...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 3345: DOCTOR WHO: Boom Town


Daddy! Daddy! Daddy… stop watching the trailer for the 2010 series and see if you can't finish reviewing the 2005 one!

Oh, all right. Once more…

…satisfied? Right.

This is an odd little story, much derided at the time though for no obvious reason, because it's brilliant.

The title is (nearly) a triple pun, playing on both the Gold Rush boom town that Mayor Margaret promises and the "boom" that will inevitably destroy the "town" at the conclusion of her scheme, while also slyly referencing the Butetown district of Cardiff where, by an extraordinary coincidence, the episode is filmed.

And this is an episode of connections. It's the episode that actually ties this first series together. The rift in Cardiff is only there as a consequence of what happened with the Gelth in "The Unquiet Dead"Margaret Slitheen is the first returning villain for the whole new series – though in a way that foreshadows what is about to happen; her return says that people you thought you'd defeated can come back to haunt you.

And there's the "Blaidd Drwg" or "Bad Wolf" project: the great big connection that the Doctor very nearly spots but then talks himself out of!

But it's not just that. We also see the first actor to have played a role in both old and new Doctor Who: William Thomas here playing the unlucky Mr Cleaver in the pre-title sequence was previously the undertaker's assistant in "Remembrance of the Daleks". We have the first reference to the "supplementary material" or spin-off novels as Rose mentions their visit to the planet Justicia from "The Monsters Inside". We have the first reference to the Hartnell era of Doctor Who, the venom grubs – from the novelisation, no less, of "The Web Planet". The "soul" of the TARDIS living under the console: that goes back to "The Edge of Destuction" for goodness' sake, but it's got the sparkly pixie-dust of "Time Waits for No Man" (and it's not a coincidence – the TV movie needed you to "look into the heart of the TARDIS" for it to affect your soul or give someone a whole new life too).

This is Russell's manifesto piece: all Doctor Who is one: nothing is left out; not the Dalek movies; not the books and audios; not the sky-ray lollies and Weetabix packs. You half expect a Pescaton to surface from Cardiff bay!

And Margaret's surf-board is described as a "tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator" scoring double points for taking in both "Pyramids of Mars" and New Adventure "Damaged Goods". (Points probably deducted, though, for the author of "Damaged Goods" being a Mr Russell Davies!)

Of course, there's also the "connection that isn't". Namely Torchwood, and just where the hell are they? It's not like the Hub isn't supposed to have been down there yet, as we will see episodes of "Torchwood" in our future but set in the relative past.

Of course, it's been suggested that Torchwood "doesn't exist yet": that is Torchwood isn't part of history until the Doctor's next incarnation gets all cocky with Queen Victoria in "Tooth and Claw". It's a lovely theory, and would help so much with so much of the series (lack of) continuity if you could put things like that down to "ah, but he changed something which is why it wasn't always there before". Unfortunately, Russell out-clevers himself by having Torchwood save the day/commit genocide (delete as per your moral preference) at the end of "The Christmas Invasion". So they definitely do exist "before" the Doctor causes them to be created.

A slightly more esoteric, even metaphysical suggestion is to do with the Doctor's regeneration. I should take the time to write up the whole "cog theory" of Doctor Who continuity because it was a brilliant suggestion – not mine, I hasten to add – but the quickreads version is that when the Doctor regenerates it rewrites the history of the whole universe. In other words history tends not to contradict itself within the lifetime of the current Doctor, but anything before/after that (i.e. anything earlier than Terrance Dicks can remember or that he hasn't written yet) is up for reinterpretation / flat out contradiction.

Of course a Torchwood Institute exists in the Ninth Doctor's Universe – it's the answer to one of the Anne Droid's questions in next week's "Bad Wolf", and that's Russell setting up next year's linking theme, for you.

(Spot-the-difference trivia point: on broadcast, the "Next Time" trailer at the end of "Boom Town" included the rather enjoyable line: "Rose, you leave this life… with nothing". But evidently they finished editing "Bad Wolf" quite late and that didn't make the final cut. So for the "official" DVD it has been replaced with a transmitted-in-"Bad-Wolf" moment of Rose panicking that the Doctor must be coming to save her, which is less interesting and not exactly her finest moment. Sadly, both versions give away the presence of the Daleks.)

But, if you want to squint and wish for luck, you could point out that there's nothing to say that that Torchwood is the same Torchwood as the alien-scavenging maniacs who employ Captain Jack. i.e. There really isn't a Torchwood Hub under Roald Dahl Plass until the Doctor's regeneration tangles up the timelines and rewrites the history of a perfectly innocent Scottish institute for researching laughable old werewolf stories around the Doctor's companion Jack.

Or you can read Gary Russell's Torchwood novel "The Twilight Streets" which explains that Jack just kept everyone out of the way to avoid a Time Paradox.

Regardless of that, though, it's certainly true that the future "Torchwood" series will heavily connect to this story too, from the "invisible flagstone" where the TARDIS landed to the central conceit of the Cardiff Rift.

So what's not to love?

Perhaps it's the derisively named "soap opera" elements, though that is just the arrested development crowd not understanding that drama is about people. A lot of the episode is "talky" and people think that this means un-dramatic (confusing "dramatic" with "exciting" there, or worse with "pyrotechnic") as though words are somehow not as important as actions. Try telling that to a writer.

It is through words that great changes are wrought in this story. The words that Rose says to Mickey. The words that Margaret says to the Doctor. Ultimately the unheard words that the TARDIS says to Margaret.

(Yes, all right, the QI klaxons should have sounded right there and the words "Russell Davies' Deus ex Machina" should have started flashing on the screens, but at the time and in context it's actually rather wonderful – Margaret literally seeing the light before it unravels her timeline.)

The core of this story is about second chances. The great big science-fiction monster gets one, but Rose – who is offered a second chance with Mickey – fluffs it. She still doesn't really know which world she wants to be in, Mickey's or the Doctor's – she actually makes that choice in "The Parting of the Ways" but you probably miss in among all the CGI – and that causes her to give them both mixed signals. Notice how both the Doctor and Mickey see Rose leaving them for the other one in the course of the episode and both then go and do something stupid as a result.

Noel Clarke is a lot better this time out and has clearly been on an upward curve since saving the world in "World War Three". Mickey's still not quite right, but he's on the cusp between the comedy dork from "Rose" and the macho dick of "Journey's End" and "The End of Time", so at least that's a good thing. Billie is given the difficult job of being a particularly conflicted Rose this week, so when it seems like she's acting distracted it's possible that it's because she is acting.

