...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 3094: But Who Will Speak(er) for the People?


Today we are electing a new Mr Speaker of the House of Conmens, and the prospects for reform do not look good.

Apparently, the favourite with the bookies, appropriately enough, is former Grand National runner-up Mrs Bucket. With her track record of being non-partisan only SLIGHTLY marred by a brief FIFTY-YEAR stint as a Tribal High Priestess and one-time Acting Leader of Hard Labour, and her anti-establishment credentials, only MARGINALLY undermined by being stuffed so far up the establishment's fluffy bottom that she reached the post of Secretary of State for Foreign Caravanning, she would be a TOTAL DISASTER.

But that's just TYPICAL of the way this election has been run, with genuine PROGRESSIVES being squeezed out by Secret Stalin tactics (so reminiscent of old-style Mr Frown) on both sides.

The Conservatories clearly think that it is their TURN – seven of the candidates are Conservatories, whereas only two are from Hard Labour (plus one Liberal Democrat) – and you might think that this is FAIR, but remember Conservatories by their very nature tend to CONSERVE and that's the very LAST thing that Parliament needs.

Captain Clegg has called for Parliament to select a PEOPLE'S Speaker, someone who will enable Parliament to challenge the Government, hold the executive to account and restore some trust to our failing institutions.

But the fact that the list of choices includes five Knights of the Realm – yes, including our very own Mr Sir Alan – suggests that Parliament doesn't seem to have GOT the idea that the new Mr Speaker needs to be ICONOCLASTIC.

SEVERAL of the Conservatories are described as "traditionalists" (yes, read it and SHUDDER), in particular another popular choice: Ms Ann Widdyone, like Mrs Bucket, another former Government insider whose return to the backbenches was less a career choice and more to do with her toxic presence not being required by Mr Balloon under any circumstances. She would positively pickle the place in aspic. In fact, she'd glaze the chamber over and display it like one of those ghastly plates with KITTENS on! (And it can't be THAT much of a surprise that she's the candidate backed by that "friend" of democracy Mr Roger Stavro Moredick.)

Liberal Democrat Mr Sir Alan says many of the right things, but – and I'm very sorry to say it – he's a bit of a FRAGILE ANTELOPE when what we need is a RHINOCEROS.

Also sadly, Hard Labour Rasputin Mr Frankly Failed has, er, failed to get enough support to stand, largely on the grounds that his own side would rather poison him, shoot him and drop him in frozen river.

Which really only leaves Conservatory Mr John Sergeant Bilko, a man described as having moved from the far right to becoming a Blairimort-ite (so, how can you tell the difference?). This apparently has ALIENATED most of his colleagues who prefer the way that, under the leadership of Mr Balloon, they have moved from the far right to becoming Blairimorts-lite… hang on, what are they objecting to?

Anyway, there really is only one possible choice – throw them ALL out and pick ME instead.

And if Mrs Bucket gets it, I might just break with all convention and stand against the Speaker myself!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 3090: Green Eyed Monster


I am sad to read today that super-humanly strong-stomached Auntie Jennie has finally, thanks to THIS posting, given up on her efforts to make the LABOUR CONSPIRACY website a bit LIBERAL.

I do not seem to have written very much in my Fluffy Diary about the sickly Green Party, mainly because, you know, why bother? If you are GENUINELY concerned about the environment then you will find the Liberal Democrats have policies that meet most of your needs; if you are more interested in SHOWING OFF your Holier-than-thou-ness then feel free to POSE.

But they ARE quite ANNOYING.

Their leader is Radio Caroline Lucas – and, as an MEP, Radio Caroline floats around outside the Three-Mile Limit broadcasting Hippy Tunes and merrily taking no responsibility. Particularly irritating is her REPETITIVE JINGLE: oh, those Westminster Parties are all the same.

Yes, I KNOW why she does it – she knows she's ONLY going to get PROTEST votes and so needs to paint herself as the "alternative" choice. But to suggest that the Liberal Democrats are the same as the Conservatories or Hard Labour is a BIG FAT FIB and she knows it.

In fact, with their AUTHORITARIAN desire to IMPOSE their policies regardless of what people actually want and their OPPOSITION to the European Union, Radio Caroline's party has FAR MORE in common with the Conservatories and Hard Labour than the Liberal Democrats have with ANY of them.

