19 Apr

So I tried to write the most vicious thing about Katie Hopkins you could hope to read today

KatieHopkins

Katie Hopkins is a large blank in my life and I intend to ensure that blankness continues after today and this single post. I don’t read ‘The Sun’ and I’ve rarely (to point of it being never) watched ‘The Apprentice’. I only knew about her because I’d previously noticed that sensible people seem to hate her with a deep happy intensity.

I had no opinion about Ms. Hopkins until I read what she’d written yesterday about the situation off the coast of North Africa. It was pretty strong stuff but I was sadly not surprised. It wasn’t eloquent in any way. As far as firebrands go, it wasn’t particularly scalding. The article contained essentially mundane ideas presented in a mundane way by what is quite obviously a mundane mind.

I thought I might write a response in a more fiery fashion but about three seconds into my attempt I realised that I couldn’t bring myself to call for the Royal Navy to sink Katie Hopkins off the coast of Gibraltar. I couldn’t write any line that suggested that I’d be indifferent if I saw her corpse bobbing up and down in the sea. I’m better than that. Unlike Katie Hopkins, I’ve retained a touch of humanity. I would not want to wish her ill.

So, instead, I thought I’d try a different line of attack and I began by drawing a picture that I hoped any of her defenders might find offensive. Should you not see it attached to this brief essay, it’s of a bony Hopkins, her withered teats sagging over a malnourished body, her legs splayed apart as Hitler crawls from the stretched vagina. Had I better skills, Hitler wouldn’t have been alone. I wanted Stalin, Pol Pot, and every tyrant I could recall crawling from her bloodied chamber.

I would guess they might find the cartoon offensive because they would fail to understand my point which is about how Hitler came into existence. Culture presents Hitler as a monster beyond the context of the early twentieth century. You rarely (if ever) hear anybody talk about Hitler’s mother or family (Norman Mailer’s novel, The Castle in the Forest, being one notable exception), presumably because it’s inconvenient to conceive of such evil being born in a human way.

Yet Hitler was born like all of us in a sudden flood of blood and embryonic waters and his ideas were born in similarly crass and messy ways. People wrongly attribute the evil ideology of the Nazi regime to the writings of Nietzsche but that, again, is to push them to the sidelines as the warped ideas of  an intensely mad intelligence gone awry. Hitler was not Nietzsche. His morality was cretinous, dumb and servile to a completely fictitious notion of Teutonic history, fed to him via German Romanticism. He succeeded not because he had better wits than the rest but because he rode to power on an ugly popularism which swept through a largely unthinking Germany only too happy to attribute its problems to its most vulnerable members.

It’s why we should not simply be insulted by the kind of lowbrow mean-spirited hate spewed by the vapid Katie Hopkins. It’s why we should not simply marginalise her for the barbaric troll she is. She is something new that we’ve not seen before, or, at least, haven’t seen for a very long time. She is making money and fame by putting a flame beneath people’s fears. She speaks a language that divests humanity of that vital quality that makes us more than flesh and blood. Instead of speaking about lives lost, families ruined, individuals dying in a terribly tragic way, she has reduced the argument to lumps of meat rotting on the shore. She is not serving a public good by supposedly speaking truths that nobody dare speak. She is harming the public good by replacing our natural compassion with an artificial fear, manufactured anger, and a supposedly ‘comic’ indifference. It’s a long time since we’ve had such a public commentator use language that dehumanises vulnerable people in such a way. Hopkins’ language is not simply toxic. It is the diseased language of the sociopath, a person who feels no empathy and is capable of doing great evil.

Her sport is obvious. She throws her saddle on a problem and rides the poor beast until blood is frothing with snot in its dead distended nostrils. Migration of the North Africa is a problem that any commentator has the right to address. The arguments against immigration are similarly valid, as are arguments that suggest that people attempting to cross the Med should be turned back. None of that is beyond debate. It is the very matter of the debate we should be having.

Yet to talk about human beings as ‘feral’ and ‘cockroaches’ is something beyond rhetoric. It is dangerous. To talk dispassionately about ‘coffins’, ‘bodies floating in water’, and ‘skinny people looking sad’ is the language of a severely diseased mind that should not have a public forum in which to spread such a morally bankrupt message. It is a message dangerously voiced because there are others who revel in such language, who are susceptible to the festering ideas of inchoate totalitarianism. They are the people with a deep moral sickness that leads them to groups such as Isis, where human brutality has found a new dispassionate host. They are the people willing to lead mobs to the gates of the lawmakers and demand satisfaction in blood.

