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If you live in or around London, or work there, or know anyone who does, your social media will have been drenched in anger at the Tube strike this morning, along with the occasional voice popping up with: “I was saying Boo-urns.”

Anyway, many people’s first instinct is to blame the strikers (even if they couched in terms of support for nurses / teachers / anyone except tube drivers), so I thought I’d explain why mine isn’t.

To begin, I must declare an interest: I intend to use the Night Tube. I’d rather the person in control of the metal drunk-ferry burrowing its way through subterranean London at peak suicide time felt well-rested and recompensed and able to concentrate on getting me home without being dead.

They’re actually fighting for your pay and conditions

Wait, what? No they’re not? I don’t earn that much.

In a country where more people are employed with better pay and conditions it puts EVERYONE in a better position to negotiate with their employer. The problem with this strike is that rail unions are pretty much the only ones that have been doing their job for the last 30 years.

When unions don’t fight for pay and conditions, they are pushed down, because there are lots of people wanting them pushed down. And if they’re pushed down in one industry, they will be pushed down in another.

Don’t believe me?

The main argument you’ll hear against the Tube drivers is that other people in other industries don’t earn that much. Because their pay hasn’t risen in line with inflation since the seventies, whereas the RMT has made sure Tube drivers’ has.

The low pay of others is used as a stick to lower the pay of everyone else.

However, in a world where everyone has decent pay and conditions is much more difficult for employers to make people accept painful changes in working conditions because there are lots of other places they can go. Well-paid work that offers good benefits is contagious, it gives you options. It gives you the chance to say “Sod this. I’m going to be a train driver.”

It’s part of the fight for a better world

I know, I know, it’s terribly unfashionable to want a better world nowadays, and even more gross and decrepit to actually try and do something about it. I’m old. Deal with it.

Which is what many people are telling the strikers:

tubestrike

If the real world sucks, we shouldn’t get over it. We should fight it. That’s what you do when something sucks. That’s what you’re meant to do.

That’s what being a decent human being is. Not getting over the things that suck, and not getting over the things that suck for other people as well as for yourself.

I’m tired of the hideously unproductive people of Nepal coming whining to me every time one of their mountains falls on their heads. Welcome to life in the Himalayas. It sucks. Get over it.

If we get over it every time something sucks then things will just continue to suck and then begin to suck more and more as the people who are making it suck see us getting over it every time something sucks.

(Incidentally, that “good luck” comment pretty much shows why, if every union fought like this everyone would get paid more. Because you wouldn’t need luck. Those jobs would be available.)

What is a strike?

I appreciate that none of this will convince people who fundamentally think that certain people shouldn’t be entitled to be consulted when their working hours are changed drastically overnight.

But it is an important part of a free market that when someone wants to renegotiate a contract, by, say, making you now essentially nocturnal for a significant part of your life, that you should have a say in whether that’s an acceptable amendment to your contract.

Because that’s the way contracts work.

You don’t get to change them and at the same time expect the other party to continue working as they did before. It’s a process of negotiation, and as a working person one of your negotiating tools is your right not to work.

It’s your key tool. Your right to say, “Nope, I’m not doing that. It doesn’t pay enough, it’s too dangerous, it will ruin my home life. I’m not doing that for that.”

And if an employer can come up with an offer you are willing to work for, then that’s just dandy.

It’s fundamental to human dignity, to the idea of control over your own life to be able to decide what is worth you doing for what money. To enter into a contract as an equal.

“Would you do this for this much?”

“Yep!”

Or:

“Would you do this for this much?”

“Nope!”

That’s the way free markets are meant to work. It’s the way life is meant to work. It’s about having the ability to dispense with the one asset you really have – your time on this planet – in the way you decide will be most beneficial for you and your family.

And every assault on pay, or conditions, for anyone in any industry narrows the options for us all. It means there are fewer jobs that you would find worth doing for what they pay, you have fewer options.

That’s why I support today’s strike, and that’s why I support every strike.

The good thing about UKIP is they’ll talk about the things no other politician will talk about. They’re not afraid to discuss the elephant in the room. Finally, they’ve got the politicians talking about immigration.

