Whatever spin the Zimbabwean Army puts on the situation for the benefit of the world’s media, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion that Robert Mugabe being placed under house arrest by the military is a sure-fire sign that the longest-running elected dictatorship in Africa is effectively over. Unlike Fidel Castro, the President of Zimbabwe wasn’t prepared to retire once he reached an advanced age, despite being 93; it seemed the only way he was ever going to leave the Presidential palace was in a box. Now it appears his army has beaten the Grim Reaper to it. Officially, actions that look like a coup in all-but name are being described as a move to protect the President from a coterie of ‘criminals’ surrounding him; these allegedly include Mrs Mugabe, who was suspected of manoeuvring her way to becoming her husband’s successor, especially after his long-term ally, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was recently sacked.

Like Mugabe, Mnangagwa is a veteran of Zimbabwe’s brutal and bloody war of independence that essentially spanned the last fifteen years of the county’s previous incarnation as Rhodesia. Therefore, the military hold him in high esteem, for the generation that led the armed struggle against white minority rule – despite the fact the struggle ended almost 40 years ago – is still revered, and its veterans viewed as the founding fathers of the nation. In part, this is why Mugabe has been allowed to maintain his grip on power for so long and why Mnangagwa is regarded as the ideal successor, despite his role in the slaughter of thousands of opponents in the early 80s during his tenure as Security Minister. They can be forgiven for almost anything, with the exception of grooming an ambitious First Lady too young to have participated in the war to take over.

The lowering of the Union Jack in Zimbabwe in 1980 belatedly brought the curtain down on European colonialism in Africa, though it would have happened far sooner if Rhodesian PM Ian Smith hadn’t declared UDI in 1965. Harold Wilson had been pressing for Smith to end white minority rule at a time when an economically perilous Britain was seeking to cut costs by severing the remaining ties with Empire, pulling out of Aden and only hanging onto Hong Kong until the 99-year lease was up. Smith saw neighbouring South Africa as the preferable role model for Rhodesia and his blinkered intransigence engineered a climate that ultimately claimed thousands of lives, often in unimaginably savage and barbaric ways. However, the tendency of native rebel groups in Africa to turn to a Marxist blueprint as an alternative to imperialism inspired panic when the Cold War was still in full swing, so even international sanctions against Rhodesia weren’t as severe as they could have been when Soviet influence in former colonies remained a potent source of concern for European powers.

Ian Smith shocked both supporters at home and opponents abroad when he proposed the implementation of transition to black majority rule in 1976, but perhaps he could finally sense the guerrilla war he had instigated was a lost cause after a decade of fighting it. What followed was a laborious process of diplomacy between London and Salisbury that climaxed with the Lancaster House talks in 1979, paving the way for Zimbabwean independence a year later. The wonderfully-named Canaan Banana was Zimbabwe’s first President, though his role was largely ceremonial; the real power rested with prominent guerrilla figurehead Robert Mugabe, now leader of the ZANU party, who was elected Prime Minister of the new independent nation. In the post-colonial climate, Mugabe was feted by the west and seen as symbolic of a new start for the continent; Stevie Wonder even applauded the birth of Zimbabwe in the lyrics of 1980’s ‘Master Blaster’, though there were a lot of scores to settle.

The African tribal issue, which has been compared to England’s class system or the old clan loyalties in pre-Culloden Scotland, didn’t disappear with independence; within two years of white minority rule ending, Mugabe suppressed ‘dissidents’ in the province of Matabeleland by sending in elite troops trained in North Korea; thousands of civilians were massacred in Mugabe’s name – estimates of deaths range from 3,750 to 80,000. The majority of those executed supported opposition party ZAPU, led by Joshua Nkomo. With his grip on power solidified, Mugabe’s second election victory in 1985 was followed two years later by a pattern familiar to many countries that have been ‘liberated’ from colonial rule: Mugabe altered the constitution and made himself President – effectively for life. Zimbabwe was now a one-party state.

Mugabe’s initial public call for racial reconciliation wasn’t helped by the understandable ‘white flight’ from Zimbabwe to Apartheid South Africa, though those that remained tentatively supported Mugabe until he decided to play the colonial card and demanded ‘decolonialisation’, a process that resulted in the disastrous seizure of white-owned farms at the turn of the millennium. The economy consequently went into freefall as generations of experienced farmers were displaced by Mugabe cronies who hadn’t a clue how to manage the rural economy. The consequences of this were disastrous for a country already being run down, stricken with the HIV epidemic and a pitifully low life-expectancy; hyperinflation followed, with the currency rendered virtually worthless. In the space of just fifteen years, Mugabe had enabled one of the most potentially powerful African nations to become a basket case.

Although opposition grew, Mugabe clung onto power through corruption and electoral fraud, constantly playing upon his war veteran credentials and deflecting international criticism by invoking the ‘sour grapes’ spirit of the country’s former colonial overlords. However, by 2008, international admiration for the great revolutionary had diminished and he was forced to share power with opponent Morgan Tsvangirai, despite the violence he had overseen against his opposite number’s supporters. This uneasy arrangement ended with the 2013 elections as Mugabe proved himself yet again to be a canny electioneer, retaining his office with a landslide.

Since then, however, his judgement and standing at home has come into question; the presence of his wife, regarded by many as the incumbent power behind the throne, has destabilised his support amongst the military, and this week’s actions appear to have finally called time on a reign that seemed destined to end in death. Whatever happens next, the legacy of Mugabe’s rule will take decades to repair, though the enforced installation of another ageing war veteran as President is perhaps not the best way to begin.

© The Editor



Well, Tsar Vladimir must be crapping himself; receiving a public ticking-off from a woman whose own Cabinet pays no heed to her authority must be like being asked outside by Walter the Softy. The PM last night used her speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet to issue a warning to Russia over its alleged cyber interference in recent European affairs, as well as the US Presidential Election of 2016. Trump remains unconvinced Russian online infiltration had any part to play in his unexpected victory last year, though to be honest he’s hardly likely to say otherwise. Granted, no concrete evidence of cyber skullduggery on the part of Moscow has yet to emerge, but the rumours persist.

