April 19

The EDL, A Monument of Increasing Irrelevance

EDL Protest
The English Defence League (EDL) are becoming a monument of increasing irrelevance in an ever more diverse United Kingdom. This afternoon at Grey’s Monument, Newcastle City Centre, the EDL North East division held a demonstration. Their action is believed to have been intended to counter the presence of ‘Hope not Hate’ and other organisations present at the time.

The EDL were apparently not defending the “English” against the French – as depicted above – despite some members of the public believing so. The precise number of people who attended is unclear – it is believed to be somewhere between five and seven – but the EDL stooped very low when they involved children in their protest.

EDL Children

Back in October 2013 the Independent asked ‘Is the party over for the EDL?‘ and judging by today – in Newcastle at least – it seems to be. When a third of those attending a demonstration are children (two), I wonder if those considering themselves to be members ever ask ‘what is the point?’

Not everyone thinks the same way when it comes to political beliefs, however, despite differences I believe that most people would be able to agree on the complete irony surrounding the presence of the EDL at Grey’s Monument today. The inscription on the monument reads as follows;


Grey's Monument Newcastle

Grey’s Monument Newcastle

Category: Politics, Racism
April 16

Freedom From Serving

Recently I wrote about ‘The End Of Serving” and following five days of residing up north, away from work, I sense some interesting feelings surrounding my new-found freedom. I’m paid until mid-June but enjoying a period of ‘gardening leave’ as I use up excess holiday time. The freedom to go and do as I wish is certainly liberating for the time being, yet, confusion is also rampant as I become used to the changes I face.

Previously, if I needed to go to the post office or bank then I’d usually be allowed as long as work was completed. The freedom from serving allows me to go whenever I want. I can even lounge around in Starbucks afterwards without fear of reprimand. Sadly this ‘new-found’ freedom will become rather curtailed when I become employed in the civilian sector.

Administrative tasks are keeping me busy at the moment; from changing details after the arrival of a new debit card, to registering at the local GP’s surgery. If it wasn’t for several banal tasks I’d probably be quite bored. Of course I have plans to make the most of this time – without having to go to work each day – but I also need to figure out what exactly I intend to do in the future.

I’m extremely grateful for help and advice I receive from others, including the endless retweets and shares of links such as garethmilner.co.uk in efforts to gain employment and exposure. There are a number of jobs and courses that interest me, so hopefully something will come together.

Just as the beginner who buys a DSLR camera isn’t immediately a professional photographer, I blog but I’m not a professional writer. However, I like sharing thoughts and ideas and it’s something I’m increasingly erring towards. Perhaps a job that involves some form of writing, or a Press Association course may be the way forward.

April 11

The End Of Serving

On Monday the 19th of January 2009 I boarded a train in the North East. Headed in a southerly direction I reached my destination that afternoon, starting 14 weeks of ‘basic training’ and a career within the armed forces. Some 1,908 days later on the 11th of April 2014 I find myself driving out of camp for the last time, having been selected for non-voluntary redundancy.

My official discharge date is mid-June, yet I find myself driving north to use up remaining leave allowance with no military kit, no I.D. card and the feeling that I’m no longer part of something bigger than myself.

Operational Service Medals
During my five years, four months and 30 days of service to the Crown I have;

  • Been located at five different UK bases.
  • Had two all-inclusive holidays to Afghanistan.
  • Toured historic battlefields in France and Belgium.
  • Served curry to General Richards when he was CGS.
  • Watched PMQs from the press gallery whilst interning at The Spectator.
  • Visited 10 Downing Street through charity work and called the PM ‘Dave’.
  • Had one of my photos used on the cover of a Mandela book.

Knowing Mandela
I’ve made friends with some of the hardest working and dedicated people you could ever hope to meet. Yet it remains bitter-sweet that a government who doubled the operational allowance for soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, inherited a Britain that was not so great and required challenging decisions.

