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(Full Disclosure: I write for The Revolution Will Be Televised so everything I say above should be taken with a pinch of whatever condiment you like because it airs on BBC3. Oh, and it won last year’s BAFTA for Best Comedy, while we’re talking about quality programming)

I don’t listen to Radio 3. I don’t enjoy the programming, it’s almost all repeats of music that has been around for hundreds of years, and I suspect with the amount of Wagner they play that everyone who does listen to it is probably a bit anti-semitic. Radio 3 is not for me.

I don’t, however, want to see the BBC axe it.

More than that, there are some channels I think are actively detrimental to human life. With the tag-team property fetishism of Philandkirsty and Sarah Beenie, Channel 4 supported a bubble in the housing market for more than a decade. Their relentless propaganda claiming property ownership was the only route to happiness fuelled the sorts of mortgage lending that led to Northern Rock going bust, priced ordinary people our of most city centres and created it an atmosphere in which social housing now can’t be built because of the effect it will have on house prices. If you build a council house you’re robbing from the real humans, you see. Essentially, I’m saying Channel 4 are mainly responsible for the recession, and for the crisis in housing stock we currently face. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing us he wasn’t Kirsty Allsop.

But I wouldn’t cheer if Channel 4 closed.

The reason for this – and here comes the science part – is that I actually don’t think my personal viewing preferences should govern all the television that exists. Nor do I think my personal preferences should be the yardstick by which the BBC’s performance is measured.

So here’s why we shouldn’t close BBC3, even if you don’t like the programmes it makes.

Nighty Night, Monkey Dust, Pulling, High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman, 28 Acts In 28 Minutes, Mongrels, Dead Boss, Him And Her, Annually Retentive. Those are all excellent comedies you wouldn’t have without BBC3.

Oh, and then there are the little shows like Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh and Gavin and Stacey, which some people liked..

And, just thinking about what’s currently on, there’s Uncle (giving a new performer a deserved lead in a BBC sitcom), Bluestone 42 (which is both ambitious and relevant) and The Revolution Will Be Televised (which was nominated for a Rose d’Or last year as well as winning some award or other). There’s Live At The Electric, giving new acts (with some notable omissions – ahem) some of their first television exposure as well as being presented by the oldest man in comedy (unfortunately, the new acts are sacrificed after the show so that Russell Kane can drink their blood and soothe the ache in the lump of black gristle he has instead of a heart).

So let’s talk genre. And mention The Fades, Being Human, Torchwood and In The Flesh.

In fact with Little Britain USA, La La Land, and the US versions of Torchwood, Pulling, Being Human, and Dead Boss, BBC3 has exported loads more television programmes to America than, say, ITV1. Which has managed Jeremy Kyle USA. In fact, Sharon Horgan alone has exported twice as many programmes to America as ITV1. Programmes which started on BBC3.

BBC3 has commissioned a lot of great comedy over the last ten years. And, importantly, when BBC exists more comedy is commissioned. Which means something you like is more likely to be commissioned. More is better than less. When you cheer the demise of BBC3 you are shouting “Huzzah! I shall have fewer choices of what to watch in the future! Thank Christ! I’m such an idiot I usually end up watching complete shit!”

But it’s so expensive! Yes, and it’s not like that’s offset by its producing world-beating cash cows like Little Britain and Gavin and St-oh.

Yes, there are also some terrible programmes, quite a few terrible programmes. But there are terrible programmes on every channel. Have you tried watching television during the day? It’s almost enough to make you pull your trousers back up and get back to work. Almost.

Then there’s the cost argument. The BBC needs to save money because the licence fee’s been frozen. And it has to find it somewhere. So why not here?

Because the money isn’t being saved. It’s being spent again.

Closing BBC3 will save between £80 and £100 million. That sounds like loads.

Until you realise that they have pledged to spend £30 million of it on new drama for BBC1. And £30 million of it creating BBC1+1. Oh, and there will still be a programming budget for BBC3, but it will be online only.

I would say that only the BBC could get rid of something that cost £100 million and only save themselves (at best) £40 million, but that’s patently not true. I reckon I could.

So, if the programmes are successful and it’s not saving much money, why is it being done?

Now, call me an old cynic, but it seems to me that the sorts of people who watch BBC3 are generally not the sorts of people who read the sorts of newspapers who will influence the sort of government who will oversee the next licence fee agreement. This is a move to show the BBC can make tough choices (unless that tough choice involves standing up to governments).

What makes it more nakedly political is the use of the money to fund BBC1+1, a channel that will only be watched by people who can’t use their set top box, and haven’t discovered the Internet. Old people.

