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Key Posts | Anorak - Part 8

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‘Tell her we’re coming’: A firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower writes an open letter about that night

Grenfell tower

 

A firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower has written on the Facebook ‘Save the Fire Service’. It begins: “Sent to us at STUKFS, powerful and emotional story from a firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower.” STUKFS is: Save the UK Fire Service.

I’M not sure if this is something that I should vocalise or whether or not it should be shared with the world but as I sit at home thinking about the other night the Grenfell Tower I feel like people might want to know how the incident went from the point of view of a firefighter who was sent inside, while the tower burned all around us and how after years of cuts to the service I work for, how I feel about what we do and how the past few years have been for us.

I’ve always been very proud of the job my colleagues and I do week in week out as part of the fire service. At times its hard, at others not so much but the uncertainty of what might happen is always there.

We are a funny bunch, we like to laugh to play jokes on each other, sometimes we are silent and won’t tell you what we are thinking about.

We laugh off the good natured banter directed at us from outside the service and mostly manage to do the same with the insults we get as a public service, even when it’s not always easy to do so.

It is especially hard to think about those insults during times like this. When I think about all the occasions I’ve heard and seen on the news or social media where people are calling us lazy or greedy because we dared to show anger at the 1% pay rise we’ve had imposed year after year. While MPs sit in Westminster drinking and eating in a subsidised bars and restaurants while they make £100+ a hour all on the tax payers money, getting a 11% pay rise and increased pensions to go with it.

When people think we have some sort of golden plated, over generous pensions. Ignorant to the fact that we pay in over 12% of our wages into it every month. That’s £300/£400 a month, every month! That we are worse off now than we were 7 years ago.

And we weren’t well off then by any means.

Ah Yes some of you say.. but you’ve all got second jobs.

Well. Yes! Some people do work second jobs on their rest days, but this isn’t good is it!

It can’t be…

Who wants to work a second job on days you should be resting and recovering or spending with loved ones.

They only do it so they can provide for their family’s.

And you know what! We will have to continue to do this extremely dangerous job until we are 60 years old! That is of course as long as they don’t sack us because the physical strains of the work took their tolls on our body’s and we can’t physically go on meeting the fitness standards any longer. Or maybe they will decide to move our pension age again, robbing hard working men an women of tens of thousands of pounds they had planned for their retirement.

Can you imagine seeing all those images from that awful night but pictured in them instead of containing lots of young fit firefighters able to recover quickly, ready to go again and again to save you, it’s full of 50-60 year old grey haired firefighters pushing their worn and broken body’s that have suffered through 40 years of service through the strains of the job to breaking point.

If you can you can imagine it that night might of been very very different.

I can’t help but think “if only those people really knew!” if only those people who make those decisions, those people who think we are money wasted because there are the days we have no shouts to attend. The days we might just be at the station or when we are going out to put up smoke alarms for people or familiarise ourselves with the local risks or talk to kids at local schools.

If only those people could experienced the things we’ve seen and done on the days that aren’t that easy. So they can see first hand what we do to deal with these horrific incidents.
Not just turn up after it’s all done to have their photos taken with us giving out hollow praise so they look good in the news as they continue to cut our funding and working conditions.

So with all that in my mind and hopefully now in yours I though I’d write my personal experience of what I faced at Grenfell Tower.

Somethings I will miss out as they don’t need to be said, some I can’t say, other things I will simplify so hopefully everyone can understand them, I’m not looking for praise I just want to let you know we did all we could.
————

As always we were woken with a start, the lights came on and the automated tannoy voice started shouting our call signs. It never fails to set your heat racing. Getting dressed I looked at the clock, I’d only lay down less than a hour ago. Time to see what we’ve got this time..
Down the pole to the trucks and it’s here I’m handed the call slip make pumps plenty.. what! No..
That’s a big incident.
Wait…. I don’t know where this is.. it’s not on our ground.
We have to look it up and then we’re out the doors.

We arrived about 0120hrs but due to the way cars are parked in the streets and the fire engines that are arriving with us we couldn’t get closer than 4-5 streets away from the building. Other trucks were closer they would be setting up water ready for us.

We could see this was a bad one immediately. The sky was glowing. Leaving our truck we started quickly towards it. Picking up pace we are carrying our BA sets on our back, while making our way we are trying to read the conditions in front of us, trying to take in as much information as we could. How big is the tower, where is the fire, where is the fire going next, how’s it behaving, how many flats are internally affected, how many people are in there?

We mustered outside the entrance. Parts of the building we already starting to fall down on to the surrounding area.
As we entered the building the fire on the outside was raging from the top to the bottom.
Walking up to the bridgehead on the 3rd floor we were told to look at a floor plan that had been hastily drawn on a wall.
We stood looking at it waiting at entry control to be given instructions my BA partner and I stood waiting with other firefighters waiting to see what information there was available. Then we received our brief… 23rd floor people stuck in their flat go!
23rd floor? I repeat back.. giving the flat number I received to the Watch manager.
She confirms. I turned at told my BA as the reality of how high we are going to try and go on a single cylinder of air.

Weighed down carrying 30kg+ of equipment not including our firekit and breathing apparatus (BA) we passed through entry control handing in our tallies and confirming our brief.
We made our way up a crowed stairwell struggling to make progress, at times unable to pass because of the amount of people on the stairs. The stairwells were full of other BA crews bringing people down all in various states and conditions.

The smoke grew thicker with each floor we went up. No proper floor numbers on the stairwells after about the 5th floor made it hard to know where you were. Someone before us had tried to write them on the wall with chinagraph pencil but this didn’t last long. The dirty smoke was covering the walls with a film of blackness

Around the 9th floor we lost all visibility and the heat was rising. Still we continued up and up through the blackness. We reached what we believed to be the 19/20th floor but there was no way to tell. It was here where we found a couple trying to find their way out, panicking, choking, blinded by the thick toxic air.

A quick gauge check showed us that the amount of floors we’d climbed had taken its toll, we were getting low on air. There’s no way we could make it to the 23rd and back to the bridgehead.

The couple were shouting and screaming at us through the coughing, trying to tell us there were 5 more people on the floor above!

Now I had horrible decisions to make and a very short amount of time to make them.

In what I think would of been less than a minute these are all the things I had going through my head.
I will list a few of them for you.
All of which I needed to consider before making my decision:……..

•Now that we’ve stopped and lost our rhythm on the stairs would we have enough air to leave this couple and try to reach the next floor?

•Was the information we are getting from these people was correct. After all they are frantically panicking as they choke and suffer from the heat.

•If we let them carry on down the stairs alone would they or could they find their own way out?

•If we went up another floor would we actually find the 5?

•If we found them what state would they be in? Could the two of us get that many out especially one or more are unconscious?

•How would we decided who to take?

•Do we have enough air to make it back down to safety ourselves from where we are?

•Should I be considering asking my BA partner a “new mother” to risk even more than she already has…?

•Can I accept/live with the thought that saving two lives is better than taking the risk to go up and potentially saving no one?

Ahh!! Come on think…!
Am I doing enough?
Can I give more?
Am I forgetting any of my training….?

Stop….

Breath…..

Think…..

•Why haven’t we seen another crew for so long?

•Will another crew find them?

•Are we really where we think we are?

•The radios are playing up… have we missed a important message.

•Have all crews been pulled out?

•Is the structure still safe?

Come on make a decision… and make it quick these people are choking…….

Ok Ok Ok!
Dam!
Come on!! Think!!
Right… ok
Decision made!

I do a double check… ask my partner…
Is it the right decision..?
Ahhh
I’m doubting myself,
Ahhh! there’s no time for this!
Come on get on with it…

Right! Make the call!

I try to radio down to entry control.

“Alpha Control Priority!”……
No response….

“Alpha Control Priority!”
Still No response….

Where are they… what’s going on?!?

“Alpha Control Priority!”
…………………
…………………

Did they answer… it’s hard to tell.. the signal is all broken I think I can just about hear something.

“Alpha Control Priority!”

Alpha control responds…
“Go a head with priority over”

Are they talking to me I can’t hear my call sign…

Pass the message

Alpha control.. Two casualties found approx 20th floor, crew now escorting them down, request another BA team be committed to reach flat on 23rd floor. Further traffic….
5 casualties are reported apparently trying to make their way out on the floor above. Over

Alpha control “Message received”

Were they talking to me it broke up again…

Ok we really need to get out.
Let’s go!
Grab my arm.

Taking a casualty each we set off. Within two floors both of us had been pushed down one of the flight of the stairs by our casualties. They are screaming at us that they couldn’t breath.
We try to reassure them.
Stay with me!!
We are going to get you out!!.
Please stay with me!

Down and down we go… I hear a shout from behind me from my partner, the female casualty has become unconscious. My partner is now having to drag her down alone. I can’t help at this time.

Two floors later we find another crew making their way out. One of them is carrying a little girl. I hand off my casualty to the firefighter who has a free set of hands, please take him out I shout, we’ll be right behind you.
I turn to go but with that he hands me something I’d not seen initially.
Wait!
What!
Im handed a firefighters helmet!
This can’t be good!!
Why does he have this?
Where is the firefighter it belongs too!

As I turn round and go back up one turn of the stairs I see him.
He’s missing his helmet but he’s with my BA partner.
He’s got no helmet and no breathing apparatus.
Are you ok? Where’s your BA set!?

He’s given it to a casualty.. he’s coughing as he tells us, he’s delirious from the heat and smoke.

Still he tries to help carry the casualty! Helping others is still his first thought.

I shout at him.. Get down those stairs, get down to the bridgehead!
I take the casualties arms my BA partner has her legs.
We start down again.. round and round we go, hear the noise of crews working hard around us. There are still crews going up the stairs past us.

My BA pre alarm starts going this off…. this means one thing.. my air is running low.. similar noises are all around me.

Turning a corner we see a white helmet, it’s a watch manager in the stairwell we’ve reach the bridgehead.
It’s moved again. It’s now up on the 5th floor.

My partner takes the firefighter with no BA in to the 5th floor lobby to administer Oxygen.
The watch manager takes the casualties legs from her.
Walking backwards down another 5 floors and finally I’m on the ground floor but I can’t stop yet. I hand the casualty over. Then I’m off back up those stairs to the 5th floor.
Reaching entry control, now finally I can shut my set down and I take my mask off. Hoping for a deep breath of clean air…
ah nope!!
It’s not clean air in here, I suck in lung full of light ish smoke. It makes me cough and retch.
Still It’s clean enough to breath I guess. It’s better than the air higher up.

With my tally collected I find my BA partner. She’s with the firefighter we found and she’s administering him Oxygen. We’re off. We take him down and out with us.

As we get outside we are desperate for a drink of water, collapsing on the grass by the leisure centre. Someone see us and throws us some water I drink it straight down, its gone so fast it barely touches the thirst I have.
As I look up colleagues are all around us, tunics off their t-shirts soaked through with sweat, no one really able to talk.

All of us sat there looking at the building we’ve just come out of. It’s worse now! The fire is everywhere and fierce!
It’s hard to comprehend we were just in there.

We see a man in a high window trapped in his flat, we can hear the radio traffic. They know he’s there but no one can get to him… but crews are working hard trying to help him.
He’s there for a long time disappearing then coming back.

