A place of politics, culture (!!) & random subjects from Airstrip One. Noel hopes it will be of interest and/or use to all sorts of voyagers in cyberspace!

My Photo
Location: London, England, United Kingdom

The Voice Of 40-Something Cynical Optimism!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A lightbulb joke

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a light bulb? 10.

1. one to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed;

2. one to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed;

3. one to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb;

4. one to tell the nations of the world that they are either for changing the light bulb or for darkness;

5. one to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new light bulb;

6. one to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner "Light bulb change accomplished";

7. one administration insider to resign and write a book documenting in detail how Bush was literally "in the dark";

8. one to viciously smear #7;

9. one surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light bulb-changing policy all along;

10. and finally one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I enjoy freedom of speech- YOU abuse it!!

"Assassination is an extreme form of censorship."- George Bernard Shaw

There has been a lot of debate on Airstrip One at the moment about the whole issue of freedom of speech. Just before Xmas a Birmingham production of Gurpeet Bhatti's play "Behzti", set in a Sikh temple, was invaded by a group of militant Sikhs, who thought it insulted their religion. Then a couple of weeks ago the BBC showed a documentary of "Jerry Springer The Opera", which involved lots of swearingand Jesus being described as "a bit gay." 45,000 people complained about the programme before it was even shown, orchestrated by a group called Christian Voice. There has been talk of the programme makers being prosecuted under our Blasphemy laws (so along with having oil supplies, an unhealthy relationship with the Chimp in the White House and a ridiculous Royal Family, we do have something in common with Saudi Arabia). AFTER the programme there were a mere 200 complaints to the BBC and a lot more in support of it.

Perhaps I'm being a bit naive about things, but when I was young one of the things I was supposed to make me proud of living in Britain was that we had freedom of speech. Made us better than the Evil Empire to the east and all that....

I'm come back to this after 2 months. A lot has happened since I typed the stuff above, and it seems that our Government's plan to introduce an incitement to religious hatred act has bitten the dust more or less...until after the election. All I will say for the moment is that I have rejoined the National Secular Society & renewed my sub to their mag The Freethinker. If I wanted to live in a place dominated by religious values I'd f*** off and live in Northern Ireland...

Election time approaches- the first in a series

"All political parites die at last of swallowing their own lies".- James Arbuthnot, 1735.

Well, here on Airstrip One we seem to be about 4 or 5 months away from the next General Election. The nation is gripped. OK it isn't. In fact, we seem to be heading towards the ultimate national humiliation. That is, a lower turnout that the recent US Presidential Election.

That the British political system seems to be heading towards as legimitation crisis, to use a phrase of Jurgen Harbemas, has been evident for some time. Some stats will illuminate matters. From 1950 to 1970 the UK had 7 General Elections (50, 51, 55, 59, 64, 66, 70) in which the two main parties both got over 40% of the vote. The following 7 General Elections (Feb 74, Oct 74, 79 , 83, 87, 92, 97) didn't see this happen once. At least one of the major parties got less than 40% of the vote between 1974 & 1997 & in October 1974 (an election described at the time as "an unpopularity contest") both Labour & Conservative Parties saw their share of the vote fall below 40%.

Last time around in June 2001 (the "Foot and Mouth Election") the trend continued, Labour getting over 40% of the vote and the Tories getting around a third. However, this was the first election since I would guess 1929 ie the first General Election since adult universal suffrage, that the two main parties between them got less than half of the electorate (ie those eligible to vote) to actually vote for them.

So the main parties are in decline. However, they get the vast majority of seats in the House of Commons. This is largely due to our wonderful first past the post electoral system, which means that a party with less than half the votes can get a majority of the seats in the Commons. However, since 1997 we have had elections using various forms of PR for elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, London Assembly & European Parliament. In elections like those, "fringe" parties like the UK Independence Party, the Greens & Scottish Socialist Party have done extremely well. If PR was ever introduced to Westminster, that would be the end of the Con-Lab hegemony over Airstrip One. It might even end before PR is introduced. We shall see.

Next time...a rough guide to the main (and not so main parties) which will be standing (or not) on the big day (05/05/05?) & why it is difficult for yours truly to vote (let alone join up or campaign for) any of them.