Category Archives: politics

Boris Johnson, King of the Cornflake People, Mayor of your City

The Tories don’t like nuance. For a start it’s too nuanced. They like to put a finger in the air and then let you have their certain conclusions. The mild mannered expert, the academic, emailing a hefty, nuanced report is just a wishy-washy bothersome waste of time.

And we know what time is.

It’s obvious to say, but the Tories do like money. They trust things that make money. Just as they are confused by and distrustful of things that don’t.

The NHS, old people, the unemployed, art galleries, forests, foreigners, spare bedrooms, academics writing hefty reports or trying to preserving wildlife, or cyclists – to people like Boris Johnson, these things are all deeply suspicious.

When Boris talked openly about lovely old greed, and the natural order, and the Good Samaritan being necessarily a wealthy man (ergo even Jesus Christ likes greed), and the tax-avoiding true-Brit Margret Thatcher  being an inspiration, and people with high IQ’s being the natural engine behind economic success in London, it’s difficult to know which of his dim-witted delusions to think about first.

Just equating money-making with high a IQ, brainy equals rich, is profoundly simplistic. As is equating people to cornflakes that rise or fall in the packet.

Boris overlooked all those clever cornflakes, the people with high IQs who are not interested in money or self aggrandisement. There are far more High IQ Cornflakes who object to greed and an idea of a happiness index linked to the economy, just as there are plenty of low IQ Conflakes who make piles of money. You only have to look at Michael O’Leary or Simon Cowell to know that.

Johnson’s ideas about people and cornflakes and IQ’s and greed are hopelessly deluded, and on so many levels, but the most unforgivable thing is that as the Mayor of a major city, he hasn’t looked at the plentiful and nuanced data readily available on how cities work best.

Cities that at least chase an idea of equality (rents, road usage, planning permission, shared spaces, sports and arts venues) are happiest.

The happiest cities in the world (they publish lists every year) are the ones that work well for all citizens. Not just the ones with high IQs or lots of money.

No British city ever get’s onto these lists, by the way. Not even at the bottom. If you think of these lists as a sort of ‘rich list’ (just to help the Tories grasp this concept) then London, and every other British city, is miserably poor.

Again, you see Boris’s confusion about things that don’t (at a glance) make money in his attitude to those terribly bothersome dead cyclists.

When a handful of cyclists are killed each month in his city, under his watch, it’s most commonly a lorry or construction vehicle that’s done the squashing.

Boris looks at this situation and thinks this: lorries are important, they are the machines of industry, busy making money. Cyclist should respect that and be more careful to make way.

The nuance any mayor could and should have picked up on by now is that cycling makes money for the city.

Besides all the benefits to health, and the consequent effect of individual productivity, there’s the huge reduction in wear and tear on city infrastructure. Cleverer Mayors than Boris (there are many) have engaged with this idea. Their cities are on that list I mentioned above.

When a lorry kills a cyclist, let’s say a doctor or a news reader, this is confusing to Boris too. Despite being a cyclist himself, he see’s cyclists mainly as poor people who can’t afford the train.

But lorries are no respecter of income. Doctors and News Readers and nice bright high IQ Cornflakes get squashed by lorries just as often as people in other social classes.

In the nuanced scheme of things, a smart mayor might have concluded that it might be more cost effective for the Lorry – let’s imagine it was off to deliver sugar sachets to a tax-avoiding coffee shop chain – to stay off the road and let the Doctor arrive safely at work to help keep hundreds of Londoners healthy.

Of course the biggest delusion of all that Boris is helping to perpetuate is this idea of clever people being rich, and vice versa.


Let’s paint a picture. There’s a man living in a shack by the sea. He catches a fish each day and eats it while watching the sun go down. He’s fictional so we can describe him as being happy with his life. Far more content than say multimillionaire George Osborne.

His life may be simple but he’s not interested handouts. He’s against a ‘something for nothing’ culture. Not like people who inherit millions from their Dads. No, but he is interested in carefully judging the least amount of work-related stress he can put in for an acceptable, livable return.

