The EU referendum campaign starts today

Today sees the official start of the EU referendum campaign even though it’s been spluttering on for a few months now. For UKIP and the hard/far right of the Tory Party this is what they’ve dreamed of for years, decades even, yet the fact is there’s not a single sensible informed vision of a post EU United Kingdom (or whatever is going to be left of it as both Scotland and Northern Ireland may head down different routes) to be had.

Instead we’re told to trust the likes of Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson.  So in the next couple of months remember, we can stay and deal with the many flaws of the EU while still enjoying the benefits from it, or go into I’m not quite sure what exactly. So remember the main reasons to remain..

remainEUreferendum

If you trust this lot then vote to leave. Just don’t complain when you lose your right to holidays or you can’t get a visa to go to Spain….

 

How to hack an election

There’s a fantastic piece on Bloomberg about Andrés Sepúlveda, who is going to be utterly unknown to 99.9% of people because what Sepúlveda did was to use his computing skills to help rig elections in Mexico. The way he did so is a fascinating read, as well as being utterly terrifying in that anyone can do what Sepúlveda did if they’ve got the ability and the equipment.and there’s one part of this great article that should get the hairs prickling on the back of people’s necks here in the UK.

As for Sepúlveda, his insight was to understand that voters trusted what they thought were spontaneous expressions of real people on social media more than they did experts on television and in newspapers. He knew that accounts could be faked and social media trends fabricated, all relatively cheaply. He wrote a software program, now called Social Media Predator, to manage and direct a virtual army of fake Twitter accounts. The software let him quickly change names, profile pictures, and biographies to fit any need. Eventually, he discovered, he could manipulate the public debate as easily as moving pieces on a chessboard—or, as he puts it, “When I realized that people believe what the Internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything.”

Anyone with experience of the Scottish independence referendum campaign with the horde of Better Together Twitter accounts that sounded the same, or have delved into the quagmire of UKIP/Britain First or the far right will recognise the scourge of the fake Twitter account. Of course there’s genuine people out there, but there’s also a number of obviously fake accounts any activist or protester has to deal with. It means you develop a bit of paranoia when dealing with political activism be it on social media on on message forums.

The fact is it’s getting harder to spot some of the online dark arts political parties and powerful groups engineer, and this isn’t the sort of thing you generally consider grassroots activists doing as this takes not just expertise, but serious money and resources.

So the lesson is, trust no one.

trustnoone

Whatever you do today just vote!

Today is election day in the UK general election after what seems like a campaign that has went on for decades. There’s a brutal choice in front of people: do they vote for one of the Tory parties (Conservative, UKIP, Lib Dems) or do they vote Labour, or for one of the more progressive anti-austerity parties (SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens) that will support a minority Labour government to hopefully pull them from their current centre right pro-austerity position.

It’s a choice you have to make but what ever you decide just vote. Polling Places are open so go do the one thing the establishment is terrified (and David Cameron is clearly scared of the possible result) of which is the people using their democratic right. Even if you stand there in the polling booth and spoil your paper, just use your right that people fought so hard for.

Especially this year. There’s a real potential for change be you left or right so there’s hours left to vote. Don’t put it off and hopefully we get the right result in the morning…

One last word to the people of England from a Scot wanting a SNP sweep in the election…

It’s nearly the day of the general election and so much hinges on getting the Tories out as they with their Lib Dem or UKIP enablers will destroy lives over the next five years if they manage to form another government. In fact leaked coalition documents revealed in the Guardian today show that people, especially young people, the sick, the disabled and unemployed, are going to be hurt badly if Cameron gets back in. This isn’t to say I’ve had a Damascan conversion to Labour, I’ve not as a majority Labour government could be as terrible but in different ways as the Labour Party of today needs to be tempered hence my wish for the SNP (and their allies the Greens and Plaid Cymru) to get as many MP’s as possible.

I’ve had Labour supporters tell me ‘but you really want a Labour government so just vote Labour’, but as said, I don’t want a Labour government and I’ve outlined before why I’ll never vote Labour again a few months back. Ultimately because of the system we have either the Tories or Labour are going to form the main core of the government, and seeing as I think the Tories are scum. it makes sense to offer support to Labour in the hope that they listen, and possibly make things better for the UK.

Yet there’s been reluctance from many Labour supporters to even consider SNP support and rumours still persist that some close to Milliband would prefer to let the Tories back in than be put into government by the SNP. I’ve had friends on social media and in the real world voice their concern about the SNP, and yes, the word ‘nationalist’ is used purely as a pejorative with no understanding of Scotland’s old tradition of civic nationalism and how vastly different it is to cultural nationalism, which is what British Unionists pretend to be, but the problem is there is no shared British culture or identity. I can go from my home here in Bristol to Cardiff and experience a vastly different culture, heritage and idea of ‘Britishness’ there and the truth is that a form of conservative nationalism has been spawned that sadly the Labour Party buy right into as much as the right wing parties do.

