Economics is the Key to the Independence Debate

Political discourse in the 21st century media-focussed world mainly revolves around sound bites and short, faceless attacks on people’s opinions. The latter usually boils down complicated subjects to a ‘pick and mix’ selection of angry diatribe, semantic one-upmanship, gross overreactions, selective statistical point scoring, abstract notional romanticism, racism/bigotry, accusations of racism/bigotry and general criticism of anyone with a different opinion to the one held by the antagonist.

In the ongoing debate over the future of Scotland, we can’t afford to fall foul of the aforementioned tendencies. As with many things in life, the independence of a country is not as black and white as so many of the bloggers, journalists and politicians make it out to be. There are so many issues that are important, but they all lead back to the one component of our society that affects everything else, money, and without successful management of that one fundamental part of life, everything else is irrelevant.

You don’t have to go out and start a degree in economics, but please don’t make a decision to support either side unless you educate yourself in, at the very least, the basic economic principles of governing a country and how these principles affect our lives on a daily basis.

If you’ve never heard of, or don’t understand, words like GDP, quantitative easing or even corporation tax, then I have a suggestion: the next time Alex Salmond or Alistair Darling try to persuade you to vote one way or the other with neat sound bites, scaremongering or wild assumptions, turn them off and do a bit of research on economics instead. That’s what I have been doing and I’m learning a lot.

Whether we like it or not we live in a world built on global capitalism- goods properties and services owned by private companies from across the world, accountable only to faceless shareholders and/or board members who want a return on their investment. Governments don’t run countries by themselves; they are forced to consider the monster that is the globalised business world, the stock markets and how political decisions affect investment in their country, which in turn affects the individual.

It’s absolutely futile to engage in rhetoric and opinions based on romantic political notions of nationalism, socialism or even local governance.

If the economics of an independent Scotland don’t stack up then we can forget our grand plans for a better, fairer Scotland and we can forget about saving our NHS from Tory privatisation and we can certainly forget about free prescriptions. If it all goes wrong and businesses desert us for whatever reason, then one of the most politically expedient ways to attract investment would be to take a neo-liberal approach by introducing low taxes for businesses (corporation tax) and/or low taxes for rich people and deregulating the market- to make it easier to trade and/or for foreign companies to set up businesses. Don’t assume an independent Scotland would automatically end up becoming a more socialist country- set up for a fairer society and a smaller gap between the rich and poor- as well as being prosperous. That might be the dream and the vision set out by Alex Salmond, but it’s a very difficult balance for a country to strike. It’s a balance I would love to see happen, but one that not many countries are capable of.

At this point I’d like to plead with speakers on both sides to stop citing models of other countries- both ideals of how we can be like them or examples of how they did/didn’t benefit from Independence- to prove their argument is right; every culture evolves over a long period of time to create the political social and economic balance that makes their country tick.

Knowledge and real information about what would happen economically to an independent Scotland, hold the key to this vote. We all need to work a little harder to access and share this knowledge and shout down those who only use emotive or inflammatory language, romantic abstraction or any other form of argument that doesn’t fully recognise the huge range of problems and issues we face economically- and therefore politically. These economic and political challenges translate to a direct impact on our everyday lives, so we owe it to ourselves and future generations to make a rigorously informed decision.

 If you believe something to be true then, as human beings, we automatically gravitate towards examples that prove that ‘truth’. While acknowledging that, lets try and step back from it and really analyse what is and isn’t possible in an independent Scotland.

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This is some of the things I get up to when I’ve got my acting hat on. Clips include, Ginge Geordie Geek (BBC2) Sirens (C4) Little Britain (BBC1) and a dark film for Barnardos about sex trafficking.

Loud Music : Bursts your eardrums and Bursts my Brain

Note: First published in the Huffington Post on October 8th 2013

Warning: I’m going to rant!

This isn’t an intellectual comedy discourse like my previous blog. In the words of the Jaws The Revenge tagline: This time it’s personal!

Do you own a phone with accompanying ear/headphones, or perhaps an iPod/ equivalent MP3-type device? Yes?

Ok, well do you ever ride public transport as well? Specifically, in this case  trains? (Think very carefully before you answer!!!)

If the answer to these questions is yes, then there’s a chance this rant is aimed at you.

Last question; and if you answer yes, then I suggest you put those grubby little creators-of-noise-making-annoyance in your ears, because I’m going to shout! Very loudly.

WHY, OH WHY, do you insist on having your music so loud that I can hear every single lyric of your favourite song of the moment?!

I practically live on trains. That’s not your fault, I know. I’ve decided to live in Scotland whilst working in an industry that bases itself to a large extent in London. There’s nothing you can do about that when you sit next to me, I accept that. However, what you can do, the variable in this equation that you absolutely can control, is a very tiny little button on your music making device that controls the noise!

