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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Watching Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll! With James Murphy

James Murphy, guest from episode 1, returns to the show for our second episode, in which we pay tribute to the true king of rock n roll, the recently departed but ever-present Chuck Berry, via the medium of a podcast commentary track for 1987 documentary and concert movie Hail! Hail! Rock N Roll!

Two music geeks are in hog heaven on this one, so relax and enjoy an outpouring of love for a singular talent. in particular, look out for:

  • Me rhapsodising about Chuck on vinyl
  • Logo nostalgia
  • Kieth's dirty looks inducing hysteria in your humble hosts
  • Digressions on Little Richard, Bruce Springsteen, and Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Us not knowing guest artists
  • The sheer oddness of the Julian Lennon apearence
  • Our stated certianly that this move 'could only be made in 1980 (actual filming year 1987)
  • Repeated rhaspodising about the film making
  • Lapses into silence as we absorb the majesty of the music


And so much more. Enjoy, and thanks as ever for your support.

Why Robocop is the greatest movie ever made.

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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Why 'a bad deal is worse than no deal' is meaningless nonsense

So 'a bad deal is worse than no deal' has gotten a lot of traction with people, who see it instinctively as both an obvious statement, and a good, strong opening negotiating stance. I totally understand why, too - it certainly feels logical, even obvious - kind of a 'duh' statement - and also, it lets our counterpoints in Europe know we've not going to sit still for a punishment beating, by golly - we're prepared to walk away from a bad deal.

If that's you, please give me just a few minutes to explain why, despite that surface appeal, it's not merely nonsense, but actively counterproductive, and possibly even dangerous, to British interests.

It's nonsense for two reasons. One, it doesn't define a 'bad deal'. As such, it's an empty phrase, into which the reader pours their own meaning. Political slogans are clever like this - a good political slogan (like, say, 'Take back control', one of the great slogans of the last 25 years) evoke incredibly strong feelings and resonance, by allowing us to project our hopes and/or fears straight on to them. We take words that mean nothing devoid of context (control of what? From whom?) and project our own hopes, fears, and feelings into them. It allows people with disparate, even competing values and views, to feel like a point of view is 'on their side'. By gesturing towards substance while actually being content free, it creates an illusion of unity, whilst also allowing the party doing the sloganeering to entirely sidestep actual substantial policy commitments or positions.

In this specific case, we also need to unpack what 'no deal' means. And what that means, to be clear, is moving over to WTO tariffs for the purposes of EU trading. I can tell you now without hyperbole, that would be somewhere between an economic body blow and a total catastrophe.Typical analysis suggests a permanent downsizing of the UK economy by 10%.

So, tell me what, exactly, a bad deal looks like, next to that?

Yeah, exactly.

And that leads us to the second reason it's nonsense: that's not going to happen. It's not going to happen because it would bury us economically, and it would also hurt the EU considerably.

The EU and UK are major trading partners. The relationship is not equal, of course - UK going to WTO tariffs will merely hurt the EU, whereas it'll cripple the UK - but it'll hurt them enough for them to need to strike a deal. Also, the UK is the world's 5th largest economy, and a hit like that will have global ramifications. 'No deal' is in literally nobodies economic interests.

This is why Corbyn's position is the only sensible one. When he says 'there will be a deal' this is what he means. and he's right. Whoever wins, it's in the EU's economic interests to work something out.

And everybody knows this. May seems to think this is some kind of poker game, where bluff and bluster can play a part in negotiating. and that terrifies me, because it's at best disingenuous and at worse dangerously incompetent. Poker relies on hidden information, and there isn't any hidden info here.  They know we need a deal, and we know they need one too.

There will be a deal, and it will be better than no deal.

Everyone knows this - all parties in the UK and in Europe. There will be haggling over details, but there will be a deal.

Corbyn knows this, and he's acting like a grown up. He tells you straight - there will be a deal, and it will include protection for EU and UK nationals living abroad, an end to freedom of movement, and tariff free access to the EU market.

This is how grownups in the real world actually negotiate. Here's what we want. Let's talk about how we get it.

And here's the kicker - May wants exactly the same things. And the EU knows it.

There's no hidden information. This isn't a poker game. It's a chess game.

And only one of the candidates for PM seems to know that.

May's 'tough on Europe' stance isn't merely pointless posturing - it's actually a liability, a danger to our interests. Based on these arguments (and the strength of the Labour Brexit team vs the Tories - Keir Starmer Vs. Boris Johnson, for heaven's sake) it's very clear to me that only Labour are in a position to negotiate a Brexit that will actually deliver for the people of the UK, as opposed to our richest citizens.

Don't send a poker player to a chess match.

You deserve better.

Vote for better.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

5 practical ways to help beat the Tories on June 8th (and 1 hint for staying sane)

We're coming down to it now, thankfully. Only one week of campaigning to go, then it's x in the box and retire for the exit poll and count. We are nearly there. Enjoy that moment, seriously. Savour the relief that is to come.

Done it? Good.

Now, dig in.

There's a bunch of polls out there, and at least one polling group is going to be looking very red faced come the day itself. No, I don't know which one, and I don't much care right now. Here are the only two things that should matter from a progressive position right now;

  • Labour are still gaining on the Tories
  • Labour are still behind

And what that means is, it's time for all hands on deck. I now believe, for the first time this entire campaign, that the Tories are actually beatable. If you're feeling that too, and you are wondering how you can best spend your time between now and then to help make that happen, here's five practical steps you can take, this week, to make a difference.

