There’s a familiar thread running through social media at the moment that dismisses and demonises anyone uncomfortable with the canonisation of a certain 16-year-old; it’s one of many examples designed to deter any critique of this specific consensus, accusing anyone with the nerve to compose one as being entirely motivated by hatred of the girl’s gender as well as her cause. Personally, I’ve nothing against either, but I reserve the right to ask questions. However, to challenge the accepted narrative immediately brands the challenger a climate change-denying misogynist – or something along those lines, anyway. Of course, this is a weapon utilised on a depressingly regular basis today, a means of closing down debate with a simplistic insult. Dispute the perceived collective wisdom of anything and the instant retort is the kind of shaming that places one alongside the likes of Piers Morgan and Katy Hopkins – and who would relish a threesome with them?

Anyone querying the deification of Greta Thunberg is immediately attacked as picking on a little girl, yet surely expressing concern at the unhealthy overexposure this teenager is receiving – both from the politicians fawning at her feet in the same opportunistic fashion they once reserved for Mother Theresa, and the absent parents whose care of an apparently autistic adolescent seems to be severely lacking – shows more humanity than encouraging the ongoing and irresponsible adoration of someone occupying such a dangerous spotlight. The elevation of Greta Thunberg to messiah-like status seems to be confirmation that, for some, the climate change issue has morphed into a religious movement. I also find the promotion of Thunberg to her current omnipotence disturbingly reminiscent of an old-school child-star – and we all know what became of many of them.

Like so much of what constitutes contemporary discourse, however, we have been here before. During the similarly-confused early 70s Age of Aquarius, the rejection of orthodox faith by hippies resulted in a multitude of alternatives, one of which was the Divine Light Mission. This organisation had its roots in India, but found a receptive audience in the West when its leader, Prem Rawat – under the hereditary title of Guru Maharaji – was hailed by his disciples as ‘the second Christ’ at the tender age of 15 and made publicised tours of the UK and US, including the overhyped ‘Millennium ‘73’ festival at the Houston Aerodrome. Rawat was essentially Billy Graham in a kaftan, a post-Maharishi beneficiary of the hunger of western youth disillusioned with western panaceas for spiritual guidance, and he briefly managed to attract the patronage of several prominent counter-cultural personalities who carried clout among his target audience.

It certainly is a recurring trend that when a society experiences a destabilising and traumatic sequence of shake-ups to the established order that groups emerge to embrace and promote a cause with zealous fanaticism. It happened after the English Civil War, when numerous Puritan cults took possession of a people suddenly robbed of God in human form (i.e. the beheaded King); and it was no great surprise there was a resurgence of this fad following the cultural upheaval of the late 60s, when the materialistic trappings of the consumerist society were found to be spiritually unsatisfying. Traditional Christianity had been sold as the answer in the same way as soap powder to children of the 50s, so that couldn’t be relied upon. Heads turned to the East, and the East exploited the craving. The presence of sects-cum-corporations such as the Divine Light Mission confirmed the deep desire for something approximating the false security of religion in a secular society; and it would seem the climate change bandwagon fulfils that inherent longing today.

We hardly reside in the most secure of times, so it’s no wonder this pattern has resurfaced, nor is it a surprise that an unlikely individual has been pushed forward as a figurehead for those susceptible to the power of nightmares. Trump, Bo-Jo and Jezza don’t exactly inspire confidence, so why not a Scandinavian schoolgirl in pigtails? There always seems to be a need for Jesus whenever the world goes through one of its periodical spells of uncertainty, and with the man from Nazareth perennially reluctant to embark upon his much-heralded comeback tour, someone has to fill the void. But there should be room to question the wisdom of devotion without being shouted down in a manner that suggests the devoted aren’t quite as secure in that devotion as they’d like to convince us. Yet their approach in silencing anyone expressing a healthy instinct to ask questions is common currency.

A week in which the ghost of a dead politician was cynically and shamelessly exhumed as a desperate means of injecting some emotional weight into a point-scoring contest was further confirmation of this tactic’s current success. Who is going to continue an argument when the name of Jo Cox is evoked to instantly kill debate? And MPs eager to dispatch a Commons clash as a clip to bolster their Twitter standing need to condense a complex issue into a sound-bite for the social media masses, so deliver their contribution in the best Oscar-winning manner to satisfy the nature of the beast. Any deeper nuances are sacrificed to the quick-fire MTV-edit style of a movie trailer and the drama of the one-liner.

