And there was me expecting Friday’s ‘Newsnight’ to come live from the white cliffs of Dover, whereupon Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris, Nigel and Tommy Robinson were scheduled to link arms at 11.00pm and treat us all to a rousing chorus of ‘Jerusalem’. It didn’t happen. I should imagine our lords and masters across the Channel were poised to give us nul points in the event, but there’s always 12 April. Don’t bank on it. Not tweaked quite enough and still not convincing enough for 344 dishonourable members, it was third time unlucky for Mrs May’s deal earlier in the day and, after a week in which Parliament ‘took control’ from the executive only to prove itself just as inept, the day that should have been the day ended in one more damp squib.

Theresa May’s tactic of dragging this out till the last minute so that the only alternative to her deal is no deal has proven to be as disastrous as all her other tactics. But is anyone really surprised anymore? Few fell for her crass offer of throwing money at deprived communities ‘oop north’; few fell for the carrot of knighthoods and peerages; and few fell for her announcement that she’d quit if her withdrawal agreement passed. Yes, even the ultimate sacrifice that most in her party crave failed to bring in the required numbers. The PM has tried to wheel and deal, but she’s no Harold Wilson.

According to some reports, May is going to try again next week; if it fails, she’ll probably give it another go the week after…and the week after that…and on and on and on until we all take the route recommended by the Reverend Jim Jones. Our Glorious Leader doesn’t yet seem to have realised she’s not running an administration with a vast majority, one that gives her cart-blanche to do what the hell she likes without having to acknowledge any other views in her divided house. I suspect some have attempted to point that out to her, but I’ve a feeling she probably stuck her fingers in her ears and went ‘Blaah blaah blaah blaah.’ I don’t believe a second referendum will resolve this bloody mess, nor do I believe a General Election will; but at the moment, the latter option seems absolutely essential, if only as a political laxative to end Westminster’s constipation and prompt a much-needed evacuation.

I became conscious and aware of the institution of Parliament and the office of Prime Minister perhaps around the time of the two 1974 Elections; kids ask questions, especially when they get a day off school and it’s not a Bank Holiday. Therefore, I’ve lived through quite a few different Governments of different colours over the last 40-odd years and I’ve occasionally done my bit at the polling station. But I can honestly say this staggering shambles that keeps defying the odds by outdoing itself is unprecedented in my lifetime. It simply cannot go on for much longer in its current incarnation, and neither can the Conservative Party with a leader capable of giving IDS a run for his money as its worst ever.

But then what? Looking at the prospective replacements for May feels like swiping through the world’s worst dating app, whereas Corbyn’s frontbench is about as appetising as the ‘reduced’ goods past their sell-by date on a supermarket shelf. Could any of them really do any better? And even if one takes the egos of the worst offenders into account, what madman or woman would really relish stepping into May’s hideous shoes right now? Theresa May won’t be packing up the nation’s troubles in an old kit bag when she exits Downing Street; they’ll all still be here when she’s gone. A General Election won’t magically wave them away, but I suppose it might possibly serve as a de facto referendum in terms of the electorate having their say on how their elected representatives have handled things since the last time the hustings were active. It’s hard to see an imminent General Election as anything else at this moment in time, despite the backlog of other pressing issues that are gathering dust and languishing in a criminal state of neglect.

A friend of mine recently spoke of how he had gradually reduced the amount of time he spends inhabiting the parallel universe of social media and feels all the better for it. Indeed, the more hours in a day one spends within the realms of that facsimile reality, the more one loses touch with the fact that its daily howl barely registers beyond the borders of cyberspace. ‘Are trans-women real women?’ isn’t necessarily the question on the lips of people juggling limited finances and deciding which bill takes priority this month; perhaps those with the luxury of debating trivialities regard them with such importance because they’re not plagued with moribund concerns. The thought that identity politics mean anything to those outside of the context social media junkies operate in is laughable. If one were to take Twitter as a microcosm of the real world then Titania McGrath would be Prime Minister.