Or perhaps it's the return of the unlovely Slitheen. Their first appearance in "Aliens of London" was not universally popular. The mix of giant men-in-suits puppets and glistening CGI didn't come off well and their childishness, while appealing to the majority of the target audience, affronted the dignity of a certain type of fan. Which just shows how much you can miss the point.

It's obvious that the suits were designed to be huge, an enormous physical presence to really show something monstrous up close and personal, in a way that the series has never achieved before. Unfortunately, they're just too unwieldy for even the super-talented performers of the Cardiff monster troupe. As a result they totter about a bit: not so much threatening as funny. And not in a good way. ("The Sarah Jane Adventures" have made good use of the Slitheen's comical appearance by making them act sinister and look funny; "Aliens of London" failed because it was going for the exact reverse effect.)

This time out, though, director Joe Ahearne dispenses with the CG almost altogether and keeps the animatronics to a minimum – one near-tableau in the pre-title sequence and one unexpectedly sympathetic moment in a toilet. By defeating our expectations of the monster-suit he manages to make it work for drama, and that's classy.

Mostly, though, he avoids the rubber altogether and instead employs the enormous charisma of Annette Badland. It's clear that she really gets what the Slitheen are about. She's evil, and she knows she's evil, and she's positively revelling in it at times. But she's also very, very clever and knows how to manipulate people and events to (very nearly) turn disaster into triumph. She has a really good "Plan B", one that actually relies on her having understood the Doctor well enough that she can keep him distracted thinking that she only thinks she understands him – all the business in the restaurant when he thinks he's smarter than she is is really a huge deception – when in fact she really really understands him – the real trap is the technology itself, though funnily enough that's exactly what the Doctor did to Davros in "Remembrance of the Dales" so he's got no excuses for falling for it himself.

One of Russell's strengths is that he writes really well for powerful, wicked women, and here he gives Annette a joy of a part that she can really get her teeth into, venomous finger-darts, poisonous breath and all, subtly swaggering from kinky to crushed, mixing all the nuances of a genuine villain, the little sadnesses and the snarling contempt.

(Though quite how she gets to be Mayor of Cardiff while insisting on no publicity is a mystery all it's own – clearly she's a Chief Executive rather than the Mayor, a backroom figure rather than the accountable elected politician… what's that you say, the BBC neither knowing nor caring how politics works? Next thing you know they'll be thinking that a panel of Daleks could represent Liberal-Democrat-voting Cardiff on "Question Time"…)

He also writes really well for the ninth Doctor here, with beautiful little moments ranging from "…and I was having such a nice day" to "she's climbing out of the window, isn't she" Ethical dilemmas and being forced to confront his own consequences are exactly what Eccelston's troubled, multi-layered performance is perfect for, as he allows Margaret's needling to peel away the layers of the Doctor's defences and reveal the brooding, unhappy man within. He can do funny. And whimsy and slapstick. And even screwball comedy (with hilarious teleport!). But it's informed by the pain underneath. This story is why you need an actor of Christopher Eccleston's calibre in the title role.

In the end he feels as redeemed as Blon fel Fotch when the TARDIS gives them both a second chance: she can start again and he doesn't have to collude in anybody's death. This reminder that there is a "find another option" option completes his journey back from the abyss at the end of the Time War. He is, at the end, genuinely ready to die now, and it's time to face the Daleks with his better answer.

Next Time… Bad wolf. Bad wolf bad wolf bad. Wolf bad wolf bad wolf bad wolf! "Blaidd Drwg" hahaha. Bad wolf bad wolf bad wolf: "Bad Wolf!"


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 3343: Save our Cuppas from this Loony and his TEA Party


In the week when Mr Nigel Farrago decides he wants to be the poor man's Mr Daniel Hangman (no, Mr Farrago, bellowing rudeness at a passing Belgian will NOT make you this year's HootTube Hero), Mr Daniel Hangman decides that HE wants to be the poor man's Ms Sarah Pain*.

Enter the TEA PARTY.

TEA, you probably know, was the making of the British East India Company. First it was stolen from China, after which we inflicted the OPIUM WARS on them all to make them trade the stuff to us. Tea is therefore a sign of STUPID BRITISH IMPERIALISM.

Did I mention the TEA PARTY?

In fact, the East India Company only started importing tea because they wanted something to put in their ships after exporting British-made goods to the Colonies in the East so that they didn't have to come back empty. To that end they went to the trouble of getting everyone in Great Britain drinking tea in order to make this profitable. And of course everyone in China smoking opium. That way they could ship home-made goods to India, Indian opium to China and Chinese tea back to Britain and make a profit on each leg.

It would be like shipping British goods to the colonies in Africa, then African SLAVE to the Americas and then American sugar back to Britain.

Come to think of it, we did THAT too.

So, TEA, symbol of all that made Britain Great – i.e. rich – by trading in DRUGS and SLAVES. "Oh Jolly Poor Show" as they used to say.

And now, TEA the symbol of another bunch of wingnuts who don't give a HOOT for the well-being of their fellow humans.

TEA in this context is an ACRONYM and stands for "Tax Evasion Antics" or something like that, but it basically means sticking your fingers in your ears, screwing up your eyes and shouting "LA LA LA WE'RE SOOOO SELFISH LA LA LA!"

No one WANTS to pay more in taxes. That much is OBVIOUS. But you have to be really STUPID not to realise that SOMEONE is going to have to pay more if we are ever going to repay the HUGE DEBTS that Mr Frown has run up. PRETENDING that you can do otherwise is a silly, selfish LIE.

So the only question is are you going to do this in a FAIR way – ask for more from the people who are better off and can afford to pay, the people who let's face it did BEST out of the BOOM years – or are you going to say "I'm a hugely well paid Member of the European Parliament and get paid LOTS for doing a job that I don't even believe in but IT'S NOT FAIR, I want to keep MORE of my grubby money and NOT pay my share, boo hoo hoo!"

The irony is that people turning up for this sort of shindig are of course comfortably-off Middle Class people. (Or indeed, Conservatories who have escaped from the secure zone around their Spring Conference). Because working people are, you know, too busy WORKING.


Conservatories seem to think so, but we are Liberals and we think about things a bit harder than that.

Taxation takes money out of the economy and, with less money to circulate, that does make us all a little bit poorer. And – again because we're LIBERALS – we would normally trust people to know what they want to do with their own money. The State DOESN'T always know best – something Hard Labour have proved by testing it to destruction! So for those reasons we WOULD prefer to reduce taxation if we can.

