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Solstice

21/6/17 22:37
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It's been so hot and my hair's so thick that I shaved most of it off this evening.
A selfie where I try to show off that the sides of my head are shaved. My dark hair is longer on the top and combed off to one side.
Feels much better now. But no doubt this means the heatwave is over. You're welcome.

It's the longest day of the year in this hemisphere, a bittersweet occasion for me because I'm sad to think the days are getting shorter now already. It feels like I haven't had a chance to get used to or appreciate them yet. It's been a real catastrophe curve of a year, so time passes without me noticing it.
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I think the argument boils down to two things: what you earn, and what you picture in your head as a rich person's lifestyle.

£70,000 is in the 95th percentile for personal income. This means that if you earn £70,000 you earn more than 94% (or thereabouts) of people. If you're earning more than 94% of your fellow countrymen, you ought to be rich, right? Like, if you're better off than the vast, vast majority of people, you should feel well off, or else how must the poor buggers on less than you feel?

The problem is, of course, that £70,000 doesn't actually buy that much these days. Like, it won't get you a mortgage on a decent house anywhere in the home counties. It won't buy you a new car and a couple of holidays every year after housing costs. It won't pay school fees for your little ones to go to private school once you've paid for housing costs either. £70,000 a year doesn't feel rich; and that's what the problem is.

If you look at the lifestyles our parents had, well, this is what my parents did in the 80s:
  • owned a home
  • bought a new car every two years
  • didn't go on foreign holidays but DID send me to private school
  • were in the pub three nights a week
etc., etc.

Now, I'm not saying they didn't work for that: they did. My dad had two full time jobs (mild mannered biology teacher by day, superchef by night) and my mum worked 9-5 too. They worked bloody hard. But the same amount of work in the same jobs these days would get you, if you were lucky:
  • a rented house that is one of three poky little Barratt boxes built in the back garden of the kind of house your parents owned
  • a second hand banger that you run till it dies, or a bus/rail pass
  • a cheap holiday for now, but only until brexit happens and then we have to pay visa fees and the exchange rate is knackered and oh look we can only afford Butlins
  • Pre-loading because the pubs are so bloody expensive, thank you alcohol duty escalator
Now most of the people I see arguing about this are either saying "£70k is mega rich, you're in the 95th percentile FFS" or "£70k is not that rich when you consider what you can buy" but not many are following both thoughts through.

How bloody scandalous is it that even if you're in the 95th percentile you are still struggling, and you are well worse off than your parents would have been on an equivalent income adjusted for inflation etc.? If 95% of the country is not getting a good enough income, that's a bloody disgrace and somebody ought to do something about it.

Anybody know any politicians?
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The relevant part (and the reason why I am posting this) will also be made bigger and bolder for those hard of thinking people. I thought I'd post the whole thing again though, just because it's periodically useful to do so.

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Happy Solstice

21/6/17 10:16
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Arachnia Janeway)
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... especially to all those of us who fear the filthy day star and can now look forward to inexorably encroaching cool soft darkness for the next 6 whole months :)
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
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... and to nobody's surprise it is Vince Cable.

I like Vince, as a person. I like his stance on bees. I like his dancing.

None of those three things makes him suitable to be leader of the party, though. I mean, yes, he's got long service. And he did that one joke when he was acting leader that one time. But I'd really like something more than that to enthuse about in a potential leader.

Plus, there's all the things that make him unsuitable to be leader:
  • He's not a liberal, he's a technocratic centrist. This is fine if you are (shadow) chancellor; commendable, even. It's not acceptable in the leader. The leader needs to inspire. Technocratic centrism is the opposite of inspirational.

  • His stance on brexit is... at odds with the majority of the party's members and voters is probably the kindest way of putting it, and is already bringing out the "but we must appease the racists! We can't tell people they are wrong!" faction. If he wins, and maintains this stance, I predict a halving of our membership in pretty short order.

