MARK FRANKLAND

The picture? Well the picture says that anything is possible. As in anything. The town is Darwen. And of course the guy is Gandhi. And those around him are unemployed cotton workers. When he heard they were all but starving because of his Indian boycott, he insisted on going to see them. Before he got off the train they were all ready to lynch him. By the time he got back on board he was their guy. Like they say - form is temporary, class is permanent.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A ROOM PACKED WITH ANGER, ENERGY AND HOPE ..... AND CARRIER BAGS OF DONATED FOOD.


Last night one of the Dumfries branches of the SNP held its first meeting since  Referendum. I had received a message via Facebook letting me know that people would be coming along with food donations for First Base. Would I be able to come along? Sure I would.

There were roadworks along the way which meant I was fifteen minutes late by the time I reached the venue. At first I couldn’t even get into the bloody room! I peered over shoulders to see a people packed room that was pushing health and safety boundaries. Later I asked an old hand how many usually turned up for branch meeting of the Dumfries East SNP. About ten. Twenty on a good night.

Last night it was a hundred and fifty.

Extraordinary.

The first hour was given over to allowing everyone a chance to have their say about what had happened. To get stuff off the chest. And then to try and find the road forward.

Even the most cynical of individuals would have been hard pressed not to be moved by the palpable feeling of hope in the room. Young and old, male and female, black, white, brown and yellow.

Just folk.

People were holding onto their completed membership forms and waiting to sign on the dotted line. Many had followed online instructions on how to cancel their direct debits to the BBC whilst staying within the law. Others told tales of the tearing up of their Labour Party membership cards. One had cut up his card into a ‘YES’ and sent it back to head office.

In the middle of the room was a huge pile of carrier bags which was clearly too much for the boot of my venerable old Volvo. The relief effort was going to require two trips. I had a word with the hotel guy and he was happy enough to hold onto the pile until the next day.

Once upon a time, piles of donated food used to be about to take the long journey south to famine stricken regions of Africa. Not this pile. This pile of bags will make a journey of less than half a mile across a small Scottish town where 500 people a month lack the means to buy supper.

What a desperate indictment. People’s instinctive reaction to our nation’s decision not to go it alone is to buy tins of beans and hand them over to the likes of First Base. All weekend Twitter carried images of an even greater mountain of donated food in Glasgow’s George Square.

Yesterday I emptied our collection bins in Morrisons and they told a similar story. On average they yield about £50 worth of food a week. Yesterday my boot was stuffed with £125 worth.

There was something poignant about the sight of the pile of carrier bags in the packed meeting room. Only a few hours earlier, George Osborne had told a room full of acolytes that he planned to make regular families £400 a year worse of should they be gullible enough to vote him back to power.

And the audience cheered him.

'Punish the Poor' has become the new black for people who deem themselves to be doing OK in life. A bit like voting ‘No’. In our brave new ‘I’m alright Jack’ world, people seem to love nothing better than the sight of poor people being kicked in the teeth. Last month a bunch of Middlesborough fans took a banner to the match referencing the fact that the latest version of ‘Benefits Streets’ is being filmed in their town.

‘Being poor is not entertainment.’

Oh really? Try telling that to bright young things in their ridiculous T shirts who cheered good old George to the rafters.

Well we had our chance to check ourselves out of Hotel George and find a better place to stay. And we opted for Hotel George.

So First Base will not be short of customers in the months and years to come. Dumfries is home to more than its fair share of poor people and they can now look forward to getting kicked in the teeth by George and his happy, clappy henchmen for the foreseeable future.

Last night a hundred and fifty people packed themselves into a relatively small room and collectively yearned for a chance to continue the fight. Hope and anger were abundant. Make no mistake, there were a lot of very, very angry people in the room last night. Conspiracy theories were doing the rounds. I have to admit that I find these rather hard to believe. Too much television has given us all a rather overblown respect for the capability of the dark powers of the British state. We see the likes of Keeley Hawes in Spooks complete with designer clothes and top end electronics and we shrink back in awe at her fearsome competence. In reality the security forces tend to be a complete joke. They actually admitted that they hadn’t really heard of ISIS at the very moment the men with the long beards and spooky videos waltzed their way across Iraq. And let’s face it, Iraq should be a place we have a handle on – it was sonly ten years ago that we invaded the bloody place.

These are the very same people who got caught trying to hide a microphone in a plastic rock in a Moscow park. Do we really think they could get their act together to such an extent that they were able to fix a Referendum without cocking it up? No chance.

Anger can be a good thing, but it becomes pretty pointless once it focuses on conspiracy theories care of Google. And here of course is the $64,000 question. We have hope, energy and anger in abundance, but how can it be harnessed? Will anyone out there be able to come up with a goal to strive for before all the hope, anger and energy evaporates like a post downpour puddle in the Sahara?

I hope so. Everyone hopes so.

The people at the top table last night seemed to be struggling. An agenda for the second part of the night was up on a screen where motions and resolutions were up for being seconded and passed. It was to be the nuts and bolts of party politics and a million miles from the joyous mayhem of the ‘Yes’ campaign. Will it be enough to provide a home for all the hope and anger and enthusiasm?
I hope so. Everyone hopes so.

One bit of news heartened me enormously. Our area was a bastion of ‘No’. Better Together romped home with a thumping two to one majority. This came as no kind of surprise. Everyone predicted it would be so and it was so. But not everywhere. The village of Moniave was a shining exception to the rule and it bucked the local trend completely by weighing in with more than 50% ‘Yes’. From a personal point of view, I was chuffed to bits to hear about this on two levels. Moniave was the place where I had done the majority of my own bit, firstly in a debate where I teamed up with Richard Arkless to take on two local Labour politicians and secondly when I had the great honour of sharing a platform with Tommy Sheridan.

Well it seems like the lads did OK.

There is a second really pleasing thing about the Moniave ‘Yes’. The village has an unusually high percentage of English immigrants who have migrated north to make their lives in Scotland. On paper it should have been a bastion of ‘No’. It wasn’t.

That snippet of news coupled with pile of carrier bags kind of made my night.

I didn’t stay for the formal part of the meeting. Instead I spent an hour outside in the smoking area soaking up the anger and the hope. I am not one of the 50,000 who has signed on the dotted line of active party politics. It’s not my thing. It never has been.

I don’t think I am alone in my weariness with our party dominated democracy. The joy of the referendum campaign was the way the parties were shoved to one side as regular people took control of the campaign. Maybe one day this might become the norm. Technology can easily allow democracy to go back to its original Greek roots when a crowd would gather outside the Parthenon and vote on how the railroad was to be run on an issue by issue basis. Yeah, yeah, I know. There were no railroads until George Stevenson did his thing a couple of thousand years later, but you get my drift.

Most of us have password access to our Amazon accounts which enables us to buy stuff, though sadly it is seldom one of my books! There is no reason on earth why we shouldn’t be given similar codes to vote on the great issues of the day on an issue by issue basis.

Did we really need 600 MP’s to take the decision to bomb the people of Iraq in our name last week? What would we have all said if there had been an online poll? Maybe a majority would indeed have decided it was a good idea to bomb the bejesus out of ISIS. However I am almost certain that the majority would not have been 10 to 1 as it was in the House of Commons.

No wonder the political class hate such a prospect. There would be no more lobbyists offering lovely non exec directorships on the boards of blue chip companies in return for the right kind of voting record. Instead the only people worth lobbying would us. All of us. Just like it was on September 18th. That is why 85% of us played a part in it. For once our opinion mattered. For once.

Here are a few questions that the political establishment would really, really hate to ask our collective opinion on.

Should the NHS be privatised?

Should the railways be re-nationalised?

Should Britain close down all the off-shore tax havens in sunny places where the Union Jack still flies?

Should we all have to stump up £1000 each for HS2?

Should we take another £400 a year off the 9 million poorest people in the country?

I think the answers to all of the above are not hard to guess at.

Will that day ever come? Sadly it is hard to see, but there really is no good reason why not. Of course the professional politicians will never tire of telling us that the people could not possibly be trusted to give the right answers to such weighty matters.

Anyway, I seem to have drifted off into a flight of fancy. It was great to see so many people in the room last night and it was great to see how much food they had brought along with them.

And it was great to see that so much hope had survived the despair of September 19. Now the parties so many have signed on the dotted line for have a huge responsibility to find a genuine direction for so much hope.

For what it is worth, I’m with Tommy Sheridan on this one. Let’s start by making Scotland a Unionist free zone next May. That would be a pretty good start in my book.
 
And then........?

 

Friday, September 26, 2014

THE '45' - IT'S CALLED DEFIANCE AND IT'S BLOODY MARVELLOUS.


A week ago David Cameron stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street and told us all that the people of Scotland had demonstrated our ‘Settled Will’ for a generation, maybe even a lifetime.

