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Sir Ian Bowler gives the Coalition response to the publication of the Leveson report.
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…
- Letters: A sorry state of affairs for Clegg (guardian.co.uk)
- Nick Clegg apologises over broken tuition fee promise (standard.co.uk)
- Nick Clegg: “We made a pledge. We didn’t stick to it – and for that I’m sorry” (libdemvoice.org)
And some anger splurged onto Twitter. Fortunately for you, it’s all been collected up below. It’s a moment by moment account of the development of my loathing for Nick Clegg. Enjoy.
(Warning: Many of these videos contain adult language and situations, varying picture quality, and frequent uses of ‘the c-word’. Usually in reference to Nick Clegg.)
The Coalition may be a disaster for old people, young people, poor people, disabled people, students, aircraft carriers, unemployed people, people who buy things, people with children, ill people, people who like sports, people who hate sports, and women. But for some of us things have never been better. Those of us in the musical comedy or protest singing games are experiencing a boom time. Us and the people who make riot shields.
Ever since the election there has been a profusion of online video activity: songs, raps, and poems all pouring out at an incredible rate. This is partially due to the availability of smartphones, and the fact that people can watch videos almost anywhere, at almost any time. It’s also, however, because of a palpable sense of anger, directed particularly at the Lib Dems, and, even more particularly, at Nick Clegg. Which serves him right for making this video: Liberal Democrats – Say Goodbye To Broken Promises
The videos range from the furious to the funny, from the wry and disappointed to the barely coherent rant. Perhaps the most obscene of them all is actually in danger of charting this weekend. Yes, on Sunday afternoon we’re in danger tuning into the chart countdown only to hear Kunt And The Gang’s “Use My Arsehole As C*nt (The Nick Clegg Story). More on that at the end.
I’ve trawled through the cuts-related songs, and have come up with a Top Ten. Sort of. There are ten of them anyway. So get your rioting shoes on, and boogie on down to the following inappropriate sounds…
10) Dan Bull – Another Prick In Whitehall
Even-tempered monotone rapper Dan Bull hoists Nick Clegg by his own petard, in a wonderfully bleak reworking of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. A delight.
9) Mitch Benn – I’m Proud Of The BBC
One of the earlier examples of the form, and although specifically relating to the BBC, this set much of the template for a lot of the songs that were to follow. The rest of the template is of people trying to rhyme the word ‘Clegg’ with the word ‘cock’. Sometimes with a surprising amount of success.
8 Sir Ian Bowler – Dear Students
This is one of mine. Some people like it. I am saying no more about it.
7) SUARTS – Can’t Cut This
Some impressive dancing in this MC Hammer parody from the students at SU Arts. But when, oh when, will someone tackle Sir Mixalot’s “I Like Big Cuts (And I Cannot Lie)”
6) Grace Petrie – Emily Davison Blues
This one’s not a comedy song, but a heartfelt protest song in the great British tradition. If they achieve nothing else, the Coalition can retire to their country estates knowing that they’ve led to a revival in earnest songs written in the first person plural that overuse the words “this land”. Beautiful and angry.
5) Dan Bull – Millbank Wankers
Lyrical reasonablist Dan Bull has another go this time in the sole example of the pro-police protest song on this list. Or, I should imagine, any other list…
4) Lee Kern – MERRY CHRISTMAS (X-FACTOR’S OVER)
Lee Kern gives a blast of pure, visceral fury here. It’s not actually to do with the cuts at all, it’s about X-Factor, but I was getting really tired of listening to songs about Nick Clegg (I get it. He’s rubbish).
3) Captain SKA – Liar Liar
Old-school reggae. About Nick Clegg. We’re living in a world turned upside down.
2) Samuel Gaus & Unnamed Accomplice – Universities’ Lament
Samuel and his unnamed friend here come up with some entertaining harmonies, but shouldn’t they be in lessons? If they’ve got time to write songs, they’ve got time to work in a call centre to fund their degree…
1) Kunt And The Gang – Use My Arsehole As A C*nt (The Nick Clegg Story)
This is a glorious masterpiece of obscenity. A dazzling example of filth, and it’s currently at Number 78 in the charts. If they can sell 3,000 more copies by Sunday (iTunes link) then we all get to eat our Christmas dinner knowing that a song with title is currently nestled in our nation’s Top 40. And they’ll have to play it on the radio…
So that’s it. A breathtaking rundown of the exuberant creativity that’s been provoked by the Comprehensive Spending Review. Again, not a sentence you often hear. Right. I’m off to rhyme Cameron with something…
In September the In The Gloaming podcasts won the Parsec Award for Best New Podcaster. We jumped around like victorious loons for a few seconds, until we remembered that we hadn’t made a new episode since March. And that we had no upcoming episodes in the pipelines.
To the outside observer In The Gloaming looked cold and dead, and only we knew there was still a flicker of humanity inside just waiting for the right time to blossom. It felt like being Nick Clegg.
There were lots of reasons that we hadn’t been able to do as many episodes as we’d hoped. People’s schedules clashed, they got work or didn’t get work at the wrong times, we weren’t getting as many downloads as we might have hoped (the episodes had been listened to about 6,500 times at that point). However, most of the reasons we weren’t able to churn them out on a monthly basis were self-inflicted, and could have been avoided with a little thought early on in the process.
