Saturday 9 May 2015

I promise to shut up about the election now, this is my last word, sorry

Happy weekend people! Well done on exercising your democratic rights and voting, or indeed not voting which you are also perfectly entitled to do, the other day. It would seem that the majority of the UK do not agree with me, and are rather more right wing, still hey ho. Most people don't listen to the Residents or wear pirate hats in public either but I am not crying about that all over facebook. That's the thing with democracy, you get what the majority of people want, not what you want, it's actually a pretty good system really, and for all the proportional representation whiners out there, even if the coalition had spent millions and millions completely reforming our voting system for that to happen we would have woken up to a right wing government on friday morning, but it would have had 85 UKIP MPs as well. People like UKIP, I don't, but some people do, and there's not a thing I can do about it except try and change their mind with reasoned discussion. I can't even persuade my wife to listen to Trout Mask Replica though, so I can't see how I'm going to persuade someone who believes wholeheartedly in British sovereignty and small government to change their mind. Won't stop me trying though, on both counts.

I woke up yesterday morning after about an hour and a half's sleep with what felt like a massive hangover, and discovered I had scrawled a whole load of notes down about the election night coverage, thus I now feel duty bound to try and put them into some sort of coherent bloggage, as clearly that was what I was going to do. Couldn't face it yesterday, due to being so tired I couldn't feel my eyeballs anymore, I may be too old to stay up watching political punditry all night and still make it to work the next day now, that's quite sad really.

The coverage itself is worthy of some comment, for the sheer amount of wasted money on the BBC and for the so-close-but-still-so-far channel 4 coverage. In the case of the BBC, where they used to have just Peter Snow throwing statistics around with a bunch of odd graphics, now Jeremy Vine is job sharing with Emily Maitlis and her Giant iPhone, I don't think we needed both of them working all night, is it so they can have more tea breaks? In which case surely they could both use Jeremy's holodeck and take it in turns. As to why they made poor Sophie Raiworth stand outside doing a giant jigsaw puzzle in the freezing cold all night, I am still none the wiser. Or why all the poor girls are jammed into figure hugging dresses and high heels, including the politicians (I've spent a day dressed as such, it is very uncomfortable). I am also still baffled (and always have been) as to why we need a helicopter filming Mr Cameron and chums driving to the counts, is it so we can comment on how frivolous the route they have taken is and complain about their mileage claims? For that seems marvellously ironic to me. I also enjoyed them cutting off the Northern Irish interview about the breakup of the UK from the SNP threat to go to a result from the mainland, while not bothering to show, or even really mention much, the Northern Irish results.

After feeling utterly let down by Channel 4's show of pointlessness and shit lefty jokes 5 years ago, I was quite pleased to see they had Paxman and some proper Channel 4 news people on this year. It was an improvement, but all the gogglebox bits were getting in the way of results and once again re-affirmed my lack of faith in the british electorate to know what they are talking about. Also, Paxman is not so good at reading jokes off of an autocue, and his trademark stare and condescending 'Idiot' catchphrase began to wear thin. However, I am sure their coverage was not really aimed at me, and were I still 19 I would probably have loved it and become more politically engaged as a result, so hopefully it is doing that. I could have watched David Mitchell and chums doing a carbon copy of the BBC style coverage all night though, without all the sketches and bollocks thrown in, maybe they can all swap around in 5 years, and we can see Andrew Neill and David Dimbleby reading crap jokes from autocues instead?

If you're expecting one of my usual lefty rants then I am afraid you will be disappointed, I already did one of those, and I am quietly resigned to another five years of tory government. Being from the generation dubbed Thatcher's Children, I am used to it. I had my free milk taken away, and now my teeth are falling out, but that's beside the point. We survived, Cameron is not going to eat your baby, stamp on your puppy and poke you in the eye. He genuinely believes that he is doing the right thing, so did Hitler mind you, but again that's not the point (although I have now lost the argument by bringing up the Nazis. Hell, in for a penny and all that, those banging on about proportional representation should remember that it was just one of many weak facets of the Weimar Republic that allowed Hitler to rise to power, but one shouldn't blame a voting system for genocide. My 3rd year history teacher did, but I'm pretty sure he was wrong). So calm down, we lost, get over it, if I can't get to play my White Noise album at a party I will not shout loudly about it all night, I will sit calmly in the corner trying to ignore the fact that some bastard is making me listen to Fleetwood Mac, and look forward to getting home where I can listen to the White Noise in peace. If this metaphor is lost on you then there may be no hope at all.

