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Showing posts from May, 2010

Question Time

The attempt by the ConDem Coalition to seize editorial control of the BBC's "Question Time" by refusing to supply a Cabinet Minister if Alastair Campbell was also on the panel is outrageous.

It's common practise, by all accounts, for a certain amount of negotiation to occur before these programmes, but a flat refusal to supply a member of the Government if the "Question Time" editors didn't do as they were told is an unacceptable abuse of our allegedly free media. Or it's an attempt to abuse our free media, anyway, since it didn't work. Congratulations are due to the BBC for their refusal to be bullied.

Of course, the Government have said, since, that they were not attempting to choose the "Question Time" panel; that they were actually just taking time to choose an appropriate Minister to counter the presence of Mr Campbell (or something), and that the BBC had booked Conservative backbencher John Redwood before they (the Government) lo…

Peter Orlovsky

I read on various blogs and social networking pages that Allen Ginsberg's lifetime companion Peter Orlovsky is seriously ill.

Anybody familiar with the literature and counter-culture of the 1950s and 60s in America will know what a significant figure Orlovsky is. He served as a muse for Ginsberg throughout the latter's life and is an accomplished poet in his own right.

His poems possess a lyrical eccentricity and unrestrained appreciation of beauty that place them in both the avant-garde and the classical traditions. Just try his Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs and you'll see what I mean.

The word on his health is not promising, but let's hope against hope that he makes it. I'm not sure how many more of those crazy wisdom poet saints our society can afford to lose.

Nutter Is Such A Subjective Kind Of Word

Sometimes I fear for this country.

Yesterday I heard someone say, without any sense of irony, on a phone-in about the deportation of a suspected terrorist, "The only way to get rid of these fanatics is to shoot them."

And perhaps even more worryingly, he was allowed to say it, and not admonished by the fellow chairing the discussion for his inflammatory statement. If a Muslim had said the same thing about we supposedly reasonable, moderate Englishman, the chair would have been fired and the radio station shut down.

But the man phoning in was English of course. This is his country. If a man can't be an intemperate nutter in his own country, where can he be an intemperate nutter?

The suspected terrorist, as I understand it, had been tried without seeing the evidence against him. But his deportation, after the trial was over, had been stopped because the suspect said he feared persecution in his own country.

Which caused outrage, naturally, among those who had put their copies …

11 Ballot Papers? Willie Walsh, I Hope That You're Blushing

The High Court ruling yesterday blocking the planned strike by BA cabin crew on the most ludicrous of technicalities does profound discredit to BA and to the Law.

The strike was stopped because Unite, the union, had failed to notify those balloted, which I believe numbered between 10,000 and 11,000 employees, that 11 ballot papers were spoiled.

This is the law, interested parties are telling the tv and the newspapers.

Leave aside that there was an overwhelming vote in favour of strike action. Leave aside that the 11 spoiled papers would have had no effect on the outcome of the ballot if they'd been correctly completed and counted into the total number of votes. It's the law.

It's a stupid law when it has no impact on the outcome of the vote. Just one of many unreasonable, obstructive and petty pieces of legislation introduced by Thatcher and her cronies, and not repealed by Blair or Brown, to restrict a man or woman's right to withdraw their labour -- at the inconvenienc…

Virginia Woolf

I've been reading the diaries of Virginia Woolf just lately. She's an exquisite writer; somebody I find I like more and more as I get older; and I write my own novel much more easily when I've been reading her. Our styles have nothing in common, but the quality of her prose convinces me of something or other that I need to be convinced of in order to write. Whether it's the importance of what I'm attempting -- and what she did so brilliantly -- I don't know. Maybe it's just that there is stiff competition out there and before I'm dead I ought to stop calling myself a writer and write.

But a stray thought occurred to me about how the celebrity culture has distorted our expectations of success as I read the book over coffee this morning. Virginia writes that she considers one book -- I think it's "To The Lighthouse" -- a tremendous hit (though she would never use such a vulgar word) with the public because she has sold 1600 copies of it. Thin…

Cool Hand Bruce

Last week was strangely bookended for me. Interviewed for a university place on Monday morning, discussing William Blake and Ezra Pound in a room full of books and Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and then signing on at the dole office for the first time in many years on Friday, with crowds of quiet men and women waiting for their turn to be politely grilled on the "jobseeking" they'd done since they last signed on. They have to do this before they can get their next cheque, and despite the fact that I had to go through it myself, I think it might be a good thing. We all need a little help every now and then, and sometimes a firm push too, once we've settled into the easy routine of living broke and doing nothing.