Can nobody see that terrors begin not with mad eyed loons but with figures who profess respectability and the common good? What history has taught us in every century of our existence is that evil is not beyond us. It is within us always and we must guard carefully against the fools who would tempt it out in the name of entertainment, fame and wealth.

So, let me end with a plea. Don’t read ‘The Sun’ so long as this hag faced screeching scagbitch is getting money for her bile-filled screeds. Don’t make fear popular again. No action is justified if the victims of that action are somehow considered less human than we are. Beyond her well tamed hair, her glitzy TV smile, and soaked-in-brine tan, Katie Hopkins is a soulless harridan of neo-fascist propaganda. Her confident swagger, the jaunty turn of her head at the top of the page, the slight glow she exudes: it’s all a facade that disguises a pitiful human being. I was tempted to reach for the worst words I know to describe her but I decided that would be to stoop to her level. She is somebody about whom I would never wish ill. Just somebody who I hope finds help, illumination or (failing that) censorship, before her sickness infects that yobbish unthinking segment of our society who would do bad things in the name of decency and the common good.

 

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18 Apr

These 10 Hollywood stars were born with tusks

I don’t know who first said that all writing is an expression of loneliness so I suppose, in a way, I said it first. Writing is, after all, the most alienating experience a person can have without being forced to visit Ipswich on a Sunday.

I think of writing as the act of standing naked at a hotel window. Very few people would ever think of standing naked at a hotel window or, at least, you don’t go ‘junk free’ unless you’re an exhibitionist or you hold a Scandinavian passport. Writing makes you feel vulnerable and putting those words into a public space feels like it should be a very risky thing to do. However, like standing naked at a hotel window, you’re probably not understanding the context of your public exposure.

I often look at the vast expanse of windows in the big hotels I find around the cities I occasionally visit. From the point of view of looking at the hotel, you’d be hard pressed to spot which window frames a naked person gazing back at you. Of course, nobody will ever read this so perhaps now is the time to confess that I only look at the windows in hotels hoping to see one of those glamour models looking back down at me as she poses for some candid shots. In all the years I’ve been engaged in this noble enterprise, I can sadly report that I’ve never seen a glamour model looking back down at me. I’ve seen the pictures on the internet so I know that kind of thing happens quite a lot in hotel windows. I’ve therefore come to the conclusion that I’m looking at the wrong hotels or simply looking at the wrong time of day.

Yet whilst I struggle to spot the beautiful models pouting and bending, the people who do pose in hotels windows probably believe that everybody can see their nakedness yet the reality is so very different.

What I’m trying to say is that writing a blog feels like standing naked in one of those windows. The reality is that there are a billion other windows and that nobody is actually looking back at you or reading what I write. I could yawn, stretch my arms wide, rock back and forward on my heels like so, my pen and pencil case swinging back and fro in the breeze and nobody can see a thing. It’s would be liberating if it weren’t so damn depressing because, frankly, what is the point of standing naked at a window if not a single person knows that you’re there? It’s that age old philosophical question: if you wiggle your junk in a forest and nobody sees them wiggling, does your junk even exist? The answer, of course, is that of course it bloody exists and the judge will also take into consideration the twenty two other indecency charges before deciding your sentence.

***

When I was pimpled and naive, the fashion among my generation was to wear ridiculously tight trousers and big puffy jackets that I never did own. I came from a relatively poor working class family where every penny counted. Yet I was at school with the sons of local farmers and businessmen who had their own cars at thirteen and everything at fourteen that a fourteen old boy could every possibly wish to own.

I had none of those things. I had normal straight-legged trousers and some humble non-inflatable coat which therefore made me one of the unfashionable kids deserving only scorn and the occasional beating for being so deflated and straight-legged. My pants didn’t cut off the circulation to my testicles and my coat was black when the fashion was for lime green with vanilla blazes. I imagine now that there are men my age suffering for the fashions of their fashionable youth. I like to think of some old schoolyard nemesis being told that his testicles were damaged by the drainpipe tight trousers he wore all those years ago and that’s the reason why his lime green bud earphones pop out every time he crosses his legs.