It’s yet another broadside in our current war on youth.

From the removal of the EMA, through the introduction of tuition fees, the removal of housing benefit for under-25s, to the current proposals to remove all benefits from under-25s, we are at war with our young people. We used to hate them because of their sexting, their hoodies, and their riots. Now I’m not sure we even need a reason.

A fifth of them – close to one million under-25s – are unemployed, and the message coming out again and again from the political class is that they don’t matter. Politically, they are expendable, and now we’ve decided they’re culturally expendable, too.

And then we can hitch up our petticoats in horror when they dare listen to that beast Russell Brand, and we can ask ourselves “What is to be done with the young people? Why are they so angry? What have we ever done to them?” before we get an attack of the vapours and lie around honking like broken geese, perplexed by the incredible mystery of it all.

And we can turn on Sarah Beeney and thank our lucky stars we got on the property ladder when we did.

(Now go and sign the fucking petition to #savebbc3)

(Oh, and BBC3 also remain responsible for one of the most entertaining hours of television ever broadcast. Go and get some popcorn and tuck into Danny Dyer, I Believe In UFOs. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. My favourite bit? The bit where he’s discussing crop circles and descrobes how people “read about them in the newspaper, but then forget all about them to turn the page and look at some tits.” Because that is how all newspapers work.)

Being a man of encroaching middle-age and portlitude, last month I was asked to fill in a couple of times as an understudy department store Father Christmas.

Swathed in cheap velour, covered in itchy facial hair and home to a gurgling stream of acrid sweat, it was a magical experience, and one that taught me several important lessons. Lessons about how Father Christmas is making a list of who’s naughty and nice, but he’s making it about the parents. He’s also noticing who’s pushy, who’s overtired, and who’s been drinking heavily.

Father Christmas is judging you, parents. And here’s why.

You haven’t provided a convincing backstory – There are many wonderful tales about Santa Claus. He lives at the North Pole (or in Lapland) and is married (or single, or a large, asexual gnome), and makes all of the toys himself (or with an army of elf-slaves). When your child starts asking questions about the practicalities of being Father Christmas, that’s the point where you jump in and say something like “Well, we thought that Father Christmas did it like this, isn’t that right, Father Christmas?” It’s not your cue to stand mute, check your text messages, or to try to stare Santa out. This is especially true with the question “Are you the real Father Christmas?” which can be answered a number of different ways: “No, Father Christmas is very busy and has lots of helpers;” “Of course I am;” or “How dare you question my authority? You get nothing!” Unless you give SOME HINT as to the way you answered that question, Father Christmas may well end up contradicting you, and I’m pretty sure I know whom your children will consider a more reliable source. Play the game, people.

You’ve brought a toddler, good luck with the nightmares – For many children, meeting Santa is a HUGE deal. It would be like meeting George Clooney, if George Clooney also crept into your room and gave you whatever you wanted… No, scratch that. not like that. Anyway, for young children, this is their getting to meet Madonna, or the Queen, or Stephen Fry, knowing that they’re going to be assessing your behaviour while you do. Also there is a huge beard, music, garish surroundings, and probably an odd smell. There is no excuse for taking a child under 3 to see Santa. They ALL freak out. If you want a picture of a tiny baby with Father Christmas, fine, but to any child who’s vaguely sentient of what’s going on it’s going to be pretty traumatic. Congratulations, you’ve just queued for 45 minutes because you were determined to give your child nightmares.

You’re outsourcing your parenting – If you’re bringing your child just so that Father Christmas can threaten them, you need to take a good, hard look in the mirror. Then punch the mirror and use the shards to slice your own awful face off with. Yes, the promise of presents is part of the whole deal, but telling little Ciaran that Santa probably won’t be bringing him anything when Santa is sitting right there is a dick move.

You are just terrible – If your child asks for Grand Theft Auto V then Father Christmas probably wouldn’t be doing father Christmas’ job if Father Christmas didn’t point out that that’s a game rated 18, and your child is only 9. When he says he probably won’t be bringing that, it doesn’t help if you then add your voice to the pleas to bring it “He has been really good, though.” At this point, Santa reserves the right to think of you as a monstrous cunt. Just so you know. Santa isn’t saying it, but he’s thinking it. And he likes making lists.

You refuse to help your inaudible child – Sometimes it all gets a little much, and the intense emotion that comes with talking to Father Christmas renders some children utterly mute. At this point, you can help, by prompting or answering on their behalf. Anything but playing fucking Angry Birds, while Santa and your child experience a tense, Cold War standoff.