If the desperate straw-clutching of our Democrat cousins across the pond a year on from Hillary’s disastrous attempt to return to the White House isn’t demoralising enough (for further details, see her whinging blame-game of a book), the need to attribute one’s own failure to another party has continued apace as all responsibility is absolved yet again. In case you didn’t already know, the reason a majority of Brits voted to leave the EU was due to the Russians. It’s official. No proof is available, naturally, but it had to be down to a malevolent alien force influencing the thought processes of those too stupid to make their own minds up, of course. It couldn’t be that many in this country were sick and tired of being dictated to by wealthy elites of tax-evading wankers and told that the grandiose gravy train of unelected Brussels bureaucrats was something their lives would be immeasurably poorer without.

I don’t believe Bob Geldof or Eddie Izzard truly understand the daily struggles of making do and mending at the bottom of the social ladder any more than Iain Duncan Smith does. The latter has never had it hard, so his perspective is formed by a lifetime of material comfort; on the other hand, the former may have both begun in humble surroundings, but were beneficiaries of eras when the edgy side of the entertainment industry offered a way out for terminal waifs and strays. For Izzard, it was the arse-end of ‘Alternative Comedy’; for Geldof, it was Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The Boomtown Rats reaching No.1 with ‘Rat Trap’ in November 1978 was a hugely significant pop cultural moment and shouldn’t be underestimated. No act from the Punk/New Wave scene had scaled the summit of the charts up to that point; yes, The Sex Pistols had unofficially done so the year before, but the music biz had conspired to prevent ‘God Save the Queen’ from hitting No.1 during Jubilee Week, so it was down to a bunch of Oirish Oiks to curtail the reign of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John a year later. More significantly, the success of ‘Rat Trap’ opened the floodgates for Blondie, The Police, The Jam, Tubeway Army and others over the following couple of years, so it was no mean feat. Sadly, it’s an achievement Geldof himself has summarily trashed with his post-Live Aid activities.

Izzard at one time appeared to be a breath of fresh air, particularly during the ‘Loaded’ Lads era of the mid-90s, challenging stereotypes by openly flaunting his penchant for feminine cosmetics and making those of us who didn’t subscribe to the prevailing masculine trends feel as though we weren’t alone. Since then, however, Izzard has sabotaged his credentials by becoming a self-appointed spokesperson for every ‘phobia’ and ‘ism’ to pollute the dictionary and has engineered an atmosphere in which a teacher can be suspended from his job for the crime of (I kid you not) ‘misgendering’; yes, such a thing apparently exists amongst stupid people obsessed with identity politics trivia that most of us don’t have the luxury of being distracted by.

The late 70s and even the mid-90s are both a long time ago, though; whatever relevance either Geldof or Izzard once possessed is something that has no currency in 2017, certainly not for those who once bought the records of the former or applauded the outré appearance of the latter. Their willing submission to the Gina Miller manual plays upon the cultural importance both could lay claim to in their youth, but one that means bugger all as they career towards their pensions. Narcissistic egos, confronted by the uncomfortable reality of achievements with a vintage of 25-40 years, require fresh injections of the zeitgeist and they have hitched a ride on the Brexit bandwagon as a means of keeping their respective hands in. The mistake both have made is to attach themselves to a vehicle whose passengers are the kind of figures whose detachment from the day-to-day lives of the uneducated multitudes is as potent as hereditary peers of old, and one that inspires similar loathing.

Geldof and Izzard are contemporary cheerleaders for a trait characteristic of the left for decades – the paternalistic ‘we know better than you’ approach to the plebs, one that complements the contempt of the right for the lower orders, and one that treats them with equal condescension. It assumes the position that those who rose from the bottom of the heap in a distant era of easy social mobility are somehow qualified to preach to those that haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of following suit – and are more qualified than those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths as opposed to those that waited until they could afford said utensil. The distance of the rise, however, renders the opinions of Geldof and Izzard out of touch and out of reach. Both have long moved in exclusive circles, and their grasp of reality is rooted in the reality of their pasts, a reality that is irrelevant to the here and now.

Geldof making a particular hand gesture on a flotilla hired at great expense to cruise down the Thames in the run-up to the Referendum is as detached from the concerns of the average voter as Izzard calling upon half-a-dozen Met Officers to wrestle a pleb to the pavement for nicking his silly beret. Neither has any real notion as to why those they view with such patronising cluelessness voted in a way that jeopardises their tax-evading lifestyles, and the more they sponsor Icke-esque conspiracy theories over Russian involvement in a democratic process, the more they remove themselves from those they purport to support.

© The Editor



When John Lennon returned his MBE to Her Majesty in 1969, he penned an accompanying (and characteristically flippant) note that defused the potential melodrama of the grand gesture. ‘I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing,’ he wrote, ‘against our support of America in Vietnam; and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts’. Brenda’s reaction was not recorded, though Lennon himself later admitted being a Member of the British Empire was something of an embarrassment re his counter-cultural credentials, even if sending the medal back provoked the ire of his Aunt Mimi, who had proudly displayed it on her mantelpiece for the previous four years.

The award was conferred in 1965, officially as recognition of The Beatles as a Great British Export, though prompted by a canny PM (Harold Wilson) with one eye on a forthcoming General Election he hoped would increase his slender majority. Released from the shackles of the ‘mop-top’ straitjacket in 1969, Lennon’s peace campaigning with Yoko Ono and consequent resurgence of the lifelong anti-establishment sentiments that the Fab Four machine had suppressed earned him the enmity of the ruling class. Mocked and reviled in a manner that may come as a surprise to those who only know the posthumous Lennon as a latter-day Saint (successfully promoted by Yoko herself), Lennon’s gesture was the final act of impertinence from the perspective of the set who had enjoyed patting John, Paul, George and Ringo on the head during the Beatlemania era.

What few mentioned at the time of the mortification that greeted Lennon’s rebuttal of the State’s ultimate Kinder Surprise bestowed upon a ‘commoner’ was that the initial award of the MBE to The Beatles in 1965 had been received with equal outrage from the same people. Numerous war veterans and distinguished gentlemen who had spent most of their adult lives expecting such an award would come their way themselves returned their precious MBEs in protest at long-haired young men devaluing the honour. Four years later, the politicised youth culture that had superseded Swinging London demanded Lennon nail his colours to the mast; Lennon momentarily appeased them, though the Radical Left continued to be critical of him unless they received an invite to his Ascot mansion. He eventually realised it was impossible to please all of the people all of the time and stopped trying.

Forty-eight years on, another grand gesture has been made by another former pop star, albeit one whose days as such are but a distant memory only upheld by the minority tuning in to BBC4’s ‘Top of the Pops’ reruns. Bob Geldof has announced he will be returning his Freedom of the City of Dublin award in protest over the perceived failure of Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn and prevent what has been labelled ethnic cleansing in her native Burma (or Myanmar, if you prefer). The de facto Burmese PM had the same Irish honour conferred upon her, along with similar pats on the head bestowed by the likes of London, Oxford, Sheffield and Glasgow – three of which she has subsequently been stripped of. A portrait of her has been removed from the Oxford University College she read politics at and there are now calls for the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1997 to be revoked.

During the long years of her house arrest by the Burmese military (1989 to 2010, on and off), Aung San Suu Kyi was adopted as the poster-girl for political imprisonment and became a beacon around which western virtue signallers rallied in the same way a previous generation had rallied round Nelson Mandela. But the problem with such beacons is that the symbolic halo they acquire blocks out the uncomfortable truth of a warts-and-all human being; she was always a human being, even though the interchangeable nature of such cult figures (from Guevara onwards) means when their feet are exposed as having clay-like qualities, those who turned them into a symbol are as distraught as pubescent girls when they discover their pop idol has got married.

Upon her release, when Aung San Suu Kyi was being feted in the west and the usual suspects were falling over themselves to sing her praises and shower her in awards, the one person from these islands she really wanted to meet was Dave Lee Travis, whose radio shows being broadcast on the World Service had made a difference to her during her house arrest. Yes, DLT – not David Cameron or Theresa May, not even Bob Geldof or bloody Bono or any of the other glorified chuggers emotionally blackmailing the have-nots to donate to endless causes whilst they themselves squirrel their considerable assets away in overseas tax-havens. And now their darling has disappointed them by behaving like the actual politician she is (and in a country where the same military that imprisoned her still carries clout), they’ve suddenly decided she’s up there with Mugabe.

The Mayor of Dublin has responded to Geldof’s stunt by pointing out Sir Bob hasn’t mentioned dispensing with his honorary knighthood from Britain, a nation whose reputation in Ireland as an imperial power of old doesn’t really complement Geldof’s principles. Geldof’s reason for giving back his honour is Aung San Suu Kyi’s indifference to the plight of the persecuted Rohingya people of Myanmar and her failure to act on the refugee crisis as thousands of Rohingya people flee predominantly Buddhist Burma for neighbouring Muslim Bangladesh, even if this isn’t the first time it has happened.

For an incredibly complex situation with an extremely long and winding history in the region, the likes of Geldof and others simplifying and reducing it to basic black & white terms of heroes and villains is both condescending to those involved and betrays an ignorance of the far-from straightforward scenario playing out there. Yes, current events in Burma are not remotely pleasant; but Aung San Suu Kyi never asked to be the human rights sweetheart the west manufactured and her actions of late (or lack of them) demonstrate the dangers in projecting western values onto different cultures as much as Dubya imagining American notions of democracy could be imposed upon Iraq.

© The Editor



Whilst that odious Jabba Tom Watson weeps crocodile tears over the suicide of Carl Sargeant, seemingly oblivious to the blood on his own hands, the excuse for an administration perched on the opposing benches could have done without what passes for a ‘sex scandal’ in 2017, certainly on top of everything else. But whilst rolling news channels prefer the ridiculous spectacle of helicopters trailing a returning member of the Cabinet en route from Heathrow to No.10 as though she was OJ Simpson being chased by the LAPD, there’s nothing the tabloid end of Fleet Street loves more than what happens, as Peter Wyngarde once said, ‘when sex leers its inquisitive head’. Parallels with John Major’s similarly shambolic Cabinet have come thicker and faster in recent weeks, though it’s no great surprise. One has to go back 25 years to find the nearest comparison of a governing party so viciously divided over Europe and simultaneously saddled with wandering hands.

When the disaster of Black Wednesday hit and Britain was forced to leave the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, a move that cost the Treasury £3.3 billion as desperate attempts to defend sterling’s value proved futile, the same week saw the resignation of high-profile Major Minister David Mellor, following a proper sex scandal. The fact Major dithered over replacing Norman Lamont, his Chancellor during Black Wednesday also suggested the PM was weak and indecisive; even though the economy was slowly improving and unemployment was beginning to fall, confidence in the nation’s leader had plummeted. The inauguration of Back to Basics, unveiled at the 1993 Conservative Party Conference, was seen by many as an attempt by Major to salvage his dwindling reputation and appeal to the right-wing tabloids that had begun to waver in their support.

In retrospect, Back to Basics can be held responsible for the public perception of the Tories as the ‘nasty party’ as much as any of the divisive policies pursued by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s. Hallmarks of Tory policy that have continued into this century via the likes of IDS were key to this horrible, desperate gamble by Major, singling out a small section of society as the cause of society’s ills, safe in the knowledge that this small section were powerless to fight back.

Along with single mothers, there were criticisms of soft sentencing on the part of the justice system, painting a picture of Britain’s inner cities as lawless hotbeds of unchecked criminality; illegal raves were also held up as a further example of the country’s lapse into immoral anarchy. The blame game is always a sure sign that an administration has run out of ideas, and whilst Major’s accusations chimed with editorials in some of Fleet Street’s more reactionary publications, the vast majority of the press and public found the whole Back to Basics project utterly ludicrous. And, as luck would have it, within a few months of Back to Basics being unveiled, a steady stream of scandals emanating from the Tory party undermined Major’s credibility and highlighted the hypocrisy at the heart of this most ill-advised of political projects.

