Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Bewildering Murder

Kids are killing each other in London, and it's getting to be a habit. They're shooting each other and using knives, and noone seems to be immune. And the more senseless they get, the more upset I'm feeling in response to them.

Over the weekend Robert Knox was killed. He was only 18, and had just finished shooting the new Harry Potter movie. By all accounts he was intelligent, talented and well brought up - a peacemaker. In Brown's Britain that's not in vogue, and he was stabbed to death whilst trying to protect his brother who'd been targeted in a vendetta over something as trivial as a mobile phone. Unimaginable. As a society we clearly failed Rob, we must also have failed his murderer for him to think that killing was an idea even worth having.

Is the solution to introduce harsher penalties for gun and knife possession? Maybe, I honestly don't know. There just seem to be more and more losses, and everyone seems powerless to stop them. My heart goes out to the family.

"To my big bro. As much as I used to piss you off and call you names, ask for lifts everywhere, I loved you so much and I know you didn't know it. I looked up to you so much ... I thought you were invincible."

That just made me cry.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Enough Eurovision Nonsense

This isn't so much of a new complaint as a final one. Terry Wogan is right - it's time to leave, at least for the UK. The nature of the Eurovision Song Contest has always been in flux I guess, but it's now evolved (devolved?) to be largely about voting patterns of migrant workers, and scoring regional (and by regional I mean eastern and south-eastern European) points off one another, regardless of the merits of the music. Andy Abraham is actually an extremely good singer, and you could quite easily argue that he was competing in the wrong competition last night (I think that's true), but his last-place finish was a joke. The voting for Russia was strategic (Terry kept remarking on the oil, and who's to say he was wrong?), the regional Balkan and Scandinavian voting didn't take the music into account at all,but at the end of the day despite the hideous mutual appreciation societies (Germany & Turkey anyone?), it was clear these audiences no longer listen to our stuff. We're part of a mainstream in the UK, Australasia, German and Japan, whose audiences either can't watch this show or don't vote for it. Ergo there's no further point in competing.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gay President Delanoë?

It's a great thought about the mainstreaming of diversity, isn't it? Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë has signalled he's likely to run for the leadership of the French Socialist Party at the end of the year - if he were to win, putting him on a collision course with the hugely unpopular Nicolas Sarkozy at the next presidential election in 2012. This would be routine but for one important factor: Delanoë is gay. It's not unknown for the leaders of major cities to be gay - Klaus Wowereit in Berlin and Mayor-elect Sam Adams in Portland, Oregon are current notable fellows, but none has so far made an attempt to make the transition to the national stage.

So far Delanoë has travelled on the same path which took Boris Johnson to the top in London - that in this day and age, if you offer a certain level of professionalism, straightforwardness and accountability voters are indifferent to your background. There are hints in the UK that that trend will successfully convert to national politics, but despite currently favourable opinion polls, it remains to be seen if the same is true in France. We can but hope - Royal ran a spectacularly unfocused campaign last year against a man widely known to be a monster (who proved to be as well). France needs more competent and likable alternatives.

Gordon Clearly Doesn't Get It

Gordon Brown brings the Labour government closer to inevitable defeat, almost by the day.

Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader, acknowledged there were "discordant voices" in the party but insisted: "The overwhelming majority of people in the Labour Party – and I speak to constituency chairs up and down the country in my capacity as deputy leader – are solidly behind Gordon Brown and what he stands for, which is a strong economy and fair society. He is the man with the experience to make sure that happens."

No, he isn't. He himself contributed to the current credit crunch by building an economy on the basis of cheap credit; he encouraged us to spend irresponsibly for a decade. That was always an artifice ready to collapse at a moment's notice under the right conditions, and they're now here. Even now he and his idiot counterpart in America are trying to get us to spend, and to get the banks to revert to form, but noone's having it. And I'd love someone to tell me where this fair society is. Under his and Blair's watch, British society has become more unequal than at any time in history. It's true that poverty has been tackled, but the top end has raced away disproportionately. And this whilst Blair and Brown have wantonly ran away from civil liberties as if they didn't matter. They do, and everyone knows it. From ID cards to 42 days, to the police abusing legitimate protest and the Border Service abusing asylum seekers, this country under Brown couldn't be more unfair.