You keep referring to a letter Santa hasn’t seen – Let’s just be clear. The Father Christmas you’re going to get isn’t real. you’re the grown up. That shouldn’t need explaining to you. So when you say, “You remember the letter Lucy sent to you, don’t you, Father Christmas?” That’s fundamentally unhelpful, if there are going to be follow-up questions. And there ALWAYS are. “She really wants that thing she put at the top of the list, Father Christmas.” Fuck you. “It would be especially good if you could remember the instructions she gave you in the PS.” Up your stupid arse. “And of course you’ve remembered the password she wrote in it, so that she’d know she was dealing with the REAL Father Christmas.” May your head be full of the eggs of a false-widow spider, which will burst and flood all over your Christmas dinner, the resulting lack of pressure on your brain will give you a new appreciation of colour, but will also render you incapable of speech or unaided urination. Merry Christmas.

For the children, meeting Father Christmas can be a magical moment. For the adults, remember to be on your best behaviour…

This Week is an odd programme. Only the unique way the BBC is funded can ensure that this shambling, incoherent mess of an hour’s telly makes it to your screens every week. Want to hear establishment platitudes whispered as if they are naughty, almost unbroadcastable, pieces of mischief? Watch This Week. Want to sit in baffled amazement at politicians sit grinning, dressed in a bizarre rainbow of unhealthy colours, like two-week old clown puke? Watch This Week. Want to know what Peter Stringfellow and Gyles Brandreth and Olly Grender think about things? Of course you do.

Last week, they were still upset about Russell Brand, almost choking with inchoate rage as they, a group of political insiders, decided that he was wrong when he said our political system excludes the views of millions. It was like watching a group of stranded puffins, hooting for rescue, slowly realising the island they live on is made entirely of bird-shit.

Their obliviousness to the irony of seeing a group of political leaders agree that the political system was fine, and then for the state broadcaster to pump it out to the entire nation was delightful. Less delightful was the fact that many people, and some of them my friends, seem to agree with them. Some people seem to find it physically possible to tick a box and pat themselves on the back at the same time, which is no mean feat.

There was a torrent of sneering articles about Brand, suggesting he “go back to Hollywood” or “stick to shagging”. People who feign concern at the fact that democratic politics fails to engage much of the young population could wait to stick their fingers in their ears as soon as anyone articulated what that young population might be feeling. Brand was ‘unhelpful’, ‘naive’, and possibly ‘a git’.

Lots of people – including lots of comedians – decided that not only should you vote, but you should probably have to vote. “You have no right to criticise is you don’t vote!” came the cry.

Of course you do. I don’t like football. I think it’s a pernicious, violent game that people around the country use to sublimate their frustrations with life. I think it idolises cretins and thugs, gives its viewers a chance to indulge in organised racism and homophobia every week, and its shallow, comercial values are a deep sickness in our public life. So what do I do? I don’t watch it.

However, I now realise the error of my ways. What I should be doing is joining a football club, watching it every week, and supporting it vociferously at every occasion. Because only then can I hope to change football from the inside.

All of the critics of Russell Brand, however, are guilty of making the same fairly large fallacy of composition. Parliamentary politics is not politics. It’s not even a relatively major part of politics. It’s possibly to be highly political, and not to participate in party politics, and – I would argue – the most successful politicians have been.

People fought for years to get the vote. They did, and they did so successfully. How did they do it? Not by voting for a party that promised it to them, because they couldn’t. If that teaches us anything, it is that it is possible to bring about huge political change even when you can’t use the vote to get it.

The serious point here is that extra-parliamentary organisations are much better at affecting what MPs do than voters are. From churches to trades unions to billionaires, if you want the ear of an MP you’d better be able to either offer them money (or the chance to retain their seat, and its attendant money) or be able to cause trouble for them. That is where parliamentary power lies.

But people have died for the vote! Yes, people have also died during childbirth. That doesn’t mean we should all have to have children out of respect for their sacrifice.

But… But… democracy! Is it, though? Seriously? It’s not what Aristotle meant when he described democracy. It’s not what the Chartists meant when they described democracy (remember annual parliaments?). The prime minister can use the royal prerogative to overrule parliament and go to war. The heir to the throne gets to pre-approve bills to see that they don’t affect his business dealings. The Queen gets to veto private members’ bills she doesn’t like. It’s a constitutional monarchy with pseudo-democratic trappings.

