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, October 21, 2014

AS SOMEONE WHO MANAGES A FOODBANK, I AM GETTING INCREASINGLY FED UP WITH FOODBANKS BEING CALLED A DISGRACE.


This is an image that became pretty familiar across the length and breadth of Scotland in the wake of September 18th. The picture shows two members of our local ‘Yes’ campaign who bottled up their feelings of anger, despair and disillusionment and found a way to morph these emotions into something positive. They sent out word through the well established social media channels of the local ‘Yes’ campaign and appealed for the ‘45’ to show defiance by donating food to those in the local community who had nothing to eat.

The result of their efforts was £900 worth of donated packets and tins which required the services of a large volunteer trailer to be moved across town. In the same week, two local SNP branch meetings collected up a further £500 of food.

In the last three weeks a staggering £5000 of food has come in through the doors of the First Base Agency.

On the surface of things, what has happened is an appalling indictment of what the ‘No’ vote meant to so many. ‘No’ meant a whole lot of people in Scotland would continue to go hungry. ‘Better Together’ meant that those lucky enough to have a house and a job and a pension fund had decided they were best sticking together to make sure none of their stuff would be taken a away and given to hungry, poor types. I mean for goodness sake, how many widescreen TV’s do these wretched poor people actually need!

Even the most ferocious campaigner for the continued Union would surely have to admit that the events of the month following the Referendum has borne out most of what the ‘Yes’ side said. We’re once again bombing Iraq and UKIP has moved along from being a frightening bogeyman in the shadows to a clear and present danger. The only answer the Tory Conference could find to the abject bankruptcy of the country was to flay the poor even harder. The pound has weakened and the Stock Market has tanked and according to new research, we suddenly have 120 years worth of oil to go at.
 
Remember the bold Sir Ian Wood, Knight of the Realm and font of all wisdom when it came to the real truth about Scotland’s oil? In the days before the vote he sounded like Fraser in Dad’s Army. The oil is running dry!!! We’re doomed!!!!! In the days after the vote he released a profit warning to his City investors. Apparently his company’s maintenance services were no longer required by the hard nosed guys at Big Oil. Basically lots of them had fired his arse and he was about to hit the bricks. But wait! Just a couple of days later and the seventh cavalry rode over the horizon to save his sorry neck from having a tomahawk pushed through it. Phew. Sir Ian’s outfit were awarded 75% of the fracking rights across the Central Belt and the day was duly saved.

Who awarded the fracking rights to save Sir Ian’s bacon? The British Government.

Who’s bacon did Sir Ian save by lying through his teeth about Scotland’s boil reserves? The British Government.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

It’s what they call an Establishment stitch up.

Suddenly there is a new political reality in the frantic corridors of Westminster. Blue Tories and Red Tories are frantically trying to keep up with the world according to Nigel.
 
It is the new gospel - what Nigel says, goes.

Keeping up with Nigel has become the be all and the end all.

Nigel says we’ll solve the problem of too many East European immigrants by leaving the EU and adopting an Aussie style points system to govern who is allowed to come to our fair shores.

I can better that, screams Dave. We Red Tories will continue to let them in, but then when they get here we’ll lock them up in concentration camps in the Scottish Highlands and solve the balance of payments problem by extracting ransoms from their families. What’s there not to like! It’s just so super and perfect. Serco have already bid for the contract. They will provide lots of smashing zero contract camp guard work for the Scots as a reward for them voting ‘No’ and they have already engaged a team of consultants from the Islamic State to provide training sessions on how behead the detainees whose families refuse to cough up the ransom.

Red Tory Ed shakes his head and makes a nasal tutting sound. He reveals a killer counter to the Blue Tory ransom plan. Ed announces that ransom money is just a drop in the bucket and the Scots are worth so much more that lousy zero hours work as camp guards. The Red Tories will go much further and dust down an old playbook. He agrees with the arrest and detain in concentration camp part of the Blue Tory plan. But instead of merely ransoming the captives, the Red Tories promise something much bigger and better. Don’t ransom… sell!!!! The Red Tories are going to get Britain back into the slavery game! It’s win, win and win again. A boom for ship building on the Clyde. Lucrative overseas work for the Scots. The good old days will be back!

Over the last few weeks, Nigel has discovered and new and wickedly appealing string to his bow. Why is it that those pesky Scots have free prescriptions and free futher education and free care for the elderly?

Nigel knows exactly why.

And Nigel is about to tell anyone willing to listen why.

It’s because the Scots are all a bunch of subsidy junkies!

And who is paying the bills? The beleaguered rank and file of Middle England, that’s who.

The same beleaguered rank and file who are paying the benefits of the fifty million Romanian gypsies who are about to flood our green and pleasant land to pick our pockets and take our houses.

Nigel is all set to make the Scots into the new Romanians and he has the Barnett Formula well and truly in his sights.

In the world according to Nigel, the Barnett Formula is the vehicle which carries an extra £1400 a head up the M6 from Middle England to shirking Scotland.

Will the Red and Blue Tories be willing to point out the tiresome reality that the Barnett Formula is designed as a vehicle to send back most of the money that Scotland pays into the Westminster coffers? Well. Most of it.

Will telling that particular truth curry any favour among the disaffected millions of the South East of England? Not a chance. Nigel’s anti Scottish poison will soon become every bit as addictive as his anti everyone else poison.

So let’s face it. Handing in a bunch of food in the wake of the ‘No’ vote wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The 2015 election is going to be all about who can hate the hardest and Nigel will make sure that the Scots will become popular hate figures alongside the Romanians and the Somalis.

Yesterday the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicted that Scotland is well on target to having one in four of its children living in poverty by 2020. This desperate assumption is based on things staying as they are now and the Barnett Formula remaining unchanged. Once Nigel has had his impact, it seems more than likely that will not be the case for much longer. By 2020, the extra £1400 a head Barnett sends north will be no more. Should that be the case, then we can forget the 25% of kids in poverty figure: should that be the case, it will be more like one in three.

The report was picked up by the news channels and a debate duly broke out. As per usual, lots of angry voices said what an disgrace it is that so many now have to rely on food banks in order to keep their bodies and souls together. Many pointed out that Britain is becoming more unequal by the day and the street level result of this inequality is the growing number of foodbanks. What is needed are more progressive policies to redistribute wealth and level out the playing field.

As someone who manages a foodbank, much of this talk is starting to get me pretty pissed off. More and more it seems that the tone of much of this talk suggests that foodbanks in themselves are somehow disgraceful. If people could for a moment climb down from their moral high horses, they might realise that foodbanks ARE wealth distribution at its most basic. Someone who has some spare food in their cupboard is more wealthy than someone with a bare cupboard. If the person with the food decides to give some to the person without food, they are re-distributing some of their wealth. If a third person decides to donate some of their time free of charge to make the transaction happen seamlessly, they are also redistributing wealth in their own way.

