Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Posts tagged “George Osborne

Diary Of An Anti-Tory Protestor – Part 3

Margaret Thatcher Goes To Hell, 8th April 2013

Thatcher Maggiedeth

Margaret Thatcher died unexpectedly peacefully, at the age of 87.  I found out about it from a friend who told me succinctly that “Thatcher is dead.” As far as I am aware, Thatcher was dead to Scotland decades ago.

Another of my friends alerted me that “Thatcher has only been in Hell twenty minutes, and already she has shut down three of the furnaces.”

Some of you will remember where you were when you heard the news. I remember where I wasn’t. I wasn’t in George Square, at the impromptu “Death Party.”

This was due to a prior commitment, or rather two (I went to a comedy club in the evening, letting Facebook know that: If you were thinking “I’m only going to Improv Wars at The Stand in Glasgow when Thatcher dies” then TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT.) Otherwise I would have been there with everyone else. I was always taught that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, and it gives me no pleasure to witness ugly scenes of others revelling in a death, but while I don’t condone it I also don’t condemn it. Had I been there, it would have been to publicise my contempt for the Tory Party and for Thatcherism, rather than to rejoice in the passing of a wee old woman I never met. Nevertheless, I am glad that there was a small gathering and a demonstration of how reviled she was in Scotland.

The parties were roundly condemned by the reprehensible, war-mongering, toadying Tony Blair – whose leadership of New Labour is acknowledged to have broadly perpetuated Thatcherism.

thatcher - my further fb jokes

My own memories of Thatcher are inextricably linked to my childhood; of constantly seeing this cold and heartless woman on the television, and being vaguely aware of her policies. I recall the point when, in the early 1980s, they stopped giving us free cartons of milk at school. Whether this was the residual impact of her infamous “snatcher” actions, or down to various other measures, I cannot now say. I just remember that they started charging us for it, and recall the price gradually increasing.

On that note, a friend went into the nearest pub when the news broke, and asked for a “celebratory post-Thatcher glass of milk.” The barman duly poured it, and said “Since she’s gone, I can just give you this free.” He did.

I grew up in a town near to Ravenscraig – the steelworks that was shut down after the Tory privatisation of British Steel – and, without being at an age of full comprehension, I still personally knew of people who lost jobs and livelihoods as a result. Many of the surrounding communities were irreversibly destroyed. When I was sixteen or seventeen, and increasing in awareness, I discovered punk rock – the soundtrack to a previous generation of disaffected youth. On a Friday night, I religiously watched repeats of “The Young Ones” and its contemporary, one of the finest satirical sketch shows ever aired, “Not The Nine O’Clock News.” I can still quote vast swathes of the latter. These served to corroborate my view of Thatcher as a distant figure who sorely lacked compassion, heading up an inherently prejudiced party. It is, I believe, a mutual lack of compassion that has led to these “Death Parties.” Why should we care about someone who singularly failed to care about us?

thatcher greg hemphill tweet

I won’t mourn her passing, and I am sickened by the eulogising that has gone on since her death. Whoever invented rose-tinted spectacles has been doing a roaring trade this past week. There has been indignation that many of those partying “were not even born when she was ousted from power.” This is one of the weakest arguments I have yet heard, as if none of her legislation, policies, and leadership continue to affect (and disaffect) the people of today. Her legacy is well documented. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, but by way of extreme example, I wasn’t born when Hitler was around – but it doesn’t take much study (or more than a passing brush with the collective knowledge) to know that he was not a particularly nice person. Thatcher does not strike me as having been a particularly nice person. She permanently blighted lives. Regardless of age, that makes her, and her death, relevant to us all.

Thatcher Frankie quote

Rather than celebrate her demise, it seems more potent to me that we use this as a stepping stone to build encouragement for action against the continuing, incredibly damaging, Tory regime. Ding dong, the witch may be dead. But the dead Tory is dead; it is the living ones we need to fight.

