Posts Tagged ‘europe’

Eurovision 2017

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 | Music

Venla’s first Eurovision. She was not excited about it.

Nor were the contestants. This year’s contest didn’t produce much in the way of songs I have found burrowed inside my head. I still have a fair few knocking around on my playlist from last year, so it was disappointing to see a less-exciting array this year.

At least Romania gave us some rap yodelling.

Decent year for Britain. We were on the left-hand side of the scoreboard for quite a long time.

But maybe that is a sign that we have let out expectations drop too long. We have won it five times. Great commentary by Graham Norton, as ever.

Practical things we can do for the EU referendum

Thursday, June 16th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

vote-remain-car-poster

We are only seven days away from the EU referendum, so you might feel like it is too late to do anything to help the campaign. It really isn’t. Here are some practical things we can do to help secure the future of our country.

Tell your friends and family

Maybe your friends and family do not know how important it is. Or maybe they don’t realise that the result could be decided by lower voter turnout rather than people getting the result they want. Talk to them about it.

Donate

Both sides are spending big on advertising and media. It might be too late to pay for new billboards but there is plenty of time to buy more advertising in a daily newspaper or targeted online advertising on Google, Facebook and Twitter. You can donate to Stronger In or the Lib Dem campaign INtogether.

Helper people get to the polling station

Know anyone who might struggle to get to the polling station and cast their vote? Offer to help them.

Phone people

You might think that the campaign cold-calls are done by professionals at some big offices. They’re not. They are made by people at home. Using the Lib Dem system, all you need is a phone and a computer. Contact me for details.

Put some posters up

Stronger In offer posters you can print at home to put up in your house window, car window, at your office desk, anywhere you think people will see it. There are a lot of Leave signs around, simply because the Leave campaign has been more vocal, which gives a distorted picture of the support they have.

Why I am voting Remain

Monday, June 13th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

eu-flag

On Thursday 23 June, we will have the choice for Britain to remain in, or leave, the European Union. I will be voting for us to remain a member, and want to explain why.

This is not a short term decision

Both sides have argued over what the short term effects on the country would be. But the truth is that that is not really important. This is a decision about our future and one that will affect our entire lives. We need to think about what kind of country we want 50 years down the line.

I know what kind of country I want. One that is open and inclusive. One that does not shrink away from being a part of the global community. One that builds relationships and tolerance by saying that we are a united continent, held together by an organisation set up to promote the common good.

Relationships are better in Europe

My wife is from Finland. Our marriage was easy. She can live and work over here, or I can live and work over there. When we visit each other’s families, travel is easy. Pretty much everything inside the EU is easier.

marriage-signing

Most of my friends are EU immigrants. They’re all awesome people, kind people, interesting people. They all have jobs. Not a single EU immigrant I know is on benefits: they are all contributing to our economy. They’re not cheap labour, they’re the best that their country has to offer. And they’re humans. Humans with feelings, and fears, left wandering what will happen to the country they live in and love.

Freedom to go where one wants

When I was going to move to San Francisco to work for a software company, we had months of complexities trying to sort out visas. I’m a high skilled worker with a skill that the United States needs, and still it was incredibly difficult and complex to get me the right to work in the country, let alone settle there.

I found this an incredibly bizarre experience. As a British citizen, my passport is normally a golden ticket to anything. I won the genetic lottery when I was born in the UK. Yet here was a country that wouldn’t let me even, even with a passport in which Her Majesty “requests & requires” the barer to be allowed free passage.

Right now I can go to any other European nation. I can live there, I can work there, I can use their healthcare system. I have that right because of the relationships we have with our European neighbours. Risking that would be only be a step backward.

Lead, not leave

27 countries send MEPs to the European Parliament. We send over 10% of them. The average country sends 4% of the MEPs, we send more than double that. Along with Germany and France, we have the biggest seat at the table.

And what a community to lead. The European Union is the world’s largest economy. It is bigger than the United States, it is bigger than China. It is one of the few powers in the world that can stand up to global corporations.

Europe sticks up for workers, and consumers

Europe is not making judgements and legislation to make our lives more difficult. They make a positive impact on our lives. They guarantee us holidays, rights, a limited working week and maternity leave.

Consumers benefit too. Take mobile roaming charges for example. It is literally free for operators to do this. The idea that roaming costs money is bullshit. The whole internet works on people sending data all over the world. There is no reason for these fees to exist other than for operators to take advantage of consumers. The EU are putting a stop to that.

There is no financial benefit

All countries that want access to the single market, which we would need to do to continue to trade with the rest of Europe, we would continue to have to pay into the EU budget. This is the reality Norway find themselves in.

However, even if we did save some cash after the new EU bill, and we somehow kept the economy going, and thereby ended up with in the black, the idea that that money would go to the NHS is dubious. As one meme pointed out, if you trust people live Johnson, Gove and Farage to take the money we save and put it into the NHS, rather than giving further tax breaks to the rich, then I have some magic beans to sell you.

