Election done – now what?

Well thank goodness for that: I was not elected, so I have no civic responsibilities. I like to think I was respected for ensuring that the democratic process worked, to make my opponent work for his seat and not seize it as a right. I prefer not to think of it as being massively publicly rejected by my neighbours.

I would quite have liked the (minimal) councillor allowance though.

Now my challenge is what to do now as some public service. I do have some civic charitable things I am working on elsewhere, and I am still cornered to help with a local campaign on a doorstep issue, which I will do.  There was that idea of a “keep fit this summer after you vegged for two years of lock-down” promotion, although there are better men to do that than I.

It is unlikely that I will be invited to negotiate a settlement to end to the Ukrainian War, which I could do if surmounting the credibility gap, so some things less earth-shattering is needed for my time and talent.

National government being such a mess, in spite of best intentions at the top, I will write policy papers.  They have usually been short interventions, as no one has shown a willingness to pay me for these.  A few full-length, bluntly worded papers are needed on certain topic, along with the usual fare.

In the dawns after the election I feel rested, but this should not  be a resting year.

See also

Books

Hammering long, long streets

I have not been involved in this local election campaign, except for being a candidate and hand-delivering more leaflets than is conceivable this side of sanity. It gets me out and about, which we all need after these weird years. It is cold on the streets this year: blazing sun and high temperatures, but a colder reception at the door.

Not from all though:  this is a friendly village. At the locals, it sends in a rash of salad-munchers, though come the general elections it is reliably blue, but reliability is now in short supply. Boris the rockstar PM is no more – he is a hunted figure, who has taken on a mantle of seriousness in place of fun and it does not play well. Anger over those after-work drinks is utterly illogical, without sense or coherence of reason, but it is real. Once the sheen has come off, we all suffer, and notice that the cost of living is rising and the taxes re rising too when we were promised, when they swore blind, that they would come down. How can a candidate in a little election fight against that?

I will do what I can, what I usually do – trudge the streets, hammering worn feet on hardened tarmac pavements, wondering how late I can post leaflets before householders get angry at the disturbance (the emails that came in last year about that were not friendly), spending lunchtimes and long evenings folding and stacking.

If nothing else, it shows me the variety of streets and made environments that I otherwise just skim over. The streets of identikit houses are not identikit at all, as householders remake them in their own image; the ex-council house with a new, smart porch and refurbished to look like a mini-mansion, and a Beemer parked at the front, or the house with a car collection (that must annoy the neighbours) or an ornate garden spread out at the front.  Scaffolding is in every street and that shows enterprise; even the new-built houses having extensions and personalisations. Whatever commentators have said over a hundred years about dull suburbs and mass-production houses, they are not any more, because every householder is an individual making their  house into a unique home.

Even so, I must turn back: I am still many hundreds of  leaflets away from being able to rest on the ‘bank holiday’ weekend.

See also

Books

Twit twit To-where?

A company takeover rarely hits the front page, but for Twitter, the biggest celebrity social media site and Elon Musk, the biggest celebrity tech entrepreneur, it fills volumes. (Wondering why does little good in the fervent political atmosphere, but that stifling atmosphere has something to do with it.)

Tesla and SpaceX are utterly brilliant: we have to ask then whether Twitter can become as brilliant too.

The gossip has concentrated on how freely one may speak on the platform. It is a private company and can make its own rules.  I know that if I ran a social media platform I would be worried about what people were saying on my site, effectively (to my mind) in my name. I would want it to be respectable, and to ban way-out material like Holocaust-denial, race-hatred, loony conspiracy theories and socialism.

My forum, I think, would not last long, turning away so much custom

The value of Twitter, financially, is in the volume and variety of commentary and bile spewed out on it, which produces data which can be sold. In the old days, a company with a product to sell might hire a marketing consultant to go round knocking on a hundred doors: now fora like Twitter have the unfiltered brainspills of millions of customers available to analyse. In a decade or so, marketing departments might learn how to read the data properly. Bans and threats of bans will skew the data. Liberating speech is a most noble motive: it should also be a profitable one.

The new owner might just leave Twitter ticking along with a few adjustments to its policies, and commentaries have made that assumption, with perhaps too a few tweaks like adding an an ‘edit’ button. It works as a business model at the moment. That is thinking very small though, and Twitter is shrinking so business-as-usual means decline.