While the brilliant spoof account of Titania McGrath satirises detachment via inherited privilege and/or bourgeois metropolitan comfort, one cannot help but see Westminster as a similarly detached bubble – with the significant difference being these living, breathing caricatures are affecting the lives of real people. The actual issues that have had a traumatic impact on the lives of those on the other side of that bubble have barely touched those inside it, hence the absence of empathy and absence of conscience when continuing to inflict them upon the rest of the populace or outsourcing them to some useless private company only in it for the profit. Perhaps empathy would be rated a little higher if the eye-opening experiment Matthew Parris took part in for ‘World in Action’ in the early 80s, living off the minimum benefits his government declared sufficient for living off, was compulsory training for every prospective MP.

The disconnect between elected and electorate that probably dates from the Expenses’ Scandal and Hackgate has only been intensified by Brexit, but the deliberate policy of delaying tactics which all colours have been guilty of seems to demonstrate the political class has learnt nothing from the last ten years. Events of the past week-and-a-bit have done little to alter my opinion of our elected representatives or their celebrity cheerleaders. Much is made of the ERG school of rich Brexiteer; but what of the loudest voices from the other side? Whether residing in the nicer parts of London, the nicer parts of the Home Counties, or simply wealthy ex-pats, these voices are not unlike those of the Hollywood-based Scots that the SNP flew over for the 2014 Independence Referendum, before swiftly depositing them back on Californian soil after the vote so they could avoid paying backdated UK tax. Weariness with endless lectures from wealthy chaps is something both sides of this divide share; but at least it means we’ve got something in common. Maybe we should use it to our advantage.

© The Editor


Like Handel, Henry James and TS Eliot before him, Noel Scott Engel wasn’t born in these islands but found what he was looking for here. He came all the way from Ohio expecting to arrive in an England populated by Ealing eccentrics like Margaret Rutherford; and by his own admission, the nation wasn’t short of such characters once he touched down in Blighty. Scott Walker, an American-born British citizen since 1970, was one of ours. And now we’ve lost him. Blessed with a mellifluous baritone voice that has influenced singers way beyond his own generation – everyone from David Bowie to Jarvis Cocker – Scott Walker went from being the definitive 60s pop balladeer to eventually exploring uncharted sonic waters in a series of challenging albums that acted as a foundation stone for the likes of Bjork, Radiohead and numerous others too many to mention. Yet for many, he remains the voice we return to whenever our hearts need healing. We’ll get through it as long as Scott Walker is there for us.

They remain a small and select breed, and perhaps it’s no surprise that genuine musical mavericks often spend the majority of their careers in the cult shadows, largely unrecognised by a wider public that can tell a Taylor Swift from an Ariana Grande. Scott Walker was relatively unusual in that he began his journey as a proper pop star. With John Maus and Gary Leeds, he headed a trio who adopted a shared surname and relocated to where the action was in 1965 – London.

It’s perhaps easy to underestimate how exotically androgynous The Walker Brothers must have seemed in the mid-60s; even amidst the outré sartorial styles of Swinging London, they stood out; and from the distance of half-a-century, these unrelated male siblings still look strikingly cool in that uniquely effeminate male manner of the era. Unlike their contemporaries, the Walkers opted not for loud guitars, but instead salvaged the white pop ballad from the anodyne teen idols of the Brill Building production line, taking it onto an epic level of grandiosity that only Phil Spector could match at the time and laying the ground for The Bee Gees in the process. Good-looking guys coupled with sweeping symphonic standards even yer mum could whistle was a winning formula with teenyboppers alienated by the increasingly experimental edges of The Beatles, and for around eighteen months The Walker Brothers outsold all brands of sliced bread.

One of the last classic package tours of the 60s took place in early 1967, when the Walkers shared an unlikely bill with Cat Stevens, Engelbert Humperdinck…and Jimi Hendrix. Many cite this as the moment when the impending divide between pop and rock was sealed, yet it wasn’t just Hendrix who realised he was playing before the wrong audience. For Scott Walker, the deafening din of screams drowning out every live performance (combined with frustration at having to interpret the songs of others when he was penning plenty of his own) prompted the inevitable split. He released his first solo LP in the autumn of ’67, propelled high in the album charts courtesy of the sizeable fan following he could command; although still drenched in MOR trimmings, the presence of songs by Belgian chanson legend Jacques Brel pointed the way to a more ambitious sequence of albums ahead.