The decision I've made to do a degree is going to leave me broke for the next three years at least, if I can afford to go at all. I still don't know because full-time students can't get Jobseeker's Allowance or Income Support; they can't, for so…

Here's Your New Politics

This is the demographic make-up of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition representing "new politics": 23 millionaires, 29 white people, no black people, 1 Asian person, 26 men, 4 women, and no lesbians, gay men or bisexuals.

Sounds pretty much like the old politics to me.

Milliband May Have The Jazz, But Do I Really Care?

I listened to the speech David Milliband gave yesterday announcing his intention to stand for the Labour leadership in the coming contest -- if you can call anything a contest when there is only ever going to be one winner -- and felt a tiring sense of deja-vu about his words.

He is probably exactly what Labour needs to get elected to Government again. His Obama-ish rhetoric about humility and public service, and his declared plan to tour constituencies Labour didn't win talking to voters about the reasons why certainly sounded statesmanlike.

But haven't we, or at least I, been here before? Yes: in '83/'84, under Neil Kinnock, after Michael Foot stood on principle rather than pragmatism and Labour was hammered by Margaret Thatcher, and then in '93 or '94, whenever it was Tony Blair stood for the leadership. Kinnock made Labour electable again, somewhat to the cost of his own principles and trade unionism, and Blair (and Brown) did some wonderful things and some v…

In the Parlour of the Devil At Last

We have what David Cameron is disingenuously calling the Liberal/ Conservative Coalition now. As if it were a fair and true balance of power and we had anything other than Conservative Government by the back door.


That, anyway, is my instinct. Others might say that I was intellectually a part of the "old politics" and that compromise is the mark of the new game in Westminster. Mr. Cameron even tried to persuade us that compromise is somehow the mark of a sophisticated mind.


Perhaps it is. It depends what we mean by sophisticated. Somehow when David Cameron utters such words (I can't remember if he used that one specifically, but he spoke in the same linguistic ballpark)  I associate them with insincerity and seduction. And when Nick Clegg utters them I associate the words with a kind of commendable juvenile idealism.


We have now a vote on creating an elected Second Chamber in Parliament and that's excellent. We have a referendum on A.V. which the so-called Progressives …

Hot Damn, The Bard Of Semilong's Going To Uni

Political events are momentous at present, although now that we have a Cameron-Clegg Conservative/LibDem Coalition Government they might perhaps slow down for a bit. But things have progressed in my own life too, as I've been sitting by the radio listening to the news from Westminster. Today I received, and accepted, an unconditional offer to go to University as a mature student and do an English Literature degree this coming September.


This probably means very little to anyone other than me and my small, immediate circle, but if anybody has been brave enough to return to Suffolk Punch and its relentless grumbling bad news, finger-pointing and simultaneous self-reproach over the years, I feel they deserve to know when there is a break in the gloom, even if it's only a temporary one. And I'm determined this one's going to be permanent.


I haven't worked out how I'm going to support myself over the next three years, and that might be difficult. If a part-time job ca…

Brown & Out (If The Sun Can Do It, I Can)

It's hard for any blogger to keep up with political developments at the moment as the deals that will create our next government are thrashed out in what they used to call "smoke-filled rooms" in the capital, especially if, like me, you have a hundred things to do as well as your blogging and no immediate access to a laptop or a phone with an internet connection (I know, I live like a savage).

But it was enthralling listening to Gordon Brown's statement yesterday, in which he offered the Lib Dems and the country the ultimate prize of his own resignation, and William Hague's subsequent counter-punch offering the Lib Dems a referendum on reform of the voting system. One political commentator likened it to a showdown in a spaghetti western (showing his age somewhat, as I was by understanding him); but I thought it had more of the feel of the desperate competition for Rene Zellwegger's love in "Bridget Jones' Diary", although I couldn't quite wo…

How Does One Get To Blog For The Beeb?

Every time there's a political news story on the radio, a blogger is hauled in for comment and described as a "Conservative blogger" or a "Liberal blogger" (it's possible those appellations might require a small "c", but that's hard to tell on the radio).

When I listened to a debate one of those internet commentators was involved in on Friday morning, I found myself wondering firstly, how a person would get a big enough profile in this vast ocean of opinionated swine to be called on by the BBC to share their wisdom; and secondly, how the vagaries of an intelligent mind could be squeezed into a box marked "Conservative" or "Liberal".