BUT, we also recognise that there are some things that the Government actually CAN do better than people on their own. The Army, for example, works better if we just have the ONE Government paying for ONE Army, rather than lots of individuals hiring their own private mercenaries.

AND we believe that there are some things that are WORSE for people's freedom than being a little bit poorer – for example being a LOT poorer, which is why we support the Welfare State, and indeed why we INVENTED the Welfare State, so that EVERYONE gives up a little so that NO ONE is utterly destitute.

SO, it is about BALANCING difficult CHOICES: you have to CAREFULLY decide what are your priorities and make sure that you CONTINUE to support them, and then cut back on things that we CANNOT afford.

Hard Labour have behaved like spoiled kiddies in the sweet shop, expecting Mummy Taxpayer to fork out for whatever they grab off the counter, even when their eyes are too big for their tummies. Now it's come time to pay up and they haven't really got a clue what to do. Hence all the tears and tantrums.

The Conservatories instinct is to slash spending on EVERYTHING and cut taxes. But even THEY have realised, from the feeble state of the recovery from recession, that they can't do that. Their problem is that they don't what else to do. Their wobbles since Christmas, and the accompanying decline in their polling lead, have ALL been about their lack of a Plan B.

So it's JOLLY LUCKY that the Liberal Democrats have got a PLAN! We KNOW that the economy is about making difficult choices, so that, of course, is what the Liberal Democrats have DONE.

We have a plan to reduce public spending. Handily we get some savings just by cutting things we REALLY DO NOT WANT, like I.D.iot cards and Trident missiles. But we still have to do things that are HARDER than that, like not abolishing tuition fees instantly (though we STILL WILL).

And we have a plan to cut taxes for low and middle earners by SHIFTING the tax burden more to the better off, and onto pollution.

So who do you want in charge? The people who got us into this mess, the people who don't know how to get us out of it, or Vince Cable?

Surely it's not THAT difficult a choice, after all?


*To make this PROPERLY triangular, like the East India Company's journeys, Ms Sarah Pain would, of course, have to want to be the poor man's Mr Nigel Farrago. And she would have to be a COMPLETE LOON to want to be the poor man's Mr Nigel Farrago…

…so we can't rule that out!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 3341: Teaching The Facts of Balls


Special Guest Diary from Sister Apocalypstic of the Convent of the Little Sisters of Reductio ad Absurdum.

Thanks to the forthcoming General Election, the Government is hoping to BRIBE Catholic voters with another SPECIAL PRIVILEGE, and therefore Sister A is allowed to write in a way that reflects the character of her religion…

Today, the Secretary of State for Schools – who is a WICKED sinner – has decreed that I have to talk to you about the TERRIBLE things that so called HO-MO-SEXUAL MEN do with each other.

Well, children: they BURN IN HELL TOGETHER, that's what!
The Liberal Democrats are opposed to HOMOPHOBIC PANDAS. Spokesperson Mr David Laws said: "bless you Sister."

Mr Ed Balls is NOT the School Bully.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 3339: Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who has a Future Fair For All?


Once upon a time, there lived three lovely pantomime characters:

First there was HARD LABOUR ROSE, aka the Big Brown Wolf. She huffed and she puffed and then allegations in the Observer brought the house down on her head.

Then there was AIRBRUSHED WHITE and the seven Old Etonian Dwarfs: Hopeless, Clueless, Worthless, Useless, Pointless, Sleazy and Bankrupt.

Last but not least there was GOLDILOCKS, who tasted the other bears' porridge and found that one bowl was TOO RIGHT-WING and that the other bowel was TOO RIGHT-WING too! So she made her own porridge and that was JUST RIGHT.

Though, funnily enough, the poisoned apples turned out to be for Goldilocks… and I think the magic is wearing off my metaphor!

There's been quite a lot of FUSS in FAIRYLAND this weekend about whether Hard Labour Rose, i.e. the Prime Monster (©ME and NOT the Scum), Mr Frown, is a bully or not, with allegation and counter-allegation thrown about like mobile phones in the Cabinet Office… er…

It's a SERIOUS issue, and deserves better than being reduced to a political ping-pong ball. The way that the country is run from the top – and BAFTA-award-nonimated "In the Loop" is funny because we BELIEVE that all of that shouting, swagger and I know best-ness is TRUE to life – works its way down into the FABRIC of the nation. And it makes us a less kind and gentle place.

It's about treating politics like a game of MONOPOLY where you win by CRUSHING your opponents.

The Conservatories are just as GUILTY of this sort of thing, playing doggie-in-the-manger over cross-party talks to solve the problems of care for the elderly or the number two high-speed link to Birmingham because they'd rather score points that actually solve problems.

Only politics ISN'T a game of monopoly: you're supposed to be SERVING people, not treating them as commodities or tokens, and the only winners should be THEM.

Anyway, it's all rather overshadowed the re-launch of the Hard Labour election strategy.

Their new slogan: "A Future Fair For All" is EASILY PARODIED – A Future Free-for-All, I suggested; a Future Freefall for All, thought Mr Stephen of the Glenn; a Future Fun Fair For All, suggested Auntie Caron; and so on… (Hang on, wasn't "The Future Fayre For All" supposed to be inside that Big Tent in Greenwich?).

With the many parodies of the Conservatories' INEPT poster campaigns coming out thick and fast, clearly Hard Labour fell under the DELUSION that people mocking Mr Balloon were somehow FOR Mr Frown. Oh how very wrong they were.

But Hard Labour have been in power for THIRTEEN YEARS. Why hasn't the future arrived yet? Could it be because they were "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich"? Or because they arrogantly assumed that they had achieved "no more boom and bust?

Looking at Mr Frown's big speech, it certainly seems like HE has NO IDEA how we got here, how many FAILURES have stacked up on his watch.

In fact, he begins by looking back with VERY rose-tinted spectacles to an alternative history of triumphs without disasters:
"The NHS renewed"
…but don't mention the huge wasteful bureaucratic target-culture or the vast cost of PFI's still to pay off.
"Jobs created"
…but don't mention that they were lost again.
"Schools built"
…but don't mention the crushing of a generation under tests and student debts.

It's very much a "but apart from that, how was the theatre, Mrs Lincoln" view of Hard Labour's term in office.
"…dreams achieved, ambitions realised, hopes fulfilled, lives changed…"
…endless petty crimes created, ASBOs breached, DNA stolen, personal data lost, or left on trains, Middle Eastern countries INVADED, LIVES LOST and BILLIONS and BILLIONS of pounds SQUANDERED.