‘Settled Will’ ?

Where do they get these terms from? I guess he meant that we had voted No.

As far as Dave was concerned, it was a case of job done. We had all been firmly put back where we belonged: in our box.

Like hundreds of thousands of others, I didn’t feel like my will had been settled in the slightest. This feeling grew once it emerged that we had all voted Yes all the way up to the age of 55. Settled for a lifetime? Come on.

For a while I was as down as down could be. So much energy and optimism had been crushed by the tsunami of negativity that that had washed over Scotland. Now we would have to suffer months on end of smugness and the magnificent, shining hope of our vast grassroots campaign would fizzle and die.

Well it didn’t work out that way, did it Dave?

Within hours, the ‘45’ Campaign rose from the ashes of defeat and any semblance of high ground the Unionists might have won disappeared without trace with the Nazi salutes in George Square.

Seven days has seen everything change and nothing change. The Yes campaign has refused to be put back in the box and there are still faces creased with worry in the corridors of Whitehall power.

What has happened in the last week has been beyond all expectation. 150,000 people joining the ‘45’ Facebook page is all very well, but let’s face it, left clicking a button isn’t exactly the hardest thing to do. Nigh on 40,000 people joining the SNP is another thing altogether. That is quite frankly bloody astonishing. The SNP which draws its support from our small nation of 5 million souls now has getting on for half the membership of the Labour Party which has a pond of 63 million to fish in.

The Green Party is now double the size of the Lib Dems in Scotland and and if things keep on the way they are going, they will soon overtake the Labour Party. The Scottish Tories don’t release membership figures: I wonder why that might be?

Yesterday was a great day for the ‘45’. At lunchtime the Daily Politics show invited Tommy Sheridan to paint a picture of the ‘45’ campaign. There are unwritten rules about this kind of thing. A sober suit is required and a certain kind of decorum. Daily Politics interviews seldom generate any kind of YouTube traffic.

Tommy didn’t do the suit thing. He did his T shirt thing and took a pass on showing the required decorum. Instead, he took a sledge hammer to the idea that we’re  all about to accept that we have shown our settled will for a lifetime. The faces in the studio were a picture. 

He fired off both barrels at all the 'Red Tories' of the Labour Party who hooked their wagon to massed ranks of the British Establishment. His message was unequivocally clear. We’re not going away. We’re not going to sit quietly and do as we’re told. Instead we are regrouping and we’re getting stronger.

An in May next year we’re coming for you. In May next year you can kiss goodbye to your fat Westminster expense accounts and your free houses in London. In May next year you are all about to learn what payback time looks like.

And then came Question Time. The Labour Party fielded Emily Thornberry, the shadow Advocate General. She started off with a pretty smug look. She didn’t finish with one. The audience didn’t have the look of people who were ready to accept that they had shown any kind of settled will. They growled like a pack of dogs and the lady from Labour must have got the train back to London with a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach. 

Job done?

Dream on guys. The massed rank and file of the Yes campaign are not even close to accepting any kind of defeat. The next battle is a mere seven months away and the ‘45’ already have 53 big, fat targets firmly in our sights: the 53 Unionist MPs who live the high life care of their Scottish seats. Well you better start thinking about a change of career guys because you ain’t flavour of the month right now.

The backlash is going to be ferocious and when the dust settles all bets will be well and truly back on.

Yesterday we saw the living, breathing reality of the ‘45’ at First Base. We are the food bank down here in Dumfries and we hand out 500 emergency food parcels each and every month in our sleepy little town. A minute after we opened our doors yesterday, some guys from the local branch of Radical Independence came in with eight carrier bags of food which they had collected at their meeting the night before.

I received three e mails from '45' people who wanted to volunteer to help out.

One '45' supporter from Langholm had taken a detour to Annan in order to boycott Asda and while she was in town, she visited the place where we stock our food parcels. On Monday she is coming in to see me to talk about helping to set up a new outlet for our food parcels in her village.

On Sunday a group of ‘45’ people are collecting food all afternoon in a local pub. They set up a Facebook page a couple of days ago and the response has already been overwhelming.

Next week I have been asked along to a local SNP meeting to pick up another boot full of tins and packets.

How utterly damning is all of this for our supposedly wonderful Union? All over Scotland people are making a devastatingly simple connection. The fact that the Union is set to continue means that thousands upon thousands of people will continue to be punished for the crime of being poor and vulnerable.

Take a moment to think about that.

The response of many regular citizens to last week’s No vote has been to donate food to places like First Base. If the cheerleaders for the Union care for a minute to pay any heed to this, they should be genuinely alarmed. This is how people see you. This is what people think you are.

People see rule from Westminster Rule as a never ending war on the poor. Westminster rule is all about bankers and corporations and looking after the super rich. This is harsh of course. It is a caricature. But that is hardly the point. Once upon a time Spitting Image was a caricature, but it didn’t half hit the target. And when Thatcher’s children bit the dust, they bit the dust hard.

In the last seven days the ‘45’ has already found a way to become a formidable force. We were supposed to disappear and go back to being inconsequential little people. Our moment in the sun had come and gone and business as usual was supposed to resume.

Well, like they always say, seven days is a long time in politics. You might have won a battle, but the war has a way to go. Right now the army of the ‘45’ is collecting up tins of beans for the victims of London rule. Right now you might be tempted to look down from your ivory towers and snigger at this as an exercise in futility. Well snigger away, because you haven’t got long left to enjoy your sense of smug complacency.

Next May we will evict you from Scotland.

The year after, we’ll nail down control of the Holyrood Parliament.

And then we’ll be right back in your faces. And there will be a whole lot more young ‘Yes’ voters on the electoral roll. And next time you won’t find it so easy to scare the over 65’s with your propaganda and lies.

You seriously thought you have got rid of us for a generation.

You didn’t even manage a week.

We’re still here.

It’s called defiance and it’s bloody marvellous.  
 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

THE GREEN SHOOTS OF THE '45'


Quite a picture isn’t it?

It jumped out at me on Referendum Day and I hooked it onto a tweet. ‘Let’s hope this is the perfect image for tomorrow morning’. A couple of days later Twitter let me know that the tweet had bounced here, there and everywhere and many thousands had admired the view of a Skye dawn.

Maybe that is indeed the way things looked up on the Isle of Skye when the dawn sun lit up the world on the morning of the nineteenth.

But of course there was no ‘Yes’ to be found anywhere.

Friday was as bleak a day as I can remember. Hope had lost and fear had won. The British Establishment had rolled back the years and found a way to keep its subjects under the heel.

My first instinct like many was to disown anything resembling politics for ever and a day. We had all done our best and in the end the odds had been too heavily stacked in favour of the Status Quo.

By Saturday morning anger took over as Twitter was filled with images of the George Square Neo Nazis wrapped in their Union Flags.

Disgust and anger flowed through my fingers into a somewhat nihilistic blog. I can’t say I cared much about the tone. And when I hit the ‘publish’ button, I did so with little expectation. Over the course of the campaign, readership of my blogs had risen steadily from the low hundreds to the high hundreds to the low thousands.

But I was certain that this blog would be of little interest to anyone much. This would be a few hundred bitter and angry words hurled out into the wilderness of an online world which had moved on.

Was there still anyone out there with the slightest interest? Probably not. It didn’t seem to matter much.

Publish and be damned.

At first it seemed like my instincts would be proved true.

But then things changed. The last three days have been extraordinary. I have been delighted to see that many of the leading lights in the grass roots campaign have vowed not to go away. By Saturday the idea of the ‘45’ had mushroomed into something that was not about to go away either.

By Saturday evening over 3000 had read my blog.

Sunday was a day of Westminster ugliness. Sunday was the day the Westminster Establishment turned in on itself and started to rip itself apart like an attack dog gone rabid.

Sunday was a day of green shoots as the ‘45’ realised that the future was still there to be won.

By Monday a spectacular surge in membership had taken the SNP beyond the Liberal Democrats and UKIP to become Britain’s third largest party.

By Monday evening over 7000 had read my blog.

By now there was feedback. Taunting voices from the ‘No’ side told me to get over it and get a life. They were gloatingly convinced that September 18 2014 was the day the war was lost, not just a battle.

But other strands of feedback were rather more encouraging. Several people volunteered to help out filling food parcels as a way to get over things. The local ‘Yes’ branch e mailed me to let me know that several members had decided to do the same. Could I come along to a meeting next week?

And all of a sudden there were green shoots everywhere.

Derek Bateman vowed to continue the fight and promised to be back in the game soon with news of a new online media show.

Reverend Stuart penned a magnificent blog on ‘Wings over Scotland’ which had the look and feel of a parting shot. But the next day he was back with a beginners guide on how to stop paying your BBC licence fee without getting on the wrong side of the law.   