Accepting everything and questioning nothing has never been part of my makeup, though in times such as these, refusing to accept either side as sole owners of the moral high-ground and reluctance to be claimed as the darling of one over the other can leave some people puzzled. I’ve been accused of right-wingery on here, just as I was labelled a lefty when I wrote for another blog; I’m happy to be called both, because to me it means I’m neither. And that says I’m doing something right. This is evident in the content of the collected volumes I shall now plug as though I’m no better than a Hollywood whore on the Graham Norton Show…

Volume One is divided into three chapters: 1) Village Idiots (Westminster, Brexit and beyond the bubble); 2) Those We Have Loved and Those We Have Lost (Pop and the personal); 3) It Was a Very Bad Year (Posts from the edge). Volume Two boasts five chapters: 1) Pop Life and Death (Overtures and obituaries); 2) The Wild West (Once upon a time in America); 3) Listen to the Banned (Censorship, culture wars and the politics of identity); 4) Overseas Development (And now for the rest of the world); 5) It Could Be Yewtree (False allegations, fishing parties, witch-hunts and hysteria). Volume Three has four chapters: 1) Part of the Union (Beasts from the East and European empires); 2) Social Insecurity (The department of ill-health or homeless under the hammer); 3) War in Europe (A multicultural mainland and the Great British Jihad); 4) The Home Front (The Disunited Kingdom of Little Britain and Northern Ireland). And finally, Volume Four is down to a trio: 1) Shit-storm (Referendums, Elections and the weak in Westminster); 2) Apolitical Interludes (Pop culture eats itself – and everything else); 3) (Almost) Everything but the Brexit (The bubble & squeak of all essays).

If you’re concerned as to the potential transience of the digital medium – not to mention intimidated at the prospect of slogging through four years’ worth of posts in search of a favourite essay that can now be accessed via the flick of a page – maybe one of the volumes is for you. But don’t dawdle; we might not have much time left…

© The Editor


Impeachment proceedings against the US President set in motion; ongoing tensions between a hostile Israel and its hostile neighbours; Britain experiencing its worst economic crisis ‘since the war’ and a minority government unable to stem the rising tide of electoral disillusionment; increasing awareness of the damage being done to the environment by pollution and the time limit on natural resources; pop stars either churned-out by TV talent shows or taking to the stage carrying severed heads to shock Daily Mail readers. Anyway, that’s the world of 45 years ago for you; good job we’re in a better place now, innit.

1974 may seem like a long time ago – it certainly does if you were 6/7 at the time – but some of the exasperated media reactions to yesterday’s chaotic Commons resumption evidently came from those unaware that things were hardly more refined in the Westminster bear-pit of the early 70s. When unemployment hit the 1 million mark just a couple of years before 1974, the debate following the publication of the figures was so incendiary that the Speaker of the era blew his whistle and ordered both teams off the pitch until they’d cooled down. Even Bercow hasn’t stretched his authority that far, so one can only imagine how bad it must have been. We may be dependent upon Hansard for records of proceedings in the days before Parliament was broadcast either on radio or television, but at least the proof is there in black & white.

1974 started as it meant to go on. 1 January 1974 may have been the first occasion in which New Year was marked as a national holiday, though the timing of this distracting day-off was certainly convenient; 1 January 1974 also marked the inauguration of Ted Heath’s Three-Day Week. A few copies of the Radio Times are the only physical documents I have from that period, but they give a good indication of just how severe the restrictions imposed by the PM’s policy were. A magazine that on a good week could run to over 90 pages (Price 5p!) is reduced to a measly 32 (albeit without a reduction in the price) and the usual practice of printing separate editions for the different BBC regions has been suspended in favour of ‘All Editions’. However, even in a pre-24-hour TV age, it’s still strange to note that both BBC1 and BBC2 broadcasts (no ‘commercial’ channels listed in the publication then) close for business no later than 10.30pm. No VHS, DVD or YT to prolong the entertainment, either. I wonder if a lot of babies were born in the autumn of ’74.

