Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Broadcast Bingo 2: Labour Party Election Broadcast, complete with unsurprisingly shit music

This post can also be found on the Th!nk About It blogging platform here.

And now for the second round of quite possibly the geekiest game you’ve ever played: Broadcast Bingo.

Last round the Conservatives scored a measly 3.5/10 for their failed attempts to avoid clichés in their party election broadcast. And one of their 3.5 was awarded for the novelty value of name dropping a Spice Girl.

Will Labour have any equally cringe point enhancing moments? I wonder…

But not for long, because here, my friends, is Labour’s party election broadcast. Sit back and enjoy…

Broadcast Bingo Results:

Length: 3.08

Times Brown says “Brown”: 0

Interviews with potential voters: 0

Cameron bashing: Nothing direct

Needless celebrity name drop: 0 sadly

Shot of sickeningly sweet child: 1

Times “recession” mentioned: 5, with numerous mentions of “downturn” (4) and other synonyms

Times “Obama” mentioned: 1 (but with many shots)

Amount of shots of campaign banner: 0

Best line: “Barack Obama and I share the same values…”


Background music: Sounds like a GCSE music project

Generic people-walking shots: 1,000,000 approx.

Some Very Serious Analysis:

The broadcast begins, worryingly, with three shots of Brown that look as though they were recorded by a stalker, perving on our PM through a variety of key holes. But at least this stalker’s cool; his peeking is accompanied by guitar chords.

And yet, despite the GCSE music-project soundtrack, Brown moves on to succumb to the clichés we have come to know and love.

There is, for example, the token shot of a cute child. Although this one doesn’t have any aspirations to save the world, penguins, or anything else, thank goodness, and stays mercifully mute.

There is also, as in the Conservative’s attempt, shots of the party leader on trains. I’m still unsure as to why. Fast moving, perhaps; forward thinking? Whatever – any link is tenuous at best.

Unlike Cameron, though, Brown managed to avoid saying his own name repeatedly. But perhaps this was because he knew that doing so wouldn’t do him any favours. Also, unlike the Tories, Labour’s broadcast didn’t feature numerous interviews with potential voters, singing the praises of the PM. But perhaps that’s because they couldn’t find anybody.

Labour instead stuck to what they do best: Brown-nosing (yes, I did it again) Obama. With a substantial 24 seconds of the three minute video dedicated, in some way, to Brown’s favourite special relationship.

What was, perhaps, surprising, was the amount of time that Brown spends in schools. Which worried me a tad. And the copious amounts of generic people-walking shots, so numerous I stopped counting. When I was working at Sky News, these shots were what you included in long packages when you’d run out of material… It’s hardly comforting that Labour struggled to fill 3.08 minutes.

Yet again, a predictable broadcast with few surprises. Unfortunately for Labour, they lose a quarter of a point for not including any celebrity name-drops. But they claw back one point for the interesting use of pervert-filming technique at the beginning. As such, the Labour party election broadcast video scores…

Barack Obama marks Gordon Brown out of 10...

Barack Obama marks Gordon Brown out of 10...


Broadcast Bingo 1: Conservative Party Election Broadcast, complete with sickening child and Geri Halliwell

Feel free to read – and vote for! – this post here.

For most people, May is the month of bank holidays and occasional bouts of sunshine. For those unfortunate enough not to switch the news off promptly, May is also the month of election party broadcasts.

But although the façade of impartiality knocks many viewers sick, I have revelled in the election broadcasts. For they have enabled me to develop a game, entitled Broadcast Bingo, which has made my May much more (get that alliteration!) enjoyable.

In this post, and those that follow, I plan to embed the video of a party’s official election broadcast video and tally the amount of times the party resorts to clichés in order to persuade us to vote for it.

(The fact that these parties don’t consider that resorting to clichés, much less inspiring the voter to vote, is far more likely to inspire the voter to sigh and switch off the TV – or in my case, get excited and blog  – astounds me.)

