Archive | October 2020

Now what?

So Keir Starmer has thrown Jeremy Corbyn out of the Labour party to the horror of all his many followers, both in the party and outside. Twitter was fizzing with the news yesterday as soon as it was announced and more than one person was wondering what would happen to the Labour party now.

I think we need reminding how many people joined the party in the first place because they were inspired by this man, who really does believe that the Labour party should represent the ‘many’ and not just the ‘few’ and stands for justice and fairness and is not in the least racially prejudice – which is more than you can say for our Prime Mendacitor.

In the last count reported on Twitter 400,000 people joined the Labour party simply because of Corbyn and the vision that he gave them. For although he was much maligned by the right wing of the Labour party and the bulk of the media, Jeremy could move the crowds and inspire hope and optimism amongst the listeners at his many enormous rallies, like no other man in the party, although Andy Burnham comes close.

Now they are questioning how on earth such a thing could be allowed to happen to him.

Margaret Hodge speaking on television yesterday, let the cat out of the bag. She was talking about the statement that Corbyn issued after the EHRC report had come out and she said ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s statement demonstrates that he is in permanent denial about the extent of the problem… He’s yesterday’s man… he is absolutely irrelevant… as we’re looking to the future.’ How’s that for triumphalism? And doesn’t she gloat?! No surprises there because she has hated him for a very long time and now she thinks her friend Starmer has got rid of him for ‘good and all’. But have they? I wonder.

Other people on Twitter had very different ideas and interpretations. Here is Mark Hebden quoting from the report and saying ‘Five hundred thousand cases of antisemitism had been investigated by the EHRC and TWO found to be in breach of the equality act.’ ‘Yeah,’ Mr Hebden mocks. ‘Labour was “riddled” with antisemitism in the last five years.’ And he goes on to say ‘now do the Tories.’

By that time people who had joined the Labour party because of Jeremy Corbyn, were handing in their notice, others like @Josie64 were saying ‘this is now the time to form a new party with Jeremy Corbyn as leader.’

And take a look at this.

As you’ll notice a new hashtag had been brought into play #WeAreCorbyn.

Maybe, as another writer said, ‘UK Labour have not stabbed Jeremy Corbyn in the back. They have committed suicide.’

Tony Benn saw this coming a long time ago and predicted it neatly. ‘If the Labour party could be bullied or persuaded to denounce its Marxists,’ he said. ‘The media – having tasted blood – would demand that it expel its socialists and form a harmless alternative to the Conservatives, which would be allowed to take office now and again when the Conservatives fell out of favour with the public. Thus British capitalism would be made safe.’

A prescient man our Tony Benn for isn’t this exactly what is happening now.

I think the next few days are going to be extremely interesting. I would love to think that we would have a new huge socialist party led by people like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Andy Burnham. For these are people who are in politics not to feather their own nests and make obscene amounts of money for themselves and their friends, but to care for the huge majority or ordinary, hardworking, decent people. The ones Shelley was talking to when he advised us to ‘Rise like lions after slumber’ and reminded us that:

‘Ye are many, they are few.’

This entry was posted on October 30, 2020. 8 Comments

Responsibility versus Greed.

‘Look here, upon this picture, and on this’ as Hamlet said to his mother. The two pictures I’ve put up here are symbols of the current state of our nation. On the left hand side is Andy Burnham who is not just a handsome man but a man with principle, the right hand picture shows our Prime Mendacitor, a man with no principles at all, except for making money for himself and his friends. This has never been so clearly shown as it is now.

This Tuesday, Andy Burnham was told by the PM that Greater Manchester was going to be put into Tier 3 lockdown and asked the Government to assist the people in Greater Manchester who would lose their jobs in consequence by giving them financial help. He had estimated that it would require “Fifteen million pounds a month was what we costed was needed to support people across the 10 boroughs that make up Greater Manchester.” And that would add up to £90 million pounds up to the end of the financial year. During the discussions Andy Burnham said they would accept a lower figure of £65 million but could not possibly manage on less. At that point Johnson did what he always does in a tight situation, he closed the discussions and walked away.

At which point Andy Burnham made a passionate, public statement, standing up for the people he’d been elected to serve and lead. This is what he said.

“People here in Greater Manchester have been living under restrictions for three months, and they have taken a heavy toll on people. They are struggling. Businesses are on the brink of closure. To accept any further restrictions in these circumstances would be certain to increase levels of poverty, homelessness, and hardship within our city-region.”