This is not at its core about high fuel prices, high energy prices or high food prices. This is about an electorate so convinced the government isn't listening that it's even prepared to look at the party which didn't listen in the past. It's a real tragedy - I remember watching Brown on 'Question Time' before Blair snatched the top job from under his nose and he was all about progressive politics. But he's so wedded to New Labour triangulation that he's unable to see that the electorate aren't just trapped between two unpalatable choices, but they're so fed with him being the one to listen least, that they're leaving him and not coming back.

The other week he tried to buy off the electorate from the 10p tax debacle, but it made no difference to his popularity. What the electorate wants is honesty and backbone. He needs to do something, not just play for short term gain, but he's like a rabbit in headlights. Even just a commitment to walking away from ID cards would make a difference, but I bet he doesn't.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Liberty vs City Police

Epic Nose Guy, the teenage Anonymous protester stopped by the City of London Police at the most recent anti-'Church' of Scientology demonstration, was told today that he won't in fact face prosecution after all. His bravery, and the conduct of the Anonymous protesters in his support, has been an example for us all. And I find it delightful that Liberty isn't letting it lie - the behaviour of the City Police was incompetent and thuggish at best, corrupt at worst, and Liberty is going to investigate what really happened.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Better Transport? Maybe...

It's interesting at a time when Gordon Brown is so weak that new, environmentally friendly transportation policies are being pushed so hard. Given this government's failings on the environment and in transport, we can only hope that they listen in the time they have left.

On the one hand we have a cable car being recommended by the Stockholm Environment Institute, University College London and the University of Wuppertal, in place of the much-derided and unwanted Thamesmead Bridge. It's a novel and worthy idea, getting neatly around the 'if you build it they will come' maxim. But of course the drawback is an existing need for some road link between the Blackwall and Dartford tunnels. Would this cut the demand for road users crossing the Thames?

The Sustainable Development Commission, chaired by Sir Jonathon Porritt, said there were big question marks over the environmental and economic arguments underpinning the proposals for British airport expansion.

Yet the government and the disgraceful BAA have already dismissed its findings; hardly surprising considering the report questions the entire economic and environmental rationale for a third runway. Is the solution to this though to get the aviation industry to 'pay its part in meeting environmental costs'? I don't think so.

The Apprentice (UK) 4:9

On the male side of the UK's fourth series of 'The Apprentice', there are: Lee, Michael, Alex and Raef.

I'm going to go out on a limb and call series 4 for a woman. Just a hunch...

On a happier side Margaret is as awesome as ever, and if Nick Hewer purses his lips and breathes through his teeth any sharper, the front of his face might fall right off...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Russell T Davies Exits Doctor Who

It's been rumoured for some time, but Russell T Davies has now formally announced his departure as executive producer and lead writer of Doctor Who. Whilst many may be disappointed at the loss of the man who returned 'New Who' to our screens in 2005, I'd like to point out that his replacement in both roles is (again as rumoured) Steven Moffat. I couldn't be happier. Whilst RTD has been guilty of some shockingly poor writing ('Last of the Time Lords' anyone?) and some pretty weak story bibling ('Bad Wolf' anyone?), Moffat has won awards for 'The Empty Child', 'The Girl in the Fireplace' and the remarkable 'Blink'. He's also cut his teeth in charge of a series with the unexpectedly good 'Jekyll'.

It remains to be seen whether or not Davies will tie the elements of his four series together before his departure, to leave a new (or old) status quo for his successor. There are hints already that the 'Bad Wolf' meme will be revisited and tied up, and that even the part-closed subplots may be heading for a complete resolution. The length of time it's taken proves just how much RTD has borrowed from Chris Claremont and Joss Whedon. I can't wait not just to see what Moffat brings, but who his Doctor will be.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stem Cells are the Future!

The House of Commons has just voted down a cross-party attempt, led by arch Conservative Edward Leigh, to ban the use of hybrid human-animal embryos. Good. The Bush administration may have been highly successful in its anti-science polemic, but I'll be damned if it gets exported here.

