28 April 2008

Don't believe the ES BS - Ken can (and probably will) still win in London

I don't read the gutter tabloid press much, but the Evening Standard's assault on Ken Livingstone is real back-to-the-80s Tory vitriol of a kind that no-one since Neil Kinnock has had to face with such ferocity.

Almost every single Standard headline for the last two months at least has been rabid anti-Ken propaganda. Ken is being bankrolled by some nasty bunch or other - tube drivers, Islamofascists, Mothers for Peace, etc. Ken is pissed on the job. Ken's advisers are communists. Ken eats live newts for tea. Ken is ten to fifteen points behind Boris Johnson on whatever bogus poll YouGov have made up next. And the BS goes on. And on. And on.

Now, I'm no slavish Ken supporter. Yep, I gave £50 to the 'purple' Mayor campaign of 2000 when he ran as an independent and kicked Frank Dobson's cuddly ass back to Camden. But I thought his decision to revert to Labour was a shame as it immediately meant he didn't have full latitude to denounce the many bullshit policies which the Treasury have saddled London with - Tube PPPs, anyone? - and that he would be vulnerable to being tarred with the same brush as an unpopular Blair (or now, Brown) Labour Government.

I was doubly worried by certain features of the Dispatches documentary screened on Channel 4 back in February. It was appallingly biased rubbish for sure, but there were certain legitimate criticisms. It's by no means a good idea for Livingstone to be drinking on the job, for example. (I know loads of MPs do the same, but no-one outside the Guido Fawkes blog and the Oliver Reed appreciation society would seriously endorse this kind of behaviour.) And Livingstone's decision to grant a platform to homophobic Islamic preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi was, as Peter Tatchell has pointed out, a disgrace.

But, on balance, who would you really rather have? Ken, who has made several mistakes but who may be the last serious left-wing politician left in any kind of major office in this country? Or Boris Johnson, who is either a flaky buffoon, a right-wing extremist, or (likely) both? It's a no-brainer.

If I were based in London my vote would be (1) Sian Berry (2) Ken and I think that, despite the increased discontent over the national government, he will prevail on Thursday. Forget the YouGov polls showing a 10 point lead (or more) for Boris - they're codswallop. I'm a YouGov panelist and I just enter complete garbage to get my 50p a survey. Literally, I enter complete random nonsense in the surveys. Also it's a self-selected sample - you actively apply to join YouGov, you're not approached by pollsters. Additionally, by definition, no-one without internet access is on the YouGov panel. So how the hell can it be representative?

YouGov are being used by the Evening Standard as part of an out-and-out war against Ken Livingstone. This kind of one-sided coverage presents the greatest danger to our free society (such as it is) since the Thatcherite media fascism of the 1980s. Really, during the elections the papers should have to follow a special rule: whenever a negative story is run on one of the mayoral candidates, the paper should have to allow an equal amount of space for reply by the mayoral candidate who is attacked in the story. Conversely, whenever a positive story is run on one of the mayoral candidates, the other mayoral candidates should get a right of reply equal in size to the original story. This rule could also be extended for General Elections. One way or another, rampant political propaganda and bias in our national newspapers has to be stamped out - whether it's pro-Tory, New Labour, or anything else. As Billy Bragg put it,

When you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory
Just remember there are two sides to every story.

25 April 2008

Been off the case for a bit but the news is still making me laugh...

Hi there - been so busy over the last month I've had very little opportunity to post but fortunately the news remains hilarious, so you've got plenty to entertain yourselves with. Two good examples from today's BBC website:

  • Jails 'too comfy' to merit escape - Prison Officers Association spokesman Glyn Travis (named after the Blakes 7 character? Does he have an eyepatch?) reckons that inmates are happy to stay inside as they can get hold of drugs, mobile phones and sex. It's very similar to being at school or college, in other words - so why not run a story saying "universities too comfy to merit graduation"?. Reporting of this story strikes me as bizarre - for one thing, shouldn't we be pleased if inmates aren't trying to escape from prison? Also, if prisons are "too nice" for people to want to get out, isn't it some indication that the quality of the life experience outside prison needs to be raised, rather than making the inside even more f***ing awful than it already is? And isn't the prison service doing the country a favour by acclimatising prisoners to the conditions they will face when the UK turns into one big police state any day soon - "look guys, here's how it is. You have to get up early to work to an externally imposed timetable and you don't have any say in how your life is run, but look on the bright side: there's drugs. And sex. And mobile phones (perhaps all 3 in the same package?)"?
  • Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is advising Scottish drivers not to panic buy fuel in advance of the Grangemouth refinery strike. Dunno about you, but I can't think of anything more likely to make me want to go straight out and buy a full tank (at least) than a leading politician coming on the telly and saying "don't worry. The fuel's not going to run out". Probably if Salmond went on and said "oh yes! You should panic buy! And you'll be helping the economy too as petrol stations have put prices up by 15p a litre to take advantage of your generosity!"... that would put paid to any shortages. Pychology, dear boy.