Still, as he says, "elections are not verdicts on the past – they are choices for the future". So that's handy.

What ARE his plans for the future, though?
"First, we must secure the recovery, not put it at risk."
Which is nice, but who's going to argue against that?
"Second, we must support new industries & future jobs."
Which is pretty much the same as the first point, isn't it?
"Third, as we reduce the deficit by half, we must protect and not cut frontline services."
Interesting that you assert you can do both simultaneously. Any ideas how?
"And fourth, we must stand up for the many not the few."
Which is jolly rousing but means what, precisely? Planning on standing up for the many against few when the few are, say, police demanding powers of stop and search? Planning on standing up for the many against few when the few are the controllers of your I.D.iot card database? Planning on standing up for the many against few when the few are MEDIA GIANTS against downloading of music? Planning on standing up for the many against few when the few are American-backed tyrants who boil their opponents alive? Planning on standing up for the many against few when the few are bankers refusing credit to small businesses and reposing homes?

No, Mr Frown, I think you are FIRMLY on the side of the FEW whenever the FEW are from your own little ELITE or Lord Sideous (Darth Mandlebrot's) chums.

It's certainly clear that he hasn't LEARNED any LESSONS from his decade of MIS-MANAGEMENT. He's as convinced as ever of the GOODNESS of the bankers and the City.

Mr Frown says he's concluded…
"that the very values that made our country are the surest foundations of our future success."
So I'm guessing that the value that he means here is PIRACY.

Seriously, the GLORIOUS Great British Empire was built – a little bit – on the proceeds of our BOLD BUCCANEERS, robbing Spanish Galleons of the gold that they themselves had stolen from the Mexicans.

You see, "Markets are essential," continues Mr Frown. And those wide-boy City Traders love to tell us that are the NEW Buccaneers and what better pirate cove for their stacks of gold and jewels than Little England?

"They help us grow as a nation,"
says Mr Frown,
"they give us the resources to fight poverty, ignorance, disease"
…and FRANCE, presumably.

But then he needs to ABSOLVE himself of blowing the economy on the gaming tables of the banking world.
"It is now more clear than ever that markets need morals. Without that they go astray and can lead us to focus on the price of things, not the value of things."
Our Mammon, Who Art in the Square Mile, Lead Us Not into Temptation, But Deliver Us a Fourth Term, Forever and Ever. Amex.
"We have restructured our banks and are ensuring they have the capital they need."
As thought this doesn't mean "given them as much money as they wanted with no more than the mildest slap on the wrist for trollying the economy.
"And we are now discussing with other countries the prospect of a global levy on banks which would help achieve our domestic objectives as well as tackle global poverty and climate change."
Though we're certainly NOT going to do anything unless EVERYONE else agrees to it!
"We are making these changes because Britain needs to rebuild."
After your decade of triumph? How come we need to rebuild?
"And that is why we have decided that as a nation and a government that we will back British scientists…"
…by SLASHING funding to UNIVERSITIES and putting an end to blue sky research…
"…invest in renewable energy…"
…by allowing Great Britain's only windmill factory to go BANKRUPT and CLOSE

Which reminds me:
"Only Labour who have a plan to make Britain a world leader in a four-trillion dollar market for green, clean energy goods and services, opening up the prospects of 400,000 new green jobs for the British people."
Only? Only! Now he's just plain FIBBING.

It's less than a WEEK since the Liberal Democrats proposed creating fifty-thousand new jobs by turning disused shipyards into wind turbine production centres. That's a REAL, CONCRETE proposal rather than Mr Frown's dreams of castles in the sky!

He goes on in this vein for a while, making up policies for the other parties – well partY actually, he's back to not deigning to mention US; so much for the lovebombing – and then saying how BAD we are because of them.

"Government is not a game," fulminates Mr Frown finally – like he hasn't just been scoring CHEEP POINTS – bringing us back to where I came in. But it's not a "Choose you own Adventure" either – except for the way the Prime Monster does it: re-writing history and choosing a new random Historic Destiny™ every week.

Which, of course, is the real irony.

Because the REAL problem with Hard Labour's new slogan is that they are all YESTERDAY'S MEN; and with ninety odd (some VERY odd) Hard Labour MPs jumping ship ahead of the General Election, it's clear that they realise this themselves.

The REAL problem with "A Future Fair For All" is that Hard Labour doesn't HAVE any future, doesn't have any future AT ALL.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 3336: the PCC - Not Worth The Papers Who Pay to Have it Printed aka There's Been a Jan Moir-der


The PCC (Press Cover-up Cronies) have come to the opinion that twenty-five thousand people were wrong and Daily Hate Mail scribbler Ms Jan Moir-der is NOT a LYING, INTRUSIVE, HATEFUL HOMOPHOBE.

But let's be honest, that's a COMPLETELY UNNATURAL decision. Grown-up inquiries don't just lie down on the sofa and drop dead all the charges, so there's probably some very SORDID and DISGUSTING reason why they've rolled over and come to that conclusion.

No, don't worry! Apparently, according to the PPC, it's FINE for me to say that because I've mentioned the facts and the rest is just my opinion.

How it works: the Press Complaints Commission:

So let's have a look at how the PCC works for YOU. So long as by "you" we mean "someone who writes for/owns a newspaper who is looking to get pesky complaints dismissed".

Clause 1 – why the PCC thinks it's okay to tell lies

"Clause 1, […] states that comment, conjecture and fact should be clearly distinguished,"

"The article was a comment piece…"
So, right from the start it seems clear that, in the PCC's opinion, "facts" should be confined to the "factual" parts of the newspaper and that once you're in the "comment" sections anything goes.
"…it was important to recognise that the article had clearly referred to the official verdict on the cause of death that was available at the time ("all the official reports point to a natural death, with no suspicious circumstances"; "acute pulmonary oedema, a build-up of fluid on his lungs"). It was against this context that the columnist had stated her views on the matter."
This is the most amazing DOUBLE-THINK! So long as you state a fact, if you then go on to flatly contradict it, and strongly hint that it's not a fact at all but spin and cover-up, then that's not in any way being deceitful.

In other words, something like…
OPINION PIECE: "Ms Jan Moir-der isn't an evil witch. That's a fact. But that fact isn't true. Come on she's got that gingerbread cottage, and everyone knows that people like that are only interested in luring children into the oven."
…would be fine and dandy under that kind of logic. And it really isn't.
"…the Commission was fully aware of the widespread objection to the reference to Mr Gately's death as not being "natural". This was undoubtedly a highly provocative claim which was open to interpretation, and many people had considered this to be distasteful and inaccurate.