  • Tuition fees. OK, so he's not entirely to blame for the policy cock up (all those of us who voted for coalition, myself included, must take out share of that blame) but he is the person responsible for the catastrophic mishandling of the implementation and representation of it, and a big part of the reason Labour, why a party which introduced and then trebled tuition fees, can still point at them like an albatross round our necks.

  • The British Press, bless them, are not known for their nuance and balance. His name will be "Sir Vince Cable, the man who privatised the mail" - whether he wins the leadership or not, tbh.

  • Ten years ago he declared that by his own reckoning, he was too old. I do not believe he has got younger in that time.
All that said? I'll give him a fair hearing at hustings. He'll have his chance to impress me. I just don't see him doing it.

So far, to my knowledge, the field looks like this:

Definitely not standing: Jo Swinson, Jamie Stone, Layla Moran, Tom Brake, Tim Farron, Alistair Carmichael
Probably not standing: Stephen Lloyd, Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine
Probably standing: Norman Lamb, Ed Davey
Definitely standing: Vince Cable

If anyone else declares that they are definitely standing I shall go into my reasons further, but based on Ds&Ps, and subject to persuasion at hustings, I expect my ballot to look like this:
  1. RON
  2. Davey
  3. Cable
  4. resigning from the party
  5. Lamb
There has been talk that there might be an online ballot this time, rather than a paper one. If that is the case I shall lobby very hard indeed for it to have at least one free text box for write in candidates and/or voting RON. Voters should be able to express their displeasure at the options on the ballot on any and every ballot, this one included.
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Yoga

18/6/17 08:35
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Think I've actually managed to book for a yoga class this morning online?! That never used to work. Living right across from the gym, it wasn't a big deal: I just had to go over there with my card and scan it, but this is even better because I can do it before they open this morning.

When I went to the website I was asked to do a little survey, so I got to vent a bit there about how ableist they've been.

Went to yoga on Wednesday for the first time in a while and it was great as usual but, having started this at New Year, I'm not used to being sweaty while I'm doing it! It makes my hands slippery which is no good when the likes of Three-Legged Dog is hard enough for me anyway. I suppose I can be grateful that this isn't a problem I'm going to have most of the year.

(Man, this morning I've already washed all the dishes and tried to clean the coffee off the kitchen floor (I always miss some, because everything in our kitchen is black!), did laundry and hung it out in the sunshine, and went to yoga. And it's only 10:30. I feel far too virtuous a person and am glad I had crisps for breakfast so I have some evidence that I'm not.)
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Coping mechanisms

15/6/17 10:11
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What a day. Usually I say "when Lib Dems get annoyed about something we write policy motions" but tonight I'm setting up a whole SAO to represent a raft of policy.

The party leader stepped down quite suddenly yesterday. Among other things I like him because he really "gets" immigration and has always said it's an actually good thing and not just something we have to hold our nose and put up with for the good of the economy, which is the best you'll hear from most politicians, if you're lucky.

Since some friends and I had been talking about setting up a group within the party (that's what SAO means) to advocate for and support good policy for immigrants, we're doing it hopefully quickly now so ideally we can make sure whoever the new leader is, is at least as good on stuff that affects immigrants.
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miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
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One of the most depressingly predictable things about the lib dems is if/when a leader gets pushed out, the circular firing squad immediately forms.

This morning lots of people I care about are screaming "it's all YOUR fault, you bastards!" at each other, in an extremely unhelpful way. They probably all have something of a point, if I'm honest. But hurling insults at each other is just hurtful. And some of the rank hypocrisy on display from people who are saying things to the effect of "wah, those arseholes are being mean to me, when all I said was Tim Farron/Jo Swinson/Vince Cable/Brian Paddick should be eviscerated with pointy spoons and have acid poured in the wound" is frankly turning my stomach.

And we haven't even started the leadership election yet...

* sigh *

Shall we have a nice chorus of Wouldn't It Be Nice If Everyone Was Nice?
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Having blogged recently about how nice it's been the last couple of years not having to post about the stupid decisions Our Glorious Leader has taken twice a week, every week, I had this drawn to my attention this morning.

