Tag Archives: politics

That Bloody Woman

I’ve heard and read lots of people over the last couple of days telling us what Margaret Thatcher did to harm them and make their lives more difficult.  Her sins are then recounted to make it clear how right  this person is that it was her fault.  But as that well-known “terrorist” Nelson Mandela said “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping that it will kill your enemies.”

Nonetheless, I have a lot of sympathy with those who are picking away at their old wounds.  If you’d asked me in November  1990 (while I was honeymooning in Malta and desperately trying to find out what was really going on back in London)what reaction I’d have if she actually died, I’d have probably given you a list of reasons why I would enjoy dancing on her grave.

I joined the Labour Party at the age of 18, toward the end of 1983, partly in response to the horrendous election result in June of that year.  I think I was told at home to “stop moaning about it and go and do something about it”.

As a recent school-leaver without a job and as a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists, I was active throughout the following year in campaigns to support the printworkers in dispute with Eddie Shah and supporting miners on strike through 1984 and ’85.

So all through the eighties I was involved and awake to what was going on.  And all through that period, I hated Thatcher and the rest of the Government.  But I can’t do that any more, it stopped working for me.  This isn’t piety, it’s self-preservation.

Next Wednesday, while a coffin-bearing gun carriage trundles down Fleet Street to St Paul’s  I’d like to do something other than the obvious choices of cheering or jeering.

I think we need to focus rather on the release of resentment and ways to find reconciliation, preferably without talking about MHT or her colleagues at all.  So I’ll be holding Human Scale Conversations on those themes.  If you’re interested in doing something different on that day, come along.  I’ve not settled on a venue yet, but somewhere away from Whitehall and The City – maybe the weather will be kind and we can go somewhere in Hyde Park.  I’ve put up a #wewillgather event and see what happens.

BTW this explains Human Scale Conversations.

UPDATE/AFTERTHOUGHT I’m doing this in Central London, but if you’re not here on Wednesday, I’d strongly encourage you to organise you’re own event in a similar vein.

I’ve started watching “House of Cards” on Netflix #houseofcards

I had a long period of TV abstinence beginning in about 2004 (I guess it was about when I started writing here – something had to go to make time for it).  But Netflix has drawn me back into fairly regular TV watching because it’s totally under my control and it makes a decent fist most of the time of alerting me to things I’d like to see.

Lots has been written about the new House of Cards which is not being shown on regular TV.  It’s on Netflix-only, and the 13 episodes were released all in one go last week.  Mostly though people are focusing their attention on the novelty of the release rather than the programme itself.

Which is a shame, because it’s very good.  I haven’t gone full throttle into TV addiction yet so I haven’t succumbed to the temptation of just watching the whole thing in a 13-hour marathon, but I’ve managed the first three episodes and we’re getting used to the characters and seeing some of the storylines start to firm up.

I was initially disappointed to realise (it came in the first few shots when Kevin Spacey turned and started talking to camera) that it’s the Michael Dobbs/Andrew Davies House of Cards remade in today’s US political scene.  Disappointed only because the original was *so* good, so captivating, so of the time and shockingly near to what we suspected the inside of party politics was like, long before The Thick of It.  And because Ian Richardson was so compelling: simultaneously adorable and despicable.  And because I’m rarely won over by American remakes of British TV.  Where I am at the end of episode 3, Spacey hasn’t quite reached Richard III levels of despicability but he’s getting there and I fully believe that he pulls it off by Episode 13 and Robin Wright is an able Lady Macbeth.   Part of the draw for me is seeing how the other recognisable characters might turn out – although it’s pretty much a question of how they will meet their various sticky ends rather that whether they do (I hope).

I like the graphic overlays that denote when people are texting each other.  It lets the acting continue without cutting away to a close-up of the phone screen.  I haven’t seen it done as authentically before.

It’s very interesting to see it transplanted into American politics and the DC village rather than the Westminster one.  Though I am wondering why it took 23 years for this story to be acceptable to a US audience.  Is American politics in a similar place now to where we were at the end of the Thatcher era?  I guess there are similar levels of disillusionment with the system, but has that come about recently? Is it a new thing?  If we got any faith in the system back in 1997 we’ve lost it again since.

One thing that does crop up with the all-in-one release thing is that it makes it hard to have an online social experience around it and so it’s hard to write about without some spoilers – it’s neither like a movie (which you’ve either seen or you haven’t) nor like a standard TV series (where you might allow people to be a few episodes behind, but pretty much you expect everyone to be up to date or avoiding any reviews).  And of course it’s also a remake.