Scott Walker operated in a field of one on the UK music scene in the late 60s. On the surface, he was the antithesis of the prevailing culture, producing heavily-orchestrated pop immune to the period’s musical innovations and he could even boast that emblem of unthreatening acceptance, his very own BBC TV show. However, Walker’s easy-on-the-ear crooning was something of a canny Trojan horse as he sneaked far more subversive content under the noses of the light entertainment department. Yes, his galloping recital of Brel’s ‘Jackie’ landed him in hot water with the new ‘fun’ Radio 1, but his albums continued to sell despite the risqué lyrical nature of his material; when his second solo LP topped the charts in 1968, it seemed as if his fan-base was prepared to follow Walker in whichever radical direction he was willing to take them.

Virtually alone in attempting to create a contemporary, baroque incarnation of the kind of dark, introspectively melancholy pop Frank Sinatra had pioneered a decade before with albums such as ‘Only the Lonely’, Scott Walker approached the 1970s confident he had manufactured and mastered an entirely new genre. Unfortunately, what many now regard as one of his finest works – 1969’s ‘Scott 4’ – failed to chart; just as he was preparing to peak, his audience deserted him. It appeared the public only wanted a song stylist churning out Bacharach/David covers on mainstream TV variety shows after all. Perhaps reflecting his disappointment, the energy and inspiration went out of his work in the early 70s and it was only when The Walker Brothers reunited in 1975 – returning to the top ten with ‘No Regrets’ – that Scott seemed to get his mojo back.

The reunion ended with the 1978 album, ‘Nite Flights’, notable for the return of Scott as a songwriter as well as heralding the beginning of the more avant-garde, esoteric phase of his career that would define him for what remained of it. His cult credentials swelled in the early 80s, thanks to the Julian Cope-compiled album, ‘Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker’; interest in this reclusive, enigmatic character was further rekindled with his first solo album in a decade, 1984’s ‘Climate of Hunter’, but a further decade elapsed before his next effort, 1995’s ‘Tilt’. By now, Walker seemed to have found a niche (and a dedicated fan-base) for himself again, embracing minimalism and industrial sounds whilst delving into beguiling lyrical waters. He continued along this path and did so without a roadmap, releasing two more albums that became the benchmark for ‘uneasy listening’, 2006’s ‘The Drift’ and ‘Bish Bosch’ (2012).

Whatever one’s opinion of his later, critically-acclaimed efforts, one cannot but admire the curiosity of the artist in seeking to go where no man had gone before when the nostalgia circuit would have been the easy option; but remember, this a man who at the peak of his pop success in 1968 spent time in an Isle of Wight monastery studying Gregorian chant; Scott Walker rarely chose the easy option. And that’s why he’s worthy of all the imminent obituaries. Yes, the majority of these (like this) will focus on his time in the 60s spotlight, but there’s little in his recorded output from that period to be ashamed of; even if some of the material could be called substandard filler, there’s always that voice. Even when he was producing music so ‘out there’ that it made Stockhausen sound like The Archies, there was always that voice.

© The Editor


Though trying to avoid every post being about the B word, the fact that most other news stories could compete with the B word in provoking despondency has pushed me back into familiar territory: the past. The odd detour through time is always a welcome break, and it’s nice to take a detour for which directions were provided by an occasional commentator on here, ‘Fred’. A 2017 post penned on the subject of the BBC’s turn-of-the-80s gumshoe drama, ‘Shoestring’ saw said Fred recommend a precursor to Trevor Eve’s private ear, ‘Public Eye’.

Produced for the ITV network for an impressive ten years between 1965 and 1975, ‘Public Eye’ is quite a unique series from my own personal perspective in that even shows I didn’t see a single episode of in the 1970s can be evoked via their theme tune or opening titles or even recollections of glimpsing trailers at the time. No such recollection exists for ‘Public Eye’; I’d never heard of the programme until I was alerted to its existence and then I discovered it had quite a cult following amongst devotees of archive TV, particularly those on the restoration and preservation side such as the Kaleidoscope organisation. Recently, I found some episodes on YouTube and it only took a couple of viewings for me to realise it was very much up my street, so much so that a DVD box-set purchase was inevitable.