Slowly we catch our breath, we service our BA sets new oxygen cylinders on them we are ready to go again.

Recovering I go to find more water. At a cordon a woman pleads with me… crying and pushing her phone at me she says she has her friend on line.
Her and her baby are trapped on the 11th floor.
It throws me… I struggle to reply.. I look across at a police officer I point at him and tell her he will take her to the people who will take her friends information and pass it on to the crews inside.
Stay on the phone with her I say!
Tell her not to give up!
We are still coming.
We are still getting to people I promise.

No time to stop, don’t get distracted. I’ve got to get a drink and get back to it.

Time passes quickly, some people are given jobs while others have to wait to be tasked with going back inside.

Some time later I couldn’t say how long we are all grouped together waiting for news. A senior officer is telling us he knows we’ve already broken all the policy’s we have. He knows the risks we’ve taken but thats not enough we are going to have to take more! There are still a lot more people who need us.
He says he’s going ask us to do things that would normally be unimaginable. To put our lives at risk even more than we already have.
Everyone is looking round at each other listening to this officer try to motivate us into action again. He didn’t need to though
we are ready for it! This is what we train for.
Those colleagues who a little while ago were collapsed and broken from on the grass from their first entry are back up, ready, stood in full kit waiting for their orders to go in again.

Now lots of things happened during the time I was outside. Some people were rescued alive, some unfortunately weren’t. People jumped, a mother threw a baby from a floor high up, caught by a complete stranger arms just so she could get it away from the fire.

All this time hour after hour my colleagues were pushing themselves above and beyond what you’d think was humanly possible.

As the light broke and time passed we knew it had gone to make pumps 40, and that 20 relief trucks were ordered. So as the trucks with fresh crews arrived those of us that were there early on were starting to be swapped over. We were told to find our crews and go to the debrief but no one was wanting to leave each and every one willing to give more, but eventually we all had to leave the scene.

So 19 hours after starting our night shift the members of Red Watch made it back to the Fire Station.

Time to try and rest.. in 4 hours time we will be on duty again.

We hand over the appliance to the Blue Watch. Tell them what equipment we known to be missing.

I swapped out my dirty fire gear so I’m ready for 8pm, I might as well do it while I’m still covered in sweat and dirt.

I shower, but the smell of smoke won’t go away. I wash three times and give up.

I’m beyond tired but I cant sleep.. there’s to much going on in my head.

I think I need a drink!

I go out to the local pub with colleagues. I order a shandy, I’m back on duty soon.
As we sat with our drinks we don’t really talk. Sitting in almost complete silence, each lost in thought trying to begin to process everything that’s happened. Yet we are aware of the people all around us laughing and joking with friends, enjoying their drinks in the sun. Oblivious to what we’ve seen, unaware of what we’ve been doing all night.

I’ve no appetite but I know I need to eat. We go to and get some food but it’s hard to concentrate.

We go back to the fire station, there’s no time to get home. I find a bed in the dorm room and eventually manage 45 min sleep before I wake up. Wash my face, get dressed and I’m ready to report for roll call, ready to do it all again.

———–

Now… this is only a small part of the things we saw and did on that night. Other stories will obviously come out but some won’t. Some will be kept by firefighters and the other emergency services hidden away deep down in their thoughts, never to pass in to words, never to be told to a living soul but always there, those emotional scars will forever be there.

———–

After all that I want to ask you this.

When you see emergency services workers plastered on papers or on the news being slated by the mainstream media, or sometimes missing from a story or a incident you know we would of been at, being called lazy because we are seen trying to eat or have a coffee whilst on duty and your initial thought is any level of outrage
“what! they can’t do that! I’m paying their salary!”
“They should be doing something else!”

Stop! and Think!

Take a minute to consider what that person might of already seen or done that day or what they might see or do in 5 minutes from now.

When you see big incidents like this on the news, stop… take a moment think about the thousands of incidents that are attended every year by blue light services that don’t make the mainstream media either because they don’t sell papers or give the right message for the current political agenda of a particular party.
Maybe it is because they are only small or maybe because they are not considered news worthy enough.
Maybe they do make the news its because something went wrong and then it is reported so someone can be blamed. Reported on so some MP can say pubic services are in meltdown so they can sell off part or all of that public service to one of their multimillionaire friends or a private company they are on the board of, all so they can introduce privatisation and make cuts to try and make a profit out of saving lives.

Regardless of what they do, regardless of what the job is, regardless how big or small it is. We as first responders are still going to be there, we are sill going to go out day after day helping the people who’s lives are at the lowest point imaginable. We are going to be there for you!

So If you see us out and about please show us you’re support, show us you’re thinking of us and appreciate us by giving us a smile or a wave and if at some point we ask for your support or go out on strike know it’s not because want to it’s because when we say things like cuts are dangerous we are doing it for the right reasons, because ultimately it’s you we are looking out for, it’s the people we serve that unfortunately suffer from government cuts.

Finally if you can take a few moments out of your day to really consider the sacrifices the men and women of the emergency services are willing to make to protect you, your loved ones and the local communities we serve you will see that it’s not about money or fame we do it because we genuinely care about serving you.

I’m off to see my family and friends now. I might talk to them about it if I can, but then again I might not. I’m not sure they need to know what’s in my head just yet.
Maybe once I’ve made sense of it i will.

Please take care out there people, but if you can’t don’t worry to much..
We will be there looking out for you, all day everyday!

STUKFS The truth is out there.

Posted: 20th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment


Biased BBC identifies three Palestinian murderers as victims of Israeli violence

Three-Palestinians-killed-police Israel BBC

 

When Israeli police officer Hadas Malka, 23, was stabbed to death, the BBC headlined the story: “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem.” Let’s put some other recent news event through the BBC’s news shredder.

Briton killed after deadly stabbing on Westminster Bridge – BBC

The story: British-born Khalid Masood murdered three people on Westminster Bride. He injured 50 more. He fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer.

British man killed in Manchester bomb – BBC

The story: Twenty-two people were murdered and 116 injured in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena. The dead British man is identified as Manchester-born Salman Abedi, 22. He detonated a home-made bomb as families were leaving a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

British, Moroccan and Italian among killed after deadly stabbing in London – BBC

The story: Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba screamed “This is for Allah” as they murdered eight people and injured 48 others in an attack at London Bridge.

Others noticed the BBC’s twisting of facts to paint the killers as victims.

 

Hadas Malka biased BBC

 

Here’s Hadas Malka, the woman the BBC is at pains to paint as anything but the victim.

 

Hadas Malka

 

The BBC changed the headline. It now reads: “Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem.”

 

Hadas Malka bbc

 

But the story is still easy on the murderers. It begins:

Israeli police have shot dead three Palestinians after a deadly knife attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem, in which a policewoman died.

The policeman “died”. She was not murdered or “killed” in a what the BBC might call a ‘deadly stabbing’. She just “died”. But the killers were” shot dead” by “Israeli police”. The killers were armed with guns and knives.

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 18th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


Extremists’ demands for collective guilt unite Grenfell, Manchester and London

Grenfell Tower: Get angry, stay angry. Overthrow the Government. ‘Blood, blood, blood on your hands.’
Manchester and London: Don’t get angry. Let’s love one another.

 

 

Horrific events have claimed many lives in London and Manchester. But the message being delivered to the masses is different. After the horror of fire at Grenfell Tower, the message is, as one Labour MP demands, to “get angry, stay angry”. “Burn neoliberalism, not people,” says another Labour MP. Others on the Left want to marshall the dead to overthrow the Government. “Blood, blood, blood on your hands,” comes the chant. “May must go.” There will be a march on Number 10, the protesters demanding change and promoting the narrative that only a socialist government prevents such horrors; that only the Left does compassion.

As one commentator puts it: “The protesters outside No10 seem to be using the template of the Mark Duggan affair, which preceded the 2011 London riots: ‘no justice, no peace.'”

 

 

 

Justice delayed is justice denied. We want to know what happened whilst the matter is high on the news cycle and all parties involved are compos mentis. After Hillsborough, we fear that the long march towards justice will be a limp towards no-one being to blame. The dreaded “lessons must be learnt” must not be the end game. That must not happen.

But this protest and demand for justice is being shaped by party politics. The horror at Grenfell Tower is rooted in so much bad planning, greed and neglect perpetuated by successive Governments for decades.  If you blame the Tories, then surely you must blame Labour, too, and the coalition which oversaw social housing.

As the far Left clambers over the ruins and co-opts the dead into campaigning for a Labour win at the next General Election, we should recall how different things were after Islamists attacked London and Manchester. Then it was all about love. Only the Far Right were using the dead to promote their own monocular agenda and bigotry, demanding collective blame for all Muslims. Love not anger was the watchword. “Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate,” ran the mantra delivered by media and politicians. There was no circumspection and sensible, rational debate about an ideology that kills children at a pop concert. No-one sane wants to be branded a racist or Islamophobe. But to talk openly about such things is to foment civil unrest and unleash the impressionable masses – those race-rioters-in-waiting. Better to hold up the light on your mobile phone and sway in unity.

In Manchester, officialdom and the media’s fear of public opinion drowned out a quest for the truth, the central responsibility of journalism. After Grenfell, public opinion is sacrosanct. Both responses are founded on the same matters: fear of the masses and a profound lack of leadership, “somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.” Corbyn is slippery and nuanced. May is stark and spent. Where’s the leadership?

 

The Truth.

I don’t agree with politicising the Grenfell Tower horror. Politics matters, but to divide the response along party lines limits us. The horror was eminently preventable. Political policies is at least partly to blame. But to make it all about the Tories is wrong, just as it is wrong to blame the actions of deranged mass murderers on to much freedom of speech, radicalising preachers, religion or a response to our behaviour.

Narrowing the debate applies blinkers to any inquiry and stymies a clear quest for truth. That’s not to invalidate the activism and the anger. We feel the passion, the sense of outage and hurt. Not just hashtags and candle-lit vigils for Grenfell. Fury. Protest. Noise. The people will be heard. Good.

But it wasn’t so after Manchester and the attack on Borough Market and London Bridge. When children and families were murdered at a pop concert, we were told to behave, to embrace one another and to remain passive. As another voice notes: “If the massacre of children and their parents on a fun night out doesn’t make you feel rage, nothing will. The terrorist has defeated you. You are dead already.”

We need openness to discern right from wrong. We need gritty, unflinching commitment to say what we believe in, not to have our views dampened by official decree. Making a statement is not a simple state of being. We work hard at what we want in a disciplined way. We crave integrity. But without clarity, and objectivity, our demands are shrill, bigoted and shallow.

Posted: 18th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews | Comment


After Grenfell: Kensington and Chelsea warns children to stop playing football or else

How’s that London Olympic Legacy coming along? How goes the spirit of 2012 and all that euphoria? Not well. Not well at all if you’re poor. Residents in the flats opposite Grenfell Tower recently received a warning letter from those bleeding hearts at Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Association.

Under the terms of the “Anti-Social Behaviour” clause of their tenancy agreements, the residents must stop – get this – their children playing ball. Should the budding Wayne Rooney, Andy Murray or Rachael Heyhoe Flint continue to play balls games in the area around his own home, the family will face legal action.

Just as so much of public space has been zoned into areas of (in)tolerance by successive governments, the area about these people’s homes is a no-ball zone. It’s not a public space whose purpose is shaped by the people who enjoy it; it’s a restricted zone patrolled by the public authority. Socialising is messy, you see. Football, music, talking loudly, larking about, being a berk, smoking, drinking, skateboarding, hanging out and, well, anything, is messy. Your betters will control the area and in their doing control you.

 

Grenfell tower letter ball games

Grenfell tower letter ball games

 

This letter is dated 14 June 2017 – the day after the fire. ITV says the letter was hand-delivered to residents three days after the fire.

Safety regulations are not strong enough but the full weight of law will be brought down heavily on children living their lives and having fun. No sprinkler systems in the flats: no problem. Playing football whilst young: you are a criminal.

And don’t blame the Tories for this nastiness, this branding of people living in social housing as lesser beings deserving of less rights, less autonomy and less enjoyment has been going on for decades. Labour were very keen on this sort of thing. All politicians are.

Posted: 17th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


After Grenfell: the rush to be the victims’ conscience

The horror at Grenfell Tower fire dominates the news. The fire shouldn’t happened. After fires at King’s Cross station and Bradford football ground took many lives, prevention became the watchword. A fire and building inspector told media “if there is a fire in any of these buildings, you’d expect it to be contained to an individual apartment. You wouldn’t expect it to spread in anything like the way, and certainly not in the time, that we’ve actually seen here.” But the level of prevention was inadequate.

The appalling scene at the 1974-built tower block in West London scars the mind. Volunteers are flocking to the site of the disaster. The stricken and bereaved are not echoes. We see them.

 

 

The faces of the dead pepper the front page like bullets holes. Most of us didn’t know them but, boy, can we feel the pain.

And it spreads. Already the newspapers are out of time. The present is fleeting. Twelve dead, says the Mirror’s cover. The figure is now 17. The newspapers try to report and make sense of the terrifying blaze. The Daily Mail produces a special edition with 21 pages, all led by the question “How the hell could it happen?” “Tragic. Horrific. Avoidable,” says the ‘i’ newspaper. The Sun has 18 pages of coverage, leading with “They were told it was safe”. “Warnings were ignored,” says the Guardian’s front page.

 

 

 

 

The papers’ questions can be distilled: who is to blame? Surely we should wait until we know the facts before naming and shaming any guilty parties, if there are any. If we trust the brave and heroic firefighters who race in as others run out, we must trust them to investigate fully. But in the void, many like to use the horror to score points. This should be avoided.

Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky put it well in his 1998 address to students in Michigan:

“Of all the parts of your body, be most vigilant over your index finger, for it is blame-thirsty. A pointed finger is a victim’s logo – the opposite of the V-sign and a synonym for surrender. No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet training, etc. The menu is vast and tedious, and this vastness and tedium alone should be offensive enough to set one’s intelligence against choosing from it. The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything; it could be argued even that that blame-thirsty finger oscillates as wildly as it does because the resolve was never great enough in the first place.”

But the rush to blame is contagious. The Tories did it. It’s part of their war on the poor. Labour did it. It’s their nannying, cod environmentalism, lack of home building and lowering of expectations. The media did it, with its assault on health and safety regulations and monstering the poor. Resist the urge to blame. Don’t rush to position yourself as the victims’ conscience. A disaster like Grenfell did not happen by chance and did not happen as the result of one mistake. It’s far more complex than that.

Brendan O’Neill notes:

If this mass burning of homes feels Dickensian, then so too does the hunt for the fat, evil, Tory-like landlord to hold responsible: that’s a Dickensian-style moralism that prefers the thrill of hating immoral individuals to the far harder task of looking at the economy and politics over the past 30 years and asking what might be done to improve both.

We don’t know all the names of the victims. But in this coming together of a community in the face of horror – a genuine community of people who live together, not individuals bunched together by ethnicity or age to further a divisive agenda – let’s take time to focus on those who have lost so much. They’re not looking to blame. They’re looking at how they can carry on. We should be circumspect. We should be kind, stoic and humane.

Posted: 15th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


The DUP take Arlene Foster to a Gay Bar

The DUP rock the gay bar, gay bar, gay bar, gay bar (also: The YMCA and In The Navy):

 

And Arlene Foster rocks this one: It’s Raining Men!

And here’s the original, which features the DUP serenading their leader with ‘Arlene’s On Fire’:

Spotter: David Halliday

Posted: 12th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, Politicians | Comment


Ban the DUP from Government and destroy Brexit

Much weeping and wailing over the Tory Party calling on the DUP to form a coalition government. One commentator described the DUP as the locals from The Dukes of Hazard. But ridicule is not enough. The censorious call is for a ban.

The shrill petition against the Tory-DUP deal has hit half a million signatures within 24 hour. What an intolerant, sneering, entitled mob we are. How great it is to be so into freedom, liberty and ‘being myself’ that you can ban other ideas and ‘bad’ people with abandon. The argument is settled! The science is settled! Thou shalt not dissent! No wonder Islamists feel so at home here. But you don’t need knives and bombs to destroy democracy. You just need a free online petition.

But this isn’t really about the red-neck DUP. This is about stopping Brexit. Back in 2015, the New Statesman told us the DUP were Labour’s allies in the General Election battle:

DUP could do a deal with Labour, says party’s Westminster leader – Nigel Dodds says he “can do business” with Ed Miliband and praises his responsible capitalism agenda.

George Eaton had encouraging news on how the DUP and Labour could unite to stop the Tories:

The Northern Irish party is traditionally viewed as a potential partner for the Conservatives, who considered a deal with them before the 2010 election. But when I interviewed the DUP’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, he rejected this characterisation and signalled that he was open to an agreement with Labour.

“We can do business with either of the two leaders, either Ed Miliband or David Cameron, and we will obviously judge what’s in the best interests of the United Kingdom as a whole,” the North Belfast MP told me. “And obviously we’ll also be looking at it from the point of view of the constituencies that we represent in Northern Ireland as a whole. Unionism has worked in the past with Labour governments and we’ve worked in the past with Conservative governments back in the 70s. Indeed, the Ulster Unionist Party propped up the Callaghan administration. But it remains to be seen. We are certainly not in the pocket of either party and we’re certainly in a position where we’re able to negotiate with both of them.”

How ambitious were the DUP? Said Dodds: “We are not interested in a full-blown coalition government with ministerial positions and all of that.” The NS was delighted, calling the DUP’s openness “a boost for Labour”.

The Guardian said “senior Labour and Tory figures believe they will be able to work constructively with the DUP”. Labour saw the DUP as a “reliable partner”. The DUP had a “more natural affinity to Labour”. As for the DUP’s views on homosexuality – Ian Paisley, the party’s founder, once campaigned to “save Ulster from sodomy” – well, that wasn’t an issue:

Labour and the Tories are both troubled by the views of many DUP members on LGBT rights, highlighted by the resignation of the party’s health minister. But that would have no technical impact on negotiations over the formation of a UK government – LGBT matters are devolved to the Northern Ireland assembly.

Wind the clock forward and the DUP are no longer the party of Labour hope, who get on with Labour leaders “extremely well”.  They are regressive and anti-human. They are the “ultra-conservative DUP”, says the Guardian. “The DUP has vetoed the legalisation of same-sex marriage five times in Northern Ireland assembly votes. A majority of DUP members also oppose the legalisation of abortion, which is prohibited in Northern Ireland unless the mother’s life is at risk.”

The “DUP is undoubtedly bad news for the pro-choice movement in Northern Ireland”, says one New Statesman writer. The DUP’s rise to prominence will “embolden other anti-choice MPs”. Another writer tells New Statesmen readers: “Any government that includes the DUP is profoundly bad news for women.” All of them, including Arlene Foster, the DUP’s leader, because “women have the equal opportunity to be depressing misogynists too”. Or to put it another way: not all women agree with one another; they can hold their own views and exercise free will in decision making.

All abortion should be decriminalised. Birth control should be a private matter. But to call the DUP women haters is unhelpful, hyperbolic and deliberately polarising. It’s meant to be, of course. If the DUP are bad for women’s right then any Brexit contracts signed by a Tory-DUP alliance will be bad for women. Ditch the DUP and save womankind. But with no DUP there can be no easy Brexit. Better yet, there’ll be no Brexit at all.

So add your name to the online poll, and defeat the free and legal vote for Brexit, one backed by over 17m low-information, tabloid-duped people between 7am and 10pm on a June day last year. Do it for the many, not the few.

PS: This dicing up of the electorate into gender, race and age is hideous. We don’t vote with our skin, genitals or student ID. We vote with our heads, hearts and wallets. The narrative that says Labour is the party of youth overlooks the number of younger voters who voted Tory and the older voters who were unnerved by the so-called dementia tax and turned away from Theresa May. It also ignores how fluid voting has become. UKIP’s collapse was down to its voters turning to Labour and the Conservatives. Fudge Brexit and UKIP may yet rise again. A return to ‘safe and secure’ two-party politics is far from guaranteed.

 

Posted: 10th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment


Piers Morgan’s election breakdown: life moves pretty fast for Corbyn bashers and Trump cheerladers

How was election night for GMTV host and Big Media big beast Piers Morgan?

 

Piers Morgan election predictions fail 2017

 

 

Piers Morgan election predictions fail 2017

 

This is what Big Media had to day about Jeremy Corbyn:

Mrs May isn’t just kicking Corbyn when he’s down, she’s dug his political grave, prepared the coffin, set the date for the funeral service and invited us all to attend his career death.

Who said that? Yep, Piers Morgan in the little-known Daily Mail. He has a “doubt many people have a clue what Corbyn truly thinks or believes”.

 

 piers morgan daily mail corbyn

And what of Corbyn being the UK’s Donald Trump? Well, ITV, on which you can watch GMTV, reviewed his Corbyn interview with Morgan thus:

corbyn trump piers morgan

Curse that “vicious media”.

Spotter: Tom Jamieson

 

Posted: 9th, June 2017 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, Politicians | Comment


After London Bridge: we’ve had ‘Enough is Enough’ of Jeremy Corbyn (paper review)

The London Bridge and Borough Market terror attacks – how do the tabloids cover the massacre? All share the same news of heroic deeds, horrific injuries and barbarity. But their different treatment of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn is notable. Which of the political leaders do you trust to keep us safe?

 

the star london bridge

 

Daily Star (front page): “HEROES”

The paper focuses first not on the Islamist extremists who murdered people, rather on the people who helped defeat them and help the injured. We meet Gerard Vowles and Geoff Ho.

Page 2 – 3: “HUNTING FOR VICTIMS”. Now we get to the killers, who wielded foot-long hunting knives and used a truck to slaughter people. And then to the heroes once more.

GEEZER: Gerard Vowles, a proper Londoner who makes us proud. He went to help a woman being set upon by the murderers. He “pelted the killers with pint glasses, bottles and chairs”.

GEEZER: A woman “wedged herself in a restaurant door to stop the gang bursting in and attacking diners”. We do not know her name. But she held things up long enough for 20 people to escape.

GEEZER: A cabbie tried to run down the killers with his taxi. (More on him later.)

GEEZER: A copper took on all three killers. He was armed with a baton. He was stabbed many times. He survived.

GEEZER: Geoff Ho is a journalist for the Sunday Express. He was stabbed in the neck trying to help a doorman under attack. He tweeted: “Don’t know whether it was stupid or noble to jump in and break up the fight outside the  Southwark Tavern, but two a*******s trying to do over a lone bouncer on the door isn’t happening on my watch.”

(It’s great that the Star is unable to repeat the word “arseholes” but finds no issue carrying adverts for “Proper Filthy Girls” and an invitation to phone in and “Listen to Mother & Daughter” aural sex. Apparently, incest is ok but arseholes are taboo.)

The paper produces grainy photos of the killers waking through Borough Market. We also see one of them dead on the floor, killed by a policeman. The copper’s a geezer, too, as are all the police who raced to help.

Pages 4-5: “Dozens held in Armed Swoops”

Police raided a block of flats in Barking, where one of the killers reportedly lived. He was, says a neighbour, a “nice guy” who “rewarded favours with curry”. Says Mohammed, a neighbour who had jump-started the soon-to-be killer’s car: “I told him to forget about giving me money. The next day he turned up with a lovely chicken biryani that we all enjoyed.” The killer was also seen wearing an Arsenal shirt – the one he was wearing when he murdered so many. “I couldn’t believe it. I had seen him in that shirt at 5pm that evening,” says another neighbour.

Another adds: “He approached me yesterday and asked me where I hired a van recently. He said he was going to move house… He was being nicer than normal… He was always nice, but yesterday he was an entirely different level of niceness.”

Evil is banal.

Page 6- 7: “MAY: THIS IS WAR – PM vows to crush Islam extremist.” May is “defiant”. But Jeremy Corbyn did a”U-turn”, changing his “long-held  opinion that he was not ‘happy’ with the police’s shoot-to-kill policy.”

Page 21: The horror occupies readers’ minds. They text in their views (click the image to enlarge):

 

 

Daily Express (front page): ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”:

The paper echoes the words Theresa May used to condemn the slaughter.

Page 2-3: “Jihadis walked around like outlaws at the OK Corral.” Sticking with the idea of this being the wild West, the paper issues a phone poll. The question runs: “Is now the time to round up suspects?”

The paper reminds us that the killers wore dummy suicide vests. They yelled, “This is for Allah.” The paper’s editor tells readers of the woman on London Bridge pleading with her stabbed partner: “Stay with me please, I love you. Come on, please. Don’t let those fuckers get away with it.” He says Donald Trump is right to ridicule our politicians for being “politically correct in our reaction to these outrages”.  And “Theresa May is right when she says Enough is Enough.”

Page 3: “Marksmen threaten to shoot a fleeing suspect in pyjamas.” To West Ham, where an eyewitness tells us about a police raid: “Then a young black man, barefoot and in pyjamas came out of the window. They were shouting ‘We will shoot you if you don’t go back in… the police officer was ready to shoot.”

Page 4: “We fought toff jihadis with bottles and hid in cellars and cupboards.”

We hear from Mark Stembridge, owner of Cafe Brood: “Three Asian guys came down the steps after crashing the van. I saw them with the knives. They each had a knife in their hands. They were about 10-12 inches long. The staff reacted very quickly. We had about 130 customers and 15 staff working. We all got inside but we don’t have doors only shutters. The staff protected all the customers and the three guys just hesitated and then they went off.”

Page 4: Elizabeth O’Neill’s son, Daniel O’Neill, was stabbed. The killers told him: “This is for my family, this is for Islam.” Mrs O’Neill calls her son’s attackers “cowards”. She is remarkably restrained. They wanted to kill him.

Page 6: More from the cabbie who tried to run down one of the killers. He had a fare in the back when he saw their rented van crash on London Bridge. “I said I am going to try and hit him, knock him over, so I spun the cab round and was about to ram one of them, but he side-stepped and three police officers came running towards them with batons drawn.” The cabbie told everyone to run. Student nurse Rhiannon Owen is grateful. “I’ve been trying to find the driver all day on social media. I owe him my life.”

Black Cab drivers, eh, salt of the earth. One part of Chris’s – that’s all we know of him – testimony makes me smile: “I saw the van went between one of the traffic light systems. There is an area called Nancy Steps, famous for the film Oliver!.” You don’t get that in an Uber. Chris is a top geezer.

 

Theresa May terror speech express

 

And now we get to Jeremy Corbyn. We read that one of his “leading supporters” has “described Islamic terrorists as ‘freedom fighters'”. It’s Barbara Ntumy  – pronounced numpty? – who reportedly tweeted in July 2014: “One mans jihadist / terrorist is another mans freedom fighter #JustSaying.” She is quoted: “I absolutely 100 per cent condemn terrorism.” Is it fair to drag up an old tweet now? Isn’t Corbyn enough?

On Page 9, we hear of “Nauseating” Jeremy Corbyn, a man who “in the recent past has called Islamic terrorist groups and the IRA ‘friends’ and opposed every piece of anti-terror legislation”. Security Minister Ben Wallace says: “Voters will judge him [Corbyn] on his views and actions in the last 30 years, not his desperate promises and evasive soundbites three days from polling day.” Is Corbyn tough on crime and terror? Express readers get to read Theresa May’s statement in full. They do not hear Corbyn’s.

 

the mirror london bridge

 

 

Daily Mirror (front page): “MONSTERS”

The word dehumanises them. The killers were men.

Page 2 -3: “FACING DOWN EVIL”. We meet the “revellers fighting back against the attackers”. The paper mention religion once in its lead story. It does so when quoting Theresa May, who stated that she would fight the “evil ideology of Islamist extremism”.

Page 4-5: We hear more of the woman begging her partner to hang on. It’s heartbreaking. We do not know if Peter survived. To consider one story up close brings the pain to the fore. The numbers of dead and injured we read and consider as facts. Peter and his lover are intensely human. It’s unbearable.

Page 6-7: “TOWER OF TERROR.”

Police raided the Elizabeth Fry tower in Barking, East London. In all, they made 12 arrests. Chris Hughes, the paper’s defence editor, praises police and MI5. They have “smashed… more than a dozen major plots” cooked up by “Islamist terrorism since 9/11”. MI5 operates with a “professionalism” other intelligence agencies “can only dream of”.

Page 8-9: “People hurled tables, chairs and glasses at then..they weren’t going to stand back.”

Page 10-11: “I looked into his eyes and thought he was going to pull the pin & blow us up.”

 

Theresa May terror speech mirror

 

Page 14-15: Only now does the paper turn to politics. We see Theresa May declaring “Enough’s enough.” We get it. The words chime. The paper picks out another of her lines: “Terrorism breeds terrorism…they are copying one another.” And then we get to Jeremy Corbyn. He looks smaller than May. His line runs: “Our police, nurses, firefighters deserve a pay rise. They can’t get by on her warm words.” Get that? In talking of terror and the fight against it, the Mirror backs Corbyn to get better rates for public sector workers. If the voters decide terrorism is the key issue, Corbyn’ scuppered. The Mirror is realistic. Corbyn being tough on terror does not resonate.

Page 16-17: “PM: Net giants give hate ‘safe space to breed.” May is no champion of free speech. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the killers most likely used phones, roads and drank tea as they plotted. Why not clamp down on those things, too? The Mirror does not condemn Mays illiberalism. It finds an echo in the shape of the no less authoritarian Yvette Cooper. The paper affords the Labour MP and ex-shadow home secretary a platform to say the big web companies must do mote to stamp out “extremist recruitment online”. If Cooper is worth a listen, then why not the current shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott? Is she hard on terror? Is she in hiding until after the election? Is Cooper the future of Labour? If she is, then blimey, they really are shafted.

Pages 18-19: “Richard Angell says the terrorists will not win. More on him here.

Page 20-21: “GIVE MORE COPS GUNS”

Is that a good idea?

 

the mail london bridge

 

Daily Mail (Front page): “Bloody day all of Britain said: Enough is enough.” The message is clear: Theresa May speaks for us all.

Page 2-3: The Mail says at least one of the killers was known to the security services. We’re told he’s the Watford-born man wearing the Arsenal shirt. We’re told of claims he “became radicalised by watching extremist videos on YouTube”.  Funny how it goes that way around: you watch the video then become a killer. Might it be that he liked Islamic extremism and any videos just entertained him? If we present the killers as empty vessels to be easily moulded by a video, we remove some of their own free will from the crime. We move closer to making them victims. And – boy – do Islamists like to be victims.

Page 4-5: More photos of the carnage. Pictures of the dead and injured. Who needs YouTube? If looking can turn you into a killer, should we look at the papers?

Page 6-15:  More and more photos of the injured; more stories of heroism, defiance and bravery – “The fucker stabbed me in the neck,” says Candice Hedge (the Mail says “f*****s” ; dead bodies are ok in the Mail but swearing might influence impressionable minds).

Page 16-17: “MAY: CURB THE HATE ON WEB.”

Page 18: “Hours after latest horror, IS terror guides sill online.”

 

 

Page 19: Richard Littlejohn – “I’m sick of politicians pussy footing around. As they won’t says it, I will – we ARE at war.” He asks if the nation can take Jeremy Corbyn seriously on matters of national security. Hold your tongue. The question is rhetorical. The answer is coming thick and thicker.

Page 20: “There country is not reeling – but nor are we appeasers of terror like Corbyn,” says Dominic Lawson.

Page 21: “Corbyn’s 30 Years of Talking to Terrorists.”

 

 

The Sun (front page): “JIHADI KILLER IS AN ARSENAL SHIRT.”

Football. The Sun has done it and made football a key part of the story. (Add it to the list of unwelcome endorsements.) We learn that the killer in the old Arsenal top was called ‘Abz’.

Page 2-3: “8 Cops. 50 Shots. 3 Losers burning in Hell.” Is Donald Trump writing the Sun’s headlines?

Pages 4-5: “A girl burst in, her neck spurting blood, and grabbed me.”

Page 6-7: “4 Women Among 12 Arrested.” To which the response is: so? Or: How many Spurs fans?

Page 8-9: “We Stopped Them – Bouncer lobs seats at 3 killers. Leads fiends to be shot by police.” Ozzy the doorman is a geezer. “I realised I had to do something,” he says. “… Me and another guy started launching bar stools, bottles and glasses at them… They ran through the barrage and we deflected them and they literally ran  straight into the cops who shot them.” Says Ozzy’s mate: “Ozzy’s an absolute hero.”

Page 10-15: More tales of courage, heartache and horror.

Page 16-17: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”

May’s soundbite might just produce the predicted Tory landslide. Corbyn is once more attacked over his ‘U-turn’.

Page 18: “Corbyn is a real threat to security”, says Trevor Kavanagh. The Sun says a vote for May is a vote to “make Britain safer”.

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 5th, June 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Tabloids | Comment


After London Bridge and Manchester: Douglas Adams was right about the internet

After London Bridge, the news is that there will be crackdown on the internet. Freedom of speech must be curtailed. Encryption must be done away with.

Author Douglas Adams go it. In 1999 he wrote:

 

Douglas Adam London terror

 

“I don’t think anybody would argue now that the Internet isn’t becoming a major factor in our lives. However, it’s very new to us. Newsreaders still feel it is worth a special and rather worrying mention if, for instance, a crime was planned by people ‘over the Internet’. They don’t bother to mention when criminals use the telephone or the M4, or discuss their dastardly plans ‘over a cup of tea’, though each of these was new and controversial in their day.”

Agreed.

 

Posted: 4th, June 2017 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, Reviews, Technology | Comment


Katie Hopkins: sacked LBC DJ is Twitter’s Candyman

LBC and Katie Hopkins have agreed that Katie will leave LBC effective immediately.” writes @Lbc over on Twitter.  Thank fuck for that!  Source: Twitter/@LBC

 

LBC and Katie Hopkins have agreed that Katie will leave LBC effective immediately.” writes @Lbc over on Twitter.

Rejoice!

No. The sensible move was to ignore her. It’s the ratings game. If you don’t like her, don’t mention her. Do the reverse Candyman.

For those of you missed the tweet but got the fallout, Katie Hopkins tweeted in response to TV presenter Phillip Schofield, petitioning him to be strong in the face of terror.  She tweeted: “Do not be a part of the problem. We need a final solution.”

Yeah, that bad. She knew what she was doing. She knew it would antagonise. She hoped it would place her at the centre of the conversation over the heinous attack in Manchester. Revolting stuff from the tabloid’s to-deadline controversialist. And then Twitter erupted with outrage and demands for her sacking. A woman with all the relevance of a loon shouting at the pigeons in the precinct became important.

Tom Slater finds a reason for it. It’s not her. It’s us:

Why have some of those born and raised among us – as Abedi was – grown to hate us? Why, among a minority of Muslim youth, is this nihilism brewing? And what might we have done to foster it, to cultivate it? These are questions they’d rather not answer. To do so would be to inflame, in their minds, the only hate they really care about – the hate of lumpen plebs, the sort of people they imagine lap up Katie Hopkins’ every tweet.

Hopkins tried to make Manchester all about her. But through the response it generated, it told us more about the mainstream, about the cowards who tell us to treat Islamist terror like a natural disaster, a time only for sympathy and thanking the emergency services; the cowards who would rather shriek at cretinous columnists than reckon with the real hatred in our midst; the cowards who seem to get more exercised by tweets than bombs.

I don’t think the tweeters are cowards. I think it’s a question of impotence: Katie Hopkins you can get; the West’s navel-gazing you can’t.

Spotter: Twitter/@LBC

Posted: 26th, May 2017 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comment


After Manchester: Salman Abedi and the stupidity of anti-marijuana campaigns

Salman Abedi murdered 22 people at a pop concert because… he smoked marijuana. Rather than leading to long spells sat on the sofa watching daytime telly, weed turns you into someone who massacres families at an Ariana Grade concert in Manchester.

 

daily mail Salman Abdei marijuana drugs

 

Well, maybe it does.

Dr Max Pemberton asks, “Is marijuana a factor in jihadi murders?” The Mail adds portraits of all the losers who murdered so many people in Tunisia, London, Nice, Orlando and Paris. All adhered to radical Islam. All saw the West as their enemy and murder as a duty. But Pemberton wonders if cannabis might be to blame.

If you want a meaningful debate on drugs, it might be better to turn the question around: why are so many attracted to smoking it?

The Mail’s poser is an agenda-driven, to-deadline question perched atop a weak argument. The idea that weed was a factor – that getting wasted made it “easier to disregard the welfare of others” and butcher them –  absolves individual terrorists of responsibility for their actions. It wasn’t me. It was the weed.

So we can answer the Mail’s question very simple. It’s ‘no’. They don’t get off that easily.

After Manchester: worst of all Salman Abedi was a sexist

Posted: 26th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, Tabloids | Comment


After Manchester: worst of all Salman Abedi was a sexist

Salman Abedi

SEXIST!

 

So far the attack on Manchester in which saw 22 people were murdered at a pop concert by Salman Abedi has been used to illustrate racial harmonyinsult footballers, lambaste apathyfind missing children in Australia and spot fake news. Joanna Williams has a great look at how the horror is being used to insult men.

Just hours after the attack, feminist writer and speaker Jaclyn Friedman tweeted: ‘Here is what the coverage will not say: targeting an Ariana Grande concert is targeting young women. This is a violent act of misogyny.’ …

The argument that the bombing was ‘a massive act of gender-based violence’ has continued. The headline of one article, ‘The bombing at a Manchester Ariana Grande show was an attack on girls and women’, is as simplistic as it is inaccurate. Most obviously, it overlooks the fact that men died in the attack too – fathers, brothers and boyfriends attending the concert or waiting to take people home. The author goes on to explain how ‘Grande has advanced a renegade, self-reflexive sexuality that’s threatening to the established heteropatriarchal order’. Rubbish. Grande’s Nickelodeon cuteness combines bunny ears with pink balloons. She’s loved by teen girls because her sexuality is safe and fun and threatens no one.

And it keeps coming.

“It’s not Muslims or people with mental-health problems who are most likely to kill you in a terrorist attack – it’s men’” –Independent.

Why Manchester Bomber Targeted Girls – Rolling Stone.

During Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, Abedi gave the world a sick reminder of the dangers of being a woman in public in 2017, attacking largely female concertgoers for doing nothing but enjoying themselves while listening to music.

These girls and women weren’t just listening to any music, either – this was feminist music.

Williams nails it: “In presenting terrorism as part of a broader gender war, feminism ultimately reduces mass murder to just another example of everyday sexism.”

Posted: 25th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment


Epic fail: Sikh Muslim Manchester cab driver illustrates the dire state of journalism in three tweets

Read and weep as journalism takes on the Manchester terror story and fails epically:

 

muslim sikh driver Manchester cab taxi fail

 

 

muslim sikh driver Manchester cab taxi fail

 

 

muslim sikh driver Manchester cab taxi fail

Posted: 24th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment


Manchester, Morrissey and an emotionless suicide

Manchester native Morrissey has shared his view on the slaughter in his home city. Twenty-two people went to a pop concert and didn’t come home. Many more are very badly injured. All around us we are told not to hate, to watch our words and police our thoughts. But if we can’t rage when our children are murdered, when can we get angry? If we can’t howl and surge with anger’s raw energy, we might as well give up. Are you outraged that innocent children excitedly leaving a fun concert were slaughtered? You are. I can tell. You’re breathing.

 

 

Morrissey speaks for many when he writes on Facebook:

Celebrating my birthday in Manchester as news of the Manchester Arena bomb broke. The anger is monumental.

For what reason will this ever stop?

Theresa May says such attacks “will not break us”, but her own life is lived in a bullet-proof bubble, and she evidently does not need to identify any young people today in Manchester morgues. Also, “will not break us” means that the tragedy will not break her, or her policies on immigration. The young people of Manchester are already broken – thanks all the same, Theresa. Sadiq Khan says “London is united with Manchester”, but he does not condemn Islamic State – who have claimed responsibility for the bomb. The Queen receives absurd praise for her ‘strong words’ against the attack, yet she does not cancel today’s garden party at Buckingham Palace – for which no criticism is allowed in the Britain of free press. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says the attack is the work of an “extremist”. An extreme what? An extreme rabbit?

In modern Britain everyone seems petrified to officially say what we all say in private. Politicians tell us they are unafraid, but they are never the victims. How easy to be unafraid when one is protected from the line of fire. The people have no such protections.
Morrissey
23 May 2017.

Agree. Agree?

The Guardian does not agree. It calls Morrissey “controversial”. The best poetry and music from Manchester often is. The Guardian has previously praised Morrissey for his “barbed repartee” that made watching his shows one of the paper’s top things to do over Christmas. Bring the family. Morrissey is right-on.

But today Morrissey is on the wrong side. Calling him controversial is not meant as a compliment. His words have offended. The paper unpacks his open letter to prove it false. The Guardian says MPs are not safe. Morrissey is wrong. We read: “The MP Jo Cox was murdered by a rightwing extremist last June.” The murder of Jo Cox, a respected and committed MP engaging with the people she represented, was abhorrent. But is it right to use her death to stymie debate and free speech?

 

jo cox brexit mirror

 

Jo Cox was murdered by a depraved killer, whose motives were swiftly co-opted to further the Remain side of the Brexit debate (Jo Cox was for staying in the EU; her killer was against everything she stood for). The message was clear: a vote for Brexit was to align yourself with a maniac. A vote for Brexit was to show a cruel disrespect to the memory of Jo Cox.

Writing in the Remain-campaigning Guardian, Polly Tonybee laid it on thick. Beneath the headline “The mood is ugly”, she wrote:

This attack on a public official cannot be viewed in isolation…

It’s been part of a noxious brew, with a dangerous anti-politics and anti-MP stereotypes fomented by leave and their media backers mixed in…

Rude, crude, Nazi-style extremism is mercifully rare. But the leavers have lifted several stones.

So much for debate. Leave voters were insects.

Moving on from Jo Cox – and letting her rest in peace until they need her to endorse another cause – the Guardian continues to study Morrissey:

Morrissey cited government immigration policy among his complaints saying the prime minister would never change her immigration policy in the light of the attacks. It is believed that the bomber named by police, Salman Abedi, was British-born and from Manchester.

The coward’s parents – it is to be believed – are from Libya. Is that relevant? Surely it’s worth mentioning. Or is the conversation now – and I’ll borrow from Tonybee’s lexicon of enlightenment – so “noxious” that to talk of immigration, to even mention the word, cloaks the speaker’s argument in a black shirt? That question is to everyone –  not just sub-human pests who creep and crawl.

The paper also says:

He also appeared to suggest that a desire to adhere to “political correctness” was behind politicians’ unwillingness to specify that the attack was the work of an Islamist extremist, rather than simply an extremist. The same claim is often made by people on the far-right.

Talk of immigration and you’re a neo-Nazi. You’re a race riot in waiting. So shut up. Go on Twitter and state how the perverted actions of people who destroy children at a pop concert will not bow us and change our liberal, diverse and raucous way of life. But hold your tongue. Free speech is only worth championing if you agree on what is right and proper conversation. Get an official T-shirt. Light a torch. Be in agreement. Keep in step. Stick to the party line. Don’t be a Nazi. The irony is sharp.

One music site manages to go a step further and link everything “stupid” Morrissey said to – yep – Brexit:

Morrissey has had a long history of saying more-than-questionable things about immigration in Britain, and last year called the Brexit decision “magnificent.”

It was. Brexit was a triumph of democracy. It wasn’t a victory for Nigel Farage’s narrow views, monoculture and racism. The collapsing UKIP vote tells us that. Brexit was when the ignored, abused, patronised, without, forgotten and belittled took their chance to vote for change. And if you don’t like it, you can vote for the LibDems in June’s General Election and ensure that the party now operating as a focus group gets into power and holds another referendum. In a free country, you get a free vote. (If you vote LibDem you can keep voting until you give them the ‘right’ answer.)

You can question. You can debate. And just as you can challenge the orthodoxy on the EU, pick the clothes you wear, who you fancy, what music you listen to and sing along to Ariana Grande as she makes your heart throb – and there she is live on stage before your very eyes, the singer you’ve duetted with in the car on the way to school – you are also free to look at the dead children’s faces on the telly and in the newspapers, feel your eyes moisten and your throat tighten as you consider their stories, the horror of their deaths and the hollowed out lives of their loved ones robbed of the most precious of all things; you can consider the people raped of so much joy, light and life; and wonder why it happened and what can be done to end it. And if you value freedom, and consider humanity robust and truth-seeking, you can wonder aloud. To do anything less is to live in fear.

 

Posted: 24th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews | Comment


Manchester terror fake news: Daily Express and Daily Star spot a gunman in Oldham

Many are dead in the attack on a pop concert in Manchester. What say the reputable news sources?

The Daily Express has news:

 

Daily Express fake news gunman Manchester

 

The Express’s sister publication, the Daily Star, echoed the chilling news that a second armed man was at large in Manchester. He was outside Oldham hospital waiting to strike.

And then, having spread a fake news story, the Express realised it was utter balls. Having garnered clicks from tragedy, the paper updated its earlier fake news report.

 

 

Wily stuff to make it look as though those reports were based on anything factual. The “Town Council deny”, rather than the paper “admits”.

The Express’s scoop appears to have been based on a single Facebook comment.

 

 

The paper notes:

Laura Bailey-Wood wrote on Facebook: “DO NOT COME to Oldham Hospital I’m currently inside… Man outside with GUN.”

Oldham Council wrote on Twitter: “We have no information to this effect at all. Please only trust or share official sources of information.”

Over in the Star, the fake news is no less opportunistic. The paper’s story has now been changed to read:

 

 

But the paper’s earlier URL still suggests an armed man was at Oldham hospital. Humans get the update but those news bots keep the scoop high on the search engines. The URL contains no word on fakery.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/616507/manchester-men-arena-explosion-Oldham-hospital-closed-gun-armed-man-ariana-grande

The rewrite in an  exercise is bad journalism. The headline is changed but the paper’s teaser still trills:

OLDHAM hospital was placed on lockdown after a terror attack in Manchester – sparking fears a gunman was on the loose.

 

 

Jamie Micklethwaite writes:

Oldham Hospital stopped admitting new patients after it was overwhelmed by casualities [sic] from the blast. The lockdown sent Twitter into panic – with many people reporting gunshots had been heard there.

Twitter into panic – and also Daily Star readers, no doubt. In the panic to get the story rehashed, the paper spots lots of “casualities”, whatever they are. Still, nice shot of Ariana Grande’s cleavage. Twenty-two people never made it home from a pop concert, but it’s all about clicks, right. So go for it. Phwaor!

Micklethwaite continues:

Rumours a gunman was on the loose quickly spread.

See Daily Express and Daily Star.

An Oldham Royal Hospital source confirmed they had been placed on lockdown – but due to the explosions at the MEN.

No gunman was at large.

The gunman was an imaginary figure – but he remains very real to anyone who gets their news from the Daily Express and Daily Star.

 

Posted: 23rd, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Tabloids | Comment


Arsenal balls: Wenger’s hubris gets just rewards

One day we will know what happened in December 2016 that destroyed Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League. Having failed to qualify for the Champions’ League for the first time in 20 years (during which Arsenal have been champions just three times; a fact that tells you a lot about that inflated competition’s credentials), the team’s manager, Arsene Wenger, tells talkSport:

“We were a force this year until December, fighting for the championship [but] after we dropped off. I will say one day the real reason behind that…”

Was it something to do with the death of Indian economist Sulabha Brahme, 84, who passed away on December 1? Did that bring Mesut Ozil to a standstill? What about the murder of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, who was shot dead on December 19? Did that put lead in Francis Coquelin’s boots? Or did it all go wrong when Toyah returned to Coronation Street?

Or was it something to do with losing matches? In December Arsenal lost 2-1 to Everton and 2-1 to Manchester City in back-to-back away defeats. The Everton game was very close, with Arsenal having shots twice saved off the line in the game’s dying moments; and in the Manchester City match they were hard done by when the referee allowed two goals that could both have been ruled out for offside – City’s second was egregious. But in each match Arsenal only scored one goal. Not enough.

Maybe something else happened – something extraordinary and uniquely damaging? Wenger’s pretty good at saying one day he will reveal all. On buying Danny Welbeck in 2014, he said: “I will tell you that story one day.” Why so mysterious? Is it hubris, gnostic or self-serving balls?

And what about what else Wenger told us today? He added:

“I believe since January we have played in a very difficult environment for different reasons.

“Some you know about and that’s very difficult for a group of players to cope with that – and some other reasons we will talk about on another day.”

Tell us now. Go on.

“Psychologically the atmosphere was absolutely horrendous. It has been difficult, yes, and certainly my personal situation has contributed to that but you can never question my professionalism or commitment.”

What happened was that after 19 matches of a 38-game Premier League season, Arsenal were nine points behind leader’s Chelsea. After 38 matches, they are 18 points behind Chelsea, the champions. Arsenal never were in contention.  As Roy Keane put it when Arsenal were annihilated by Bayern Munich in the Champions’ League, “Well, what did you expect?”

We expected Arsenal to be league also-rans and enjoy a good FA Cup run playing bouts of incisive football punctuated by moments of abject, laughable ineptitude. It wasn’t a season of disappointment for Gunners’ fans. It was season of complete predictability. Wenger will tell us all abut it one day – and that nine seasons of the same that preceded it.

Posted: 21st, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Key Posts, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: James Rodriguez to Manchester United is a dead cert – place your bets!

Transfer Balls: Is James Rodriguez on his way to Manchester United? Is the player not good enough to start for Real Madrid for more than two matches in a row good enough for Manchester United?

On May 16, the Daily Mail said a deal has been agreed. “James Rodriguez ‘agrees’ Manchester United transfer,” said the paper.

Why the Mail saw a need to couch the agreement in inverted commas is odd because the story begins with a statement of fact: “James Rodriguez’s summer move to Manchester United will be confirmed following the Champions League final next month.”

In a second story, this time about Real Madrid replacing Rodriguez with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, the Mail confirmed the news: “The 25-year-old Madrid signed for £60million in 2014, and who is represented by Jose Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, had agreed terms with Manchester United.”

And then the facts got a little murky. Sky Sports reported on May 15:

“European Paper Talk: Has James Rodriguez played his last game for Real Madrid?”

Dunno. Because Marca then told its readers on May 18:

“After missing the match against Celta, James Rodriguez has recovered from his ankle injury and will be available for Real Madrid’s last LaLiga game against Malaga on Sunday.”

And then in two stories dated May 16 Sky mused:

“European Paper Talk: Real Madrid set James Rodriguez asking price”

“Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez offered to Man Utd”

Offered to United? But the deal has been agreed. Or as the Indy puts it:

“Under Zinedine Zidane this season, Rodriguez has not once played more than two consecutive games for Real and United are, quite frankly, not interested in the 25-year-old…”

Football 365 picked up the scent of the betting companies feeding off the rumours.

There is no issue with those headlines, and Sky Sports were hardly alone in running them, but when partner Sky Bet then offers odds on James Rodriguez joining Manchester United, it’s not hard to see how those headlines might persuade the public to part with their money.

 

James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united

 

Is it news of is it PR for the betting industry?

Says 365:

Fast forward further and most reports on Wednesday morning now say that Rodriguez is not close to a move to Manchester United, that no offer is being made by United and that claims he has agreed personal terms are false. And lo and behold, Sky Bet have opened up their market again to take bets on where Rodriguez ends up next.

Indeed, in a story updated after 6pm on May 18, Sky reports that there are odds on Rodriguez joining Manchester United. Betting is no longer suspended on what has been presented as a dead cert. Quick – get your money on it while you can!

James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united

 

James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 19th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment (1)


Everything you read about drinking during pregnancy is wrong

pregnant-wine

 

Everything you ever read about drinking whilst pregnant is wrong. Prohibition for the pregnant is unfair and unfounded. The Telegraph has news:

Advising women not to drink when pregnant is “sexist” and causes “needless anxiety”, senior academics have said.

Pregnancy charities and researchers have called for a change to the “alarmist” official Government guidelines, which warn expectant mothers to avoid alcohol completely.

They say the policy has no basis in evidence and ends up “stigmatising” women and excluding them from society.

No basis. So the dire warnings are wrong? Like this one which appeared in the Daily Telegraph:

 

pregnancy drinking daily telegraph

 

If you want to be truly alarmed you turn to the Daily Mail, which has issued all sorts of dire warnings over drinking and pregnancy.

Just one glass of wine a week while pregnant ‘can harm a baby’s IQ’ – 15 November 2012

Women believe they can drink while pregnant – but one glass of wine could damage your baby for life -19/04/2008

Drinking alcohol while pregnant helps ‘create unruly children’ – 06/11/2007

Women who drink a glass of wine a day during pregnancy affect their child’s growth for nine years – 16/08/2012

 

daily mail drinking pregnant

 

daily mail drinking pregnant

 

daily mail drinking pregnant

 

daily mail drinking pregnant

 

And you can always shame someone with a long lens camera shot:

 

daily mail drinking pregnant

 

Who else needs a drink?

Posted: 18th, May 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment


Crocodiles eat pastor trying to walk on water at Crocodile River

To Crocodile River, Zimbabwe, where a pastor is trying to walk on water. Pastor Jonathan Mthethwa of the Saint of the last days church was unsuccessful. And is devoured by crocodiles.

“We still don’t understand how this happened because he fasted and prayed the whole week.” said Deacon Nkosi, one of the church members.

 

pastor eaten by crocodiles

pastor eaten by crocodiles

Spotter: Zimbabwe Today

Posted: 15th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, Strange But True | Comment


The Hard Left’s last gasp for power: tracing Jeremy Corbyn’s revolutionary socialism since 9/11

May 1, 1928 Communists in London celebrating May Day.

 

News that Andrew Murray, a “longstanding communist party member who joined Labour in December”, is running the Labour Party’s General Election campaign raises eyebrows. The Hard Left have taken over Labour.

Paul Anderson and Kevin Davey, authors of Moscow Gold: The Soviet Union And The British Left, look at UK’s Leninists since 9/11, and ask “if life in the mainstream will make or break revolutionary socialism”:

 

1. What is to be done?

By the end of the 1990s, to most observers of the British left, the Leninist era seemed to have come to an end. The Socialist Workers Party, quasi-Trotskyist and owner of a competent offset press in east London, still had some life about it, but not a lot. The Scottish Socialist Party – essentially the renegade Glasgow office of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, which had been expelled by Labour in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with SWP and independent barnacles hanging on – had some support in urban western Scotland. And the hardline Communist Party of Britain, the main Stalinist splinter from the ‘official’ Communist Party of Great Britain (which had given up the ghost in 1991, 70 years after its launch with a giant subvention from Moscow), was still influential in a few trade unions. The CPB still had a daily paper, the Morning Star, though hardly anyone read it any more.

This is what Leninism had dwindled to, unless you also count the aloof cadre at New Left Review or the machinations of mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s office, in both of which veterans of another Trotskyist outfit, the International Marxist Group, latterly Socialist Action, had key roles. New Left Review a dry bi-monthly theoretical journal, had gone through several changes of tack since its 1960s and 1970s IMG-dominated heyday (if that’s the word), but the onetime followers of the Trotskyist guru Ernest Mandel – most notably Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, were still very much on board. Livingstone had a later generation of IMGers in key staff positions, among them John Ross as chief economic adviser and Simon Fletcher as chief of staff. Mood music for this embattled rump was provided by the occasional jeremiad in the comment pages of the Guardian and in the London Review of Books.

On the best estimate, the membership of all the Leninist groups at the turn of the millennium totalled no more than 6,000 – of whom perhaps one-third were active.

Most were in the SWP, the CPB or Militant’s successor groups, with a few hundred scattered among more esoteric fractions, some of them crazy but most of them deadly dull: Socialist Action, so deeply embedded in the Labour hard left that even members found it difficult to distinguish themselves from centrist trade-union bureaucrats; the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, previously Socialist Organiser, notable for picking ideological fights on foreign policy with everyone else and then claiming to be victimised; the group that had once been the Revolutionary Communist Party, a slightly unorthodox Trotskyist group, but after a series of baffling changes of political direction under a variety of names was in the process of launching Sp!ked, a website devoted to provocative libertarianism; the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), a weird sect that had emerged from a Stalinist fraction in the Turkish Communist Party and had spent most of the 1990s engaged in litigation over former assets of the real CPGB – fighting for flats above chip shops in Dagenham – but had also set up Weekly Worker, an entertaining newspaper, largely online, devoted to left sectarian quibbling.

Few would have predicted any kind of revival for the Leninist fragments. Yet that is what happened in the early years of the new century. The starting point was the creation of an electoral coalition to fight the 2001 general election against Tony Blair’s Labour government, the Socialist Alliance, by the SWP and the English successor-group to Militant, the Socialist Party of England and Wales (the unfortunately acronymed SPEW). Blair, said the comrades, had traded the promise of socialism for a destructive neoliberalism: it was time for a new left initiative. The SA attracted a few independents and started brightly, but got nowhere. All the same, the experience gave the SWP, with John Rees and Lindsey German at the helm, a taste for working with other organisations it not had for more than 20 years – even though they’d decided that SPEW wasn’t exactly an ideal partner.

Then came 9/11 – and everything changed.

 

2. War and peace

The destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center by Islamist terrorists on 11 September 2001 had a disorienting effect on the British left. A brief, shocked silence was rapidly followed by attempts to make sense of the outrage. On the Leninist left and among its sympathisers the narrative that it was payback for American imperialism in the Middle East was quick to emerge. The “root cause” of the attack was not Islamist fanaticism, they argued, but crusader power – US support for Israel, the punitive sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 war against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, exploitation of the region’s oil. The British government was on the side of the imperialists – and it was crucial that the imperialists were defeated. (This is Lenin’s doctrine of “revolutionary defeatism”, developed in World War I, according to which the left in any country engaged in an imperialist war should support the defeat of its “own” ruling class in order to bring on the revolution.)

The analysis was simplistic and met deserved scorn from many left and liberal critics, but after Blair’s decision to support US military intervention in Afghanistan, the knee-jerk anti-imperialism of the Leninists gained a wider hearing. The SWP went all-out for the most opportunist popular front ever. The minuscule party – with an unstable membership of less than 2,000 – ditched SPEW and the Socialist Alliance to set up the Stop the War Coalition, with the aim of attracting the mosques to the anti-imperialist cause. It soon became an alliance of Trotskyist and Stalinist Leninists and the Islamists of the Muslim Association of Britain, with a sprinkling of Labour leftists (among them Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell), Greens, anarchists, CND (by now controlled by the hard left), Scottish and Welsh nationalists and Liberal Democrats.

Opposing the Blair government’s political and military support for the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-02 was not popular: overturning the Taliban and catching Osama bin Laden were objectives shared by an overwhelming majority of Britons. But opposing Blair’s subsequent backing for the US invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein was different. The 9/11 link to Saddam was, to say the least, not persuasive – and the official rationale for the invasion shifted suspiciously from Saddam’s support for terror to weapons of mass destruction. Taking out Saddam by force seemed a massive risk. US President George Bush appeared to be preparing for an intervention that was at best opportunist, half-thought-through and dangerous – and Blair seemed to be tagging along uncritically. It was more complex than that, but Stop the War, with the SWP firmly in command and the CPB playing a key supporting role, found itself in the position of being the only organisation in place with the means to mobilise popular opposition to war. Its high point was the 15 February 2003 demonstration in London against intervention in Iraq, which attracted perhaps 1 million people.

It would be ludicrous to claim that many of the 15 February demonstrators were signed-up Leninists. But the Stop the War organisers and spokespeople for the movement for the most part were: Rees and German from the SWP; the organisation’s chair, Andrew Murray, a leading figure in the Stalinist Straight Left fraction of the 1970s and 1980s (a bizarre secretive group that operated both in the CPGB and the Labour Party), who had become a member of the CPB central committee and an official for the train drivers’ union Aslef; the Labour MP George Galloway (expelled from the party in autumn 2003 for bringing Labour into disrepute after calling on British troops to refuse to obey orders); Kate Hudson, chair of CND and a member of the CPB. And they had media support too – most importantly from the comment editor of the Guardian, Seumas Milne, another veteran of Straight Left.

The Leninist-Islamist alliance (minus most of the Labour hard left and the CPB, at least formally, but backed by many conservative Muslims) was subsequently the basis for a new electoral party, Respect (Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade Unionism). German failed miserably as its candidate against Ken Livingstone in the 2004 London mayoral election; but Galloway won Bethnal Green and Bow on a Respect ticket in the 2005 general election. The Scottish Socialist Party, without Islamist support, also did well in the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, winning six seats.

The Leninist revival was, however, patchy and short-lived. It bore the seeds of its own destruction in the blurring of aspirations required by the anti-war popular front: deference both to Muslim moral conservatism and to Scottish nationalism north of the border.

Despite their organisational zeal and campaigning efforts, the micro-parties recruited fewer new members from Stop the War than they had expected, and the new recruits, though often as ardent and narrow-minded as any “class-against-class” communist of the early 1930s, chafed at the bit of party discipline.

While the high-ups in the SWP and CPB engaged in the Stop the War love-in with Islamists, pacifists, Greens, the Scottish National Party and the traditional Labour hard left, undermining their own arguments for a distinctive revolutionary party, the narcissism of small differences disorganised the movement on the ground – where it was amplified by articulate (if hardly independent-minded) novices radicalised by campus identity politics.

The Leninists’ embrace of Islamism was particularly problematic: if everyone could agree that Islamophobia was bad and it was easy enough for Galloway and leftist intellectuals to declare anti-imperialist solidarity with Islamists, the culture clash between Leninist and Islamist anti-imperialisms could not be avoided in campaigning activity, particularly where the rights of women and gay people were at stake. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Leninist left could not find a narrative to rival that of the SNP.

3. Splitters!

In Scotland, the SSP’s Tommy Sheridan never got into bed with Galloway and Respect – in part because there was little in the way of Muslim radicalism in Scotland with which to ally – but the News of the World reported in 2006 that he had taken part in orgies at a dodgy sex club in Manchester. He sued the paper for libel and won damages, but his account of his actions was at odds with what he had told his SSP comrades, and he was soon charged with perjury for lying in court. Sheridan’s economy with the truth led to the SSP imploding: it lost all representation in Holyrood in 2007 as its followers transferred their support to the SNP, which became for the first time the largest party in the Scottish parliament. Sheridan was convicted of perjury and jailed in 2010.

In England and Wales, growing tensions between Galloway and the SWP – largely over the role of Islamists – led to a spectacular split in RESPECT. Rees and German were off-loaded by the SWP in 2009-10 and set up a website in lieu of a party, Counterfire, which adopted political positions barely distinguishable from those of the traditional Labour hard left except for its empathy for radical Islam, Iran and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Galloway, who made a fool of himself in the reality-TV Celebrity Big Brother in early 2006, abandoned Bethnal Green and Bow and then failed to become the MP for Poplar and Limehouse in 2010. SPEW, the CPB and the RMT railworkers’ union set up No2EU as a left-Eurosceptic electoral alliance for the 2009 European Parliament elections: it secured less than 1 per cent of the vote. SPEW’s next initiative, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (supported by the SWP and RMT but not the CPB), stood in the 2010 general election but lost all its deposits with a similar, stubbornly insignificant, share of the vote.

Meanwhile, the Trotskyists in Ken Livingstone’s office received big pay-offs after he lost the London mayoral election in 2008. By then, only train-spotters could tell they remained Trotskyists, so deeply had they subsumed their identity in that of Labour’s hard left and Livingstone’s enthusiasm for attracting inward investment by giant global corporations.

Things got little better for the groupuscules after Labour’s general election defeat in 2010. Galloway made a spectacular comeback to win a by-election victory as a Respect candidate in Bradford West in 2012. But he did this without much Leninist support: his electoral base in Bradford was almost entirely Muslim, communal and largely conservative. The SWP went into meltdown when the leadership mishandled allegations of rape against one of their number, a nasty affair that lost the party nearly all of the members it had recruited during the Stop the War campaign.

The film-maker Ken Loach and others – many of them, like him, formerly of the Workers Revolutionary Party, once the biggest Trotskyist group in Britain but utterly discredited in the mid-1980s when its leader, Gerry Healy, was accused of serial sexual assaults – set up Left Unity, a supposedly new party which was not explicitly Leninist, though most of the members it attracted were old-left Leninist has-beens. Unsurprisingly, it failed to get off the ground.

TUSC staggered on, failing to win local council seats, and No2EU did even worse in the 2014 European elections than it had in 2009. Slightly more in tune with the times, Counterfire, the CPB and others opened a second popular front – the People’s Assembly Against Austerity – bringing together Labour, Green and trade union leftists, among them Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Despite its large meetings and occasional demonstrations, it had little public impact.

These false starts and falterings are not the whole story. The Leninist micro-parties may have got nowhere in 2010-15, but after the collapse of the SSP and RESPECT many individual Leninists, drawing on the hard-left networks in which they had embedded themselves, did much better in the trade union bureaucracies.

 4. Part of the union

Assisted by the apathy of members and the complacency of their opponents – while building on the alliances forged in Stop the War and local campaigns – the hard left won several key positions, elected and appointed, on top of the handful it already held. The most important victory came in 2010. Unite, the giant general union born of a series of mergers with the TGWU, elected Len McCluskey as general secretary on a 15 per cent turnout. McCluskey, a self-declared former-supporter of Militant in Liverpool (although he was never a member and is much more a product of the 1970s CPGB union machine than of Trotskyism), won against a candidate supported by the SWP and other Leninists. He appointed Andrew Murray of the CPB and Stop the War as his chief of staff.

Over the next five years the hard left in the unions huffed and puffed, complaining that Ed Miliband, who they’d backed in 2010 for the Labour leadership, was a great disappointment. In 2013 there was a major falling-out between Miliband and McCluskey after complaints that Unite was trying to fix the Labour parliamentary selection in Falkirk. Miliband’s response to the unions throwing their weight around in internal Labour politics was a change to the party’s leadership election rules. In 2014, he eliminated the formal role of trade unions in the electoral college that had chosen Labour leaders since 1983: members of Labour-affiliated unions and registered supporters were given a vote in party leadership elections with the same weight as that of a standard full member.

Hardly anyone objected. The commentariat saw the move as Miliband taking on the union bosses in a new drive for “modernisation”. But Unite and others saw the change as an opportunity – and in 2015, after Labour lost the general election, the chickens came home to roost.

Unite and Leninist-influenced hard left networks in the unions played a significant role in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Their intervention was mostly indirect. Unions in which the hard left was dominant splashed cash for propaganda and funded phone banks. Unite in particular invested heavily in the Corbyn campaign.

This support was contested and appears to have been grudging – McCluskey wanted to back Andy Burnham but was overturned by his executive. Corbyn’s leadership campaign director was Simon Fletcher, a longtime Socialist Action stalwart who had served as Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff before taking up a similar role with Corbyn. Activists from the People’s Assembly Against Austerity played an important part in organising public meetings for the Corbyn campaign, as did the Labour Representation Committee, a parallel initiative set up in 2004 that brought together the remnants of the Leninist left in the Labour Party and the unions that had survived two decades of expulsions of entryists.

Both the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and the LRC consider that Leninist parties should be allowed to operate freely inside Labour, and members of both – along with activists from TUSC and other far-left operations – have enthusiastically signed up to Momentum, the continuity Corbyn leadership campaign set up by his campaign manager Jon Lansman, a veteran of the early-1980s Bennite left who is a key player in the LRC.

As far as anyone knows, Corbyn himself never joined one of the Leninist groups, but throughout his political life he has drawn on their support and ideas. He basked in the political milieu they dominated, and was heavily involved in campaigns in which Stalinists and Trotskyists played major if not defining roles – the Chile Solidarity Campaign, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Liberation, Labour CND, Stop the War, the Labour Representation Committee and many more.

 

May 1, 1936 May Day Communist demonstration in Hyde Park, London.

 5. Imperial lather

More importantly, Leninist anti-imperialism continues to play a central role in shaping his thinking on foreign affairs: if there’s any guiding principle to Corbynism, it’s that the west – in other words, the US and the other “imperialist powers” – is always wrong. The west is by definition imperialist, whatever the aims or impact of its policies, from humanitarian intervention to regime change, from economic development to trade agreement, from the extension of democracy and human rights to formal alliances between states.

In this world, any opposition to the west that arises on the ground is understandable whatever form it takes, and is mostly viewed sympathetically. From the IRA to Hamas, from Cuba to Hezbollah, from North Korea to Venezuela, “anti-imperialists” are “friends” usually deserving solidarity – and a blind eye has to be turned to most of their flaws and their crimes.

As leader, Corbyn has appointed people from the Leninist periphery of hard-left Labour politics who share this worldview – let’s call them Leninoids, as they retain no formal relationship to organised groups – to key positions in the Labour Party, most importantly John McDonnell as shadow chancellor and Seumas Milne as chief spin-doctor. Back in the 1980s, McDonnell, along with Ken Livingstone, was part of the Labour Herald crew that was kept afloat by the Workers Revolutionary Party. Milne’s political sympathies have always been much more towards J V Stalin.

One of the strangest and most shocking characteristics of this boilerplate ‘anti-imperialism’ is a deeply ingrained deference to the Leninists’ old flame, Moscow. The hard left defended Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Georgia in 2008 and excused Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its subsequent bloody interference in Ukraine. This left raised only a finger in protest at Putin’s cynical support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – and its leading protagonists have long been favoured talking heads on Moscow’s international propaganda TV channel, RT. That Russia might itself harbour imperialist ambitions remains unthinkable for the last Leninists standing. Their crude anti-imperialist reflex gives Moscow a pass, just as it did for Saddam, and just as it continues to do for Iran and China.

It would be wrong to describe the elevation of a few backward-looking fossils as a Leninist revival. It is certainly not a Leninist takeover of Labour. Corbyn’s mindset is indebted to Leninism, but the Labour Party members and supporters who voted for him were and are people who wanted a change of tack on austerity and foreign military intervention. What they’ve  got isn’t what they wanted. Putting it crudely, a handful of Leninists past and present have been given key bureaucratic positions by a hard-left Leninist-fellow-travelling leadership. Or to frame it differently: in choosing his team, Corbyn took a leaf out of Livingstone’s book and co-opted Leninist organisational talent for reforming and social-democratic ends.

 6. Corbynismo o muerte?

It’s not the wisest move an aspiring prime minister could make, nor has it united the party, so the future of Corbyn’s fragile and fractious project is unpredictable. One thing is clear, however. Corbyn’s leadership of Labour is unlikely to regenerate the CPB, the SWP or any of the other micro-parties. It is much more probable that the sharp left turn for Labour that his leadership represents will deny Leninists their most potent recruiting argument, that Labour is selling out socialism and the working class. The more successful he is, the more difficult it will be to differentiate their brand – and if he sinks, their close association with him makes it likely that they go down with him.

Sadly, another Leninist mini-revival cannot be ruled out. The organisations are still there, ageing, battered and bruised, and there are plausible scenarios that they could exploit to their advantage. But nearly a century of experience suggests that Britain’s Leninists are on their last legs and going nowhere.

The best hope for the left in electoral politics remains Labour – even if there is a mountain to climb by 2020 and Corbyn fails to enthuse the voters. The party is easy to join and it is a movement for change. Most of its members are sane democratic socialists with no illusions about the scale of the challenge facing them. If you want thrills and spills in the here-and-now and Labour doesn’t appeal, you’re better-off doing your politics yourself than joining one of the self-appointed vanguard parties. You might get nowhere, you might win meaningful victories, but you won’t find yourself dragged into cadre servitude by a central committee that treats new recruits as expendable extras in a misconceived historical movie.

Because that is what British Leninism is today: a tawdry political re-enactment society. They can grow Lenin beards and pretend to be hipsters, or dye their hair red like Rosa Luxemburg’s. But it’s not a politics for today. It isn’t going to find the way forward. The raison d’etre of Leninism is to mislead, to misrepresent and to divide the left. It’s time to let 1917 go.

Reproduced with permission of the very good Little Atoms.

 

Read the book: Moscow Gold: The Soviet Union and the British Left.

Posted: 15th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment


Hate crime police investigate Caitlyn Jenner heckler who yelled ‘Oi, Bruce, get your dick out!’

It certainly wasn’t polite to heckle Cailtyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner of Kardashian fame, but a hate crime?

The Mail reports:

A photographer shouted at Caitlyn Jenner ‘Oi Bruce, get your dick out’ as she left the British LGBT Awards in London.

Police have launched a hate crime investigation after the incident on Friday night.

 

CAitlyn Jenner dick

Don’t be a dick

 

This is a police matter.

Jenner was a guest at the ceremony, where she received a Loud And Proud trophy following her transition from Bruce Jenner in 2015, which she has spoken about publicly.

As she left the event at the Grand Connaught Rooms in central London an onlooker hurled transphobic abuse at her until she got into a car

The Press are keen to ramp up the horror: which was  “terrifying” and a “vile attack”.

 

Caitlyn Jenner heckler who yelled 'Oi, Bruce, get your dick out!'

 

Bit nuts, no? No pun intended. Oh, go on, then, yes it was.

Unless we all support Caitlyn Jenner the police will nick us. You are a social pariah, someone unfit to live in a law-abiding polite society if you don’t agree that Caitlyn is an inspirational figure. And history is being rewritten. Bruce never existed. The Guardian told us that Caitlyn has “always been a woman”, including when she was “fathering” children. Those sperm, were Caitlyn’s and they came out of a… Well, it wasn’t a vagina. But it might be a crime to to say was it was.

 

Posted: 14th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment


Madeleine McCann: Yorkshire Ripper IS a bastard and ‘Maddie’ not found in Africa

Today in Tautological Tabloid news we read that Peter Sutcliffe has engaged in a “SICK RIPPER RANT”. Sutcliffe is perhaps better known as the Yorkshire Ripper, a man who in 1981 was convicted of murdering thirteen women and attempting to murder seven others. But what’s “sick” about the mass murderer is what he said about Madeleine McCann.

 

Yorkshire Ripper Madeleine Mcann

 

The story begins:

The Yorkshire Ripper sparked outrage with a sickening slur claiming Madeleine McCann’s parents were involved in her disappearance.

Hanging’s too good for him!

For any reader who gives a shit what the murdering bastard thinks about EastEnders, the price of fossil fuels, Theresa May’s haircut or the disappearance of an innocent child ten years ago, the Sun relays Sutcliffe’s opinions, as shared with a “source” at Frankland Prison:

Sutcliffe – serving life for murdering 13 women – said: “It makes you sick really, keeping it in the limelight. They’ve got a cheek anyway because they made it all up. They were involved. There’s no other explanation. They’ll do anything to try and make money out of a situation.”

What Sutcliffe thinks abut the Sun keeping him in the limelight will doubtless form the substance of another scoop. As for what happened to Madeleine McCann, Sutcliffe’s reported opinions appear based on prejudices, hunches, a murderous hated of women and very possibly psychotic delusions rather than any evidence-based appraisal. The parents are innocent.

To recap: Everyone is innocent. There are no suspects. Indeed, the police have yet to prove what crime if any befell the child. All we know is that a child vanished.

The Sun then adds:

A source said: “He was spouting off to anyone who would listen after Gerry and Kate did the television interview to mark the 10 year anniversary. It was callous and heartless to hear him go on about how the parents were to blame.”

Peter Sutcliffe Sensation! Yorkshire Ripper is ‘callous and heartless’. Says one mum in tonight’s special edition: “He seemed so nice.” Read all about it!

The unnamed source continues:

“It’s awful to hear criticism of them given what they have been through, especially from someone like him.”

Of course, had the killers’ views not been aired in the national Press, the McCanns might well not have heard them.

In other news…

Daily Mail: “Tycoon who flew by £1.5million private jet to Africa to find Madeleine McCann was left ‘shattered’ when tip-off about a lookalike blonde girl proved wrong”

It’s a great shame he didn’t find her. (Is £1.5m expensive for a jet?)

It was revealed last month by the missing youngster’s family spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, that a plane was put on standby after the English-speaking blonde girl was located in Morocco.  But, millionaire Brian Kennedy 50, and his son, Patrick, 32, went one step further by actually taking off and flying across the Mediterranean in a bid to identify her.

Patrick tells the Sun: “They were shattered. You can’t even imagine how they must have felt… We realised very quickly it was not Madeleine.”

Clarence Mitchell adds in the Telegraph:

“All the information coming back to us suggested heavily that it could be Madeleine, so much so that an aircraft was put on stand-by, with its engines running, waiting to fly to pick her up.  Kate and Gerry sat tight. They had learned by that stage to be sceptical, not to give in to natural hope only for it to be dashed. They preferred to wait until the Moroccan authorities had checked it out. And when they did, it became clear she was not Madeleine.”

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 11th, May 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, Madeleine McCann, Tabloids | Comment


What the biased Daily Mail said when Theresa May and Ed Miliband tried to fix energy prices

Compare and contras the Daily Mail’s treatment of news that:

a) A Conservative Government will cap energy prices. (May 9, 2017)
b) A Labour Government will cap energy prices (september 25, 2013)

 

daily mail energy bills theresa may

 

Aside from the identity of the blonde in the Mail’s crosshairs and the top ticker moan about the poor state of modern life, the headlines show how the messenger can be more important than the message.

 

 

The Mail is delighted by Theresa May’s move.

 

April 11 may energy daily mail

April 11, 2017

 

Liz Gerard has more:

 

daily mail bias labour tory

 

Now read what May’s Cabinet thought of her idea.

Posted: 11th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, Politicians, Tabloids | Comment