While WE recognise that everyone in Europe (and the World!) all need to work TOGETHER if we are to protect the planet, the Greens seem to think that the environment ends at the White Cliffs of Dover. And while Liberal Democrats believe that the benefits of FREE TRADE will help to lift people everywhere out of poverty and ENABLE them to make better environmental choices, the Greens want to put an end to all that, seemingly intent on taking us back to the kind of pre-industrial barter economy where the environment was protected from humans by such methods as FAMINE and PLAGUE.

(Which reminds me of their "HEALTH" policies – "no" to developing new drugs; "yes" to aromatherapy. Forgive me but "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!")

The article in question is a great big WHINGE about how dreadful it is that the Liberal Democrats didn't just lie down and act like a doorstep for the Greens. Never mind that we might think that their policies are not just wildly ILLIBERAL but also BAD for the environment, it seems that we should not point out that most people don't actually want to vote for them!

This, they claim, is "telling fibs"; in fact, writer Rupert the Bear-with-a-sore-head goes so far as to give us a funny name – he calls us "Fib Dems". I mean, what sort of a BABY would do a silly joke like THAT?!

[R: Millennium's excuse is that he is eight years old – what is Rupert's?]

The PROBLEM is that it's NOT the Liberal Democrats who are LYING.

Here is what Rupert the Bear-faced-liar CLAIMS that the Liberal Democrats said:

"It takes about 150,000 votes to elect an MEP in the East of England. The Greens only got 25,000 votes across the whole of the East at the last General election."

Here (from the leaflet that he links to) is what the Liberal Democrats ACTUALLY said:

"Just 2% of voters in this election will come from Norwich – but the Greens are weak in the East outside of Norwich. They have no chance of getting enough votes across the East to elect and MEP, and last time were 64 THOUSAND votes short. They only won 25,000 votes altogether across the East of England in 2005's general election."

Do you see that Rupert has DISTORTED what the Liberal Democrats said in order to SEXY-UP his complaint.

The Liberal Democrats presented the FACTS: the Greens FELL SHORT in the last Euro elections, outside of Norwich their support fades away, and in the last General Election it all but disappeared. Is any of that inaccurate? No. It is in any way misleading? NO!

But the "complaint" OMITS the fact that we referred to that last Euro result FIRST, makes it SEEM that we were basing our claim on ONLY the general election result, whereas the FULL quote shows that the general election result was only MORE EVIDENCE to show that the Green were generally weak.

Oh, and with the benefit of hindsight we SAID that they COULD NOT WIN and they DID NOT WIN. So it was true.

(To further inform and entertain: later, in the comments thread, our very own self-styled Tactical Nuclear Badword, the award-winning Mr Jumbo Graham, lays in to point out more direct LIES that the Greens are telling, somewhat undermining their "we lost because we don't tell lies" agenda.)

So, anyway, FLUFFY HUGS for Auntie Jenny; it was a BRAVER effort than the one that I made to make the idea of a co-operative progressive project work and I am SORRY that you feel it hasn't.

And as for the Greens… ooh, Green Grapes, how SOUR do THEY look, I wonder?


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 3082: Oh so NOW he believes in Electoral Reform! (UPDATED!)

Wednesday UPDATE: 13.30

Well, I HOPED that Captain Clegg would ask the Prime Monster to agree that Parliament should cancel their hols until reform of politics is sorted out...

...and call me a GIRAFFE if that isn't exactly what Captain Clegg did! Yay! Go us!

(Bobbins, Mr Frown said "No!")


Day 3082: Oh so NOW he believes in Electoral Reform!


It is Prime Monster's Questionable Time today and I hope that Lib Dem Leader Captain Clegg will take the opportunity to WELCOME Mr Frown's late arrival at the Reform Club, remind him that ALL Parties say that the time to SEIZE the opportunity is now, and therefore ASK if the Prime Monster will join him in calling for Parliament to cancel their summer holidays and stay sitting until reform is really, really sorted.

It's a GENUINE offer; a chance for the Prime Monster not to look like a numpty and a splendid way to drag Mr Balloon along too.

This is our chance to TAKE BACK POWER!