I’m a writer; I write on trains; I write on desks, and today I’m sitting naked writing on my couch (my partner doesn’t like this last fact, but I’m doing it again anyway as a minor act of defiance against what I perceive to be her overly strict rule about wet towels on the bed- but that is for another rant!).

Anyway, where was I… oh yes, how can I be expected to concentrate? How can any person that wants to do work, or think, or even breath when travelling on these patience draining metal boxes, expect to concentrate when that racket is coming from at least ten pairs of ear/headphones, all playing different, but equally annoying, types of music? Yesterday I moved carriages three times!

Now, I listen to music as well. I’m not unsympathetic to the problems of a noisy carriage drowning out those poetic lyrics of Jay Zed or Jason Amarillo or Low Tide Rider or whoever you’re listening to.

And yes, I got those names wrong. I’m not “up” on music; I’m not in the cool music crowd, but that’s only because I’ve been prodded and poked into hating it so much recently because of you and your music bleeding crew!

I’m really not unsympathetic, but surely you know how annoying you are to other people?

You’re about to scroll back to the top and look at the picture of this blogger aren’t you? You’re thinking that this writer is a grumpy old man. Well, if that’s the case, you’re completely wrong. I’m 31 years old and I’m peed off with, usually, other young/youngish people.

I’m also not rich enough, or even organised enough, to book an advanced first class ticket. I’ve never been in first class, but I imagine it to be a haven of serenity. Oh, there’s probably the odd noise offender, as there is in all walks of life, but at least they’ll have the good grace to crank out Mozart or Beethoven or something a little more refined. Or at least that’s how I imagine it when I’m being tortured into a state of desperation in standard class.

And while I’m taking about genre, why is it that all of these noise offenders listen to techno, rave, house or some other deviant of ‘thumpy thump’ music? I’ve got Backstreet Boys on my phone; I could pump up the volume and we could all sing along to ‘Back Street’s Back’, which I’d enjoy immensely, but some how I don’t think you would appreciate that.

My point is- and I’m pleading with you all now- how hard it is it do the old ‘outy-ear’ check? Set your desired volume, pull the ear plugs out, have a little listen away from your ears and if you can still hear those ‘bouncing vibes’ then you’re using them as a SPEAKER and not a pair of PERSONAL head phones!!!

How hard can it be?

If you all continue to persist in this rude and quite frankly anti-social behaviour, then tomorrow morning, when I’m back on that Glasgow to London train, I will counter your noise disturbance by sitting completely naked. It’ll put you off your coffee and bacon butty for sure. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourself!

Kind regards

Quiet train passenger Paul Charlton

The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek continues this Sunday (13th Oct) at 7.30pm on BBC2. (other episodes available on BBC Iplayer)

 

Follow Paul Charlton on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/pauljcharlton

THE GINGE, THE GEORDIE AND THE GEEK. EPISODE 2, BBC2 SKETCH SHOW. click here to watch.

THE GINGE, THE GEORDIE AND THE GEEK. EPISODE 2, BBC2 SKETCH SHOW. click here to watch.

First aired 6th Oct 2013.

Next episode airs Sunday October 13th at 7.30pm

More fantastic feedback so far. Thank you everyone who has watched, tweeted, facebooked and written in to us so far. We’re in a tough slot against the Xfactor and Strictly so please keep spreading the word.

If you haven’t caught an episode yet check it out. Extremely fast paced and funny sketch show.

THE GINGE, THE GEORDIE AND THE GEEK. EPISODE 1, BBC2 SKETCH SHOW. click here to watch.

THE GINGE, THE GEORDIE AND THE GEEK. EPISODE 1, BBC2 SKETCH SHOW. click here to watch.

First aired 29th Sept 2013.
Next episode airs Sunday October 13th at 7.30pm

We’ve had fantastic feedback so far. If you haven’t caught an episode yet check it out. Extremely fast paced and funny sketch show.

The Future of Sketch Comedy in Britain

Note: First published in the Huffington Post on September 27th 2013

Comedy is like cheese. There are a few that are very popular, but everyone has a different favourite and some of them really stink!

And with so much dairy in the pantry these days, I thought I’d write a regular opinion piece about comedy.

‘But who are you to judge?’ you might be wondering.

Well, I have my own sketch show on BBC2 on Sunday evenings at 7.30pm called The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek (plug plug plug), but that is not what qualifies me to talk about comedy. What really qualifies me is the fact that I like laughing. That’s it.

