Thursday, 15 August 2013

500 words on word count.

I asked twitter if one could actually write 500 words on word count and got about 5 replies which made me think I’m going to have to do this thing, write a piece of that length without hesitation  deviation or repetition, and as @MissMillicent said it should be in the style of Just A Minute.

Here goes:

So, what is a “word count” and why is it such a tough master ? Is it that hard to get around? Two eminent journalists – Isabel Hardman ofthe Spectator and Dan Hodges of the Telegraph both talked about the superfluousness of “that” – a word that doesn’t seem to offer much use in the vast majority of sentences it is used in, when it comes to analysis, so it just has to be removed. The son of Glenda Jackson repeated however “no matter how many times I remove it the little bugger always sneaks right back in”.

At school, I always thought I was quite well blessed on the ability to hit a word count, and at one time, inflated by ego, thought I could do it automatically. This isn’t so, as much more screeds have been composed by me in the intervening period where I have struggled with the word count – more going over it than having to fill it, if I am perfectly honest.

When faced with 700 of your most passionate words and the necessity to have to cut 200 of them, especially if you are trying to get across an novel idea, or persuade and educate your audience, every word appears very precious and you become a kind of Gollum figure, will this sentence lose it’s meaning too much if you lost the  beautiful phrase with which you are exceeding your limit?

And then self-doubt sets in – as brevity is more or less always better than long-winded prose – is it really so valid what you’re saying at all? This lack of confidence must be avoided and it’s better to go back to thinking all of your mots are most definitely bon…..

But what if you are under limit? A case that is confronting me, as I regret saying 500 words at the outset of this challenge and wonder how I can find another 125 – the Word “Word Count” feature must be one of it’s most tortuous aspects, especially now it is in the lower left hand corner, like a small aggravating playmate at school “you can’t do it”, it chants as you eke out more and more description to locate the finish line.

As the iron bands of a word count exert their pressure as you get closer and closer, one reflects on the self-discipline of being able to bring all your thoughts under control within a frame imposed, it seems, at random.

If we didn’t have word counts, our readers would be bored, and in times of yore, the words wouldn’t have been printed. So all hail the word count, saviour of writers the whole world wide! 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

OMOV for FPC / FCC / FE elections

Originally posted on LibDemVoice here: 

Coalition has exposed and accentuated the differences between two powerbases within the party: the leadership and it’s governing committees. And though both are elected, it feels to me as an ordinary member that I have no chance of influencing either.  

I stand outside both at the moment, I'm not in the leadership and I don't contribute to the Federal Policy Committee, Federal Conference Committee or Federal Executive, nor would I stand a chance of being elected as I'm not well known enough. I'm a board member for Liberal Reform, campaigning for reform within the party, but writing from a personal perspective.

I want to change things, and don't exclude the Lib Dems from the need for that. I see that there are differences, and that both power blocs within the party claim sovereignty over the other.

This leads to a deadlock, and though we are praised for our unity, it doesn't feel like we have a distinct purpose or aim, as a whole – e.g. the Social Liberal Forum (who have many representatives on FPC / FCC) could sign up to "stronger economy, fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life" as a number of their aims could be included under that strapline. But I don’t see them reference this. SLF seem most concerned about “Osbornomics” and this to me appears we are more focussed on our differences than any shared purpose.

Therefore, coalition throws up the problem that the leadership and the FPC / FCC do not seem to be signed up to the same aims, and reference different agenda to get their point across – there seem to be people thirsting for fights in Glasgow over the 50p tax rate, our policy on tuition fees/graduate tax and welfare.

Is this the best environment to make policy? I'm not advocating "why don't we all just get along?" as I recognise debate and arguments can be good for giving everyone a fair say and allow us to settle contentious issues and move on to the policy of the future. But, people within the different factions looking at the other side as something to be suspicious of, does not make for good communication. 

I believe the party's democratic deficit - the lack of OMOV (one member, one vote) for FPC and FCC -  contributes to different stances from the leadership and the membership. Shibboleths exist such as "conference is sovereign". It quite clearly isn't when we are in government, which leads to members getting very frustrated when they lead campaigns, get issues debated at conference and then are more or less ignored.  Plus, from the leadership a certain frustration is detectable about Lib Dem policy making not being “grown up” enough. I'm not unsympathetic to either view. They could both be right.

We elected a leader (through OMOV) who seems to have a different ethos than that of the FPC/FCC, (elected by conference reps). The electorate for the two different power bases is different and in addition, it may be that people look for different things in a leader (good communication skills) from what they do for elected committee members (people they agree with). It does appear though that in our president, Tim Farron,  OMOV can elect a representative with both good communication skills for the wider electorate, and someone they want to represent them.

So I’d like OMOV for the FPC/FCC as aligning the electorates for both positions to a more democratic method, would be a step in the right direction, and almost imperative for a party with the word Democrat in its name. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Modern Feminism And Its Discontents

Dan Hodges is not impressed with Modern Feminism . He takes "Modern Feminism" as defined by campaigns to get women on banknotes and scantily clad women off newsagents shelves as being superficial and ultimately pointless - "tweaking men's agenda" rather than writing our own.

In part, he has a point. 

I've not been supportive of the No More Page 3 campaign or the Lose The Lads Mags campaign. This is partly due to a dash of liberalism - I'm as much defending a women's right to pose naked if she wants to as her right not to listen to abuse. I don't like either Page 3 or Lads Mags, and actually some of the misogynistic language in the latter is quite troubling, but it's mostly down to taste.

Domestic violence, killing two women every week in the UK, is a far bigger issue facing women. 

But I think he's wrong about Modern Feminism. The EveryDay Sexism Project has been of earth-shattering importance for me - mostly down to it's work on women being sexually harrassed in public space.

To realise that I didn't have to put up with being sexually harrassed in the street, names and  "flirtations" called out to me in the street, was a dramatic wake up call. Nobody had ever told me this. In fact I'd never really discussed it, even with other women, it before the EveryDay Sexism Project - but when I began to, many of my friends had had similar experiences. 

Feminism is needed, and twitter has brought us, in EveryDay Sexism, at least one campaign that is very valuable, to me personally, to other women and to our society as a whole. There are tangible outcomes - British Transport police are using this campaign to reach out to victims to explain the very real assistance they can offer - as this is a crime. 

This is perhaps small beer to some, but as a part of this new environment, I felt able to complain to a mechanic's boss when he used "darling" as a put-down due to an altercation over a refund, last week. Two years ago, I wouldn't have felt able to do that. Not that I'm backwards in coming forwards, but that I thought such insults were just "par for the course", and you had to put up with them, part of being a women yadda yadda.

The other question we need to ask is we, as Modern Feminists, do have long running campaigns to cut out domestic and sexual abuse / harrassment. So, why do the Lose the Lads Mags campaigns get more coverage? Could it be because it's a chance to get a pretty glamour model on the TV, defending her profession? In which case even the rise of the Page 3 et all campaigns maybe symptomatic of the problem, rather than a fight against them.

Ultimately Dan argues that we should be standing for more things. I agree, but when I put forward the facts of Diane Abbott's candidature for Labour leadership he dismissed her as a "token candidate". When I put forward Sharon Bowles standing for Bank of England Governor  another journalist dismissed her as an "outsider".  

So it's not that women aren't standing for high profile roles, it's that they apparently aren't good enough, or, that the wrong women are standing. That is a problem. And that's going to take a lot longer than one article to solve.