Archive | April, 2014

Statistics and cynicism

30 Apr

It is amazing how statistics can be used for dubious purposes. I have just received an election leaflet for the European Elections from the deluded little Englander party (sorry, United Kingdom Independence Party / U.K.I.P.).

The headline figure is that 4,000 people a week are moving to the UK from other EU states. Wow, isn’t that terrible? Errr, no, well, hang on a mo, that doesn’t show people moving away from the UK, which is probably an equal number. Also, how many of those are from the older established EU states and how many of those are business people, medical staff and other desirable potential citizens, and how many are on short-term contracts etc. Bet the number 4,000 per week doesn’t seem quite so large now. A more meaningful statistic is that London is the 6th largest French speaking city in the world, because so many people from France have and are moving over here.

Then there is the population of the UK, which was estimated at 63,822,000, at the time of the last census. To equal that number, 4,000 people a week would have to come into the UK every week for the next 309 years. Or, put another way, for any one of the new arrivals there are 16,068 Britons. That is one sixteen thousandth of the population or 0.00016%. Really significant, eh?

Not that it really matters, because using statistics out of context as a way to reinforce prejudices is a political act of cynicism which all parties use. The difference with UKIP is that they are making the value judgement that all foreigners are wicked, after our jobs and our women etc. I used to think that UKIP were merely social conservatives. The UKIP pamphlet has changed my mind. The party is deeply racist and has been infiltrated by far right groups and complete nutters. The list of UKIP candidates who have been taken off the list because of their connections to the BNP (British fascist party) and by others making ridiculous statements about black citizens, gay people etc. lengthens by a couple every week.


Black farce

28 Apr

As some of you will know, I am writing a series of novels about an Edwardian spy. It was suggested to me that I write one out of sequence to coincide with the centennial of the start of the First World War. And so I did some research and tried to find a storyline or real event which could give me access to a believable plot. In this I failed miserably. The event which triggered the conflict is generally agreed to be the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand and the Duchess Sophie in Sarajevo. This is where I would have to base the plot. One of the considerations I have to make when writing a thriller is to include some suspense. I could not have my hero preventing the shooting. There also needs to be a credible villain for the hero to be put up against. My reading about the events led to one conclusion. The participants were almost universally idiotic and the actually assassination caused by an unbelievable series of coincidences. It was an almost complete farce. After scrapping around for some side plots, such as Russian encouragement of Serbian expansion I scrubbed the whole idea. Then, talking about the events with a friend I chanced to remark that the only way to portray the events was as a black farce. This idea stuck, and I have been writing a play of some kind, either for a small theatre group or as a radio play. I shall try to adapt it either way. I do not mean to belittle the tragedy of the incident, let alone of the War. If I am playing it for laughs, they should be bitter laughs. One definition of farce is that it is tragedy played at ninety miles an hour. That is what I am aiming at.

Bad for my blood pressure

3 Apr

I turned 60 a couple of months ago. My doctors offered me an extensive health check and another branch of the Health Service sent me a testing kit for bowel cancer. I did the health check but still have the testing kit waiting. It turns out that I have very raised cholesterol levels – no surprise, so did my mother and so does my sister. This is genetically inherited, but still poses a health problem. I am now on statins, having said I would not go on them again after previous experiences. And so far it has been OK. My blood pressure is also raised, but not very significantly and I am resisting taking tablets for that for the time being.

Last night there was a televised debate between Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Party and Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government and Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The debate concerned the future of Britain in the EU, or not, as the case may be. We will be having elections for the European Parliament shortly and UKIP are predicted to make widespread gains. I did not watch the debate because of my blood pressure. At the very best UKIP are a harmless bunch of little Englanders who whine on continually about the EU and are fool enough to swallow the black propaganda of the right wing press. More likely, they are bunch of loosely connected wierdos, xenophobes and assorted nutters. The trouble is, if you give them the oxygen of publicity, they thrive. In such debates the audience favours those arguments which reinforce their prejudices rather than listening to challenges to those prejudices. This is something we are all guilty of, and I admit to it myself, though I hope that I am sufficiently open to reason to change my opinions on occasion.

Nigel Farage has carefully cultivated the act of being a man of the people, a saloon bar prophet. In reality he was privately educated, worked as a commodity broker and was linked to extreme right wing groups since his teenage years. Mr Farage wants to end our current relation with the EU, end immigration and, well, er, I’m not sure what else he actually wants to do. There is nothing positive or forward looking about his message. With the support of the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, The Daily Star and now of the usually ‘one nation Tory’ Daily Telegraph, Nigel Farage has plenty of media types arguing his cause. In a beauty contest of a ‘public’ debate there was only going to be one winner. After all, UKIP have no responsibilities; they are not in office. That makes them both irresponsible and the only fresh thing on the menu. There was no way Nick Clegg could win*. So there was no way I was going to risk having my blood pressure raised.

Another story this week was that the British National Party (BNP), our very own British Fascist party, was giving food parcels to the needy. Provided that the needy were ethnically white British. The Sikh temple in Southall gives out over 1000 meals a day to the needy, regardless of creed and colour and has done so for many years. Go figure who is morally better.

*Opinion polls conducted by the very newspapers mentioned!