The Tories very deliberately pitch themselves as the thinking voter’s party. The party of the head, not the heart. So why is it that many indicators suggest that those who are proactively engaging in the democratic process – with their heads, not their hearts – lean left?
One week on from the riots and vandalism which turned London on its head, and figures from across the political spectrum are scrambling to offer their explanations for the disruptions. Miliband & Cameron are busy drawing battle lines in the political tussle for public favour post-riots; meanwhile the Police are continuing to plough resources into the effort to bring those who looted to justice. It can’t be easy: Cameron’s untimely and ill-conceived criticism of the police – who have suffered the recent loss of not one but two commissioners and who are operating in the shadow of bad press from previous protest responses as well as impending cuts – has distracted the upper echelons from the task at hand.
It is all too predictable, as is the response across the media and from the public. The nation is full of opinions: was it the fault of the bankers, the welfare state, the parents, racial tension? It’s none of those according to David Starkey whose outrageous appearance on Newsnight left a very clear impression of his opinion: it is that most contagious of afflictions, blackness, which is to blame! Read about the interview here or here.
As a long time lover of hiphop music and urban culture I stand as one among hundreds of thousands of arguments against Starkey’s rant. Not that it matters – the concept is so fundamentally perverse that his opinions can safely be dismissed long before we reach for counter-examples. To fail to engage is dangerous however – the fact of the matter is that David Starkey is not alone in his stance and his poisonous words, whilst offensive to the enlightened majority, will resonate with a significant minority across the UK. So, props to Owen Jones for putting up a fight…
I can’t even begin to fathom how such an ill informed idiot ends up being given a platform for such a tirade on national television. I just hope the BBC were blissfully unaware of his unhinged bigotry when they set the cameras rolling.
I’m a serial tenant. There’s nothing wrong with renting. On the whole it’s a worry-free life. If the washing machine breaks, I call my landlords and they are good people so they get it fixed up as soon as they can. I rent privately so my exposure to dreaded estate agents is (mercifully) low. I’m also free to move as frequently as my contract permits, which is flexibility I appreciate. However I get fed up with the limitations. It’s hard to have real pride in a place which is never really your own. And when I want to drill a hole in the wall I want to pick up a drill, not write a carefully worded email (with illustrations) to my landlord. I wouldn’t mind those tens of thousands of pounds sitting in my name in one of the most consistent investment markets either. Instead I give them to somebody else to make money for them.
And so it is that every six months or so I go through the optimistic but ultimately heartbreaking process of looking for a place of my own, with the eventual realisation that between arrangement fees, stamp duty, deposit, valuations and the rest, I just can’t afford to buy. Pretty much the only people I know who can have parental assistance which I would prefer to get by without even if the option existed.
Around a month ago, with a failed attempt to move due to inflated rental rates behind me, I embarked on this process once again. After a few days of enthusiastic chats with mortgage brokers I drew the sickening conclusion that I could only stretch to buying a house at this stage if I didn’t live in it. That is to say most brokers would offer me a buy-to-let mortgage with a better rate, lower tax, and higher LTV than an equivalent owner-occupier mortgage.
I am being priced out of the rental market and the government are doing their best to make sure that I can’t take that wild leap onto the property ladder by giving buy-to-let landlords a tax break.
I am struggling to see the motivation for such a move. Perhaps some genius saw an illustration of the current rental market and quizzically pondered “how can we relieve the burden on our strained rental market?” Having presumably been employed for his/her encyclopedic knowledge of economics and ability to think outside the box, supply and demand principles must have come to mind. And as supply typically comes before demand, in the phrase if not alphabetically, our hero rushed to the conclusion that we must get more individuals investing in properties they intend to let. And as such, eyes straining from the glare of the light bulb above his head, Johnny Treasury drafted a range of incentives to encourage those potential buy-to-let homeowners in search of additional income through extended borrowing against the incomes of their future tenants.
I could ramble on for hours. And no, I’m not qualified to. Adam Smith I am not. But I do have to get to the bank before I miss my landlord’s next mortgage payment.
Central London was buzzing today as thousands of protesters came together at ‘the wave’ climate change demonstration. I weaved amongst the crowds of experienced rally veterans, families, charities and students with my camera in hand trying to avoid the rain and capture the mood.
Whilst marching with the London Youth Labour group we were joined by Ed Miliband and Lord Mandelson, who showed some grit, spending over an hour surrounded by hundreds of individuals eager to impress upon these very politicians just what we expect from them at the upcoming Copenhagen climate talks.
Try stomaching this article from the BBC
Find your answers to questions about the man here
“Ya know, I don’t think you Brits understand that when the last blood of dinosaurs is drained from the Middle East, we will bomb the fuck out of you in the competition for the last drop.
As for Bush getting elected, it’s the same as Hitler. Bush represents most Americans, or at least a slim majority. But it’s a mean majority and we can expect a Reichstadt fire sometime during the next 10 years. Bush may be gone, Kerry may get elected, but we’ve got an oil habit kiddo, and a lust for empire and you will be roadkill if you get in the road.”