But do I hate spoilers so I shall wait until a significantly larger number of my friends are admitting to having seen it.

 

Perhaps there’s time to learn to walk first

Thank you everyone who commented on the previous post – wow!

This reminds me very much of what happened when I wrote my original Social Media Cafe post – I had an idea, I fleshed it out a little and then people went and took it seriously :) Which of course, in truth, was my intention, but I still cling to a little English self-deprecation and false modesty.

I also feel the need to remind newcomers here, that I consider this blog to simply be my thinking ground, this is where I get to understand what I think and why – that’s why I write. Then it’s great also to hear what others think of what I think, because it helps me clarify that through conversation. You may think me mad or a pointless dilletante. There’ll be reasons for that.

I also want to let you know that I am comfortable holding the apparent paradox that I am both entirely committed to following through on this *and* consider it a thought experiment and social art object.

I had some good chats about this at Tuttle today too, it certainly seems to have caught some people’s imagination. The question now is what to do about it.

I think I need to explain some other things more.

Firstly, let’s be clear, there is no election currently being held that I’m interested in standing at. After I posted yesterday (and doubtless as a direct result) Julie Kirkbride announced that she would not be standing at the next general election, but that could still be quite some time off yet.

I believe that if an election were called tomorrow, and if I could garner enough financial support to cover my deposit and living expenses for the three weeks or so until the vote, I would stand, if only for the experience of doing it – I may start a fighting fund for just this purpose.

However it is unlikely that Gordon will go to the country so soon and so I’m asked what I’ll do in the meantime.

We’ll see. I’m not in a position to put all of my time and energy into building a base in any particular constituency. I am not, today even sure of where I might stand, I need to think about where I really feel I could be of most service.

What is clear to me is that the three themes that I’m interested in exploring are Service, Representation and Governance. What does it mean to serve a community, how can one person best serve several thousand at a national level? Who do MPs represent and how does it really work, how could it work? If they are there to represent the interests of their constituency why do so few people feel represented or feel inspired enough to turn out to vote? And what does governing a country mean? How do you “run” a country? Is there room to start running it in the way that large swathes of the internet are “run” on a far more decentralised and libertarian (with a small ‘l’) basis?

The party question is an interesting one. Many people have said something like “if you want to get elected, why not join a big party, you have much more chance that way” to which my response is that the overall purpose of this is not to win a seat at any cost. But in that case, why would anyone vote for me, don’t we vote for the person we think has a good chance of winning or else for someone who represents a party that we’d like to see forming a government? Well, yes, we do but that doesn’t mean it always has to be like that or that it has to be like that for every constituency. And anyway this sounds like the people who said, “why would anyone want to go to your social media cafe?” which elicited a “well if
you don’t know I can’t tell you” kind of response from me. It turns out

And another thing. What do you do with supporters who aren’t voters? There are some lovely people who’ve said, I can’t vote for you, but I’d love to help in any way I can. What role is there for such folk, especially if a large part of the campaign is online. Perhaps there’s an example in the Obama campaign and what contribution people from overseas made to his success – anyone measure this?

It has shown me how I think differently about the world from other people. I am quite convinced that we do not know what the future holds and that the economic situation is so shocking to many people not because of the severity of its effects but because their illusion that they knew what was coming up over the next year, and that it included their house going up in price, their job paying more and prices remaining pretty stable has been shattered. So I find attractive the idea of coming clean on this and giving up the idea that you’ve got to know everything you’re going to do before you get started.

I was also interested in the fear and smear factor that Terence brought up in the comments. Most of the things he talks about, I’m quite comfortable with. I think the issue is how perfect do we expect our representatives to be. Is government just a game where we put people on a pedestal, cultivate extreme and unrealistic expectations of them and then gloat when they fail, in order to make ourselves feel better about our own falings? Possibly. Is that something we want to spend so much time, money and energy on or is there a better way of doing that? Not me.

I think overall, my point is “Let’s stop talking about what the job is, what it has become, but rather get back to what we want and what sort of people can deliver that”

I was most relieved however that Ewan Spence recognised that I want to find a way of taking this seriously without being too serious and pointed me to the advice of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

To run or not to run

Now this feels weird.