‘Public Eye’ stars Alfred Burke as enigmatic public inquiry agent, Frank Marker. Burke is an interesting-looking actor, resembling a cross between Will Self and ex-Leeds Utd boss Howard Wilkinson. Upon first viewing, he seemed to lack any strong personality for me in the part, but then I quickly realised that was the genius of the casting; a private eye needs to be anonymous, to blend in with the crowd and not stand out from it. A larger-than-life actor too handsome or charismatic would utterly defeat the object of the character and simply wouldn’t convince. Marker’s (and Burke’s) strength is that he has an ordinariness about him that means nobody would notice if he was tailing them; they wouldn’t spot him across the street, loitering in a shop doorway, pretending to make a call from a phone-box or supping a pint on the other side of the bar. He is perhaps television’s most realistic and believable personification of a profession that has been a regular stand-by in TV drama for decades.

Frank Marker is a sharp operator, but not a shark; in comparison to the mercenary attitudes of fellow private detectives we meet during the course of the series, Marker is an honest man loath to fleece his clients. His honesty is rewarded with bouts of breadline living and – on one memorable occasion – a prison sentence for inadvertently being in possession of stolen goods. Prison hardens Marker even further, but Marker is a born lone wolf and a genuine man of mystery. His back-story is sometimes hinted at in dribs and drabs, but there is no big reveal; he doesn’t appear to have many (if any) friends; he has few (if any) romantic interests – just imagine that in an equivalent series today; and he doesn’t even employ a secretary. There is just him and his shabby raincoat, and a shabby succession of shabby offices.

ABC Television, one of the original ITV franchise holders, produced ‘Public Eye’ up until the company was succeeded by Thames in 1968; Thames then took over for the next seven years of the programme’s run, overseeing the transition from monochrome to colour. But another factor that makes the series distinctive is the fact that Marker moves around. He begins his business in London, then relocates to Birmingham; after his spell behind bars, he moves on to Brighton, Windsor, Walton, and finally ends up in Chertsey. The extensive location filming from the Birmingham period onwards provides viewers who even in the 60s were tired of the capital as the eternal backdrop a novel opportunity to enjoy adventures in unfamiliar surroundings.

‘Public Eye’ is not a period piece in the sense that many programmes of its era are. Surviving 60s episodes (an outrageous amount were wiped, as was the practice at the time) exhibit frequent and obvious references to homosexuality and not in a crude manner. One particularly effective episode guest-stars a young Stephanie Beacham as a troubled teen Marker saves from suicide. Her attempt at ending it all follows rejection by her presumed lover, ‘Chris’. Marker’s subsequent investigation uncovers the fact that Chris is in fact short for Christine rather than Christopher. The depressing world of vice rings is also covered with unexpected candour, and the pre-reform divorce laws provide regular cases back in the days when infidelity needed to be proven.

There are occasions when Frank Marker’s often bristly antisocial attitude in regard to his closely-guarded independence is challenged. The Brighton episodes see him develop a potentially romantic relationship with his landlady and there are other interludes when he either works for a private inquiry agency or enters into a partnership. But none of these alliances last because he’s a man made to be alone, both professionally and personally; some of us are just designed like that, and Frank Marker is a character that really gets under the skin – in the nicest possible way. There’s a truth to him that’s rare in television drama, when characters can easily slip into caricature as reality is overly-heightened. Soap operas profess to be rooted in realism, but exceeding reliance on ratings-grabbing stunts such as endless sieges, crashes, explosions, fires and murders has utterly diluted these claims in recent years.

‘Public Eye’ is not unlike the surviving 70s episodes of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ in that its prime focus is on the little people and their relatable problems. The series largely steers clear of ‘action’ or melodrama. It’s downbeat, sometimes melancholy, and there is sympathy for those who call upon Marker’s services, most of whom are familiar faces to anyone who regularly binges on vintage TV that tends to get overlooked by the nostalgia industry. Many of its themes wouldn’t be out-of-place in a contemporary drama, but the treatment these themes receive is a world away from today. An episode dealing with a deluded fantasist whose lies mask clinical depression is handled humanely and with an utter absence of sledgehammer moralising or facile ‘U OK, hun?’ faux-concern.

As a refreshing alternative to the here and now, cathode-ray windows to the past can sometimes remind one of what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, and what we’ve retained. ‘Public Eye’ is a fine example of what British television used to do and could still do…if it wanted to.

© The Editor


What a voice. The rich, booming baritone of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox resonated in every crumbling crevice of the Commons this week, conveying the kind of old-school aural authority our ears have rarely been massaged by since it was rendered unfashionable. At one time, a voice like that would have read the news headlines on Radio 4 or at the very least delivered the football results with sonorous sonic expertise. Quite a contrast with the fingernails-on-a-blackboard croak of Our Glorious Leader; even before she lost it, Theresa May’s voice was always a reedy, hectoring whine of a sort that conveys no authority at all – which is pretty fitting because she has none.

The members of her Cabinet piss all over the naughty step on a daily basis; they’re like kids running riot in some grotty family featured on a Channel 4 documentary probably called ‘Unruly Britain’ or something of that nature. And like children with a weak, compliant parent incapable of administering any form of discipline, they know they can get away with murder. They can vote against their own government or publicly abstain from voting at all, despite the neutered entreaties of the whips. It must be great being a member of the Cabinet at the moment. Mind you, you don’t need to be in the Cabinet to take the piss out of the PM to her face.

When the Maybot tried to serve up her already-rejected motorway service-station meal to Parliament for a second time, adding a sprig of Irish parsley fooled nobody and she received another chorus-line of moonies for her efforts. Undeterred, she’ll probably emerge from the kitchen with the same dish next week and plonk it back on the table. It may give her diners indigestion, but she’ll remind them it’s better than no dinner at all, which is the only other option available to them.

Delaying D-Day may have been voted for this week, but apparently this typical tactic of a Parliament overwhelmingly opposed to the Referendum result is still dependent on the approval of all EU colonies – sorry, member states – so actual Brexit remains the default outcome on March 29. It would seem, however, that the PM will snatch a sorry victory from the jaws of defeat with such a sword hanging over Westminster. A rotten deal twice rejected by massive majorities could well pass third time round because May has consistently stuck her fingers in her ears when anyone has suggested anything else. She has ground down dissenting voices by refusing to budge as the minutes have continued to tick away.

In some respects, it’s a remarkable achievement on her part, though hardly one worthy of celebration. She’ll finally persuade all the knockers within her shambles of a party to vote her way even though they know her offer is shit; but the persistent propaganda of Project Fear has scared so many that they’ll no doubt fall into line in the end; and she’ll genuinely believe she’s led the nation out of the dark. It’s like settling for a loveless marriage because it’s preferable to being a sad singleton. Promoters of the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ have advocated a similar absence of choice with the proposed Second Referendum options of a) Remain or b) May’s deal, AKA a) Remain or b) Diet Remain.

As the PM offers a fresh pair of Brussels handcuffs rather than the key to the ones we’re already wearing, one of her more notorious predecessors cosies up with Macron behind closed doors, and the Remain righteousness of the media mafia mirrors the smug smile of a Guardian columnist’s profile picture; social media sneering and jeering at a pro-Leave protest march setting off on the long road from Sunderland to Westminster sums up a kind of despondent capitulation to the way we were and will always be. Everything appears to have changed, but when the dust eventually settles, maybe nothing will have after all.

Two and-a-half years ago, I guess I was one of them, but it still amazes me how many smart, intelligent people who rarely suffer fools gladly are content to defend a privileged coalition whose policies were responsible for the 2008 crash and who have imposed a decade of austerity upon everyone outside of their cosseted bubble whilst either outsourcing or effectively abolishing public services the majority depend on. But when the alternative is portrayed as some post-apocalyptic far-right racist state run by Old Etonians and policed by gammons, I suppose it’s no wonder, really. And those whose laurels must stink due to being sat on for so long continue to pedal the favoured narrative as long as they’re listened to; I don’t imagine comfortable comedians whose last funny joke was laughed at sometime in the mid-90s are that concerned with towns in the North East or Midlands that mean no more to them than obscure names on a pools coupon.

There are probably still a few out there who would like to see Mr Blair tried as a war criminal; but if any former PM deserves a public flogging, it’s that absentee ex-resident of No.10 who plunged us into this bloody mess, Mr Cameron. I heard his swift resignation described as ‘honourable’ this week, in the context of his successor’s refusal to fall on her sword; but heading for his caravan barely a year after winning a General Election and leaving the nation to fend for itself like an abandoned puppy seems pretty criminal to me. Maybe he sees us as leftover volunteers for his Big Society project and figured we all had unused brooms knocking about.

Gallows humour, satire and sarcasm serve as a way of enduring this daily grind. I used to be an optimistic romantic, whereas now I’m a hard, cynical c*** without an iota of love left in me, so I need to employ some coping mechanism. I always thought I was a man out of time, but it would appear I’m very much a man of my time. Life is full of surprises, but it could be a hell of a lot worse; we realised that on Friday. Back for more next week, no doubt.

© The Editor


Blame it on John Craven. Without ‘Newsround’, I probably wouldn’t have been aware of numerous stories that grabbed headlines when I was an otherwise disinterested schoolboy in the mid-70s, ones provoking many questions that began with the prefix ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’. Alas, poor parents, presented with enquiries re white mercenaries heading for the Dark Continent – how to explain the presence of Brits in the likes of Angola? At that time, I had yet to hear Johnny Rotten’s reference, ‘is this the MPLA?’ due to the BBC’s post-Grundy blanket ban of ‘Anarchy in the UK’, and wouldn’t have got it anyway; my babysitters (largely secretaries from my father’s firm) professed more of a fondness for The Real Thing. Maybe comparisons back then were made with those who had volunteered for action in the Spanish Civil War forty years previously. Such comparisons emerged anew when Syria exploded into conflict forty years later.

There’s a difference, though. British recruits to the International Brigades of the 1930s were mostly motivated by idealistic (if naive) anti-fascist principles, whereas 70s mercenaries were motivated by money, despite attempts to paint them as heroic upholders of White Africa at a time when minority colonials were engaged in an increasingly desperate and doomed struggle to retain control over the natives and their Marxist leanings. Come the Arab Spring aftermath and the turmoil it gave birth to in Syria, however, religion reared its ugly head as the prime motivator and did so via newfangled methods of recruitment courtesy of the inter-web thingy.

It’s interesting in a week that saw sympathy for professional pissers on yet another famous grave – those whose bladders were emptied for the voyeuristic delectation of TV viewers prepared to accept their wobbly testimony against a dead man as Gospel (yes, we’ve been here before) – that concepts of innocent children groomed by knowing elders didn’t extend to those rendered stateless by their misplaced embrace of a nihilistic philosophy that even racism sniffer-dogs like Lammy and Abbott are hard-pressed to present as one more legacy of Evil White Men. Yesterday, it was confirmed that the baby born to ‘ISIS Bride’ Shamima Begum has died in the same refugee camp that his short, miserable life began in just three weeks ago.

It must be difficult for Guardian readers to fall back on favoured accusations when the blood of this unfortunate British subject is seemingly on the hands of a Home Secretary who inconveniently happens to be a Muslim. The decision of Sajid Javid to strip the baby’s mother of her citizenship has been seen by some as a cynical, populist move in a bid for the Tory leadership during the run-up to Theresa May’s imminent exit, whereas others have viewed it as another example of the Home Secretary’s ‘Coconut’ tendencies. Whichever perspective one takes, however, the refusal to retrieve Shamima Begum and her newborn from the Syrian hellhole they were discovered in by the war correspondent for the Times has now taken a tragic turn with this latest announcement.

The recruitment of deluded British Muslims to the ISIS cause in Syria four or five years back was facilitated by the same call-to-romantic-arms previously utilised by old-school paramilitary outfits such as the IRA. In the States, armchair Irish Republicans who had never set foot in the Emerald Isle gleefully contributed to the begging bowls passed around Boston bars, having being seduced by deep-rooted sentimental attachment to inherited Irishness; but (luckily for those funding ‘the revolution’) flying to Belfast to participate in person wasn’t deemed necessary. Comparisons with Brits who made the journey to Spain eighty years ago are more prescient in the case of Syria, though few of those 30s idealists rushed to join the fascist cause; the prevailing aim was to fight fascism. In contrast, home-grown ISIS recruits were knowingly signing-up to a blatantly barbaric death cult that had never shied away from publicising its methods of madness; nobody, however young, naive or gullible, could have responded to the ISIS cry for help utterly ignorant of what it would ultimately entail. Shamima Begum showed herself to be a resourceful young woman far from clueless when she embarked on her backpacking gap-year with a difference, despite being legally defined as a child. She’s still only just 19, yet is now stateless, and has three dead babies to her name. At least she’s one 19-year-old who can’t blame Brexit for ‘stealing her future’.

In the recent blitz of media coverage afforded this articulate adolescent since her discovery, the absence of remorse in her account of her Jihadi holiday convinced many that bringing her back would sow seeds of future atrocities on home soil. Had she sought public redemption by shedding tears and pleading for forgiveness in the manner of a disgraced celebrity coached by Max Clifford before the late PR guru was hoisted by his own petard, perhaps the assertion that she poses no threat to the UK would have sealed her return; post-Diana, few emotional gestures provoke a sympathetic response in Brits more than the waterworks. Instead, like a disability claimant failing an ATOS assessment, Begum forgot to play the victim and has therefore faced the harshest consequences.

The complicated case of Shamima Begum and what to do with her has presented politicians with many problems, and in the process has exposed some double standards in the definition of children. If, rather than volunteering for Holy War service, Begum had been involved in a sexual relationship with her teacher when weeks away from her 16th birthday, she would have been viewed as an innocent, blameless victim of grooming and regarded as unable to distinguish between consent and rape. Yet, the fact she made her way to join ISIS in Syria as a 15-year-old by cannily using her older sister’s passport appears to negate the blameless innocence that would have applied in the aforementioned other circumstances. Yes, the facts suggest she knowingly endorsed the philosophy of an organisation committed to eradicating western civilisation – one responsible for the deaths of many of Begum’s countrymen and women; but surely the indoctrination she received presumably online and (possibly) within her own community is a classic case of grooming as so severely defined in other areas of the law?

Blair’s disastrous faith schools policy and the willingness of police and politicians to leave ‘them’ to their own devices when it comes to education and designs for life for fear of being labelled racist or Islamophobic has helped engineer the situation that allows some Muslim communities to be effectively governed in the style of Mafiosi Sicily or the East End during the reign of the Krays. It has enabled hate preachers to have a platform or underage white girls to be repeatedly abused by gangs or a 15-year-old Muslim schoolgirl to voluntarily put herself in one of the most dangerous environments on the planet. Sadly, the multicultural fault-lines run much deeper than one person stripped of her nationality or one freshly buried baby.

© The Editor


I’ve always found ‘The Week in Westminster’ to be one of the more engaging political bastions of Radio 4; the programme being broadcast on a Saturday morning enables it to benefit from the breathing space denied the likes of ‘Today’ or ‘The World at One’, which are both designed to cater for the gut (and knee-jerk) reaction in the immediate aftermath of events. A gap of seven days rather than seven minutes certainly gives rise to a preferable perspective, particularly in our instant age, when a comment is required on the spot and (often) without the facts. MPs of all the major parties are usually represented, as are MPs of old, many of whom have invaluable hindsight that even elevation to the ermine slippers of the Lords hasn’t entirely blunted.

I had to laugh at the latest instalment, however, when the merits of Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary were being discussed – and some of the conclusions reached were so worryingly ludicrous that laughter seemed the only tonic. Sir Keir Starmer was seriously touted as a future Labour leader in the event of Jezza losing the next General Election. For those whose memories of this man stretch back to his insidious activities as Director of Public Prosecutions, this isn’t necessarily a welcome solution to the monopoly of the party by the hard left. Moreover, that a man so lacking in charisma and one in possession of an android-like demeanour that is actually quite chilling in its absence of recognisable human qualities could be considered as a Labour leader (and possible Prime Minister in the process) is yet another cause for concern in a time of many.

In order to justify the terrible pun in the title of this post, I suppose I could say the second most notable Keir in the history of the Labour Party has held onto his frontbench seat by effortlessly blending in to the Corbyn worldview when many of his true ideological allies in the party stormed off not long after Jezza’s election. Starmer has been able to do so because he appears to be so devoid of personality that few have noticed he doesn’t quite fit the Socialist suit that is otherwise a prerequisite for membership of Team Corbyn. He also confirmed long-held suspicions this week by eagerly embracing the Second Referendum option, promoting the People’s Vote as official Labour policy, a move that places him on the same wavelength as the Independent Group, meaning the Starmer Chameleon now has a foot in two Westminster camps, utterly befitting a man who appears to be a blank canvas that anyone can draw a cock and balls on.

Starmer’s background is in Law; he qualified as a barrister in 1987 and became a QC five years later. Within a decade, he was named as the DPP (and therefore head of the CPS) following the retirement of Sir Ken Macdonald. Starmer courted controversy just two years into the job when he announced the police officer Simon Harwood would not be prosecuted in relation to the death of London newsvendor Ian Tomlinson, despite video evidence of Harwood striking Tomlinson on the leg with his baton and then pushing him onto the pavement, allegedly mistaking him for an unlikely G-20 Summit protestor in 2009. The unprovoked assault led to Tomlinson collapsing and dying moments later. However, the initial CPS decision was later reversed and Harwood was tried for manslaughter in 2012, found not guilty.

On Starmer’s watch, the CPS also pursued a case against Paul Chambers in the so-called ‘Twitter Joke Trial’, following Chambers’ frustrated tweet in 2010 after a flight he had booked was cancelled due to bad weather and he jokingly threatened to blow Robin Hood Airport ‘sky high’. The farcical legal action became something of a cause célèbre for notable comedy figures such as Stephen Fry and Al Murray. Chambers eventually had his conviction quashed in 2012, though rumours emerged that the CPS were prepared to drop the case until Starmer intervened and overruled them; Paul Chambers’ MP at the time, Louise Mensch, called for an investigation into Starmer’s behaviour by a Commons committee, though blame for the decision to pursue the case was laid at the door of the crown court and Starmer evaded scrutiny.

Starmer’s most damaging legacy as DPP, however, was to vigorously push through the ‘victim’s law’, a legal code of practice especially aimed at tipping the balance in favour of complainants in cases relating to sexual abuse. As a highly vocal promoter of Operation Yewtree at the hysterical height of the celebrity witch-hunt in the wake of the Jimmy Savile ‘revelations’, Starmer’s proposals were to seriously undermine the rights of defendants in such cases, creating the corrosive climate whereby police forces would not only instantly assume any allegation of a sexual nature to be ‘credible and true’ (AKA ‘I Believe Her’), but would co-operate with the CPS drive to improve stats on rape convictions by deliberately withholding vital evidence from the defence in order to secure a guilty verdict.

Establishing the comfort blanket of video evidence exclusively for the complainant as the norm and thus only exposing the accused to the lion’s den of the courtroom, Starmer’s rejection of the traditional fair fight has given the green light to every vindictive fantasist and serial accuser ever since. One wonders how many innocent men (and their families) have suffered the trauma of an extended police investigation without even reaching court or are actually languishing behind bars as a consequence of Starmer’s seal of approval on dispensing with the age-old ‘innocent until proven guilty’ Golden Thread of British justice. I’m sure they’d all be ecstatic at the prospect of Starmer one day being the leader of their country.

Starmer had advised the Labour opposition on his proposals in the hope the party would return to government in 2015; it didn’t, but Starmer himself joined the party’s ranks at Westminster after winning the seat of Holborn and St Pancras at that year’s General Election. The shit sorcerer had already handed the reins of power at the CPS to his awful apprentice Alison Saunders, who built on Starmer’s blueprint by steering the reputation of the Law to such a calamitous low that Sir Keir must have imagined he was well out of it; but even though Saunders too has now vacated the post, she has left behind an almighty bloody mess for which her predecessor must take a great deal of the credit. And this is the man some are touting as a future occupant of No.10. Hah. And we think we’ve got it bad now.

© The Editor