And remember, there’s a House Of Lords as well! A whole parliament full of people who can reject bills, amend bills, and over whom you have absolutely no say whatsoever. Remember kids, even if you vote, even if you win, even if your party honours its pledges and puts together a bill, there’s still no guarantee it will become legislation.

Because voting remains a sideshow. You achieve less politically by voting than you do by buying Fairtrade coffee.

And the fact remains, my best chance of unseating my MP in my deeply-Tory seat is to vote UKIP, and hope enough of the Conservative electorate in my constitutency feel its a safe enough seat to do the same. When my only hope of having my vote count at all is to vote UKIP, there is something deeply wrong with the system.

Ah, but the British public rejected AV, so we can’t reform parliament. Yes, we entrusted the parliamentary class to set up a vote on whether or not the system that elected them should be changed. And they won. Entrenched political power is entrenched. Hence the name.

Parliamentary politics has delivered MPs who are prepared to challenge entrenched power twice in its long history. Once in 1945, and once in 1645. And we shouldn’t have to wait another 300 years until there’s another world war or Battle of Naseby in order to try to make politics serve people.

People who say “they are all the same” are the problem. No. People who refuse to see that they are are. People who cling to the last shred of hope that the Labour Party isn’t the corporate, authoritarian, centre-right, managerial party it appears to be – and governed as from 1997 to 2010 – can sit in their attics like Miss Havisham, waiting for Tony Benn or Dennis Skinner or even bloody Michael Meacher (who looks and acts like he was left in the sink overnight to soak). Those figures are fig-leaves for the Labour Party to retain the support of the Labour movement.

Let’s look at most of what people like to complain about the Coalition for:

Tuition fees – Introduced by David Blunkett, Labour Education Secretary in 1998. The Dearing Report which had suggested introducing fees also advised keeping the grants system, something Blunkett rejected, getting rid of maintenance grants altogether.

ATOS – ATOS were first brought in to run work capability assessments by – wait for it – the Labour Party. If you want to read about the ways the Labour Party distorted evidence and victimised disabled people for years this paper is quite helpful.

NHS Reform – Let’s not forget that the party who started the creeping privatisation of the health service was Labour in 2002. Remember Tony Blair “not having a reverse gear”, and people who opposed privatisation of the NHS being “the forces of conservatism”? Fun Fact: the reforms Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act wouldn’t even have been legal without Alan Milburn’s 2008 reforms, and he remained committed to gutting the NHS even after stepping down as Health Secretary. Alan Milburn went on to become a consultant for Alliance Medical, a private healthcare company bidding for work in the NHS, and is now a Director of Bridgepoint Capital. Which invests heavily in lots of private health care companies. Those Labour conflicts of interest in full.

Free Schools – Introduced as ‘academy schools’ by Labour.

The Bedroom Tax! – Introduced by Labour for private tenants in 2008.

Um… Foreign Policy – I suppose we might have a government that at least expresses a little regret when it starts wars, but I doubt it.

The fact remains that if you want an unfettered, authoritarian, right-wing, corporate-friendly government that’s happy to demonise disadvantaged groups for electoral gain, you’re best off voting for the Labour Party.

And it’s not just MPs. It’s our entire political class, in which I include the police and the media. From expenses through phone hacking and Savile and Hillsborough and the Met’s collusion with reporters, there is nowhere for an honest citizen to turn. Our laws are made by the corrupt, presented to us by the corrupt, and enforced by the corrupt. The idea that political change will come from our law-making apparatus is fanciful.

So what do we do? If it makes you happy, vote. I do. It’s a habit I can’t break. I couldn’t wait to be able to vote, and being able to participate, in however minimal and nugatory a fashion, in the way governments are formed. However. I am well aware that this makes my complicit in a system that deliberately excludes, and rather than boast about the great democratic tradition I’m upholding, I know that voting is a weakness. It’s an essential naivety that I can’t get rid of.

But there are lots of things we can do, as soon as we stop waiting for politicians to do it for us. There’s relieving each other of debt. There’s homesteading. There’s protest. There’s organisation. There’s non-violent direct action. There’s publicising issues that affect us and those around us. There is doing what you can to make what you can better than when you found it.

We can join things. We should join things. We’ve lost the habit of being parts of political organisations that aren’t political parties. Trades unions have never been less powerful than when they have entrusted their interests to the Labour Party. Join a union. Join a church. Join an atheist congregation. Join an organisation that campaigns for what you are interested in, and give it your time. Start an organisation if one doesn’t exist. Get used to sitting through boring, frustrating meetings, and standing in the cold waving flimsy banners, because it’s only through engagement that things are going to change.

And, if you just can’t shake the habit, at the end of it, you can vote.