References to the state of the nation pepper the dialogue in popular sitcoms of 1974, from ‘Rising Damp’ and ‘Porridge’ to ‘Steptoe and Son’ and ‘Till Death Us Do Part’; the latter even devoted an entire episode to the ‘Silly Moo’ played by Dandy Nichols announcing she was going on her own Three-Day Week, much to Alf Garnett’s consternation; and this episode aired in January itself, smack bang in the middle of events. Restrictions on electricity usage and street lighting further hammered home the sense of crisis to the public, as did an across-the-board pay-freeze while prices nonetheless continued to rise; and some football matches were even switched to a Sunday (Shock! Horror!) as a means of working around the floodlit ban on midweek games.

The Three-Day Week was also tapping into what was called ‘The Energy Crisis’ at the time, largely accelerated by the ramifications of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when western nations’ support of Israel prompted the Arab oil-producers to quadruple the price of their supplies as they belatedly realised the strength of their hand. No-motoring Sundays in Holland and President Nixon advising Americans to turn down the thermostat were echoed in the British public information films produced during the Three-Day Week with their authoritarian catchphrase of S.O.S (‘Switch Off Something’). Perhaps my most vivid personal memory is that of visiting an aunt living in a concrete jungle of a tower block complex when there was a power-cut; I remember looking out on all the surrounding flats suddenly plunged into darkness – and it was a pretty intimidating place even when fully illuminated. My aunt couldn’t switch the fire on because none of the apartments had gas in the wake of Ronan Point, so we sat in the cold and dark and lit candles; we probably played cards.

Heath’s cynical ploy was blatantly intended to hold striking miners responsible for the situation, yet he completely misjudged the enduring grip the miners as a special breed of working-class hero had on the public’s sentimental imagination; when Ted called a snap General Election in February, he watched as his majority was whittled away quicker than you could say Theresa May. He desperately tried to cling on by cobbling together a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals, for the latter’s reward for upwards of 6 million votes was a paltry 14 seats; it didn’t work out, but 6 million voters were understandably disillusioned to see Harold Wilson back at No.10 – almost as if 6 million votes counted for nothing; just like 17.4, eh?

Labour’s lack of a majority made a second General Election unavoidable and it came in October, making 1974 the only year of the 20th century other than 1910 to contain two outings to the hustings; I wonder what Brenda from Bristol would’ve made of that. In the end, Wilson remained in power with a hardly overwhelming majority of 3. Aside from the political uncertainties, the feeling of the country going to Hell in a handcart was further compounded by the IRA’s most effective mainland cell making its savage mark in Guildford and Birmingham. Small-scale fascism was also making its presence felt via the National Front capitalising on the tendency to scapegoat immigrants as the cause of the nation’s ills; a student protestor called Kevin Gately was killed during a clash with the NF in London’s Red Lion Square in June, earning him the unenviable distinction of being the first person to die at a British demonstration in 55 years.

The streets may have been lower on knife or acid crime in 1974, but Britain was still a pretty violent place. As Stuart Maconie once reflected, giving the wrong answer to the question ‘Do you like Slade or T.Rex?’ posed by a stranger at a bus-stop could lead to a knuckle sandwich. Even as a six-year-old wandering either alone or with a pal, it was rare indeed to turn a corner and not be challenged to a fight by the snotty-nosed cock of the street in question.

It was no coincidence the year ended with two melancholy seasonal hits jostling for the No.1 spot. Mud’s ‘Lonely This Christmas’ and ‘Streets of London’ by Ralph McTell were quite a contrast with the boisterous, upbeat equivalents twelve months earlier, ‘I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day’ by Wizzard and Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’; but the nation was knackered. The best music of 1974 is infused with an existential weariness, from Bowie’s apocalyptic ‘Diamond Dogs’ LP to Brian Protheroe’s sleepless-in-Soho one-hit wonder, ‘Pinball’ – yet, for all the post-Punk revisionism, the bar was still set remarkably high, give or take the occasional novelty hit. America’s own sense of crisis was best reflected in its cinema – from Warren Beatty’s paranoiac ‘The Parallax View’ to Bob Fosse’s Dustin Hoffman vehicle celebrating the decline and fall of a drug-addled comedian engaged in a doomed rage against the machine, ‘Lenny’. The fact that one of the biggest box-office smashes in the US was ‘Deep Throat’ said something itself.

So, yeah – the world is f***ed, but sometimes it seems it always has been. And I’ve no doubt that, had social media existed in 1974, maybe someone would be reminding the more hysterical tweeters that 1931 had been a bit grim too.

