I’m sorry, but your writer is on another blog…


If anyone is wondering (unlikely), I have now transferred all my post writing efforts to a different blog. The legendary Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS) online now has the pleasure/burden of me as a full Author. This comes after several years of haphazard contributing.

My posts (going back through the ages, seriously, disregard any prior to c.2011) can be found here.

This blog was dormant / near extinct in any case. I may find another use for it…

Nash.

Job Ad BS of the week


Apologies for a certain quietness post-relaunch. Its been a busy and a sickly (bastard freshers) fortnight or so. I’ve got plenty of post ideas and comments to update over the next few days. In the mean time I’m going to start a less serious series of posts.

As any casual reader would be aware, I’ve spent the last few months doing some increasingly dejected job-seeking. Being a cynical straight-talker I naturally find the high levels of bullshit in job adverts quite distasteful. Naturally I also find the amount of BS one has to send back by way of application equally odious. Certainly nobody leaves this interaction with their integrity intact. For all that politicians are labeled “liars” by other members of the human race (also journalists), they are after all the only ones to face public job applications.

So this post series is generally about the daft hoops I have to jump through in chasing a place on the wage-slavery treadmill. It won’t all be BS, most likely just the silly or cliched stuff that frustrates me into mashing the keyboard until the words “I just want a flipping job” appear in blood on the screen. Or something like that.

First up; a terrible old cliche of a question I’ve seen half a dozen times and even had in a phone interview:

Give an example of a situation where you used your technical skills to solve a problem

I hate this one. It basically calls for either a slathering of BS or a steaming mount of immodesty. Those are your choices, it’s (a) I built a mini from scratch using spare parts during the summer holidays (when you didn’t), or (b) I, like, ran a jar under the warm tap to make the lid easier to unscrew. Yah, like, it was such a challenge and totally changed me…”. That’s it, lie or big up something utterly trivial. No points for honesty.

Now here’s one in an ongoing app for a Met Office graduate programme

Demonstrate your interest in the weather and how it impacts on you

Heaven only knows how to answer this – though I suppose I should have to manage it by the end of the evening. I’m very much tempted to simply answer “I’m British – see any cliched stand-up routine on this trait”. I actually like the look of this job and I approve of the employer – factors which always make me resist smearing BS in the application. Rather unfortunate that.

Finally, for a job I really want (when the online test stops freezing me out) -HMRC’s graduate programme. At the time the first job app to require my National Insurance number from the start. You wouldn’t expect them to have to ask really?

Political Compass


Just a bit of fun this. At the Birmingham University Labour Students freshers stall we had a political compass for new and old members alike to locate themselves. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve drifted all over the shop over the past half-decade, so positioning was rather difficult. I’ve just been on the political compass website to retake the test. My Left-Right positioning is hardly surprising (though more left that I’d have imagined), but I was uncertain on the exact definitions of the Libertarian-Authoritarian axis and therefore my position here.

 

September 2011

For comparative purposes, I’ve also found some older compass plots from the last time I took the test in 2009:

From memory in the past I’ve tended clustered around the 0,0 point, moving in and out of most/all of the quadrants. Clearly there’s been a strong left-liberal trend in the past two years, probably down to a combination of factors. Opposition, looming and extant unemployment, the first Tory government of my political memory, the good people of the New Zealand Labour Party, greater life experience, etc.

 

Ultimately the compass has some flaws. Even two axes cannot display all political viewpoints. A single point on the plot can only represent a midpoint of ones personal political views, which may diverge significantly issue by issue. It assumes that all one’s views are consistent and logical, without contradiction.

According to the political compass site, the only international figures in my quadrant are Nelson Mandela and His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Ghandi is there as an historical figure. Their historical comparison of UK political parties (as of 2010) is worth a read – apparently I should be thinking of defecting to the Greens.

A Tax on Greed


 

 

A rather late comment on this one, given that the issue seems to have dipped out of the news once again (though I’m certain it’ll resurface. The 50-pence tax band, and the Tories less than discreet desire to be rid of it.

