Our memorial service yesterday. What a poignant day.


The poor side of life

It was a wet, windy and cold day. The weather couldn’t have been possibly worse. I was panicking a bit that people wouldn’t come to the memorial service because of this. I was wrong. We arrived and started to organise ourselves. Within minutes people started to arrive. More and more people started to arrive. Lots of hugs and hellos were exchanged so much for the Job Centre accusing us of being aggressive.
The Rev David Grey arrived. He said hello and decided to go into the Job Centre to introduce himself and to offer any workers counselling if needed. They responded very curtly.. No we aren’t interested we have our own.. After spending a few moments inside he returned to us saying that they were quite aggressive in their tone to him. A few minutes later the police arrived, the Job Centre accused him of making them feel intimidated ……

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If you are a UKIP supporter, please eat in the corner..



Can’t resist tipping my hat – and propagating the story in the process – to the group ‘Women against UKIP‘, who created this fantastic poster, and to the CakeaDoodleDo cafe in Exeter, who put it up in their premises:

It put a smile on my face when, at least politically, there hasn’t been much to smile about. The story was picked up by the local paper, the Exeter Express and Echo and by Radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz’. You may already have seen it, but it’s worth another look.

Appallingly but unsurprisingly, this outstanding piece of humourous invention has led to threats of violence from UKIP supporters.

In a week when UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the right-wing, rich, privately-educated city banker who ludicrously styles himself as the man of the common people, saw his popularity ratings fall by a massive 14 points after saying that nursing mothers should…

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Pauline Got Promoted! #DWProud Management Psychobabble Is Turning Jobcentres Into Cults


the void

pauline-pensIf you want an example of the glassy-eyed idiots currently handed senior positions at the DWP then the twitter feed of the regional manager responsible for 149 Jobcentres in Central England is a good place to start.

When not attending tax payer funded leadership and emotional intelligence workshops, Sandra Lambert seems to spend most of her day tweeting ‘inspirational’ claptrap from her feed @CEDirector_WSD

The most disturbing thing is that she is not alone. This nonsense seems to extend across DWP management.

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#ukip Return of Alf Garnett Or If U Want Rumanian For Neighbour, Vote Labour? #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10


There was another piece of codswallop (and book promotion) from Matthew Goodwin in the Guardian on Monday 15th December.

And here is the prime piece of codswallop:

“In short, since the 1970s there has been a deep and growing divide in the values that separate who we might loosely term pro-Ukip and anti-Ukip voters.  Pro-Ukip voters are instinctively receptive to Farage’s anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-Westminster message, and comprise between 25% and 30% of the overall electorate.  These are the voters who grew up before Britain joined the EU (so they must be 57 and over at least if they voted in the 1975 referendum), before increased immigration (67 and over, if talking about post Empire Windrush) and in an era when genuinely competing ideological projects existed in politics (over 100 if we are to believe the far left).”

These voters are, I assume, the people for whom Farage speaks when he says he is ambivalent about homosexuality, but understands why older people who grew up before the EU are made uncomfortable by gay people?  There being no LGBTs, visible ethnic minorities, liberals, people on Social Security, lone parents, in fact anyone ukippers rant on about whilst on painkillers in the UK before 1975.  Time Goodwin outed Farage, surely?  We are not talking about the EU here are we?  But instead the 1960s, that decade that Tony Blair and Michael Howard both blamed for all of society’s ills back in the 2005 General Election.  I do not see Farage rolling up for a Magical Mystery Tour either, not unless Sir Cliff is driving the bus.  Back to the 1950s means a repudiation of the social advances of the 1960s.  Advances which were partly in reaction to a stifling, conformist conservative society.

I really have no idea what Goodwin is an expert in and these days I wonder if he does so himself.  In 1964, 11 years before the EU referendum, the West Midlands constituency of Smethwick was the most colour-conscious place in the country, and the scene of a Tory campaign that successfully exploited anti-immigrant sentiment.  The infamous slogan that propelled a Tory into the House of Commons was, “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”

Peter Griffiths, the successful Tory candidate refused to disown the slogan, “I would not condemn any man who said that,” he told the Times during his election campaign.  “I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.”  All sounds rather depressingly familiar, does it not?  However, it proves, once again, that Goodwin knows precious little about this country’s economic, political and social history.  He also seems confused if he thinks that the commitment of most political parties to equal opportunities for all is not, in part at least, a matter of ideology (as well as political necessity) and a sign that they are as important to someone living in Smethwick as they are to the stereotypical Islington social liberal.

ukip’s forebears were fascists in the 1930s, fought the suffragettes in the 1900s, burnt industrial machinery in the early 19th Century, persecuted Catholics (sometimes with official approval and even sanction in the two centuries after 1605), massacred 150 Jews in York on March 16th, 1190 at York …  I could go on, but the common link is an inability and/or unwillingness to accept economic, political and social change, combined with various forms of intolerance towards the other.  Moreover, these responses were and are not unique to anyone particular class.  Anti-semitism being quite common amongst the upper class in the 1930s as much as it was amongst the working class followers of Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats.  As Aneurin Bevan once observed, “Fascism is not in itself a new order of society.  It is the future refusing to be born.”

