Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Why I’m Voting Pirate

Friday, September 16th, 2011

There are local elections this weekend in Berlin, and I’m allowed to vote. At the moment, I’m leaning towards the Pirate Party, for two reasons: a) they’re called the Pirate Party and b) because of their advertising. I wouldn’t normally choose to vote for such apparently flippant reasons, so allow me to explain myself.

I still consume most of my news in English via the BBC. We often have a local German station (Radio Eins or Flux FM) on the radio, so I’ll hear news bulletins in German from time to time, but I have to concentrate pretty hard to understand them properly which is hard if the children are making their usual racket. I hardly ever watch the TV these days, and I’ve never really been a newspaper reader. This means my knowledge of German politics isn’t very developed, and tends to be at a national or international rather that a local level. So I haven’t got much to go on when it comes to choosing which party to vote for. To make matters worse most of the parties go by three letter acronyms, which makes it easy to mix them up. I already did that in an earlier draft of this post, confusing the Communists with the Social Democrats which Ilka thankfully corrected for me.

I first became aware it was election time because all of a sudden the streets were full of posters on lamposts. Most of the political advertising I’ve seen is pretty dull – they mostly show a picture of the candidate and the name of the party, and not much else. The Green candidate also has a lot of billboards up showing their candidate in various situations with anodyne slogans like “Renate works” or “Renate cares”. What none of this advertising tells me is what these people stand for. As advertising goes, it fails pretty miserably in this respect. What I do like, though, is that the Pirates have started subverting the lampost placards, by sticking a smaller poster underneath saying “…, or Pirates!”. Here’s an example:

A subverted election poster

The Pirate Party’s own posters do at least have some ideology on them. Though I can’t always understand all of what they’re saying, my German has improved enough that I get the gist of it. I particularly like ‘Privatise Religion Now!”.

Pirate Party poster
I’ve had a look at their website and they seem to be very keen on transparency and freedom of information, with a nod to the environment, education and families. So their advertising has been a lot more effective, at least where I’m concerned – I haven’t bothered to look at the websites of any of the other parties yet. When I first mentioned to Ilka that I might vote Pirate, she said “That’s a waste, they won’t get enough votes”. If we were still in England, that might be a reasonable argument, but as we have proportional representation here it’s a pretty weak one. She later told me that she’d heard on the radio that the polls are showing they have a large enough share of the vote to win a seat. Maybe I’m not the only one who likes their ads.

I did read the election leaflet from the SPD mayoral candidate, in the interests of some sort of balance. Klaus Wowereit has been Berlin’s mayor for the last ten years, and it looks like he’s well set for another term. He trades on this in his leaflet, which isn’t such a bad idea – apart from the fact that Berlin is burdened with a Greek-sized debt, he seems to have done a fairly good job as far as I can tell. He talks about job creation and a minimum wage (Germany doesn’t yet have one, surprisingly), free education from nursery to university (though Ilka pointed out nursery is only free from three years old) and also about holding Berlin together, and keeping it open. I actually struggled to translate this last bit, although I know exactly what he’s talking about, and he rightly describes it as the most important point. It’s a reference to the social problems Berlin is experiencing, which is the only real political topic I’ve heard discussed. Given that gentrification has become an issue on his watch, he can’t really avoid the issue. I’m not sure his administration has really handled it very well though – for example, I think a better solution could have been found and the riot avoided at the Liebig Str. squat. He says he’ll work really hard on this problem every day, but stops short of offering any real solutions.

I won’t be unhappy if Wowereit wins another term, but I don’t think I’ll be voting for him. I’ll be voting Pirate, partly because I like their name, partly because I like their ads, partly because of their ideology, and partly because it somehow feels right that Berlin should have pirates in power.