Tommy Sheridan showed the pragmatism of a natural guerrilla leader by urging his army of followers to close ranks behind the SNP for the 2015 General Election as the best means to deliver the hardest blow to those who lined up alongside the forces of the Establishment.

By now the air waves were filled with voices from all corners of England expressing their rightful disgust at the fag packet panic of Cameron and Milliband and Clegg. Not in our name!

And by the end of Monday night over 10,000 had visited my angry words. It was suddenly very clear that not many of the ‘45’ were willing to be put back in the box. By now Twitter was filled with remorseful ‘No’ voters trying to come to terms with what they had done as our Westminster rulers showed their ugly side. All of a sudden there was no more love bombing. Instead we had public school voices from the shires of England letting their well heeled votes know that they would have no truck with the keeping of the ‘Vow’.

History tells us that this kind of fallout is nothing new. Time and again the British Empire won battles against those who were striving for their independence. Time and again London managed to win these battles, but in every case London lost the war all the way from America to Ireland to India to Palestine to Kenya to Hong Kong.

And so it will be for Scotland.

Slowly but surely, all of their lies are unravelling. Already there are many who deeply regret their decision to be a part of the 55.

So what do we all do now?

In my book, the ‘45’ will need to be a resistance movement for a while. We have plenty of playbooks to follow. George Washington and Mahatma Ghandi and David Ben Gurion lost a few battles on their roads to freedom. They dusted themselves down and served out their time in British prisons and then they got back on the horse. They found ways to make a nuisance of themselves. They became a constant thorn in the side. They picked away at London’s weak spots until the men of Empire ran out of energy.

This is what all successful resistance movements do. They identify the weak spots. And then they attack them. Thankfully don’t have to start blowing up the railway tracks feeding overstretched supply lines like the men and women of the French Resistance.

But we can become a complete and utter pain in the neck. We can follow the lead of the Americans and Indians and Kenyans who went before us. We can make such a nuisance of ourselves that we will not be worth keeping.

So where do we start? Well I think Tommy has it right on the nail. Those who sided with the Establishment are incredibly vulnerable right now. Somehow they have to find a way to persuade the ‘45’ to forgive and forget in time for the General Election next May.

We must not let them.

Scotland is already more or less a Tory free zone. We used the legacy of Thatcher to clear the decks. Now we need to do the same to all of the parties of the Union who sided with big business and the banks.

Next May, we have the chance to clear Scotland of the parties of the Union. We can deprive them of their power bases. We can make Scotland much more than a Tory free zone. We can go a step further and turn into a Union free zone. ‘45’ is easily enough to achieve this. If the ‘45’ stay united, then we will be more than enough to send the whole lot of them scuttling back over the border to London.

In my book, the best way to achieve this is to show some solidarity with the millions of disenchanted Englishmen and women. We need to get in the faces of the Unionist candidates and make like a dripping tap. We need to demand that they give their solemn word that they will abstain from ALL votes that do not affect their own constituents. And we need to demand these assurances again and again and again until they want to scream with frustration.

They have no right whatsoever to help drive through the privatisation of the NHS in England whilst at the same time boasting to their own people that things up here are different and better.

The people of England deserve our full support on this and by giving our support we will open up gaping wounds in the parties of the Union. Will they all still be so keen to keep hold of Scotland if we succeed in expelling them?

I think we should do all we can to make sure that every Unionist candidate is put through the ringer next spring. Let’s make them publically hang their true colours from the mast. Will they be allowed to promise their constituents that they will do the decent thing and abstain from all votes that affect only the English? Of course they won’t. Their party machines will not allow them. They will try and change the subject and dance around the issue. We mustn’t let them. We need to pin them up against the wall and keep them there.

And then we need to vote them out.

All of them.

The last few days have proved what an Achilles heel this issue really is. Not one Scottish based unionist has even begun to make any kind of believable case for why they should have the right to vote on English matters.

We can solve the West Lothian question on behalf of the people of England by voting them all into oblivion and making sure that the 59 MP’s from Scotland only ever vote on issues that affect their own people.

And the people of England will thank us. They will become our allies. Let’s never forget that almost all of them hate the Westminster stitch up every bit as much as we do. Hell I know this better than anyone. I’m a Lancastrian and an honorary Scouser.

So I’m with you all the way on this one Tommy.

First we focus all efforts of driving out the parties of the Establishment in 2015.

Then we need to fill our own Parliament with a majority who represent the living, breathing dreams of the ‘45’.

And then we win.

Just like the Americans and the Indians and the Kenyans and the Israelis and the Irish won.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they come to fight you, and then you win." (M.K. Gandhi)   

Saturday, September 20, 2014

WHAT AN EPIC BETRAYAL OF A GENERATION


News teams from 120 countries descended on Scotland for the big vote. No doubt their editors back at home had tasked them with collecting footage of joyous flag waving crowds celebrating the birth of the world’s newest country.

Well they never got the chance of course.

In my neck of the Scottish woods, 65% voted for the union. You would think that would mean there would have been cars honking celebratory horns and beaming winners in their ‘No Thanks’ T shirts hugging each other in the streets.

Instead there was nothing. Instead there was a feeling of an all pervading quiet doom. I guess the conversations between the foreign journalists on the ground and their bosses back in the studios of the world must have been getting quite fractious by the late afternoon.

For Christ’s sake there’s got to be some sort of celebration somewhere? Don’t give me this shit! Have you any idea what it has cost to send you idiots out there! Jesus! FIND ME SOMETHING!!!

And then the word must have moved through the grapevine. There is a big ‘No Thanks’ celebration kicking off in George Square in Glasgow. Thank Christ. And what did the news teams of the world find when they arrived in George Square? Well they found a large drunken crowd waving Union Jacks. No doubt they must have noticed quite quickly that these were Union Jacks with a difference: for these were Union Jacks Shankill Rd style, complete with the Red Hand of Ulster.

The crowd with the Union Jacks were singing Rule Britannia with their faces twisted with aggression and offering defiant Nazi salutes to the gathering police lines.

The crowd with the Union Jacks were ripping a Saltire from a tearful teenage girl who was all on her own.

Flares. Police dogs. A kettled group of terrified ‘Yes’ people. Broken glass. The thump of a police helicopter overhead.

So here was the view of our night of celebration in the wake of 55% of Scots opting to stay in the Union.

Business for Scotland estimated that the air time the country was given around the world would have cost $800 million had the country had to buy it on the commercial market. We could have sent out pictures of streets mobbed with joyous crowds.

But we didn’t.

Instead we gave them pictures of skinheads wrapped in the Union Flag giving Nazi salutes whilst they belted out the national anthem.

You could call it missing a trick. Yes, you could call it that.

But it was much more than that.

It was an epic betrayal of a generation.

Scots voted ‘Yes’ all the way to the age of 55. Had the over 65’s been excluded from the vote, then ‘Yes’ would have won the day by 54% to 46%.

But the over 65’s were not excluded from the vote. And the over 65’s voted for the Union in their droves.

73% of over 65’chose the Status Quo because they had been frightened into doing so. The scandalous dog whistle politics of the Establishment got right into their heads and persuaded them to walk away from their grandchildren. They were told that their pensions were at risk. They were told that they would no longer be able to watch ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Eastenders’. They were told their power and grocery bills would go through the roof.

The pension lie was the most unforgiveable. A Pension Minister from Westminster announced at an early stage of the campaign that there was a cast iron legal obligation in place which meant that anyone who had paid their National Insurance premiums to HM Treasury would be paid their pension regardless of where they were living. That is why millions of Brits have moved south to the sunshine of Spain where their pensions are paid in full every week.

The ‘Yes’ campaign did all it could to spread this particular Government word. But all we had were public meetings and the social media. Many of the over 65’s don’t use the social media. Many don’t leave the house much.

Instead they read the Daily Express and Daily Mail and the Daily Record.

And they watch the BBC.

And any one of these main stream media outlets could have clearly reported the words of the Westminster Minister when he gave his absolute confirmation that pensions would honoured in full. They could have given this group of loyal customers a proper service. They could have given them some clear, easily understood information which would have enabled them to make a balanced decision free from fear.

But they were not given that clear information.

Instead they were bombarded with wave after wave of lies and misinformation. Project Fear carpet bombed the over 65’s with lies much like the RAF once upon a time carpet bombed Hamburg.

And it worked.

73% of over 65’s voted for the safety of the status quo complete with food banks, nuclear weapons, illegal wars, and £1.5 trillion of debt.

The newspapers who lied for the Establishment love nothing better than to fill their column inches with horror stories about how appallingly bad British teenagers are. They love nothing better to dwell on tales of binge drinking and teenage pregnancy and low levels of numeracy. They paint pictures of our children as being feral beings in hooded tops who are a constant threat to any innocent passer by. This is why so many over 65’s are too frightened to leave their houses.