In one sense, Goodwin is right, we have been here before, because I can hear Farage today saying exactly what Griffiths said to the Times in 1964.  Moreover, Goodwin says, “In short, since the 1970s there has been a deep and growing divide in the values” of voters.  Goodwin, there always has been such a divide and there probably always will be.  Partly because, Goodwin, some of the voters, some of the time, whatever you may think, are stupid.  Bevan asked, “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power?  Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.”  Step forward, Alf Garnett, the perfect example of a working class Tory and now ukip supporter?  Alf  arrived on our television screens in 1965, but as a skilled member of the working class he got the vote in 1867, courtesy of Benjamin Disraeli.  Mr Disraeli gave Alf the vote because he was banking on the conservatism of the British working man favouring the Tory Party at election time.

ukip is wealth persuading poverty to keep it in power, because ukip has nothing to say to the left behind that would make their condition any better than it is now.  What intrigues me, Goodwin, is why you seem to think they do and whether your ignorance about the state of the modern labour market, especially the implications of deindustrialisation, is feigned or real.

“Calling out racism where racism exists is important” says Goodwin, “But over the longer term this will not get our society very far.  If it did, then Europe as a whole would not have seen a stubbornly persistent rise of radical right politics over a 30-year period.”  There was a time when it was felt calling out racism was not important, because it was stubborn and persistent.  There was a time when Paul “Foot castigated “the inability of the local (Smethwick) Labour party, corrupted as it was by anti-immigrant sentiment, to hit back in a determined and principled way” against Griffiths and what he stood for.”  It is a moot point whether he would have wholly approved of Labour’s Campaigning Against ukip document, but I think he would accept that Labour has moved on.

By the way, Goodwin, Labour is spelt with a u.  Your Tweet of yesterday referring to blue collar workers suggests you either think this is the 51st State or that (like the libertarians in ukip) that it should be.  Bevan would, though, have recognised Joe the Plumber, the archetypal blue collar worker of the 2008 Presidential Race.  The man who proved voters can be stupid when he told Obama that he, Joe, would be worse off as a result of the candidate’s proposed tax cuts (for middle class voters like Joe).  The same Joe the Plumber who feels his right to bear arms trumps the right of others to life.  Definitely a natural Labour supporter!

The question each generation has to ask itself is do you seek to narrow or bridge gaps within society or, like Farage widen and exploit them for your own political and financial ends?

For those unfamiliar with the events of 1964 in Smethwick and how they resonate in sympathy with the events of today then I think Stuart Jeffries article is a good place to start.  Incidentally, I understand that a variation of the slogan that I have read in a number of places was “… vote Liberal or Labour”.

Other interesting articles:

Looking Back at Race Relations

Peter Griffiths – Obituary (Daily Telegraph)

Peter Griffiths – Obituary (Wolverhampton Express and Star)

Neil Hamilton provides a link between then and now.  Griffiths once wrote, “Apartheid, if it could be separated from racialism, could well be an alternative to integration.”  Hamilton did his bit to try and help the apartheid regime of South Africa improve its chances of survival.  One hopes he is equally successful with ukip’s electoral chances!

Noorunissa Inayat Khan (1914 – 1944), Croix de Guerre & George Cross, who died in the fight against the Nazi persecution of the Jews … #LabourAntiSemitism


Noor Inayat KhanNoorunissa Inayat Khan (1914-1944) was one of the silent heroes of the Second World War.

When the war broke out in 1939, Noor and her brother Vilayat left for Britain to join the war effort.  Although they were Sufis and believed in non-violence, they decided that it was criminal to stand by and watch the treatment of Jews by the Nazis.

She worked as a wireless officer for the British Special Operations Executive in Paris during 1943 (she had escaped to Britain after the fall of France in 1940).  She evaded capture by the Nazis and continued to send important messages to London for far longer than expected.  She was betrayed, arrested and interrogated, but refused to give up secrets.  She was executed at Dachau in September 1944.

