Tuesday, 29 May 2007

More Cons than Pro's - The Legacy of Tony Blair

Much though I hate to dwell on the negative, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts about aspects of Tony Blair I found disturbing. Disturbingly enough, that turned out to be most of them! Perhaps it's a little premature to encapsulate the man in a nutshell yet, but you never know, his ghost writer might find the following useful in the three weeks he/she has to turn around Tony's autobiog when he finally finishes his 6-week farewell concert. By the by, click on the Link to Elvis McGonagall and listen to his excellent poem on the subject - 'The Long Goodbye'

Launched as Cool Britannia, under 'New' Labour, Blair's Britain became a byword for buzzwords. A soundbite became as good as an action. The equivalent. Eventually soundbites started replacing many actions. Corporatespeak lent itself perfectly to this process and gradually became the new political speak, belying Blair's increasingly in-pocket relationship to the corporate world.

Blair continued the process which Neil Kinnock began of veering away from the Left and creating a new brand of Thatcheristic materialism aka 'New Labour', only this time based on false front and high levels of debt. Personal bankruptcy became easier and lost its stigma. Companies were allowed to advertise loans to bad debters and banks to lend beyond customers' known means. Meanwhile unsupported Industry continued its terminal decline with market forces dictating ever more remaining British jobs were outsourced overseas to take advantage of cut-price foreign labour costs.

As with a number of world leaders before him, Tony Blair cashed in on the ‘Let’s make myself look powerful and sexy and bookmark my place in History by starting a war’ routine. Luckily for him 9/11 came along which gave him the perfect excuse to join with George W in attacking a country seemingly entirely unrelated to the attack on the twin towers. Some say he knowingly started an illegal war against International Law and should thus be tried as a war criminal. On the psychological front Germaine Greer recently opined a theory that middle aged men start wars in the subconscious hope of wiping out some of their younger sexual rivals. If so, both George W and our own TB have disposed of nearly 3,600 younger sexual rivals to date, rumour has it, also conveniently preserving George W’s oil reserves. TB has certainly bookmarked his place in History but probably not in the way he had hoped, and I think it's fair to say most of my fellow Brits would agree he has covered himself in anything but glory in this whole sorry farce.

Behind the scenes of 'glossy success' Blair's government displayed increasing levels of incompetence. Despite the rise of the 24/7 surveillance culture and persecution of the largely-law abiding over the most minor offences, control was lost first of drugs, then drink, then immigration, then crime in general to the point that the prisons were filled and no new prisons had been constructed. At this point courts came under pressure to sentence fewer criminals and for shorter periods, and early release got earlier, even for the most heinous crimes. On a wider level the new Police remit appears to be to persecute the mostly law-abiding for petty offences such as speeding and dropping litter as this demographic will at least attend court and pay their fines, enabling the law to still be seen as a force acting against (some) crime and earn some keep.

Meanwhile the conversion of former polytechnics to universities continued unabated which led to the problem of how to fill them. Exams were subsequently dumbed down to offer greater numbers of youngsters a 'University' education, research notwithstanding as to whether there was a market for more graduates and in what subjects more graduates might be needed. Greater numbers of students failed simple spelling, maths and comprehension tests yet were still admitted.. Simultaneously University fees escalated out of reach for a considerable number of youngsters or lumbered them with crippling debts at the start of their adult lives. To cap it all the average graduate starting salary has dropped from £21k to £14k in the last 7 years as market forces react to the glut of mainly lower-grade degrees. Apprenticeships continued to decline.

House prices rose over Tony Blair's tenure to the point where up to 70% of the under-40s are now priced out of property. This boom was perceived as a 'good' thing even though interest rates were kept artificially low to sustain it. Meantime social housing has become increasingly scarce since Thatcher's selling off of council housing stock and paltry replacement build of private social housing.

Political correctness reached the point where it became 'racist' to have any kind of national pride, other than for football games. Luckily Blair's government had left us increasingly little to take any pride in. Posthumous apologies were made for the slave trade and the executions for cowardice of WWI soldiers. History teaching was scaled down in schools. Christian symbols, greetings and songs became fair game for banishment as possibly offending minority groups in this Christian country (well no one has yet told us it isn't). This led to a certain amount of unfair cultural backlash, when it was actually our own officialdom acting ridiculously. No one's decided what public head wrappings are acceptable yet.

Although 2000 saw the Freedom of Information Act ushered in, much has since been done by Blair's government to quash democracy and personal freedom, particularly peaceful protest and the right to trial by jury, for example.

Another Blair buzzword although at least one that once had meaning. Now reduced to a high-five between hoodies emulating Ali G to diffuse charged situations. But the reality of respect at a national level is that Blair has done more to undermine 'respect' for leadership than any other leader.

Perhaps in panic at the loss of control detailed above, Blair's government has done much to make ordinary citizens fear for both their safety and their innocence-until-proven-guilty (in this big brother) world of of 24/7 surveillance. In addition we have the threat of identity cards, fingerprinting of the innocent, iris-scanning and a new everyday struggle to remain human beings with identities/personalities and not wake up to find ourselves mere numbers and statistics. Increasing levels of personal data are being gathered on us all the time. Even our wheelie bins will shortly be spying on us! The threat of terrorism is increasingly used as an excuse to curb and erode inconvenient freedoms.

It is hard to think of a leader who has previously turned about so quickly to suit his ends - evidently an avid fan of 'House of Cards'! Most alarmingly of all no previous leader has so blatantly lied (about legality of the war as well as the presence of weapons in Iraq) been found out, and held onto office. A high-ranking British weapons inspector was even found mysteriously dead as a direct result of this lie. Other of TB's ministers have also survived scandals of a magnitude that they would previously have been swiftly forced to resign over.

Blair put the foot into mouth of foot and mouth disease and turned the Minstry of Fisheries and Farming (MAFF) into the ultra-sinister DEFRA (or Death Ray as it came to be known by some). Many farmers went bankrupt over F&M and if they survived that, bird flu and lack of support for farm gate prices often put the final nails in their coffins as farmers, sometimes literally, as suicide rates rose sharply among their ranks.

Blair welched on his first election promise for a Commission into Vivisection, trying to palm the electorate off with a ban on foxhunting, in the full knowledge of its unenforcability, but then foxhunting is a minority sport involving largely non-Labour voters (and less of a political hot potato than Vivisection), thus an easier target.

Blair has eroded the right to trial by jury, the right to peaceful protest, free speech, the Lords and the hard won Freedom of Information Act. If you haven't had your collar felt yet, it's only a matter of time - you're bound to be guilty of 'something'!

Society has been dumbed down from education upwards and the dawn of a populace who are becoming too childishly dependent and confused to know what they are voting for or against (aside from the parties themselves blurring the boudaries). Many now abstain altogether convincing themseleves not voting is a 'protest' vote, with the rest of us either too cynical, apathetic or knackered to attempt to do more than make it to the polling station, let alone take to the streets to exercise our eroded protest right, now the pace of life is so ridiculous we can scarcely keep up with it.

Blair hates architecture with a vengeance and has allowed a great deal of valuable heritage to be swept away under his leadership, including the salvageable Baltic Exchange (once the centre of British shipping) in favour of a 'gherkin' right next to St Paul's. He is now in the process of 'streamlining' planning permission and allowing more appeals against preservation orders. His henchman John Prescott is in the process of knocking down vast swathes of the well-built Victorian North to benefit greedy developers with shoddy replacement characterless flats that no one can afford in the misnomer of 'regeneration' and benefiting the community. The winning of the 2012 Olympics for London is cause for most celebrations owing to its convenient excuse to destroy the last remnants of the old East End to 'open the way' to more homogenised corporate development. Liverpools' City of Culture 2008 is similarly being used as an excuse to bulldoze most of its culture in favour of iconic abortions of ego.

The nuclear family has gone supernova. Blair seems happy enough about this, continuing to strip all tax advantages to marriage, making divorce even easier and offering no support to family units trying to function as family units. At the other end of the scale adult children crippled by University loans and unable to afford a place of their own are often unable to fly the nest. Greater numbers are subsenquently living with their parents even into their 30's, independent adult lives unbegun. At least two future timebombs tick.

Blair has been trained by voice coaches, body language experts and stylists more than any previous PM, though perhaps his dress style remaining ropey was a deliberate choice lest we think he had been too polished

A friend recently opined that Tony Blair had done more to undermine respect for leadership than any other PM. Thinking about it, this seems entirely true. He has got away with stuff of gargantuan proportions that no other PM has ever got away with, not to mention let an awful lot of civilised society that was worth retaining slide down the toilet surreptitiously and unceremoniously. People are voting with their feet - they are not walking to their polling stations any more. They have lost interest in the whole politics business. Which potentially leaves the way clear for any passing meglomanic to get elected on the slimmest majority and do whatever the hell they want! They'd only be following TB's lead after all. Bad things happen when good people do nothing, as they say.

The encouragement of binge-drinking in a society already plagued by it with the introduction of 24hr drinking.
The encouragement of supercasinos in a country already drowning in a sea of personal debt.
The onward march of health and safety to the point where the cost of implementation is putting some businesses out of business.
The persecution of the grammar school in an era where 'all' children are supposed to have a fair chance of a good education and we keep being told we live in an increasingly competitive world.

Tony Blair - Pros
He has at least begun to take global warming seriously and urge other leaders to do so.
He may have helped the Northern Ireland situation.
He has brought in anti-ageism legislation. Implementation will take a little longer.
He likes cats.

To sum up, I feel we should rue the passing of John Smith more with every day - or 'The Best Prime Minister We Never Had' as various glowing tributes had it at the time. Even the fact that he was not English and bald (apparently it's a little known truth that no one ever votes for the bald guy in politics!) did not seem to detract from his popularity. John Smith was a politician you could take seriously. Just enough ego but not too much. Just enough charm, but not too much. A seriously vast brain. A presbytarian work ethic, a caring family man. Doubtless he would have had his faults too, but he was one of the few political arguments for Cryogenics or Cloning that come to mind.

Ah well, at least I can smugly console myself I never voted for the Cheshire Cat and didn't trust his queasy smile from the start.

Friday, 25 May 2007

It's An Angry World...

Stocks of swear words are predicted to run out by 2015

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

My Sweeping NHS Reforms

In the event of waking up one morning and discovering I'm still Minister for Health (sick fantasy I know!), here are my reforms for saving public money by spending the NHS budget more wisely & hopefully breathing new life into our once 'envy-of-the-world';

1. Clean existing hospitals instead of building a new one every time an old one gets dirty! With the money saved, the newly-gleaming hospital could employ enough staff!

2. Bring back Matron and real bedside nursing, including help with eating for the malnourished and soon-to-become malnourished. Preventing MRSA would also save money, lives and su-age.

3. Reinstate in-house nursing, cleaning, maintenance and catering staff and jettison outside and agency contractors (who are never cheaper and invariably don't offer the same loyalty, accountability and continuity of care of direct employees.).

4. Counsel male-to-female transsexuals that there are enough lonely middle-aged women in the world, whereas sensitive men in touch with their feelings who haven't castrated themselves and might prove a positive role model to young fatherless males will always have a USP & plenty of market takers!

5. Issue free non-slip slippers to all over-60's (the clue's in the name!) to prevent up to 40% of trips and falls resulting in broken hips, legs and invariably lengthy, painful and expensive hospital stays.

6. Convert or rebuild the numerous derelict buildings to be found on every hospital site into affordable short-medium term housing for staff, particularly those starting out in their careers.

7. Women seeking NHS abortions and women seeking NHS fertility treatment to share hospital waiting rooms...

8. Issue free multi-vitamins to pensioners and offer free home visits from dieticians to go through their cupboards and advise on diet. Up to 60% of senility is exacerbated by vitamin deficiency owing to a narrowed/restricted diet, such as the unrecommended tea and apple pie diet adopted by my grandmother in her final years.

9. Ensure ALL PATIENTS get the latest drugs and treatments to reduce money lost through re-admission rates and also patients' families suing when a patient has died or their condition worsened by an outmoded drug or treatment. And if a patient has nothing to lose anyway, why not let them try clinically unproven drugs if they wish to, so long as they accept the risks and sign the disclaimers? Seven years development is a long time to wait for each new drug if you haven't got seven years and the new drug in question may be your only ray of hope!

10. Bring back convalescent homes for patients who have completed the high-tech or surgical side of their care and just need several weeks nursing, good diet, physiotherapy etc until fully recovered to go home. Too many re-admissions are caused by premature patient discharge to free essential beds.

