Thursday, June 30, 2016

My choice for the next Conservative leader is...


Yes I know that's not exciting. But it's the question I'm getting asked the most at the moment so I wanted to put the answer out there.

As we've seen this morning the list of candidates has changed quite a bit and is not settled until nominations close. So it's foolish to rush to make a decision on this.

I will consider all candidates, whether they campaigned for Leave or Remain, who have the right vision for this country, who are credible, who are competent and who can bring unity and take us forward.

But please don't fill up my inboxes with endless forwarded messages and copy & pastes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

This is not a Newham I recognise

Seriously it's not. That image is of Whitechapel Road in Tower Hamlets - the old Royal London Hospital building is prominent on the left. If this Daily Mail article can't even get the right borough (and it's far from alone in using this image), what hope accurate reporting?

Tonight BBC1 is broadcasting Last Whites of the East End about the white residents of my home borough Newham. This is the borough with the lowest proportion of "White British" residents (although they're still the largest single demographic) and has experienced a lot of population movement in the last fifteen years, with many moving out settling in boroughs further east. This is a subject that should be handled sensitively but I fear will instead spawn many kneejerk ignorant articles and posts.

So I'll just say one thing up front. I live just off Green Street (where Upton Park tube station is) and I have never thought I am in Baghdad or any other hypersensational comparison. The only time I have ever been scared around Green Street has been when West Ham were playing Millwall.

In a way the old Newham lives on in another form. It contains Stratford, which gave the last half of its name to "Walford". You can even find a real life street called Albert Square here (sadly no Queen Vic pub). And the E20 post code is now a reality, covering the Olympic Park in Stratford. But EastEnders doesn't remotely reflect modern life. It's an extension of a glamorised past projected forward, not some hidden corner.

I will be watching the documentary with interest to see how accurate a portrayal it gives or whether it sensationally plays with fire. I know I am far from the only person in Newham who wants to make sure the wider world sees an accurate portrayal.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

If you thought Donald Trump was nuts...

Currently Ted Cruz is being looked on as a potential saviour of the world, the last man with a chance to stop Donald Trump. But it seems he has his own bizarre moments:

What a tosser. A gun is a tool not a toy. And what sane country allows anyone, even a political, to play with a machine gun?!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ronnie Corbett RIP

I have just heard the news that Ronnie Corbett has died. He was a childhood favourite.

In tribute, here's the best known Two Ronnies sketch, "Four Candles":

Monday, February 29, 2016

Can you name the Tanaiste?

I bet most of you can't and some are probably even wondering who or what the Tanaiste is.

The answer is they're the deputy prime minister of Ireland and the current holder, though probably only for a few more weeks, is Joan Burton.

Does it say more about our media or our own consumption of it that whilst the finer details of the battle for the nominations in the US Presidential election has been all over the news, the election just held in Ireland has mostly passed the British media by.

Perhaps that's because Irish politics is hard to understand for many - try explaining the differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for starters! Or just why the Labour and Green parties are treated by members of their British counterparts as rather embarrassing relations they don't really want anything to do with. And then there are all the independents, some with rather interesting styles and approaches.

Or it could be because the personalities are little known. Enda Kenny and Gerry Adams are names people here have heard of. Micheál Martin rather less so. And then it falls off a cliff, though in the case of Michael Healy-Rae that's probably not a bad thing.

But whatever the reasoning, the result is that the political deadlock in Ireland with a big blow to the traditional party system, a hung Dáil, lots of parties refusing to work with each other and many independents, some with broad political visions and some merely hunting for pork for their own constituencies, is probably not going to feature much in our news in the weeks to come. And so we won't get that much of a chance to see an alternate way of doing things in a parliament elected by our electoral "reform" [sic] movement's preferred system.

However we don't just have the mainstream news these days,.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

In the referendum I will be supporting...

Vote Leave.

I'll go into more depth in the months to come but I am deeply unconvinced that it is possible to achieve any meaningful reform for the European Union. Meaningful reform would involve a massive rolling back of federalism and an end to the nonsense that to be "constructive" [sic] in Europe we have to meekly accept every power transfer. That's a culture that's not going to give up easily. The choice is clear - ever closer union or withdrawal. There is no third option.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How do you pronounce "LGBTory"?

A trip into the world of acronyms, logo designs and wordplay.

So how do you pronounce "LGBTory"? Is it "Ell Gee Bee Tory", "Ell Gee Bee Tea Tory" or "Ell Gee Bee Tea Ory"?

Over the years the language, names and acronyms of much to do with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (and more) matters have frequently changed. The acronyms seem to grow every few years - there's one monster of "LGBTTQQIAAP" that is impossible to remember or say correctly.

But problems also affect LGBT (let's stick to that for here for now) groups. Frequently they find changing acronyms and emphases can cause their own names to come under scrutiny. Initialisms can make it worse as they often lend themselves to pronounceable acronyms and/or fancy logo designs that get mucked up by extra letters.

One of the better known cases was the Liberal Democrats' LGBT group using the short name Delga for many years long after the long name had stopped being "Democrats for Lesbian and Gay Action", a hangover from the days when the newly merged party got in a mess with its name but also because "Liberal Democrats for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Action" is hard to turn into a pronounceable acronym. Eventually in 2011 they became "LGBT+ Lib Dems".

I seem to recall, but can't find a quick chronology to hand to be sure, that the "Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights" was using that title for a number of years after it had formally adopted LGBT as its full scope. It is now "LGBT Labour".

Conservative LGBT groups have been particularly prone to names that make for good acronyms and/or logos. The original "Conservative Campaign for Homosexual Equality" later renamed itself the "Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality" because someone forgot the party hasn't been "Tories" since the 1830s and thought "Torche" made for a fancy acronym. It kept that name until ending in the mid 2000s, long after the rest of terminology had moved on. I forget if the name outlasted the party's old torch logo.

The current Conservative LGBT group also annoyingly uses "Tory" but it's also gone for a portmanteau effect by combining LGBT & Tory to become "LGBTory".  Unfortunately it's got the needs of the logo and the text muddled.

"LGBTory" is frequently written and often spoken as that. And many people don't see a clever portmanteau but rather the omission of Trans. Language matters - if a whole group is left out of the name they naturally wonder if they're also left out of concern.

Now portmanteaus are not uncommon - here's one from the 1990s Doctor Who spin-off video Downtime:

But the name of the institution in the dialogue, in the contemporary novelisation by the original author (one of the Missing Adventures if you're looking) and on the DVD sleeve (sorry I haven't seen the VHS sleeve in many years) is "New World University", written clearly as two separate words. Logos often omit characters that are often present in text - commas are especially likely to be left out.

LGBTory's logo doesn't use multiple coloured letters or an "L" shape to emphasise the joint use of the "T". And what's good for a logo design isn't necessarily good for running text or especially Twitter which frequently destroys the subtlety of capitalisation. It's unsurprising that many ask about Trans or protest about its exclusion.

Currently LGBTory is consulting on a proposed change of name. It's time to correct this unfortunate situation and also take the opportunity to move away from the outdated word "Tory".

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Zealand's flag

Dear New Zealand,

You're about to embark upon a referendum to decide if you're going to change your flag or not. It's totally your decision but what it says to the outside world has come up and some Kiwis have asked what we think about it. So here's a Brit on two key issues.

Firstly, yes we do get confused. That said we're more likely to think this:

is the flag of Australia than this:

is the flag of New Zealand. We're sorry about this. In our defence you're not alone. Flags on the European continent are very confusing as well because so many use the same basic design and many of the same colours. There was only a token effort in my school days and since then a good number of countries have changed their flags or even separated out, rendering those lessons even less effective. And we're far from the only ones to make the mistake - even Australian monarchists have used your flag by mistake.

So yes, I can see why you might want to change it to look less like Australia. But didn't your flag come first? Isn't Australia the thief?

But secondly we're told that the currently apparently means New Zealand is controlled by the UK. This is news to us. We don't really control our own country let alone anyone else's. You're a free and independent country and have been for some considerable time. Nobody here looks at your flag and thinks the presence of the Union Jack means you're a colony or overseas territory (or that Australia is!).

However don't worry that we'll feel offended if you change it. We'll still like you, just as we still like Canada. It's entirely your decision.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Is Trick or Treat really that widespread?

I'm posting this deliberately late to make it hard for anyone to break the cycle by knocking on my door today with horrific stuff. (Oh hello West Ham Labour!)

Is it me or is trick or treating much rarer in this country than many seem to think? Oh we get the endless round of people bemoaning that Halloween is now a much bigger thing than in their childhood and how it's all an American import and so forth.

But here's the thing - it's been nearly thirty years since anyone knocked on my frontdoor in the hope of treats. And even then it was only the one time.

Now it's possible that sometimes I've been living behind a door that isn't the easiest to access or perhaps I've been out that evening but many a Halloween has been spent at home in blissful evasion. And still they haven't come.

Is this just an experience peculiar to me or is perhaps trick or treating much rarer than we think?

Or have I just subconsciously scared off all the kids before they knock on my door?


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