Now there may be a confusion here as some readers will think there’s only one type of nationalism and that’s that nasty UKIP/BNP type, but here’s the thing: there isn’t and unless one believes in a One World government there will always be borders, and if there’s borders then one defines themselves in the nationalism they wrap around themselves. So you can be inclusive and welcome anyone to your country and they are effectively Scottish, or you can demonise immigrants/asylum seekers and Other them as the Tories, UKIP and Labour have over the last 15 years.

Then there’s the socialist argument that Scotland should still vote Labour in solidarity with their comrades in England, but that is easily shot down as Scotland has voted dutifully for Labour for generations. They acted according to old British Labour and socialist principles and barely got support from many on the left south of the border.  When Scotland made it clear they were rejecting Labour in massive numbers many on the left didn’t, and don’t bother to understand the changes in the political landscape or the fact that people may have socialist principles or ideas, but things have developed, and anyhow, a country like Scotland is never going to effect serious change waiting for the disparate left in England to pull the finger out of their collective arses to enact serious change. I’ve said before that many are locked into a binary battle to the death with the Tories that they miss the potential path Scotland offers.

England can find and develop its own socially democratic inclusive path just as Wales is starting too and they’ll find their closest allies in that will be the people of Scotland as although I feel the Union is dead, that doesn’t mean the three largest parts (I’m not even going to suggest a solution to the problems of Northern Ireland as that’s beyond my feeble mind) of the Union cannot form common bonds and create something new, positive and wonderful from the bloody mess of the Union. A close relationship of equals rather than an unequal partnership where England dominates due to it’s massive size in comparison to the other countries is more civilised, more befitting 21st century societies than one constantly looking to the past dreaming Imperial dreams of Great Wars that were never great, or continuing a bloodline that sees one family stand over the people unelected and unaccountable. The Union is a comfort blanket and it’s flag is a bloody shroud and for good reason the Union Flag is called the ‘Butcher’s Apron’.

Now for many people I’ve just written some pretty extreme things, and I imagine even Labour supporters may bristle at what they’ve read, but when you see Ed Milliband rebrand Labour as ‘One Nation Labour’ I only see Labour express their own nationalism and it’s that of everything that’s bad about the Union. This isn’t to say I’ve always felt like this. I’ve not, but on Sunday I was in London for a comic mart and while cutting through Victoria Station the Union Flag was hanging everywhere.

victoriastationunionflag

I felt revulsion not because of the flag itself but of what it represents. It represents a nation that’d rather cling onto ‘heritage’ than feed it’s people. That would rather it celebrate the deaths of millions of young men in pointless wars than house people, including the young returning from today’s pointless wars. A nation that has the disabled demonised and spat on in the street. A nation that is not colourblind but sees people that look nothing like them as a threat. A nation clinging onto the very idea of itself and that puts a small elite at the top of the pile and keeps them there.

Then yesterday I saw this picture over at Wings Over Scotland.

waitingfornicola

This was taken as people waited for the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Greenock yesterday. You’ve got the Rangers supporting Unionists (one of which allegedly has some serious form) representing the past both supporting a dead club and a dying concept and a wee girl holding a saltire proudly aloft representing the future. She probably gets it, so I ask my friends and those that don’t know me to get it too.

The SNP are not perfect, but they’re a tool to allow a large part of Scotland to effect change. Yes of course they’ll act for Scotland but because of the Westminster system their actions will aid the poorest,the weakest, the less able in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If they vote down tuition fees, help repeal the bedroom tax and force Labour not to just drop austerity, but roll back Cameron’s cuts then imagine a better country?

There is nothing to fear from civic nationalists like the SNP. There is nothing to fear about questioning the entire purpose and history of the Union. There should only be good people uniting to rid the UK of the Tories and making a progressive alliance of parties (the SDLP will also support Labour) representing all four countries in the UK work. This isn’t to say that Scottish independence isn’t going to happen as I think it will and within my lifetime, but for now there’s a chance for genuine reform and change but I implore people to drop their old preconceptions, open their minds and think. There might never be another chance like this in my lifetime so lets work together but in new ways to improve things once and for all.