11. Make ALL hospitals clean, friendly and competant - people don't want to have to analyse the respective merits of hospital league table results before calling the ambulance in mid-collapse with a heart attack!

12. Give carers all the respite and support they need to carry on caring for the long term sick and disabled in their own homes. Carers are heroes, saving the government countless millions, and will amply reward any money invested in them. In fact why not make personal full-time caring a proper career option with proper pay, holidays etc? This would still be considerably cheaper and better for patients than government nursing care and indeed enable more families to be able to afford to leave their day jobs to look after loved ones and relations at home.

13. Forget about refusing treatment to anyone born pre-1948 founding of the NHS. Everyone born up to 1948 (and probably for some time beyond as well) was PROMISED care 'from the cradle to the grave'. I'm amazed no one's sued via the European Court of Human Rights for breach of promise on this. Rather shabby treatment of a generation who helped win World War II to boot!

14. Nearly £2k per capita is paid into the NHS kitty each year for our healthcare. Every Christmas why not offer £200 per person cashback if they have not needed hospital treatment that year? Great incentive to keep healthy and it would help them recover after Christmas, both financially and emotionally.

15. All staff working in the NHS to speak adequate English and possess reasonable handwriting skills to avoid treatment mistakes.

16. Free life-coaching for any patient who asks re diet, exercise and lifestyle. Lifecoaches also to tour all schools.

17. No hospital doctor to work a shift of longer than 12 hours.

18. All foreign nationals to be charged for healthcare unless they have lived, worked and paid taxes in UK for two years.

19. Audit and defenestrate if necessary, any surplus layers of hospital management.

20. Regular case meetings on patients and their conditions and an automatic right to a second opinion for any patient unhappy with their diagnosis.

NB Unlike some, I have no issue with smokers and drinkers requiring repeat treatment as no matter what state they are in as a result of their own actions, they will have paid this many times over in booze and fag tax. If the government is not re-allocating this tax money to their healthcare, that is something they should address. In addition should fatty foods also be taxed with the taxes being ploughed back into the NHS to treat the obese? The problem of recreational drugs and all their societal fall-out shall be mused at a later date.

Friday, 18 May 2007

The Perfect Cafe in the Perfect Company

A poem about that magical combination!


I want to spend forever in a coffee shop with you
Honest scrubbed tables, no nonsense chairs
A flower or candle between us
Newspapers in racks
A busy What’s On board
Fashionably unfashionable
On a balmy summer evening.
We could talk, or we could just sit
Imbibe dark Brazilian aromas,
A world away from a mad working day.
And they’re pleased to see us
When everyone else has scurried home
Especially when we sit in the window,
But they leave us quite alone,
Completely unperturbed,
That I’m still playing with the molten marshmallows
In my hot chocolate, half an hour later.
Sometimes we sort the world out
Have intense heart-to-hearts
Invent fantasy lives for anyone appearing in need of one.
Other times we watch the world go by
Laugh at the cafĂ©’s slow-moving gallery of abstract art,
The absurdities of life, ourselves,
Happy hostages to home-made apricot cake
And the cool-cred of compulsory anonymous latino beat.
Mostly we steal that hinterland between day and night
From the angels who own it, one day we’ll pay -
For this, our timeless hour
Fully alive to one another.

I want to spend forever in a coffee shop with you.

And I don’t even like coffee…

© LS King

Free Therapy

In my late teens/early 20's I read a lot of psychology books in an attempt to better understand myself, the world and my place in it. This was just before such books exploded into mass-market fashionability, but even then it struck me that I'd wade through a whole tome of what seemed like new agey, slightly esoteric emotional cotton wool (with a trowel layer of schmaltz if American), often endorsing a questionable level of self-indulgence, and over-esteem to reach the 50p gem in the middle - the whole point of the book. Not v. good value for £7.99 I used to think. So to save my 'fellow travellers' on the same journey the same money and trouble of wading through too much waffle, particularly now there's SO much of it to confuse the already confused even further, I recently decided to condense the entire genre as I see it into one one-stop, one-size-fits-all therapy poem. World, I present to you;