First up, the Conservatives. Sit back, and enjoy…

Broadcast Bingo Results:

Length: 4.46 – it’s a long ‘un

Times Cameron says “Cameron”: 4

Interviews with sceptical voters who will now, of course, vote Tory: 10

Brown bashing: 4

Needless celebrity name drop: 2

Shot of sickeningly sweet child: 1

Times “recession” mentioned: 1

Times “Obama” mentioned: 0

Amount of shots of campaign banner: 1,000,000 approx.

Best line: “I’ve started a campaign called Save The Penguins…”

Some Very Serious Analysis:

Set against a backdrop of campaign banners shouting Cameron’s name at the viewer, and an unnecessary amount of shots of Cameron in a variety of modes of transport, the Conservative party election broadcast does not disappoint when it comes to clichés.

The child with the sickeningly sweet voice who wants to save the penguins should comes as no surprise, and neither should the numerous interviews with apparently sceptical voters who have now been charmed by Mr Smooth himself.

There were some shocks though. Such as just one mention of the recession. Must have slipped their minds when they were brainstorming current issues that affect voters. And the fact that Cameron avoided name-dropping Obama was also a bit surprising. But that all made sense when I saw their ‘Vote For Change’ slogan at the end. Hats off to them for that subliminal messaging.

Whilst we’re on the topic of name-dropping, though, the Geri Halliwell mention was unexpected. And, to be honest, unnecessary. Who’d have thought that in Cameron’s 4 minutes and 46 sections to convince voters that he’s the man, he’d consider name-dropping a Spice Girl a good use of two seconds?

In summery, a completely uninspiring campaign election video that ticked almost every predictable cliché box. But the Tories gain an extra point for the Spice Girl reference, and so, in this – the first round of Broadcast Bingo – the Conservatives score…

Geri Halliwell Marks David Cameron Out Of Ten...

Geri Halliwell Marks David Cameron Out Of Ten...

Th!nk About It: The Electoral Commission give us one reason not to vote in the European Election: pain

The Electoral Commission obviously felt the need to demonstrate what a painful experience voting in the European Election can be…

Still, at least it’s marginally more engaging than plugs.

Th!nk About It: As the European election approaches, the Christians don’t reduce me to tears and/or sleep

This post can also be viewed – and voted for – here.
What do Nick Griffin and Sarfraz Manzoor have to do with the European election? More than most think.

Nick Griffin vs Sarfraz Manzoor? My money's on Manzoor.

Us British Th!nk About It bloggers are at a disadvantage – a disadvantage highlighted, somewhat ironically, by Danish blogger Mads Frederiksen – which is that, with less than 50 days to go, the British media still aren’t covering the European election.

Which, as you can imagine, makes blogging about the European Election in the UK – without writing about the aforementioned lack of media coverage (which I have already overdone) – somewhat difficult.

Thank goodness, then, for Christians; those of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reform churches to be exact. Because this month they released a briefing on the importance of the European elections, which is not just interesting because the Christians appear to be the only people who currently care about Europe – but also because it explicitly warns against the dangers of political extremism.

The briefing (which can be seen here), produced by a joint public issues team, explains the upcoming elections under the titles: who are we electing; what am I voting for and how do I vote.

(The comprehensive way in which the brief explains complex issues in less than 500 words makes me think it might be worth becoming a Christian – imagine how easy life would be with a handy briefing on all difficult topics.)

Then, following in the footsteps of the Bishop of Manchester who in March urged a boycott on the BNP, the leaflet moves on to discuss political extremism – and in doing so, manages to avoid the pitfall of most (all?) other EU propaganda: inducing the reader to tears and/or sleep.

It says that the churches believe “the policies of extremist and racist political parties are incompatible with an understanding of God’s love for all people” – and calls on Christians to counter these parties, stating:

Using your vote is one way that you can stop the racist political parties from being elected.

The briefing highlights how the proportional representation of the European elections makes it easier for extreme parties like the  BNP (British National Party) to get seats, and how the current economic situation might help these parties reach power.

(Indeed, headlines like this hardly fill one with confidence.)