So don’t vote Tory. Don’t vote UKIP. Don’t vote Lib Dem as they’re now Tories in all but name. Do vote SNP. Do vote Plaid Cymru. Vote Green in areas where they stand a bloody good chance. Vote Labour through gritted teeth if need be and hope they stay true even to the basic changes they’ve pledged themselves to. Hope Ed Milliband is smart enough to realise Nicola Sturgeon’s offer of a progressive alliance and if he is, then on Friday it could be a bright spring day for all of us, not just the few.

Farage ally: disability an “epidemic” and the public “should not see the disabled on television”

Anyone thinking that UKIP’s allies aren’t screaming racists, bigots, homophones and just generally dangerous should take note of this.

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the UKIP!)

UKIP’s new friends in Europe – members of the Polish KNP party – think disability is an “epidemic” and disabled people shouldn’t be seen on television because we should see only “healthy, beautiful, strong and wise people on our screens“.

The leader of the KNP – Janusz Korwin-Mikke – wrote the disturbing views on his blog.

But because his words were in Polish, it got little attention in the UK, even when Nigel Farage decided to ally himself in the EU with the far-right party.

Here’s an article in English with quotes from Korwin-Mikke’s blog:

korwin mikke disabled

Nigel’s allies in Europe have some pretty disgusting views on other things too.

Here are just a few of them:

“Democracy is the stupidest form of government ever conceived.”

“Women are dumber than men and should not be allowed to vote”

“Evolution has ensured that women are not too intelligent”

View original post 90 more words

What I thought of The Leaders Debate

Last night was the first seven leader election debate last night and all sides are claiming their own victories. Truth is that depending upon your own political bias whomever you liked was always going to win but there’s some remarkable results in all the polls, forums, Tweets, and all and sundry after last night’s debate.

The first is that just the sight of three female party leaders, one of which is First Minister of Scotland, shook things up right away.As has been pointed out, Cameron, Clegg and Farage are all privately educated, and Cameron, Clegg and Milliband are spawned from elite universities. Sure Sturgeon went to Glasgow University but she’s from modest upper working class root, and Wood is from a similar background in Wales though Bennett has a different background but one removed from the London based political classes.All three women looked, sounded and acted differently to Cameron, Clegg and Milliband’s tired old techniques, and as for Farage, well Sturgeon and Wood did the most effective evisceration of him I’ve seen from a politician.

And Farage’s reply is to make a face. Here’s UKIP and Farage in it’s full anti-intellectual glory.

But all the leaders consolidated their core support, even Clegg as he flushed the last liberal bone in his body down the bog as he exposed himself as Cameron’s little lapdog. The interesting thing though are those people who’s eyes have been opened that the narrative of neoliberalism, austerity and constant blame of the sick, unemployed, immigrants, and all those that are the weakest in society is in fact, a false one. Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett showed that there’s another narrative, not an especially old or radical one but simply about accepting decent British values of equality, decency and fairness. It’s a debate that’s been lost since Blair dragged Labour lurching to the right creating a vacuum that’s enabled the likes of UKIP to slime its  way in and gain ground, but UKIP and Farage can be taken on headfirst as shown last night.

Also what was clear is how little, if at all, Cameron, Milliband and Clegg knew about Scottish or Welsh politics so were unable to speak about anything but the established London media/political bubble rhetoric about ‘long term economic plans’ rather than facts and details. They failed to paint a positive vision, as Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett did talk the UK’s parts up, as well as make it clear that most people aren’t bigoted little creatures like Farage.

It also brings England partly up to speed with a debate that’s seriously advanced in Scotland, and getting off the ground in Wales. Just from my English friend’s social media feeds it’s clear many were impressed with Sturgeon and would vote for her party if they could, so it’s broken the spell that the SNP are scary nationalists once and for all. It’s made Labour’s job in Scotland amazingly tough, and it’s oddly, probably helped Labour in England as the SNP have made it clear they’ll only support Labour, so people may well vote Labour in England hoping for the SNP’s support. That of course is going to hurt the Greens but I still feel they’ll add to their existing MP.

As for Cameron and Clegg, it really wasn’t a great night. Cameron spluttered and barely deviated from the script so he looked wooden and aloof, while Clegg is just a big liberal arsehole with his ‘good immigration and bad immigration’ line that made everyone instantly think of this.

Last night isn’t going to decide the result once and for all as there’s still weeks to go but is has changed things on the political landscape. Women are now seen as leaders of not only their parties, but countries. They didn’t use the same tired techniques. They engaged people on equal terms. That alone is magnificent for an English media struggling still to come to terms with the ramifications of the Scottish independence referendum.