"It was a claim, nonetheless, that could not be established as accurate or otherwise."
Could not be established as accurate or otherwise… except of course by the coroner's post-mortem which, in fact, established AS a fact that Mr Gately's death WAS natural.

And therefore established this statement as A COMPLETE LIE.

And given that the post-mortem was QUOTED in the article itself, Ms Moir-der KNEW that it was a LIE.
"it was clear that this was a broad opinion rather than a factual statement"
No, it was clear that this was a LIE. Only the most WILFULLY PERVERSE interpretation of the facts can allow the PCC here to present Mr Moir-der's out-and-out refutation of the facts as anything other than a DELIBERATE DECEIT.
"Finally, the Commission considered […] the 'happy-ever-after myth'…"

"…the fact that a newspaper had published what might be considered to be an illogical argument (connecting two entirely separate individuals and seeking to draw a general conclusion) in itself did not equate to a breach of the Code."
You'll have to draw your own conclusions about WHY Ms Moir-der might choose to stoop to "illogical arguments" or what, shall we say, "prejudice" might lead her to include an unrelated death and not recognise that she was being illogical. Or for that matter why no one on the Daily Hate Mail editorial staff thought to suggest "hang on, this doesn't connect to the rest of what you're blathering about".

Clause 5 – why the PPC thinks it's okay to piddle all over someone's shock and grief

"Newspapers are under an obligation under Clause 5 to ensure that publication is handled sensitively at a time of grief."
Sounds good, doesn't it.
"In coming to a view on this aspect of the complaint, the Commission considered that the context of its publication was paramount. The article was a comment piece by a columnist whose regular readers were aware of the provocative nature of her articles."
In what way does that EXEMPT her and the Hate Mail from "an obligation to ensure that publication is handled sensitively at a time of grief"?

They appear to be saying that if you are PROVOCATIVE then you can say what you like, regardless of how people might be feeling, regardless of whether it's hurtful, harmful or even just old fashioned disgusting, and people jolly well ought to know better if they get offended by reading you.

Which, interestingly, is very much NOT what the Daily Hate Mail thought when PROVOCATIVE Islamic trouble-maker Mr Anjem Choudary wanted to make a COMMENT piece in the CONTEXT of being in WOOTEN BASSETT.

But after all, if it's on page 37 there's no way anyone might find out about it unless they were LOOKING for it. Because, you know, people had told them about the hurtful things that your paper was saying.
"It was also relevant that Mr Gately was a famous individual in a successful pop group. His life had attracted a large degree of public and media attention, as did his death. The immediate context of the column was therefore a body of public comment about what had happened to Mr Gately, and the forthcoming event at which his life was to be celebrated by many."
The only POSSIBLE interpretation of that is that the PCC is saying that the piece was fair comment BECAUSE it was a deliberate attempt to SPOIL that celebration of Mr Gately's life. Is it just me, or doesn't that make the article MORE offensive, not less?

Clause 12 – why the PCC thinks it's okay to be homophobic

You might think – given that the whole POINT of Ms Moir-der's drooling was to link Mr Gately's LIFESTYLE to her disturbing fantasies about DEATH that it would be unarguable that she came to this opion through a prejudicial opinion about the way gay daddies live. But no!
"Clause 12 makes clear that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's sexual orientation. The question of whether the article was homophobic or discriminatory to gay people in general did not fall under the remit of the Code."
In other words, you can say WHATEVER you like about gay daddies IN GENERAL, so long as you don't refer to the SPECIFIC individual whom you are slandering.

Isn't that ACTUALLY BONKERS – how is it less bad for you to be homophobic to LOTS of people than to ONE person in particular?

But in that case how DO you get away with calling Mr Gately's death "more than a little sleazy" and "dubious events" and "strange and lonely", never mind all the snide asides of the "…could barely carry a tune in a Louis Vuitton trunk" kind, without it being in some way "prejudicial or pejorative"? Here's how:
"There was a distinction between critical innuendo - which, though perhaps distasteful, was permissible in a free society - and discriminatory description of individuals, and the Code was designed to constrain the latter rather than the former."
That is clearly self-serving nonsense: WEASEL WORDS – literally, because it's saying if you USE weasel worlds you can say whatever you like. Something like this...
OPINION PIECE: "There are some REALLY SORDID HYPOCRITES out there. Incidentally, Ms Jan Moir-der is someone whose actions in private* would make you BARF! Nod. Wink."

(*writing for the Daily Hate Mail)
...ought to be really OUT of ORDER because the IMPLICATION is clear, even if the cover of DENIABILITY is in place. That's the whole POINT of innuendo: that everyone KNOWS what you mean without you having to say the incriminating words. But it's the MEANING not the WORDS that is important. If you're going to have a code that claims to protect people against HATE SPEECH then you really HAVE to do people for being HATEFUL even if they do it SLYLY. Perhaps ESPECIALLY if they do it SLYLY.

If Ms Moir-der had said what she said but about BLACK people, then her career would be over; she would be UN-EMPLOYABLE. And rightly so. If she had said it about JEWISH people, she would have made herself ARRESTABLE in several European countries.

Ultimately, the PCC's defence of the odious Ms Moir-der is "free speech is too important for us to say people shouldn't be allowed to say stupid, horrid, deceitful things".

And on those grounds, THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A POINT.

She kind of DOES have the right to spout her horrid nonsense. And twenty-five thousand people have the right to call her the most hated woman in Great Britain. That's how it goes.

But they have to bend their own rules completely out of shape in order to say it. Under their actual rules, she's bang to rights and ought to have been severely censored. Double meaning intended.

The PCC's code of practice – in fact the PCC itself – exists as a framework to PROTECT free speech from Government legislation. It is saying: "look we will make sure that we do not lie or defame or distort or intrude or be blatantly bigoted and in return you won't bring in a raft of laws to silence us when it's really important."

And that's where this judgement is REALLY REALLY damaging.

Because if the Press thumb their noses at the LARGEST EVER protest about an article, if they break their own rules, and worse OBVIOUSLY break their own rules, then they are inviting the Government to take self-regulation away. People will DEMAND that the Government takes self-regulation away.

And then, next time someone discovers a scandal like the MPs' Allowances shock, the Government will super-injunction the Papers into silence.

You don't lie about "fire" in a crowded theatre. And you don't tell obviously homophobic lies about a much loved young man who has tragically died. Because the CONSEQUENCES are so much worse than the giggle you get out of doing it.

