Category Archives: Uncategorized
Stop Hitting Yourself
I don’t know if this is a common thing or not, but it certainly goes back a few generations in my family – the game that adults play with kids where you (very gently) pretend they are punching themselves in the face while you say: “Stop hitting yourself!” and they squeal with laughter*. Well, I think I saw the same game played with an adult today! I shall endeavor to explain.
For the last few Saturdays the local Conservatives have been visiting Wisbech Marketplace handing out leaflets, talking to local people and generally being “out and about” when the market is at its busiest. The first time we went we saw UKIP, briefly, promoting their End Of The World Is Nigh Message to a handful of angry-looking people. Another time we saw an Anti-UKIP group handing out leaflets to “Stop the fascist racist UKIP” or whatever, which was nothing to do with us, but which he heartily applauded.
Other than that it’s just been us each week.
This week, guess what, the Bucknors (Independent Councillors for Waterlees) were there. Well, as you might imagine, we were gobsmacked. We rarely see them at anything they don’t absolutely have to go to and it’s become something of a running joke that any time they turn up it’s usually just before the cameras arrive and then they tend to disappear just after the cameras leave. (It’s not a joke they approve of, but then they don’t seem to approve of many things.) To cap it all they seemed to be in a “team” with the local Green Party lady and Cllr Alan Lay (UKIP). What a strange collection of politicians! Well, we thought, if the Bucknors are going to be out campaigning on the Marketplace then this election is going to be a whole lot more interesting.
However, not too long after the Bucknors and their team arrived – a photographer from the Wisbech Standard appeared, as if by magic! Quelle surprise, as they say in the French. Some lovely photos were taken and then not an immensely long time after the press left … guess what happened? You’ll never guess. Go on try. Yep, the Bucknors moved on too. Who’d a thunk it? Something of a sigh of relief. The sort of sigh that comes from realising that all is right with the world once more.
A couple of funny things did happen during the morning. The first was that the Wisbech Standard photographer noticed there were rather a lot of Conservatives in the Market and asked if he could take our picture also. Imagine how you’d feel if you’d planned a special photo shoot to make it look like you were really hard on the campaign trail, only to have your opposition also get the photo shoot. It was quite funny. Of course, this is the Wisbech Standard, so I doubt our picture will be used. Or maybe it’ll be used under some misleading headline? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The other funny thing was what happened to poor Cllr Alan Lay (UKIP). I rarely feel sorry for Alan, but today I did. He was out in a team with the Bucknors and the lady from the Green Party. Which is odd enough in itself, if you think about it. They were all handing out the same leaflet. Imagine our surprised when we were handed a copy of the leaflet and saw that it was the dramatic: “Save our NHS” and that it was an attack on both the Conservative Party … and UKIP! Alan Lay was handing out leaflets that damned his own party. Did he know? Did they say: “Look, Alan, this leaflet isn’t very nice about UKIP I hope you don’t mind?” Or did they just hand them to him and be like: “Give these out, no need to read what they say.” No idea. I hope it was the latter though, because that would be a somewhat audacious con. Very much the adult equivalent of the “Stop Hitting Yourself!” game. Don’t you think?
*Thank you Garry Tibbs for the metaphor suggestion
CCVS March Newsletter
I’ve received a copy of the CCVS (Support For Community & voluntary groups) newsletter. I’ve uploaded it here for anybody who’d like to have a look.
A Surprising Attack On Those In Need
In a recent rushed piece for the Wisbech Standard aimed at attacking a fairly innocuous tweet I made and (I suspect) hoping to blow it up into something more, “Independent” Ex-Liberal Democrat Councillor Dave Patrick made what I think was a rather surprising and mean suggestion about people in need. He indirectly referred to them as “beggars.”
What Mr Tierney should remember is that it is the action of his colleagues in Government that sadly have forced people to have to beg for food merely just to survive. Something I find shameful in today’s society
I understand that the primary motivation for Cllr Patrick is probably to try and score some cheap political points, but I do think language is important and careless use of it can give a bad impression, or even cause unnecessary alienation. I certainly don’t remember him telling us all how “ashamed” he was about the need for Christian Aid, or Homestart, or Help For Heroes, or The Ferry Project – all of whom are trying to help people in need in a similar way. Putting aside the fact that he was a Liberal Democrat until just a few months ago until it became inconvenient and so they were just as much his “colleagues in government” I still feel uncomfortable with his choice of words.
