Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Ed Miliband is on course

You're supposed to be answering the questions, good sir 
If you follow me on twitter ( @alexsmith321 ) you'll know that one thing that really gets on the proverbial tits is when David Cameron asks questions of Ed Miliband during PMQs. To further enlighten, PMQs stands for Prime Ministers Questions, it does not stand for Shadow Leaders Questions. Until SLQs is scheduled for Parliament, I would much prefer it if Cameron chose to answer questions asked of his Government, not ask questions of the opposition leader. For me, this is a big flaw in his game, and the Labour party should exploit it more.

One of the most frequently asked questions by David Cameron in the direction of Ed Miliband is along the lines of: Where's the manifesto?

No Republican policy until Romney was on the Scene
Its a weak response to what is usually a testing question about Government Policy. It is weak because rather than give the media a soundbite about policy (which would most probably be a negative one about the Government's shortcomings), he gives the press a soundbite which sounds something like "We'll comment on our policy to do with ...xyz...when the opposition leader has told us about his party's policy!"

Little does Cameron know, Milibands approach here is actually spot on. There is no harm at this stage in not having released his mandate to Govern. 

Tony Blair was reasonably quick when it came to developing his mandate "because Britain deserves better" because a rather turbulent Tory party was in Government. A General Election could have been called at any time, particularly because Major after the 1992 Election eventually lost his overall 21 seat majority. A vote of no confidence could have occurred at any time, or simply Major could have gone back to the polls to try and increase his stake in the Commons. 

No such thing can happen this time round. The Parliament Act 2011 now allows for fixed term Parliaments of five years, meaning unless we experience some very extreme and rare circumstances, we'll have to wait until 2015 for the next Election.

We now operate a system very similar to the US. They don't issue a mandate after a year in opposition, largely because they haven't selected a Presidential Nominee! They instead cause the Government nuisance, holding them to account, questioning policy and being, in general, a thorn in the side of the party in Office. 

No sense in getting out the traps too early
Seeing as Miliband knows there won't be a General Election until 2015, he's doing the right thing in delaying any kind of policy announcement. Instead he spends time on policy development and strengthening the party, before eventually releasing a mandate, at say the Party Conference in 2013, to give it a year and a half to sink in and develop. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Andrew Mitchell - Answers, not apologies needed

We are in a brief passage of history at the moment where the Police service appear to be in the news an awful lot. Beginning last Wednesday (12 September 2012) with the statement from the Prime Minister, apologising and condoling with the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 football fans went to watch Liverpool play Nottingham Forrest and never came home. The statement at last seemed to put to bed who was to blame, which for years was the victims as a result of a police smear campaign.

News then broke Wednesday morning (19 September 2012) of the killing of two police women in Manchester, after an apparent hoax call, leading the two officers into a death trap. 

Within 24 hours the Police were once again at the center of a media storm, as Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell allegedly shouted abuse at Police guarding the gates to Downing Street for not letting him through on his bicycle. The claims made by the Police include Mitchell shouting "do you know who I am?", "...best learn your place", "I'll have your jobs for this" and "...you're fucking plebs".

Dubbed as "Mitchellgate", "Plebgate" and "gategate", the story raises the important point of status and position in British society. 

While some may or may not agree with the methods used by the Police, but there is no doubt in this situation, someone has gotten above their station and used their status as a means to try and quieten the other into submission. 

On the one hand, the Police could be seen as being too unreasonable in this instance. Let the man through on his bike, no harm done, Mitchell gets home 5 minutes earlier. Or, as was the case the Police stick to the protocol laid before them, and do not allow Mitchell to pass through security. As a result, Mitchell kicked off. 

Now, the Police no doubt will be given tongue-lashings invariable around the country, infact i'm sure the Police have probably heard a lot worse on a Friday night outside nightclubs. This however is not the issue in my opinion. 

What's gone on here is a Cabinet member to get above his station. Using his power, threatening to "have his job for this" is unacceptable. The power bestowed on him by David Cameron, can just as easily be taken away by him, if not the electorate in the next general election. There is no absolute and infinite power MPs have. Serving Government and the people should be a privilege, not something used a bargaining chip in the game of life. He should be asked where he gets off on the idea that status, position and power should be a means through which he can be treated differently. Had I asked to get through the Downing Street gates, then called the police "fucking plebs", i'm sure I would have walked away in 'cuffs. 

In a social democracy, we should be able to resolve conflict such as this through sound reason and judgement, not resorting to a "my-dads bigger than your dad" esque confrontation. While perhaps not role-models, a Politician of his position should not let down the electorate by making such remarks. 

Already dubbed as "thrasher" for his tough persona, Mitchell has not helped his cause here. "I'm the Chief Whip" may well impress the bourgeoisie, but it won't impress the likes of the working-class. The gap between Politician and electorate is something, in my view, we need to eliminate in order for politicians to be more accessible. Stories such as this do no good. Cameron should make a stand and have Mitchell stand down in order to make the point that in reality, MPs are just elected members of society, not social heavyweights who can bully their way through life. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Nick Clegg - A Political train wreck?

Nick Clegg, with David Cameron and Chris Huhne
Okay, so this week Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made a heart-felt apology, filmed in his own home, with regards to the raising of tuition fees for higher education students. Signed into effect as the The Higher Education (Higher Amount) (England) Regulations 2010, this year marks the first intake of students that will have to pay higher fees to go to university: a maximum of £9000 will now be charged to university students compared to to previous maximum of £3200.

Within a day of making the apology the video had appeared on YouTube as a remix "Nick Clegg Apology Song - Sorry." No sooner had that appeared before Clegg had latched on and given his approval for the song to be commercialised, with profits going to charity. There is of course a serious point to all this: it rather does emphasise the ridiculous nature of the whole affair.

It seems to me like a completely misjudged attempt at redemption, dreamt up by the office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

To begin, he wrongly makes the point that he was wrong to make a promise that in reality he could not follow through on: i.e. we could not afford to NOT raise tuition fees. While some may be accepting of this and others quick to reject it as an excuse, it raise an important question about his party's ability to govern. Having a grasp of what one can and cannot afford is important in all walks of life, especially so in Government. Not being able to afford to keep the cap in place should have been something his party should have known - given the importance of the issue to many of their core voters: students. In ability to foresee this issue raises questions about their ability to Govern.

Dr Vince Cable
Secondly, I would suggest that there are instances where apologies are appropriate and others where they are not. I remember when I was younger, mother would tell me and my sister off when something happened, and the blame was sometimes (rarely) not squarely left on my shoulders. I would profess "I'm not apologising for something i didn't do." Perhaps a poor example, but again it raises an important point: apologising here does all but apportion the blame fully on his shoulders. It's an unfortunate position to be in, but let us remember the following: the Statutory Instrument was passed in Parliament offering all MPs a chance to vote on the issue, 21 Liberal Democrats voted against whereas 28 Lib Dems voted in favour, and of course former Liberal Democrat deputy leader and current Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills spearheaded the bills development. All this considered, it is very much a "team responsibility" if you will, rather than the blame resting solely on the one man. I would therefore consider "the apology" very damaging for Clegg. We live in something of a blame culture i believe, and rather than sharing the blame, by appearing in the video he has taken the flak himself.

Finally, one has to consider his image, and how it has been effected by the apology video. As mentioned briefly above, it rather does entrench his position as the Liberal Democrat scapegoat. Had the video been spun (sorry, Government's don't spin) written in a tone of "honest explanation" rather than an grovelling apology, he might have come out with his head held slightly higher. Instead, I believe his reputation and image in the public eye is left in tatters, because in reality "I'm so Sorry" is something I have said to numerous ex-girlfriends, not something i would like to have said to me by the deputy Prime Minister.

With the conference coming up, one has to wonder, how will Nick Clegg will perform; and perhaps more importantly will his performance be well received by party members. If the Liberal Democrat members are getting restless, the time for a leadership election is coming, infact with the election less than 2 and a half years away, the time might be now.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Madden 13: Something completely different

So I bought the latest installment of the Madden Franchise, Madden 13, on August 31st, and at last I have had a chance to scour the games new features in order to give you a bit of a review. This is of course the European version of the game I, it may well differ to the NA version, in which case I do apologise. I'll break it down into different sub-categories for you.


The game is now fronted by Phil Simms and Jim Nantz, both CBS broadcasters for real-life NFL coverage. The new feature includes commentary from the guys, as well as a brief 30 second clip of them talking about the match up. If the match is being played between two rivals (Cowboys versus Eagles for example) you get some good discussion about the rivalry, however if it is something of a nothing game in terms of rivalry or interest, the two will just talk generally about "the importance of matches late in the season" and "the two defences will be hunting down the oppositions QB". It's a shame there aren't more sound bites from the two, in order to make the pre-match build up more complete. The commentary in-game however feels much more complete, with evidently over 9,000 unique pieces of commentary. Having said that however, Nantz always seems to manage to throw in "The QB had so much time there, i'm sure you could have even made that pass!" at Simms.

The players now feel more real, particularly during the running game. Rather than just smashing into the line and hoping a gap appears and you'll slip through in previous Madden games, the user must now be patient in choosing their running lane. In Madden 13, if the running lane just isn't there, the running back will bounce off the O-Lineman, or lose his balance and fall over. Further, if the running back runs toward a player who has fallen over, the running back will trip if the user fails to jump over the fallen player. This makes the experience slightly more realistic, if not also more difficult.

Franchise mode/ Connect careers

I tend to spend much of my time playing Franchise mode. This year however, Franchise mode has been replaced by "connected careers". I would compare this replacement to franchise mode as more of a "Coach mode", whereby you put yourself into the game as a coach rather than a general manager. With the inclusion of EA Sports Gameface, you can take a picture of face, and have it rendered to actually feature in the game. This works with either "Coach Mode" or "the old Superstar mode".

Franchise mode used to be famously easy to manipulate in terms of trading players and getting picks. All "tricks" aside about how to create a team of all-stars, it is now much harder to get involved in trades. The game includes the option to trade draft picks for the upcoming draft and the following draft. Considering this, DeMarcus Ware, plus my 2013 and 2014 first round picks was not enough to lure Cam Newton to Cowboys Stadium. Teams can no now longer simply pay kings-ransoms for a player of their choice - if you're trading for a starter or franchise player, you can forget about trying to get him into your team. Instead you must be more calculated in your approach to trading. You must first consider which player you are willing trade away, and then trade with a team who are "in need" of a player in that position. You are given a hint of how interested the team are in your trade, but from this point there is no guarantee your trade will be successful. While this is perhaps more realistic (you rarely will see a franchise QB/RB switching teams), it makes the came slightly less enjoyable. As a Cowboys fan, I would always look to trade away either Marion Barber/Felix Jones and a couple of draft picks for a future HoF RB - those days i'm afraid to say are no more.

The game therefore creates greater emphasis on free agency and future draft picks. The Free Agency period during the off season is much more in depth and more competitive between teams and players. Drafting is also very much reliant on scouting. During the draft, teams can "trade up" while a team is on the clock, as well as there being a running commentary about who has picked who and which college they came from. This makes the Madden NFL 13 Draft experience unique, and in my opinion the best yet.

A new feature of the game is players coming out of retirement a la Deion Sanders. I was pleasantly surprised to find Kurt Warner available in free-agency - with a generous 87 rating, I snapped him up.

That'll do for now. As i play more i'm sure i will uncover more about the game, and when I do i'll be sure to post. Please comment and share if you liked what you read.