In 2002, when David Blunkett called for the Sangatte refugee camp to be closed because of people trying to cross the Channel, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2003, when David Blunkett said our school were being “swamped” with immigrants, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2004, when Jack Straw said he felt uncomfortable when recent immigrants wore the veil to constituency surgeries, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2005, when the Conservative Party had a general election poster that said “It’s not racist to want a cap on immigration”, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2006, when John Reid said the immigration service was not “fit for purpose” we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2008, when Jacqui Smith said that immigrants would have to pass a citizenship test before being allowed to stay, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2009, when Gordon Brown promised “British jobs for British people” we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2010, when David Cameron campaigned on the basis of an upper limit to immigration, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
From 2011 to 2015, when Nigel Farage appeared on Question Time 13 times, we just weren’t talking about immigration.

Now – FINALLY – we can at last start talking about immigration. Thanks, UKIP…

Hey, everyone! Remember back in the old days, when I used to write a #bbcqt fact sheet for UsVsTh3m every week?

Well, unfortunately, UsVsTh3m is dead, and its corpse is currently passing painfully through the digestive tracts of vultures and parasites, so that can’t happen any more.

Unless…

Unless…

I just do one of my own! So here it is. Your new and improved Question Time Fact Sheet. Keep it to hand as the horror begins…

Cross Mary Creagh

Cross Mary Creagh

Mary Creagh (Lab, MP for Wakefield, Shadow Secretary for International Development)

  • She’s a Labour leadership candidate supported by an MP with perhaps the best name in the whole House of Commons, Thangam Debbonaire. (Source)
  • From 2007-9 she was Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe. (Source)
  • As a councillor she started the longest-ever investigation by the Standards Board. A tribunal called her an “inventive witness, lacking in balanced judgement and one who was prepared to make assumptions about the honesty and integrity of others without any proper basis.” (Source)
  • Her children are called Clement and Beatrice, either after Clement Attlee and Beatrice Webb, or Clement Freud and Princess Beatrice. We’ll just never know. (Source)
  • Is a keen cyclist. (Source)

In summary: Unknown quantity, who perhaps deserves to remain such.

What to shout at the telly: “I preferred Ronnie and Reggie,” “velocipede wanker,” “Mary Crain’t, more like.”

Completely Norman Lamb

Completely Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb (Lib Dem, MP for North Norfolk)

  • Is a candidate for the Lib Dem leaderhsip, who wants to legalise cannabis. (Source)
  • Worked as a parliamentary researcher for Greville Janner in the early 1980s. Yes, THAT Greville Janner… (Source)
  • In January 2015 announced £497,000 from the Coatal Communities Fund for his constituency. 80% of the grants from the fund set up by Danny Alexander went to Tory or Lib Dem constituencies. (Source)
  • Was PPS to both Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg. (Source)
  • He invested £10,000 in the career of Tinchy Strider and claimed he and his wife were “living the grime scene.” (Source)

In summary: Lembit’s sensible twin, cut from his shoulder at birth.

What to shout at the telly: “Fucking quisling Lib Dem bastard,” “Smiling herb-goon,” “North Norfolk Digiturd.”

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It’s only Justine Bleedin’ Greening

Justine Greening (Con, MP for Putney, Secretary of State for International Development)

  • Was an accountant with PriceWaterhouse Cooper, Glaxo SmithKline and Centrica before entering parliament. (Source)
  • Was found to be the MP who is 9th best value-for-money according to the unbiased bods at the Adam Smith Institute in 2009. In 2012. The Adam Smith Institute was later paid £37 million by Greening’s department, the DfID to “promote the free market in the third world”. Coincidentally. (Source)
  • Failed to vote on Syria because she was too busy chatting to notice the division bell, Or did she? (Source: Wikipedia)
  • Is currently the boss of Grant Shapps, who has been alleged to be Westminster-based Wikipedia editor Contribsx. Contribsx is the editor who added the information above about Greening missing a vote because she was too busy chatting to Wikipedia. (Source)
  • Opposes a third runway at Heathrow. (Source)

In summary: The daughter of whom Rick Wakeman is most proud.

What to shout at the telly: “Broken Toby jug, full to the brim with mouse corpses,” “Lispy, brittle-eyed gauleiter,” “Scowl owl.”

kirbynormal (1)

Jill Kirby (writer, Conservative blogger)

  • She was Director of the Centre for Policy Studies 2007-2011 (Source)
  • She blogs for Conservative Home (Source)
  • Wants to “introduce proper welfare sanctions to end the incentives to fecklessness” (Source)
  • Doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page (Citation Needed)

In summary: Like an Eastern European ersatz Melanie Phillips for when their factories couldn’t shurn out enough actual Melanie Phillipses.