It started with a tweet, like so many things in my life today.

mptweetscreen

And of course a bit of banter arose and a hashtag was suggested #LloydDavis4MP but then I started to talk to other people about it and realised that they were taking the proposition seriously, being encouraging saying things like “Oh yes, I think that would be marvellous” So I’m writing about it here so that I’m quite sure that I’m not being blindly selective and only telling people who I know would be supportive but also to better understand what I might do next.

Because I’m up for it, I think. It fits very well with making social art and building community, which is what I (and others) see myself doing. I’m just not sure how.

I see our current national political system suffering from similar issues to those faced by other large organisations – that large-scale centralised bureaucracies do some things extremely efficiently but mostly at the cost of the people who are supposed to be served by them as well as the people who spend their time trying to run them. I think that working out what it might mean to run this country (or any country) in the next century is something worth putting time and energy into.

The expenses row shows just how vulnerable the system is to abuse of trust. I’m quite sure, from the gobsmacked faces and embarrassed shuffling that most MPs considered they were playing the game as it’s supposed to be played and that from their perspective, the goalposts have been moved. Yes, they knew it was probably wrong, but everyone seemed to be doing it and it’s easy in that situation to tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Very easy, that is, if the only people you talk to about it are other people who are engaged in the same activity.

So there’s a choice for those of us who see that change is needed. I could write about this over and over and work out what I think and tell other people what they should do or should believe and engage in endless conversations about policy and designing a better system, or I could say, y’know what, I don’t think it’s possible to stand outside a human system and tinker with it, design a desirable future state and then implement it – that’s the process that got us into this mess and innumerable messes before. I think we have to participate in our democracy in a much more active way.

Which brings me to our current parties. I joined the Labour Party in 1983, soon after the second Thatcher election victory. It felt like a grim time. I was a 1 in 10, a number on a list. The economic base that most people at that time had believed would be with us forever, manufacturing industry, was being swept away, restructured or sold off. I instinctively disliked the hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative style of the Tory party under Thatcher – I preferred the being hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative in my *own* way, and on the side of people more like my family and friends, so I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists (which for those unacquainted with the history of such things, means what the press at the time dubbed “The Militant Tendency” though that wasn’t what I thought I was getting into at the time). And then throughout the 1980s I took part in political activity that didn’t work. At a local and national level, we lost again and again. I wasn’t forced out of the party over Clause IV or for being a member of a party within a party or anything like that, the reality was that when my son was born in 1991, I had just been made redundant and I needed to spend more time on caring for my own family than fighting for others. I have voted in every election I’ve been entitled to and on each occasion I’ve voted Labour or spoiled the ballot paper where there was no Labour candidate. And perversely I’ve always lived in Conservative constituencies – the only time that the candidate I voted for has won has been in District Council and European elections. But now I’m done with combat and dogma of whatever flavour and you should judge me on what I do and say today, not the things I went through on the way.

And now I feel quite distanced from any of the parties. They don’t seem to live in the same world as the rest of us. They seem to be still trying to play the same game and the game has become more important than the original function.

Those of you who’ve seen me at Tuttle will, I hope, have seen me being of service to the group, to the community. The more that I’ve done that, the more I’ve let go of trying to run it, or make it go in a particular direction, the more successful it has been and the more I’ve enjoyed being part of it. I’d like the opportunity to try that out on a grander scale. And representing local people at a national level seems where there’s most improvement to be made.

We’re all quite exercised about how public servants should act with integrity and honesty – my definition of integrity is simple – you do what you say on the tin – you are open and clear about the principles that you apply when making decisions and you do what you said you’d do.

So the idea of standing as an independent candidate is quite appealing, running on a ticket of integrity and true service. And I’m attracted to serving Bromsgrove because I lived there, I know and love the town and because they seem to have had a rough deal with MPs for a while. I’m open though to doing something elsewhere or accepting that I’m completely wrong about the whole thing and should just get on with something else.

And of course, I have some interesting ideas about how my knowledge of the use of the social web could support both a campaign and the day-to-day business of being a sitting MP.

I’m very interested in what others think on this. Are there qualities that you think I’m lacking? Can you see a more suitable way for me to contribute to this issue?

Do as I say…

07012009799How do you change the world without telling people what to do? Forget changing the world even, how about getting anything done or created at all? I guess that’s one of my big life questions.

Because telling people what’s good for them and what’s best for all of us and what they should do that I’m not already doing – isn’t that the only way it’s going to work? Isn’t that what marketing and politics is all about? Don’t people need to be told how to live better lives, what things they need and what they don’t need, what they really ought to stop doing straight away? Otherwise, then what would happen?