Mr Leigh (Gainsborough) said the use of "admixed" embryos, using genetic material from both humans and animals, would cross an "entirely new ethical boundary," and turn the UK into a scientific "rogue state".

For those who don't know, Edward Leigh is the rabidly anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-contraception Tory former minister, famous for being sacked because of his opposition to the Maastricht Treaty (so anti-Europe too). And he's failed at blocking stem cell research, failed at blocking 'saviour siblings', in addition to his legion of other failures at codifying bigotry and backwardness in law. I'm tempted to start on Ruth Kelly too, but maybe that's just too easy...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The World of Work is Secular

In yet another case study of the resurgence of religion, and the way in which the state's pandering to it post-9/11 has caused upswings of bigotry instead of the opposite, read the case of Lilian Ladele. She's a civil registrar in Islington, north London, who is suing for the right to discriminate; yes, she's suing because she believes her religion has been legislated into enough of a position of privilege that she can get away with not marrying gay couples in civil partnerships. As Janine at Stroppyblog quite rightly points out, it's not clear whether or not gay couples in Islington can refuse to get married by her!

Of course the only correct outcome is to say 'do your (secular) job or get fired', and it's shocking to think that we are back in an age where people feel they can get away with opting out of aspects of their job which don't sit well with their religious beliefs. But Ladele's employer is covered by the Civil Partnership Act and the Sexual Orientation Regulations, neither of which ended up with civil opt-outs.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations have been criticised by some religious groups who say people will not be allowed to act according to faith.

Yes, I remember - I was there with my camera when the religious challenge to the secular law crashed and burned, but it wasn't without a tremendous fight, both inside and outside Parliament. But they did fail, and Ladele isn't being discriminated against - she's suing for the right to be a bigot. She says she can't go against what it says in the Bible, but a) it doesn't say she's not allowed to conduct gay weddings and b) it's that inconsistent argument again, isn't it? Bet she wears mixed fibres.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gay Hip Hop?

Are some famous 'singers' and industry luminaries in the most homophobic area of popular culture about to come out? It seems ludicrous doesn't it, given the level of hatred built into the most commonly promoted form of hip hop, but Terrance Dean, a former executive at MTV is about to publish a book about the thriving, largely underground gay hip hop subculture, now he's come out.

There are signs that things are changing. Several leading rap artists, including top seller Kanye West, have admitted that homophobia is rampant in the industry and they have spoken out against it.

Dean, however, hopes that hip hop will soon put its homophobia behind it. He says the music changed dramatically from hip hop's roots in nightclubs and parties to a celebration of urban violence and gang life as 'gangsta rap' became the norm. Homophobia grew up alongside that musical shift as most successful artists used songs that idolised guns, drugs and crime. 'We need to get hip hop back to those party roots and away from the gangsta rap culture,' he said.

I really wish that were true, except there seems to be such a vested interest in promoting and maintaining this 'gangsta' culture, with all its components (like violent homophobia) that I can't honestly see that changing any time soon. For the life of me I don't understand why that culture isn't changed, but it would have to either change by government pressure - which wouldn't work - or would have to come from the ground up, and it's only gay campaigners who are doing that so far.

Another London Murder

I'm starting to get really upset by the murders I'm hearing about these days. Jimmy Mizen by all accounts was a lovely young person, the likes of which only make this world a better place. And in trying to avoid violence he gets murdered. He was 16. His Mum said:

"It must be very painful to know that he has been so cruel and wicked. What can you say to them? People keep asking me why I am not angry but I say it was anger that killed my son.

"If I was angry I would be the same as this boy. There is too much anger in the world. He didn't have bad thoughts about people, he didn't judge people, he didn't judge anybody."