For return, read life. He’s doing the intelligent thing of putting in just enough effort to be happy and free.

The Tory view of the world is that the poor and lower-middle income earners are all proto-rich. They could all be wealthy, they just haven’t applied themselves yet. If these people just pulled their fingers out and worked much, much harder, they’d have Air Miles and Range Rovers and be a huge help to the economy.

It’s hard to see the world through someone else’s eyes, but most of us – let’s stick a Tory-like finger in the air and say categorically it’s 60% of us – have no desire to spend a single moment working any harder than we absolutely have to in order to be happy.

And it’s not because we’re feckless. It’s not because we hate the idea of owning a yacht. It’s because we want to have a good life.

We want time with friends and family. We want to sleep in. We want simple things that take time, like reading books, redecorating the spare bedroom, listening to music, walking in nature, kicking a ball around the park and unhurriedly eating a bowl of cornflakes.


Spokes Persons at Quiet Protest – Published 26 Jul 2008

critical mass

I went on my first ever Critial Mass bicycle ride through London yesterday and felt quietly proud and very positive to have been part of the protest.

Critical Mass London is a very loose organisation. They have no real manifesto other than bikes are positive and why, in London, is there so little provision for them? Any other political message you bring along yourself.

The bicycle in front of me had a sticker on the back that read: It doesn’t take a war to power my bike.

The Mass meet at 6.00pm on the last Friday of every month on the South Bank under Waterloo Bridge, by the National Film Theatre.

They set off on a slow bike ride through London, delaying motorists by taking up the whole road. There is no planned route.

The Police – generally very supportive of the event – are on bikes too and stop the traffic at junctions. Pedestrians often cheer and snap pictures with their phones. 



Christian‘ left this comment on 3 Aug 08
Saw this on your Facebook page. Well done in taking part and nice photo!

Ideas to Help the Rich – Published: 9 Nov 2006

An interesting problem I think a lot of rich people face these days is how to show-off their wealth whilst still appearing ethical and environmentally sound.

Take cars. Rich people around town tend drive those extremely unethical luxury SUVs. At least some of them must know that makes them look dim, but what can they do? What is there on the market that say’s ‘I’m very rich, but not stupid; I care about the planet but more about my appearance‘?

If they buy a small, economical car, and take their one child to school in it, other rich parents will look down from their four-tonne Range Rovers and assume some hardship, some stock price collapse is to blame.

What car manufacturers need to do is wake up to this obvious new market: very expensive small cars.

electric three wheeled carSmall cars, perhaps plated with gold leaf, that are economical on fuel, low on emissions, but out of the price range of most people.

You could have diamond-studded bumpers but then you have to ask would they be fair-trade diamonds? This is no joke, most of our diamonds come from extremely unethical companies.

You could, for example, have a Citroen Xsara Picasso with a real Picasso stuck on bonnet. You could have a simple Toyota Yaris but with a luxury yacht being towed behind – all the time.

Or you could even just leave a box of Ferrero rochers on the dashboard.

The important thing is not that the car is any good (if that was important why would so many rich people buy Range Rovers?) No, the important thing is it needs to be obvious it cost a lot. And that’s all.

Peace Tax Seven

A small ad in the back of Private Eye, for an outfit called The Peace Tax Seven, caught my attention the other day. I looked them up on the web.

Apparently they are trying to raise money to mount a legal challenge against the government for using their taxes to pay for war. They reckon they can set a legal precedent using the new European Convention on Human Rights.

They are happy to pay tax, they claim, they just don’t want it used to build bombs and make bullets. UK law, apparently, recognises ‘freedom of conscience’ as a human right, meaning they could refuse to part with the money simply because they feel it is wrong to buy weapons.

UK tax law, however, does not recognise ‘freedom of conscience’. What a surprise.

So these guys want to put it to the test… is tax law a higher law than laws to do with human rights.