On Wednesday 17th April, the government will spunk between eight and ten million pounds on giving her a send-off unrivalled (at least by the attendance of the Queen) since Churchill died. This is the government that tells us we need to cut back as there is no public money available for such basic amenities as housing, health, or alleviating the lives of the disabled. This stunning hypocrisy would be breathtaking, if it were not to be expected from these brazen, self-serving millionaires. Naturally, they will divert funds to see off one of their own. They were already able to claim back nearly £4000 in expenses just for turning up at Parliament during the Easter recess to say nice things about her.

Thatcher Loach quote

During that tribute session, Glenda Jackson MP was the only one who said anything worth listening to, the one to stand up and decry Thatcher for her destruction of working men’s lives and communities.

 

On Wednesday 17th April, at 5pm, I will be in Glasgow’s George Square. There is a mass protest planned at this vile misuse of money – in memory of her thousands of victims, but also a visible public demonstration against Thatcher, against Thatcherism, and against the sheer bloody-minded vindictiveness of an increasingly aloof Tory government. This time, I have deliberately made no other plans. I will be there.

I don’t care about this dead woman. I care about the country I live in, I care about the fundamental tenets of democracy and society, and I care about the steady undermining of a welfare state that was long- and hard-fought for. If you care too, then I hope to see you there.

 

thatcher - my fb jokes

 

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Dubious Claims To Fame – 21

I forget precisely what new story inspired my latest vitriolic social-networking chastisement of the leader of the government which nobody in my country voted for.

It was something to do with more cuts imminently about to take effect, further destruction of whatever last bastions of hope still remain, or the perceived abolition of the entire welfare state and all of its many benefits – benefits in the sense of positive attributes and not, as has recently become the norm, a filthy word to be spat out in a mixture of contempt and disgust. In hindsight, I think it was mention of the JobCentre having to send increasing numbers of people to Food Banks.

Demoralised and worn-down by the policies of our unelected Prime Monster and his millionaire cohorts, I have long since abandoned any formulation of argument and resorted to wearing a German army shirt adorned on the back with the handwritten, Punk-era-inspired epithet “Fuck The Tories.” I have also taken to referring to that cunt Cameron as “that cunt Cameron.” This is a misnomer, as – to quote a Jimmy Carr heckler put-down – I doubt he has the depth or the ability to give pleasure.

It was in this spirit that, fed up of more depressing pronouncements about how these seven-figures-rich, expense-claiming bunglers are “in this together” with people who are working every available hour in order to starve and freeze, I posted the following to my Twitter page:
“Could one of you be good enough to hit that cunt Cameron in the face with a shovel, please? Maybe a couple of times? Quite hard?”

It was a throwaway line, the kind of silly request that – tallied with extreme violence – characterises many of my posts to Twitter, Facebook, and which colours the jokes and stories I have developed over the past 29 months as a part-time, largely unpaid, stand-up comedian. If you follow my blog specific to those experiences, you are probably aware that my only  journalistic review called me “fond of absurdity and with more than a hint of menace.”

As I checked the “connect” sub-page of Twitter, to see if I had had any kind of response to it, I saw that it had been retweeted – forwarded – by my wee cousin. This was of no surprise to me, as she has an equally abject hatred of the Tories – being, as she is,  Scottish and of voting age.

The tweet was then retweeted by a “Derek Mackay MSP.”

Who? Never heard of him. I know what an MSP is, though.

At first, I presumed it was a spoof account – the kind of humorous, satirical account that alleges to be the new pope, or the JobCentre, or my local council, and posts a slew of witty, insightful, scathing, or absurd comments. That seemed the most likely occurrence, until I noticed that this account has a blue “tick” next to it, signifying that it has been verified as accurately portraying the notable person named. Possibly, this account had been hacked, then. Certainly, my post sat awkwardly amidst a stream of dry information about conference attending, going for a swim before attending a conference, and a trip to Dundee.

It was unusual enough, and raised my interest sufficiently, that I took a few screenshots on both my laptop and my phone.

