Monday, 26 May 2014

Politics: UKIP, and the EU Elections

It's obviously easy to call UKIP names, and it's hard to defend a group with so many unsavoury characters. Avoiding what the 'racist' tag that so many have used, numerous candidates have made comments about other groups. Paul Forrest said that gay men are '10 times more likely' to be child abusers than 'normal men'. PinkNews posted a list of the most homophobic comments that UKIP candidates have said. Finally there's the quotes from donors about gay people being incapable of love, and the infamous Winston McKenzie called gay adoption 'child abuse'. Then there's the comments about women. Whether it's Godfrey Bloom's 'slut' comment, Marchessini's claim that 'there's no such thing as marital rape' or the fairly sizeable list of blunders that surround the party.

Now obviously there are incidents like this among every party, take Labour (x2), The Tories, even the Liberal Democrats become embroiled in it from time to time. The difference with UKIP is there sheer quantity of anecdotal evidence with a relatively small amount of members. There's the obvious argument that the newspapers are focusing on Farage's party - which is almost certainly true - are they really any worse than others? It's hard to say.

Obviously their tough stance of immigration sets them apart from any of the the three other main parties, and makes them an easier target for the label of 'racist'. Their policy of a points-based system is used, as we've been told many times, in places such as Australia but it's a lot more strict than the EU 'open-door'. This is somewhat like the Greens' green-energy policy in that it bridges policy areas. Obviously it's an immigration policy, but that should hypothetically fix jobs, strain on public services, and even crime if they're correct about it.

My main problem with UKIP at the moment, away from their personal opinions, are the fact that as a party they have no policies at the moment besides the referendum on EU membership. Farage's banishing of their prospectus means his party has no manifesto to run on. A combination of protest voting, emotive policies, and tapping into the reserve of non-voters gave them an unprecedented boost in the local elections, and now the European elections too. The fact that the former landed on the same day as the EU elections probably helped to boost their results in the council balloting.

Many hailing the emergence of a 'four-party system' may be premature. A lot can change in a year before a general election, and that's where the UK Independence Party will really be decided. It's a completely different contest, with votes being no promise of seats in the House of Commons. Normally UKIP lose about a third of their vote share - generally due to the increase of non-EU voters. They are, though, the first ever 'minor' party to 'win' a national election - if they hang on to the lead they have in the European Parliament. If any government were to give a referendum on EU membership then they could negate UKIP altogether.

I would hope that the main parties would also be able to come up with a way to counter-act the personality of Farage. They seemed to decide very late on that the negative attack wasn't the way to go, and empathy was a better option. Unfortunately for them, after the former, the latter seemed false.  I would assume that, whatever Nigel says, they have picked up a number of protest votes. Obviously we as yet have no real idea whether they'll stick with UKIP or go back to their 'original' parties, but for Farage it looks like more plan to vote for his party than in any of the previous elections, so it's a positive for him.

Voting for UKIP does kind of feel like shooting yourself in the foot. They don't represent the national interest whilst there, as most of the time they either don't turn up or vote against any policy. That can only mean that they get bypassed when policy is being debated, and don't really get any input. Although the EU is pretty complex when it comes to introducing policy anyway so it's not quite as clear cut. The only saving grace, in terms of the rest of Europe's perception of us, is that far-right parties have been elected from all over, including France 's National Front 'winning' the election over the Channel. There are positives from elsewhere in Spain, and Italy so it's not all bad, but this Parliament will be very interesting to watch.

Just a quick note on my personal vote, The Green Party. I am genuinely shocked that there are people who believe that their policy, that leader and deputy-leader must be different sexes, is in itself sexist. I think the way it's meant to be viewed is that the leadership will always be representative, at least in when it comes to men and women. It's interesting to note that on Reddit somebody posted:

"Very nice but forcing a random woman into power rather than having a normal selection process isn't the way to go about it."

Which I definitely think is sexist, as it suggests that the 'best' person for the job is a man, which is not the way that the Green Party saw it when this policy actually put a man in for a women. While both sexes can be incredibly empathetic to the other it's not the same as living it. Representation is an important part of politics, and in some ways the 'best' person for the job is solely down to the life experiences they've had.

Also, I'm slightly disappointed that they seemed to have picked up absolutely no votes from the Lib Dems. Not surprising, as my incredibly intelligent friend Michael points out, when the main issues were the EU, and immigration, among other things. Both of which the Greens are on the 'wrong' side of when it comes to the electorate. Interesting though, for the overwhelming coverage that UKIP received, even during the local elections, the Green Party have had limited reports.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Life: Month of May

This month has broken me in pretty much every way possible. Exam season is one of the most draining experiences of my short, and sheltered life. Maybe my travels around the country last month hasn't stood me in the best stead for my month long attempt to frantically learn all the material I didn't pay attention to in the last eight.

