Location: kent, United Kingdom

watch this space

Friday, May 05, 2006

mixed feelings

I withheld my vote, despite a temptation to vote conservative. I made a tactical error actually - having been a safe Lib Dem council, Labour picked up 12 seats, leaving them just one behind the Lib Dems, and the council in no overall control. So I should have voted Lib Dem.

I managed to stay up till about half one last night, and feelings of support for the Tories welled up inside me. This surprised me. It was the same emotion that I'd felt at the general election when the Tories won Putney, one of the first shock results to come through. I went to bed that night with a small but real belief that I might wake up to a shock Tory win.

I suppose that there's more to the Tories than Cameron's patronising leer. I am not happy with the boost this gives his style of leaderhsip, but I certainly empathised with all those hard-working, genuine Tories all around the country.

Needless to say, I love the fact that Labour took a clobbering. It's even better now Clarke's been forced to resign.

Despite the fact that most of the successful Tory candidates might as well have been blank pieces of paper with drawings of a pair of wellington boots on them, I think, in retrospect, that Cameron played a canny campaign. The environment is the perfect non-issue for a local election. It transcends class, unlike many of the traditional tory issues. It works well on a local level because it can be translated well into the humdrum issues such as graffiti, the state of parks and so on, aside from the more abstracted issue of global warming.

And, in today's namby-pamby climate, everyone's a green. Since Cameron's most ardent desire is to be namby-pamby, the green issue is perfect. Even I'm a green, though I don't think there's the slightest thing we can do to avert global warming, let alone that even if there was anything we could do, this or the next government would actually do it. So, to sum up, the beauty of the green issue is that it means absolutely bugger all. This is all the more important to Cameron because he has nothing else to say, on issues such as tax and the rest.

It is, of course, for this predictable reason that I am happy I stood by my resolve not to vote. Indeed, I am slightly annoyed that turnout doesn't seem to have been as low as I'd hoped. As I said at the beginning, this result gives genuine endorsement of Cameron. A really low turnout, or good results across the board for the fringe parties, was the message I hoped the voters to send. The three main parties need to understand that they are all useless bundles of shit. Labour doesn't represent it's traditional support, and no middle class voter with any sense would think Labour represents him. The Tories no longer represent their traditional support. The Lib Dems represent only a fundamental contradiction. Only the Labour party, losing to the BNP and in very small numbers, will have received this message. But buggered if they are going to aim once more at the working classes.

So this local election has, from my point of view, solved nothing. Cameron will continue on his odious course with a renewed vigour and confidence. Labour will redouble it's attempts to monopolise the centre ground. The Lib Dems will follow suit, thus perpetuating their irrelevance.

What can jolt the political establishment out of this somnolent state? Well, three things by my estimation, in order of likelihood. The most likely, but probably still a few years away, is an economic recession. It's becoming more and more of a bitter but necessary pill to swallow. This point is self evident.

The next most likely is success in the general election for the BNP. Even one seat would probably do the job. It's one thing to despise the BNP. But people need to understand that the BNP has a crucial, albeit inadvertant, role to play in sorting this country out. Of all fringe parties, only the BNP has the shock factor sufficient to make the mainstream parties wake up. Once that has happened, Labour will have a real fight on it's hands to secure the working class vote. With that knowledge, the Tories can safely head back off to the right, and the century old balance will be restored.

The third way is if Brown forces the issue when he enters number 10. I don't see this as too likely, though a little space might open up between him and Cameron over management of public services. Hardly exhilerating stuff though.

With these in mind, I shall make a prediction. Based on the idea that Cameron's ship has already sailed as far as his policy direction, I reckon the next generation of centrist Labour MPs, the likes of Milliband and so on, will eventually defeat the Tories on the programme of the flat tax. They will couch this policy in very simple, attractive terms. Firstly, it will go a long way to sorting the economy out. Secondly, though it benefits everyone, it benefits the poor the most. Simple.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Beautiful Headlines

As I wake up this morning to some truly wonderful headlines, I only wish my council vote could add to the government's distress. Alas, it was not to be. In my constituency I have a choice between Lib Dems, Tories, Greens and Labour. It's a Lib Dem council, with Labour in second place and the Tories nowhere, so I'm guessing it's probably safe from Labour. Otherwise I'd vote Lib Dem.

