Tuesday, 1 March 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Unusually for me, this may prove to be a rather serious post! I apologize and will return to my normal programming soon, I promise. Also, look, it’s really long and not particularly coherent so again, apologies. In all honesty I’m not even sure I should post it but hey I said I used this blog for cathartic purposes so following that logic I thought I should.

Channel 4 recently launched a new political satire show called 10 O’clock live. Funny and rather more informative than you’d expect for a show in which Jimmy Carr is involved, it’s a mixture of serious hard-hitting interviews, comedy sketches and my personal highlight of the show, David Mitchell’s, generally spot-on, rants.

Now it may come as a surprise to people who know me but I am interested in world affairs and do try to keep up with the news. I will however hold my hands up and say that, more often than not, it deeply confuses me and I don’t understand it nearly as much as I wish I did. I rarely take part in political discussions because of this and also because I feel I’m not eloquent enough to express my feelings on the truly important things going on in the world. So you would be forgiven for thinking I didn’t have a clue what is going on. That being said, I’m currently very angry!

The final straw for me came on Thursday’s 10 O’clock live; David Mitchell’s rant was all about Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the 2011 Census. Now I had no idea who Lockheed Martin was prior to this but looking into it, it appears they are ‘an American defence & communications’ company. I’m sure that’s hugely simplifying their portfolio but I think that’s pretty much the gist of what they do. Basically, the UK Government has paid an arms firm from the US, £150 million to help with the 2011 Census.

There are several things about this that deeply anger me. Firstly, why the hell do we need to pay a company £150million to do this? The Office of National Statistics should surely be able to do the work. I understand the Census is a gargantuan undertaking but it’s not unprecedented. It happens every 10 years for Christ’s sake. Surely by now we can manage it ourselves. And if not, were there no UK companies that put a bid in for the contract?

Secondly, why give the contract to a US Arms firm?! This is the company that is responsible for Trident nuclear missiles & cluster bombs, a company that provided private interrogators to Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. I mean surely this is just insanity? It appears Lockheed Martin was involved in the 2001 Census as well but that doesn’t make it any more justifiable does it?!

There are currently calls from some to boycott the Census but, like Mitchell in his rant, I don’t think that’s the right way to go. In fact I have no idea what I can do with the outrage I feel in response to this. This anger isn’t just aimed at the Census thing. The census merely was the final push into maddening rage for me. Things such as the tax dodging revelations of Barclays Bank last week (see Jon’s blog re that, he can express that stuff a lot better than I ever could), the BBC’s belief that the Oscars Red Carpet is more worthy of news coverage than the goings on in Libya and more locally, the absolute immorality of a local council in the treatment of its longstanding employees have combined to have me seething for the last couple of weeks.

It’s quite obvious to anyone with a bit of sense that the world is falling apart right now. Now I’m not going attempt to comment on the things currently going on as I honestly don’t know enough but I know how I feel and what I’ve seen. We’ve had disaster after disaster and war after war. Will any of it actually prompt me to do anything though? The honest answer is probably not, and that’s what has unsettled me so much.

I recently heard a song called ‘Hurricane’ by a man named David Ford. It’s a song about our inaction both personally and as a generation, to respond.  It has really touched a nerve with me:

“Well, this land is your land, this land is mine,
Now pull up a chair and we can watch the decline, 
And it's never enough,
The surroundings are just too damn comfortable here”

This blog post is by no means a call to arms. I know my anger will pass, more quickly than it should in fact, but I had to express my frustration. If nothing else I know I can read it back in years to come and think: “Hey, at one point in your life you cared (almost enough)”.

Two links if you’re interested:
Ok, rant over!


  1. Elaine: that was a bril rant. You did do something. You informed some more people about something pretty scandalous. Every little helps.
    Ps: I'm kind of jealous as I never actually write up my rants, just sound off, mostly to myself.

  2. Very good rant. My dad was asking my opinions on boycotting it and I went with the Mitchell line.

    Interesting that the Indians are doing their census this year. According to their website: "Government servants duly appointed as Enumerators will visit each and every house and collect the information required."

    Now I'm not an expert but it looks as though they will manage to get through around 1.2 billion people without recourse to US arms companies.

    Maybe we could piss them off by declaring our religion to be nuclear weapons manufacturing git worshipers or something...


  3. I probably shouldn't poke you when you're angry, but there are things you can do. You could write to your MP about it or the paper.

  4. Thanks guys, I do feel slightly more relaxed now. And thanks for your assurances that I'm not in fact mad.

    Lila, I would love to read a blog of yours. You'd have a lot more insight than most of us that's for sure.

    Julian sweetie thanks for link re Indian Government. I actually really like your idea of using the census to make the point for us. Hmmm food for thought.

    Jon when have you ever not poked when it'll get a reaction Mr?! However i'm not as 'grrry' now i've vented so actually they are good ideas and I might in fact do so.

  5. Hi Elaine,
    I appreciate your rant, but I would like to qualify something. My husband works for Lockheed Martin. Lockheed is a huge company. They provide support not only in defence, but also in health care, government, information technology, etc... Very little of their projects are truly defence oriented. In fact, they are actually seen as separate companies.

    One of their strongest attributes is that they are one of the only companies in the world that can write software with 99% accuracy. All of this is due to standards.

    I can understand the anger in having a foreign company provide support for something as important as your census. But to say that Lockheed is an arms dealer is not correct. Lockheed is a very large conglomerate who has a small part of the company that makes "arms".

    I hope you don't mind the intrusion.

  6. Hi Anon,

    Thanks so much for your comment. No intrusion at all. It's lovely to see comments!

    I do understand that Lockheed Martin are involved in many areas other than weapons manufacture, many great areas in fact from what you say. However, having looked through their website, I think to categorise that branch of their work as a 'small part of the company' is perhaps inaccurate.

    I feel you understand that my anger isn't directed at Lockheed Martin themselves it's at the UK Government. I do feel that to choose a company with ANY connection to weapons manufacture is a very bad move.

    I do really appreciate you taking the time to post. It's quite exciting that people have actually read through that behemoth of a rant! I have to admit though I'm now regretting following it up with a post about cat sex! That's more my speed though if i'm honest!.

    Best wishes,
    Lany B


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