I am reviving my sometimes-amusing, always-informative Who Governs podcast, monthly. If you are the sort of person who likes both podcasts and the sound of my voice, you are going to be delighted with this.
It is a coverage of what’s happening in actual government around the world. Main sources are The Economist and my incessant web browsing.
Labour Party officials are concerned that their new campaigning training aid ‘Anytown’, a model town built in rural Yorkshire, is not quickly enough improving the campaign skills of the party’s front bench.
Anytown, funded through union donations, offers a sandbox environment, staffed by 8,000 Labour volunteers, where party spokespeople and high potential candidates can interact with other people, in order to develop their personal skills.
The model town comprises a 1980’s style concrete town centre with pound shops, cafes and pubs where senior party members can seek to perfect their human skills and their campaign patter.
Catriona Arrowsmith, who works with Lucy Powell as co-ordinator of the party’s ‘The Hand We’ve Been Dealt’ drive to make candidates more electable in the upcoming general election, says the facility is performing less well than anticipated.
“Ed Balls instantly forgets the name of any businessman he meets, Chuka Umunna refuses to drink in the pub. Meawhile, Tristram Hunt keeps shouting at anyone he perceives to be not working hard enough. Douglas Alexander keeps on daubing grafitti on things and telling anyone who asks him a question that he doesn’t accept the premise of it.”
Powell, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, doesn’t entirely agree that the model town is failing.
“In fact, just as Ed Miliband has said, eveything is running perfectly. When we got Andy Burnham to stop his 24 hour surveillance watch to ensure no tories came in to sell anything off, he began to sit tetchily in the corner of rooms, repeating the same thing over and over and demanding not to be interrupted – which is exactly how we intend to fight this election.”
Labour Party observers are preparing for party leader Ed Miliband to visit for his fourth session in the town. Arrowsmith is hopeful it’ll be fourth time lucky for Miliband.
“He is an excellent campaigner, when he stops just blankly staring at people. Well, when I say excellent campaigner, obviously I mean he’s our leader and I’m comfortable with that. Really comfortable.”
I have been thinking carefully about an important matter – the sexist and basically confusing message of Olivia Newton John’s 1981 hit ‘Physical’.
At the start of the song, she outlines classic elements of ‘studied charisma’ which has of late been identified as predatory when practised by men. ‘I’m saying all the things that I know you’ll like, makin’ good conversation’. This is clearly an indication that her conversation with the subject of the song has been a subterfuge, a confection geared towards seduction. The lyrics confirm her devices and her intent. She has taken the subject of her attentions first to an ‘intimate restaurant’, and then to a ‘suggestive movie’ – implying she has already seen the movie or has relied on reviews of its content to ensure the content is sexually suggestive and therefore more certainly geared to bedding her quarry.
The evidence shows that this predator has no interest in conversation at all and she says so – ‘There’s nothing left to talk about, ‘less it’s horizontally’.
She clearly sees her date as a sure thing – not human, a mere plate of meat for her sexual delectation. She is out of control.
The video for the song compounds the distress of your correspondent. Ms Newton John has descended upon a gymnasium, probably in the knowledge that it is habituated only by men, and she begins to molest and assault the men endeavoring to go about their business. She lurks inside a resistance training device, taunting a man who has heretofore, as far as we are aware, not done anything to harm or upset her, causing him to be ejected through the double doors of the gym.
This is not her only molestation of the hapless males in the gym; next she prowls behind a man meekly working out on a treadmill, eventually rubbing up against him and mounting him in a way which plainly leaves the poor man in distress.
Next she attacks a man on an Exercycle machine – he is comfortably exerting himself at a level 10 intensity on the machine – without so much as a by-your-leave she turns the machine up to level 60, throwing the man into paroxysms and possibly risking injury to him.
By this stage, it is clear Ms Newton-John is in a state of some distress herself – she pounces upon a man resting on a massage table, grabbing him by the legs and slamming him about on the table. She then hoists his t-shirt and applies oil to him, then approaches a state of near frenzy, striking his back repeatedly and eventually climbing on top of him to ride him like a horse. He looks plainly distressed throughout.
When she returns from her shower with a weapon, she, entirely unbidden, touches and cossets a group of men in the midst of their form analyses – the anger and confusion on the faces of the gymnasts is plain to see – especially when she pushes over the athlete with the curly ginger hair and frightening moustache.
Towards the end of the video, it has become clear that she has been barking up the wrong tree – four of the men in the gym form two couples and leave hand in hand, presumably to find safety from the advances of the frankly terrifying Ms Newton-John. Eventually, she joins hands with one of the men she had earlier abused, proving nothing so much as that some people fall for these sorts of tricks every time.