Some relief came in the way of America's finest, The Wonder Years, Real Friends, and La Dispute. The former and latter being incredible, especially La Dispute in the wonderfully intimate Bush Hall in London. Coupled with Rangers' beautiful Stanley Cup run - despite coming in less than great circumstances with MSL's mother. Dom Moore's story is equally as sad, and ESPN's story on his wife reduced me to sobbing. I was ready to donate £50 to her foundation before realising I couldn't at all afford it.

All of this - plus my friend's journey around the world - has led to me trying to live that life where you try to experience things as much as possible. I wish it were easier than it sounds. I did book a trip to Paris with Lauren for after exams as a present to myself (and her). The fact my dad had a whole load of Eurostar points helped too. I'm afraid that means a lot of photos of the Eiffel Tower in a couple of weeks. Arcade Fire are actually playing over there at the point when we're going (yeah, the title was a reference), but alas they've already sold out wherever they're playing.

Before that there's three of nine exams left before we get to that point though, and so far they've not gone badly. That is, other than one which went horribly. Just three left. Actually rather excited for 'Professional Computing', in which I can let loose all of my political-ish knowledge. Politics and computers, my favourite. The only thing that could make it better is if I can sneak Brand New lyrics into it. Panic attacks are becoming ever less an issue, which is nice!

I've turned into one of those 'lads, lads, lads' too, having won £7.50 off absolutely nothing on Paddy Power. Starting off on a £1 free bet on their ol' games, which you can fairly easily get something out of if you put it on Blackjack, from there some 25/50p bets have done pretty well. Shout outs to Rangers, Barney, and a whole host of IPL teams for their help. Cricket has been pretty big in our house as of late.

Of course it's the also the European and (some) local Elections today, and it looks like UKIP have done rather well in the council seats which doesn't bode well for the counting of EU votes. It's always strange to me that so much discussion about what the party should do to engage with voters. Obviously that's part of the job, but if all parties moved to where the voters lay then there'd be no choice. In fact, they've left a gaping hole that UKIP seem to have exploited. I feel awful for Jeremy Vine and his terrible map, he looks alright when he's got all of the graphs in front of him.

I'm gonna go revise now (okay, maybe 1:35 in the morning isn't really the time, and I accept that wholeheartedly)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Sport: The FA Hate The Lower Leagues

The FA today revealed a number of proposals to help boost the England football team, as they "have a duty of care for English football and not just to football played in England." That said, with these proposals they seem to have completely ignored the latter in order to further the national team.

18-21 Development

B Teams

Yesterday Danny Mills said that a 'B Team League is not on the agenda'. Although he was technically correct the report contains the suggestion to create 'League Three' with ten conference teams, and ten B teams from teams in the Premier League. So, while these ten teams get to further the development of their youngsters with competitive football effectively at conference level, the rest are surely going to fall behind still playing in an U21 League that allegedly isn't doing its job. I assume this league would continue to operate, but without a lot of its best talent - which would hamper the players left. All of this for a hypothetical 9 extra English players per-season.

The report suggests that playing in front of 'real crowds' against 'older players' who rely on the league for a pay packet would benefit the players involved. It's an awfully cynical way to exploit grafters in the conference, but not wholly unsurprising. I thought one of the ideas of the current loan system was for exactly that purpose, and has the added bonus of not playing your home games in front of a half empty stadium - even Barcelona B have only had an average attendance of 4,000 people this year. Admittedly a lot more than the U21 League, but also very similar to League Two.

These B Teams also wouldn't be able to go above League One, which to me seems counter-productive. Surely players at this level aren't good enough to go straight into a Premier League team, and would still need more time out on loan in the Championship. Or, alternatively, be able to play against bigger clubs in the FA/League Cup in order to get bigger match experience. Something also not allowed.

I can see that having a B Team can be beneficial to the teams who have them. The players would be able to train at high-class facilities, have the best nutritional advice, and have much better coaches, alongside being able to learn the ethos of the parent side. I just wonder if it's worth it for all the other teams.

As part of this there is the commitment to supporting financial stability among the lower leagues. This is pretty much the only good reason I can think of for B Teams for those that wouldn't directly benefit, but they could make these kind of commitments without ruining the league structure.

