Today’s big debate is whether we should have an English anthem.
I’m not too exercised by it either way. Yes, I’d argue that there are more effective ways to counter the far right’s usurping of the English flag to a cause with a perverse reasoning about what it is to be English, but then, yes, if it helps people identify with another, more reasonable kind of national pride, then it can’t be all bad.
Well if you think there’s any validity in national pride in the first place, given that nationhood is really simply a reflection of who’s most effectively military power to become your boss……
But anyway, if we are going to have an English anthem, I hereby demand it should be a secularly worded version of John Rutter’s Psalm 23 (from his Requiem). I’d embed a Youtube video if I knew how to do it (maybe Carl will help), but here it is. [Edit: Angela's taught me how to do it now, so see below]
It’s appropriate because:
a) It heeds but isn’t dominated by England’s Christian heritage and link between church and state, with the secularisation of the wording symbolic of our move on from there to something more inclusive (note its use at interfaith committee thingies);
b) The rewording will allow for something reflecting how England is there as protector (England, my shepherd) of all, and inspires loyalty on that basis blah-de-blah; yup, all a bit state-centric, but then that’s what a state anthem is;
d) It’s appropriately non-warlike, though open to the addition of a soaring string section to make Jessica Ennis cry when she wins gold;
e) Good opportunity for the oboe, a somewhat neglected instrument, to become embedded in the English psyche, in a way similar to the Swiss with their unfeasibly big horns on mountains; the oboe, restrained, authoritative when need be, but not whiney.
f) I’d enjoy seeing if John Terry can remember the words.
This isn’t usual TCF, but it’s just a bit of fun.
An unnamed, though reliable, source has revealed to me who they think is the “leading actor” who sought, and won, a gagging order, after allegedly sleeping with the same prostitute as Wayne Rooney.
You may have seen the news:
THE leading actor granted a gagging order over claims he slept with Wayne Rooney’s hooker has been hounded after his identity leaked out on the internet.
Everyone is entitled to privacy, even if they are famous, but super injunctions seem only to shield the famous and wealthy, as Stephen Glover recently said.
Another interesting point about the actor is he recently went campaigning with David Cameron in Scotland.
I won’t name him here, but what I will say is if I did name him, I’d react by saying Phew! I haven’t felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978!
Alex Massie in the Spectator today:
[T]here’s at least one terrible promise here that contradicts the Tories’ interesting, promising, commitment to localism and decentralisation. That’s the commitment to freeze council tax……How serious can the Tories be about decentralisation when they seem to want to make local government more not less dependent upon central government? Where’s the accountability and transparency in that? Nowhere, that’s where.
Paul Cotterill in Though Cowards Flinch, the day before yesterday:
No wonder Conservative Central Office, in a move not entirely compatible with the supposed spirit of localism, has already instructed from on high council tax freezes not for one but for two years, irrespective of local conditions, local needs, local people, local jobs.
Localism, my arse.
His loathsome mate Liddle’s already been caught copying TCF’s work, but I really thought better of Alex. Very naughty boy.
David is a local (to me) journalist and his blog offers up some interesting views from a journalist perspective, not least about changes in local and regional media.
He says he’s not got many readers at the moment, which is a shame, because of course getting readers means you’re encouraged to write more stuff, and he’s got stuff to say.
As I’ve set out here, I’m increasingly interested in the shape of local media to come in the context of declining reader numbers amongst the more traditional city papers (the Liverpool Echo excluded), but also the way in which titles like David’s Ormskirk and Skelmersdale Champion are still able to expand into other areas (they’ve just started up in nearby Litherland and Crosby, as well as being in Southport).
More particuarly, I’m interested in how leftwing blogs might either supersede or complement the varying quantity and quality of local political and economic coverage, and will soon be devoting quite a lot of time and whatever remains of my energies around this. Insa’allah.
For that reason alone, I’m interested in what people like David have to say from the local journo coal face, even though it’s not leftwing stuff, and I’d be interested in any links readers have for local journo blogs elsewhere in the country, which they think offer up interesting stuff about how local media is changing/can be developed.
In David’s case, I think Paul Sagar from Bad Conscience, who comes frmo Southport and was until recently the LibDem MP’s researcher/constituency manager, might also be interested (and David interested in Paul’s blog). David, meet Paul. Paul, meet David.
There you go, apology made, introductions done. I try to be of service.
Giles has a quite brilliant poem about Quantitative Easing and continued constraints on lending. This is quite a feat. Go read it.
Here’s is my paltry effort.
There’s this bloke who runs England’s Bank.
He saw the economy starting to tank.
So he doled out more dosh
To those already awash.
And they used it to maintain their rank.
Competition closes mindnight tonight. Prizes to be decided by me. Giles’s will be hard to beat, mind.
At the turn of this month there was a little spate of leftist blogs saying how well things were going. Phil at AVPS gave us an update on some steady growth, Left Outside told us it was going pretty well, and Sunny tweeted to reflect on the continued upward surge at Liberal Conspiracy, where hits now exceed an impressive 100,000 per month.
I was going to say something about the growing Though Cowards Flinch readership, but I forgot. However, Comrade Dave has now twittered to say we’ve gone up the wikio ratings to what he describes as ‘mid-table’, and that reminded me.
I don’t know how to copy the graphs across to make it look all nice, and I’ve no idea how people can tell the difference between single hits and repeat visits and that kind of stuff, but I can tell you that the total number of hits increased from around 6,000 in August, when I started blogging here with Dave, to near 17,000 in January.
While I’d like to think that the increase is partly because we’ve joined forces, Dave’s solo blogging was already gaining hit at more or less the same monthly, so it may be that my getting in the way has actually held him back. If it has, he’s been very courteous about it.
So what to make of this growth in left blog readership?
Well, in some respects, absolutely nothing at all. As I set out here, just getting a few, or even a lot more people, clicking on your blog might be gratifying but that doesn’t necessarily translate into any kind of worthwhile action. And, as has only happened on a couple of occasions here, the people who come to read do so not to engage with the discussion but to abuse you, it’s not even gratifying. That’s just dull.
On the other hand, perhaps there is something in the fact that a group of blogs like TCF, Left Outside and AVPS are growing their readership fairly quickly, despite not really making any ‘concessions’ just to make that happen. In addition, while I don’t have figures, I can be pretty confident that other new good ‘serious’ blogs like Paul Sagar’s Bad Conscience and, from the centre-ground-with-sense, Giles Wilkes’ Freethinking Economist, are buiding decent readerships.
All of these blogs remain fairly serious in content (the odd lapse excepted), aren’t afraid to get stuck in for a couple of thousand words if the mood takes us and the subject demands it.
At TCF, we don’t generally just follow the story of the day, though we’ll pick it up if there’s a specific political/economic theory angle we want to take on it.
And in general, our growth hasn’t come from increased links from the bigger, better known blogs; to the best of my knowledge we’ve never had a link from Iain Dale, for example, and the posts that Sunny cross-posts from here to Liberal Conspiracy don’t have an automatic link back to here.
No, any growth we and our like(ish)-minded colleagues are generating comes down, mostly, to what we write and how we write it (though twitter links may have helped us, and our new TCF reader group may do some of the same.
Is our and our colleagues’ growth, then, an, indication that people are starting to look for blogs which offer more than Tom Harris-like tittle tattle and a feeling of ‘closeness’ to minor celebrity? Is the blogosphere maturing? Are there simple more people reading all blogs now, so that we’re getting a bit more overspill.
I’ve no idea really. I’m not even sure I’m interested in the question, never mind the answer, though you can tell he what it is if you can be arsed.
Come to think of it, this may be the most pointless post I’ve ever written. Maybe this is the beginning of the end.
Effective local blogging (3): creating the interface between Habermasian ‘lifeworld’ and anti-hegemonic narrative
I am too serious a socialist thinker to waste time reading the right wing blogosphere. I have, however, been made aware that my previous post on the development of the leftwing blogopshere did meet with some criticism from that benighted quarter.
I have of course no doubt that all those reading my article did so fair-mindedly and completely, and so have therefore been at something of a loss to work out how such criticism might have come about; my argument was, as ever, coherent, well made and impeccably sourced, so there can have been no issues to pick at in terms of the consequent recommendations for solidaristic action.
However, on reflection, I concede that the post may not perhaps – especially for a relatively uncultured and epistemologically naïve audience – have given sufficient specific guidance on what might be the precise content of the emerging leftwing local and regional media, itself set within its wider ‘web’ of local and then wider actions.
Here, therefore, I seek to provide such further guidance. This is apposite enough, since in the initial stages of this leftwing media development programme there will inevitably need to be some centralized guidance on what kind of content can or cannot be authorized in the developing local publications; there is little doubt that a central committee will need to be established to co-ordinate the programme and provide editorial control over all local ‘blogs’ and their allied multi-media developments (and needless to say, it is likely that I would need to play – however reluctantly – a key role in this committee, possibly as its founding General Secretary).
Fundamentally, the remit of any new localized ‘cell-based’ but centrally co-ordinated publication, whether electronic or hard copy, will be the creation of an effective interface between the existing ‘lifeworld’ and the development of an appropriate register of anti-hegemonic discourse.
By ‘lifeworld’, I refer to the post-Husserl Habermasian conception (‘Lebenswelt’) of a set of socially and culturally sedimented linguistic meanings, shared in their current form by the working class and its hegemonized identities (and sets of identities).
Into this existing set of shared understandings of how the world operates, it is necessary to ‘infuse’ the appropriate set of Marxian conceptions both around the essential nature of capital/labour relations and the consciousness of the working class as an objective entity in relation to capital. In turn such conscientization will lead to the development of a renewed ‘Lebenswelt’ in which class struggle becomes both more desirably and feasible through solidaristic local and then wider action.
Perhaps a concrete example of this process may assist our more epsitemologically challenged readership.
Clearly, in today’s shared ‘lifeworld’ the proletatiat has been subjugated through the realisation of a mass media enculturation project (cf the Lacanian concept of ‘jouissance’, if you will) based on glamourised notions of romance.
To grasp this is a useful starting point for all the centrally driven local publications aimed at, in the medium term, creating a renewed revolutionary spirit within the working class. Each new publication should therefore contain at least one ‘romance’ story, written in the appropriate register (cf. the ‘Mills and Boon’ phenonemon, and the rise of Heat Magazine), but with elements of Marxian teaching and concientization woven into the fabric of the story, along with other elements (in the shape of minor character and secondary plot devices) aimed at challenging some of the more reactionary theoretical and practical digressions offered up by the so-called ‘post-Marxist’ left.
Plot lines for these ‘romances’, and accompanying sample of dialogue, for submission to the putative Central Revolutionary Activist Publishing (CRAP) committee will therefore be along the following lines.
First, all such publications will have three central ‘romantic’ characters in a triangular love/Marxist doctrine triangle. Though some variation may be authorised in time, initially one character, whom in the first editions should generally be called Malcolm, will both be something of an overly orthodox ‘reductionist’ Marxist (cf. Althusser), and believe himself to be ‘in love’ with Barbara, a headstrong and occasionally incomprehensible ‘post-Marxist’ firebrand with a mysterious background in psychoanalytical dabblings and a penchant for referring to The Big Other, sometimes in French.
After some twists and turns of appropriate local invention, but usually involving plans for a strike, heavy handed tactics by state agents, and some telling revelations about the intellectual relationship between Zizek and Lacan, Malcolm should be betrayed by the ultimately unreliable Barbara, only to be rescued from a fate worse than Compass-based liberalism by the strong, steady presence of Ethel, whose character should be developed subtly from the first strike meeting onwards and slowly revealed not just as brilliant in the sack (as is Malcolm, after an unsure start) but also to have a mature intellectual grasp of both the basic immutable tenets of historical materialism and of the capacity to adapt tactics to this particular historic bloc, in addition to a ready grip the use of discourse as a subtle but powerful counter-hegemonic device.