© The Editor


I’ve no doubt loyal Labour members currently sheltering from sea breezes in Brighton are convinced we’re in the middle of a class war at the moment; if true, it means loyal Labour members are back in their comfort zone; to be engaged in a perpetual struggle on behalf of the virtuous peasantry against the wicked Tory robber-baron is crucial to the movement. I should imagine the pro-Corbyn narrative goes that the salt-of-the-earth working man and woman are being oppressed by a privileged public school elite, what with Oceania always being at war with Eurasia and so on; we won’t mention the schools some of those on the Labour frontbench attended – or the educational establishments some of them dispatched their children to, of course; the haves only come in one colour, and that colour is blue.

Actually, it’s indisputable that there is a class war underway right now, but it’s not the familiar model with opposing corners colour-coded in blue and red; it’s a class war between members of the same class, regardless of party allegiances – a War of the Roses for the political class. What’s being played out across the media for our plebbish delectation today is effectively a family feud, and we shouldn’t allow whatever stance we take on the cause of this split to blind us to that fact. In the light of today’s Supreme Court judgement, we’re being bombarded by the smug, sickening countenances of arrogant, entitled, wealthy, privately-educated metropolitans exuding euphoria as they sock other arrogant, entitled, wealthy, privately-educated metropolitans on the jaw. The rest of us are just dispensable infantry, the first in the line of fire as the generals issue orders from the officer enclaves of Kensington and Islington.

Yet both sides are pedalling the same shtick in claiming which rich bitches are our rich bitches, laughably trying to align us with whichever side chimes with whichever side of the Leave/Remain divide we reside on. Let’s not delude ourselves into pretending otherwise: neither Gina Miller nor Bo-Jo view us as anything other than provincial pond-life, too retarded and ill-educated to act independently of them; they are the cosseted colonials sipping vintage wine on the veranda and we are the contemptible coolies at their feet, the subservient natives tugging our forelocks. Anyone not belonging to that club who cheers-on Lady Nugee whilst simultaneously hurling abuse at Rees-Mogg is complicit in their own oppression, a willing junior partner in social coercion; the only discernible difference between the two is the Brexit factor.

Despite Jezza’s momentary triumph in maintaining his position courtesy of hardcore devotees yesterday, the Labour Party is overwhelmingly Remain; the Lib Dems won’t even sanction a second referendum anymore – they’ve made it clear they simply want to revoke the vote of 17 million like it never happened; and now the Supreme Court has given the green light to Bonaparte Bercow to promenade his way back into the Commons tomorrow and resume his place on the throne again. There are inevitable calls for the PM to hand in his notice, though the one sure-fire way to force him out is being denied; rather than involve the unreliable electorate, much better to have a ‘caretaker’ administration of honourable members hand-picked by other honourable members, no doubt; and that’s taking back control – not by us from Brussels, but by Westminster (and therefore Brussels) from us.

Yes, Boris Johnson gambled and f***ed up – maybe once more exhibiting the fatal flaw that Eton breeds across the board, one that overlooks the fact that some of its sons aren’t as bright as they think they are; but watching Edinburgh’s Man in Westminster Ian Blackford emerge from the Supreme Court this morning in a manner that implied Hibs had just won the Scottish Premier League was a salient lesson in deceptive body language. Does anyone really believe SNP MPs – whose entire raison d’être is to extricate their corner of the UK from the rest – seriously give a shit what becomes of Britain beyond their tartan bubble? Naturally, Blackford and, to be fair, pretty much all Remainers representing constituencies south of Berwick as well, will claim the announcement by Lady Hale signifies victory for the ‘right’ side of the nation over an unelected dictator who has become the most prominent face of the ‘wrong’ side. And self-interest doesn’t come into it at all.

Being locked-out of their private members’ club was such an affront to their superior sense of entitlement that they and those in business with whom they share the same piss-pot have conspired to take the Prime Minister to court and thus gain access again. They haven’t shown quite the same urgency when it comes to the dozens of genuinely pressing issues affecting ordinary lives over the last three years, and lest we forget they won’t deign to grant us a say in who represents us in the Commons either. Today’s ruling is merely the further neutering of No.10; the PM no longer even possesses the authority to dissolve Parliament and bring the electorate back into the picture anymore; and amidst the euphoric celebrations and concurrent denunciations of Boris’s doomed decision to prorogue, the loudest popping of corks will be emanating from the kitchens of those preventing the General Election that will probably cost them their prized seats at two profitable tables. No wonder they’re so ecstatic.