I am disgusted by the content and malevolent intent of Olivia Neutron Bomb in this song and video. I am now off to work out what the fuck is going on in the video to Laura Branigan’s ‘Self Control’.
The original incident which killed Louis Slotin in 1946 occurred when he attempted to use a hemisphere of plutonium to lift an over-microwaved Stroopwafel. The same fissile core had already killed Harry Daghlian Jr in 1945 when he had attempted to balance a fig roll on his knee and caused a prompt criticality, spilling tea everywhere.
The correct way to prepare a Stroopwafel is of course to place it on top of a steaming hot cup of coffee, allowing the heat and vapour to soften the syrup and the pastry. When you don’t want a cup of coffee but want some of that cinnamon syrup goodness, you can use a microwave.
10 seconds is not enough to force the syrup into activity sufficient to warm the Stroopwafel.
11 seconds in a 900W microwave results in toe-curling sweet delicious perfection, with sticky, chewy caramel between delicately spiced pastry.
11.5 seconds will slightly overheat the Stroopwafel and begin the process of delamination – one side slips over the syrup, which has now become a lubricant rather than an adhesive. It is difficult to pick up and must be allowed to cool for around 30 seconds.
11.51 seconds results in what can only be described as a criticality excursion – a runaway heat reaction of such intensity that it cannot be contained by a mere microwave. It must be allowed to cool down – the half life of Stroopwafel caramel whilst undergoing what must be fission is something like four minutes, during which time to bring anything capable of reflecting neutrons back into the pile of sugar, cinnamon and gluten could result in a further prompt criticality, which could wipe out a city block.
Louis fucking Slotin could not intervene in time to stop the Stroopwafel from a prompt criticality. My quick thinking may have saved my apartment, but my syrup-burned fingers may never recover.
Breastfeeding mothers have said it is ok for Nigel Farage to be a total arse in public, as long as he does not do so in an “ostentatious” manner.
Earlier this week a man described his humiliation after he was asked to stop running his stupid politically illiterate, xenophobic mouth while making up policy at Claridge’s in London. The hotel faced a backlash for its treatment of the party , and then Nigel Farage jumped on the bandwagon.
Speaking on LBC radio this morning, Tracy Withenshaw, a woman with a one-month old baby called Jack, suggested Farage should “sit in the corner” of a room to bang on about Europe and be a racist gobshite, rather than out in the open.
“Given that some people feel very embarrassed by UKIP, it isn’t difficult to spout half-baked bullshit and economically illiterate bollocks in a way that’s not openly ostentatious,” she said. “Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be – that’s up to Claridge’s.”
David Cameron’s official spokesperson said the prime minister nodded and smiled and that it was “totally unacceptable for any member of the UKIP to be made to feel comfortable talking shit in public.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said that after his LBC interview, “Ed Miliband”.
On Tuesday Patrick O’Flynn, UKIP’s economics spokesperson tweeted pictures of himself coming up with his fifteenth proposal for spending foreign aid money with a large napkin draped over himself while having a Christmas tea treat at the hotel.
“I started writing something about spending it on kidney dialysis machines very discreetly when the waiter hurried over with a huge napkin, knelt down and said it was policy to cover up nonsense policy,” he told the Guardian. “My initial reaction was to burst into tears. This was my fifteenth contradictory policy of the day. I had trouble convincingly drafting the first fourteen but this was going well. I didn’t expect to be admonished in a central London hotel.”
Sinn Féin and the DUP may not agree on much, but one thing they do agree on is the exercise and maintenance of political power.
Theirs is a murky, unpleasant world, an agreed apartheid where each is content to wield influence and control over their own ghettoised fiefdoms, and where any opposition is deemed at least unmutual and at worst an affront to peace loving people.
Those who try to speak truth to power are sidelined or ignored – or far worse. Those who try to question the prevailing wisdom of the fractured, divided body politic are condemned to administer the governance of the people according to the rules laid out for them by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson – Number Two and Number Three. Or so they would have you believe.
That the UUP and SDLP could form an opposition in Northern Ireland is established fact. Though it would take some re-engineering of the principles of the system of administration, it is clear that Mike Nesbitt and Alasdair McDonnell could withdraw Danny Kennedy and Mark Durkan from the executive and take up substantial opposition positions in the Assembly – altogether creating an opposition of 33 members in the bloated 108 member chamber. For sure, the opposition would face challenges and would be deeply divided itself – but that would in itself create tremendous political power and authority for the assembly.
