Read before voting! A review of 'Convulsions, 2021-4: a Trusstercluck'
Friday, 19 July 2024 21:03

Read before voting! A review of 'Convulsions, 2021-4: a Trusstercluck'

Published in Poetry
Pre-election day, this is the perfect antidote to baby-kissing canvassers and interview soundbites. It's a searingly honest and at times uproariously funny selection of polemical and activist poems, written with style and aplomb by Swansea poet and activist Christopher Norris.
 
The book documents the (hopefully permanent) fall of the Tory party under a succession of clueless incompetents, unrivalled for their sheer arrogance, greed, mendacity and corruption. From bumbling Borris to economy-wrecking Truss, the volcano of satire, disgust and righteous indignation is supercharged by Martin Gollan's brilliantly pointed cartoons. Here's one of them....
 
leadership hustings
 
Written in rhyme and across a variety of literary forms (I particularly enjoyed the oft-neglected genre of the clerihew), this reminds me a little of the 'broadsheets' of Victorian times - politically subversive, using humour as a weapon, but deadly serious in its subject matter, which ranges from unethical treatment of asylum seekers to a gun-toting hallelujah church.
 
This is a collection which documents an important time in history and will hopefully act as a warning to future generations not to make the same mistakes. Read it before you vote!
 
Convulsions: A Trusstercluck, Poems by Chris Norris, ISBN 9781912710645, £12 from here. Here's a sample poem:
 

Another Vote for Sunak!

Me, I’m your typical swing voter –
The only thing I care about’s my car.
Just keep your hands off me and my old motor
Else you’ll find out how narky us lot are.

That Sunak, he won’t screw my daily rota.
He knows this barmy Ulez thing’s by far
The biggest issue for your cash-strapped floater –
It’s all them doomsday types whose voices jar!

If I was Rishi’s party-line promoter
I’d say ‘just get old Clarkson as your czar
For drivers’ rights – he’d push the Ulez boat a
Whole lot farther out, our all-time star!

So tell the world we don’t care one iota
How anxious for their grandkids’ lungs they are,
Those Greens – we say ‘Jump back in your Toyota
And we’ll jump back in our old bangers, ta!’

As Soon as this Pub Closes: Beer and the Election
Friday, 19 July 2024 21:03

As Soon as this Pub Closes: Beer and the Election

Published in Eating & Drinking

Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong abstainer from drink. Nevertheless, he has always shown interest in protecting pubs in his constituency, and so repaired with his campaign to the Bedford Tavern pub, in Seven Sisters Rd, North London, to watch Euro football games after canvassing. The pub was supporting his campaign.

Despite a welcome number of independent socialist and pro-Palestine candidates in the election, that is possibly the best story available related to beer and pubs. In the interests of balance, it should be noted that Liz Truss was the only candidate not to attend a 200-strong hustings in her constituency, because she was watching football in the pub.

Tsk tsk, CAMRA!

However, in the wider election campaign beer and pubs have featured in a big way.

Back in May, Rishi Sunak launched his campaign at the Vale of Glamorgan brewery in South Wales. As with much else in the Tory campaign, it was unclear what purpose this served. Sunak is not a drinker and South Wales is solidly Labour. Unfortunately in addition, and not for the first time, CAMRA allowed itself to be drawn into what was essentially a Sunak stunt. Engaging with politicians on beer and pubs is essential. Being part of their election campaign is not.

By contrast Keir Starmer is a beer drinker and referenced his local, the Good Beer Guide-listed Pineapple in Kentish Town during his own campaign. He also visited the nearby Three Locks microbrewery in Camden Town where he launched an initiative around help for small businesses which would certainly help small brewers.

Whether the policy will get past Rachel Reeves’s fiscal rules is another matter. It does however fit with CAMRA’s election platform. This called for a reduction in draught beer duty to help pubs compete with supermarket prices. The Tory Government made a very modest move in this direction. There is a call for a reduction in business rates for pubs, where they have a disproportionate impact on pubs business model.

The business rates policy was in both Labour and Tory manifestos. Labour also launched another policy (not in the manifesto) which would give local communities the right to buy pubs in their area which were shut and shuttered.

What about the workers?

This can all be seen as modestly positive, but as commentators noted it does nothing to address the very real issues of Global Big Beer and Giant PubCos. Indeed, Labour's business-friendly policies might well see them as allies, which for brewery workers, bar staff and drinkers they most certainly are not.

This leads to a focus on what were perhaps the key issues around beer and pubs in the campaign. Perhaps inevitably Nigel Farage and Brewdog featured. One of the Reform Party activists who Channel 4 have exposed as making racist, misogynistic and homophobic remarks has claimed that it was all just ‘chaps down the pub’ stuff. Not any pub I frequent, it isn’t!

Of course there is a history of the culture of middle and working-class Toryism. This culture focused on the pub, betting on sport, racism and sexism. It thrived when pubs consisted of mainly white men at the bar.

It was the kind of culture that the leaders of the first Labour Government in 1924, religious and often non drinkers deplored as something that would not help achieve social progress. They were right – but still needed the votes.

Times have changed. Pubs are struggling and most will only work if they are the hub of a local community attracting a wide cross-section of people, some of whom may not drink at all, but who come for sociable reasons, food or events.

Strangely this actually describes what many Wetherspoons are like, officially Nigel Farage’s favourite drinking spot. Tim Martin may be rather right-wing these days, but he has enough commercial sense to know that if pubs only appeal to the Clacton Reformers, they are on their way out.

In fact Martin made an election statement noting that he was not backing any party but had never been a Tory. Rather he was a Brexit supporter and aside from Boris Johnson and Farage he had also backed Labour Leave.

Brewdog’s descent continues

Tribune ran the story of an Asian worker at Brewdog Waterloo who was sacked after complaining about the presence of a large number of fans of the fascist Stephen Yaxley Lennon in the bar.

The occasion was Yaxley Lennon’s last outing into central London where he gathered far too many racists and fascists in Parliament Square.

On this occasion numbers of his fan club gathered in Brewdog Waterloo before heading to Parliament Square. Reports suggest that the police had informed Brewdog and asked them to stay open. This is quite usual for fascist gatherings. The police want them to be in one place where they can be watched.

What happened next however was not normal. A responsible employer would have informed staff due to work that day and suggested that any who would find it problematic could swap for another time. Brewdog, which refuses to recognise Unite Hospitality despite it having hundreds of members, did not act responsibly.

When an Asian worker complained and said they felt intimidated, the response of Brewdog was to proceed with discipline. Given there is no union, this is to put it mildly unlikely to have been a robust and fair process.

Brewdog is meant to be heading for an IPO-a public listing. How much more reputational damage can it sustain in its present format without some very significant change taking place?

Its AGM took place in Aberdeen on 29th June. Ahead of this, Unite raised a collective grievance on issues around workplace culture and pay to the new CEO, James Arrow. It was backed by Brewdog workers from 11 locations. Arrow has so far only responded with a general statement to all Brewdog employees.

Meanwhile in the world of global big beer, the battle for market share continues. Carlsberg Marstons has put in a bid for the soft drinks producer Britvic. So far it has been resisted. If Carlsberg are successful, it could raise their share of the UK market considerably, to 26%.

All this raises the key question of what is to be done. How about this:

1. An incoming Labour Government needs to be kept to its promises on help for small businesses and pubs, and lobbied on lower beer duty in pubs. It’s work that CAMRA and SIBA could do.

2. The impetus created by Unite on unionising bar workers needs to be supported and developed.

3. Independently owned and run pubs need the support of pubgoers, drinkers or not, and it is to be hoped that the incoming Government will stick to its word on this issue and help them to survive and thrive.

4. There needs to be a renewed focus on restraining the activities of global big beer on pub and brewery ownership. This might start to develop from action on points 1-3.

Rishi's Mission and The Charge of the Tory Brigade
Friday, 19 July 2024 21:03

Rishi's Mission and The Charge of the Tory Brigade

Published in Poetry

Image above by Martin Gollan

Rishi's Mission

by Stuart McFarlane

Rishi, your mission, should you choose to accept it,
is to win a majority at the next election.
This tape, like the Tories,
will self destruct in 5 seconds.
Your first task will be to assemble a team;
you can flick through the photographs here.
Your second task will be to hold it together
for more than a week.
Your third task will be to reflect on how
you might have have done it all differntly;
how, when and where, it all started to go wrong.
You can't blame yourself entirely,
though you are the man at the top.
True, you were a woeful performer,
wooden, inept and incompetent,
but, really, you were undone by the
spectres of Johnson and Truss;
always there at you shoulder.

 

The Charge of the Tory Brigade

With apologies to Lord Tennyson

by Stuart McFarlane

Traitors to right of him.
Traitors to left of him.
'What now?' Rishi wondered.
Just another barrage
from Suella, Farage,
and his days were numbered.

The Daily Mail, Express,
still he could not suppress-
hostile headlines thundered!
Might he just be reprieved,
like Mafeking, relieved,
or properly scundered?

His not to reason why,
His but to do and die.
Onward, Rishi, onward!
Rally the back benches-
and out of the trenches,
or ever encumbered!

Threaten deselection?
Call a snap election?
So had others blundered.
And allies he could count
on would not quite amount
to more than a hundred.

Traitors to right of him.
Traitors to left of him.
In the Lords they slumbered.
O, Rishi can't you see
your party soon will be
all utterly sundered!

All Hail The Uni Party: Democans and Republicrats
Friday, 19 July 2024 21:03

All Hail The Uni Party: Democans and Republicrats

All Hail the Uni Party: Democans and Republicrats

As the range of debate between the two parties in the U.S. shrinks, election season becomes a time of distorting the differences to make it seem there is an actual choice.

One of the greatest aids in fostering this delusion is the mainstream media, which in this election season focuses on the individual quirks, foibles, petty corruption and outlandish and outrageously regressive positions of one party while ignoring the more systemic evil and harm caused both in the U.S. and around the world by the other party.

In the last four years the party in power has brought the country to the brink of nuclear war with Russia, China and Iran, promoted and alibied away genocide, and through benign neglect fostered an ever more widening income gap amidst a deteriorating economy (except for fintech, that grouping of the finance and the digital industries) and a devastated physical and emotional infrastructure. The former now consists of broken-down railroads, bridges, and highways while the latter manifests in the Fentanyl crisis which has followed hard upon the opioid crisis.  

Broe karens

Uniparty Karens: Bobbert and Greene 

Each party has its Karens and its Alpha Males. Karens, white suburban shriekers who came to the fore in their fear of all things non-white in the moment of the Black Lives Matter protest are represented by Lauren Boebert Clinton and Marjorie Taylor Pelosi. On the one hand, Lauren Boebert Clinton is noted for being so gun crazy that her former restaurant Shooter’s Grill was located in Rifle Colorado; for her Karen moment in claiming to be afraid of a terrorist action when Palestinian representative Ilhan Omar was standing behind her on the elevator line; and for loutish antisocial behavior such as being kicked out of a performance of Beetlejuice because she was vaping.

On the other hand, Lauren Boebert Clinton is noted for proudly boasting about destroying Libya, the country with the best education and health care system in Africa; for instigating the phony Russiagate story, given credence by the Steele Dossier manufactured by a former spy and Democratic Party employee and disproved by the Special Prosecutor assigned to the case; and for her refusal to deal with the real reasons for her 2016 presidential loss: her contempt for the American working class, calling them “deplorables” and claiming that rather than acknowledging their problems she was “flying over America,” that is brazenly acknowledging that she only related to the cultural and business elites on the East and West coasts.

Broe karens2

More Karens: Clinton, Pelosi 

Marjorie Taylor Pelosi is known on the one hand for her wild QAnon outlandish and diversionary claims such as drawing attention away from the challenge posed by global warming by claiming a wildfire in California was caused by lasers “beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family”; accusing schools educating their pupils about the history of racism in the U.S. as being “racist”; accosting a survivor of the Parkland slaying, and claiming an attempt to disprove her accusations was fostered not by the Gestapo police but by what she called “the gazpacho police.”

Marjorie Taylor Pelosi on the other hand has openly used her position in the House to engage in insider trading upping her net worth by $196 million; greatly increased tensions with China on a visit to Taiwan where she was also tending to the stake in a microchip company her son has invested heavily in; and when confronted by demonstrators outside her palatial mansion on the genocide in Gaza, accused them of being Putin agents.

