Thursday, 28 November 2019

Fighting to lose

There are many things to be said of Tony Blair, and by now I imagine all of them have been said repeatedly.

His government deliberately delayed progress on LGB rights, and was the only government to ever legislate away the hard-won human rights of transgender people. It gave the NHS a short-term fix that was consciously designed to bankrupt the organisation in the long term, relying on Labour being out of power by the time the chickens came home to roost. It brought in a - most welcome - minimum wage that the Liberals were attacked for critiquing by the unions and then a decade later the unions started attacking it using the self-same lines as the Liberals had used. It delivered partial devolution of power but kept in the hands of the PM the valuable power to appoint peers as a way of bribing people to toe the party line. There was a spending boom off the back of a bubble that the government totally screwed up and nearly wrecked the economy. There was then another spending boom off the back of a different bubble that the government totally screwed up and really wrecked the economy. Iraq. The trans tax. And so on. You know the score.

However, what Blair did that no other Labour leader has managed in my life, was to properly win. As a general rule of thumb no matter how good or worthy or wicked or cruel your plans, no matter how well you have spun them this way or that, if you don't get in then it is unlikely to come to pass. Very occasionally you get your plans into action regardless: the NHS was implemented, albeit somewhat botched, despite the party behind it not getting into power in 1945; phase 2 of the Bedroom Tax was rolled out similarly in 2010 despite its architects having been shown the door.

What Blair realised - and maybe it needed losing four times in a row to give the vision painful clarity - was that for all the theoretical and philosophical stuff, in practice there are seats Labour can win from the Tories, and there are seats the Liberals can win from the Tories. There is a small amount of drift, perhaps 1% a year, in each seat on this but the general lesson is that there are places where for example the least Labour can get is 5% and the most is 30%: either way they lose, but a couple of thousand people's decisions about whether to vote Labour decides whether the seat goes Conservative or not.

In 1997 Labour and its activists engaged in a pincer movement with their counterparts in the  Liberals. To be broad brush and so slightly misleading about it, Blue-Gold seats got hammered by the Liberals and Labour stayed quiet or went elsewhere; in Blue-Reds the Liberals sat on their hands while Labour went to work.  Tories found they were fighting on two fronts against an enemy that has declared more-or-less a truce on its own internal battle front.  Result: a stonking Labour majority and a big Liberal bloc with the Tories out of power for a decade.

Contrast to 2010, 2015, 2017 and - on the YouGov poll last night though it ain't over etc etc - 2019. Labour keep setting off on a battle plan involving taking out two enemies at once, despite having seen time and again before how that is a strategy entitled How To Get Second Place But Not Win.

General Melchett would be proud of them.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Manifestos Lack Surprises

In this year's second season of I'm A Voter Get Me Out Of Here we are on to week three and the party manifestos.

The Liberals have gone with the idea of a Britain that is in the 21st century and feels kinda hopeful and outward looking and has friends who are a bit different from us but we love them anyway. And revoking Article 50 or having a People's Vote with the options "Stay" or "Go".

Labour have gone for the idea of a Britain that is more 1970s-ey. Nationalised industries, not liking queers or immigrants.  And having a People's Vote, with a ballot paper offering the options "Leave" and "?".

The Greens gave everyone a chuckle by starting their manifesto launch with the words, "we are different. We offer a People's Vote." You can get away with that if you're first but when you're third in the line it doesn't quite have the oomph. If only they could come up with a different pair of options.

Plaid have, remarkably, said they will be putting Wales first. This is a big departure from their 2017 manifesto, "Sod Wales, What About Uruguay?" - amazing they've never thought of that one before.

The Tory manifesto has yet to be launched but seems to be pretty much Labour's manifesto with "owned by the state" crossed out and "owned by one of our friends" written in with a crayon. There'll be some racism to keep up with Labour, and they have expunged the MPs who liked the queers so don't hold your breath on that front.

Their unique selling point will be a manifesto containing no People's Vote. On Johnson's record, that makes the Tories the people most likely to deliver one: it's always what isn't in the manifesto that makes all the difference, like when Labour didn't put in killing a quarter of a million civilians in an illegal war because it's not a big thing.

So if you've got shares in Stubby Pencil On A Bit Of String PLC, vote Liberal, Labour, Green or Nationalist. And if you've had enough of voting there's the Liberals if you are amenable to foreigners and the Tories if you aren't.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

From here to December 12th

So, we have a General Election. Crack out the Spitting Image Election 87 Special and that episode of Blackadder III.

