Friday, August 19, 2011

Well, quite

I’ve just noticed that David Cameron began his speech about the riots and looting with this line:

It is time for our country to take stock.

The labour market

Just been listening to Peter Lilley on Radio 4 explaining why we need to force the workshy to get jobs.

Good luck with that.

Update: I should have included my data source. From the Office for National Statistics, select option 21.1 (Vacancies and unemployment). Then data series AP2Y is total UK vacancies, MGSC is seasonally adjusted LFS unemployment among those aged 16+, and JPC5 is the ratio (excluding agriculture, forestry and fishing for a reason that escapes me – perhaps there are a couple of million lumberjack vacancies that could save the day). Thanks to CH and friends for reminding me to add this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How I tried to incite a riot using the mainstream media, and got away with it, by Tom Freeman (aged 18¼)

What with the recent rioting and looting – and the four-year sentences given to two morons who tried (and failed) to whip up a bit more trouble by posting on Facebook – I was reminded of my own murky past.

In 1995, when I should have been revising for my A levels but found everything else somehow more interesting, I noticed a letter in the Guardian from a man complaining about how unaccountable our rulers were. I don’t remember whether the idea came to me immediately or crept up on me over a few hours, but my reply was published on May 31:

In answer to Joe Phillips (Letters, May 30), I’m afraid there are very few ways in which we can vent our dissatisfaction at the monarchy, or the House of Lords, or even the Government between elections. We have opinion polls, where we can say what we like but get dismissed as unrepresentative, and we can write letter to politicians and newspapers but get dismissed as cranks.
However, there is a third way. At 2.30 tomorrow afternoon I will be conducting a violent and bloody revolution at the Palace of Westminster. All welcome. Refreshments will be served and crèche facilities will be available. Weather permitting.
Tom Freeman

Nobody could possibly take that seriously, just as nobody could possibly take seriously a jokey tweet pretending to threaten Robin Hood Airport with destruction if it didn’t clear the snow and reopen quickly.

Later that day, I received a phone call from a man from Stoke. (Back then, the Guardian printed its correspondents’ full addresses, so he’d clearly rung directory enquiries.) This polite and, from the sound it, ageing class warrior wanted to know about travel arrangements.

I let him down gently, and he had the decency to chuckle. But I realised that further explanation was needed, and so on June 2 the Guardian was good enough to print this:

My fellow anarchists and I apologise to readers for the failure of the planned “violent and bloody revolution” (Letters, May 31). The oppressed masses we had hired for the event were held up by traffic cones on the M4, and so the uprising was inquorate. The regulator Offcoup has recently revoked our Chartermark: with the loss of such government approval, we were unable to recruit enough passers-by to smash the state.
Tom Freeman

The police have yet to come a-knocking.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A quiet quinquennial

Five years ago today I started this blog. This, according to my powers of pretext detection, justifies cake.

But it’s obvious that my heart’s not been in it lately:

I don’t exactly know why the decline. Probably a whole bunch of things.

For most of these five years I’ve been expressing my opinions faster than I’ve been forming new ones, so eventually I was bound to feel I was running out of fresh things to say.

My work has been more demanding lately, leaving me less mental energy for other things. Oh, and I got a new widescreen TV with more channels than I could ever have dreamed of. My IQ drops 10 points when I’m even in the same room as it.

My main subject matter, politics, grabs me less than it used to. I’m still interested enough to read, but not usually enough to chew things over, to chase up some background info, and to write.

The biggest issue these days is how the government’s plans will affect the economy, but economic prediction is a mug’s game. And even once we’ve waited and seen what’s happened, it can damned tricky to untangle what caused what. So all most of us have are our broader views on different fiscal doctrines. And mine are not nearly as well-informed or lucid as plenty of other people’s.

More generally, the novelty of the coalition has faded and the novelty of Ed Miliband’s leadership never quite managed to arrive. I find it hard to care all that much about the supercilious progress of the Tory campaign to disguise power as necessity, or about Labour’s fitful drifting between trying to find a way to be noticed and trying to find a way to be. Balance requires that I also mention the Lib Dems here.

And then, of course, there’s the Blogger’s Ruin, luring so many of us away from the precious paragraphs we once took such earnest pride in researching and sculpting, Twitter. (That said, I’m taking this week off Twitter, so it’s possible that in a couple of days I’ll crack and post 3000 words here about Syria or something.) (I won’t.)

But I’m not quitting. I’ve noticed that bloggers who announce they’re quitting are often back, a few weeks later, as prolific as ever. Maybe I should try that? No, I can’t trick myself if I know what the trick is. So I’ll carry on, posting bits and pieces when the mood takes me. But I can’t promise my former regular readers – I’m no longer a regular writer, therefore I can’t have regular readers any more – the kind of output I once produced.

Either way, thanks for dropping by.