Saturday, 22 June 2013

Vote early, vote often; just don’t ask what you’re voting for.

New MPs seldom know what they are voting for and have their ignorance of parliamentary procedure played upon by the whips. This is about as much of a surprise as what bears get up to in the woods, having it articulated in the press though has set the cat squarely amongst the pigeons down Westminster way.

In an interview given to the Observer last weekend Tory MP Sarah Wollaston said ‘You are encouraged, it is the same in all parties, not to worry about what it is you are voting for because the whips are there to guide you.’ You might wonder why the whips don’t just be honest about it and bring a boarder collie with them to work, I couldn’t possible comment.

Ms Wollaston goes on to say that what frustrates her most about life at Westminster is that ‘in politics what’s really valued is absolute loyalty’, that and an ability never to say anything remotely controversial, something she, to her credit, is unable to do.

Sarah Woolaston, who worked as a GP before entering parliament, has said a great many things that have displeased her party in her short political career and as a result has frequently been ticked off for ‘damaging’ the re-election chances of her colleagues. What would otherwise be simple back bench naughtiness is elevated to something more important by the fact that Wollaston was selected through the ‘primaries’ that were all the rage in the run up to the 2010 election, since then they have gone out of fashion with David Cameron quietly dropping the whole idea.

She adds that candidates who have been through the ‘political sausage machine’ take to the odd half life of a loyal, sycophantic, backbencher ‘like fish to water’. Anyone with a brain or a soul though becomes increasingly frustrated, like Wollaston they come to realise there needs to be a change to the ‘narrative’ of how politics works. The public, she rightly notes, are tired of MPs who are cardboard cut-out lobby fodder asking planted questions and representing nobody but themselves.

Like Citizen Dave I too think primaries are a bad idea; but for very different reasons. He just wants to keep control of selection because that is the best way of ensuring the green benches are filled with obedient lobby robots.

Primaries don’t work, in the US they drag on interminably and that a figure like Sarah Wollaston emerged from one here is the exception rather than the rule. They tend to favour the products of the political ‘sausage machine’ because they are better at playing the games necessary to get on the ticket in the first place.

Dr Wollaston is quite right though to diagnose the damage being done to the heart of our democracy by an excess of complacency and an overactive sense of entitlement. We need more authenticity and less ambition from rank and file MPs; a greater willingness on their part to ask awkward questions and laugh in the face of the playground threats from the whips office.

In short we need a lot more of our MPs to be like the doughty Ms Wollaston.

Rainy days not going away

The UK could have to endure cold winters and wet summers for years to come, so said a conference of climate scientists who met at the Met Office this week. They concluded that we are slap bang in the middle of a prolonged period of Atlantic warming that is shifting the jet-stream and generally messing about with our already unpredictable weather.

Professor Stephen Belcher told the BBC on Tuesday there were ‘hints that we are coming out of the cycle’, but that ‘the loadings of the dice don’t seem to follow cycles.’ Talk about trying to have it both ways, with such a natural gift for making any outcome sound like the one he was looking for all along the good professor could have a career in politics.

The weather has a hugely powerful impact on the national mood, when the sun comes out we feel all is well with the world; when it rains we are sunk fathoms deep in gloom.

If you follow this to its, illogical, conclusion the coalition will be praying for the sun to have its hat on throughout 2015; meanwhile Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, like a post socialist Nurayev and Fonteyn, will be leading a corps de ballet of shadow cabinet members in a furious rain dance. Personally I just wish the forecasters didn’t sound so damned cheerful when they tell us it is going to rain.


Oops Mr President, at this week’s G8 summit Barack Obama kept referring to George Osborne as Geoffrey, suggesting that he thinks the UK’s economy is in the care of a forgotten 1980’s soul singer. It’s an easy mistake to make, I often get Boy George mixed up with Mr Bean. The trick is to remember that one is a hapless idiot with the communication skills of a brick, the other is a character played by Rowan Williams.

On the subject of the G8, David Cameron told the world’s press this week that the leaders present had got so much work done because they didn’t wear ties. Proof, if you ever needed it, that we are being led by a man who, like a Big Brother contestant, can’t pass a microphone without babbling whatever inane drivel he has rattling about in his head into it. Just to be certain he also wore his lucky pants throughout the summit; which explains why nobody wanted to stand next to him in the group photograph.

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