I'm sorry, Tim, but what are you DOING? The absolute worst possible thing you can do right now is water down our position on brexit. It's a colossal national act of self harm, in ten years' time you won't be able to find anybody who will admit to having supported it, our membership and voters are massively against it, and you want to tie us to it? Have you gone COMPLETELY Tonto? Why are you spouting the brexiteers ridiculous "will of the people" line? It doesn't make you look grown up, it makes you look weak and stupid.

Our USP at the moment, the one thing we have going for us, is that we are solidly anti-brexit. We already watered it down far too much in the manifesto. And you're throwing even that away? For what? We're not going to get any positive press for it, the press are uniformly hostile whatever we do. The only press we will get out of this is "See? Brexit is inevitable! Even the Lib Dems support it now!" That's not going to attract new members and supporters, in fact it will drive away lots of the existing ones.

And worst of all, it proves all our critics right: we look like weak, unprincipled fence-sitters.

Honestly, what is it with the lib dem instinct to, every time we manage to get a USP, throw it away? I'll never bloody understand it.

Dispirited

13/6/17 22:47
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This month's WI committee meeting wasn't quite the standard I've become used to. Most of us did stay for a drink after, but the conversation got around to politics and one of my favorite WI people turns out to have exactly the opinions about immigrants that the tabloids want her to: conflating them with refugees and asylum seekers, and generally thinking they're handed a much easier life than she has had.

We tried to tell her (I'm not the only immigrant sitting around this table, and the other one had actually worked with refugees and asylum seekers), but you can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't get into rationally.

Eventually someone had to leave to catch a bus and a bunch of the rest of us left too. I got home and had a hug from Andrew and made myself something easy to eat. But I'm still feeling rubbish.

You work so hard, and people are still going to think the group you're part of is the cause of all society's ills. And that it's somehow okay to tell you this when you're supposed to be out having a nice time (and planning for all the nice things we're going to do).
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Here's my current top ten:
  1. Jen Williams - I'm with Gadsden on this, Jen is the best political journalist in the UK right now. Mancunian focus, but covers national stuff too. Forensic with information, and does proper investigative journalism as well as straight reporting. If you only follow one from this list, make it Jen.

  2. Marina Hyde - absolutely brutal yet hilariously funny political columnist. I've never yet read a Marina column that didn't make me laugh, then think, then laugh again.

  3. Samira Ahmed - freelancer who pops up all over the place, often Radio 4. Her twitter feed is exactly the kind of blend of politics and geekery I adore - her recent visit to Bamber Gascoigne's house was a delight. Often connects geekery with politics, which is fab.

  4. Rosamund Urwin - Jobbing journo, mostly writing for the Evening Standard. Excellent spotter of details, possibly because she's just as much of a politics geek as those of us in it up to our eyeballs, and is therefore paying more attention and getting more right than many of the lobby hacks.

  5. Jessica Elgot - Grauniad politics correspondent. Jessica is where I go for straight Westminster bubble news, as it happens.

  6. Judith Moritz - BBC North of England correspondent. Was astoundingly good on Hillsborough, among other things.

  7. Susan Hulme - presents Today In/Yesterday In Parliament on Radio 4. Excellent coverage of stories some others don't pick up - recent example being the gay concentration camps in Chechnya.

  8. Isabel Hardman - writes for the Speccy on politics. Also very good on mental health issues. Not to be confused with Oakeshott, who is Wrong Isabel. Don't follow Wrong Isabel.

  9. Joanne Douglas - Yorkshire politics, with a focus on West Yorkshire, especially Huddersfield. Like Jen Williams, Joanne digs deeper and goes harder than most local paper political journos.

  10. Helen Pidd - Grauniad North of England correspondent. So dedicated to the depth of stories is she that she took in a Syrian refugee last year.
Yes, this is C&Ped and edited slightly from an earlier entry. And you're going to keep getting it until people pay more attention to the ladies on this list, and less to the ill-informed cishetabledwhitemale lobby hacks that dominate political commentary in this country.
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