My Career As A Political Blogger…

Monday, June 14th, 2010

…is over. One of the reasons for setting up this blog in the first place was to comment on politics, in the hope of being invited on to the radio to share my cutting insight into the world of Westminster (see here for more). I’ll happily admit now that I am a miserable failure as a political blogger. During arguably the most interesting general election campaign in living memory, I managed to say practically nothing. This is in no small part due to the fact that I underestimated the amount of work it takes – I couldn’t take the idea of people whose sole claim to fame was blogging seriously at first. To all of those bloggers: sorry!
The more perspicacious among you will have noticed that I haven’t actually posted on any topic for quite a while now. It’s fair to say I got a bit bored with the plastic bag thing, as I’m sure did you – it wasn’t really enough of a challenge. So I’m dropping that too. It filled a gap, but now I’m going to focus on something a lot closer to home: the fact that we’ve just moved to Germany, and what it’s like here for an Englishman. The good news is that so far, it’s pretty good. We’ve been here for two weeks now and we’re getting on pretty well. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, and we still have an awful lot of stuff in boxes, but our new flat is big enough to cope. Ironically I found quite a large number of uses for plastic bags during the move, but I digress…

Oh dear

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Gordon Brown’s tenure as Prime Minister is beginning to look like a very strange mixture of tragedy and farce. Every time he tries to give himself a boost, someone goes and resigns and spoils it all for him. This time it’s relatively unknown MOD aide Eric Joyce, though of course he’ll be a lot better known after this, coming as it does on the eve of a speech by Gordon Brown on Afghanistan. He also came out recently and slammed the government for taking two soldiers to court to try and reduce the amount of compensation they had been awarded, so you could say he has some form. What really hurts Gordon here is that Joyce is a former soldier and so can reasonably be assumed to have a clue about defence issues.
So OK, my political posts are a bit like buses – none for ages then two at once. Boris Johnson has been caught claiming public money for his website, which contained all sorts of contraband content forbidden by the fees office including campaign material and advertisments for his own books. Tut tut Boris. That was rather careless, wasn’t it? I quite like Boris, just because he proves that someone with the persona of a Beano character can still make it to the top in British politics. And also because he’s so wonderfully gaffe-prone. I would rather he wasn’t mayor though. I preferred him when he was the plain old member for Henly.

NHS waiting lists eliminated?

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

So Andy Burnham claimed this morning that there are no more waiting lists in the NHS. My jaw dropped. I know the government is in trouble, but saying things like this is not the answer. I’m listening to Radio 5 and they are talking about this story – not surprising given that Burnham made the comments on 5 Live Breakfast this morning. He made them in the context of the launch of a new website,, which aims to give people information about their local hospital. This is a very welcome development, and starts to address the most obvious problem with Choose and Book – how on earth are we supposed to make informed choices about healthcare if we don’t know how the providers are performing? However Burnham’s claim has overshadowed this – someone has just released a stamement saying his words “weren’t meant to be taken literally”. Oh dear.
I’ll have to dust off the rest of the Choose and Book odyssey now – I will probably give it a page of its own. Bet you can’t wait…

The Curse of Blog

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Lord Darzi has resigned. I think he must of heard about this blog and my devastating (if yet to be finished) attack on Choose and Book, and decided to go before I delivered it to him…
OK, so officially he’s going “to devote more time to his clinical role and academic research”. Fair enough, if it’s true.
UPDATE – Continuing the Private Eye theme: Lord Darzi – An Apology
Readers of this blog may have formed the impression that I hold Lord Darzi responsible for the calamity that is the NHS Choose and Book system. This is of course very far from the truth. Choose and Book (hereafter C & B) predated his investiture and appointment as a minister, so it can’t be his fault. Some digging reveals that it’s more likely to be Alan Milburn or John Reid, both of whom were Health Secretary in 2003 which seems to be when C & B got the green light as part of the disastrous NPfIT. So maybe I should be aiming my ire at Richard Granger (NPfIT architect) instead, or maybe some nameless policy wonk at the Department for Health, or the big boss at the time, T. Blair?
The reason I focussed on Darzi while experiencing the lunacy I did at the hands of C & B was that he was conducting his high profile review of the NHS as part of Gordon Brown’s ‘Goverment of all the talents’ (GOATs). I thought it might be a good idea to see what he had to say on C & B – but when I looked at his wikipedia page, the links to his reports weren’t working…The timing of the announcement was interesting, too – late yesterday (14th July 2009), and as of today it seems to have completely disappeared from the news agenda, despite the fact that he is the last but one of the GOATs to leave government. No mention of it today at PMQs, despite the chance to score some cheap points for the opposition.
Having read a couple of articles on the BBC, it looks like Darzi wisely avoided talking about C & B or the NPfIT, and that most of what he recommended makes sense. So sorry, Lord Darzi, you should never have been in my sights.
I found some real gems while poking around on the net for this post, including this wonderful survey from last year. OK, it’s a small sample, but it did conclude “In this study, patients did not experience the degree of choice that Choose and Book was designed to deliver”. I will try and find the time to read the rest of the report, which I’m sure will be hilarious; after all, they found that “32% [of C & B sample] reported not being given any choice of hospital”. Some choice.