What to shout at the telly: “Venomous hell twig,” “the creeping hand of death,” “jill Dando’s ghost.”

susie-boniface

Susie Boniface (journalist, Fleet Street Fox)

  • Gatecrashed Katie Price’s wedding to Alex Reid. (Source)
  • Won the London Press Club award for Blog Of The Year in 2013. (Source)
  • Was accused by Sarah Ditum of “hysterical misogyny.” (Source)
  • Until 2006 was married to a Sun journalist. (Source)

In summary: Human word-user.

What to shout at the telly: “At least someone’s still getting paid by The Mirror!” (Or maybe that will just be me…)

Bear Hug Card, (2014)

So, this is a thing i do now…

I’ve always loved woodcuts and linocuts. I love the mixture of the rustic and the elegant, where swooping curves can meet rough lines that feel like they’ve been hewn from the very stuff of the earth (because they have).

 

Felix Vallotton - Portrait Of An Old Man

Felix Vallotton – Portrait Of An Old Man

I love the huge slabs of light and dark, and the fact that it seems like an art with no messing about. It’s art which is trying to communicate in the most direct way possible, through the most primitive means we have, and yet the results can be unbearably delicate.

Dig Linocut (2012), Etsy

I love the fact that children can do it, that you can do it with a potato if you don’t have lino or wood or any cutting tools sharper than a kitchen knife. I love the fact that block printing is probably the first art form you’ll be introduced to after finger painting, and the tactile sensations of squashing ink on something, pressing it on paper, and then peeling the paper off remain as satisfying as they did when you were three.

Valentine Lino Print block, Mangle Prints (2013)

Valentine Lino Print block, Mangle Prints (2013)

So, because I love block printing, and because writing often means days of waiting for feedback on a script, and performing often means your days are pretty empty even when your evenings are full, at the end of last year I decided to try linocutting.

The initial kit of plastic cutters and a bit of lino was reasonably inexpensive, and the more I looked at linocuts, and the more I thought about them, the more I thought I could maybe do them. And that that wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do with any free time I had.

After Christmas (where I learned the importance of carving the letters and numbers backwards)…

Remember to cut your words and letter backwards, kids!

Remember to cut your words and numbers backwards, kids!

I eventually made some that I was happy with, and decided to pop them online to see if there was any response. There was.

Now, little more than six months later, I have lots of designs, my cards are selling online (at Linoceros Cards), and you’ll also find them in nine shops around the south-east. I get to spend slightly more time than I’d envisaged covered in ink and looking places to stick cards so that they can dry.

Catch Of The Day

What started as something to do to see if I could has become something that I’ve now got to decide if I want to devote more time and resources to. It’s still telling jokes, but it’s telling them in pictures, now, rather than words.

I Will Have Your Chips (2014)

Anyway, so if I’ve been a little quiet lately (and the infrequent blog updates suggest I have), it’s because I’ve been quietly wasting flooring material, and stabbing myself in the thumbs with tiny V-shaped knives.

And I love that now, too.

(If you’d like a voucher for some of my cards, you can get £5 free here.)

Yesterday, Sir Ian went to the UKIP Carnival. What he found may mean you never taunt racists in the same way again!

I’ve just read all 700 pages of Tony Blair’s autobiography, A Journey. It was quite a transformative experience for me, because I opened it convinced that he was amoral, venal and unprincipled, and one of the worst people we had ever had as Prime Minister, but I came out of it knowing that that’s untrue. He is, in fact, one of the worst people we’ve ever had as a person. He’s just awful.

Here, so that you have to spend none of the few hours you have on this fleeting rock reading it, are the top lessons you can learn from Tony Blair’s A Journey

25. Tony Blair hates democracy – He doesn’t even let you get past the introduction before he really feels that he has to be clear about how terrible democracy is. It really hinders leaders who are just trying to lead, you see.

The challenge of modern democracy is efficacy. Not accountability, transparency or whether it is honest or not, but whether it works to deliver effective change in times that need radical change.

