Saturday, 23 July 2016

It's war, let's just admit it

The tragic events in Munich coalesce with the atrocity in Nice to show a pattern, a worrying trend.

Whilst the Nice attacker seems to have been inspired by IS, the Munich killer seems more likely to have been a very worried young man who was fascinated by mass killers. Both had used the Internet to feed their anger, and whilst the motivations were clearly different they finally lost what little control they had of their lives and 'snapped'. But here's the thing....

The Nice killer had help - he had spent months planning and had sent more than 1,200 text messages to an accomplice now in custody, celebrating the Charlie Hebdo killings and the Bataclan atrocity.  By contrast the Munich killer was a true lone wolf; a mentally unstable young man who idolised Anders Breivik and chose the anniversary of his atrocities to go out and kill children. Nothing similar between the two. But they were both Muslims and that is what links them in the eyes of the far right.

IS have a strategy. To turn the west against Muslims and create a jihad. The right is rising all over Europe and, history tells us that never ends well.

So we can write about our outrage, we can tell each other Muslims are peaceful (the vast majority are) but that will not solve anything. The intellectual classes always want to debate the issue, they want to deride anybody who makes a racist remark, they want to show their intellectual superiority and make 'clever' remarks. It doesn't work, it never has worked and it never will.

Our priority must be to stop the rise of the right. What threatens our hard earned freedoms and democracy is the right, not IS, if war comes to Europe it will be them, not jihadi warriors, we bring Europe to its knees.

 It must also be to help those displaced by war. But we must accept that our current strategy isn't working. More atrocities will follow, more innocent people in Europe will die, we must make a decision.

This is also compromised by the intellectual classes outrage when a missile goes astray and kills innocents in IS territory. Whilst IS kill anybody who gets in their way (and at the Bataclan commit appealing atrocities too awful to discuss) we have to listen to calls for enquiries.

I believe the time has come to obliterate IS. And if that means innocent people who live under their regime die then so be it. The world must resolve the menace that is radical Islam wherever it rests in the world. We have the power and if we also had the will we could do this.

Radical hate preachers who live amongst us need deporting, Mosques must not be places of radicalisation. Our freedoms are used against us and IS must laugh as we deny what happens around us (the BBC is being ripped apart by its luvies as they simply cannot bring themselves to report facts when Islam is involved).

 But we must accept we are at war, civilian casualties are a consequence of war and freedoms at home must be compromised. We, as a continent, worked hard for our freedoms, we deserve to be able to keep them. German women should not have to dress differently in order to avoid rape and sexual assault by Muslims who are guests in their country, neither should they have to witness the German press being regulated by the government in order to suppress the truth. You and I should be able to go shopping, watch sport, enjoy alcohol without having to worry about being blown up.

The vast majority of refugees displaced by IS live in camps; in Lebanon and Turkey - yet here they roam free - because that is our way. But it doesn't work. Yet Germany, with its history, can no more build refugee camps than it can admit it's universal welcome to refugees is a disaster.

So what to do? It's time to stop being PC and start kicking back. It's time for the world to accept we are at war and act accordingly. We must destroy radical Islam wherever it exists. We owe it to the peaceful Muslims who live amongst us - they have a right to not be stigmatised. We owe it to ourselves. The time has come for action which, whilst unpalatable, will put the might of the civilised world against the perverted violence of IS. If we accept it's war we will win. If we continue to deny the realities around us and try to debate our way to reason, we will lose.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A referendum. It's complicated

We are now going to have a referendum on the EU. Now we all know Cameron is a lefty right winger (keep up I've only just started) so he's going for the YES vote and will, no doubt, use fear of change again which worked so spectacularly for him in both the Scottish thing and the General Election.

For him and his Tory pro-EU block (all of the Cabinet apparently) it's an easy run, or so they think. I mean nearly every job in the UK will be lost, nobody else wants to play with us, the EU is fabulous really and look a Greece; I know Greece is irrelevant but watch them use it.

Over in Labourville the problems are being chewed over by what's left of their front bench and "it's complicated" comes to mind.

In the Scottish Independence referendum Labour and the LibDems stood alongside the Tories and look where that got them. If Labour do the cross party thing this time (and get the Yes vote they want) will we see UKIP taking them to pieces in the north next time round? It seems that is the view from their tactical team, so they'll be staying clear of the Tories and running their own campaign.

