Posts tagged ‘Cameron’

September 6, 2015

The Power of the Still Image

I am an idiot

A few days ago I was harangued by a tweeter and called an idiot. It’s happened before but we followed each other so I thought it worth engaging in a dialogue but each of her responses exploded with anger and so I shrugged my shoulders and retired to bed.

The reason for her fury was I published a picture of the little three-year old Alan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach and I had done so without the permission of the child’s mother.

News of the family’s fate was only emerging so I didn’t know at the time that his mother and brother also drowned but his father survived.

I could see where my angry tweeter was coming from – a young mother herself she was clearly heartbroken by the image and would have hated to see her own child exposed in such a way. I imagine she felt it was exploitation of the child though she did not say this.

It seemed to me her understandable feelings of horror and outrage were just a little misplaced. This was no school play where little children are protected from being photographed by other adults unless permission is given by a parent. Here, on the Turkish beach, where so many others were washed up dead, was a striking image of an innocent child, a victim of war – of the instability and violence that comes from trying to live a normal life under impossible circumstances. This child’s parents risked everything to get him to a better, safer life in war-free Europe.

He was not the first wee child to die in a desperate rush to leave bombing, rapes, beheadings and sanctions behind. He was not the first wee child to be drowned. Nor was he the first wee child to be washed up dead on a beach. He was a migrant. That fate is not uncommon amongst migrants. In fact it so common the numbers rarely register with us when we read them in newspapers or hear them on the news – if we bother to take notice of them at all. Numbers are fairly meaningless to us. The bigger the number the more meaningless it becomes. We cannot compute numbers into little children. It’s too abstract a concept.

But this picture – this picture clearly struck a chord with people across the world. This picture illustrated what this ‘migrant crisis’ is all about. It is about people escaping the sort of life we cannot imagine in the desperate hope of finding something better, of finding security to develop as human beings – normality.

For someone of my vintage the immediate comparison was the picture from the Vietnam war of the little girl, Kim Phúc, who had been napalmed and was running naked down a street. No-one asked her mum for permission to use it, and like Alan’s photograph it was quickly circulated across the globe. Of course we had heard about the Americans dropping napalm bombs but stuff happens. Then we saw this terribly distressed girl and realised the consequences of American politicians and generals signing off orders to drop napalm on combatants and their farms. Kim was a combatant – goodness is that what these men and women safely cocooned thousands of miles away consider a combatant? – justified incidental collateral damage?

With Kim’s photograph her fellow-countrymen women and children stopped being just numbers in a long list of numbers that conceals the reality of victims – of human beings like us being treated so appallingly. Public opinion was outraged and attitudes hardened towards the US policy. Once ordinary citizens have begun to sit up and take notice of government actions it is more difficult for bad things to happen.

Images not words can be harbingers of change. If you don’t think so then why is it companies spend so much perfecting the right image to symbolize their businesses? We are moved by images. We respond to images. Little Alan’s death is a tragedy, as is his brother’s and his mother’s. We feel for his father. Should the photographer had tracked down his father and asked his permission to use the photograph that has become iconic of the refugee crisis? I don’t think so. Call me an idiot for suggesting little Alan has become the property of us all. The randomness of the image has been distilled to represent the callous disregard of too many government leaders who like David Cameron denigrated desperate refugees as sub-human – swarms of insects – to his everlasting shame and the shame of all those contemptible MPs who a few short weeks ago insisted we keep little children like Alan away from the United Kingdom. Some have undergone an epiphany with Labour’s leadership contenders falling over each other to offer sanctuary to a migrant refugee. The British press, too, have softened the hard-line, stunned into altering the terminology of consistently calling them migrants to occasional reference to refugees. As is becoming increasingly the norm the mainstream media drags its heels behind public opinion on social media. Following clear signals from the country that this nasty little Englander attitude towards foreigners shown by the media and the government was so lamentably out of tune with public opinion there has been a reluctant gritting of teeth and altering the message. Days ago the BBC told listeners the Prime Minister was ENABLED to act, to alter his policy on migrants – or did they say refugees? because of the picture of Alan. Typical BBC, ever propagandising for the government – Cameron wasn’t ENABLED he was shamed into shifting his position. Now that comment was arguable idiotic.

Emigrants into the USA

Immigrants into the USA at turn of 20thC

PS My angry tweeter stopped following me. And I her. Maybe we should exchange pictures instead.


October 10, 2012

The Essentials of Dave Cameron’s Speech to Conference

Cameron’s Speech

As I said on the steps of No10 Downing Street before walking through that door, fuck me if a posh boy like me from the leafy shires can get the top job then anyone can.

Line one, rule one of being a Conservative is that it’s not where you’ve come from that counts, it’s where you’re going. I’ve learned the lesson of Tony Blair. We have to become a nation of aspiration.

The doers. The risk takers. The young people who dream of their first pay-cheque from Daddy’s company, their first car – what will it be – a Ferrari or a Porsche? ,their first home – Buckinghamshire or a pad in Belgravia? No-one says life is not difficult. There are hard choices to be made. We have to be ready and willing to work hard to get those things and which of us in the Conservative Party has ever been handed anything on a plate?’

It is said we the Conservatives are the Party of the better-off. Better-off? Better-off is a term of failure. We are the Party of the fucking stinking rich. We are the Party of ambition – to be fucking richer still – way beyond the limited imaginations of those little people who are content to scrounge off us toffs. (sprinkling applause)

They say we are not compassionate but we love the disabled, the vulnerable so much we have even devised policies to reach out to each and every one of them – to help them see how much more they can do for themselves, to stand on their own two feet, or shuffle into line if they are feet-challenged, so that they are not overwhelmed by guilt at being a burden on the tax payers – whoever they may be. (loud applause and a standing evasion  ovation).

We make our own ways in life. Work hard. Family comes first. Keep it in the family is our motto. Mine anyway. There’s a place for community but let’s not get carried away. Where would communities be without individuals? They wouldn’t exist. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our families but we have to make our ways in life alone. (silence)

My father was a simple immigrant born abroad in Blairmore (sick sic) House in Aberdeenshire, Scotland who convinced me of the benefits of foreign aid. (Boos from the audience) I know, I know some of you are not in favour but my family has found that investing in Third World Countries, like Panama, can reap unexpectedly large rewards.

Conservatives CAN deliver. Panama CAN deliver. (wild cheering from the floor)

Britain can deliver. The market can deliver. We just need to know where and how to place our cash emphasis. Aspiration is the engine of progress.

And there is nothing complicated about what we need today. But it’s tough. These are difficult times. We’re being tested. How will we come through it? Again, it’s not complicated. Hard work. Strong families. Taking responsibility. Serving others. There is only one real route out of poverty and it is work. Work. Work Work. Arbeit macht frei.(frenzied applause and stamping of feet)

For years people said you’ll never reform public sector pensions, the trade unions won’t stand for it. Well, we’ve done it, and it’s going to cut the cost to the taxpayer almost in half.

For years people said benefits are out of control and there’s nothing you can do about it. Well, because of our welfare cap, no family will be getting more in benefits than the average family earns. And we are keeping that cost down to make the task easier. Be proud of what we’ve done already. (drumming of feet)

We are freeing more people from the burden of tax by keeping wages beneath the tax bracket. They have us and the Liberal Democrats to thank for that. Two million of the lowest-paid workers being taken out of income tax altogether because they don’t earn enough. Who says we aren’t thinking about the poor?


I have only one thing to say to the poor in this country – Panama.

It is the mission of this government, hand in hand with our Liberal Democrat colleagues, and we have to face facts we could never have achieved what we already have without their collusion involvement, to build an aspiration nation to unleash and unlock the promise in all our people to turn their backs on the past; on workers’ rights, a National Health service in more than name, support within the community Where is the profit in any of that? (murmurs from the audience)

There are many things I want this coalition to achieve but what could matter more than saving our United Kingdom? Let’s say it: we’re better together and we’ll rise together – so let’s fight that referendum with everything we’ve got. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer. (excited waving of union flags)

But that’s enough about North Britain. We are here in the heart of God’s own country where we know what it takes to win … to win in the tough world of today …. to win for all our people who matter… to win for Britain. So let’s get out there and give it to them. (standing ovation)