1968 was a seismic year in American history, as a climate of unrest erupted into rage on the streets. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy - who pleaded for social change through peaceful means - were assassinated. Civil disobedience gave way to militants like the Black Panthers, while the Republican and Democratic Party conventions saw hundreds rioting against the quagmire of the Vietnam War. Despite the success of his Great Society and forcing through of the Civil Rights Act in the memory of John F. Kennedy, the turmoil tarnished the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson, who refused to run for re-election. 2015 documentary Best of Enemies focuses on the rivalry between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr, two of the most high-profile American journalists of the 1960s. T
London, Tokyo and New York. The holy trinity of high finance. These three “Alpha World Cities” are collectively known as the global economy’s commanding heights. It’s here, overwhelmingly, that money decides where it will go. Of course, London now has a little problem. At least some, and possibly a lot, of its claim to commanding height status hinges on the UK’s place as a gateway to Europe for global banking. And, as you probably noticed, the UK is walking out of the EU. As with any major decision the prospect of Brexit offers both hazard and opportunity. And one aspect firmly in the former camp is that a lot of European finance is all-but certain to migrate to an EU city. Frankfurt, probably, or Paris. Should we be desolate at this? Are the tumbleweeds about to start blowing through the deserted canyons of Lombard Street and Canary Wharf?
Annie used to say, “The maintenance men are coming any day now,” always with a handful of crumbling plaster. We spent months waiting for maintenance. Sitting together in the small office where she, and I, and Frances - a hard-elbowed woman who'd been running the Gordon Trask Centre twenty years - ran the music service. I was Administrator (Band 1), so I did whatever needed doing, whatever they told me to do. Mostly writing numbers on ukuleles in black marker, or ringing round all of our registered string instructors, whenever anybody was off sick. It was me who let visitors in. From where I sat, I could see who was arriving, just by leaning back in my chair. The Folk Club was run by two freshly scrubbed things just out of university, she with an accordion, he with a fiddle.
Ever since June the 23rd’s seismic shock, Remainers and Brexiteers, the Roundheads and Cavaliers de nos jours, have been hitting each other with statistics. Broadly speaking you can take your choice. For every crumbling economic indicator, there’s another one doing OK, thanks. But there’s one metric which leaves Brexiteers floundering. Sterling. The pound has been clobbered since the UK stunned the world. No getting away from it. A quid bought you nearly $1.50 on June the 22nd. Now, well not so much. $1.28 if you’re lucky. In the usually sedate world of developed market currency trading that’s a mighty collapse. Now some of this is readily explicable. Foreign exchange traders, bless ‘em, are no more immune to a set of bookmakers’ odds than the rest of us. Indeed I’ve had the pleasure of knowing quite a few and I’ll be honest: bookmakers’ odds are a big part of their lives.
The 2015 election was widely derided as ‘the most disproportionate result in British election history’. For all its disproportionality it produced a meagre 12 seat majority for the Conservatives, hardly a winning argument for first past the post producing stable government and leadership. Just one year later we have effectively seen a change in government, and splits and rivalries emerging within both parties. This is mostly the after effects of Brexit, but we have to remember why we got into this position in the first place. The referendum was called because of Cameron’s need to placate his more right-wing backbenchers and sections of his own party with whom he did not agree. No doubt the plans would have been dropped if he had been able to do what he wanted and form another coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The future of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and European Union seems bleak. Beset by doubts and stumbling alongside the UK’s referendum on EU membership, the TTIP is starting to look like an awful lot of effort for unremarkable gains. US president Barack Obama may have given the negotiation process a shot in the arm in recent weeks, but there is a good possibility that a deal will not be struck during his administration. After that, all bets are off. So why has such a major piece of international deal-making found it so hard to make headway, and what are the chances of a deal ever being done? Well, the first reason for the impasse is that no one can agree on what it should cover. It is deeply complex, but there are essentially two choices.