I was very depressed at the thought that Mr Frown's salvation meant that the reform agenda's goose was cooked, but this latest WHEEZE to reinvent himself as Mr Progressive MIGHT just open the door to fair votes, whether Mr Frown intends it or not. It's all about taking the INITIATIVE and getting some MOMENTUM behind the project so that, with public support, it becomes deeply EMBARRASSING for Mr Frown OR Mr Balloon to be seen to be holding it back.

We've got to watch out for the OBVIOUS efforts of people who want to DERAIL the reform process too.

I've heard people say we shouldn't have PR because that was to blame for the two BNP candidates getting elected to the Euro Parliament in the vote last Thursday. Well presumably they would say that the three BNP local councillors who ALSO elected last Thursday mean we shouldn't use First Pass the Port EITHER.

Face it, the BNP got elected because a LOT of people chose to vote for RACISTS, and A LOT MORE people DIDN'T BOTHER to vote at all. Beating the extremists should NOT be about putting a FIX on the election with a bad voting system; it should be about persuading people that it matters that they vote so that we can beat them IN A FAIR FIGHT.

Though throwing eggs at BNP Leader Mr Nick Slytherin is very funny quite, quite wrong. Ahem.

So let us go out there and see if we cannot convince the Prime Monster that reform isn't just INEVITABLE, but very much something that HE CAN BE A PART OF!

And then later this afternoon we can vote to have a General Election anyway!
I did wonder, the other day, if Mr Johnson & Johnson hadn't done some kind of DEAL with Mr Frown where Mr Frown agrees to some (limited) electoral reform for a General Election next year in return for which Mr Johnson & Johnson agrees to be Home Secretary and not force a General Election next WEEK!


Monday, June 08, 2009

Day 3080: The Gordinator – but is it Judgement Day or Salvation?


After terrible results in the local elections and terrible results in the European elections, today the Hard Labour party will take a good long look at itself and realise that they cannot win the next General Election. And knowing that, they will think about getting rid of Mr Frown and decide: "why bother?"

If they were GOING to do it, they would have done it last Friday; they bottled it, just like the Prime Monster did two years ago.

The IRONY is that Mr Frown has done SO BADLY that there's now no point in getting rid of him.

Ask yourself: why WOULD they go through all the pain of doing the deed – and a well thrown mobile phone can really HURT if it gets you! – only to install some luckless lacklustre schmoe (naming no names but it would be Mr Johnson and Johnson) who promptly holds a general election and is annihilated.

I suppose it might JUST ABOUT ease Mr Frown's burden if he knew that the NEXT fellow would be Prime Monster for even shorter than him, but he can still have that pleasure if he waits until May 2010, so where's the incentive to go now?

What does this mean for reform? Well, it's a bit of a DISASTER really. Mr Frown is dead set against making fair votes, and even if he DID – supposing he's maybe done some DEAL with Mr Johnson and Johnson to introduce some AV+ in exchange for Postman Pat laying down his career by moving from Post Office to Home Office – no one is going to BELIEVE in any reform that they bring in. The Conservatories and reactionary Hard Labour peers in the House of Lords Club will find a way to block it; Mr Balloon will wave his hands and say Constitutional Reform is a sideshow and there should be a General Election instead; and there's no longer the year-and-a-day needed to Parliament Act it through over their heads.

It is looking more and more like there will have to be a fluffy elephant handcuffed to the gates of Parliament when it comes to MPs holiday time!


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Day 3076: Frown… and out?


The rats are no longer even forming an orderly queue to get off as the doomed ship Gordtanic steams headlong towards the electoral iceberg.

First the Second-Home Secretary, Ms Jacquie Spliff, left to spend more time with her family and their video collection; now the insanely perky Secretary of State for Communists and Illogical Government, Ms Hazel Smears, is getting back to her roots.

On top of that, it looks increasingly like Mr Frown will lose ALL of the holders of the "great offices of state".

Chancellor Sooty looks certain to go – he's the man who does the ADDING UP for the Nation and he has just admitted that he got his own sums a BIT WRONG. And even if he hadn't, the Prime Monster's long-term homunculus, Mr Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancer, has coveted Sooty's job for, well, almost as long as Mr Frown coveted Lord Blairimort's! At Prime Monster's Questionable Time, Mr Balloon repeatedly asked the Prime Monster to say if Sooty would still be there next week – repeatedly Mr Frown refused to say yes. Is this the black spot, or what?