In this way, all such ‘romances’ will have an in-built structure reflecting the essential dialectical thesis-antithesis-synthesis played out by and through the central characters. The following sample dialogue also pertains.
It was then the realization hit Malcolm, as fiercely as that recent blow on the back of the head from an agent of the state, in which he now fully understood that violence was always and irredeemably inherent.
Yes, yes, he thought. Ethel was the one. Ethel was the one who really understood the dynamic relationship between the ideological superstructure and the essential economic base, and how surplus value was really at the heart both of the so-called postwar economic miracle (as Jessopian ‘spatio-temporal fix’ in the principal form of the welfare state) and now more so much more clearly in ‘raw power’ form in this latest crisis of capitalism.
‘Oooh, Ethel’, he swooned, as she folded him in her womanly arms, strengthened by years of proletariat toil, and held him against her beating heart of socialist endeavour.
‘Ethel, tell me again about the relationship between Rosa Luxembourg’s incisive vision of how the working classes can come together in revolutionary force, and the somewhat later but, you suggest, no less relevant, writing of Gramsci on intellectual and moral reform within a temporal nation-state context.
‘Take your overalls off, comrade’ whispered Ethel, huskily, Poulantzian in her growing desire for unity between socialists. ‘I need to feel your Lukacs compendium’.
Malcolm moved closer, and as the sun dipped behind the horizon, far to the well metaphorical left, Ethel gasped: ‘Now that’s what I call entryism by the Hard Left, comrade’.
I hope this helps. All romances should introduce light Shakespearian comedic relief about two thirds of the way through. Unless otherwise authorized, this should be in the form of two well-meaning but bumbling professor figures, whom you should usually calls Professors Louffe and Maclau ,who will tend to mix up neo-liberal and pseudo-radical concepts a lot, and will often be ejected from strike scenes by the workers, and this often by the seat of their pants.
In later US-set versions of the Central Committee’s work, the professors should generally be thrown out of a saloon-bar style doorway into a muddy unpaved street, while in the more socially realist British tradition they should generally end up in one of those big refuse collection bins the Conservative Council hasn’t collected for ages.
At least one professor should emerge, crestfallen with a leaking Kentucky Fried Chicken box on her/his head but flattened down into an approximate mortar board shape, to create symbolic image of her/his intellectual immersion in the detritus of capitalism, and what mortar boards are used for in the socialism-building trade.
There will be one other important character in all of the romances. This will almost invariably be a wise, avuncular figure, generally a rural Labour councillor known for his occasional but hugely insightful blogging. This character will pop up frequently to gives sage advice on the need for a focus on praxis even in the heat of events, and will generally be able to distil his interpretation of recent events in the novel, both in terms of intellectual development and strike practicalities, into less than 5,000 words, though he should be allowed longer if it casts him in a particularly noble and heroic light.
In the subsequent film versions, this character should generally be played by left-leaning Hollywood A-Listers George Clooney and, when he gets too old, Johnny Depp. On no account should Sean Penn be involved, because he is silly.
Glancing idly at the news reports on the New Year rail increases, I sniffed a statistical strangeness.
While the Daily Mail headline shouts ‘Rail fares set to increase by 15 per cent in 2010’, the ensuing story includes the following:
Instead Atoc [the Association of Train Operating Companies] said average fares – heavily influenced by the 0.4 per cent regulated fare decline – were going up by only 1.1 per cent.
So I had a look at the press releases.
The handful of fares being quoted by Passenger Focus and the unions are well above the average and will only be paid by a tiny proportion of customers…….. By picking out changes that affect a small minority of people, Passenger Focus and the unions are giving a very partial impression of ticket prices in 2010.
