What You Can Get Away With » jennie rigg

Another gathering of things people have said better than me:

I Hate It When Politicians Talk About “Hard-Working Families” – Jennie Rigg points out the flaws in a bit of politician-speak.
Democracy 2015 – The Independent’s new campaign – I was thinking of pointing out some of the flaws with this campaign, but A Dragon’s Best Friend has beating me to it.
Gathering of the damned – DoktorB on party conferences and leaders’ speeches.
Do we have to be so macho? – In the wake of David Cameron’s ‘butch’ comments, Emma Burnell questions the style of modern politics.
Comedians using their fans for co-ordinated, safety-in-numbers bullying – There’s a ‘y’ in the day, so Rick Gervais is behaving like a privileged arsehole.

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I was reading various blogs and other things last night on the subject of police accreditation for Liberal Democrat Conference, and I was struck by the fact that several people I saw on the other side of the debate to me were using the ‘why get upset about it, there are more important things to worry about’ argument. I was reminded of that today, when Jennie Rigg wrote this after receiving a similar response from someone else:

Yesterday, someone I care about a lot told me that while this decision was deplorable, the other stuff I was posting about yesterday, the economic stuff, was more important, and I should “get a sense of perspective”. The fact that the adoption of this process means that people I care about will literally be risking their lives if they want to come to conference apparently needs to be put in perspective with the fact that Vince Cable said a thing…

Of course, the use of ‘there are more important things’ isn’t just limited to Lib Dem bloggers arguing about Conference. We’ve seen it being deployed recently by the Tory backbenches as though it’s a compelling argument against House of Lords reform, equal marriage or whatever else they’re in outrage about at the moment.

I’m quite sure I’ve probably used the same argument myself at some point, but I do find it a very weak argument, so I hope my uses of it have been light-hearted rather than as a sole objection. In and of itself, though, it’s a very weak argument. The main problem with it is that it’s presupposing that there’s some grand mutually-agreed list of Stuff In Order Of Importance that will prove that the person deploying the argument is right, and the person supposedly wasting their time on the things that aren’t as important will agree that they’ve been focusing their attention on the wrong subject.

Human beings really don’t work like that, and what’s high on one person’s list may rank pretty low on someone else’s. There’s also the question of the effect an individual can have. Yes, the economy’s a mess and we need to do more to create jobs, but how much effect on the economy are me, Jennie or anyone else going to have writing about it on the internet? On the other hand, as party members and activists, we can have a direct influence on the accreditation at Conference issue, so isn’t it better to quickly nod and say ‘well done Vince’ then divert your attention to something where you as an individual really can make a difference?

It also forgets that human beings are capable of paying attention to more than one issue, and that when you get a large group of them together – say, into a Government – they’re capable of doing more than one thing at the same time. It’s why the Tory backbenchers arguing against Lords reform or equal marriage just seemed rather silly to me in their belief that this would occupy all the Government’s time. I can’t quite see why anyone in the Treasury, BIS or Transport (to pick three departments that have an effect on the economy) would find themselves distracted from their job because of an entirely different part of the Government putting forward proposals that don’t affect them.

In the same manner, when one joins a political party, part of the reason for that is to spread the effort involved amongst a number of people. The fact that some of us want to use our position in the Liberal Democrats to stand up for some actual liberalism doesn’t stop anyone else from getting on with doing whatever they want to do in the party, and it’s only their urge to sneer ‘don’t you have something better to do with your time?’ that helps to reveal those who’d like to use their time to get rid of those pesky liberals who keep messing up their plans.

And I’m sure you had better things to do with your time than read this post – didn’t you know that there are people starving elsewhere in the world? That climate change could render huge swathes of land uninhabitable? That the sun will expand and destroy the entire planet in a few billion years? What are you doing about any of those, eh? – but thanks for doing it, anyway.


