Category Archives: Short Announcement

Lost in the Jungle Room

I’ve written an article for Liberator about my experience on the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign.

Comment is freer: It’s AV or nothing

I wrote an article on Comment is Free yesterday about why people need to stop quibbling and start campaigning for AV.

Regardless of what might happen in five, 20 or 50 years time, at this precise moment you are faced with a choice between AV and the status quo. There can be no fence-sitters in the debate. I have to admit that initially I was quite uninspired by the prospect of fighting a referendum on such a modest, if meaningful, change. But two things have changed my mind…


Read it all here
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Why Labour needs to Con-Dem less and start talking again

I’ve written an opinion piece on the Social Liberal Forum website about why the Labour Party is making a major strategic blunder by embracing the “Con-Dem” narrative. This is a theme I expect to return to a lot over the next few weeks and months, at least until saner voices within Labour start to prevail.

Vote Lib Dem to reset politics

Over on Comment is Free I’ve written this article:

Today’s polls confirm that the leaders’ debate on Thursday has become a game changer. Ever since 1983, much of the focus on the progressive end of politics has been on tactical voting to prevent the “left” vote from splitting. But as we move towards a genuinely multi-party system, that method loses its effectiveness whilst promoting cynicism. Increasingly it has lead to a Labour party which feels it can take the support of progressives for granted and can instead focus on attracting swing voters from the centre right. …

What we’ve seen over the past 48 hours is the possibility of a genuinely new approach. Instead of playing by the political establishment’s rules, we have a real chance now of doing something genuinely disruptive. Not only would more it lead to more Lib Dem MPs voting for a genuinely democratic political system, a high Lib Dem share of the vote will illustrate perfectly why one is so badly needed.

Read it all here.

Blogging will be light over the next few days as a dog took a chunk out of my finger today while out delivering leaflets and I have surgery tomorrow. If any Lib Dem supporters have any sympathy for me you can show it by donating and going out to campaign yourself.

Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Notting Hill

Over on the Social Liberal Forum website I’ve written two articles today. The first is on social care and the mess the Tories have got into attacking Labour’s “plan” for what they call a “death tax“. The second is about why I’m sceptical about the so-called Robin Hood Tax.

Comment is Free: Gordon Brown and the Alternative Vote

Wondering what I think of Labour’s plans for a referendum on electoral reform? Well wonder no longer!

The alternative vote is a small but significant step forward in the ongoing campaign for a fair electoral system fit for the 21st century. On a good day. Maybe.

If Brown’s system of choice bores campaigners, what hope is there of inspiring the public?

Everything in the middle can be found here.

Does Simon Cowell have the political X-Factor?

No, is the basic conclusion of my article on Comment is Free today:

In reality, the X Factor could only dream of having as many voters as we take for granted in UK elections. Ten million votes may sound like a lot, but it is only two-thirds the number of people who voted in the European parliament elections this year and a third the number of people who voted in the 2005 general election. The campaign to get Rage Against the Machine’s Killing In The Name to deny Joe McElderry the Christmas No 1 also suggests that the X Factor can alienate the public as much as any MPs’ expenses scandal.

Read the full article here.

Our Vince: From Fred Astaire to Mr Bean?

As a follow up to my piece about Lib Dem economic policy this morning, I’ve written an article on Comment is Free about Vince Cable and why he is starting to be a bit of a problem for the Lib Dems:

I have huge admiration for Vince. Six years ago, when I was experiencing a credit crunch of my own, the fact that there was a single politician out there who understood how badly banks were behaving in encouraging people to get into unmanageable levels of debt meant a tremendous amount to me. But he is not infallible. He’s not, whisper it, even indispensable.

Despite this, he eschews the collegiate discipline of party policy development in favour of going out on a limb and trusting his own judgment to carry him through. There seems to be almost no strategic thinking behind how he presents his shifts in position whatsoever. He hasn’t been articulating a party position; he’s been engaging in punditry. The latter may make you incredibly popular with John Humphries and Jeremy Paxman, it may even acquire you rock-star status, but it isn’t the job the party requires him to do.

Read the rest here.

Eye See Sound Episode 002

Please watch this and let me know if you are having any problems viewing it in the comments below.

You can watch it via the Eye See Sound website and access all the full length videos, live sessions, etc. by going to: http://www.eyeseesound.tv/

Bullying

Am I a bully? Over the past month I’ve been accused of bullying twice. Once for suggesting that calling one’s political opponents “national socialists” is over the top and yesterday on twitter for suggesting that there is something ironic for the director of a subsidiary of an organisation called Progressive Vision to criticise people for using the word progressive. I will happily admit that both of these jokes were not especially funny and might well be frustrating for their intended targets, but they don’t immediately spring to my mind as acts of bullying. I could laugh these accusations off. I could, as I’ve been advised this evening, note the triviality of the objections, the relationship of the objectors and consider the fact that I might be being played. But for various reasons, “bully” is one of the few things you can call me that actually hurts.

