Tag Archives: UK

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.


Bulidaburger Conference 5th November 2014 – The Bonfire of the Vanities

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Seeing as it is British Sausage Week and includes the 5th of November, that means it is Bonfire Night in the United Kingdom. Consequently, it would be foolish to ignore the British Parliament on a day as auspicious as this, especially as the humble banger is a food traditionally eaten on this day each year.

Not hot dogs, mind you, but the dirty tricks mentioned in this post are just as British as American.

I am, of course, referring to the strange behaviour of the press in the night.

Last week, Channel 4 News reported how the British Navy will be reducing its commitment to rescuing any sea-bound Libyan “migrants” attempting to reach Italy, and how from now on the Navy is going to effectively let them drown.

Actually, these desperate people are not economic migrants hoping to come over to Britain and scrounge a life loafing existing on benefits. No, they are refugees from the anarchy left by the US’s & UK’s intervention in Libya in 2011 under the euphemistic moniker of “Operation Freedom Falcon”.

This morning, a very strange story was reported on BBC Radio 4 about three Libyan soldiers, training in the UK, have been ejected for alleged rape and sexual assault.

Maybe you asked yourself the same question I asked myself. Why are Libyan soldiers being trained in Britain?

Well, The Guardian went into a little more depth than Radio 4’s lurid sex crime story. It turns out several thousand Libyan troops are being trained in Britain (at a cost to the Libyan government) in order to train them to keep peace in their own country.

It’s a shame the cadets in question could not keep their rockets in their pockets, but much worse is worse is the willful suppression of the real story rather than the lurid details of sexual assault.

It reminds me of that old protection racket cliché (to be read in an East London accent):

“It would be a shame if your country got a bit (ahem) broken, wouldn’t it? We could arrange for some of your boys to be trained up to look after it for you. For a small fee.”

I was almost at a loss for a sausage reference for this grotesque and ongoing injustice visited upon the people of Libya aka Bongo Bongo Land, but here is a photo of two hot dogs cooking over an open fire. Fill in the metaphors for yourself.


US & UK “foreign policy”. Photo: Michelle Swift

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

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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”.

COME ON ANDY! Buildaburger Conference 22nd June 2014, 2-5pm at the Rutland Arms, Sheffield UK

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Inspired by last year’s men’s singles winner, Andy Murray, here is the first Buildaburger Conference. It will be upstairs in the Rutland Arms, Sheffield, UK 2-5pm on Sunday 22nd June 2014. Free and all welcome.

VIVA BRAZIL! Buildaburger Conference 22nd June 2014, 2-5pm at the Rutland Arms, Sheffield UK

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The Buildaburger Conference 2014 will not be held in Brazil, it will be in the Rutland Arms, Sheffield, UK on the 22nd of June 2-5pm. Free and all welcome.

Buildaburger Conference 2014 on 22nd June at the Rutland Arms, Sheffield, UK

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The first Buildaburger Conference will be held at the Rutland Arms in Sheffield on 22nd June 2014 2-5pm. There will be a series of presentations followed by building a burger in the pub afterwards.

It’s a free event and all welcome. If you would like to read your own food-based political or social satire, please contact me at richard@richardbolam.net.