Thursday, 31 December 2015

Top Ten Dance Songs 2015

You know this is the real reason why you come here: for 2015's iteration of the annual chart of the finest tunes. Yo DJ pump this party, as they say:

10. Love's Got Me High by SCALES

9. King by Years & Years

8. How Deep Is Your Love by Calvin Harris & Disciples

7. Go by The Chemical Brothers

6. Don't Be So Shy by Imany feat. Filatov & Karas

5. Ocean Drive by Duke Dumont

4. About You by Sebastian Weikum

3. Foolish Dreams by Frozen Plasma

2. Opus by Eric Prydz

Like last year, 2015 has been a pig of a year and, if truth be told, that held true for dance music as well. I was distraught, distraught, that once again trance music generally has disappeared up its arse. Long-term readers know this is my electronic genre of choice so to have it disappoint two years on the trot is a bad thing.

All I can do is thank the disco heavens that the house music renaissance has continued. In fact, so overground and mainstream it's become that the superstar DJ establishment are eyeing it up. Step forward Mr Calvin Harris. You can't avoid concluding that How Deep Is Your Love is one of this year's highlights, even if it's one of the most cynical pieces ever to grace the end-of-year chart. Authenticity is a load of old hooey, but it's as if Calvin set out to record a deep house monster simply because it's the in-sound. The only thing that surprises is how inveterate bandwagon jumpers like Tiƫsto have yet to clamber aboard. When they do, you know that's when the sub-genre has passed its peak.

I was also disappointed by the return of The Prodigy this year, and their lack of presence here says everything you need to know about my thoughts regarding their efforts. Yesteryear is instead ably represented by The Chemical Brothers - their Go rocks a very on-trend 80s vibe. I couldn't afford to miss the grotesquely popular King by Years & Years either. That hook caught many an earworm over the course of the last 12 months. There's no avoiding the two entries near the top either. 2015 was the year I properly got into EBM, or Electronic Body Music. I've always had a thing for goths with synths but, weirdly, Frozen Plasma's Foolish Dreams grabbed me because it sounds, well, lovely. And flying the flag for progressive is Eric Prydz with Opus, a ridiculously simple track that makes you wonder why it hasn't been done before.

Number one then. Who can it be? Well, I'm cheating a bit. It's a rework of Sia's 2014 mega hit that manages to improve on it in every respect and come over all housey and 80s. How could it not be the All That Is Solid song of the year?

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2016 Politics Predictions

Dare I tip my tippy toes into the waters of idle speculation again? As Adam Bienkov notes, most political punditry is utter rubbish, having called the general election, the Labour leadership election, and the general election, the Labour leadership election, and the Oldham by-election totally wrong. Looking back over last year's forecasts, I'm almost as useless as they. Almost.

As we know, Labour came nowhere near to being the biggest party, and the dear leader as was may as well have etched a eulogy to his career on the bizarre and unlamented EdStone. As a consequence the other big prediction, that David Cameron would no longer be the leader of the Tories, turned out to be mistaken as well. Shame. Still, the one thing I did get right was my forecast about UKIP. I said they were looking at between 12 and 13% and, lo and behold, 12.6% is what they got. I also said they would win a single seat - Carswell's - and again the antennae were correct. And yes, I was right about the infighting as well. So that's a better result than pundits who get paid to write this sort of nonsense. And, of course, I was right about the far left getting nowhere. But asserting such doesn't require anything in the way of special insight or a detailed scrutiny of their doings.

Okay then. I've got out my astrology chart. Let's see what 2016 has in store for our Westminster friends.

Dave will successfully "renegotiate" Britain's position in the EU
We all know that this isn't terribly serious, which is why Dave is asking for so little. Sure there's argy-bargy now over social security eligibility, but this is very minor in the grand scheme of thinks. We know that Dave doesn't really want to renegotiate, and neither do European governments with better things to do with their time. Dave therefore is aiming for a quick result and then a quick referendum - he doesn't want to see the agony of the Tory party fighting itself drawn out. So if matters are concluded quickly, it's reasonable to expect the referendum in the Autumn - preferably before people at Tory party conference get the opportunity to commit hari kari in front of the cameras. Oh yes, and stay will win.

Jeremy will still be leader this time next year
As I've previously written, Jeremy's position is nigh-on impregnable. No amount of front bench resignations or revelations from the past are going to shift him. The only thing that can is if the bulk of the membership turn against him, and short of being found out as a tax-dodging city slicker with huge private health, fracking, property portfolios, and a stake in the Murdoch empire, that isn't going to happen. The only outside chance of an early defenestration are the results of the London, the Scottish, and the council elections. Already pundits are throwing around suggestions that a rout ooop north is likely, along with the loss of some 200 seats in the locals. Those would be bad results, but I don't think they would do for Jeremy. Only if the outcomes are utterly catastrophic (anything north of 400) would we see the leader take to the window ledge. And I don't think they will be. Labour will perform poorly in Scotland, as expected. But not as bad in England as is presently feared (it might even surprise as local party after local party run highly localised campaigns because they believe their local record to be more of an asset than the leader), and I also think Labour's going to win the London mayoralty.

And that's all I'm prepared to stick my neck out about because, at least where Westminster watching is concerned, this is where the action is concentrated for the next 12 months. That's it. Enjoy what's left of 2015!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

On Jeremy Corbyn's Reshuffle

I wanted to hold off commenting about "real" events until after the New Year. Even monomaniacal bloggers deserve a break. But there's just been so much nonsense and idiocy swilling around Jeremy Corbyn's will-he/won't-he reshuffle that I feel compelled to say a few words myself. I mean it's not as if the government have totally screwed up on the northern floods and Labour ought to be seizing this moment to knock lumps out of them for their mismanagement or anything.

First thing first, I've suggested previously that MPs would do better not to whine and moan about their predicament because they will find scant sympathy in the party. So what happens? We have a (unnamed, of course) shadow minister accusing Jeremy of ruining Christmas with all this talk of demoting and reshuffling. Diddums. Then we have people saying that Jeremy can't possibly demote people on the basis of the Syria free vote because it was free, innit. Then we have people saying they will resign if so-and-so goes.

Let's strip out the political divisions and look at how the world appears from inside the leader's office. Jeremy won a huge majority among the membership, and it is one that is still growing as new people sign up and a much lower number of (mainly card-carrying) centre and right members flounce out. Those who've damned sitting MPs for failing to depose Jeremy yesterday are blind to this most obvious of facts. Jez won under rules (favoured by some on the right) that were designed to dilute the influence of a membership they mistrusted before the surge took place. Jeremy romped home under those rules and, presently, from his perspective, he has good reason to accept a basic congruence between his policies and priorities and those of the members. Second, not unreasonably, this is interpreted as a mandate to carry through his programme regardless of what the shadow cabinet and the bulk of the PLP thinks. Third, it doesn't matter how it is dressed up, direct criticisms of him in the media by his shadow appointees and the various proxy attacks via Andrew Fisher, or via Stop the War, or via Momentum, are seen as challenges to his authority as well as attempts to undermine him. When you have the shadow foreign secretary banging the drum of war, or shadow ministers repeatedly refusing to back the leader when asked, or shadow ministers openly attacking proxies for Jeremy, or worst criticising him directly, how else can that be interpreted? One should not be surprised if their places around the leadership table is not as secure as they thought. It's also worth remembering that Ed Miliband was more ruthless in rooting out shadow ministers who were less than enthusiastic with his leadership, so Jez has precedence on his side. Jeremy is well within his rights to axe who he wants, and b;eating about it just looks like, well, bleating.

By the rules of the game, what Jeremy decides is law. His position is unassailable, and no amount of front bench resignations will tip him over into retirement. Especially now Jeremy reportedly has around 30 MPs that are considered loyal - a number that has grown since assuming office. In these circumstances, I think it's probably for the best if oppositionists are neither seen nor heard. From the standpoint of winning the party "back" to the centre or the right, it would do their cause a world of good if a) they shut up, b) cared more about attacking the Tories than Jeremy, and c) confined their opposition activities to out-recruiting their opponents, rebuilding the labour movement, and/or making constructive criticisms. Shadow ministers and backbench MPs moaning down the phone to the Telegraph news room weakens their position among the membership, and finds no echo whatsoever among a largely indifferent public. Yet they won't pack it in, even though it would be good for them. With a few dozen exceptions, they don't know how to organise and so they're locked into this pattern of self-destructive behaviour.

To reiterate, the majority of members voted for the left-led Labour Party experiment and would like to see it to be allowed to work itself out on its own terms. You might be sceptical. I might be sceptical, but it does deserve that. If assorted shadow ministers, MPs, or factions are seen to be sabotaging it, the members aren't going to revert back to the old ways. If anything, they will be outraged. So that is it, that is the situation. If front benchers don't like it, they should make way for others who are prepared to do the job. And if they persist in attacking in making much of the motes in Jeremy's eyes while ignoring the beams sticking in the Tories', well, reselection after the boundary review is going to be interesting.

Monday, 28 December 2015

The Most Read 15 of 2015

As 2015 sits patiently in the anteroom of history, it's time to pause and reflect on the one thing that really mattered these last 12 months. All That Is Solid had the best viewing figures ever. That's right, this blog has been clicked on some 687,000 times this year, which is almost 1,900 page views a day on average. Not bad, but I want more. It was always going to be a busy year what with the general election and an increased interest in all things political, so let's see if that can be trumped in 2016.

So here for your jollification are the 15 most-read posts of the last year. If you missed any of them first time round you now have no excuse ...

