Category Archives: Conservatives

What are EU on about?

You’ll know the Conservative grassroots member by their swivelling eyes and lunatic-type behaviour, according to an as yet unnamed senior Conservative member whose unattributed remark has been splashed all over the papers like a kiss and tell in the Sun. They might be shouting gay people out of their church or terrorising European economic migrants in your local Polski Sklep.
And senior Conservative members, when they aren’t undermining their own supporters, are confusing and berating the general public in equal measure. They’re about as inclusive as the aristocracy.
Boris Johnson wrote a piece for the Telegraph last week that went thusly: “As a British diplomat once languidly observed, the trouble with the whole debate on Europe is that there is too much religion and not enough politics. It is like the feud in the early Christian Church between those who believed that Christ was of the same substance as the Father, and those who said He was of a similar but not identical substance. Was He homoousios or homoiousios? You might say it didn’t make an iota of difference – and yet that iota was the cause of strife that cost thousands of lives.”
You could probably express this same argument by saying: “The trouble with the whole debate on Europe is that there is too much religion and not enough politics. It is like the feud in the early days of Coke and Coke Diet. Does it taste the same? You might say it didn’t make one iota of difference – and yet that iota was the cause of strife that cost thousands of lives.” Ok. Maybe the last bit doesn’t work. And Coke obviously isn’t religion – although it is more popular – the only countries that it isn’t present in are Cuba and Syria. And likewise, Europe also isn’t a church. But in one fell swoop, Boris alienates anyone who hasn’t closely studied the Crusades, while a simple fizzy drink analogy would have made the same point.
So why would the Boris-friendly Torygraph, along with Murdoch’s Times, seek to stitch up the Conservative aid by reporting on his comments in the first place? Perhaps they are all FT subscribers, which this weekend reported to its wealthy readers that the EU is going to put a €500,000 pay threshold on bankers’ bonuses. Perhaps this is actually a double bluff by the right wing press and the Tory part itself to make the whole EU exit thing sound rather like a good, homegrown idea and not one imposed by friends of those at the top.
There are people – many of whom are members of the Conservative party – that wholeheartedly believe that we should leave Europe. There are many, much less well heard, who believe that we shouldn’t. So far, we have received little actual information on the topic, save that 100 Conservative MPs are very keen for us to have a referendum, they say at the behest of their members. But anyway, no one actually has any idea what the UK would look like after the event. So whether it’s because of Romanian immigrants, ‘elf and safety’, or because it’s going to hit their considerable bank balances, the anti-Europeans can’t be as sure as they sound. So let’s have another costly public vote on something that few people really understand, yeah? Because the Eurovision Song Contest clearly isn’t enough.
Intuitively I believe that Europe is a good thing. I think we are stronger together, weaker apart. And Barack Obama has expressed the same sentiment, whatever that means. The UK just isn’t that big a deal anymore. I like Europeans and I can’t understand why languages aren’t as valued in the UK as they are elsewhere. I feel impotent on the continent. Which gives me some idea of how impotence can actually feel. We have also seen the longest period of peace in the region under the European Union. Which is probably a good thing? An interviewee in the recent Ken Loach documentary The Spirit of ’45, made the rather grisly observation that if we could make killing Germans a legitimate industry, the UK would be thriving.
Some people reckon that with this piece BoJo was positioning himself to be the post-EU UK PM. ROFL? Might I suggest that our exit from the EU could be a long-term strategic plan to break that peace pact and get Britain working again? I can almost see Boris, Churchill-like, wearing a onesie (check it out at the Cabinet War Rooms museum), with a long stick in his hand directing the Boris Bombers. We can just ignore the people, doctor the evidence and send some brave people to their untimely deaths. And then the government will change and everyone will have collective amnesia. We’ll see.
One of his key points was that we are all actually pretty rubbish, with or without the EU. He said if we left we “would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and under-investment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.” Not sure how much of this can be laid at our door… Or even that of Bwussels.
Meanwhile, gay marriage has also become a sticking point for the Conservative party. I’m not quite sure why such an unpopular club would like to alienate willing members who want to give up their individual freedom in the ‘eyes of God’. Likewise, I wouldn’t be so keen to join a club that didn’t want me, although if it was my religion… I guess I’d just want it to be cool to marry the person I love.
So. This week, Conservatives are yet again trying to change the rules of a club that doesn’t really need us to be members while also refusing to change a club that they don’t really want other people to be members of.
Perhaps it’s all these little clubs – much like the ones where swivel-eyed loons of the journo-political variety hang out together – that are the problem.
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Smashing illustration of BoJo by Dale Edwin Murray, created for the Sunday Times
Written for and first published here: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/what-are-eu-on-about/

No More Parties. My Manifesto.