MSP retweet

The next evening, I was out with my wee cousin. I told a few people that I had been retweeted by an MSP, and at the point of checking I noticed that that particular notification had gone. I laughed aloud, figuring he must have changed his mind, and thought nothing more of it. Whether it had been deliberately posted by this MSP, or by someone pertaining to be him, it had now been removed. I joked that maybe it showed the true breadth and depth of feeling in this country, when even the elected members of our parliament can’t abide their Westminster counterparts.

Today, Wednesday 27th March, I met a friend for coffee. Doing some messages after that, I happened to look at my Twitter interactions page, and saw a message from one of my regular comedy colleagues. I thought he was alluding to publication in some obscure local rag, and it took a second glance to realise that he was using the common colloquialism to refer to the Glasgow Daily Record. In my haste to buy a copy from the nearest newsagent, I unsuccessfully tried to cross Union Street three times without detouring the five metres to the traffic lights, and managed to step worryingly close into the path of a moving bus while doing so.

msp iain

As soon as I bought it, I turned to page four. There, indeed, was a short article about an MSP retweeting me. As soon as I got home I posted pictures of the tweet (screenshot) and of the article itself. On Facebook, it has been shared by nine of my friends and led to something of folk-hero status. On Twitter, it has been passed on less times, but with equal amounts of praise from those who have read it. Considering the Record included my Twitter username, it would have been very easy for people to object directly. At the time of writing, nobody has. I suspect they are all too busy working out whether they pay for heating, food, clothing, or fuel this week – being as it is not quite payday, and we can’t all be millionaire MPs with expense accounts.

Show me a person who approves of, likes, or voted for David Cameron, and I will show you somebody who probably lives in the south of England.

My friend McGovern has made me realise that  I can extract, as a poster quote should I ever succeed enough in comedy to require one:
“Bile” – The Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
And, thanks to the adjective they used, I can also include:
“Comic” – The Daily Record.

msp facebook

I am considering whether, on the back of the Tory’s comments as reported in that article, I should write to Alex Salmond in support of this Derek Mackay MSP.

Firstly, I do not want him to lose his job over this. It would be good if he could just admit that this was an error, and move on. God knows, there are more important democratic matters at hand. Like the fact the UK prime minister heads a party that had one MP returned from our entire country. Scotland did not vote for this government.

Secondly, I genuinely believe that this was an error on the part of Derek Mackay MSP. Not only did this retweet sit at odds with everything else he has posted, so far as I could see, he also had to be fully instructed on how to remove the tweet from his timeline. This is evidenced by the screenshot below. To me, that demonstrates a basic failing in knowing how to use the site, supporting my theory that this was an accident. On a smartphone, it could have been a simple slip of the thumb.

Thirdly, it borders on being inconceivable that any politician, by the very virtue of being a politician, would post anything so fundamentally unequivocal. Even if it happened to be his personal opinion, of which I have no knowledge. Deliberately retweeting this could be tantamount to career suicide, and at best it would be a foolish move for someone so open to public and press scrutiny. I very much doubt that this was intentionally retweeted.

While I decide if further press coverage merits me writing in support of this man and defending him for making what I believe to be a genuine mistake (and not even a mere oversight of judgement), I took the liberty of sending him a short message of support directly. Unsure how to word it, and trying to convey the right sentiment, I opened with my sincere desire that he is not unduly disciplined for this matter. I wasn’t sure how to end, though, and I suspect I may have undermined that sincerity with my closing sentence. I hope not, it just seemed apposite.

msp reply

My overall response, naturally, was to post the following general advice to all of Twitter (well, to my 331 followers anyway) :
“If you’re in a position of public standing, it is inadvisable to retweet messages containing “offensive” language & requests for violence.”

I really don’t think he meant to.

[There is now a follow-up to this piece, which can be read here.]

msp article


Putting The “Broo” in “Brutal Waste Of Time.”

I’m back to being a sign-writer for the broo. It can’t last, because if I’m not working I will lose my flat, and sooner rather than later.

I don’t particularly like being unemployed at the best of times, and especially not now that – due to cuts in Housing Benefit – I face being made homeless as the shortfall in rent cannot be made up from the pittance that is JSA.