Strategic Loan Partnerships

SLPs have the potential to be mightily beneficial, but again at the potential expense of competitive football in the lower leagues. I'm not sure whether teams would be able to have a B Team and enter into an SLP - and even larger teams may not have enough players for that. We would start to see a similar situation as that between Watford and Udinese on a far more regular basis. Teams would be allowed to field five players from their parents team, and take eight on loan at any one time.

This is slightly better than the B Teams. It doesn't require the restructuring of the league system if implemented by itself, but still has a few of the same downfalls. Also it's not entirely clear what would happen if one of these teams were to get promoted into the Championship, or conversely if one of the parent clubs got relegated.

Regulating Foreign Players

Homegrown Players

Homegrown player rules are quickly becoming the norm, with player caps already implemented in almost all leagues across Europe. However the FA want to reduce the number of non-Home Grown Players from 17 to 12. Which would obviously mean that over half of a 25 man squad would be Home Grown - although not necessarily English. Plus four 'Club Trained' players. Allegedly United, Munich, Barcelona, and Real Madrid would all have met these requirements easily, but many clubs in Europe use a different model than the Premier League clubs who try picking up every talented player they can get their hands on. Home Grown quotas seem to be where the game's heading, and they're not overly invasive unless pushed to their extreme.

Non-EU Players

Where I disagree with the FA most is on the subject of non-EU players. They suggest that there should be no non-EU players below the Premier League, with only two being allowed in any PL club. I don't think a cap is particularly bad but lower leagues not being allowed to bring in players from outside of the European Union seems like it could create problems when teams come up, as well as being horribly patronising to those not in the top level. It would be interesting to see what happens when teams with non-EU players are relegated, as the check is only at the time of being granted a work permit I assume they're allowed to stay on with the club. However, it's also a bad thing for the Premier League, one widely regarded as being the best in the world, if it had to compromise on the talent in the league to benefit the England team.

Previous FA reforms have harmed teams in the lower leagues. For example, the EPPP only truly benefits those in the top category, who can pick up players on the cheap. The Premier League is a huge asset, and I just hope that the league isn't ruined by the FA trying to further a national team that's never going to be world beaters anyway. These are only half of the proposals with the rest to come later in the year, but there's going to be a lot of opposition already.

Sunday, 4 May 2014


I don't think it's any secret to say that Brand New are one of my favourite bands, having tallied up thousands of plays and nine shows since they graced the poster of Reading 2009 and my love began. This time they were over for eight shows during my Easter Holiday, which is just screaming for a road trip. I guess, due to the train being my primary mode of transport, it's just a trip. I apologise in advance for this reading like a diary entry, because it basically is. I meant to update as we went along, but I thought I'd get something down after the fact seeing as it didn't turn out like that.

Starting off in Southampton and London was a blessing; due to the proximity of both venues it meant I could sleep in my own bed - something which I came to miss in the week after. Although that said, I did have to go to the former with my father, so I suppose I did pay a price.

From there the adventures began! First up to Leeds, where - after eventually finding the right Travelodge - I finally got to meet Shannon, who I've known from the world wide web for quite a while now. Is always really cool to get to meet 'new' people! Unfortunately the Reading vs Leicester match had been moved to a Monday evening for Sky, which meant I had to circle the city looking for a pub showing it. When there I got talking to a lovely man who had the misfortune of supporting Nottingham Forest. After seeing The Royals throw away a lead yet again I decided to head to the Academy. I definitely thought that Leeds would be a more raucous city, probably didn't help that my late arrival meant I experienced the gig by myself. The aftershow 'party' was pretty cool, and got to run into the `hardcore` who were all doing multiple dates - the majority doing all of them.

Glasgow was up next, which meant having to concentrate real hard when it came to Scottish accents. Most of the time it wasn't too bad, but Kim and her dad have an almost impenetrable wall of sound that's impossible to decipher. There was also a conversation about jaywalking, that exactly mirrored one I had in Leeds - kinda spooky. Onto the famous Barrowlands, which is a beautiful little-ish venue, in the heart of Celtic country by the sound of it. Kim and I befriended a loveable fella, who had no friends into Brand New - which is a crime. Another internet friend became somebody I know irl (sort of), as Zoe was dragged over by Kim. (Apparently I'm taller, and happier in person - make of that what you will). Plus running into William Brown for the first time in almost a year was lovely. On the way out somebody decided to throw beer over my head, which wasn't so great. Despite staying with Kimberley she decided to head home, as the rest of us went out to the infamous Cathouse. I've head a lot of stories about this shadiest of nightclubs, but it actually isn't that bad. Just how you'd expect a Glaswegian alternative night to be.