The only parties I'd consider voting for (except the really tiny fringe parties of the right) are UKIP and, I reckon, the BNP. A vote for the BNP is the best protest vote currently on offer. Indeed, you could perhaps argue there's good reason to vote for them because of Charles Clarke's recent bungles. Most importantly, though, a vote for the BNP is the best way to ensure interesting (but, of course, largely irrelevant) headlines in future.

My own views, however, are those of a tiny minority in this country. No mainline party has any interest in wooing my vote.

So, the more interesting question I'd like to pose is; who are the 2000 nurses who heckled Hewitt off the stage going to vote for?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Where's Mussolini when you need him?

Fascism is considered a revolutionary creed because of it's antipathy to democracy. The fascists of the inter war years were famous for their dislike with what they saw as the 'party squabbling' of democracy. Democracy is inherently divisive, because of it's factional nature. It is ineffective because of the compromise between factions that it entails. Needless to say, the compromise necessary for government is all the more debilitating where the democracy in question is based on PR.

One particular country seems to substantiate this critique rather well at present.

It seems to me that Mussolini was a man a few generations ahead of his time.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Declinology: A Longer Term Perspective

Myth: France is a stable democracy.

Myth: France is a peaceful and prosperous country.

Consider a chronology of it's leadership;

1789; An incompetent absolutist monarchy which has presided over the first stage in the decline of France as a Great Power gets the boot, in the ugliest, bloodiest fashion.

1794; The rabble-rousers who replace the monarchy instigate a general rampage through France, resulting in hugely repressive, destructive terror and many thousands of deaths.

1799-1814; The dictator who replaces the rabble-rousers drags the whole of Europe into a general, unwinnable war, resulting predictably in total defeat.

1815; The country reverts to it's discredited monarchy, which lasts exactly a year before the return of the equally discredited Napoleon. After Waterloo the monarchy presides over the second period of general terror (the White Terror) since the revolution, and lasts until yet another revolution against the King's despotic tendencies, in 1830.

1830; Another monarch is whisked onto the throne. This state of affairs lasts until 1848, and needless to say the 1848 revolution happens because of the despotic actions of the king.

It's worth mentioning at this point that all of these revolutions have- and it might be hard to believe- been carried out in the name of liberty and democracy. Back to the timeline:

1848; The bourgeoisie and the liberal intelligentsia plump inexplicably for a poor man's Napoleon. (At this time, it is fashionable in Europe to revolt, and the French are never ones to miss a passing fancy.) This man's biggest asset- perhaps his only one- is his name. Bearing in mind that his namesake took one hell of a beating, it's hard to see why, but hey- this is France. Napoleon III (fuck knows what happened to Napoleon II) promptly declares himself an emperor. He regularly rigs a vote in support of his seizure of dictatorial powers. And he presides over another round of national humiliation (at the hands of the brilliant Bismarck), culminating in another embarrassing defeat, and, of course, another revolution, in 1870. This year marks the second phase of France's decline, but not this time as a Great Power. 1870 confirms it as no longer even the pre-eminent European power.

1870; What follows is a brief, historically curious, interlude. The Third Republic (the first two having been dictatorships) actually IS, for the first time in France's history, a democracy. This is indeed a momentous step. But, what the Third Republic lacks in despotism, it more than makes up for in incompetence, corruption and lack of accountability.

France comes within a hair's breadth of revolution in 1917, when the army (well, the part of it that hasn‘t deserted) almost descends into full-blown mutiny.

1940; Still, this system manages to survive it's first serious hurdle, but falls astonishingly abruptly at the second. The old adage 'practice makes perfect' clearly doesn't apply to the French when it comes to defending their eastern borders. No matter, a Frenchman in the true tradition of inept despotism is more than happy to step into the breach. He presides a period of virtual civil war, before being deposed by another man who also claims to be the leader of France (well, by the allies really, but I'm feeling charitable).

1946-1958; Now it's the turn of the Fourth Republic. Yet again, instability is the watchword. In it's 18 year life span, the Fourth Republic gets through 21 Prime Ministers- this beats the rate even of Italy's post war democracy. Of course, France wouldn't be France without the threat of civil war around the corner. And she's duly brought to the brink over the Algeria problem.

1958; Civil war is averted with the inauguration of another (the Fifth, if you're counting) Republic, and- as you’d expect- a return to France's tried, tested and perversely trusted principle of elective dictatorship. De Gaulle, the only man who can solve the problem, does so only on the proviso that he be given wide emergency powers and the right to appoint and appoint and dissolve governments on a whim.

This system works for a time, but, like the former German Empire, it unfortunately depends on having a half-decent leader at the top. In case you hadn't noticed, good leaders are not a commodity France has in abundance.

And it is this reason which, perhaps more than any other, explains the mess France finds itself in at the moment- a mess which will, if left unsolved, preclude the decline of France from even the status of regional power. France, as a democracy, has never got the balance between parliament and executive right. Rather, the balance swings from one to the other as France lurches from one economic or military crisis to the next. And the general trend is down.

France IS NOT a stable democracy, and never has been. Britain has had one (uncodified, admittedly) constitution since time immemorial. America has had just the one since it's inception. In the last couple of centuries, France has had 27.

Britain has had one revolution since the middle ages, and it was both bloodless (in England at least) and glorious. Depending on semantics, America has not had a single one. France has had 12 since the enlightenment.

I made those numbers up, but only because they would probably change before I’d finished counting.

France, as this round of riots show, is controlled by the unruly, ignorant mob. As has been demonstrated countless times since the first revolution, French law is made in the street. No French politician dare address the real calamity facing France, with the possible exception of Sarkozy- and even he seems to have gone native. At any rate, even the most timid reforms are invariably strangled at birth by the buffoon Chirac. Thus are it's laws short-termist, irrational, and, of course, doomed to fail.

As an aside, consider this logic; 25% of youngsters are unemployed. That’s because of the labour laws. It’s actually already slightly easier to hire and fire the young than the old. As India, China et al. catch up in terms of education, infrastructure and the rest, doing business in France will only become less attractive over time. Thus, the 25% of youngsters who are currently unemployed will NEVER get a job. France’s overall unemployment rate will therefore rise hugely as each generation replaces the last. The businesses who have been saddled with decadent French workers, constantly banging their heads against the wall in frustration as each reform goes out the window, must gleefully greet each retirement with the words ‘never again’. And, as they finally shed the last worker into retirement, they will be out of the country like a shot.

So, France is indisputably descending into economic crisis.

And the precedent is set.

Fact: The French are temperamentally incapable governing.

Fact: The French are temperamentally incapable of being governed.

Fact: When the French get unhappy, they revolt, and it's unlikely to be pretty.

It's that simple. It's not a question of if, but when.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Geraint Jones' attitude

Having started out as one of Gojo's staunchest fans (I am, of course, from Kent) I have gradually become more and more disillusioned.

At the very beginning of his career I posted on the cricket boards that his career would sink or swim on the strength of his batting- not his keeping. This has not seemed to happen. When people compare him with Foster, Read and the like, they take it as a given that he is a better batsman. And Jones fans support him on the basis that his apparent batting prowess outweighs his apparent deficiency behind the stumps. But what are they basing their deduction on?

As far as I can tell, his keeping has improved over time. No keeper is infallible, and in my simplistic view he is neither better nor worse than most international keepers. None of them stand out for me.

Of course, of the most illustrious keeper batsmen of our time, probably the best two all-rounders are Gilchrist and Sangakara. Both were picked for their batting. Sanga is such a good batsman that he doesnt always keep for SL in tests. Both average around or above 50.

Jones averages around 28. He has scored a solitary century (1oo exactly), and a handfull of 50s. He does chip in with useful runs occasionally, but hasn't, in my deficient memory, made runs with the tail alone (perhaps his 100 was the exception). Normally, his runs have come in a supporting role with either Flintoff or Thorpe.