15. The Unavoidable Horizon of Lesser Evilism
14. If David Miliband Had Won
13. Labour Vs the Militant Tendency
12. Who I Voted For Labour Leader
11. Why Labour Should Adopt a Citizen's Income
10. The Sociology of Tory Stupidity
9. The Socialist Party's Erratic Marxism
8. Jeremy Corbyn and Hard Left "Infiltration"
7. The Far Left and the 2015 General Election
6. Lessons of the Labour Leadership Campaigns
5. Far Left General Election Results 2015
4. Dear Liz Kendall
3. Top 100 Independent Tweeting Bloggers 2014
2. Top 100 Tweeting Political Commentators 2015
1. Class and Ideology in Sex Party Secrets

The usual then, a mix of hard left things, lists, and bonking. Except on this occasion there is no SWP - they're so marginal even I can't be bothered to write about them any more. Nevertheless, knowing the audience here are as much a creature of habit as I, the next 12 months is highly likely to feature a mix of the same. Though, who knows, perhaps substantive posts about other topics - witness Liz Kendall and other "straight" political posts infiltrate the list in okay numbers - might feature more prominently next time out.

Okay, okay, what didn't make the list deserves more of your time? Here are a few choice cuts: The Postmodern Effacement of Class, The Political Economy of Scapegoating, and How the Conservatives Can Win Again. I think these two latter pieces are the most important I've written this last year - so check them out.

Was there a post you particularly liked? Or, even better, one you really hated?

Sunday, 27 December 2015

What I've Been Reading Recently

Since last time, I've polished off the following books:

LA Noir by James Ellroy
The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Expressions of Identity by Kevin Hetherington
Xeelee Endurance by Stephen Baxter
Networks of Outrage and Hope by Manuel Castells
Party and Society by Cedric de Leon
Isaac and Isaiah by David Caute
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Third Wave Feminism by Stacy Gilles, Gillian Howie, and Rebecca Munford (eds)
Up Against Foucault by Caroline Ramazanoglu (ed)
Gaga Feminism by J Jack Halberstam
Complete Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm
Ocean's Eleven by Dewey Gram
Understanding Judith Butler by Anita Brady and Tony Schirato
Psychoanalysis: An Introduction by Ian Craib
The Magus by John Fowles
Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
Masculinities in Theory by Todd W Reeser
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Masculine Domination by Pierre Bourdieu
Snow Falling On Cedars by David Gutterson
Pornification by Susanna Paasonon, Kaarina Nikunen, and Laura Saarenmaa (eds)
The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
Body Talk by Jane M Ussher (ed)
The Woman In Black by Susan Hill
Sixty Lights by Gail Jones
Feminisms and the Self by Morwenna Griffiths
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris
Rereading Capital by Ben Fine and Laurence Harris

There are some truly superb novels and thought-provoking works of social theory in that list. Anything catch your eye? And what have you been reading recently?

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Local Council By-Election Results 2015

Number of candidates
Total vote
+/- Seats
Plaid Cymru**

* There were 34 by-elections in Scotland.
** There were 28 by-elections in Wales.
*** There were 13 Independent clashes in the year's by-elections.
****  See the quarterly round-ups for details of other parties.

Overall 654,263 votes were cast over 257 individual local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. Fractions are rounded to one decimal place for percentages, and the nearest whole number for averages. You can see 2014's results here.

Last year the polls were all over the place, but the trend was toward convergence and - unsurprisingly - as we know, convergence turned into a convincing lead for the Tories. The local election poll tally picked up that movement too. And this year? It's perhaps too early to tell in the quarter since Jeremy took over as Labour leader, but 12 months hence we'll know if - again - the trends here are matched by the polls and other elections.

Friday, 25 December 2015

The Scandal of Cadbury's Heroes

Ravi has captured the imagination of all progressive humanity and rendered a huge service with his Fair Celebrations campaign, an exposure of the shifty practices of the Mars Corporation. Well, below is irrefutable proof of shared shiftiness across corporate lines. Cadbury, the diminishing subsidiary of Kraft Foods, are also at it.


As it happens, I'm a fan of Eclairs and glad to see the Caramels diminish in number. But c'mon, 16 Dairy Milks versus three Twirls. Words do not exist.

It's time this nonsense ended. I urge all readers to repeat this exercise with whatever tinned chocolatey assortments they fancy, and tag @Ravisubbie and #FairCelebrations (plus #FairHeroes, #FairQualityStreet, etc.) into your tweets. 

Justice will not be denied!

Lenin is Better than Santa

Nothing says Christmas quite like the gift of full communism.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Quarter Four Local By-Election Results 2015

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/- Q3
+/- Q3

* There were 13 by-elections in Scotland
** There were eight by-elections in Wales
*** There were seven independent clashes
*** Others this month were Guildford Greenbelt Group (145), Scottish Socialist Party (122), Ind Health Concern (725), Liberal Party (283), Yorkshire First (32), Scottish Libertarian (20), Llais Gwynedd (112 & 49), People First (58), Epsom Resident's Association (591), All People's Party (39), and Baker St: No Two Ways (218)

Overall, 119,610 votes were cast over 73 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. 20 council seats changed hands. For comparison see Quarter Three's results here.

This is the first full quarter with Jeremy as leader, so do the results tell us anything? Not really. The reduced Labour vote is well within the fluctuation range one expects from one quarter to another. If it remains persistently below our scores this time last year, then yes, something could well be happening. Elsewhere the LibDem revival continues while UKIP stubbornly flops at the ballot box time after time.