Not surprisingly the media failed to notice how many of the newly enfranchised 16 and 17 years olds became actively involved in politics as the campaign gathered momentum.

When the day came, well over 80% of this much denigrated generation turned out to vote for the very first time.

And 71% of them voted ‘Yes’. They voted for a better Scotland to grow up in. They voted for no more nuclear bombs and food banks and benefit sanctions.

They voted for hope over fear.

Well, the silver haired generation killed that hope and yesterday a smug faced David Cameron told us all that the hope had now been killed for a lifetime.

Within hours of the final result, the world moved on as the great alliance of the parties of the Westminster gravy train started to fall apart. The solemn vow to the people of Scotland which only days earlier had been plastered across the front page of the Daily Record was broken before dusk fell.

Boris Johnson was asked about the vow. What vow? I never made any vow.

Surprise, surprise. It wasn’t what it said on the tin.

Well shock, horror and stop the front page. The British Establishment will lie through its teeth to hang onto its cosy world.

These days it is almost impossible to find anyone who will admit to voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979, which is quite ridiculous when you think that she won well over 40% of the vote.

In a matter of weeks, it will be similarly hard to find anyone up here who will admit to being one of the 55% of Scots who voted in the name of fear. But by then it will matter not a jot.

Our moment has come and gone. The young voted for something better and got the door slammed in their faces. The Establishment won and the people lost. A quiet air of doom has settled over the country and never again will Scotland be able to hold its head high in the world.

It really happened.
 
We really became the first people in history who were too scared to take our destiny into our own hands. Not surprisingly the rest of the world is gobsmacked. What about Braveheart and all that?

There is no Braveheart.

Instead there are a million frightened pensioners living out bleak and lonely lives behind their closed doors. Watching Bruce Forsyth on a Saturday night is as good as their lives get. They proved to be an easy mark. They were easily scared.

But please don’t blame our youngsters for what happened. They voted overwhelmingly for hope and they did so with wonderful enthusiasm.

And they were betrayed.

A lot of people should be very, very ashamed about that betrayal.

And instead of the world getting to see millions partying on the streets, we gave them pictures of thugs draped in the Union Flag singing Rule Britannia and pretending they were at a Nuremburg rally.

God help us.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

'TOXIC' - CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN


YOU CAN FIND EARLIER CHAPTERS OF ‘TOXIC’ IN THE ‘BLOG ARCHIVE’ ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE PAGE. CHAPTER ONE WAS RELEASED IN MAY 2014

CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN

SEPTEMBER 2014

THE BOHEMIAN FOREST

The consequences of Richard and Gordy’s two man attack on London went way beyond what either of them could have ever imagined. The ten day gridlock which eventually required bulldozers to clear came as no surprise. Why would it have? After all Ben Elton had already painted that particular picture. The riots that erupted across the city were another thing altogether. Would they still have done what they had done if they had known how it would all end? Who could tell? Both men had disappeared entirely from the public view and they were now buried deep within Belmarsh Prison awaiting trials which would inevitably mean life imprisonment.

And nobody was in any doubt whatsoever that in the case of Richard Maltby and Gordon Campbell, life would indeed mean life.

The riots had raged across the city for well over a week. The fact that every street was blocked by hundreds of thousands of abandoned vehicles meant that the police found it impossible to respond to the anarchy that swept through the city like a hurricane. At first, the riots followed the 2013 template as shops were looted to the last item on the shelves. In some areas shopkeepers and their families formed themselves into makeshift militia forces and the ensuing street fighting resulted in numerous fatalities. However the riots of 2014 then moved on to a new level as the mobs extended their reach to ransack the multi million pound mansions of the super rich. In the Hampstead home of a Russian oligarch, ex military security guards opened fire on the advancing mob with automatic weapons and left fourteen corpses on the leafy street.

An ashen faced Prime Minister eventually mobilised the army on the sixth day and after a brutal forty eight hours, a semblance of law and order was restored. But by this time the damage had been very much done. Property prices went into freefall as the ranks of the world’s super rich flew out of Britain on their Gulfstream jets.

Many described the scene in the basement of Downing St on the morning of the 19th September as being the bleakest since 300,000 British soldiers had been marooned on the beaches of Dunkirk. A staggering 83% of the people of Scotland had voted for their Independence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer called his opposite number in Edinburgh to offer his congratulations and to arrange a date to begin negotiations on a currency union at the earliest opportunity. The call didn’t go well. He was informed curtly that the Scottish Government had had a change of heart. The option of a currency union was now no longer on the table. The new country planned to start life with a new currency of its own.

A slap in the face became a kick in the teeth an hour later when the President of the United States of America announced that the Federal Reserve had agreed to the purchase of £50 billion of the new currency on the day that it was released onto the world markets in 2016. He explained this unilateral show of support was intended as a gesture of apology and reconciliation for the inexcusable actions of his country in 1981. Half an hour later the Kremlin announced that it would also be purchasing a similar amount of Scottish currency as a mark of appreciation for the fact that the newly independent country was removing the weapons of mass destruction which threatened so many millions of its citizens.

Several of the banks which only a few days earlier had announced that they would relocate their registered head offices from Edinburgh to London attempted a U-turn of their own. The Scottish Government informed them that they were of course welcome to stay, but then went on to point out that the new Scottish Central Bank would only ever be a lender of last resort to protect savings. Any losses sustained as a result of casino banking activities would not be subject to any protection. They were further informed that the banking regulations in an independent Scotland would be similar to those to be found in Germany. At this point the banks flew into a second U-turn and opted to stay put in the City of London, but by this stage their shares had collapsed to the value of junk bonds.

Many of those with offices on the top floors of Thames House and Vauxhall Cross were adamant that Giles Penworthy and Kathy King should be tried for treason and locked away for ever and a day. This mood of retribution however didn’t last for very long. Sir Nigel summoned the top men of both services to a meeting in his rooms in Magdalene where he took them through the selection of documents he had lodged with lawyers in five separate countries. Both of his visitors blanched at the thought of some of the United Kingdom’s dirtiest secrets from the last half century finding their way onto the front pages of Le Monde or the Washington Post or the Berliner Zeitung. They tried to threaten the old man, but backed off when he reminded them of his age and how it rendered any such threats worthless.

By the time they left, they had agreed in writing that Giles Penworthy should be allowed to retire immediately with a full pension and immunity from any future prosecution. Kathy King was simply allowed to leave with the immunity bit: her pension wasn’t a factor.

Both Giles and Kathy took the decision to move north to Scotland. Giles sold his London home for less than half the amount he would have received only a month earlier. He bought himself a cottage on the Isle of Mull for twice the amount he would have paid a month earlier. Kathy opted to rent rather than buy and chose Glasgow as her new home.

Boy Masters never made it to the witness stand of a court of law. By the time the police pulled the nails from the door of the feed store in the deserted piggery, the last vestiges of his sanity had disappeared. He launched himself at the policemen in a frenzy. One of them later told colleagues that it was like being attacked by a rabid dog. Boy was restrained and moved onto a lockdown ward in Carstairs Hospital. He was sectioned on a permanent basis under the Mental Health Act.

Schulemann Sprake was closed without ceremony within hours of the President making his historic speech on the banks of the Gareloch. But the men and women behind the black ops hedge fund were unable to hide from the ruthless FBI inquiry which was relentless.

Major General Robert ‘Cyber’ Jordan appeared before a Court Martial where he pleaded guilty and he was duly sentenced to serve 15 years in Fort Leavenworth Military Prison.

Saj and Bashir Khan eventually summoned up the courage to return to Brick Lane where they helped their mum and dad to run the family mini mart.

Sulieman Bakir was assassinated in a gangland killing in Sarajevo. Nobody was ever charged, though it was generally accepted that a Bosnian Serbian gang was behind his demise.

Andrei Malenkov sold his London house for an eye watering loss and bought a replacement in Edinburgh where from time to time he would get tearfully drunk with Giles Penworthy whenever his old adversary visited the capital.

By the time Chad Forrester and Sir Nigel made their way to the forest in the mountains which straddled the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, the snow was thick on the ground. It took them well over a week to find their way to a farmer whose father had fought with the local partisans in the war against the Nazis. He told them that he was fairly sure that he knew the clearing in the forest where the band had hidden in the winter of 1944.  The following afternoon they made their way deep into the silent forest on three quad bikes. Eventually the farmer pulled up in a clearing and dismounted. He turned to his two guests and shrugged.

Sir Nigel looked about and recognised two huge granite boulders which had been dumped by a passing glacier millions of year earlier. The larger of the grey rocks sat half on top of the smaller one. It could have been modern art, but it wasn’t. It was merely an accident of nature. Seventy one years earlier the partisans had used the gap under the rocks as a makeshift oven to bake bread for the group.

Sir Nigel looked beyond the rocks to the tree line. Were these the same trees? Probably not. But this was the place. And in that moment he could clearly see the wretched, terrified face of the young German officer as he had pleaded for a chance to live a life.

Warm tears ran down his frozen cheeks.

Chad laid a gentle hand on the old man’s bony shoulder, but he didn’t say anything.

In the end there wasn’t a thing to say.

A crack appeared in the bank of grey clouds above and a shaft of wintery sunlight bathed the clearing in a new brightness. Sir Nigel reached a gloved hand to his shoulder and patted Chad’s resting hand.

And then they climbed back on board their quad bikes and left the old glacial rocks in the clearing to another million years of silence.

THE END

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A BLOG ON REFERENDUM EVE. IS THE SUN ABOUT TO SHINE...OR WILL THE DARKNESS BE DARKER....


So in 48 hours we will know the result. And of course, it will be one way or the other. ‘Yes’ will mean euphoria whilst ‘No’ will be an alarmingly deep pit of sadness.

In a way, I am writing this blog for my future self in 20 years time, assuming of course I’m still kicking about. Maybe I will also shove these words in front of some grandchildren.

Like many thousands of others, the last few months have been extraordinary. I know with absolute certainly that I will new know anything like this again. It has been once in a lifetime in every respect.

Oddly enough, the emotion I am feeling now reminds me strongly of the way I felt in the early hours of the morning of 26 May, 2005. I was sitting in a Turkish hire car on an empty car park outside the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul. Only a few hours earlier, Jerzy Dudek had saved Andrei Shevchenko’s tepid, nerve-ridden penalty and against all sensible odds, Liverpool had become the Champions of Europe for the fifth time. By 4am all the wild craziness of the night had finally melted into silence. My two sons were fast asleep and the world had suddenly become a very quiet place that provoked a moment of reflection.

As I sat staring across the litter strewn concrete, I knew that I would continue to make the fortnightly trip to Anfield for as many years as I could make it. But I also knew that nothing would ever be quite as good again. It couldn’t be. The Miracle of Istanbul was once in a lifetime thing and it would never be matched. It could never be matched.

Playing a small part in the magnificent ‘Yes’ campaign has been another once in a lifetime thing. I have never engaged in politics before and I cannot imagine ever doing so again. Like most people, I am no fan of Party Politics and I find it impossible to imagine ever wearing anyone’s rosette.

Before the Referendum, I would never have believed I would ever become an active part of any political campaign. Well, I guess that is proof positive that you should never say never.

The world has become a much worse place during the course of my 53 years on the planet. Certainly Britain has become much, much worse. George Orwell’s stark vision has largely come true as a tiny elite has achieved an iron grip on more or less everything. Before the campaign, I would never have believed that the 99% still had it in us to get our act together to hammer away at the towering walls of the Establishment.

Well I was wrong.

We have had a go. An almighty go. And I feel immensely honoured to have been able to play a part in it.

The Referendum campaign has revealed the depth of the forces of the Establishment. We have forced them to break cover. Now they stand out in the open and we know exactly who they are.

Most of the time, there have been few surprises. For the sake of future generations, here is the list of those who broke cover to prop up the Status Quo.

All three main political parties plus UKIP.

The civil servants and think tanks who rely on the Westminster gravy train for their final salary pensions.

British Embassies across the world.

The Military and the vast parasitical corporations who feed off the MOD.

Big Corporations.

Banks

Supermarkets.

The BBC

The whole of the printed media with the exception of the Sunday Herald

 Celebrities angling for Knighthoods.

If anyone has ever wondered how on earth it has been possible for the richest 85 individuals in the world to accumulate more wealth than the poorest three and a half billion, then I think the Referendum has offered a clear insight into how they have managed it. The 1% has only been able only get as rich and powerful as it has become by having a vast power machine at its beck and call.

The ‘No’ side have had the kitchen sink at their disposal and my oh my have they ever thrown it at us.

The ‘Yes’ side on the other hand has simply had people. Lots and lots and lots of them and it has been my great privilege to have been one of them.

The appalled fury of the Establishment shows just how certain they were that this kind of thing could never happen any more. They were obviously quite convinced that they had driven us down forever with their zero hour contracts and ever shrinking wages and the rolling 24 hour celebrity obsessed pap they use to brainwash us into drooling submission. They thought they had earned the right to play us for mugs forever.

Well. Not quite.

Against all expectations, it has turned out that Democracy has had a last gasp of life. Democracy has been like the bad guy in a Holywood psycho movie. You know how it goes. The maniac is shot twenty five times and smacked around the head with concrete and there they lie on the floor looking like they are deader than dead. The hero turns to his rescued wife and his cute rescued kids and then all of a sudden, and against all medical science, the nutter leaps back to his/her feet brandishing a meat cleaver. Well in this case democracy has played the part of the supposedly dead nutter. The Establishment must have thought they were safe forever. Sure, we have elections every few years but they don’t matter. All of the parties have been well and truly bought and paid for. They all look after the interests of the 1% in return for non-exec directorships and a seat in the House of Lords. 

But for a few heady weeks everything has changed.

People have found a way to find their voice and the Establishment probably haven’t felt this scared since the General Strike.

We were supposed to have been muzzled, but we have discovered new ways of making ourselves heard and rediscovered old ways of making ourselves heard. The packed meeting halls have been a throwback to times which we all thought had been long lost. The brilliant use ‘Yes’ has made of the social media has all but neutered the massed ranks of the mainstream media.

I wonder how long it will take for these tools to be taken away? Will the men and women in control of Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Google continue to provide the online tools for a 21st Century rebellion? Or will they join the ranks of the Establishment and take those tools away?

In my bones, tomorrow feels like it might be the last chance we will ever get to break the hold of the 1%. If the Establishment succeeds in frightening enough people into obedience, I fear our one off chance will have come and gone. The loopholes will all be closed. Never again will a leader make the mistake David Cameron made with such arrogance and ineptitude. He was the very epitome of an Establishment man who believed in his own publicity. His privilege made him feel invincible. He was completely convinced that the battle had already been won. He was certain that the 99% had lost all capability of mounting any kind of threat to the iron grip of the 1%.

Well. You were wrong on that one Mr Cameron.

They say the result is too close to call and who could disagree. What is easy to call is the fact that tomorrow’s vote looks a lot like it will be the last chance saloon. If the Establishment win, they will take steps to make sure they are never threatened again. We will have lost our one and only chance of making a better world by casting votes in polling stations. They will never give us this chance again. I think it is fair to say that they will have learned their lesson.

If they win tomorrow, there will only be one road open to break the stranglehold of the 1%. To travel that particular road, the 99% to will look to men like Trotsky or Castro to take the lead. Such a road is invariably very dark. When the 99% take that road, lots of people end up dead.

An awful lot of hope will die on Friday morning if the Establishment prevails. Scotland has had the chance to show the world how to break the grip of power in a wonderfully peaceful process which hasn’t seen a single person arrested. If we fail, millions around the world will lose another notch of faith that the world can be changed for the better without the use of guns and bombs. If we lose, then more and more will look to the likes of ISIS for their inspiration.

History proves time and again that it is ultimately unsustainable for a very few people to own everything whilst the vast majority live ever harder lives. Marie Antoinette suggested the 99% should eat cake. The 99% chose instead to have a revolution and when they won it, they beheaded the men and women of the 1%. A bit like ISIS when you think about it. When things went too far here in the Seventeenth Century, we had our own revolution and chopped off Charles the First’s head. Just like ISIS.

If we fail to capitalise on this magnificent show of grassroots power, the road will open up to the men of violence to take the lead.

And it won’t be pretty.

In 1984 Orwell wrote ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’

But it never is forever. In the end the people who keep getting stamped on can stand it no more and they bite back like a million abused dogs.

History teaches that the rule of any 1% will always end eventually, but it usually takes a vast amount of bloodshed to make it happen. Up to date case studies? The Gaddafi family in Libya? The Assad family in Syria?

Maybe tomorrow we will succeed in breaking the stranglehold of the 1% without a shot being fired. If we do, then it will be a mighty achievement, especially when you consider the massive forces that have been mobilised against us.

Tomorrow we can give the rest of the world the message that democracy can still work.

If we lose, then a dark time will become darker. The 1% will have proved that it is capable of frightening people into clinging to the status quo even though the status quo is rubbish. They will indeed have managed to get a majority of turkeys to vote for their version of Christmas.

Well, here’s a final note for myself in twenty years time. Here is an account of one person’s effort kick down the wall. I have been just one small voice among hundreds of thousands. I hope my future self will realise that my present self is in no way, shape or form blowing his own trumpet here. This is just a record of an extraordinary few months when so many of us found a way to dare to hope. I think I managed to play my part.

So hello posterity. Here a list of the efforts of one of the thousands and thousands of little people who in the heady days of 2014 found a way to take a tilt at a few windmills.

Speeches to 10 town hall meetings, one of which found its way onto YouTube to be watched 5300 times.

4 debates, one of which was on BBC Radio.

28 blogs read by 20,000 people.

A book called ‘Toxic which at this point has been read 7000 times and listened to 5000 times.

So there you are, my future self.

That was the bit you once did in the long lost summer of 2014 when hope crawled out of the cracks.

Did we win?

Well you know the answer to that one. I don’t. But I’ll know tomorrow. We all will.

I will wrap up with a great quote I heard yesterday. Kat Boyd, one of the Radical Independence activists who has made a name for herself on the campaign trail, was being interviewed on Michael Greenwell ‘Scottish Independence Podcast’.

Michael asked her if she thought we were going to win.

She replied “I am a socialist and a feminist and my dad supports Albion Rovers. I not really used to winning at anything……!”

Well Kat, maybe this time.

Maybe this time.

'TOXIC' - CHAPTER THIRTY SIX


YOU CAN FIND EARLIER CHAPTERS OF ‘TOXIC’ IN THE ‘BLOG ARCHIVE’ ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE PAGE. CHAPTER ONE WAS RELEASED IN MAY 2014

CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

SEPTEMBER 2014

NEAR STIRLING, SCOTLAND

Not many people in the world missed the hyped up media storm which predictably followed the events in the Faslane Base. No doubt there were a few tribes of hunter gatherers in the depths of Borneo, but they were very much the miniscule exception rather than the overwhelming rule. 

Oddly enough, two of the human beings whom the story passed by were Richard and Gordy. As they climbed into their Land Rover after incarcerating Boy in the disused piggery, they had decided they were both sick to the back teeth with the rolling news. For a while they drove through the night in silence. Then they stocked up on old favourite CD’s from an early morning service station on the A1.

From the cottage in Stirling they headed south into the vastness of the Kielder Forest where they set up a camp at the end of a long disused logging track. The emptiness of the place took them instinctively back to the half forgotten routines of their days in the Regiment. Both men had been growing beards for several weeks and their hair was wild and unruly.

The sunny hours of an Indian summer passed easily as they reminisced about better times and made their careful preparations. They lived off cold tinned food and made barely a sound. At night they took it in turns to stand watch on a four hour cycle. They easily adopted the same rhythms they had once known in South Armagh and Bosnia. The loneliness of the vast forest around them was like a favourite comfort blanket.

They made their move after two days and drove south through the night to the New Forest in Hampshire where they established their second and final base camp. In the hours of daylight they ate and alternated the roles of sleeper and watcher. In the hours of darkness they became a ghostly vehicle on the ever busy motorway network of the South East of England.

They felt no need to listen in on the manhunt they knew would by now be looking for them under every rock. What was the point? Of course the hunters would be out and about in their thousands. They didn’t feel the need to hear about it. They were utterly confident in the escape and evasion techniques that had been mercilessly drilled into them many years earlier. Both men had spent time undercover in the heartlands of the IRA. They had learned how to be invisible in claustrophobic places where every living human being had their eyes peeled for the hated SAS men. In comparison to those times spent in the badlands of South Armagh and East Tyrone, disappearing into a sprawling mass of sixty million people was a cake walk.

It took them three nights to get everything into place, after which they allowed themselves a 24 hour period of R&R. They slept and ate and Gordy fed his body with the alcohol it needed.

They moved out of their final camp a few minutes shy of eleven o’clock on a clear moonlit night and drove to London.

At 3.17 am they drew up in a small street in Romford and posted an envelope through the front door of an anonymous looking terraced house.

At 5.38 they stole a car from a residential street on the outskirts of Chelmsford.

At 6.37 they parked up their vehicles on a quiet country road in Essex. Gordy climbed out of the stolen Peugeot and stretched before joining Richard in the Land Rover. They took a few moments to take in the world around them. A small copse and huge empty wheat field. A sky of high white clouds. A lone blackbird rooting about under a hedge. A pair of wary rabbits. A Dutch barn at the end of an overgrown track.

“So. You all good?”

Gordy took a measured slug of vodka and nodded. “Aye. Let’s get it done.”

Gordy got back into the stolen car and used the track to the barn to turn it around so that it faced the Land Rover. He drove all the way up so that the two bumpers were touching and gave a thumbs up.

Richard pulled his phone from his pocket, dialled 999 and asked for the police.

“Yeah. I think I need some help. I’ve had a bump and the other guy’s gone completely nuts. I mean, seriously. No. I’ve locked myself in. But he’s acting like a total headcase. You best be quick because he’s threatening to put my windows through. A SatNav? Yeah, I’ve got a SatNav. Hang on. Here you go…”

He fed the voice in the control room with his exact location. The voice told him to be calm and promised that help was on the way.

At 6.58 a patrol car arrived at the scene and two officers got out of the vehicle and approached. Gordy was banging away at the roof of the stolen car and screaming a choice selection of Ayrshire accented threats.

“Please step away from the car sir.”

Gordy stepped away from the car and turned. Their eyes widened as they clocked an Uzi machine gun levelled at their chests. A voice from behind them.

“No need to be alarmed lads. Turn and have a look if you like.”

They turned and had a look and were greeted by the sight of Richard aiming a second Uzi at them.

“OK? No silly stuff, right? Hands behind backs please.”

They arranged their hands behind their backs and Richard disabled them with plasticuffs and taped up their mouths whilst Gordy manoeuvred the stolen Peugeot into the Dutch barn and covered it with an old tarpaulin sheet.

At 7.06 Richard drove the squad car whilst Gordy followed in the Land Rover complete with two bulging eyed policemen on the back seat.

At 7.13 the two vehicle convoy turned right up a small track which ran through a small wood to a water pumping station surrounded by a metal fence. The padlock on the gate was a mere sham having been cut a few hours earlier. Richard opened up the gates, drove through and closed the gates again once Gordy had followed. They parked up the vehicles in a parking area on the far side of a red brick building and both police officers were invited to step out of the Land Rover.

“OK. All good. Now. I need you lads to strip I’m afraid. Not all the way. You can leave your kecks and socks on. Just the uniform, OK? So come along then. Chop, chop. Put these on when you’re done.”

Richard tossed two pairs of blue overalls to the ground.

He took off the plasticuffs and the policemen stripped to their kecks and socks whilst Gordy covered them with his Uzi.

When the policemen were done Richard cuffed them and told them to sit. Gordy filled a washing up bowl from a large flask and shaved his thick beard with a great deal of cursing. When he was done, he used an electric trimmer to shave off his hair with another bout of cursing.

Then the new look Gordy donned the uniform which was the nearest to his size and watched over the prisoners whilst Richard took his turn to shave his face and head before putting on the second uniform.

Now the policemen were ordered to lie in the back of the Land Rover where two more sets of cuffs shackled their ankles.

“OK lads. Thanks for that. Sorry to have pissed you around like this but look on the bright side. Just think about all the fun you’re going to have telling the lads in the pub all about it. Don’t get yourself in a lather. Give us a couple of hours and we’ll call in your location.”

At 7.41 Richard and Gordy drove out of the fenced yard in the stolen squad car and closed the gate.

They drove for just over an hour using a variety of small back roads, all the time heading south. A few miles north of Tilbury they stopped and reversed carefully into a small wood. They covered the squad car with a green tarpaulin and some hawthorn branches from a ready cut pile. They set up a primus stove in the space they had created when they hollowed out the hawthorn and got their camping kettle on the go.

Gordy fussed over mugs, tea bags and sugar whilst Richard took his mobile out and dialled up a number for the first time in many years.

Once upon a time Richard Maltby and Paul Walton had been best mates. They went to the same primary school and the same secondary school. They haunted the same Blackburn night clubs and for two summers they had opened the batting for Rishton Cricket Club under 18’s. When they went on to different northern universities they had stayed in touch and visited each other to get blind drunk and share notes on their lives. When Richard became a second Lieutenant in the Queens Lancashire Regiment he still hooked up with Paul whenever he was on leave. By this time Paul had got himself a start as a junior reporter on the Manchester Evening News.

As the years rolled by they met up less and less, especially when Richard completed the selection course for the SAS and joined the Regiment. Paul married, had two kids, got divorced, worked his way through a drink problem and eventually was discarded by the Evening News. This co-incided with Richard being hustled out of the army in the wake of the Lazar Boric incident.