As an adult, I think back on the misery of those years and realise that, oddly, my fashion back then was exactly what was subsequently considered cool. If I’d been born a decade or so later, I’d have been the coolest kid in the school. I looked and dressed like Kurt Cobain before grunge was acceptable. I was also dressing like a hipster in reefer jackets and desert boots long before either of them became the norm. I’ll probably be wearing them still when they drop out of fashion again but I really don’t care. Because I was so miserably aware of fashion as a teenager, I’ve never followed fashion as an adult. My natural instinct is to turn away from anything that’s popular and that really sets me at odds with the internet.

***

The two threads of this barely cogent essay are really one and the same. It’s about the writer’s need for attention when the reality is that having the instincts of a writer makes you as popular as a septic cold sore in a cramped locker room.

There are some bloggers, of course, who are read and are popular. They’re very often the kind of bloggers whose faces appear on the TV news above the caption ‘Writer and Critic’ or ‘Editor of the Harvard Nose Review’ or ‘Scholar, Lover, Highly Gifted on the Flute’. They’re the self-confident types who seem to emerge from university at the age of 24 and walk through the door of The Spectator and straight onto our TV screens with a fully formed world view. Watching the election coverage, I’m shocked by how many of that type there are out there and how they all look and sound the same. The men have narrow lofty heads, great teeth and bland Oxbridge opinions; the women have big broad faces and expensively casual Chelsea hair which they have to keep stroking over an ear whilst explaining the bleeding obvious. It’s the breezy confidence they have and the certainty that they all have fresh minty breath and body odour undetectable by a bomb squad dog. Today they’re dictating the news agenda, tomorrow they’re announcing their retirement from Twitter due to continual abuse  which they then turn into a 2000 word article that wins them the Pulitzer and 24 hour protection from Special Branch.

Journalism has entered into the Buzzfeed age where everyone is playing the same schoolyard game. I long to be one of those cool people but my trousers aren’t tight fitting. I guess I’m still too straight legged.  Yet that also means that I don’t want to join in. I want to write long rambling essays that aren’t structured around lists. I want to give my articles titles that are uncool and don’t immediately attract a reader with a false promise of some amazing revelations about butter. I don’t want to ever find myself posting an essay titled:

‘These 10 Hollywood stars were born with tusks’ [Damn! Failed again!]

‘See the woman with Dick Tracy walkie-talkie tits’

‘Eighteen ways to train your knees to launch you over a car!’

‘Scientists plan to soundproof Canada’

‘Read the secret Vatican evidence that the Pope is Korean’

‘Do your earlobes prove that you’re descended from the Russian Royal Family?’

They’re fun titles, of course, but they’re too easy to write…

‘Turn your nut allergy into your super power’

‘Man born with big toe that resembles Billy Crystal’

‘What your arsehole says about your career choice.’

If none of my madness makes sense, it’s because I don’t expect anybody to gaze this direction and find me standing here ball-shine crazy in my hotel window. I write too often that I hate blogging but it’s not the blogging I hate. It’s not the effort of writing, the struggle with words, the lack of a theme or even a conclusion. I don’t even mind standing here naked. I don’t feel particularly fragile or exposed or compromised or any of those things that an ordinary person would probably feel if they confessed these muddled things.

The reason I find myself hating blogging is that sometimes it just reinforces the loneliness. A blog is the corner of the school field where the lonely writer goes to gaze through the iron railings wishing they were somewhere else when, deep down, knowing that they really want to be back with the cool kids. Back with the privileged few, in their tight trousers and lime green puffy jackets with vanilla blazes, whose dumb inarticulate cries rally their adoring fans for yet another assault on anybody or anything that dares to be different or strange.

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17 Apr

The Harrison Ford Shaped Hole

There’s nothing I can say about the new Star Wars trailer that hasn’t already been said by people much nerdier than me and with a much better collection of action figures (and all, no doubt, still in their original packaging). For the record, I don’t actually own any Star Wars action figures and I don’t think I even owned any of the official merchandise, with perhaps the exception of some old dusty paperbacks and a super deluxe collector’s edition box set of the original VHS tapes probably now not worth shelf dust.

