Posts Tagged ‘protest’

About two and a half years ago – at the end of 2011, there was a public sector strike – a big one. At the time, I wrote:

No-one in the UK could have been unaware yesterday that there was a public sector strike. Or to be precise, there was a day of action called by several trade unions, and about two million people (give or take, according to which source you favour) took action, refused to work, marched, protested and otherwise signified their displeasure with the policies of the current coalition government, specifically about pensions.

At the time, some people – mainly tory politicians – argued that since the union strike votes received low turnouts in some cases, they were somehow less valid. And again, the same case is being made this week, by David Cameron among others. It’s utter nonsense, of course.

Utter, total, complete, nonsense.

But not for the reasons many suppose.

The main case against the “low vote” argument seems to be “well, how many people voted for the coalition?”

This, in my view, fundamentally misunderstands two, completely different, votes. An election and a resolution couldn’t be more different, either in process, organisation, or result.

How someone is elected and how resolutions are voted for are never the same.

You don’t tend to get alternative voting in resolutions, simply because it’s usually a choice between yes and no, between aye and nay.

A much better and more appropriate analogy would be something else that is a choice between yes and no, between aye and nay, say… how they pass laws in parliament. 

So if Tory MPs want to say that unions should have a minimum turnout for votes for resolutions, then they would presumably accept the same in Parliament.

And, to my astonishment, they do.

There is a quorum for divisions in the chamber of the House of Commons. There is – I checked.

You want to know what this quorum is, how many MPs are required in the Chamber for national legislation to be passed? Given the Tory MPs anger and passion about this, you’d expect it to be a sizeable number or percentage, yes?

It’s 40.

40 MPs in the chamber, and a vote can take place.


Out of 650.

I’ll save you the maths. It’s a little over 6%.

So, with 6% of MPs in favour of a law, it can pass, yes?

Well, no, that would be stupid, wouldn’t it? That would mean that all 40 voted in favour.

No, the number in favour only needs to be 50% plus 1 of those attending, i.e. 21

Or a little over 3%. To pass national legislation. And in the House of Lords, the number is smaller still: 30 peers need to be in attendance.

30. Out of a House of Peers of 779 currently able to vote.

Conservative MPs are lucky that trades unions don’t say “you know, you’re right; we’ll accept minimum strike ballot turnouts… at the same percentage you lot have in parliament.”

Tory MPs? Shut the fuck up about trade unions requiring minimum votes for strike votes, eh?

Everyone has their stock of favourite phrases; like Pavlov’s canines, all it takes is the right circumstances, in most cases an appropriate feed line, and you’ll once again trot out the expected response.

I once worked with a man who, whenever he heard the word ‘assumption’, would respond with “assumption is the mother of all fuckups.” It might be true, but the 874th repetition tended to take the gloss off its importance.

I’m as guilty as anyone, and I know I’m guilty of it, which reduces my culpability not one iota.

All anyone has to say about comics is that a company doesn’t care about the quality of their comics, or that they’ve treated a creator badly, and I’ll respond once again with the reminder that comic book companies aren’t in business to make comic books, they’re in business to make money.

Yes, I know – trite. But true.

Anyone who’s worked for me over the years will have heard the following often enough:

The one thing I hate above all other things is people thinking we’re stupid. Either as a company, a department, or as individuals. The only thing worse than that… is us justifying that belief.

That one applies in life as well.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s what i call a stupid comic or stupid movie (one where the makers of either have assumed the reader/watcher is stupid) or a stupid argument, comprised of lazy thinking.

I was once called a “corporate whore”.


I was at a party, and someone was banging on about how any executive of a company was, by virtue of helping to run the company, inevitably selling themselves purely for the rewards offered, and was prepared to do anything to retain those rewards, inevitably unfairly exploiting those who worked (the implication being the staff were the only people who did honest work) for the company along the way.

And, driving over to friends last night, I found myself getting angry at this kind of lazy thinking again while listening to a talk radio station.

Now I know that there are numbered rules of the Internet, but I’ve come to think there are only two that really matter: (1) Wil Wheaton’s “Don’t be a dick.” and (2) “Never read the comments.”

I should apply the same to talk radio, but I find it fascinating and when it comes to serious issues, as a general rule LBC is better than most radio stations for screening out the idiots and letting intelligent debate occur.

Last night, the presenter was discussing the Occupy movement. I’m genuinely unsure where I stand on the issue. Many of the central arguments I sympathise with, but some of the solutions proposed are irritating, non-practical and, frankly, ignorant. On both sides, I hasten to add.

It’s as ignorant, in my opinion, to suggest that everyone attending and camping out at the various Occupy protests worldwide is a professional protester (thank you, Alan Sugar) or just there because it’s fun as it is to suggest that everyone working for a bank or financial institution is equally (or at all) responsible for the financial crisis.

However, what really upset me was the statement made by two callers, suggesting that if you didn’t agree with their viewpoint, it was because you’d been “brainwashed”.

To think this, or even worse, actually believe it, is lazy thinking at its worst.

It’s insulting to others and to yourself, as the inevitable consequence is that you can cheerfully abdicate the responsibility for arguing your case, and while it may – you think – provide a conclusive point, all their correspondent ends up believing is that you’ve run out of arguments.

Patriotism may be the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson is reputed to have said. But an accusation of “you don’t agree with me because you’ve been brainwashed” isn’t the last resort of the brainless, just the lazy.

And it assumes that I’m too stupid to argue against it.

As I said earlier, I hate it when people believe I’m stupid.

I just hope I don’t justify the belief too often.