Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Review of 2015


Personally, 2015 was brilliant - ushering a small person through their first months & years of life is a fantastic privilege which only keeps getting better.

A picture you say? Oh go on then. But only the one, I'm very shy of "creating" an online identity for my daughter before she's able to do that herself.


Alongside this, politically 2015 was pretty much an unmitigated disaster - the Lib Dems faced an electoral apocalypse and are now, rather more quietly than the Labour Party, having a long protracted debate about what we mean, what we say and what the point of it all is. 

A small comfort was that OMOV in the Lib Dems passed, thanks to the efforts of Sue Doughty, Daisy Cooper, Mark Pack amongst others. A welcome step forward for the party.

P.S. A lot of Liberal Democrat pixels have appeared recently which I've only become vaguely aware of as my high speed working mum life pulls over into a lay-by for Christmas. I think my most cogent advice would be to ignore those that cause you too much pain and if you are ever urged to write a long blog post about those that have wronged you, you probably shouldn't...... I actually received this advice myself once - definitely good advice.

This too shall pass, Lib Dems, and hopefully our electoral chances will improve as well. Here's to more victories in 2016 politically and a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year to all followers and those who wish me and my family well. 


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

How to survive without Twitter (SPOILER: pretty easily)


This is NOT an article on why I've decided to quit Twitter, there's too many of those and it really wouldn't be that interesting to people. Suffice to say I have.

 

But last time I quit, I found it much harder, but now I think there are many alternatives - a lot of news sites have "Twitterish" aspects now and it works quite well.

 

Also, if someone links to a tweet, it's entirely possible to follow the tweet even when you don't have an account, which was one of my main concerns.

 

Take today, the day of the Autumn Statement, a day I thought would be very difficult without twitter. But the BBC had a live blog and also linked to the gov.uk website with all the documents available which gave me a MORE in-depth view than I would have had from all the two-bit analysts on Twitter. It was helpful as well to make my own mind up rather than be swamped with the feed as well.

 

Most of the people I talk to regularly online talk over Facebook or WhatsApp, so that's not a concern either, so I'm pretty much sitting pretty. Anyway, that's Day 1 over, wonder what the rest will be like?


P.S. I am considering going back to auto-tweet my blog posts only but will give it a week or so to bed in first.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Women's Hat Etiquette

Occasionally I don't talk about politics on this blog, and this is one of those days. I was going to write about Jeremy Corbyn, but that's a bit pointless, and besides my adoring public apparently wants to hear about women's hat etiquette. So this is what I know....
 
Women don't have to take their hat off as much as a man would do, unless it's a hat that a man would wear as well - such as baseball hat, or beanie. It seems the etiquette follows the style of hat rather than the gender of the person who is wearing it.

However, if a woman is wearing a more typically female style of hat, like those that you would wear to Ascot, for instance, then you have different rules.

Male "style" hats e.g. baseball hats, beanies

Remove these when indoors in most cases
Remove at religious ceremonies (unless head covering required)
Remove those when wanting to show respect i.e. when being introduced
Remove at work (unless hat is required)
Remove in the presence of ladies
Remove when in someone else's home
Remove at home (but you'd probably do that anyway, right?)

"Female style" hats

These are accorded different rules as they are considered to be part of a woman's "ensemble"

No need to remove in a restaurant
No need to remove at religious ceremonies
Remove when at work (unless hat is required)
Remove when it might block someone's view
Don't wear them on the dancefloor (more for practical reasons than anything else)

"Female style" Wedding hats

Many people don't wear them now.
Mother of the groom should have either the same brim size or smaller brim size than the mother of the bride
If you have worn a hat and so has the mother of the bride, you should wait till she takes hers off before you take yours off

A note on brims

Large is good  (but not required) in the sun and during the day, as it's required for keeping the sun off, but can look like you are trying to attract attention (vulgar) later in the day - try and reduce brim size as you move towards the evening (tho not on the same hat - although perhaps there could be a Kickstarter in that idea!)

P.S. Never point out if someone has messed up with these rules. That's rude and thus vulgar and thus not to be done!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Safe spaces, dinner parties, freedom of association and virtue signalling.......

Right wing journalism doesn't annoy me half as much, as a centrist, as it does some of my left wing friends.

However, some trends and buzzwords have developed recently and I'm not sure people are really thinking them through.

Safe spaces seem to have evolved into a put down by people who consider that folk are "insulating themselves from argument" when some people declare an area for discussion as a "safe space".

But it isn't - most of the communities we circulate in are free and areas where free speech is tolerated and arguments engaged in. Twitter is one such area, for instance.