Anyway, I sat down today to watch the new Star Wars trailer and my first conscious thought was about the opening shot of the Star Destroyer, lying ruined in a rocky desert on some unknown planet. I should imagine on the big screen it will have the same ‘wow’ factor that the opening shot from the original movie apparently had on audiences in 1977. That shot established mythology, history, scale, wonder and was just possibly the most evocative way of introducing the series beyond the familiar strains of John William’s score.

sw1

My second thought was about that strangely mangled Darth Vader helmet. I think it’s because it seems to have strange teeth that I found it slightly creepy but also mildly amusing. For no explicable reason, I thought ‘melted Chuckle Brother‘ and I now can’t get that image from out of my mind.

sw2

What followed, though, really told me nothing about the movie. More X wings flying through water, men whooping, a noticeably young, pretty but (I thought ) bland set of casting choices, vaguely defined bad guys with red light sabres, and the whole thing having a slightly modern vibe, with chromium troopers reminding me of the original series of Battlestar Galatica. And none of that really excited me.

Then I heard the voice I recognised and I felt a shiver.

sw3

Sure, he’s looking older but he’s in no bad shape. I know this is Harrison Ford pre the plane crash Harrison Ford but I’m not sure if it’s the post-broken ankle Harrison Ford. I know my Fords but I struggle to identify vintages to that level of specificity.

This leads me to my revealing and slightly sad confession of the week: I’ve been checking for progress reports on Harrison Ford every morning since he went propeller-first into a golf course. I’ve probably not missed a day checking Google for news. On quite a few days, it might even be the first thing I do when walking up, sometimes even before checking my email. I know. I know. It’s pathetic. I can’t explain myself. I didn’t even realise that I was this much of a Harrison Ford fan.

Yet there’s always been something about Ford which defies logic. There are certainly better actors out there, many with more personable personalities. And though Ford is the star of some great movies, he has also, admittedly, made some stinkers too (‘Hollywood Homicide’, 2003). He’s an actor who seems to have a particularly difficult sense of his best qualities and sometimes seems to go out of his way to infuriate his fans. For a time, he thought of himself as romantic lead, making many of his fans (myself included) pull out our hair in frustration. I mean, what the hell was he thinking when he made ‘Sabrina’ (I’m not even going to bother looking up its year)? Then there was ‘the earring’, which, I confess, I’ve never totally excused or accepted. There was no rhyme nor reason behind it, so I resorted to telling myself firmly postmodern arguments such as ‘well, he’s ironically commentating on his place in male culture… He’s so far over on the manliness spectrum, he’s started to come back around the other way…’ Or something like that…

Ford has often been his own worst enemy, which is itself an endearing quality. It’s only recently that he’s been anything other than dismissive about ‘Blade Runner’, a film celebrated for its production design but a film I only go back to because of the stars: Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, and Daryl Hannah and, well, just about every speaking role in the film, filled with exceptional talents. People talk about the look of the film but I maintain it’s the cast, all of them great, but the whole thing is held together by Ford.

Ford is best when he’s not the straightforward hero. Sure, I love Indiana Jones and I’ll watch the new Star Wars films with eager anticipation. But they’re franchises and I rarely get excited by marketing. They’re certainly not the films I reach for when I’m having a bad day or week and want to cheer myself up. My favourite Harrison Ford movies were not even blockbusters when they were released and they aren’t even all that highly rated now except by myself. My favourites are movies like ‘Frantic’ (1988) and ‘Patriot Games’ (1992), films that are generally forgotten but, for me at least, are better because they lack the lights and show.

They have Harrison Ford and Ford fits the shape of my world. He’s complicated and truculent, largely hostile to the spin machine that operates everywhere these days. He plays the lead without the swagger you get in most movie leads these days. I’m sure he knows which is his ‘best side’ but I hope he’d never dare suggest as much to a director of photography. Ford is a man of the short quip, the demoralising put down, the cutting admission that he’s been lucky in a bat shit crazy world. As he was recently quoted to have told actor Oscar Isaac about ‘flying’ in the new movie: ‘It’s fake. And it’s in space, so none of that applies, really.’

The defining quality, I guess, is that ability to express our very modern frustrations. He shines when trying to explain his troubles to inept policemen or bureaucratic officials. My favourite Ford moments are those when he’s struggling to explain the world. I love the way he manhandles John Mahoney around the office in ‘Frantic’, sticking his fingers into his ribs imitating a gun. It’s an almost bullying  physical presence but a presence made bullying by the inability of the world to follow his logic.

frantic

So when Harrison Ford crashes an old World War 2 plane on a golf course, the world asks why he’s flying such junk around in a residential area. My answer to that is: I don’t care and I hope he doesn’t care either. The scar on the golf course is like the scar on his chin and (no doubt) the scars now on his head. People do dumb things that are fun and there’s no point in trying to apply health and safety to the human spirit. It’s a just a fact of the real world that people like doing the sometimes crazy things that define us as people. Screw Justin Beiber and screw his tattoos that mean nothing beyond his vain ego. It’s the real scars that mean everything.

So, when I check first thing every morning, it frustrates me to not really know how Harrison Ford is doing. Yet I accept the reasons why nobody really tells us about his progress. I find it frustrating but, at the same time, I find it reassuring that he’s not become the victim to the witless TMZ generation. He’s not been pursued into his local grocers when he’s buying beer or lactose free yogurt. Knowing about the earring was too much for me. I don’t want to see him in yoga bottoms. I want to think that Ford is the few ordinary guys in an extraordinary business. He has something that no special effect or clever piece of production design can replicate. What he brings to a film isn’t polish. It’s something that’s harder to define but is more essential. The second Star Wars trilogy films were fun, enjoyable (I’m one of their few defenders) but they were always lacking something. It was the Ford quality. For want of a better phrase, it’s knuckle spit. It’s that great big ‘screw you’ attitude that an otherwise bland uniform world would hammer out of all of us.

Currently it feels like there’s a Harrison Ford shape hole in the world. I just hope he’s doing well and will soon be fit enough to fill it again.

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17 Apr

Friday Notes

Posting my ‘daily cartoon’ the next day is the worst part of drawing them. Firstly, it’s a mark that you’re finished with one and that you have to start another. Secondly, you hope for feedback saying it’s the best cartoon you’ve ever drawn when the reality is that it’s barely looked at and, even when it is looked at, it’s often passed over with a shrug of the shoulders. This feels particularly bad when you do happen to think that it is the best cartoon you’ve ever drawn

Last night’s was one of those rare cartoons when I thought I’d ticked my personal boxes. Perhaps I’m just pleased because my cross hatching worked out and that the cartoon tried to say something. I don’t know if I can judge. The left side could do with more work and I’m not satisfied with colour. It looked good in black and white but colour, for me, distracts. Yet colour is expected so I needed to add some…

I’ve been providing some cartoons for Tim Marshall’s new venture over at The What and the Why. Because the focus is on international affairs, I’ve been trying to spot cartoons with a world theme. It’s not always easy but it’s helpful to me because it forces me to draw things and people I wouldn’t normally be drawn to satirise or even think about. Today’s cartoon was different. A vain president jailing cartoonists would always draw my attention. Apparently Turkey’s Erdogan doesn’t like to be ridiculed (explanatory BBC news report in the link), which seems like an eminently good reason to ridicule him. My first attempt was probably a stretch too far. I started drawing jowls and, naturally, I thought I’d see how far I could take them. By 11pm last night, I realised I’d probably taken them too far so I tried again.

Erdogandraft

 

 

As I redrew the majority of the cartoon, I watched the challenger’s debate from earlier in the evening, followed by hours of analysis. Some of it made sense. Much of it didn’t. The parties were engaged in their typical spin operations and sometimes even the strongest will struggles to avoid following their bad logic down the rabbit hole of political bias.

I thought the biggest loser of the evening was (surprisingly) David Cameron. I hadn’t expected the Prime Minister’s absence to hurt him so bad. Yet listening to him claiming credit for the debate earlier in the day was simply nauseating. He spoke of unblocking the logjam when he’d been the cause of the logjam in the beginning. It made the resulting debate feel like justice in that it was an hour and a half of solid government bashing. No having somebody on the stage to defend their record might well be one of the biggest miscalculations of the election. It was bruising stuff.

Of the participants, my verdict was as follows.

