We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A horrible sight in central London.

While elections for the British national government are not due until 2006, there are lots of less important elections. This week, we get to vote for the mayor of London, various other local government positions, and for the European parliament. As television and radio political advertising is illegal in Britain (yes, really) we are not bombarded with media political campaigning the way people are in the US or in my native Australia. But one gets to see bits of campaigning just the same.

As it happens, I was today having lunch in a cafe in Tottenham Court Road in central London. As I was doing so, a large open topped double decker bus with lots of balloons on it, and various people standing on top came down the street. Yes, it was the RESPECT coalition, George Galloway’s bunch of anti-war anti-American anti-Blair pro-Saddam Hussein idiotarians. And there was George himself standing on top.

Delightful. I was sitting in the sun, having a pleasant lunch, and I was given the added opportunity to make rude gestures at George Galloway, which I proceeded to do. I would have also liked to have shouted something along the lines of “Go to prison you treasonous money grubbing genocidal dictator loving scumbag” or something like that. However, I was sitting with an Arab friend of mine with whom political discussions are sometimes interesting and who had been nice enough to pay for my mushroom ravioli, and I really didn’t want to cause a scene.

Sadly, the belt buckle on my digital camera’s case recently broke, and as a consequence I did not have the camera with me and I thus did not manage to get a photograph of this tremendous piece of political action. Remind me to get the strap fixed.

14 comments to A horrible sight in central London.

  • Last week I was sitting here at the computer and suddenly I heard a voice. I went out onto the balcony, and there it was, the voice of Gorgeous George, booming out over Bethnal Green, instructing all and sundry to vote Respect. That guy gets everywhere.

  • I think I’ve sighted the bus-o-lurve myself. My husband and I were on the Isle of Dogs looking over the water to Greenwich last weekend when a large ballon-strewn bus vehemently gabbling some sort of nonsense paraded itself around the quays area.

    At the time, we were debating between it being full of radical religious nutters or radical football nutters. I see that it’s most likely that the bus had an even more unsavoury filling.

  • Gives new meaning to the phrase “bitch on wheels”…

  • Here in Edinburgh there was no evidence of an election until Saturday when I saw one Green Party poster on a lamppost. Today I have been in several parts of the city and there is now a mass of posters from both the Greens and the Scottish Socialists, but absolutely nothing from any of the mainstream parties. Presumably their activists are sitting this one out.

  • Hawk

    Hey Michael

    get that camera strap fixed! 🙂

  • Johnathan

    Michael, come on, as a proud Aussie, you surely should have upheld the er, direct customs of your robust nation, either by various hand gestures pulling down your trousers and pulling what is known in parts as a “moony”.

    Seriously, I find it quite amazing that Galloway is at liberty and not spending a lot of time having chats with the police. Given all the stories about the corrupt UN oil-for-food programme to Iraq, the wanker surely has some explaining to do about his various trips to see Saddam.

  • Guy Herbert

    Interesting there’s no sighting of the People’s Alliance AKA the New Party. Perhaps its fuehrer chairman has despaired of getting the public sufficiently worked up about direct democracy and the aggregates levy. Perhaps he found out how expensive real politics is.

  • mojo

    No, no! The “peace sign” goes the OTHER WAY round…

  • Jonathan: In the Australian dialect of the English language, the expression would actually be “to give him a brown eye”. However, I am not that kind of Australian.

  • Prolix

    “… find out what it means to me…”- surprising that more people haven’t bothered to- or not, I suppose.

    At the risk of being labelled an Islamophobe (but then, that is what anonymity is all about, right?- not too much risk) I too have noticed that political discussions with Arab friends of mine have tended to turn out badly, and are generally best avoided. I remember a conversation I had with a friend, originally from Syria, who is completely secular, seeking US citizenship, and a very competent engineer, who suggested that the world would not be any worse had the Nazis won WWII. Not that he liked the Nazis much- just that the eventual victors turned out just as bad, in his eyes. Backed up with the inevitable “you just don’t know cause your media and education systems are so biased”.

    Hard to know what to say to that- he is a very nice guy- had never talked politics with him until after 9/11, when talking politics became all the rage… and when positions became pretty polarized for just about all of us. Sometimes I miss the 90s.

  • Heard Galloway this morning say “a vote for Blair is a vote for a bullet in the back of an Iraqi child”. My dislike for Tony Blair is eclipsed by such statements from this barking mad cretin

  • I know the bus of old, He has it based in Glasgow and it comes out every election. In 2001 I noted, as I wandered down the Byers Road, that of the 20 or so activists on the top of the ballon infested bus, only two were of non-arabic/sub continental hue. Admittedly I was sciving from my patch just across the Kelvin, but I also noted that every second person that I spoke to on the schemes in Maryhill were agitated about immigration.
    The man was dreadful then and is dreadful now.
    Funnily enough I also seem to recall that my load and abrasive comments as he passed – doubting the paternity of his socialist policies – rather pissed off my wife who was helping me campaign under sufference.