There are plenty of ‘industry’ opinions out there for you to read; plenty of people telling you what you should think is funny because they are experts. Well I’m not an expert, I’m a punter. We’re all punters. If you like cheese, you don’t have to own a cow or a dairy to talk about it, right? So what I’m saying is, this blog will not try to be a definitive opinion or the oracle on comedy, in the way that reviewers try to be. This blog will be a mildly amusing philosophical rummage around the bottom of the comedy cupboard to see what we can find. It’ll be positive and objective, because at the end of the day we’re all in this together. We all want to laugh.

And with that less than elegant metaphor I’ll stumble into my first blog…

Sketch comedy goes in cycles. It always has. The most recent shifts in my lifetime were from the ‘safe’ light entertainment style of The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise (my biggest influences by the way) to the work of alternative comedians Alexi Sayle, Rik Mayall and co, then to the big character catchphrases of the Catherine Tate Show and Little Britain. Comedy changes and evolves and each new pioneer creates a new format or puts a brand new spin on an old format. So the question now is where do we go from here?

Well we have the parody sketch shows, but with modern technology making it accessible for anyone to throw a parody up on YouTube and with the reality shows becoming a parody of themselves, it’s quite understandable that huge chunks of viewers simply turn over when that’s what’s on offer. Then there’s the Radio 4 Oxbridge stuff for those that like their comedy ‘highbrow’, (Note: I like a range of comedy and I am not expressing a dislike here, I’m simply using inverted commas as comedy termed ‘highbrow’ is subjective) but what about for a mass audience? What’s the future for that?

Well in another medium, sitcom, Mrs Brown’s Boys has led the way in broad humour and I take my hat off to Brendan O’Carroll for making my parents light up for the first time in years when talking about comedy on TV. And it’s this success that could influence main stream sketch comedy. By that, I don’t mean producing a carbon copy of Mrs Brown’s boys’ large character and innuendo in a sketch format. I just mean making something that isn’t elitist and that is full of heart.

When did it become taboo to make your parents, kids and granny all laugh at the same time? Mrs Brown can do that in the sitcom medium so why can’t someone do that in the sketch show medium? The truth is no one has tried it for quite a long time.

Populist and mainstream has become a dirty word and as it’s easier to get a laugh with a cock joke or a swear word and in doing so, not get battered by the press; I can see why most comedians don’t even bother trying to keep it clean or appeal to a wide demographic.

Now, I have to profess a vested interest and say that the sketch show I’ve co-created and star in, is aimed at a mainstream audience, however I’m not saying that mine will be the one to achieve it. It may not, but if it doesn’t I’m hopeful that someone else will. So that come Christmas day- probably not for a couple of years- I can sit down with my whole family and we can all enjoy a new sketch show together. And it doesn’t have to be ‘comedy by numbers’ either. There is room for mainstream sketch comedy with big laughs for the whole family as well as surprise, originality, familiarity and vision.

When it arrives, there will be elements of the media that slag it for being ‘tired’ or ‘dated’ or ‘unoriginal’ or one of the other adjectives that the comedy elitists use when a new show doesn’t tickle their particular ‘intellectual’ perception of what is funny in their sheltered little world. However, that’s ok, as long as families up and down the country sit and watch and laugh then those elitist highbrow critics can sit in front of their TV’s and chunter until their heart’s content.

Cynicism can be healthy and productive, in the right situation, but it’s not as enjoyable as laughter.

The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek starts this Sunday (Sept 29th) 7.30pm, BBC2

WHEN OUR BODIES WERE TEMPLES

THE GINGE, THE GEORDIE AND THE GEEK TALK ABOUT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE

*NOTE:FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE SCOTSMAN ONLINE IN AUGUST 2013

Five years ago we entered the madness of the fringe as three relatively young and extremely fit men with a comedy dream. We wanted a TV series and we would put our bodies through anything to make that goal a reality.

We bounded to Edinburgh in that first year free from aches and pains, with more energy than a Duracell bunny on speed and with endless enthusiasm for the physical job ahead. If it hadn’t have taken so long we would probably have put our considerable amount of props on our back and ran to Edinburgh. We were fit and we could have done it! Five years on… we’ve hit our 30s and the body is starting to feel the many miles we’ve clocked up in the spirit of comedy entertainment.

Don’t get us wrong we’re still just as enthusiastic. We’re doing our show twice a day (back to back) again this year. We’re not slackers, we can assure you. However, as we clocked up what must be our 300th performance of our very physical River Dance sketch yesterday, you could hear our creaking bones from Princes Street (even over the blooming loud bag pipes!)

We’ll never lose our energy on stage and will always fly around like nutters in pursuit of squeezing 30 sketches into an hour for your enjoyment, but our post-show backstage area is like the locker room scene from Any Given Sunday!