When they met up to drown their joint sorrows on a nostalgic crawl of the pubs of Accrington, Paul told his old friend that he had decided to go freelance. And Richard broke a whole list of rules and breached the Official Secrets Act by giving out a long list of contacts and leads in both Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

Paul Walton made maximum use of the intelligence and carved out a reputation as being one of ‘go to’ guys in the hotspots of the world. His career branched out in different directions, all of which proved to be lucrative. He was commissioned by Channel 4 to put together several documentaries from places where many reporters feared to tread. He wrote five books, all of which received fine reviews and generated healthy sales. He established himself as a regular on the lucrative after dinner speaker circuit.

In 2010 he re-married and bought a house in Romford. Richard was invited to the wedding but he didn’t attend. By this time Paul had been writing letters to the cottage in the Bowland Fells for some years without ever once receiving a reply. He took the lack of a response to the wedding invitation as final proof that his old mate had become a complete hermit.

For four and a half years there had been no more letters.

When Richard’s call was picked up on eighth ring, the voice at the other end of the line was groggy.

“Hello.”

“For Fuck’s sake Paul, are you still in bed you lazy bastard?”

A silence on the line.

“Richard? Is that you?”

“Yeah. It’s me. Sorry for not being in touch and all that bollocks. How are you anyway?”

“Christ.”

“I know. Bit of a surprise isn’t it? I seem to have made a bit of a name for myself. Anyway. When you get your bone idle arse down the stairs you’ll find a letter on the mat. Inside are a few photos which could have only come from me,. Proof, right? One of them is of you and me walking back to the pavilion after that game at Haslingden. Check it out and you can be sure that this is me, OK?”

“Course it’s you, Rich. Did you seriously think I wouldn’t recognise you? For fuck’s sake mate, what the hell do you think you’re playing at?”

“Later Paul. Later. OK. Listen up. All kind of stuff is about to go down. Big stuff. Fucking huge. Get on a train and get yourself into the centre of London. Find somewhere with a telly and watch the show. Then make your way to Trafalgar Square for 2pm. Wait for us by Nelson’s Column. Me and Gordy will be there. Bring along a cameraman and you can have the exclusive interview. I’ll also give you the details of the place where we have locked up Boy Masters. You don’t have to come of course Paul. You can call the cops and let them be the reception party. That would be a pity because I dare say they would be ordered to make us a whole lot more dead than alive. You know what I mean? We’re a complete fucking embarrassment to them when all is said and done.”

“Them? Who’s ‘them’ Rich?”

“Come on Paul. You know as well as I do. The Establishment. The 1%. Our Lords and fucking masters. All the chinless twats from Eton and Harrow.”

“I thought you were supposed to be a hermit. Christ Rich, you’ve tuned into a cross between Che Guevarra and fucking Bin Laden.”

“Yeah, well. Shit happens. No point griping on about it. Things are what they are and right now I am offering the biggest story of your life. Take it or leave it. But you should take it. Just make sure that you have the wherewithal to get a live hook up to the TV. It would be best if our arrest is played out in front of the cameras. Me and Gordy aren’t particularly bothered if they take us out. It’s not like life imprisonment is exactly the most appealing prospect. But it would be loads better if the fuckers were forced to put us in the stand in open court. It’s time some of the dirty washing gets done in public. Anyway. It’s your call. Maybe I’ll see you this afternoon. Maybe not. If you’re coming just make sure you get your arse into gear and get into town straight away. If you leave it later than 11 you probably won’t get in at all. Just get yourself close to Trafalgar Square.”

Paul was about to ask why the hell he would struggle to get into Central London after 11 am but the line was dead..

Richard switched off the phone, pulled out and snapped the sim card and then tossed both away into the hawthorn. Gordy passed him a mug of tea.

“Reckon he’ll be there?”

“Yeah. I’d put money on it. Paul’s a newsman to his toenails. There’s no way he’ll turn his nose up to a story like this.”

“That’s good then.”

“Yeah. It is.”

They finished their tea and more or less worked their way through a full packet of digestive biscuits. Once his mug was drained Gordy took an appreciated pull of vodka and grinned.

“Showtime?”

“Showtime.”

They drove for another hour, this time heading west into the eastern suburbs of London. They had almost reached the Olympic Park when Gordy placed the first call. Over the course of three nights they had circled London and placed a number of small C5 explosive charges on twelve strategic bridges. The first bridge was a few miles outside of Leatherhead and it carried a small country road over the 117 mile long M25 orbital motorway that ringed the great metropolitan sprawl of London.

The small explosive charge wasn’t nearly enough to bring down the bridge. Instead it removed a hefty chunk of concrete which fragmented and cascaded onto the carriageway below. Three front windscreens were smashed and within seconds fifty five vehicles had smashed into each other.

Over a period of twenty minutes, Gordy used his phone to detonate a further eleven charges. Five more bridges caused chaos on the M25. The second batch of six explosions had less of an instant effect. These bombs were larger and designed to drop footbridges onto the lines of the main railways which connected London to the four corners of Britain.

Half an hour after Gordy had fired off their first bomb the greatest gridlock the world had ever seen was already well on the way to taking shape. It would take the authorities over 10 days to finally open up the streets and motorways as hundreds of thousands of vehicles were deserted by drivers who couldn’t stand waiting any longer.

But Richard and Gordy saw none of this as they made their way into Hackney. They worked their way through streets which had become familiar to the watching nation during the London riots of August 2013.

At 11.22 they drew into Holbrooke Crescent and parked up the squad car adjacent to a community centre. A large group of mainly back youngsters had congregated in a play area outside just like they congregated every day of their lives. Their ages ranged from eleven to twenty eight and they were dressed in the style of their American Hip Hop heroes. They called themselves the Holbrooke Headhunters and it seemed like every spare bit of surrounding concrete had been spray painted with their distinctive ‘HH’ logo.

Richard and Gordy climbed out of their squad car and carefully adjusted their hats. They strolled over to the waiting group. The men and boys of the Headhunters were clearly unimpressed. Only when the police arrived mob handed in a convoy of vans would they be considered to be any kind of problem to the ‘HH’.

“Morning lads.”

Richard’s tone was conversational and really quite friendly. It wasn’t reciprocated. There were mutterings. He caught the words ‘Fucking Fed.’

By now three of the group had their phones out and were making a big show of filming every step Richard and Gordy took.

Richard looked across to Gordy and Gordy nodded. Both men pulled out pistols and mechanically slipped into long familiar firing positions. The air popped and snapped with the sound of small arms fire. They aimed at legs and within six seconds six of the older members of the ‘HH’ were down on the ground and screaming in pain whilst the rest of the group went into full on flight mode.

Richard and Gordy got back into their car and drove away.

Over the next twenty minutes they repeated the exercise with two more Hackney gangs before pulling their car into the yard of a derelict print works. They quickly changed out of their stolen uniforms into dark suits, shiny shoes and sober ties. They left the print works through a back door which opened up onto a parallel street where a car was waiting.

They drove through small streets for just over ten minutes before parking up and walking away.

It was 12.02.

They took the five mile walk across the city to Trafalgar Square at an easy pace. Slowly but surely the chaos all around them started to accelerate. The air was filled with the sound of frantic sirens and clouds of billowing smoke appeared over Hackney. By one o clock, no traffic was moving and the sound of thousands upon thousands of blaring horns was painful on the ears.

By now pedestrians had a panicked air. People gabbled into phones with pale frightened faces.

Helicopters appeared in the sky. People were running in all directions as cars were rendered utterly useless.

They saw their first looted shop at 1.09.

Had anyone taken any notice of the two men in dark suits, they might have been struck by the calmness of their expressions as they strolled through the growing apocalypse all around them. Maybe they might have said it was more of a march than a stroll. Maybe they might have commented on the way the two men were in step with each other as they walked.

Shoulder to shoulder.

Unconcerned at the craziness that raged all around them.

In their own zone.

Their own bubble.

They arrived at a gridlocked Trafalgar Square at 1.51. They paused and Richard reached into his small rucksack and pulled out two sets of medals which told the story of their efforts for Queen and Country. They pinned the medals onto their suit jackets. Next Richard took two sand coloured berets from his bag and they both put on the sand coloured berets and nodded to each other.

Had anyone noticed the two men with medals on their chests and sand coloured berets on their heads make their way across Trafalgar Square, they would probably have described the way that they marched with the rigid backs of soldiers. But nobody noticed them. Everyone was absorbed in their own personal nightmare as the city disintegrated around them.

But Paul Walton noticed them.

And the cameraman at Paul Walton’s side noticed them and he filmed them as they cut a straight line through the panicking crowd.

Richard closed the gap between them and gave his old friend a slap on the shoulder.

“Alright Paul. Glad you made it.”

Paul Walton looked at the madness all around him and shook his head in bemusement.

“For fuck’s sake, Rich. All this? Is this down to you?”

“Bloody hell Paul. And it’s nice to see you too mate. But, yeah. This is on us.”