“Let’s be clear who is most affected by a Tier 3 lockdown: it is people working in pubs, in bookies, driving taxis. People too often forgotten by those in power.

“At the start of these negotiations, together with the Leaders of our councils, we made a commitment to all of those people that we would look out for them and stand up for what is right. It cannot be right to close people’s place of work, to shut somebody’s business, without giving them proper support so they can look after themselves, their families, through a very challenging winter that lies ahead of us.”

“We have been clear throughout: we could only accept further restrictions with full financial support. We put forward a costed package of measures – a detailed package of measures – but in particular to support people on the lowest incomes and people who are self-employed. These would be people who would need support to top up the furlough to 80%, recognising people can’t live on two thirds of their wages; people who are self-employed, also with 80% of their income, so they could make ends meet. That was the commitment that we made.”

“In negotiations with the Government we were prepared to reduce our request to £75 million, and we even were prepared to go even lower – £65 million as the bare minimum – to prevent a winter of real hardship here. That is what we believe we needed to prevent poverty. To prevent hardship. To prevent homelessness. Those were the figures that we had: not what we wanted, what we needed to prevent all of those things happening. But the Government refused to accept this, and at two o’clock today they walked away from negotiations.”

“I don’t think it is right to ask people to go into a lockdown, to accept further changes within their lives, without supporting them through all of that and what it entails. It can’t be right to do that.”

“I don’t believe we can proceed as a country on this basis through the pandemic – by grinding communities down through punishing financial negotiations. We are asking a lot of the public at this difficult time, and we need to carry them with us, not crush their spirit.”

“I want to finish by speaking directly to the people of Greater Manchester. We will carry on fighting for you, we will carry on putting your health first. But health is more than the virus. We will support people’s health in the broadest possible sense. Tough days lie ahead. Please, everybody, observe the law at all times and follow the public health advice.”

“Above all else, please look out for each other, as I know you will.”

There speaks a principled politician and what a joy it was to hear him.

But in order to understand this situation fully, I’m going to quote from an article in The Guardian, written by George Monbiot, partly because it is so succinct and detailed but also because I totally agree with him.

“If you are not incandescent with rage,” he writes, “you haven’t grasped the scale of what has been done to us. The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold.”

Yet the waste and inefficiency caused by privatising essential public health functions is off the scale.”

The government’s irrational obsession with the private sector is symbolised by its appointment of Dido Harding to run NHS test and trace. She worked at McKinsey, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and as chief executive of TalkTalk. After a disastrous hack of the TalkTalk database, exposing both the details of 4 million customers and Harding’s ignorance of the technology, she acquired the moniker Dido, queen of carnage, a nice pun on Christopher Marlowe’s play. In 2014 David Cameron, an old friend, made her a baroness; she sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer.

One of the government’s most controversial contracts is with Randox. It gave the global healthcare firm a £133m deal, without advertisement or competition, to supply testing kits. In July, following a series of errors, the government withdrew Randox testing kits, on the grounds that they might be unsafe.

The test-and-trace system might be a public health fiasco, but it’s a private profit bonanza. Consultants at one of the companies involved have each been earning £6,000 a day. Massive contracts have been awarded without competitive tendering. Astonishingly, at least one of these, worth £410m and issued to Serco, contains no penalty clause: even if Serco fails to fulfil its terms, it gets paid in full.

Why is failure rewarded? Why are contracts issued with so little accountability or transparency? There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, but you might expect the government’s Anti-Corruption Champion to investigate. Or perhaps not. He is John Penrose MP, Dido Harding’s husband.” – Jobs for the boys!

The head of Serco, Rupert Soames, is the grandson of Winston Churchill and the brother of a former Tory MP. His wife, Camilla, is a Conservative party donor. An email of his, leaked in June, suggested that the coronavirus pandemic could go “a long way in cementing the position of private sector companies in the public sector supply chain”.

The government has bypassed the lean and efficient NHS to create an outsourced, privatised system characterised by incompetence and failure. The system’s waste is measured not just in pounds, but in human lives. It is measured in mass unemployment, economic crisis, grief, isolation, long-term illness and avoidable death. So much for the efficiencies of privatisation.

On Monday 21st September 2020, the Labour party or to be more specific, the Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds published a “‘file of failure’ detailing about £3.9 billion that Labour said the government has mismanaged and spent on ineffective schemes and equipment.”

The details are a hideous list of corruption.

  1. “£133 million was handed over to Conservative donor Randox Laboratories for testing kits, of which 750,000 had to be recalled by the Department of Health and Social Care because they turned out to be unsafe.”
  2. At least £150m of a £252m face mask contract with Ayanda Capital was wasted due to the unsuitability of one type of mask ordered.”
  3. “Serco was contracted for £108m and Sitel £84m to run the national contact tracing service until late August, when their contracts were renewed despite poor performance. It is reported to have cost taxpayers £900 per person contacted by the scheme.”

‘In response to the publishing of the file, a Unite spokesperson said: “Labour is absolutely right to shine a light on the cost to the country of the Tories’ approach to getting this virus under control. The cronyism and chaos sickens voters. The funnelling of masses of public cash the way of their mates while at the same time talking of cuts to benefits to ‘pay’ for this crisis is just the same old Tories. Not acting in the public interest and certainly not up to the job.”’

And now, they are refusing to give Greater Manchester even the limited financial help they are asking for. The clash between responsibility and private greed is now so obvious I don’t think anybody, except the massively brainwashed, can possibly ignore it.

Strength to your arm Andy Burnham and thank you for the stand you’ve taken.

This entry was posted on October 22, 2020. 4 Comments

A new love affair

This is the first time I’ve seen a love affair develop between a cat and a two year old boy. At first I thought it was just cupboard love because our Frankie fed Dixie treats whenever he came, but then all sorts of other signs made me re-think.

Yesterday Dixie was a real pain in the bum. He sat all over the keyboard so that we couldn’t work, he sat in the kitchen on the microwave and glowered and he watched the road, pretty well all day, obviously waiting for our Frankie to arrive, only of course our Frankie doesn’t arrive on a Wednesday.

But this morning there he was and here they both are in the kitchen enjoying one another’s company and yes there is food involved, because Frankie feeds the cat treats, but the affection is there and obvious.

Ain’t love grand!

What do you know about Portcullis House?

I promised you a fun blog today called ‘A new love affair’ and had got it more than half planned but for reasons which will become clear when I do put it up, I couldn’t go ahead with it at this moment, so I’m offering this blog in lieu.

So, what do you know about Portcullis House? If you’re like me, not very much. But I’ve been finding out, because it’s one of the settings of the novel I’m currently writing and I thought it might interest you too.

The House is a sumptuous extension of the House of Commons. Elegant, beautiful and massively expensive. The trees in that picture for example, are rented Fig trees which have cost over £400,000 to date.

There is a passage between the House of Commons and the new building which links with the new underground railway station of the Jubilee Line and at the end of the passage there are two escalators down and up leading straight in to the central atrium where the fig trees are. We found a plan of it which I found very interesting for it is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, has a library, a post office with cash machines and one corner given over to a well planned and fully equipped set of toilets. All very mod-con and all very luxurious.

The general public have a limited entry to this place if they know where to find it, but it is basically a massive headquarters for MPs. It made me wonder why any of them would been considering shifting the House of Commons to a position in the North, especially as the original planners of this building have made provision for a new House of Commons right here among the Fig trees and the restaurants.

I would be very interested to know if anyone who follows my blog, has been able to visit it. And if they have, what they thought of it. I find it fascinating even in pictures and plans, and intend to use it as a setting for some of the incidents in the book I’m currently writing, which is why Lottie and I first started researching it.


This entry was posted on October 16, 2020. 5 Comments

I’ve got a message for Piers Morgan.

I read the G2 interview in Monday’s Guardian with a great deal of interest, because it was about Piers Morgan and there have been times when he’s taken on some of our dishonest leaders and shaken them up a bit, and I find that admirable.

But when he was talking to Simon Hattenstone, he attacked so many people it was quite difficult to sort them all out. The article began with him admitting that he is ‘waging war on woke’, I’ll quote what he said. ‘Wokery has been hijacked by extremely illiberal people bordering on fascists,’ and later, ‘liberal fascists are taking over the world.’ There’s a contradiction in terms if ever I read one, but he’s happy to give examples of them, ‘the fascist, transgender lobby who won’t accept that trans women are different from biological women’ and ‘the fascist celebs who fly thousands of miles to environmental conferences in private jets to order us to become carbon neutral.’ Now I can quite see that people who are called ‘woke’ have some rather odd opinions (as well as some very good ones), and the celebs are people who are just a little too full of themselves, but that is not the same thing as being a fascist. Fascists are a totally different political breed and very dangerous. We need to be careful that we reserve the term for those who really deserve it.

So what is a fascist? I can’t do better than to quote the fourteen signs as they were defined by Dr Lawrence Britt in Spring 2003:

Fourteen defining characteristics of fascism.

  1. Powerful and continuing Nationalism.  Constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans symbols and songs.
  2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights – Because of fear of ‘enemies’ and the need for ‘security’, people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases. They therefore look the other way and/or approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations etc.
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. People are rallied into a unifying frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived threat or foe: racial, ethic or religious minorities, liberals, communists, socialists, terrorists etc.
  4. Supremacy of the military.
  5. Rampant sexism. Traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family.
  6. Controlled mass media.
  7. Obsession with National Security.
  8. Religion and government are intertwined. Governments use the most common religion in the nation to manipulate public opinion.
  9. Corporate power is protected
  10. Labour power is suppressed. Because the organising power of trade unions is the only real threat to a fascist government, Unions are either eliminated or severely suppressed.
  11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts.
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Police are given almost limitless power to enforce the laws.
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
  14. Fraudulent elections.

These are signs that are very obvious in the characters and behaviour of a lot of our present rulers, here and in the United States and you don’t have to read very far down the list before you recognise them.

Slogans are bellowed at us here and in America on a regular, boring basis. Somebody has obviously told Johnson that slogans in three phrases or three words are the best kinds, so we have ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives’ and currently ‘Hands, Face, Space.’ Bish, bash bosh.

Trump was voted into power on another slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.

And the fear of ‘enemies’ is endemic in both our countries. Cast your minds back to the blazing propaganda of the Brexit campaign and see how skilfully Farage stirred up hatred of the ‘other’ and the ‘outsider’ with his odious poster.

And now the very unpretty Miss Patel is stirring up hatred of the ‘other’ by her diatribes against refugees arriving here in cockle shell boats across the channel. Her language is venomous in exactly the same way as the language used by Hitler and Goebbels was when they were shrieking against the Jews. And most of us can remember painfully well how that particular manufactured hatred ended up.

Rampant sexism grows more widespread here, our mass media are certainly controlled – look who owns them – and our elections are fraudulent, as Brexit was. Look at the skilful and half hidden lies on that revolting red bus.

In short we are already in danger of becoming a fascist state, with all that that entails and we need to encourage people to make a stand against it before it is too late and we are forbidden to have any opinion at all, other than the one in power.

We need newsmen and women and political journalists from every sphere, to speak up loud and clear whenever they hear a fascist preaching poison and to do that Piers you need to see your enemy rather more clearly than you do at present. People who are ‘woke’ are not fascists, they are just people who see things differently and that makes them uncomfortable so they speak up against them. The celebs he hates are not fascists, they are just overblown, self-important, arrogant men and women who speak before they think.

And in the meantime the fascists are there and already in power and dangerous. Strength to your arm.

This entry was posted on October 14, 2020. 5 Comments

Third book of the Easter Empire Trilogy is published!

These three editions of my trilogy are new and the final one was published late yesterday afternoon, so here they all are neatly lined up together.

They follow the history of a fictional family that was founded by the heroine in the first book and loosely resembles WHSmiths. The three titles now look contrived to me, but in fact they fell into place very neatly when I was reading the factual account of the real WHSmiths and the story of the real woman who founded the company. She sold the new Times newspaper out on the streets in order to provide for her three children after her husband died and added an extra farthing on each copy as profit. So there was my first title handed to me on a plate.

As the actual story of the firm progressed I discovered that another major move in their history was when many more newspapers were being printed in London and were being sent out to the various London Termini for sale in big cities all over the country. They were carried in a two horse transport called a ‘Flyer’ and to my absolute delight I discovered that flyers were hired for fourpence a mile ‘Fourpenny Flyers’ no less and the neatness of it pleased me.

And then as if that weren’t coincidence enough I read on through the history and reached the point at which the firm was selling books as well as newspapers on their new stalls in the railway stations and lo and behold, the books cost sixpence a time. And there was my third title. I didn’t have to do any work to discover them at all.

Later when the third book was originally published a reviewer joked ‘she’s inflationary, but worth it.’ Which made me laugh out loud and pleased me mightily.

And as another unbelievable footnote to this story, the combined advance royalties that I was paid for the three books gave me enough cash to buy the lovely, big house I am still living in. It was a breath-taking price and I paid it by writing a cheque. I’d never signed such a huge cheque in the whole of my life and I was stunned stupid for days at my good fortune.

So here is my third book re-published by Agora and available on Amazon for £3.99 here. I hope you enjoy it as much as the original readers did.

This entry was posted on October 9, 2020. 1 Comment

A little lesson to Johnson on how to tell the truth.

I watched Johnson’s address to the remote faithful of the Tory party, getting steadily more annoyed with him. He spent over half his time slagging off the Labour party and praising himself and/or the Tory party. It was the usual wiffle waffle piffle paffle that didn’t mean much but sounded good to his supporters. But then he started to talk about the Second World War and I wanted to jump through the television set and thump him I was so angry. Here are the words that set me off.

“In the depths of the Second World War,” our Prime Mendacitor said, “when just about everything had gone wrong, the government sketched out a vision of the post-war new Jerusalem that they wanted to build, and that is what we’re doing now, in the teeth of this pandemic.”

‘The Government’ you notice. And if you were not quick and knowledgeable, you would have assumed that he was talking about the Tories at that time and was naturally full of praise for what they had done. This is the skilful way he can manipulate words to make you admire, follow and believe him. So let’s correct him here and now. The Government he is talking about was the great Labour government of 1945, which was supported by a huge majority of the British Electorate. The vision of a post war Jerusalem, which they put into practise was written by a Liberal Lord, William Beveridge. I read that report when it came out, as the majority of socialists in this country did. The Tory party at that time, were notorious in their opposition to what Beveridge had proposed and Attlee’s Government eventually brought into being. And let’s spell that bit out very clearly too. It took Nye Bevan, three long years to persuade the rich doctors in the BMA to agree to working with him to establish our NHS. Afterwards he said he had to stuff their mouths with gold. I don’t know what party they belonged to (although I can certainly guess) but they definitely weren’t socialists.

Eventually our long dreamed of and planned for NHS was created and so was our long dreamed of and planned for Welfare State. The Conservative party were the opposition and they opposed it. For Johnson to imply that they were responsible for it as he was doing in that speech, is a lie by implication and lies by implication are called ‘propaganda’.

Shame on you, you odious little man.

This entry was posted on October 7, 2020. 10 Comments

Fact and Fiction

This blog has been inspired by the publicity girl at Agora. Thank you Peyton! She sent me an e-mail recently to ask me if I could write a blog for their website about how the Easter Trilogy came into being. She knew from a blog I’d written ages ago that it was inspired by the woman who founded W.H.Smiths but she also wanted to know how much of my story was fact and how much was fiction.

So to begin at the beginning. The trilogy was kicked off by my agent, who at that time was the great Darley Anderson. He phoned me one afternoon to ask if I knew that Smith’s had been founded by a woman. The company had just published a new book telling the history of it. Would I like to read it? I would and did and was hooked.

Apparently the original W.H.Smith infuriated his wealthy family by falling in love with a servant and marrying her instead of just living with her. Shock horror! Naturally they cut him off without a penny because the marriage was ‘beneath him’. Unfortunately the poor man died when he was relatively young, leaving his wife and their three young children without any means of support. But Anne Smith was a resourceful woman. She took to the streets, not to sell her body, which is what destitute young women usually did, but to sell the newly published daily paper which was called The Times and cost tuppence. She charged an extra farthing on every copy she sold and, as the WHS history put it, ‘out of those farthings, the Smith Empire was built.’

It was an irresistible story although, very sadly, the real story didn’t last long because Anne’s hard work meant that she too died young. So at that point I decided to turn the original tale in a different direction and keep her alive. She was too good a character to kill. I changed the names of my central characters from WH and Anne Smith to W.H.Easter and his wife Nan and set fire to the blue touch paper. Three years later I had a trilogy.

There were several knock-on effects to extending my heroine’s life. One was that it gave her and her children – and us – time to explore their world. The story begins in 1786 so naturally I sent her and her husband to Paris in time to see the French king have his head chopped off.

In the second book I contrived to have my heroine, Harriet who is Nan’s daughter-in-law, go to Manchester at the time of the Peterloo massacre. It is a powerful turning point in her life, besides being a very grizzly business.

And in the third book on a rather more gentle note, I rounded the saga off by sending Nan to Windsor Castle to receive a medal from Queen Victoria.