And apparently Lord Mandelbrot, Fractal of Darkness and currently the (Murky) Business Secretary, has his eye on taking the role of Foreign Secretary from Mr Millipede. People are saying that "it's what he's always wanted". I don't think that can be true – what Lord Mandelbrot has always wanted is… well, isn't it about time we had another Prime Monster from the House of Lords Club?

Funnily enough, I had a talk with Daddy Alex about this just at the weekend. I thought that if he was GOING to reshuffle off a lot of his Cabinet AFTER the election, he might as well do it NOW ahead of one: a few judicial SACKINGS – both Ms Spliff and Ms Smears have been guilty of egregious expensives claims; knocking off Mr Geoff "Buff" Hoon and that nasty squit Mr Purnell at the same time wouldn't hurt either – would help his authority, putting it off only looks like more DITHERING.

Daddy put the other side: ministers going NOW would look like the Government was IMPLODING.

Well, we've put it to the test and it turns out Daddy was RIGHT and I was WRONG!

This is APPALLING for the Hard Labour Party: there is wall-to-wall coverage that Mr Frown has lost it. Even the Grauniad is calling on him to GO! (Subtext: go, Mr Frown, so we can say "vote Labour" again.)

As Captain Clegg put it in the House:
"It is clear that Hard Labour is finished; the only choice is between the Conservatories and the Liberal Democrats!"
That's PARTICULARLY appropriate for these European elections, where the Liberal Democrats have fought a strong and positive Euro campaign, proud to declare that we are STRONGER TOGETHER; the alternative is a variety of Parties (red, blue or green) playing the Nationalist, Protectionist, Little Englander card.

Only the Liberal Democrats are offering the country LEADERSHIP on Europe, on the Economy, on reform.

The polls are ERRATIC at best, but if anyone has the momentum, then it's US, with at least three polls showing we will come SECOND in the elections tomorrow, ahead of the Government. And funnily enough I've heard from CONSERVATORY voters that this is even tempting them to support Liberal Democrats to push Hard Labour into third in the hope that this will finally push Mr Frown out of the window.

Getting rid of the Prime Monster isn't ENOUGH… but it's become NECESSARY. Like Mr Speaker of the Housemartin (seen at PMQ's today desperately threatening to cancel playtime if people didn't listen nicely to his friend the Prime Monster), Mr Frown has become a ROADBLOCK to REFORM.

What we NEED is a RENEWAL of our political system.

That means a new Constitution and a General Election.

And the only way to get there is first to get a new Labour Prime Monster – hmmm, new Labour… nahh, it would never work – possibly Mr Alan Johnson & Johnson, the No More Tears Secretary. If Mr Frown were to step aside, then his replacement could quickly convene the House, pretty much along the lines Captain Clogg set out to take back power, to agree the independent system for MPs expensives, fix the length of Parliaments, change the electoral system, introduce an elected House of Lords, and HOLD A GENERAL ELECTION.

That's what we NEED… but it's NOT what is going to happen. Mr Frown is NOT going to go willingly; he's not interested in putting the good of the country ahead of his own selfish interest.

Mr Frown will hang on by his bitten fingernails. There will be no prompt election – the vote for the dissolution of Parliament will unite Hard Labour – it will be another year. There will be NO constitutional reform, or any reform will be TAINTED by his TOUCH OF DEATH, and Mr Balloon will win a General Election and kick any reform into the long grass for another decade.

Mr Frown's ONLY legacy (unless by some miracle he's persuaded to go on Friday) will be to entrench corruption for another generation.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Day 3072: DOCTOR WHO: World War Three


Big Ben is a hundred and fifty, and in all that time it has never been hit by a crash-landing alien spacecraft. Well, except once…
It is considered to be a universal truism of Sci-Fi two-parters that the second part is never as good as the first. And in this regard, "World War Three" does not disappoint: it isn't as good as "Aliens of London".

It doesn't have the frenetic fizzing energy of the first part; it doesn't have the super-abundance of ideas; it doesn't have – being mostly set during the night and inside Downing Street – the eye-catching vibrant colours. But that's not to say that it's actually bad.

