Monday, November 22, 2010

Twenty years ago - Margaret Thatcher's last performance

Twenty years ago today Margaret Thatcher announced her resignation. Later that day there was a debate in the House of Commons on a motion of no confidence in her government, giving her the opportunity to defend the record of her government.

Without further ado, here is her speech:







Sunday, November 21, 2010

Enough Royal Wedding coverage already!

I know I'm not alone in being sick to death of the Royal Wedding coverage everywhere. Yes I hear someone cry that I don't have to read it. Well that would be true if it was confined to the likes of Hello magazine and so forth. But when you see a line of newspaper headlines all obsessing over minutia relating to the wedding and the couple, when you find the television news descending into celebrity dribble or when you see the couple's pictures up even in shop windows there's just no escaping it.

Okay the wedding itself will be massive and lots of people will want to watch it, so let them have the wedding day itself. But don't subject the country (and indeed the rest of the world) to months upon months of ramming it down our throats.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Election Leaflets Are Not Junk Mail

Anyone who has ever delivered any political leaflet for any party will know the scenarios.

1). You see a letter box with a sign saying "No junk mail". You avoid it. Later when canvassing the occupant complains they never get anything through the letterbox and says that their sign is just to stop leaflets about pizzas, doubleglazing, taxies and so forth.

2). You stick a leaflet in the letterbox and someone subsequently comes out to complain (or sends a complaint to party HQ).

Both scenarios can cause difficulties, but in the second case the person in the home is wrong because election & political communications are not junk mail, i.e. commercial advertising, but rather "informative" material. If people put up "no leaflets" or "no circulars" (or even the more specific "no political/election leaflets") then the situation is very different. This is the definition distinction in all the formal advice I've been given over the years, but it can confuse when people put up instructions without checking the terms used. See for example Stop Junk Mail: Political junk mail, and how to stop it which has the right idea but continues the confused use of the term. See also ft.com/westminster: Our junk mail isn’t junk mail.

For those who have been on the receiving end of angry recipients, here's an interesting story from an Official Monster Raving Loony Party leaflet:

Election Leaflets Are Not Junk Mail

Earlier in this campaign, I was confronted aggressively by an irate person who objected to the fact that I had just delivered a election leaflet through his letterbox. This was despite the fact that his notice merely said "no free newspapers or junk mail" but it did not say "no leaflets" or "no circulars".

I politely explained to him that election leaflets are not junk mail (junk mail means advertising such as pizza leaflets), but he mad a specific and overt threat that he would "punch me in the mouth" if I continued the conversation.

I immediately went to the police station and reported this threat, but I was told that the police would not bother to do anything because it was "not a arrestable offence". Such threats are unacceptable in a democratic society. Those of us - candidates and agents - who are engaged in the legitimate business of communicating our policies to the electorate during a election campaign need to be confident that we will be protected by the law if necessary.

The full leaflet can be seen at Official Monster Raving Loony Party: Croydon Branch: ELECTION LEAFLETS part 1: 2005 to 2010.

The campaigner subsequently produced a limited print run second version of the leaflet in question, this time including the above text, and delivered it to the same household to explain the point to the voter directly.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who will listen to violent mobs?

In previous years I've been on a number of demonstrations about tuition fees and higher education funding. I can say hand on heart that we never took part in violent attacks on anywhere, and I have always been quick to condemn those who tried to divert the march in a ridiculous attempt to start the revolution and achieved nothing but destroying good will amongst the police.

(There's a lot of nonsense talked about the police but whenever demonstrations were being planned, whether in London or back in Canterbury, we found the police were actually quite sympathetic to the cause. This helped planning no end and undoubtedly increased the impact of the demonstration.)

This week's demonstration by the National Union of Students started well but got sidetracked by the atrocious scenes at Millbank. Anyone who thinks that violence is going to advance their cause one iota is seriously deluded.

There's a good post, Labour Uncut: The old cancer at the heart of the student riot, by Luke Akehurst about the problems the demonstrations have had in the past and the mentality of the far left extremists who have hijacked them. My favourite passage is this one:

They have to recruit. It's so unpleasant being a Trot – even more endless meetings than being a Labour activist, and you have to sell newspapers, and you have to split off and start a new party every time you disagree with the edicts of the central committee – that they need hundreds of new naive recruits each year to replace the ones they burn out and discard like political fag ends. What better place to find such recruits than on a demo attended by loads of young people who are passionate about politics? They can sidle up to them and tell them the big picture, the heavy stuff about the inevitable overthrow of capitalism – an enticing dream if you are an idealistic kid. Just sell these papers and nirvana is just around the corner They charmingly refer to the new recruits as "fodder" as in cannon fodder. One or two might be unlucky enough not to drop out and to get sucked into life as an otherwise unemployable full-time revolutionary "cadre".

Groups like the Revolutionary People's Popular Purified Revisionist Orthodox Socialist Communist Marxist Leninist Stalinist Trotskyist Maoist Are-You-Still-Following-Usist Workers' Front of Purley (sorry but Tooting has changed too much in the last three decades for that to still work) and other such fractions have achieved very little other than generating some business for glaziers. But they have also wrought fear and destruction, with many innocent people caught in the midst of this (Millbank contains many businesses and organisations, not just the Conservative Central Office).

Condemnation of these actions is insufficient for the NUS - the leadership must do everything it can to root up such militants, including expelling any and all officers who took part in the violence.

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