Boris’s Pride outfit and the political precipice

30 June 2008

So so sad I cannot be there… wouldn’t this be amazing! Thanks Dave! I still think he’d do worse than follow Dr David Bull’s outfit.

In more exciting news perhaps the country’s wonky shopping trolley wheel is unashamedly steering us towards that rather worrying looking precipice on the right.

But how far? I hope the New Statesman doesn’t have the answer:

An increasing number of traditional Labour voters believe that the party no longer reflects their interests. This is in no small measure a result of new Labour’s triangulation tactic – a deliberate shift to what the political class thinks is the “centre ground”. It is also a symptom of a failure to prioritise grass-roots activism at the local level, instead flirting with the “virtual party” and delivering messages through centralised marketing. The danger is not only that we ignore the reasons for the strength of the BNP, but that in so doing we reinforce the very conditions that have created it.

Advertisements

Sam Sparro, Bloomsbury Ballroom

30 June 2008

So, last Wednesday we went to see Sam Sparro at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in central London. Despite keeping us waiting for two hours in the cold (probably a combination of late-running and a mixture of ticket timings) the gig was excellent.

I’ve been quite addicted to the Sparro since hearing Black and Gold for the first time at the beginning of the year. The rest of his self-titled album is excellent too. I’ve since decided he’s obviously the lovechild of Jake Shears and Elton John though got Shears’s looks more than Elton’s obviously!

With the aid of three rather large black diva backing singers, Sparro energetically flung himself into every single one of his songs with an outfit of crazy see through trousers and trademark glasses. Far more than a one-hit wonder every song he sang was impressive, particularly Sick which blew me away and which I have listened to pretty much constantly since.

The costume change half way through gave a chance for the backing singers to dance chat between themselves before showing off their incredible gospel cum disco voices. Returning with a second outfit and playing both his keytar and a keyboard sweaty sam took to fanning both himself and his singers with towels (which caused a riot after throwing them into the audience in the end). Cottonmouth and Hot Mess are not only great songs themselves but delivered with a hell of a lot of passion. After finishing with Black and Gold including some audience-touching (mmm) Black Box’s Ride on Time was a great encore! Excellent live and well worth seeing – the 200/300 people in the rather intimate audience made the gig particularly and never-to-be-repeated special and I cannot praise his talents, all of them, highly enough! Pictures below:


Multicultural London

26 June 2008

From Dave Hill at the Guardian:

Pandering to prejudices about multiculturalism isn’t difficult until you find yourself in charge of the most multicultural city on earth and maybe discover that this isn’t an aberration forced on Londoners by Trotskyites but is, in fact, its authentic character. Deleting the GLA post of women’s adviser is one thing, deleting the principal of equal opportunities another. Feeding off resentments of funding for causes like anti-racism can work for you in opposition, but in power you may discover that these might not have been mere ruses for squandering taxpayers’ money on your allies after all: especially when you have a BNP man at your elbow at mayor’s question time.

London really is a city like no other. It is far more open to other cultures than any other city in the world through both an national economic openness allowing people to come and settle here and cultural advantages, especially language. Other major world cities have similar qualities, but none is as open as London.

A melting pot where the ingredients are constantly changing surely needs more than just a celebration of it’s diversity. It needs a carrot and a stick. It needs leadership which gives guidance as well as nice words – like a mother who knows when to scold a child and when to let the child relish in play.

Dave’s article is well worth a read.


Biggotry tastes better when smothered in mayonaise

25 June 2008

In update to yesterday’s post on the Heinz advertising complaints I am becoming more convinced that I should be angered by the decision to pull it off air.

And I am, and have signed this petition. I was number 1,737 to sign. I guess that beats the 200 or so original complaints.

Two comment pieces sum up nicely:

Pushing the boundary:

What makes this all even more bizarre is that if you watch the advert, it’s pretty clear that this advert is no more about an actual same-sex relationship than the Bounty kitchen paper ads are about accurately portraying a pair of cohabiting pre-op transsexuals.

If you’re looking for things to get upset by in this ad, how about the casually sexist stereotyping inherent in wheeling out the cliché of ‘mum’ preparing meals for kids, nagging them and so forth, and ‘dad’ going out to work? Or the fact that a product banned from kids’ TV due to its unhealthiness is prominently advertised being given to kids for lunch.

And a Zoe Williams:

Why don’t lefties complain more? First, we assume watchdog bodies such as the ASA will be on the side of a very old-fashioned respectability, despite all evidence that mainstream culture is more evolved than that. Second, we are lazy bleeders. When an ad featuring men kissing is one of the most complained about, that matters: not as a reflection on the nation’s scattered homophobes breathing their last gasp, but as a sign that the rest of us don’t complain anything like enough.

How can removal be justified on such narrow grounds for complaint? Is the ‘peck’ any different to the husban kissing a large jamacan woman on an advert for jerk seasoning? Would that result in a racist response? Would parents have to explain mixed-race marriages to their kids? The decision of Heinz proves them to believe homophbia is one of the last remaining areas where discrimination is acceptable.

So sign up to the petition now!

Oh and PS, it may be more expensive but Sainsbury’s organic mayo tastes far better and is made from organic free range eggs, unlike heinz.


mayolove

24 June 2008

Heinz has pulled it’s an advertisement for Deli Mayo after it received complaints for showing two men kissing. The advert is online here.

The advert shows:

Heinz’s ad opens with a family on a normal morning routine with a young boy and girl getting ready for school and their father preparing for the office.