That’s an elected leader saying it’s more important to get things done than to tell the people what you are going to get done, letting them know how it is done, that you don’t lie to them about it, or even that they have an opportunity to get rid of you if they don’t like what you are doing. You know, like in a democracy.

Fortunately, most governments have some sense of checks and balances to stop those who wield executive power abusing it. Unfortunately, Tony finds that really annoying:

Checks and balances are there for very good reasons in most constitutional democracies; but in the modern world they often lead not to consensus for change but to sclerosis or minimal change.

Well, surely he likes people voting, though, right? You know, like vesting more powers in the elected European Parliament, rather than in the not-directly-elected European Council.

So the notion of a steady evolution towards a reduced Council and an enhanced Parliament is based on a fundamental diversion from democratic accountability.

By making it more democratically accountable.

And this is just the Introduction.

24. Telling Lies To Get Elected Is Fine

I voted Labour in 1983. I didn’t really think a Labour victory was the best thing for the country, and I was a Labout candidate.

23. If You Can’t Play Sport (Say, Because You Only Have One Functioning Eye), You Will Be A Terrible Prime Minister.

It was, of course, a monumental risk as it always is when a political leader plays sport in public. No one expects you to be brilliant, but you can’t afford to be absolutely rubbish, otherwise you are plainly not fit to run a nation.

22. It’s Helpful If You Can Get The Right People To Die

Throughout the book, there’s a theme of people dying at times that prove convenient for Tony Blair. John Smith, Princess Diana, R0bin Cook, Mo Mowlam, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Not that I’m suggesting that he arranged their deaths, that would be ridiculous. After all, none of them were Iraqi civilians. But he certainly made use of them all.

However, the first example we get of this theme is the most Blair one. The murder of toddler James Bulger, which he describes like this:

[A]t the time, politically, there was a big impact on my standing, which rose still further.

Thank goodness for that murdered child!

21. Tony Blair May Be Schizophrenic

[O]thers would mutter about it being ‘a score draw’, or some such bull****.

Let’s examine what just happened. A man wrote a sentence, and then censored his own words.

Rather than choosing a diffferent word, or being confident that, as a grownup, he can use the words he wants in his own fucking book, he is using a word, then implying that it’s the sort of word he doesn’t think should be used. As if there’s someone else living inside his skull, crossing bits out as he writes them.

He’s  a man with strong enough convictions to use a word, but not strong enough ones to be seen using it.

20. If You Can Combine Satan With Sport, Do It

I was aware we were playing with Faust’s companion, but with him onside, it was just too easy to score.

19. The Irish Peace Process Required Diamond-Shaped Tables

When the DUP insisted on rectangular tables to indicate that they were sitting opposite enemies, and Sinn Fein wanted round tables to suggest that they were now all on side with each other, the situation was only resolved when someone found a diamond-shaped table.

The Irish peace process was also Blair’s finest hour. On reading the book it becaomes clear that only someone so completely free of principles, who has no attachment to values or tradition of any kind, could have steered the Northern Ireland peace process to a successful conclusion.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that – just as the Second World War demanded someone as racist, vicious, and batshit insane as Winston Churchill – the peace process could only have been guided by someone egotistical enough the be unable to empathise with all sides equally, and unprincipled enough to let nothing stand in their way.

Although you get the feeling that after 9/11, his answer would have been to bomb Ireland with depleted uranium until they took responsibility for the table situation.

18. Nelson Mandela was ‘fly as hell’

[N]ot because he’s a saint, because he isn’t. Or rather he is, but not in the sense that he can’t be fly as hell when the occasion demands. I bet Ghandi was the same.

I’ll take that bet.

17. George Orwell Lives

[I]ndecision is also decision. Inaction is also action.

16. Efficiency In Childbirth Is Achievable

There are times with that woman when I am in awe. She kept working until the last minute. Gave birth on time and to order. Got out that night. And she was forty-five. It was pretty impressive.

15. There’s Nothing You Can’t Legislate

[T]he world had changed and required a different system for enforcing good conduct in the absence of the pressure of tradition and family.

And that system is on-the-spot fines administered by policemen.

14. Anti-Social Behaviour Is Relative

When describing his attitude to law and order, Blair concentrates on the fact that one night he saw a man weeing in a doorway. When he asked him to stop, the man didn’t, and that – to Tony Blair – is symbolic of everything that was wrong with the world. By letting the door-splashers get away, we let the people who shit in hedgerows get away, the people who ejaculate into ornamental fountains get away, and that is the beginning of the end.