Voting has, in the last couple of weeks, become a currency of self-satisfaction, a shibboleth displaying how politically engaged we are, when quite the reverse is true. Voting is the twentieth century equivalent of signing an online petition, a quick, relatively painless way of convincing ourselves and others we are good, involved people, although it costs us very little, and means almost nothing.

It’s not the most important thing we do politically. It might well be most self-defeating thing. But really, who cares? Let’s not pretend the people who don’t are fundamentally unserious. They may be the most realistic of all of us.

So, just for a little while, let’s forget about voting. And do something political.

I’m friends with all sorts on Twitter. Some are members of that puzzling faction who believe that the real problem with the country isn’t deep and abiding police corruption, but protestors and people wandering around un-tased.

During an argument this morning about this example of assault by police officers (for which even the Commissioner of the Met apologised), one of them opined “Never trust a lawyer unless they’re instructed by you” to which I responded “And never trust a police officer unless you are one.” In the eyes of this individual, one of those statements was reasonable comment, the other was bigotry. See if you can guess which was which…

So, here are just some of the reasons that spring to mind that I consider statements made by the police to be not especially worthy of trust.

(I should probably point out off the bat that I was brought up in the era of Brass Tacks, where high-profile miscarriages of justice were exposed weekly in prime time. Lots of my early memories of the news are of Irish men referred to by a city and a number being let out of prisons they should not have been in.)

Ian Tomlinson – Although this is often glossed over as the work of ‘one bad apple’, it wasn’t that bad apple who briefed the press that officers were pelted as they tried to help Tomlinson. Which was a lie. The IPCC told the media that Ian Tomlinson’s family had known him to be in poor health and worried about him. Which was a lie. The IPCC claimed that there was “nothing in the story” that he had been assaulted by a police officer. Which was a lie. PC Harwood, of course, lied about being pushed to the ground and losing his helmet and baton. He also said Tomlinson was ‘inviting a physical confrontation’ when video evidence showed him walking away. Freddy Patel, the coroner, said Tomlinson died of natural causes. He was later struck off for “a catalogue of dishonesty and incompetence” dating back a decade. And the incident was only ever admitted because video evidence emerged that contradicted police accounts. If you want a good reason why people don’t trust the police, start here.

Police ‘Injuries’ At The Kingsnorth Power Station Protests – Remember the Kingsnorth Power Station protests? You should, because no less than 70 officers were injured trying to police the protests there. 70! That’s the kind of violence the police say they have to deal with at protests. Except that those injuries included: “being stung on finger by possible wasp” and “officer succumbed to sun and heat” and “officer injured sitting in car.” In fact, there were only 12 injuries, and only 4 of those came as a result of contact with other human beings instead of possible wasps or definite mosquitoes. In the apology he was forced to give to Parliament, Police Minister Vernon Coaker said:

I was informed that 70 police officers were hurt and naturally assumed that they had been hurt in direct contact as a result of the protest. That clearly wasn’t the case and I apologise if that caused anybody to be misled.

Hillsborough – Now, although the IPCC investigation is still on ongoing, and we don’t know the extent of South Yorkshire Police’s lies in this case, what we DO KNOW is: statements were altered (“Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP.”), and the extent of that is only now becoming clear. The Taylor Report, the initial investigation from 1989, was unsatisfied with police evidence. As Lord Justice Taylor said at the time: “In all some 65 police officers gave oral evidence at the Inquiry. Sadly I must report that for the most part the quality of their evidence was in inverse proportion to their rank.”

Mark Duggan – Remember when we all knew that Mark Duggan had shot at police? And we knew because that’s what the IPCC had ‘verbally led journalists to believe’? Yes, quite.

Daniel Morgan – The case is too long and convoluted to reprise in detail here, let’s leave it at the fact that in 2011, Scotland Yard conceded that for 24 years Daniel Morgan’s killer had been shielded by police corruption.

Jean Charles de Menezes – Oddly, the reasons I distrust the police here have nothing to do with their shooting the wrong person. It’s with the way they handled information afterwards. They “deliberately withheld” the information that de Menezes was not one of the 21st July suspects from their initial press release, officers changed their evidence, lied about having shouted a warning (to the satisfaction of 8 jurors, 2 believed them), and – let’s be generous – added to the confusion over the video evidence, making statements that were contradicted by those who operated the CCTV. Which leads us to:

Andy Hayman – There are lots of things to dislike about the Met officer turned Murdoch columnist, including his reluctance to investigate allegations against The News Of The World at the same time as having champagne suppers with News International, and, well, let’s let him speak for himself:

Forest Gate – In 2006, another Hayman operation involved arresting 2 brothers on terrorism charges, shooting one in the process. Now, although we don’t know that it was the police who briefed the media that one of the brothers who shot the other, we do know that the CPS suggested that there was child porn on the computers seized, although there wasn’t.

