Rue Britannia, Land of Hopeless Tories
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

Rue Britannia, Land of Hopeless Tories

Published in Poetry

Rue Britannia, Land of Hopeless Tories

by Martin Rowson, with image above by Tom Janssen

I

Rue, Britannia!
Britannia, rue that knaves
Have for cent-u-aries
Kept us slaves!

Rue, Britannia,
You’ll always kid yourself
That Pat-riot-ism
Will trump wealth!

II

Land of hopeless Tories, Mother of the sleaze,
Whose history is gory and riddled with disease,
Wilder yet and wilder howl the Tory Press,
Regilding the dung heap of this fucking mess,
Regilding the dung heap of this fucking mess!

Rule Britannia and the shameful arrogance of right-wing class politics
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

Rule Britannia and the shameful arrogance of right-wing class politics

Published in Music

Stuart Cartland criticises the jingoistic response to the BBC's decisions about Rule Britannia. Image above: Aboriginal prisoners, Australia

If as a nation we are to be serious about addressing racism and legacies of oppression then the recent furore about the possibility of dropping Rule Britannia from the BBC's Last Night of the Proms is a very serious indication of how little change has been made and how far we have to go.

Let’s be absolutely clear here, a song that glorifies empire and the systematic subjugation of millions of people should not just be viewed as outdated and distasteful but instead as shameful. Indeed, it should be viewed much as Deutschland Über Allës is viewed within Germany, the outrageous racial connotations it implies and the shameful nationalistic context it is from.

The problem here is that those on the right have always viewed Britain and its related traditionalism as being an exception. Empire and colonialism are part of the very qualities that many conservatives and nationalists are proud and boastful of however this jingoistic facade is untenable especially as these very qualities directly include the slave trade and the annihilation of millions of subjugated peoples around the world who were in the vast majority had brown skin.

Again, Rule Britannia is not just an outdated, ill-fitting song for the twenty-first century that jingoistic nationalists and traditiono-philes might point to when imagining a sense of a mythical past of British greatness, it is a song that actually refers to slavery, this is within the context of the pioneering world slave trading nation – Great Britain! This is ‘not just a song’ a ‘bit of pomp’ or harmless, this is a cultural and political barometer. 

Of course, this has been an absolute boon to the right-wing press and the political populism of political-correctness-gone-mad. However what this does is actually uncover how the mainstream right and Tory types like Boris Johnson really feel in terms of a cultural reckoning in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, beyond any superficial tokenistic slogans and PR induced platitudes.

Indeed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly stated in response that:

it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, about our culture, and we we stopped this general fight of self-recrimination and wetness.

Of course it is easy for him to make these crass claims when it is his sense of tradition, culture and history under the spotlight – but this is partly the point. This shameful arrogance of class and racially based identity politics, situated within a history or exploitation, subjugation and a misplaced sense of glory and pride, is woefully outdated and shameful – but also deeply offensive.

It shows how much of Britain is still unwilling to fully comes to terms with the reality of empire and move away from the tired and inadequate conservative right-wing narrative of pomp and glory.

If we are to be serious in confronting social and cultural oppression in its many forms, then what better way start than confronting a sense of self-inflated nationalistic sense of arrogance and entitlement. Of course, the problem being here is that these are exactly the qualities of those who are in power in this country and those that are controlling the narrative on this very issue. Until then songs that glorify empire, subjugation and oppression will have a place in twenty-first century Britain.

A lesser evil
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

A lesser evil

Published in Fiction

13th October 2040

Dear Richard,

I know it must be weird and more than slightly disturbing to receive a ‘letter from beyond the grave’, but I trust you won’t be seriously spooked by it, not after all those years as a hospital doctor like me and some of the strange, last-minute revelations we both got to hear from time to time. I’m writing because I have something to tell you which I’ve never spoken of to anyone else although it has been on my conscience for the past twenty years and I’ve been half-minded to tell you about it many times.

The whole thing will probably come as a bit of a shocker and I leave it to you whether or not to make the story more widely known. I still feel justified in what I did and hope that you’ll agree in thinking it was for the best, everything considered. You’ve been a great friend through various thicks and thins over the years and I hope – really hope – this won’t lead you to change your opinion of me or make you wish we’d never met.

I shall lay out the facts as ‘objectively’ as I can but will need to bring in some stuff about how my mind was working at the time in question and what sorts of moral consideration came into play. You took that ‘Medical Ethics’ course with me when we qualified back in the day so maybe the moral philosophy bits won’t seem quite so dry and unappealing. Some of it did strike us both that way at the time but the topics came back to me and really helped to clarify my thoughts during the short period – just a couple of days in 2020 – that I want to talk about here. Anyway my blessings on you, friend, and I sincerely hope that being singled out for receipt of this ghostly communication won’t prove too burdensome or curse-like a privilege.   

******

They brought him in around 3 a.m. with lots of security and a flurry of medics and senior admin people, all trying to look calm and commanding on their home terrain, but constantly jostled by the bodyguards if they got too close. None of the usual signing-in stuff, the standard formalities or pleasantries. Straight off to Intensive Care it was, with me following on since that was my ward and we’d had advance notice that a ‘special patient’ was about to come in, someone with advanced symptoms and a severe lung infection.

I’d not thought any more about it – too many other cases to cope with, quite a few of them just as bad – until he actually turned up and I realised who it was. No mistaking him then, even looking like that, clearly in a very bad way, what with constantly fighting to breathe and the wild, frightened eyes of someone who’s been in denial for days but now knows it’s for real. For the rest of that night-shift I just got on with it, looked in on him twice but had more to do with the other patients. Besides, they seemed to have drafted in a small team of unfamiliar medical staff, specially trained maybe, who were always in and out of his side-room. Just as well – us regulars had our hands more than full.

This was all twenty years ago and I don’t now have any detailed memory of what happened over the next two days, or exactly what stages my thinking went through before I reached my decision. There was one conversation I do recall having in the hospital canteen during the evening after the night of his admission. It was with two friends, both nurses, one male and one female, and they were talking about a bunch of related topics – the pandemic, the NHS as it then was, the government cutbacks, their likely effect on our ability to cope with the crisis, that sort of thing.

I started off just lending half an ear and thinking more about how tired I felt, having slept very patchily during the day and not made up for several days’ cumulative deficit. What drew me in was their brief but lively discussion of where the blame lay, how ‘he’ – the guy lying upstairs in our ward with all those tubes and pipes and monitors attached, all those doctors and nurses looking after him – was one of those Tories who had hugely worsened this crisis, who’d cut public spending to the bone, privatised whole chunks of the NHS, flogged them off to their fat-cat friends, and were even then planning to cut a huge deal with US Big Pharma. Their talk stopped there, with both of them expressing their anger but not drawing conclusions, not suggesting there was anything we could do. . . . I had to go back on my rounds then but the talk had set me thinking and I needed more time to sort my thoughts out.

I’d next be working on Intensive Care the following night and one of my assignments given the shortage of staff was to check his oxygen levels, make sure his respiration wasn’t too spasmodic or effortful, and run all the usual measurements – pulse, temperature, and so forth. It was routine stuff, if anything could really be called ‘routine’ in those crazy times, but of course we were all very aware of those jumpy-looking security people and there was no pretending, management pretences aside, that he was Joe Public and to be treated on a par with everyone else.

Maybe that’s what first really got to me, the sense of how unjust it was, how monstrous, that a man like that, a creature of wealth and privilege who’d done such harm to the country and would soon very likely go on to do a whole lot more, should now have this ultra-special treatment while thousands of others fought for their lives in hospitals, homes and social conditions severely impacted by policies like his. And then I thought, or the thought came to me: what had I learnt from those few classes in medical ethics that we went through as part of our training? Is the issue quite as clear as surely it ought to be if the Hippocratic Oath has the kind of straightforward, unambiguous force it’s meant to have, according to longstanding tradition and present-day orthodoxy?

I slept intermittently the next day, waking up each time with a sense that I’d been churning things over in my sleep, coming up against the barrier of something unthinkable, and jolting awake with the urgent desire to sort myself out. I remembered enough of the medical ethics stuff to know pretty much what the big questions were and what kinds of answer they’d received from people who appeared to have a good grasp of them. There was the debate around ‘causing death and letting die’, the difference (which most people think is a real one) between actively or deliberately killing somebody and omitting to save his or her life, whether through negligence or refusal to intervene. That’s ‘most people’ in a broad sense, by the way, not ‘most philosophers’ or ‘most people who’ve done a few classes in medical ethics’. They often got into a bit of trouble when asked to justify their view but the intuition ran deep and there were arguments to support it.

I thought: would letting this man die be morally unacceptable given how much harm he has done to so many lives, not to mention how many people have died during the pandemic as a result of his incompetence, indolence, arrogance, and downright wickedness? And given the prospect of his otherwise surviving, remaining in office and inflicting future harm on even greater scale? The more I thought about it the less monstrous it seemed, the idea of (as orthodoxy would have it) betraying my medical vocation, my professional duty, and indeed the basic principles of right conduct enshrined in the Hippocratic Oath.

But then: might there not be another, more specific reason for believing that Oath to have more than one interpretation and for thinking that it could – on a longer, larger, you might say more socially responsible view – suggest a very different view of things? Again, I kept running through the arguments and counter-arguments and kept coming up against the same obstacle. On the one hand I couldn’t overcome the feeling that failure of care toward any patient – for that matter, any human individual whose well-being or very survival depended on it – must be morally as well as, in my case, professionally and legally wrong. That means a strict, no-exception understanding of the Oath and a belief that acts of omission are morally as culpable as – or fully on a par with – acts of commission whenever those acts knowingly entail or might foreseeably cause harm to another person.

On the other hand the person in question here was one whose future life, if his record to date was anything to go by, would be spent doing harm to a great many people in a great many ways, among them people placed in his own desperately needful situation but enjoying nothing like his advantages of power, wealth, and unearned social privilege. On this view the Oath could be justifiably be taken to allow for the sort of case where a medical worker in my position reviewed his choices, consulted his conscience, and decided that an act of omission – involving, say, the patient’s breathing apparatus or some other vital arrangement – was morally in order. It took me many hours of concentrated, sometimes agonised conscience-searching to work myself around from the first to the second way of thinking.

Another thing I learned from that medical ethics class was the difference between deontic and consequentialist accounts of moral responsibility. The deontic view, simply stated, is that there exist certain absolute moral imperatives, that they have to do with unconditional rights and wrongs, that they are strictly universal (hold good across all situations, cultures, or belief-systems), and that departures from them admit of no exculpatory factors, such as pleas in mitigation or extenuating circumstances. This position tends to go along with an abstractly high-minded morality and a punitive attitude in matters of legal or judicial practice. This follows from the fact that deontic ethics makes the reasoning individual and his or her conscience, motives or deliberations the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong. It leaves them without any recourse beyond that universalist tribunal, no leeway to claim ‘I did it for the greater good, even though it involved an acknowledged lesser harm and even if that harm would count as grievous on a deontic account’.

The other main approach – flatly opposed in most ways – is the consequentialist view whereby motives will (indeed must) come into it although what really matter are the consequences of an action, its outcome in terms of overall benefits to those concerned, or those whose lives would be adversely affected by the agent’s choice not having gone that way. If anything, this puts greater strain on the agent’s conscience or their effort to think through a complex situation because they can’t fall back on the routine application of pre-existing rules. But it allows them scope to steer a conscientious way around the deontic call for actions or choices that might be so rule-bound, counter-intuitive, or repugnant as to leave them feeling utterly revolted by their own ‘principled’ conduct.

This is all very heavy and not what you’d expect from me, even in a letter written, as I hate to say (such a cliché, for one thing) ‘at death’s door’. But it’s stuff we both heard about and then promptly forgot, me at least, since on the whole – in the normal run of cases – we had few choices but got on and did our jobs the best we could do and left hard cases to the guys on the ethics committee, or (more often than most people realise) to medics and relatives in an urgent huddle over some poor suffering soul. But then it all came back, that ethics stuff, when I found myself faced with a real choice and one that left behind any rule-book, moral or professional, for dealing with hard cases. I’ve said how my thinking went in that terrible time and you’ll certainly have figured out by now which way I decided. Still I’d better be a bit more explicit about it in case the choice I made might appear too quick or straightforward.

I didn’t want to fall back on the idea that omissions are less blameworthy than commissions since I took full responsibility for not performing certain of my professionally and (on the narrow view) ethical responsibilities. To pretend otherwise would be to shuffle off any burden of guilt by effectively declaring myself not fully accountable for my action and hence unfit to exercise any kind of genuine moral agency. No: my omission was a full-fledged commission and subject to no such get-out clause. Where I did part company with what many people would no doubt think my plain moral obligation was with regard to both the interpretative scope of the Hippocratic Oath and – closely related to that – the deontic versus consequentialist debate.

They are related because the Oath is mostly read, in broadly deontic terms, as addressed to the individual doctor’s or medical worker’s conscience and as bearing primarily on their obligation to the patient, likewise conceived as an individual bearer of certain strictly inalienable rights. I agree with this view in so far as it applies to persons as persons, that is, as individuals conceived quite distinct from certain roles they may play in contexts – like that of politics – where their beliefs, policies, and actions can have consequences far beyond the private-personal-individual sphere. Shifting from one perspective to the other entails some large changes of moral reckoning, among them the shift from a strongly individualist or person-centred to a longer-range, more socially responsive and collectivist view.

Along with that goes a much greater emphasis on the weighing-up of bad against good consequences, a process that has the beneficial effect of bringing us rapidly down to earth from the abstract universals of deontic precept. In simpler terms: when times are bad or perilous, as they were twenty years ago when all this happened, then it may be commendable to act on the maxim ‘do whatever serves to create the best outcome or cause least suffering to the greatest number’. This might entail an action at odds with some more specific rule, such as ‘act always in the interests of the patient and, above all, for the preservation of his or her life’. Then the consequentialist is entitled to reply ‘but that precept may be suspended or overridden if the result of its strict application is to bring about the kinds of larger-scale social or collective harm that will, very likely, follow from its being applied without reference to context or consequences. And there is another point here about the agent’s motives and the conception of justice they involve. For it is in no sense a retributivist conception, one that conceives the act as a right and proper punishment, whether exacted by the agent as self-appointed minister or carried out in their (again self-appointed) role as instrument of justice in its social or communal form. Rather, the act is performed purely for the sake of averting bad – humanly undesirable – consequences, and not out of any hankering for retribution, for payback time, or any such punitive aim.

Of course my assessment of the situation took account of the man’s character, his many amply documented vices and weaknesses, as well as his proven record of incompetence in office and the effect of an Eton-Oxford education in bolstering his native arrogance and strongly marked sociopathic traits. After all those considerations had a lot to do with the case – the strictly consequentialist case – for what had by now become something very like a fixed intention to act according to my new-found ethical lights. But, equally important, they didn’t involve any idea of his having deserved such treatment at my hands, or his having behaved in such a way that punishment of this sort is justified. Consequentialism applies more than anywhere in the context of political judgement since here we are concerned with the consequences for better or worse in a great many lives when individual politicians with great power in their hands enact policies that impinge directly on those lives.

So you can’t exclude assessments of moral character from a consequentialist reckoning but you can – and must – be absolutely clear that any practical conclusions arrived at have nothing to do with just desert, retribution, or other such punitive concepts. I won’t pretend that all this reasoning went through my mind during those incredibly stressful and often, to be honest, horribly confusing times. I’m doing a sort of rational reconstruction, arranging my thoughts so far as I recall them into something like an ordered sequence. But of one thing I’m certain: that I somehow made the journey from thinking it monstrous, that idea of mine, to thinking it not just compatible with but actually required by my ethical and professional commitments.

I know it’s the biggest of asks to send you this letter now, when I’m safely beyond worrying, and leave you stuck with the decision whether or not to make the facts public. Believe me, you’re the only person I could possibly have trusted to take it on, both on account of our shared medical background and our friendship having held up so strongly over the years. Besides, there were times after the event when we talked about related matters – politics, ethics, social justice, and of course the NHS, still there now in more than name despite all those decades of chipping away by Tories, fat cats, Branson-style carpetbaggers, assorted rippers-off and US Big Pharma.

Once or twice I almost let slip what had happened, or perhaps did let it slip when the drinks had loosened my tongue and slightly befuddled your brain. Perhaps it won’t come as such a huge surprise or shock after all. Let me say, in case you’re wondering: I do feel regret that it fell to me, at that time and in that situation, to make the choice that has since weighed heavily upon me and occasioned many moments of painful, even guilty recollection. But let me also say that when I manage to focus and think things through once again, as I did during those extraordinary days, then the regret comes apart from the guilt and my conscience arrives at the same conclusion.

Goodbye, my old friend.

 

Covid-19 and the ownership and control of the media
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

Covid-19 and the ownership and control of the media

Natalie Fenton points to the need for less concentrated ownership and more democratic control of the media, in the wake of the Covid-ap pandemic. 

The media are vital purveyors of information and interrogators of power in a pandemic where a government’s decisions translate directly into lives lost or saved. In a global health crisis, the public need, more than ever, a media that will interrogate those decisions and hold power to account.

However, the sad fact is that the pandemic has exposed much of the mainstream media as being part of the system rather than its watchdog. There have been repeated examples across different media outlets of a systematic failure to interrogate government responses. Instead, media outlets merely amplify the official statements from endless, bland press briefings.

These daily briefings churn out what we used to call propaganda but now refer to as PR. The government has explicitly sought to restrict media challenge and scrutiny by refusing to put forward ministers or representatives to go on news programmes such as Radio 4’s Today Programme. It has also barred certain journalists from asking questions at their press briefings in order to discredit critical reporting – actively seeking to punish and freeze out watchdog journalism.

BBC journalists also have to worry about possible government funding cuts. Reporting accurately on your own paymaster has always been a problem for political journalism, but particularly so when the government is all too willing to be the playground bully. So when Dominic Cummings ignored the rules of lockdown and outraged the nation, Radio 4 gave his wife a spot to explain how kind he is.

Newspapers have also played the game to their advantage. With many of them facing economic meltdown due to the collapse in advertising revenue, the News Media Association (representing most of the largest and wealthiest media organisations) lobbied government for their own bailout. The result has been government underwriting of large corporate media to the tune of £35m through advertising and paid-for content under the rubric of ‘we are all in this together’. 

The advertising looks like public health campaign material. But the paid-for content that tells the reader that the government is doing a pretty good job looks like any other article, just tagged with an additional health warning that “this advertiser content was paid for by the UK government”.

In the UK, this is particularly ironic given that the press campaigned extensively against effective (independent) regulation on the basis that it would lead to unwarranted state ‘intrusion’ into the industry. Many of them are still paying out millions of pounds settling phone hacking cases – so this £35m subsidy of taxpayers’ money is in effect contributing to phone hacking settlements.

Meanwhile, virtually none of the paid-for content is going to small independent news organisations, even though they lobbied for their fair share.  As a result many of these will struggle to survive.

Alternative models of ownership and control

Coverage of the pandemic has revealed mainstream media to be an explicit channel for government PR spin, further propelling the revolving door between major news organisations and the government. Boris Johnson worked for the Telegraph and the Times. Michael Gove was a Times journalist. George Osborne became editor of the London Evening Standard. Allegra Stratton’s recent appointment as Rushi Sunak’s director of strategic communications is a friend of Dominic Cummings, and was national editor of ITV news and political editor of Newsnight. The list goes on.

What can we do about it? The deep entanglement of media power and political power is self-serving. Government favours large corporate media because they are dominant – and they retain their dominance because the government favours them. Concentration of media ownership keeps this relationship intact. So we must legislate for more plurality of media ownership, to create a sustainable communications environment that is innovative, diverse and fully independent of vested interests (whether these are commercial or political).

We need to encourage alternative models of media ownership such as cooperatives and employee buyouts, that promote equality and financial security of journalists over profit-making and shareholder returns, and serve a far wider range of needs and more diverse set of interests.

We also need more democratic, diverse and accountable public sector broadcasting. Over the last three decades the independence of the BBC has been steadily eroded and its programme making increasingly commercialised. In recent years, its funding has been severely cut and its programming has become increasingly conservative. Public service content needs to be delivered through modern, democratised public platforms and networks and to operate autonomously of government and the market.

Without these changes, our mainstream media will remain far too complicit with elite political power to do the job they are supposed to do. And in a global health crisis, a failure to scrutinise government mismanagement could literally mean life or death for thousands of people.

This is the latest in the series of articles on the effects of the pandemic on culture, published jointly with the Morning Star.

A World Beater
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

A World Beater

Published in Poetry
 World Beating (or – Boris Johnson's Wet Dream)
 
by Martin Rowson, with image by Martin Gollan
 
I wanna be a
    World beater,
A
    World beater
A
    World Beater
A
    Woad Botha
A
    Veldt Pouter
A
    White Buddha
And a
    World beater
And though I'm just a
    Wet bleater
A   
    Warped boaster
A
    Windy Bunter
My
    Wild banter
Gonna make me a
    World beater
A
    World breeder
Whose
    Whack butter
Soaks
    Wank blotters
Gonna be a 
    World beater
A fucking
    World beater
A
    World belter
Who
    Would batter
The
    World, bladdered
And make the
    World bleed
Until the
    World's bitter
And the
    Welts blister
Cos I'm a
    World beater
A
    World Beater
A
    World Beater
A
    World beater
Who's gonna beat that sorry World red, white

    Black and blue.

 The PM's Chief Adviser Addresses His Critics
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

 The PM's Chief Adviser Addresses His Critics

Published in Poetry

The PM's Chief Adviser Addresses His Critics

by David Betteridge, with image by Martin Gollan

My eyes are dim, I cannot see.
Come wife, come child,
and drive with me!

To drive at speed on public roads
may remedy my sight.
If not, and we get mangled in a crash,
it proves my first assessment right.

I cannot see how anyone can think my judgement or my actions wrong;
but if you do, heigh ho! I do not care.
I carry on, and on, for you are weak,
and I - prepared to boldly, blindly drive,
unstoppably - am strong.

Super-spreaders
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

Super-spreaders

Published in Poetry

Super-Spreaders

by Mark Kirkbride

Contagion wants to shake your hand. Now you’re ‘it’
and you don’t even know it. When everyone else
could see it coming, the Prime Minister dismissed it.
With more time to prepare than most around the world,
he squandered it all, sleep-walking into disaster
with missed COBRA meetings, warnings disregarded,
then talk of ‘herd immunity’ and ‘losing loved ones
before their time’ as if sacrificing the sick
and vulnerable to a lottery of death
was a plan. Now the Government’s playing catch-up
to avoid a backlash as a silent wave of death
sweeps the country, taking mums, dads, husbands, grans, thousands
upon thousands more than the official figure
because if you weren’t tested you didn’t die of it.
The dead nurses, who worked 12-hour shifts, caught it
on their own time, not due to binbag PPE
after the hollowing out of the NHS.
You see, the Conservatives are super-spreaders
of lies. The problem is, they just don’t care. They read us
to see how normal human beings should react.
So take off your Brexit blinkers. COVID – the Tories
are on it, they’re all over it, it’s on them, they own it.

The Unopened University: Stay Alert, Boris!
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

The Unopened University: Stay Alert, Boris!

Published in Poetry

Overacting, or The Unopened University

by David Erdos

And so the Unopen University fails as its peri-pathetic
Lecturer garbles. Transmitting graphs and equations
That would set the mathematically untrigged into spin;

A series of mixed ratios equal R over the rate of dissent
Subdivided, before what is in blue times the yellow,
Can, to the power of shite, infect twins. Or some other

Nonsense that shows no clarity, only static,
As hints were leaked of announcements that would
Returns us all to clear air. Before a broadcast that singed

Everyone confused, watching. By a form of brute
Aping Churchill, with a delivery so emphatic
That it seemed to press once wild hair. ‘Stay Alert’,

He said. Where? And how for that matter.
Alert at home or out jogging now that apparently
We all can? But just as long as we’re related? I see.

Or rather I don’t. What’s the question? Are we to now
Jog with passports, or have our DNA stamped across us
As the Street Block Corona Bill tests for clans?

Those who can’t work at home can go to work,
But must bike there. So does that mean as I say
This that the Tour de London streets that were

Empty will now resemble that famous race
Through the Alps? Or will millions of builders
Now walk from one far away zone to another,

While at the same time keeping distance
From the clatter of traffic, and the greasing
Of wheels. I have doubts. I have proper visions

Now of the past as pennyfarthings crest above
Scooters. I see pony traps, horse and carriage
Crammed across Kilburn High Road. And on

The Uxbridge Road a relay from Hillingdon
Down to Acton, as frustrated plumbers
Stop and start and stop. Hope’s borrowed.

Tonight’s lecturer stunned with his lack of clarity
And false promise. It was a tease, a temptation
To make the rabbits twitch in the hutch.

Hotel owners despaired, along with restaurateurs
And pub landlords. As others had no idea
Of what happens when you have moved so far

Beyond what’s enough. Give the public what
They want is the trick, while you in fact
Give them nothing. People will not be as tidy

As you think or expect them to be. For further
Traps can be set if you encourage past
Experience as nostalgia in yet another attempt

To win over, the fact deprived who stay squeezed.
The toothpaste tube empties out, as does the piggy
Banks and the wallet. Those eager to live risk reversals

If a false start yanks their frail lead. And Scotland
Does not agree, along with Wales and Ireland.
A four nation state hung, drawn and quartered,

Along these badly sketched lines can’t be freed.
Stay Alert: More design from the slogan smeared
Cummings. Stay Alert Twats is more like it, as you

Can see the sneer as he writes, on his little
Whiteboard, or iphone, containing pictures perhaps
Of the gravestones, each empty space filled

With scribble, which is conditional, naturally.
And so the rhetoric came. And the lecture screen
Remained empty. Devoid of real information

He talked to us, liminally. Everything remained
Vague or faint despite the overarchedness
Of his acting. He was both Henry the Fluff

And a Falsestaff roaming around ruined fields.
Which he almost ‘Blaked’ or ‘Dunkirked,’

As he tried to rouse the long fallen. Who must not
Rise but keep rocking. Pass our tests to keep failing.
Numb yourselves down. That’s the deal.

Let Us Face the Future
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

Let Us Face the Future

Published in Poetry

ronavirusLet Us Face the Future

by Chris Nash

Common and apart, we stand in defiant windows,
Each in a viral, personal Grenfell, care of uk.gov,
we’re refugees like all the rest, too late we know
our land’s no longer ours, beyond the heal of love:

An invisible hand locks our lives in data series,
all the roads we assembled to the future together,
are needlessly dissolved in self-inflicted fevers
to end in malls, they commandeer as mortuaries.

The poorest she that is in England screams for relief,
ghosts of daffodils shake masked heads in disbelief:
When and how did we allow our golden western isles
to be consumed cut-price, in death’s supermarket aisle?

From the doorstep shore, oh yes, we’ll clap our NHS,
Remembering whose 21 votes stopped its progress
We will rise, raise our eyes from TV’s slumbering view,
to see from island isolation, over white cliffs, a world anew.

Author's Notes:

Let Us Face the Future was the title of the Labour Party’s visionary 1945 Election Manifesto.
‘Ghosts of daffodils’ is an echo of Wordsworth’s vision of our holy, golden islands.
The Tories voted 21 times to stop the passage of the NHS legislation. Winston ‘Boris’ Churchill said it ‘was the first step to turn Britain into a National Socialist economy’.
‘The poorest she that is in England’ is an echo of the famous words of Thomas Rainsborough in the Putney Debates 1647.
‘TV slumber’ is an echo of the revolutionary lines of Percy Shelley in The Masque of Anarchy 1819 - ‘Rise like lions after slumber’.

RIP - the criminal Tory lack of preparation, and mishandling of our people - more St Bodge than St George.

Indebted
Monday, 21 September 2020 11:43

Indebted

Published in Poetry

Indebted

by Sally Flint

'I owe them my life.' - Boris Johnson, thanking NHS staff.

It's early morning: no-one speaks. Not yet.
Yellow's Orthopaedics, pink Paediatrics,
purple Chemo ‒ not enough aqua for A&E,
so there's a sharing out of ICU's blues.

They've sat with the dying beyond shifts,
high-fived and hugged each other for the ventilated
dads, mums, daughters, sons, brought back.
Now, in handovers with bleary-eyed night-staff,

they dread further shortages coming.
It'll take more than a pandemic to examine
if the 'public purse', can pay those on 'the frontline'
enough to 'put food on their tables', settle their debts.

Nurses always applaud patient recoveries,
know sometimes it's a word, a touch, saves
a life. It's not about colours. They know politicians
who clapped loudly when blocking their pay rise.
Some dream of a future government unmasked.

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