It does seem as though there is no other way. Except, oh dear, we have a rather major blind spot. There is no other way as long as it’s me or my pals who are doing the telling, but the moment that you’re telling me what to do, you’re telling me how to live my life then I will resist – to put it mildly. Sometimes I will resist violently, sometimes more subtly, in fact sometimes so subtly that even I might not notice that I’m resisting, but nonetheless I will resist.

Oh yeah, and I’m quite good at recognising when you try to make me think it was my idea in the first place.

Aren’t I?

Bonus audio: Vinay Gupta’s lecture on Infrastructure for Anarchists (70MB) at the Temporary School yesterday

A little bit of politics for you

Lovely to see the JFDI crew heading for Thomson Reuters again yesterday for #askDC a little talk by David Cameron and then a Q&A that promised to include some questions from Tweeters. It was a re-run with extra manpower and sparkly bits of the Gordon Brown do in the same room at Canary Wharf a little while ago, when Christian qikked the PM thus getting a 2 or 3 second scoop on the “live” internet feed and the BBC.

I love it – I’m a news junkie – I can’t get enough of this stuff and these guys supply it very well. It also fits very well with some work that I’ve been doing within Government that I *still* can’t talk about properly, but hopefully will very soon.

So what next?

In following the pattern of traditional news media with live coverage they show two things: firstly that there’s so much more that mainstream media could do, if they could be bothered to learn and let go of their ideas of how things have to work. I think this is the main reason Reuters are doing it, but (yes there’s a but) what it also reminds me is that there’s a whole lot more to news than instant live coverage and, even more importantly that there’s a whole lot more to social media than getting a few seconds scoop on the big boys.

There’s a limit on how live you can get. So in certain circumstances we can get a scoop pretty easily just by happening to be in the right place at the right time or to be witness to something that otherwise would not get any coverage because the benefit from the story doesn’t outweigh the cost of sending a 5-person camera crew. However, when it comes to set pieces like yesterday, the marginal speed gain from live-streaming from qik is wiped out by the drop in quality – the added value is in the contextual stuff that together the guys were creating while running around and pulling together stuff from twitter, flickr and qik.

What the social stuff is best for is the slower, longer-term story-telling, the relating. The repeated application of this kind of reporting is what really wows people, one-offs are fun, but ultimately unsatisfying, because we don’t, we can’t get under the skin of a story in one morning. Yesterday we got a very very broad look at a very shallow event – I’m interested now in how we get depth as well as breadth.

Once Cameron had finished speaking, BBC News fell back to the studio and analysis from a specialist political correspondent. I think we need now to be looking at how we provide that sort of added value, of contextualising stories, breaking them down and looking at them from a range of perspectives. And we get our context by writing and creating other content tangentially to the story that the subjects want to tell. The social reporter interviews the bit-players, junior officials and also-rans because what they think and say tells us as much about the main story as what the official speech-writer managed to squeeze into a time and space designed specifically for conveying a precise message to a relatively small group of hacks. Then by making all the content available, not just the annointed bits that push “the message”, we, the reader/viewers get to filter and re-mix to help make sense of it all.

Things are getting really cool.

Photo: Sizemore

Better plumbing at No. 10

26072008959The backlash against the new site from the Prime Minister’s Office has begun. Neil McIntosh just popped up in my feed reader tearing it apart for limiting conversation and some poor planning/research around the branding of the video channel. And then Tosh minor chimes in on twitter: “@DowningStreet – turn on your comments”

In my view, what’s happening here is that we’ve got some better plumbing installed, and while that in itself does a little to raise the quality of the drinking water, there’s so much more to be done and part of that is recognising that plumbing isn’t just about delivering water, it’s about providing a circulatory system to support and enhance something that’s going on already.

I’m not certain that just turning the comments on is the way to go, immediately. Of course it would be great to open up the conversation online but I do think the whole thing is still too fragile to withstand the shenanigans of people like this.

The work now should be to build some more solid two-way relationships between No. 10, online journalists and bloggers. My first question would be why press people like Neil haven’t been more intimately involved in the project already. Many people are still impressed when the guys on the @downingstreet twitter feed reply directly to questions and comments. When Obama was here and I was hanging around outside, I had a significantly different experience simply because we had a feed coming from inside and questions were answered in real time. Yes, our government departments are too opaque, but from where I’m sitting, I see much greater will to move towards real transparency than we’ve had in the past. This is a small enabling step towards it – let’s support it rather than knock it down straight away.