How many people in Britain would have starved over the last few years if there hadn’t been foodbanks to keep them going? I hate to think. But not a single person HAS actually starved. The Government deserves no credit whatsoever for this. The community has proved that it is simply not willing to allow people to starve and it has found a way to make sure that it does not happen.

This is what foodbanks are all about: they are a people based answer to a people based problem. It is voluntary wealth distribution.

Surely the foodbank phenomenon is a perfect case study on how problems can be solved. It seems to me that the incredible efficiency foodbanks have shown in the way they have met the crisis of the last few years is something of an anathema to many.

Old thinking says that the only way to even things up is to pass laws to take more money off people in the form of more tax. Then the Government of the day handles this money with jaw dropping inefficiency and by the time it works its way down the chain there is hardly any left by the time it reaches the place where people are hungry. Just imagine how many managers and workers the Council would require to hand out the 500 emergency food parcels First Base gives out every month. The mind boggles. I absolutely guarantee that their overheads would be at least ten times what our overheads are. There would be no volunteers involved and they wouldn’t hand out any more food than we hand out now. Instead they would simply spend ten times as much to achieve the same thing.

I know which answer I prefer. This is the key to the success of foodbanks. When someone comes in through our front door to donate a carrier bag full of tinned food, they do so in the certain knowledge that every single one of those tins will find its way to someone who really needs a bite to eat. When any government raids our salary before we get it, we have no such confidence. Instead we wince at the endless number of managers who demonstrate barely a shred of efficiency before riding off into a Spanish sunset care of their staggering public sector pensions.

It is high time we stopped seeing foodbanks as some sort of a disgrace. Instead we should start seeing foodbanks as offering a compelling case for the community keeping government completely out of the loop and sorting stuff out for itself. We rail about the lack of care the government gives to the elderly. Fair enough. But is it really so hard to knock the door of an elderly neighbour and ask if they want any shopping getting in? We rail about the government’s inability to crack the whip and control the feral kids who scare us all to death. Fair enough. But is it really all that hard to add these kids to the invitation list when we are organising our own kids’ birthday parties and sleep overs? We have it easily within our power to make things a whole lote better for a whole lot of people all by ourselves. Those of us running foodbanks haven’t needed any politicians to hold our hands. Instead we have simply got on with it and you know what, nobody has starved.

A better society doesn’t mean a place where there are no foodbanks because the government has taken more money from us so that they can take the job over and and do it inefficiently and badly. That isn’t progressive. That is just more public sector jobs for the boys. A better society means no more foodbanks because people don’t need them any more. In the brave new world of Nigel, such a place shows no signs of happening any time soon, so surely the best idea is to see if the foodbank solution can be found for lots of different problems.

It seems we’ve all waited long enough for politicans of all colours to come up with the an answer to the question of why a quarter of our kids are living in poverty. Maybe it is high time we took control of the problem ourselves and look for our own answers.

So here is how the spirit of the 45 can help to undo much of the damage that is headed our way as the Blue and Red Tories frantically scramble to keep their heads above water in the world according to Nigel.     

Thursday, October 16, 2014

WHAT LORD FREUD SAID ABOUT DISABLED PEOPLE WAS STUPID AND IDIOTIC. THE WAY HIS WORDS HAVE BEEN TWISTED SHOWS POLITICS AT ITS MOST PATHETIC AND TAWDRY


Yesterday afternoon I logged onto Twitter to discover a whole bunch of people in full on outrage mode. Some Tory Minister I had never heard of had said that disabled people should have to work for £2 an hour. Bloody hell! Most extraordinary was the fact that he went by the name of Freud. Let’s face it, being a politician and having a name like that is a bit like walking a tightrope. Surely he must have dreaded the moment when he said something seriously stupid and thereby gave licence to the rat pack of hacks to have hours of fun spinning witticisms around ‘Freudian Slip’.

So I checked it out and lo and behold, it was entirely true. So I checked it out some more and lo and behold, the way it was being painted on Twitter bore no reality to the actual context of his words.

But what the hell. Who gives a damn about context? He’s a Tory. He’s a Lord. He looks like a smug public school type. Fair game, right? Screw him.

In reality, nobody gives a stuff about the rights and wrongs. Already his ill chosen words are headed into folklore and they will still be gloatingly quoted long after the unfortunate Lord Freud has disappeared from our memory banks. Picture it. Question Time 2016. An artificially angry Labour MP is looking to get the audience to cheer by wagging a finger at the Tory at the table and saying "How dare you say that! Your’s is the party that thinks disabled people should work for £2 an hour!!!”

And those in the audience who hate the Tories will duly cheer. And the Labour guy will wear a smug ‘Gotcha’ look for a couple of minutes. And the Tory will be forced to sit and fume because when all is said and done, Lord Freud DID say it, even though it was clearly not what he really meant.

The whole tawdry business is sad and sickening on so many levels. I have absolutely no idea if Lord Freud is a good minister or not. Like I said, before yesterday I had never heard of him. Now he will be duly fired and that will be the end of him. Nobody will give a damn whether he is treated fairly or not. Nobody will be remotely interested in the context of his words.

Any regular readers of this blog of mine will know full well that I am not generally the biggest fan of our Tory Government in Westminster. However, on this particular issue the posh boy probably has a point. Those who are disabled by very severe learning difficulties are probably the greatest victims of the minimum wage. Let’s check out a factory floor of forty or so years ago. There would be lads who were a bit slow who would do all the sweeping up and empty the bins. They would have a mental age of about nine and all the guys on the shop floor would make a fuss of them. When everyone went to the match on a Saturday afternoon, they would go along with the rest of the crowd. When everyone went down the pub after work, the lads who were ‘a bit slow’ would be with them. Fair enough, they would be earning a third of what everyone else was earning, but at least they had something to fill their time with and lots of mates.

What has happened as we have evolved over the last forty years? Well, nothing much that is good for lads with a mental age of nine. Part of having a mental age of nine means that you are not really able to manage the demands of a forty hour week. Three hours a day is about the limit. So a boss with a heart used to have two options. He could create one full time job which involved sweeping the floors and emptying the bins and fetching a carrying and pay the same rate as the other guys on the shop floor. Or on the other hand he could hire in four or five lads with severe learning difficulties and split the money several ways. Fair enough, they would not be earning nearly as much as everyone else, but at least they had somewhere to go: something to get them out of the house: a community to become a part of.

Then came the minimum wage and the option was removed from the table. Now all of these tasks are carried out by one person who flogs his/her guts out for fifty hours a week and earns the same as everyone else.

So what has become of those with ultra severe learning difficulties? Nothing much that has been good. Over the years, the amount of benefits they receive has gone up dramatically. Now it is not all that unusual for someone in that particular boat to be getting £200 a week on top of a rent free house. Stop and think about that. How well do you think a lonely nine year old would deal with £200 a week in their hands? Not well, right? Of course they will try to use the £200 to buy themselves some friends. It’s what lots of lonely, excluded kids do. The problem is that when you try to buy friends you almost always wind up with the worst or the worst of mates. We see this all the time at First Base and we have seen it for years.
 
When someone with severe learning difficulties is due to have £200 available to pull from the cash machine on a Thursday morning, the worst of the local pondlife are all over them like a rash. The pondlife will ply their easy mark with cider and blue valium pills and lo and behold they will have stripped their account bare by lunchtime. The £200 will all go to yet more bags of smack whilst the poor sod who has been ripped off will wind up in our place the next day needing a food parcel.

So where would they be better off? Working in a factory surrounded by regular folk who would look out for them and treat them as part of the crew? Or all on their own in some flat paid for by Housing Benefit hoping to buy themselves a few mates with their £200 a week?

There are lots and lots of people with severe learning difficulties who are working. How much to they earn? Not a penny. They are volunteers and they work in charity shops and community gardens. We have a constant stream of lonely people who are ‘mentally challenged’ who want to volunteer to work at First Base for no pay whatsoever. Sadly we don’t have any slots. And we’re not on our own. The Voluntary Sector is awash with potential volunteers right now. Some of our food parcel clients are volunteering at the British Heart Foundation furniture project. The charity are doing their very best to be fair and so they make a point of offering something to everyone who volunteers their time. Basically means that people get a couple of hours every three weeks or so. Not enough to get them out of the house. Not enough to get them out of the clutches of the pondlife who are so adept at promising to be their best mate and then getting them completely off their faces and robbing them blind.

It is impossible for the Voluntary Sector to find a place for all of these desperately unfortunate souls. It would be great if the private sector was allowed to do something. But just imagine the shit storm that would break out if a supermarket accepted volunteers with learning difficulties to come into the store to sweep the floor for nothing. Wow! Twitter would explode with outrage.

So instead we leave these sad souls to live achingly lonely lives where their only friends tend to be the most amoral, manipulative and revolting members of Club Heroin. But the people who fill them with cheap pills and cider before robbing them blind don’t tend to be Tory Lords from public schools.

So that’s OK then.

In my experience at First Base, most of the poor buggers with severe mental disabilities would happily PAY £2 an hour for the chance to belong somewhere. To have some friends who aren’t hell bent of stealing their money. It is tragic, but it is the reality.

But as per usual nobody is remotely interested in the bleak nuts and bolts of grass roots reality. All anyone wants to do is to score points. Some bright eyed ambitious intern from Oxford obviously thought it a good idea to get Ed Milliband to harangue Cameron on the Freudian slip.

They were clearly so obsessed with Westminster’s playground games that they completely failed to see the wood from the trees. Basic human decency demands that you don’t accuse someone of being heartless and cruel to disabled people who has recently lost a young disabled son. Fair enough, the Red Tories were always going to make hay with their secret recording. Obviously they were. But anyone with a shred of decency would have found a different place to do it. Needling a father who has lost a young child is beyond disgusting and they should be ashamed of themselves. But they won’t be, for all that matters to these appalling people are their nasty little party political games.

I guess at this point I should own up to having done some of this stuff myself. In the summer I represented the ‘Yes’ side in an Indy debate against a couple of local Labour politicians. I was given a question to deal with about what kind of defense forces were planned for an Indpendent Scotland. Russell Brown, our local Labour MP and member of the Red Tory shadow defense team, had already told the audience that the only way for all of us to be safe in our beds was to remain under the umbrella of the British Armed Forces, nukes and all. I was making the point that the White Paper suggested that there should be more investment in defending us from future cyber attacks when Russell jumped in feet first and interrupted my flow. He became suddenly animated and said that was there to be a serious cyber attack which threatened to shut down the power grid, then it was vital that we had the ability to respond with the full might of the British Military. This pissed me off. It pissed me off because I was getting fed up with his endlessly rude interruptions. It pissed me off because it was just so plain stupid.

So I pointed out that there had already been examples of small countries being cyber attacked. Only a few years ago Estonia all but ground to halt on the back of a massive cyber attack which was launched from within Russia. I pointed out that were Scotland to be subjected to an attack like this, the most obvious candidates to launch such an attack would be China and Russia. I asked what were his military plans to deal with such an eventuality? Would he stick 1 Scots on a boat and get them to invade China? Drop 3 Para into Red Square? In reality, what he was suggesting was to threaten the likes of China and Russia with a pre-emptive nuclear strike from one of our Trident subs.

Russell went as ballistic as the aforesaid missiles and he raged for a while. He was adamant that he hadn’t said any such thing and most of the audience laughed and told him that he had.

Well, of course he hadn’t said it. Instead he said something which was crass and stupid and ill thought out. He had boxed himself into a very uncomfortable corner. Logically, his words could only mean one thing – the only weapon at our disposal to threaten the might of either Russia and China is Trident. That much is obvious to anyone with half a brain.

The words have stayed with Russell. Ever since I have seen comments about him on Twitter where he is branded as the warmonger who would launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on any country who launch a cyber attack on Britain. This is pure nonsense of course and it demonstrates the childish way that politics seems to work. I feel a little guilty about it because I guess I started it. I was fully engaged in the cut and thrust of the debate and when he presented me with such an open goal I couldn’t resist the chance of knocking the ball into the back of the net.

In the coming months and years we will hear time and again that the evil Tories are the party who think disabled people should work for £2 an hour. It will go on and on long after Lord Freud has disappeared from our memory banks. Nobody will remember the context of the words and nobody will care. The words will become just another part of the endless Punch and Judy show that our rulers enjoy playing so much. And all the while the poor sods who are the real victims will turn up at First Base looking for something eat. And we will talk with them and try and help them to come up with ways of keeping their money safe from the pondlife who swarm all over them like voracious flies on the day their money hits their account. It won’t work. It never does. The pondlife will continue to rob them down to the last penny. And then we will feed them for the next thirteen, penniless days. Would they be better working in Tesco for £2 an hour? You bet they would. But nobody really cares about the dismal reality of their lives.

All anyone seems to care about is the usual political point scoring.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

RUSSELL BRAND THINKS WE ARE LIVING IN A TIME OF REVOLUTION. I WONDER IF HE MIGHT BE ON TO SOMETHING


At times we give big business more credit for its innate wisdom than it really deserves. Think about it. If a politician of any colour gives a view on one of the great issues of the day, we tend not to believe a word of it. But when the same theme is examined by a captain of industry we are encouraged to take their wisdom as seriously as cancer.