Written for and first published at: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/no-more-parties-pt-3/
 
The Labour party had 193,961 members on 31 December 2010 according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission. At the same time, the Conservatives managed about 177,000 members, so said activist Tim Montgomerie. The fact is – there are many, many more people who aren’t members than are.

There is room for 304 more Labour parties, or 338 Conservative parties. Many MPs have been around for donkey’s years. And a lot of the ones that haven’t have worked their way up as office juniors under the people that have. And, as some guy called Einstein once mused, the issues that we face today cannot be solved by the same thinking that got us to where we are.

Parties actually complicate and confuse – you either agree with them, whoever ‘they’ are, or us. However the political parties often work together in some sort of an unspoken consensual pact to maintain their position. After all, they are guaranteed to be back in office sooner or later. So why rock the boat? 

Cue the Labour party – who’ve been surprisingly quiet on most of the controversial announcements made during the Con-Dem’s term so far. That’s because they are awaiting in preparation for the next time in the hot seat, they needn’t risk putting themselves on the line. Why chance being wrong? They do just little enough that no one can complain. Or they seem so irrelevant that no one actually cares.

Young people are characterised as either not caring enough to vote, or prefer campaigning on single issues. But a lot just feel that politicians don’t represent them, and their vote wouldn’t make one bit of difference. Parties focus their efforts in marginal seats, knowing there are many safe seats where they know they will win because they know enough people feel obliged, or compelled, to vote as they always do and maintain things as they are.

You probably think ‘fuck it’. And that not voting is dangerous. That will show them. But to the parties – it is actually greater participation that will unsettle them – it will make them have to work for it.

I’m not an anarchist. I think we need great leaders, who make good decisions based on the facts they have available, in line with the values of our modern society, for the public good. We need people with style, substance and integrity. We really can’t think so short-term – we are future parents, future homeowners, and future old people. I meet people every day who are doing things differently from community banks to cooperative energy schemes. If you think that something can’t be done, can’t be changed, and that there is not point- that is exactly what they want you to think.

So how could we change this?

Apart from the Human Rights Act – which many politicians claim is the worst thing that ever happened to us – nowhere in one place does it say what we are really all about. Who is Team GB?

I reckon we need to take a huge look at who we are and where we want to go and write down some broad principles. The government is so keen on measuring everything else – why not set ourselves some goals and measure our success. 

For example:
– Sustainable for future generations
– Health, productivity and fulfillment for all
– People before profit
– Fair access to services
– Collaborative approach
– Trust, openness, fairness, fun

We should be able to vote online using our national insurance number. Anyone who says this is open to fraud should a) check how lax the current system is and b) admit they are only afraid that more people might actually do it.

There is no real way of becoming a candidate if you aren’t in a party. 

We should:
1. Abolish parties
Candidates for a given area can put themselves forward, a personal manifesto in line with our new constitution, based on an interest in helping their region. They can also outline any expertise that might make them fit for a particular ministerial job.

Then, like jury service, panels (perhaps with ‘expert witnesses’ from particular fields) pick the most suitable candidates. Then everyone can vote.

2. Failing that – and I’m pretty prepared for it – let’s create a new party. Our Party – The People’s Party – a party that is for everyone’s interests for the future.

People who tell you that things can’t change either have an interest in things staying the way they are (banking, finance, political industries), or they’ve already planned their escape route.
So we have to change it ourselves. We, the people, Team GB. Why not, we’ve got nothing to lose!

Artwork – Aardvark Manifesto 2011. Available here.

No More Parties. Part 2

Written for and first published here: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/no-parties-pt-2/.

