ELSPA vs BBFC: Round 2

(For some background on this, see our <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/culture-tech/2008/0

In a curious editorial featured within EDGE online, BBFC boss David Cooke rubbishes suggestions that his organisation is involved in any kind of ‘spat’ with PEGI and / or ELSPA. Since the Byron report and the opening shots in their very public, public consultation at the Westminster Media forum, things have been getting progressively more bitter. Even if the BBFC aren’t engaged in a spat with ELSPA (the software publishers alliance), ELSPA are definitely engaged in a spat with them.

Since the media forum, and the news that ELSPA had instructed its members not to cooperate with the post-Byron report dealings with the BBFC, every opportunity to discredit the ratings body has been seized. At the Labour conference ELSPA boss Paul Jackson reiterated his claim that the BBFC were not fit for purpose and then last week told Gamesindustry.biz that they would continue the fight for PEGI, irrespective of whatever legislation is passed post-Byron.

Of course what’s still lacking from all of this is any deeper discussion or even disclosure of the real stakes. Whilst ELSPA are keen to emotively characterise the whole dispute, with Jackson employing language like, “This is not a fight about boring things, this is a fight about how we really deliver child protection in the future”, it’s surely time that both sides started to admit the business development agenda in this.

In other, tangentially connected news, this Halloween sees the final release of controversial title Manhunt 2, itself the subject of a prolonged legal battle earlier in the year when the BBFC refused to grant a certificate to the title. It’s difficult to square ELSPA’s accusations of the BBFC being ‘too lenient’ on 18 titles when episodes like this are played out so publicly.

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.