But in order to avoid parties like the BNP getting seats, the innovative Christians urge everyone to use their vote. Good on them.

Indeed, I’m wondering why this reason to vote hasn’t been used more frequently – I’m certainly more likely to vote faced with an argument about banishing the BNP, rather than faced with an advert about, say, light bulbs or chicken packaging.

And just in case anyone’s wondering why the BNP need a good banishing, it’s because this week they announced that journalist Sarfraz Manzoor doesn’t exist. Indeed, its not just Sarfraz Manzoor who doesn’t exist – it’s all Black and Asian Britons. Instead these people should, according to party chairman Nick Griffin, be referred to as “racial foreigners”.

As Manzoor says:

On the plus side, this means I do exist, but rather than watching a film, I may now have to spend the weekend staring into the mirror trying to work out who is staring back at me.

In light of this, the briefing of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reform churches has never been more accurate or relevant.

And in light of this, it makes me all the more angry that this briefing will be read by so few in the UK.

Th!nk About It: The Jury Team – a paradoxical party with a good advert

This Th!nk About It post can also be viewed here.

A good advert by a bad party

A good advert by a bad party

So there I was, trawling through the job listings on w4mp when I came across a rather unusual advert.

For those who don’t know, w4mp is a website primarily for parliamentary interns that lists available jobs in Westminster. Most are unpaid; the rest are under £25k a year.

It was with surprise – and more than a hint of suspicion – then, when I came across a job with a salary of “€91,980 plus expenses”.

I thought it was some kind of joke.

The listing states:

Based in Brussels, with some time in Strasbourg, you will carry huge responsibility, acting as an Independent-minded MEP.

Yes. An advert for an MEP in the upcoming elections has been listed on a website for interns.

What party, I hear you cry, would try and recruit interns as members of the European Parliament?  And how on earth can someone be an independent-minded MEP? Surely an MEP votes in line with their party, right?

Wrong. If we continue reading…

Although advertised by the Jury Team (a political party), if elected you will be free to make your own decisions and vote as you wish on behalf of millions of people within your region.


Unfortunately there’s no turning to the party’s founder, and former Tory HQ director general, Sir Paul Judge for clarification. Because in an interview with the BBC’s Daily Politics he described the Jury Team as a “not-party party”.

Clear as mud, Sir Judge, clear as mud.

So I resorted to the party website

Are you unhappy with the way things are? Do you believe they can change? By joining the Jury Team, you are becoming part of a political party like no other.

The Jury Team is a political movement created with the goal of making politics more accessible, politicians more accountable and political institutions more transparent.

The Jury Team intends to put forward 70 candidates for the UK and we are offering everyone the chance to run as a candidate for the European Parliament.

How very revolutionary. And the revolution doesn’t stop there; because the Jury Team are a new political party, and in virtue of this – as with all new parties – they need a gimmick. UKIP had Kilroy-Silk – the Jury Team has “modern technology”

The BBC dedicated a whole article to the gimmick: the party’s candidates will be selected by text.

I mentioned that I was suspicious when I saw the advert listed on an intern website; the oxymoronic “not-party party” did not quash these concerns, and neither did the texting gimmick. But what makes me most uncomfortable about the Jury Team is its paradoxical nature.

Bear with me.

Let us recall the ‘relativism paradox‘: relativism fails because the relativist says there are no absolutes, and yet has to claim that the relativistic principle is absolutely true. The principle is undermined by its very existence.

Now let us consider the Jury Team, or what I will entitle the ‘Jury Team paradox’: the Jury Team fails because the Jury Teamist says the party-political system is corrupt in virtue of having different parties with different aims. And yet the Jury Team is a party with its own aims (the 12 “proposals” can be found on the website) – the details of the aims are irrelevant.

The Jury Team is undermined by the principles for which it stands; it is undermined by its very existence.

I am still not entirely convinced the Jury Team is not a joke.

Either way, though, its advert is pretty damn good – see top of post. And for that I’ll forgive it a multitude – if not all (it’s hard to ignore inherent paradoxes) – sins.


Th!nk About It: laptops, milk or voting in the European election?

