Thursday, 29 October 2009

Stay Away, Blair

Lots of people have plenty to say about the prospective EU Presidency of Tony Blair, the one-time golden boy of British politics (c. 1997) turned villain of the piece. That is, everyone but Blair himself. The warmongerer remains noticeably quiet while the rest of the continent whips itself up into a frenzy (well, almost) over the prospect of the former prime minister straddling Europe.

Gordon Brown is ready to back his old colleague, and David Miliband has been particularly vocal today in stressing the positives of 'President Blair', should such a thing come to pass. The idea that Blair would not be a divisive choice, however, is frankly absurd. Blair's war in Iraq has certainly divided Europe, and his campaign now hangs on whether or not he can obtain the support of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, with Merkel in particular believed to be doubtful over the sense of the appointment. These two leaders have the power to make or break Blair's chances of obtaining the position.

The prospective role for the former prime minister has also proved divisive domestically, with Conservative opposition well-known. Even within the Labour Party itself the idea of Blair returning to full-scale public life in this way has provoked some disquiet. Charles Clarke's opposition was perhaps predictable, but there are undoubtedly serious doubts amongst backbenchers over whether or not this appointment makes sense. The very name 'Blair' provokes a plethora of reactions in this country now, and it is unlikely that his face returning to television screens and his voice to debates on policy would be any different.

Nile Gardner's blog on why Blair should not become President is incoherent and comes at the issue from an angle of staunch Euro-skepticism, something which I am not prepared to indulge in here. But I do find myself in agreement with the right-wing press, even the Daily Mail, in thinking that a Blair presidency would be too contentious and divisive for the man himself to ever be able to make a decent fist of his new job. Europe needs a less controversial figure with a lower profile. In any case, with Merkel and Sarkozy meeting to potentially jetison his hopes, and Blair not doing himself any favours by remaining quiet on the issue, the possibility might not even threaten to become a reality.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Jan Moir and the wonders of the internet

The 'Jan Moir' incident of last week was a perfect example of everything that is wrong and right about the importance of the internet in modern journalism. Her article appeared in Friday's Daily Mail, but it was the internet and the reaction of people using the internet that gave it a substantially greater audience than if it had remained an anonymous item written by a fairly anonymous journalist buried somewhere in the paper. Instead it was read and passed on numerous times, both my bloggers and tweeters, until it had become a one-day internet phenomenon.

So why is this bad? Well, clearly there are some people out there who share Moir's ridiculous views, and who read the piece with relish. There would have been others who had not really thought about the subject in any great detail or within the larger context and found themselves convinced by her one-sided arguments. The possibilities of the internet are endless when it comes to propagating views that would, without it, not achieve anywhere near as big an audience as Moir was able to achieve without even really trying. So difficult is it to police the internet in the way that Ofcom and the Press Complaints Commission do with broadcast and print respectively, that undesirable views can find an arena in which they can go unchecked. The internet is the domain where the racist, homophobic and fundamentalist can spread whatever evil they desire without facing much condemnation from a higher authority.

Except this isn't totally true. For the other side of the coin is that though the internet allows henious positions such as Moir's a platform from which they can be vocalised, it also allows such positions to be tackled, in a variety of ways from a variety of different angles. There is no 'higher authority' than public opinion, and as a bastion of free speech the web allows public opinion to be expressed vehemently. Moir was immediately subjected to immediate condemnation, on other news websites, in numerous blogs and in thousands of tweets. Though bloggers and tweeters allowed Moir's crude rubbish to reach people it could never have dreamed off had it merely been published in a newspaper, these same people were able to react more quickly and more forcefully to the article than had they been forced to wait until the newspapers the next day. The vast majority of those in the blogosphere would never have had a chance to challenge Moir without access to the internet and the opportunities it opens up. Thus Penny Red was able to hit back at Moir in much the same way Charlie Brooker was.

As a supporter of free speech, I feel the online response to Moir's piece vindicates me. She was given a platform to exhibit wild homophobia, yes, but the same platform then enabled her to be shot down in a much more effective way. The reaction has been one of widespread condemnation, with the PCC receiving more complaints in one weekend than it ever had previously. In a perfect world Jan Moir would not feel the need to ramble so outrageously and falsely in such a way. But she was able to, and her remarks become widely known very quickly due to the internet. But this same tool allowed her to be quickly challenged by a chorus of angry voices, and it is my view that the fact that the internet allows this to happen makes up for the sad fact that people like Moir find it easier to disperse their rubbish in the first place.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Fall on your sword, Georgie Boy

Oops! A fairly major error from George Osborne, who seems absolutely determined to prove that he is completely incapable of being even shadow chancellor, yet alone the real thing. It's high time the Tories dispensed with this fool. Maybe he should do the sensible thing and step aside. Afterall, he is in line to get a fairly important job.

Will this latest gaff halt Cameron's long march to Number 10? Doubtful, the press are so loved-up with the Conservatives and the public so sick of Brown and his sellout party that even repeated displays of incompetence won't be enough to stop Osborne from being elected to incompetently 'serve' his country next Spring.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


Excellent coverage in the IoS today of the build-up to this week's Conservative party coverage. Highlighting the divisions within the party, the variations in David Cameron's thinking and the darker side of the 'decontaminated' Tories, the paper does a real service to the voters in Britain by breaking with the norm and writing critically of Cameron and his party.

The conference will be important, as whether or not the party can remain united in the face of the eternal 'Europe question' will determine the future of the party in the next few months. A Tory pie-fight in Brighton is surely too much to ask for, but we can always hope. I just hope the IoS has now raised the bar for press coverage of the Conservatives, as the British public need to know a lot more about the backgrounds, motivations and, above all, policies of the people that currently look most likely to form our next government.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Sorry to keep banging on about this...

... but this is getting silly now. Fair point from Livingstone. And surely Boris has more important things to be doing?