Archive for July, 2010

July 30, 2010

>The internet election…again…

>The Hansard Society have launched a paper on the Internet Election, or lack there of, and hosted a debate on the issue last night in Portcullis House. The debate was wide raging and interesting. The main point that struck VN was what does ‘the internet election’ actually mean? Does it mean organising people, winning votes by high quality web based  media, or something different entirely?


Politics has always been quite elitist, and the internet in theory should reverse this. Parties have allowed online politics to become more decentralised, but there is still a sense of politicos talking to themselves, particularly on Twitter. This was summed up by a stat one of the panellists put forward: 9.4 million watched the Leaders Debates on television, only 37,000 tweeted about it.


VN’s particular 2010 Election web highlights were The Liberal Democrat’s ‘Labservative’ campaign, and the outrage when Labour MP Kerry McCarthy tweeted the results of postal ballots being counted. MyDavidCameron and the reversing of the #nickcleggsfault hash tag were also great fun, but did any of these things win (or lose,) any votes?


Part of the reason is that British political parties simply do not provide enough resources for online media to make a real difference. Another stat for you: by the end of his Presidential campaign, Barack Obama’s online team contained 140 members,by the end of the 2010 General Election campaign the Conservative Party’s contained 12. 


It was rightly pointed out last night that there was very little evidence from 2001 or 2005 to justify the 2010 election being hyped as ‘the internet election’. The  AV referendum, Labour Leadership, and local/Mayoral elections give online activists another chance to hone their skills and fully utilise this new medium. Before that, political parties need to decide what they want new media to do, and be willing to pay for it.

July 29, 2010

>Burnham and Abbot rise above the clones

>Victoria Derbyshire’s 5Live phone in today played host to a live debate between the five candidates seeking to be the next leader of the Labour party. Prior to this debate VN had thrown its weight behind Ed Balls (rather sarcastically,) and more genuinely behind Ed Miliband (his living wage campaign is good, but it should have been done whilst in government.)  


However that all changed today. After hearing the debate the most promising candidates seem to be Andy Burnham and Diane Abbot. Now this may seem strange. Politically VN is an orange blog, (i.e. pro Lib Dems, and pro Orange Book Lib Dem,) and supportive of the Coalition. Despite not agreeing with much of what they said, only Burnham and Abbot have the genuine political convictions to hold the Government to account. They stood out against the Labour party generated clones, and eloquently argued a left wing ideology that clearly goes to their core. Whichever points one agreed or disagreed with them on, it was refreshing to hear. 

Anyway, to help you decide for yourself have a listen back to the debate via the BBC iPlayer.  

July 28, 2010

>The AV red herring

>The Labour Shadow Cabinet has decided to vote against the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, which will trigger the referendum on changing the electoral system to the Alternative Vote. Their supposed objection is that this Bill also includes provisions for equalising constituency sizes, which they argue favours the Conservative Party, and  the exemption of some sparsely populated rural seats in the Scottish Highlands, which they say gives the Lib Dems an advantage. The argument that they are opposing such necessary reforms on the basis of a few abnormally populated rural seats* is surely one of the weakest that we have heard from the opposition benches.


I will not spend time highlighting the massive advantage the current system gives the Labour Party over both its major rivals, but it does.


In an article on the Left Foot Forward blog some other arguments are highlighted, such as that a smaller House of Commons will not help with gender balance. That will not be a major issue if a fairer voting system is introduced as everyone knows that more female (and BME) candidates get elected under such systems.

Supporting AV was in Labour’s manifesto, so this really is beginning to look like pure opportunism, hypocrisy, and opposition for the sake of it. The truth though is that this Bill is a red herring. It is the first real issue on which the Coalition partners have completely opposing views, and Labour have just picked it up to try and split the Government. They can say that they support AV but not boundary changes and scupper the Bill, knowing the pressure that not having a referendum would put on the Liberal Democrat leadership. 

All this posturing is  doing is highlighting the fact that the Labour Party are behaving like affronted spoilt children in opposition, with no understanding that it was this arrogant, tribal attitude that landed them there in the first place. While VN imagines that the referendum will go ahead, the Labour Leadership should not be allowed to play politics with something as fundamental as our democracy.