In two short years, public opinion has shifted from #Iagreewithnick, to the creation of a pretty terrible remix of our deputy PM’s belated apology for making a promise that he almost certainly wouldn’t have kept. 

The contempt with which people now hold MPs – bait for any computer literate human – is clear. But what has also shone through this week, is how the public is viewed by some of our leaders.

Cue GateGate, or that time the guy who makes all the Conservatives do as they’re told, Andrew Mitchell, probably used the word pleb, picked up at public school, in an altercation with a member of the public service. Despite overwhelming evidence, he has denied saying it, and his party is particularly annoyed because of all the work that has gone in to trying to make everyone think that they aren’t just a party for the rich. But did he say it? Public trust in the police isn’t great either, following high profile errors, corruption and a shooting that sparked last year’s riots. Yes, this system is pretty much junk.

We still have the Labour and Conservative party conferences to go and I challenge them to say anything that they haven’t just made up because they think it’s what we want to hear. The reality is that there will be cuts, cuts, cuts and the Labour party has no interest in there being anything otherwise – as they can come and ‘save the day’ in two and a half years’ time. And we’ll all no doubt be incredibly indifferent – or as scornful as we were when the last lot was in.

You might wonder where these Nicks, Andrews and Daves spring from anyway. Politics actually has a relatively sweet application process. You get selected by people who agree with you, if they are even allowed to make a real choice, from a list of people who all broadly agree anyway.

People are chosen for their job by a small group who qualify to be consulted because they are barmy enough to have joined the minority of people who still identify with frankly unfashionable concepts.

And when it comes to ministerial appointments, it seems no one will really look at your expertise. Win! Only great managers who don’t get bogged down in the detail need apply. Crazy, really, because we wouldn’t let a newsreader wander off and be a doctor without some pretty extensive training. And surely it is prior industry experience, that qualifies you to manage in a given field? Any graduate looking for their first job knows – no experience, no job. And many of our leaders can’t even seem to manage their expenses.

Crazy glitter artwork by Steven Barrett’s Glam Glitter Trash prints and greeting cards. Very far from trashy.

No More Parties?! Part 1

A year ago, I asked my wise friends of Facebook the question: ‘What do you think of politics today?’ I gave the options ‘like’, ‘don’t like’, ‘don’t know enough about it’ and ‘don’t care’ but left it open for others to add their own categories. The reason I asked is because I love politics. It is important to me because it has an effect on my life. 37 replied.

Results were: 13 – ‘don’t like’, 10 – ‘no major distinction between major parties anymore – vote grabbing whores all’, 4 – ‘occasionally interested’, 3 – ‘that’s a deeply vague question’, 3 – ‘I like turtles’, 1 – ‘I’d rather not vote than vote for Rupert Murdoch’, 1 – ‘don’t know enough about it’, 1 – ‘don’t care’, 0 – like.

So this was a pretty rubbish sample of vaguely young people. Both boys and girls answered and many were happy to add alternatives. It appears that most people consider themselves to have enough understanding to know that they don’t approve. Not one said ‘like’.

The political parties are back in the Commons after their summer break. The only profession, aside from teachers and children, that gets such a long period off. And certainly the only one that doesn’t get any stick for it. I’m not saying that it doesn’t make sense to rest people in high-pressure roles where they often work long hours. But the same gesture isn’t afforded to everyone else doing such jobs.

While they are papped by the media allegedly relaxing on their staycation, many can actually be found surrounded by SPADs (Special Advisers, roles populated by Oxbridgers in the ministers’ own image) preparing for the new term. No sooner have they got their well-cut suit jackets off (except for the ones who got bollocked by a female Conservative MP the other day for looking scruffy), there’s been a re-shuffle in the Cabinet. And party conference season is just around the corner – more on that later.

A ‘reshuffle’ sounds alarmingly casual. Like the first line-up was an initial, random shuffle and this subsequent one is similarly haphazard. Commentators are wondering how Big D has managed to miss the fact that George Osbourne is the most hated man in England (booed in the stadium when he was presenting medals to Paralympic winners, when even Gordon ‘End of Boom and Bust’ Brown got a cheer), his new Minister for Equality has been absent or abstained in all major LGBT rights votes and his new Health Minister (the one who ballsed up a huge media deal with Rupert Murdoch by being… too good friends with him) is sometimes referred to accidentally on the BBC as Jeremy Cunt. And he has no health expertise. And he has been reprimanded on both expenses and tax avoidance.

