Friday, April 29, 2011

Inherit the Wind

I was reading an interesting story in Wired Magazine today, which is possibly as true of voting trends in this country as it is in the United States.

Entitled, 'The Ignorance of Voters', it argues that the human mind is a marvelous information filter, adept at blocking out those facts that contradict what we’d like to believe and the same process also applies to our political beliefs.

Basically it's revisiting the old 'confirmation bias' argument in human behaviour but it's something I see on a regular basis here in Thanet, on blogs, in newspaper letters, emails and even conversations on the street with people. The Turner Contemporary, Margate caves, Pierremont park the football club and much more, where the evidence or the facts shows one thing but personal opinion insists on something else being true, simply because somebody said so. This is then swiftly established as popular axiomatic fact, simply because it's human nature to believe something that confirms one's own opinions rather than consider evidence to the contrary.

It's a facet of our collective psychology that drives the scientist and author, Richard Dawkins crazy when he finds himself in argument with creationists. After all, if the 16th Century Bishop Ussher decided that from his studies of the Old Testament that the world was created on 23rd October 4004 BC, who is Dawkins or Darwin or modern genetic science to say otherwise?

Perhaps and if I find a moment, I might write down the local myths, political and otherwise of the last four years, simply to look back upon one day in the future'; after all this blog has been running for almost a decade now and longer than any other on the island.

However, with only a week before the results of our local elections, there's a certain weary despair in reading some of the other political manifestos in today's local paper, pandering as some of the 'policies' are to confirmational bias and suggesting that a local council can involve itself in matters which lie outside its direct influence and control or spend large sums of money which it doesn't have. The results of our own local election will I'm sure be interesting and have its surprises but the consequences will be felt by all of us for years to come.

Selected Gems from Local Manifestos!

Liberal Democrats:

"We support moves to examine the feasibility of re-opening attractions, such as Margate Caves"

"Seek to review the decision to develop in Pierremont park"


"Thanet Conservatives have allowed the closure of almost all our attractions and hotels. Labour councillors have been instrumental in supporting our museums and Margate Caves"


"Will cut ICT and computer equipment and  re-open all the museums, Margate Caves and the Shell Grotto that have been closed by the previous councils. Open-up the old Second World War air raid shelters in Ramsgate with tours and exhibits from the wars."

Now the more perceptive among our readers may have spotted that UKIP aren't aware that the Shell Grotto is open and thriving and has been for some years now. The Margate Caves were of course closed by the HSE under a prohibition notice in 2003 and opening the WWII  Ramsgate Tunnels would be a task of quite enormous cost and complexity. Quite why cutting an already tightly costed ICT budget would make a difference I don't know and neither, I would guess, do UKIP.

The LibDems you will notice are hedging their bets with 'feasibility' and of course plan to review a planning decision that has already been approved. Quite how they might achieve this I don't know and clearly confuse the parish council with the district council.

Last word of course goes to Labour and apparently Thanet Conservatives have 'allowed' the closure of nearly all our attractions and hotels. But wait a moment, hotels are privately owned and attractions are frequently leased, such as the Margate Caves or privately owned. Quite where a local council starts interfering with local business I don't know and in fact, most recently, the Conservative council has been reopening the museums with support from the communities involved.

If we return back to the nostalgic days of Only Fools & Horses and the famous 'Jolly Boys' outing to Margate, under which administration did things start to change dramatically as inward migration and an economic downturn changed the face of Cliftonville and Margate? The answer is the same Labour Group who gave us the Clock Tower traffic lights while the Cliftonville hotels crumbled around their ears and became a magnet for London authorities to send their their most vulnerable people to. Their front bench still includes the very same people who were involved at the time.

None of these gems are costed and in fact, no effort whatsover has been made to come up with the answer to where the money for any of the many grand plans in the different opposition manifestos will come from. What we have instead is a series of vote-catching platitudes that ignore the 'Elephant in the living room' which are the real costs of dealing with the consequences of an empty Treasury and the biggest public sector debt in our national history


Anonymous said...

A new publication by a local writer has just hit the shelves at WH Smith, it's entitled " The apathy of the masses" and depicts the attitude of the people of Thanet since 1985.

Should be a best seller, that is if anyone can be bothered to go and buy it ???

Disenchanted said...

Interesting stuff, Simon, but surely this is why we have changes of governments and councils. In opposition one can say anything, whether achievable or even within ones remit or not, and an element of floating gullible voters will believe it.

Add the fact that serving administrations are easily accused of everything that goes wrong, from dog poo to the weather, and change from time to time becomes inevitable.

Then you have the intransigence of the diehards, on either side of the politic spectrum, who believe the claptrap of their forefathers, in total disregard of any evidence, and vote accordingly.

All in all it is a wonder anyone really enters politics where achievement is seemingly less valued than spin. Even worse, politicians and their supporters can become so infected by their own hype that they finish up believing it.

Typically, Gordon Brown still thinks he saved the world whilst Clive Hart is going to reduce the number of councillors. Utter nonsense, of course, but they and some of their following have swallowed the notion hook, line and sinker.

Perhaps we should have a minimum IQ test for voting, but which political party would be brave enough to propose it. Thus we are stuck with a world where Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, who helped to create our nations record deficit, could once again finish up managing our finances.

All kind of makes one despair.

Anonymous said...

Disenchanteds words apply to politicians on all sides; the present administration is just as prone to knowing best and has any number of skeletons in the cupboard - what's the real story behind the Ezekiel/Latchford resignations?

DrM. said...

You got me there!

What Ezekiel/Latchford resignations?

Have I missed something!?

Anonymous said...

Oh dear so coy. Caused no end of amusement to those of us on Fort Hill who are not On the square

DrM. said...

Now you've completely lost me!

Do share what on earth you are trying to say!?

Readit said...

".....the human mind is a marvelous information filter, adept at blocking out those facts that contradict what we’d like (you)to believe..."

That would explain why the Conservative manifesto has omitted to mention an airport with 6 million passengers, then?

DrM. said...

No Ken, its a manifesto which supports economic development which includes the airport and consultation on night flights. It is not a business plan for the airport which is a matter for Infratil

Keep up!

Readit said...

I take it then, from your last comment that if we are "blessed" with a new Conservative administration, they will no longer be supporting the Infratil proposals as previously stated in the Core Strategy consultation document.

Or do we have to wait until after the election before you answer that question?

DrM. said...

It's a mystery to me Ken but it all woks out in the end!

With six million passengers in mind have you ever thought of opening a B&B?

Anonymous said...

Simon, the comments relating to Fort Hill and the square allude to the notion that most coppers were masons giving rise to much back scratching with the local hierachy. As ever with these things, more a perceived notion of the uninitiated than reality, oft referred to by Retired in his ramblings.

You might as well suggest the they were all members of the jehdi.

DrM. said...

What amazes me us how so many people live in Thanet's past besides the members of the Labour front bench

These days we just do a job, we dont even socialise as politicians much if at all

Fiona S said...

It is indeed appalling that there is no substance behind some of the various manifesto points you highlight. The electorate has the right to expect some. Do not forget, however, that lack of costing has been a perpetual theme relating to Margate Caves. It could also be said that the decision to write off their viability was a good example of confirmational bias. I am, however, delighted that all parties seem to want to look into the issue now.

DrM. said...

Must be an election near then as they have been sitting in the dark since 2004!

Anyway, I said ideas were welcome in the absence of funds and theres no change there.

Liquored up and lacquered up said...

Moores is peddling the usual eyewash again. The neglect of the town's attractions is a disgrace. Turner is only a partial solution. Dramland(sic)and the Heritage Quarter will stimulate trade throughout the rest of the town centre. The Arsit Strategy Group has a simple plan: to line the pockets of it's chums and expand bureaucracy. Sell-off the assets and spend the money on consultants for Westwood Garden City. More building jobs for their chums. No planning permission in the town centre? Arson it then you don't have to worry about that awkward priceless interior. Keep the slum speculators happy by shipping in the poor so TDC can access huge government grants and watch the town sink into a non-job paradise. We do not want any more shoddy flats like the one's Godden is slapping up off Eaton Row. Christ, have you seen the clients of Mirsky in Eaton Row? They are deemed "incapable of managing their own affairs" which is why all their money goes straight to Mirsky. He dines with Gale while his "clients" nest in filthy tenements. How many of these slumlords are fixing the leccy meters to make a profit? Black mould ? We got it. Landlord poker games at 50 Canterbury Rd while their tenants are mired in squalor?Oh yes.Is this what we want? An ever expanding Slumlord menace fostering an ASBO underclass with rabid staffies and drug dealers ? The London Boroughs are still getting £1500 for each person they relocate down here. Mirsky and the slumlords are not subject to the Landlord Licensing because they provide a "service". Sick but true. Look around you. For every artistic renewal type there are dozens of the dregs of all flags. The best thing-for TDC- about these barrelscrapings is they are so arseholed most of the time they don't even know what voting is. Last year I asked a group of them where the poll was being held. They replied "We don't like the fuckin' Poles!" I'm afraid we desperately need an influx of human beings in Thanet. Now after that rant I shall go and join my Special Brew chums on the wall outside. I am secretary of the Beverage Outreach Group. Yes, that spells BOG. You may find that amusing but I am merely doing my bit to reach out as part of the Poverty Amelioration Project (PAP). We are currently interfacing with government agencies to facilitate the stakeholders of the kerb in their engagement with the Can-do programme. We supply alcohol because we find it is the best way to help them to achieve their ambitions: oblivion. With Martin Wise held up as a paragon of TDC virtue I rather feel like joining them. I jest of course. Just you wait until May 5th. DAMN YOU TDC. You grubby little shysters.