On the surface of things this deference is rather ridiculous. Our great corporations have hardly covered themselves in glory of late. Tesco, one of the very biggest fish in the British blue chip sea, has recently been forced to own up to a £250 million mistake. RBS would have given its eye teeth for its mistakes to have been so trifling. When it cocked things up, it cost the rest of us tens of billions to put things right.

In our money obsessed world, we are required to be in awe of the men and women of the corporate boardrooms who are able to nail down multimillion pound salaries without either kicking a football or appearing on X Factor.

This is why the Tories continue to be so convinced that the Private Sector will always be streets ahead of the hapless Public Sector.

For the hell of it, let’s assume for a while there is something in all this cap doffing.

One of the big publishers has recently laid out a six figure advance for Russell Brand to write a book. Nothing so very surprising in that. Russell is a seriously famous individual and the masters of the corporate universe know only too well how to leverage wagon loads of cash out of milking our obsession with celebrities.

So it is safe to assume that Russell’s book will be classic kiss and tell fare where he spills the beans on a whole host of the kind of people whose designer bedrooms appear in OK Magazine.

Not so.

The book has a one word title and that word is ‘Revolution’.

Russell has gone all serious on us. He has shelved the idea of acting the pratt and re-connected with his serious side. Unsurprisingly he hasn’t cut his hair, joined a political party and started to talk in jargon. Instead he has started to do his best to tell it like it is in his very distinctive voice. How loud will his voice prove to be? Pretty loud actually. Russell has 8.35 million followers on Twitter. David Cameron has 800,000 followers on Twitter. A hundred times more of us are interested in what Russell has to say than our Prime Minister.

That’s not just a few: it’s a shed load.

It is worth noting that Russell’s following has carried on rising despite the fact that he has gone all serious and started picking fights with Jeremy Paxman.

The publishing company has clearly cottoned onto this prevailing mood and backed it big bucks. Oh and by the way, I should mention the fact that Russell has decided to invest the royalties in opening up a café where all the staff with be recovering drug users.

The theme of the book is pretty simple. Enough is enough. It is no longer acceptable for us to live in a world where the 85 richest people in the world own more than the 3.5 billion poorest people. Can elected politicians change this woeful state of affairs? Do they actually want to change it? No chance. There is an unholy alliance in place which is dedicated to transferring everything from the 99% of us at the bottom of the pile into the offshore treasure troves of the 1% at the top of the pile.

Russell has decided that the ballot box no longer offers any kind of hope. Democracy has had its chance and duly blown it. The 1% has learned how to manipulate and control the wheels of democracy to such an extent that it has become a plaything of the super rich.

It has become a joke.

Russell’s solution? Simple. He has decided that the time is once again right for us to follow the path of George Washington and Robespierre and Trotsky and Che. The time is coming where we take to the streets and tear everything down. He reckons the time is coming when we stop listening to the sage words of bought and paid for politicians who tell us why it is impossible for them to collect the billions of pounds of dodged tax. Instead the time is coming where we kick down the front doors of the big houses and strip them bare.

Like they did in St Petersburg way back in 1917.

Of course it is really easy to scoff. Who the hell is Russell Brand to be spouting off about a coming revolution? What a joke. Look at him. A long haired idiot who was once upon a time a chronic smack addict. The establishment will not lack ammunition to fire at him. Russell is eminently discreditable. But will any of the tabloid accusations actually succeed in discrediting him? Let’s face it, the lad has done a pretty good job of bucking the trend so far. He is the product of a single mum upbringing and comprehensive school days where he was shy and bullied. Not many come out of the sucking swamp of chronic heroin addiction at all. To have pulled himself clear of the sucking, quicksand of opiates and risen to a place where a publisher will pay him a fortune to pen a book about Revolution is not a thing to be sniffed at.

But is he right?

The word ‘Revolution’ seemed like it had been permanently removed to the safety of O Level History books along with the likes of 'Socialism' and 'Karl Marx' and 'Rickets' and 'Slavery'. The last time Revolution threatened the 1% was way back in 1968. The flames flickered for while, but the Establishment clampdown soon extinguished them with comparative ease. The riot police cracked hot young heads from Chicago to Paris to West Berlin. A great column of Soviet tanks rumbled over the Charles Bridge to shut down the Prague Spring. The Tet Offensive was burned to crisp by tens of thousands of tonnes of napalm.

1968 was supposed to have been the end of that kind of thing. The masses did their very best to rise up and the masses were duly squashed like so many beetles.

And for the last 50 years the wealth of the world has flowed inexorably into the bulging coffers of the 1% who now own pretty much everything.

Well Russell thinks that the spirit of 1968 is back and the time is coming when the super rich will pay the price for their avarice.

He is quite sure that we once again live in a time of revolution.

It isn’t hard to guess what the view of the Establishment will be. They will mock and deride and instruct their in-house media bully boys to pick him to pieces. A long haired ex junkie…. how hard can it be?

We seem to be hearing a lot about how all kinds of events are nothing to do with any kind of revolution. They are mere blips. Hapless protest. Nothing to take seriously.

But when you take a step back and look at things with an open mind, it is easy to see that Russell might well have a point.

All over the world the established order is being challenged, just like it was challenged a hundred years ago. The big difference is that now there is no unifying force driving the challenge. A century ago the forces of revolution were more or less unified under the umbrella of communism. Now there are a whole host of umbrellas and the establishment is fighting on all kinds of different fronts. The way anger and rage are being shown is being demonstrated in many different forms. However, the underlying reason for so much discontent is remarkably similar. All over the world people are waking up to the fact that the 1% are stealing everything and hiding it away.

In Tunisia and Libya and Syria, the 1% was represented by brutal family dynasties and the response was the Arab Spring. There was no point trying to contain these uprisings by media propaganda: things had gone too far for that. The only way for the 1% to hang on was by deploying bombs and bullets. In Tunisia and Libya, the masses won the day. In Syria, the Assad family is still clinging on by a brutal thread.

In other places the Establishment is still just about managing to hold the line, but with every passing day their grip on power is being loosened. People across the world are find different ways to show how pissed off they are.

In many cases, the media is doing its level best to keep a lid on much of what is happening. A perfect example of this can be found in Spain where 45% of young people are unemployed. They formed themselves into a loose angry group and called themselves the ‘Indignados’ – the Outraged.

In the years after the banking crisis, many tottering Spanish banks started to send the bailiffs round to repossess the houses of pensioners who could no longer pay their mortgages once their pensions had been cut in half by the bankrupt government. How hard could that be? Well, bloody hard as it turned out. The ‘Indignados’ came up with a very efficient solution to this particular problem. As soon as a team of bailiffs arrived at the front door of a grandmother, she would ring her grandson or granddaughter and they would send out a flash message across the social media. The ‘Indignados’ could put a thousand people onto any Spanish street within minutes of the first Tweet being posted.

Four leather jacketed bailiffs against one terrified pensioner is a one way fight. Four leather jacket bailiffs against one empowered pensioner and a thousand angry young people is another thing altogether. The banks and the bailiffs begged the police to mobilise riots squads complete with tear gas and water canon to enable them to do their thing. The police told them to get stuffed. The police told them that there would be anarchy were they to go in heavy handed.

In the end, even policemen have grandmothers.

The banks were forced to back off. Now they don’t even try to repossess the flats of penniless pensioners. Instead they write the debt off. Very, very quietly.
 
And the Indignados won.

I wonder why we have heard so little about this particular example of civil disobedience? Well it isn’t very hard to guess why, is it?

As I write this, tens of thousands of young people have shut down the centre of Hong Kong Island and the all powerful Politburo in Beijing can’t find the nerve to deploy tanks in the spirit of Tiananmen Square.

As I write this the Far Right are sitting at 30% in France and the Far Left are sitting at 30% in Greece.

As I write this, the Sunni Muslim version of the ‘Indignados’ has taken itself on a killing spree across Syria and Iraq and there doesn’t seem like there is a thing anyone can do about it.

In Britain things seem rather less extreme. It is no accident that the gangsters and dictators of the world choose London as a safe haven for their riches and their families. They have identified Britain as the safest bolthole they can find and they are more than happy to lay out north of £50 million for their very own Hampstead safe houses.

But maybe they might not be quite as safe as they think and hope. It was only two years ago that the London skies were lit up by nights of fire the likes of which the city hadn’t been seen since Hitler sent his Heinkel bombers across the Channel. For three days, the 'Indignados' of Hackey and Peckham took over the streets and the police could do no more than stand in hapless lines and watch. In the end the Establishment managed to hold the line and the media ensured that the rest of the country was unified in its disgust at the looting of JD Sports.

But what about next time? What if the 'Indignados' of the capital choose some different targets? What if they give JD Sports a miss and aim their outrage at all those multi million piles of the 1%? Would we all be quite so upset at the sight of a vast mob kicking in Roman Abramovich’s front door and nicking everything in sight? No doubt he has some pretty tasty minders on his door, but they would be as helpless as the Spanish bailiffs should 10,000 Hackney 'Indignados' come a calling.

In the last few weeks we have seen just how stretched the line holding back the anger of the public has become. In Scotland, the Establishment had to throw the kitchen sink and more to hang on, but already it is very clear that their victory will be temporary to say the least. The three main parties stage managed their conferences and tried to pretend that all was well and business as usual was still on the cards.

Then UKIP stomped onto the scene and make a mockery of their attempts at complacency.

I think Russell Brand is on the money. The days of the 1% are numbered. The only question is how they are about to bite the dust. Some sort of Revolution has become inevitable. This is completely unsurprising really. History teaches us that when 1% of the population gets over rich, the 99% will eventually bite back. The only question is how painful the bite back is going to be. Will it be a bloodless coup like the way the 'Indignados' protected their grandparents from the bailiffs? Or will it be like to ongoing torture of Syria that we watch every night on the TV?

I’ll give the last word here to John Lennon who took a look at the blazing streets of 1968 and summed things up with his usual clarity.

‘You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out’

In St Petersburg 1917, the Bolsheviks threw up road blocks where every passing pedestrian was stopped. The hard men were not interested in any kind of in depth interrogation. Instead they demanded that those they detained held out their hands for inspection. Those with the hard calloused hands of manual workers were allowed to go about their business. Those with soft hands were dispatched with a bullet to the head.

Somehow we need to find a way to get rid of the 1% without everything ending in the kind of primordial butchery that so many revolutions descend to.

Any ideas on that one Russell?       

Thursday, October 9, 2014

INSUFFERABLE ARROGANCE TAKEN TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL.


Well, here he is.
 
The great and the very right honourable Alistair Carmichael MP, Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Scotland. This picture, this moment, are as good as life gets for the bold Alistair. For after a century of howling in the wilderness, the Liberal Democrats are finally a party of Government. And Alistair as a bone fide member of the Cabinet of the British Government. He has won himself a seat at the big table and boy oh boy, doesn’t he know it.

In the months leading up to the Referendum, we all got to see a lot of Alistair as he preached the Better Together gospel with unyielding smugness. No longer was Alistair a bit part member of a pathetic little party who lived off scraps from the protest vote table. Oh no. Alistair showed us all that he had taken the step up to becoming every inch the epitome of Establishment Man.

Maybe his Tory chums from the big boys' cabinet table had sent him off on a crash course of how to be arrogant. It sure seemed that way. He perfected the art of looking down his not inconsiderable nose at all those pesky little people in the ‘Yes’ campaign. Oh let them have their silly fun, said Alistair from on high. Silly people playing silly games. Alistair was having none of it and why should he? Not when he could feel the might of Asda and Big Oil and all the Lords and Ladies of the Realm at his back. No more was Alistair a hopeful looking chap standing out on the pavement in the cold and rain, gazing up yearningly at the lights in the upstairs windows where the big boys were sharing port and cigars and tales of £1000 an hour hookers fresh in from the Ukraine. Alistair’s days of living his life in the wilderness of meaningless obscurity were very much consigned to the past.

For now he was the nominated champion of Dave and George and Nick and Ed and a Queen who was itching for the chance to purr. He was their very own Lancelot. Their Achilles. They had dressed him up in the best of armour and sent him north to drive the unwashed masses back into their nasty little box.

He was the safe pair of hands. The enforcer. The tough, tough guy who would look the ‘Yes’ campaign in the eye and never, ever blink. A real 21st Century Caledonian version of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

And when the wondrous perfection of the number 55 burst across the TV screens, Alistair was here, there and everywhere beaming out his triumph to the world. Dave and George and Nick and Ed had put their trust in him and he had come through. The Realm was safe and the Queen was purring.

What next? It might be anything for the bold knight from the North who had saved the Union from nemesis?

Sir Alistair? Surely! ‘Arise Sir Alistair… ‘ Purrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Or what about Lord Alistair of the Obscure Backend of Nowhere? Oh yeah baby. Gimme, gimme!

High Commissioner for somewhere where the sun always shines? Could be! The type of sleepy place where good old boys from the frontlines of vulture capital can hide away their heroically won tax free gains? Why the hell not?

The Establishment knows how to look after its own and Alistair is a man who has proved his utter loyalty in the very heat of battle.