(there is no power in this earth that can make me link you to a Fleetwood Mac album)

It seems to me that the biggest problem we have is that all politicians are just trying to get into power, which obviously makes sense as it's the only way to get paid for it, same as all writers are trying to get published. But it would be nice to have a real choice in the two main parties, for as my father told me, any thing other than a vote for labour or conservative is a wasted vote. He was wrong, where we lived anything other than a vote for Lib Dem or Conservative was a wasted vote, well played Dad, well played. He had a point though, for all the recent multi party politics rhetoric, Thursday night has taught us that first past the post is the clear winner in this election. Nobody liked the coalition, so they voted a majority government in, and we still don't trust labour.

Scotland however, raised a very important point by voting SNP. Having resoundingly said no to independence earlier in the year, it was clearly not a vote for another referendum, whatever Alec Salmond says. The SNP were the only credible party (whatever you think of them they have been running the Scottish parliament fairly well for the last four years) offering a left-wing anti austerity agenda, and you could only vote for them in Scotland, so maybe that's what happened there? The labour party were no longer offering them the traditional labour party policies, so they jumped ship to the SNP. Makes sense to me, I know the Greens offer an alternative here, but even I can't take their manifesto seriously and I am their target audience of weirdo hippy tree huggers (worth pointing out to locals that even Totnes has a Tory MP, with a massive majority no less).

As to the polls, well, I think they underestimated the blandness of the seemingly endless campaign. I only made my mind up who to vote for as I looked at the ballot paper and stuck the pencil in my ear in an attempt to gross out the next poor hapless voter. Where's the choice? You may as well flip a coin most of the time, which is why so many people don't vote, and fair play to them, there is no point in most constituencies, they are mostly made up of safe seats.

I did think Cameron might have lost it by inadvertently describing 0ver 30% of the country as a joke. By calling Russell Brand a joke (he's not, he's a comedian, but I can understand the confusion Dave) for not voting, he could maybe have angered the non voters into going out and voting against him. Luckily they both made sure it all happened after the deadline to register, so well done both of you, democracy be damned. A lot of people listen to Russell's bizarre rantings, and dismissing them all out of hand in the way Cameron did just shows that the only people he cares about in our country (and if I hear the UK or the NHS described as 'ours' again any time soon I may scream, punch someone, or both) are those who vote, the rest of you can fuck off. Incidentally, the most insightful thing I ever heard from Mr Brand was when he pointed out than when he was poor and banging on about inequality he was accused of 'Politics of Envy' and now he is rich he is called a hypocrite, having suffered a hugely scaled down version of the same thing, I understand this completely.

I very nearly didn't bother this year, as again, the sheer length of the campaign had knocked most of the political engagement out of me. Had the polls opened the morning after Ed said, albeit rather unconvincingly, 'Hell Yes' to Paxman, I would have skipped out of the door, voted for this new and strangely charismatic Milliband and been happy with my choice. Despite having voted (albeit tactically) for a labour government three times in a row and got Tory-lite instead. As it was, having spent 6 weeks listening to ever more desperate and whiny politicians begging for my vote, I had lost focus, and was considering not bothering, since I live in the safest of all safe tory seats anyway. Just because people choose not to vote (and a lot of those who don't vote that I have spoken to probably shouldn't anyway, occasionally I think my mum was right, and you should have to pass a test before you're allowed to vote) doesn't mean that your government should ignore you, and treat you as a joke.

I'm also always saddened by those who treat it as a game to be won or lost, rather like football, and pick their team and blindly vote for them again and again because that's what they do (and equally, the crowing over victory or crying and shouting like the worst kind of bad loser). Back to my parents again, my Mother once admitted to having voted green (back when it really was a wasted vote) to scoffing laughs from my Father, because she liked their policies. I firmly believe that she was right, and you should vote for who you agree with, and not just 'your team'. Which also means that we need Parties who set out their policies along ethical lines as to what they actually believe, rather than letting the press set their agenda as to what they think will make them most electable. I would rather have everyone publish a manifesto a month before polling day, let everyone read it and make their minds up and then vote. Instead of nearly two months of name-calling, pointless debates and polls and punditry that are able to turn even an educated, politically engaged chap like myself off of the whole idea of voting. Policies not personalities please, if your campaign hinges on someone having a funny face when he eats, or looking like a blown up condom with a face drawn on it, then you have lost me completely.

The most interesting thing I noticed about election night, came from a German, Henning Wehn, who appears on 8 out of 10 cats a lot. He pointed out that there is no reason for anybody in this country to want to stand for parliament, as we treat them all like crap, and they are not (compared to what they could make in the private sector) that well paid. If we could change just one thing about politics, it would be to try and get the people who try to work for us, and represent us, a little respect for what they are trying to do, rather than calling them all self-serving scum and wanting them all dead. Slamming the Lib Dems in the way we did for having put the needs of the country over the needs of the party is the perfect metaphor for what is wrong with the voting public in Britain, we can't cope with the fact that their Manifesto was written with the happy knowledge that they would never need to actually implement it, and the hard facts were that the tuition fees policy was unworkable in the environment they were thrown into. We can't always get what we want, but if we try sometimes, we make damn sure we can't get what we need either, to paraphrase Mick Jagger.

