Vote: Remain in Europe!

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Today, the 23rd of June you have the opportunity to help steer this country’s future direction. Please use it! Here’s my humble attempt to clear up a few misconceptions.

This unwelcome, unwanted EU referendum is nothing to do with immigration. Most migrants in the past 40 years have come from outside the EU in any case, and overall they make a positive contribution: i.e. they take out less than they put in through paying taxes. Besides that, the NHS could not function without them. Border security is stronger through international co-operation.

This referendum has nothing to do with sovereignty, either. It does not mean ‘taking back control’ because we never lost it. Europe cannot force any laws on us without the agreement of Parliament. No other country (e.g. Turkey) can join the EU without the agreement of all member states. But if we left the community, we would have far less power to influence events, not more; and we’d be obliged to accept measures decided by other people. So it would mean a net loss of control.

Nor is it anything to do with democracy. Britain has the least democratic electoral system of any advanced country: we have an unelected House of Lords and a House of Commons where many votes are wasted and one party can gain a majority of seats after winning less than 25% of the vote! The EU is already much more democratic than the UK, not less.

These issues are all really red herrings, so what is it all about?

The only reason we are having a referendum at all is to satisfy the interests of a tiny group of wealthy and powerful right-wing extremists, some of whom (like Rupert Murdoch and other owners of tabloid papers) are not even British residents. Politicians pressing for Britain to leave Europe – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Ian Duncan Smith – are well to the right of a Conservative government that’s already far right of centre. Yet these figures exert an influence through the media well in excess of any electoral support they command across the UK. Incredibly, their greed and lust for power are so big, they want even more control over you and me!

Outside the protection of EU laws on, for example, human rights, pollution and trade unions, these so-called ‘patriots’ would be able to promote an even more anti-social, racist, regressive austerity programme that would send Britain back to the 1930s. Do not be fooled by the way they like to wrap themselves in the union flag; if ‘Brexit’ happened, it’s likely there wouldn’t be a United Kingdom for much longer anyway. In fact these people are quasi-fascists who would grind the British people into the dirt without the restraints of EU rules that currently protect us.

In contrast, anyone with some intelligence and a grasp of history and world politics – like Prof. Stephen Hawking, most of the scientific and artistic community, people who do business every day and can create jobs – all agree that Britain is stronger, more prosperous and stable thanks to its membership of the EU. Sixty years of peace in Western Europe is testament to the international understanding and co-operation bred by working together instead of fighting. Recently Greece has had enormous economic problems (mostly of its own making) but even so, the country is bending over backwards to stay inside Europe, because its people recognize the obvious benefits membership brings. Without the various grants we receive from the EU, such as farm subsidies and poverty relief, the gap between rich and poor here – already far too wide – would be even wider, and social mobility increasingly curtailed.

To be honest: the problems we face in the UK today have nothing to do with our membership of the EU. They are entirely the fault of this (possibly illegitimate) Conservative government, who have bullied the media – especially the BBC – into keeping quiet about their track record of disastrous failure. Since they came to power on a pledge to tighten the budget and reduce the UK’s national debt, it has actually doubled – at a terrible cost in human suffering as health care, welfare and social services have been slashed. Leaving the EU would just mean more of the same failed policies, only worse – because as trade barriers and tariffs go up and the pound plunges, everything will cost much more.

On the world stage, Britain (or England) would be reduced to a little, insignificant offshore island devoid of international power or influence, but at the mercy of the likes of the increasingly powerful US, Russia and China. We would be exploited, our wishes ignored – and it would be impossible for us to get back into the #EU or count on our neighbours’ support.

The obvious choice: Vote Remain.

 

BRITS 2015

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Lines Written on the Tragic Nosedive of American Popular Singer Madonna in old London Town, after McGonagall

‘Twas at the 2015 Brit Awards
That the brightest and best talent met to cross swords.
A galaxy of musical artistes had come there to gather, …
Ignoring Jimmy Carr and his tiresome old blather.
S Smith, P Faith, Kanye, T Cobbley and all –
Dressed to the nines, and obviously out for a ball.
But the ceremony was to be blessed with one special honour:
A rare live appearance of the legend that was Madonna.
Anticipation was high, and so was the stage
For a woman always determined not to act her age.
Her career had been one interminable saga
Although lately eclipsed by the great Lady Gaga.
As she commenced her act in a long flowing cloak
She undid the cord, without which she would choke
But alas! A sharp tug from behind made her trip
And she sank even faster than that Titanic ship.
Before jumping up with aplomb and great timing
Even though some critics said she was probably miming.
Had she been drinking? The crowd was half-pissed –
Or done it on purpose, winked conspiracy theorists.
Whatever the truth, Madge’s unseemly tumble
Overshadowed all news of the PM’s latest fumble.
Since it’s often been said Pride precedes a fall,
My advice to the Material Girl: next time, wear a shawl instead.

