If you’re looking from a break from Will&Kate love then you will be pleased to know that was the last mention of them here. I may discuss the equally/more dull topics of revision, octopodes and local politics, but you will not be forced to endure any pink clipart or wedding themed mugs.
This Easter has found itself rather late and long in the school term, only adding to the pressure to get revision well underway. I can honestly say I’ve never been more motivated to do well in exams in my life. It’s not that I care much about getting impressive grades or A stars (In fact I resent the flawed A2 star system already, and it hasn’t even wronged me yet) but I care hugely about getting into university. I’ve nearly shed blood over it already. Three A’s, that’s what I need.
Am I on track? I guess it’s easy to say this post is evidence to the contrary, but consider it a confession. A fair amount of my time wasting will be documented here so you’ll be in a better position to judge me by the end.
The most dangerous form of revision distraction is “reading around the subject”. I’ve met those requirements just from my normal life, so it’s one area I don’t really need to make any more effort with. Not that it stops me from excessive newspaper reading and current affairs interest. Yesterday I watched Prime Minister’s Questions, not out of some huge concern for my Politics Module 3, just because I wanted distracting and the vague relevancy of it made it too attractive an excuse to pass up. I’m sure a few of you have been waiting for a feminist barb to emerge in this post, best get it over and done with for you then.
Maybe some of you have seen the video of Cameron telling Angela Eagle to “calm down dear” when she corrected him getting his facts wrong in Prime ministers Questions. Maybe more of you have the sense to not watch PMQs. In any case, I think this is another case of some of the frontbench conservatives rather dropping their kind PR act and letting slip an older brand of conservatism. It seems that when they are pushed to answer a difficult question they panic and their instinctive public school defence mechanisms kick in.
Actually, the Osborne one is worse if he is indeed whispering “shall I say Pantomime Dame?” then its a good deal more premeditated. That said, at least George Osborne was making a reference to something that had actually being mentioned in the debate which is more than we can say for David Cameron.
Every now and again I’m reminded how useful Ancient Greek is. Even a subpar GCSE level of knowledge such as mine. Someone made a reference to a ‘cephalapod’ recently and I was quite pleased that the etymology of it meaning “head feet” makes quite a lot of sense given that it describes Octopodes who have a brain in each leg. Of course, I was only able to use that word Octopodes because I know how to decline my greek 3rd declension nouns. If the biology of this marvellous animal is of any interest to you (and it may be to two Michaels in particular) they have two legs and six arms and 40% of their brain function is decentralised into 8 brains, one at the base of each ‘tentacle’.
Another useful thing I’ve noticed about Greek is what a convincing hypochondriac I could make. Watching Hugh Laurie’s House I’ve discovered I can often predict plot events using the ‘jargonistic’ diagnoses, “if the child is born with porphyria of the skin then it must be a kidney problem” Porphyria is Greek for a dye, probably purple or scarlet (even the Gospels can’t agree, what colour of robe did Jesus wear at the crucifixion?) I spotted the purple skinned baby the second it emerged and was thus able to get the diagnosis a few seconds before Jesse Spencer delivered his dramatic line. Next, there was a baby born “hypoxic”, “GET IT ON OXYGEN” I shouted at Dr Taub. Alas, if he’d known his etymology he would have known the baby was lacking oxygen. Instead he stood there and blubbed about it looking blue. Perhaps I should buy a copy of John Taylors Greek to GCSE textbook for my GP.
If by some miracle I’ve convinced you of the worthiness of the Classics in our schools, perhaps you could ask your parents to bear it in mind when they fill in the School Development Plan at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RBP8YKM
As well as their passionate and eloquent defence of the classics, your parents (ie: you) could perhaps raise awareness of the need for more school support of MUN, in particular, long term staffing of the group.
You might be surprised I’ve made it for so many weeks and half a dozen paragraphs here without any mention of the fast approaching Stormont Assembly Elections, Council Elections or AV Referendum. So am I to be frank, I’m even more surprised it should be one thing that hasn’t really distracted me at all. I feel quite bad, for some misguided reason, people do ask me for my thoughts and I’m led to believe some of them even listen to me, so I should really have something more substantial to say.
I think to a large extent the way people vote won’t be determined by parties and arguments, but by what they perceive the vote to be for. What question are they seeking to answer with their vote – The future of the Union? The past performance of each party? The future goals of each Party?
Since the Good Friday Agreement and other declarations established the principle of “no united Ireland until a referendum in both states approves it”, why have we continued to see the dominance of Green, Orange or Other politics in Northern Ireland? I mean it really shouldn’t matter, because whoever ‘tops the poll’ or indeed whoever gets a majority in the assembly elections will not lead to a constitutional change.
