Some Folks Are Born To Wave The Flag

There’s a lot of war in the ether at the moment, both real and imagined. Obviously the Iran- USA situation but also Brexit looming and the lunatic fringe making their usual absurd comparisons. Leave.EU recently tweeted that 1st February should see all the church bells ring across the country to celebrate ‘our independence’. The original tweet read-

‘BELLS FOR VICTORY
Just as we did to mark the Allies’ victory in Europe in 1945 we’re calling all patriots to ring the bell at their local church… to celebrate Britain’s new found independence! If the powers that be don’t like it? We’ll do it anyway!’

I’m sure we don’t really need to unpack this swivel eyed insanity any further but this shows what we’re dealing with and where the leave ultras heads are at- leaving the EU is for them on a par with defeating Nazi Germany. Mark Francois, comedy little right wing Tory bellend, repeated this call in the House of Commons, demanding Big Ben ring out to mark the occasion.

The right wing who have pursued this national idiocy have made these World War II comparisons all the way through. Brought up on Second World War films and comics like Commando and Victor, there is an enormous emasculating shadow that falls over them, the knowledge that their fathers and grandfathers served in the two big wars of the Twentieth Century and that they never would. They’re obsessed with the Germans, Dunkirk, Churchill, Spitfires and D- Day, never missing an opportunity to hark back. This idealised Britain of their imagination, all white cliffs, Sten guns and Anderson shelters, is of course a Britain before immigration and before the liberalisation of the 1960s. In their version of World War II the Soviets are always inconsequential, despite losses of 20 million, and the USA always arrives late, ‘after all the serious fighting’s done’. Francois, Farage et al, a lifetime spent wishing the Second World War was on their CV, their little Dunkirk hard ons leading their politics.

Meanwhile in the USA the last two Republican Presidents both had the opportunity to serve in the jungles of South East Asia and both passed it up. Trump had five deferments from Vietnam. George W Bush had his Dad pull strings and served with the National Guard at home. Trump (especially) loves the hard man imagery of assassinating men in foreign countries by drone strike.

These things came together last week. And then I heard Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 song Fortunate Son while looking for some footage of Vietnam for a lesson with my Year 11s.

Fortunate Son

 

For A Life That’s Fit For Living

It never fails to amaze me how servile this country is- a thousand years of monarchy coupled with a political upper class who have managed to hoodwink enough of the voters that they know best, that they are born to govern, have done us in. That has led us to where we are today. There was a new item on the BBC last week focusing on a food bank in Grimsby. A couple who had been priced out of Margate had moved north and survived using the food bank.

The fact that we are accepting the use of food banks in 2019 tells its own story and shows how far people have accepted the fate the Conservatives have delivered to them. In the last five years the use of food banks has increased by 73%. By March 2019 over one and a half million people in the UK relied on them. A third of these people use food banks because their income doesn’t cover the basics. A third of the rest are because of issues to do with Universal Credit, either changes to benefits or delayed payments. There are now more food banks in the UK than branches of McDonalds- how’s late period capitalism working for you?

Back to Grimsby. This couple were interviewed by the reporter and asked who they were thinking of voting for. Forced out of their home, surviving on charity food handouts, at the back end of a decade of government by the Conservative Party, the man said ‘I like what Boris is saying’.

Somewhere there’s a complete disconnect between the impact of the three worst Prime Ministers this country has seen since 1945 and the effects of those Prime Ministers on people’s lives. Each of the three has been engaged in a frantic race, in half the time of the previous one, to reach new lows. From Cameron’s ideological cuts to public spending propped up by the Lib Dems and offer of a referendum through fear of the nutjobs and racists at UKIP to May’s loss of an election that forced her to be propped up by the DUP to Boris Johnson- the only British Prime Minister to have been found guilty of illegally shutting down parliament to prevent it from discussing his key policy, we have been governed by the most incompetent and foul trio of leaders imaginable. And still people say ‘I like what Boris is saying’ and ‘I know he’s a liar but I trust him’.

This election campaign has been the most depressing few weeks, the faked news reports in the last few days about the little boy suffering from pneumonia on a hospital floor, the lies told by Matt Hancock to distract from this, the fabricated story about a Labour activist punching a Tory aide at Leeds hospital, the mass use of spambots to pump out lies about the original photograph, the failure of two of the top political journalists to do even basic fact checking- it is shameful and should make anyone who think the UK is modern, fully functioning democracy think again.

If you vote Tory you are voting for Boris Johnson, a leader who has illegally prorogued parliament, compared Muslim women to bankrobbers and letterboxes, called  homosexuals ‘tank topped bum boys’, called black people ‘piccaninnies’, suggested EU nationals should go home to their own countries, tried to politicise the murder of two people two weekends ago for his own benefit, has lied and cheated his way through life and politics, who has been kept away from both the public and TV interviewers the longer the campaign has gone on and who this week pocketed a journalists phone when confronted with the photo of the child on the hospital floor. You’re voting for his cronies too: Priti Patel who suggested recently while being interviewed in Barrow that poverty wasn’t the fault or responsibility of government; for Dominic Raab, the Brexit minister who didn’t realise how much trade comes through Dover and hadn’t read the Good Friday agreement; for Jacob Rees Mogg, a Tory so embarrassing and politically unsafe that they’ve hidden him away from the voters; Nicky Morgan insisting in the face of all rational evidence and basic that 50, 000 new nurses containing 50, 000 current nurses being retained is not 50, 000 new nurses; a party that doctored news footage of Keir Starmer and spread it via social media; a party whose manifesto has little in the way of actual detail other than that they will get Brexit done, as if the whole thing is finished once the UK leaves the EU when in reality that’s when the business of Brexit actually begins. He, Johnson, and they, the Tories, are laughing at us- the hate us and they laugh at us because they know they can do what they like and people will still vote for them. It’s almost as if with Boris Johnson they have decided to see what they can actually get away with in plain sight. ‘Look, here, an actual total fucking bumbling poshboy idiot- vote for him’. The deference the Tories get stems from this bizarre British belief that they ar the natural party of government, that they are the safe pair of hands. Nothing they have done since 2010 or that Johnson has done since becoming Prime Minister in the summer justifies that deference, that servility, that doffing the forelock as the Eton boys go by.

It’s looking like the best we can hope for is a hung parliament. We have to do the best we can to stop these people. Vote Labour, vote SNP, vote Lib Dem, vote Plaid Cymru, vote for the independents thrown out of the Tory party but vote anti- Tory. If they get a majority Johnson and the Tories will be laughing in our faces while they piss on our shoes for the next five years.

I’m not sure any of this helps but I feel a little better for typing it. It’s difficult to feel positive or optimistic about things at the moment. Watching the TV or reading the paper makes me depressed, hopeless or angry. I guess anger is more useful than the other two and that’s mainly what’s fuelled this post.

This song by Aztec Camera and Mick Jones from 1990 has been picking away at the back of mind for the last few months. In the lyrics Roddy Frame takes the four countries that make up the UK in turn- Scotland ignored by the Conservative government despite never voting for it, Northern Ireland with it’s Catholic population at the end of a gun and the butt of Paddy jokes, Wales suffering from population decrease a a result of incoming holiday home owners and England under the cosh of police brutality and illiberal attitudes.  Roddy and Mick’s rat- a- tat delivery, trading song lines and guitar lines, and the sheer bounce of the tune carry it all along, totally upbeat and Roddy tries to end with some positivity-

‘Love is international
And if you stand or if you fall
Just let them know you gave your all
Worry about it later

The past is steeped in shame
And tomorrow’s fair game
For a life that’s fit for living
Good morning Britain’

Good Morning Britain

I See A Change Coming

There’s a lot going to happen this week. It looks like this week will present the only chance for our elected representatives to assert the fundamental principal of British democracy- that parliament is sovereign in the UK, not the government or the Prime Minister. If Johnson and Cummings plan to drive a No Deal Brexit through by proroguing parliament is going to be stopped in the Houses of Commons and Lords then this is it. I hope they are up to it.
The large numbers of people out over the weekend marching show that there is public outrage and fears about this Tory right wing power grab but the pressure has to be maintained. Although Albert Square was fairly full on Saturday afternoon there were significantly more people shopping in the Arndale Centre or going to watch City play Brighton. There is an apathy about the English, a feeling that it couldn’t happen here coupled with the view that Johnson is a man of action and he’s getting things done. Marches and demonstrations are easily ignored by governments. A million people marched against going to war in Iraq. If parliament fails this week, the numbers on the streets and the intensity of the marches have to be increased. I sometimes think that witty placards and polite marching isn’t necessarily going to do very much and that the only way the strength of feeling will be noticed is if things start getting smashed up. I’m not one to advocate violence but it worked with the Poll Tax.
It turns out that the people who talked so loudly in 2016 about taking back control and returning sovereignty to the mother of parliaments don’t really give a fuck about that- they are ignoring the very thing they said they wanted to restore. What the last week has shown is that this country seriously needs a revolution, a wholesale change in its systems and practices. At the very least the UK needs a codified and written constitution, formally setting out the powers of the different branches of government with clearly delineated checks and balances. This necessitates a Head of State with actual political power who would have the constitutional right to resist the request from three members of the Privy Council to prorogue parliament last week. The Queen had no way to do this. I have no idea if she wanted to resist or didn’t but that doesn’t matter. Politically constitutional monarchy is dead in the water and has to go. Outdated, hamstrung and archaic, it serves no practical or political purpose. The House of Lords has got to got too, obviously, replaced by an elected second chamber (private education needs abolishing as well if we’re going to break down the completely unrepresentative run of Prime Ministers who went to Eton). We need significant change, asap.
In 1989 Spacemen 3 called for a revolution. The one that Sonic Boom had in mind may have more due to the harassment he got due to his chosen lifestyle and the supply of hard drugs in the Rugby area than any real political concern but he does get to the point with ‘well I’m through with people who can’t get up off their ass to help themselves change this government and better society’ before concluding ‘hold on a second… I smell burning… and I see a change coming round the bend’.

These Are Dark Days That We’re Living In

I suppose at the least one thing was made very clear yesterday, 28th August 2019, and that is that there can be no doubts now about where we all stand. The hard right wing of the Tory Party that have taken over government of the UK, an unelected government and Prime Minister, have no fear of getting rid of democracy to impose their will on us. The decision to prorogue parliament, no matter what they say about the Queen’s speech, normal process and preparing legislation for domestic policies, has been taken to enforce a No Deal Brexit. The trio who visited the Queen yesterday to tell her to sign the paperwork to approve suspending parliament, to prevent it from challenging the government and it’s No Deal fanaticism, have shown what Johnson and his government are. This is an undemocratic, right wing coup. If this was happening in another country, another Western liberal democracy, the media would be reporting it as such, and portraying it as a step on the road to dictatorship. Yet still we see vox pop interviews on the TV news with ordinary people saying that Brexit must be delivered whatever the cost. The cost is democracy.

The government and its advisers care for nothing else except delivering Brexit at the end of October. The constitution, democracy, the United Kingdom (Scotland will surely depart in the next five years), peace in Northern Ireland, everything else, is collateral damage. This also illustrates the weakness of the British political system and fragility of an unwritten constitution. Tradition and convention have been bent out of shape and there is no actual system of checks and balances to protect us from a power grab by the executive. We have a constitutional monarch who cannot interfere with politics. At least in a republic the head of state has legal powers to prevent executives from running out of control. From the palace’s point of view, I guess it has at least distracted everyone from that nasty business with Prince Andrew, the underage girls and the dead paedophile.

This is and always has been about the Tory party. In the 90s pro and anti- EU Tories split the Major government. They’ve been arguing about it ever since. One Tory Prime minister offered a referendum because the Tory party were frightened of the far right UKIP. Another attempted to appeal to both wings to get the UK out of the EU after the referendum. A third is now going to suspend parliament to drive No Deal through (partly in response to the battering the Tory party got from Farage at the elections in May). A few hundred thousand Tries chose the latest Prime Minister despite his history of lies and incompetence. We are all now paying the price of the Tory party and it’s problem with Europe.

The opposition are hopelessly split. Individual MPs speak sense but cannot collectively agree on a strategy. There is no precedent for a legal challenge and the media have been undermining the courts since the 2016 vote (Enemies Of The People anyone?). The Labour Party has spent three years fudging the issue. A vote of no confidence looks unlikely to succeed- the maths doesn’t add up; a government that doesn’t care about parliament would probably attempt to ride it out anyway; a date for a general election would be determined by the Prime Minister and my guess is he’d go for some time after 31st October.

Following the moment in May 1970 that the US army acted against it’s own people, shooting four students dead at an anti- Vietnam demonstration in Ohio, Neil Young sang ‘tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming/We’re finally on our own’. I think that is where we’re at, finally on our own. We have to take to the streets. Last night’s protests can only be the beginning.

At the start of this 1993 Sly and Lovechild remix the voice of the Reverend Jasper Williams speaks out over some piano- ‘these are dark days that we’re living in, bad situations, a world of tensions and frustrations, joys and sorrows, violences and upheavals, you don’t know hardly which way to turn… but you’ve got to have a determination that I’m going on anyhow’.