Born in Moscow to a Sufi teacher and an American mother, and descended from the 18th century Tipu Sultan of Mysore, Khan was educated in Paris.  She was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre and was one of only three women to receive the British George Cross for service during the Second World War.  A memorial to her in Gordon Square Gardens, London, was unveiled by the Princess Royal in 2012.

She is known in France as Madeleine of the Resistance (against Hitler’s occupation forces).  A leafy square in Surenses, where her father Hazrat Inayat Khan moved into the large house gifted by a Sufi benefactor in 1920, is named after her.  The French government has put up a plaque outside the house in her memory and every year on Bastille Day, a band plays outside Fazal Mazil, or House of Blessing.

Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

So what are we scared of:



What is the matter with everyone?

Are we all so full of apathy that unless the Trades Unions tell us to go down to London and protest against a certain cut or tax we do nothing and stay home and safely on our computers, tablets or mobiles.

What makes people go on the Trades Unions marches other than supporting the cause is it also so that you can say “I was there”. I don’t believe that this is the case for most people but a lot are like this.

Why when normal people want to arrange marches and rallies do all these people stay away and thus there is always a very low turnout at all local events.

Therefore is it now the norm that unless an event is run by the Unions no other event is worthy of participating in.

I have tried numerous times all to no avail…

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Time For A Conscience Tax, Margaret Drabble? #GE2015


“And herein lies one of the big problems with politics today: instead of discussing the issues at hand, the baying mobs on all sides are waiting in the wings for someone to say something imperfect, and they pounce, hurling insults and escalating debate into personal attacks and rudeness, and nobody is talking about hungry people or how to feed them any more.

Instead it’s all those big, bad Tories’ fault, or the church shouldn’t be commenting at all because they have a bit of gold kicking about, or it started under Labour …

And the longer we all stand on opposing sides shouting over each other, the longer the queues around the food banks get, and the longer the benefit delays, and the longer the queues at the jobcentre.”

Jack Monroe

As night follows day and a General Election approaches, the Guardian prints articles like that of Margaret Drabble in the Why I Will Not Be Voting Labour Next May Series.  The Why I Will Be Voting Liberal Democrat Series (its popularity faded somewhat after May 2010) has been discontinued in favour of the Why I Will Be Voting Green Series, this season’s political black for the ethical, middle class, liberally minded left wing voter.  God knows what these ethical floating voters will do, if the Greens support a minority Labour Government next May in preference to triggering another General Election that might give a George Osborne led Tory Party a working majority.

I expect I shall wait in vain for the Guardian to run a Why I Will Be Voting Respect or TUSC Next May Series (I tip my hat to both parties (as well as the SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and the Greens) for sharing the agony and ecstasy of electoral politics).  I mean it is one thing speaking for the working class, but quite another mingling with them, is it not?  I mean, Tarquin old love, they think £3.00 for a bowl of ironic breakfast cereal in an café down in Tower Hamlets (the new Islington for the aspiring financially challenged?) is not good value for money.  I mean, you would think they would appreciate us bringing a bit of Notting Hill glamour into their dull, little lives.  I certainly did not expect to learn that they could spell condescending and patronising.  Where?  Oh, on the wall of the artisan’s water closet.  Yes, we ‘reclaimed’ the tiles from a skip …  Harry Enfield certainly saw these guys coming!

Drabble in her piece says Labour has lost her vote because of its policy towards the private education sector.  In explaining her position, Drabble manages to get in a reference to the Bedroom Tax.  I am sure the 900,000 or so victims of the tax will applaud Drabble’s principled stance about private education as they fall further and further behind with their rent (and into debt) whilst awaiting their next invitation to attend an Employment and Support Allowance Work Capability Assessment.  Labour not forming a government next May will mean no end to the Bedroom Tax and no reduction in the misery of regularly going through WCAs.

I would like Drabble to come and meet some clients I am trying to help.  Sadly they are some of life’s losers.  What can go wrong with their lives has gone wrong.  Some people are like lightning conductors for bad luck and they are a prime example.  Their grip on sanity has recently become tenuous at best.  They have principles, Drabble, that compound their problems.  They abhor getting into debt, a very old school working class trait.  They, not you, are representative of the people to whom the Labour Party should be devoted.

