Labour Party Signposts

In July this year, the Left of UK Politics was rightly impressed with Mhairi Black’s maiden speech to the House of Commons. One part of that which particularly resonated on social media was her reference to Tony Benn’s “weathercocks and signposts” (6:20 in her speech)

“In politics there are weathercocks and signposts – weathercocks will spin in whatever direction the wind of public opinion may blow them, no matter what principle they may have to compromise.

And there are signposts, signposts which stand true and tall and principled.

Tony Benn was right when he said the only people worth remembering in politics were signposts.”

Tony Benn in 2008A round condemnation of MPs who vote according to whatever happens to be popular instead of what they believe to be right – and in particular a condemnation of those Labour MPs who abstained on key issues (as the party whip dictated).

Fast forward to the last few weeks, and many of those same people who celebrated Mhairi Black’s speech, who themselves shared Tony Benn’s words as an example of how an MP should be, are now condemning Labour MPs who disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on a number of divisive issues.

(most notably ISIS / Syria, and what our response should be)

This strikes me as hypocrisy of a rather extreme sort. Even more so when we remember just how incredibly rebellious Jeremy Corbyn himself was as a backbench MP.

For people who four months ago demanded that our MPs stand up and be counted to disparagingly label these MPs ‘Blairites’ and even ‘red Tories’ for doing just that – for, in a word, being signposts – shows a breathtaking lack of self-awareness.

Particularly as the chief argument for why these MPs should be forced to vote against their principles is “most members agree with Corbyn”. Isn’t that ‘being a weathercock’? That was a terrible crime in July.

Either you want our MPs to stand by their principles, or you don’t. It doesn’t magically become okay for them to lack a backbone when their principles clash with yours.

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Peaceful Solutions

Following the Parisian atrocity there have been two main responses – a call for blood, and a call for a peaceful solution.

The call for blood is fairly straightforward: innocent people have been killed in a brutal attack, and there are those who want what basically amounts to retribution.

The peaceful solution is being called for by those who don’t want us to repeat the mistakes of the past – to recreate the Invasion of Iraq all over again (an event which, after all, indirectly led to the formation of ISIS).

But here’s the thing: we’re being provoked into a war by ISIS.

One of their goals – perhaps their most clear goal – is to provoke a military response against them.

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Losing the Left

As I write this, the election hasn’t – quite – been called, but it’s apparent that the Tories have won.

And already the Left is tearing itself apart trying to find a reason for this. Blaming the Greens, for splitting the Left vote. Blaming Labour, for not being Left wing enough. Blaming the SNP, for taking Scotland.


But none of these arguments are based on the election data; they’re just repeats of the arguments we had before the election – rows based on preconceptions & assumptions, rather than facts.

So: how did Labour – and the Left in general – lose this election?

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As you’re probably aware, there’s a General Election on Thursday.

It’s a pretty important one, not least because there’s no obvious winner & a lot of voters are undecided, even at this stage.

So, assuming that you’re still undecided (or not 100% confident about your decision), how should you decide who to vote for?

Disclosure: I’m a member of the Labour Party. I don’t expect everyone to vote Labour, and I’m not going to instruct you to vote Labour here – but you may want to bear this in mind.

There’s no ‘correct’ way to decide how to vote, but I ask the following questions of the parties & candidates, in order of importance (to me):

1. Do they oppose the Tories?

I’m vehemently opposed to the Tories – or rather, to Tory policies. I want to vote for someone who isn’t just ‘not doing’ Tory things, but actively opposing them; not because “the Tories did it”, but because these Tory policies are – I believe – massively harmful to our economy and our people.

I want to elect politicians who are promising to repeal Tory legislation (like their Healthcare ‘reforms’ & the Bedroom Tax), and I want to elect an MP who will vote consistently for basically the exact opposite of what the 2010-15 Tory-led coalition was working towards. Undoing the Tory mistakes – and preventing them making things worse – is very important to me.

Any party that isn’t actively opposing recent Tory policies won’t get my vote.

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Left Disunity

Some cats in a bag, yesterdayWe’re fast approaching another General Election, and this one is set to be a massively important one – and yet again the Left are preparing by fighting like cats in a bag.

Why do we always do this?

For once, the Right is actually split. But instead of properly capitalising on this, we’re still bitching one another out and pretending that our Great Enemy is in fact people who believe in almost exactly – but not quite! – the same things as we do.

This needs to stop.

No more infighting.  No more scrabbling between ourselves for the same old votes when we should be selling the greater argument – the argument against the Right – to undecided voters.

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UKIP & Question Time in graphics

I could tie all these graphs together with an article, but I think I’ll just do a bit of annotating and let the graphics tell the story.

[NB: You can click on any of these images to get a (much) larger version]

I’ve now updated this first graph so that it remains relevant, while still telling the story of the incredible amount of UKIP focus that existed before they had a single elected Member of Parliament:

UKIP appearances on Question Time

Following on from the original pie chart, we can now compare UKIP – a minor party with a few hundred councillors, a presence in the European Parliament, and (now) a single MP – to every other party with those same qualifications.

There seems to be a clear delineation between UKIP and the other minor parties:

Single MP parties on Question Time

(There are likewise parties with more  MPs (SNP, DUP, SDLP) & more councillors (SNP again) who have bizarrely appeared on Question Time much less often than UKIP)

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UKIP Tropes

Originally posted on Exposing UKIP


If you spend any amount of time discussing UKIP on social media, then you’ll very quickly run into some UKIP supporters. Some of these are merely UKIP voters, while some are full UKIP members & activists (or even candidates).