Now I suppose it is true that in the strict definition of the verb to Beg people who ask for help are beggars, as he appears to suggest. But who hasn’t fallen on hard times at some point in their life? I know I have. I remember as a skint teenager living in a sharehouse I could barely afford the rent for and having to go to my parents and ask them for some cash to keep me in beans on toast until payday. Was I begging? Yes, I suppose I was. But my parents didn’t call me a beggar, they just helped.
What about the people who go to the Ferry Project and get help putting their lives in order? Do we damn them as beggars? What about people who are stuck in the benefits trap that Cllr. Patrick seems to think is so healthy? What about disabled people who, through no fault of their own, are unable to care for themselves without assistance? Are they beggars, Councillor Patrick? Is asking for help from the State somehow fundamentally different to asking for help from a private organisation? Not according to Dave’s strict dictionary use of the term “beg.” I don’t expect this is what Cllr. Patrick intended to suggest at all, but this is what happens when you throw careless words about. It leads to unfortunate conclusions.
Unless you are very very lucky indeed, there will come a time in your life when you need a little help. There is no nirvana, no perfect society in the way that some on the left believe there is. There are just families,friends,neighbours and communities looking out for one another. I know that for a successful boss of a taxi driving organisation this may seem a little alien, but every once in a while times do get tough. It can happen to any of us.
So unlike Dave Patrick and his cheap shots, I’m not ashamed of Food Banks at all. I think that Food Banks, like every other charitable, neighbourly and friendly idea that decent people do to help those less fortunate than themselves is actually a good thing. It’s a sign that we haven’t forgotten to care about one another, to look out for one another. No doubt Dave, along with Ed Miliband, will insist that the State should step in and shower everybody with money from that Magic Tree. I think we are proving, in that traditional noble, quiet and decent way, that we know real charity starts at home. Not in the expensive offices of State.
Maybe, next time, before going on a tirade about how ashamed you are that people are “begging”, Cllr Patrick, you might consider that anybody can fall on hard times. It could even happen to you. It was true when Labour were in power. It is true now the coalition is in power. And it will be true for every future government that’s in power. If you really want to make a difference – actions speak louder than words. Particularly silly words.
What type of Conservative are you?
This is just a bit of fun. Please don’t get all hot under the collar if you don’t agree with it’s analysis, questions or “types.” Also please note: this quiz is based on British political positioning. Elsewhere in the world, conservatism moves around the political spectrum in quite different ways. The U.S.A. for instance, is somewhat more “to the right” than our own.
It’s often said that the Conservative Party in the UK is a broad church – and I believe this is absolutely true. There are issues where some of us feel closer to some of the opposition parties than we do to each other. But broadly there is a theme to being a Conservative which is reflected right across the membership.
I’ve been thinking about the different types of Conservative and I think I’ve narrowed it down to six main types; Fiscal Conservatives, One Nation Conservatives, Conservative Libertarians, Cultural Conservatives, NeoConservatives (Thatcherites) and Religious Conservatives. I may have missed one or two obscure groups, but I think you could fit most Conservatives into one of these groups.
It’s true that policy views tend to be quite varied and of course you can never put somebody into a box with a label on it. Somebody may be mostly a “One Nation Conservative” but hold views which stray towards others groups on key issues. What a simplistic quiz like this is trying to do is find out where your overall tendencies lie and categorise you. Conservatives are not big fans of categorisation, particularly when applied to ourselves, so no doubt you’ll disagree vehemently with wherever the outcome of this quiz puts you. So remember to keep thinking – it’s just for fun. It’s just for fun. : )
Pick the answer that most closely resembles how you feel about the question, even if its not quite right. If you do not think you are small-c conservative at all then this quiz wont be of much interest to you. But welcome to the blog anyway and why not give it a try? You might be surprised.