Just to clarify – the 50-pence band applies on all annual income over £150,000. That is, to a tiny tiny number of exceptionally lucky individuals. The average graduate-level salary (sure to fall) is around 22k. The overall UK average somewhat lower. How on earth is a tax paid by so few who can evidently afford it, a serious political issue?

£150,000  p.a. is a quite unimaginable income for myself and for most people on this planet. Assuming you had attained such a luxurious level of material wealth – what possible need could you have for a penny extra? When excess personal wealth could be used for the benefit of all your fellow citizens, what moral argument could any decent human being give for trying to claw it back? Only through such a fair system of redistributive taxation can we hope to narrow the ever-increasing inequality in this country.

Of course, there is the ever so tedious rhetoric of the anti-socialists, about “rewarding risk-takers” and the like. To me it is little more than greed. We all live in this society. We all benefit from the services and infrastructures that our collective wealth can afford. When some of us benefit more than others they must repay their debt to society using a fraction of their fortunate windfall.

Former White House financial reform advisor Elizabeth Warren (video) recently articulated this point as well as I ever could:

No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.

You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Hearing this, especially from a US politician, is heartening. It is just as applicable to us. For the sake of the social contract between all peoples in this country, and for the sake of the unity of our communities, the 50-pence band must be kept.

-NASH-

 

The Criminalisation of Protest?


The news of the arrest and imprisonment without trial of Guild Vice-President (Education) Mr Ed Bauer (see here) trickled through to me rather late. I’m very much out of the University/Guild bubble these days, and so my only sources for the story are Facebook (peer-reviewed in the unorthodox manner) and Redbrick (*spits in corner* -Nash passim).

My general impressions though are that this action is very much heavy-handed. For democracy and freedom of speech it is quite concerning. “Traffic offences” seems like a rather convenient pretext for arrest – given that noone was harmed by the protest. A mere polite word from the police should have been enough. Unfurling a banner above a busy road might seem a bit daft from a H&S perspective. But wouldn’t simply moving the protesters on have satisfied public safety requirements, without infringing democratic freedoms? Relocate the banner, continue the protest.

So why an arrest? And why 10-days detention? What evidence for a genuine danger to the public? It would be easy here to speculate, to lapse into the territory of the conspiracy theorist, but I won’t. What I will say is that the circumstances as they have been presented and the facts as available are deeply unsettling to me. Protest is an essential part of democracy, and those in positions of authority should be aiming to facilitate it, not to stifle it. My views on direct action are different to Ed’s, but I know a disproportionate response when I see one.

As for those who whisper of the impeachment of Ed from his position of VPE, they should be deeply ashamed. Not everyone may like Ed. Many will not agree with him. But most of us can see and appreciate his conviction and integrity in sticking to his principles. Ed has a mandate from the student electorate; one that was won honestly, such that none who voted for him could be surprised by his subsequent actions. I don’t believe for a minute that these actions have brought the Guild of Students (of which I am an honorary life member) into disrepute. On the contrary, such passionate defense of member’s interests is exactly what Unions are for.

There is a solidarity demonstration planned for Monday afternoon. Details are here. In all likelihood I will be popping along – legality permitting – to document events and to find out more information.

Relaunch! (101st Post)


The 101 thing is sheer coincidence.

Its been a fair few months hasn’t it? The blog didn’t just go dormant; it went “private”. In applying for various political and private sector jobs over the summer I figured it was probably for the best that there weren’t many google hits when employers typed in the words “Chris Nash”. Not just that, after AV (my last pre-dormancy post on May 6th) political cynicism somewhat dampened the writing urge. Then there was my final 4th year exam, and the looming threat of unemployment to worry about. And worry I did.

Why relaunch? Well, I’m unemployed now, and partially resigned to it. The most recent fortnight of application and post-interview job rejections puts me firmly back to square one in effort terms. Effectively everything I have done in career or professional terms since June 8th (final exam) has been futile.

Now with the threat of a bitter winter looming, the ongoing treadmill/merry-go-round of job hunting, and a personality prone to melancholy; keeping myself occupied is of paramount importance. I’m devouring no end of books, fiction and non-fiction, on all manner of subjects. It was only a matter of time before the love of writing called me back. Or maybe the love of pontificating. Or procrastination.

