On Leadership

If I was the leader of a political party, or the leader of anything at all, and I heard “general non-specific allegations” of serious misconduct about a member, they would not remain general and non-specific for very long. They would either become very specific indeed, and dealt with accordingly, or they would be disproven. Those are the only two acceptable results.

While my current ire is directed against Nick Clegg, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, for his attempts to weasel out of responsibility for what Lord Rennard has been getting up to under his leadership, it’s something we’ve been seeing recently in every part of society, from the well-paid chairmen of global banks, to the leaders of the Catholic Church. When evil-doing is going on within the organisation that you supposedly lead, you don’t get to shirk that by saying “That is an ecumenical matter”.

We’re all part of various organisations or groups, be it as employees, industry representatives, or guildmembers. Our first responsibility is for our own actions, of course, for those are the only one we have complete control over. However, to the extent that we have any agency in the matter, the actions of the groups we are part of reflect directly upon us.

This is one reason why I very seldom join MMO guilds these days. It has become increasingly difficult to find gaming guilds which do not tolerate some degree of bigotry against some group or another. While there are often perfectly nice people even in the worst of guilds, I am unable to perform the necessary ethical gymnastics to stay part of such a guild while still believing my hands to be clean. If nothing else, the presence of hateful behaviour can have a poisonous effect upon the soul. Manners of thinking can be as contagious as any bacteria, particularly when they are supercharged by the opiate of group-belonging, and it is a matter of self-preservation to not bathe yourself in the thoughts of those who hold bigoted ideas in those conditions.

While it is nice to think that it might be possible to stop hateful behaviour within a guild once it has become established, in practise it is almost impossible. The existing members have already come to accept it, and a new member who complains is far more likely to be told to get a sense of humour than to achieve anything useful. No, the only way I have ever seen succeed is for the guild to start off with no tolerance for bigotry, and then for it to guard against it ever-on. And guard you must, for it is all too easy, especially if you care about growing, for new members to start to try to push the boundaries, and for it to be tolerated for fear of causing trouble or driving them out. Once the cancer has found a hold, it will grow roots and metastatise, and you end up with just one more casually misogynistic guild. At that point the only real option is for the non-bigots to leave and try again with a freshly made guild.

Being a leader is not about being popular all the time. It’s about standing up for the ideals of your organisation, whether it is popular or not, and sometimes this will mean that you have to tell a member that they need to stop what they’re doing. Nick Clegg and the other leaders I mentioned earlier have failed because they did not take responsibility for the actions of their members. Turning a blind eye is never leadership, whether you’re a bishop, a managing editor, a pro-gamer team leader, or a guildmaster.

I’m Also Proud of the BBC

As most of you know, I’ve been doing work for the BBC for a decade or so, but I’ve been a staunch supporter and fan of the Corporation since long before I ever had any connection to it, and I get quite nervous – and more than a little angry – when the knives come out for the BBC, as they very much have been of late. It’s particularly annoying since the Beeb, as a public service broadcaster which is (in effect if not strictly technically) more or less publically funded, is never in a position to defend itself, even against its most partisan critics.

So I thought I’d write something which expresses how I feel, and how I believe a fair majority of the British public feel, not that you’d ever know it from reading the papers (who, needless to say, have their own entirely selfish reasons for wanting rid of the BBC). I wrote this song, Proud Of The BBC, and we’ve been doing it on our current tour. The response the song’s been getting has taken me completely by surprise (standing ovations, people wiping away tears) and I’ve realised I may actually have started a bit of a “movement” here, so we’ve decided the song has to come out as a single, and that means making a video. – Mitch Benn

It’s sometimes hard to explain to non-Brits how central the BBC is to the life of our nation. I feel an attack on the BBC almost as if it was an attack on a member of my family, which is a bit of a problem considering the BBC is attacked constantly.

The BBC is under threat like never before, with talk of privatisation. The BBC can’t defend herself due to impartiality rules, and most other media outlets (especially those owned by Mr Murdoch) have their own reasons for wanting her destruction. The hope is that the public will be able to show our support by getting this song to chart when it is released at the beginning of November. I want the BBC to still be around for future generations, and not just another sad tale of something special that was lost.

Let’s do this thing!


There is a new entity in charge of the UK’s Ship of Government. Enter Cleggeron the Unexpected!!! After a tumultuous struggle with arch-nemesis Gordzilla, Cleggeron has emerged as the King of Monster Island, ah, I mean Westminster.

Cleggeron Arks Ark

Cleggeron! Coming soon to a Parliament near you.

Will good Clegg head manage to stop the middle boss head from taking the evil Murdoch head’s advice? Anything could happen in the next five years!

Update: December 2010.

The answer to my final question turned out to be no. I’m not entirely certain the Clegg head was all that good after all. When Cleggeron has finished devouring the educational chances of a generation, where will it turn its hungry eyes next? This film has gone from being a creature feature to true horror.

In which I am distracted by democracy

I will get around to continuing my Mortal Online exploration. I’ve still not hit the play button, so as to see it with fresh eyes.

I’ve been distracted by the small matter of the UK General Election. Voting is today, and I shall be spending tonight glued to Mr David Dimbleby and his gang on the BBC, as the results come in. In preparation I have a bag full of comfort food, as I doubt it is going to be a pretty business for a progressive.

In honour of the day, here’s a little thing I made a couple of years ago, after Liberal Democrat finance-wizard Vince Cable suggested that Gordon Brown was very much like Mr Bean. The government had just lost millions of citizen’s financial records, and in the US a new catch-phrase was sweeping the land: “Don’t tase me bro!”.


Gordon Brown and the Bully Hotline

I’ve experienced both school and workplace bullying, and I have no time for people who behave in such a way. I’ve even called a supportline or two in the past. So don’t take what follows as in any way diminishing the anguish that bullying can cause.

I have two points to make on the current scandal, which involves Christine Pratt, the head of the National Bullying Helpline, going public with claims that staff at Number 10 had called her support line about the Prime Minister’s behaviour.

1. These things are supposed to be confidential. By breaching this, she has made it much harder for people to pluck up the courage to call support lines. Not to mention that I strongly doubt that staff at Downing Street will thank her for damaging the government for which they work. They have been betrayed, and used to score political points.

2. That is, of course, assuming that these staff even exist. How does she actually know that the people that called really worked at Number 10? She obviously does not run background checks on people who call, so what is stopping random idiots, and/or the Tory dirty tricks department, calling in and making all sorts of outrageous claims? Unless a real, solid, person comes forward and states that they were bullied by Gordon Brown, this whole business should be considered inadmissible.

We’re supposed to believe that a number of different individuals all chose to call the same helpline, and more than that, that they unnecessarily divulged the sensitive information that they worked at Number 10.

The National Bullying Helpline has this to say about itself on its website:

The National Bullying Helpline is the brainchild of Christine Pratt and her husband David. Christine first set up HR & Diversity Management Ltd in 2002 and realised the enormity of the problem caused to industry by bullying at work, so launched a bullying Helpline. The Helpline was awarded Charity status early 2007 and is the only UK workplace Bullying Helpline Charity in the UK run by qualified CIPD professionals. The Charity is the only Helpline in the UK that addresses bullying in all corners of society.

I’m sorry to say, but The National Bullying Helpline should lose it’s charitable status for its confidence-breaching and naked politicising. There are many other similar helplines that do respect confidentiality, and do so without funnelling money to their husband’s Human Resources company.

The whole thing stinks like a political hit-job just a few weeks before a General Election. Journalists were sent by Conservative operatives to Mrs Pratt makes it obvious that there is a link, and the way that the opposition parties are making hay out of this is distasteful. They’re now calling for an in-depth enquiry, which is clearly an excuse for a fishing expedition to rummage through the inner workings of Downing Street. Gordon Brown is now caught in an intolerable position, having to deny ever-escalating accusations from ghosts, who can have whatever words put into their mouths that Brown’s enemies choose. You can’t defend yourself if you don’t know your accuser.

Disclosure: I’m a Liberal Democrat voter, not a Labour one, and I am far from happy with the way Nick Clegg is handling this.

MEP Daniel Hannan is not the only Tory politician who wants to destroy the NHS. Meet MP Peter Bone.

Daniel Hannan was of course the first chap to get me riled up about this, but now I’ve been looking about, in spite of David Cameron’s protestations, turns out there are a whole lot of Conservatives who have it in for the NHS.

We have a centralised health service that is run by the Government
from Whitehall. A health service that is managed and directed by a few
from their ivory towers in Whitehall. A health service that would not be
out of place in Stalin’s Russia.

How on earth has it got as bad as this? We are one of the most
successful countries in the world. We are meant to be a modern 21st
Century country. Yet we have gone from having one of the best health
services in the western world to arguably the worst.

That’s Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, and strident foe of UK embryonic research, claiming that we have the worst health system in the Western World. However, he has a plan to fix it!

The new system would require you to take out health insurance to
cover your family’s medical expenses. This would be set at a level to
cover all your family’s medical expenses greater than 5% of your
family’s income. The insurance must cover all serious medical
conditions which could require significant costs. In addition you could
take out voluntary insurance which could cover other areas and, if you
like, the medical deductible.

Separately you would be required to set up a medical savings account.
This would be a savings plan that commences when you reach the age
of 18 and would provide for all your health insurance premiums in

That’s right. He wants us to pay into an insurance scheme. One that only covers certain things, and if we want any more, we have to pay extra. Once you’ve bought this insurance, it would not kick in until you had paid out 5% of your income (what insurance folks call a deductible). This healthcare would be provided by private profit-making healthcare companies. Essentially what he wants is to break the NHS up and create a compulsory version of the US system. According to him, this would magically never have waiting times for treatment AND cost us less.

A look at expense claims suggests Mr Bone could certainly afford this. He employs his own wife as Executive Secretary, paying her £40,000 a year. He also claims £4800 a year in food allowance, the maximum allowable under MP expenses rules. He’s quite trim for someone who eats that much.

While I’m sort of a Liberal Green sort of chap, I accept that there is a relatively sane wing of the Conservative party, the “One Nation Conservatives”. I’m actually quite fond of several of them (particularly Kenneth Clarke). They need to stand up against the radical ideologues of the far-right who have been gaining in numbers and influence within the Tory party for far too long. Ideally before the next time the conservatives have the power to actually go through with any of these crazy ideas.

MEP Daniel Hannan lies about the UK on US Television for money.

While socialised medicine is considered with great mistrust in the US, here in the UK, no political party would dare to suggest that the dear old NHS should be replaced. Unless, of course, they didn’t think anyone from Britain would notice.

In this clip, UK Conservative, MEP Daniel Hannan, holds court with the crown prince of right-wing crazy, Glenn Beck.

You would not think it to listen to Hannan and his FOX friends, but we do actually also have private medicine here. It’s much cheaper than the US, of course, because they have to compete with the NHS, but if you have the money, you can still buy whatever healthcare you desire. You can also buy painkillers pretty much anywhere. Hannan’s “friend” that claims that NHS staff got aggressive with him for trying to buy painkillers is either fictional, or not telling the whole story. Also, those prostate cancer survival rate claims have been debunked so many times (they’re measured totally differently in the different countries so have no relation to eachother), nobody with any respect for their audience ought to be trotting them out. Ah right, I forgot, it’s Glenn Beck.

Daniel Hannan is of course the man who famously insisted that the BNP is a party of the far-left. He has clearly learned from Beck, who is equally happy to claim that the Nazi party was left wing, as part of the “liberal fascism” smear.

Why is Daniel Hannan still a member of the Conservative party? This man is getting a platform because of his membership of a mainstream party, and is using it to be paid to tell the most grievous lies about the UK, and Europe. Lies that would not be tolerated here.

Yesterday he found a new friend, Mr Hannity. Apparently he is spending a great deal of time in the US campaigning against healthcare reform. Do the people who elected him to the European parliament realise this is how he is spending his time? How much money is he making from his disloyal behaviour?

Dear US readers. Daniel Hannan is a liar being paid to lie, and you should not place any stock in his words. The leader of his party, David Cameron, has said in response “I support the NHS 100% and the Conservative Party supports the NHS 100%. We are the party that gives the biggest amount of support to the NHS. It is incredibly important to my family. It is incredibly important to this country.”.

That’s all very well, Mr Cameron, but Mr Hannan is not doing his job, and making the UK look bad in the eyes of America. Kick him out.

I should thank him, I suppose, for making me sufficiently angry to end a month-long lack of posting!