Broe males1

Uniparty Alpha males: Cruz, Graham 

Most prominent among the uniparty alpha males is Ted Cruz Sullivan, a widely disliked senator who a member of his own party referred to as “Lucifer in the flesh.” He is most famous for fleeing to Cancun at the time his Texas constituents, many without electricity, were facing the worst storm in their lifetime; for defending a Texas decision to renege on providing funding for healthcare for poor children and in a global continuation of the same type of policy opposing a ceasefire in Gaza to stop the starving of children.

Ted Cruz Sullivan, nickname “Jake,” who moonlights as the National Security Advisor, plays Jekyll to his alter ego’s Hyde. He claims to be for reasonable solutions while all the time fostering war in Ukraine, in Taiwan and Gaza. Sullivan helped to sabotage negotiations in Ukraine which could have  brought the war to a speedy end; fostered and promoted the U.S. military presence in the South China Sea, giving credence to the war-inducing idea of an “independent” Taiwan which neither the U.S. nor China acknowledge; and promoted Israeli-Saudi rapprochement as the solution to tensions in the Middle East, which would completely destroy Palestinian claims to end the apartheid state and which probably was the cause of the Hamas attack on October 7.

Broe males 2

More Alpha males: Blinken, Sullivan

No less an “A-type” male purveyor of uniparty loyalty is Lindsey Graham Blinken who as the stalwart senator for South Carolina last year flew off the handle, outraged that the U.S. defence budget was a measly $886 billion turning a blind eye to the amount of money that each year is bilked by contractors, amounting to $150 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan and in his home state deaf to twin sisters under his watch who defrauded the defence department of $20.5 million, including selling two 19 cent washers for $998,798.

If these dastardly deeds are done by night, his doppelganger Lindsey Graham Blinken by day plays a caring, hand-wringing head of the State Department who alibis for slaughtering Ukrainians in a war that ended almost before it started because of the overwhelming might of Russia’s industrial and human capacity to fight it; picks fights with China “alerting” the world to the danger of China’s lone military base, located in Africa in Djibouti, and concealing the nearly 800 U.S. bases around the world; and finally also claiming he is for a “humanitarian pause” and the building of a port in Gaza, a minimum six-week enterprise which will have many Gazans starving as they wait for sea access to food which is possible by land as trucks every day are lined up waiting to enter Gaza. Two sides of the same coin, Lindsey Graham Blinken plays good cop, bad cop but the operant word is cop, or global and local policeman.

Broe Victoria Nuland resize

Tom Cotton Nuland handing out coup cookies in Maidan 

Finally, there is the gender-bending Tom Cotton Nuland whose male side, the Arkansas representative now running for senator, is in favor of restricting not only illegal but also legal immigration; has accused his colleagues waging a proxy war on Russia of being “soft” on Putin, a charge which he outlined in his book Only The Strong; has attempted to thwart even minimal justice reform in the country that has the highest incarcerated population in the world; and responded to the shooting in Uvalde not by proposing legislation restricting gun use but, before he even knew what was happening as the events unfolded, instead proposing “ways to improve security at schools,” that is bringing more guns into the schools.

The female side of this gender-bending duo, Tom Cotton Nuland, aka Victoria, has attempted regime change in Russia under five presidents; actively participated in the Maidan coup which led to the civil war in Ukraine, killing over 14,000 people; and pushed NATO to enlist Ukraine which prompted the Russian invasion leading to an estimated half million casualties on both sides.

She/he attempted to destroy the Russian economy through both sanctions and stealing Russian assets in Western banks, a spectacularly unsuccessful policy with Russia now the strongest economy in Europe, by some estimates expected to grow by 3 percent this year. This failure has prompted her dismissal or as the uniparty, which never admits defeat, would have it “resignation.”

Finally, there are its geriatric amnesiacs who it calls leaders, Donald Biden and Joseph Trump. Donald Biden is the openly racist candidate who launched his political career by attacking immigrants; assassinated the Iranian general who had led the fight against ISIS and who was in Iraq to promote peace in the region; bombed Syria while having dinner with the Chinese leader; and in a country where working-class people are so poor many live in their cars, has engineered a tax cut for the wealthiest, as his sole legislative accomplishment.

Joseph Trump was recently declared unfit to stand trial for pilfering security documents because of his inability to remember whether he did or not; presided over an attack on workers and the middle class by rationalizing the raising of interest rates, making it harder for cash-strapped and already in debt Americans to borrow; and championed a “rules-based order” which in effect has translated to “we make the rules and we keep the order”; effectively ruling out the United Nations Charter, the actual rules-based order, by continually vetoing proposals calling for a ceasefire to stop the slaughter in Gaza; and by not enforcing the International Court of Justice ruling that what Israel is doing tentatively amounts to genocide, all the time claiming to be “concerned.”

Labourives and Conservatours

This is the best a fading empire can muster, and it is a fit description of where the U.S. stands as its power and that of its allies begins to disintegrate. In Britain, Keir Sunak and Rishi Starmer represent labor and conservative parties who are more focused on supporting Israel’s genocide and keeping the war in Ukraine going, a boondoggle for British defense industries, than in delivering relief to a besieged populace which is every day watching the crown jewel of the British social aid system, the National Health Service, dwindle.

mirror mirror resized

Mirror, Mirror by Martin Gollan

On the continent, France’s little Napoleon, Macron, who like his namesake wants to send French troops to Ukraine, probably to share the fate of his countrymen more than 100 years ago. To maintain power he continues his mind meld with the right-wing Republicans and is now focused on “the right to die,” an issue that sums up the preoccupation of a West that itself is “concerned” not with growth and aiding its people but with ensuring they die in dignity, while at the same time, given Macron’s “reform” of the pension programme which forces them to work two more years, ordering them to live in despair.

The uniparty’s travesty of democracy, having brought home with increasing ferocity the kind of tricks they have been perfecting for years in their banana republics, features each party needing to win to prevent the other party from indicting them, with the truth being that they are both criminally negligent and easily susceptible to judicial condemnation, be it Donald Biden’s cheating of the government and inflating his worth, or Joseph Trump’s spreading the Russiagate lie or brokering his son’s involvement in Ukraine which he has partially covered up by allying with the far right  and Nazi elements in that country to lead it to war.

The only adequate reply to the nonsense of these politicians, fostered by their brother and sister elites in the mainstream media, is Mercutio’s response to the warring Montagues and Capulets: “A plague on both your houses.” The American people, the British people and the rest of the world deserve better.

PREVENT
Friday, 19 July 2024 21:03

PREVENT

Published in Poetry

PREVENT

by Nick Moss, with cartoon above by Martin Gollan

“They promote ideologies that go against our shared values;
that encourage intolerance.”
  - PREVENT guidance

“...in recent months we’ve seen an unacceptable rise in extremist activity, which is seeking to divide our society and hijack our democratic institutions” - Downing Street press office, 11 March 2024/ The Guardian, 12 March 2024

“Britain is a patriotic, liberal, democratic society with a proud past and a bright future. We are a reasonable country and a decent people.” - PM's address on extremism, 1 March 2024

“On too many occasions recently, our streets have been hijacked by small groups……who are hostile to our values and have no respect for our democratic traditions” - PM's address on extremism, 1 March 2024

“When they tell children that the system is rigged against them or that Britain is a racist country…This is not only a lie, but a cynical attempt to crush young dreams, and turn impressionistic minds against their own society.” - PM's address on extremism, 1 March 2024

“We need to overcome the fear of being labelled Islamophobic and speak truthfully. Enough of the hand-wringing and apologies. Turning a blind eye to fanatics has got us into this terrible situation: it needs to stop.This is a crisis. And the fightback must start now, with urgency, if we are to preserve the liberties we cherish and the privileges this country affords us all. If we are to have any chance of saving our country from the mob.” - Suella Braverman, 'Islamists are Bullying Britain into Submission', The Telegraph, 22 February 2024

“He’s given our capital city away to his mates. I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan, and they’ve got control of London.” - Lee Anderson, GB News, 23 February 2024

The air is soupy and miasmatic, congested; catarrhal with fascist bombast.
We are at that point where politicians take a chance on Mosleyite posturing,
See if they can call a mob to heel and hunt,
And the arch-chameleon sheds another skin,
Adjusts his Cutler and Gross glasses,
And peddles his gentle bigotry.
McCarthy in designer frames.

Please Be Advised
Friday, 19 July 2024 21:03

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.