Tag Archives: question time

’tis better to give than recieve. That’s crap. But here’s a present anyway.

coalforchristmas

 

Last week, I published my Christmas wish list, and kindly expected y’all to deliver. What can I say? Greed is good. Boris says so.

Still, they say the greatest gift is giving. This is, of course, rubbish, as the greatest gift is cash so I can avoid returning whatever hideous or useless gift you thoughtlessly picked up on your way to the Poundsaver till. But still, in the spirit of the season, here’s my gift to Britain this Christmas:

  • I give the gift of vibration to Lord Heseltine. Get your head of the gutters, you lot. Not that sort of vibration (though maybe 50 years ago…). Phone vibration. This way, the next time his wife rings him as he films Question Time, Dimbleby needn’t be bothered.
  • Guido Fawkes brought to our attention that Boris’ hair is receding along with his credibility. I can’t do much about the latter, but as to the former, I gladly give Boris a box of Regaine.
  • To the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I give the gift of babysitting. Prince George is adorbs, and I have five nieces and nephews so I can totes handle this, babes. You deserve a bit of a date night, don’t you?
  • I give Lynton Crosby to the University of London Union. He’s great at turning out he votes, and you not so much. I also give solidarity.
  • David Cameron gets a selfie with me, since he’s so keen on being seen with Americans. And since he’s got the Regaine now, Boris can be the flirty blond.
  • Angela Merkel gets a telegraph, since that seems to be the only way she can safely communicate electronically.
  • Putin gets donkeypunched by Uncle Sam. If you don’t know what that means, Google it. Warning: NSFW.
  • I’d like to buy Anjem Choudary a pint. Seriously mate, you need it.
  • Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gets this children’s book. Remember what happened the last time Spain messed with a Queen Elizabeth.
  • I give British Gas customers Jack Wills jumpers. You might not be able to afford you energy bills, but you shiver in style with these fashionable fleeces!
  • Katie Hopkins gets a map of Asia. See that big country down to the south? That’s India. It’s a place, you see. And if you look to the northeast, you may be able to locate a lovely Japanese town I think you ought to visit. It’s called Fukue.
  • Alan Rusbridger gets a class on journalistic ethics taught by Louise Mensch. I’ll even throw in a freebie on investigative reporting, since she seems to be the only one uncovering just how badly you’ve British national security.
  • That being said, Edward Snowden gets amnesty here in America, but only if he brings home the documents. And marries my best friend, cos she’s kinda keen.
  • Russell Brand gets a haircut and perhaps a bit of substance, provided he doesn’t abuse it.
  • Laurie Penny gets a mini American flag to waive, as she seems to be here more than I am. You’re not a proper American until you waive the stars and stripes at a street parade. And also eaten a deep fried Twinkie.
  • Rand Paul and Shia LaBeouf both get an English 101 course, which should teach you how to properly cite your sources. And perhaps form coherent sentences. But baby steps.
  • Greg Rutherford gets all the television appearances he wants, and perhaps a new kit deal. Seriously. A boy’s gotta eat.
  • Alex Ferguson gets a villa in Spain or Cornwall or wherever pensioners go to sun themselves. Just steer clear of Florida. It’s like Duck Dynasty down there.
  • Gay and lesbian Londoners and Chicagoans get marriage counselling. We now get to be as miserable as straight people. Ah, equality.
  • Single gay and lesbian Londoners and Chicagoans get tequila. It’ll help numb the nagging this Christmas. Suddenly we have no excuse when grandma asks why we haven’t settled down. Damn.
  • Justin Bieber gets a copy of a biography, any biography, of Michael Jackson. I cannot stand aside and watch history repeat itself. He even had a monkey, for Christ’s sake! No. I won’t be party to this. Justin, we’re here to help, buddy.
  • Chris Ramsey gets my apologies for gratuitously lusting after him, and also an American tour so I can do it in person.

Finally, to all my friends, family, readers, followers, and everyone who has helped make my return to writing this year an enjoyable if tumultuous ride, a massive thank you. I’m still finding my voice, but it’s great to be back. 2014 is going to be tremendous. I can’t wait.

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What do Peter Hitchens and Russell Brand have in common? They both sound like Katy Perry.

Let’s clear one thing up: I’m American, okay? I don’t claim to be anything but. I’m prone to hyperbole. I talk with my hands. I’m loud. I’m crass. And I don’t understand the point of apologising to someone who stepped on my foot, even if it was stuck out halfway across the train carriage. Watch where you’re going, ass.