Nor will leaving the EU allow us to avoid the European Convention on Human Rights or avoid the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. These are part of the Council of Europe and leaving the EU will now exempt us from them.

There will be no immigration controls

The other major touted benefit of leaving the EU would be that we would have control of immigration. However, it has now been shown how this would be the case. Norway and Switzland both have free movement agreements in place and actually receive a higher proportion of EU immigrants than we do.

Summary

I am voting for remain because the European Union represents a better world. A world where we can go where we want, work where we want. A world where we welcome in our friends and our lovers, and do not worry about whether our relationships will be allowed to continue or rejected for visa reasons.

A world where we stand side-by-side with our neighbours to defend human rights, and the rights of workers and consumers across the continent. There is no economic argument for leaving: our economy will function best when we have open trading with our European partners.

United we stand, divided we fall.

Remain campaign nonsense

Thursday, June 9th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

stronger-in

When the EU referendum arrives, I will be voting to remain. I want to see an open, inclusive country that plays its part in the global community and helps lead the world forward at the head of the world’s largest and most powerful union.

However, I have been disappointed about the amount of bullshit being put out by the remain campaign. Tim Farron’s case for voting for the country we want is drowned out by the scare tactics being constantly pumped out by the remain-Conversatives. I want to challenge some of these.

£4,300 a year worse off

George Osborne made the claim that families would be £4,300 worse off. This is obviously is not true. Could you find £4,300 spare in your household? Most people couldn’t. Certainly someone earning £12,000 a year on minimum wage couldn’t. Many people live below though: working part time, being unable to find a job, being on long-term sick or retirees living on a pension.

I earn in the 90th percentile, so I could afford it. However, I couldn’t afford to subsidise it for the other nine people who earn less than me. There simply isn’t that much money going spare in the UK. It would be impossible for Brexit to cost households that much.

On the BBC Fact Check they explain he is actually talking about GPD, and not actual cost to families. However, it was explicitly not reported that way.

Nobody would sign trade agreements with us

US President Barack Obama claimed Britain would be at the back of the queue for a trade agreement if we left Europe. This could be true, but I very, very much doubt it. The UK is the United States’s 7th largest trading partner, second in Europe. If we left, having no trade agreement hurts them. Are we expected to believe they would cut off their nose? In reality, we’re likely to be first in the queue, being the most valuable trading partner now without a trade agreement.

Europe will send all the British expats back

Britain doesn’t have more people living abroad than any other country, but we do have a substantial population (somewhere around 1.2 million) of expats living in other EU countries.

However, it is unlikely that Brexit would mean much. Unlike Eastern European countries that are pumping out the cheap labour some people in the UK object to, British expats tend to be high-skilled workers or wealthy retirees. They also mostly live in Western European countries such as Spain and Ireland who most likely would continue to enjoy a good relationship with us.

Eurovision 2016 wrap-up

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 | Distractions

eurovision-2016

So, Eurovision 2016 is over and Ukraine have won the day. Now that Russia haven’t won, I can start enjoying Sergey Lazarev’s “You Are The Only One” for the quite good song that it really is. There were no obviously rubbish songs this year. I think that is the problem with the semi-final system: it filters out all of the really crazy stuff.

Sweden rocked our world

I thought Sweden did a brilliant job of hosting. It was a little different, and definitely for the better. I am pleased Justin Timberlake performed. Not because I am a big Timberlake fan, but I hope that it will lend a note of legitimacy to the contest that will encourage bigger names to take part, which can only benefit the UK (with our massive stock of big artists).

They also stole the show with the best song of the night…

The UK did not do very well

Alas. It was looking quite good for Joe & Jake when the judges’ votes came in, but the public did not feel the same way. It’s a shame because I think it is one of the better songs we have put up recently.

The new voting system is odd

I think I prefer the old system. The new system does keep the surprise until right at the very end, but then it also makes the rest feel a bit pointless. They have to rush round the other countries, with only one score announcement each and the tedious reminder to get on wit hit. Do they not brief the people giving the scores beforehand so they know to just get on with it?

I was hoping we could make some FiveThirtyEight-style paths to victory which showed how a country was doing compared to how it should have been doing. For example, if Belarus gives us two points and Russia eight points, on the face of it, that would seem to put Russia ahead. But it doesn’t of course, because they would normally give Russia 12 points and us nothing. It would be interesting to model, but the new system makes it impossible (it would have been difficult before anyway).

The public have very different opinions

Poland, who you will remember entered a rubbish song, were rightly at the bottom when the judges’ scores had been set up. Yet when the public vote came in, they were third from top. This happened to them a few years ago when their churning milkmaids were shunned by the British jury but very popular with the British public. This time, on a European-wide scale.

I’ve come round to songs

I initially shunned Laura Tesoro’s “What’s The Pressure” when listening beforehand. However, seeing it in the contest brought it to life.

It’s a fun, upbeat song and I like the retro disco theme. Even more impressive, that girl has moves! Have you tried doing a dance that choreographed while belting out a song like that? It is damn hard to sing and play an instrument at the same time, and I imagine singing and dancing is harder.