UKIP of course have some considerable armoury. They won the European elections and got millions of votes (if only one seat) in the General Election. there will be many hoping the YES campaign wins the day and the backlash sees them with over 100 seats in 2020 - others don't see the need for a protracted fight and just want to spearhead the NO campaign.

But they have problems too.

The Tory back benches are crammed with MPs who want out but they are unlikely to stand shoulder to shoulder with UKIP. There are also Labour MPs who will emerge on the NO side and given their colourful rhetoric about UKIP that doesn't sound like a marriage made in heaven.

The difference with the NO campaign, however, is that it will be organised. Somebody under 50 (who couldn't vote last time round) will emerge as the mouthpiece and Carswell can drag both left and right into that scrum. UKIP will plough their own furrow no doubt but I believe Carswell will take the view that it's best to be anywhere where Farage is not.

The YES campaign will be fragmented, lacking direction and with differing messages coming from the right and left. That will be coupled with an array of 'concessions' that won't amount to a bag of beans and no matter how hard Cameron tries to play the fear card I'm not convinced the country will fall for it again.

The fears of the SNP ruling England were very real, the true nature of Red Ed's politics were also a concern and Cameron's "let's leave things as they are" message was persuasive. But will that really work with the EU?

We know the Mail and Sun will run stories every day in the run up about EU stupidity (there's a lot of it about) and I'm not even sure the Mirror will support staying in that enthusiastically - it's the paper of the working man after all and millions of them voted UKIP didn't they?

If, and it's a big if, the NO campaign can stay positive they will win. The problem of course is UKIP which runs a wholly negative campaign; ridiculing the EU, banging on about stupid laws, sovereignty and Britishness. It's all clap trap and not really part of the argument.

If the NO campaign focuses on immigration and trade, both in positive ways, they will get their message across. The lie that the UK will crumple, out in the world on its own, offends most British people, and the fact remains that the EU need us as a trading partner. If they want to close their borders to us then so be it, they'll have to do that to the USA and China as well.

And with no German or French cars to buy over here we'll all be choosing Nissan and Honda so that's just fine. That, of course, presumes that the current EU agreements on vehicle sales don't apply equally to us as they do to other countries.

In simple terms Cameron can get the (EU subsidised) CBI to bleat all he likes, he can bring big business into his camp, but the vast majority of voters will see through it.

And of course, by then he'll have most of the big banks saying they're off if we stay in the EU because of the banking regulations tightening.

Let's be clear, if we vote to stay in, the EU will then expect to roll us over into the grand EU project they are already planning. They are also planning to legislate to make any more such referenda illegal so this truly is a one time opportunity.

But with both campaigns potentially being a mess who knows what will happen. A huge character will emerge - like Ms Sturgeon did - but who that could be? Of course, if Boris decides he's in the NO camp it will be him and give him the shoe horn he needs into Number Ten. Some may say that's a good thing........

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a British politician, popular historian, and former journalist who has served as Mayor of London since 2008 and as Member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015. He was born in 1964 and was too young to vote in the last EU referendum

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Eurovision - where do we go now?

So after another memorable night of Eurovision, people are saying the UK failure is a disaster, that it’s all political and nobody likes us, that there are blocks that vote for each other, that we should quit this club that doesn’t want us as a member. And we pay for it all FFS!

But hang on just one minute and think about it.

The song was performed by a Voice contestant who didn’t make a single chair turn and a bloke from a Rolling Stones tribute act. It was written by two guys, one of whom is in his late 50’s and who’s only real claim to fame is that he wrote the theme to the National Lottery and another who’s music can only be found on free sites. What did we expect!

The music industry is huge in Britain, we utterly dominate worldwide (if you think the US holds that mantle then you don’t understand the industry) and the fact that almost all the acts speak English and write/sing in English tells you everything you need to know about what happens in these countries on the other 364 days of the year.

But our dominance, the fact this country has a vast music industry engine, that many people have worldwide reputations for production and writing, has it’s consequences.

I’ve been lucky to earn my living in the music industry all of my life. I’ve written a number of hits here and in the US, but they have also been hits all over Europe. In fact I had a song that made number one in twelve EU countries a few years ago and never charted here. The pressure on me and others like me (there are lots of us) is to find what is new.

Who would have thought two years ago that kids in clubs would be dancing to country and western music, or that Caro Emerald would suddenly make jazz fashionable. Here, writers have to be constantly refreshing what they do, we have to be at the front if we want those in the industry to listen.

In the 60’s and 70’s the vibrancy of the music industry came from bands who wrote their songs, they created new sounds and the world listened and copied. The 80’s were about the obligatory chorus key change, the 90’s about weird timing signatures and acoustic dominance, this century has been about introducing older styles of music with modern twists.

So it’s no surprise that the Swedish entry merged the country influences from a year or so ago with the constant Eurovision need for a catchy, pumped up chorus. It was a new development wrapped around a winning formula; but it was behind where the industry is in the UK right now.

Our difficulty is getting writers to create stuff that is out of date (in their heads anyway) when the industry is always demanding the next new thing.

In the last five years we’ve seen disco, electro pop, Country, bluegrass and jazz form the basis of worldwide hits (I probably forgot something here so apologies) and this year and next we will see traditional R&B making a big comeback with the disco feel finding slightly better forms than Niles Rogers can create - the reinvention of Deacon Blue will also see effects in writing.

But Eurovision will always reflect what Europe likes right now. And we are the innovators, we are currently writing what Europe will like in 2017, and there lies the problem.

I wrote for Eurovision a lot of years ago with varying success, but I wouldn’t do it now. If I dare say it we need to hand that job to somebody who is living and working in continental Europe not here. There are plenty of those and I have no doubt quite a few of the songs last night will have been produced by Brits (it is production that makes hits not writing), it may be some were written by Brits too, but I don’t know that.

So let’s not beat ourselves up. The biggest selling tunes in Europe in 2015/16 will, as always, be British. British acts will continue to dominate the thinking of the business and, even when stuff is from Belgium or Holland (the other big dominators of European charts) the guys who do it work here or operate within the UK music industry.

We do just fine, Eurovision can be a huge platform for European artists (the Swedish guy who won last night is a big hitter across much of Europe) but it adds nothing to British acts who tend to break Europe as a function of breaking the UK and without a great deal of effort to be honest. Europe craves British music, they are followers of what we do.

It is rare to see any innovation within Eurovision simply because European writers tend to follow not lead. The one possible exception last night was Latvia and that song may well surface in UK clubs after a bit of production by a decent brit. The rest will never be played here - they are out of date and simply not where our musical tastes are.

That doesn’t mean we should leave Eurovision, they need us to keep the momentum going. But we should let younger songwriters and unknown artists use it as a platform. In fact we should force those running our entry to limit the ages and experience of those involved.

Let’s look at who wrote it this time.

Dave MIndel writes jingles and is in his 50’s. His most famous tune is the one used for the National Lottery.  But at least he has some ‘success’. By contrast his (younger) co-writer Adrian Bax-White can only be found on free music websites. An old bloke and a trier - do we think that’s going to work?

So maybe the selectors limit the age of writers to 25, look for some new talent and the industry could then support that with yet to emerge artists who are equally young and enthusiastic. I am mentoring a 13 year old girl at the moment who will be a huge country star in the next few years - there are many like her about, let’s give them the platform.

But what do I know. I just work here……

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What might have been

Maybe I start this latest blog with a contentious point; I think the Liberal Democrats are, in the main, honourable operators in the political framework.

Now before you start jumping up and down, I want you to forget the last five years, when they have found themselves embroiled in a battle with their coalition partners, and think back to how you viewed them before that. They were popular, they talked a lot of sense, and they were nice, sensible folk. Sure some of their policies were crackpot but surely thats allowed when you are a fringe party with no chance of power - isn’t that what opposition is all about for the little guys?

When the election results came out in 2010 I thought they would form a coalition with Labour. They were their natural partners and despite the fact that Gordon Brown was the worst Prime Minister this country had ever seen in terms of personality, he was one of the best when it came to his understanding of economics and what was needed for the world crisis. Brown was an inclusive PM in that he talked to other world leaders - he was, after all, hailed in the USA as the man who had found the way to save the world from its excesses.

But Nick Clegg made the (honourable?) decision to climb into bed with his arch enemies. And so began a hate relationship that has gone very badly for the LibDems. The Tories have managed to lay claim to the recovery and are now hijacking all the stuff the LibDems forced them to do and saying they were their ideas anyway.

So what would have happened if Clegg had forged a deal with Brown?

I think Gordo was on his uppers, he was massively unpopular, seen as a baffoon who couldn’t handle the PR stuff, but his own party felt he’d done a lot better in terms of seats than anybody had expected. He even offered to resign as part of the deal, offered a change of the voting system to PR without a referendum and (it now seems clear) much better ministerial clout to the LibDems.

The country would have a very different shape now if Clegg had done what the majority of his party members wanted him to do and joined with Labour. We may well have seem Miliband as PM; a man who is desperately unit for the job, BUT we would have seen Danny Alexander as Chancellor and Clegg as the front man in all but name.

The cuts would still have had to happen but there would have been fairer tax provisions and fewer tales of woe amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The LibDems believe in collective responsibility and that might just have permeated society a bit more - we might all now be a bit more willing to help each other.

I’m a reader of Ayn Rand and she believed selfishness was the key to economic and societal success. She was brutal in her condemnation of socialism and wanted the free market to rule everything. She was also a very eloquent lady. I do believe light touch politics works best and Labour and the LibDems have a track record of loving the nanny state, but to be honest, there are only so many constraints you can put on people’s freedoms before they kick against it. I still believe Any Rand is right but maybe the country has an intrinsic social conscience that she never acquired.

I cannot second guess how a collaboration between Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg would have gone - I do believe the recovery is largely an act of big business and enterprise and would have been much the same no matter who was there. I also believe, however, that the LibDems would now be set to win a lot more seats (we’d be having our first PR election remember) and the Tories would be being ravaged by UKIP (if they hadn’t merged by now) - we would be accepting that we were looking at five more years of a Labour/LibDem coalition from 2015.

Ironic really that if Nick Clegg had read a little more Ayn Rand and been a bit more selfish (for the collective LibDem movement) rather than doing what he thought was honourable, he would be in a better place now and I think the country would have done just fine.
When, in years to come, clever folk write books about Nick Clegg’s legacy they will recognise he tried (and failed) to change politics forever. I doubt we will see any party get a majority at this election and we’ll see more pacts and arrangements. I do believe that the UK will be worse off as a consequence and the LibDems may have to try to walk whichever party they decide to support back into the middle ground. But the ‘coalition experiment’ was in the main a failure because, I contend, Nick Clegg backed the wrong horse.


Makes you think don’t it………

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Send in the Crusaders

It's said that a quiet majority of Pakistani Muslims in cities like Bradford, Rotherham, Birmingham and Manchester, broadly support what ISIS (or whatever their latest name) is trying to achieve. To some there is unease at their tactics but it is a fact that the Koran states that all infidels must be conquered, given the chance to convert to Islam and, if they refuse, beheaded.

There have been lots of discussions over the years about what bits of the bible mean but no such discussions take place within Islam. The book is clear as crystal, it's words unambiguous, it's instructions clear. So why should we expect Muslims to condemn ISIS for doing exactly what the Koran demands?

And there is history on their side. The use of extreme force, inhuman violence and gut wrenching brutality has worked before for a religion and succeeded in turning it into an all pervasive power across the globe - I speak of course about Roman Catholicism.

The RC religion was borne of controversy and violence. After 300 years of persecution the Christians who lives in Rome (and who were a very small sect within the overall Christian faith) dropped lucky. The Emperor Constantine was thinking about his sins - he is widely regarded as the worst of all Roman Emperors - and as all top folk did he went to the muses seeking absolution. The fact that his transgressions were so legion that they refused him tells you a lot about the guy, so he went in search of another religion that would assure his forgiveness and absolution. After a lot of searching up popped the Roman sect of the Christian church. They offered him absolution (when nobody else would) in exchange for his promise to wipe out every other Christian sect. Given his talent for butchery (this is the fella who raped and murdered his own mother and sister remember) he readily agreed.

