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Jack Straw got bumped from the Foreign Office because he believes it would be "nuts" to go to war with Iran.

Bush rang Blair and asked him (queruously) what his boy Jack was on.

British Foreign Secretaries are appointed in the White House.

The new Foreign Secretary is Margaret Beckett- famous for having been around a long, long time and for having never said or done anything memorable (except call Neil Kinnock, a "Judas").

She used to be a leftie, but that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead.
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They erected the new lamposts a year ago. Today they fitted the lamps.

It's the warmest day of the year thus far, so I dress for summer in my sandals and political shirt .

My political shirt was given me by Judy. It  features the  faces of Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheyney and the bold motto: Asses of Evil

The polling station is set up in the Methodist Sunday School. There are two tellers on the door. One is a smiley bearded Pakistani and the other is a resident at  the home for elderly male misfits on Honeywell Lane. I imagine the Beardy guy is Labour. Is the misfit a Tory, then?  Perhaps he is. The Home for elederly male misfits has a flagpole from which they fly the cross of St George and other such  rags (including sometimes the flag of the State of California (?!))  even when there's  no World Cup looming.

The Labour candiate, Asaf Ali,  is sitting in the Sunday School . On the sofa, next to him, is a very old white guy. Is this Mr Wright, the independent?

Mr Wright hasn't put out any literature so I don't know what he's idependently standing for. If I knew I might vote for him on the principle that all the major parties are rubbish.

My Asses of Evil shirt amuses the girls who tick my name  off  the register and hand me my voting paper. Asaf Ali turns to the very old white guy and asks "Why isn't your face on that?"

I retire to the booth and scan the  paper. The British National Party are fielding a record number of candidates this year, but they're not fielding one in Alexandra Ward. hooray!

I vote...no it's a secret, I'm not telling, but it isn't for Tony Blair and it isn't for the Tories (I had a chip inserted in my brain when I was 15 which prevents me from ever voting Tory.)

There's a policeman sitting across the room from Asaf Ali and the very old white guy. He's there to make sure neither of them cheats.

Last time we held local elections in Blair's Britain there was massive fraud. 

I've performed  my democratic duty. When I turn back onto Belgrave Rd (at 11 o'clock on a bright summer's morning) the nice new lamps are lit.
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The day of the local elections: And everyone is looking to the result as a referendum on the Blair government.

Honest and decent Labour councillors who hate Blair as much as the rest of us do are going to get a hammering. It's a shame.

But I won't vote for anyone on the Labour ticket so long as the Butcher of Basra is leading the party.

And anyway, the local Labour candidates are stupid; they put a leaflet through my door bearing the soiled and shamed 1997 slogan "New Labour; New Britain"- a reminder of just how squalidly our dreams have been betrayed.

Blair lied to take us into the Iraq war. He should have been hounded from office long ago. He should be in prison.

Hapless

Apr. 30th, 2006 09:41 am
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Tony Blair gives a rousing speech about how he is going to pursue and harry foreign criminals out of the country. A few days later it emerges that large numbers of foreign criminals, slated for deportation, have been allowed out of prison and back into the community and the Home Office doesn't know where they are. Even worse, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has been aware of the situation for the best part of a year and is only now, after the media tumbled to the story, taking (frantic) steps to sort it out.

Embarrassing.

Almost simultaneously we learn that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has been enjoying extra-marital rumpy-pumpy with his diary secretary. Remember the solemn memorial service (or whatever it was) for the Iraqi war dead at St. Paul's Cathedral? Immediately after, he and she hightailed it back to Prescott's grace and favour apartment over Admiralty Arch and went at it like little rabbits.

And the local elections are less than a week away.

If people weren't getting killed because of these clowns- and if they weren't hell-bent on curtailing our liberties- I might even feel sorry for them.

Power

Apr. 25th, 2006 10:05 am
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I had power once; footling amounts of it, but still enough to make me feel special.

It was fun.