After all, a toothless tiger is STILL better than a sabre-toothed Government poodle!

Think about that, Ms Moir-der. You, lying, intrusive, insensitive, homophobic but above all desperately STUPID playing-into-Hard-Labour's-hands Government stooge.

Though that's just my opinion.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 3330: MI5 deny cover-up of [removed for security reasons]


Writing in this morning's Tell-lie-graph, we hear from Mr Jonathan "good" 'Eavens, the head of MFI, the British Self-Assembly Security Service, who says:
"We did not practise mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf."
Perhaps not. But we DID try to COVER IT UP.

It's, surely, UNDENIABLE that the Government DID go to Court to try to prevent the publication of the secret US documents which reveal that the treatment of British resident Mr Binyam Mohamed had been "CRUEL, INHUMAN and DEGRADING".

Nor can you DENY that the Government APPEALED against the High Court's decision to allow publication.

And it certainly looks pretty convincing that – allegedly –the Government had its lawyer try to lean on the Master of the Rolls to be a bit more, er, circumspect in his references to You Know Who.

With their fluffy foot forced, the Foreign Office have released the documents in question on their website and the crucial paragraph reads:
x. The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.
So, quite clearly, the treatment of Mr Binyam was ILLEGAL in Great Britain. And it was ILLEGAL in Americaland. And we KNEW about it. And we TRIED TO STOP anyone else knowing that we knew about it.

What part of "covering up torture" have I missed here?

And yet Mr "good" 'Eavens says that a cover up is "the exact opposite of the truth". Which is, presumably, something he would know about. He says:
"The material our critics are drawing on to attack us is taken from our own records, not prised from us by some external process but willingly provided by us to the court, in the normal way"
Apart from, obviously, the whole going to court to prise the documents out of you, obviously. And:
Likewise, we co-operate willingly with the Intelligence and Security Committee so that it can fulfil its oversight role.
Ahh yes, the Intelligence and Security Committee… the Chair of the Committee, Hard Labour's Agent Kim "Philby" Howells huffed and puffed and tried to say that the published documents somehow "don't count" because they've not yet been proved in a Court of Law. Well if the CIA's OWN opinion that it was torturing someone doesn't count, I don't quite know what standard of proof will be good enough for you!

And both Mr Philby and Mr 'Eavens fall back on the old " Appeal to Fear" fallacy: Terrorism is very scary. You must let us do whatever we like because terrorism is very scary.

Mr 'Eavens opens his letter with a reminder of "…the backdrop of the current severe terrorist threat to this country" and concluded with the threat that "…our enemies will also seek to use all tools at their disposal to attack us" threatens. And Mr Philby begins his defence with talk of "Islamist suicide bombers and other murderous terrorists".

The terrorist threat is "very real" said Mr Philby at one point. Well no, actually. The WHOLE POINT of "terrorism" is that MOST of the threat is VERY IMAGINARY. The terrorists want to control MILLIONS of people by just harming (very violently) a few people; everyone else imagines that the threat might be to them personally too and react through terror. That's why it's called "terrorism".

It's basically: This thing we do is very scary. You must let us do whatever we like because thing we do is very scary.

Hang on; that sounds FAMILIAR…

The terrorist threat to Great Britain is PATHETIC. Motorists kill more people in Britain in a WEEK than al Qaeda have managed in a DECADE! SNOW, for goodness sake, SNOW has done more to paralyse London transport than the bombers could manage. They couldn't even ram-raid an airport without setting themselves on fire! Is it REALLY that the Spooks are so jolly brilliant that they've thwarted all the really dangerous attacks, or is it just remotely possible that the enemy we are facing is a bunch of poorly organised, badly financed, ill-equipped, not-terribly-bright malcontents without much of a plan or even idea of what they want to do? Basically, aren’t our enemies a bit RUBBISH?

We don't need "Special Powers" and "Section 44 Orders" to defeat this lot. We don't need the police forcing tourists to delete their holiday snaps. We don't need people being arrested for bad taste jokes on Twitter!

What we need is to show them we're BRITISH (dammit!).

The BRAVE response to the so-called "terror crisis" would be to REDUCE the powers of the police, increase freedom and say to them "look, we reject your ways of fear, we have nothing to be afraid of, and besides, your mother smells of ELDERBERRIES!"

It's about time that we stood up to these COWARDS and BULLIES – terrorists or Government, take your pick – and told them to just GET STUFFED.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 3328: Marginalising the BBC (that's: Bible-Bashing Christians)


Today the top men-in-frocks of the Church of England voted to express their "deep concern" that the national broadcaster isn't carrying enough ADVERTS.


Oh all right: their worry that the BBC isn't pushing THEIR AGENDA hard enough.

…No, seriously, what?

OK: as a body with a symbiotic relationship with the nation, it is TRUE that there ought to be representation for all and a variety of views presented to satisfy all the deeply spiritual people of this great country. But enough about women bishops.

The BBC absolutely should not have to broadcast any more FRIGHTENINGLY DULL FAIRY STORIES!

As usual, the religions ALREADY HAVE extra privileges that ordinary groups don't get. And, in a very DUDLEY DURSLEY fashion, they are now wailing that they don't have more presents than last year.

On the radio they've got "Fart for the Day" every single day; that's a LOT of farts.

On the telly they've got "Snogs of Praise" to kiss bottom with Mr God every week. Not to mention that ghastly Sunday morning punch-up hosted by Nicky Campbell. (This week's questions: Since Mr God says Lord Blairimort was okay to invade Iraq is that all right then? Do paedophiles have the right to privacy or should they be burned at the stake in public? And is paganism more relevant than Christianity – we ask Lord Summerisle and a representative of the Scottish Constabulary…)

And that's without counting the times Dr Sentimoo or the Beardy Weirdy of Canterbury get to turn up at random as a talking head as though a lifetime of manoeuvring your way up the CofE's gilded pole makes you some kind of EXPERT rather than just a different form of POLITICIAN.

(e.g. suddenly the Beardy Weirdy pops up on the otherwise excellent "A History of the World in A Hundred Objects" to talk about an Ice Age carving of swimming reindeer… "primitive art… that's a bit like Jesus…")

Remember boys and girls, OTHER political parties have to make their OWN political broadcasts!

And they ARE really like politicians: they are a group who hold certain philosophical views and hope to convince people that they should be allowed to exercise control over everybody's lives.

Except that normal political parties get their views ROBUSTLY challenged on a daily basis. When was the last time you heard Mr Paxo scoffing at the promises that Mr Jesus is said to offer?

