“It is easy to simply mock Gillian Duffy for answering her own question, but if you look at it more carefully the more bigoted the question comes. For she isn’t using ‘Eastern European’ to refer specifically to people from that part of Europe, rather she is using it as a catch-all term for foreigners of no distinct country, hence why she asks ‘where are they flocking from?’.”—Angry Mob: ‘You can’t talk about immigration’
“It seems I now have a ‘signature style’ when creating Excel spreadsheets. I used to have a ‘signature style’ when writing. How times change.”—From my Twitter - yes, you can follow me if you want, though I would probably advise against it, as I seem to have entered Grumpy Old Man territory at a slightly earlier age than I was expecting.
Johann Hari on why this election is so important and could, potentially, be fairly momentous whoever gets the keys to 10 Downing Street at the end of it. Also worth reading for his argument that, despite appearances, Britain is actually a country with a large liberal-left majority.
Blur: Fool’s Day - It’s probably not a great song, and it’s certainly not their best song by far, but this one-off (apparently) single by Blur for Record Store Day makes me feel all wistful. And stuff. Certainly more of an emotional reaction than anything Gorillaz have ever done.
“The wise elders would explain that inside the aircraft, passengers, who had only paid the price of a few books for the privilege, would impatiently and ungratefully shut their window blinds to the views, would sit in silence next to strangers while watching films about love and friendship - and would complain that the food in miniature plastic beakers before them was not quite as tasty as the sort they could prepare in their own kitchens.”—With air travel across Europe almost completely grounded due to the Icelandic volcano, the philosopher, writer and recent writer-in-residence at Heathrow airport (no, me neither) Alain de Botton imagines a world without aircraft. Which sounds like a preferable planet to me.
Boy2: “So what happens if there’s a draw?”
Me: “A draw? A draw in what?”
Boy2: “The election.”
Me: [lengthy and indisputeably fascinating exegesis on the mechanics of hung parliaments, forming alliances, horse-trading, coalition-building and the balance of power]
Pause while the assembled company digests these bons mots.
Boy2: I think they should do rock, paper, scissors.
Utterly hilarious. Comedian Robert Webb gets a regular Saturday column in the none-more-traditionally-Tory newspaper The Telegraph. Then, in only his third outing, he comes right out and tells the readers that (not exactly surprisingly) he has been and always will be a Labour voter. Cue howls of apoplectic and indignant upper middle-class Conservative rage in the comments. Brilliant.
Evelyn Evelyn: Love Will Tear Us Apart - Yes, it is a cover of the Joy Division classic. And yes, the main featured instrument is a ukulele. And yes, that is Amanda Palmer from Dresden Dolls on vocals (along with some other bloke). My brain hurts.
You’ll notice that Unreliably Witnessed appears to be turning into an election tumblr. Yes. Sorry about that. Normal service (fonts, obscure music by one-hit wonders, arty videos, sarcastic commentary) will probably be intermittent at best, but will resume in full after the Conservatives win a resounding victory Labour surprises everybody by winning a fourth term in government on Thursday 6 May * (here’s hoping).
* Yes, you’ve been warned: don’t expect unbiased views.
Volcanic ash grounds all flights into and out of the UK? A likely story. The truth is that the rest of the world are just starting the process of cutting us off, in advance of Cameron winning the election on 6 May.
“You have to give local communities a reason to exist that is about more than saying: ‘Hey, you could do this yourselves.’ That’s not empowering people, it’s passing the buck. The bottom line is, we can’t co-create a local dentist or a GP. We can’t DIY that.”—
Echoing what I wrote yesterday, another critique of David Cameron’s DIY “we’re all in this together” ideal. Presumably, if he gets into office on 6 May, Cameron will be jetting off for a well-earned break and leaving us to run the country ourselves.
Exactly. The Tory ‘big idea’ of smaller government, less bureaucracy and ‘handing power to the people’ certainly sounds good as a collection of manifesto headlines - good enough that I’m concerned voters might actually buy into it - but at its heart it’s all about cutbacks and yet more cutbacks while privatising everything in sight. Which is precisely what we got the last time they were in government, if anyone cares to remember back that far. Forgive me if I don’t see how this ‘modern’ Conservative Party is any different from the old variety.
The grand concept of small, non-interfering government also sounds appealing when writ large through sound-bite spin, and it echoes that very 21st century mistrust of authority that society is experiencing. But doesn’t it just mean that Parliament (which the jaded British public increasingly perceives as being an exclusive gentlemen’s club full of opportunistic, money-grabbing MPs) would have less to do? I’m sure the honourable members would be delighted, as it would leave them more time to devote to the important business of stacking up executive directorships and buying second houses on the side.
So here’s a crazy devil’s advocate thought for anyone taking the Tory grand plans seriously. If you want smaller government, why not take that next leap of the imagination and campaign for no government at all? Absolutely none. It could be the dawning of a new era in which we no longer need politicians, ministers of state, or even the Prime Minister. We could simply be dictated to by privatised former public services (because we’ll be paying for health, education and suchlike, remember) and global corporations. Sounds perfect. I love the smell of the free market in the morning. Now, where do I mark my cross?
Yes, forgive me, but I guess that I’m just a little old-fashioned. Big government - as long as it’s government doing what it’s paid to do and not merely luxuriating in the perks of the job - isn’t actually unappealing to me. A government is put there to (allegedly) serve the people, to protect us, make life better for us and, if they don’t do what they promise, to be held accountable by us. To do that, it needs some power. It shouldn’t be shrunk down and have crucial parts of it sold off to the highest bidder. And it shouldn’t be telling the average working person to foster some vague proud sense of ‘empowering entrepreneurial spirit’ in order to go out and fend for themselves in absolutely everything in life. That’s fine for David Cameron, George Osborne and their fellow ex-public schoolboys with country mansions, but some of us still need to rely on the state.
Roger Lathbury’s sense of regret at a couple of publicity-related choices he made - choices that would be fine with any other author, of course, but not with someone as reclusive as Salinger - is palpable throughout this fascinating article.