“Why? What the hell were you thinking of?”

“All in good time mate. And we might not have much time. Can you get us hooked up to the TV news?”

“I don’t know. Probably. I’ll have to make a call.”

“Fair enough. You best make it then.”

Paul shrugged and dialled up a contact in the BBC News 24 studio.

“Yeah I know you’re busy but I guarantee you’re going to want to hear this. Look …. For Christ’s sake…. Just shut the fuck up and stay on the line… right?...are you listening?... good … OK… I am with Richard Maltby and Gordon Campbell in Trafalgar Square. They tell me all this is down to them. They want to do a live interview. Right now, OK?... so do you want it or do I call up Sky News?… yeah.. thought so… I’ll put Jeff on and he’ll sort the link out….”

Jeff the cameraman had a conversation that Richard didn’t begin to understand and then he killed the call and fiddled with his equipment with an impressively unhurried professionalism. It took him just under five minutes, and a further call on the mobile confirmed that the newsroom was getting his feed. He donned head phones, nodded to Paul and set the camera rolling. A voice in the headphones confirmed that they were live. All around the world astonished watchers tuned into the picture of  two middle aged men in smart suits and ties with their chests adorned with medals. Two men wearing the sand coloured beret of the 32 Regiment Special Air Service. And all around them people were running this way and that as the city descended into chaos.

“I have Richard Maltby and Gordon Campbell with me in Trafalgar Square. They claim to be behind everything that is happening in and around London this morning. Richard, is this the case?”

“Yeah. It’s all on us.”

“How on earth have you done… all this…?”

“You know, it’s not as hard as you’d think, Paul. You have to remember what the main role of the SAS really is. Remember where it all started. The Libyan Desert right? The lads tore about in their Land Rovers and wreaked havoc behind the German lines. It’s what we were trained for. Get behind enemy lines and cause as much shit as possible.”

“So you’re asking me to believe that everything that has happened this morning is down to the two of you and nobody else?”

“I am.”

“What about Boy Masters?”

“He’s under lock and key. I’ll tell you where in due course. We’re going to need to sort that one out a bit. It is vital that the press get there well before the authorities. That should make sure that he is arrested and taken into custody rather than being put down with two to the head.”

“So you are still concerned for his welfare? Even though you have locked him up?”

“I couldn’t give a shit about his welfare. Neither of us could. Why would we? Boy’s a complete lunatic. But two to the head would be way too easy for the prick. He needs putting on the stand in a public court of law with the whole world watching. Just like we do.”

“So how on earth have you made all of this happen?”

Paul took in the swirling chaos all around him with a sweep of his arm.

“It was like falling off a bike to be honest. We put twelve small explosive charges on twelve bridges over key roads and railways and we blew them by mobile phone. There’s nowt new in the idea. It what the French Resistance did on the day before D Day. The only difference is the traffic. London traffic is only ever a couple of accidents away from complete gridlock. We played safe and went for twelve accidents. Is there gridlock?”

“Yes.”

Richard grinned. “Want to know where the idea came from? Ben Elton. Can you believe that? Remember all those times when we watched ‘Saturday Night Live’ before going out on the lash? Well Ben wrote a book called ‘Gridlock’. I read it a few years back. It was easy to see what a piece of cake it would be to make it happen. Well. Here we are. It’s happened. If Ben has it right, it will take more than a week to unpick. Are there riots kicking off?”

“There are.”

“That was easy too. We hi-jacked a cop car and nicked the uniforms. Don’t worry. The cops are fine. I’ll tell you where they are. Then all we did was drive into Hackney and find a likely looking group of gangbangers. We waited until they were filming us on their mobiles and then we shot a few of them in the leg. I guess it will be all over Twitter by now. Riots are as predictable as gridlock. Cops shoot a few black lads and the pan boils over. Like shelling peas mate.”

Paul was rattled by the way their conversation felt like so many conversations they had shared before. But this wasn’t an Accrington pub on a Friday night. This was Trafalgar Square and all around them the world seemed to be falling apart.

“But why Rich? What the hell is it all for?”

“Well. That’s the heart of the matter, isn’t it? It’s what every man and his fucking dog wants to know. You know we’ve been up in Scotland, yeah? Me and Gordy. And Boy of course. The Black Clan thing, right? As everyone knows by now, our job was to twist things up to get a ‘No’ vote. It wasn’t anything ideological by the way. It was all for money. Me and Gordy got half a million each. I’ve no idea what Boy got. A bloody site more I expect. It was American money by the way. Don’t ask me why. I haven’t a clue. Like they always say. Ours not to ask the reason why and all that. Anyway. That’s not the point. Obviously once I knew what the job was, I started to get interested in the campaign. And here’s the thing, Paul. I got completely pissed off with all the bullshit that was pouring out of London. They’re like a stuck record. Bent politicians dancing to the tune of the super bloody rich. I know mate, I sound like a right leftie, but how can you not be? Me and Gordy have been completely screwed over by the fucking British Establishment. They told us that we would be fighting for democracy and freedom and what was right. What a pile of shit. We fought for the status quo. We fought to keep the bastards from Eton and Harrow safe in their country piles. And have we ever paid a price. Neither of us can sleep for more than an hour or two because of the nightmares. I became a hermit and Gordy  became an alcoholic and a smack addict. We’re completely screwed up. And for what? To make sure a bunch of silver spoon in the mouth twats get to keep on lining their pockets. Filling their off shore accounts….. sorry Gordy… I’m hogging the mike here. Is there anything you want to say?”

Gordy grinned and took a long, contented swig from a half bottle of vodka. “No mate. You’re doing fine. On you go.”

Richard nodded and turned back to the camera with gleaming eyes.

“You wouldn’t believe what they had us do Paul. Shoot to kill in Ireland. A massacre in the Iraqi desert. And for what?  For power. For oil. Have you heard about Fallujah? It’s an obscenity. We dumped that many depleted uranium shells on the place that just about every new born baby is horribly deformed because of all the radiation. Just another covered up war crime. More stuff for the thirty year rule. Locked down under the Official Secrets Act. Keep your gob shut or you’ll be off to Belmarsh Prison. And then those very same voices were telling their stinking lies to anyone they could force to listen. You see they suddenly found themselves in danger of being completely screwed over by democracy. They suddenly found themselves at the mercy of four million ordinary men and women. So what did they do? They lied and lied and lied. That’s what they did. Just like always. And to be honest Paul, we just got sick to the back teeth of it. All that endless bullshit about the safety and security of the wonderful United fucking Kingdom. Safety and security? What a load of crap. Just look at all this. It’s mayhem, right? Complete chaos and it’s going to take weeks and weeks to get sorted out. Here’s the thing. All of this is down to two lads. That’s it. Me and Gordy. We had five pounds of C5 explosive, a couple of guns and a few quid in our pockets. Fair enough, we were both pretty well trained, but even so. It wasn’t exactly hard was it? Are we seriously supposed to believe that Al Qaeda couldn’t have done exactly the same if they’d had half a mind to? Of course they could. There is no safety and security. Britain is a house of cards that is rotten to the core. They somehow manage to keep scaring us all into allowing our taxes to be spent on policemen and spies because they will keep us safe. Well I think everyone can see what a load of bollocks that idea was. Christ Paul, me and Gordy are supposed to be the most wanted men in Britain and we’ve still been able to tear the thing up. It was time to pull the curtain back. All the cops and spies aren’t there to keep us all safe. They’re there to keep the 1% safe in their mansions. Anyway. I reckon that’s it. If you keep the camera rolling I doubt if they’ll risk shooting us dead. Sorry about that lads. You’re just going to have to arrest us and put us on trail. Oh of course we might die in custody. Unfortunate suicide, yeah? You’ve played that card a time or two. But will you dare this time? We’ll have to see. I don’t think either of us gives much of a shit either way.”

He could see blue lights approaching now and he pointed them out to Paul. Jeff turned his camera on the approaching police vehicles and the armed officers who ran alongside.

Had they been give orders to shoot? Paul felt ice in his spine. The two men in the sand coloured berets seemed utterly relaxed.

The black clad figures closed the space and they held their fire. They threw the two men in the sand coloured berets to the ground and cuffed their hands behind their backs.

They hustled the two men in the sand coloured berets into the back of a van.

And then they departed.

Paul didn’t bother trying to get a comment.

There was clearly no point. Jeff pointed the camera back in his face. Time for the wrap up. Time to be the consummate pro.

“Well as you can see the security forces have apprehended Richard Maltby and Gordon Campbell. I will be forwarding the details of Boy Masters’ location to the Scottish Media and once they are at the scene, I will pass on the details to Police Scotland. This is Paul Walton from Trafalgar Square, London.”

And so with more of a whimper than a bang, the story of Black Clan came to an end.