I was the vicar of a small parish in the north of England. I didn't like my churchwardens and I suspected they didn't like me.

Now the churchwardens are supposed to be the representatives of the people; the people elect them and they're there to keep t' bloody vicar in check. This didn't stop me sniffing out and promoting candidates to run against the chaps I didn't like. Ooh, the ducking and diving and back-stabbing- and all of it conducted under a razzle-dazzle camoflauge of sunny smiles and Christian fellowship. It was a thrilling time and I won.

In the process I learned that the powerful:

(1)find democracy inconvenient and will do all they can to subvert it;

(2)are hungry for love and approval;

(3)lose touch with reality;

(4)lose all sense of proportion;

(5)persist in regarding themselves as the good guys in spite of all evidence to the contrary;

(6)believe, again in the teeth of all the evidence, that they alone know best;

(7)are permanently high on the excitement of it all;

(8)are intolerant of criticism and squash it where they can;

(9)will lie and lie and lie, rather than admit the slightest failing or weakness (even to themselves).

Once I'd worked all this out (which took many years) I resolved never to place myself in a position of power again.

Hindering

Apr. 4th, 2006 11:28 am
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John Reid, the thuggish Minister for Defence (meaning Minister for War) has said that the Geneva Convention needs to be revised because it "hinders" British troops.

Yes, indeed; that's what the Geneva Convention is for, John; it's specifically designed to "hinder" the military.

I was thinking the Barbarian was at the gates. I was wrong. The Barbarian is through the gates and sitting in an office in Whitehall.
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Gordon Brown, having reached some sort of accomodation with Tony Blair, has spent the past few days grooming us as his future subjects.

Ooh look, he's not sulking any more.

Ooh look, he knows how to smile.

And take a gander at the wife and the wean! Aw, isn't he just a cuddly old poppa bear?

(Pity about Dunfermline- Heh-heh-heh.)

Here are two of his sparkly new policies.

1. Schoolkids will be encouraged (pressurised?) into joining the cadet force.

2. June 27 will be celebrated as "Veteran's Day".

Because our armed forces are wonderful

Because respect and discipline are such jolly good things

(Pity about that video from Basra)

And because this is exactly what we thought we were voting for (not) when we put our crosses against New Labour candidates back in '97-

More militarism- yay!

Quaint

Jan. 22nd, 2006 02:45 pm
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Mark Oaten, a politician none of us had heard of until the week before last (when he briefly stood as a candidate in the Lib-Dem leadership election) has been visiting a rent boy on a regular basis. The media quaintly describe this as an "affair". Oaten equally quaintly describes it as an "error of judgement".

Even quainter is Oaten's characterisation of himself as a "tough liberal". I wonder if this is the same thing as a "compassionate conservative"? I expect it is.

And that both are much the same thing as an "opportunist".

Not Cute

Dec. 10th, 2005 11:46 am
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When you become a senior politician (not to mention President of the United States) there are certain things you forgo. And one of them is cuteness. There is no way you can hold the fate of millions in your hands and be cute.

It doesn't matter how wise and beloved you are or how devious and hated. Abraham Lincoln and Richard M Nixon are equal in this. They are neither of them the least bit cute.

Cuteness is bound up with being small and helpless and vulnerable and pretty. Cuteness and power don't mix.

Which is why George Bush talking to his doggies in the Oval Office is so utterly embarrassing.

Defeated

Nov. 10th, 2005 11:08 am
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Blair lost a very important vote in the House of Commons yesterday- and lost it huge. Afterwards he gave petulant interviews. He's not used to having his sucker snatched away.

The ill-judged legislation that parliament rejected would have allowed the police to hold terror suspects for 90 days without charging them. It ammounted to the suspension of Habaeus Corpus- which has been the foundation stone of English liberty since the days of Bad King John.