The fact is that fares will rise by an average of 1.1% in January. Not only is this the lowest rise since privatisation, it also comes in below the expected rate of inflation, representing a real terms cut in fares for many passengers.
The rail regulator’s figures show that the average price paid for a single journey is just £5.05. The 1.1% increase will mean this figure will rise by 6p to £5.11.
That sounded convincing enough, especially as the figures appear to come from the Office of Rail Regulation.
But I wasn’t wholly convinced; while it was clear that the single journey price of £5.05 was based on the regulator’s data, it still wasn’t clear where the 1.1% figure, or the £5.11 figure came from. Look at the wording closely. It doesn’t say these latter figures come from the regulaotr; it just implies it.
I looked to see where the £5.05 figure was from, and found the ‘notes to editors’ from an earlier Atoc press release (see notes 1 and 3). These notes confirm that, while the £5.05 figure comes from the regulator, the 1.1% figure simply comes from ‘an analysis’. This is presumably Atoc’s own analysis, and it is not clear how the 6p rise to £5.11 has been arrived at i.e. whether they are using the same methodology to reach this average price as the rail regulator uses, or their own.
Intrigued, I dug out the most recent data from the regulator’s National Rail Trends, and at the bottom right corner of page 12 of this pdf file, I found something very interesting indeed.
What I found was that the £5.05 figure is, much as the note 3 in the earlier press release states, the ‘revenue per journey’ for the third quarter of the 2009 calendar year (July-Sept).
What this little ‘note to editors’ in the earlier press release shows is that, while the 1.1% figure may be technically correct as a rise since the July-Sept 2009 quarter, the claim in the later press release that the New Year price rise ‘comes in below the expected rate of inflation’ is wholly misleading, because a quarterly figure has been directly compared to an annual figure.
In fact, the more comparable figure is for the 1st quarter of 2009 (Jan-March). This is £4.80.
The more relevant rise is therefore actually an ‘inflation busting’ 5.2%, since the same point last year (even if we assume that the £5.11 figures provided by Atoc is actually a ‘revenue per journey’ figure calculated in the same way as the regulator’s £5.05).
The conclusion? It may be that Atoc has not actually lied about its average price rise, but it has willfully misled the press and public by using figures that should not be compared, and by clever wording in its press releases to give the impression that all the figures used are those of the regulator.
Over my years as a top blogger, I’ve had occasion to report on many a blogsporting contest, and indeed I had intended to report on the recent Hadleigh Roberts vs Tom Miller bout, but never got round to it (summary: Roberts was disqualified late in the fifth for punching below the belt).
But no blog fight to date has measured up to this one over at Duncan’s place.
It’s now been going on for nearly a week, and started out as a bit of a scrap between Duncan and Daniel over some kind of bet, with a bit of fist waving from a few others then in attendance.
Coming somewhat late upon the scene, JDC has decided he doesn’t like Daniel’s face, and they’ve now been going at it for a couple of days. Meanwhile, everyone else has gone home for their tea, and Liam Murray’s even retired from blogging in disgust at what’s become of the sport. I only came upon the ongoing scrap by mistake myself when I turned the wrong blog corner.
The fight tactics themselves bear an uncanny resemblance to the inept fighting scene in Bridget Jones’s diary (see handy Youtube clip to refresh memory) between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant (coincidentally called Daniel in the film), and involve occasional bursts of violence and name-calling interspersed with periods when they try to remember they are respectable members of society.
I feel strangely certain that Daniel and JDC will meet at a polite Christmas drinks do in the city this weekend, and will feel morally bound to invite each other outside into the massive atrium and wave their fists around at each other till they both fall in the fountain. Well I hope so.
Anyway, please do over and get a ringside view. An occasional ‘fight, fight, fight’ comment, after the fashion of Bridget’s male friend in the afore-mentioned film will, I’m sure, be greatly appreciated.
If the fight’s still going on in the New Year, I’ll report back.