Our memorial service yesterday. What a poignant day.

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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..

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The SKWAWKBOX

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

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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

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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

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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