Plebgate – This tawdry incident suggests that there is no event too trivial for the police to break rules to deal with it. Whatever the truth of the incident at the gate, the very best that can be said about it, even giving all involved the benefit of some quite serious doubts, is that a senior police officer leaked Scotland Yard’s restricted report to the CPS (the CPS was unhappy with the ‘quality and quantity’ of the evidence provided by that report). Believe me, no one wanted the police to be telling the truth here more than me. I make my living mocking politicans, but as the story has developed, and the key witness for the police’s version of events turns out NOT TO HAVE EVEN BEEN PRESENT, the whole thing becomes much more shabby.

And, of course, we haven’t had a report from Operation Elveden yet.

This is just a small taster, cobbled together quickly, of why I fundamentally mistrust the statements of the police. It’s why I think policing needs to be better. It’s why I don’t have problems believing that much of the police urgently needs reform, and it’s why I won’t be browbeaten by apologists for corruption.

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party c...

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, Ed Miliband gave a speech at Google’s Big Tent event. Here’s a transcript of part of it.

I’d like to start by showing you four pictures and asking you to decide which is the odd one out, because it’s reveals the theme of my talk: what kind of future we want to build.

The first is my dad. His name was Ralph Miliband. He was a Marxist Professor.

The second is Willy Wonka, the genius who owns the factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and eventually gives it all away to Charlie’s family.

The third is Margaret Hodge, Labour chair of the Public Accounts Committee, who, as you know, has been very critical of Google in the last few days.

And the fourth is Google, along with your founding slogan: “Don’t be evil”.

So, as they say on “Have I Got News from You?”, I’d like people to tell me who is the odd one out.

Well, I’ll tell you my answer.

My answer is that it is my dad.

Because he’s the only one who thought that the route to a fair society was not through capitalism but through socialism based on public ownership.

It wasn’t just my dad who thought it, of course.

Until 1995 this view was enshrined on the membership card of the party I now lead.

Tony Blair got rid of it and rightly so, because nationalising the major industries is not the route to a fair society.

That’s right. It’s the Labour Party’s position now that fictional chocolate factory-owner offers a better model for society than Clause 4. So, let’s look at exactly what kind of model for capitalism, Mr Wonka provides.

WORKFORCE: Taking advantage of a large population of displaced peoples with limited language skills (Wonka boasts that this makes them immune to attempts at industrial sabotage), Wonka has no native workers in his factory at all. By employing physically-handicapped immigrants, who appear to be in a situation close to indentured servitude he further depresses wages in Britain and exploits a community he seems unwilling to help repatriate.

HEALTH AND SAFETY: Wonka has a woeful safety record. On a recent visit of 5 children to his factory, 4 ended up dead or severely shrunk from their short time in the factory. As an additional point, the correct way to move a girl who has been turned into a giant bluberry is not to roll her, but to lift from the knees.

COMMUNITY: Far from being a responsible employer, whose outreach ensures that the whole community benefits from the presence of a factory, Wonka shuts himself away, letting no one into or out of the factory. Indeed, he occupies a prime slice of local real estate that could be better used for social projects, as there seems to be no rational reason why he maintains this location in the city centre.

ENVIRONMENT: We can only assume that the chocolate river has been formed by the melting of the chocolate ice-caps, and his factory’s continual belching of purple smoke suggests that Wonka’s environmental record may be less than stellar.

ANTI-COMPETITIVE: The Everlasting Gobstopper is clearly a way to lock people into one gobstopper format for the rest of their lives, and to reduce the market share for all other competitors. Much like Amazon, it is using loss leaders to get people to use Wonka products, force competitors out of the market, before – presumably – raising prices when they are the only player left.

That’s the model Ed Miliband thinks we should be following in the 21st century. Anti-competitive, highly secretive, exploitative of both resources and people, giving nothing to the community.

Just as long as we know where he stands.

English: Still from the silent short film The ...

English: Still from the silent short film The Night Before Christmas, 1905 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, the BFI has taken a breather from compiling informational corporate safety films from the 1950s to try to work out what makes a good Christmas film. And, in so doing, have revealed that they know nothing about what makes a good Christmas film.

There are lots of things one does at Christmas that one doesn’t do at other times of the year, but watching White Christmas isn’t one of them. There is never a good time to do that.