The primary losers in such a changeover would be the DUP – whilst members of that party have fully drunk the Flavor-Aid, a few of their own seats could be in some jeopardy if it became clear that a Unionist voice unsullied by adminstration of justice arm in arm with Sinn Féin. I don’t seek to argue that DUP voters are likely to be interested in a wholesale return to the Official Unionists – simply that unionism without a seat in the executive is not the forbidding place it might seem to be. To borrow a phrase from the DUP’s own vernacular in advance of the Belfast Agreement referendum – many more unionists might look at the political impasse and conclude that it might be right to say no.
The alternative – the status quo, means an increasingly irrelevant SDLP and UUP, with all the trappings that irrelevance brings to electoral results.
Gerry Adams’ bad luck catches up with him all at once, it seems. The towering intellectual collossus of militant republicanism (as we once thought of him) is undone by the sunlight that constitutional politics and an active, inquisitive press throws onto the man and his leadership – and in a sense, by the cherry-picking of quotes not entirely in context.
Allegations of gentle treatment of his brother (perhaps too much of a euphemism there), his shockingly inept performance giving evidence about the same thing and the dreadful handling of Mairia Cahill’s allegations of sexual assault at the hands of the IRA both speak to a leader incapacitated. He takes blow after blow of unguarded, self-inflicted injury, and draws the day of his removal as Sinn Féin president nearer.
His misfiring handling of his party’s position on Irish Water doesn’t bode well for the political future of his party – and his most recent intervention – telling a friendly audience that equality is the ‘trojan horse’ of the entire republican struggle, and the only way to ‘break the bastards’ – is a singularly wrong-headed and spectacularly unpleasant thing to emerge at this point.
The silence you hear is occasioned by gloves being taken off – the Curry My Yoghurt narrative – that the DUP will never allow for an Irish Language Act, has plunged relationships which were never particularly warm into a deep freeze. The latest Adamsian admission is likely to fill the freezer with liquid nitrogen – because it’s difficult to square the ‘trojan horse to break the bastards’ line with the ‘Ireland of equals’ one.
Peter Robinson’s political squidginess, the reaching out, has given way to Gregory Campbell’s approach – get all up in their grill and see what they do. Nobody is quite sure where this takes us, if anywhere. The long, cold winter has begun in Northern Ireland. Whether it becomes a cold war remains to be seen.
A pint of kitten because I can’t stand Farage’s awful face on my blog and nobody wants to see Mark f**king Reckless.
Tomorrow, people in Rochester and Strood have an opportunity to free their former MP from membership of the reality-based community and make him the second, wobbly and flat-tyred parliamentary wheel of the bicycle of racists, misogynists, homophobes and anti-intellectual weirdos that is the United Kingdom Independence Party.
That Mark Reckless, the spectacularly ineffective former member of the Conservative Party and famous pre-vote drinker will be elected UKIP MP for Rochester and Strood is as much as a foregone conclusion as a Jammie Dodger eating contest between Eric Pickles and Maria Eagle. That Labour will have to pretend that it marks a worse day for the Conservatives than Labour is also assumed. The spin helicopter has already lifted off. But this by-election means precisely nothing.
This by-election is the political equivalent of eating Celery for lunch – 100% guilt free. It’s an election with no consequences. People can use it to throw a punch at Labour and Conservatives – and to cock a snook at the Lib Dems, knowing that Reckless will be as deeply useless to them after the election as before, and that the country will continue to be governed by a Tory-led coalition, just like they opted for at the last General Election. The people of Rochester and Strood are quite right to use the leverage they unexpectedly have, to make the un-promotable Reckless some sort of national spokesperson. That’ll be fun.
UKIP is an awful shower of shouty, showy buffons- the basement dwelling national weak, who feel the need to be ruled as if by a Fuehrer whilst pretending Uncle Nigel is really setting them free – people scared by their own shadows, who see the spectre of foreignness everywhere they go. This is the crew of people who crave a full Sunday Roast while in Benidorm – who complain that the tea just isn’t the same away from home, and who can’t really bring themselves to like Dale Winton – all in the one conversation. Theirs is a grubby party, a cowering party, a party in need of Uncle Nigel and his ABSOLUTELY BRITISH SURNAME to tell them that everything will be all better with a pint glass glued to our hand and a working knowledge of the second verse of the National Anthem.
If you are a UKIP voter, then, with the sincerest pity I greet you. You’re crazy, but you’ll get better. It might just be a 24 hour thing.