After seeing the latest lengths to which the prime movers and shakers will go in order to prevent us from ‘crashing out of the EU’, I’m increasingly convinced we’re never going to leave it. Look at the facts. We were given two simple options in 2016 and the promise to abide by the decision of the majority was enshrined not only in the Referendum itself, but by everyone seeking re-election the following year. Three and-a-half years later and we remain in the EU, with many of the most disgruntled Remainers in positions of power showing their true colours either by hiding behind the red herring of a Second Referendum or simply declaring the result of 2016 null and void. To give the idiot credit, however, David Lammy was saying the latter the day after the result was declared (something I recently rediscovered when re-reading my posts of the time – at least Lammy is consistent on this issue).

Supreme Court events today will boost the confidence of those claiming a majority of the country is now very much in line with their way of thinking; and while it’s true that millions of Brits without a free pass to Westminster are indeed keen to remain subjects of Brussels, they had their chance to say so in 2016 – as did those who think the opposite. And if this sorry saga trundles on towards what is coming to look like its inevitable conclusion, the latter will be well within their rights to walk away from the democratic process for good.

© The Editor


So, Bunter’s post as Jezza’s deputy is looking increasingly perilous courtesy of the Momentum faction, is it? Perhaps Karma should be held responsible – not so much instant as slow-burning. Regardless of the motivation behind this move, Tom Watson has had it coming for a long time, not for his opportunistic, Lib Dem-esque stance on Brexit and his shameless positioning of himself as an eventual leadership challenger; but for the disgraceful part he played in the Carl Beech saga. Indeed, who can forget his grandstanding from the backbenches as he sought to make a name for himself at the expense of innocents who were mere obstacles to his ambition?

Recalling Watson’s hysterical performance in promoting a Westminster paedo network that never was, I can’t help but wonder how many vigilantes he inspired into action by legitimising their obsession. I never cease to be suspicious of those who feel the need to advertise a particular virtue to the point whereby one wonders why they’re making such a song and dance about it. Could it be they have something to hide? After all, many’s the time the hard-drive of a self-appointed ‘paedo-hunter’ turns out to be crammed with enough evidence to expose them as being no better than those they purport to be saving our children from. A psychiatrist would no doubt surmise they were suppressing shame over their own repugnant leanings by projecting them onto another individual and thus somehow subconsciously absolving themselves of their wicked thoughts. Which brings us nicely to the previously-squeaky clean apostle of PC politics, Justin Trudeau.

Before we go any further, I must stress I’m not insinuating Canada’s Prime Minister is a closet paedo; no, I am of course referring to the emergence of photographs and videos revealing that a man tirelessly sold as a liberal alternative to the President across the border at one time had something of a party penchant for ‘blacking-up’. Someone like Trudeau Jr, who has made a career out of spouting cringe-inducing Woke sound-bites – once famously using the term ‘people-kind’ (presumably because to say ‘mankind’ was misogynistic) – suddenly being outed as once having had such an outrageous hobby is probably far worse than being found guilty of possessing indecent images. The images that have forced him into a humiliating confession of past misdemeanours are about as indecent as it gets for someone who has done his best to signal every virtue on the 21st century checklist.

With just a month till Canadians go to the polls, Trudeau is struggling to justify the revelations that initially emerged when Time magazine excavated a photograph of him blacked-up (complete with turban) when dressed as Aladdin in 2001. Trudeau wasn’t some frat-boy adolescent prankster at the time, either; he was a 29-year-old teacher, presumably old enough to know better. Evidence of three separate instances of Trudeau in full boot-polish cosmetics are now doing the rounds and Trudeau himself admits he can’t recall how many times he played the comedy ‘Sambo’. Surely such a shameful confession is enough to unleash the familiar hounds to bring down this blatant racist, no?

Strangely, however – as has already been mentioned on Twitter – the dependable David Lammy is nowhere to be seen. Labour’s resident Racism-Finder General is usually first out of the blocks when it comes to pointing the accusatory finger, yet the man who sees race-hate in everything has curiously failed to comment on the subject via social media. But he’s not alone in his mysterious reluctance to condemn the Canadian PM. One of the genuine pleasures when a scandal of this nature breaks is observing how the ideological allies of the accused squirm in their seats and make excuses.