So strategies to keep fit during Edinburgh… well we’ve always joined the local gym. The great sauna, pool and fitness equipment have kept us in good shape for the last few years, but hang on a minute… the Geek has a baby now and doesn’t have time. The Geordie has a frozen shoulder, a dodgy back and suspected fractured big toe so can’t use anything at all and the Ginge has dodgy hips and knees from all those fancy dance moves over the years and is more interested in his beloved baked tatties than going to the gym these days.

So what’s the answer you ask? How do these three men- once Spartan warrior-esque proud men- keep themselves right during Edinburgh? The answer is simple. Sugar! We’re doing two shows a day for a month and we’ll take in more sugar than a McDonalds milkshake factory.

We just have to face up to the fact that we’re not young men anymore and that is a tough truth to face. The Ginge is already talking about hair implants, the Geordie is looking at stair lifts for his house and the Geek is spending half his earning on bottles of Just for Men.

We have our BBC2 series coming out in the autumn and the dream, five years ago, was to be three Adonis-esque comedy actors beamed into the homes of millions to be admired and appreciated. These days we’ll just settle for your laughter. It’s the best exercise for us all!

GETTING THROUGH THE CLOSE SEASON!

Like many of you, football is my drug of choice. So last Sunday was a dark day. Oh, I rejoiced in Brazil’s master class, of course, but after Gary Lineker said good night to us, we were all cast adrift and left with just a copy of Zoo and the transfer rumours to survive until August.

The weaker men become jibbering wrecks, the stronger ones suffer silently, I just desperately cling to any sporting event going (I’ve been watching Wimbledon and shouting ‘offside’- just to get a little football hit!

During these dark days the transfer gossip websites are my methadone. A cheeky browse while at work gives us all the strength we need. It’s certainly seen me through the good times and the bad. When Newcastle signed Cisse, it was there for me, and together we jumped for joy, when we hired that idiot Kinnear again, it let me throw it across the room (soft landing on the couch though- I’m not breaking another phone over Mike Dickhead Ashleigh!)

Mornings are the toughest, there’s just nothing to get out of bed for anymore! My morning ritual includes the obvious stretch, fart and saying good morning to the wife, (if it’s in that order she usually hits me) but then the latest addition is checking those rumours as soon as my eyes have opened. I’m now devouring whole chunks of the footballing internet every morning, like Mike Ashleigh at a buffet!

Schurle signing for Chelsea was the worst. That was a gateway drug! Now I’m all over Bundesliga transfer rumours as well (like Ashleigh back at the buffet for his second helpings!).

Maybe FIFA could open up a treatments centre, with 24 hour reruns of all the best games, practical workshops to try our hand at punditry and five a side competitions with the prize being a night of passion with Gary Neville!

I hope I’m not lowering the tone too much. My ultimate threesome dream right now, you ask? Me, Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp, ten pints and a kebab! Now that would get me through until August!!!

George Osborne and his 20 henchmen

So we’re in a double dip recession and despite the inept George Osborne’s savage cuts, he’s still about to borrow 11.8bn more than Labour planned to- due to his tax cutting. This was always going to happen and was obvious to many of us- it was just a matter of time. Now that the figures prove that this right wing, libertarian, elitist ideology doesn’t work, most sensible people would assume Georgie Porgy would backtrack and try to undo his huge mistakes… No? Of course not. To do that he would be admitting he and his ideology is wrong. Far better just to let the poor, average earners and the middle class suffer while he and his millionaire friends further increase the gap between themselves and the other 99%.

It’s not just right wing politicians that are responsible for this catastrophic mistake. Lets also remember the 20 feckless economists who demanded that the government should ‘eliminate the structural current budget deficit over the course of a parliament’ (pay off the whole of the current UK debt over four years) in a Sunday Times letter in 2010. Ten of these eleven that gave statements to the New Statesmen recently have now changed their mind (to varying degrees). The last idiot hasn’t, however he still thinks Spain’s economy is going to be ok! So that says it all.

It’s not good enough to say circumstances have changed and thus the position has shifted! Economists live in a wonderland of figures and theories-just like politicians- but when will they learn that their theories and huge cuts impact on the poor and working class in a very real way. George and his merry men will be fine in their mansions and elitist institutions, they don’t need to concern themselves with the plight of real people.

11 of the 20 merry men…

ROGER BOOTLE (CAPITAL ECONOMICS)
DANNY QUAH (LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS)
DAVID NEWBERY (CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY)
MICHAEL WICKENS (YORK UNI)
HASHEM PESARAN (CAMBRIDGE UNI)
TIM BESLEY (LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS)
JOHN VICKERS OXFORD UNI)
COSTAS MEGHIR (YALE UNI)
KENNETH ROGOFF (HARVARD UNI)
CHRISTOPHER PISSARIDES (LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS)
ALBERT MARCET (BARCELONA GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS)