Monthly Archives: July 2016

The State of UK politics.

The State of UK politics

I first became interested in politics when I was in my mid-teens. This was the mid to late 90s when Tony (or as my mum used to call him Tory) Blair was first about.  I missed being old enough to vote in the 1997 election by a few months but even at that relatively young age something struck me. Blair had very few detectable ideals. For him it wasn’t about saying what he though was right, it was about saying what he thought was popular.  From a purely _45740672_blair_pa_766pragmatic stand point it was a good strategy; the Tories were in disarray and had had plenty of floating voters up for grabs.  Blair for all his failings was a true showman and knew how to manipulate the electorate.  He went on the Frank Skinner show, courted the youth vote, and portrayed himself as the new face of British politics.  The man even had his own theme song.  For the UK in general however, this was the start of the great political march to the centre ground and I feel we are suffering as a result.  Politicians have become scared to have an opinion that has not gone through their media team, not been weighed and measured to make sure that it won’t lose them any votes.  As a result, we’ve wound up with a party in power and an opposition who, half the time, are little more than enablers.

We often hear the old chestnut of “I don’t vote, they’re all the same.”  This is, of course, the excuse of a person who can’t be bothered to read up and inform themselves about the options.  However, in their defence, it’s not a totally unreasonable assumption.  Outwardly, both main parties try to court the middle ground at every occasion; as a result both main parties, at a cursory glance, look  incredibly similar.

Most politicians don’t want to take a risk; they don’t wa
nt to sound like they have ‘extreme’ views. A good example of this came a few years back during the public sector strike.  Two of the main reasons for the strike were pension contributions and retirement age.  George Osborne had been on Radio 4 and said outright that the government would not negotiate on either of these points. Just a few days later, Ed Miliband was asked about his thoughts on the strike.  Now, I wouldn’t have thought that it was unreasonable for the leader of the opposition to back up the people on strike and, dare I say, oppose the government.  Had he been properly informed, he had a sound bite offered to him on a plate. “The government are forcing the strike, they are lying when they say they’ll negotiate.” Instead we got: “Striking is wrong when negotiation is still taking place.” Why did he say that? Because he was terrified to back up the unions in case someone called him a socialist.  Even though he was the leader of a supposedly social party, a party founded by socialists. A party who had enacted some the United Kingdome’s greatest social reforms through socialism. It didn’t work out too well for him; he lost the election. Brown before him, who had a similar attitude, lost the election.  Blair’s tactics in ’97 were great because the Tory party was a mess. In 2010 and 2015, like them or not, the Tories were organised, polished and slick.

imgresFor years we have complained that the parties are too similar. For years we have complained that politics has become style over substance, that we expect politicians to lie.  Then enters Jeremy Corbyn, a man catapulted to leadership on the back of phenomenal grass roots support. A man with clearly distinctive politics, a man not scared to put his own ideals front and centre. What do we do as a country? We complain that he’s ‘hard left’, that he’s ‘pie in the sky’, that he, despite being elected, is unelectable.  His own MPs, who seem to lack the most basic respect for democracy, have fought tooth and nail to get him removed since he took post.  The media reports that his opponents say his economic plans are crazy; when 40 leading economists disagree, the media ignore this and focus on his lack of a tailored suit.  And of course, the electorate digest these bite-sized nuggets from the media and gobble them down without even noticing that the people on the next table have gone off-menu.  The battleground of politics should no longer be the press, it should no longer be Rupert Murdoch’s ‘sledgehammer’ predisposition, nor the poorly veiled bias of the BBC. It should be – and I acknowledge the irony of saying this on a blog – the internet. 97905329_BRISTOL_ENGLAND_-_MAY_14__Conservative_MP_Boris_Johnson_speaks_as_he_visits_Bristol_on_May-large_trans++KjggCdpvXjoraOzAlyzu1MOSRhbr0ZABex7Vh5dC_YU

If the Brexit debate taught us anything, it’s that the majority of politicians think the electorate are stupid and that the media can’t be trusted to call them out on their nonsense loud enough for people to hear.

Far be it from me to tell you how to vote, but for God’s sake understand what you are voting for. Take the time, become one of the informed electorate, not one of the sheep who believe whatever they see on the front page.  Maybe one day we’ll see more than just centre politics again. We’ll have to see where the Labour party goes in the next few months. I’d love to see a party with principles for a change (principles, that is, beyond trying to get elected). A party which says “Here’s what we think is right. Here’s why we think it. Here’s why we think it’s a good thing for you and why you should vote for us.” That what I’ve been seeing from Corbyn this past year; that’s one of the reasons I voted for him.





