All The More Reason

Ceci n’est pas un test.
December 19, 2011, 10:24 pm
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Debates as Formula One racing
December 25, 2009, 1:28 pm
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A good article on the debates by Ben Macintyre at The Times:

The best comparison is Formula One motor racing. In the run-up to the competition, teams of experts will pore over every aspect of the machine. The candidates will be prepped and coached, primped and primed. Every inch of the track, from podium heights to camera angles, will be fought over. But what most spectators will be drawn to is not mechanical performance or even individual skill, but the thrill of danger, the moment when the car spirals out of control: the slip of the tongue, the awkward gesture or the one-liner that sends the opponent skidding into oblivion.

Debate Humbug
December 22, 2009, 11:34 am
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The announcement that three ‘Leaders’ Debates’ are scheduled to take place during the forthcoming General Election campaign heralds the tightening of the media’s grip around the throat of the political process in this country.

Anyone who has followed the American Presidential Debates knows that these sideshows soon become the main event; the medium becomes the message. Breathless commentators speculate on the choice of tie and the posture of the participants. Hackneyed, pre-scripted soundbites are endlessly replayed until an entire campaign can be reduced to three and a half verb-starved sentences. A debate is the last thing that one ever gets from these debates. Instead (and with apologies to Plum) we can expect spin doctor calling to spin doctor like Mastadons bellowing across the primeval swamps.  

There is nothing that the media relishes more eagerly than a story about itself. Just witness the supreme pomposity of Sky’s Adam Boulton, who puffs himself up as if rolling news were Bagehot’s efficient secret of the British Constitution. For these attention-seekers, the election campaign will simply become a tedious interlude between ‘their’ debates.

Of course, here one risks sounding like one of the High Tories in the 1980s who treated the advent of televised Parliamentary proceedings as if it were the backwards motion of a wrecking ball fixed on St Stephen’s Tower. ‘How will the great unwashed cope!’ But the opposition to TV in the Chamber was never about the effect that it would have on the viewer; rather, it was about the effect that it would have on the viewed. MPs, it was argued, would play to the gallery in a way that would render the once civilized and considered Parliamentary debate a thing of the past. History hasn’t been too kind to that assessment, not only because that halcyon age never existed, but also because any seasoned digital TV channel flicker will attest to the fact that hours of BBC Parliament’s coverage are beamed into homes as pure electromagnetic waves devoid of any emotional content.

But History’s one concession to the theory rears its head every Wednesday at 12pm. When it comes to the vulgar and cheapening farce of Prime Minister’s Questions – whisper it – might those grandees not have had the ghost of a point? Get used to that. It’s the ghost of elections yet to come.

Michael P

November 20, 2009, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Economist has an article on the latest manifestation of Labour’s zeal for legally enforceable duties:

Henceforth, since standards have risen and (whisper this part) the money has run out, improvement will be driven by new legal guarantees or entitlements. These have been increasingly touted in recent months and featured in the Queen’s Speech on November 18th. So, for example, existing targets for NHS patients—to have hospital treatment within 18 weeks of referral by their family doctor, and to see a cancer specialist within two—will become legal entitlements. Among the assorted education guarantees is that some pupils who fall behind will be able to get one-to-one catch-up tuition. Existing pledges on police-response times and regular beat meetings are also set to be converted into guarantees.

These strike me as supremely unimaginative ideas, much in the same vein as the self-imposed legislative duty to halve the deficit. The Economist doesn’t mention perhaps the barmiest of these; Ed Balls’ idea of having a (supposedly) enforceable ‘right to a good school’.

Statutory duties are all very well for specific tasks that we expect public authorities to carry out (e.g. the duty to consult – arguably a rather bureaucratic and ineffective device, but one that puts a brake on knee-jerk legislative action – if that’s your bag), but they are singularly unsuited for holding the government to account in a wider sense.

For a start, they are only enforceable by way of Judicial Review, a legal route that has a very high burden of proof for a Claimant to discharge: effectively, they must show that the Government has acted in a way that no reasonable Government could have acted. If you think about that – and many judges have over the years – it’s a pretty hard standard to prove.

This horrible fetish for legal solutions to political problems does nothing to improve the relationship between citizen and State. It reached its nadir with Harriet Harman’s plan to create a statutory right for public authorities to ‘have regard to social equality’. Previous Labour governments might have preferred more radical redistribution of wealth. Reluctantly ,I say that it’s another argument in favour of this exhausted government taking a breather for a few years.

Sheer Madness
June 12, 2008, 11:42 pm
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Some educators had the bright idea of lying to their students convincing them that some of their classmates had died in a car accident due to drunk driving. It was all a hoax in order to scare them about the dangers of drunk driving. Boy who cried wolf mean anything?

I thought this quote effectively demonstrated how a young mind can be confused by this sort of tactic:

“You feel betrayed by your teachers and administrators, these people you trust,” said 15-year-old Carolyn Magos. “But then I felt selfish for feeling that way, because, I mean, if it saves one life, it’s worth it.”

I’d say you ought to stick with your first instinct on this one: you were betrayed and it doesn’t matter if it saves a life or not – they’ve helped lower the quality of life of those at the school.

Joe Jackson on Smoking
June 11, 2008, 2:19 am
Filed under: Smoking

Don’t know who Joe Jackson is, but I like what he says. It’s amazing how fast, rapid and expansive the shift in “common sense” on smoking has become. Considering man has always lived with one vice or another, I can’t help but wonder what’ll take the place of smoking in the decades to come (unless there’s some sort of closet resistance to smoke).

The Front Pages of 100s of Newspapers
February 11, 2008, 1:52 pm
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Ever wondered what the front pages of 100s of newspapers looked like? Wonder no more.