In 1990, Tory MP Tim Yeo had made a speech in which he declared – ‘It is in everyone’s interest to reduce broken families and the numbers of single parents. I have seen from my own constituency the consequences of marital breakdown’. Just three months after the launch of Back to Basics, the man John Major had appointed Minister for the Environment and Countryside was forced to resign when the press revealed Yeo had fathered a ‘love child’ with a Tory councillor. The same month as Tim Yeo quit the Cabinet, John Major’s Government also lost its leading Peer when the Earl of Caithness resigned following the suicide of his wife, who had shot herself upon discovering her husband’s affair with another woman. The following month, Stephen Milligan – MP for Eastleigh, a former journalist and ‘rising star’ of the Tory Party – was found dead in his flat from apparent autoerotic asphyxiation, strangled by an electrical cord with an orange stuffed in his mouth; elements of cross-dressing and self-bondage made this bizarre, lurid tragedy a gift for the more sensationalist corners of Fleet Street. It also triggered a by-election that was won by the Liberal Democrats, dealing a further humiliating blow to John Major’s shaky administration.

But these weren’t the only scandals to affect the Conservatives in the middle of the 90s. There was also was the Cash-for-questions affair, involving ‘The Egyptian Grocer’ and Neil Hamilton – Minister for Deregulation and Corporate Affairs, no less – not to mention the dramatic downfall of Jonathan Aitken, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Aitken’s libel proceedings against allegations by both the Guardian and ITV’s ‘World in Action’ dragged on for two years, but resulted in him being charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice and receiving a sentence of eighteen months behind bars. His cell wouldn’t be vacant for long, however.

Jeffrey Archer, one of the most public advocates of Back to Basics, was brought back into the Tory frontline by John Major, who elevated him to the peerage. Archer had evaded prosecution over the Anglia Television ‘shares affair’ in 1994, but when he was selected as Tory candidate for the London Mayoral Election five years later, Rupert Murdoch’s newfound love-in with Labour saw the News of the World dredge up Archer’s 1987 libel case against the Daily Star, when he had been found not guilty of paying a prostitute for her services, and was awarded £50,000 in damages. The new allegations that emerged in 1999 presented strong evidence that Archer had committed perjury during the 1987 libel trial by fabricating an alibi. The Tory Party immediately dropped him as their Mayoral candidate and expelled him from the party for five years. Archer was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice in September 2000 and when the case came to trial in the summer of 2001, Archer was found guilty of the offence and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, of which he served half.

Even though there was a gap of four years between Major’s Government being thrown out of office and Jeffrey Archer’s imprisonment, the fact that notable players in that administration were still being subjected to the long arm of the law underlined how the malodorous odour of corruption and sleaze continued to hover around the Tory Party like the scent of unwashed feet on a Twister mat. When former gaffe-prone Major Minister Edwina Currie later revealed she and Major were engaged in a four-year affair during the 1980s, it was the belated icing on an especially unappetising cake. As things currently stand, Theresa May has yet to bake an equivalent confection; but the stench emanating from the Downing Street kitchen is beginning to linger.

© The Editor



I was talking to a friend the other night about my brief stint as a Big Gig-goer in the late 80s. I saw Bowie twice, as well as Dylan, the Stones and Prince once each within a three-year period and I did it all whilst signing-on, suggesting the ticket prices (not to mention the obligatory coach travel costs) weren’t that extortionate. The stubs from said gigs are probably gathering dust in my mum’s loft, so I’m unable to announce here and now how much I was charged for the privilege of being squeezed into Roker Park, Maine Road, Wembley Arena and the NEC; but a cursory glance at vintage ticket stubs from the same era on eBay suggests that even when the change in the cost of living is taken into account, the gap between wages (or dole) and ticket prices wasn’t that great a gulf.

It goes without saying that those were the days when touring was a handy sideline rather than the prime source of earning for musicians; like being able to turn up at your local football club on match-day without having to take out a loan beforehand, it was possible to see your musical heroes in the flesh for an affordable amount. The simple reason was that record sales financed their tax-exiles back then; even though there wasn’t much difference between the price of seeing them live and the price of their new album, the album would sell to more people than could attend a tour, thus negating the need to hike up ticket prices to a point where they’d be beyond the reach of fans short on ready cash. Not so now, in this post-Napster world.

Other the Ronnie Biggs model (which is itself redundant now the drugs market brings in a far higher income than an old-school blag), Rock ‘n’ Roll and football were the tried and tested working-class escape routes, as well as passionate pursuits for those who couldn’t sing a tune or kick a ball. The audience projected its own aspirations onto the performer, who had come from the same place, and believed it was possible to do likewise. The view from the terraces on a Saturday afternoon was similarly imbued with possibilities, especially for those youngsters hemmed into ‘the boy’s pen’.

There was considerable media coverage when England’s U17 team won their equivalent of the World Cup a couple of weeks back, though few members of that starting eleven will make it off the bench at Premier League clubs crammed with overseas signings. And unless a boy or girl from nowhere is prepared to suffer the indignity and humiliation of being a Cowell marionette, the only kids who can afford guitars, basses and drums today are the posh ones – which would explain why none of them have anything to say. Classic working-class pastimes have effectively priced out the working-class. But, hey, we’ve got Smartphones, X-Factor and microwave meals – what more do we need, eh?

Even the theatre was once an escape; some of our most iconic actors of the 60s and 70s came from humble backgrounds, but getting into drama school without the fear of being saddled with a lifelong debt and then honing their skills on the regional rep circuit is a lost world in 2017. The slashing of local council budgets that previously funded after-school drama classes and theatre workshops runs parallel with Government emphasis on the arts as a ‘luxury’ in state education (not much point reciting Shakespeare soliloquies when you’re cold-calling, I suppose). By contrast, the arts remain a fixture on the public school syllabus, which would explain why the majority of today’s under-40 household name thespians are Old Etonians. Their parents could afford to finance such ‘luxury’.

Considering the last time the economic climate was probably this grim was in the recession-struck early 1980s, it’s worth remembering what that period produced in terms of art reflecting life; and memorable music aside, it’s been interesting to recently reunite with a one-off TV series of the era that has unexpectedly surfaced on DVD. And, no, it’s not ‘Boys from The Blackstuff’.

‘Johnny Jarvis’ aired just the once on BBC1 at the back-end of 1983, and at the time of its broadcast was a must-see at my high-school. Appearing at the tail-end of the gritty social realism characteristic of ‘Play for Today’, this six-parter accurately documented the scrap-heap we Easter Leavers were poised to be tossed onto. The title character was played by Mark Farmer – a familiar juvenile lead at the time via his stint on ‘Grange Hill’, and who sadly passed away last year. Jarvis is the focus of his best friend, the bookish outsider Alan Lipton; Jarvis is a borderline ‘David Watts’ character to Lipton, both envied and idolised. But whilst Jarvis is dutifully subservient to the system once he leaves school, his subservience amounts to nothing when the firm he’s apprenticed to goes under before he fully qualifies as a skilled tradesman.

Lipton opts out and finds his voice with a guitar, starting a band he continues to write for after he forgoes the spotlight, leaving fame to his ex-bandmates whilst he settles for fortune. The steady progress of Lipton’s musical endeavours as the series spans 1977-1983 is a vivid demonstration of how such a thing was then possible from the starting point of a council flat; Jarvis’s struggles to make a living in the traditional heavy industries that were dying on their arses under Thatcherism are equally prescient for the era, and watching the programme after a 34-year gap really brought home to me how much has changed.

It not only reminded me of how those coming from nothing were able to articulate their experiences and could make themselves heard doing so. It also made me realise how those experiences wouldn’t be dramatised by mainstream television today. There is no working-class representation now unless we’re talking stereotypical chavvy thugs in gangs or victims of sexual abuse; and those playing such parts probably learnt their lines in end-of-term productions on the stages of Harrow or Roedean, anyway. Sixty years ago, Arthur Seaton said ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’; well, they have ground us down and they’ve got us where they want us – complicit in our own lethargy. Never mind the bollocks – here’s the Bake Off.

© The Editor



Yes, it’s inevitable, but it’s also irresistible; and I’m going to say it. To lose one member of the Cabinet may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two seems like carelessness. Okay, I’ve said it, but Theresa May has lost it. Granted, she never really had it; her premiership has been a slow suicide from the off. But to have an already shaky administration disrupted twice in seven days raises yet more questions of leadership – or lack of. Boris putting his foot in it again is par for the course, but it didn’t matter as much when he was a chat-show backbencher or even Mayor of London; when you hold one of the four great offices of state, however, getting by on buffoonish charm isn’t enough – especially when the liberty of a British subject imprisoned in Iran could be threatened further by the Foreign Secretary’s clumsily cavalier attitude towards his job.

Boris is safe for the moment, though; in a Cabinet infected by subversive Remainers eager to throw a spanner in the Brexit works, a cheerleading Brexiteer like Boris is vital to uphold Theresa May’s pre-Election promise of a Hard Brexit. There’s also the old Lincoln maxim about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, of course. It’s no coincidence the PM brought Michael Gove back into the fold; the prospect of Boris also exiled to the backbenches, given free rein to make mischief and plot her downfall from afar, is the kind of additional anxiety she could do without. Better to have those with an eye on her job in the same room, where she can see them – a bit like when teachers move the most troublesome pupils to the desks at the front of the classroom.

Gideon quitting as an MP to become full-time editor of the Evening Osborne undoubtedly helped the Prime Minister in the Commons, though his anti-May agenda being broadcast to Londoners on a daily basis must irk her. The forced resignation of her International Development Secretary, however, is a more pressing headache she could have done without. Patel’s error in meeting senior Israeli politicians in an unofficial capacity, and without Foreign Office clearance, may seem a minor infringement of diplomatic protocol, but whether or not her error was mere naivety or simple stupidity, the resulting furore left her position untenable.

The PM’s problem is losing a Bright Young Thing who contradicts the electorate’s image of privileged, privately-educated conveyor-belt Conservatives; and the last thing a Government bereft of a majority needs is to keep shedding members that make it look as if it couldn’t run the proverbial brewery piss-up.

Priti Patel was one of the Prime Minister’s predecessor’s pet projects to upgrade the public perception of the Conservative Party – young, photogenic and Asian. When David Cameron made a point of announcing he once met ‘a black man’ during the TV leaders’ debates during the 2010 General Election, it complemented his promotion of the unelected Baroness Warsi to his inner circle as Minister for Tokenism…sorry, Minister for Faith and Communities; the emergence of a figure such as Priti Patel, actually voted for by the electorate of Witham (in Essex), was a further feather in the Tory diversity cap. But a week on from the loss of Sex God Michael Fallon for the gross moral turpitude of touching the knee of an Express scribe fifteen years ago, the loss of a fairly inconsequential Parliamentarian is nevertheless another body blow to a PM who is widely regarded as being about as effective as a weak supply teacher incapable of controlling an unruly class.

Brexiteers without Portfolio such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have hinted that Priti Patel’s forced resignation was engineered by Cabinet Remainers, whereas Labour’s porky deputy Tom Watson has suggested the Foreign Office was aware of Patel’s presence in Israel whilst publicly claiming it had no idea what the International Development Secretary was up to on her ‘holiday’. Whatever the truth of Patel’s odd activities, the fact remains she’s lost her job in the May administration and the PM now has to undergo one more reshuffle that has been thrust upon her; but it seems resignations – voluntary or otherwise – are the only way Theresa May can be prompted into rearranging her Cabinet furniture.

Patel’s exit comes just hours before Brexit negotiations reach their sixth round; to use an FA Cup analogy, that means we’re only two games away from Wembley – or it did before football’s governing body decided the national stadium could be devalued further by hosting the competition’s semi-final matches as well. The Times today reported that the EU is preparing for ‘the fall of Theresa May before the New Year’ as a result of the past seven days, which will trigger ‘a change of leadership or elections leading to a Labour victory’. This was rebuffed by IDS on ‘Today’ this morning, though his belief that the PM is ‘the one person who can actually still unite the Cabinet, the country and the party’ says all you need to know about a man who blames the decline and fall of Western Civilisation on unmarried men.

For the moment, Theresa May will cling on – and on, and on; but it’s hard to come away from the latest car-crash without concluding this is a Government treading water, feeling more like the Major administration of the mid-90s or the Brown one of the late noughties than a party that technically won a General Election just five months ago. As has been pointed out before, however, the most accurate comparison one can make is with Jim Callaghan’s Government of 1976-79, particularly during the testing time following the collapse of the 1977/78 Lib-Lab Pact. What happens next is anyone’s guess; but I can guarantee it won’t be Priti.

© The Editor



Again – yet again – the memorable sketch from ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ springs to mind. Rowan Atkinson and Mel Smith play MPs from opposite sides of the House, engaging in a lively debate chaired by Pamela Stephenson; as their argument reaches fever pitch, Rowan Atkinson keels over and dies of a heart attack. Mel Smith abruptly switches his vitriolic critique of his opponent’s stance midsentence and ends it by paying tribute to a Great Parliamentarian. We’ve seen it one more time today as the death was announced of Labour MP Carl Sargeant, a man who was the Welsh Government’s Secretary for Communities and Children until he was sacked last Friday. The reason for his dismissal was related to another allegation of the kind Westminster has been awash with over the past seven days.

It appears Mr Sargeant’s death was by his own hand, which is always a painfully sad way to end a life; but it was really only a matter of time before one of the politicians falling under the finger of suspicion took this route out of it. The kind of gushing tributes being paid to Carl Sargeant in the wake of his apparent suicide probably didn’t accompany his dismissal and party membership suspension just a few days ago because, as we all know, a man is guilty till proven innocent in ‘the Court of Public Opinion’, that non-Judicial body vigorously endorsed by every MP confident their own conduct was free from the allegations that have plagued other public bodies since society spinelessly kowtowed to the ‘I believe her’ mindset.

The Crown Courts of Britain assemble for business each Monday morning with disparate members of the public pulled out of the Jury Service tombola having to put their lives and livelihoods on ice for a fortnight. Whilst the barristers and judges casually stroll into the hallowed environs smug in the knowledge they won’t be lumbered with the extortionate parking fees that the potential jurors have to endure if they ignore the condescending advice to use that useless means of getting from A to B known as public transport, the system grinds on at a snail’s pace as people without a ‘Right Honourable’ prefix to their names face the music.

These insignificant plebs have been enduring the allegations Westminster residents are now suddenly confronted by for the last half-decade or so; their pariah status is emphasised by the warnings dished out to the jurors that craving a cigarette break outdoors might entail sharing a smoking space with ‘criminals’ – the status afforded the accused before their trial has even been graced with a verdict. Of course, the police and the CPS have no politicised agenda at all, and the accused wouldn’t even be there if smoke hadn’t been sighted before their fire began. Anyone fortunate enough never to have fallen foul of the boys-in-blue nail varnish has absolute faith in their integrity, naturally, and thus a negative opinion of the individual is formed even before the swearing-in ceremony.

Despite the Expenses’ Scandal of less than a full decade ago, the elected gravy train freeloaders have continued to recline in their exalted cocoons, convinced their lifestyle choice has rendered them immune from the curse of the false allegation or the taint of an accusation imbued with the power to end a career. How crushing it must be to finally realise they actually have no immunity from a moral crusade that has laid waste to hundreds of less important lives across the country, not to mention showbiz veterans whose advanced years and kitsch celebrity means they don’t matter.

Chris Evans and his ginger willy aside, there are no further entertainment icons to pursue, and dead public servants have had their graves so saturated with piss that even their pursuers are now seeking a golden handshake – see Wiltshire Constabulary’s Mike Veale. Where else to go to feed the insatiable appetites of Alison Saunders and Vera Baird? Why, Westminster, of course – not forgetting the poor relations of Cardiff and Edinburgh.

It was fine when a dying has-been like Leon Brittan was being shaken out of slumber on his deathbed or a WWII hero like Lord Bramall was having his house turned over on the instructions of a despicable Met chief ironically poised to replace him in the Lords – raised voices were few and far between then. But now we are supposed to be outraged that those who facilitated a climate wherein such events could take place are being bitten by the monster they approved the creation of. Well, sorry for the inconvenience, Westminster 2017; but it serves you right.

Yes, it’s sad that a man has to take his own life in the wake of allegations that have yet to be proven; but how many other lives have been taken in similar circumstances – ones that were denied the spotlight Carl Sargeant’s suicide has received today? And how many nauseatingly hypocritical tributes were paid to those lives when they were lost? Not many, I suspect. I’m afraid the chickens are coming home to roost now, and it’s increasingly hard to summon-up sympathy for the highest profile victims of a witch-hunt that the latest victims of gave the seal of approval to in the belief it would never touch them.

© The Editor



At last, it’s official! The Pope is Catholic, bears shit in the woods, middle-aged MPs grope pretty young girls, America has a gun problem that enables lunatics to shoot dead innocents on a regular basis, and rich people (including Her Majesty) squirrel away their ill-gotten gains into offshore accounts. Now you know. Okay, so where does that leave us? Well, speaking personally, I’ve decided to leave such shocking revelations to the MSM and instead will today take the opportunity to blow my own trumpet on account of the fact nobody is going to blow it on my behalf. Yes, those of you who peruse these missives on a near-daily basis will be aware each one includes an additional link beneath said musings on the way we live now that will take you to a German website should you click on it. The site used to be based in Blighty and then relocated to the land of sauerkraut, which hasn’t been an especially beneficial transfer for the author.

I penned a virtual biography about a late, lamented friend the best part of two years ago, following the establishment of a parallel blog (one that actually predates this one) which shared the same name as the book, ‘Looking for Alison’; after spending a good twelve months attempting to interest numerous media outlets in Alison’s story, promising breaks via ‘The Big Issue’ and Radio 4’s ‘iPM’ led to little beyond the initial euphoria, and the self-published book remained as the sole reminder of my endeavours.

The closure of the UK site that I stumbled upon – which printed the book in paperback form on demand (once I uploaded the file) – necessitated relocation to the parent company in Germany, but the language (not to mention the financial) barrier has proven to be somewhat problematic from my perspective. Although ‘Looking for Alison’ is still available there, you can also purchase it on Amazon should you be interested; and the planet’s favourite tax-dodging online retail corporation also hosts other titles to emanate from the same hand providing you with amusing observations on the world about us.