One thing all Americans do understand, though, is political turmoil. After all, much like iOS7, our government tends to unexpectedly shut down. So you can see where I could possibly understand Russell Brand and Peter Hitchens, arguing from completely opposite political plains, that the government is fundamentally broken and beyond hope. The only thing is, I don’t understand at all. For like listening to a drunk Sarah Palin talking to a stoned George Bush, it’s all just a bunch of babbling with some laughs here and there.

I’ve already taken Hitchens to task over encouraging young Brits to abandon the ship of state, which he reckoned he “ought to be pleased by.” Likewise, the Telegraph Men columnist, Caroline Kent, did a bang up job in her personal blog (which she Tweeted-so I feel alright citing here) of surmising Brand’s articulate but ultimately incoherent argument; “he is basically just spewing the contents page of the Occupy manifesto in people’s faces,” she wrote, adding that it is “hardly groundbreaking stuff.” Hear, hear.

There’s been a lot of commentary on Brand’s Newsnight interview, and I imagine the story has only just gotten its legs. Less has been written about Peter Hitchens’ comments, because let’s face it, the average Brit hardly knows (or cares) who Hitchens is. But what I haven’t seen is anybody linking their dour pessimism together.

Yes, obviously comparing the two is akin to comparing Chantelle Houghton and Katie Hopkins, but I can’t help but to think that there’s a lesson for those living in the Westminster bubble. I mean, after all, it’s not very often that you’ve got the left and the right agreeing, albeit for very different reasons, that things are, on the whole, quite crap. On last Thursday’s Question Time, David Dimbleby deadpanned that anyone conscious knows the British people are disillusioned, and Russell Brand attributes voter apathy to a betrayal by the system.

In his column for politics.co.uk, though, Phil Scullion points out that “voter apathy grows in societies which are well fed, safe and where people feel they are being dealt with by the state in a just and fair manner.” By his estimation, then, people were most content in 2001, the zenith of the Blair premiership, when voter turnout was lower than at any time since full adult suffrage was achieved. However, in the two subsequent general elections, turnout has steadily increased by two to three points. By this logic, though, people are increasingly fed up. So Brand and Hitchens are right.

According to the other star of the week, they are. I don’t want to spend an endless amount of time analyzing Sir John Major’s windfall tax proposal, but his uncharacteristicly candid foray into policy debate is, at the very least, indicative of a wider concern. “If we Tories navel-gaze and only pander to our comfort zone we will never win general elections,” he cautioned, encouraging the Conservatives to look geographically north and economically down to address the concerns of workaday Britain.

Likewise, sitting opposite Peter Hitchens-figuratively and literally-on Question Time last week was Owen Jones. “There’s a huge disconnect with politics and ordinary people,” he said, going to lambast M.P.s for the same things Sir John cautioned his own party over, recounting a conversation he once had with Hazel Blears who allegedly admitted that there was no one in the Brown government interested in housing issues. Like Sir John, Owen recognises that the average Brit feels completely alienated from their own political process and their representatives. He too sees the writing on the wall.

I’ve sung a similar refrain for some time now. A couple months ago I did an analysis of the increasing support for Ukip over the past four years, pointing out that it hit double digits for the first time in April of this year. The question I was most often asked afterward was whether Ukip was chipping away from Tory votes or Labour votes. What’s interesting isn’t my answer, but that the answer most of my inquisitors offered depended on their political persuasion; Labour blames disenchanted Tories for the Ukip rise, and the Tories think Labour’s natural constituency is moving in favour of the nationalists. Recent opinion polls show Labour’s lead narrowing, with the Tories growth marginal, so it looks like the latter is true. At least now. I imagine most of the Tories that will have already defected.

So at least to here, I agree, with both Hitchens and Brand that the British public are forlorn and weary, not of Broken Britain but of the gits in government. What I don’t agree with, though, is their rhetoric. Phil Scullion hit the nail on its succinct head: “the content delivered by Brand is so often empty populism, wrapped in linguistic window dressing.” Likewise, Hitchens’ incendiary comment that young Brits ought to emigrate before it’s too late does nothing other than garner him the ire he feeds upon. In both cases the only purpose served is fueling the flames of their own vanities.

It doesn’t raise the level of political discourse. And it certainly doesn’t offer any real alternatives to the British people. What it does do is pander to the likes of Ukip and the SNP, fringe parties which feign populist (small p) agendas but which ultimately serve nothing more than their own doctrinal desires. It’s all a bit like listening to another American that Brits (especially Russell Brand), love to hate-Katy Perry: autotuned to sound appealing, but when you strip it to its barest, is nothing more than out of tune superficiality.