"Nnnnyeaaas, Messiah Secretary, but did you threaten to overrule Mr Bealzebub?"

It's also a bit rich to complain that the programmes aren't "innovative" enough. From the theatrical company who've been putting on the same three shows every Sunday since practically the Dawn of Creation! Oh no, sorry, that's the other lot – this show's just been running since the First Coming.

And while I'm on the subject, it's not just the Christians who are at it: there's a former High Court judge who's been doing some special pleading this week too: Sikh-ing Special Privileges, you might say. (Oooh, I AM sorry!)

It isn't PREJUDICE when you are expected to follow the same rules as EVERYBODY ELSE.

It's not impossible that saying you can't carry a dagger around IS breaking your human right to religious expression. On the other fluffy foot, we don't say that, for example, Aztec Priests are exempt from the laws about Class A drugs just because peyote is an important part of their religious ceremonies. So why should "religious expression" give you the "right" to ignore the knife laws?

(Are the knife laws too draconian? Well, probably, but at least there you can justify your case on the grounds of wanting to reduce the number of stabbings, compared to "we have to wear a knife because we always have".)

But to say that you have a "right" to attend any school you like whether or not you are willing to abide by that school's (entirely sensible) rules is just SILLY. Not least because lots of people CAN'T get to go to whichever school they like because of league-tables and oversubscribing and so on.

And it's just not on to keep complaining that you are hard done by because you don't get special treatment compared to everybody else.

And no, I'm not going to bring the Hindu who wants the special right to be incinerated into this as it turns out they've found a way for him to go up in smoke that's within the rules.

A spokesperson for the BBC ought to have but didn't say:

"It's a crying shame how the so-called British Church has marginalised television. If only they'd stop banging on about gay daddies and give us some proper coverage!"


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Day 3320: Are we AV-ing a laff? Or: What would a REAL New Economic Model look like?


First thing, Mr Frown is going to ram voting reform through the Cabinet today and force it down Parliament's throat next week. But being Hard Labour his idea for "fair votes" is actually LESS fair.

Second thing, Master Gideon says he'll be bench-pressing the UK into a "new economic model" which looks suspiciously like the OLD economic model of "free-market capitalism with a hint of Government intervention".

Third thing, an e-mail from the POWER2010 people pops up saying that their 25,000th contributor has posted his vote for "None of the Above".

Funny thing: all these things are TOTALLY interconnected.

This urge to REJECT the entire political establishment, to vote "None of the Above", arises out of the perception that "all the parties are the same".

But that perception is driven by exactly the sort of language that Master Oboe uses today: dancing on the head of a pin so that he can say that HIS policies are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to those of Hard Labour which in turn are completely different to those of the Liberal Democrats, when in fact everyone – yes even us – are offering relatively unimaginative VARIATIONS ON THE SAME THEME.

But that in turn is because those policies are driven by the choices of the electorate, or rather a very small sub-section of the electorate whose opinions are HUGELY MAGNIFIED by the DISTORTED calculus of the electoral system. Anyone who wants to get elected is FORCED into a very narrow range of options to satisfy a very narrow range of people: in short, swing voters in marginals.

And that, ultimately, is why we NEED a reform of the voting system that opens up politics to HUGE change.

Now, saying we want to vote for "None of the Above" is a SYMPTOM of people's disaffection, but as a solution it's nowhere NEAR good enough. In fact, I'd say it was both MEANINGLESS and it's LAZY.

Meaningless, in part, because it doesn't tell us WHY none of the above satisfy the voter. Did they want a candidate who was more socialist or more capitalist? Or more liberal or more authoritarian? Or more female or more male? Or more local? Or more famous?

"None of the Above" adds together all of the splinters of people not satisfied with what's on offer and artificially adds them together. And it would STILL probably be fewer than the votes cast for real candidates because it's not the lack of a "none of the above" box that causes people to NOT BOTHER TO VOTE.

People don't vote through a combination of "they don't think they can change things" and "they don't think things need to change (because they ain't that bad, really)".

But much more than that "None of the Above" is meaningless because what actual EFFECT is it supposed to have on the election?

It's just an "I turned up but didn't vote" box. Now, a "Re-open Nonimations" box, that comes with REAL power – i.e. if "RON" is elected they HAVE to re-run the election with new candidates – that maybe has some merit. Some. Maybe. But just giving people a chance to stick two fingers up at the candidates seems totally pointless.

And it's also LAZY because it's saying "I see a problem here and I refuse to try and solve it"; it is expecting someone ELSE to come along and present you with another option. Well, why SHOULD anyone be bothered if YOU can't be, eh?

And it's not like people AREN'T presenting you with other options.

IThere already ARE lots of choices beyond " the Above", because I'm assuming that by "the Above" what you really mean is "the three nationwide parties (oh all right, four, if you MUST count UKPnuts just because Mr Bob "elected-as-a-Conservatory" Stink sits for them these days… and in Scotland and Wales add a smattering of nationalists) who have representation in the House of Commons".

From Anarcho-Communists to Anti-Abortionists to Sickly Greens to British Nasties to Vanity Candidates to Respect the Leotard Gorgeous Pussycat George Supporters to Monster Raving Loonies… you have got a lot of choices.

But, comes the protest, they don't get elected.

That's partly because they don't have the support and partly because of the system. And those two things do feed off each other too. Our current system biases the results in favour of very large Parties or very concentrated-in-one-place Parties and completely ignores Parties with support spread out across the whole country. Under first-pass-the-port, you can of course get 49% in every seat in the country and still get no MPs at all.

In fact, it's the very geographical POLARITY of the two red-blue Parties – one in the urban strongholds of the industrial and post-industrial North, one in the Home County retreats of the moneyed South-East; neither can really be called broad based anymore, and both suffer from nasty inflammations of the Core Vote Strategy – that contributes to their unhealthy stranglehold on the Government and, more cogently, the DISTORTED importance of those few seats where swing voters can pick which of them will win.

So either organise a revolution and change the system or get involved with the Liberal Democrats and change the system. Or you can always start your OWN political movement to try and capitalise on that big wave of we-reject-all-the-other-parties that you think is out there. And see how far you get.

Anything less is just WHINGEING.

Which, quite naturally, brings me to Master Oboe.

His idea for a "new economic model" includes his eight-step programme of:

• Ensure the whole country shares in rising prosperity – by raising the private sector's share of the economy in all regions of the country, especially outside London and the South East (as thought the Government can actually DO this… does he mean he'll actually REDUCE the public sector in areas where private investment isn't matching London?)

• Get Britain working (well who doesn't want that?)