I’ve had an emotionally draining six months and while I’ve been doing a fairly good job at keeping my head above water, it hasn’t been easy. It’s worth considering therefore whether this has lead to me taking things out on people online. Such things are not exactly unheard of and it frequently does result in things going too far.

I’m also aware that at at least one point in my life, at school, I was a bully. I had an epiphany then and rowed it back. If I had the ability to do that then, I certainly should have the maturity to do it now.

With that said however, I think we have to be clear about what is and isn’t bullying. I would never deny that this blog is frequently belligerant, sarcastic, mischevious, obtuse and angry. I don’t suffer fools gladly and have no patience for nonsense. I don’t like beating around the bush or couching my criticisms in platitudinous nonsense. And if you push me, I have an tremendous weakness for pushing back. This blog has a pretty justified reputation to that effect.

I have to confess however, I don’t actually see this blog as always being that. I can write what I consider to be quite thoughtful, diplomatic posts and yet have people praising its trenchant criticism. As the saying goes, if you have a reputation for being an early bird, you can afford to occasionally sleep in until noon. People come here expecting knockabout stuff and that’s what they see; I can’t really complain.

There’s also the Alex Wilcock Factor. That is to say that on two seperate occasions Alex Wilcock has come up with a description of my writing style that is so hilariously over the top that I’ve put it up on as a subheading for my blog (“crass, boorish and more a bruiser than bloggera tactical nuclear bastard”). Why have I done this? Fundamentally because they’re funny; partly because I don’t entirely recognise myself in them and enjoy the cognitive dissonance; and partly because of who they’re from. I have to confess that Alex and I have always had an odd relationship. I’ve known him for 14 years and before the wireless interweb was ubiquitous in the way it is now I read all his pamphlets and articles obsessively. He’s been a big influence on my politics. Yet we’ve never, frankly, really got on; we just don’t get each other. So what do you do when someone you know and respect but are not friends with starts referring to you in quite vicious terms that are almost certainly in jest but seem to have a slight edge to them? You take ownership of them, obviously. To do anything else would drive you insane.

With all that said, I wonder sometimes if there is a personal cost to this “killer rep” of mine. A work colleague once reported to me that he had met someone who read my blog and had commented “that James Graham is such an angry man.” My colleague, having sat next to me for 18 months found this to be hilarious.

It gets further complicated by two other things. First of all, I am 6’4″ and half again as wide. As such I tend to intimidate people who don’t know me. It is a prejudice that people seem to think is acceptable in a way that they would agree wouldn’t be if their intimidation was due to the colour of my skin or my sexual preferences, but I don’t let it get to me; if people can’t get over it they aren’t worth bothering with. Nevertheless it is something I’ve been conscious of my entire life.

Secondly, there is my past. Eight years ago, I was not in a good place psychologically; frankly I was a mental wreck and it took me a long time to recover. If I come across as belligerant now, I was much worse then. I took my frustrations out on people in a way that I should not have done. I take some consolation in the fact that a number of those people I took my frustrations out on remain very good friends of mine, and that many of the rest turned out to be real snakes, but it isn’t a period I’m particularly proud of.

Both these factors mean that I have a reputation that preceeds this blog in the real world and that this in turn gets fed back into the commentary in the blogosphere. It is possibly something I should be more careful about and could manage better, but that just isn’t my style.

Moving back to the present I have to ask myself if I’m slipping back into bad habits. Yet I honestly don’t think I am. Indeed, during a period when people have been trying to start a feud with me and my colleagues, I’ve been quite careful to not respond in kind (which is not to say I haven’t responded at all). I have to say that from this end of the telescope I do feel more sinned against than sinned.

Secondly, cyber-bullying by almost any definition I’ve been able to find involves stalking, attacks on people’s appearance and other personal characteristics, and threats. Typically what starts off as an attack on a web forum can take on a dimension in the real world. I’m confident I haven’t crossed the line in respect of any of these but it does feel as if that’s the implication whenever an allegation of bullying is made.

But while I don’t feel particularly responsible for starting this feuding I do feel I need to finish it. It is also timely to review exactly what I am achieving by giving racists and trolls a platform on this blog. For a long time I’ve tended to consider this to be a basic freedom of speech thing; I’ve only censored comments on this blog in extreme circumstances and in clear cases of defamation. But anyone can start a blog – I don’t need to give them a platform – and rolling in the mud with these jerks doesn’t actually make me feel any better.

What this all amounts to is two things: I need to develop a commenting moderation policy designerd to reduce the level of yah-boo nonsense – perhaps a three two strikes system – meanwhile I need to do more to avoid getting into feuds with specific individuals. The latter is slightly more complicated as feuds can be in the eye of the beholder. But generally if one side thinks it’s a feud it is one regardless of how the other side feels.

What I hope this doesn’t mean is that this blog becomes any less brutal in its relentless crusade against idiocy. Ultimately however, for me to keep blogging I have to be enjoying myself. Exposing myself to accusations of bullying, however unjustified, is the very definition of not having fun and something I need to take steps to avoid.

That is all.