The Roman Catholic Church was founded in a blood bath of Christian persecution by a guy who just wanted to get to heaven and was being told by the RC's that this was the way to do it. It's estimated that in the next twenty years Constantine butchered over 300,000 Christians who wouldn't adopt the RC version of events. Most wouldn't as the RC faith is contrary to scripture, adorating Mary, and was also at odds with many other parts of scripture (they later rewrote the entire New Testament to fit their version).

From their base they expanded across Europe thanks to Roman patronage and then, when the New World was discovered they sent their top man Torquemada there to 'convert' the Aztecs and Mayans. This was achieved again by wholesale massacre. In Mexico they butchered the top 6,000 elders of the Aztec people to show their force - publicly executing the leader in horrific fashion and killing his four wives and sixteen children in front of an appalled people.

Of course they had also encountered the Cathars in Europe two centuries earlier and the horrific brutality they exercised there is significant in terms of ISIS today.

The Cathars were strict followers of the New Testament. They condemned Rome for its temples, pomp and extreme shows of wealth. Rome's response was to destroy them. Cathar settlements would be surrounded and left to starve for several weeks. Then they would enter, line the men up on one side and the woman on the other. The children were herded into the middle where they were spit roasted (alive), then the women were gang raped until they died. Finally the men were beheaded. It's estimated that over a half million Cathars were murdered. Rome prevailed.

The tactics of Rome against the Cathars showed levels of brutality never seen before or since - until today. ISIS seem to be copying what the RC Church did with historical precision. And it's working of course. They control vast tracts of Iraq and Syria, their rule is absolute and totally accepted. Everybody in their region is now Muslim. If fact cold logic says they've done a very good job. And one suspects they will continue to do so.

ISIS was born out of the glorification of the various terrorist sections, by people who wanted to make fundamentalism the true religion. This is exactly what the RC Church did under Constantine. They removed the ambiguity and created one Christian faith - even if it was totally at odds with everything Jesus had said - and that faith survives to this day as the worlds biggest religion.

ISIS can look to the success of the RC church and legitimately hope and aspire to be as successful. Islam is an evangelical religion as was Roman Catholicism; spreading the word with brutality and fear works - ask the Pope!

Perhaps the west thinks it can stop ISIS, perhaps it can, but it will pop up somewhere else, converting as it goes. Pakistan will be next, and China will also see its docile Muslim community rise up. The next 100 years will be about religious wars, and Islam will be the biggest region in the world by the end of it. How that effects us remains to be seen.

Diplomatic efforts and nation armies certainly won't stop it so maybe give the job to the one organisation that is as brutal and determinedly self preservationist as ISIS - maybe we send in the Roman Catholic Church to short them out. It's brutality when conversion opportunities arise is way beyond what ISIS could dream of.

You might think me flippant but I am a bit serious here. The chance to confront Islam as they did in previous centuries would be accepted by Rome. Conversion and perhaps a glimmer of hope that they could finally wipe out a religion that they see as being borne from the drug and alcohol fuelled delusions of a Paedophile from the Yemen (a pretty accurate definition as it happens) would be very attractive. If they were given clearance for a 'no holds barred' approach they'd be up for it and they would prevail.

During the Crusades Rome fell down because of manpower issues. Here they would have technology so superior the numbers wouldn't matter. And let's be clear, the west would like to see the back of Islam, it's always been that way.

First we'll do the diplomatic stuff, send in Arab troops and British planes, but none of that will work. Trust me, what's needed is the Catholic Church with its gloves off.  

Monday, 10 November 2014

A little dilemma

I've been having a bit of trouble recently with politics.

You see, I've voted Labour all my life, until the last GE. With Nasty Gordon in charge I couldn't bring myself to vote for him or the party. He is a Marxist as are his supporters who had risen through the ranks (the two Ed's being the most prominent) I didn't like what I saw.

To be honest me not voting didn't really matter. I was living in one of the safest Labour seat in Britain, my participation could be excused.

But now I have a real dilemma. I live in Hove which could go either way. I must vote next year but who for?

Instinctively I don't like the Tories; there is a smell of sleaze about them, but when they formed the current government I had to admit that they, the right, were the right people for the job. Had Labour got in the cuts to public services would not have happened, they couldn't have made their core voters redundant, benefits would have gone unchecked and they would have battered entrepreneurs, business and the Middle class. Marxists don't ever manage to see that the private sector makes the money that pays everybody's wages - they don't get it.

