Tag Archives: Richard Bolam

Buildaburger Conference 3rd April 2015 – Having your cake and eating it too – politicians, pundits and players


Don’t you just love a General Election? It’s such a feeding frenzy for the media people and political pundits, it’s like watching sharks and wolves masturbating whilst eating each other’s vomit.

I know there are many exceptions to the rule, but my own disdain for politicians and Members of Parliament is fed primarily by the corruption that is so universal and familiar in the UK that it has almost become an institutional orthodoxy. By corruption, I mean mortgage-flipping, employing relatives and fiddling expenses amongst many other commonly exercised indiscretions.

However, I recently worked in a technical support role at the 2015 Political Studies Association conference and this experience provided me with a novel perspective on politics.
I was present as a subcontracted technician and, as is often the case, I didn’t even know the subject of the conference before I got there. This is not unusual and not in anyway a problem as my role is purely technical. I have worked on many scientific, medical or academic conferences where I have no clue whatsoever what they are talking about, but I do know how to fix their technical problems.

As a rule, academic conferences are good to work on because, despite the boredom that is an inherent duty of the job, the delegates are almost always polite, well-educated and undemanding, and this event was no exception.

Surprisingly, political scientists are nowhere the top of the list of people I would prefer not to work with. Not all of them, of course, but media people generally, and television people specifically are some of the most aggressive and sociopathic narcissists on the planet. I suppose it comes with the territory, but academics like to show off their brains rather than their penises.
I didn’t see much of the lectures at this conference, but what I did see was fascinating and shed a very different light on subjects such as immigration that the supposedly flagship television news programmes treat as sensational propaganda.

Academia is just another self-sustaining bubble, but by no means an extravagant one, and this was one of the only conferences I have ever worked where I had to provide my own lunch. We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and maybe the symbolic purity of this conscious omission was such that we can all claim to be no more corrupted by the experience of attending #PSA2015.

What you see here is a selection of cakes bought and shared by the volunteers performing the front-of-house duties, all of them either currently of recently having studied politics at the University of Sheffield. It was a real pleasure to work alongside them and the selection of cakes reflects the diversity and quality of our interactions. Such a shame that for us at least, just like the cake, nothing lasts forever.

As a nascent activist, I am getting increasingly interested and increasingly active in politics, although possibly more pessimistic the more I find out about the state of the world.
As the UK General Election approaches, it’s only going to get worse, or better if you work in the media. The tv people love it and they’ll get paid whatever happens, regurgitating the event into vox pops, panel discussions and exposés for months or even years to come, and they’ll get paid whatever bullshit they come up with.

That’s having your cake and eating it too.

However, when all said and done, the media is just broadcast opinion and can be switched off or ignored, and the same goes for the academics. They are not the people making dubiously-motivated legislation that might have a material affect on your life.

In the end, it seem that only government gives politics a bad name.


Buildaburger Conference 27/28 August 2014 – National Stating the Bleeding Obvious Day

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 16.34.18

Today we celebrate the annual reiteration of a fact that anyone with an ounce of common-sense has known their whole life and thinks that it is so obvious and commonly understood that it doesn’t even need acknowledging, never mind having a government report commissioned in order to document it.

National Stating the Bleeding Obvious Day 2013 was all about how poor people die younger, but National Stating the Bleeding Obvious Day 2014 is all about how UK society is élitist.

According to gov.uk “The Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) Commission monitors the progress of government and others in improving social mobility and reducing child poverty in the United Kingdom. SMCP Commission is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Education.”

Widely reported today is that this body has just published a report about the state of inequality in the UK.

The Guardian quoted a bit: “Where institutions rely on too narrow a range of people from too narrow a range of backgrounds with too narrow a range of experiences, they risk behaving in ways and focusing on issues that are of salience only to a minority but not the majority in society.”

No fucking shit, Sherlock!

The whole world knows this to be true but somehow we need to pay a group of fucking politicians to tell us. I guess it’s an example of hiding in plain view.

From The Huffington Post “The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission… said it was deeply concerned about the dramatically elitist society which it said its report had uncovered.”

Uncovered? It’s not even slightly covered.

Huff Post again: “those reaching the highest positions were not always doing so through merit.” Well, bless my soul! I thought that paragon of insight, Boris Johnson had told us that the bigger cornflakes would naturally rise to the top? Surely it can’t be true that mummy and daddy can buy you success?

However, here in the UK we have a double-whammy of élitism. It’s not just the toffs and the proles, but those in London and those of us outside. A few years ago, when I was ordering something from a mail order company, the North American voice on the other end of the phone asked if Rotherham was in Greater London. But it’s not just foreigners who think that there is nothing of worth outside the M25.