Sort Your Life Out - A distillation of the Literary Genre

Forget, Freud, Laing, Gestalt and Jung
Don't be colour-therapied or shuied by Feng
Declare yourself a limited company
Appoint yourself MD
Audit your good points, phase out your bad
Break out of the pattern repeats that are making you sad
Out-place the demons and hangers-on holding you back
Undermining your confidence, de-railing you off-track
Start firing any asset strippers masquerading as friends
Who are only - bottom line - interested in their own ends.
Tell any voices in your head to go take a running jump
You're through with listening to their crap, no matter how drunk
You're through with the shame, blame and tame game
Quick draw that strategy to prevent more of the same.
Stop kidding yourself you have no personal power
Or finding etcetera excuses to miss your own glorious hour
Delegate to the four winds the things you cannot change
There's more than enough to trouble-shoot within your range
Cease being scared of your own reflection
It's time to clean up your act for a 'you' resurrection
All that you are is all that you have, but you have a lot more than you think
And I won't hear you're worthless when you haven't scratched the surface
When you're only using 10% of your considerable brain
Overlooking a potential 90% of net personal gain
Crap doesn't change ownership just 'cos others give you their shit
Return straight back to sender and try not to start it.
Life will beat you up enough without you joining in
You are what you are. I am what I am.
But let's rule out the possibilities before we self-damn
(Let's polish what we can.)
And did I mention love? If you're not worth it to yourself
Don't be surprised you're broadcasting 'loser' to everybody else.
So no more personal consultants who need therapy themselves
No more recreational escapism, time to face that wolf called self.
Look into the mirror. How bad can you be? How free?
Stop being a passenger in your own life, shift into the driving seat and see.

Next week we'll discuss personal profit sharing…

© LS King 2007

Thursday, 17 May 2007

The First Entry of A Blog Virgin

Oo-er missus! Apologies to anyone who’s stumbled upon this blog in the hope of finding unplucked jailbait flesh wriggling on a g-string - it's not that kind of merchandise I'm afraid. And I'm definitely not *that* kind of girl!

Nor am I to be confused with the American poet and feminist Laura King. I'm not *that* kind of girl either!

I am the British Egalitarian poet Laura King - who is neither proud nor ashamed of her 'accident of birth' or 'masculinely-challenged status' as political correctness would probably have us term it, and most certainly don't cherish any secret desire to lord it over men or undermine them in any way. Nor do I claim rights to any special treatment on account of my gender, other than the common politeness and courtesy that should be the privilege of all. This Laura King holds just as many doors open for other people as are held open for her and is glad, nay proud to do so! Not that I'm casting aspersions on how many doors the other Laura King opens for people, but I guess they're all automatic Stateside, so perhaps she is never put to the test!

No, this is intended to be a thinking everyperson's blog. The journal of a hopeful cynic. Hopeful that this seedy dumbed-down overhyped tramp of a world can only get better. Cynical that it probably won't, but let's get my pennyw'th in before we all melt down with a mini-ice cap for a last party supper hat. I need an antidote to most I read and books, as the inimitable Quentin Crisp oft said, are for writing, not reading. I suspect it's much the same with blogs, but what the hell? I can do a whole lot worse than my own company if I turn out to be my only company. Well how many people do *you* know who are an improvement on one's own company? Let me know when you run out of fingers and toes.

So why a blog? Well why not take advantage of the last bastion of free speech before they ban it, probably on some some spurious grounds involving the word 'terrorism'.

The powers that be are always terrified of those with a brain. It all harks back to 'Don't teach the peasants how to read, they might get ideas' concept and the days of yore where the only people in the village who could read were the Squire and the Vicar, the microcosms of greater Kingly authority whose job it was to control the flow of information for that parish, and thus run the village, its denizens and its surrounds - not forgetting to collect their taxes as well as tend to their souls!

And the first rule of any dictatorship is the old 'kill the intellectuals'.

Which reminds me. I wonder what my forefathers did - they say the clue is in the surname - perhaps I'm safe after all!

PS: Lest you form the impression from all the above that it's going to be a bitter and twisted rant of a blog, fear not. Well, not all of it at least! There'll be plenty of funny stories, anecdotes, ideas and jottings mixed in among the more controversial stuff, and dare I say it, hope...? I'm not a complete misanthrope, and as a seasoned performance poet, I know all too well that one has a duty to ones' audience to at least be entertaining/interesting if one is going to rant! Some poets may take the view - 'I've suffered for my art, now it's your turn!' but not this one.