Christmas is a time for giving. Parents beam as tousle-headed moppets tear open presents with squeals of delight. Either that or they slump in an easy chair, paper hat drifting over an ear, Christmas scotch clutched tight, detailing at length the cost of each item unwrapped and how you weren’t worth it, none of you were worth it; he didn’t have to stay here, he had options, he could have been a musician if it weren’t for you lot; he’d been in a band, and they were good, really good, someone from London, from a record label, said they’d come to see them once, they could have been huge, but he gave it all up to look after us kids, and did we appreciate it? Did we? He’d abandoned his dreams for an Our Price voucher, and a mug saying ‘World’s Best Dad’, well who’d the fucking mug now, eh? Eh? Who’s the fucking mug now? I’m going to bed.

I always preferred Easter.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my top ten Christmas films. Ones you can watch without wanting to kill yourself or your fellow man. In reverse order…

  1. Scrooged (1988) – Okay, it’s by far the worst thing on this list, but I had to get Bill Murray in somewhere, and Ghostbusters II is not a Christmas film. It’s a New Year film. Yes, it is. Oh, shut up.
  2. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) – Rewatch it. You’ll be surprised by how many good bits are in it. I promise. It’s not as bad as you remember. Either that or action films have become incomparably worse, so, by today’s standards it stands up.
  3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) – A wonderful look at how our struggle to create the perfect Christmas we remember from childhood can destroy our current Christmases. Includes exploding tree, yuppie torment, and a full shitter.
  4. A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – This would be higher if it weren’t for the dreadful songs. Still, one you can watch with the children. “Quiet down back there, you melons.”
  5. Twelve Monkeys (1995) – “The Freedom For Animals Association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. I can’t do anymore, I have to go now. Have a Merry Christmas!”
  6. Home Alone (1990) – Another one you can watch with the kids, as long as you don’t mind them watching burning, scalding, piercing, and the acting of Daniel Stern.
  7. Batman Returns (1992) – From the moment Peewee Herman drops Danny deVito into a sewer, it’s a Christmas miracle. And it allowed me to get Tim Burton onto the list without including The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is a Hallowe’en film. Maybe.
  8. Rare Exports (2010) – It’s about a race of evil Santas. It’s awesome. You must watch it this Christmas and every Christmas.
  9. Gremlins (1984) – Nothing fills me more with the Christmas spirit than seeing a demented, homicidal creature get exploded in a microwave.
  10. Die Hard (1988) – It had to be. It was a close-run things with Gremlins, but it’s practically perfect in every way.

So, those are mine, what are yours?

(This is the point where people notice that I’ve missed something like Alien or Jaws or Mouse Hunt being set at Christmas, and I have to rewrite the whole thing…)

English: British politician Ed Miliband, Leade...

English: British politician Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party (2010–) Deutsch: Der britische Politiker Ed Miliband, Vorsitzender der Labour Party (2010–) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know making facile historical comparisons is pointless but…

Not only had Labour followed a line which increased rather than alleviated the crisis, but even after the breakdown of the Government the party was unable to understand what had happened. Labour propagandists were inclined to look upon the financial crisis as an isolated economic phenomenon rather than as the outcome of a mistaken economic and financial policy pursued by various Governments since the end of the war. The Labour people blamed the bankers of England, America, and France, whom they accused of having conspired against labour and unemployment insurance. But although American bankers may perhaps have been inclined to stave off the “danger” of America’s following Britain’s lead and introducing the “dole” in the United States, few British Labour people asked themselves how the bankers could so easily achieve their ends against a Labour government. Also, Labour directed bitter attacks against its former leaders, MacDonald, Snowden, and Thomas, whom the party openly branded as traitors, yet the Labour party still failed to point out an alternative policy.”

That’s by Adolf Sturmthal, writing in 1942 about the events of 1931.

Do with it what you will…

English: United Kingdom's Deputy Prime Minster...

English: United Kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minster and Lord President of the Council Nick Clegg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Nick,

Hi! Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to make a video for me. This must be really important to you. Thanks. Really.

I’ve voted for the Liberal Democrats in general elections more often than I have voted for any of the other parties. In 2001 and 2010, I duly put my cross next to the Liberal Democrat candidate for MP (in 2005, I had just moved house and wasn’t yet on the electoral roll at my new address). I have never voted for either a Labour or Conservative candidate in a general election. Nor will I.