About me – 7 Deadly Facts

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1. When I was born, I was several days overdue and had to be induced to come out; and I still think it was a mistake! After having two boys, my mother really wanted a baby girl, to be called Helen; and when I finally arrived, my parents toyed with calling me Alan – a narrow escape!

2. I’ve never really liked wearing clothes and would be happy going naked, climatic conditions and society permitting. Failing that, abolish trousers.

3. At the age of six I was moved up a year at school for being disruptive. After that I was always the youngest student in my class. But after the age of 14 or so, I would say most of my education was a complete waste of time for everyone concerned. Most important things, I learned outside the classroom.

4. There is no God, but I have no problem with those who think there might be, provided they keep their delusions to themselves.

5. I have often indulged in alcohol, cigarettes, sex and drugs – but never had a problem going without any of them. Meat is tricky though – and music is a very powerful addiction!

6. If I had the wherewithal, apart from running a Real Rock Radio station, I’d like to set up classic cinemas showing vintage movies they way they were meant to be seen.

  1. In the 21st century, with most scientific & technological problems solved, I believe distribution of resources and protecting the planet are the most pressing problems. It’s absolutely scandalous that half the world is struggling to make ends meet, if not actually starving, while the other half are flogging themselves to death with too much (mostly needless) work. QED!

KP Goes Nuts

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Lines Written on the Banishment of 

Kevin Pietersen from the England cricket team,

after Thribb

 

So. Farewell then KP,

Erstwhile saviour of

English cricket.

You of the flashing blade and

Wildly coloured hairstyles.

You brought shame on the game

By massaging your opponents.

Er, Keith says that

Should be ‘messaging’.

You claim you were

Misquoted but

Now you are

Permanently demoted.

That’s the first time

I’ve made a

Rhyme.

Whoops!

MULTI-COLOURED SWAP SHOCK!

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So Maggie went straight up to Heaven:
She arrived at a quarter past seven.
St Peter said, ‘Blimey! You’re early,
What brings you to the gates that are pearly?’
Thatcher grimaced at his rude behaviour:
‘Don’t you know I’m a national saviour?
Where’s your master?’ she snapped with a sneer,
‘He’ll confirm I’ve a right to be here!’

God looked up from his white grand piano,
‘You lost that when you sank the Belgrano!
Pete here has been checking your record –
Where there was harmony, you brought only discord.
But Mephisto’s dead keen to adopt you,
So in the end, I’m afraid we just swapped you!’

‘Swapped me?’ cried Thatcher, ‘for whom?’
‘Well,’ soothed God, ‘just so you know,
He’s a charming Venezuelan called Hugo…
Byeeee!’

April 2013

 

FATCHA! HOW THE CON-DEM COALITION IS EXTENDING THATCHERISM IN THE 21st CENTURY

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This piece was written in celebration [sic] of the passing of Margaret Thatcher in 2013. But the awful truth is that by March ’15 the administration of David Cameron had been busily building on and even extending the legacy of this dreadful woman, with terrible consequences for the British people.

Mrs Thatcher was an unmitigated disaster for our country.

Forget the Falkland Islands (who needs ’em?) and the fact that she was a female: does that make me feel better? I could only feel better if she had never been born.

A flashback to the 1980s: countless lives wasted or ended prematurely through mass unemployment, the once-in-a-lifetime bonanza of North Sea oil squandered, national resources and public services put in the hands of unaccountable private businesses, the UK’s ‘family silver’ sold off cheap, black marketeers and the spiv economy, destruction of industries, families and communities wrecked, debts piling up, ex-dictators given shelter, “greed is good”, rocketing interest rates, property speculators, train crashes, ferries sinking, fire on the Underground, football stadium tragedies, social strife, inner city riots, class division, royal weddings, bastards and fornication – all of it soundtracked to ghastly electronic music, robotic dances and vapid videos whose artificiality somehow aptly reflected the unnaturalness of the times…. Welcome to daily life under jolly old Maggie!

People say: “Ah, but she turned things round, she was a conviction politician who knew her own mind”. Rubbish, Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter from Grantham, a humourless, bossy Conservative with a foghorn voice, carefully toned down when necessary by the PR men to project her ‘caring’ image (she didn’t actually ‘care’ at all), a chemistry graduate with a sketchy knowledge of economics, in thrall to the wonky monetarist theories of Milton Friedman, which didn’t work and did untold damage. Almost Thatcher’s first act in government was the mean, penny-pinching move to abolish free milk for young school children. That set the tone for what was to come.

So utterly disastrous were her policies for the British economy that, just three years after she came to power, unemployment had more than doubled, from one-and-a-half million to well over three million. Every year on Budget Day, the sheepish Geoffrey Howe would be wheeled out to say yet again that while the monetary targets had been missed by a mile, things could only get better. Eventually they did: the Lawson bubble of the mid-’80s coming round as part of a natural economic cycle, the result of ‘hot’ money accruing from property speculation (pricing many Brits out of the housing market for ever, along the way) and the abolition of the City’s well-worn rules and safeguards. Chickens would come home to roost some 20 years later, after Mr Blair’s New Labour had become a little too cosy with the bankers, taking their lead from Thatcher’s regrettable example. But in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan followed a very similar path to Thatcher and in the process, turned America from being the world’s greatest creditor nation into its biggest debtor. Quite a trick!

The lasting, deep corruption afflicting pretty well all of us as a result of Thatcher’s ‘legacy’ is the crass monetization of every single sphere of human activity – its worth reduced to a simple equation of profit and loss. So anything you can think of – art, history, philosophy, science, the natural world, sport, space exploration – its only value to Thatcher and her ilk is how many dollars can be screwed out of it. This cheapens humanity, drains the spirit of honest endeavour and sucks the lifeblood out of any activity performed for its own sake. It loses any intrinsic value because all must be measured against the imperatives of the ‘market’. We see the results all around us: the social provision of a modern western state increasingly replaced by arbitrary, random acts of charity (turning back the clock a hundred years to Victorian times) higher education reduced to vocational needs, big loans and debts, cultural events dependent on commercial sponsors, public transport put out to tender to the lowest bidder, hospitals and town councils run by accountants, parks devoid of responsible, socially beneficial keepers, civic pride consigned to the museum – and the media run by wealthy tycoons bent above all on pushing their profit margins.

Indeed, the role of the press in selling ‘Maggie’ to the public cannot be overestimated – Rupert Murdoch’s Sun in particular was writing the script. In return, that vile antipodean reptile enjoyed massive police protection to move his seedy little operation from Fleet Street, the home of genuine journalists, to Wapping, a world of its own which might as well have been an offshore island. As we know, the incestuous relationship between the tabloid press, the upper ranks of the Police and the government continues to this day, the recent phone-hacking scandal demonstrating how deep its roots are, offering the public a momentary, illuminating little peek into a sordid, surreal world of back-slapping, blackmail, bungs and lies.

Arch-philistine Thatcher surrounded herself with bully-boys and sycophants: Tebbit, Parkinson, Brittan etc. Her opponents tended to be cultivated people with a social conscience: Michael Foot, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, the younger generation of Kinnock, Owen and Steel – all vilified in the tabloid press on a regular basis – and any of them would have done a better job, since they at least would have listened to reasoned argument, something that the simple-minded, pig-headed PM would not. Among Conservatives, the so-called ‘wet’ members of the Cabinet like Michael Heseltine feared and loathed Thatcher, perhaps even more than the opposition, and they took the first opportunity presented by the furore over the Poll Tax to stab her in the back. Not before time!

The Tories’ three election victories under Thatcher were all gained against a seriously divided opposition and with the slavishly uncritical support of the mass-circulation daily newspapers except two, The Guardian and the Daily Mirror. Thatcher could never have won without the (irrelevant to most of us) ‘Falklands Factor’ and the hysterically jingoistic tabloid newspaper coverage that designated any socialist opponent as a ‘loony lefty’. In ’87, with the opposition now even more divided in the aftermath of the terrible miners’ strike, the deadly AIDS virus was conveniently dressed up as a pantomime villain to ‘threaten’ the nation. Game, set and match.

Yet in none of these elections did more than 25% of the electorate actually vote Conservative – that is, 3 out of 4 people did NOT vote for Thatcher, quite sensibly. The skewed electoral system ensured that a narrow victory in the popular vote was transformed into a platform for near-dictatorship. Thatcher’s defenders say: “At least there were fewer strikes!” (somehow conveniently overlooking the miners’ strike – the most divisive issue in this country since the 1640s civil war) but it’s hardly a surprising statistic, considering so many companies were going bust or being closed down, left right and centre. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath-water!

The real tragedy however is the vast oil revenues coming on tap in the early ’80s which should have been used to regenerate British industry. Instead they were pocketed by Thatcher’s friends or dribbled away. Neglect? See the housing, schools, NHS, the inadequate transport system (especially the railways) which we still suffer today. London Transport had served the capital well for 40 years: it was broken up (and has since been pieced back together, as TfL). The Serpell Report even recommended closing down most of the rail network and replacing it with buses; Thatcher was mad enough to want to try it. When she agreed to the Channel Tunnel project, she unthinkingly assumed it was going to be a road tunnel, of course.

The Brighton bombing of 1984 demonstrated how deeply hated Thatcher was, both at home and abroad. Bullying Argentina into giving up its legitimate claim to the Falklands is somehow regarded as a great triumph. In fact Britain would have been happy to negotiate them away, until somebody jumped the gun and planted a flag. Thatcher blundered over the future of Hong Kong in negotiations with China, not realizing that the 99-year lease due to expire in 1997 applied only to the outlying part of the territory, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island having been ceded in perpetuity; and the Chinese were preparing to extend the lease. Thatcher signed away the whole lot without demur, and the government in Peking couldn’t believe their luck.

In Europe, Thatcher hectored our partners and stood aloof, resisting closer integration and making the UK a near-pariah in the European community. Some see this as a good thing – but there’s no doubt that for years, the UK lagged even behind Ireland in terms of money spent on, for example, infrastructure investment. (The recent turmoil in Spain, Greece and Italy is not down to the European currency so much as dubious local accounting practices and factors ‘beyond our control’ like the reckless, unlawful casino banking going on for years in the USA.)

History is written by the winners and so whatever is, must be; we cannot alter the past. But here, myth has overtaken reality, and the accepted line is badly in need of revision. When David Cameron says Thatcher put the ‘great’ back into Britain, it grates! Empty rhetoric and palpable nonsense, it’s also ironic, since Dave plans to hack off its head by making Scotland independent, a cynical ploy designed to cut the number of Labour MPs at Westminster. Cameron represents the figurehead of an aimless, amoral, bankrupt government that’s pure Thatcherite. It has no workable economic plan whatever for recovery beyond ‘austerity’ (do they know that cutting from the bottom generally topples the tree?). Austerity means picking on the poorest people in society like the sick and disabled, whilst emaciating local councils, privatizing emergency services and dismantling the NHS, as they always insisted they wouldn’t.
Tragically, we are still paying a heavy price for Thatcher’s egregious follies. Let’s be clear: Thatcher was a nasty, bigoted, misguided, malevolent, reactionary milk-snatcher, who decidedly made the poor poorer not by accident, but as a deliberate act of policy. From somewhere near the dawn of time up to 1980, the gap between rich and poor had slowly but steadily been narrowing; after that, it began to widen again, for the first time in modern history: truly a remarkable achievement.
Perhaps nothing symbolizes the chronic failure of Thatcherism better than the Concorde tragedy. A hollow, antisocial, ludicrously expensive experiment was brought crashing to earth by a fatal flaw in its design that no one seemed to have noticed. Doesn’t that sum up Thatcherism to a T?

LINES WRITTEN ON THE OCCASION OF THE LONDON OLYMPIAD 2012 & THE WORST RECESSION IN LIVING MEMORY, after McGonagall

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‘Twas in the year two thousand and twelve
That scholars into the history books began feverishly to delve
To answer this riddle: Since the repeal of those laws on corn,
Has there been a worse chancellor than the right honourable George Osborne?
So far as all the main economic indicators seemed to show
The answer came back – an overwhelming No
And as it staggered along, the Con-Dem’nd coalition
Saw each new U-turn met with howls of derision.
It was clear that so far from being a temporary blip,
The UK’s recession was indeed double dip!
A clamour was growing for someone more able
To replace the hapless George: maybe that fellow Vince Cable?
But at the very same time, on the banks of the Thames
London played host to the 30th Olympic Games.
Up and down the land, folks came out on their porch
To catch but a fleeting glimpse of the famous flaming torch
Carried by runners and celebrities alike, high and low –
David Beckham, that woman off the telly, Sebastian Coe;
Even the queen was persuaded to do something insane
Accompanied by 007, she jumped out of a plane
(Though some people claimed that it was only a double,
It was thought more than likely they were out to cause trouble.)
At least it distracted attention from her washout jubilee,
The possible identity of Prince Harry’s new filly
And foolish feuds between footballers – not very nice
With Cheryl Cole’s ‘ex’ being called a choc ice
Be that as it may, the public seethed with anticipation
Wondering if success would ever come to the host nation.
One thing was sure: I would not be lying
If I said they all deserved a gold medal for trying!
Even as the air was filled with indignant tweets
About the shameful ticket scandal and the half-empty seats.
Speculation was rife that the people in power –
Cameron, Clegg & co were the most awful shower
So sad to say, the best we could hope for amidst the kerfuffle
Was the exciting prospect of a Cabinet reshuffle…
Postscript: Still going from bad to worse,
But that’s quite enough of this nauseating contemporary verse!