Oh and not to mention Lib Dem David Laws making his big comeback, painted as being just about the only competent one, despite leaving his ministerial post in 2010 after it was revealed he claimed money from the taxpayer for a room in his partner’s flat; which doesn’t give you much confidence in the rest of them. Overall, it reveals a healthily bizarre pattern to making high power appointments.

So, with that bit of hocus pocus out of the way, the parties can all continue with preparations for their big annual shindigs, starting with the Green’s last weekend. Party conference season is a bit like summer for teenage festival-goers. Get wasted. See people you know. Potentially hook up. Perhaps learn something. If you wondered where political parties decide their policy – it’s not here. They don’t really recruit members either… So, why then you ask, do they exist? I went to a debate last week for the launch of Policy Review TV with @PollyToynbee from the Guardian arguing for them to be abolished, and @TimMontgomerie, editor of Conservative Home, saying they should remain.

I’ll spare you the details and just give you a couple of tit-bits. Polly called them an “extraordinarily artificial event where delegates are irrelevant.” Tim said they are a ‘Disneyland vacation’ for politics lovers. He said there are actually three conferences:

1. TV conference – for the cameras. Main aim – DO NOT MAKE A GAFF ON TELLY
2. Fringe conference – events outside the main hall where charities and thinktanks can be found
3. Late night bar conference – the only socialising lots of politicos ever get to do

Many limitations were identified with the help of the crowd. People suggested the length was prohibitive to those who have… er… jobs. Conservative Home actually worked out that its conference now costs more than £700 to attend. Much more than a festival and not in the summer holidays… Hmm.

Political parties are in massive decline. This is happening for many reasons, here’s a few: they don’t represent the views of modern people, they have bad internal organisation so they find it difficult to get people and biscuits in the same room, they don’t want too many people coming with their individual ideas and views, the situation in government has stayed stable whether they have members or not, they aren’t cool, they don’t seem to do what they say they are going to do, they don’t tell the truth… I could clearly go on.

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Illustration by my lovely friend Hannah Wallace.

Written for and first published here: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/no-more-parties/

“… And the government that has to make those cuts will make itself unelectable for a generation.” The Coalition.

“… And the government that has to make those cuts will make itself unelectable for a generation.”

Cameron and Clegg would be weeping into their well-tailored suit sleeves at the words of the Panorama reporter, if they weren’t so busy getting off…

Hours and pages of serious coverage, from BBC News 24 to the Economist claim the pair have “got into bed”, after their “civil partnership” in the back garden (tee hee) of Number 10 (nope, can’t make a joke out of that…).

From the media that has grown up alongside the New Labour government that, for all its failings, can be celebrated for legislating to give gay people the right to make a union accepted in the eyes of the law, the crude comparison made when two men stand as a pair, is, actually saddening.

“OOO, it’s like a fake wedding, like one of those fake weddings Elton John got…”

Grow up.

The Independent claims that the “courtship” could have been going on since 2006, the poaching of bright Liberal Democrats to possible Conservative defection.

But this isn’t just a bare-faced switch of allegiance, this wasn’t inevitable, the conclusion needn’t have been foregone.

And unfortunately for those of us who would have preferred a centre-left alliance, the opportunity wasn’t there, Labour weren’t ready.

The government would not have been legitimate if the administration formed was a Lib-Lab coalition.

Although smaller party support was offered by the Scottish National Party, and Plaid Cymru, a “rainbow coalition”, Labour declined, telling maybe of their feeling of guilt?

This too may have created instability, and then what? Another election, with surely a similarly fractured end?

New Labour now need to go away and think about what they’ve done. If it’s our Tory past you’re frightened of, Labour history is more recent.

I will say it and say it again. Two wars, a ‘global financial collapse’ fuelled here by our leader’s belief that he had “ended boom and bust”.

Surely the Venus Fly Trap of a capitalist economy?

Bureaucracy, inequality and greed.

So call it Libcons, Libservatives, or Torycrats if you have to, but two of our political parties have come to a sensible agreement, and I am glad.