There was a time when government was a career pursued by statesmen, but these days the most successful are not necessarily the biggest cornflakes, but the most ambitious and amoral bigots with some inherited cash. There are exceptions of course, but many MPs choose politics as a convenient job that does not even require basic competence, and one that has a generous range of publicly paid-for perks providing expensive breakfasts, second homes and subsidised alcoholism.

Although he was particularly referring to the Scottish referendum on independence, Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow put it well in his blog post about the “the sleaze, dishonesty, and self-serving London-centric politics of Westminster”, but it’s not only the Scots that think that way.

Unfortunately I can’t remember the name, but one Tory politician advised unemployed people in the north of Britain to solve their problems by moving to London.

From the SMCP report: “Our examination of who gets the top jobs in Britain today found elitism so stark that it could be called ‘social engineering’”.

I hope Alan Milburn is simply being professionally courteous, because in a country that has much of its wealth in the hands of an aristocracy, and still supports the burden of a Royal Family of all things, we cannot really be described as anything but élitist.

Anyway, let’s take a look at that government front bench. It’s no secret that they are not my favourite people, but it might be worth considering their suitability for their jobs when you consider that David Cameron and George Osborne also went to private boarding schools before St. Paul’s (Osborne), Eton (Cameron) and Oxford. These are schools where they are separated from their parents from 7 years old until secondary school. In the UK it’s a bit like being “in care” but without the care bit.

British boarding schools are notorious for brutalising their pupils and attenuating the emotional development that everyone else takes for granted, producing the kind of conditioned sociopaths that that consider themselves an élite. This is the same élite that still doesn’t understand that the British Empire was not a good thing. And these are the very same people making decisions about our livelihoods. If they weren’t from wealthy families we would consider them deprived.

But they’re toffs. Cameron is related to the Queen and Osborne is a direct descendent of Henry III of England. Incompetent, deceitful and greedy, but well-connected. You couldn’t get more élitist if you tried. Clegg is just the fag.

And to put a lid on it, yesterday was National Burger Day, which I should have been marking more auspiciously, but the only organisations celebrating it were London-based commercial organisations. This sort of celestial alignment is proof of the existence of God. Not necessarily a loving God, but definitely one with a wicked sense of humour, and I am His vessel.

Anyway, as a kind of double-header blog post to mark the damp squib that was National London Burger Day and to mark National Stating the Bleeding Obvious Day 2014, I’m calling this excellent burger I recently had at the Wig and Pen in Sheffield, (that’s in South Yorkshire, for those of you inside London) simply “This is a burger and fries at a pub that’s not in London”.

Buildaburger Conference – British Sausage Week 2013 – Tuesday 5th November – Believe the Wurst

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Photo: Adam Jones (Creative Commons)

David Mills: I seem to remember us knocking on your door.
John Doe: Oh, that’s right. And I seem to remember breaking your face.
Se7en (1995, Dir David Fincher)

Having eaten something resembling this recently, I was compelled to never try it again. Even at my age, I can all still learn a new lesson. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way down on the Germans or German sausage, but my experience of the illustrated wurst is something I would prefer not to repeat. I cannot deny the size of it tempted me, but I wonder if the serving of it on a tiny bun was merely a psychological trick, or maybe it’s just a symbolic reminder of past German imperialist ambition.

Not dissimilar to my succumbing to an imperial foot long German sausage, I really cannot help indulging myself in far more than enough information, cross-references and hidden meanings in oder to demonstrate just how clever I am. It seems my head is bigger than my belly. Anyway, here goes…

Strictly speaking, I do not normally describe myself as a pacifist, but I do believe in the legacy that Mohandas K. Gandhi left us with. That is of non-violent, civil disobedience as a route to political and social change. Please bear that in mind.

Historically, I have always been a nay-sayer when it comes to government conspiracy theories, but I find it very difficult to deny the plausibility of the arguments the in recently broadcast documentary film “9/11 Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out”.

I am neither an architect, structural engineer, nor explosives expert, but there are several details discussed in the film that my own cognitive dissonance struggles to deny. The two most compelling indictments of the official report are the symmetrical collapse of three high-rise buildings, two after after asymmetrical, catastrophic damage and one after no structural damage at all. It is particularly interesting what they say about Building Seven which has hardly got a mention in a baker’s dozen of years since 9/11.

I’ll leave the details to the experts in the video, but if it’s true, then this was a very skilled job carried out by expert demolition technicians, and perfectly executed. I was working from home at the time of 9/11 and I was able watch the live TV broadcasts. I remember it as one of the most striking events of my life, despite my having no connection whatsoever.

