A Far Fetched Resolution

I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council, a Labour council hiring taxis to scuttle round the city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers. I’ll tell you.. You can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I first heard about this on the wireless. But I thought it was a joke. It is however true. Some absolute genius PR has come up with the only real way to communicate to the public the truth behind the process of the maturation of cheese. Cheddar Cheese.


Whilst it may not appear as though much is happening, this is because you are taking far too short term a view of things. This cheese has been maturing now for over 27 days. In just short of a year it will be fully mature. Stay tuned to see it's flavour develop into that rich, strong cheddar taste. slowly. Enjoy.

Meanwhile the potatoes for schools people (no I don't know why either) have just claim for copyright on the unique (not so unique?)marketing ploy that is the 'staggeringly tedious webcam' in that, whilst their "potatocam" launches in March, this is the second such project. The previous years viewing of the life cycle of a...potato...clearly having captured the imagination of thousands.

They also win by offering genuine interaction, tackling ignorance in the name of the public understanding of the potato:

Grow Your Own Potatoes 2007
60% of children thought potatoes grew on trees! So, the British Potato Council launched the 'Grow Your Own Potatoes' project for primary schools.

On an unrelated note, September saw "the launch of Webcameron.org.uk, a website which gives the public a unique opportunity to communicate, and share a platform with David Cameron, aswell as thought leaders from around the world."

I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Guilt free telly

I'm not goiing to get involved in this whole celebrity big brother nonsense. Frankly I've never heard of half the people in it, I don't know why I should care what they say to each other. I loved the first Big Brother series years ago because I thought it was so hilariously pointless.

When it starts to be about just churning out shock and intrigue as if this very human interaction was a commodity that could just be traded it loses that innocent irrelevance and becomes a horrible metaphor for something. Not sure what though.

At any rate, there's an amusing angle on this that made me chuckle on the tube this morning. There's obviously been some sort of concerted campaign amongst certain members of the Indian population in the UK to stoke up outrage at the treatment of this Bollywood star by some other pretty irrelevant people. Not having seen any of the show I've no idea of the justice or otherwise of their stance, but I do know someone needs to tell them that at least one of their campaign ploys is almost as big a waste of time as the show itself.

TV ratings are calculated by monitoring a rolling sample of households (I think it's about 40,000 houses) through a black box on their telly. So if you're going to organise a boycott of a tv program to hit their ratings and try to force them to pull it, if you ain't one of those 40,000 your determined non-watching of the show will have precisely no effect on the decisions of broadcasters or advertisers.

We used to have one of those boxes. You get M&S vouchers in return, and of some reason my mum thought this was a reasonable return on the investment of the phenomenal faff of having to enter in what channel you were watching every time you tuned in. I used to exact my revenge by logging myself in as watching the History channel and going off to read the papers in the other room or going out shopping. If enough people did that, we'd have nothing but cheap re-enactments of the building of Tutankhamun's tomb with mystical music and a deep voice-over on every channel for ever. It would be hilarious.

I no longer have a telly.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Christmas reading

One of the real pleasures of Christmas is that if you have a certain kind of friend or family group you almost certainly end with more books than you started with. You also end up a lot more broke, which for a great many reasons means more time to read.

So I always find that January is a good month for reading. As I posted late last year I've been making more time for reading as it is, so this month has been a double whammy.

I can strongly recommend Dominic Sawbrook's "Never Had It So Good" . This, despite being a detailed and intricate history of about 7 years of British history is a really fun book to read with so many lovely little factual asides that told you so much more than any number of small-print footnotes could tell you about the period. I can genuinely say that, having answered a finals exam question on the period only 6 months ago I learnt more about the mid fifties to early sixties reading his book than in all of my reading for that exam. But I also actually laughed out loud reading it on several occasions.

It has just entered my top ten books ever - and I'm using the book vouchers Emily's grandma gave me to get the sequel "White Heat" which I shall devour as rapidly I'm sure.

A totally different approach to reading about the mid 20th Century is the "Gonzo" route. Somebody who has, so far as I'm aware little or no interest in politics but knows I have, happend (in one of those serendipitous moments only those shopping for books outside of their comfort zone ever achieves - I get it when buying novels for my mother which she then feverishly recommends back to me, forgetting I rarely ever read novels, or that I ever gave it to her. I'm hopeless at buying books for myself, or people with similar interest to me though.) accross a book I didn't even know existed but would have invented had I even known it was possible.

Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72" was clearly only bought for me as it had "Campaign Trail" in the title, but i'm actually a real fan on "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and was startled to note I'd never heard of this when given it on Christmas Day by my best friends' mother.

At any rate, i'm half way through it - but it's effing marvellous. It's so vivid, telling what life was really like for a journalist on the odyssey that is a US election campaign - whilst making it absolutely plain that 90% of it is completely made up.

Read it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

La Rive Gauche

Tomorrow I depart for Paris. Visiting my dear old Grandad.

My Grandad, as a candidate in the 1956 French general election made what I beleive to be the best campaign promise of any candidate in any election ever.

"If I am elected, comrades" he told his audience, "I give you my word. I do not promise revolution. I tell you, the revolution will have already happened."

He was last on the Communist Party list for his district. Anything less than 100% of the vote for the Communist Party and his fledgling parliamentary career would be cut off in it's prime. It would take a revolution, and the consequent emancipation of the popular consciousness - or state repression to bring victory to Camarade Charles.

As the revolution didn't happen and the Communist Party recieved somewhat less than 100% of the vote my Grandfather was never a member of the French Parliament.

I did find it hard to stifle a chuckle though when I went to my Oxford admission interview many years later (having, in the intervening period, been born). After a few pleasantries the politics tutor handed me a sheet of paper.

"Analyse that" was his introduction to the interview proper.

On the sheet was a breakdown of the election results for 1956 in France.

"What do you think we can tell from that?" he said.

"The revolution hadn't happened yet" I nearly said.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mighty Monkey

Noblesse Oblige....

It has come to my attention that people's names mean things in foreign languages.

For example a very close friend of Pickles, who he knows very well is blessed with a moniker, that if one takes his multi-ethnic names back to their languages of origin translates as either:

"Magnanimous Baseball"

"Generous Twerp" or most amusingly;

Word of warning to parents: Never name your children in languages you don't speak or understand. It is dangerous.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wanna be in my gang?

Don Paskini has thoughfully discussed some of the simple things that he believes could be done to encourage more people to get involved in the Labour Party.

"Basically, it is about coming up with simple answers when someone asks 'so, why should I join the Labour Party?' Being able to answer 'So you can vote for a leader who is anti-war', 'because it will help our campaign for animal welfare [or the equivalent]', 'because they listen more to members' or 'because they are the only ones who are trying to improve our local area, and you can help make a difference' would be an improvement on where we are now."

I think there's merit in some of this. I also think it's interesting that some of his suggestions are vaguely reminiscent of the thinking behind elements of the current Labour Party's Let's Talk, Big Conversation, Policy Forum and Supporters Network initiatives which represent the highlights of the various attempts to revive Labour's membership structures. He'd hate me for saying that though!

For example;

"When I was a councillor, I always found residents' associations much better than branch meeting to report back, answer questions and find out what Labour supporters' priorities were (I never did very well at getting people to join the party, even those who were happy to deliver leaflets, knock on doors etc.) "

"I'd have thought a lower membership fee, and particular kinds of support for people already involved in groups such as school governors and community or residents' groups would be part of this,"

But I must disagree with his analysis that it is a rightwing position to say that better local leadership and organisation would make the difference, whilst it's a leftwing position to say a change in political leadership on a national level would make a difference. From which he goes on to say that a toned down version of the latter would in some way make a difference.

Whilst I can endorse some of the other suggestions he puts, the central argument of his post, essentially that throwing a few bones to the oppositionalists within the party would make all the difference is simply not going to work. That position makes a number of assumptions which the facts just simply don't back up.

For a start, the rate of departure of members from the Labour Party is far far higher amongst those people who joined between 1994 and 1997 when Labour membership rocketed as old Labour dragons were slain. The big picture also looks at Labour membership in the wider historical context and the wider European context. Membership is not startlingly lower than it was when John Smith was leader, let alone Michael Foot. Indeed the decline under Harold Wilson between 1964 and 1979 was, in comparison, truly frightening.

Secondly I just don't accept that if the government "gave way" on just one issue a year it would get a massive increase in support from disgruntled former members. I know that there are people who have left because of issues that have upset them. I respect some of their positions. Some I simply don't respect. But as I've already pointed out, the fall in Party membership under Wilson (who, for example, didn't send British troops into Vietnam, or effectively challenge any old Labour sacred cows - not that I'm saying in and of itself that should be an aim of a Labour Prime Minister.) was frightening. And, under Wilson, the Labour Party conference and membership had a considerably stronger grip on the manifesto than it does now.