Luckily for me I don’t think I’ve turned into Brooks from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and become ‘institutionalised’, at least I hope not. My outlook towards a number of things will need to change if I’m to make it on the outside;

  • As a civilian I will no longer be happy landing at a UK airport. RAF Brize Norton isn’t a glamorous place but it’s a welcome sight after a trip to the desert.
  • Going for a walk will no longer involve eight miles in two hours whilst carrying weight.
  • Until this week I could roll out of bed and be at work within 20 minutes. I hope my armed forces experience will help with fighting through hoards of civilian commuters.
  • Transport becomes problematic when you no longer have access to the RAF ‘air taxis’ [Chinooks] so well-loved in the forces. The alternative is a car, or what Eton educated politicians may refer to as ‘peasant wagons’ [buses].
  • The office Christmas party will no longer start when the boss tries to ply me with rum laced tea at 5am, beginning a ‘fun day’ of team challenges [aka enforced fun].

I never believed I’d achieve half of the things I’ve done in the past five years. Serving in the armed forces has gifted me not only with opportunities but also the drive to want more. Choosing a single achievement is difficult; perhaps the most important is to know the pride of having served Queen and country. The most surreal moment was when General Sir Peter Wall ambushed me with ‘small talk’ whilst I waited for a pass in the lobby of MOD Main Building.

My time in the armed forces has effectively come to an end and as things stand I’m still looking for employment. The opportunity to do something completely different is both exciting and a necessity. I hope the core values instilled in me by the British Army (courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment) will serve me well.

Uniform on Hanger

Hung up for the last time

P.S. If interested in seeing what I could offer you as an employee, please view garethmilner.co.uk

April 11

Missing My Time Serving

I will miss my time serving,
As I move to pastures new,
So I turned into a poetic Byron,
I wrote some words for you.

The scary Sgt Major,
I found on my first day,
Is now no longer here,
To wish me on my way.

No more pressed uniform,
Wearing t-shirts and jeans for tea,
No more digging holes to live in,
Now all Travelodge for me.

I twice went to the desert,
An all-inclusive trip of glee,
Now I’m off to Durham,
Land of the Prince Bishops I will see.

A Welsh retired teacher mother,
Factory worker for a dad,
Possibly the working class lad,
Who hasn’t done so bad.

Looking for a job,
Only vague ideas of what to do,
But I’ve worked in hard and austere fields,
And could do so for you too.

I once served Queen and Country,
No longer will that be,
I’m running out of words,
So to my thoughts I now will be.

Dirty Uniform

April 9

The Maria Miller Cost Conundrum

In 2008 The Telegraph estimated that a by-election would cost circa £200,000. David Davis resigned in protest at Labour’s erosion of civil liberties and not due to an expenses related issue. The reason for the by-election was inconsequential, however, 2008 is a year that the expenses scandal was coming to term following a lengthy period of incubation.

The question of ‘how to solve a problem like Maria’ has led to widened discussion surrounding recall, with a number – of admittedly ineffective – online petitions demanding that Maria Miller should resign as an MP as well as from her cabinet position.

Adding inflation to the mix and the cost of a by-election in 2014 is likely to be much more than it was in 2008. Administrative costs to run the election and the free mailing provision will quickly add up, leaving the general public in a catch 22 situation.

Will the people be happy that they have drawn blood in terms of accepting a resignation from cabinet? Or do they press on for a P45 and trigger a by-election, thereby costing the tax payer yet another immensely large amount of money.

Pig with head in bucket

Category: Government
April 8

The Balancing Act of A Manifesto

Political manifestos
Whether returning from a day out with a plethora of items not on your shopping list or simply receiving poor substitutes – that you don’t want – in your home delivery from the supermarket, shopping lists can be as much a balancing act as political manifestos.

Griping is a sport I believe the UK could win Gold at both the summer and winter Olympics. A key ingredient in political based griping is the humble manifesto. If a party does something not explicitly contained within its manifesto then people will gripe; much as others will bemoan the government for doing something it promised to do in the first place, if they happen to disagree that is.

Next the humble U-turn; if reversing a decision promised within a manifesto, there will likely be uproar. Regardless of whether it’s the right decision or not, people will become outraged that a government dared to incur the ‘wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing’ as per the words of Toby Ziegler.

It may be some time before we accept as people, a government demonstrating strength by feeling confident enough to show weakness. Dependent on who you speak to, making a U-turn seems to be quite an abhorrence, whether it happens to be a manifesto issue or not.

A manifesto must contain enough content in order to avoid any given government from running out of things to do in power. Otherwise a party would be harassed by the people following perceptions of inactivity. No matter how fast, slow or effective a government is, there will always be perceptions of ‘broken promises’ at the end of a Parliament.

The media isn’t the problem in this situation, I have to be brutally honest and state that it’s the people. There may be people who are easily sucked into the hype and propaganda peddled by news organisations and political parties alike; however, there are just as many if not more who are very much able to make their own minds up.

Raise questions about both actions taken and opportunities missed. If you disagree with the actions of a government then by all means ‘release the hounds’. Though please remember that fox-hunting is outlawed, so it’s hardly fair to hunt MPs around Westminster no matter how exciting it may be to some.

Don’t forget that a week is also a long time in politics and it takes longer than a week to write a manifesto. It stands to reason that the political landscape is neither concrete nor stands still between the publication of a manifesto and the arrival of a subsequent Parliament. Situations change and people need to recognise that manifestos are Amazon wish lists, not shopping receipts.

There’s a subtle difference between being annoyed at someone for making a wrong decision and the act of being annoyed because you simply didn’t get your own way. Big ‘P’ Politics is the profession inhabited by those we elect to office, playing small ‘p’ politics is something we all do in our day-to-day lives.

Too much energy is expended on attacking governmental actions in reference to a manifesto. Since we all play politics, perhaps focus needs to be placed on the current and not the past. Judge a party more on its actions – or lack thereof – not just purely on their pledges alone.

March 28

Equal Marriage

Wedding Rings
Legislation states that same-sex couples – from the 29th of March 2014 – are able to legally marry in England and Wales. I’ve consistently found the term ‘legalisation of gay marriage’ to be a misnomer; today isn’t about gay marriage, it’s about EQUAL marriage. To those showing dissent towards equal marriage, I can only respect your freedom to hold those views, not the views themselves. If you’re offended by that statement, I can only say sorry for not being able to apologise for causing such offence.

Marriage is not that big a deal to me, but that applies equally to all marriages whether they’re between two people of the same or different sexes. A loving and stable relationship doesn’t necessarily need a marriage to make it work, nor does it need two people who are not the same sex. Marriage is a choice that two people are able to make if they wish to do so. It is a step forward that two partners of the same sex now have the rights that other couples do.

The step forward isn’t just about equal marriage, it’s about removing a barrier that stopped loving partners from doing something they wanted to do. People were stopped from doing so because they were perceived to be different and somehow ‘not normal’. If someone is different, so what? We are all different in our own little ways and the world would be an extremely bland place if such a thing as ‘normal’ existed.

These days it seems far too easy for people to be callous and not happy towards others. If two people who I don’t know get married, good for them, but my indifference towards strangers applies equally to gay, straight, bi-sexual and any other sexuality. Many opponents of equal marriage won’t be affected in any way, shape or form by marriage no longer being the exclusive domain of a man and woman. Whether you’re an advocate or an opponent of equal marriage, surely you can find it in your heart not to be hateful of the happiness others will be feeling today?

March 27

Fear and Mobile Phones

Areas within Scotland suffer from weak mobile phone reception, improving signal capability will reduce isolation in remote areas of the country. Areas exist within urban conurbations that still have issues with mobile phone reception and companies repeatedly encounter opposition from residents when attempting to rectify this situation. This is where a parallel can be drawn between development of technology and the independence debate. Read more at the Geordie Bore side project Indy Referendum.

Mobile Phones


Category: Independence
March 20

The Tory Bingo Bonanza

Tory Bingo
Bemusement, outrage, shock and excitement all stemmed from the act of Grant Shapps posting the now infamous ‘#ToryBingo‘ poster on social media yesterday evening. Across the UK, reports have stated that local councils suffered a deluge of requests from people desperate to find their nearest ‘outrage’ bus. Labour are seemingly very annoyed as someone has taken away their job of patronising the less well off. It’s OK to complain about the ‘pasty tax’ that troubled the ordinary people, but not a cut in tax on beer and bingo.

The whole situation is akin to a GCSE ‘English Literature’ exam where you’re expected to collate, analyse and extract as much philosophical c**p as possible from any given text. Thanks to keyboard warriors across the country, authors are no longer allowed to write that a house has blue curtains; lest the character be judged as feeling a little depressed. If you’re a budding writer, I recommended you give up writing. This will avoid the risk of someone taking your words the wrong way and getting offended on behalf of someone else.

Keyboard Warriors

Keyboard Warriors

A significant problem with policy announcements isn’t always the content but the reaction towards them, the same applies for campaign materials. You could copy and paste any opposing parties material and the factor deciding the backlash will often be the source and not the content. Stereotypical views of your average conservative is perhaps the problem, taking offence on behalf of others at the use of the word ‘they‘ or being outraged because ‘not everyone drinks beer and plays bingo‘.

Growing up in a staunchly Labour area located in the North East – I don’t adhere to labels too much but many would say within a working class family – I can class as the kind of person that many are saying should be offended by this ‘Tory Bingo‘ image. I’m not exactly offended but perhaps a little pissed off; mainly because of the hypocrisy surrounding the whole situation. For all the whining coming from the Labour party – the party machine not the grass-root members – it seems “you can’t trust people to spend their own money“.

Lowering tax on beer won’t make a pint much cheaper, however, it will make a difference to the corner-stone in many a small community. Of course I refer to the village pub, which plays as vital a part for social interaction as bingo halls can do. Measures announced in the budget will aid people in continuing to enjoy drinking in a pub and playing bingo offline.

The smoking ban made a contribution to the downturn in these two industries, whilst such measures may not be enough to cancel the apocalypse, it may delay it significantly. The cost of playing bingo and drinking beer has no bearing if there are no pubs or bingo halls.

Tip for the day: go outside and enjoy some fresh air instead of re-tweeting.

March 18

The ‘Budget’ Magic Trick

Rabbit in Hat
The chancellor’s budget announcement is always a special time of year, from Labour’s top rate tax rise announced in 2009 – but only coming into effect a mere month before the 2010 general election – to the furore surrounding the pasty tax. Whether through leaks or just making it up as you go, any panic preceding the speech is often far more interesting than the announcement.

Whilst some measures in the budget announcement will come into force within a relatively short time frame, others may well take effect from April 2015. It won’t be long before websites have their ‘budget calculators’ primed for your input and helping you to see exactly how much you will make/lose over the coming year.

I sympathise with anyone who enjoys doing something, only to find that a government has suddenly made it more expensive. Yet I wonder whether people look at themselves when trying to assess how much these budget changes may cost them. An online calculator may state that smoking/drinking will cost you £x’s extra per week; but for those smoking 20 cigarettes a day – or drinking tens of pints each weekend for that matter – have they considered the possibility of poisoning themselves to a lesser degree?

When it comes to fuel – I still remember a litre of petrol costing 45p a litre – it remains expensive despite being 20p a litre cheaper than it would have been under a Labour government. Whilst extremely welcomed, the act of cancelling pre-planned rises in fuel duty has only stopped the cost from rising and hasn’t lowered it. Take a look at ‘20 top fuel economy tips‘ and see where you could save money; admittedly the advice is akin to ‘put a jumper’ on, though you’re hardly helping yourself if driving like a maniac.

There will always be winners and losers following any budget announcements. I doubt there will be too many surprises contained within this year’s speech, yet beware of George Osborne for he is a shrewd operator and the traps he sets will not be for the public; the traps will be for Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

March 12

Expensive MSPs

Scottish Flag
The 650 MPs within the House of Commons are paid a base rate of £66,396 per annum. If you take away the 59 MPs from Scottish constituencies, you are left with 591 MPs representing rUK. This equates to a total of £39,240,036 per year, which when divided by the population of rUK at 57,935,000 achieves a cost of £0.68 per citizen.

The 129 MSPs within the Scottish Parliament are paid a base rate of £48,228 per annum. This equates to a total of £6,221,412 per year, which when divided by the population of Scotland at 5,295,000 achieves a cost of £1.18 per citizen. Therefore MSPs seem to cost 173% more per citizen when compared to rUK MPs. Yet if MSPs were paid the same as rUK MPs – £66,396 per annum – then the cost of MSPs would be £1.62 per citizen. In this case MSPs would cost 236% more per citizen than rUK representation.

Whilst these figures don’t take expense claims into consideration – and the effects of such an inclusion remain unknown to me – they show that MSPs cost much more per citizen than rUK MPs do. Either rUK are under represented by MPs, or Scotland is over represented by MSPs.

These figures are even more interesting when looking at page 228 of the referendum white paper; “Scotland’s smaller size and specific national interests mean that we can adopt a more focussed approach…” and you realise that Alex Salmond is First Minister of a country which – whilst smaller – happens to have a higher proportion of representation per person. If he can’t get a grip on economics before independence, what hope does he have if the referendum vote was ‘yes’.

March 11

Goodbye Bob Crow

Bob Crow

The RMT have this morning confirmed that Bob Crow has died at the age of 52. Unlike scenes observed after the death of Margaret Thatcher, I will not be returning the favour by having a goodbye Bob party this evening. I won’t lie and will happily admit that I didn’t like the man very much. As much as I disagreed with his views, it is only right to show decorum towards a man who tried the very best for his union members. My own father is soon to be 62, so on a personal level this situation reminds us of the fragility of life. Make sure you go out and do something with it. Once again I didn’t agree with Mr Crow, though he was at least passionate about something.

March 10

Viral Pandemic

Social Media Logos
In the last 50 years, changes in technology have astounded everyone and will likely continue to do so for many years. With the billions of tweets, Facebook likes and instant messages, communications will never again be the same when compared to experiences of the yesteryear generation. It is no longer weird to use social media platforms to make press announcements or break large news stories, nor is it odd to see news agencies quoting the tweets of various influential figures when discussing a story.

At no other time in the history of human kind has there been such opportunities for thoughts and ideas to go viral in the way they’re now able to. The ability of a post or tweet to go viral is not an inherently bad thing, yet it raises concerns about what agencies are actually reporting on. If you put enough monkeys in a room with enough smart phones, eventually they will produce content that quickly becomes a viral pandemic throughout the connected globe.

Advancements in modern communications can be deeply troubling, especially the seemingly innocuous way media outlets often report these ‘viral pandemics‘. A slow news day often brings out the weirdest of stories, mainly because the reporting entity hasn’t found anything more interesting. With the juggernaut of social media, the kind of news you would expect on a slow news day is becoming increasingly common.

Except it’s never the story or content that news outlets/commentators are talking about, it’s often merely the fact that an event has gone viral. It may be a subtle difference, yet it’s interesting to see the shift towards reporting on the infectiousness of a story and not the foundations behind it. Thanks to social media, I believe the concept known as the ‘15 minutes of fame‘ is dead and is instead replaced with the ‘15 thousand re-tweets of shame‘. Short lived fame could very well become more common, but the half-life of artificial success has been considerably reduced.

Buzzfeed makes a sizeable contribution to this whole situation but their involvement requires at least some admiration. The world of social media, news and online interaction is a dangerous place; the online world is akin to walking into the reception area of GCHQ and announcing your name to be Edward Snowden. Buzzfeed are playing a clever game, a long game, they’re an outlet which has gone and got their game theory on.

Numerous online portals are now beginning to follow a Buzzfeed style of posting news. The style of articles found on Buzzfeed (and Us Vs Th3m for that matter) don’t always need simplifying into this so-called ‘new media‘ format, but the danger for traditional outlets is when increasingly serious content is released in this way. These new media entities are hooking the unwary and not only improvising/adapting/overcoming but also making the rules of the game, not just winning at the internet.

When websites that are responsible for fuelling viral pandemics across the internet start getting all serious, you’ll have Buzzfeed ‘long reads’ and Us Vs Th3m articles sitting cosily beside the easily digestible content. New media will then own the audience and be collecting their gold medals at the internet Olympics. Now that Buzzfeed staff have their own writing style guide, what is there to stop them?

Article also cross posted at Buzzfeed