Or perhaps the minds of these bloggers don't have vagaries. Perhaps they think quite naturally within the perameters of their party's manifesto. This Liberal Democrat commentator on Five Live (I forget her name, tellingly), would not be drawn on what her own preference would be with regard…

The Election: Why Brown Can't Continue, Among Other Things

I don't know what to think about the General Election result.

I am delighted the Conservative Party have failed to win an outright majority, of course. I have a dislike for them that goes beyond reason, rooted in the social destruction they wrought in the 1980s.

I am saddened that so many Labour MPs lost their seats and sorry the electorate didn't take the leap of faith it looked ready to take and give more seats to the LibDems. It shows the old two-party system may now be wired into the DNA of the nation.

I am thrilled the Green Party won a seat, although the ward I voted Green in was held by the Conservatives.

And I could still laugh at the trouncing the Roderick Spode of the BNP, Nick Griffin, took in the constituency where he ran.

But Labour were always going to lose their majority because of Gordon Brown, whom the public has disliked intensely from the start. We prefer our politicians to look like schoolboys or estate agents these days.

Gordon Brown is a poor communicator bec…

Get Thee Hence With Your Silliness So I Say

Perhaps now the Election is over (or is it?) all those shaven-headed, Sun-reading, British Bombardier drinking "patriots" will take their Poundstretcher St. George flags out of their windows and off their cars (around my way there's even an ice cream van bedecked with them). I've got nothing against declarations of patriotism -- although personally I think that is faintly absurd as well -- but patriotism is not the real reason those flags are on display. Paranoid nationalism is the reason. The men and women trapping those flags in their windows so they hang half way down their walls, and flap ostentatiously in the wind for every passing car to see, think they're sticking it to us liberals who are running the country down by preaching openness and tolerance. They think they're telling Africans, in as forthright a manner as our twisted laws allow, to go back to Africa, and Poles to Poland, and Muslims to the great hot violent primitive land somewhere near Russi…

Hot Election News!

Simon Cowell, Gary Barlow and Carol Vorderman are endorsing the Conservative Party. They really are the party of intellectual substance, aren't they?

But hold on one cotton-picking minute. Is Simon Cowell the sort of person whose opinion we are supposed to be influenced by? (Or perhaps the Sun, who feature the story of his endorsement as some sort of justification or magnification of their own, isn't aimed at me, since I've always thought it was a pernicious, racist, sexist, homophobic, intellectually antediluvian propaganda sheet for semi-literate right wing extremists.If they were endorsing me as they are endorsing the Conservatives I would change my act quickly.)

What has Mr. Cowell ever done, though? I mean to turn him into someone whose support a political party would be proud of and the party's publishing paymaster (Mr. Murdoch) would splash all over his "news"paper? Create a bunch of ridiculous, unwatchable tv shows that foisted untalented micro-celebrit…

Rats And Sinking Ships

Labour has lost the election. It just hasn't actually happened in time and space yet. If you wanted proof you could have turned on your tv this morning and watched the Prime Minister and his wife talking about how he would give himself over to some form of public service if May 7th found him moving house again. They always play on Gordon's nobility when he's crashing in the polls. "If we lose on May 6th," Brown supposedly said, no doubt straightening his back and drawing in a Churchillian breath, "I'll take full responsibility for it." This doesn't make him look as broad-shouldered as he intends it to, of course, as everybody else will think he's fully responsible for it too.

The other unarguable illustration that Labour has already gone and that Mr. Cameron will be Prime Minister at the end of the week is the unedifying spectacle of Labour Cabinet Ministers telling voters to vote tactically in marginal constituencies if they want to keep ou…

A Red-Green Poet Tries To Sign On

"Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen" -- Woody Guthrie  Pretty Boy Floyd

Since I had to quit my job because of the bullying and harassment I suffered at the hands of the manager there, supported as she was by others at her level, who had portrayed themselves as the good guys in the company and then went along for the ride the minute she pulled out for public viewing the knives she was sharpening for me (we'd been having hassles on and off in private for years, and the only complaint I ever made seemed to encourage the director to view me as a troublemaker); since then (forgive that lengthy introduction: thinking about what happened still makes me angry), I've been living on my savings because I was hoping to find another job or win the lottery or get a freelance writing gig or a fabulous publishing deal before my money ran out. But I can't get a job because I have seizures and people think I'm a malcontent, both of which are true, I …