@petehague’s piece on This Week’s Pod Delusion – Jennie Rigg on the concept of Schrodinger’s Rapist (which was a term I hadn’t heard of before her post) and what’s rational behaviour for women.
My encounter with the News of the World – When you hear someone talking about how the non-phone-hacking staff of the News of the World were saints and angels who loved bunny rabbits and kittens, read this and remind yourself of their regular modus operandi.
Capes, wedding dresses and Steven Moffat – Sophia McDougall on why (to paraphrase violently) a wedding dress and the Batsuit are the same thing.
Our democracy is over – Steven Baxter asks why no one thinks of the poor oppressed plutocrats. “The very future of free discourse in this country is under threat. We have no democracy any more. This ragtag-and-bobtail army of leftist thought police are going to stop us from being able to ring up dead kids or bereaved families and listen to their messages – and what then? Criminals and crooked politicians are going to get away with it, that’s what.”
A Punishment Beating – Flying Rodent on the oh-so-tedious Johann Hari vs Nick Cohen deathmatch feud important struggle for liberal values vital intellectual contretemps playground spat. “Let me put it this way. During the week when the Guardian – a paper that Nick and his pals have spent years dumping oceans of shit over – rocked the foundations of the world’s most powerful media empire, shut down a criminal enterprise and brought a genuine scandal of public interest to the front doors of Number 10 and the Metropolitan Police… …A small but determined bunch of angry berks were engaged in the honourable task of helping one of the nation’s most ridiculous hacks wreak his pissy vengeance upon a nationally-discredited twerp for the crime of penning a mildly critical and dishonest book review, years ago.”

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Bored? Then it’s time for some linkage:

Colonel Albert Bachmann – Telegraph obituary of a Swiss spy, whose life resembled something from a black comedy about the Cold War.
The Lib Dem Leadership Don’t Get It – But I Do – Jennie explains the elephant in the room that the party leadership aren’t acknowledging.
TPA – Pretence of Authority – Tim Fenton notes that the Taxpayers Alliance’s policies only seem to be for a very small number of taxpayers.
Some Advice to New Councillors – Useful advice from Richard Kemp.
Thirty Books from Interrupted Worlds – Lawrence Miles provides some humorous reinterpretations of classic books from alternate timelines.

Burning of the heretics may now recommence.

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Worth Reading 5: Starred

And when you look into the internet, the internet looks also into you:

Tunisia: The uprising has a hashtag – Did you know there’s an uprising against the government of Tunisia underway? Neither did I, but this article’s a helpful introduction to the issues.
Eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords – The much-linked-to Sarah Palin ‘bullseye’ graphic is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s been a scary undertone to a lot of political discourse in America in recent years, especially since 2008.
On the politics of blame – Jennie Rigg writes something very similar to a blog post I was writing in my head. My version may still follow.
The Sunday review: The King’s Speech – Remember Sion Simon? The ultimate Platonic ideal of a New Labour apparatchik? Well, he outdoes himself here, criticising Colin Firth for the heinous crime of not apologising for voting Liberal Democrat.
Yes to AV – Arguments for AV from a Conservative perspective, which may be of use in persuading people to vote Yes in May.

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So, in the end, it seems that just two weeks is not enough time to organise a grassroots campaign for the Party Presidency, though Jennie gave it a damn good go. Still, there’s two years until the next contest, which is a lot more notice…

As it stands, it looks as though the contest is going to be between Susan Kramer and Tim Farron. While I am tempted by the idea of writing in a ‘press gang Ros Scott for another two years’ option on my ballot paper, at the moment I think I’m going to vote for Susan Kramer.

Having seen the difference in the last couple of years when the Party President wasn’t an MP, I’m not convinced it’s possible to do the job of President – or, at least, the job as I and others would expect to see it done – and be an effective MP at the same time. Susan seems to be running to replace Ros and carry on the work she’s done – both publicly and privately – and that’s what the party needs right now if we can’t have someone in there to really shake things up and give a radically different perspective.

Even with a large chunk of the parliamentary party serving in the Government, there seems to be no shortage of MPs and Lords willing to speak to the media, and the presidency can be so much more than just someone else ready to do the rounds of radio cars and satellite studios. We need someone who’s spending their days away from Cowley Street outside of the M25, not just down the road in Westminster. There are enough people out there willing to speak for the members of the party already, when what we need is someone who’s going to speak to them.

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As you might have heard, following Ros Scott’s decision not to stand for re-election as President of the Liberal Democrats, there’s a rather unexpected election set to take place.

So, if you’re looking for a candidate to support who’s not a middle-aged man who spends far too much time in Westminster, might I suggest you consider backing Jennie Rigg? I may not agree with her on everything (and we seem to be fundamentally opposed on the merits on different versions of that most Lib Dem of all issues, Doctor Who) but she’d give the Party the shake up it could probably do with right now.