It's the end. But Blair doesn't see it. He's holed in several places and leaking vital fluids and nobody loves him anymore. He's a goner. But will he step aside of his own free will? Of course not. They never do. Like every other dear leader from Churchill to John Major he will stay in office, flailing about impotently, in the hope of magical rescue, until someone is forced to step up, more in pity than in anger, and fire a silver bullet into his bonce.
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I think of it as millennium-shock- the mindset that has propelled conservative governments and dictators and demagogues into power and influence all round the world. We're afraid of the future with its shinyness and its mind-and-body-warping technologies and its promise of an end to life as we know it, and we fall back on the defence of green-mouldy certainties from way back when. Thus the demand for sharia law throughout the Muslim world, thus the dominance of the religious right in the USA, thus a Pope who decries personal religion and demands that his young people submit to (his) authority. We're a race of scaredy-cats. We'd prefer to have the Middle Ages back rather than commit ourselves to the unknown.

I think in the end we'll get over this reactive fit. Science and invention will continue to motor away- and we like the goodies they provide too much to shut them down. And ideas are harder to censor than they used to be, now that we have the Net. Even so, these are hard times, and those of us who don't want a new Dark Ages to descend- and the world be run according to the lights of Bush and Khamenei and Pope Ratzinger- are going to have to make a fuss.

Orwellian

Jul. 25th, 2005 06:02 pm
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Some politician was saying we've got the terminology wrong.

We shouldn't say "shoot to kill"; we should say "shoot to protect".

Of course, that makes all the difference.

Now lets think of a nice way of saying "innocent man with five bullets in his head."
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Edward Heath has died. He was leader of the conservative party from 1965 until Mrs T toppled him and Prime Minister from 1970-74.

Reading the obits I'm reminded of the extent to which I'm a Heathite. His biggest achievement was to get Britain into the Common Market (later the EU.) I was always a keen European- still am. I guess some of that passion for Europe is derived (by osmosis or trickle-down) from Heath.

He wasn't a particularly attractive man. He had a big fake grin (cheesier even than Blair's) and satirists took full advantage of the fact that Heath rhymes with teeth. By modern standards he was remarkably unspun. He was plump, ugly, charmless. He never married and his sexuality remains a mystery. Something I'd forgotten- and it's to his credit that he never made a big thing of it- is that he was a war hero and holder of the M.C.

After Mrs T took the leadership away he opposed her from the back benches. He'd have been more effective in this if he hadn't come across as a such sore loser. Unlike most of today's politicians he had a life beyond politics. He raced yatchs and conducted a church choir and wrote books about his hobbies. At the time I got sick of hearing about how Morning Cloud (Heath's yatch) was doing in this or that boat race, but in retrospect it seems healthy and endearing that he gave so much time and energy to his extra-curricular activities. What does Blair do in his spare time? Read political biographies probably.

I didn't like him. He wasn't a man you liked. But I guess I respected him. He was right about a lot of things. He lived a full life. He made good use of his time.
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The British Government commissioned a report on its drugs policies. The report concluded that the policies weren't working. The Government suppressed the report(it has now been leaked) and continued with the failing policies.

None of this is the least bit surprising.

Because to admit that the policies are failing and then to change them would involve re-educating the public, defying the right-wing press (and the government of the USA) and really that's too much like hard work- not to mention electorally risky. Better to bury the report and carry on as before.

It is far more important for Government to appear strong and effective than for it to be so.

Easier

May. 29th, 2005 11:14 am
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Judy suggests that the Presidential race in 2008 will be between Hillary & Jeb.

That's so dynastic it's practically medieval.

It's like the Wars of the Roses. Like the Capulets v the Montacutes.

It seems as though every political system slides backwards if let- towards such primitive institutions as monarchy and aristocracy and clan.

As George W Bush jokingly said (oh, but he meant it)- "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier."

Typical

May. 6th, 2005 11:19 am
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BBC 4 treated us to extracts from the Goebbels diaries last night (splendidly read by Kenneth Branagh.) "Goering went out of his way to be kind to me. What a nice chap he is." This isn't so much the banality of evil as the Pooterishness of evil.