I still think Scotland will be independent in my lifetime, but oddly enough the only result in the election that could save the Union in the next five years is a Labour/SNP government. A Tory/Lib Dem/UKIP one sees the UK die by 2020 but after seeing all the UK (bar the disgraceful lack of NI party leaders) in it’s political glory debate it’s over for the old Unionist idea that England=UK. The Union as we know it is done, it’s just the people of England don’t realise it yet, but Scotland does. After last night there’s a wee glimmer of hope that people now realise across these islands that the old order of tired middle aged men in suits arguing about the same straplines is dead, long live the future where all of us are treated the same and all of us can have the same chances.

Jeremy Clarkson, Nigel Farage and Steve Bell have ensured it’s been a good week for bigots, racists and idiots.

If you’re a racist, bigot or generally think that black people need putting in their place, or the Scots are chippy tossers, or calling someone an ‘Irish cunt’ is something that’s just a bit of laugh then this has been the week for you.

The week started with Steve Bell suggesting that the SNP would support incest for a chance of power, not to mention that because Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are Scottish they’d look hilarious if they were doing Scottish dancing and talked like they came out of Brigadoon.

stevebellsnpincest

Buy hey, casual racism is fine when it comes to Scots, or indeed, anything perceived as working class in the media. Had this been the Welsh they’d be portrayed carrying leeks and worrying sheep (though the media would have to discover Wales in the first place) or Liverpool would have chirpy Scousers with Souness moustaches, and so on. Know your place. Eat your cereal.

Then came along Jeremy Clarkson, beloved of middle aged men and people that think The Lad Bible is funny. He’s been suspended from the BBC for a ‘fracas’ that his mates think wasn’t a big deal but the gossip site Popbitch (normally a good source for this sort of thing) report this…

It’s not just physical abuse
Clarkson doled out. The words used
are said to be something along the
lines of “Where’s our hot food, you
lazy fucking Irish cunt?”

So all those people signing petitions (one now outnumbers that against female genital mutilation) are supporting not only someone that resorts to violence as they don’t have people jumping at their whims, but uses the nationality of someone as a pejorative.

ducksoverscotlandclarksonfgm

Mike Small of the site Bella Caledonia wrote a fantastic article on Bell and Clarkson in the context of the abuse Scotland and Scots (of all descriptions) have taken this week, but I don’t think anyone could predict the week would come to an end with Nigel Farage trying to yet again drag the UK back to the 1950’s in possibly the most open display of UKIP’s petty beige racism that’s they’ve done yet, and this is saying quite a bit. Farage’s idea to get rid of equality and race discrimination law which is shocking enough but hidden in there is the real reason which is to allow employers to hire and fire whomever they like. Black and the best person for the job? Nah, fuck it, racist bosses can ignore you? Female and off work to have a kid? Sorry, you’ve lost your job.

Following Farage’s bizarre logic is that this legislation isn’t needed because people should be free to do what they want because people can be racist if they want to be. It’s simply pandering to this idea that the majority of people are imposed upon because they’re white, middle class and English so that the minorities in this country should somehow put up with a little bit of casual racism as UKIP are ‘colour blind’.

This is all part of the same thing in that racism, bigotry and the sort of imperialist attitudes that diminish Scots and Irish to scare figures of those of the abused is the mainstream view and not that of a group that’s kept quiet. Clarkson’s casual bigotry and violence is seen to be something that’s just ‘bants’ and no big deal, yet he smacked someone and called them an ‘Irish cunt’ because they didn’t bring him something to eat? Is that really the actions of an ordinary person? Bell abused Scots for the crime of being Scottish yet this week we’ve seen anti-Scottish rhetoric hit new heights and there’s still weeks to go before the election so it’s just building up a head of steam. And Farage, well, Farage just made it clear he’s not even attempting to pretend UKIP are an inclusive party of the 21st century. All of this isn’t helped by the majority of the media engaging in a narrative where these people are given time and space to air their views unopposed most of the time, yet the likes of Clarkson and Farage pretend they’re not given an inordinate amount of space to speak freely in the media.

It seems that all the work people did from the 1950’s onwards is slowly being unraveled and not just by Tory tossers like Clarkson or far right demagogues like Farage, but supposed champions of the left like Bell as the idea of equality and egalitarianism is dumped for identity politics or tribalism. It’s simply repulsive  that society is being reshaped to be harder, more brutal and ultimately callous as the establishment realises that the jig is up so they’re making one last stand as people from all sides of the establishment combine to purge what they see as threats and to shape a new UK that’s not going to be a nice place to live.

So when you laugh at a Bell cartoon mocking Scots, or think Farage has a point, or that Clarkson’s just having some fun as he smacked someone and called them an Irish cunt, look at yourself and wonder where your fucking humanity has gone. It’s been a dreadful week and the thing is, there’s worse to come before the election. At least now we realise that the gloves are off and anything goes.