“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Old school tax avoidance.

The stats of inequality, global and national, have been the common currency of left polemic for as long as anyone can remember. In the unlikely event that readers of this blog need convincing further, there is a depressing wealth of information on The Equality Trust site. Of course not everyone is convinced that inequality is necessarily a bad thing. The view that attempts to achieve a more equal society are not only doomed to failure but will simply increase the sum of human misery is not confined to the likes of David Mellor, and "trickle down" is still the economic theory of choice in some quarters. But given that like me you probably think that at least some redistribution of wealth and opportunity might be a good thing, how best to proceed? Well first off how about hitting the private schools where it hurts, in their pockets. I don't mean the kind of wet dishcloth attack of the kind proposed by Twiswam Hunt but a simple, straightforward removal of the charitable status that absolves private education businesses of the need to pay tax. Make no mistake, these schools are just that, businesses. Let them sink or swim in the rough seas of the market place their supporters are so fond of. No Labour government, not even Attlee's post war one, has had the bottle to take on the public schools. I'm convinced that doing away with the unfair advantage of the private education sector would be a step toward a fairer and more just society.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Poor door protesters stick to their guns.

For the past twenty weeks, come rain come shine, a small but dedicated group of activists have picketed One Commercial Street in protest against the segregation of social housing tenants and a "rich door-poor door" policy. Developers Redrow eventualy sold the freehold to Texas playboy Taylor McWilliams and his development company Hondo. The protest continued. Now comes news that McWilliams is entering into negotiations with all stakeholders.  There's a long way to go and we don't want to be counting chickens, but this just might be the begining of the end for the poor doors.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

On snobs and bigots.

"………..Snobs and bigots. Of the two I think that snobs are the worst beacause a bigot can change. I know that because I was once one myself. But as far as I am aware there is no known cure for snobbery."
                                                                                           Speaker John Bercow.

"In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but unquestionably true, that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save The King than of stealing from a poor box."
                                                                                             George Orwell.


Image from Islington.

So what do we know about Emily Thornberry? Classic middle-class Labour party background. Father was a UN Assistant Secretary General who once stood for parliament on a Labour ticket. Mother a teacher and Labour Councillor. Parents divorced, brought up on an estate on the outskirts of Guildford. Secondary Modern education but made it to university and a career as a barrister. Married to High Court judge. Lives in posh bit of Islington. There are thousands of women like Emily all over the country but mainly in the South East of course.  They would certainly claim to be "left wing" and do hold strong views on gender and racial equality. What these people really struggle with is the working class, white principally but working class in general really, once you strip away the condescending patronage for blacks and Asians.  The idea of fat, peelhead blokes who support the England Team, like a pint and can be a bit loud is enough to send shivers down the spine of the likes of Emily Thornberry. Shame really. If they bothered to get to know each other they would probably rub along alright.
You would think by now that politicians would be wise to the pitfalls of social media. Oh look! White van man with England flags. I'll take a photo and send it to my mates so we can all have a snigger. Just like we used to do at school about girls with the wrong length skirts or boys with the wrong width trousers. Who will be the first politician to post a picture of a black kid eating a watermelon and label it "View from South London"?
 Let me put you in the picture Emily. You can have contempt for what you consider to be the archetypal white working class. Fill your boots as far as I'm concerned. But just don't expect them to vote for you.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The strange world of the Kibbo Kift.

The British political fringe holds a fascination for many people. Some have made a lifetime commitment to tracing and detailing the family tree of various Trotskyist organisations.  Others have become experts in the genealogy of  extreme right wing groups and burn the midnight oil looking for suspected neo-nazi connections. Of all the unusual organisations in the shadowy world of the political margins few can be quite as odd as The Kindred Of The Kibbo Kift. Founded by one John Hargrave, The Kift was a splinter group from, of all things, Baden Powell's scout movement. This unusual combination of camping, pseudo-Saxon folklore, woodcraft and Social Credit, would eventually split into The Greenshirts (who famously lobbed a green painted brick through the front window of 11 Downing Street) and the other part of the movement that aligned with the Labour Party.

The Labour faction would in turn evolve into what Alexei Sayle once described as "the paramilitary wing of the Co-Op", the Woodcraft Folk. The Greenshirts would fall foul of the 1936 Public Order Act that banned the wearing of political uniforms and would re-form as the Social Credit Party before disappearing altogether. The Woodcraft Folk are still going strong as far as I know but the nearest thing to Social Credit now is the citizens income policy of the Greens. The archives of Kibbo Kift are held in The Museum of London.
I also stumbled across this very interesting and detailed history of Kibbo Kift. Well worth a look

Monday, 17 November 2014

Anarchy in the PKK.

If there is one BBC programme maker who can get my attention it's Adam Curtis. Interested in what's happening along the Turkish/Syrian border right now? Want to know about the influence of Murray Bookchin on the PKK?  Adam Curtis is your man.

Bearing up under the strain.

