The Man Who Would Be King

For a man who once claimed he would ‘hit the ground running’ Tony Blair actually proved in one respect remarkably lazy.  After all, instead of creating a party in his image from scratch, he simply latched onto ailing Labour, eviscerated it, and gave it a shiny new coat of paint.  He himself was shiny and new in 1997 – at forty-three, the youngest Prime Minister since 1812 – and with the gloss worn off Thatcherism, people were ready for the Caring Nineties.

A generation which had started adult life as technologically obsolete, jobless renters had created businesses and bought, renovated, sold and re-bought homes which were reduced to negative equity and tripled mortgage payments, impossible to pay when those businesses crashed because too many of them depended on a bubble which had burst.  It was a slow crawl out of the pit, we were all tired and disillusioned, and, with money proven to be a fickle God, it was time for a little kindness. New Age therapies were an antidote to feeling the burn, Britannia was cool, and things could only get better.

This was the horse Tony rode in on, and I suppose we can be forgiven for not realising that the object of the exercise was always the power of Tony Blair.

The problem with Tony Blair is, he doesn’t seem to understand, then is not now. He should be forced to watch the video of his arrival at Number Ten, adored by thousands – and his swift, silent departure.  Maybe then, he would understand that we know what he is about, now – but I doubt it, because his connection to reality is ever more threadbare; he’s preoccupied with his next fix, just as he was as we hailed new beginnings in 1997.

Power is a drug, and there, unbeknown to us – dangling just within reach – was the prospect of an EU presidency, power over hundreds of millions of people. To attain that, having sharpened his knife on the Labour party, Tony Blair convinced himself that the evisceration of Cool Britannia herself was surely not a step too far.

It’s normal for a Wunderkind to become a Bete Noir, but in the case of Blair, his betrayal is so shameful, his legacy so globally apocalyptic and permanent, that he has almost taken on aspects of the Anti-Christ in popular imagination.  Aside from figures of legend, or Hitler, who else is so universally loathed?

Where once his was the Midas Touch, now, whatever he lays his hand on turns to slime in the minds of those he once saw as obliging pawns, and so each time he argues, as he did last weekend, that it is imperative that we don’t leave the EU, vital that democracy is subverted, there is a sort of collective shiver, as if we all feel a draught from the crypt.

To agree with Tony Blair now is practically akin to demanding that Josef Mengele be called in to restructure the NHS.

Tony Blair represents a particular kind of corruption, of which he is somehow both source and symptom: only Blair, who called our forces to war more often than any other Prime Minister in our history, could have been made a peace envoy to the middle east he helped trigger, during a period in which a middle eastern nation which considers a public beheading as entertainment, was given the UN chair on Human Rights. That corruption is now written on his face – power and politics ages the best of people, but Blair looks like his own portrait in the attic.

We will not recover from the Blair years for generations, if ever. The gentle tolerance which informed the 1990s has stretched to snapping point. And Blair’s reach has been long: even David Cameron is rumoured to have employed him as an advisor, and George Osborne praised him as “the master.”  To see Cameron, Clegg and Miliband lined up together, was to see peas in a Blairite pod.

We don’t vote for cookie-cutter Blair-alikes now, but Tony will probably never accept that. He’s still crying for power, for the glory days when he was puppet-master to Dubya, a Forrest Gump of a president, and was adored by Americans even as he helped discredit the Republicans to the extent of paving the way for America’s own version of Tony Blair – fellow arch-Globalist and war-monger Barack Obama.

In 1913, a single square mile of Vienna was simultaneously home to Hitler, Tito, Trotsky and Stalin, whose co-existence on the world stage was devastating.

I suppose we must be grateful that the hey-days of Obama and Blair didn’t overlap quite so exactly.

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Getting Real

They say you should never go back to where you were once happy because the changes you find may rob you of your memories. But what about when you’d like to go back but can’t because your memories have become fashionable?

There’s a new trend here in the UK and it’s depriving a whole crop of children of days which used to set the standard by which future happiness could be measured.

I’m talking about white pebbles underfoot, sea so cold it turns you blue, fish-and-chips eaten shivering under a towel (sand crunching between your teeth mixed with salt and vinegar), fair-ground lights a blur as you chase your brother on the dodgem-cars, then falling asleep, candy-floss in your hair, listening to Mum and Dad talking as they sit on the bleached wooden steps of the beach-hut. Sometimes you’d even catch them kissing and everything seemed right with the world.

Gran and Grandad would turn up next morning. Gran would bring squashed sandwiches and cousins (the thin asthmatic one who peeled his own sunburn, the fat one who smelled of pie and played ‘Dutch Ovens’ in your sleeping-bag so you had to whack him with wet seaweed.) And Grandad would bring blood-chilling ghost stories to terrify you all when babysitting while Mum and Dad had an evening on their own.

I’m talking about English seaside holidays, which will always remind me of unconditional love. And they were cheap as chips.

Trouble is, as of last summer those beach-huts now cost £300 per night to rent so there will be no more poor young families building their memories there.

Partly, I blame the Remain campaign. Many of the 48% confidently declared that if we left the EU we’d need visas to cross the Channel, as if freedom to travel was in the gift of Brussels and we haven’t really been able to leave this sceptred isle without let or hindrance since about the time of the Roman invasion. In the wake of the result of June 2016, as if to prove them right, the number of Brits staying at home for their holidays is at record levels.

It could be fear of terrorism: there are now travel features listing resorts according to the likelihood of being killed by lunatics.

But I believe it’s mostly linked to Recession Chic, an awareness for instance that there are people doing imaginative things with Tiny Homes, but a failure to understand that when people renovate a rotting hulk of a caravan, or make a storage-container into a home, it’s ingenuity born of necessity, not a game. There are now well-heeled people writing blogs about how ‘real’ it is to take a day or two each month from their glossy apartment and spend it in a professionally constructed Tiny Home which is oh-so-conveniently parked in their parent’s rambling garden estate.

Result: it’s now more expensive to buy a caravan built circa 1972 which needs rebuilding from the axles up, than to get one twenty years younger, ready to roll. What’s being bought is credibility, and some will pay a small fortune for it.

A similar thing has happened with camp-sites, where the most expensive now lack facilities other than fire-pits and a cold-water tap, boasting of their “back to nature” approach. Once the province of families who liked space and couldn’t afford hotels, it’s increasingly hard to find sites which welcome children and pets.

Many even stipulate that they don’t allow tents on grass: only hard-standing for motor-homes. Couples hire a motor home, pay premium prices for loan of a chimnea, sit in regimented lines awkwardly eating burned marshmallows from twigs, scurry home before lack of a shower becomes too evident: then write about their “rustic” experience on Trip Advisor.

I even know of one couple who park up by a site where homeless people pitch tents, then post intrusive photos with comments wistfully describing how wise and philosophical the destitute are. This apparently relieves them of any necessity to sympathise. They are not into social justice: they are explorers visiting an alien tribe.

Music festivals are now gentrified: tickets are beyond reach of all but a small minority, and those attending buy expensive ‘festival wear’ – floral headbands and all, fancy dress more than self-expression. On sale are products designed to insulate the user from crowds, dirty shoes and inferior coffee; even ear-plugs to ensure a good night’s sleep – at Glastonbury, for God’s sake!

Those vendors who gleefully quadruple their prices are simply responding to a trend by making a killing. And those who awkwardly rough it naturally have every right to be poseurs, even if they secretly yearn for faux poverty to go off-trend.

But Recession Chic has shades of Marie Antoinette, dressed as a silken milkmaid at Petit Trianon, collecting eggs pre-washed by peasants – and we all know what special hatred was reserved for her. It is cultural appropriation: bored people playing at being poor, pricing the genuinely poor out of the market, then claiming to be enriched by the experience. Were the affluent to spend their holidays blacked up and conversing entirely in the form of Gangsta Rap it could hardly be more offensive.

They need to get real fast – and I don’t mean by hiring a beach-hut and a chimnea.

The Common Sense Of Kindness

A long time ago, I began an Open University degree and was allocated to do a Social Sciences foundation course. For everything, the writers claimed, there is “…a common-sense explanation and a social sciences explanation.” As the course progressed, I was flabbergasted to learn that Common Sense solutions were always to be rejected in favour of answers derived from Social Sciences.

This baffled me at the time, but now it is one explanation for society itself. While we have been worrying about who is next going to attack us with a machete, the concept of common sense has too often been wiped from the mind-tanks of those who run what should be our caring services.

Something else which has too often been side-lined is kindness. Considering that with high levels of common sense and kindness, a society can’t go wrong, this is a tragedy.

In a caring society – the sort which the middle-classes rave about discovering when they wander off the beaten track in Mediterranean countries, for example – love and duty between young and old is a way of life. This isn’t just endearing – it provides hands-on care without depleting the state. It’s common sense, and those seeing it warm to the kindness of it. But when they get home, those tourists resume their habitual disparagement of the elderly and package their parents off to nursing homes out of sight.

Age is experience, wisdom, roots, witness. There is no kindly motive for eradicating those things, and it makes no sense. Eradicating accrued knowledge from society is like trying to run a factory with apprentices only.

We’re unlikely to restore common sense or kindness while the establishment employs the BBC as a mouthpiece. Last week, the BBC – so dedicated to the extermination of the British working class that I wonder whether some BBC apparatchiks dream of cruising around council estates with hand-guns taking pot-shots – broadcast a documentary about the poor of such blistering cruelty that it almost broke my heart. If the target were any other section of society – a belief or ethnicity – it could not have been screened. But the target was the poor, and the poor, unprotected by notions of Hate Speech, seem the accepted scapegoat for the rage which dare not speak its name. Panorama – The Benefits Cap: is it working? was little more than a crude hatchet job on people reduced from working class to sub-class.

The children the poor produce didn’t ask to be born, and must be fed, housed and clothed, which is apparently an affront to precisely the kind of people most likely to squeal in horror at the idea of Third World parents being given condoms and contraceptive implants.

In truth, there are not many jobs for unskilled people in the UK. Work which once created dignity and stability is often first advertised in EU countries where unemployment is at atrocious levels. This is both unkind to Brits and nonsensical. People who get a kick out of being served coffee or waited on by desperate foreign graduates have no right to complain when people who should be doing those jobs draw benefits.

Of those in the BBC hate-fest, a single mother of seven children was targeted for particular hatred. With benefits caps now applying, a poor person is effectively only allowed to keep two children. The rest are taken into ‘care’, which almost routinely enables abuse, and is more expensive than allowing a mother to bring up her own children. Removing them is senseless cruelty – merely a punishment for being poor, along the lines of the workhouse.

In the programme, this woman was told to choose which of her children she would keep or discard.

Ever watched ‘Sophie’s Choice’, the devastating film about the woman forced by an SS death-camp guard to choose between her children? Well, life has now imitated art in town halls across the UK.

95% of women arraigned for witch-craft during the 17th century were single mothers. The 17th century puritans who (like the current crop) were obsessed with sin in thought, word and deed, ended the centuries-old support of parish poor because the poor must have led imprudent lives and deserved to be fair game for a baying mob.

Centuries on, the single mother triggered a Twitter mob, largely comprised of childless men and ‘kept’ women, none appearing to realise that nurturing a new generation for peanuts is a more essential contribution to society than most of them are making. Many are personally diminished by giving their frenzied assent to cruelty.

We are living through a time when the lunatics seem too often to be running the asylum. Hopefully the phase will pass soon, but meanwhile we must make sure there are as few casualties as possible.

For that we must push hard for a restoration of common sense and kindness, because nothing else will do, unless we are all to fly over the cuckoo’s nest.

For The Love Of Dog

The ancient Britons believed that wounds healed best if licked by a dog. Possibly it was literally true for ancient Britons because a hearty slurp of dog saliva was the closest most of them ever got to having a wash. But what is true to this day, is that the lick of a dog heals emotional wounds.  In Britain we have no ancestral memory of driving dogs away for fear of rabies, or out of bizarre religious concepts of the unclean. This pact between species is practically in our DNA.

Dogs free the blind and the deaf; seek out drugs and explosives, run side by side with soldiers, attack armed criminals, lay down their lives under hails of bullets. They rescue us from drowning and avalanche, guard our children, are our first alert on a dark night, study our moods for clues to our whims.

Dogs are not just wolves who came to dinner.  They share a lot of DNA but a wolf doesn’t give a toss about your feelings, whereas scolding a dog will reduce him to misery.  You can have the personality of Genghis Khan and the looks of a wart-hog, but to your dog you are the joy of his days, the light of his nights, the love of his life.

In his poem ‘The Power Of The Dog’ Kipling wrote:

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching, which cannot lie;
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs, or a pat on the head.

It’s true.  Dogs give the kind of love we cannot ask – must never ask – of a fellow human.

Our dog when my children were growing up, inaptly named Prudence (Prudy for short,) was a Springer Spaniel, an amiable buffoon, always available to run, towing the children in a dingy, terrified of sheep.

Prudy yearned to catch a seagull, not understanding flight.  Taking off after a gull from the Harlyn cliffs, briefly outlined against the sky with her ears horizontal, Prudy learned the difference between wings and legs, and we thought we had lost her. Luckily, Prudy survived with no worse injury than a tail which wagged in a circular motion like a helicopter propeller, because her fall was broken by someone’s picnic.  We didn’t stay to find out what the picnickers thought about being hit by a low-flying spaniel.

Even nice-but-dim dogs know things we only wonder about.  One day good-natured Prudy took a violent dislike to a man who was trying to pass us in the street; she stood between him and the children, teeth bared, snarling, terrifying, until he turned and walked away.  I discovered he was a convicted paedophile.

We say dogs are our best friend, but when their short life-span is closing, taking a whole era of our own lives, and our heart, with it, sometimes we have to be what our dog always thought us to be: God, decider of life and death.

I now have a dog called Hemingway, who will walk miles with me or sit for hours as he is now, chin on my knee, watching my fingers on the keyboard. On mornings that I wake muttering “What fresh hell is this?” Hemingway is filled with joy just at the sight of my eyes opening. When I stand up, he is so overcome, he almost turns cartwheels – reminding me that, whatever else, it is indeed a new day.

The saying goes, ‘give a dog a bad name.’ But the funny thing is, we don’t know why Anglo Saxon hund’ became Early Modern English ‘dog’. What does the name matter, after all?  And if the name of the species doesn’t matter – if a hund was still all the things it had always been, even after becoming a dog –  then how much less the name of an individual dog matters!

And yet, in Scotland, there is an 87 year old man called Bob, who is – under heinous circumstances – being evicted from his care-home along with his little black dog, and although almost 300,000 people have signed a petition to keep the pair together, according to the lady who set up the petition, they can’t find any big names to take up cudgels because the little dog’s name is Darkie.

To some fragile plants, you see, ‘darkie’ is an unspeakable pejorative, and rather than use that particular string of six letters, they would cravenly see any number of hearts broken.

To Bob, Darkie means love, pride, care, company, fun – everything, in fact; and if the pair are separated, all those things will go, along with this last era of Bob’s life, and the rest of his heart. And for Darkie, naturally, Bob is the joy of his days, the light of his nights, the love of his life, and nobody can replace him.

Too often people think of a dog – of pets – as being accessories, disposable if life-style changes, but that is to misunderstand the nature of love itself.

When I hear it said that someone should discard their best friend for convenience sake, it raises my hackles and makes me want to snap at those who are so unknowing. Because if we nibble away at something as deep-rooted as the love given by dogs, then we tear a huge chunk out of what it means to be human.

Sweet Sixteen

As soon as the General Election was called, there was a clamour from the Left for sixteen year old kids to be given a vote.
They seem not to realise that by calling for those who are still legally children to be granted the most solemn honour a democracy can bestow, they automatically brand themselves as being unfit for purpose in the eyes of adults. After all, what use in the real world are policies which only appeal to children?

A desire to side-line the mature and dominate the immature is the hallmark of every despot from Pol Pot to Hitler, of course, but in the case of British parties there is a cloying, creeping, damp-hand-on-the-knee unpleasantness – aside from political expediency – about their insistence that older children should vote simply because they don’t look markedly different from young adults: like dirty old men who excuse their fevered drooling by claiming that fourteen-year-old girls look sixteen.

However deliciously fresh and appealing all those unblemished young minds may appear to politicians, however inviting their green, sappy purity, and however powerful the urge of the corrupt, fringe politician to force his or her agenda upon them, sixteen and seventeen year olds must be kept safe from those jaded clutches as rigorously as we guard our children from being violated by other predators.

Oh, these politicians wring their hands and say the future belongs to the young and the young must therefore control it; and they say this with such carefully stage-managed passion. Their argument is nonsense: where does it end? By their reasoning, a five-year-old has more right to vote than a sixteen-year-old, a foetus more than a five-year-old. This argument is the sort of cynical attempt at manipulation which only a sixteen-year-old would fall for – which is precisely why sixteen-year-olds should be kept out of polling booths.

To be sixteen at its best has a unique, unforgettable magic.  A sixteen-year-old has only been tested in the controlled environments of home and school, and can superficially appear immensely self-assured and opinionated.  At sixteen, all things seem possible, and most things are: but there is always the fall-back of ultimate parental veto, the get-out clause of being under-age.

To name but one thing, a sixteen-year-old can fall in love, and legally have sex – but cannot legally marry without parental permission.  So, First Love, with all its soaring joy and blinding anguish, can still be filed under Nostalgia, rather than as a divorce statistic.

To be sixteen years old is to be an adult in a child’s world: you are top of the ladder, and know how to manage that world.  At home, you regard efforts at order and hygiene with condescension: you wouldn’t do things that way, and you could easily pay to have your own place – you’ve got a Saturday job, you just need to do the same stuff you do there, five times as often.

On the world stage, you know exactly what should be done, when, and in what way, and – without the benefit of humbling experience – can espouse some quite hideous or ludicrous ideas, ranging from the dangerously idiotic quasi-Communism called “Green” politics favoured by Natalie Bennett, to the desire to have everyone over the age of thirty-five euthanised and institute a dictatorship of the hormonally-challenged which would leave Artur Axman looking like a Quaker.  And so, two years pass and you become eighteen.

To be eighteen years old is to be a child in an adult world: you have served the first weeks of an apprenticeship of life, and it’s been a long while since anyone spoke more softly to you because of your tender years, or spent time in a careers office in a familiar school building, discussing ways in which you would prefer to grace the commercial world with your presence.

If you are still studying, then the practical outcomes are discussed as well as your whims. If you are working, you are the dogsbody, bottom of the food chain. At home, more and more, you are aware that displays of temperament could lead to the need to pay your own way, and the idea of doing that Saturday job day in, day out, and living in the kind of place it would finance, makes your toes curl with fear.  There’s no magic in being eighteen – there is instead a shattering of illusions which you are as yet too young to know will eventually regrow as genuine ideals.

Only then can you even begin to imagine what consequences your vote may have, and how a party’s policies may play out. Only then have you earned that hard-won right to stand as an equal of any man and woman in a polling-booth and make a mark on paper which will decide the fate of millions. Wait your turn, and see how you feel then, about that privilege being given to your immature baby brother and sister.

Welcome Princess Sparkle

Trying to avoid election news, I found myself reading about something which has been in the headlines for several months now: I mean, the possible engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

I am a convinced monarchist – not because I think they “give value for money” (I doubt it) or “work incredibly hard” (I doubt that too) – but because they are simply irreplaceable.  Every nation needs a timeless manifestation of identity and heritage, and we have the best there is.  If we didn’t have the Royal family, we’d have to make them up, as Americans do Uncle Sam, or the French, Marianne.