It hangs between two particular standout moments: Jackie Tyler exploding a Slitheen (Sip Fel Fotch Pasameer-Day Slitheen, if you insist) with a jug of pickled eggs; and "oh bol…!"

Before we get to those, the episode opens with the resolution to last week's hyper-manic triple cliff-hanger. It's always a shame when the Doctor has to resort to pulling an unexpected super-power out of his hat, and that's just what he does here with a cry of "deadly to humans, maybe!" A moment's thought could have cured it too – if the iconoclastic Doctor had taken one look at his I.D. card in "Aliens of London" and just chucked it away, or better still snapped it in half, that would have been a funny moment that suddenly took on greater significance. The Doctor's snapped I.D. fizzling out, allowing him to snatch up one of the others and stick it on the unmasked General Asquith.

On the other hand, it's quite nice that the Doctor actually resolves all three cliff-hangers simultaneously as Sip Fel Fotch (formerly Assistant Commissioner Strickland) and Blon Fel Fotch (formerly Margaret Blaine) get caught in the fizzing energy too. And there's a nice mirroring between Rose dragging mother-figure Harriet out of the Cabinet Room and Mickey dragging Jackie out of her kitchen.

We get the new series' first (though tragically not last) "Scooby Doo" chase: seen from side-on, our heroes run across a room to be followed moments later by this week's monsters. A couple of minutes later they chase back the other way. Oh the hilarity.

The CG Slitheen beasties look good… in fact they look rather too good, because, not only do they not match the rather-tottering animatronic costumes, but they are clearly moving so fast that they ought to catch Rose and the also-tottering Harriet. It's a shame because in "Aliens of London" the suits had been most effective by generally keeping their use to a close-up of a slashing arm or a baby-faced head. Cutting between full-length CG and full-length latex just makes the former look like a cartoon and the latter look like a pantomime horse. Which is a great pity because so much obvious effort has gone into making the Slitheen look convincingly powerful and alien. It seems likely that the perceived "failure" of the much-mocked Slitheen has at least a small part in the step back to more conservative monster-design, cat-people, rhino-people and the rest, from season two in.

The heart of the story, though, is the Doctor trapped in a single room, but still able to save the World, because he's smart. Admittedly, it's also because he's got the cheat codes for the UNIT website and a "Time Lord magic" chip in Rose's telephone. So this does feel a little like that episode of "Poirot" where he bets Inspector Japp that he can solve a case without ever leaving his apartment… so long as he can send Hastings out to ask questions and look for evidence. It's not quite living up to the spirit of the idea. On the other hand, do we really want to see the Doctor going all A-Team on the contents of the Cabinet Room? His bluff with the port – threatening to "triplicate its flammability" with the sonic – is charming precisely because it is a bluff. And charming too when Jocassa Slitheen (formerly acting Prime Minister Joe Green) sees through it.

Have you noticed, incidentally, a slight parallel between the Slitheens' Slitheen names and the human identities of their borrowed skins?

Jocassa Fel Fotch is Joe Green; Blon Fel Fotch is Margaret Blaine; at a pinch Sip fell Fotch is Strickland… though his is played by a man called Spiers.

Anyway, from within his box, the Doctor puts the pieces together based on the clues that the Slitheen have let slip to work out who and what they are and what they're up to, particularly in the glorious "narrows it down" scene where the gas from their farts (if you'll pardon the word), their familial names and so on add up to Raxacoricofallapatorius.

Actually, he doesn't need to figure out the planet name, because it's that they are calcium-based lifeforms and that their calcium bodies will have been weakened by the compression they use to fit inside their human skinsuits that is what enables Jackie and Mickey to save themselves in the first of my "glorious moments". However, it is a gloriously silly name for a planet, and very Doctor Who in the Douglas Adams tradition.

Meanwhile, if the visual effect doesn't quite work, the gunging of Mickey and Jackie and their expressions really sell the scene Poor old JNT, he must be sobbing over "The Mysterious Planet"… from beyond the grave. Ahem.

The second half of the episode is then a rinse-and-repeat job, as he puts more clues together and works out the big scheme, impressively spelling it out in his sparkling, snarling confrontation with Margaret Slitheen. It's actually the sheer tawdriness of the Slitheens' scheme that brings it home how evil it is.