The resignation honours list of David Cameron (remember him?), in which he nominated a host of Remain campaigners and political hacks, took me back many years. In a country of some 60 million people the law of averages states that some of them are going to do extraordinary things. I know one of them (she would not like it if I called her a friend). Ten years ago she set up a charity to improve literacy in state-maintained schools. Today the charity operates across the whole country. In all that time, she has done this without wanting a penny in payment. Hers is an incredible achievement. In idle moments I have often thought about nominating my friend (sorry, Lorna) for some form of honour. What has stopped me is that I know, as an egalitarian, she would turn it down.
The Paralympic Games taking place in September in Rio de Janeiro are an international showcase of how disabled people can excel despite their limitations, with many of the athletes being former Olympians who have adapted to injury. The official UK broadcaster of the Paralympics, Channel 4, is promoting the games with an advertisement campaign based around the tagline “We’re the superhumans". Though this may be a message that intends to promote the equality and empowerment of disabled people, Lucy Catchpole argues that framing disabled people as “superhumans” risks trivialising the adversities that many disabled people face, by making the complexity of disability “even more frustrating and confounding” to the public.
Amid an incredibly febrile world with Britons voting to leave the EU, an historic flow of migrants into Europe, worsening chaos in the Middle East, lonely eyes are again turning to the perennially stable United States. But the image that greets them now is not the calm but powerful Uncle Sam character but a simmering pot of tensions that is already displaying sudden outbursts of fury and which looks in danger of boiling over in a dramatic and horrible way. The last year has seen a series of attacks on African-Americans by predominantly white police officers. Almost exactly two years ago on 8 August 2014, a white police officer searching for a convenience-store robber in Ferguson Missouri shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, kicking off mass civil unrest.
When the performers at a show greet ticket holders at the door to the theatre and suggest they enjoy a cup of homemade soup being kept warm on a table on the stage, the audience know they are in for a performance with a difference. The show, The Spinning Wheel, is certainly that. It is in a theatre but is not a play; it features live music but is not a concert; it includes video but is not a film; and it is not stand-up comedy despite the numerous anecdotes told over the course of the evening. It is correctly billed as a multimedia experience presented by “theatre artist” and hip hop performer Baba Israel and musical collaborator Yako 400 who is on stage with guitar, base, keyboard and iPad. The show celebrates the life and work of countercultural jazz musician, poet, comic, political activist and theatre producer Steve Ben Israel, Baba’s father, who died in 2012.
If you think of the Edinburgh Fringe it is most likely the comedians and comedy shows that first come to mind as well as some of the bigger drama productions. However, if like me you are a politics and history geek at heart then the fringe is the place for you, with a myriad of shows to cater to your every desire. Many are one man shows and often relatively small productions off the beaten track whilst others have garnered more attention. With this in mind I have chosen five shows within this theme which I would recommend. Fringe veteran Pip Utton stars in this wonderfully engaging one man show that tackles the legacy of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Although a seemingly impossible thing to explain in just an hour, Utton takes on the subject with the same characteristic charm and objectivity that marked some of his previous guises.
With Daphne & Celeste (of 'U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly' infamy) embarking upon a comeback tour, it’s official - every pop band that could possibly have gotten back together now has. From Blur to Blue, recent years have seen dozens of acts reforming with varying degrees of success. The Sex Pistols’ reunion shows now vastly outnumber the performances made in their mid-70s heyday; One Direction only broke up last year but they’re probably already counting the cheques from their inevitable 2030 comeback tour. It’s become a mandatory part of the musical life cycle: get together, have a few hits, separate, then get back together and do it all again. Lather, rinse, repeat. There are plenty of reasons for this strange phenomenon. Some bands don’t quite achieve everything they’re capable of first time round, and want another crack of the whip.
For Mänfred Gnadinger aka 'O Alemán' aka Man Man was a hermit and sculptor who lived in a small hut on the beach in Camelle on the Costa Del Morte, Galicia. He was German, hence his nickname - 'O Alemán', shortened to simply Man. With the shipwreck of The Prestige in 2002 and the environmental disaster that followed, a black tide of oil overwhelmed his home and the sculptures of his open-air museum. He died shortly afterwards, it is thought from melancholy. Hull cracked A flowing black Message Man waits, unknowing In the fixity of Stone - his safety belt Appreciable Stillness of time To wander alone Sand and air His home Closer it comes At dawn he finds a bird A struggling Messenger Obsidian dragmarks Are you sick? He asks He stoops to help Withdraws his Coated fingers
Biphobia. As far as prejudices go, it’s a particularly pernicious phenomenon. It’s sometimes lumped together with your classic ‘anything that isn’t straight is disgusting’ homophobia, but the sting in its tail is that it can come from all angles - from straight people, gay people, and even from cuddly panto actors. Christopher Biggins, the openly gay performer and reality TV mainstay currently appearing on Celebrity Big Brother, commented on Monday: “The worst type, I’m afraid to say, are the bisexuals. What it is, is people not wanting to admit they’re gay. Be honest, that’s what you’ve got to be”. His unlikely comrade, celebrity mafia wife (because apparently that’s a thing) Renee Graziano, agreed: “You have to pick a team!” Their comments sparked controversy - or did they?
Regular readers of Private Eye will be familiar with illustrator David Ziggy Greene’s “Scene and Heard” comic strips, in which he documents events, such as political protests, as a fly on the wall through his trademark portraits. However he cannot only be found there: independently-published and crowdfunded, Save Our Souls was founded and edited by Green. The magazine, featuring contributions from a wide and diverse array of writers and artists, is a based around Greene’s concept, which is why I was compelled to buy both issues published so far. Each issue is a vividly colourful item that contains a smorgasbord of artwork and writing on various political, social and cultural subjects. As a medium of curation, it proves that there is still a role for print in modern media.
The girl crouched low to give the crab’s hard shell a gentle tap. The critter sprang to life immediately, punching both menacing pincers high in the air. She laughed and shrieked with excitement as the creature hastily retreated to the ocean, chasing and mimicking its footwork as it did so. The bay was quiet in the late afternoon and the beach fully deserted, a silence only broken by the silky break of a wave, or the small pebbles crunching between her toes. It had been her grandfather’s present, and the girl had long wondered whether she’d ever find a place better. She loved the cove for everything it didn’t have. There were no glass fragments lined with cheap liquor, no handwritten notes among the sands, not a single trace of deceit in the fresh breeze. Even the colossal sea was itself an unexpected comfort.
This year we commemorate the start of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest battle of the First World War, which took place in France between July and November 1916. The brutality and carnage of ‘the Great War; is appalling. But it is also striking to consider the circumstantial fragility of fate it represents. Thomas Richardson, a veteran of the Somme, was one of the many thousands of men who suffered from what today is identified as post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the conflict. While recuperating, he met a woman who was working as volunteer rehabilitation counsellor helping veterans - and they bonded well enough to get married and have children, eventually celebrating their Diamond Anniversary. Without the war they would not have met.
From a Quiet Corner in South London, Be Dazzled and Moved by the Magic of Stephen Wright's "House of Dreams"
Following a successful career in textile design spanning more than three decades, a disillusioned Stephen Wright turned his attention to his "life project" -- the House of Dreams Museum. Occupying the entire ground floor of a terraced house in East Dulwich in South London, the museum is a cavern of multicolour magic, nightmarish at first but, after time, revealing of warmer and more deeply personal emotions of the artist himself.
During the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders stole the show. One is the descendant of African Americans, the slaves who built the White House, and the other a child of Jewish immigrants who fled war-torn Russia to escape religious persecution. Both speakers have made it big in an America where hard work, good character and brains paid off. The belief that today’s young people will have the same opportunity is shrinking. Along with most Western countries, rapid change imposed by lightening speed technological advances and free trade agreements have produced diminished returned for people who work with their hands.
Whatever happens this summer, Jeremy Corbyn leaves a major legacy. Most notable is the long-term leftwards shift in Labour’s centre of gravity. The party’s right in retreat, Corbyn’s challenger Owen Smith campaigns on an almost identical platform, Trident and the EU aside. Smith’s pitch is to present it better and add much-need policy heft. Smith’s recruitment of Corbyn’s former policy chief as his own indicates a narrowing ideological horizon. The course steered may need a new captain, but politically Corbyn binds Labour left for the foreseeable future. This is a good thing. But Corbynism has changed things elsewhere too, and in the most unexpected of quarters. Indeed, the Corbyn Effect may win the next general election. The only thing is, under Corbyn, it won’t be Labour cracking open the fizz. Margaret Thatcher famously named New Labour her greatest achievement.
If the Labour party has a collective memory it is one scarred by the betrayal of Ramsay McDonald, who joined the Conservatives in a National Government in 1931. Most Labour leaders have faced such accusation to varying degrees at some stage in their career. To the outsider the Corbyn phenomenon is as mystifying as it is improbable. But betrayal is key. In 2015 Corbyn offered to a defeated, demoraised party a brand of politics the lacklustre, mainstream candidates struggled to project. With 2020 presenting a challenge Labour chose to find a leader who shared their sense of values. He - and his supporters - created a myth that he was the true Labour candidate against a clique of Red Tory, austerity-lite candidates who had betrayed Labour. And so in autumn 2015 social democrats, people who think of themselves of ‘soft left’, even Blairites (1994 vintage) voted for Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
According to the old music-hall song, ‘everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’. Much the same is true of the British government that has now found itself accidentally (because it happened without any of the usual policy-making preliminaries that are supposed to serve as a check on plausible but impractical policies) committed to leaving the European Union. Essentially, the time-inconsistencies in the process of leaving means that Britain will be seriously disadvantaged for years to come. As we all know the process of leaving the European Union is governed by Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome, which would give two years for member governments to agree new arrangements, after which the country leaves the European Union.
Once again, racial violence has reached crisis proportions in the USA. Recent events in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, highlight that despite the ascension of a popular president who is bi-racial, and culturally “black,” the USA is far from being a post-racial society. I recently shared on Facebook an October 2015 article which asked for an end to the use of #AllLivesMatter (ALM) as a counterpoint to #BlackLivesMatter (BML). The author of the article argues the following: “It’s not that [All Lives Matter] isn’t true. It’s just that it’s unhelpful. It’s an attempt to erase an actual crisis under the guise of being fair. And by continuing to use “All Lives Matter” to drown out the cry of “Black Lives Matter,” the real problems the movement is trying to address are being ignored. “All Lives Matter” is useless. It is destructive. It is hurtful.”
A newcomer to the United States who tuned into the television coverage of the first night of the Republican National Convention couldn’t be faulted for buying a gun the morning after. According to a list of speakers, most unknown to a wide audience, America is at war, and the possibility of a radical Islamic terrorist breaking down the door to kill you is imminent. Although the convention is being held in Cleveland, Ohio, and sits in the heart of the de-industrialized American rust belt, it was the Wild West on Monday night. Ohio is one state that allows for open-carry guns, including automatic weapons. If I’d been in Cleveland that night, I’d be more frightened by gun-packing delegates than Islamic terrorists. The opening speech of the convention by the star of “Duck Dynasty” described his folks as liking to “hunt, fish and pray.” Next to the podium was Marcus Luttrell.
Forces on both sides of the Jeremy Corbyn debate are apparently trying to make the most of the 48-hour window within which anyone can register as a supporter of the Labour Party and have a vote in the impending leadership election. Both pro and anti-Corbyn campaigners are hitting the phones and the streets to convince people to pay £25, either to get the current leader out, or keep him in. The committed Corbynistas of Momentum are apparently doing their best to re-establish contact with people who joined as registered supporters during the last leadership contest at the bargain price of just £3.
We need to talk about William. Shakespeare, that is. He does get a look in during this rumbustious, fast-paced, heavily edited and alcoholic 70-minute sprint through the Bard’s comedy. But not much. While his words feature and are played accurately, they act mainly as a useful device to deliver some plot and keep the play on track in between the outbreaks of ad libbed cabaret and comedy. The play is boiled down to five characters - the mismatched couples Hermia and Demetrius and Lysander and Helena, as well the mischievous Puck - who are all played by fully-trained Shakespearean actors. But one of them has spent the previous four hours getting tanked up. The show’s compère displays the wreckage of the boozing - a bottle of Pinot Grigio and four cans of lager drunk by Lysander on the evening in question.
2016 has been a dispiriting year: icons such as David Bowie and Prince have died; the horror of the terrorist and hate-fuelled attacks continue to appear on our news feeds daily; the politics of hate vomited all over our newspapers and TV screens during the hideous Brexit debate. Nigel Farage. Brexit. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. And now the choice of our new Prime Minister has come down to one thing: how good a woman is she? Cue the Vagenda outcries, cue Everyday Sexism, cue women across the UK rolling their eyes: not this again, surely? Kenneth Clarke, the patriarch’s wet dream, called May a “bloody difficult woman.” Theresa May isn’t a “bloody difficult leader” she is a bloody difficult woman. Because a woman in a high profile job, whose views you may disagree with, is always difficult, right? do I give damn about what she wears?
So it is good bye David Cameron. Whatever one thinks of him his time in Downing Street has been dramatic: the first coalition government since the war, the Scottish independence referendum, his 2015 majority and finally, his undoing as he lost his third referendum to be held in his premiership. He is the youngest prime minister to leave office since Lord Rosebury and served a shorter tenure than John Major. His fall was sudden and history is unlikely to be kind to him. In foreign policy there was never any grand Blairite vision. His intervention in Libya tried to avoid the mistakes of Iraq but the country has remained chaotic; he endured a humiliating parliamentary defeat over air strikes against Isis and only secured backing after the terrorist attacks on Paris.
It is near impossible for any new prime minister, taking over after a period in office, to escape its past sins. Ask Gordon Brown or John Major. However, Theresa May is giving it her best shot. This was a cabinet billed not as a reshuffle but a new government. To underline the point George Osborne was cut from the government. Politics is brutal. Osborne seemed to be hoping to stay as chancellor or move to the Foreign Office, but his dismissal is not a surprise: his blunders were far more memorable than his supposed brilliance, whether it was his Google tax deal or two omnishambles budgets. May’s leadership economic and industrial pitch was a criticism of the chancellor. Osbourne had to go. His indivisible association with the ancien regime and his strong support for Remain were the two last, delicious nails. State-educated, dry as dust Philip Hammond takes over.
Theresa May is Britain’s next Prime Minister. We should reflect on the fact that Britain has a new female leader. It is thirty-seven years since Margeret Thatcher was first elected prime minister. It really should not have taken so long. There is another, wider reflection. Not only about the state of the two parties but about politics generally. May has a task on her hands first to unite her party then to unite the country around some form of vision of a post-EU Britain. The reluctant Remainer must now become the enthusiastic Brexiteer. She now leads a party roughly evenly split on Brexit. The referendum campaign not only opened the bottle on a politics of division but it also displayed the right’s willingness to see itself as victim and call “betrayal” at the merest hint of compromise. It is - and will be - an extraordinary moment in politics.
When British Prime Ministers get it wrong, they get it spectacularly wrong. Neville Chamberlin in Munich, Margaret Thatcher and the miners, Tony Blair and Iraq, and now David Cameron and Brexit. As the removal van arrives at Number 10 and Cameron packs his bags, his legacy leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of those who feel robbed of European security and fearful of the isolated future it threatens. For those most affected by his ruinous policies on housing, welfare and disability. If Brexit was a protest vote from the poor, it is hard to blame them. The seeds of David Cameron’s downfall came long before Brexit. Their origin lies in the beginning of his premiership when he made the decision to implement deep cuts to the public finances, in the name of mopping up Labour’s mess. But this wasn’t really Labour’s mess at all.
The sun breaks, just for a second, long enough to splash the reds and silvers abandoned along the street. Most of the debris is “Free Movement” technology and the broken glass has kept its colour where the other materials have deteriorated. The shelters that remain in this area are rotten too. But this one still has glass in some of its windows. Then, the light fades back to grey, ashen and blank. I know that the Straw Men will be methodical and that the time I spend here is wasted. I have been holding the material that is hanging in front of this glass, tight in a clenched fist. So tight that l has started to rip away from that taught wire stretched across the aperture. I release my grip and see that on the palm of my hand is a twisted imprint from the material. It’s a familiar but ancient style.
“Has anyone ever been sick on stage?” “What do you do if they pass out before the show?” “I heard someone died .” When you tell people you’re a member of the Shitfaced Shakespeare company, you can be sure that the conversation is going to veer away from inane small talk fairly quickly. I’m sure it comes as no shock that the first thing people usually want to know about a company whose bread and butter is shoving an inebriated actor onto a stage in front of hundreds of people is not often “So what’s your artistic mission?” They want the good stuff. They want to hear about when the show has gone terribly wrong; when the carefully balanced element of peril has tipped the scale and some drunk performer has pulled the lighting rig down. “Show me the money!” they silently scream.
Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) is an Academy Award-winning masterpiece of modern cinema. The neo-noir, brutally violent crime drama, is set in the gritty scenery of 1970s New York City. It revolves around Travis Bickle, the titular taxi driver played by Robert De Niro. Bickle is a depressed and dysfunctional loner who takes on the job of a moonlighting taxi driver in an effort to distract himself from chronic insomnia. Bickle is an army veteran, so the character is likely a subtle criticism of an America that left thousands of veterans languishing in mental illness from Vietnam. Within his internalised fantasy, Bickle harbours resentment of the socially decaying city surrounding him. In his job he is willing to travel to any part of the city and transport any customer - encountering seediness, destitution and criminality
When the British citizens voted to leave the European Union on the 23rd June 2016, the country changed forever. Overnight, Britain’s economic, legal and political life, governed by a supranational framework, was thrown up in the air. Much commentary has hastened to look into the future, asking what the referendum results will mean. But unless the focus can be redirected to the present and past, there is a danger that the “Brexit vote” will be misunderstood. In England and Wales, many citizens who decided to vote against the EU come from the country’s most marginalised socio-economic groups. Their neighbourhoods have been affected by decades of industrial decline, and neo-liberal policies which have driven up problems of housing, unemployment rates and welfare dependence.
That Britain will have within the next two months its second female prime minister would in normal circumstances be a cause for cheer - whatever her party affiliation. However, as the new prime minister will begin the tortuous process of Brexit there is little cause for short-term optimism. As wealth inequality grows and access to public services becomes harder, our government will be distracted by negotiating and setting a new framework to replace forty years of economic, trade and security policies which has been part of the UK’s European membership. The two women, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, going forward to the final round of membership voting have competing visions not only on what post-Brexit Britain will look like but also how to get there.
With the publication of the Chilcot Report, debate around the Iraq War and its consequences will take on a renewed relevance (“debate” in this case meaning making the same arguments that have been made for the last 13 years only louder and to a larger audience). However, Chilcot is unlikely to change much: it will do little to alter the opinions of those who supported the war on the grounds that it was the moral thing to do to remove a tyrannical dictator, and (since it won’t be recommending the trial and public humiliation of Tony Blair) will seem nothing more than a “whitewash” to those convinced the war must be blamed on oil/war-mongering/Tony Blair being evil/corporate greed (delete as appropriate).
Britain voted to leave the European Union with a turnout of 72.2%. At the last election voter turnout was 66.1%. In fact, the EU referendum represents the highest turnout in a national election since the 1992 general election and is only dwarfed by the 85% of the Scottish independence campaign. Anecdotally, people who had never voted before came out to place their cross on the ballot paper which would decide Britain future - or not - with its European neighbour. And it is because of the fact, some say, that these these extra, and unexpected voters enjoining in their democratic right and placing not so much a cross but a two-fingered salute to the establishment on their papers, that the UK voted to leave the European Union. Unexpected voters produced an unexpected result. Though, of course, nothing in hindsight is ever unexpected.