Venice is Goebbels' favourite city. He is shocked at the number of Jews in Berlin; they do so spoil the look of the place. He wanders out into the countryside during the siege of Berlin and finds it restful. Nothing that goes wrong is ever his fault. Hitler is above criticism.

Is this all there was to the man? Was he really so utterly without ideas, imagination, culture?

"Evil genius" is a contradiction in terms. The really wicked are never much more than crafty. Goebbels was a silly little man without the wherewithal to grasp the enormity of what he was doing.

A typical politician, in fact.
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The exit polls were spookily accurate. At 11.00 last night, with one result in, the experts were predicting a Labour majority of 66. This morning, with only a few results still undeclared, they are making exactly the same prediction.

No surprises then. The Tories made small gains, the Lib Dems made small gains, a few relatively minor government figures were unseated. The most exciting individual result was in Bethnal Green and Bow, where the charismatic George Galloway, who was kicked out of the Labour party over Iraq, defeated the New Labour incumbent.

So Labour gets its third term- which has never happened before- and Blair has had his majority cut by nearly 100. It's exactly what I hoped for.
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I think Blair will win. That's what the polls are all saying. People don't like him*, but they like Conservative leader Michael Howard even less. I was watching a programme last night where uncommitted voters were being monitored on their reactions to speeches by the party leaders. They found Blair persuasive (which he is, famously so) but almost all of them dismissed Howard as "negative". The Tory campaign has been all scare-mongering and Blair-bashing. I don't know how good the electorate's corporate memory is, but there must be quite a few of us who remember Howard's previous incarnation as one of the smarmiest, most cheaply populist ministers in the Thatcher and Major governments. There's a chance, a real chance, that this election will go down in history as the one that finally killed off the Conservative party.

Me? I won't vote Labour because of Iraq and there's no way I'm voting Conservative, which leaves me with the Liberal Democrats.  They don't have any chance of forming a government, but they might just beat the Conservatives into third place.

*A recent poll showed the British evenly divided: forty percent want Blair to encounter a speeding double-decker bus and forty percent want him stretched, scalded and quartered in the Tower of London (within a sampling margin of four percent).- Greg Palast

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I wasn't going to watch the big election broadcast last night, but the remote chance of seeing Blair publicly humiliated was too tempting to miss. Of course, in the event, the man's glibness and self-belief carried him through. He saw off questions from the public with bursts of trademark sincerity, and only Dimbleby, the professional interviewer, managed to get under his guard with a question about why he had refused to debate the other party leaders face to face. Obviously Blair hadn't expected that one and for a delicious, lengthened moment he went blank and glared furiously at Dimbleby's crotch with his teeth bared. But then he recovered with a laugh.

Blair used to be good-looking in a boyish sort of a way. Seven years in power have turned him into a goblin. Steve Bell, the Guardian's premier cartoonist, has picked up on something mad and strange about his eyes and gives him a right that's tiny and dull and a left that's the size of a soup plate. Certainly there's a discrepancy. They don't quite seem to work together. It's as if one of them (but which one?) were glass.

He looks tired. The leaking of the attorney general's pre-war advice on Iraq must have been a big blow. It gives us the dots and tittles on how he and his gang finangled the evidence. He wants to talk about the economy and schools and stuff like that but the war is the defining event of his premiership and he can't escape it. Even if he wins the election- and he probably will because the opposition is so god-awful- there's a comfort in knowing he'll go down to history as the Man Who Lied.
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We are beasties, smart beasties, but still beasties.

We move in herds or packs. Herd Leader says "follow me into that valley because there's good moss to eat there," and we follow.

Even if past experience suggests that the moss will be scarce and the wolves plentiful.

And when Herd Leader says, "herd member X is unpleasing to me and needs to be driven out," we turn on herd member X and butt them in the ribs.

All of us together.

We disgust me sometimes.

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