Land of Hopeless Tories? Why Peter Hitchens is Wrong About Britain

If you asked me at the tender age of seven what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered “British.” My love affair with your country began as a child, seeing the great houses of the countryside, the gritty streets of Walford on “EastEnders,” and the middle-class pretensions of Hyacinth Bucket. It grew as I did, introducing me to music via the Spice Girls, sport through David Beckham, and the grand ancient trappings of monarchy with Princess Diana’s funeral. When my father finally caved and our family went online, the first thing I did was go into a chat room and pretend to be British in order to talk to British people. Using the screenname “LondonLad,” I told people I was a 13 year old bloke living “near Parliament.”

It wasn’t until some years later that I realised how obvious a fraud I had been, but even now I chuckle happily at the thought. I wanted so badly to be British, even if only in some concocted fantasy played out in my mind. I would go on to study British history at a small American university, voraciously consuming anything written by Dicey, Pepys, or Churchill. When I finally visited for the first time, in 2007, I wept. I cried again when once more I left this past August. There is nowhere on this earth I’d rather live, nothing more I long to be.

This is all more saccharine than a Yorkie, I know. Of course, Britain is a country with many problems, some of them quite serious, all of them urgent. Unemployment, whilst having decreased, is holding rather steady at 7.7%-and is considerably higher for young people. The expenses scandal, Plebgate, the 2011 riots, Falkirk and the sheer need for the Leveson Inquiry all play well into the old Tory mantra of “Broken Britain.” I can only assume that this is the reason why, on last night’s Question Time, Peter Hitchens encouraged young Britons to emigrate. The message? “Anywhere’s better than here, mates.”

My blood boiled when I saw him quoted on my Twitter feed. For a man who routinely argues the hardline nationalist, Eurosceptic point of view, I was aghast to find out that he had such an abysmal view of his own country. You see, I’ve spent the better part of my adult life dreaming of ways into the United Kingdom. And along comes Hitchens, telling my British counterparts that they should give it all up, throw in the towel, and get out before it’s too damn late. The system is irreparable. The country’s in shambles. All is lost. Britain’s going down like the Titanic, and Hitchens is simply the orchestra playing you a fond farewell. Get off if you can; Hitchens, it seems, is himself resigned to going down with the ship.

From my point of view, across the pond, things are hardly that dire though. Britain isn’t the Titanic. Britain is more like the Trident programme-strong, proud, perhaps slightly past its prime in terms of infrastructure but nothing a little investment can’t rapidly improve. It is a nation with a proud history of liberty stretching back nearly a thousand years. Britain is a country that values fair play, that is pragmatic but compassionate, sensible yet idealistic. It is a nation constantly evolving in thought, striving to be fairer, to be kinder, to be better. A nation of witty banter, of overly polite commuters, of nosy but helpful neighbours who may peep across the garden hedges but will pop round in a pinch. Britain is a country that drinks Pimms in the summer, lager in the winter, and gin year round. It is a nation of industrious, ingenious people, who cracked the double helix and invented modern computing. It gave the world democracy, Shakespeare, and all five members of One Direction. It is a land that welcomes immigrants from around the globe, that adopted an Indian dish as its national supper, that in a generation went from Section 28 to celebrating a gay proposal at the Speaker’s house.

This is remarkable progress. And it’s progress I long to be a part of. I am sorry if Peter Hitchens thinks that his country is somewhat lacking, but I happen to think it’s quite fantastic. I can understand his concerns, but what I cannot accept is his attitude. It does no good to sit and bitch about everything that’s going wrong. If you’re not part of the solution, they say, you’re part of the problem. Peter Hithchens is most certainly part of this problem. Encouraging young people to flee the country not only creates a brain drain, but it is utterly insulting to the millions of Britons who are working to make their country better—like Brooke Kinsella, who since her brother was senselessly murdered in 2008, has been a tireless campaigner against knife crime, or Barnsley police sergeant Darren Taylor, who dashed into an unsupported mineshaft to save a suicidal man. In one snide, sardonic comment, Hitchens insulted the millions of Britons quietly working towards making Britain greater yet.

Of course Britain is facing hard times. So are we all. In case Hitchens hasn’t been paying attention, America isn’t exactly a stellar place to be either. Our government can’t even get a basic website to work, and one of our leading conservative figures wants us to celebrate Easter like Jesus did. Well, before I’m crucified and stabbed by a Roman, I’d like to live a little. And if I have my way, I’ll be living British. Being born American was a blessing, no doubt, but it was also a curse, in my case. My heart longs for Blighty, and if Peter Hitchens has such a dour outlook on its future, I will gladly swap him passports.