In 1997, I didn’t vote for Labour because they had abandoned Clause 4, and, apparently, all other principles as well. Their record as venal authoritarians desperate to dismantle the NHS and anything that survived of the public sector, always ready to try to outflank the Tories on the right of any issue meant that there was no risk of my voting for them once we’d all seen how they intended to use power.

So, in as much as I’ve been anything (on a national level) I’m a Lib Dem voter. Hello!

Thanks again for the video. I suppose it’s only fair why I let you know exactly why I think it’s not an apology, and to reiterate that I shan’t vote for you again (and explain why).

First, let’s clear something up. This is not an apology.

Or at least, it’s not an apology for the right thing. Voters like me are cross because you broke your pledge on tuition fees (and also, lest we forget, a manifesto commitment to get rid of them altogether).

When someone’s cross with you for breaking a promise, you don’t apologise for having made that promise in the first place. That isn’t the dishonourable part of your conduct. What was dishonourable was not doing everything that was within your power to try to keep your promise.

The problem people have with your behaviour is not that you made unrealistic promises (or, let’s say, fully costed manifesto commitments). It’s that you abandoned promises you freely made, in order to win some internal battle with the members of your party, or because the appeal of a ministerial car was too great, or simply because you just never believed the promise you made.

There was every opportunity in the drafting of the Coalition Agreement for you to make tuition fees a red line (although, as we’ve seen with ‘no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS’, you’ve got quite a flexible attitude to how linear those lines are, and what colour they appear to you).

Indeed , your claim in your ‘apology’ that you “couldn’t keep our promise” appears distinctly shabby, if not an outright falsehood. You say that there was no money available, but there was money to cut the top rate of income tax, to cut to corporation tax, to send a Gove Bible to every school in the country, to fund the Olympics (£6.2 billion).

Frankly, the Conservatives wouldn’t have been able to govern without your help. I don’t believe you couldn’t keep your promise. It’s just not the sort of thing that appeals to Orange Bookers. No, it’s not that you couldn’t keep it, but that, given the option, you wouldn’t keep it. And you didn’t.

Imagine, for a moment that we’re all a big family. You’re Daddy. The Tory party are Daddy’s new boyfriend, Eric. And the electorate are children. If, for example, you promise that next year we’ll all go to EuroDisney, but then you get together with the Eric, and say “Sorry. Money’s tight. Not only won’t we go to Eurodisney, I was wrong to think we ever could. What’s that in the drive? That’s Eric’s new yacht. I’m sorry for promising we’d go to EuroDisney, but I’m not going to feel guilty about it. Stop dwelling in the past, when we didn’t even have access to a yacht.”

Except, of course, it’s not EuroDisney, it’s university. And the 15,000 young people who didn’t go this year because of the changes you introduced.

Your answer, in this video, is to promise not to make any more promises like that. Your response to having betrayed your principles is to offer to have fewer principles, to state that you will do your best as a party to believe in even less, to achieve even fewer things. Let’s hope that this promise turns out to be as easily broken as those you have made before.

Let’s quickly look at the apology itself.

There’s no easy way to say this. We made a pledge. We didn’t stick to it. And, for that, I am sorry.

Which is so filled with sophistry that it made me quite angry. The “for that” could, clearly, apply to either of the preceding statements, depending on  whether you read it as:

We made a pledge – we didn’t stick to it – and for that I am sorry.


We made a pledge. We didn’t stick to it, and for that I am sorry.

The balanced way in which you read it makes it clear that it’s intentional that it can be read in two ways. Because, of course, deep in your heart of hearts, Nick, you don’t want to apologise for breaking that promise.

This whole little video seems like a dirty little attempt to brand the social liberals who make up much of your party’s rank-and-file (or did) as wildly romantic, impractical dreamers.

We can all see why it’s necessary to do this: your party’s uniquely democratic structure means that they get to decide your policies. Much better for everyone if they just learn to go with what you say is pragmatic, achievable, sensible. Much better if they cease to aspire to a better Britain at all.

You said that you “owe it to us to be up front”. Well, Nick, I’ll offer you the same courtesy. I don’t see that as an apology at all, just as a backhanded rebuke to the (many) members of your party who believed that higher education was important enough for the lives of young people that it should be available to all, no matter what their circumstances, free at the point of use.

I wasn’t sure I could have thought less of you. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

You finish with a statement of what your party believes in. That is, until it’s easier for them not to believe in it any more…

Stop The War protests in London, 24 Feb 2007. ...

Stop The War protests in London, 24 Feb 2007. George Galloway. Scenes from Trafalgar Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1) The annexation of East Jerusalem after the Six Day War and the Iraq War.


1) Rape.

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