The young boy and girl go to the kitchen to get their sandwiches, which are being prepared by a man with a New York accent, dressed in a deli serving outfit, who they refer to as “mum”.

When their father goes to get his sandwich he says to mum in the kitchen: “See you tonight love.”

However, mum barks back “Hey, ain’t you forgetting something?”, at which point the two men share a kiss. Mum then sends the father off with the words: “Love you. Straight home from work, sweet cheeks.”

The concept behind the campaign is that the product tastes so good, “It’s as if you have your own New York deli man in your kitchen.”

The Daily Mail of course chose to tell a rather more biased version of the story.

I thought the days of two men kissing being “offensive” had gone. Obviously not. And Heinz have bowed to pressure from a homophobic minority and pulled an advert which is an amusing play on the New York Deli stereotype. The ‘peck’ clearly has no gay context, yet Heinz have agreed with those who seem to think it has because they ‘listen to their customer’.

Why don’t Heinz listen to their gay customers who find their decision offensive. I’m sure there will be numerous blog entries on this. Left In Britain‘s is particularly good. This one and this one on the other hand seem to be rather blinkered to what the advert is about, or, more appropriately, is not about.

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall has called for a boycott of Heinz products and I’m certainly inclined to agree with him. He says:

Any nod at all to the very existence of homosexuality might be enough to have Mary Whitehouse twitching in her celestial bathchair, but the Heinz peck broadcast last week had not even been shown in front of the children the ad is claimed to have upset. (The Deli Mayo it promotes is so unhealthy that Heinz is not allowed to advertise it during children’s programmes.)

…the decision to withdraw the ad …seems to have been made under the quaint impression that it will cause no offence to Britain’s 3.6 million lesbian and gay consumers. Or any of their friends. Or families. Or colleagues.

Above all, Heinz’s prim retraction seems to have been made without any thought for the damage that might be done to its business. Popping into my usual Costcutter on the way home this evening, I look forward to missing out on my regular Heinz purchases, as many thousands of Stonewall supporters hope you will too.

Branston baked beans. Baxters soups. Buitoni spaghetti. Jardines tomato ketchup. Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Yum yum! They’re all delicious. How sad that for Heinz in 2008, beanz meanz bigotz.


Planning for a defeat?

24 June 2008

Town Planning is rarely seen as exciting. But, hot on the heels of the 42 days debate, tomorrow’s vote in parliament on the new planning bill will be a key moment for the Government. Over 60 Labour MPs have signalled their concerns about the bill. Not only is this ‘yet another’ change to a relatively new planning system which local authorities are well-behind on delivering, these changes raise much bigger issues of how decisions are made.

Today’s Independent sums up the controversial change nicely:

At present, major projects such as power stations, ports, airports, roads, railways, dams, water plants, hazardous waste facilities and critical gas and electricity works are subject to public inquiries, where lawyers for residents, pressure groups and developers do battle – sometimes for years – before government-appointed inspectors recommend whether the schemes should go ahead. Ministers then take the final decision.

Under the Bill, an independent infrastructure planning commission would decide whether to approve such projects. Environmental groups and MPs from all parties have condemned the proposals as an affront to democracy. They say the final say on such developments should not be handed to an unelected quango but should be retained by ministers accountable to the public.

This raises major concerns over the democratic accountability of decision-making for major infrastructure which will affect peoples’ lives for more than just 42 days

A comment piece on the Guardian website added:

It rejected calls for the impact on climate change to be part of the commission’s remit. It wants the new system to speed through projects that have been stuck for years in the slow (but democratic) planning system.

A further irony is that, at least upon my last reading of the bill documentation (yes I have read it) the Government proposed not to include railway infrastructure because there was no forseen requirement for major infrastructure on the rail network (the multiple planning applications to each local authority on the West Coast Mainline for upgrading undoubtedly contributed to the project delays).

There is a need to speed up the planning process for major infrastructure. There’s a need to make sure decisions on new wind farms and power stations are made in the near future and nobody wants the Terminal 5 planning debacle again. The inquiry cost £80m, heard 700 witnesses, and took eight years from first application to government approval.

The Guardian comment sums up the political debates nicely:

The fantasy politics comes from the almost mythic status that monetary independence for the Bank of England has assumed in the Brown story. It was his most successful single act, so he wants to repeat it. Planning is about balancing different needs. It isn’t about expertise or arcane knowledge. A body told to keep inflation low will get on with it. A body told to get things built, will get things built. Remit is all. But deciding if a wind farm is more useful because of the power it generates than it is damaging because of its impact on a landscape – that’s about balancing interests. There is no obvious “right” answer. It is for politics, and argument, not for closed meetings and phoney experts.

The proposed means of decision making is simply wrong, regardless of any concessions that may be offered. It takes democracy away from decision-making. A different approach is needed which allows both speed and democracy, allows people to make their case but takes into account the much wider benefit of infrastructure. The democratic deficit can work the other way around too (where small-scale decisions are made by elected councilors who are voted by residents but may affect more people than those living in the area).

Coming so soon after other concerns about democratic rights the government is once again setting itself on a collision course with its own party and those who vote for it.


London, New York and Paris (the sex of the city)

23 June 2008

I randomly stumbled upon this quote on TheLondonWord blog which made me smile…

Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual.

I have never read anything by Angela Carter before but if she’s this amusingly perceptive I may have to do so… or alternatively move to New York

(now where’s my high heels?)


%d bloggers like this: