Meet Your New Leader
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

Meet Your New Leader

Published in Poetry

Meet Your New Leader

by Kevin Higgins, with images by Mick O'Dell

When a boy, his mother used to
prop him on the ironing board
and steam out the creases.
Since he was about five
he's been the adult in the room
coming up with solutions
the gods of the Market will like.
He arrived with a birthmark
which, under a magnifying glass,
appears to read
Head Prefect.

He'll be more efficient
than the previous occupant
at reducing the indigent
to ribcages which will act
as a necessary warning to others;
is the sort theatre aficionados
who enjoy browsing articles
about poverty on free Sundays
can imagine sitting beside
at a dinner party and being surprised,
he's actually quite familiar
with the dramas of Ibsen and being
beyond impressed to find themselves
in the presence of as icy and expensive
an intellect as this.

Rishi Sunak 2

Party Animals
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

Party Animals

Published in Poetry

Party Animals

by Paul Francis

Liz Truss is raving on the floor
as Tory members yell for more.
She beams in triumph. She’s so keen
she’ll hit the ground. What can she mean?
Full steam ahead, no ifs no buts.
Splash out the cash, but make no cuts
except for taxes on the rich.
Raise benefits? No. Life’s a bitch.
Among the pundits there’s some doubt
about how this will balance out
but Liz refers them to the man
who’s helped her draft this cunning plan.

Cue Kwasi, claiming his reward.
He’s worked out what we can afford
but check it with the OBR?
No way, he says. A step too far.
A TV star he’ll have you know;
he hit the buzzer like a pro
but still there has to come a day
when we hear what the experts say.
He holds his cards close to his chest;
he’s heard inscrutable is best.
Maybe November 23rd?
His critics say that that’s absurd.
OK. October 31st,
and let the markets do their worst.
Sadly, they’re not prepared to wait
and their unease will seal his fate.

The music’s loud, the lights are dim,
the future forecast’s looking grim
but still Liz parties to the end
and with delight she greets her friend.
“The poor”, says Coffey, plied with drink,
“are not as poor as you might think.
You want some pills to ease your cares?
Forget the doctor. I’ve got spares.”

The king’s next door. Liz took the oath
but her allegiance is to growth.
So all the governments she was in
get trashed; their work goes in the bin.
Around the world they watched, aghast
as everything unravelled, fast.
They see the carnage that ensued:
if you’ve a mortgage then you’re screwed.
Low wages now will buy you less
and as for energy – a mess.
You want to cry, you want to scream;
that press conference – was that a dream?
King Charles witnesses this farce,
the mounting debris, broken glass.
He speaks for all of us, it’s clear.
“Oh dear”, he says. “Oh dear. Oh dear.”

capitalism isnt workingSlideshow

Nine Propositions Regarding Capitalist Politics
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

Nine Propositions Regarding Capitalist Politics

Published in Poetry

Nine Propositions Regarding Capitalist Politics

by David Betteridge

For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken...
- Mark 4:25

One It is easier to win an election than to run a
government.

Two It is easier to ruin an economy
than to bother to do due diligence

Three It is easier to blame others for our crimes
than to admit any error ourselves.

Four There is no lie too big or too blatant
that a politician should refrain from uttering it.

Five It is better to pile extra burdens on the poor,
even to the point of killing them,
than to countenance losing our riches.

Six There is no disaster that may befall a nation
that does not present a good opportunity for us to make profits.
Where such an opportunity does not exist,
it falls to government to create one.

Seven There must be no end to our freedom to pursue profit,
and no end to the power that safeguards that freedom.
Where voices are raised in opposition,
we must buy them off, or rubbish them, or crush them.

Eight Life is to be seen, and lived,
as an arena for competition, not cooperation.
Blessed are the strong.

Nine Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the jungle of the Right.
What mortal mind or agency
Dares challenge our supremacy?

Blind Spot
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

Blind Spot

Published in Poetry

Blind Spot

by Paul Francis

She’s had to ditch that school job, which she loved;
some supermarket shifts will pay the bills.
She’s haunted by the story of a kid
who mimes that he is eating, every day,
taking an empty lunchbox into school.
And on the news, this big man in a suit
says he’ll be cutting taxes on the rich.

He thinks he sees it all. He can’t see her
because he’s focussed on the nods and smiles
as donors pat his back, congratulate
their protégé, and top up his champagne.
There will be turbulence, but he’ll maintain
this course. He tells them what they want to hear.
“It’s just the start. There will be more to come.”

(don’t) read all about it!
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

(don’t) read all about it!

Published in Poetry

(don’t) read all about it!

by Steve Pottinger

In all the stories from the funeral there’s one that they don’t tell:
it’s how Kwasi’s clearly off his chops or seriously unwell,
but the media stay silent, they decide this isn’t news
instead they focus our attention on the pronouns people choose.
They laud a queue to see a coffin, ignore the ones for A&E,
print photographs of foodbanks with Conservative MPs
who are smiling for the camera, and never ask them how it is
that folk can work yet not afford to eat in this wealthiest of countries.
And if we start to grumble about what lies out of our reach
they’re quick to point their lying finger at some poor sod on a beach
who’s just landed in a dinghy, say that they’re the ones to blame.
They set the poor upon the poorer, the same old sorry game
they’ve played down all the centuries, one that offers no solution,
which provides us with a scapegoat when we need some kind of revolution.
And yes, we’re desperate and angry, and we sometimes take the bait
they’re dangling in front of us. The politics of hate
can be attractive when you’re powerless, when hope’s in short supply,
when costs go up and wages don’t. When rent’s sky-high.
When the day-to-day is dismal and the future is a threat
and you could do with some distraction. And so, the trap is set
with flags and pageantry and outrage, they launch their war on woke™
and we’re conscripted in a culture war against our own folk
where we’re at each other’s throats and all of us lose,
fighting on battlegrounds we didn’t choose.
We need to do so much better than this. Bring ourselves back from the brink.
The world we want to live in is closer than we think
if we just look out for each other. Don’t buy the lies they sell.
The stories that we need to hear are the ones that they don’t tell.

Succession
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

Succession

Published in Poetry

Succession

by Edward Mackinnon

From Daddy she inherited looted jewels,
an Empire that was still just holding its own
and teaching upstart subjects like the Kikuyu
to adopt a more deferential tone
and respect her uncommon wealth and virtue

As head of state of money havens overseas
she leaves her share portfolio to her son
with all due discretion and lack of fuss
while her blustering court jester Johnson
hands over his shitshow to Elizabeth Truss.

The Day and The Hour
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

The Day and The Hour

Published in Poetry

The Day and The Hour

by David Betteridge

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One:

What distinguishes the worst of architects from the best
of bees is this: that the architects raise their structures
in imagination before they build them in reality...
- Karl Marx

Where there is no vision,
the psalmist sang,
the people perish.

Has our vision retrospective scope, we ask,
with eyes in the back of its memory's mind?
No? Then it falls short, vulnerable from behind.

Has our vision close scrutiny of things
that may not seem at first significant -
things that are routine, or in the dark,
maybe at the head of leadership,
or in our ranks, or in the corners
of our unexamined hearts:
things that can turn to danger, quick as a wink?

Experience instructs us:
before we act, think!

Has our vision a future tense, keen
to look across to tomorrow's further shore,
to envisage what might be different from today,
and how, in our journey there, we might follow
the best-considered way?

As a sculptor sees the contours of a statue
already shaping in an uncut block of stone,
or as an athlete first conceives a lift, or jump, or throw,
or run, and holds it within the grasp of mind,
cherishing it even before the act begins,
so, as a wise saw says, each last one of us must think
and feel, even in the welter of our present woes,
as if we were already citizens of a better land,
in its early days.

Two:

What if that other voice we all know so well responds by saying,
"We say no, and we are the state"?
Well we say yes – and we are the people.
- Canon Kenyon Wright

Purblind, some of us let a clown run rings
around us, unaware his circus act had allies
massed in his defence, brigade upon brigade
of adepts in the wars of both position
and manoeuvre, weaponised.

Not seeing straight, or thinking straight,
we set our sights on wrong goals,
and, forsaking loyalties
and purposes and roots, got bewildernessed
in ruinous wrong ways.

As the clown banged his tin drum,
even if we did not see the peril in its signs,
how did we not hear the horror
in its beat, its dead-march that betokened
the breaking of laws and lives,
as again and again has happened
in carnivals of evil down the years?
How did we not smell the reek
that our enemies' cruel arrogance exudes?
Why did we not sense earlier the creeping-up
and worsening of our fears?

Never as now have our enemies
so carelessly self-revealed
their empty souls and ravening greed,
their two-facedness,
their lethal recklessness in word and deed.

These hellish handcart drivers,
untroubled by any fear or shame,
these crass demolishers of culture,
these sociopaths in smart suits,
these devotees of global smash and grab,
ignorant or contemptuous of history and its gains,
these strangers to sanity and to truth,
these bringers of death,
see how they stand now: exposed as guilty,
red-handed, few options left, run out of breath.

Now's the day, and now's the hour,
Burns wrote, and sang.
Given our enemies are in disarray,
disuniting into faction fights, imperilling the safety
of the state, then we have one clear choice,
in fact it is imperative:
as one to make a stand, contesting the continuance
of their misrule, asserting our claim of right
to governance, at last, of this beleaguered land.

Three:

The most beautiful of all doubts is when the downtrodden
and despondent raise their heads
and stop believing in the strength of their oppressors...
- Bertolt Brecht

In a flash, in a flood, from memory's store,
from a remembered Bible story book,
a picture comes to mind:
Pharaoh's troops in turmoil, tossed
with their weapons and their useless chariots
by the Red Sea's power.

Like matchstick men they meet their end
as walls of water - that had parted long enough
to let Moses and his people through -
now thunder on their hostile heads.

Now's the day, and now's the hour,
for both the victorious living
and the disarmed dead.

Was this a scene that Brecht envisaged
when he wrote his poem praising doubt,
noting how "invincible armies" can be put to flight,
"headlong", while "impregnable strongholds" fall,
and ancient errors, valorised as truth,
are in the end put right.

In praising the doubt that tests decisions
"like a bad penny", Brecht dispraised the doubt
that is despair, that even under danger
asks too many questions, fearful to act,
opting out.

Divers exploring the Red Sea's bed found
shell-encrusted chariot wheels down there,
relics of an era's end and a bold new chapter's start,
when a page was turned, from foul to fair.

What relics from today's divisions
and impending shift of power will future history retrieve,
to put in picture books or heritage museums:
keys to safe deposits, maybe, and yachts,
and limousines, and other trappings
of a wasteful Few, juxtaposed with the sad remains
of a Many cast aside, like shards, in early graves
or battlefields, to be rendered back to view,
emblems of a time when a people
almost perished?

Best evidence of all will be,
growing from its early days to a mature peace,
a new-made land, negating what we now see,
living proof that where there's vision,
we, the people, flourish.

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The Fifth Horseman
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

The Fifth Horseman

Published in Poetry

The Fifth Horseman

by Christopher Norris

Fifth Horseman, that’s the job for me,
The one they sent ahead
To speed catastrophe and see
All living creatures dead.

The Bible said ‘These things shall be;
Await God’s wrath with dread’,
But my old stable-mates agree:
Let’s speed things up instead!

We’ve Earthly allies on a spree,
All looking sharp to spread
The message: help yourselves, feel free,
Let queasy qualms be shed!

It’s growing hedge-funds, that’s the key,
Not all that daily-bread
Stuff they despise, the powers-that-be,
So long as they’re well-fed.

We’ve paid the lawyer-crooks their fee,
All tucked up tight in bed
With ministers who tell them: ‘We
Have documents to shred’.

We’ve got the top politicos
All stashing cash galore
From oil tycoons and CEOs
With bank accounts offshore.

We’ve got MPs whose fortune grows
On every trading-floor
With yet more juicy deals to close
Once through the revolving door.

We’ve got the tabloid hacks we chose
To wage our covert war
On anyone who dared oppose
The might of Fracking Corp.

We’ve got a government that knows
The stuff we’re looking for,
Like making sure the money flows
To stinking-rich, not poor.

And then we’ve got what really shows
We know the Doomsday score:
Our trusty bunch who’ll hold their nose
Whatever shit’s in store.

But most importantly we’ve got
That Liz Truss well onside:
She talks green but she’s told our lot
Don’t fret – tax-breaks supplied!

She’ll slash those taxes on the dot,
Consult the Frackers’ Guide,
And tell the plebs: ‘You’re feeling hot?
Just eat your chips deep-fried’.

She’ll stop all that ‘green levy’ rot,
She’ll spread the message wide:
Keep filling the old money-pot
And stretch the wealth-divide!

She’ll give the paupers diddly-squat
Except to feel the slide
From pauperdom to their last spot
Of shade: no place to hide.

Fires, floods and famine on the trot –
That’s what our team provide,
And she’s the one to see it’s not
Apocalypse we’re denied.

No copy-book our Liz won’t blot,
No lie she won’t abide
To give Doomsday a booster-shot
And see us horsemen ride.

Please Be Advised
Tuesday, 05 March 2024 00:39

Please Be Advised

Published in Poetry

Please Be Advised

by Helen Bovaird Ryan

I’d just like to start this morning by welcoming you one and all
To this wonderful institution Our government, many thanks for making the call
to join our brigade of stalwarts, you’ve now boarded the Boris-Rishi-Liz Bus,
you’ve made the grade, you’re vetted, you’re now officially one of us.

So that’s all very lovely and charming, but I feel it would be remiss
not to give you each fair warning - this job comes with perks but also risks
It’s a place of plenty, huge opportunity but also many pitfalls
So I’d like to begin by explaining we’ve created a brand new protocol

Please open the booklets in your folders. It’s so boring I won’t read it all
But I expect you to glance at the contents, before shredding it. Your call.
A. Ensure you’ve completely covered your back
B. Never leave yourself exposed, make sure to tighten any slack
C. Don’t give a single glimpse into life at Number Ten,
you’ll soon discover its very walls listen.

So if you put those principles at the top of your new list
You’ll avoid placing the government in the path of possible risk
And of course, my dear friends, that is our ultimate goal here
to hold power ad infinitum, that’s a given, never fear.

Moving on, there’s the thorny issue of dealing with THE PRESS
And here, I think you’ll find we’ve established good redress
If you look at your handout - please turn to page 95
There’s a list of handy phrases that I’ll ask you to memorise

....THE HONEST ANSWER IS….
... AS FAR AS I’M AWARE....
....I’M VERY GLAD YOU ASKED THAT…
....IT’S JUST BECAUSE WE CARE....
....THAT’S DESPICABLE, DEPLORABLE,
UNACCEPTABLE, THAT’S WRONG....
....LET ME BEGIN BY SAYING....
....MOVING FORWARD, MOVING ON....
....WE TACKLE THE BIG ISSUES....
....THERE WAS NEVER ANY QUESTION....
....I HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF....
....IT WAS NEVER OUR INTENTION....
....LOOK AT OUR TRACK RECORD.... and so on and so forth,

you get the picture, don’t you? The press just can’t handle the truth.

The way to get the job done, is to avoid answers as above. Like I say
the press will be quite happy to defer and go away.
The key thing to remember is they’re constrained by small time-bites
So stall, fob them off with cliches. They’ll smile in polite delight.

Okay there you have it, I wish you well my friends,
there’s a party soon in room 101, I expect you to attend.
If you follow all my guidelines, let me assure each one of you
Number Ten will be your perfect home till 2052.