One of the reasons I searched out a site based in Germany was that Amazon only dealt with crappy e-books four years ago (when I uploaded my first publically-unveiled effort); now it prints actual, proper books as well, so my most recent novelistic outing was uploaded there following the linguistic difficulties arising from the previous outlet’s wholesale embrace of the Germanic tongue; with my deceased grandfather being the only person of my acquaintance who was fluent in that particular dialect (born of his PoW stint in Silesia), I was at a bit of a loss when it came to uploading and then promoting my latest, so discovering Amazon now deals with the produce of dead trees was handy, to say the least.

This blog has always been a sideline for me, as is the YouTube video platform referenced a couple of posts ago; telling stories is what I regard as my raison d’être, though the two aforementioned sidelines tend to attract larger audiences on account of them a) being free of charge and b) being the kind of easily-accessible formats ‘The Kids’ can handle more than something with a history stretching all the way back to the prehistoric days of the Gutenberg Bible. Nevertheless, the wide expanses of the novel suit me better than the condensed and compact confines of the blog; I learnt the economy of prose that this medium requires in a past stint on a now-defunct forum and reckon I can distinguish between the separate skills that the blog and the book demand as a result.

‘Mr. Yesterday’ is the title of the book I’m shamelessly using this post to promote, a book I complete several months ago, but one that has only just appeared in paperback form on Amazon. Although not through want of trying, I am bereft of an agent to do all the dull promotional stuff for me (thus stifling the more fun creative bit), so I have no choice but to utilise the platforms already available to me for the purposes of promotion, and I’ve decided to do prostitute myself today, if you don’t mind. Bear with me and allow me the indulgence, though; you might actually be intrigued enough to buy the bloody thing.

‘Mr. Yesterday’ is the tale of an individual whose soul-mate has been lost to him and whose grief is interrupted by an unexpected encounter with a mysterious organisation that promises a unique series of distractions. I’m sure we all recall those who f**ked us over at one time or another at separate points of our respective lives; well, the title character of this story is presented with the opportunity to belatedly redress the balance. It doesn’t matter how far back in his murky past the perpetrators of his misery go; he can finally achieve vengeance. He begins with his former headmistress forty-plus years before and ends up much closer to home. I’m sure we could all list potential targets for retrospective revenge, though the likelihood of us ever managing it is remote. Not so where Mr. Yesterday is concerned. He has the chance to get his own back, travelling through his life anew as he inflicts fresh damage on those who inflicted distant damage on him.

Trust me, it’s more entertaining than it perhaps sounds; if you’re familiar with my trademark tongue-in-cheek gallows humour, you’ll know what to expect, and it could be a cheery addition to your bookshelf for the princely sum of just under a tenner – no more expensive than any other new novel that might catch your eye on Amazon. In case you were wondering, I’ll pocket about three quid of that, so it’s not as if I’m crowd-funding you to finance a Chelsea mansion that I can stick my avaricious arse in. Anyway, I’ve done my bit in making you aware of its existence, and the ball is now in your court. To paraphrase something Amazon is so fond of saying – if you like this, you might like that. The link is below…

© The Editor



You may recall a post on here last year titled ‘Tumbleweed Injunction’, all about a story involving a certain Grande Dame of British pop music who couldn’t be named by the mainstream media on account of a super-injunction and accompanying threat of legal proceedings should a TV programme or newspaper dare to say his moniker out loud when reporting his alleged threesome. This particular case was as good an example as any of how the senior mediums have been rendered redundant by cyberspace when it comes to free speech. Although my piece didn’t once say the stage name said musician adopted almost fifty years ago, one would have to be a bit dim not to guess to whom I was referring. Besides, everybody bloody knew who it was, with or without the trademark platform boot I illustrated the article with.

We now have one more example of how the info is out there and the MSM is powerless to use it whilst the rest of us can choose to access it if we want, finally liberated from having that choice dictated to us by the press or TV. Westminster’s uncut ‘dodgy dossier’ is available via Twitter and the version I’ve seen is a straightforward photocopy sourced from God-knows-where, with the contents laid bare and not needing a running commentary. My job today is not to repeat that list verbatim; for one thing, there’s no point, what with it already having been seen by a potential audience of thousands; for another, it’s not my role to be a ‘rogue journalist’. A bit of rogue I might be, but I’d never presume to label myself a journalist. Besides, if I were, I’d be even more restricted in what I can or can’t say re the names on the list.

It’s an odd combination of personal kinkiness, innocuous (and hardly illegal) activities between consenting adults, and genuinely unpleasant lechery. Whoever compiled it clearly collected every snippet of gossip from the frivolous to the serious that had been overheard in the corridors of power and cobbled the lot together in one unsavoury package – not unlike the way in which such behaviour outside of Parliament has been cobbled together in law by a poisonous moral crusade that politicians have endorsed in the belief it would never pierce their sanctimonious bubble. Now it has belatedly encroached upon their own sexual misadventures they’re suddenly screaming ‘Witch Hunt’! Tough Titty – or should that be Sugar Titty?

Like most, I should imagine, there are a great deal of names on the list I’ve never heard of, but that’s no surprise when one considers the sheer volume of parasites sucking on the breast of our democracy. It’s a bit like whenever I casually switch on BBC Parliament and catch some moribund late afternoon debate as opposed to the all-star parade that is PMQs. I struggle to recognise the majority of MPs lounging around on the half-empty benches as some anonymous nonentity drones on, and many of them could well be included on this list for all I know. It goes without saying that my eyes took note of names I did recognise when perusing it, and there are around a dozen of them. Some have already been safely ‘outed’, whilst others raised the odd eyebrow. Good Lord, there are even some women on there! And here’s me thinking this sexual predator thing was a purely male pastime.

One of the women on the list has a very high-profile post indeed, though her crime was having had ‘a workplace relationship’; that hardly makes her Rose West. Another female member of the Government with an important day-job is accused of fornicating with a male researcher while a backbench MP – and, yes, fornicating is the somewhat quaint word the compiler of the list uses. One of the mostly male MPs listed is described as being ‘handy at parties’; another is ‘handy in taxis’. One ‘asked a female researcher to do odd things’, but we’re not told what they were (or what constitutes ‘odd’ in this context); another ‘likes to have intercourse with men who are wearing women’s perfume’. One has ‘odd sexual penchants’ (again – how odd?) and is also ‘sexual with a fellow MP’, who happens to be described as ‘a drunk’; another takes the starring role in a video that features him being urinated on by not one, not two, but ‘three males’! Whatever turns you on, eh?

However, also included are the likes of one male MP who allegedly impregnated a former researcher and made her have an abortion; another ‘paid a female to be quiet’ – a right pair of charmers by the sounds of it. At the same time, one MP is damned for taking his personal trainer to the cinema and then to ‘private rooms at the Carlton’! I’m sure the personal trainer appreciated the gesture more than the researcher who was cajoled into having an abortion, which makes one wonder why the two actions share the same list. I suppose both are demonstrations of how politicians exercise power over those that work for them – benignly and malignantly; and isn’t that what this hoo-hah is really about?

As we have seen, some of the descriptions of behaviour read like stage directions from a sketch on ‘The Benny Hill Show’, which again underlines the error in throwing the trivial in with the far more worrying allegations; it elevates one to a level it doesn’t warrant and diminishes the seriousness of the other. But, as the minor incidents outnumber the major ones on the list, maybe jumbling them all up was the idea; maybe this is a means of enabling those under threat from the list to dismiss it and survive the scandal because the entire dodgy dossier could be discredited as having blown everything out of all proportion. In fact, the leaking of the list could even be viewed as a pre-emptive red herring to derail a proper investigation into the few allegations present that are a bit extreme for your average ‘Carry On’ movie. But it might just be too late now.

© The Editor


Authority, pomposity, hypocrisy – what I consider to be the key trio of perfectly valid targets to satirise, and the ones I persistently aim at via my YouTube video sideline; if anyone ever takes umbrage because I’ve somehow gone where no so-called ‘comedian’ on TV dares to go in these sensitive days, that’s a fault in them, not me. I don’t claim to be breaking new ground, nor do I believe I’m doing anything that wasn’t once commonplace. Maybe my stuff only appears risqué because the alternative today is so lame, having had the fire in its belly dampened by committees, focus groups and the overwhelming craving not to offend. ‘Offensive comedy’ was once the province of deliberately belligerent comics like Bernard Manning, but now any comedy that fails to adhere to the unwritten rules of what can and can’t be said is placed in the Manning or (even worse) Chubby Brown bracket.

Comedy on television used to be rather fearless and now it’s fearfully toothless – as are the broadcasters who don’t want to be battered by a Twitter storm so therefore play it safe with Michael McIntyre for the mums and dads, whilst panel shows do likewise for the kids with their virtue-signalling stand-ups. It’s a pity this is the state of affairs we’ve fallen into because there’s such an abundance of targets asking for it today, yet we’re somehow ‘not allowed’ to poke fun at them. Bollocks to that. Did Chaplin relent from satirising Hitler in ‘The Great Dictator’ at a time when the US hadn’t entered WWII and was still trying not to be beastly to the Germans? No, he didn’t. Why should we be so bloody cautious almost 80 years later?

Of course, there are always politicians, and politicians are an absolute gift to a satirist – they fulfil the criteria re the trio named and shamed at the beginning of this post and always have, bringing out the best in everyone from Swift to ‘Spitting Image’; but even then there are rules as to which of them we’re allowed to ridicule. White male Tory – fine; black female Labour – ooh, racist and misogynistic. No-go. Yet Diane Abbott offers up so many open goals, how can anyone resist? There’s no need to descend to the lazy online level of simian-based insults (which those who use them are too stupid to realise gives her additional ammunition); Abbott is such a Grade-A car-crash every time she opens her mouth that it only takes a little imagination to nail her.

In this week’s strange climate, the lines one can cross have been reinforced with renewed mortification, beginning with the outrage over Michael Gove’s Weinstein joke – which he, naturally, had to apologise for. It ends with Harriet Harman, the high-priestess of po-faced Political Correctness for the last twenty-odd years, exposing the double standards inherent in her agenda on live television as she shared the sofa with Michael Portillo on ‘This Week’. Quoting a rag-mag gag from her student days, Harperson highlighted her smug arrogance in assuming Andrew Neil wouldn’t take offence at a blatantly anti-Semitic joke before she told it. There’s no real need to recite it, as it’s all over Twitter and YT already; but had the joke been about black people, Muslims, women or ‘The LGBT Community’ (as Owen Jones likes to call it, as though it’s a stop on his bus route) and had been told by a Tory, Harman would have headed the queue demanding an apology, a resignation and a public execution.

The context in which Harperson told the joke was, ironically, a discussion on the subject of what can and can’t be joked about, but it backfired on her spectacularly. One could be generous and suggest Harman was simply stupid in telling it, though I think it’s more likely she didn’t regard its potential offensiveness as being on a par with Michael Fallon once touching Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee. It’s interesting that the main offence taken by the Labour side on social media was the fact that Andrew Neil then told his guest to shut up. What a sexist bastard! But a party whose leader has hung out with Hamas and then conducted a belated investigation into its anti-Semitic elements (the main outcome of which appeared to be Shami Chakrabarti’s elevation to the House of Lords) evidently doesn’t regard Jews as being in the same ‘worthy victim’ category as the rest of its pets. Mind you, there are so many Labour seats in the midlands and north of England dependent on the Muslim vote that it’s no real surprise.

One overlooked aspect of this week’s Westminster sex frenzy has been the contrast between the allegations levelled at politicians from both sides of the House. The Tory stories in the main seem to be ‘Carry On Conservative Party’, whereas the Labour members to have had fingers pointed in their direction sound far more serious. Only today, the party has suspended Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins pending an investigation into his conduct towards a young activist two years ago. It goes without saying that we haven’t heard every allegation yet and there could well be one or two alleged rapes emanating from the Tory camp as well; but, as ever, glass houses remain vulnerable to those a little too eager to throw stones at their neighbours.

Anyway, time for a commercial break…

© The Editor