The reality is that some people simply cannot cope with being in a party of government. That might be for very good reasons. They may well be completely wedded to an ideology that no succesful government could demonstrate any commitment to. They may be psychologically more comfortable criticising the particular with reference to the universal, or acting as the voice of the voiceless or unjustly treated. That's all fair enough. But no governing party can cater to their whims. It's simply not possible.

It is a fool's errand to spend your time throwing bones willy nilly to try to keep all of these many and varied interest groups happy. Don Paskini's analysis presumes that there is a corps of "real/old Labour policies" that can be taken off the shelf to assuage the gripes of a united, disaffected, body and ideologically homogeneous ex, or soon to be ex, members. Insofar as there has ever been such a dogmatic brethren it has been a pernicious and destructive influence that no sane party leadership could ever wish to pander to.

But the reality is that, most of the time, it has been a myth. Nobody with any familiarity with any of them would argue that Michael Foot, Linda Bellos, Derek Hatton and Tony Benn ever had much in common. And they were all high profile figures on that "traditional left" of Labour between the mid 1970s and mid 1980s who are supposedly so disenfranchised and disillusioned.

Leaving aside the fact that, in most people's view, a policy that disillusions that quartet is quite likely to have something going for it I think it would be very difficult to have any kind of electorally and politically succesful, genuinely Labour, genuinely effective on behalf of the poorest in society policy that would keep those, and their followers, happy.

I just don't think it is a plausible answer

The way to stem the flow of members that, in historical terms, is seemingly inevitable for governing parties is not to play gesture politics. And, frankly, this is a problem for the whole of British politics and not just for the Labour Party. The Conservatives spent 18 years in government and, for 13 of those years they had far more popular support from the country (from the evidence of general elections) than, it pains me to say than the current government, and yet their membership suffered an even more catastrophic collapse (again, before Black Wednesday).

So what are the things that can be done to maintain party membership for governing parties?

Well, that's another story, but this post is long enough as it is. having said why I disagree with the Don's analysis I'll return with my own positive suggestions later. But suffice to say I don't think those who have left the Labour Party in recent years would be satisfied with a few scraps from the New Labour table. I don't think chasing after them with a few forlorn gestures that likely as not will alienate a whole other set of members is going to turn the clock back.

Blogging from my sofa...

Yes folks, I'm back.

I'll tell you what happened to Afarfetchedresoltion. I'll tell you, and you'll listen.

Essentially it boils down to us living in a nanny state which means that my work computer has all kinds of blocking software on it so blogger goes stare crazy bonkers when I try to use it there. And no T'internet at home.

Which means I have no t'internet blogging access since there's frankly no way I can be arsed to go traipsing round looking for other options.

So there we are.

How've y'all been?

Since I last posted:

1. Getting down to business at work. Some interesting stuff, some not. Local government has it's attractions, but ultimately it comes down to arguing about bins. Important, yes. Fascinating, occasionally. But, frankly, if politicians don't worry themselves about all this malarky then nobody else is going to - and i'd rather it were my kind of politicians than others, and anyone else as they do BAD THINGS and our lot do GOOD THINGS. The law says I can't be more specific I'm afraid.

2. Settling into new flat. A few teething problems - i.e. a rodent, named Rodney. But he was carried out of the flat in a Tesco bag by my slightly less wimpish housemate, who proceeded to put him in a bin near the slightly posher houses round the corner. And pest control have established that it was probably a one-off but blitzed the place with poisoin anyway. So that's a relief as I frankly can't stand the thought of the little bastards.

3. Bought and assembled thus far: 1x Wine Rack 1x Shelving unit 1xChest of drawers 1x bedside cabinet.

4. Housewarming party passed off without incident, although I believe a good time was had by all.

5. Myself and the beloved Emily are yet to make our inaugural trip to Monkeyworld to visit Tikko. But this is coming soon.

6. We did however go and see Happy Feet, the story of a tap-dancing penguin who saves the world. Twice. The second time we went to see it at the IMAX. Emily likes penguins, although I new years' day we played a game of scrabble Penguins v. Monkeys and monkeys won - which I think proves that they're better.

7. More to follow...

Friday, December 15, 2006

For some reason this new Beta blogger thing means posting from most of the computers I have access to simply doesn't work. Blog to return when sorted.