With the £163billion deficit and £6bn worth of cuts announced in the Queen’s Speech, nobody can envy the new coalition.

The eyes of the world are on them, or at least we’d like to think they are, and many people are aching for it to fail.

But, scared and scare-mongers amongst us, the Conservatives cannot and will not go off the deep-end. The mines were all closed the first time, for one.

And nobody wants to be hated in the 21st Century, we are Tweeting and Facebook petitioning in the biggest public space there has ever been.

It wouldn’t take a 12-year-old the break during Hollyoaks to super-impose Cameron’s head onto the body of Edward Scissorhands.

So concessions have been made. Some, as a Liberal Democrat member, that I am not happy with.

Will agreeing a referendum on electoral reform produce Nick Clegg’s desired result? The majority of people after all are Labour and Conservative voters, whose parties benefit from the current system.

But if it happens then the kind of coalition like the one being made here would be common-place, which is good.

“What are they doing, compromising and agreeing on things if they’re not from the same party?”
THAT’S THE POINT!!

Some things are just consensus and more heads are often better than few.

And what of opting out of votes on the contentious issues?

Not what Lib Dems wanted, but they didn’t win. We will have to make do.
Academies? Pupil premiums? We shall see… But scrapping wasteful ID cards and rolling back the CCTV state can’t be a bad thing.

But instead of complaining and worrying about cuts, which everyone agreed had to be made, why don’t we, as a nation, get up off our majoratively fat arses and look at what things we could save, because we like or use them, if the government can’t? Leisure services are usually the first to go.

For our hatred of politicians and government, we can’t help but want them to microwave our dinner, put it in front of us and move fork to mouth while massaging our knee.

I hope Ed Miliband gets the Labour leadership. He is a brilliant speaker, and crucially for the necessary severance from New Labour was not an MP when the decision was made to go to war.
And I hope there is a new Left, I’d love to be a part of it.

So Dave, Nick, good luck, fortune favours the brave.

Well Hung- The End.


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This is the last issue of Pluto 2010, it’s been emotional. And with this, comes my final opportunity to grace the pages of your student rag with some acquired opinion.


By the time this column goes to print, we will have seen the last of the first ever leaders’ debates and will be in the final week before the next General Election.


The question you know you should be asking yourself, according to the faces coming through your letterbox and the reporters trying wildly to gauge your opinion, is who will be making the big decisions when you’re… making the big decisions?


Despite prime-time TV banter, minority name-checking and #Iagreewithnick, according to the Poll of Polls Poll (yes, really), on 27th April, no one party has taken a decisive lead.


The Conservatives are coming out on top with 33 per cent of the vote, with the Lib Dems on 30 and Labour flagging on 28.


Although the Conservatives would win the public vote in this scenario, because of the peculiarities, for wont of a better word, of our ancient voting system, Labour would still gain more than 30 more seats (and 176 more than the Lib Dems despite getting two per cent fewer votes).


Because of this, a hung parliament is now 1/2 on bet365.com, if you put £2 on, you would only get £1 back. Plus your stake.


So who or what exactly will be hung?


The Liberal Democrats, assuming they gain the fewest seats of the three would naturally want to support the winning party, but who technically wins in a race like this?


A Lib/Lab coalition is easier to envision ideologically, but will be a union that spells the end of Gordon Brown, as Nick Clegg stipulated in offering his support.


But if Labour don’t win the public vote but still get the most seats overall, big questions should be raised about the fairness of the voting system. Anyone can see that coming second, or, by most polls estimations third, but winning isn’t right. Will this finally be the end of First-Past-The-Post?


While the Lib Dems have always been pro-electoral reform, because it doesn’t weight so heavily the big two, the Conservatives are fiercely against it. They want to win. If they don’t however, they will need others support.


A Lib/Con coalition is less natural, although many councils (Preston city for example) work, somewhat, on a Lib/Con cooperative. Conservatives are Euro and Reform-sceptics, but will concessions be made?


Even as late as 15th April, the day of the first debate, the Conservatives were gaining 40 per cent in some polls, enough to get that much needed majority. Shouldn’t they be doing better?