It’s all good stuff, but it doesn’t quite chime with the picture does it Alistair? I really hate to mention it, but there seem to be an awful lot of empty seats. How very odd. Your party has finally crow barred its way into some nice fat ministerial salaries and yet it seems like nobody wants to know you any more. I bet you must be avoiding the social media like the plague right now Alistair. How very galling it must be to see all those irksome pictures of unwashed types packing themselves into meeting rooms all over Scotland. What is the matter with these wretched people? Have they no idea that they have been beaten? And not just beaten. Thrashed, hammered and duly raped and pillaged.

How dare they.

HOW BLOODY DARE THEY!!!!!!

All those packed rooms must have taken the edge of your  great moment of triumph. All you got were a few dozing delegates who had once upon a time taught Chemistry in a Hartlepool Comprehensive when Donny Osmond was at number one in the charts.

All those empty seats when there should have been a vast multitude of tearfully grateful Better Together people cheering you onto the stage on a golden chariot pulled by a team of magnificent snowy white horses….
 
Or maybe you could have been borne onto the stage on a gilded dias carried by four Ethiopian slaves with coal black skin shining with oil from the East…..

Not an empty room…..

Not a couple of ex social workers from Harrogate.

Not a return to obscurity.

Anything but that.

And to make it worse, Dave and George and Nick and Ed seem to have forgotten all about you. And the silence from Buckingham Palace is deafening.

IT’S JUST ALL SO NOT BLOODY FAIR!!!!!!!!!

And later they asked you to make your way across town to the wonderfully familiar comfort zone of the Scotland 2014 studio. How warm and cosy it must had seemed. Back in the chair. Back in front of the camera where there was no requirement for anyone to fill a room full of empty seats.

What a relief.

And for a while it seemed like you were able to forget the abject obscurity of that dismal echoing hall. For a while you were back in the saddle. Back in the lights. Back as Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Scotland.

And it was time to get tough again. Time to let the little people know who was boss here. You all had your chance and you blew it. We’re in charge again. Alistair is your lord and master so doff your caps and button your lips…

He sat up high on his battle hardened horse and puffed out his chest. He fixed the camera with a severe stare and delivered a withering message to Nicola Sturgeon.

Don’t you dare keep banging on about Independence. The Peasant’s Revolt is no more. We won, you lost, live with it.

And for a few brief, wonderful moments, he was back in that place he had come to love so much. And surely Dave and George and Nick and Ed were out there somewhere cheering him on. And surely Lizzy was purring away at his implacable devotion to the Union.

And for a few all too brief moments the arrogance he had learned to carry so effortlessly covered up all the cracks.

No longer was he a bit part player from a pathetic little has been party with a lousy 6% in the polls. No longer was he yersterday’s man in the making. No longer was he the guy who had played out his big moment in front of rank after rank of empty seats.

Once again he was the hero of the Better Together tale.

And he actually believed in it.

He seriously believed that Nicola Sturgeon was about to ignore the wishes and dreams of 60,000 new members and listen to him instead. He seriously believed that all those standing room only halls of people were about to heed his command and stop talking about freedom.

Oh you complete and absolute arrogant bloody fool Alistair. You are living, breathing proof of the hallucinogenic effects of living in an Ivory Tower.

We are NEVER going to listen to you.

You’ve had your day in the sun and no doubt you will get your pay off in due course. But don’t even think of letting it go to your head.

You’re done.

You just don’t know it yet.
 
But if you take a long hard look at yourself in the picture, you might find there is a message in there somewhere. A message you are clearly failing to hear.     

Sunday, October 5, 2014

SO FAREWELL NICK GRIFFIN. WERE YOU BNP PONDLIFE OR A RATHER SURPRISING HERO? I WONDER...


Amidst the wild political hurly burly of the last month or so, it is hardly surprising that Nick Griffin’s expulsion from being President of the BNP has gone largely unnoticed. Seldom can Shakespeare’s words from Macbeth have ever seemed more appropriate.

‘A poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.’

Well Nick Griffin has certainly done his share of strutting and fretting over the last thirty years or so and now it seems more than likely that he will indeed be heard no more.

Surely here we have an open and shut case of good riddance to bad rubbish.

Surely?

But I wonder.

I must admit that I have been somewhat fascinated by Mr Griffin for a while now. A few years back, the BNP started to make alarming inroads into the crumbling terraced heartlands of my old stamping ground of East Lancashire. The old mill towns in their damp, rainy valleys offered fertile soil for the wannabe fascists. The likes of Blackburn, Burnley and Oldham had become increasingly doomed places where people from the Indian Sub Continent were doing increasingly well whilst the indigenous whites who lacked the means to up sticks and run away were mired on the dole.

The BNP followed Hitler’s playbook of resentment carefully and started to win a few council seats. At about the same time, the BNP broke through in the European Elections and Nick found himself with a first class ticket for the Brussels gravy train.

All of this put the BBC into a corner. The Fascists had actually won something and there was no real excuse for excluding them from 'Question Time' any more. In 2009 they cracked and Nick won himself a seat at the 'Question Time' table. Millions tuned in to see if this guy was about to become our very own Hitler or Mussolini. Were we about to see the man who was about to launch tens of thousands of 21st Century Brownshirts onto the boarded up high streets of the forgotten towns of the Industrial Revolution? Was Griffin about to raise an army of the dispossessed to smash the windows of every Asian corner shop in the land in a British version of Kristallnacht?

So we tuned in expecting to watch Darth Vader

Instead we got Coco the Clown.

For an hour of prime time TV, Griffin gave a masterclass in shambling ineptitude. This was no wickedly scary Bond bad guy. Instead he was systematically pulled apart by the other panelists. They swarmed all over him like vicious four year olds dismembering a doomed Daddy Longlegs.

It was a blood sport and the audience bayed with appreciation. So it was that the high water of the BNP came and went. After 'Question Time' they were doomed and predictably enough they fell into that favourite pastime of all extreme parties as they ate each other alive with infighting and back stabbing.

Nick wasn’t quite done yet. Every now and then we still got glimpses of him making a complete and absolute berk of himself. My personal favourite was the day that he launched the BNP manifesto for the 2010 General Election. He had rented some dismally dreary room in a Northern Town Hall. On the walls were pictures of fierce looking Victorian types complete with high collars and eyes gleaming with the light of God and Empire. Nick had taken up a position behind a vast old desk and behind him was a predictably large Union Flag.

But best of all were the two guys he had posted either side of the flag. They were both in their early twenties and one had a particularly severe dose of acne. They were dressed from head to toe in the outfits of the Crusaders. Seriously! Chain mail, dodgy swords and shields and the Cross of St George. Their faces were brick red with embarrassment as they took looking completely ridiculous to a whole new level. The whole thing was more Monty Python than anything the Monty Python team ever came up with 

Basically it was too bad to be true. It was so bad that even the most ferociously twisted racist would have shrunk back from giving a vote to such a bunch of idiots.