Nesrine Malik, Guardian scribe and ‘Diversity’ darling of London’s chattering classes, excused Trudeau’s actions on account of the fact he was blacking-up nearly 20 years ago, when the act was apparently acceptable. So, unlike allegations of historical sex crimes, there’s a statute of limitations on blacking-up? According to Malik, it was ‘a clumsy, childish, slightly juvenile way of blacking-up’ – Trudeau was 29, remember. ‘If he positions his apology well and contextualises it,’ she said, ‘I think he can dig himself out.’ Malik added – ‘The discourse around blacking-up has only become mainstream quite recently.’ So, that would explain the endless repeats of ‘The Black & White Minstrel Show’ we had to endure for decades after the series was axed in 1978, then. I just wonder how different the reaction of Malik and the rest would have been had the world leader exposed as a closet blackface 20-odd years ago been a certain Donald?

Nesrine Malik also said – ‘There’s two ways that people black-up; one is a deliberate racist way.’ I never realised there was a right way and a wrong way to black-up, but doesn’t such a claim go to the heart of Woke culture, a philosophy built on endlessly shifting sands to suit the fair-weather agenda set by its advocates, and one prone to moving the goalposts depending on the accused. Do we still have to suppress a snigger when Peter Sellers or Spike Milligan adopt comedy Indian accents in the wake of the Trudeau revelations or can we laugh again? Please let us know, for it’s beginning to seem that if there are any standards at all, they’re seeing double more than an alcoholic on his thirteenth whisky.

Don’t worry – the Woke Star Chamber will always let us know what they have decided is now racist, sexist and homophobic, anyway, just so we know what we have to feel guilty about today; but it seems good old Mr Trudeau is being let off with a caution, largely due to his sterling contributions to the cause that some ancient error committed at a time when we were all openly bigoted won’t adversely affect. Well, come on, it was 2001, after all – way back in the Dark Ages when we too busy splitting our sides at ‘Love Thy Neighbour’, ‘Mind Your Language’ and ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ whilst singing along to Al Jolson and spreading Robertson’s Marmalade on our toast to know we were doing wrong. Those were different days, man.

Yes, Justin Trudeau has been publicly revealed as a bit of an arse; but most of us had already worked that out, and we didn’t need an old image of him blacked-up to come to that conclusion. Perhaps if he hadn’t been so tediously relentless in his ongoing attempts to promote himself as the ultimate, self-flagellating apologist for his wealthy white privilege, he could’ve been cut some slack. Perhaps if he hadn’t signalled his virtue with such holier-than-thou gusto, this storm-in-a-teacup would be recognised as such. But the fact the guilty party is someone who has worn his PC credentials as a T-shirt ever since he ascended to office makes it a big deal. And hilarious.

© The Editor


Yes, it’s the book they’re all talking about! It’s the book they’ve all been waiting for! It’s the book that definitely won’t be going for 99p in the Great British charity shop within a matter of months, no sir! The book in question is, of course, ‘Winegums from The Telegram’, the first volume of collected posts from this here blog in paperback form. Had you fooled for a minute there, didn’t I. Apparently, some posh-boy pig-f**ker who used to run the country or something has got a memoir out that he’s desperately plugging across the media, but nobody really gives a shit about that.

Anyway, as the Telegram is coming up for four years-old, I thought it long overdue that I gather together its finest moments in one volume, just like the columnists of old used to do. Then I began trying. I realised four years means a lot of posts – a hell of a lot. At one time, I’d be posting something on an almost-daily basis, and years inconveniently having over 300 days has meant I’ve had to be scrupulous in deciding what to put in and what to leave out. Gradually, I realised if I wanted to do the blog justice as a document of what has been pretty much a ‘Golden Age’ in terms of having big events to write about, I had to make the book version a series. Therefore, I’ve put together three so far, and there’s still enough material to easily make four.

Each essay is reproduced exactly as it appeared – and still exists online – for it would have seemed dishonest to edit any simply because my opinion might have changed from the one expressed within the individual article. As I began to read through them, it dawned on me that these little time capsules were virtual diary entries, accurately reflecting how I felt at the precise moment I pressed the ‘publish’ button (which is what happens when you’ve finished writing and you’re ready for the readership to sample it). These aren’t after-the-event retrospectives, but subjective reportage ‘as it happened’, so it felt important to reproduce them properly on the printed page, warts and all.