Tomorrow belongs to me; Baldrick, put down "fraud and sexual deviance"...




This might actually be the end of Groundhog Day and the start of Something Happening. Could be for the better, could be for the worse. But hey. At last we get a slightly different show on TV for six weeks.

Even if it is immediately followed by another looping rerun of Groundhog Day...

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Mathematical Operators

A small thought.  The thing about "LGBT+" as a term is that it needs a counterpart.

Specifically "LGBT-", for where you say LGBT on the tin but you really mean a slightly smaller list.

(I want to carry on to other maths operators here but the next obvious one is multiplication, and the * has been appropriated for other purposes already, and the one after that is division and if you haven't already heard about divisions within LGBT you're never gonna learn and frankly it's our own private set of internal battles!)

Monday, 23 September 2019

Political Engagement

It is September 23rd and I see our politicians have been engaging with Bi Visibility Day right across the political spectrum this year.

For the Liberals, Jo Swinson had read up on bisexuality and did a detailed message of support about bisexuality, biphobia and bi erasure.

For Labour, Jeremy Corbyn had read up on bisexuality and sat on a fence over Brexit as a sign of solidarity with people who can't make up their minds.

For the Conservatives, Boris Johnson had read up on bisexuality and spent the day being a cheat and a liar in solidarity with all those bis we know you can't trust.

And for the SNP... nothing. In solidarity with all that bi invisibility.

Non-pisstake version: actually during the course of the day I looked at social media from all the parties, their leaders and their LGBT groups. There was a lot from the Lib Dems including from Swinson; there was a panicked last-minute nod from a couple of Tory, Green and Labour accounts; from Plaid and the Nats, nowt.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

More Bis In Photos

And so - following on from yesterday's photo roundup - to this years BiCon photo, which is also out on the Bi Community News website ahead of its proper schedule date by way of celebrating the opening of bookings for BiCon 2020 tomorrow. 



Subscribe to Britain's bi magazine BCN sharpish and get a nice big colour print of the photo in the mail when the September-October edition lands on doormats in two weeks' time!

Friday, 30 August 2019

Bis In Photos

The past few years I've frequently been part of the BiCon annual photo for Bi Community News magazine - but I'm almost never in the picture cos most years I'm behind the camera.

It can feel a bit weird sorting the photo out each year but never being seen, like bisexual invisibility turned up to eleven.

For anyone who has been wondering what a large group of bisexuals (and allies) looks like or what kind of people go to BiCon, here are a few of the more recent photos:

This was 2015, in Nottingham. People gathered indoors in an atrium area and I leant off a balcony a few floors above them to get everyone in on this shot:



2016, Preston.  Indoor group shots have the benefit of slightly fewer people wandering into shot so they take less time. We did two versions of this one - the other had the Co-Op banner in shot to please them as sponsors for the event. I think I was yelling directions while L wrangled the camera.



2017, this time in Leeds. The "can everyone kindly hang about outside a building while Jen leans out of an upstairs window" model.


2018, Salford. This one's actually taken by Ludy - I had left BiCon early to go and help organise the bis at Leeds Pride. I went on a special site visit a few days before BiCon happened to


Thursday, 25 July 2019

Ally Challenge

I got chatting to someone the other afternoon about bisexuals and allies. In part it was prompted by being at Sparkle and seeing some publications offering tip for allies on how to be supportive to your trans friends, family, workmates and partners.

There have been similar things for lesbians and gay men and from within the diversity and equality campaigner bubble it feels like cishet allies more or less know what they should do and what they should look out for.

Is it different for bis? After all we were historically thought of in LGBT community discourse as kind of "gay lite", with therefore just a smaller level of the same support as you might give to gay friends and family members needed.

Except in recent years it has turned out that no: bisexual experience is, as the bisexuals were saying unheeded all along, qualititavely different from gay life. And it has turned out that, in the statistics, bi experience is not "gay lite" but a kind of "homophobia plus".

Up til now it has been hard for allies to help tackle biphobia because of our own invisibility and because of the lack of differentiation between gay and bi life experience in research and anecdote, and so willing allies simply didn't know enough about our challenges: about what biphobia looks like and what it does. It feels like we are in a time where that changes. At last!