But they all seem to have a few arguments in common.

“UKIP are winning elections”

Well they’re not, quite simply.

UKIP won the recent European Election – but I’m not entirely sure how much a wholly Eurosceptic party should be celebrating that fact.

Nor should we read all that much into it:

“Single issue party wins famously low turnout election on their single issue” isn’t exactly a ‘man bites dog’ headline, after all; if we directly elected Environment Ministers, I’m willing to bet the Green Party would storm it – but that doesn’t mean we’d suddenly start voting Green for everything else as well.

It’s also worth pointing out that Labour did about as well as UKIP in the European elections (UKIP increased their vote share by 11pts; Labour increased theirs by 9.7pts) – because what actually happened is the Liberal Democrat vote completely collapsed.

What would be more indicative of the oft-cried ‘UKIP earthquake’ would be some evidence that people were electing UKIP representatives in Britain.

But they aren’t.

In the May 2014 local elections, UKIP’s vote share actually dropped 5 percentage points (from 22% in 2013 to 17% in 2014) – even though there were EU elections on the same day.

UKIP elected 163 councillors – which was a lot for UKIP, but insignificant in terms of UK politics (Labour elected 2121 on the day, and both the Conservatives & Labour have over 7000 local councillors. Each.)

Local election results, May 2014

In the 2010 General Election, UKIP stood 558 candidates, across almost the entire UK. They took a measly 3.1% of the vote share.

But perhaps more tellingly, in 82.3% of the seats UKIP stood for, the UKIP candidate lost his deposit (didn’t even receive 5% of the vote) – that’s a firm rejection of the party by 4/5 of the electorate.

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Gamer Gate

I see it’s time for our semiannual “make videogaming look as childish as possible” story.

Because there were no girls in He-Man, you seeBrilliant.

For those who have missed it, a shitstorm is currently exploding in videogaming. The epicentre of this particular storm is especially pathetic & childish.

But now it’s spiralled off into an argument between a group who object to the increasing focus on things like ‘equality’ and ‘inclusion’ in videogaming and videogame culture, and those who have been championing this increasing focus.

For simplicity, some are splitting this into ‘gamers’ and ‘game critics’ – but that’s clearly not where the line is drawn.

No – the line here is drawn between a group who want to gaming to stagnate and those who want to keep it evolving.

We’ve been talking about properly including women and ethnic minorities in games for a while now – and some progress is starting to be made in this direction. I emphasise the word ‘some’ in this area, because – particularly in AAA games, it’s rare for a protagonist (or even a major NPC) to be anything other than a white, straight, man.

A well-rounded female character, yesterdayThere are people who don’t see any reason to change this.

They’re the spiritual descendants (or possibly the actual descendants) of those who opposed this sort of thing in other entertainment media, like action & horror films. Which themselves still primarily feature straight white men hanging out with other straight white men.

But films aren’t quite as bad as videogaming.

Partly because there are simply more films. Partly because the movie industry has existed for a lot longer, and so it’s further along its evolutionary path (we started asking “hey, why aren’t the women in lead roles?” 30 years ago. We only started seriously asking that ten years ago in the videogame industry.

The derogatory term “social justice warrior” is getting thrown around a lot. It’s about as derogatory as being ‘politically correct’.

(“Fighting for social justice” isn’t actually bad thing – unless you don’t want a world (or in this case an industry) that enables equality.)

Along similar lines, many of those opposing this cultural shift are being labelled bigots, misogynists or racists.

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Internet Cancer

So, as usual the internet doesn’t know what the fuck it’s talking about.

Some cancer, yesterdayJust for a change, it’s cancer.

Every now and then there comes to the attention of the media a new ‘wonder drug’; something that the media (and therefore the general public) don’t really understand,  but they’re damn sure it’s better than what was previously offered, and is therefore basically the next best thing to a cure for cancer.

When my mum had cancer, it was Herceptin  – a chemotherapy that dramatically improved the life expectancy of women with a specific kind of breast cancer, but of course got misreported and misunderstand and so had patients with every other type of breast cancer believing they were being denied it (when it reality it just would have been worthless).

It helps to remember that Cancer is not a single disease; it’s many – there’s no single therapy, there’s no single treatment. Even each ‘type’ of cancer is in fact several different diseases, all often with completely different outcomes & treatment options.

That’s a big part of why we don’t have ‘a cure for cancer’: there won’t ever be a cure. There might one day be many cures.

Which brings us to Proton Beam Therapy.

There’s a young boy whose parents – to cut a long story short – want him to receive proton beam therapy for his brain tumour. The oncologists in question initially prescribed standard radiation therapy.

Proton Beam Therapy is a cutting edge form of radiotherapy with – potentially – fewer side effects. It is also spectacularly expensive.

As you might expect, the internet has jumped all over this  – why wouldn’t the doctors prescribe the best therapy? Are they just cutting corners?

But the difference between the two therapies isn’t ‘efficacy’.

I’ll reiterate: Proton Beam Therapy & Radiotherapy are equally effective at treating the brain tumour itself.

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Animal Testing

Some science, yesterdayAlongside with the current popularity of dumping ice on one another’s heads, there have been all manner of criticisms of both the practice and the charities involved.

I’m not going to talk about the ice.

One of the more strident criticisms of the ALS Association – as highlighted by noted biologist Pamela Anderson out of Baywatch – is that they utilise Animal Experimentation in their research.

Yes, yes they do. Of course they do.

Because that’s how you research treatments that will eventually be used on humans.

Virtually every medical achievement in the past century [has been] reliant on the use of animals in some way
– The Royal Society, 2004

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