However, if you are exploring ideas, most of us would like to do that with similar minded folk - sometimes.  It is sometimes helpful for me as a feminist not to have to argue back against people with differing views. I'm different from some people in that I enjoy a good argument and seek to learn from it - but I'm not always in the mood, and like to exercise my right to freedom of association to associate with whom I darn well please.

This is a good blog on the subject that it helps everyone sometimes to associate with others of like mind - from Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex - hat tip to new follow/follower @declamere for the link.

Some right wing journalists who are devoted to free speech above all, seem to get rather annoyed at "left wing dinner parties", which just leaves me wondering if they never get invited to any dinner parties.... What they are really telling us is they don't like left wing groups meeting and discussing their ideas without balance or bias....... but that's something the left wing go on about too!!

Freedom of association is important. It's important to associate with people you like! If you favour it you can learn a lot from disagreeing, discussing and yes, arguing with those you don't have a lot in common with. But you don't have to.

I'm also going weary of people dismissing ideas as "virtue signalling" - again this seems to be shorthand for putting down left wing groups and freedom of association - right wing groupings do this too! They volunteer for charities, Parent Teacher associations, they join clubs, they do all sorts of things to indicate that THEY fit into their chosen social milieu. We all do these things all the time, it's called human nature.

If people want to call others out on behaviours that they believe are wrong when it's on the other side of the social tracks to where they stand, fine. But don't expect me to think that's very rational.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Hubris, 2015


I hear that the Tory leadership is not actually  too respected by the Tory MPs, especially since the tax credits debacle. They believe that the leadership think they are God's gift to politics - but isn't there something old that people say about campaigning in poetry and governing in prose?

As I tweeted today, watching the Tories stumble around since they've been governing on their own is like bumping into your ex in their pyjamas, shouting at traffic.

In the midst of their travails, they seem very triumphant about winning seats from us, so much that DavidCameron thinks it's a fine rejoinder to Tim Farron's question about child refugees, to mock him for having fewer MPs now.

There's a word for all this. It's hubris.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Lib Dem Win - coverage for setting up a panel on legalising cannabis

It's a political jungle out there and at the moment the Lib Dems are getting eaten alive, as we only have 8 MPs, and thus very little coverage about policy announcements.

In one part it's nice not to have daily attacks on us but the much more worrying issue is our messages have less chance of getting through to the electorate

It requires more creative use of social media, so it's good that's something that Tim Farron, our leader, and his team are very good at.

The story is great because it's evidence based, in line with Lib Dem values and popular amongst our base and beyond it. More of the same please, much more!


Monday, 12 October 2015

Please stop with "I have considerably more followers than you"

We need to talk about twitter etiquette. Right about now.

Can people PLEASE stop sneering at the number of followers people have* a la people piling on to June Sarpong this morning? You don't think she's cool, you think you're cool, we get it. But if you, say have 25,000 followers because you're a journalist and your twitter profile is at the top of each of your articles, and the person you are criticising only has 3,000, you look rubbish. You do.

It looks cheap and nasty, because it is. It's rude. Don't do it.

Would you openly go around saying "Look how many friends I have! And look how many that person over there has! They have hardly any compared to me! I have considerably more friends than YAWH" (to misquote Harry Enfield's character )

There's quite a good guide from Twitter user @Theguyliner who does a good line in what's good and not good to do on twitter.

Here are a few

How to be cool on social media

and

Things we all think of social media.

He also does an exceptional line in Blind Date reviews


*There is one exception - if it's clearly a new account creating for the sole purpose of abusing you, it's probably legit to criticise that, and that often comes with said account having few followers. But as @theguyliner says, it's probably better not to retweet trolls.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Manchester is such a nice place.

I'm rather upset at the rudeness of two journalists today, trotting out the tired old "Oh, all this violence and stuff is just life in Manchester"


Camilla is well known for making jokes, and I defended her when UKIP tried to get the police arrest her for suggesting she'd been to South Thanet more often than Nigel Farage, on a satirical comedy show.

This latest from her is clearly a joke, but it's also pretty rude and prejudiced.

The editor of GQ, that's Gentleman's Quarterly, you think might have a line in charm but replied to Camilla Long thus:


Nice. So both journalists are subscribing to a view, allegedly put forward by the Queen, that Manchester is "not such a nice place".

Perhaps we should look at the evidence :

Q. Is Manchester perceived as meaner by the public at large, rather than prejudiced London-based media?

A. No, according to YouGov the impression is overall positive.





Q. Are many of the protesters from Manchester?

A. Quite hard to tell, tho certainly anecdotal evidence and interviews would suggest there are a number of protesters from elsewhere, including London!