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H.P Lovecraft. Not a great writer, but a great story teller.

H.P Lovecraft. Not a great writer, but a great story teller.

This blog post is, for the most part, my opinion.  I don’t claim to hold any level of genuine qualification as a literary critic.  However I’m pig-headed enough that that doesn’t bother me too much. lovecraft-game

Back in the nineties, during my regrettably well-spent youth, I stumbled upon a couple of very interesting computer games for my old 486DX: Shadow of the Comet and Prisoner of Ice.  Both games were flawed in many ways; however, I loved the story and mythos behind them.  It was deep, chilling and somehow felt fundamentally wrong.  Both games had the same three words printed on the box artwork: Call of Cthulhu.

Now back in mid nineteen-nineties Britain, most of us didn’t have access to the internet, and our house was certainly no exception to that rule.  As a result, I couldn’t just open internet explorer and lookup what the hell Call of Cthulhu was.  So I played the games, had fun doing it and went about my business. One day I found myself in a used book shop. God knows, why because I was hardly a great reader in those days. But that aside, I saw a book on a rotary shelf titled Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, read the blurb and was very excited.  I bought it and that evening relaxed in bed and began reading. Bloody hell, it was hard work! I tried to persevere but gave up. A short while later, I tried the Mountains of Madness. The same result. I concluded that I simply lacked the reading skill or artistic temperament to appreciate, or indeed access, that text.

Years have passed and I’ve thought about Lovecraft many times over the two decades. I’ve seen other Lovecraft-inspired works, read books by many other authors and written a book myself.  A couple of weeks back, I decided to give old Howard Phillips Lovecraft another shot.  I can see why I had so much bloody trouble as a teen; his prose is not easy to read to say the least.  I started with his novella, A Shadow Over Innsmouth. At the start it reads like a report in the first person, very fact orientated, very clinical. Next came what I fully expected to be dialogue; however this soon revealed itself to be extended monologue with only the implication of a two-way conversation. At this point I couldn’t honestly say I was enjoying the book but it was only the first few pages.  I persevered and trudged on.

Consider the following. Try reading it out loud:

“It took no excessive sensitiveness to beauty to make me literally gasp at the strange, unearthly splendour of the alien, opulent phantasy that rested there on a purple velvet cushion.”

Hard work in my opinion (I believe the term is purple prose).  His writing is clunky, lacks flow and creates a barrier between the reader and the narrative.

H._P._Lovecraft,_June_1934I continued on as the rather drawn-out writing described the protagonist’s approach to town. I was feeling a little more engaged now, I could feel a little menace coming from the page. I still had little idea who the protagonist was, but I did know that he liked architecture. I knew precious little else about him.  A few pages later, we were back into monologue, paragraph after paragraph of the stuff.  This time written in accent:

“’Twas then Obed got the ol’ branch railrud put through. Some Kingsport fishermen heerd abaout the ketch an’ come up in sloops, but they was all lost. Nobody never see ’em agin.”

I understand the need for accent writing and have used it myself.  However, what the reader is looking at are not real words, and the brain is not used to interpreting them. Reading accented text is perfectly palatable in small portions, but when one is reading extended monologue it can be a little overwhelming. The character of Joseph in Wuthering Heights is a classic example – the lexical equivalent of trudging through a deep peat bog on a Yorkshire moor.

In fairness I’d lay good money that on a personal level, my dyslexia doesn’t help in this.

I called it a night at this point and tried again with a fresher mind the following night.

The story moved away from monologue and gcthulhuFB1athered pace. The writing was still clunky as the protagonist described what he saw around town, but the feeling of menace grew a little stronger. This is when my reading experience changed; I was finally enjoying it, I felt the menace of the town, I felt the tension in the air. Story-wise I was ‘in’.  Stephen King’s writing for example, tends to draw you in.  In fact, not just draw you in but draw you in, drag you into the cellar and then lock all the doors with you inside. Lovecraft’s writing draws the curtains then locks, bolts and chains the door to keep you out.  Even once you’re in, you sometimes feel like an unwelcome guest.  But inside is good.

Once you’re past the clunky writing, purple prose and extended monologue you experience the true genius of Lovecraft’s writing.  He created a world and mythos like no other – truly horrendous creatures, a constant feeling of oppression and a menagerie of monsters.  Somehow, through all the undeveloped characters, long monologues and adjective-heavy prose he plants a seed in your mind.  One that quickly grows, showing you ancient creatures’ dark intent and pure evil. He may not have been a great writer but he was a great story teller.