At the moment it works on the surface with simplicity. You might think that no revenue stream goes untapped, but it looks flat, suggesting that there is more that could be done to expand the Twitworld in more dimensions and bring in more facets than ever before. I would not know where to start, but I am not Elon. It is only a petty sideshow for him, but if he shows that vision for which he is famed, his new sideshow may become something so good that even I might be interested in it.

See also

Books

Closing the web – 2

The Online Safety Bill causes more despair as I plough through it. The thing is, I actually want to see a workable law against online harms; but this is not it. It means well and it tries, but whoever wrote it was not up to the task.

I wrote before that the Bill is badly written tortuous, self-contradictory, tautologous and recursive. If this were resolved, it might become legible and so be considered properly. (This could be done by handing it to a half-decent commercial lawyer: they produce water-tight documents that are more complicated in concept every day.)

It cannot even agree with itself on what that key concept, “harm” means: at one point it is “psychological harm amounting to at least serious distress” (Clause 150, about a new offence of “Harmful communications”) and at another it is “physical or psychological harm”, followed by a tangle of subjective provisos (Clause 187).

Part 3 and 4 contain duties of care, which are not actually too bad – impossible day to day for anyone but a major company, but that is whom it is aimed at, and it cuts two ways – protecting vulnerable users, but also protecting free, democratic engagement, and user empowerment. That will be interesting.

The proposed offence of “harmful communication” in Clause 150 should be struck out at once.  Nadine Dorries has expressed repeatedly her opposition to the cancel culture and wokeist attacks on free speech, but she is now giving them a perfect weapon. It will make a criminal of anyone who says online anything another person seriously does not want to hear: if a man has built his whole outlook on life through the filter of socialist preconceptions, showing him the folly of those ideas will destroy him, so that will be a crime. Those who built their lives on more personal fantasies, quite fashionable these days, are never reticent about how “harmful” it is to be challenged or doubted.

An important principal is contravened by this Clause:  no criminal offence should have indeterminable boundaries based on criteria entirely subjective to the whim of a magistrate or civil servant. No one can then know if he or she is a criminal.

I have more sympathy with the “fake news” offence in Clause 151. It will make  crime of many party political materials, but perhaps that is for the best.

The real problems, for all the positives, come from the incoherence and incomprehensibility of the Bill, and how open it is to abuse in the detail of the delegated powers.  A real, probable risk is that service providers faced with the illegible duties will ban and bar as a default in order not to be caught. Crippling fines for allowing “harm”, where there is no fine for banning the innocuous, must lead to a supercharging of online cancel culture.

See also

Liberation; revival

The Falklands War of 1982 liberated not just those islands, but the home islands too. It is the story of staunch heroes, who won more than they could imagine they would.

It had to be done.  It was war, there was slaughter, but sometimes war has to be done. It is hard to describe to today’s generation how the war and the victory changed Britain and revived Britain, because of how fundamental that change was. The focus though was the Falkland Islands and their people.

So whatever the revolutionary change that the war made at home, it was at base exactly as it seemed – a liberation of those islands, a limb of the British nation, from a foreign invader, a liberation wrought by the heroism and iron determination of British sailors, soldiers and airmen doing what they do best. It was war for what war is meant to be for, and they fought it and won it well. Theirs is the glory here, and those of us in Britain then abed shall think ourselves accursed we were not there – all the verses and quotes and clichés are weak indeed in comparison to the reality of the relentless battle by flesh and blood over bogs and hills to drive back an enemy dug in on our hills, but that they did, in mere weeks – two and a half months from the invasion and the islands were liberated.  If only all wars were so brief and victorious.

Looking back, it is unimaginable that much of the press was against the war but those newspapers failed and the patriotic ones throve. We emerged a very different country.

When the Argentines invaded, they attacked a nation which had lost faith in itself, where the  dissolution of empire had sapped the vitality out of the soul of the nation, and decades of socialist impositions had smashed the economy to spin Britain into a spiral of apparently irrecoverable decline. Three years before, Margaret Thatcher began to reverse it only for an oil crisis and the necessary destruction of dead industry to cause a massive recession.  The Argentines attacked a nation with no confidence in itself, knowing that the establishment would surrender. They wanted to.  Had it not been for Margaret Thatcher and Sir Henry Leach, the First Sea Lord, that would have been an end.

The decision made, it was the men who sailed those thousands of miles over the unquiet ocean who rescued the islands and their whole nation.

The Argentines attacked a dying, timid land: they surrendered to a resurgent, confident major world power.

See also

Books