So, here are my tips about what NOT to do, if you want to make an audio drama podcast of your own:
Don’t bother making audio trailers – One of the first groups of people to be interested in what we were doing was one comprised of people who were doing the same sort of thing. People like 19 Nocturne Boulevard or Wormwood. And they often wanted to swap audio trailers, little snippets that could be stuck on the end of another show to spread the word. We never bothered to make these because we were too busy making the shows themselves, and thought they probably wouldn’t be worth the time in the number of new listeners they brought to us. We were wrong. There is a very small group of people used to listening to new audio dramas as podcasts. Get them involved from the beginning. Be generous with your time and effort with other podcast producers. Trying to forge the path completely on your own is hard and lonely. These are people who would like to advertise your podcast for free. Let them.
Be half an hour long – This was, in some ways, an intentional error. Part of the point of In The Gloaming was to prove that we could make half hour shows of radio quality. We wanted people’s response to be ‘This should be on the radio’, and to prove that it was ready to be. However, people often split up their listening to a podcast, catching a few minutes on their way into work, so broken shows work well. Narrative comedies that require unbroken attention (including any magnificent aural soundscapes you may create) ask a lot of the listener, and finding half an hour to listen to an episode (forgoing half an hour of television or proper radio or actual interaction with other humans) can be difficult. It suited our purposes, but it was far from ideal for in Internet show. If you’re planning on doing audio dramas or narrative comedies, why not think about ten- or fifteen-minute episodes? They will be easier for people to find the time to listen to.
Don’t have a business plan – This isn’t quite true. We had a plan, it just wasn’t a hugely good one. It was (as I outlined above) Get Picked Up By The BBC. When that didn’t materialise the next obvious option was to look for a sponsor. However, those things we’d designed to make it more like a radio show made it less effective on The Internet, and so we didn’t have the subscriber numbers we needed to get a sponsor. We had a little income from the tip jar – enough to cover the podcast hosting – and we had a merchandising site, but nothing people wanted to buy on it. There were successful revenue streams: live shows, signed scripts, etc. However, by the time we had worked out how to fund the shows, we had stalled on producing them for long enough that the momentum was gone. The lesson here is: at least have an idea how you’re going to make enough money to cover your costs, and always implement your business plan quickly. You may well have a number of people willing to support you financially, so give them a way in which they can. Speaking of which:
Fail to make the things people want to buy – In our case: CDs. We’ve had lots of requests for CDs. People want to give them as gifts, people who aren’t au fait with downloading, people who want to show their support. There has been constant demand for CDs of the episodes. I did try to get this set up at one point, using Lulu, but found that they made all their CDs in the US, and then shipped them to England making them hugely expensive (even though we were only charging $4.00 each for them). I then wanted to add some audio liner notes to each one, a little extra that wasn’t available on the website, but never got around to recording them. The fact that there was no UK service that would do what we wanted and that I couldn’t be bothered to fulfil orders myself meant that we missed out on the one revenue stream that seemed promising.
Underestimate the amount of time it will take – Each In The Gloaming took a few days to write, a day to record, and two or three days to edit. That’s at least a full work week out of every month. When you’ve got children (or, you know, a job) that’s just not feasible. Perhaps we’ll do them quarterly in future, but monthly doesn’t seem like we can do it at all.
Post irregularly – We started with a monthly schedule, but soon got bogged down with diary incompatibilities, and just the sheer amount of work it was. The fact that we couldn’t be relied upon to produce podcasts every month meant that a lot of the momentum we started with dissipated. Set yourself a schedule and stick to it. Don’t stick to two-thirds of it. Stick to it, no matter how difficult it is. Then sit back, learn lessons, and plan Season 2.
Don’t collect emails – We never had an email list or any promotion beyond writing a blog. This is silly. Do better than us.
Don’t allow embedding – It took us six months to find a service that allowed easy embedding and sharing of mp3s on Twitter and Facebook. We went for a paid service that was not as good as what we could have got from WordPress, and didn’t offer the stats or functionality. We’re now faced with the rubbish options of continuing to use a (paid) service that isn’t as good as other ones or to change the website RSS feed, and risk losing all of the subscribers who are attached to the old feed. Do your research about how you’re going to distribute your podcast before you set up a standing order…
Basic, fundamental errors. Tonnes of them. We couldn’t have been more dim if we’d just dribbled into the Internet whilst smashing ourselves in the face with a flat-iron.
However, we’ve had more than 100 downloads a week, every week, for more than a year. We were asked to perform at the World Horror Convention 2010. It’s led to other bits of work, and to the selling of some of the short stories written for the site. The live show is getting a full run in the Brighton Festival next year (Friday 13th May, for those who want to book tickets). We’ve won awards. And we’ve got a producer attached, who’s making an In The Gloaming feature film, which should be out next year.
That’s how not to do it. Go and do better…
BREAKING NEWS: 28TH April 2010 – Late this afternoon, in shock announcement, Sir Ian Bowler, MP for Buckland and Ruttington, announced that he was to step down just a week before the General Election.
Visibly shaken by the screams of the feral rhesus monkeys that could be heard from outside, he gave his parting statement: