Archive for the ‘opinion’ Category

The Myth Of Strong Government

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

hitleransmussoliniI keep hearing people on all sides saying what we need is “a strong and stable government. ” By strong we seem to mean unchallengeable: Supreme Power. In a democracy?

Coalition is NOT a failure of politics – it’s a success. We need people talking to each other, checking each other, stopping each other doing stupid things. It’s majority government that fails people by not representing the true breadth of views of the people.

Not that many days ago a few Conservatives and much of the right-wing press appeared to be calling for something like the equivalent of Acerbo Law (look it up). It was essentially a way to strengthen a party who didn’t quite have a majority – so that they do have a majority. Deeply undemocratic. And it resulted in Mussolini’s fascists gaining great power in the 1920s.

I’m finding myself getting extremely angry about the way all this has been conducted. The secrecy. The way politicians seem to have forgotten that they’re public servants. I’m angry with the LibDems for so easily and quickly teaming with the Conservatives. And I’m angry with Labour for being so unflexible and not engaging in discussions.

If we’re going to have coalition government, let’s have proper coalition government - where all the popular parties are represented.

I’d like to hope we’re moving away from majority government and into an era of coalitions. (PR will ensure this.) And if this is the case, then the parties have to grow up and accept that things need to be done differently. A proper democratic coalition would have Lab, Con, Lib around the table, getting proportional amount of seats in cabinet etc. I suspect it will take the British political culture a long time to work this out. But maybe in a decade things will be more civilised and more democratic.

So we have our ConDem government (probably). We can only hope that if Cameron tries to do anything seriously damaging to the country, then LibDems will vote against it. We can only hope that the LibDems have not committed themselves so deeply that there’s no way out. They can bring down this government if they want. Of course, the grim reality is that the LibDems have no money left for another election (unlike Labour and Conservative who can raise money from their rich friends). So they’re stuck there.

Last word to Mark Steel on twitter: “Now I know it’s not entirely your fault, but it’s only fair if all of you who voted LibDem to ‘Keep the Tories out’ lines up for a good slap.”

Some like it hot; not me

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

weathersymbolbbcI get laughed at for saying I don’t like hot weather. After all, don’t people pay a fortune to go and sit on sunny beaches far away each year?

And what we associate with hot weather (being on holiday, nothing to do, dressed sensibly, able to sleep whenever we want, air conditioned hotels) doesn’t match the reality of our day-to-day life.

So now that we’ve got horrible hot weather here, everyone complains. “It’s too hot”, “It’s stuffy, close, …uncomfortable!”

And I agree. I’d much prefer some coolness and some rain. See, we’re not really set up for dealing with the heat in Britain. The London tube is like the depths of Hell (temp >40 degrees); we don’t have shutters or siestas… We just battle on as if it was cold weather.

How big a house do you need?

Monday, May 4th, 2009

OK, let’s talk fantasy. Money no object, that sort of thing. You’d love a huge big house, a stately home, banquetting halls and enormous curved staircases, acres of beautiful well-tended gardens to wander in…

apethorpe hall

Apethorpe Hall

English Heritage is currently trying to sell Apethorpe Hall (there was a telly programme about it) – and they’re only asking for £4million. I say “only” because this is an utterly huge house, worth far far more than this.

Tempting, eh? (well, no of course not – who has that sort of money these days?) And of course the low price reflects the amount of renovation work necessary to make it inhabitable.

If you want to put in an offer, or simply look at more pictures, the estate agent is Smiths Gore.

I remember reading about Tony Banks (keyboard player in Genesis) and his 400 room house; can’t find any reference to this now, so maybe it was someone else. Anyway, my point remains. Four hundred rooms: what do you do with a house that size?

Sure you could hold enormous parties, and invite everyone you’d ever known to come and stay but, realistically, how often would you do that? Isn’t it the case that you’d hardly ever see most of the rooms? It would be a waste.

Aaron Spelling is infamous for having a gift wrapping room in his mansion.

The idea is genuinely appealling… the concept of having a music room, say, or a games room. A proper wine cellar. Or a specialised cinema. Or a crafts room where the soldering iron and glue and beads and sewing machine are always ready and available, never stashed in the loft or needing lifted off the top of the wardrobe. And wouldn’t it be convenient to have a room with a big available surface and cutters and ribbons and supplies of paper and tags and sellotape on dispenser rolls? A room to do a really good job of wrapping, instead of a rushed job with scissors on your knee and scraps of sticky tape stuck on the edge of the table.

And yet, there’s something a bit sterile and inhuman about this. Isn’t there something even more appealling about using the kitchen table? Moving the paint pots and kids’ homework aside to have dinner. A room where parent can cook while the drawings are being made. I knew some people who had a piano in the kitchen, a battered piano – but not unloved – with candlewax on it, paint, coffee rings and towel hooks screwed in the sides. And there was a tremendous atmosphere as someone did piano practise while Mum peeled potatoes and another child wrote in a jotter. Homely!

And I like going to the park on those sunny days where every bit of grass is filled with people: people having picnics, reading books, chatting, playing chess, sunbathing, doing Tai Chi… Wandering around your very own land would be an empty – and a bit spooky – experience. (Quite apart from wanting to spread the cost by sharing our park/garden spaces!)

This is why i like living in a city (and am not tempted by country life) : there’s people all around. It’s lively. You feel like part of something.

Why is sharing seen as such a Bad Thing? It seems odd to aspire to loneliness…