Q. Does Manchester have more of a gun crime problem than London?

A. No, London has more of a problem


QED.

Monday, 5 October 2015

On Parenting and Politics; or the triumph of the mundane.



I have always been a firm believer that there is politics in pretty much everything, and that people generally care about issues, even if they don't think they care about politics, as packaged.

However, since becoming a parent, I've noticed an issue. I enjoy spending time with my daughter and family, but I do work, and the minutae of daily life is so complicated, I need a series of automations (perhaps even automatons, or androids!)  to keep it going. And though it sounds a bit, well, weak, I think keeping on top of the washing schedule, cleaning, caring for a child, cooking AND working full time do take up a lot of mindspace.

I listen to Radio 4 today every morning and PM in the evening, but although my opinions are still well informed, I'm not sure where I have the time to contribute strategically to the issues I see. 

But I can see big problems in this daily life, problems that frustrate me Such as North West traffic chaos -  how are people literally going to drive IN George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse in order to metaphorically drive the change he wants to see in the world?  Or childcare and the people who lose out at the bottom of the income scale - the people affected by tax credit cuts. Or the slow creep of credit ratings into every area of our lives, meaning a number of people are cut off at the bottom of the market from accessing housing, loans to expand or a (reliable) car to get to their job on time (looks like we are back to NW traffic chaos....)

Not all of these issues affect me, but I worry about them all anyway.

It makes me realise why clicktivism has taken hold so much - who actually has the time to research and lobby effectively for these changes? In a one party state like Manchester, what good will it do?

I think the answer is possibly a rationalisation of what I do spend my time on outside work, watch this space! 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Some good resources for the #EURef

We are all going to be asked to make a serious decision about the UK soon. The UK’s EU referendum, at the moment considered to possibly happen in 2017, may result in the UK leaving the EU.

I'd like to share some of the resources I use as I saw someone ask on social media about good stuff to read. This isn't all non-biased but I do try to read around as much as possible


Full disclosure : I’m opposed to us leaving the EU at the moment and will probably remain that way, however happy to listen to the arguments from both sides.


Here are some of the resources I find helpful

 
Open Europe – self-described as “non-partisan” – do seem Eurosceptic in outlook however

 
Campaign for European Reform – Want to say in the EU but recognise it needs reform

 

 
I’ll post further about the EU referendum as we go through the campaign and will tag each post EURef

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Sublimation, Pygmalion, Banana Man - whatever is happening to Jeremy Corbyn?

The sublimation of Corbyn and McDonnell is absolutely fascinating. Political students must be agog.

Over many weeks we were told that the great thing about Corbyn was his straight-talking and his ability to connect with people.

However, akin to Bananaman, an amazing transformation is currently occurring.


After a terrible first week where he appeared to think he could do and say as he wished, a moulding of a new man is happening before our eyes. I understand today Jeremy Corbyn will talk about "hard working families" today in his speech. Yesterday John McDonnell told us they would sign up to reduce the deficit. What is happening? Perhaps advisers behind the scenes are coaching them? Perhaps the return of Tom Baldwin means they do consider the need for spin-doctors?

Could it be that the issue in modern politics is not the people involved, but the process? Surely not!

But when are the supporters going to notice? Is it true that "it's not what you do it's the way that you do it"? Time will tell.



 




Monday, 14 September 2015

Jeremy Corbyn, or The Pigeon Amongst The Cats

My timeline is alight with political comment! No, not my Twitter timeline, which, as it is dominated by politicos and journalists, is generally alight with political comment 24/7.

No, my Facebook timeline. Full of people who rarely, if ever, have anything to say about politics. Who is the person that has suddenly inspired them? None other than Jeremy Corbyn, who just won the Labour leadership contest.

They like him because he gives straight answers to straight questions. I can't fault them there, he does, and often with a bit of wit and charm. However, the answers he gives may be straight, but they also seem to not be thought through. Pulling out of NATO, extending Right to Buy to private ownership, it's all a bit glib and easy to help make his policy offer coherent. Coherent, but wrong.

Truth is he seems like a nice guy but with absolutely no idea how to run anything apart from a pressure group. He has some disastrous policies that didn't receive any scrutiny by a bunch of people who wanted to project their socialist ideals onto him and which projection he was quite happy to accept.

This is the danger of projection in politics - if you don't examine your new political hero from the other side, you may be in danger of thinking him a socialist saviour, and not just a well-meaning guy with a good line in socialist rhetoric. Before electing a leader, think what the other side will say about them, and if that will cut through to a wider electorate (who just elected a majority Tory government), rather than getting carried away like politics is just some hobby designed to make you feel good.