Which Local Party Should You Vote For?
If you can’t decide who to vote for locally, here’s a simple quiz which offers some guidance. It’s a bit of fun, try not to take it too seriously. Enjoy! :)
Last Post Before A Brief Break
I’m off to America on business this Friday morning so this is, realistically, my last post until I return a week later.
Cllr. “Taxi” Dave Patrick (his identifier, not mine) tells me that I might be getting a call from the Standards Board, suggesting that I may have somehow upset “two county councillors.” I presume he means the ‘Kippers, though I don’t know this for sure. But who else could it be? :) Of course, it’s not impossible that Taxi Dave (his identifier, not mine) is just making it all up. Not that I’m suggesting he would deliberately lie. Perish the thought.
I’ve been writing (both professionally and for fun) for decades and I am well aware of where the boundaries are, how to phrase things and how to be careful so as to remain on the right side of discretion with the things I write. I would be amazed if there were anything that “two county councillors” could find in my blog or elsewhere that were an applicable case for the Standard’s Board. If I’ve said something untrue – come on and prove it. If I’ve written in a manner unfitting of a county councillor, show me where. If i’ve made any comment without the proper provisos: “In my opinion,” “apparently,” “by some accounts” etc. then come on and make your case. Give it your best shot. Unless I just woke up in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia I think that free speech and free expression, within lawful boundaries, is still something we believe in here? Bring it on.
Aptly, I’m off to Philadelphia and will be visiting the Liberty Bell. I am very much looking forward to it. Talk to you all soon!
“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Ten Ways To Spot A Statist
In order to preserve liberty, prosperity and common sense it is necessary for logical people with sound beliefs to stand against the bossy authoritarians, tiny tyrants, petty bureaucrats and control freaks of the world. If only by trying to be the voice of reason and to moderate their attempts to Rule The World, one cul-de-sac at a time. But how do you spot them? In keeping with the popular meme of chatty magazines the world over here’s a ten point list of key identifiers by which you can know the enemy.
(1) “Something must be done!”
Any time there is a moral panic there will be those who capitalise on the localised outrage by striding to the front, the paint on their banner still wet, and proclaiming themselves a leader on the issue.
(2) “You should be ashamed!”
Devoid of any actual argument, or of any logical points to make, statists try to force their will on everybody else by using personal attacks and decrying those who hold a different view to their own – while steering as far as possible from anything that might actually be considered a reasoned argument.
(3) Broad Brush Strokes
To a statist, everything is simple. Any issue can be solved, obviously, by the exact thing that – surprise, surprise – they happen to support. That thing will always be more regulation or more control because force and coercion are the only method statists understand.
(4) Blind Spots
Anything which does not sit perfectly in their simply framed caricature of the thing they support is completely ignored. Evidence, argument, other opinions, no matter how well stated are completely ignored. A statist simply cannot see or hear anything which deviates from their position.
(5) No Fault Accepted
No statist will ever accept that the additional rules and regulations and controls they favoured didn’t work. It is always that their idea was improperly actioned or that it was not implemented with enough vigour. A statist’s response to regulatory failure is to propose more regulation.
(6) “If it saves one life…”
The classic statist line, purporting that any measure – no matter how illiberal or extreme – should be supported if it can help one person. This most populist approach depends on emotional appeal while ignoring the most basic logical reasoning.
(7) Personal responsibility does not exist
To a statist, people are not responsible for their own actions. Anything that happens is the fault of a failure in regulation and control, which only the state can cure. Nothing is anybody’s fault. (The occasional exception to this rule is if the statist is proposing additional regulation or control on a social group, in which case everything is their fault. Hence the need for the additional regulation.)
(8) He who shouts the loudest
A statist will design regulation for those who are making the most noise. They will never consider that there is “another side” to the argument, even if that other side actually forms a silent majority. (There will always be an opportunity to support the other side when they are later faced with their own moral panic for which additional regulation can be proposed.)