So where from here? I’m still living in Birmingham, and staying politically active. Any pretext of anonymity in the blog, if ever there was any, has long gone. Things may be a little more open and personal. I’ve mentioned the books, and my increasing bookshopping hobby / addiction, so expect references to various bits of prose as I wade through them. With the grace of the editor of bulsonline, I’ll keep contributing there from time to time, though only the “good stuff” as befits a Total Politics Top 50 Labour Blog (placed 42nd). There’ll still be political stuff here of course, but I make no promises for quality.

On the subject of the Total Politics blog awards, guess who’s at No 62 in the Top 100 Labour Bloggers? Me apparently. A total surprise, and a pleasant one, given I’ve written about 2 blogs in 6 months. Can’t find any details for the Awards’ methodology, or turnout figures, so the scientist in me is rather sceptical. Nonetheless, a nice trinket, and one which comes with a badge for the blog.

Thus in the style of countless dull job apps: “Outline your motivation for relaunching this blog”

  • Boredom
  • Anger / Cynicism / Pessimism
  • Bibliophilia
  • Flattery

And so here I am again. Until I get too bored to continue, too employed to have the time, or until a vindictive Tory Councillor or MP plays the “If you’ve got time to blog you shouldn’t get dole money” card. Guest posts and intelligent comments welcome, as ever.

- NASH -

Birmingham Riots: a personal view


(Editor’s Note – This post was first written on the evening of the 8th August 2011- mere hours into the first riot violence in Birmingham. Later developments, including tragic loss of life, may make the sentiments expressed seem naiive. Nonetheless, for the most part I stick by them. The post was originally published over on bulsonline – this blog being in one of its dormant periods. I repost it now in the interests of completeness, “comradenash” representing a full archive of all my blogging over the past 3-4 years. – NASH)

It seems I picked a bad week to break with my “current affairs” abstinence. I’m thoroughly sick of the news. I’m sick of the politics. I don’t care who’s on holiday and who isn’t. I don’t care who’s coming back, and who said what about who. I don’t believe that one event can make a crisis. I don’t believe that the riots are the fault of any one person, or of any one policy. They are not an argument against police funding cuts, nor against EMA cuts. They are not an excuse for pointing fingers, or for scoring points.

I despair for humanity. We may only have about sixty years left, but is there really need to accelerate it? Why? Why is that happening to my people?

Ask yourself this; why aren’t you rioting?

How alienated and desperate would you have to be to smash up your own town? How limited would your life prospects have to be for looting to be worth the risk? What if the only “legitimate” channels appear to have failed you, and your parents before you.

I argue for compassion, and for understanding. But for mere quirks of fate – the circumstances into which I was born, and those which followed –  I could have been one of those rioting and looting tonight. Comfortable people don’t riot. People with decent jobs, and stable incomes, and education, and quality housing; these people do not riot. The triggers may be recent, but the root causes go back decades.

I know many, perhaps most, will disagree. So little is known for certain. So many are eager to fit narratives. Some will blame “mindless thugs”, and resort to comfortable stereotypes; where facts are bent to fit theories. These are the easy answers, the lazy unthinking reactions. Blame the troublemakers. Blame the degenerates. Blame the chav.

I have more faith in humanity than that. Maybe I’m misguided, but I would much rather be wrong than I would unnecessarily condemn. We must all of us ask ourselves “Why?”

The Day Democracy Died


Part One – the Problem

Britain is no longer a democracy, it is a plutocracy. The AV referendum was stolen from us in a system where wealth equals influence. I do not believe that the 10 million plus people who voted “No” were able to make a fully informed decision, nor do I believe that First-Past-The-Post is an electoral system in any way superior to the Alternate Vote. The result was illegitimate and I do not recognise it.

Among the lessons that we can learn from the past few weeks is that given sufficient funding, the British electorate can be persuaded to vote for absolutely anything – even against their own self-interests. We may look smugly across the Atlantic to where the Tea Party leads ignorant sheep to their slaughter, but we should be aware that it will just as easily happen here. A less kind term for our political system would be the “corporate dictatorship”, where the rich can have our democratic rights bought and sold in accordance with their own interests. The media for the most part is the communications wing of this dictatorship, and the Tory party is its public face.

I have no doubt that if the abolition of slavery was a modern-day issue, a referendum on it would be lost. Moral and even evidence-based arguments hold no sway against the well-funded defenders of the status-quo. Reactionaries will always be ruthless and without scruples in defending their own unjust privileges. Even presenting outright lies as fact is not below them – as so clearly proven just this week.

In a system where true power derives from money, their can never be any hope of improving the lot of the downtrodden and the oppressed. All that trickles down from the tables of the rich are insincere platitudes and the divide-and-rule philosophy of competition, where we struggle away our life energy to become fractionally better of whilst leaving our comrades behind. Nothing outside their own control can touch the ensconced comfort of the ruling elite.

Change through the ballot box is change through the grudging consent of our betters. Policy even marginally radical will be struck down before the campaign starts – slandered into oblivion by an obedient corporate press. The tabloid propaganda sheets keep the working classes from their salvation through poisonous lies – their justification being a twisted and disfigured interpretation of “free speech”.

It is no surprise then that the Tory party has always opposed electoral reform. They opposed AV. They opposed Scottish and Welsh devolution. They opposed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. They opposed votes for women. They opposed universal male suffrage. They opposed extending the franchise beyond the rich and the land-owners. They have opposed every limitation in the power of the House of Lords. Their origins lie in the defence of the Divine right of Kings. Each an every reform has threatened their own power; their ability to dominate over those who do not consent.

And so the Tories opposed AV. Dressed up in a faux concern for the constitution, or any higher principles, they ruthlessly fought for their own illegitimate power. The rich and powerful donors stepped forward, and the Tory press gleefully peddled lie after lie in their cause. The result demonstrates that rational debate and facts are no match for superior funding. In this they were graciously aided by the Labour tribalists who, like the Animal Farm pigs, perhaps see themselves as an alternate nobility.

I look ahead to 2015 and see an action replay. A ten-point poll lead only exists at the whim of a favourable press. As the campaign period dawns, editor after editor will fall in line behind the Tory juggernaut.Scotlandmay well have gone its own way. Money will trump morality and a Tory majority will be returned. The pretext will be the government of the many – the reality is that of the few. First-past-the-post is an integral part of this corporate dictatorship. It is to their eternal shame that Labour, in pursuit of short-term gain, failed to see this.

Part Two – Solutions

The vested interests will argue that the question of electoral reform is now settled. It is not. The referendum was stolen from us, and the need for reform is thus greater than ever. Our entire political system must be reformed, and the Labour Party itself must be changed into a vehicle for that reform.

The defenders of the status quo argue that constitutional reform is not an important issue – that the economy, education, housing, healthcare, all come first. What they try to hide is that reform is an obvious prerequisite to anything meaningful being done about all of these. Our system works to silence those it lets down, it entrenches conservatism and maintains privilege.

First our electoral system needs to be changed – to one which is fully proportional. AV may be an imperfect step in this direction, but FPTP is thoroughly broken. There can be no moral defence for a government (Labour or Conservative) holding 100% of political on less than 40% of often lukewarm public support. I favour the Additional Member System (AMS) – used in their eternal wisdom by the German people – or its variant Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) used in  Zealand. Coalitions and compromises are a good thing and they are needed. Decisions should always reflect the needs of many, and be to the benefit of most. It is no coincidence that the most blind ideologues of all extremes are united in their hatred of coalition government.

The AV referendum has convinced me that campaign finance reform is essential. There can be no equal platform of views in an election where funding is differential. The role of the salesman is to push the unwanted onto the unwilling – and it is in politics that they find a natural home. The argument that is intellectually poor should never triumph over that which is materially poor, and so there must be restrictions on election spending. Good ideas and policies will sell themselves without the need for the PR-man’s expensive gloss.

The media must be reined in. For policy to be bought and sold through commercial “news” providers like mere cars or branded cereals cannot be healthy for democracy. Editorials that push propaganda for their side should be openly censored for their bias. The slander of rival parties, policies or candidates should be punished by high financial penalties. Reporting can content itself with pure journalism and the publishing of empirical fact. Equal coverage must be given to all candidates within a circulation or broadcasting area. Critique and opinion pieces can be evidence-based and must allow for full right-of-reply. Furthermore, monopolies over broadcasting and journalism must be broken up. At present too much power and influence resides in the hands of too few individuals.

With election funding made equal for all candidates, election publicity must be further regulated. Leaflets, billboards and posters must all comply with stricter electoral commission rules. All claims must be fact-based and provable. Negative campaigning would be prohibited. Complaints procedures would heavily favour the offended party.

The adoption of AMS/MMP for Westminster elections would retain a constituency link for MPs. For election to these constituency seats a residency quota must be added. I favour a minimum 5-years non-consecutive residence within the constituency or in a neighbouring constituency. I the case of the Labour Party, candidate selection should be entrusted entirely to local CLPs. This would end the parachuting in of favoured sons from central office, and give Britain MPs will actual roots and interests in the welfare of their electors.

I favour the replacing of the House of Lords with an independent scrutinising body. Neither party appointees or elected politicians can be trusted to objectively scrutinise legislation and an alternative must be found. I admit that I do not yet know of a perfect alternative.

Ultimately Britain must become a republic. The emotional arguments for monarchy are many, but they are factually and morally bankrupt. As an institution the monarchy is the lynchpin of all power and privilege that is both unearned and undemocratic. It has no place in a Britain ruled by the merit of individuals and of ideas.

I will be the first to admit that my proposals are far-reaching and unlikely to be implemented. Those they disadvantage are powerful and influential. Those they benefit as yet have no voice. I will be very lucky indeed to see any of the above implemented in my lifetime, let alone all. As I see it now, the only hope for any democratic reform is for the Labour Party to finally put short-term partisan advantage aside in favour of the best interests of the British people.

Who goes there?


Been seeing a massive spike in the hit counter in the last few days; suprising given that this blog has been essentially dormant since the start of the year.

If anyone could enlighten me?

11 for 2011


This time last year I published a blog post containing broadly political predicitions for the year ahead. By my own assessment i make it six and a half out of ten for accuracy. More than half were half-right, which in itself is quite interesting, especially where generally cautious projections have been superseded by the unexpected.

Naturally, and indeed inevitably, this calls for a follow-up. 2010’s predictions were generally grim in flavour, so perhaps i’ll  be a little more optimistic and upbeat this time around…

1) Despite constant murmuring from miscontents, and the slavering tongues of political press comentators, all three party leaders will be safe in their jobs in the year ahead. That isn’t to say it’ll be an easy ride for any of them, but sharpened knives will be kept for more opportune moments…

2) Alan Johnson will push his luck just a little too much and be sacked as Shadow Chancellor.

3) At least one Cabinet member (most likely a Conservative) will be sacked or forced to resign.

[Hang about, these were meant to be optimistic?]

4) The May referendum on changing the voting system will result in a resounding YES for AV.

5) David Milliband will take up a lucrative private sector job and never be seen or heard from again.

6) In US politics, a challenger will emerge for the Democratic Party nomination for President in 2012.

7) Sarah Palin will NOT  be the frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination by the end of the year.

[That's more like it]

8) In May local elections, the Liberal Democrat vote will collapse, though more to the benefit of the Conservative Party, rather than to Labour candidates.

9) No Lib Dem MPs will defect to Labour. At most one or two might move to oppostion benches, but thats it.. and no more than two.

10) The National Party will win the New Zealand General Election [sorry], but thier referendum on electoral reform will see MMP retained [hurray!].

11) At least one UK newspaper will follow on from the success of the Times Online paywall and set up their own for online content. I reckon the Guardian.

Ok then, usual routine; give it another 12 months and we’ll see where we are. I’ve not made any predictions about student issues, student politics, or Guild politics this time. No sense tempting fate.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.