Ed Miliband

Miliband didn’t need to do much and just stay clear of trouble. He’d won the evening by simply turning up. What followed was, to use a cricket metaphor, a display of playing every ball with straight bat. He never looked like edging a ball to slip but, then, his opponents were hardly steaming in with their fastest deliveries. He ensured his victory at the end by challenging Cameron to a debate. It was a win-win move. If Cameron refuses, he looks week and undemocratic. If he accepts, Miliband gets to debate with Cameron who seems singularly uninterested into entering into any democratic process. From Cameron’s point of view, he can’t win either way but I think he stands more of a chance by debating.

Natalie Bennett

I can’t explain why I have a soft spot for Bennett. Everything should go against her: that accent, those policies, a few woeful performances in various media spotlights. Yet each time she stands up to speak, I find myself surprised by how much I both like her and how much I agree with her. She was the only person to speak up for people who are too sick to be considered ‘hardworking’. That, for me, spoke volumes. I know the Green manifesto is filled with risible nonsense. Andew Neil has done enough this election to prove that. However, Bennett has a knack of speaking about things which the other parties don’t address. Not sure any of that makes sense but I’m not sure I can explain why Bennett keeps impressing me.

Leanne Wood

Wood attempted to relive her success of the opening leader’s debate and she probably suffered for that. She seemed eager to lay into Farage, no doubt knowing it was the thing that she was praised for the last time they met. Beyond that, she spoke to her audience in Wales and about that I’m not really qualified to comment. She doesn’t have that connection to English voters that Sturgeon has oddly seemed to have fashioned.

Nichola Sturgeon

People have constantly praised her performance throughout the campaign’s debates but last night was the first time I sat up and thought she was something special. She repeatedly had the best answers on the night, though perhaps too few hard questions were directed her way. I can see why she appeals to so many. She has become the face of the election and has replaced Farage as the fashionable outsider that non-voters would like to vote for if they’re in England and will vote for if they’re north of the border.

Nigel ‘Nige’ Farage

Not so much a one-trick pony as  a pony who has learned a few good tricks which he performs every time he’s trotted out onto the national stage. Last night was more of the same from Nige. His tactic is clear. He wants to lose the studio but win the living room. Turning on the audience was probably a masterstroke. He obviously needed the boos to make his point. He wanted to portray himself as the man who speaks for the common folk who never get their opinions aired on TV. He summed it up with his line about ‘I say what many of you are probably thinking’. He effectively acknowledged that ninety percent of the people in the room would dislike him and never vote UKIP. He took that fact and turned it to his advantage, reaching out to his core voters to remind them why UKIP is different to the rest.

 

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16 Apr

Election Notes

Okay. Today’s cartoon finished and posted. Now time to write some words…

Another of the many frustrating parts of the election coverage is the way the media seem to be giving the most attention to the generally slack jawed and indifferent. I suppose it’s  ‘news’ that some people have no interest in politics but I’m not sure it’s really important news. It’s certainly a fact not worth repeating in every single news item.

The always excellent Emily Maitlis spent a good portion of last night’s Newsnight wasting her quality heels wandering around some London hotspot asking smirking idlers about the party manifestos. It reminded me of being back in school when the teacher would ask the snot-nosed gibbon at the back of the room if he knew the name of the title character of ‘Macbeth’. They would give the same shrug, the same creeping smile, eyes looking to friends for affirmation that their stupidity was admirable. And last night the exercise was similarly pointless and taught us nothing except that David Cameron should stop turning his beady eye towards the north when he starts talking about the shiftless.

There is, of course, a difference between wilful ignorance and ignorance that comes naturally. I believe only one guy had read a manifesto, which doesn’t surprise me or, at least, surprised that Maitlis found at least one. I haven’t read a manifesto and I don’t intend on reading a manifesto. Manifestos aren’t meant to be read. They’re meant to be brandished like a holy book, waved above the head as though you’re holding Dumbledore’s grimoire or, as Maitlis correctly explained, finally opened but only when you want to prove that your government has gone back on its pre-election promises.

At this election, the manifestos don’t even amount to any of those things. The manifestos are written by parties who don’t believe they’ll get into government and therefore are promising us the earth because they know that the juicy parts can be knocked out as soon as they enter into coalition negotiations. I imagine the first words out of David Cameron’s mouth the morning after the election should he win a majority would be the words ‘Shit… What did we promise!?’