(9) False Democracy
The best statists talk constantly about “democracy” because they enjoy finding and using the Tyranny Of The Majority. But their true intentions are always to further impose controls and sanctions on everybody else at every juncture and in every circumstance.
(10) For their own good
On the very odd occasion that they are unable to escape an actual debate and must defend their authoritarian nature, you might be able to get a statist’s mask to slip. This is very hard to do, but if you manage you might get to hear them, while talking about other adults, tell you that “sometimes you have to do these things for their own good” or similar. Only then do you really know what you are dealing with. An arrogant, tinpot dictator with delusions of grandeur who has the absolute belief that they know exactly what is best for everybody else and fully intend to impose their view of nirvana on you. Whether you like it or not.
Mouthing Off Into The Tempest
Local blogger and outspoken activist David Prestidge wrote an interesting blog piece today which I thought merited some analysis. I’m going to make some broad assumptions about the intent and meaning of the piece, but these are my own observations and I make no claim to know for sure what he was or was not trying to say.
Nevertheless, in the spirit of debate I thought it would be interesting to do. You can read his original blog piece here. http://wisbechcommunityforum.blogspot.co.uk/ ( I can’t find a way to link directly to the blog post as his blog infrastructure doesn’t seem to have separate post pages, so if you read this much later than 17th July 2013 the link may lead you to a newer piece. So if you’re confused, that’s why!)
Mr. Prestidge says:
BLOGGING IS A PECULIAR PASTIME. It presupposes so many things. Firstly, that the blogger has something valuable or entertaining to say. Secondly, that the blogger suspects there might be an audience for what he or she has to say. In the absence of anything more productive to do, some bloggers actually seem intent on making a living out of their effort, by attracting advertisers and niche marketers to their site.
Is that right? I don’t think it presupposes anything. Blogging is simply an online diary, journal or series of articles (or some combination thereof) that is available for the world to see. Bloggers might hope that what they write will be useful, interesting or provocative but I doubt many “presuppose” anything about it. Personally, I’m of the view that it’s a pretty healthy thing for people to write creatively, to express themselves, to share ideas and to challenge one another – whether you’re any good at it or not, and whether anybody reads it or not.
Nor do I think that bloggers presume there is an audience for what they write. Though, again, I imagine they hope that there are kindred spirits, like minds, or just friendly people out there who might get something, whatever that something is, out of their action of pouring their heart and mind into (digital) print.
Mr Prestidge says: REJECTED POLITICIANS are a particular sub-species of blogger. Long after they have faded from public view, they stand like some M&S-suited King Lear, mouthing off into the tempest, resolute in the belief that their election defeat was an aberration, and that they still have an audience.
Well, I suppose he means people like Nick Clarke. Goodness, he might even mean me also. I expect there will be a few tear-streaked nights of heartbroken sobbing, but I reckon we’ll all just have to learn to live with his disapproval.
By the by, I don’t think I own any M&S suits, though I wouldn’t consider myself too good to wear one. I would be frankly amazed if Nick Clarke owned any M&S suits, but having a fixation with men’s wardrobes isn’t my thing so I don’t know for sure. I’m not sure why it concerns Mr. Prestidge or what his point is, but: “time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides, who covers faults, at last shame them derides,” as they say. : )
I did think that it was an interesting position though. Is Mr. Prestidge suggesting that somebody who has been an elected politician should withdraw from local life if they lose an election? That they are no longer allowed to blog or whatever else offends his sensibilities? Because Cllr Lay and Cllr Clapp and Cllr Bucknor and most other local politicians who’ve been involved in local politics for a while have all lost elections. Quite a lot of them, actually. The nature of politics is you win some you lose some. To believe that you are then useless to your community and to go and sulk for years would be, in my very humble opinion, pretty weak. To believe you don’t have a right to express your opinion in a blog would be very odd indeed.
Then Mr. prestidge says: BUT WAIT…Is not this a blog? Is Pickwick not guilty of the same hubris and self-importance that he criticises others for? Guilty as charged, m’lud. Yes, of course I am. I love words. I love writing them much more than I love saying them. Think of this blog as little more than an elderly gent sitting in front of a recording device, and emptying his thoughts in your general direction. Bloggers are the digital inheritors of the mantle of generations of eccentrics and losers who have stood on boxes in Hyde Park, and berated their deriding audience.