This Th!nk About It post can also be read here – as ever, feel free to vote for me!

News flash! The European Parliament has launched its election campaign materials. With unsurprisingly blue results.

It is likely that there’s more hanging on the forthcoming election than ever before (global economic crisis/EU expansion/Eurozone problemos) – so let us have a quick look at what the EU thinks sells the EU.

The brief presented to advertising company Scholz & Friends (I love the “& Friends”) was: “to draw the voters’ attention to the elections’ relevance for their own personal life and to encourage 375 Million European citizens to vote”. No, I don’t envy them their job either.

Pray tell, then; what exactly have the powers-that-be decided will encourage us to vote in June?

Chicken packaging, apparently.

(All graphics: Scholz & Friends)

(All graphics: Scholz & Friends)

And plugs.


Thankfully, though, it doesn’t end there -there is more to life than chicken packaging and plugs and the EU know it.

There’s also the eternal dilemma of laptops vs milk.


And books or satellites or tractors.


I concede here I am being a tad harsh. At least the issues these last two images are supposed to represent (balancing family and career and investment in education/farming/technology) are important, even if not done justice by the reductionist nature of the photographs.

Other issues that the EU feel will spur us to vote – as far as I can tell from the often obscure graphics – include security, genetic modification, fuel, energy and border control. And the economic crisis, let us not forget the economic crisis.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forget the economic crisis whilst perusing the campaign materials – for it is given as much prevalence as chicken packaging (one billboard in twelve).

Scholz’s friends have, I fear, let him down.

Surely, when considering what is going to encourage  375 million European citizens to vote this would be the main – perhaps the only issue – to plaster across billboards throughout the continent. For now at least, I think it’s fair to predict that the standardisation of plugs is the last worry on most peoples’ minds. I fear it is unlikely to spur one EU citizen to vote, let alone the other 374,999,999.

Yet again, I regret to say, the EU has let itself down when it comes publicising its – often hugely valuable -purpose. Capitalising (almost a pun!) on the economic crisis, and the EU’s ability to actually do something about it, had the potential to inspire millions to vote in an election they didn’t even know existed last year.

Instead, these millions of EU citizens are likely to spend the run up to June wondering whether they prefer milk or laptops, and whose great idea it was to reduce the economic crisis to a photo of a lion and a cat. (Oh, Scholz.)


Th!nk About It: thanks for your time, Libertas

(A version of this post can also be found here, and you can vote for me if you so wish.)

I know that something dodgy’s going on when I attempt to interview someone and they willingly agree.

This is because my opening sentence usually involves the following words – so hated by most that they are often followed by the slam of a phone in its receiver – “student journalist”. When the all-too familiar slamming does not come, I am immediately suspicious.

(As an aside, a perfect example of someone cashing in on the benefits of student journalism is Bridget Fox, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Islington, London. Her willingness to conduct interviews and give quotes has certainly done her no harm: on our website, Islington Now, she is not only featured in a worryingly large amount of articles, but also has a glowing feature all to herself…)

But back to the point.

My suspicions were also aroused, though, when I called up Libertas in December for an article I was writing as part of a job application about the effect of the economic crisis on perceptions of the EU in Ireland and the UK. Thrilling stuff, I know.

Libertas, your bus stops here.

Libertas, your bus stops here.

But despite the exciting subject matter, Libertas were not just polite in answering questions – they arranged for a “senior policy adviser” to call me back the next day and answer my (often stupid, in hindsight) questions for an hour.

I smell a rat, I thought. There’s something fishy going on here… (And then I spent a short time wondering whether rats smell fishy.)

I was reminded of Libertas’s over-eagerness to engage this week, when I read, on, that they have launched as an official political party in the UK.

I was intrigued. How would the British press respond to this news, I wondered; how would the British public react?

I am still wondering.

I turns out that my Google News search function is not defunct as I originally believed: the British press have, quite simply, not covered the story. (With the exception of, understandably, the BBC and less understandably, Sky News.)