Blair believes that every small instance of anti-social behaviour should be immediately punishable by the police without having to go through the process of gathering and presenting evidence. Summary justice, administered against low-level offenders against common decency is the only way forward. Except in one instance,

When his own underage son is arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Leicester Square.

OK, he was drunk and shouldn’t have been, but this all seemed a little excessive – it’s not as if he was a proper criminal or anything.

13. He Doesn’t Care Who Thinks He’s Greedy

Before the famous picture of Blair and Brown together in the 2005 general election was taken with them both holding ice creams, Blair had to go and buy the ice creams. Kate Garvey told him not to get a flake because it would make him look greedy. He got a flake because Fuck That Noise.

12. He Was In Touch With The People

I should have realised that for your ordinary motorist, the rising cost of filling the car was a big, not an insignificant one (after all, the children’s nanny, Jackie, had been complaining about it for weeks.

11. Lying To The Media Doesn’t Count

It seems almost pathetic now when you look back on it. Because a wrong statement had been made to the media, they were able to turn it into a full-blown scandal.

That’s a ‘wrong statement’. Which is – somehow – different to a ‘lie’.

10. Decisions Made In The Heat Of The Moment Are Always Right

The emotional impact is replaced by a sentiment which, because it is more calm, seems more rational. But paradoxically it can be less rational, because the calm is not the product of a changed analysis, but of the effluxion of time.

Yes, it’s the moment when you forget your anger and fear that you start making stupid, irrational decisions because of the effluxion of time.

Which is news to those of us who thought that the effluxion of time was only responsible for the travails of Marty McFly.

9. Playing Into The Hands Of Terrorists Is Exactly What They Don’t Expect. And Therefore Exactly What You Should Do

It was, in a very real sense, a declaration of war. It was calculated to draw us into conflict.

Ha! That showed them! Wait, what?

8. There Are Different Ways Of Not Having WMDs

I shan’t quote this, because it goes on – and ON – but it turns out there are two ways you can not have WMDs. You can not have WMDs strategically – which is what our UN resolutions meant Saddam sould have done – or you can not have WMDs tactically – which is what he had actually done. The distinction is the difference between someone who is complying with a resolution by stopping WMD programmes and someone who is appearing to comply by stopping WMD programmes.

7. Fear Is Not The Same As Terror

And a little bit of fear about what America might do was no bad thing.

I’m sure we have a word for those who try to achieve their political ends by instilling fear – or ‘terror’ – in others. Now, what was it again…

6. War War Can’t Wait For Jaw Jaw

[T]hey had close on 250,000 troops in the region and they couldn’t simply wait until a diplomatic dance, which they had fair evidence for thinking would be interminable, was played out.

5. Protestors Are Hypocritical Bastards

When was there a single protest in any Western nation about such evil [the insurgency in Iraq]? Where was the moral indignation?

Stupid protestors, only protesting about the things their government was doing, rather than just milling around London in a state of permanent outrage.

4. Freedom Of Information Is A Terrible Idea

Blair often separates things he doesn’t like to think of being subsets of other things. So ‘party members’ don’t count in his mind as ‘voters’, and ‘journalists’ aren’t ‘people’. He doesn’t like the fact that the FOI Act is used by journalists and not people. And it’s not used to ‘bestow’ knowledge’ or to satisfy the ‘curious’. Instead “[i]t’s used as a weapon.”

Which, again, should be very separate things.

3. Tony Blair Likes A Good Shit

I am very typically British. I like to have time and comfort in the loo… I couldn’t live in a culture that doesn’t respect it.

2. Tony Blair Is A Typical Lad. Zoo Wouldn’t Have Folded On his Watch

As we sat down to dinner with the Queen, the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hit on a great line of banter.

Do fuck off.

1. My Marginalia Will Never Be Published

Whilst reading, I often fill the margins of my books up with notes, memoranda, and cross-references. In my mind these will be a treasure trove for whoever looks through my estate and decides they are so full of wisdom and learning that they should be published for all the world to read.

In reality, on reading them back, they consist of things like. “No,” “Twat,” “I refuse,” and “I bet he had a stiffy when he wrote that.”

If you don’t know them, I’m not telling you.

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