policeman in the room but how it dragged on for hours. At one point the Police came in and read out a number of names and asked the parents of those children to come with them. At first they thought that the parents who had been called out were the parents of the dead children but how they soon realised that they were the lucky ones who were being reunited with their children who had either survived or been injured. After that the parents were called out one at a time and were taken to be told the bad news. The two parents who were on the show were finally given the news and 2:45 and 3:30 – around 6 hours after the first shot had been fired.

I think the reason I was so affected by the program was that in 1996 my two eldest children were 5 and 3 so were the same age as the children that died. And now 16 years later Ben is the same age as those poor innocent little ones who suffered that day. I can try and put myself in the situation that those parents were in but even in my wildest imaginings I couldn’t even begin to comprehend having the endure the death of a child in those circumstances. It is said that parents all over the country arrived early to pick up their children from school that afternoon. I don’t know if that is true or not but I’m sure that we were all so glad that our children were home again safe and sound that day.

Schoolboy error

I can’t believe Gordon Brown fell for the old radio microphone still switched on trick!! I would have thought that someone that had got as far as he has would know that radio microphones will always transmit when switched on even though you are not actually speaking into it. It’s the equivalent to the old story of the star who forgets his or her microphone is on and heads off to the loo!

I’ve been putting radio microphones on people for over 20 years, I’ve miked up, among others, Frankie Howerd, Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, Princess Anne and Vice President Al Gore. I’m usually asked the same question “is it switched on”. We always tell them that yes it is switched on but it won’t come out of the PA until we fade it up at the sound desk. The really savvy ones know how to actually switch off the transmitter so they can’t be heard having private conversations before they get up to speak (sometimes they forget to switch them back on mind!). You would have thought that Mr Brown, or one of his advisers, would have had the sense to check if the microphone was switched off. I guess it must have been overlooked in the hurly burly of the election campaigning!!

Microsoft and the “New busy”


I went to catch a train the other day and I spotted this billboard for Microsoft. My first reaction was “What is that all about” followed by “Is the grammar correct”! So when i got back to the office I googled (not binged) it!!

Apparently the New busy is not like the Old Busy!

The New Busy navigates the worlds of work, leisure, friends and family like a pacific Salmon!

The New busy would rather spend an afternoon barefoot in the park than discussing ballpark figures!

The New Busy believes that a good balance in life is better than balancing chequebooks!

Has that cleared it up? Thought not!!

As far as I can gather the “New Busy” are supposed to be an up and coming group of people who want to have fun while working really hard and guess what! Hotmail can help them achieve this!

It’s all very much like the Blackberry adverts i moaned about a while ago.

The problem I have is that Microsoft (or rather their advertising agency) have made the term “New Busy” both plural and singular at the same time. It’s difficult to tell if the “New Busy” is meant to refer to a single person or a group of people.  The language in their adverts would suggest that it refers to a group but as “New Busy” sounds like a singular expression almost all of their slogans really jar on you…..

The New Busy….

…learns to hang-glide in their sleep

…sees things others miss

…finds ways to exercise everywhere

and of course

…signs up to Hotmail!

if you want to find out more, have your intelligence insulted further or learn to hang-glide in your sleep then get yourself over to their site.