I hesitate to say it, but if there are any modern Guy Fawkes out there, take note. This is how to seriously fuck up a building.

And if what is implied in the film is true, that the US government not only perpetrated the act but also covered it up and used it as an excuse to fuck with what’s left of Arabia, then it seems we are already in the Third World War. And it is not a war of survival against foreign imperialism, like the two previous “war(s) to end all war(s)” mostly against Germany, but a war of survival against a universal imperialism between “them” and “us”.

John Lennon wrote “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too, imagine all the people, living life in peace”. Good try, but he only got it partly right. He did not imagine the dystopian nightmare that has recently unfolded, that, in a globalised and networked world, when there are no meaningful geographical boundaries anymore, and religion has no meaning except in demonising other cultures, it’s just “us” and “them”, and “they” have some serious incendiary shit at their disposal.

Poor old Guido Fawkes. His 36 barrels of black powder was, like thermite, an exothermic compound, but nowadays it seems pathetically ineffective compared with our modern range of incendiaries, shaped charges and fuel bombs.

However, no matter how coherent the arguments presented in the film, or how credible the expert witnesses, it might be best to keep a low profile on the matter and not to knock on the door of the powers that be, unless you want rough men to break your face.

If my sin is to be gluttony, then maybe that’s why I can do no more than Believe the Wurst.

Buildaburger Conference Away Day Tramlines Weekend Day 2 – 21st July 2013


It’s a bit late I know, but day two of the away day weekend was much more successful, simply by betting on a safe horse (ho ho) and going for a double cheeseburger from the Twisted Burger Company based at The Harley Hotel, Sheffield, UK.

The only fly in the ointment for me it was that the bun was not toasted, so the relish, served underneath the burger (why do they do that?) soaked into the bread and made it fall apart in a gluey mess. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the Twisted Burger Company but they were missing one important detail that is there for a very good reason. Toasting the bun prevents the bread from collapsing before the burger has been consumed. They need to take their own advice from the explicit etymology of their own “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it burger”.

Easily remedied in a well-equipped kitchen, but not so in British politics, which is characterized by professional busy-bodying aka changing things and making claims in order to look as though something is being done, regardless of whether it is broken or already fixed. My favourite recent example of this kind of grotesquely misguided, high-sounding rhetoric was Nick Clegg’s plea for companies to take interns from poorer backgrounds. Clegg reduced his credibility by an order of magnitude by missing the irony of encouraging companies to take unpaid workers from backgrounds where they are already relatively deprived. Another example of how out-of-touch the millionaires of Westminster are. They don’t understand that the headquarters of Broken Britain is on Downing Street, and all we need to do now is fix it.

Buildaburger Conference 24th July 2013 – The National Crust


On the same date that the new royal baby, still unnamed, was revealed to the plebeian masses, I spent the day as a contractor (a jobbing artisan if you like) working at Hardwick Hall, a superbly preserved architectural gem in Yorkshire, UK, dating from Elizabethan times. Quite naturally my mind is drawn to thoughts of democracy, socialism and the republic.

A common argument that I used to subscribe to is that the royal family is an economic asset to Britain, but these days I find it difficult to see how that is supportable given the financial burden that such an extensive entourage entails, and they do not manufacture anything.

As far as representing national culture is concerned, we already have a superbly effective custodian of British heritage, and that is the National Trust. The Trust maintains and runs Hardwick Hall amongst many other rich and fabulous visitor attractions around the country. I am a paid-up member and that affords me the regular and guiltless pleasure of walking in the footsteps of countless generations of privileged gentry without so much as a deep bow, a pulled forelock or any genuflection whatever. A mere flourish of my membership card gains me access to the bedchamber of Bess of Hardwick, one of the richest woman in England.

Bess was married four times and I bet she was a handful (in the good way). It makes me wonder how much action those four-posters saw.

Pictured here is a mutually shared lunch with a colleague from another city and a very different background, although with an equal enthusiasm for an eclectic and healthy diet. Sharing food (or breaking bread) with strangers is a universal expression of liberty, equality and fraternity and what you see here is a mixture of homemade and bought food representing a healthy balance of nutrition that would equally sustain humans from any strata of society.

Whilst I am still a worker, and happy to be so with no prospect of privilege, I cannot help but hope that the coming generation of royalty will be the ones to witness a republican Britain.

And when that happens, they, like us, will still be welcomed in every stately home in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland although they will have to share it. We are demonstrably post-royalty and I am calling this shared picnic The National Crust.