Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Freedom of Oppressive Speech

Controversy is not a subject all too often associated with the BBC. Oh hang on, let me start again. Controversy didn't used to be a subject often associated with the BBC. In recent years we've had the Blue Peter competition scandal, queries into wages and expenses, Arlene Phillips getting the heave ho and of course who could forget Russel Brand and Jonathan Ross insulting an OAP on Radio 2? With all that recent baggage you'd think that the powers that Beeb would want to avoid upsetting anyone. And you'd be wrong.

Tonight Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, will appear on the Beeb's longstanding debate show, Question Time. The BBC line is that he shall be afforded the same open forum as other political (or quasi political) figures to debate the matters of the day in front of a live and interactive studio audience. But will the matters of the day actually be the main topic of debate or will the whole show turn into a circus surrounding the political policies and beliefs Mr Griffen peddles.

In his defence I must protest that it is all too easy to simply label the BNP as a bunch of racist nutters without actually looking into the party and their policies. It doesn't take a lot of research to come to confirm the very same conclusion, but there are a number of things about the BNP that don't get as much publicity. They plan to:

- Leave Europe, but maintain freedom of trade.
- Devolve power away from London and empower local councils.
- Leave NATO and kick out any foreign armed forces based in the UK.
- Provide a free and fully funded NHS (for 'Britons').

So not all their policies are based around kicking out immigrants, but do they have the political and cerebal clout to handle complex economic policies?

There is a fascinating 8 months or so leading up to the general election in the battle over the cigarette paper between the Tories and Labour. The incendiary side show will be provided by Nick Griffin and his associates. There are a number of factors that concern me greatly when considering the BNP and Mr Griffin, not least the hostorical parallels that can be drawn between credit-crunch britain and conutries that have elected extreme right-wing governments. It's a fascinating topic that I beleive will gain momentum as we near the general election and will be the main topic of this blog until the election results are in.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Change is 'gooder' than greed

Yesterday saw the inauguration of America's 44th president - Barack Obama - who, as anyone who hasn't been living in a cave (and some that have) will know, is the first American president of black heritage.  Personally it wouldn't matter to me if he was of Martian and Vulcan descent - I couldn't care less about his race.  

What interests me about Obama is his character. He seems fair and honest, forthright and truthful; the antithesis of his predecessor.  If his inauguration speech is anything to go by however, he believes in an image of the perfect USA - the one that Bruce Springstein sings about.  Does it even exist? That's what Obama is going to find out.  

It seems from all the television coverage at his election he has summoned the votes of all the democrats, most of the politically central republicans, some previously apathetic minorities and the majority of American women.  No doubt he is a charismatic and handsome fella, he has a model family by his side including a first lady so obviously wholesome yet confident and strong that the fembot Sarah Palin and the yesteryear John McCain never stood a chance.  McCain brought memories of war, he's a Southerner with grey hair, he's a republican - the basic ingredients were the same as George Dubbleya's - he never stood a chance.  There it is - American democracy a key component of fairy tale USA.  Obama's very rise to power is proof that America is fulfilling it's self billing as the world's great democracy.

Obama's first challenge is to bankroll huge infrastructural investment throughout America, similar to the economic principle of FDR - and dare I day it, Adolf Hitler (look it up - where did you think the autobahns came from?).  Gordon Brown is advocating the same tactic (on perhaps a smaller scale).  The political system in America means that the Senate have to give Obama the green light. Brown on the other hand, may have a little more autonomy, which should help make up for his charisma bypass.  

In these times of change we must ask how different from Blair is Brown?  Not very.  OK he's sterner and Scottish, but he's still the other column that held up the centralised 'new' Labour party in 1997.  Luckily for him he didn't have to win an election and Cameron is a Blair clone with a plum in his mouth, a blue tie round his Gregory and sawdust in his head.  Back to the topic.... If Obama succeeds in persuading the tax payer and the Senate that self sacrifice is the path to enlightenment and he is proved right, then across the pond the economy will get a shot in the arm. This could allow Brown to see us out of the economic crisis, then he'll call an election and his campaign buzz word will be 'stability'.  And he'll win - all on the back of change.  America influences the world, positively.  I can almost hear The Boss tuning up his Fender.

Obama's inauguration speech was about navigating and leaving this harsh economic Winter, but no specific mention of Katrina and the devastation it left behind in New Orleans.  I can't help likening Bush to the hurricane - coming in, staying longer than predicted and destroying all in his path, leaving people without basic shelter, flooding the streets (with credit and weapons) and tottering off to a calm and peaceful retirement leaving death and destruction in his wake.  Let's see if Obama can react to to the international destruction more decisively than the last administration managed in its own back yard.

If Obama is the handyman brought in to fix the catastrophic DIY mistakes of GWB and he succeeds, he could be remembered as the greatest president - not just the first 'black' one, and that is his goal.  He's already fixed the democracy so obviously broken at the beginning of Bush's second term in office - just by turning up.  What could he do in the seat of power? He could pull the world out of war and out of the economic stone age.