Too bad to be true?

The idea snuck into my head and got me to wondering. Was any of this true? Or was it in fact deliberately bad? 

It was Google time and what jumped out was mildly surprising. It turned out that Nick and I had stuff in common. Not to start with. He was a suburban southern boy from Barnet whilst I was pure mill town Lancashire. But we both did the 1970’s Grammar School thing and we both bucked the trend to make it to the ivory towers of Cambridge. Nick got a place at Downing to study History before switching to Law. I went the other way. I was supposed to study law at Magdalene, but I switched to history after three days. One look at all those very fat books filled with very small print was quite enough for me.

How bizarre. We had both been there at the same time. It seemed like Nick was Mr Sensible. He got into politics and won a boxing Blue and graduated with a 2-2. I spent three years drinking and acting and I eventually conned my way into a 2-1. After graduation, I hit the old Indian Hippy trail whilst Nick plunged headlong into the maelstrom of 1980’s far right politics.

Now I am the last person to make a case for the academic brilliance of Cambridge. How could I? They gave me a 2-1 as recognition for three years where I came up with the sum total of two essays. But one thing is for sure – it was no easy thing for any grammar school boy to get a place in the late 70’s. On the surface of things, anyone looking for a slot needed to be straight A’s all the way. Getting a place from a grammar school was pretty good evidence of a lack of stupidity.
 
The only reason I stayed on at school to sit the exam was that my parents had refused to countenance the idea of my taking a year off between school and university. They figured that should I have taken that route I would have turned into a feckless hippy!

The exam was in October which meant a couple of extra months at school and then ten months off instead of a year. It seemed like a plan to me. I can well recall the question I answered for the entrance exam. I had three hours at my disposal to answer one question.

‘Why do men rebel?’

This was the question I chose and it gave me immense pleasure to start off my essay with a quote from the Clash anthem, ‘White Riot.’

‘Black men got a lot of problems but they don’t mind throwing a brick’.

To my amazement, my efforts in answering the question won me an interview with the Magdalene Admissions Tutor. It was on a Monday morning and I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I set out from Blackburn early and took in Liverpool’s away game at Southampton en route to my big appointment. It didn’t turn out too well. Typically woeful policing led to me getting my head well and truly kicked in by an bunch of Southampton’s finest.

As a result I turned up at my Monday morning interview completely unable to move my head. I figured the best thing was to inform the old boy at the other side of the ornate desk that I didn’t normally sit with my head at a bizarre 45 degree angle and that the reason my top button was undone was that my neck was too swollen to fasten it.

He politely inquired about what unfortunate event had led to this impairment.

“Was it a sporting injury?”

“Not really. I am a Liverpool fan and I got beaten up at Southampton on Saturday.”

Well he loved this. The whole of the interview was all about football violence and the incompetence of the police. He even brought out the sherry.

I wandered out into the autumn sunshine perfectly convinced the interview would be my one and only association with this bizarre ancient Disneyland of a place.

It wasn’t.

A week later a letter dropped on the mat offering me a place. I can’t say I was all that happy. Strung by my own petard. My cunning plan to get a year off had backfired completely.

Once I arrived ten months later, it was immediately noticeable that my college was home to all kinds of lads who hadn’t done all that well at all in their exams. How on earth had they got in? How had I got in? There were lots of rumours about the good old boy who had plied me with sherry and listened to tales of football hooliganism with eyes shining with fascination. The word was that he was MI5’s in house head of recruitment. The word was that he was more interested in giving places to mavericks who might be persuaded to do their bit for Queen and Country than those with lots of straight A’s on their CV’s.

Was it true? Who knows? It certainly could have been. Without a doubt he was a guy who could have fitted seamlessly into any John Le Carre book. Over the next three years, several of my mates got the tap on the shoulder and were asked if they might like to do something for their country. It was a running joke to be honest. The ones who talked about it had obviously said thanks but no thanks. No doubt the ones who answered the call kept it to themselves like proper trainee spies. My shoulder remained well and truly un-tapped. 

Did someone tap Nick Griffin on the shoulder? More to the point, did Nick sign on the dotted line. I can see why they might have identified his as a shoulder well worth tapping. A grammar school boy from a Barnet suburb with a Tory councillor dad. It would not have been a difficult legend to cobble together.

We want you cosy up with the bad boys of the Far Right Nick. Get to know them. Learn their language. Buy them drinks. Mimic their hatred.

Get them to trust you and let you in. Take your time, Nick. There is all the time in the world. Get the patter. Master the body language. Cosy up to the ones on the way up the ladder. Impress them. Dazzle them with your loyalty.

Convince them that you are the one they need.

There would have been nothing so very unusual about such a plan. Over the years, the huge extent of MI5’s infiltration of the likes of the National Union of Mineworkers has become very apparent. One of the great tipping points of the 1985 strike was when the NUM fell hook, line and sinker for an MI5 sting operation by sending one of their guys to Tripoli to pick up a suitcase of cash from Colonel Gaddafi.

Is that what you did through the wild years of the 80’s and 90’s Nick? All those nights in all those smoky rooms filled with all that anger and hatred. Did you pass all of their tests whilst at the same time sending chapter and verse to your controller at Thames House?

And when you made it all the way to the top of the pile, did you follow the pre-planned strategy? Act like a complete idiot? Turn the whole thing into a complete joke? Dress up a couple of illiterate meat heads in Crusader gear when you release your election manifesto?

Oh I wonder.

And if by any chance any of it is true, then what a Herculean job you did. In next year’s election the BNP will fail to reach even 1% in the polls assuming they are even able to field candidates. There was nothing inevitable about this. We only need to take a look across the Channel to see the surging, strutting growth of the National Front in France. They are at 30% and rising under the terrifyingly competent leadership of Marine Le Penn. Now there’s a formidable lady, a cross between Theresa May and Reinhart Heydrich. Marine Le Penn doesn’t dress up acne ridden skinheads in Crusader outfits. She is slicker than slick. She power dresses and fixes the camera with an unblinking stare. She runs her railroad like Deutsche Bahn.

We don’t have that problem over here. Right wing anger is left to retired people with beds full of marigolds who get their hatred of immigrants from reading the Daily Mail with their morning bran flakes. Nigel Farage’s UKIP army are fifty years past putting a breeze block through Mr Patel’s window.

It could have been a very different story. By now we could have been like France and Greece and Russia where the lads with the cropped hair hospitalise those they don’t agree with.

If you were responsible for the BNP becoming such a joke, then I salute you sir. And I salute whoever it was that tapped your shoulder at Downing all those years ago. I don’t tend to have much time for our Security Services, but I am more than happy to make an exception in this case.

Is it true? Or is this merely the over ripe imagination of a pulp fiction writer? Who knows. And that, of course, is the whole point…..