There are a number of reasons why the news has not been covered. Perhaps it is, as Mardell highlights, because there is no sign of a manifesto in sight. More likely, it is because the British public couldn’t care less.

And with this, Libertas’s eagerness to speak to me became clear. No, it wasn’t because they were praying that my article might get published somewhere (ha!). Neither was it because they have a penchant for talking to young – and horrifically misinformed – interviewers (I hope).

It was because they have to grasp at any opportunity – literally, any opportunity – to speak to the British press with both hands.

At their UK launch, Libertas even embarked upon some Brown bashing – the British press’s favourite activity of late – arguing that Brown “deceived” voters by not holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

If even Brown bashing doesn’t spur UK newspapers to write about them, things for Libertas – and any future British campaign they may embark upon –  aren’t looking too great.

Th!nk About It: How do you make £1m? Become an MEP

(Also posted here…)

This time last week I said:

I reckon there’s something wrong with all expenses over £100,000. Forget second home, that’s a second flipping salary, that is.

But that was before I came across this Monday’s findings of the Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA). And I thought UK politics was bad.

Yet another paint masterpiece...

Yet another paint masterpiece...

The TPA somehow got their eager campaigning hands on a leaked EU document called the Galvin Report (download here), which, it says:

revealed so many examples of poor financial controls, dubious practices and outright abuse of taxpayers’ money that it was kept secret from the public, and only a handful of MPs were allowed to see it on the condition that its contents were never revealed.

But the crux of the TPA’s findings – which should help dear old Jacqui Smith sleep better at night – is the following:

Over and above their salaries an MEP can personally earn a further £1 million during a typical Parliamentary term through their generous allowances and expenses

The report was based on a sample of 167 payments, out of a total of 4686, made in October 2004. And I’m going to assume – with, I grant you, no proof what so ever – that as the report has only just been published, repercussions have been somewhat lacking – and things have only got worse.

But there’s more. Because, it seems, £1 million might not cover quite as much glass and mussels as an MEP might like, the TPA also state that MEPs can expect a 47 per cent pay rise after this June’s elections; British MEPs could soon earn a ‘take-home’ salery of £68,801.

By george. I want tips! What sneaky tricks are these MEPs resorting to? I want to take notes in order to make the most of my future expenses-fuelled career as a journalist… (Difference being that I’ll be earning approximately £54,801 less than a British MEP.)

Thanks to the report, I now know that – if one wants to make the most of one’s expenses – one should claim money for fictional assistants, of which no record exists. And pay any assistants that do exist up to 20 times their salary – just to use up the full allowance. I should also, if so inclined, claim money for companies who have done absolutely no work for me.

This, it transpires, works for European Parliament members. I have a feeling it won’t work quite as well for a trainee journo.

Still, prior to this discovery I was feeling guilty about my two EU-expenses-paid trips to Brussels. I must admit, I feel a tad better now.

Th!nk About It: more disappointment, with love from the BBC

Drum roll please… the BBC appear to have launched their ‘European Elections 2009’ efforts – with disappointing results. (This post can also be found here, on my Th!nk About It Page. Yet again – feel free to vote.)

More interesting than the EU?

More interesting than the EU?

I appreciate that this bemoaning of the BBC follows very much in the footsteps of my last Th!nk About It post, but when attempting to cover the EU from a British perspective your media options are bleak. To say the least. Most nationals avoid mentioning the EU at any cost for fear – I assume – of being tagged with the deadly label “pro-EU”, and even the BBC hides its ‘Inside Europe‘ page behind a confusing maze of links and graphics.

Once, however, one has managed to overcome the BBC’s attempts to keep you away, and reached Inside Europe, one might – if one looks hard enough – come across a piece entitled ‘Vote For Us’.