• Ensure macro-economic stability (well who doesn't want that?)

• Make Britain open for business (well who doesn't want that?)

• Reform public services to deliver better value-for-money (like EVERYONE says they'll do)

• Create a safer banking system that serves the needs of the economy (no, do you think?)

• Build a greener economy (gee, an original thought… when everyone else had it five years ago)


• Create a more balanced economy – presumably with both more motherhood AND more apple pie.

So, basically it's a recipe for BUSINESS as USUAL.

The Government (Hard Labour OR Conservatory… or even Liberal, if you credit the idea we could win) will raise most of its money from a not-very-graduated income tax and a regressive sales tax and then spend a third of it on pensions and benefits, and another third on the health service and schools and the army, and the rest will go on lots and lots of little things that are all important to SOMEONE.

(And remember, this system benefits a relatively narrow range of people, i.e: people on slightly better than moderate incomes who want their health care and pension paid for don't want the unemployed actually to starve but don't want to pay more tax to see them "dossing about" and would quite like various things, from the Arts Council to continuous supply of electrical power, to continue without them being bothered about the details, or more succinctly, voters in marginals again.)

Saying you want a Britain built on "savings, enterprise and exports" is saying you want them exactly as they are… but a bit better. It's really NOT a new economic model.

A GENUINE, but still MODERATE, change would involve actually addressing some of the things that the Government DOES.

For example, the NHS. Make it a separate corporation, like the BBC, paid for by a health insurance that would not be much dissimilar to the licence fee or a subscription. But oh yes, that's the great HOLY COW of British Politics and tinkering with it is as unthinkable as GOOSING Mrs the Queen!

Or the benefit system. Pay every UK Citizen over the age of 16 a Citizen's Income of £100 per week, paid for by an income tax rate of, say, 45% on all other earnings (abolishing employee's National Insurance), and abolish all other benefits. Depending on how much Employer's NI generates, it even raises money for the Treasury. And there would be a bit less bureaucracy. In theory EVERYONE on benefits is quite a bit better off and NO ONE has to be humiliated with means tests or medical exams ever again. But it's crazily difficult to work out how it impacts people on tax credits and of course everyone earning over about sixteen grand is going to be slightly worse off. That's not even average national earnings, so you'd never get THAT past those marginal voters!

Of course REAL change to our economic model means looking at the factors that are limiting our freedom and doing something about them. The BIG limiting factor is ENERGY. If we can greatly increase the supply of energy we can actually increase people's freedom too. This happened in the Industrial Revolution when we moved from person-power to machine-power, unfortunately fuelled by, well, fossil fuel.

("Unfortunately", because not only is it running out, and not only are we as a country increasingly having to import our energy supply but of course we now know that we are seriously damaging the planet that we happen to be STANDING ON!)

What we need in order to achieve a step-change is to invest in a new and more abundant energy source… if we can FIND one. (The obvious candidates would be hydrogen fusion – if it can be made to work like it hasn't for fifty years – or solar power – probably based on orbital platforms, which requires not just a lot of engineering but a lot of international co-operation too – or something from the exploitation of Outer Space – so we'd better not cancel the Moon Base… oh dear.)

The truth is, though, that GAME-CHANGING revolutionary developments like that tend to be EXTERNAL to the Government. To an extent, the best you can hope for is to LIMIT how much Government HOLDS BACK innovation – which certainly means stopping Lord Mandelbrot intervening to decide what universities should be studying! Because Government tends to be a conservative force even when the Conservatories AREN'T in power.

ALL Government is based on COMPROMISE – not just democracies, though there it becomes obvious, but even dictators have different power blocs to balance – and ANY compromise between change and status quo will take the edge off the radical, blunting it, even turning it back.

Ironically, the so-called "strong governments" generated by our first-pass-the-port system are in fact MORE compromised, more small-c conservative, more, in fact, WEAK, because there is a NARROWER number of people to whom they owe their majority.

That is why we have had conservative government for the last THIRTY YEARS, preserving the status quo for large business interests in the City at the expense of real progress; that is why Hard Labour turned themselves into rouge Conservatories; that is why when they said "things could only get better" things DIDN'T.

That's why everything comes back to electoral reform. And it's why Mr Frown's proposals don't go nearly far enough.

The Liberal Democrats favour STV, or Single Trunk Voting, because it gives most power to the VOTER – you get to choose between parties AND between members OF those Parties, so you can choose Orange Booker or Soggy Liberal, local candidate or high flyer, man or woman whichever you want. And we think it should promote MORE diversity because Parties will naturally favour MIXED slates leading to more women and minority candidates getting elected.

The AV system that Mr Frown proposes is really kind of like first-pass-the-port only MORE SO. The Parties RETAIN control over the candidates standing in each constituency, rather than giving the voter the chance to express a preference, and it REINFORCES the effect of local polarity, with a chance of making safe seats SAFER.

On the one fluffy foot, AV IS pretty similar to STV with single member constituencies. And once you've convinced people of the benefits of ranking the candidates – as opposed to systems with LISTS where the candidates are just RANK – then the move to multi-member constituencies is as simple as of grouping them by fives. Your five constituencies still have five MPs; you just have a better chance of having one you voted first preference for. You might even be able to use the results of the AV election to map out what an STV election "might have done", to show people how easily things could be different.

But, on the other fluffy foot, it's not always the BEST idea to accept compromise as your "first step". I mean look just at the House of Lords Club… we took the first step to reform in 1911 and compromised and STILL the buffers hang on!

And you know, even STV isn't some magical solution. It's not ENOUGH.

What we have at the moment is a BIZARRE system, where our representatives talk to THEMSELVES to make decisions. One where the lobbyists and the vested interests are all hidden behind the scenes and all we get to see is a weekly pantomime at Prime Monster's Questions. What we NEED is a system where the MPs SHUT UP and listen to US.

We need a Parliament that is open to EVERYONE to ADDRESS. We should not have to sit quietly in the Visitors' Gallery like good little children lest someone cry "I spy strangers"! WE should be the ones making the speeches, for and against. We're the ones it matters to! Raise a petition, get enough support and you should be able to take it to Parliament and have them vote on it. We shouldn't be beholden to the Great and the Good – more often the Mediocre and the Malicious – to decide what laws are good for us. WE should be in CHARGE.

We can't just TINKER round the edges. We need to EXPLODE our politics – that's in a METAPHORICAL sense, dear MI5 reader, no ACTUAL explosions – so that we let in the daylight so that everyone can see and let in new ideas so that everything can change.