What a great woman.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not This Time, Roger

I think I'm going to have to accept that Roger Federer isn't going to win Wimbledon this year. It's either not his year, or he's beginning the decline from his peak which comes to every champion (unless they're Borg and retire at the top). Ah well at least he equalled Borg's record last year in perhaps his best match of his career, but my fingers are still crossed that he'll break Sampras' career grand slam record before he retires. It just won't be this year is all.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Margaret Mountford Fan Club

It's a dreadful programme - car crash TV at its zenith - but BBC1's version of 'The Apprentice' is really fun. Pure pantomime TV without the fake moralising of Jeremy Kyle, Trisha Goddard or Jerry Springer, as Anna Pickard points out it's become exceedingly popular for its bit players, Sugar's aides - the ascerbic Nick Hewer and in particular Margaret Mountford.

Margaret's put downs, her irritation, her common sense and intelligence (which is always on a different scale to the contestants, who are so stupid this year they seem almost scripted) indeed reflect what we are thinking. When we're fed up with Jenny believe me Margaret was more fed up with her weeks ago. When we're shocked at Michael's boardroom outburst, Margaret felt like she'd been spat on. The woman has class, style, attitude and smarts. The real star of the show and one of the biggest and best gay icons in years.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Tories Analysing Tories

It's ridiculous really. They have the self-reflective capacity of goats. But hey if you want to convince the readership that Boris Johnson, the new Mayor of London, is a safe pair of hands when it's blatantly not the case, why not trot out an old Tory to big him up? Lord Rees-Mogg, former Chairman of the BBC, says:

One can safely disregard the stark warnings of those who have never liked him. He poses no threat except to political rivals and to attractive young women of nubile age.

This is the analysis of the privileged, who can't comprehend the damage which someone like Johnson can do. He poses no threat? But his transport policy of getting rid of bendy buses in favour of a new generation of Routemasters will mean disadvantaging countless disabled people, and he has admitted utter ignorance of diversity, and tried to support the point of Section 28 whilst disagreeing with the policy itself. His writing as editor of the Spectator was littered with easy racism and casual homophobia, and Rees-Mogg's dismissal of Johnson's predatory nature with women attempts equally to make misogyny and sexism part of the normal way of things in London life once again. Sickening.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Word or Two About Brian Paddick

I voted for him in the London Mayoral Election. I don't regret my vote for a moment - one of the joys of the proportional system in London is that you can vote strategically and for your personal preference as well. Despite my reservations about him as a former commander in the Metropolitan Police, I felt it made sense for a former, avowedly socially liberal Met officer to offer changes to how the force was governed and run - that issue really being paramount for London (whether it knows it or not). But Paddick crashed and burned. Want to know why?

1) Losing your temper with supportive interviewers really doesn't help your cause.
2) Slating the incumbent during the campaign whilst confessing to nearly joining the Conservative Party suggests you're a closet Tory; being an out gay man partying with Ian McKellen and Elton John suggests you're a screaming queen. Way to split your own vote.
3) Vince Cable would have been a wiser choice after all. Being an existing London MP, with huge economic experience with Shell, a rapier wit and massive popularity, Cable would have been a serious challenger against Boris, let alone Ken. Paddick came across as humourless, arrogant and boring in a campaign dominated by huge, media-friendly personalities; Cable's Commons demolition job of Gordon Brown made him a nation-wide hit, and despite not running for the top Lib Dem job, he hasn't missed a beat. The Tories thought outside of the box in choosing their candidate and it worked - they now have someone in high office with national attention. Cable will never be Chancellor - the Lib Dems should have proven themselves as hungry for power.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

New Labour: The End

Poor old Geoff Hoon - a rabbit in headlights. Still, it's nothing compared to what's going to happen to New Labour in 2009 or 2010. No wonder Tony Blair was smiling the other night.

I have no doubts whatsoever that May 1st was the point at which New Labour died. I'm by no means a Tory supporter and think David Cameron's a moron, but it's going to be awfully painful nonetheless to watch Labour's slow death for the next two years.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ken v Gordon

So it looks highly likely that Ken Livingstone will lose the London Mayoralty. It proves without any doubt that people are stultifyingly stupid everywhere, not just America. I can't wait to see him lose his patience with the Labour Party and go on the attack against Gordon Brown - the only remaining Labour Party member who is even slightly electable against the Prime Minister currently destroying it.