Of course the other explanation is that a deliberate lack of substantive policy from most of the parties perpetrates this, as voters simply don’t know what else to vote on. There’s no doubt that our stormont elections lack the real policy scrutiny that we saw in last years general election for Westminster. However, a fairly decent way for you to perhaps broaden your mind, policy wise, would be to take a look at the Belfast Telegraph’s ‘dating service’ like mechanism for matching you to a party. Don’t assume it’s right, it doesn’t consider parties past performance, it doesn’t consider the personalities in the party (which are hugely significant in local politics) and it doesn’t consider, though it tries, what your priorities are. However it is far more useful, in my opinion, than any campaign literature of party election broadcast.
The election leaflets are useless, they all boast of the same inoffensive goals, “an end to violence… growth in the economy… creating jobs… caring for our elderly… better education for all” I mean, who exactly is going to stand on a pro-recession anti-health anti-education manifesto? Though, looking at a few of them…
The election broadcasts on TV aren’t much better. The UUP has a rather shambolic race track analogy, though they did at least hire one attractive actor to play themselves. Lots of DUP bashing going down, though I disliked the usage of the words ‘mandatory coalition’. How very deceptive, if the UUP didn’t want to be in the coalition, they could have opted out! Powersharing requires only that the ministerial positions on the executive be distributed between the parties who agree to take them. The SDLP are playing a similar game here, only without attacking Sinn Fein quite so viciously. I saw a poster on facebook saying this was a clever tactic, Ian Parsley perhaps, ‘if you insult a voter’s party, you insult the voter’ I see some truth in that. Even if the SDLP’s tactics are better, I find it hard to get over the fact that Margaret Ritchie seems to think she can physically imprint her words on voters by spitting them out with prize winning diction. She erupts words such force I’m left incredulous that they ever fitted into her mouth in the first place.
Of course, all the parties look less dire this year when they are standing next to the BNP. I’d always considered the opposition to the BNP to be morally right and a good thing, but at times slightly hyperbolic and hysterical. Seeing that leaflet drop through the letter box though really brought home the revulsion I have for that party. Their leaflet had a sort of ‘ghost aryan girl face’ superimposed on a union jack. It was sickening. I’ve said I feel bad for not having more advice for people this year, but I can give one crystal clear piece of advice, do not vote BNP. In fact, fill out every preference for every other party if it denies the BNP a seat.
I guess I should address the other new minority party here, UKIP. Whilst I don’t condemn them anything close to the BNP, I would still like to briefly make a few points against them. The first is that they are founded on a euroskeptic basis. We only need to look around at our many schools, museums, motorways, trains and businesses that owe their existence to EU funding. UKIP pose a very Pythonesque question, “What have the Europeans ever done for us?” If you bother to think about it, a lot. Northern Ireland has benefitted from free trade and movement of labour especially, as we are actually connected to another EU member by land, which can’t be said of Scotland, Wales or England. Many of the objections to the EU simply don’t stand up when scrutinised, the claim that the EU increases business red tape for example. In actual fact, when the EU introduces legislation it means that rather than a business having to comply with the differing legislation in each member state, dozens of laws and standards to meet, they only have one set of rules to follow. This makes it a lot easier, it also prevents much of the hidden barriers to trade that reduce the efficiency of our markets.
Looking back to the three questions I think people may ask when they go into the polling booth, to vote with our STV system (we manage it in Northern Ireland, it must be the product of our fantastic education system and IQs of 150) “The future of the Union? The past performance of each party? The future goals of each Party?” I think we should probably tone down the significance of the first question, given that it’s extremely unlikely the first minister position or results of this election would make any difference and that both sides are fully aware of the needs for referendums. If we’re to use the second question, voting on past performance, then by most standards we would vote against all the parties in the Executive. Sadly, that doesn’t leave us with anyone to vote for, so I suppose you could justify claiming that SF and DUP, being the largest parties in the Executive, should shoulder most responsibility (or indeed credit if you see it that way) for the success of the last Assembly. I was just speaking about ‘most standards’ there of course, what about by Northern Irish standards? By the latter, I’d say simply existing is probably a glowing success, the fact we haven’t plunged back into violence may be enough to justify your vote. The nature of our system which makes it so difficult to single out a party for blame or praise makes this second question less useful too, so it seems that most of my vote will be decided by the third and last question, the future. Basing my vote on the answers to that last question might be the most responsible thing for me to do, but the leaders debate, election broadcasts and party literature just hasn’t given me any real help to answer that last question. The most useful question perhaps, but definitely the most difficult.
Anyway, I hope to write a bit more later on in the week. Perhaps I’ll have formed a clearer idea about my thoughts on AV by then.
All that’s left to say is that whether it was a …
… Gospel …
… Mel Gibson …
… Pagan …
or Andrew Lloyd Webber Easter for you,
I hope it was enjoyable.