*To be clear, ‘abnormally populated means populated in a way uncommon to most of the United Kingdom. VN would not dream of calling the people of the Scottish Highlands abnormal – VN Scottish Affairs Editor

July 28, 2010

>Can the internet ever overpower Government?

>VN tends to focus on politics and the developments in the world wide web, and the two worlds have collided head on courtesy of Wikileaks’ Kabul War Diary. The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is clearly driven by pacifism, and a deep sense of distrust of authority, but can an extremely tech savvy person ever truly take on Government? If they could, do we really want to know the truth anyway?


The internet is a fantastically democratising force, the ultimate in liberty and free speech.  That a man can challenge superpower Governments’ so directly, so publicly, and so effectively truly shows its power. Assange is to be praised for his bravery and determination to bring out the truth.


However, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’. Today it has transpired that The Times newspaper has found details of Afghan informants fathers’ names and villages in the documents. This is despite Assange’s promise that such documents had been removed. Highlighting Government or military error is one thing, putting the lives of Afghani’s who are trying to help Coalition forces at risk is quite another.


Only time will tell if the Kabul War Diary becomes the Pentagon Papers of our time. The incidents are of course very similar, but the Kabul War Diary could actually be more important, as they have emerged while the war is ongoing. Furthermore, the internet has meant that these documents are far more accessible than their Vietnam predecessors. 


The game has moved on, and Governments need to take heed. Only disclosing the truth will prevent direct digital challenges that in the future could be even more damaging. 

July 26, 2010

>And then there were two

>

From the Evening Standard

Constituency Labour Party nominations for the next leader of the Labour party have closed, and have decreased the excitement of an already dull leadership ‘race’ even further by essentially making it a fight between the two Miliband brothers. 


158 CLPs backed David Miliband, and 148 backed his brother Ed. Former Health Secretary Andy Burnham came third with 40  CLP nominations, Diane Abbott won 20, and Ed Balls came in last with just 14 CLPs nominating him. Ed Miliband  has also received the nomination of the three biggest trade unions. That said, David has received the backing of ‘bigotgate’ star Gillian Duffy! 


An already dull contest has turned into a pathetic fake battle between two  brothers vying for the leadership of party that has been entirely rejected by the British electorate. There seem to be almost no dividing lines of note between the candidates, very few new ideas, and an obsession of talking to themselves not the people who will decide if they will become Prime Minister in 5 years time. Except for those in the Miliband household, does anyone care anymore who succeeds Gordon Brown? 


The Labour party has become an introspective irrelevance, and this has been perfectly illustrated by those that wish to lead it.

July 26, 2010

>Time for team orders in F1?

>

By now everyone has heard the quite blatant team orders from Ferrari’s Rob Smedley, instructing Felipe Massa to move aside  for Fernando Alonso. The incident came a year after Massa nearly lost his life after cracking his skull in the Hungarian Grand Prix.




Felipe Massa at Autódromo Internacional do Alg...Image via Wikipedia


If you have missed it, Smedley informs Massa that Alonso is faster. When Massa ignores this comment, Smedley says:


“Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand?” 
2 laps later Massa slowed down and allow Alonso to pass him at the hairpin turn 6, to which Smedley replied: 


“Good lad. Just stick with it now, sorry.”
Two things arise from this incident. Firstly, with the rules as they are, it is the demand for confirmation and the apology that make Smedley’s comments so damning. While Ferrari have accepted the $100,000 fine, VN can’t help thinking they will be thinking they got away with it. Just imagine if Button and Hamilton had a pulled a stunt like this, the podium finishes would almost certainly have been stripped by now, with multiple fines being handed out to senior McClaren staff. That Ferrari seem set to keep the maximum 43 from the race demonstrates just what power that team have within Formula One.


Secondly, after Mark Webber’s outburst after winning last week, perhaps we should be considering ending the notion of two individuals being in the same team but competing. By definition team mates should be working together. However this is not the case in Formula 1 and frequently tensions arise, leading to incidents like those in the last two races, which are no good for the sport. If team orders were allowed, more camaraderie could be generated between team mates, and the constructors championship would gain greater significance. 

Whatever you think, its clear the underhand behaviour of team Ferrari can’t be allowed to continue unchecked.