  • Amelia

    Prolix- I have a very nice Syrian client who once spent an hour trying to convince me of the glories of Peron. I did leave thinking his worldview was completely warped.

  • Jon

    Oh dear. I’ve a great deal of respect for this blog, particularly for the desperately-needed libertarian thought that the UK apparently does not currently care much for. But I think this post (‘A horrible sight…’) is a bit much, and I shall try to explain why.

    Admittedly, our choice of who to vote for is a rock and a hard place. The voting population (i.e. the 30% of eligible subjects who can be bothered to exercise their privilege) are largely unprepared to vote for anyone other than the fairly centrist mainstream. Accordingly the majority vote for business as usual, the status quo. And, this being a democracy, they should of course be free to do so, even if I don’t agree with them.

    In fact, it is that this country is meant to be a democracy that drives my entire train of thought. As idealistic as it might be, I want a government that holds its hands up when it gets things wrong, tells the facts as they are regardless of how complex they are, and tells us what it thinks, regardless of how unfashionable particular viewpoints may be.

    Accordingly, the lies we have had to tolerate from Tony Blair and George Bush over the situation in Iraq, and of the need to push further on the ‘War on Terrorism’, simply cannot be ignored. I should state here that this, on my part, is no idle sound-bite or sloganeering. Time and again, official UK & US claims have been subsequently shown to be false, from the implied linking of Iraq to 9/11, to the 45 minute claim on WMD, to the existence of chemical weapons factories, and so on and so forth. Govt reports on Iraq were found to be plagiarised dissertations from years ago, and once the WMD claim had been disproved, we were told that this major war justification was no longer important.

    There are much more detailed expositions of the Western war propaganda available for anyone interested, written by authors much more learned and expert than I. Suffice it to say that this current culture of lies and evasiveness needs to go, and it is widely believed that the results of the recent elections are proof that a large percentage of the voting populous feel the same way.

    Hardly anyone, even George Galloway, would disagree that Saddam is an evil man, but it is frustrating that the Right suggests that this is a good reason for invading sovereign territory without clear provocation. Indeed, the worst of the human rights abuses in Iraq occured whilst Saddam was an ally of the West (another fact that is rarely discussed or recognised within mainstream media). We were apparently prepared to tolerate the murder then, so how can it be used as a justification now?

    It was clear that UK domestic opinion before the war did not want an invasion, and comments from the US indicated that Blair could have decided against joining the coalition. But in the end we did, and we seem to have bugged the UN too, in an effort to help the US ‘persuade’ (that’s doublespeak for ‘force’) other countries to join in the fray (did anyone see Blair stammer his way through that press conference at Downing Street?).

    The truth is that the US has forced us, as their ally, into a war that broke international law, and that our own Lord Chancellor is likely to have legally advised us against. We bugged our partners in Europe, we have refused to take a stand against the obscenity of Guantanamo Bay, and have even installed our own ‘Camp X Ray’ in Belmarsh Prison. The UK administration seems unprepared to recognise that the US is making an enemy of itself in the Arab world and beyond, and that we are now being tarred by the same brush. We should not consider it outside the bounds of possibility that Arabs and Iraqis see US-led wars in the same way as we saw the 9/11 attacks on America (both involve the massive loss of innocents).

    Our actions are actively encouraging the terrorism we are fighting. So, rather than taking a principled stand against American unilateralism, we turn ourselves into another hated icon and, potentially, a terrorist target. Partly as a result of this, we find the need to clamp down on freedom and civil liberties at home, in the same way as the US is tearing up its own Constitution.

    In hating Galloway and his party for his radical views on wanting to remove proven liars from office, you make it more acceptable for politicians to do what Blair and Bush have done. I have traditionally not been a fan of Europe (and here I hold my hands up and say I voted UKIP in ’97), but in the current climate, rejecting the EU outright pushes us closer to a right wing, religously fundamentalist, nationalistic and unilateralist America that is selfishly promoting itself as the ‘only way’.

    As much as I am uncomfortable with moving completely within Europe, I would suggest that we have to keep an open mind on it; I think it is our only feasible way to maintain a healthy distance from the US. If we were to move closer to Europe, the continuing assault on our liberties domestically would, in theory, cease, as we would then be able to position ourselves internationally as more neutral and reliant on diplomacy. This is not to say that we would never fight another war — we may have to — it is to say however that we will not be dragged into things simply because America wants us to.

    Galloway does have views which are radical for British politics — but radicalism is by definition something that will upset the status quo; it will change things massively. I have to admit I don’t agree with him on a number of issues, but I am certain that a massive change is exactly what this country needs.