I do hope they get their day in court but my guess is tax law trumps all other laws in the world. Even Boyles law (pV=k).


This week Nigel Kneale, the guy who created the Quatermass TV serials, died aged of 84. I was just thinking Children of Men, a rather good, eerie  British Sci-fi flick, felt like something he might have written. 

Liverpool – introducing its all new private police force and gated city centre – Published: 28 Sep 2006

Butt-raped by the Tories, now ‘stolen’ and sold off by Labour, Liverpool is being used in yet another of John Precott’s piss-poor PFI experiments.

If you think any of that stuff I spew about Tesco and ‘High Street Anywhere’ is appalling, you’ll die a little inside when you consider what they are currently doing to city centre Liverpool. 

43 acres at the heart of this city has been demolished to build shit like this… (See picture of shitty thing below.) Gosh how happy we’ll all be. People from all over Europe will flock to Liverpool because it has the newest, sparkliest versions of all the same chainstores you can find everywhere else.

And they’ve called it The Paradise Project

The faded splendour of Liverpool’s past is not to be restored, cherished and passed on to other generations. It is to be flattened so that Specsavers can expand. Now that’s short-sighted.

It is also – horror of horrors – privatized! Liverpool sold the whole area, public rights of way and everything, on a 250 year lease to a private company (Grosvenor). So, thanks to John Prescott, Liverpool city centre will have it’s own gated rules, it’s own privately run police force, you’ll have to conform to how the Grosvenor greedsters want you to behave when you cross into their domain… 

And so Liverpool becomes a Philip K Dick novel.

Liverpool One


Anna Minton’s work is concerned with other zones of conflict, subtler or more hidden, and worryingly closer to home. In her illustrations about how space is being privatised a shocking first emerged about Liverpool.

This is the first British city to agree to privatise part of its centre. The Grosvenor Paradise Project, covering 42 acres in the heart of the city, due for completion in time for 2008, is to be privately managed. Traditional rights of way will be replaced by ‘public realm arrangements’ policed by Grosvenor’s own ‘quartermasters’ or ‘sheriffs’, in which beggars, skateboarders and protesters will be outlawed.

Grosvenor will buy-in facilities like security and waste management, usurping the local authority’s role in its own city centre. “We are now seeing a real urban renaissance. A new Agenda – A new urbanism,” says John Prescott on the Paradise Project website.

The full, alarming article on the same subject… gives you an insight into the tiny PFI-addled mind of John Prescott.

Shopping for tat is what out economy is now based on. That’s the great, great sadness here I feel.

Also it is sad that, to the current generation of politicians, the success of a town or city is measured entirely on whether people shop there.



A visitor‘ left this comment on 17 Oct 06
How will anyone tell the difference from normal though?
Dogs Must Be Carried‘ left this comment on 14 Oct 06
So that’ll be riots in Liverpool in the spring of 2009, then. Excellent.


Apollo Greed – Published: 15 Sep 2006

1. One for your web-heads to kick off…

2. We all know Tesco is an evil monopolistic greed machine, but after reading this news about them taking on Argos, I did feel just a slight sympathy for them.,,1861699,00.html

Basically they’ll move into someone else’s patch (as they do, relentlessly) by launching Tesco Direct, a home shopping service which will have (slightly) better home delivery options (i.e. they’ll deliver when you are actually at home – who knew anyone wanted that?) than Argos – thus beating them!

If it were anyone other than Argos you might care. But, frankly, Argos deserve to be wiped of the face of the shoddily inferior self-assembly home furnishings planet.

3. On the subject of rampant greed… Anyone seen what they are doing to the Brunswick Centre? I went there recently to visit SKOOB – a good secondhand bookshop – only to find the urban planners were re-modelling the place. SKOOB is no more.

This is what the planners say they have done: They have created “…a fresh dialogue between the architecture of The Brunswick Centre, the local community and the general public.” Presumably that ‘fresh dialogue’ involves people spending all their money in bunch of chain stores.