This story about Chevron is just outrageous. Even in context the “little countries” quote is just crazy. It’s a shame a man in Obama’s position can’t take more of a stand on these issues than allowing a spokesperson to reiterate a vanilla statement. I guess once he’s done campaigning he will be able to take up causes more actively, but only if his presidential campaign is unsuccessful – one has to worry that if he wins, running the mess that is America will take up 110% of his time… We need more good people in positions of power.
7pm, Room 8, Lambeth Town Hall
Talk by David Fleming – Energy and Anarchy “The market is not the solution; it is part of the problem”. David proposes an alternative.
Leo Tolstoy drew comparisons with religion, christianity in particular.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon described the power of small local groups and self-organization.
Matthew Arnold wrote “Culture and Anarchy”, and argued for state administered education, suggesting strong education and cultural awareness will lead individuals to good instinctive choices.
Colin Ward was editor of British anarchist newspaper Freedom from 1947 to 1960, and the founder and editor of the monthly libertarian journal Anarchy from 1961 to 1970. He recognised that people will naturally organise themselves.
This propensity to ‘naturally organise’ ourselves can be observed throughout history. The 1956 Hungarian uprising was funded by buckets in the streets into which people put money towards their greater good. Hannah Arendt, often intrigued by the mechanisms of revolution, wrote of community self organisation in the context of the 1956 revolution.
“Organisation is nothing more than the method we choose to get food on the table”
Forms of Organisation
- Command and Control: Authoritarian
- The Market: ‘Fabricated’ rewards and incentives
- Presence (participation): individual involvement
We can judge these forms of organisation by these broad criteria:
- Incentives (Intrinsic & Extrinsic)
- Creative Potential
- Presence/Absence (of the individual)
Command & Control Market Presence Extrinsic: Fear; Power Extrinsic: Monetary Intrinsic: System objectives
Incentives, particularly the artificial extrinsic ones, don’t work.
- Disincentives – Punishment – lead to resentment towards the ‘powers that be’
- Hence impaired relationships
- Focus on payback
- Sterilisation – we take less risks
- Devalues the task
As an example of this last point, consider this case study: Two groups of volunteers were asked to solve a challenging puzzle. One group was paid, the other was not. A coffee break was announced, and the paid group immediately took the opportunity to get away from the task. The unpaid group however worked right through the break. The task was devalued by the artificial incentive.
A special screening and Q&A session with John Pilger at the Clapham Picturehouse cinema.
The War on Democracy was very thought provoking. Pilger covered huge political events from the past century in Latin America, where the USA has pursued it’s usual selfish goals at the expense of others.
During the questions and answers session somebody asked “what can we do to help?” To which J.P. had no truly satisfactory answer, instead gently hinting that once you kow enough about the situation to help, the how should become clear.
Lucy and I entered into a long discussion (over steak and chips), about how we could help. Lucy confessed to being inspired to pursue a Masters in South American history, an idea of hers from her Atlantic College days. I challenged this idea, playing my usual devils advocate, by suggesting that the completion of a Masters might not leave Lucy feeling any more empowered to help.
My recently sparked passion for local scale initiatives as a force for wider scale change – see topic green living for examples – led me to suggest that the real answer is at home. My argument was that greed and a desire for security (energy, food, etc.) is driven by the lack of these securities on a local scale. If I were able to fend for myself, it is likely that the burden of responsibility I heave upon the shoulders of the country’s leader would be significantly reduced. Thus it is the responsibility of each of us to become self sufficient and find a way of developing a sociable marketplace for goods and services which focuses on the now and not on our individual, and hence selfish, future interests.
Future interests to me suggests monetary interests. In a simple example, an individual with a surplus of beans could give them to a needy neighbour, and probably would if he couldn’t sell them to a needy neighbour. It is this concept which distills the meaning of the previous paragraph. Local scale economies have no need for complex and often unfair trade mechanisms, instead requiring simple local currencies, if any monetary markets at all.
I think any movement away from our reliance on global markets is positive in both an economical and political sense. As such I will be doing all I can to move towards local sustainability. I’ll plant my own crops, buy from local sources, build instead of buying at all, and investigate renewable and local energy sources. The idea of a local currency has even been considered in my area (Brixton). You’ll find mention of it here – http://www.transitiontownbrixton.org.
Lucy and I were sitting outside a little corner cafe (Cafe Gena, pictured right) in the eastern backstreets of Florence, Italy on 6th August. Elated at our purchase of a day-old copy of The Guardian, we were both eager to digest as much news as the flimsy international edition could feed us. Typical then, that we should settle upon a small news item on the front page to debate for hours upon end, leaving little time in the day of two busy tourists for all that news.
Katie Allen’s article of 5th August 2006 announced the intentions of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to publish details of boardroom salaries and bonuses on a new website, allowing employees to compare their below-inflation pay rises to some of the 25%-plus salary hikes experienced by their bosses. Lucy sparked our lunchtime conversation by asking how one could possibly justify the expansive difference between boardroom salaries, and the salary suffered by the bottom rung employees. Never one to shrink from such a challenge, I suggested the responsibilities of a manager were so much heavier than those placed upon the shoulders of the average employee, and the influence she could have on the fortunes of the company though poor performance so much more significant. Poor management can lead a store into the ground within weeks, but a poor till clerk is replaced without any real impact upon the branch performance.