I have no time at all for the LibDems. Quite frankly Nick Clegg makes my flesh crawl. His is smug, insincere and a showman - none of those qualities belong in politics.

So what's left?

Labour are poised to pull off an electoral victory despite the plain fact that their policy announcements so far wouldn't work, don't add up and only effect the efficiency of Britain's internal market making thousands redundant and losing our export leverage. Their policies pander to their magical 35% who they know will vote for them - public sector workers, those who live on benefits and, of course, former foreign nationals. I have to conclude that the shunt to the far left that Ed has presided over is a disaster area for the UK. And they continue to say they know better than us - so no referendum.

I cannot vote UKIP - they are a party of strange people who hold views I find disturbing.

I cannot vote Green - I have watched them destroy public service provision in Hove, I would have to be insane to vote for these idealistic children.

So I'm stuffed! I will vote of course and I will vote tactically to preserve the recovery and stop the Marxists from destroying this country in the same way they're destroying France. I will vote Conservative, and in doing so I will shudder.

Had David Milliband won the race for Labour leader I don't imagine this would be a difficult decision. He is Blairite and centred, but he didn't and he won't be back anytime soon. Others are now pointing out that the Trades Unions, in gaining central power once more over Labour have sunk the ship, all I know is if David was running the shop Labour would now have a 20 point lead. Sad really.

So, against every instinct I have, against all my principles, I'll vote to keep the present government in power.

Never thought I'd say that.........

Monday, 13 October 2014

Christmas!

Whether you like to admit it or not, Christmas is now coming up fast on the rails and will soon be among us.

It's a strange time for me; for many years, as a musician, I worked over Christmas and saw it as a mega pay day. I was sober on New Years Eve as well (can't play with any alcohol in my system) as you lot all partied.

I've also never been one for the joy of present giving to be honest. In most cases we give people stuff they don't really want and, in doing so, spend money we can ill afford.

I know what you're saying now "grumpy bastard" but truly I'm not.

When I worked I loved Christmas. All the effort that went into parties and New Year was excellent.

Prior to working at some extraordinary venues where money seemed to be no object I had struggled through the Christmas of 1978. Hard times with no money sleeping in a bedsit waiting for the big break. That Christmas, in London, was supposed to be dire. On Christmas Eve I walked the West End watching people having a great time when I didn't even have the price of a pint, my Christmas Dinner was an egg mayo sandwich and half a pint of milk.

But, strangely I enjoyed it. Maybe it was the pain I enjoyed, I've no idea really, but I still have fond memories. I was alone in London, I didn't see anybody or even speak to anybody for the five days surrounding Christmas. Yet somehow it seemed safe and comforting. Nobody had any expectations of me and I had none of them. My friends up in Yorkshire were partying like crazy but somehow I was happy to be alone. I'm weird I know........

Now I'm retired I don't work at Christmas or New Year. I have them at home. Normally mum would come down but with her passing in the Spring it's just me, my wife and whoever from her family turns up (which is currently looking like nobody).

I love to cook at Christmas, I do the lot, all the trimmings, that stuff.

But this year there'll be the two of us so I found myself looking at the Waitrose Christmas food catalogue and thinking I should let somebody else do the cooking. Now this does seem weird.

Having everything delivered, just warming it up. That's not Christmas is it! Well it appears it is. And this is what I have to look forward to for the coming years.

So suddenly Christmas isn't a time for self flagellation, nor a time for work, it's just a dead spot in the diary.

And that's sad. I have no intention of becoming one of those sad bastards who goes on a cruise (I worked cruise ships for five years). Or of finding some romantic restaurant where we can be crammed in with too many other people whilst the staff stay happy and the chef shows how much he loves producing standard Christmas fair instead of his normal fabulous creations. Staff working Christmas Day while folk party just love it!

So I guess we could climb Kilimanjaro or walk to the North Pole but it's just not me. We could lay on a beach (sounds a bit better) and take in the rays somewhere obscure but none of the above floats my boat.

Christmas will be rubbish this year, got to fix it for next............