Not that the satire is particularly subtle. Even if we hadn't mentioned the Massive Weapons of Destruction and the lying to the UN ("worked last time"/"I for one did not vote for that"), the destruction of a beautiful planet just for fuel is rammed home to make the point. To be fair, this is very old-school Doctor Who.

There's certainly a sense of heritage in this episode. The anti-war, anti-capitalism message could sit quite easily in any Barry Letts story from "Day of the Daleks" to "The Green Death"; while the raw fuel of the plot, nuking a planet until it glows and using the bits to power starships, comes from the second Doctor's era and the story of "The Dominators"; and the idea that the nuclear launch codes might be handed over to the United Nations for safe-keeping goes back to Tom Baker's opener "Robot".

"World War Three" suffers much the same problem as "Robot" too: a plot in search of a McGuffin. The mystery elements are all very engaging – whether it's fascist scientists constructing an unstoppable but emotionally immature giant robot or calcium-based capitalist aliens using a flying pig to terrify the whole world – but both "solutions" rely on the Government having done something almost as unbelievable as the baddies' plot. And since the "Robot" fiasco you would have thought that people would have learned their lesson by now.

If in doubt, bung in the apocalypse.

Admittedly, you can also use it as a gauge of how the zeitgeist has changed. In the Seventies, we all feared that nuclear war was inevitable because of the narrow-mindedness of bureaucrats; in the Eighties we all knew that nuclear war was inevitable because some vast computer somewhere was playing a game or would blow a fuse; in the Twenty-first century, we're now all certain that a nuclear war will be because someone thinks they can profit from it.

The Doctor's solution then, blow up Downing Street with himself inside it. Is this "Doctorish"? Well you could see it as a more extreme form of "hand over the keys before I shoot myself", but it also seems to add to the idea that this Doctor may have a bit of a death wish. The revelation in "The End of the World" that he is now the last of the Time Lords, supported by Chris Eccleston's superb acting are giving us more of a picture of this man with the wacky personality as a cover for a deep personal trauma. Now, he may just have found the person to help him start to heal, but he knows the dangers that go with his life.

In this regard, Jackie and Harriet both speak with the voice of the Doctor's conscience. Jackie's argument that the Doctor should promise to keep Rose safe is fundamentally wrong – if the Doctor fails to act, the Rose is just as dead – but it gains weight because it's the voice of what the Doctor wants to do; Harriet, on the other hand, speaks to what he must do.

Harriet taking charge and, on behalf of the people she represents, ordering the Doctor to take any action necessary to save the World is a defining moment for her too, and interestingly it also darkly foreshadows her own later decisions to use "any means necessary" to secure Earth's safety when it comes to instructing Torchwood to go Death Star on the Sycorax, employing alien technology, under human orders; the Doctor is alien, so he's hers. But that's another story.

Does the Doctor actually remember Harriet as Prime Minister before his intervention stops the Slitheen destroying the World? It's quite possible that he's just being absent-minded… but the way it plays on screen it's almost as though he can't remember who she will be until he's put her on a timeline that will see her rise. This is perhaps subtly playing with his remarks in "The Unquiet Dead" that history can be changed like a snap of the fingers. Has he just re-created history with Harriet now being a significant figure? Here, the Doctor predicts she'll have three terms as Prime Minister, but it seems that he'll topple her after only one election. So does time get changed again?

The conclusion – as the words "Bad Wolf" are scrubbed from the TARDIS – redefines the Doctor's relationship with Mickey while underlining the connection both Mickey and Jackie have with Rose. Once again, Jackie tries to persuade Rose not to leave in the TARDIS, and Rose promises that she'll be back in ten seconds. Of course she isn't. So Jackie shakes her head and walks away… but Mickey settles back down to wait.

The two-part "Aliens of London" (or "Aliens of London"/"World War Three") is the conclusion of the opening movement of Russell's Doctor Who. We've seen the collision of the Doctor's World with ours; we've seen past, present and future, and now we've sorted out the Doctor's place in Rose's world. They're ready for the real adventure to begin. If "Rose" to "World War Three" are a five part adventure called "Doctor Who and an Earthly Child", then next time we begin the eight-part adventure "Doctor Who and the, er, Metaltrons".

Next time… Exterminate… Exterminate… Exterminate. Exterminate! EXTERMINATE!