Thursday, October 2, 2014

WE WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE STOPPED BRITISH PUBLIC EXECUTIONS IN 1868. IT SEEMS WE HAVEN'T


We don’t do capital punishment in Britain anymore. Of course we don’t. Half a century has passed since we last hanged someone. The last time we did the deed in public was hundred and forty six years ago.

We used to be as keen on the idea as Texas and China are today. Between 1770 and 1830 we sentenced 35,000 of our fellow citizens to pay the ultimate price for their crimes. Well. That was then. We are much better now. Nicer and kinder and more enlightened. It is unthinkable that we would ever again go down the road of public executions, though one shudders at the thought of the kind of advertising such spectacles would attract.

Picture Ray Winstone doing his Bet 365 thing. ‘How long till ‘is legs stop kickin’? have a bang on that!!’  

The problem with all of this meat and potatoes British PR is that it isn’t remotely true - only this week we have all had the chance to tune in on a very public execution carried out by the British State.

This week we have all had the chance to see what it looks like when bombs from a Tornado jet marmalise a pick up truck in Iraq.

There are few grey areas about this particular execution which haven’t yet been ironed out. Was there actually anyone in the truck? Who knows? And if there were any actual human beings in the truck, then how many were there?

But I am getting ahead of myself here. It seems best to take the thing in some kind of chronological order.

Did we have any right whatsoever to execute persons unknown in somebody else’s country?

Well, we are told the answer to that one is a clear and resounding ‘Yes’ because the Iraqi Government has asked us to do it. So. That’s fine then. If your mate tells you to jump in the river would you……?

We had a few problems of our own a while back in the badlands of South Armargh where those pesky Bhoyo’s of the IRA refused lie down and die. It now seems that it would have been perfectly OK for us to have a word with out pals in Washington DC and ask for a favour or two. Please could you chaps send a couple of those super-duper drones of yours and fire off a few Hellfire missiles? Here. Have a look at this. Here’s a pick up truck in a farmyard outside Crossmaglen. Maybe you could start with that? Do we know anything about the guys inside? Well. Actually, we don’t. But trust us here, these are really, really bad guys.

I don’t suppose any of us would have been all that keen on switching on the news to hear nightly reports of American bombing raids on Northern Ireland, but at least it seems such a thing would have been entirely legal.

So that’s OK then.

Next. Assuming there were people inside the pick up, what sort of trial had we given them? What kind of due process had been followed? What case had the prosecution prepared and put before the court? Had the jury been unanimous in it’s guilty verdict? Did the judge examine background reports on the individuals involved before passing the death sentence?

Well. The answer seems to have been none of the above.

We simply took it as written that the guys in the pick up were all as guilty as sin and fit for extermination from 30,000 feet.

Were they? We have no idea. We hear a great deal about the general wickedness of ISIS. They brainwash people and bamboozle them with false interpretations of the Koran. They force people to join their ranks at the point of a gun. Well, that it what we have been told, isn’t it?

In the back of that pick up there might well have been a sixteen year old kid from some flattened town in Syria. Maybe a few months ago he had got home to find that his apartment block had been floored by an airstrike care of Assad’s airforce. Buried under the pile of rubble lay everything that was precious to him: his mum and his dad and his big brother and his two kid sisters. All gone in a searing flash of high explosive. Maybe for a while he lived like some kind of human rat drinking filthy water and eating scraps whilst all the while Assad rained death from the skies. Then one day the men in black took him in and gave him a square meal and a place to have a wash. And the men in black offered him the chance of fighting back. The chance of avenging his dead family.

Sixteen years old and all alone in the world. Sixteen years old and half starved. Sixteen years old and traumatised and lonely and confused.

Should we be so surprised that he opted to join the man in black?

So they train him in both the Koran and how to strip and re-assemble an AK47. They put him with a frontline unit and one day he finds himself sitting in the back of a pick up truck on a patch of sun bleached ground.

And on that day, without him ever knowing a thing about it, the lad is sentenced to death by the Government of the United Kingdom and he is duly executed. In public.

Did any of the people in the pick up truck have any intention of coming to the UK?

We don’t know.

Did any of the people in the pick up truck harbour any dreams of taking the war to anyone in Britain?

We don’t know.

We have absolutely no idea.

But that seems not to matter as we do not consider these people as living, breathing human beings. We don’t care a damn about their back stories. We don’t care if they are male or female or young or old. We don’t want to know their names or their dates of birth or their hobbies. All we want to do is to kill them.

To execute them.

Publically.

Maybe I have missed something here, but how many terrorist crimes have actually been committed by people who have returned from the war in Syria and Iraq? I don’t think there have been any. Instead we are told that there MIGHT be crimes committed. Possibly. At a later date. Maybe. 

So we executing complete strangers in a foreign land for crimes that might possibly be committed at some future date.

I don’t know about you, but it sounds a bit flimsy to me.

There are a few facts which seem to be pretty indisputable.

Iraq is not our country.

Being a Sunni Muslim in either Iraq or Syria over the last few years has been a pretty dangerous thing to be. Presidents Assad and Malaki have both adopted the kind of policies towards their Sunni citizens as Hitler once adopted towards his Jewish citizens.

We seem to find it hard to make our minds up who are the good guys and who are the bad guys when it comes to the Shia/Sunni thing. Sunni is good and Shia is bad when it comes to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Sunni is good and Shia is bad when it comes to the Free Syrian Army and President Assad. But Sunni is bad and Shia is good when it comes to ISIS and President Assad. Except that Assad is bad as well. Because he was mates with Saddam Hussein. Who was Sunni. Who was bad.

Arghhhhhhh!!

Tell you what, let’s not think about all that. Christ. It’s enough to make the brain ache.

Let’s just assume that the guys in the pick up were bad guys. End of story. They were so very, very bad that they deserved no trial and no due process and no nothing. They were so bad that all they deserve was a public execution. With no trial. With no jury of their peers. With no jury of our peers. Because it was us who found them guilty and sentenced them to death by public execution. Good old Britain.  

Trust us on this say our leaders.

We know best.

If you Google ‘Britain Bombs Iraq’ you will easily enough find the Daily Mail’s gushing report on this particular public execution. Check out the picture. They love this kind of thing. I remember all this stuff from when we invaded the Falklands.

 
In the comments section, someone had pointed out that it cost the British taxpayer £100,000 for the required ordinance to carry out this particular public execution. Another commentator from Hastings took the opportunity to express his delight at this particular home for his taxes.

‘Excellent. Worth every penny including my tax contribution, unlike the contribution I make towards a load of left wing trouble makers in the namby pamby public sector.’

What a lovely chap! But let’s face it, we always did love a good old public hanging, didn’t we? And the Daily Mail likes to give us what we like.

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........?