The World According To… Weatherall (Soul Of Europe Mix)

Green Milkshake

I thought it was interesting that the message the two major political parties took from the local elections three weeks ago was that ‘the British public want Brexit got on with- get us out of the EU’. That I suppose was one interpretation, despite both of the them losing seats nationwide (Tory losses admittedly outstripping Labour losses by some distance). Another take on the results was that the parties that gained the most at the local elections were those explicitly taking a stance against Brexit, who have opposing Brexit as policy. Today we have European elections, three years after voting to leave which is a small victory in itself, and it seems that this is an ideal opportunity for those of us still against leaving the EU, those of us who have seen and heard nothing to convince us that leaving is in the national interest, to send a loud and clear message. The only way to do this is to vote for parties who have remaining in the EU as their policy.

The Tories want to leave, it’s their baby, they started digging the hole and have kept on shovelling. Labour, despite Keir Starmer’s efforts, are a leave party- it is party policy and they have spent the last three years fudging it. The ongoing attempt to appeal to both leavers and remainers, for fear of ‘losing the north’, is misguided and unprincipled (which is odd in itself for a party led by people for whom principles are supposedly the key to their politics). Labour’s stance on Brexit is political, has nothing to do with principles, and is failing. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will undoubtedly mop up lots of votes, from disillusioned Tories and ex-UKIPers, from people who voted Leave in the referendum but rarely otherwise vote and from Labour too. I’ve been told repeatedly in the media recently that having voted Labour at the 2017 general election (as I have throughout my adult life) that I am one of the 81% of British people who voted for a party who want Brexit. I’ve seen Farage staring down the camera telling me this even though I voted Labour despite their Brexit policy not because of it. That won’t be happening again. These are European elections that matter (for once), where our votes may count more than usual and where the whole election is about the future of Europe and our relationship with it.

The advice I’ve read is that if you want to vote for remain/oppose Brexit you should do the following depending on where you live- vote SNP if you live in Scotland, Plaid Cymru in Wales and either Lib Dem or Green if you live in England. I can understand why some people on the left will have a problem with voting Lib Dem, memories of the coalition lingering, but going off the local elections there are increasing numbers of people able to vote for them. There are plenty of good arguments for voting Green and their stance on Brexit is one of them- I voted Green at the local elections three weeks. Putting my X in a different box really wasn’t that difficult under the circumstances.

This is Brian Eno’s lovely piano remixed beautifully by Mojo Filter.

Another Green World (The Blue Realm)

While we’re in the political arena the rise of the milkshake as the weapon of choice against fascists and rabble rousers has been a real highlight of 2019. I know some people have said it adds little to public discourse, that reasoned debate and discussion should always be the way to win arguments, and that the throwing of milkshakes is the thin end of the wedge but these people – Farage and Tommy ‘Robinson’- have been spreading the seeds of hatred, xenophobia and racism in the public realm for years now and it’s no surprise that when faced with that some people will use more direct action. For two men who like to pose as outsider tough guys, they also go scuttling off quickly crying ‘foul’ when small quantities of dairy products are used against them. Violent language will always breed similar responses and you reap what you sow. Plus, it is very funny and maybe humiliating these people is the best way to deal with them. This article by Aditya Chakrabortty is a much better articulated piece about the milkshake spring. All of this can only be soundtracked by Kelis.

Milkshake

Monday’s Long Song

Sometimes things just come together really nicely. I had something else planned for today’s long song but then Twitter throws this photo up and one thing leads to another and we have Neu! instead. Krautrock against Brexit!

Fuer Immer

I originally wrote a long post here about the ongoing Brexit disaster but then deleted it- does anyone need any more opinions right now? Then I remembered Daniel Avery’s ambient/techno track from last year, a track named after the label our Prime Minster (at the time of writing) gave to nearly half the population a couple of years ago back. On Wednesday night Theresa May claimed on live TV that she’s on ‘our side’ and that actually parliament is to blame. Nice bit of anti-democratic demagoguery there. Thankfully, in a world increasingly full of right wing demagogues and populists, our own version is a shit populist, completely lacking the common touch and with little actual popular support.

A Very British Coup

This week Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that if The House Of Commons continues to make every effort to avoid a no-deal Brexit the Queen should suspend parliament. There you have it, if there was every any doubt, the actual face and voice of a right wing coup, not by thugs in jackboots but by Old Etonians with upper class accents. Suspend democracy to get what you want. ‘If Adolf Hitler, flew in today, they’d send a limousine anyway…’, as Strummer put it in 1978.

So this is very well timed indeed, a new song from a very post-punk line up of Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, Richard Dudanski, Youth and Mark Stewart and this fantastic musical melting pot, a comment on the madness of Brexit, a piece of 2019 brilliance. Even more excitingly, there’s a Weatherall remix to follow. Levene and Wobble’s former PiL colleague, Brexit and Trump cheerleader Lydon, is nowhere to be seen.