Obviously Mr Prestidge knows himself the best. But personally I think he does himself a disservice. I don’t believe for one minute that his blog is ego-driven. I think it’s fair to say that Mr Prestidge doesn’t much care for me (and I have no great fondness for him either), but I do think his blog is well-written, interesting and thoughtful. That can’t possibly be a bad thing, can it? I don’t see blogging as a direct descendant of Hyde Park speakers precisely, though I love that analogy. I think, as a whole movement, it’s bigger than that. It encompasses the old-fashioned writing of letters, the writing of pamphlets, the writing of personal diaries, amateur journalism, comedy, debate, as well as speech-making and rabble rousing. And its more besides – it’s a new thing that combines all of this and more. It has its own place and it is still growing into whatever it will become in the future. I think it’s great, even if I personally am not particularly good at it.
Next, Mr. Prestidge says: POLITICS AND MORALITY DIVIDE US ALL. Everyone has the answer. No-one has the workable solution, despite what they say, tweet and blog. I grew up in a working class family with strongly traditional values. You didn’t lie, you didn’t cheat, you played fair, and you voted Labour, even if the rich bastards three streets away were getting away with all sorts, because they ‘knew people’, and were smart with their investments. I was lucky enough, and clever enough to go to a Grammar School, where I was taught discipline, perseverance, and – most importantly – that ‘self’ didn’t matter. You did things because they were right or because they benefited other people. You opened the door for ladies, gave up your seat on the bus, and were generally what modern class warriors would call an Uncle Tom.
I always enjoy when people go to great effort to tell us how working class their background is. Or how traditional their values are. In fact, pretty much everybody I know would make much the same claim. I was born into a working class family too, though my parents worked their way up into what would probably be called middle class as I was growing up. But so did David Prestidge, because he was a teacher, which is generally considered to be a middle class profession.
My family also had (and still have) pretty traditional values. Though what any two people mean by traditional will be different, of course. We didn’t lie or cheat and we also played fair, though we voted Conservative because we believed it was the party for people who aspired to be more than the state and class labels that were stuck on their heads. However, we didn’t call those who had different views to (or a little more money than) us “bastards.” So there’s that.
I still open doors for ladies and give my seat up on the rare occasion that I use public transport – though such things are no longer political acceptable to everybody. I’m not sure what Mr Prestidge’s paragraph is supposed to prove unless its: “My arguments must be right because look what a nice guy I am.” Except, in my opinion, quite a lot of people from all walks of life are still genuinely nice, decent folk. I don’t believe it’s as rare as this paragraph seems to suggest.
In full lament, Mr Prestidge goes on to say: WHERE IN THE WORLD HAS THIS LEFT ME? Basically on a desert island, along with a few other gentle souls who were brought up to be God Fearing, respectful (where it was due) and polite despite provocation. Politically, no party seems to understand my heritage. The Labour party is a lost cause. Conservatives are the Devil’s Spawn. UKIP? – they come closest to embodying what I feel about life and responsibility, but they are a candle in the wind, hamstrung with fascist baggage and beset by unchallenged schoolboy reporting by the mainstream media.
I suspect that most people, when they see themselves in their minds eye, envision just this sort of tragic hero – struggling against an unfair world that doesn’t understand them and would be so much better if only people would just listen. I’m sure many would envision themselves as a “gentle soul.” How everybody else sees each individual is probably not quite the same. Some will see you even brighter, some will look at what you’ve said and done and just wonder how you can sleep at night. I suppose, in the end, it’s all about perceptions. But we can, each one of us, just do our best to be true to what we believe, try to be humble about our failings and work hard to be better in the future.
For what it’s worth, I wish more councillors, ex-councillors, activists and regular folk would blog. About whatever interests them, earnestly and honestly from the heart. Whether they “mouth off into the tempest” or just whisper deliciously into the breeze. Creative writing is a good thing*. Long may it continue.
*With the possible exception of the local press. : )