I’m not trying to get something for nothing, to be abundantly clear.  These benefits are there for anyone who is entitled, to help them while they get back on their feet. When I’m working, I pay into the system like everyone else. I just want the record to show that this is what they are doing – making people homeless to “save” a few quid, and then forking out hundreds or thousands more to have them rehoused in hostels and the like.

As I have said before, my rent is set so high because that is (previously) the maximum that the council would pay. The private landlords set their rent accordingly, to claim as much as they could. Now that amount has been lowered, it is the tenants who are liable for the difference – regardless of circumstance.

These governmental cuts are not working. They are stigmatising hard-working people who suffer from an absence of employment opportunities, amplify social and housing issues, and cost far more money than they save.

broo2

ABOVE: This Jobcentre is so lacking in jobs to advertise, it has been permanently closed and all fixtures and fittings removed. Argyle Street, Glasgow, December 2012.

As my temporary employment has just come to an end, earlier than I hoped, I find myself having to contact the DWP to submit a new claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Previous experience has made me aware that it involves a 45-minute phonecall, and so it was not possible to call up at the end of last week – in advance of my contract ending – as my half hour lunch break wouldn’t permit enough time. Instead, I waited until today, Monday, to call them.

I reached an automated system that told me I should apply online, and that online applications are given priority over telephone applications. Had I known that, I would have submitted my claim at the weekend. Annoyed, I hung up and loaded their page.

It advised I would need 30-60 minutes to complete it, and so I made my lunch before starting, figuring it might time out halfway through if I paused for any reason. When I came to start, I got an error message telling me it had already timed out – prior to me typing a single thing – and to close my browser and start again. This was a pain in the arse, not least because I had half a dozen other tabs open.

I tried opening a separate window, but it became clear I would indeed need to close everything to begin again. On the second attempt, I got as far as a request for some details that I figured I could find through my online banking. Opening a second tab crashed my browser so thoroughly and so spectacularly that a full system restart was required.

Having now wasted a full hour, I called them up.

“Please state your postcode,” the automated cunt asked me. It took four goes before she gave in and made me listen to – I can never remember if it is Greensleeves or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but either way I am fucking sick of hearing it. Finally, my call was connected to a live human.

“I tried to do this online, and it has thoroughly crashed my computer” I told him.

He laughed, and said he would try to help me.

I asked him why he was laughing, and very angry Jordan elicited an apology. I relented, as angry as I was, since I did need his help and a terminated call would see me back at square one. It was already every bit as painful an experience as I had expected.

He took a note of where I was at the point the site crashed, and said he is not unfamiliar with this complaint. So, there you go – there is an awareness that the online system, which “will be given priority,” crashes fully before completion of the form.

I figured, again from experience, that my details would be taken and the form sent to me to verify and sign. Then I would get an appointment at the local Jobcentre to go and discuss the work I am looking for. At this point, I will consider any work that pays. This process usually takes a few days, and as calls were dealt with less quickly, I anticipated an interview date later in the week.

“We have an appointment in five minutes,” he said, and half-joked “How fast can you get there?”

As it happens, the local office is round the corner from me. Taking into account a roundabout and the supermarket carpark, it is about 7 minutes’ walk.

“I can book you in for half-three,” he offered, proceeding to race through the scripted terms and conditions so that I would have time to grab the necessary ID and paperwork before heading out the door.

And that’s what happened. The lower-priority phone application saw me allotted a slot scheduled for twenty minutes after the call ended.

The high-priority website wasted an hour of my time and gubbed my laptop.

This is indicative of a system so inherently broken it is very difficult to imagine how it may ever be fixed. It is, however, hard to fathom that further cutbacks and not investment is the answer.

In the meantime, if you know of any full-time work going in the Glasgow area, I will be very happy to hear from you.

Finally, if you get the chance to punch Cameron, Clegg, or Osborne in the face, please do so. Unrelentingly.

As for Iain Duncan-Smith – he has put the “cunt” in this country. I hope they are all held accountable when the rioting inevitably starts.

broo