Search topics on this blog

Showing posts with label MPs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MPs. Show all posts

Thursday, 25 August 2011

This and that …


STV’s six o’clock news makeover has had enough time for someone to look at it and say “Oh, My God! – What have we done"?”, but nobody has. It has a look of 1970s graphics and early VHS video about it, in its washed out colours, indeed if it wasn’t for the feeble colour, it would look like a 1940s film trailer in its opening sequence. The two clearly attractive and intelligent ladies of news and sport are in urgent need of a good makeup artist – I can’t believe they chose that matte lacquered look by themselves. This is not cutting edge, STV – time to think again …

Television continues its casual abuse of the English language. A couple of helpful tips -

enormity does not mean magnitude: it is - or was, for its decline looks irretrievable – a scale of awfulness, of evil, e.g. the enormity of the holocaust, and its use simply to describe size loses a vital distinction to the language. (BBC NEWS: the sheer enormity of the hurricane.) The destruction the hurricane wreaks may soon warrant the use of enormity, but at the moment, it is its magnitude that is being described.

Back over on STV, there appears to be be a lack of understanding of the usual rule of placing the stress on syllables when pronouncing the same word, depending on whether it is used as a verb or a noun. The noun carries the stress on the first syllable, the verb form on the second, e.g. SUSpect and susPECT, PROcess and proCESS.

The danger for newscasters and presenters of news in this context is that they need to project an authoritative persona, one which collapses rapidly if they make elementary errors. But then, perhaps it doesn’t really matter, since those who know shit from Shinola are vanishing over the age horizon. O tempora, o mores.

Cicero? Who the **** is he? Wis that no' a café somewhere in the east end durin’ the War… ? Whit dae ye mean, whit war? Ya cheeky wee bastard …


I have commented on the trivial use of Twitter by most Scottish politicians, prompting a question from a friend that brought me up short – “How many politicians do you follow on Twitter?

The answer to that is – only a few, which probably explains my miniscule number of followers on the medium since I started using it last winter. I decided not to play the I’ll follow you if you follow me game, and have thus lost as followers an incalculable number of purveyors of obscure commercial products and utter triviality, including skateboard manufacturers in Florida, suppliers of online vitamins products, young ladies offering strange services, and innumerable electronic gadget salespeople.

The real explanation may, of course, be that nobody gives a green damn about what I have to say, but I prefer not to entertain that idea …

However, before I make further criticisms of MSPs for their use of the medium, I am resolved to follow as many of them as have a Twitter identity, just in time for their return from the long holiday that most of them indignantly deny having had …

Sunday, 26 September 2010

And then there was Ed …

Once upon a time, a young man with the aspiration to make his mark – and the means to do it - got a good degree, perhaps Oxbridge, but maybe a provincial university, then went off and had a career doing something real, a profession, business, or the civil service, achieved something substantial in that chosen career, got some real understanding of life, then in his late thirties or early forties considered a life of public service in politics.

On entering the Commons, he had some understanding of the life of the nation, its people and its problems – he had a broad perspective and perhaps even a modicum of wisdom.

Not these days, they don’t …. Oxbridge is a must, and the degree must be that strange hybrid designed especially for the aspiring politician, the PPE – Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and the career chosen is politics from the start. And so the Asimovian new breed of politicians have their gestation, and walk straight off the Oxbridge assembly line with shining, metallic, inhuman certainty into the seat and the heart of government as a political assistant, as a speechwriter to a Cabinet Minister, as a special adviser.

Of course they have to select a political party to join to achieve this, and this selection is made, not on the basis of experience of life or burning conviction, but on a mix of family tradition, contacts, and cold, calculating assessment of which party offers the best route to power and influence within a short timescale, typically four or five years.

At some point, a sabbatical allows them to work or study in the United States for a year, where they meet senior US politicians and absorb effortlessly the idea of Britain as a junior partner, fully committed to a compliant and subservient role in foreign policy to their US masters.

At the earliest opportunity, with the backing of the established politicians they have served, they seek a nomination as a prospective parliamentary candidate, ideally for a safe seat. But occasionally they may have to undergo trial by fire in fighting a lost cause, in a contest which nonetheless bloods them and provides essential media coverage.

From the start, these strange creatures, custom-designed for politics, are strangers to the true life of the nation and its people, destined to rule them, but locked into the assumptions of a closed world that ensure that they can never properly serve them or serve true democracy.

Sooner or later, they have the right to take the state to war  - with the approval of the United States – and they can assist the US in the pressing of the nuclear button.

They themselves will never be placed in harm’s way by military service, nor will their children, but they will sacrifice the children of others with relative equanimity, and with the glib words of regret and condolence they have learned to parrot at the feet of their mentors, words that they perhaps actually crafted for those who preceded them, in phrases liberally spattered with references to heroes, comrades, Queen and country, never forgetting and eternally grateful – variants on the old, old lie, Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.

(It pains me to mention that we have a version of this career path in the Scottish Parliament, where some candidates seem to think that proclaiming their ability to “find their way around the Parliament” - i.e. familiarity with the systems, procedures and political levers to push  - constitutes an election address and gives them credibility with the electorate, rather than experience of life as it is lived in Scotland today, with some tangible experience and achievement within that reality . Frankly, if that is all they have to offer, it is not enough – for me, anyway.)

And so we have Ed, although it was a close run thing – it could have been David. Does it matter which overall? Yes, a little. Does it matter to Scotland? Probably quite a lot, at least in the spring of 2011, since it will influence the Labour vote in a contest which will be a straight fight between them and the SNP.

We might usefully remind ourselves that this new Labour leader has a special understanding of Scotland. He was deeply involved in Labour’s manifesto for the 1999 Holyrood elections, and in fact resigned as Special Advisor at the Treasury to devote himself full-time to that campaign, and Labour’s rebuttal strategy. He will be a formidable foe of the SNP.