Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Come in Tim - your time is up!

Have you ever turned up a web page by accident and found something that grabs your attention. I was looking for some information about an old school friend, I had lost touch with called Tim who moved away to live in France some years ago. He bought an old farmhouse to create a camp site. As we will be travelling south in the mobile home to Spain for the winter. I thought I might look him up. 

Google in its wisdom served me a page on the speaking clock - you may remember the speaking clock was often called TIM as a way to remember the number to dial, from the days when telephone handsets had letters as well as numbers. Anyway, I got sidetracked and apparently the speaking clock was invented by the French. There was a great deal of information on various speaking clocks from around the world. A throw away line in the inventors biography said the inventor had died as a result of suffering three successive strokes. 

I had this thought running around in my head with Hannah Gordon's voice saying 'At the third stroke you time will be up, precisely. Pip, Pip, Pip, aghaaaaah'

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Leaning to the Left

I have been heartened by the change back to our traditional roots as a much loved and missed left wing socialist political party. I was completely and utterly disenchanted by the Blair years. I had hoped that we would find another leader, with a meaningful manifesto that I could support. However, Brown and Milliband were two of the least inspiring people I could ever have imagined. I hoped that Labour would win the last election, but at no time was I ever convinced of that outcome. The subsequent meltdown of 'New Labour' at the polling booth did not give me any pleasure. I thought that I would never see a Labour government again in what remains of my lifetime. (I'm 68) Of the people in the higher echelons of the party there were a few who I thought might make a watchman leader. Just until such time as someone more charismatic and politically personable came along. 

Jeremy Corbyn was someone I was only slightly aware of. But for me, he was not on my radar as a potential future leader. But, when he was short-listed as a leadership candidate, I took much more interest in him and I liked the cut of his jib. I admit I was surprised when I became completely won over by his rhetoric and his beliefs. Which were broadly in alignment with my own. I began to feel the deep stirrings of a return to my socialist roots. I began to feel alive again, I saw a much brighter future for my family. His climb to the top was truly inspirational, not only for me, but thousands more just like me. That is why the labour party is where it is today. Presenting the face of a credible opposition. Delivered with a statesman like, no nonsense demeanour from a real leader. With a whole set of 'old' labour principals which have been given a new lease of life. Labour has a fresh look and is attractive, inspiring and inviting. The old Labour Party is back and the old 'New Labour' has been relegated to a foot note on a page in history. The tide of popularity is changing and I can see no reason why the next government will not be a Labour government. 

What we have is a once in a lifetime and precious opportunity, one that must not be squandered. We need to become once more the party of the people. We have to look to the future in the short, medium and long term. In the short term its going to be the local elections where we need to make a start. The 'in or out' referendum will be another big choice. It will motivate people at the grass roots level as much as it did in Scotland. Grass roots motivation with the exception of Scotland has always been good for labour. Taxation avoidance by business will win the next election. The mantra should be – We will all be in this together. We will also have to put our house in order. We have a rule book, the rule book applies to everyone. The rules should be applied to everyone without fear or favour. If anyone brings the party into disrepute they will have to be ejected. I foresee that a number of current Labour politicians will have to be deselected. 

The medium term for us, is the next election and I am of the feeling, that this parliament will not run its full course. The EU in out referendum could be the catalyst. So it might well come sooner than you or I might think. The referendum will take the Tory's into meltdown. The internal machinations are already taking place within their ranks. We need to encourage that deep division. The Tories are already circling the leader with their knives at the ready.  the back bench nay sayers will want a 'out of Europe' leader in place.

The long term plan should be the return to public ownership of the key services. The family silver as Harold MacMillan described it. Both Jeremy and myself will not be around forever. We should also be planning for political succession. We can't expend blood, sweat and tears to rebuild the party, only for it to be hijacked by Blairites of the future. Safeguards need to be put in place. The best safeguards are to nurture young people of the right calibre. Now those disenfranchised under the Tories, the 16 year old's will be given the opportunity to vote.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Political earthquake.

I have a tail to relate, but first I need to set the scene.

We are all aware that the excesses of the media were highlighted during the Leveson Inquiry. A judicial public inquiry held into the base culture, illegal practices and lack of ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal. However, the main issue in reality is that the media now lies in the hands of a wealthy few. Acting like a cartel and wielding a level of control and power for which there is still not a robust system to curtail their excesses. At great public expense we had a legal process examining the remit under which the media operates. The Leveson Inquiry was conducted at great length and depth where all sides had the opportunity to express a view. The enquiry brought forward some sensible recommendations.

I find it hard to get my head around the less than honest, bullying newspaper coverage targeted at Jeremy Corbyn. Other than the newsprint owners are already perceiving the likelihood of a future 'prime minister' Corbyn as a threat. If Corbyn is so ineffectual as they would have us believe, why target him in the first place.

Roundabout the same time, as the Leveson inquiry there were other police led enquiries and ultimately trials conducted where people were even sent to prison. The government failed to bring in a robust system of scrutiny, armed with tough penalties, where the excesses of the media might be curtailed. I think that when Labour come to power, the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry should be revisited.

Worryingly, we now we see that for less than altruistic reasons, the media has with complete impunity reverted back to where it was prior to Leveson. So for weeks there has been this onslaught of lies and half truth and deliberate misquotes blaming Corbyn for just about everything. However, it is now becoming something of a paradox. One that that has backfired upon the newsprint owners. Simply because you can never challenge a moral compass and compassion that the public (whether they agree with Corbyn or not) see in the man himself. They might not agree with is personal ideals – but they are increasingly more and more sympathetic to his plight.

I have set the scene, now I have an interesting encounter to relate.

I have a good friend – we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum – misguided as I believe him to be – and he likewise about me. We have often discussed, argued and even sulked with each other over politics. We can't even agree to disagree. One of his pet gripes as always been the level of dishonesty in politics and the media. He now harbours thoughts that Corbyn could actually clean up politics and in his words 'sort out the media barons'. I asked how that could come around. He said 'I could never vote labour in a local election. But I would happily vote for him [Corbyn] in a general election.' I was completely perplexed as to why there should be such a shift in his opinion. He said 'he [Corbyn] is basically a honest man and I know I could trust him. If this country is ever to succeed we need a clean up in Westminster.' His wife, piped up. 'Has he told you he has cancelled the Sun.' He just smiled at me and nodded. I had nothing, not a single word to say. He even asked me for my Corbyn badge. I gave it to him, I gave away the one thing I wear with pride at every opportunity. It now has found a new home. He is not and never would be a convert to socialism, but he is a convert to Corbyn politics. So now I am beginning to understand more, the reason why so many people joined and voted for Jeremy. What's happening transcends political tribal alliances. Corbyn has appeal in places where other labour politicians could never tread. His appeal obviously encompasses much more than Socialists, Greens and disaffected Liberals.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Remembering the futility of war.

No one in their right mind ever wants to go to war. However, the problem is that there are governments in power that see war as an inevitable outcome when their popularity with the public fades away. As the conservatives lose political point in the polls, they seek to get deeper embroiled in the Syrian conflict. War seems to bind the country together and opposition takes a step back. Thatcher and what became known as the "Falklands Factor" being a point in question. Before the invasion of the Falklands, Thatcher was the least popular prime minister in polling history. History was to repeat itself later with the so-called "Baghdad Bounce" during Tony Blair's premiership and the whole dodgy dossier fiasco. A million people marched to protest against the war and were ignored by the government.

I have never wanted to be in the armed services, I have never aspired to that sort of "Vocation", because that's how the armed services are sold to the young people as a job. Sold on a feeling of excitement. However, there is no mention of the reality of killing or being killed. Certainly nothing about the taboo subject of being maimed and certainly nothing about being dependant on state benefits when your service is no longer required. 
I do have members of my family who I never knew, that paid the the high price of war.
Increasingly more and more I find the act of remembrance has changed from a simple act that I remember as a kid. When we would all come to a standstill, wherever we were and observe a moments silence. When I became aware, I asked my mother why we did it. Being a child, her explanation only brought forth many other questions. She tried very hard to provide an explanation to my questions that would fulfil my curiosity. But it was a painful time for her as she had brothers that paid the price.

Later I read many accounts of WW2 fighter pilots, which had fascinated me as a natural follow on from "Biggles". I read much about the war conducted at sea and watched post war documentaries like "War in the air" and "The world at war". We were never taught anything of war in school. History lessons always seemed to revolve around memorising various kings and queens. Conflicts were touched upon in an almost matter of fact way - such as conflicts that marked a period in time, such as the English Civil War. No one talked about either the first or second world war. There was no detail and scant reference to what were the two biggest conflicts in recent history. It was as if it was too close in time and should be kept a dark secret. I learned much later in life, that the old saying - history is written by the victor - is very true.
But for the United kingdom, we also have the propensity to easily forget. We forgot about the Gurkha that have provided sterling service. Especially when they wanted to become British subjects.  We easily forgot the service of soldiers especially the Muslims who came to our aid from Pakistan and the Sikh from India 
Our government now seeks parliamentary approval to up the anti, in a whole new round of bombing. As the warmongering of Thatcher and Blair continues in Conservative government.  Billions of pounds to be spent on nuclear weapons. (But no money for the NHS) That could only be deployed against other nuclear armed nations and then only after the event. By then who would be left to care. But there is a lot of money to be made from armaments sales and we all know that used stocks of armaments will bring further sales.  Encouraging a new round of bombing will only lengthen and widen the conflicts. There is much lucre and political donations to be made on the suffering of others. Does the world need more people driven from their homelands to join in the flood of refugees coming to Europe. Or is it more arms sales and more oil for the rapacious countries to grab. Is war the choice of the people or the choice of big business.

Now what was a sombre remembrance of the war dead. Is being used a political propaganda tool by various newspapers. Whatever happened to returning to a "land fit for heroes" when today we see soldiers with all kinds of issues living forgotten on the streets. Supported only by those who really do care. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Idiot on board

There you are, on a very tranquil bit of the canal. The weather is surprisingly warm if a bit blustery for the time of year. Then you can hear it in the distance tonk, tonk, tonk. Its not an unpleasant sound when heard from a distance. But as it gets closer the sound becomes much louder and the the tonking is now a peace shattering, irregular crack, crack, crack.

Into view comes the boat complete with a moron stood at the tiller. Dressed in the obligatory faux leatherette waistcoat, sporting a jaunty neckerchief and a slightly too large hat perched just above the eyes.  The chinless wonder seemingly oblivious to his surroundings and the racket he is creating.

Then I spotted that the chinless, knuckle dragging twonk is sporting a pair of industrial ear defenders. WTF is that all about. Who in their right mind would be operating a boat with not an iota of silencing.  Creating mayhem for boaters moored up all around their line of progress. Boating in a world of deafening noise to the point that they feel the need to wear ear defenders.
Maybe its time that noise levels should form part of the BSC examination.

I'm searching for a descriptive collective noun to describe such idiots.