Here’s a little home town related science fiction oddity.
Like many I have fond memories of scifi TV from my childhood. Those series from the 70’s and 80’s that I grew up watching have helped form a cultural backdrop and set of reference points that I have carried with me into adult life. Not least because so many of my friends are involved in Who or other fandom at one level or another.
I loved Doctor Who, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Blake’s 7 and of course Star Trek. But one series I couldn’t get into was Space: 1999.
It might have been the Kubrick influenced visuals or the sternness of the lead characters but I remember as a kid feeling that the series was cold and more than a little sinister. Also I didn’t really buy into the whole “moon knocked out of orbit” thing. This impression has put me off revisiting it as an adult. Although I have been told I am not missing much.
Yet this has also meant that until recently I was unaware of the curious Luton related fact that the town appears in one of the episodes. Well strictly speaking the name “Luton” features.
In an episode called “The Rules of Luton” broadcast in October 1976 the travellers from Moon Base Alpha come across a planet called Luton and fall foul of the laws of its inhabitants.
I am not sure whether any inference should be drawn from the fact that the inhabitants of “Luton” are intelligent plant based life forms!
Apparently the American writer of the episode saw the name on a road sign and liked the look of it.
I am getting very excited today watching the build up to the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. I am really looking forward to the next few weeks — not only for the sport — but also for the experience of such a huge global event happening so nearby.
That event is going to have some unique aspects. Some of which will be worth studying closely and learning from. One of these is the strong likelihood that these will be the first “social media Olympics”.
At the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Facebook was just over four years old and Twitter was a mere two. Now, four years later, these London games will take place against a back drop of greater maturity for these technologies. Organisations are having to adapt to the demands of social media, a Twitter account is an essential PR tool for any significant public figure — athletes included, and most large events can be shaped and interpreted through the parallel virtual event that is created by the social media interactions of participants and spectators.
How much will this be true for an event as big as the Olympics? I am expecting social media to play a major part in how the world experiences the Games over the next few weeks.
The reason for mentioning all this is to point you to a video that some colleagues of mine — I’ve worked with them via Banerji Associates — have put together looking at precisely this issue. It is rather good. It includes interviews with members of Team GB and Jeremy Hunt MP, and I think people will find it interesting.
I've not had a chance to write up my experience of the Social Liberal Forum conference from a week and a half ago (Saturday 14 July) until now. But I think it is still worth doing – if only to say how much I enjoyed going.
The event was very well run, provided lots of intellectual stimulation, had some very good speakers and interesting ideas, and it was nice to meet new people and catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for a while. So I’d like to record my thanks to the organisers.
I am not sure how well the theme of “social justice across generations” worked. I didn’t feel that the conference addressed the issue of intergenerational justice in any particularly meaningful way or enabled me to reach any specific conclusions on the topic. That impression may in part be due to my choice of break out sessions. But I think there is a problem with ‘political’ conferences, as opposed to academic or other types, in that there is a pressure on the participants to deal with the issues of the day and address the developing political context – which means that they aren’t very good at ‘problem solving’ on a specific topic.
Also, I am not sure the event will be as memorable as the first SLF conference, which I wrote about here, mostly because it had much less of a fraught atmosphere than that one had. Unlike last time the party was not in the middle of a huge row about the NHS.
However, I don’t want to sound too negative. Holding this type of event is extremely worthwhile and I believe they are valued a great deal by those who participate.
What did I get out of it? Having largely been on sabbatical from political activity for the last year, the main thing I benefited from was an opportunity to gauge the mood of the Party (or at least that part of it that attends these things). It also helped confirm and sharpen some aspects of my thinking about politics that I have been developing over the last few months. All of which, time depending, I intend to write more about. These are:
Following his speech to the conference, a confirmation of my view of the nature of Nick Clegg’s leadership (both good and bad) and what it means for the Liberal Democrats.
Related to the above, and sparked by some discussion of the government’s health policy, some thoughts about where the party is going wrong in its political communication.
A growing greater sympathy for the Social Liberal Forum and its aims and objectives, including being generally impressed by the direction it is heading in.
But, despite the above and some significant exceptions, a continuing frustration with the general narrowness and negativity of the policy agenda pursued by the “social liberal” wing of the Party.
More about the Social Liberal Forum conference can be found here:
I’ve been busy with work over the last few days and have not been paying much attention to this blog — but I’ve just noticed that this post has appeared in Liberal Democrat Voice’s Top of the Blogs feature two weeks running – here and here.
I’m sure it was an oversight rather than a judgement that my insights deserved double exposure — but I’m not complaining! Thanks Helen
I am spending today at the annual conference of the Social Liberal Forum which is being held on the campus of King’s College London near Waterloo. There is a rather packed agenda with the focus being on “social justice across generations”. I’ve just listened to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg give the ‘William Beveridge Memorial Lecture’. As I write this I am listening to Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey MP talking about the intersection between the environment and economics.
In this post I am proposing some principles on which I believe the rules for internal elections in membership organisations should be based. For the background to this post see here.
Campaigning is good: Campaigning for votes in internal elections is necessary, healthy, and should be encouraged. Democracy is about more than just voting. Elections should do more than decide who should fill posts or sit on a committee. Ideally they should also be about testing and challenging the candidates, debating issues, resolving disputes, answering questions of policy and strategy, and providing a steer for the future of the organisation. These things can be achieved as the result of a healthy and well organised election campaign. So any election rules should facilitate such campaigning and not prevent it.
Be permissive: The rules you do have should start from the premise that everything is allowed – except those things that you decide should be specifically ruled out.
Expect good behaviour: I’m not arguing for a free for all however. Campaigning should take place within certain bounds of appropriateness and decency. A lot of this is common sense or is covered by the law, such as the law of libel, anyway. However, you do need to have a rule that clearly states that certain standards of personal conduct are expected of candidates.
Prevent personal criticism: The criticism of others – the questioning of decisions, judgment and competence – can often be justified as part of the debate surrounding an election. It is difficult to argue for a change in the direction of an organisation without some kind of critique of the direction that its current leadership is taking it in. However, you can get into dangerous waters if that criticism is directed at individuals. So I believe that the rules should prevent direct personal criticism of named individuals. So to say “the current leadership are taking us in the wrong direction” is fair comment – to say “Jane Bloggs is an incompetent fool” is not.
Provide a good platform: If you are encouraging campaigning and seeking to get the best out of it then it helps if you provide a number of good quality mechanisms that create a forum in which that campaigning can take place. By this I mean the production of members mailings, arranging husting meetings, creating special sections on your website and so on. The platforms you choose to provide will obviously depend on the size, culture and finances of your organisation.While candidates should not be restricted from going outside the officially sanctioned channels, if those channels are of good enough quality, in reality most people will stick with them. Usually they will be the easiest and most effective methods of campaigning available. Shaping the debate in a positive direction is much more likely to be achieved by encouraging it to take place through well designed communication channels than by imposing restrictions that candidates will seek to work around.
Control access to membership lists: A critical tool for any candidate participating in an internal election will be having access to a list of contact details of members who have a vote. Organisations will need to think about how they want to handle this. This can range from giving candidates a full list and freedom to use it how they wish, through providing limited access for specific purposes, to providing no access at all and leaving candidates to create their own contact lists. The choice of approach will depend on the nature and culture of the organisation. But the key advice I would give is that the approach should be a clear and consistent one for all candidates. Rules should ensure a level playing field with no candidates having privileged access to this resource.
Embrace online: The internet and social media have had far reaching consequences for how campaigning can take place. This should be seen as a welcome opportunity for increased engagement and participation – not as something to be feared. It is important to understand that online media has mostly had a leveling down effect. Tools like the web, Facebook and Twitter are available for use by candidates who may lack access to other more traditional resources. These tools are also changing and evolving all the time. It is foolish to create rules that place restrictions on particular communication technologies – as these will soon become out of date.
Restrict money – not speech: Restrictions on what candidates can do to communicate with voting members are usually counterproductive and often ineffective. Where you should concentrate in order to ensure fairness in an election is on how much a candidate can spend. Spending limits should be set (and these can be set at zero if necessary) and expenses declared. The best way to ensure a level playing field between candidates is to have measures to prevent the wealthy from ‘buying’ the election.
Have few rules – but enforce the ones you do have: I am arguing for a permissive environment in which election campaigns should take place – but not a lawless one. The rules you do have should be clearly understood by those involved and the consequences for breaking them should be real. If someone breaks the rules they should be disqualified, otherwise there is no point in having them in the first place. So it is important that the process for enforcing the rules is established and is workable. Critical to this is having a competent and independent returning officer with clearly established powers and an appropriate appeals process to handle disputes.
The Director of that organisation, Peter Facey, wrote a comment in response to that post. Unfortunately, for some reason, that comment got caught in the blog’s spam trap and I only noticed it was there at the end of last week.
So I would like to apologise to Peter for missing his response.
In it he says;
“Now that the ballot is closed it would be good to have a debate about how and if people would like to change our rules so that they can be debated at our AGM in November.”
Given that my previous post on this subject was a bit of a whinge – my main motivation was I think to highlight the negative impact that the election process had had on my impression of the organisation – I thought I ought to try and make a more positive contribution to that debate.
I am not sure that I am the right person to start drafting constitutional amendments for an organisation I am only marginally involved with, but it did make me think about the shape that the arrangements for internal elections should take in membership organisations more generally. I’ve written up the product of that thinking in the following post on this blog;
Mark Pack says what I would have said about the changes to the rules that the Electoral Reform Society is run by, if I had bothered to go into the details and then chosen to blog about it. However, I am pleased that one of the things that the new broom in the ERS are doing is reviewing such governance issues. It will stand them in good stead.
My other recent theatrical outing was this. Slightly unbalanced in that it dealt with events of the first original radio show in the first half, leaving all the other shows to fit into the second. Which meant that half felt rather..er..random. But given that it was more celebration than performance it didn’t matter. Great fun. You have to like a show in which the sound effect guys are as much a part of the performance as the actors.