Also, if one does give "straight" answers - i.e. glib answers that sound sensible if you don't argue them through and seem like what the questioner wants to hear - you can and will get ripped apart by people who are paid to do so. So, smarter people triangulate and argue their case and get accused of "not answering the question" - it's a bit of a Hobson's choice but this is the game we play in at the moment. One man is not going to change that, and it's certainly not going to be Jeremy Corbyn.
 
A lot of very naïve left-wing people seem to think Corbyn will set the cat amongst the pigeons but I really believe it's going to be the other way around, Corbyn is a very naïve pigeon amongst a lot of cats. I hope he doesn't get hurt, though I do hope he stands down, for everyone's sake, most of all his.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Does atheism have to annihilate philosophy? Sartre, Nietzsche and Kant might disagree.

I recently read this interesting piece by Tom Chivers on BuzzFeed - asking atheists how they find meaning in life

Declaration of interest - I'm an annoying agnostic, not able to make up my mind one way or the other.

I was very dissatisfied with a number of the answers from his interviews. I was also struck by the strength of my feeling about this! It's interesting that I feel so strongly about other people's worldview. So I thought worth examining.

It's quite hard to disagree with people finding meaning in other people close to them but I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied.  Whereupon I got to thinking, hang on, there are some very famous philosophical atheists, atheist philosophers*, what have you, who didn't leave the meaning of life at "oh there isn't any point, that's the point."

We can at least examine our experience - for instance Sartre's painful interaction within the world and the experience of ennui, or perhaps a need to escape the same. Kant's inversion of existence, or understanding that the world needs to resolve itself into our perception, rather than the opposite. And as for Nietzsche - well I guess it can be argued he doesn't believe in anything, but I'd probably rather have that as a coherent body of thought then "I just like people, really".  The latter seems to me, like a bit of a cop out.

These answers trouble me, like they've missed the point. But it's tough, and probably not fair of me to criticise, cos I'm not really sure what the point is myself - I admit I don't like thinking about the meaning of life much, as within the confines of a busy life, there's not much time for philosophical contemplation and I mentally file it for some mythical time when I'll have more time to think about it. Perhaps that's what these people do too.

And it's pretty tough to be asked what the meaning of life is and be able to respond in a paragraph - I'd find it impossible to be honest. I don't understand why you would respond unless I guess, you wanted to prove it is possible to have as simple an answer to life as "It Is God's Will" without having the God bit.

But I guess, that doesn't work for me either. Back to my atheist philosophers then........

P.S. Kant not generally thought of as an atheist, however did question the nature of belief quite considerably so I feel able to lump him in with the other two.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Intersectionalism? I'd rather listen to Nicki Minaj

If you've actually read this blog rather than relating to the title only, then I'll just say now I do think there is a point to intersectionality - it's just an absolutely terrible word!

Although this does make me sound like the kind of men who disagree with the word feminism though not the concept, I do think the word intersectionalism (or intersectionality)  is terrible, it sounds technical and off-putting.

What's much better is what Nicki Minaj has been saying recently. Suzanne Moore summed up what I think in an article at the weekend - (tho I'm rather disappointed the URL contains the word catfight, I'm sure that's nothing to do with Suzanne)

Kanye West once said that Beyoncé should have beaten Taylor Swift to a VMA. I happen to agree with  him - Taylor Swift was much more boring than she is now at the time, and arguably upped her game after the incident.

Then Nicki Minaj made the accurate observation that you can easily get nominated for a VMA award if you include a bunch of thin women in your video. Her own song Anaconda has indeed been everywhere and yet has not been recognised, whereas the frankly poor Bad Blood by Swift, was.

Which is again true - and thinking about it there is a very important point here - that being a Woman of Colour within the music industry is harder than being a white woman, which in turn is harder than being a white man.

This is the concept at the bottom of intersectionality and articulated so much better by Nicki Minaj - who returned recently to calling out Miley Cyrus for "tone policing" - than by the word itself.

I've read many  blogs and definitions of intersectionality, but to be honest nothing has brought it home to me as much as Kanye West and Nicki Minaj. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Victim vs Vulnerable : a mediation on Jamie Barlett's piece about feelings.

Jamie Bartlett wrote an interesting article on the modern trend for "victimhood". A number of people are tweeting about it and commenting on it thoughtfully.

However to me, it missed the point a bit.