They incurred some unexpected and heavy expenses recently.  They have little money and the Social has not, to date, covered the whole of the bill they incurred.  The Co-Op (bless ’em), a fine example of working class self help of days gone by, are holding off seeking the balance of the costs whilst I, working on behalf of a Labour Member of Parliament, am doing my damnedest to force my former employer, the Department for Work and Pensions, into re-opening their case.  I am not, therefore, writing high minded articles for the Guardian going on about my principles and focusing on subjects of no interest, rightly or wrongly, to the vast majority of people for whom the Labour Party was founded.  I am putting my principles into action and hopefully making a difference.

Whilst I await, probably in vain, for a positive response from Iain Duncan Smith to my employer’s enquiries (an employer for whom I work unpaid) on our clients’ behalf, I am looking into the possibility of applying for a grant from a charity.   Yes, Drabble, in 2014 the State has rolled back so far that I have been forced to take such a Dickensian step.  Any ideas my readers have as to where I may seek help with one off expenses will be most gratefully received.  I would like to try to do something to lighten my clients’ worries before Christmas.  By the way, I am rather old fashioned too, I do not like to think of people applying for help in times of need being termed claimants so I call them clients instead.

As though the unpaid bill (and other Social Security related matters) were not bad enough, my clients are now having to pay the Bedroom Tax.  They cannot afford it.  They cannot downsize.  They cannot sub let (you will pay for that asinine suggestion next May, John Hemming).  They will slide into debt.  They will suffer not just the material consequences of debt, but the shame of it too.  They too have principles, a code by which they try to live.

I am afraid to say, however, that the term scrounger sometimes crops up in my conversations with clients like these.  Were I to be fastidious, Drabble, I might drop such cases because going along with that uncharitable attitude runs counter to my principles, but my old fashioned allegiance to the public service ethos prevents me striking a pose.  I cannot stand idly by and not do something to help people in need, because I do not like how, in the depths of their misery they accuse other people of abusing the system.  Sadly some people in need sometimes belittle, mostly through ignorance and with the aid of our rabid, right wing media, the suffering and needs of others.  I think that a pious lecture on a lack of class solidarity on such occasions would be unhelpful, to say the least and, any way, I ceased to be an Angry Young Man a long time ago.  Does not stop me, though, fighting the fire lit by others.

And there are, Drabble and friends, working class Tories so the Labour Party can never expect to corner the market in the votes of that particular class and I cannot, in all conscience, decline to help them when they are in need.  How easy life would be, if only people conformed to the rose tinted stereotypes some of the middle class have of them.  Aneuran Bevan (remember him?) was a realist and knew that a portion of the working class vote against their own interests and that is my beef with lefties like you.  You are not realists; you would rather, it seems to me, have no loaf rather than be compromised by half a loaf; you have never hawked your ideas door to door; never had one of Churchill’s dispiriting five minute discussions with the average voter or had to persuade the same to elect you into office.

You belong, Drabble, to the chatterati, a sub group of the Commentariat.  Trollope’s scathing analysis of those seeking to wield power without responsibility holds true as much today as it did 150 years ago.  Mind you, he (like Robin Day) ran for Parliament as a Liberal candidate.  Why do we bemoan professional politicians, but not professional political commentators who seem to have never done anything else?  I am a little surprised that, although disadvantaged as you are by a lack of experience in comparison with Day and Trollope, a novelist of your stature seems incapable of putting yourself in the position of a candidate or party seeking election.

Your obsession with an education system that educates a tiny minority of young people, some even not United Kingdom residents; your casual dismissal of Sure Start; the fact you seem to think the Bedroom Tax generates net income for the Exchequer and your idea, that wasting valuable Parliamentary time trying to unpick the privileges of the purveyors of private education will create true equality of educational opportunity suggests you have a very poor grasp of what is concerning those worried about the state of education in the UK today.  You neatly sidestep the cost, both financial and political, of abolishing the perquisites of what are, in some cases, centuries old charitable bodies.  However, do not let me stop you using your own money to hire a crack team of lawyers to crawl over the founding charters of these charities so as to identify whether or not they have breached them.  You might well achieve the end you seek without recourse to public funds.  By the way, how do you organise your own tax affairs?  I trust it is not along the lines advocated by Myleene Klass?

Where were you, Comrade Drabble, when Gove came earlier this year for the students of East Birmingham?  When across party and across community lines the citizens of Birmingham prepared to stand by the barricades to defend our city against a plot hatched in Whitehall.  Confusingly for some, there was agreement here that there were failings in our schools and that they needed to be addressed, but not at the expense of the students.  Students who have a poor start in life that has nothing to do with Eton’s tax privileges.  It cries out to Heaven for Justice that in the second decade of the 21st Century children in this country are still disadvantaged by the colour of their skin; the class and religion into which they were born and the place where they are growing up.  East Birmingham has some of the highest levels of unemployment in the UK.  Gove failed in his duty of care towards those students.  And I, Drabble, am a Bevanite snob, if Henley or Wimbledon or Glyndebourne or Stratford or the Tate are good enough for them then they are bloody good enough for us!

