Nonstarters: a really sweet father-daughter business that's still rubbish

This week's worst kickstarter video.

This planet is beset by problems. Uncontrollable industrial proliferation, religious intolerance, carpal tunnel syndrome, fossil fuel dependency.

But the real threat may be discarded tennis balls. In fact, if we don’t turn them all into chairs soon, the last human action may be a single hand thrust desperately from a bumpy yellow sea.

That is, at least, according to the Tennis Ball Chair project, whose founders tell us some 400,000,000 of the beloved spheres are hurled into the dark places beneath the earth each year.

I don’t want to scoff at legitimate concerns about resource waste. I just don’t think tennis balls are a significantly large enough part of the problem to incite consumers to want to buy a solution.

I also don’t want to scoff too much at the naivete of this pitch, because it’s actually a really sweet effort by a father and daughter to go into business together.

Unfortunately, it’s still rubbish:

The target market for this product is a fragile scrap of venn diagram confluence space connecting “people who play phenomenal amounts of tennis”, “people who are worried about the tennis ball waste crisis”, “people who can be arsed to save up 56 tennis balls, drill holes in them and make a chair” and “people who don’t really mind sitting on a bunch of tennis balls”.

Even if America’s tennis balls were all turned into furniture (and that would mean 7 million chairs per year), I imagine that most would end up in landfills later down the line anyway. Because, really, who’s going to pass these things on to their grandchildren?

Altogether, this project smacks of a good father building a ramshackle business rationale around his daughter’s realisation that “I guess you could make a chair out of tennis balls” to make a summer project that she’ll remember fondly for the rest of her life.

Sadly, it also reminds us that even in the soft-focus world of kickstarter, capital doesn’t change hands based on how sincerely the pitcher wants to do something.
 

Tennis ball chair project. Photograph: Kickstarter.com

By day, Fred Crawley is editor of Credit Today and Insolvency Today. By night, he reviews graphic novels for the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.