The Royal family – born to a position they didn’t choose as we all are, playing the hand they were dealt as best they can as we all do,  – therefore, on some levels, have more in common with we plebs than does any ego-driven megalomaniac politician who has back-stabbed, lied, and sold all four grandparents in a salivating, red-clawed climb to power.

In good times, the monarchy is a beloved mascot, and in bad times a sacrificial lamb.  But above all, the monarchy is no brief candle – it carries a tenuous thread of national identity back far beyond 1066, to long before the clear emergence of England, Wales and Scotland as nations. That identity is both constant and fluid, as best demonstrated by the monarch him/herself – because Bretwalda Athelstan, bane of the Vikings, and dainty Princess Elizabeth, dedicating her life to her country, both equally embodied Majesty to their people.

The change, and the survival, emotionally link us to our past and offer reassurance of our future – which is why it is Buckingham Palace which is the focus of national grief and rejoicing, not 10 Downing Street.

Naturally, the monarchy is always under scrutiny, but the reasons for disapproval, like the monarchy itself, morph according to our times. So, in 2017, the fact that Prince Charles and Camilla are both divorced has no bearing on Charles’ fitness to be crowned – but his typically Baby-Boomer demand that a basket of produce from Highgrove, including six types of honey, be delivered to him every single day wherever he is, certainly does.

Likewise, a previous generation would never have accepted the marriage of William and Kate. Times change, the monarchy changes.

And so, to Harry and Meghan.

Prince Harry is undoubtedly the monarchy’s current Golden Child.  He has all the charm of his mother; he has fought for his country, he supports all the right charities. However, his popularity has slipped since he – metaphorically – threw his pint at the pub wall and squared up to the country in defence of his girlfriend last year. The palace statement roundly accusing his adoring public of racism and sexism, no matter how heartfelt, should never have been issued: someone far wiser should have ‘mislaid’ it until HRH went off the boil.  But Prince Harry had a point: many of the comments against Meghan are idiotic at best, and none of them stand up to scrutiny.

She’s divorced? So is the first in line to the throne, and the trenchant, highly respected Princess Royal.

She’s three years older than her boyfriend? Good! The union of an adoring, virginal teenager with a man thirteen years her senior didn’t exactly make for marital harmony.

She’s an actress? Yes, but the word is no longer a euphemism for ‘prostitute’.  The monarchy is theatre on a grand scale, and who knows better how to keep calm and carry on than a woman who is aware she must be on set, on time, in character, regardless of her personal feelings?

She’s a social climber? Well, who else would want to marry into the Royal family? And consider her achievements: burdened with certain family members who are dead-ringers for extras in Deliverance, Meghan has carved a niche for herself as a charity ambassador, behaved with composure, and taken responsibility for her own growth.

She’s American, and therefore somehow inherently undignified? Patently untrue; instead of whining about infringements of her personal freedoms, she has quietly and gracefully given up outside interests and activities which might compromise the Firm.

In fact, looked at logically – in the spirit of 2017, rather than 1917 – she seems to be highly qualified for the role of HRH.  And wouldn’t a royal wedding brighten any general gloom and despondency? But logic has little to do with most of the ‘objections’ to this relationship – and the real reason some object to it doesn’t deserve the dignity of being specified.

We no longer have to sell our young royals into dynastic alliances and hand-picked blood-lines, so why not just enjoy the romance of the Harry and Meghan show? Because all that really matters is what any little girl will confirm: in the best fairy tales, the handsome prince and the beautiful princess fall in love and live happily ever after.

Sacrificial Lambs

By midnight on the Tuesday after the atrocity in Manchester, no doubt those who attended the vigil in Albert Square had gone home, comforted and gratified by a show of togetherness. Candles were lit, the Union flag was beamed onto public buildings across the world, and a poet read an ode to the industrial revolution.  Some Guardian journalists became misty eyed about what they called “a celebration of diversity” – seemingly forgetting the beauty and innocence destroyed, the scarring, the grief, the ending of precious lives at the hands of monsters, the theft of their immortality, the lives and careers they would have enjoyed, the children they would have carried.

Reading social media comments, I was struck by the self-congratulatory tone of many – it’s all OK now, they would have us believe, because the denial is continuing, the memes about terrorism having no religion, the posters saying “love for all” as if the repeated vigils following the countless deaths were not the result of attacks carried out exclusively by Islamists, as if loving savages who rejoice at the deaths of our children and reduce once peaceful countries to places of horror is a virtue rather than an illness.

These scenes, these sayings, have now been repeated to the point of tedium right across Europe, where our beautiful, precious children are targets for the hateful, envious, self-pitying rage of failed people who, our children are taught, are perpetual victims. The hideous spate of atrocities – from mass sexual assault, to murder – since the influx of hundreds of thousands of immigrants unwilling to integrate, is repeatedly belittled, a tiny Holocaust to be denied as apologists for Islamic terrorism so frequently deny the Holocaust of the 1930s and ’40s.

UNESCO figures show that 75% of north African refugee claimants are male, in good health, aged between 18 and 40 – the demographics of invasion, not a humanitarian crisis. We are told that men clearly in their late 20s and 30s are children because they say they are children and they must not be disputed or checked, even by examining their teeth, because to do so violates their rights – an unforgivable active choice to declare the privacy of a refugee claimant more valuable than the life of their potential victims.

We all know the score now, the familiar dance which follows each barbaric assault on our people, our culture, our peace. Before the poor, broken bodies have been removed, the machinery of denial whirs into action: the cries of fear of a backlash, the vitriol directed at those who don’t share the fantasy that a religion which has never produced a single liberal, tolerant, egalitarian democracy, is an ornament to any society, the attempts to criminalise free speech, anything rather than admit that there is a problem, the fantasy that these horrors are an act of nature to be overcome by firing up a couple of hundred tea-lights.

Who are they kidding? And who do they think they are helping? Do they care? They certainly don’t actually care about Muslims – I’ve seen them turn and rend Muslims who argue with the neutered passivity the deniers expect us all to show, as if we are simply Eloi bred to frisk in the sunshine with never a cross word, pretending that the Morlocks won’t be coming to eat us any time they like.

I see no evidence of empathy, or passion – and surely, the murder of the innocent deserves both. What the deniers become passionate about is any threat to their vision, any questioning of their denial. To maintain their stance, they will sacrifice any number of children, any amount of peace.

What’s needed now isn’t another round of candle-lighting and flags projected onto tall buildings – it’s a display of righteous public anger: not attacking people in the street or fire-bombing mosques, but a demand that our safety, our security, our right to live as we have chosen to live, is without debate the absolute priority, and we must risk offending, rejecting, removing, excluding, even endangering, anyone who might in any way threaten those things.

Soldiers are on the streets, and thus war has been declared. Our righteous anger must ensure that the enemy is acknowledged as such and dealt with accordingly, because if not, the backlash which has obsessed the deniers will become a reality – and they won’t be the ones to suffer it: no, they’ll be safely at home congratulating themselves on not being ‘haters’.

The victims of any backlash, will be those Muslims who the deniers don’t give a toss about, who quietly potter about their daily lives, without a malicious thought in their heads, trying to avoid the ‘mad dogs’ the deniers find so unaccountably appealing.

Here’s One I Made Earlier

In the wake of the slaughter of innocents in Manchester last week, a teaching pack was issued to schools to ensure that children don’t react healthily to events by developing a simple and strong moral sense that killing kids at concerts is unquestionably inexcusable.

Let murder and mayhem break out all around us, let men who broke bread with – and mourned, and still honour – killers be idolised as saviours of the meek, but let not an opportunity for warping the souls of infants be missed.

As they are already being watched intrusively for signs of belonging to any one of a Heinz 57 varieties of gender identity instead of for whether they can read and count, or just eat crayons and hit other children, this will further addle their minds: almost as much as it addles mine. I’m constantly alarmed by the worship shown for labels by those who demand that nobody should be categorised, and sickened by the ready acceptance of evil I see in those most likely to claim the moral high-ground.

And just as I was feeling most nostalgic for the days when the freedom to simply be was paramount, and men who killed children were the bad guys, another bomb-shell dropped with the announcement that John Noakes, Blue Peter presenter of the ’60s and early ’70s, had passed away at the age of eighty-three.

Those of my age will know what a loss this is – just as the loss of Space Oddity David Bowie stole our teens, the passing of John Noakes places our childhood firmly in the past, along with the values which underpinned the show.  This is a tragedy, because they were damned good values.

In the world of Blue Peter, at the time I remember it best – watched on dusky winter afternoons with a hot mug of Bovril after a cold walk home from school – it was important that the three presenters seemed to have fun and liked each other, but also gave the impression of standing no nonsense.

They were grown-ups.  I was ten years old, and I didn’t require them to pretend to be my own age. One of them wore a skirt, but she was a woman, and this was not a triumph for feminism – it’s just that Valerie Singleton was a nice, clever lady.  Nor was it necessary for Valerie to be the one who was variously fired out of a cannon, sent up tall buildings with grappling irons, or hurled into icy ravines in order to make the point that she could have done these things if she so wished – we already knew that. Anyway, those things were John’s job.

Kindness and politeness were the order of the day, as opposed to an anxious obsession with not ‘offending’ anyone – which actually bears no relation to kindness and politeness but enables bullies to rudely silence others by threat of tantrums.  Children and adults from around the world were introduced, showing their special skills and talents, and we were encouraged to admire them, without it being found  necessary to imply that home-grown talents and culture were in need of enrichment.

There were regular fund-raisers for the hungry and needy around the world, and we could be proud of ourselves for collecting bottle-tops in a good cause, rather than being taught to blame ourselves for the plight of the suffering. There were dogs and a cat who co-presented, we fretted if they were ill, laughed at John’s efforts to control the irrepressible Shep, and learned how best to look after pets, because it’s more important to love creatures who are helpless and in our care than it is to bend morality by tolerating those who don’t love them.

Giant steps for mankind were celebrated, triggering our interest in the wider world, even the world beyond our own world, with regular updates on exploration and discovery, from ice-floes to deep-space to bottomless ocean ravines. While we were taught that it was wrong to pollute, dump rubbish, or cause damage, we were taught these things from the point of view of wonder, rather than blame. We should not harm nature, but neither were we Earth’s enemy.

Splendid objects could be made from things which might otherwise end up in the rubbish-bin – toy houses, and rocket-ships, and the annual Christmas decoration.  No wire coat-hanger was sacrosanct. A box or cupboard could be found to save washed yoghurt pots and washing-up bottles; string and glitter and glue and double-sided tape could be found, and some surface covered in newspaper, and the resultant object of beauty hung proudly over the door along with the mistletoe. But this was creative fun, not self-righteous sorting of rubbish in order that waste-services can use our millions of hours of free labour in garnering raw materials for processing and profitable resale.

I’m getting way to old to say things like this with impunity, but it really was far better to be a child back then.  Word is there was more dissension going on behind the scenes than we ever knew – but that’s as it should be.  We didn’t need to know the personal lives of the adult presenters any more than we needed to know the minute details of any other grown-up.  They were supposed to set a good example, to give us something to aspire to, and show us it was the best fun to be a kind and interested person in the big wide world outside the front room where we watched John and a zoo-keeper battle an irate defecating elephant.

Thank you all so much for those days, and John, if somewhere you and Shep are bounding together in a Heaven beyond our understanding, I hope you know how much you are missed.

                                                           RIP John Noakes, 1934 – 2017

A Sharp Left

I cut up my Labour Party membership card in 1998 when it was clear that the shiny new Blair version of Labour had betrayed the interests of the voters. How conned we all were, those of us who gave Blair the power to inflict on Britain scars which may never heal.

I should have remembered: betrayal is in Labour’s DNA. The trouble is, Labour is often in the DNA of its voters.

I have a good Labour pedigree. My railwayman great-grandfather joined the party when the General Strike of 1926 called as a protest against starvation wages was broken for a lark by the Bright Young Things. A month later, he had to go cap in hand to the town hall to beg for an ambulance to take his wife to die in hospital: she had advanced stomach cancer, a horrific death to face in a tiny flat, with three children to witness it.

A smirking official told him there would be no ambulance:  railwaymen had supported the strike, so he could learn what it was not to have transport.  My great-grandmother asked my grandfather, then aged seventeen, to play for her on their old upright piano as she died, to cover the sound of the younger children weeping.  Granddad told me “That was the day I became a Socialist, so nobody would have to beg for help again.”

Later, he married my grandmother, eldest of six children – there had been fourteen, but eight died in infancy, being ‘navigator’s’ children, moving from place to place in grim conditions while their father dug railways. He died soon after returning from the trenches of France, and the family, then living in Gateshead, were left penniless – the boys sent to follow the coal carts, picking up falling coals for heating, the younger girls sent to the fish-monger at closing time to ask for fish-heads for their main meal of broth.

My grandmother, aged thirteen, her only luggage a clean pair of knickers and a Bible, was sent down to London in service, pledged to send her wages home.   She’d wanted to be a teacher, and after she died we found a poem to sacrificed ambition in her neat child’s script, tucked into the spine of the Bible: If you can’t be a tree on the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley, but be the best little shrub by the side of the rill.  Her brothers joined her in London later, as ‘hunger marchers’, and stayed – not because the streets were paved with gold, but because their boots had worn out.

For the ‘ground troops’ it wasn’t about being levelled – it was about surviving to rise. Meetings chaired by idealistic upper-class women would end with singing The Red Flag, but many realistic young ‘brothers’ sang their own version, which ended with the line ‘…the working class can kiss my arse, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last. ‘

They thought the battle was won, with the formation of the welfare state: babies wouldn’t go hungry, clever girls would study not skivvy, kids wouldn’t watch their mother die because of a pen-pusher’s spite.  They were proud of practical achievements such as the council houses built so that another generation wouldn’t wonder what happened to the promise of a land fit for heroes. Granddad was given one and I was delivered by my grandmother there, fifteen years later, and grew up thinking this was a brave new world. Only when Granddad died did we discover that being foreman brought the punishment of taxes so high that despite being frugal, there was barely enough money to bury him.

My Dad worked for his Union, but grew uneasy.  Discussions were rarely about welfare and wages – more often about the dictatorship of the proletariat. The son and grandson of soldiers, his patriotism was suspect. Twice he was ‘advised’ to find another job, because Red Mole wasn’t his choice of reading.

Strikes were called over ridiculous issues: someone had used the wrong broom, or  ‘jeopardised solidarity’ by finishing a job during tea-break. Voting was public, and before the show of hands, unknown men would file to the back of the room to silently observe proceedings and see who the ‘scabs’ were.  Dad hung on out of stubborn faith that unions were needed to avoid horrors such as a skilled copper-smith he knew who had all the fingers of his right hand sliced off in a machine without a safety guard and was dismissed with £40 ‘compensation’   – but he felt they’d lost their way.

In 1976, he called a strike at Heathrow Airport when Esso insisted only one man refuel aircraft, instead of the two needed to ensure no lethal contamination which could bring an aircraft down. He was an eloquent man, my Dad, and Esso backed down – but union radicals were angry it had been settled quickly, without chaos.

After that, Dad didn’t renew his membership, but quietly went to work, read a book in his lunch-breaks and lived for retirement. And for those who wonder, it wasn’t Thatcher who killed the unions – it was the secret ballot.

Educational Normalisation was another betrayal of early hopes. Kids who passed the Eleven Plus were filtered into ailing Comprehensives, because what Socialist could support the aspirations of bright working-class children who might become questioning individuals instead of trusting comrades whistling on their way to lectures on Marxist doctrine?

As one of those Enemies of the People I recall the following classroom exchange.
“What page are you on, Mandy?”
“Page 47, sir.”
“No, you’re on page 11, like Steven.” (Steven was a special-needs boy who ate glue and banged his head on the desk.) “Shut your book till everyone’s caught up.”
At a ‘careers interview’ I requested leaflets about going to university and was given an application form for work at a Y-Fronts factory.  The top of the hill was still off-limits.

The Labour Party is still opposed to Grammar Schools, while party Tzars like Diane Abbott privately educate their offspring.  They brand the policy of nurturing bright kids as “populist”, forgetting that the definition of Populism is ‘support for the concerns of ordinary people’.

But there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about wilful ignorance.  Corbynistas overlook the fact that, by over-taxing, they will drive out employers, investors, builders, supporters of charitable, cultural and humanitarian efforts, leaving nobody to pay for the carrots Labour dangle before people they see as donkeys, few net tax-payers to finance the NHS or the certain spiralling unemployment.

Here’s the brutal truth, Brothers and Sisters: life isn’t a Billy Bragg concert. Under a rule of law, you don’t own what doesn’t belong to you. Only those not up Shit Creek either can, or care to, offer anyone a paddle.  Why not do your utmost to join them in that enlightened position, rather than destroying them, out of spite?

Labour policies actually ensure only the mega rich survive, smothering small ambitions at birth in the name of the Common Good.  The so-called ‘garden tax,’ which affects basically any land not covered in concrete, guarantees that only those like Corbyn (born in a manor house, living off an heiress wife) aren’t ruined by tripling costs of Council Tax, food prices, manufactured goods, leisure – all of which depend on ownership of land.

This will leave hard-won little homes repossessed, to be snapped up and gentrified – perhaps by the rich Arabs who, through organisations such as Caabu, support the hard-left’s control of the media.

But all this is small-fry compared to the betrayal of literally thousands of children by Labour councils willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable to the vilest abuse – gang rape, torture, threats, being doused in petrol while other attackers flick lighters, the resulting pregnancies (to at least one child of twelve years old) abortions, disease – the little victims  accused of ‘hate crime’ for describing their attackers.

If anything exposes the contempt in which the Labour party now holds its traditional demographic, it is this. I think of Labour faithfuls like my family and I know they’d agree: to defend the party in the wake of such unspeakable evil because seventy years ago they formed the NHS is to emulate those who supported Nazis because they got the trains running on time.  Anything which reeks so foully should be buried, not voted for.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sick of being told that cuts to everything except an MP’s income must be made. I find T. May about as inspiring as a balloon animal – a woman with the air of a depressed heron, tainted by association with disingenuous Europhile Cameron.
Her decision to call an election rather than concentrate on a bold and cheering post-Brexit settlement was arrogant stupidity, gambling our security for an extra two years in office in the belief that nobody in their right mind would vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Under normal circumstances she’d have been right – but these are not normal circumstances. Our civilisation is under direct invasion, a large proportion of the population actively will our downfall, too many people are suffering like whipped dogs and dangerously in need of a saviour.  She took a gamble which better leaders have lost, and which risks unleashing chaos.

Polls show that 73% of those old enough to remember the destructiveness of pre-Thatcher Old Labour, and the horrors of the IRA campaign with which Corbyn is irredeemably associated, would never vote for him, not because we are smug and comfortable – our age-group haven’t had it so bad in living memory – but because it would be an act of national suicide.

There is a vacancy for the kind of fierce, tigerish compassion which will both defend and cherish. We know the unhinged Comrade Corbyn and his weird Junta of superannuated faux-revolutionaries is not the answer, but the young don’t share our memories. We see Catweazle – they see Merlin.

But their wizard has an agenda in which their hopeful notions of universal love will be burned like paper.  Like all hard-left he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a still-toxic relic of an ideology which should have remained in the past, along with the religious absolutism he supports, which we mistakenly thought consigned to history.

Comrade Corbyn has waited a long time for power:  he’ll hit the ground running, and in cheering for him the young know not what they do.

To ideologues we are all just useful idiots, livestock in a real-life ‘Animal Farm’. So don’t conflate “compassion” with Labour’s ideology of class and race warfare, the politics of envy designed to distract from corruption they’d prefer you not to think about.

Every party has its unique failings, and power always corrupts – but when it comes to betrayal of ideals, Labour have cornered the market.

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