About this time of year my mother would usually buy a copy of Old Moore's Almanack. I was amazed to find recently that this handy guide to astrological predictions for the year ahead is still being published by the same W Foulsham who produced it when I was kid. I remember that apart from the predictions of Royal Weddings, and other such disasters there were loads of adverts for sure-fire betting systems and a variety of lucky charms with "Joan The Wad" being a favourite if memory serves.
The news this morning is that David Cameron is warning of total financial meltdown, Islamic State have captured the Syrian town of Dabiq that in Islam is supposedly the location for Armageddon and there has been a pre-Christmas outbreak of bird flu on a duck farm in Yorkshire. Other than that it's all good.
Old Moore's Almanack might not be such a bad investment after all.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Puppy sandwich anyone?

I don't find it at all difficult to understand why a Northampton based sandwich making concern are recruiting staff from Hungary despite the town having almost 8,000  unemployed. The company are looking for an energetic, compliant workforce who will do 12 hour shifts in freezing temperatures and be happy with the minimum wage; and Eastern Europe is full of such poor souls. There seems little chance of the situation changing because there is little chance of seeing once again the kind of confident, organised working class that was the bane of the Daily Mail before the curse of the Thatcher Dynasty descended on the nation. I understand perfectly capital's fondness for Hungarian sandwich makers but what I do find difficult to get my head round is the apparent need for this country to import puppies from abroad. I know that we have a skill shortage but surely we can breed our own dogs. Can it really be cheaper to import puppies when the only labour involved is the bitch's? I thought that I understood globalisation but clearly I have some way to go. So much to learn - so little time.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Kingston drift.

Yesterday the artist Laura Oldfield Ford led a group drift around the back streets of Kingston Upon Thames. Apart from the implausibility of anyone "leading" a "planned" drift, it turned out to be a good way to spend an afternoon. Laura is tiny, very friendly and obviously hugely talented. I loved her art work and admired her politics. Towards the end of our walk she was talking about her experiences with so called "careers guidance" at school. Attending what she described as a "shit comprehensive", Laura had told the teachers that she wanted to be an artist. She was advised to get a job in a stationary and art material shop. Hearing this I was immediately transported back to my own Norlington Road Boys Secondary Modern. Most of us were destined for the factories with the more polite and less disreputable  looking perhaps getting office work. Retail, or "shops" as we called it in those days, was another possibility. And so it was that any sporting ability would probably lead to a job in a sports goods shop. Although I languished in the second class from the bottom for all of my academic career, I was an avid reader and this was enough for me to be sent off to work for WH Smith flogging newspapers on Liverpool Street Station. Laura clearly survived "careers guidance" and so I suppose did I but my heart bleeds for the kids who are crushed by the system. All those unfulfilled dreams, all that lost potential.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Is Newham's Olympic legacy just another kebab in front of the telly?

According to a report by the physical fitness think tank UKactive, the London borough of Newham, principal hosts of the 2012 Olympics,  has reaped little sport participation benefit from all that much vaunted Olympic legacy. Newham residents are less physically active than anyone else in the country with almost 40% failing to get half an hour per week of moderate exercise. The report goes on to point out the disparity in exercise and sport participation between deprived and affluent parts of the country. As far as London is concerned Richmond is at the opposite end of the scale to Newham with only 16.3% of residents failing to hit the 30 minutes a week mark. Anyone who knows anything at all about wealth disparity will not be surprised at this as in just about every indicator from life expectancy to mental health to obesity it's the poor who are, by definition, worse off.  What is less clear is why something as rewarding but inexpensive as physical exercise is so unpopular in more deprived arrears. I suspect that answers to this conundrum will depend on political outlook. The poor are lazy, lack of facilities, poverty induced depression and inertia, bad diet, multiple low paid jobs leaving little time or energy for sports; all these are likely responses. As far as Newham is concerned it might be more useful, rather than looking at the non-active 40%, to find out what motivates the moderately active 60% and the no doubt much smaller number who are very active indeed. One thing is beyond dispute. This country's 2012 Olympians were disproportionately drawn from the privately educated well of sections of society. What kind of incentive is that for kids from the estate?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tory Boy in blue funk.

I don't know what kind of turnout the political pundits are expecting for the impending Rochester and Strood by-election but latest polls show UKIP out in front with 44%, the Tories just hanging on in there with 32% while Labour, Greens and LibDems are trailing down the field with 17, 4 and 2 respectively. Cameron managed to find his way down to the Medway Towns today and called upon all good men and true to vote tactically in order to keep the Kippers out. Dream on Dave.

Monday, 10 November 2014

All Huff and Puff?

I have only attended the "poor doors" picket three times so am not in a position to throw stones at anyone else for failing to turn out. Still, it does seem strange that none of the established left groupscules have bothered to get involved. Perhaps they don't see any mileage in the protest or maybe it's because they suspect that the tenants using the side entrance to One Commercial Street are not poor at all but merely "less wealthy". Now I hear that the Huffington Post site put up an article about the picket but took it down after only ten minutes. How strange. A shame actually as it was a good article. You can catch a PDF of the mystery piece here.
EDIT.  Well I never!  http://ianbone.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/peter-tatchell-intervention-gets-huff-post-poor-doors-article-re-published/

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Black and Red poppies.

I thought that I had said just about all I had to say about the WW1 commemorations already but Remembrance Sunday, the poppies at The Tower and the latest offering from Martin Wright and the usually spot on Black and Red TV force me to come back to the horrors of war in general and WW1 in particular. Having performed a first rate hatchet job on idiot Brand's Wevolution Booky Wooky ( well at least Martin had the patience to read it which is more than I would have had.) the old class warrior goes on to denounce the ceramic poppies in the Tower moat and Poppy Day in general. I think that it's important, but sometimes difficult, to separate the horrors of war and the politics that lead to wars from the soldiers who fight them. I can see nothing wrong with remembering the fallen and understand that it's some consolation to families of the victims of more recent wars. I can feel this without in any way endorsing the pomp and hypocrisy that surrounds Remembrance Sunday. As for Poppies, I can see nothing wrong with supporting an ex-serviceman's charity. As well as remembering the fallen of two world wars we might also remember the shockingly disproportionate number of rough sleepers who are ex-military.
I had a look at the poppies at the Tower the other day and thought it a spectacular enough art installation and, gutter press endorsement aside, if it raises a few bob for disabled ex-squaddies so much the better. While I was there I paid a visit to the Merchant Navy War Memorial in Trinity Square. All those names. All those men who lost their lives in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. I always find such visits moving.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Kicking off on bonfire night.

Last night's Guy Fawkes Anonymous demo in central London seems to have been a lively outing and with such revolutionary glitterati as Russell Brand and Vivienne Westwood in attendance it's no surprise that it captured a lot of media attention. Meanwhile over on the other side of town the weekly Class War "poor doors" picket of One Commercial Street started out as a good humoured affair with plenty of drumming, dancing, a few fireworks and the ritual burning of a Boris Johnson guy. The guy had all but burn out when the Fire Brigade arrived to cheers and applause. Having assessed the situation the firefighters (They rescue people not banks you know) wandered off and returned with a bucket of water to douse what remained of the flames before departing to more loud applause. Big smiles all round. No sooner had the real public servants and genuine emergency service turned their backs when the cops turned nasty and  arrested Jane Nicholl. Quite what the charming grandmother's crime was is not at all clear. Dancing and smiling a lot possibly. Pictures here.
One thing seems clear. What's left of a radical current here in the UK might be beaten but it sure ain't going to lie down.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cyberscouting For Boys.

It's easy to make cheap jokes and leftist jibes about the Scout Movement but scouting has provided a vehicle for adventure and a sense of achievement for countless thousands of kids and that can be no bad thing.  Of course Scouting has had to change with the times and may now bear little resemblance to the organisation founded by Baden Powell. The interesting thing is that every time that Scouting goes through an internal crisis about long trousers, politically correct woggles or whatever, it seems to grab the attention of, not only the media, but loads of busybodies such as myself who have nothing whatever to do with Scouting but are not short of an opinion or two about the way that the movement should develop. This week came news that the modern scout is being encouraged to concentrate on developing skills in PR and IT rather than knot tying. I'm not sure that this is such a good idea. The use of cordage, and the ability to tie a secure and appropriate knot, goes back long before the dawn of recorded history. Every time that we denigrate a practical skill and consign it to the dustbin of history, only a short time afterwards it seems to me, we realise the folly of such loss and start launching national initiatives to train young people in these skills.
It may well be that we are close to a world where everything from heart surgery to bricklaying will be done by computers and practical skill are consigned to museums and heritage centres. Maybe that will be for the best, but I doubt it. A cyber society unable to tie it's own shoelaces? No thanks.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Rhys Jones to keep Phil Collins company in Switzerland. Nice one.

I have always thought that Griff Rhys Jones was a bit of a plonker, mildly irritating perhaps, certainly not very funny but generally harmless. Now I realise what a tragic loss to the nation it would be if yet another ex- public school/Footlights idiot was forced out because of Milibean's imminent red tide of socialism. (You wish) I'm with Bonnie Greer on this one. If Rhys Jones doesn't fancy paying a mansion tax he should just "pack up and piss off".
Rhys Jones Towers. Fitzroy Square. Ah bless.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A London blog and a half.

I have just stumbled across a wonderful blog. The writers father was a keen photographer who recorded London street scenes and characters from the first decade after the war. A London Inheritance is one of those rare blogs that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Hi-Yo Silver Screeners.

  Yesterday a lady was telling me that the local Odeon is running morning performances for coffin dodgers at the knock down price of three quid a head including complimentary tea and biscuits. I'm afraid that I was a bit dismissive and said that I thought that I was not quite old enough for such extravaganzas yet. But the truth is that it's a good idea, anything that gets the elderly out of the house is a good idea. The hard reality of life is that many of us will end up reasonably healthy but alone and anything, absolutely anything, that helps people escape from the isolation of four walls and a cat must be good. The erosion of the extended family, and the elderly's place within it, is a matter for regret or rejoicing depending on your point of view and experience but, for old and young alike, replacing human contact with Facebook will result in a very strange world indeed. Meanwhile, all those silver screeners will be old enough to remember going to that other cinema initiative to get bums on seats, the Saturday Morning Kids Club. Let's hope that standards of behaviour have improved.