With the greatest respect to the 19,240 British soldiers who died on 1 July 1916, the carnage that has followed the Brexit vote almost 100 years later has seen an astonishing cull of the country’s leaders. Prime Minister David Cameron has fallen on his sword, Boris Johnson had abandoned the ambition that fuelled his sudden volte face in favour of the Leave campaign, while Rino (remainer in name only) Jeremy Corbyn is hanging on to the Labour leadership by his finger nails. Michael Gove is limping toward defeat in the Tory party leadership campaign after knifing Boris in the back, while Nigel Farage is content to step down as Ukip leader and revel in his victory by insulting fellow members of the European Parliament. A revolution, like Saturn, will always devour its own children.
I’m one of those spineless, egotistical, morally abhorrent young people who wouldn’t mind seeing Jeremy Corbyn step aside. There, I’ve said it. Criticise me how you like: call me a right-wing Blairite Tory sympathiser for all I care, but hear me out; I’m a supporter of the ideas but not the execution. First, some facts. When Tony Blair became Prime Minister, I wasn’t even born. I live in an area that despises him as much as any. I joined the Labour Party in February 2015, following a small dose of gentle cajoling by my friends. I voted for Corbyn and Tom Watson in the leadership election, and was pleased when a man of principle, compassion and kindness was elected. But, as a leader, Corbyn has failed to live up to many people’s expectations.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson was brutally honest about the matter: he believes that Labour is an existential crisis caused by the divisions between the Labour grassroots, and Parliamentary Labour Party, due to the ongoing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is a poorly polling leader among the general public and there is overwhelming antagonism against him from the majority of the PLP. But it’s indisputable that Corbyn won the leadership with a massive mandate from members in the 2015 leadership election, and now under his stewardship the party membership is topping 400,000 people, even surmounting its size under the then-popular Tony Blair in 1997. So Corbyn can’t be described as a complete disaster. He stands on a solidly socialist and anti-austerity platform which appeals to Labour members and which is recruiting thousands to the party, including many young people previously uninvolved in party politics.
While most discussion since the Brexit vote has focused on how the UK will negotiate the terms of its new trading relationship with the EU, much less has been said about the rest of the world. Brexiters have tended to believe that the UK could continue to enjoy the access to foreign markets that it currently receives through the EU’s trade agreements with over 50 countries; and that for other markets it would simply resume independent membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the body through which 162 states set the rules for world trade. In fact, this is highly uncertain. It will require a long and complex process of negotiation, for which the UK is under-prepared and has little leverage. Since the UK joined the single market in 1973, Europe has negotiated tariffs and other international trade rules on the country’s behalf - both in bilateral and regional agreements and at the WTO.
The 90-year-old Harris Wofford - a former Democratic US senator - made headlines in April when he announced his engagement to marry Matthew Charlton, a partner 55 years his junior. Wofford was previously a widow, having being married to Clare Lindgren for 48 years until her death in 1996. It was the same Wofford who in 2008 introduced the then-senator Barack Obama, when Obama delivered his “More Perfect Union” speech on the struggles for equality and justice in the United States – notable given that Obama would go on to preside over the nationwide legalisation of same-sex marriage as its president. Announcing his engagement in The New York Times, Wofford explains that his relationship with Charlton, whom he met at age 70, began as a friendship that gradually deepened into a bond that they realised was love.
We will not remember them Those unnamed millions, Those tens of millions Who died for someone else’s Cause A cause that became a flag to mask the true intention. We shall not remember they who died for land-grabs Strategic purposes or simple geography Who died for control of trade routes or oil fields or mineral deposits that coursed beneath their naked feet And you have to wonder: will the blood and bones of the forgotten millions, Tens of millions Become over the course of millennia new fossil fuels for men to fight over, to wage war over? And will those millions, tens of millions of new unfortunates also go unnamed and uncommemorated? We will not remember them Then, as now, there will be no newsreaders dulcet tones Listing their hopes and aspirations
Whichever way you feel about the result, most people are glad the EU referendum campaign is over. To put it diplomatically, it wasn’t the highest quality debate in the world. Particularly for those on the losing side, referendums can seem like the worst way to do democracy – an instrument that leaves as many dissatisfied as satisfied with the result. But referendums aren’t good or bad in themselves; they are a democratic tool with positives and negatives. The quality of information and debate can vary enormously. Nowhere have we seen this reflected more clearly than the EU referendum. So what can we learn from the twelfth major referendum in the UK since British voters were last asked about EU membership in 1975?
Nothing that came out of a politician’s mouth was genuine. Both campaigns were so negative. It felt like nothing that came out of a politician’s mouth was genuine. People felt it. It felt like there was a sense of malaise surrounding the whole referendum. Many people I speak to now say, they needed to know more before casting their vote, or that they were close to not voting at all. Maybe this is a testament to how little the EU actually affects our everyday lives. Maybe not, let’s wait and see. I feel that the whole issue of immigration and lack of self-determination was engineered by the right-wing press to divert us away from larger issues.
The resignation of David Cameron on the morning after the EU Referendum was only as unexpected as the result itself. Although many protested otherwise, he would always have had to resign in such circumstances. Nominations closed with a dramatic intervention by Michael Gove which not only declared his own intentions to run but also dished the chances of the long-time favourite, and fellow Brexiteer, Boris Johnson. Voting begins on Tuesday 5th July, with successive votes being held on Thursdays and Tuesdays, is run by the backbench 1922 committee, until the party's 331 MPs select two of the five contenders, who will then go forward to a vote of the full party membership. The final winner, who will be Britain's next prime minister, is expected to be announced on 9th September.
What would you think if every one in two parents were worried that, if their child came down with a cold, they might never marry or get a job? Of course this is ridiculous. But a recent YouGov survey of over 2,000 adults found that 67% of parents would worry their child might never recover from a mental illness. Half would worry their child may never meet a partner, have a job or have a family of their own if they had a mental health problem. I’m not reducing the darkest, deepest depression to a winter ailment, but some mental health problems are short-term, do not require invasive treatment, and don’t reduce someone’s chances of living their life they way they want to. Mental health is serious, and potentially devastating, but it’s also on a spectrum. Cataloguing all mental illness as debilitating destructive and terminal is massively distorting something that is prevalent, treatable and preventable.
Karl Marx wrote that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. Jeremy Corbyn will know this quote only too well. It is little over a year since the socialist activist MP was elected leader of the Labour Party. Over the past twenty four hours the Labour’s parliamentary members - fearing a repeat of 1980s factionalism and the party’s electoral nadir - have tied themselves in knots trying to get rid of the Right Honourable Member for Islington North. Division, recrimination and fragmentation have paralysed the Opposition since the UK voted to leave the EU last week. In its immediate wake, Hilary Benn was sacked for attempting to trigger a coup against his leader. Next, a motion of no confidence was tabled by Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey.
Since the referendum result I've been surprised by how many people have made lofty claims about believing in democracy or, otherwise, bereft lamentations bemoaning how disappointed they are by it. Democracy isn't a philosophy or religion to believe in: it's a system and process that we operate for better or worse. It's a frustrating marriage. No one can tell whether leaving the EU was a right or wrong decision - the future will hold the answer to that and many impossible to predict factors will affect the outcome - it's just why do we expect democracy to be a magical device that guarantees a certain outcome? We can surely all agree that Thursday’s choice was one to "roll the dice" over a safe, if uninspiring, alternative. Personally, however, I think what happened on Thursday 23rd was a superb example of the dangers of direct democracy
It’s difficult to remember a time in our country’s political history when almost half of it, 48% of it, awoke to such sombre life-changing news. 75% of this 48% were young people aged 18-24 who voted to remain in the EU; they will live with the consequences of the result for longest. The other half, the 52%, awoke jubilantly as their decision to leave the EU rang out across the internet, TV channels, radio stations and in conversations across garden fences where overwhelming majorities had voted to leave. The highest proportion of those voting leave were aged 65+. In 30 areas with the most elderly people analysed by the BBC, 28 voted to leave; in the 30 areas with fewest graduates, 28 also voted to leave as age, education and British identity proved to be the key factors in voter decision.