The most important thing I learned was not to underestimate the young. I laughed at our local Lib Dem candidate because he was only 22 and had never even voted before. My reasoning being that he is the same age as my stepkids, and I certainly wouldn't trust them in any position of responsibility (no offence kids, you know I love you, but you know what I mean) so why would I vote for someone who can only be spotted in his campaign photo with some school kids because he has a suit on? And then Mhairi Black goes and gets herself elected at only 20 years old and gives a wildly impressive speech about Trident. She still hasn't finished her dissertation. Don't tell me the next generation aren't politically engaged, go and talk to some different kids, you'll be surprised.

So while I am by no means happy that we have five years of Tory government ahead of us, I try to look at the bright side, at least Billy Bragg will get his career back, and maybe Ben Elton will start doing funny stand up again.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Dave Jolly Well Does Write Things Sometimes, though they are quite self indulgent

There is a very good reason why I haven't posted anything in ages, and it's not just the electiony stuff going on. I have invalidated the title, and indeed very raison-d'etre of this blog and finished the bloody book. And when I say finished, I mean, got to the end, done some re-writing and given it to some people to read so they can tell me it's all a bit shit and make me rework it all in a month or two. But more finished than all those other ones I've got lying about the place.

On the back seat of my car is a one of only two fully printed out manuscripts of it (just for myself, because ever since I sat as a nerdy eighteen year old at my sister's old typewriter, frantically typing out my unreadably scrawled chapters I have wanted a bundle of papers that make up a novel that I have written myself. I am aware that they are essentially redundant in the digital age.) there would have been none, but one of my readers (and frankly, the one who's opinion on the whole endeavour I trust more than anyone's) asked me if they could have a hard copy, and since, due to my job, I have access to all the printers I can eat, I could think of no reason not to. I am feeling rather smug about the whole thing to be honest, and am anticipating a crashing come-down when all my readers inform me that they have no idea what it is meant to be about, and the whole concept is flawed.

I am also writing today to try and explain my reasoning behind the breakup of me and the Plastic Squirrel (for those not in the know, that has been the name of my solo musical endeavours since the mid nineties). While it seems utterly schizophrenic to break up a solo act, and wildly pretentious to have several solo projects under different names, neither of these are true. I did an EP for a bet of mildly amusing folkish songs called political correctness gone trad. It sounded nothing like Plastic Squirrel material ever should, and I liked it. Rather than spending weeks crafting elegant, intertwining synths and guitars and agonising over every single hi-hat sound I sang stupid words over cowboy chords and realised I could actually play it live. And as a bonus, I could just roll up to gigs with one guitar and nothing else, hell, I could cycle to gigs if I do this.

Now, I did three Plastic Squirrel shows in 20 years of Plastic Squirrel's existence, and every time I felt embarrassed that I was not a band. So when deciding to do this new material live I figured it was best to abandon the name as well. This brought up another problem, I don't want to go out as just Dave Holwill, there are a million people out there performing just under their own name, and names are not memorable. No offence to all those who do that, but for every Nick Drake and Bob Dylan there is a Nick Smith and a Bob Jones who's names you forgot a day after you heard them. So I adopted the amusing name conferred upon me by the landlady of a pub I used to play in, Dave Not The Cat. I did a few shows about ten years ago under that name, playing dodgy covers on an acoustic guitar. The name came from an actual Cat who roamed the streets of Hatherleigh at the time, who was called Dave. Although he wasn't really, and it was my wife who called him that, although before we were together, so it wasn't as weird as it sounds.

Anyway, I digress, basically I am toying with the idea of playing my own songs in public again, for the first time in a long time, and needed a name I didn't want to apologise for every time I said it. I think it's worked.

Apologies for this blog, it is thoroughly self-indulgent and serves no purpose whatsoever. I know I expected to be ranting about politics for the entire election campaign, but it has turned out to be so anodyne and dull that there is nothing to rant about. Maybe the fact that if you don't believe in borders, think that nuclear weapons are a bad thing and that equality is a good thing then people will think you some kind of lunatic, and laugh if you suggest that anarchy is not the same thing as chaos. I could rant about that, but frankly the lack of political engagement from those seeking election has knocked the political engagement out of me as well, bring on the rematch in July.

I have always argued that if you don't vote, then you have no right to complain, but I have spent the last twenty odd years voting and complaining, and I am tired of complaining, so I might give up voting as well. At least that was what I was thinking, since there is no real socialist alternative to the two main rhetorics, and everybody prays to the economic gods of perpetual growth, maybe I should give up. And then I saw this video

And while it still isn't what I want, I admire what he is doing, and will probably vote for him tomorrow rather than writing wankers on the voting slip, or throw myself at the greens again. At least this way I might help somebody not lose his £500 deposit.