NOTE: Yes, I am a member of the Labour party. None of this comes from the party, or talking points, nor does it in any way represent an official party line - not least because I will, under certain circumstances, be advocating voting for a party other than Labour. I am proud to be a member of the Labour party, but I am, at core, anti-Tory first and foremost. The following reflects that approach.

  1. Vote tactically.

    I know, not too sexy. But this is hugely important, and the single simplest mistake I see people making when they're newly fired up by politics. If you're all fired up by JC, that's awesome - BUT - look first at where you live, and find out who can actually beat the Tory candidate. Yeah, that might mean voting Lib Dem, or even Green, when you don't want to. Suck it up and do it anyway. I've always had misgivings about the Lib Dems, and I will never forgive them for sacrificing economic sanity to prop up a Tory government. But I would still vote Lib Dem this time in  Lib Dem/Tory marginal. I'd have to. Every seat that can be denied the Tories is vital. Protest votes guarantee irrelevance. Don't fall into that trap. Use your vote intelligently to do some damage.

    Finding out who is best placed to do that damage is dead easy - go here - - chuck in your postcode, and look at who won, and who came second. If someone other than a Tory won, that's the party to vote for. If the Tory won, look at number two. That's your party to vote for.* Simple as that, and utterly vital. If every anti-Tory voter did this, the Tories would lose. So do it, then tell all your anti Tory friends locally to do the same. Explain why. Good luck.

    *one exception - never, ever vote UKIP. If they are number 2, look at number 3. Obviously.
  2. Campaign tactically

    Following on from the above, use this knowledge to campaign. Find out where that party is based locally. Phone them up. Ask how you can help. They'll bite your bloody hand off. You can leaflet, you can phone poll, you can canvas - there's a ton of jobs out there, they all need doing yesterday, and you'll get to feel like you really got stuck in. You do not have to join the party in order to help. And this is JUST as important where there's a non-Tory incumbent as where there' a Tory you're trying to beat. Seats saved matter as much as seats won. Even if your margin looks healthy, get stuck in. This is a crucial election, and if the polls are close to right, a deeply volatile electorate. Take nothing for granted, either way.

    And if you really, really care about a specific party that can't win where you live, by all means make a financial donation to their national campaign, knowing they'll spend it where it's most needed and where they can win. Again, they'll bite your bloody hands off - the Tories are collecting 10 times as much per donation as Labour - because the big money badly wants a Tory victory.

    And if you're Labour and passionate about helping them campaign, you can find your nearest marginal (as well as locate campaigning events and materials) here:

  3. Talk to your (grand)parents

    Older people vote. They vote in record numbers and the overwhelming majority vote Tory. So why should you talk to them?

    Because the Tories have taken them for granted, and with the dementia tax, the Tories are taking the piss. So talk to them about it. Explain how it's going to gut their inheritance - money they have earned and paid taxes on already over a lifetime - in order to fund more tax breaks for the well off. Tell them the truth - the Tories are going to do this and Labour are not.

    You may not win them over. But you may. And you may make them think twice. And they should. They know this isn't right. Remind them that it can only happen if people - people like them - vote for it.
  4. Talk to your kids

    You know those polls I mentioned earlier? Want to know the difference between Labour being 3 points behind and 12 points? It's how likely the pollsters think it is that the youth vote will turn up. Really. That's it. If this is even going to be close, the youth vote has to turn up in far greater numbers than they ever have in previous elections.

    They are telling the pollsters they will. And I'm seeing a lot of energy. But still; talk to your kids. Talk to any teenagers you know who are registered to vote for the first time. Tell them about this. Tell them that they really can/will/must make a difference, this time.

    Then tell them to go and badger their friends and become a politics bore for a week.

    It matters. It's actually make or break for the result.

    Have the conversation.
  5. Push back - hard - on the 'strong leader' line
    This is key, because while Corbyn has gained ground, May has what is from my perspective an entirely unearned poll lead on leadership. Why does that matter? Because the only opinion poll that correctly picked the result in 2015 - God ,was it really only 2 years ago? -  including the margin of victory - was the one that asked 'who do you want to be prime minister?' Cameron never lost that poll, and he got the result on the day. May is currently in the same place. BUT the difference is these figures are still moving. The more people see May, the less they like her - the more people see Corbyn, the more they like him. But with seven days to go, there's still a gap for Corbyn to close, and it's crucial.

    And May is weak. She called an election that wasn't needed, and has run down a huge poll lead whilst spouting meaningless platitudes and threats. She's destroying her credibility as a leader, and as a negotiator of any kind, tough or otherwise. Don't let her get away with it. Remind people how weak this campaign has exposed her as being, and remind them too of the strength of Corbyn - a leader with a long track record of standing up to powerful vested interests in order to represent his electorate.

    Corbyn consistently shows up, while May increasingly ducks out - first from the leaders debate, now from Women's Hour, for crying out loud.  That's cowardice. Call it out. My preferred hashtag for this is #runningscared - but whatever works for you.
  6. Employ shameless self careYou're no good to anyone if you burn out. Don't burn out. Do what you gotta do. Win, lose, or draw, the fight doesn't end on the 8th. It begins. This is a sprint, these last few days - but the wider struggle is a marathon. Get and stay fit and healthy, and take care of yourselves.

Me, I'm heading off to a 3 day music festival on 9th, and my plan is to do it with no wifi at all. Reconnect with metal, the wellspring of life and joy. That'll be my self care, my recharge.

Don't forget yours.

Good luck. Fight.

Talk soon.