Work is the curse of the blogging classes

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Typical. There’s so much to write about today – another ministerial resignation, Call Me Dave paying back more expenses, Hazel Blears surviving a no confidence vote from her constituency, the Iraq war inquiry – and that’s without getting near the sports stories: the F1 breakaway, the Wimbledon draw, the US open golf…But I have more work than I can feasibly ignore. So all these topics will have to wait. Grrrr.

Party Election Broadcasts

Monday, June 15th, 2009

The reason I started this blog in the first place was to comment about politics, so that I could earn the epithet ‘political blogger’ and thus appear in the media. After all, I often hear people being interviewed on Radio 5 described as political bloggers – if the only qualification you need in order to be interviewed about the burning issues of the day is to have written something on a blog then so be it.

What prompted me to actually get moving was accidentally seeing all three party political broadcasts from the main parties in the run up to the local and European elections. In hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t exactly accidental – I’m sure they put them on right after the weather report as they know that’s when they’re likely to get their biggest audience, given our national obssesion with meteorology.

First up was the Lib Dem effort. I was actually a little taken in by this one – I didn’t realise it was an election broadcast at first. Of the three, it has the best production values by far. Once I realised what it was and my natural cynism reasserted itself, it lost a lot of the gloss, but I suppose it did its job in that it got my attention and more or less held it. I was a little worried though that the thought of Nick Clegg doing what looked a lot like a midmorning talk show a la Kilroy was considered a good tactic. I was waiting for someone who had slept with her boyfriend’s sister’s husband’s brother to start a fight with Clegg, and a little diasppointed it didn’t happen.

The very next day it was the turn of the Conservatives. Sadly for them, their brilliant idea to show Dave going round the country doing his ‘Cameron Direct’ hustings was rather undercut by the fact that the Lib Dems had already done it the day before, only slightly better. I thought ‘Cameron Direct’ was a very lazy and inappropriate choice of name too – it sounds like an insurance company or online brokerage.

To complete the triumvirate we had Labour’s effort, which was the worst of the bunch by far. It looked as though it had been hastily cobbled together in response to all the problems the government have faced recently, when they realised that the expensive and carefully crafted one they prepared a couple of months ago was going sit very badly with the current political climate. I squirmed in a manner reminiscent of watching The Office. Very, very poor.

In order to complete this post I went and searched for the clips on Youtube (links below), and interestingly found an earlier incarnation of the Labour one which featured a voiceover by G. Brown, rather than the female ‘ordinary voter’ voiceover that was broadcast. So clearly the PR wonks had decided that Gordon wasn’t going to get the core vote out.

The only message I got from any of the broadcasts was ‘vote for us, we’re better than that other lot’. None of them persuaded me to vote for the party in question. Of course, the irony is that I had to go away on business on polling day and thus wasn’t actually able to go and cast my vote. Had I beed able to, I would have voted Green this time. I think I’ll register for a postal vote in future.

Those broadcasts in full:

Liberal Democrat