Look. If you are an urban planner, why don’t you just kill yourself now? We need a cull. Then we need to start again. Everything you stand for is wrong. 

If you don know this area, it’s another quirky corner of London that’s about to have all the living quirk kicked out of it. The quirk (second hand bookshops, camera shops, independent restaurants etc.) is being be replaced by cleaned up ‘space’ home to a giant Waitrose, Starbucks, Specsavers and on and on.

It’s being turned into yet another High Street Anywhere.


Worth Waiting For

The definition of democracy is, or should be, this: the choice between two middle-aged, middleclass white men with similar views.

Democracy is worth fighting for, we are reminded quite often. We have one. And we must preserve it!

We seemingly bombed Iraq into being a democracy. They can now vote. The choice will now be two or three similar men in suits, they get to put one of them in charge.

Of course the word democratic should imply a representation of what most of us want, at any given moment.

I live in a democracy, yet I don’t see the majority of people getting their way on anything.

We got Jedi registered as a official religion, thanks to some curious census data. That seems pretty democratic. Trying to be devil’s advocate here, but can’t think of another example.

The Tories admit they made some bad decisions when they privatised the rail network, way back when. Public transport in this country is broken. And forever. Most of us, presumably, voted for them. But did we vote for them to do that? Who can we vote for to undo it? Michael Palin? (if only). 

They made changes that no one voted for. Now the choo-choos are broken. Mmmm, democracy. I’d vote for it to be mended.

I didn’t vote for the Post Office to be privatised. I was happy with it the way it was. I suspect 56 million other people felt roughly the same in the UK. Yet, for the benefit of a few share holders, they privatised it and now it’s broken.

You now have a 60-40 chance of your letter actually arriving. The kind of odds you can reasonably work with?

It’s the same with gas, with electricity, with telephones, with water, our town centres, with traffic calming, our roads, our buses, our airports, cameras watching us (we’re the most watched-by-cameras nation in the whole world).

Did any of you vote fot that?

They keep selling bits of things to private greedsters, for some short term win. I’d vote against that, if they’d let me.

It’s easier than it ever was to be democratic in the digital age. You could send a democratic text. Send ‘build no’ or ‘build yes’ to the Can Tesco Build Another Hypermarket in the middle of your Town and Restructure Your Road Network Vote. Calls cost nothing because it’s democratic.

Just an example.

We should vote on more things, since we can. Anyway. here’s something…

Afghan Ladies’ Driving School – Published: 24 Jan 2006

Sean Langan

Sean Langan

There was a new Sean Langan doco on BBC Four last night. Typically brilliant. I really rate this guy and his brand of daring yet vanity-free film making. If they show it again, I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

Read an interview.

Incredible day at the BBC – Published: 29 Jan 2004

Incredible day at the BBC today. Was sat in the canteen when NEWS 24 announced that Greg Dyke had resigned. The room went quiet and someone put the sound up on the TV.

Later there was a seemingly spontaneous walkout by BBC staff, this happened all over the UK. How many bosses could have inspired such a mass movement?

Anyone who has worked at the BBC for more than four years will know what a great DG Greg has been.

He was supportive, attentive, generous with praise and brave in defended the BBC against critical voices. He took the BBC out of the hands of the faceless consultants and gave it back to the producers and editors.

Jon Snow ( on Channel 4 News ) just said something to the effect of: it’s funny that after all the unfounded Government intelligence on WMD (Weapons of Non Existence) that led to the instigation of a war on Iraq, the only casualties have been all the dead soldiers and civilians in Iraq and two bosses at the BBC.

It irks me that Tony Blair, who takes his family to church on Sunday, drops bombs on other people’s children on Monday, comes out of this unscathed. A soundbite and a smile and he’s on his way.

Published: 29 Jan 2004


In other news (life goes on) Congratulations to Tom and Vicky…who just this morning had their first baby, a little girl who (for now) is called ‘Spadger’. Have a look