Within the "Karpman Drama Triangle" it is considered better to refer to a person who is feeling dominated, put upon, oppressed or otherwise subjected to another's agenda or demands, as "vulnerable" rather than a "victim". This is regarded as the Empowerment Dynamic.

If we go with vulnerable rather than victim, we do not remove a person's agency, which as Jamie alludes to, is primarily the right-wing complaint about "Victim" politics. However we *can* identify the dynamics around the vulnerable person, the better to understand everyone's actions within the interaction.

So why don't we all use "vulnerable" more than "victim"? Perhaps both sides of this argument are benefiting from engaging with the word "victim" - the people who want to view themselves as victims as Bartlett describes, and people who seek to critique this attitude, who gain intellectual benefit from engaging with the wrong term. I believe the term is "straw man" ? 

My own attitude towards negative events in one's life. I am always reminded of M Scott Peck at the point - in a nutshell what I took from "The Road Less Travelled" is that although some of us start life with no headstart compared to others, with conscious work on ourselves, we can catch up. Ergo, our identity as being part of an oppressed group, need not wholly define us. 

However there are structural problems that we need to address, and to get too caught up in this straw man argument, also contributes to this problem. I think we should make more of an effort to describe who we see as "victims" as "vulnerable" for this reason. 

I agree with Barlett that identity politics can lead society as a whole and poltical debate, up an intellectual dead end, especially if groups get entrenched into those identities, retreat unto them and just lob intellectual rocks at each other. 

Bartlett takes a little bit of a wrong turn himself, however, when he looks at modern life and diagnoses that it's all about feelings. I disagree. I think a lot of our lives now are about the appearance of feelings and yet there is a search for something more authentic. I do think feelings are important - they function as our early warning system to tell us there's something wrong - either with our psyche or our environment.

Processing those feelings, and acting proportionally and appropriately is the difficult part, especially when you introduce those pesky other people into the mix. 

Bartlett uses several extreme examples like  Anders Breivik to diagnose problems with society as a whole, but I disagree, I think that as a whole we are progressing towards a more authentic and emotionally articulate society in Britain, perhaps as a function of becoming more cosmopolitan. However he correctly identifies some problems with the journey.

So perhaps I agree more than I think with Bartlett, in that I think just emoting all over the place is unlikely to do you or others much good, but that the opposite, suppressing all emotion is also not going to help. 



Monday, 17 August 2015

Do we need women's media?

Hello again. Apologies for absence - I've been on maternity leave, and though I thought that would mean LOTS of time for blogging, it er... didn't. So I am back now.

My thoughts today are about the number of "women's media" outlets that are appearing. I don't have much against "The Pool" and other outlets meant to showcase women's work, but I don't find myself attracted to them, as a consumer of media.

However, out-and-out feminist sites, such as Vagenda, I do agree are needed and have a role, and I want to listen to them.

This I don't think I find it THAT compelling to read the likes Telegraph Women. I understand that it is likely to give a woman a job in journalism, and I understand that is needed sometimes, as women are under-represented. But in a lot of cases I don't feel that a "woman's perspective" is needed, per se. Not for me, anyway. I do think that Emma Barnett is a fantastic journalist though, and more than capable presenter of Women's Hour, so it's not her I am criticising, more the fact we have more and more of women's media and I'm not sure it excites me that much.

Take finance for instance. Do I need a "female perspective" on finance? No, I need someone to tell me trends, finance news, how to invest, what to invest in, what's going on in Greece and what it means for the rest of Europe.

I was, however, frustrated on maternity leave to find I couldn't find many people to discuss the Greek crisis with. It's not really the topic of choice at many mum's groups. It's unlikely to be, to be honest. This is not a judgement of mums, or even of Greek finance discussions, it's merely an observation. I was also surprised that I'd listen to many of basically the same discussion on Women's Hour about women in this that and the other, but nobody thought to, say investigate HOW women/people in Greece were dealing with the financial crisis. But why wouldn't I be interested in that, rather than the Nth piece about how we as women deal with sexual politics/juggling careers and childcare/the menopause?

When you have Women's media of any kind, I do think it does get somewhat railroaded into issues that just affect women. And though that is admirable, it's already covered, a lot.

I want to hear from more women who do the things I am interested in, not just writing "about the woman's place in X/Y/Z" - I get far more from the women I follow on twitter in fields such as politics, IT, finance, development, comedy, travel and the law profession than I can from any number of articles about what the experience of a woman is in those areas.

Edit: On reflection, I do think that we could have sites run by women featuring women but I just don't need "a woman's perspective on X". In essence, by women and for women but it doesn't necessarily need to be about women, or not all the time anyway.