Also, Jamie-Lee’s “Ghost” was so bizarre that I can’t get it out of my head.

As Graham Norton pointed out, they clearly had a lot of costume ideas: and liked them all.

Eurovision 2016: 24 hours to go

Friday, May 13th, 2016 | Distractions

eurovision-2016

Last weekend I published a preview of some of the songs to watch. Well, that’s all changed. I’ve been listening to the songs on Spotify all week and have some new favourites.

Russia

Not a song I want to win. In fact, I’m starting the hashtag #AnyoneButRussia. They are now heavy favourites though. Paddy Power are offering 1.57 on them. 2.0 would be evens (50% shot at winning), so they’re running away with it. The nearest rival is Australia at 11/2.

Australia

They have moved up to second favourite. It’s a good song.

Ukraine

Third favourites. They must be counting on a lot of political sympathy though. The song just isn’t that good. Bold topic, but not great music.

Poland

Poland are having a nightmare! The song I have been singing along to most this week has been Margaret’s Cool Me Down. It’s super-addictive. Great song. The bookies were loving it too.

Then I find out that they picked another song to compete in Eurovision. And it’s shit.

Norway

I’m disappointed Norway did not make it through. Agnete’s Icebreaker is a nice tune.

Malta

Another slower but nice song is Malta. It’s got that nice kick-up.

Conclusion

Obviously I hope Joe and Jake nail it for the UK. However, as I can’t vote for them, my favourite so far is Amir, representing France. It’s the only song I have been singing as much as Margaret.

Britain’s Coming Home

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Video

If this doesn’t convince you, nothing will…

Eurovision 2014

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 | Distractions, Video

eurovision-2014

I found this year’s Eurovision very odd. There was not a huge mix of ridiculous, funny novelty acts. There were just a lot of genuinely enjoyable songs. I am not sure I approve of that.

The winner was of course Conchita Wurst. Her victory was heralded as a great victory for the acceptance of trans in our society. I am a little less convinced. The fact that Wurst could win Eurovision does not tell us that much. Yes, it means she got lots of votes from countries you might not think were that gay-friendly. But it was Eurovision. The campest thing on television. It’s the only thing that did not get more camp by adding Graham Norton. I’m very happy she won, but this is not the end of apartheid.

We finally got the message this year and realised we were going to do a lot better if we had a Swedish person write our song instead. It still did not work that well.

Finland did okay this year. They face the same problem every year though – how do you follow the legend that is Lordi?

I really enjoyed Iceland’s song. Good song; good message.

Being a twenty-first century man I would never be petty enough to revel in French defeats. For a start, who has that much time to commit? But if you are going to take your one black performer and daub him in war paint while your lead singer is wearing a shirt and tie, you probably deserve to come dead last.

No surprise that Ukraine actually gave Russia plenty of points. Even if half the country is rather annoyed at Russia at the moment, they do have a large ethnic Russian population.

I have no idea how The Netherlands got so many votes. It was a good song, but it wasn’t a Eurovision song (we don’t want your deep and meaningful music about here!).

Well done to Hungary too. Not everyone could score so many points by singing about child abuse.

I was quite proud of us when we didn’t give Poland all our points. It was a shit song. We hadn’t voted for Poland just because they got their tits out. But then it turned out the public had.

Of course now is the most depressing time of year, because it is the furthest away you can be from the next Eurovision song contest. But we will struggle on, somehow…

The European Witch Hunts

Friday, May 31st, 2013 | Humanism

Following the Atheist Society’s AGM, Hugh Clayden delivered a talk on the European Witch Hunts. You can watch the video on Worfolk Lectures. Not only was it a really interesting talk, but you have to love Hugh’s gestures.

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Finland

Monday, June 25th, 2012 | Travel

Now that I am self employed, I hate holidays. It’s fine to say, well I budget for that in my earnings, but when it actually comes to taking time off and doing the maths surrounding it, it’s very hard to make that decision.

Therefore, given I was forced to take a four day weekend for the Jubilee, we decided to fit in a cheeky trip to Finland to go see Elina’s family.

As if I didn’t hate flying enough, it turns out Finnair were running a new programme trial in which instead of feeding us, they didn’t feed us. Rubbish,

I had previous met her mum who provided us with a warm welcome and some amazing cooking. Indeed, she cooked so much that we ended up having beef and chicken for breakfast the next day too! I’m hoping it will become the new traditional Finnish breakfast.

It’s a really beautiful country and not called the land of a thousand lakes without good reason.

We had to drive through quite a bit of forest to get to the lakes. No wonder Finland produces so many rally drivers, it was ace.

On Monday we went to Turku, one of the larger cities where Elina went to university. It was mostly full of sex shops that offered live shows and a river that you would never want to drink from, but was nice never the less.

Then, in the evening, we travelled up north to Rauma so we could eat at a restaurant that served reindeer steak.

It was a lovely traditional restaurant, and the food was excellent.

After a long day of adventuring, Moomintroll was very tired.

Thank you so much to Elina’s mum and brother who put us up for the three days.