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April 24, 2010

Clegg: it's all been said before

I despair that what it took to puff up the Lib Dems was one good TV appearance and some worship from the media. I'm frankly baffled that the most technocratic and centrist of the parties can paint themselves as outsiders. Seriously? Have you met a lib dem who wasn't a politics junkie. But I'm thrilled by the prospect of a strong LD presence in a hung parliament, leading to AV+ and then to a situation where we can finally get some real politics in the UK.

Meanwhile, it's fun to watch Tories bashing Cameron for accepting the centre ground, just as the left has long been bashing Blair & co. Both criticisms are right, of course: you don't win an argument by accepting your opponent's case.

there is rage, albeit hypocritical and belated, that the entire strategy pursued by the Cameron regime over the past four and a half years has left the party so pathetically incapable of defending itself against this mountebank and his frequently preposterous party. For the strategy has left the Conservative Party - and Mr Cameron in particular, as was clear in the first televised debate - without much in the way of conviction to use to counter the Clegg soufflé, and apparently believing in nothing.

April 23, 2010

Orwell Prize

Good: Laurie Penny has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political writing. Better: she's willing to deliver a well-placed kick to the shins of the organizers, for defending the indefensible, for remaining closed within a tiny bubble of the political elite, and generally for being symptomatic of the fuckwittery of a disconnected and introspective political elite.

Nonetheless, I'm glad of the Orwell Prize, because it has introduced me to Madam Miaow. another excellent shortlisted blog, which I wouldn't otherwise have discovered. And...she's hardly less scathing than Laurie, about "a truly flesh-crawling example of how skewed and corrupt is the mentality of these people who are running and ruining our lives".

April 22, 2010

UK company records

Anybody still following news here because of the Panama corporate database might like to know about a new site indexing UK company records, including names of their directors. The people behind it explain:

we bought the Companies House appointment snapshot and dropped it into a quick little searchable symfony app so you can browse the data - it's the directors and secretaries of every UK company, cross-linked. Quite handy for looking up your PPCs, ex-MPs, etc. Also handy (if you're a childish prat like me) for looking up funny names (see if you can beat Minge Fan, or Arse Plems Kyentu).

April 20, 2010

Kyrgyzstan: 2005 reloaded

The Kyrgyz government was overthrown last week, something I've not yet mentioned here. Partly for obvious lazy-blogger reasons, partly because I was moving house (again) at the time. Partly also because Edil Baisalov, a key figure in the interim government, is also something of a man-about-the-blogospere, and I'm not sure how to correct for the sense of him being a nice guy.

Mainly, though, because I have no answers to the main questions, and no confidence in finding them by churning through online wire reports. Is this a true change of regime, or just of personnel? What reforms will affect anybody beyond the political cliques? Which people are wielding the power, and which are just names on paper? What behind-the-scenes manouvering got this putsch accepted so quickly by the main powers inside and beyond Kyrgyzstan? Will there be any kind of military opposition in the South? How will Bakiyev's supporters rebel, or run campaigns of protest and civil disobedience, or contentrate on the elections XXX is promising? When the election happens, who will accept the results?

I have a lot of sympathy for the now-victorious rebels. They've all tried to engage in democratic politics for many years, and been kept out of the way on trumped up grounds. It was worse under the Akayev regime -- it used the old Soviet trick of forced hospitlization to keep Baisalov away from a political meeting, and excluded Otunbayeva from elections because -- as ambassador to the US -- she had been out of the country. Bakiyev's government wasn't much better: now Baisalov was banned from elections because he posted a photo of a ballot box. The assassination attempt in 2006 was just icing on the cake.

And yet, as Sean Roberts writes, it's hard not to look at these events as just one more link in a chain of coups that will keep going for years or decades to come.

The news coming out of the country looks all too similar to that which we saw in Spring of 2005, only more violent. In general, the events of the last several days taken together with those of March 2005 suggest two things about this country in the twenty-first century - 1) that the Kyrgyz people, unlike most former Soviet citizens, are unwilling to allow a corrupt government to stay in power through its control of the political system and are ready to risk personal safety in order to prevent this; and 2) the elite of Kyrgyzstan has yet to demonstrate that it is capable of establishing a viable government that meets people's demands and moves Kyrgyzstan's development forward.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the possibility that this time round things will improve slightly. But it can't be long until Bakiyev's supporters attempt some kind of counter-protest, and it's hard to build an open society while looking over your back for the next coup, especially when you don't have any source of democratic legitimacy.