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July 23, 2010

>Mary Anne Hobbs to leave Radio1

>Mary Annes Hobbs has released a statement via her Myspace page that she has resigned from the BBC, it is as follows:



“Yesterday I resigned from BBC Radio1, after an amazing multi-dimensional 14 year career.

The great freedoms the BBC have given in me as a broadcaster, have allowed me to help break so many confrontational artists as diverse as Slipknot and Skream, and of course, the whole genre of Dubstep in recent times.

My current Experimental show is in peak condition, it’s never been stronger. And although it’s a very emotional decision to leave the show that I love so much, it’s also an optimum moment to bow out, at the very top of my game.

My work for Radio1 on the Breezeblock, Rock Show, many fascinating documentaries about everything from David Bowie to Dubstep, on daytime, at festivals and award ceremonies, has been exceptionally rewarding. These have been glory days not just for me, but for all the artists who have shared my BBC platform, and of course, the listeners everywhere from Beijing to Berlin, Baltimore to Blackpool, who shared a great passion for future sound.

I will continue to DJ live, work in film, and curate at Sonar festival in Barcelona.

I have also accepted a new job mentoring and teaching students at Sheffield University’s radio station, TV station and the newspaper that operate out of their superb Forge Media Hub, which presents me with a really exciting new challenge.

My last show on BBC Radio1 will be broadcast:
September 8th>>9th … Wednesday night >> Thursday morning… 2-4am
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/maryannehobbs

Thank you so much for listening..”




While VN doesn’t always add every track Mary Anne plays to the office playlist, there is no doubting her commitment to finding and breaking exciting new music. She is a DJ and presenter of indisputable integrity, and leaves a massive legacy at BBC Radio1. A legacy that VN feels only a certain Irish DJ will be able to fill….




July 23, 2010

>BBC launch iPad app

>The BBC will today launch a brand new app for its iPad. 


The BBC Trust ruled that it did not need to come under any further scrutiny, as it did not “represent a significant change to the BBC’s existing public services”. This goes against the fears of other content producers who fear that the BBC will gain even greater dominance in the market. Excitingly, iplayer and BBC sports apps are said to be ready for release soon.


VN would love to give you a detailed review of this new app, but sadly a  complimentary iPad (uhum) has not arrived in headquarters yet…

July 22, 2010

>Griffin shall not go to the ball

>News has emerged that BNP leader Nick Griffin MEP has had his invitation to a party this afternoon at Buckingham Palace removed, as his was using the invite for overtly political purposes. 


VN is delighted at this news. While a ‘no platform’ policy prevents the foul policies of the BNP being properly shown up for what they are, Griffin’s continual crass grabbing of the limelight needs to be stopped. Unfortunately there was not much that could have been done to prevent the original invite, the party is for MEPs and sadly Griffin is one, but his gratuitous use of the invite has rightly been punished. 

Iain Dale correctly points out how bragging before the event that he was going to  represent “a million British patriots who vote for this party” shows what an amateur Griffin is.  If you give him enough political rope, he will eventually hang himself.

The fight against fascism is an important one, and one that must continue. Hopefully Griffin will quickly lose his seat, and we never have to see his smug face when he has to be invited to these things again. But until then, his idiotic behaviour has to be exposed, and punished.


July 21, 2010

>Taxi for Jack Straw

>For the first time since 1922 a Liberal Democrat leader answered the questions at Prime Minister’s Questions. It was a strong, if not Earth shattering, performance from Nick Clegg, but he easily out did his Labour opponent Jack Straw.


Rightly and widely respected, VN expected more from Jack Straw. Today though he muttered, stumbled and looked well past his sell by date. The questions on Forgemasters were predictible and irrelevant, the attempts to drive a wedge between the Coalition highlighted an immaturity that is all too common on the Labour benches. Bring on the memoirs…


By the end Nick Clegg was in full flow. Defending the Coalition, attacking Labour’s record of illiberalism, and restating the Government’s determination to remove troops from Afghanistan. It wasn’t as good as ‘that’ debate performance, he needs to get more succinct for next time, but the natural delivery style and confidence where in evidence once again.


The other thing to note was the shambles that Speaker Bercow presided over. Bercow resorted to shouting people down, and was not in control of the back benches. He even forgot how many questions Straw had asked, although perhaps he can be forgive for that!


Final score:
Clegg 6 Straw 2 Bercow 1


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