From Glasgow it was back to the North East to Newcastle. On the train down two girls sat across from me very into The Front Bottoms. Kate, and... Kate's friend, who I would run into later in the night as she screamed and made disparaging comments about my group of friends. What is with children, on pretty much every train between Leeds and Manchester there were kids screaming their heads off, it felt like I was in a bad sketch. Newcastle itself is rather grim, especially when sitting in Gotham - which isn't the world's nicest establishment. I actually stumbled on the back of the Academy whilst Vince and Garrett were outside. Was no chance in the world I was going to go up to them, mind. The worst thing about Newcastle was in the gig itself when Jesse acknowledged that they were playing the same setlist, and vowed to change it up for the next three gigs. After all, it's not like they played all albums back-to-back recently. The aftershow party this time was in a rather odd venue, and involved Kim and Jamie's incredulous exclamations about how I didn't know songs (generally, I was too young), and myself rapping Childish Gambino's 3005. One of the highlights of life.

The day off gave me a chance to go see one of my housemates, Natalie, up in her native Guisborough. A surprisingly nice place considering it's positioned somewhere between Redcar and Middelsbrough. A full bladder, and a hangover that had only just kicked in made the forty-five minute journey from Darlington one of my least pleasurable. The plan from there was to go out in Redcar for a bar crawl, which wasn't as bad as expected. Especially, it turns out, when you spend a majority of the evening talking about wrestling. Although, a word of warning, that can actually alienate the non-wrestling class.

Another early start was because I had to get from Middelsbrough to Wigan for the Reading game. I actually had to go into Manchester to come back out. I decided to leave my stuff in left luggage, which turned out to be the most expensive decision I made. (£8 for three hours?). Plus then watching a 3-0 loss, not getting back into Manchester early enough for The Front Bottoms but still catching half of Saves the Day. It was basically the worst scenario I could've imagined. Changing up the setlist apparently means starting with a Nine Inch Nails' cover that nobody knows. Great. Plus when outside the shirt I bought off a tout was, deliberately I think, two sizes too small. I wanted a shirt with the tour dates, but I must have got there too late for them to actually have any left. The fact it was Good Friday meant that the trams were finished, and I had to leg it for a bus - so I didn't actually find out the shirt was too small until it was too late. It's now a present for Lauren, though, so not all bad.

Then were the two Hit The Decks. First up was the lovely Bristol. For the second time in five days I managed to go to the wrong hotel. The worst part this time, though, was that I had come from almost exactly where I was meant to be. The fifty minute walk I had could have been five. Proper Ibis are pretty plush though, I'm definitely a fan. When I finally got into Bristol I ran straight into Murray (it's rather gutting that I got into both Bristol, and Nottingham just after The Xcerts' sets), and then old school friends, alongside Peter and Natalie [2], which was pretty strange but very cool! Bristol doesn't really work as a venue for Hit The Deck, everything is a twenty minute walk away. I imagine it would have been a lot better had you not been walking everywhere for a week prior. The increasing frustration at Brand New's static setlist semi-boiled over, but Propaganda is enough to take anybody's mind off Jesse Lacey and co.. Especially when you're pretty much the only people in it.

The final day! Hit The Deck in Nottingham, a city dear to my heart. Rain hit at exactly the wrong time as I struggled toward the Premier Inn. My legs, by this point, were rather dead, and my feet were in so, so much pain. Eventually Lauren managed to actually get to Nottingham, after doing her best to miss out, and the final day fun could commence. Gnarwolves in The Rescue Rooms was kinda mental, that band have got big things in store. Plus I always forget quite how much I like KIGH. Good thing they're playing everything before they split up later in the year. I ended up getting a Talon of the Hawk vinyl from Kate - who was temporarily TFB's merch seller as the band went to load out, which my mum proceeded on spilling tea over when I eventually got home. The final Brand New show was probably the best, although the relief from them not opening with NINs is probably not to be underestimated. It was a fun week. It was a good week. It was a tiring week.

Jamie's pessimism about whether they'll ever be back, or even a band for much longer, has got through to me, and if it was the last time I'll get to see them then it probably wasn't the way I'd like it to end. The shows a couple of years ago were much better, but without any new material it was always fairly likely to be like that. That said, if they never do come back, then I'll be quite happy with The Front Bottoms. New favourites.