Which takes us back to the news.

Today The Guardian are in the nation’s most apathetic constituency which, surprisingly not, is up here in the North in Manchester Central. I sometimes wonder whether these reporters are setting out to find the story they’ve already written. I’m constantly depressed that the media in London talk about ‘ordinary’ folk being turned off politics. I’m not sure how I’m not myself ‘ordinary’. I know a lot of ordinary people who talk about the election. It’s just that the media never turn a microphone in their direction.

There can be no real surprise why so much of the nation is turned off politics and it has nothing to do with a person being ordinary or not. It goes to the heart of why Scotland has turned so much in favour of the SNP, which I’m certain should try to get the word ‘independence’ into their title, if only so that we’d be able to call then SNIP. Supporters of SNIP (for that’s what they effectively are and what they effectively want) are clearly a generation tired of rule from Westminster and feel particularly aggrieved when their vote does not dramatically alter the government. Last time, Scotland voted in favour of Labour but got a Tory government delivering austerity. Yet the same is true of much of northern England and Wales. One Nation Toryism really has disappeared and the last government produced a Two Nation Toryism. It’s everyone south of Birmingham and then the rest of us.

What you get is a sense that large portions of the country simply don’t matter in this election. Where I live, the seat was decided generations ago. I might as well not vote or vote for whoever I like because the result will be the same. I suppose it’s liberating knowing that you can vote Green or go Monster Raving Lunatic without any consequences but it’s also pretty depressing. It means that there’s no real campaigning going on. Nobody visits us and we are left with that familiar feeling that the election is being run by people who really don’t care about the people. Tonight, I notice, David Cameron won’t be attending the leaders debate. It’s what he wanted, of course, and he clearly didn’t want to attend the two ‘debates’ (or pitiful excuses for debates) that have already been held. This is the first time I’ve thought an election was being run by politicians some of whom are even less enthusiastic than the bloody listless public. In a way, I find my opinions hardening around those attitudes rather than the policies. I want to vote for politicians who show the passion and engagement with the public. Not politicians who slyly creep around the country meeting their loyal activists and sticking security personal in the face of some brave soul who dared put a little spice into the general election sing a slightly risqué song on his ukulele.

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15 Apr

An Aside About the Indie’s Attack on UKIP

A brief aside before I go back to drawing tomorrow’s cartoon…

The worst thing about this election is not the leaders who refuse to mix with real people. Nor is it the Tories announcing cynical spending plans after years of ‘austerity’ (thereby proving, I think, that ‘austerity’ was merely a word which helpfully disguised the natural instincts of Thatcherite conservatives to reduce the significance of the state).  No, the worst part of this election is the crass attempts by the media to swing public opinion.

The Telegraph have perhaps been the worst for this, which barely a day passing without some headline screaming out about the virtues of the Tories and the horrors of Labour. Yet the left leading papers are also as guilty and the following is perhaps the worst example I’ve seen so far.

I would not, myself, vote UKIP, but I think if you’re going to disagree with them, then you have to disagree with them on substance. You don’t start running the kind of entirely risible story The Independent currently have at the top of their website.

Indie1

I’ve done a fair bit of Photoshopping in my life and I can tell when a picture have been doctored in order to make it fit a composition. I’ve done this kind of job myself many times, making a bookcase stretch further. It’s done to make the picture fit the page and not, as the Indie claim, to make Nuttall look ‘more educated’.

Indie2

They even claim that the book he’s reading is an ‘illustrated picturebook’, which I guess is meant to suggest that he’s reading a children’s book. Thirty seconds of research shows it’s actually ‘a brief well illustrated history of British Rebels and Reformers from the medieval period and the Peasants Rebellion of 1381 to the Industrial Revolution and the 19th century and Anti-Slavery, the Luddites, Chartists, and other reforms to the turn of the century with the Fabian Society and others.’ It just happens to have illustrations.

Now, I know that in the grand scheme of things this is a nothing story. I know it’s a small thing. I guess that I’m the only person this annoys. Yet I don’t see how anybody can complain about Putin manipulating people’s fears through the media in Russia, whilst we in the UK are currently experiencing exactly the same on a daily basis. Aren’t we supposed to be better than this? And if we can’t believe something as trivial as this, how on earth can we trust them about the more serious matters?

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