He continues to get out in the most frustrating ways. Take the second innings of the 3rd test in India. He was out in single figures, driving at a ball that wasn't there and spooning it limply to point. He played the worst shot of any England batsman on the Pakistan tour, when he scooped a pre-meditated sweep to the fielder who was clearly posted there for just such an indiscretion. You'd swear he was aiming for the fielder, such was the precision with which placed it, and the calculation with which he had appeared to hit it.

When he does stick around, most of his runs are square on the off-side, which is rather perverse given that he can't seem to play the cut shot along the ground.

I was driven to this polemic because I just saw an interview with him in the lunch break of the SA v Aus test.

Talking of test cricket, he declared 'its a war of attrition. when you go out to bat, you set your stall out for a long time. thats your mentality in test cricket'.

Bollocks. You never get that impression from his batting, and the figures bear me out. I have never once seen him bat for time.

He also came across as astoundingly complacent, which I guess is based on the full support of the management for his place;

'I feel that when it comes to the crunch, I always step up to the plate. It's because I perform in the tough situations that my place is secure.'

He's clearly thinking primarily of his keeping here. He took a good deal of catches in the 3rd test in India, and took that catch off Kasparowicz to win the trent bridge ashes test. But it's never been the case with his batting.

He simlpy doesn't have the mentality to bat successfully in test cricket, otherwise we would not see so many loose dismissals at key moments. Whether he has the technique, I am still unconvinced. Considering he's in the team for his batting, he hasn't anywhere near fulfilled expectations.

I don't mind whether the England keeper is chosen for his batting or his keeping. I don't mind whether Read, Foster or Prior replaces him. But if Prior is chosen for his batting, then he should damned well score some runs or be dropped. The same should have applied to Jones, and quite a while ago now.

Friday, March 24, 2006

hoggard; the new mcgrath

Matthew Hoggard has to be the most valuable pace bowler in test cricket at the moment. Pollock has lost his zip; Mcgrath is becoming more and more elusive as his career winds down; Ntini, the only fast bowler except the Pigeon Man ahead of Hoggie in the rankings, simply doesn't compare in my book.

Ntini only moves it one way. He bowls from way too wide of the crease to get many LBWs, against both left and right handers. Strauss took a particular liking to him last time they met. Strauss realised that every ball Ntini bowls to a left hander can either be padded away or left. The only thing Ntini has going for him is pace.

Hoggard, on the other hand, is the complete fast bowler. He is no longer just a conventional swing bowler. He has learnt to reverse swing. He can cut the ball back in off the flattest wicket. His consistency is second to none. In case anyone doubted it, the way he took Sehwag's wicket in the first innings of the last test proves he has a dealy accurate, Mcgrath-esque bouncer. He also thinks batsmen out. Think Hayden spooning a drive to short cover, first ball of the session.

Hoggard's attitude is second to none. But that's always been the case. He now has the control and cunning to be a truly world class bowler.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Damned french socialists

The logic of the French students boggles the mind. Though I'm one (be it an English one) myself, I can't help but conclude that, since they are young, French students are stupid.

No doubt they have it drilled in from a very young age by their lefty tutors that France, because it's so glorious and un-English, need not obey the normal rules of economics. Anyone who so much as dares to question the genius of the dysfunctional social model gets howled down with cries of 'anglo saxon ultra-liberal'- thus reflecting the fact that the thing they like best about the social model is that it's not English.

If they were told oxygen was an English invention they'd probably all strangle themselves for the shame of it, no doubt shouting 'la gloire!' with their last breath.

So the bigger shame must lie with the press, and the left wing, for egging the students on. In an interview a while ago, Sarkozy said something along the lines of 'the establishment has been lying to the public for 30 years' about the absurd yet glorified french social model. He couldn't have been more correct. One day the rest of France will learn.

What I want to see is a little retribution from the 25% of french 18-25's that are unemployed. If they had any ambitions about getting out of welfare dependency, armed bands of them would be rampaging through campuses, newspaper headquarters, salons and any other possible socialist hot-spots, beating the crap out of anyone they see for so cruelly denying them the chance to make a living. Ideally Sarkozy would provide them with the necessary weaponry.