Reuters also reported, or bragged on Wednesday that ‘Conservatives rake in more election funds than rivals’, £2.2m, compared to just £150,000 for the Lib Dems and there has been Facebook advertising, banners and leaflets coming through your door quicker than they can cut down the trees.


We may yet see a progressive Conservative government take power.

This is a great time of endings and beginnings, at university, where you live, if you’re graduating, where you will work, maybe you’ve fallen in love and you’re thinking about starting and family… Yikes. And in or country as well.


Polls can only give an indication of what will happen on Election Day. The public, given the best information that has ever been available must now spend the next week making up their collective minds.


In the words of the great actor, Errol Flynn I would like to say ‘I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it’.


I imagine Gordon is wishing he could say the same.


The End.

Generation why?

First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.

From the top positions in society… right across the board… the highest earners, the ones with money and power, those setting your wages (while cushioning their own), steering your department, leading from the top…

Old, often overweight, unattractive (save silver foxes like Lib Dem Chris Huhne) men.

The average age of an MP is 50, and for most big jobs- think chief exec- you’ve got to have enough “experience” to merit the six-figure salary. Well, you’ve probably got less skills than a GCSE in IT for those trusty powerpoints.

Only 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in 2005, and according to a report from the Electoral Commission last week, more than half of 18 to 24-year-olds are not currently registered to vote.

This will be the first general election I and around 3.5 million other people aged 18-23 will be able to vote in. So, before I sign guys, why should I pick you?

With duck houses, moats and an all-round gloomy financial situation, it is hard to place our trust in such a shady, oft incompetent bunch. Especially when the only thing we have in common with them is that we both wear clothes.

But the Question Time event hosted by the Student Left Network here at UCLan on 5th March was a refreshing change to being dictated to by the dictators.

So, on arguably the issue of the decade for young people, that of tuition fees, what did the three main parties have to say?

Possibly most interesting was the claim made by Mark Jewell from the Liberal Democrats that, if they were to gain power, they would scrap tuition fees within two terms.

Free fees often sounds outmoded, most students accept that they will leave university with a mountain of debt. So is this just an empty policy aimed at setting them apart?

Both Labour and the Conservatives said that this would mean that not everyone who wanted to would go to university, why squash people’s aspirations?

But, Mr Jewell backed up his party’s policy by saying that everyone should have the option, but better provision should be made for people wanting to go into other, wholly worthwhile professions that don’t require university education.

The North West of England makes the highest contribution to the UK’s manufacturing industry. Skilled jobs, but probably not skills best acquired in a classroom.

With less people going to uni, as in the old days of free education, fees could be covered by taxes, and only those who wanted and needed to go should go. Simples?

Mark Hendrick, the incumbent Labour MP spoke of the millions invested in education since New Labour came to power in 1997, aided by a sheet of education facts.

But he was challenged on the Labour party’s “arbitrary” goal of sending 50 per cent of young people to university. On the face of it, yes, you’d expect half of people to do this, but do they really need to? And, as Nerissa Warner-O’Neill for the Conservatives pointed out- what about the 51st person?

She also said the Conservatives would be waiting for the outcome of Labour’s higher education funding review. Which, without representation from the National Union of Students, the biggest union in the country representing young people, the advice is likely to be proceed with caps off.

As someone who has been to two universities, studying two different things, I can only say that first time around, I probably wasn’t prepared for what university would be like. But there wasn’t any talk of compulsory gap year volunteering, an idea that has been touted, but without an ingenious funding model, is unlikely to come from the public pocket, which already has a massive hole in it.

Maybe tuition fees will be your Iraq War. Maybe you’ve got an idea you can pitch to your MP. “Single issues” are the explanation for people not engaging with politics in the traditional party sense.

So not that Labour’s move from socialist to “New Right” and Cameron’s Conservative yet hoodie huggers have anything to do with it? Young people aren’t the only people that don’t vote.

Check out First Time Voters Question Time on the BBC or on IPlayer, hosted by mum and child-friendly Dermot O’Leary. The fact that ‘Adults’ Question Time isn’t speaking to people is a question in itself, and the cool, torn graphics are vaguely insulting to your intelligence.

But, ultimately, you have to do your research, see through the spin and make up your own mind.