You want to raise an issue with Tristram Hunt then please, on my behalf, ask him why he, a Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Education did not come to Birmingham to meet the teachers, parents and students under attack from Gove?  The well being of those young people, not your trivial concerns are where Hunt should be focusing his efforts.  The jury is still out as to whether he fully appreciates that.  Whether he will grasp the mantle of Ellen Wilkinson and Estelle Morris or be a Gove lite clone concerns me.  I am against Eton and Harrow, but I think schools like Great Barr Comprehensive (my alma mater) should be Hunt’s primary concern.

I have headlined this post with the Jack Monroe quote because she has said so much better what I wished I had said.  There is a great deal wrong with how we conduct political discourse in our country.  It is not just elected politicians who take a particular pleasure in striking a pose and thereby generating more heat than light.  It bedevilled the fight back against Gove when the liberal left and atheists used the situation in East Birmingham to support their campaign against religious schools and religion in schools.  One expects Gove not to care about working class people, but surely not holier than thou lefties?

The sort of lefties who as the result of an “emotional spasm” (copyright, Aneuran Bevan) were promoting a boycott of Israeli oranges without seemingly any thought of the impact on the Arabs who grow and pick them.  I asked one person on Twitter whether he would donate the money he saved, by not buying the oranges, to an aid charity in the hope that might offset the likely impact of the boycott on Arab workers.  He said, no.  He went on to say that he would be buying his oranges elsewhere and that given the current suffering of the workers they would be unlikely to notice a worsening in their conditions.  He hated the Israelis and getting at them through a boycott was all that mattered.  I thought making a donation to Islamic Relief was a better way of displaying solidarity with the people of Gaza than, in his case, a selfish boycott.

The right, for example ukip, has its zealots too, of course.  They speak, so some Guardianistas like to assert, for those that Labour has left behind.  Now, it may have escaped their notice, but whilst ukip only says it will oppose the Bedroom Tax in government it will definitely repeal the Agency Worker Directive.  When I pointed out to one ukipper that such an act would worsen, in particular, the working conditions of agricultural labourers he said that as the directive did not make much of an improvement then its removal would barely be noticed (except, cynical me observed, by their employers).  The Agency Worker Directive was enacted into UK law in 2010.

If Labour wins next May then the Bedroom Tax will be repealed.  However, please do not let that consideration, Drabble, stop you voting selfishly in accordance with your conscience and principles.  However, I trust that if Labour loses the General Election that you will donate, on a regular basis, some of your royalties to help people like my clients.  We could call it a Conscience Tax.  In fact, how about something on account?  I guarantee that it will be most gratefully received.  So how much may I put you down for, Mr Scr …

I find your lack of empathy with the working class, Drabble, much, much worse than that of the likes of IDS.  He knows no better, but you profess to know better.  Whilst he holds tightly to a selfish philosophy, Samuel Smiles for the 21st Century, you lay claim to the moral high ground, whilst putting preserving your principles before improving the condition of the working class.  IDS lectures the poor and gives them meagre hand outs and punches in the gut whilst you lecture those of us wanting to give them a hand up about the condition of our fingernails.  I say hand up in memory of John Smith.  Our shared values transcended class.  A hand up for those who can and support for those who cannot.  Each giving according to their means and receiving according to their needs.  I think some call it socialism.

David Lloyd George (the man who enacted the State Pension) said you may keep your principles shining bright and not get your hands on the levers of power or you may tarnish them a little, get your hands on the levers of power and do something.  He was addressing people like you, Drabble.  Years later, Bevan had to remind the usual suspects on the left that socialism was the language of priorities or it was nothing.  You may, Drabble, keep your principles shining brightly and you may think your priorities are the right ones for working class children, but spare me your sanctimony, please.

Your particular Mount Olympus really must be a very lonely place if, as you say, “I feel bereft without anyone for whom I can vote.”  No progressive party in UK politics thinks your stance is a vote winner then?  Does that not suggest that it is you, in this policy area at least, who is disappointing people with your ideas rather than the Labour Party?  Either way, my clients, Drabble, cannot afford the Bedroom Tax and neither can they afford your principles.