09 April 2008

Proud to be British (or French) for once

In what often seems to be a tumult of news downers, I was very pleased that the Olympic torch relay was disrupted by pro-Tibet protests in Paris and London.

It could only have been better if the UK Government had impounded the Olmpic torch and said we ain't giving it back to China until they end the illegal occupation of Tibet.

But of course they won't do that because this isn't a 'progressive' UK regime, it's a bunch of apologists for a reactionary dictatorship whose action in Tibet makes Saddam Hussein look like Jimmy Carter. It's hilarious to see people like Tessa Jowell apologising for the Chinese regime and saying the protesters are degrading the Olympics... and where the hell are the neo-Cons when you need them? Why isn't John McCain out there saying 'invade China now'? Why isn't the f***er in the front line? Jesus, you can't rely on anybody.

...and some more worrying news (or is it?)

Finally some data comes through to back up the 'house price crash' theory... Halifax released data showing a 2.5% month-on-month fall in average prices. Don't all jump out the window at once, folks... the Halifax and Nationwide indices of house prices are notoriously volatile. Nonetheless it would have been pretty extraordinary if there hadn't been some kind of fall in the wake of the credit crunch.

But so what? Prices have been ludicrously inflated for years now. Restoring some kind of sanity to the market would be a blessed relief. We should be more worried about the increase in global food prices than the fall in UK house prices...

03 April 2008

The credit crunch: worrying trends...

Flipping through the news to find the latest stories on the credit crunch is revealing a worrying picture. It's like watching a huge explosion in very slow motion - the bomb ticking under the global financial system has already gone off, but most of the fallout hasn't reached the general public yet.

But it is on the way... for example, in the last couple of days, First Direct and the Co-operative Bank have withdrawn mortgage deals from new customers. They say it's because they have been swamped with applications after other lenders have raised interest rates on mortgages for new applicants. Possibly... or it could be that they can't secure adequate financing at reasonable rates to make it economical to take on new business (in which case, expect FD and the Co-op to raise their rates soon too). Whatever, the outcome is that if you want a mortgage you're gonna currently be chasing an ever-shrinking pool of reasonable offers and you may end up having to pay much more than you would have done six or twelve months ago. That is going to hit the housing market very hard... after the crazy inflation of the last decade, we may now be looking at an early-90s style property crash.

At the same time, Wednesday's Evening Standard carried the headline 'Home owners in debt binge.' I eventually managed to find the story even though their website is complete crap, and although it claims to be based on new data released from the Bank of England I'm pretty sure that in actual fact, like most ES stories, it is recycled from something run on the BBC website a few weeks before, suitably distorted and exaggerated. (Quick aside: apart from the Will Self column, which is damn fine coffeeee, the Standard is hopeless rubbish populated by vacuous imbeciles without a writing brain between them. But anyway).

The gist of the story was that credit card debt and bank loans and overdrafts both went up in February according to the Bank of England figures, whereas given the shortage of credit, one would have expected a fall, other things being equal. But of course other things ain't equal... the Standard reckons that consumers are being forced into other lines of credit now that mortgage deals are getting harder and more expensive to come by. To quote, "the fear is that once borrowers have exhausted all sources of credit, many will be forced into insolvency or have to give up their homes." Quite possibly: still, seeing as insolvency only seems to last for about 2 weeks now before people are allowed back on the treadmill (an attempt to promote 'Enterprise Britain' apparently), will anyone care?

All the same, it is worrying. To use a (no doubt inappropriate) analogy, the data coming out at the moment make the UK financial sector look like a dying star running out of its basic fuel - hydrogen (aka mortgages) for fusion reactions, which is then forced to turn to the heavier elements - helium etc (credit cards and overdrafts) to prolong the show for a little while before the whole system finally collapses. We seem to be living on borrowed time. All this begins to make Gordon Brown's chances of re-election in 2010 (as it will almost certainly be, not 2009) slim as hell, although he could yet do a John Major and win in the teeth of everything if Cameron and Osborne contrive to look lame-ass enough.

For me, though, it is now time to do the Smart Thing... start betting heavily on the Tories to win in 2010. If nothing else, it provides a fighting/survival fund to endure what will no doubt be one of the most vicious and retarded periods of govt seen in Blighty since the last Tory accession of 1979. Hunter S Thompson would have died laughing at all this (if he weren't dead already... girl, you know the reason why.)