It was at this point that I got rather excited. And not just because when I see an EU name-drop in the British press a Th!nk About It light bulb lights up in my head – an energy efficient one, of course Etan. No, rather, I was excited to see how the BBC was going to kick off its election articles. I was disappointed. Even the first line:

Voters from across the European Union will be electing a new European Parliament in June – the first election since the EU enlarged in 2007, with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

inspired in me nothing but a sigh. A huge number of British citizens don’t even know they can vote – and I don’t think this introduction will have them running for the polling booths. The non-inclusive tone of “voters from across the European Union” (ie, “them, not us”) is only going to add to British EU ignorance. And although whether or not the BBC has an obligation to increase the UK public’s knowledge of the EU (what with being a public corporation) is another question (and one to be raised by someone with far more authority than me), I certainly don’t think it should be misleading. Yet, arguably, this is what the first sentence is.

I won’t even draw attention to the fact that it doesn’t give the date of the election.

Things appear to look up, however, when the BBC promises a couple of sentences later:

Here, leaders of the political groups in the outgoing parliament explain why, in their view, people should turn out to vote.

Great, I thought. Something really informative. Something that will not only give me something interesting to blog about, but will also (and maybe slightly more importantly) provide the European voter with compelling, balanced and helpful information enabling them to make an informed decision on 4th June.

Yet again, I was disappointed.

What followed seemed to be a series of SENTENCES (yes, just one sentence) pulled from press releases. A series of seven one-sentence adverts for political parties that appear to say little more than: “vote for me… please, vote for me!”

To illustrate my point:

“For us the European elections are very very important”

“We’ve got a chance here – where there’s no wasted vote – to try to actually say what we think”

“It is very important that electors and voters understand that they have to go to vote, because this is not peanuts…”

And with that, I found myself distracted by a picture below the article captioned: ‘Elephants kiss each other’ and along with (I’m sure) the rest of the British public, I clicked on it, leaving the BBC’s coverage of the Parliament elections far behind and not looking back.

Th!nk About It: EU jargon, and the 73 pages that Mardell won’t blog about

In yet another desperate attempt to keep the EU light-hearted (and yet another successful – if I do say so myself – attempt to avoid “serious EU issues”), hereby follows my second Th!nk About It Post. As before, you can vote for me here.

Reading Mark Mardell’s Euroblog like a good Th!nker I today came across his most recent post entitled Learn EU-speak. My first thought was that the post was horrifically short at just 103 words – but then I realised it was less of a post and more of an advert for his Radio 4 appearance tomorrow:

What’s at the heart of the problem? Hear my answer on Radio 4 this Sunday 22 February at 10.45pm (2245 GMT) at the end of the Westminster Hour. It will be repeated on Wednesday 25 February at 8.45pm on Radio 4.

I appreciate that I have just copied his advert for more to see, but firstly, I wanted to demonstrate the blatantness of the advertisement-pretending-to-be-a-post, and secondly, because who can blame him?

(For non-Th!nkers, Mardell spoke to us in Brussels at the launch event and blogged about it here. I, for one, was slightly disappointed with his post. Most of the comments directed at him were about the lack of “official” bloggers’ links to “normal” (my term) bloggers and not only did he not mention this in the post, but neither did he link to any normaltons. Pah.)

Nevertheless, I am grateful for Mardell’s lack of words on the subject of, urm, words. For it means I can blog more about them here.

When I went to Brussels in December (independently of Th!nk About It, not independently of the EU) I was given the following:

73 pages of excitement

73 pages of excitement

This is, my friends, a book on EU Jargon entitled ‘E! Sharp Jargon Alert’. And it’s 73 pages long. A visitor, apparently, needs 73 pages just to understand what’s being said – I don’t even want to think about how many pages would be needed to understand what is actually going on.

Here’s a taster, from the ‘C’ section:


And that’s only about half of the ‘C’s. I’d be surprised if Barroso and Pöttering together would be able to explain them all.

As such, I think it’s clear to all that the EU has somewhat of un problemo with language. But I don’t think that warrants Mardell’s question: “Does the EU shroud itself in obscure language on purpose?”.

Surely we can forgive an institution has been developing since the Second World War and has 23 – yes, 23 – “official languages” a confusing lingo?

Let’s look at Mardell’s answer to his own question shall we? Oh no. I forgot. We’ll have to wait for his radio show tomorrow…