Although each post is in chronological order of publication, collected posts on the same subjects are divided into separate chapters to try and establish some sort of narrative. In volume one, for example, the first chapter features all the posts covering UK politics this year, right from the very first post in January (‘Divide and Misrule’) and up to the one that appeared on 10 September (‘Prorogue State’); a shame 2019 couldn’t have been more eventful in Westminster, but you can’t have everything. Chapter two is devoted to pop cultural posts, whereas the third features my more personal chronicle of 2018, which was a unique year for all the wrong reasons. Naturally, the scope widens for volumes two and three so that the USA, Europe and the rest of the world get a look in. Indeed, it was only when I started working my way through the Winegum back catalogue that I realised just how many different topics I’ve covered since December 2015 – even if a few have tended to dominate. It is true however, that some subjects have proven to be more inexhaustible than others.

Thankfully – well, depending how you look at it – this blog got off the ground just in time to catch the beginning of Brexit; the date of the game-changing Referendum was announced barely two months into the Winegum’s existence. I’ve therefore been able to chronicle the whole messy business from day one, and I’ve no doubt Dave imagined that by the time his own masterly contribution to the libraries of the nation appeared on the shelves the chaos he unleashed would have settled, thus saving him from any unpleasant revivals of the blame game. Instead, it rather fortuitously happens to fall smack bang in the middle of the latest attempt by the arrogant and entitled (led, of course, by Ms Miller) to not so much ‘take back’ control as hold onto it for dear life.

The English judiciary is now in the proroguing spotlight, hot on the heels of its Scottish equivalent giving the thumbs-down last week; a nation governed by rampant pro-EU Nationalists was hardly going to judge the PM’s decision favourably, though. Following a slickly-staged stunt intended to humiliate beleaguered Boris in Luxembourg, the ‘other side’ are turning up the heat on the Prime Minister in the hope Parliament will be recalled. What exactly they hope to actually do in Parliament if the Supreme Court bows to the Remainer mafia remains to be seen, however, for all they’ve done for the last three-and-a-half years is to try and thwart a democratic mandate at the expense of implementing any important legislation. So, I guess we’re talking more of the same.

Good old dependable Jo Swinson has at least dropped any pretences of a phony ‘People’s Vote’ this week, so that’s been a refreshing confirmation of everything we already knew about the Lib Dem approach to the issue. Most amusingly of all, Swinson’s brazen honesty has irked ideological allies such as Caroline Lucas, who still prefers to mask her true intentions in the Second Referendum smokescreen. But Swinson is oozing self (or over) confidence at the moment.

Buoyed by the addition of another lacklustre Tory reject to the ranks, the Lib Dem leader roused the faithful at the Party Conference with an echo of David Steel’s infamous ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government’ call. Liberals do have a habit of getting carried away with what passes for popularity between General Elections. But perhaps Swinson’s belief that her party can win a majority is merely another reflection of Remainer righteousness – or perhaps the righteousness of the political class as a whole. Swinson herself is, like Dave before her, another product of the smooth conveyor belt that took her from university to Westminster at a tender age with a brief pause en route for a short sample of what ‘real life’ feels like. Therefore, she’s expertly qualified to lecture 17 million members of the unwashed electorate on where they went wrong.

One benefit of going through old posts with a fine tooth comb has been to remind myself just how Cameron and his rotten administration (both with and without their Lib Dem whipping-boys) really were the embodiment of the Nasty Party ideal. No posthumous whitewash in attempting to reclassify himself as a ‘compassionate Conservative’ simply by standing next to his successors holds water when one re-reads instant gut reactions to his appalling policies at the point they were unveiled. In a way, the serendipitous timing of my decision to reacquaint myself with what I thought in 2016 has rekindled my contempt for a man who hoped sufficient distance would soften opinion towards him. No chance – especially not when the consequences of his irresponsible actions continue to dictate our increasingly fractious political discourse.

Anyway, the first volume of my book will be in direct competition with Dave’s in a matter of days. One will apparently retail at £25, and one will definitely be on sale at £4.99. Spend your hard-earned pennies wisely, boys and girls.

© The Editor


Say the word ‘tennis’ to most people in this country and – unless they avidly follow the sport from Grand Slam to Grand Slam – chances are the first thing that springs to mind will be a certain leafy London suburb. Forget the Davis Cup or the US Open; for the majority of Brits, tennis means the Wimbledon fortnight, probably the only time all year they watch tennis – almost as if it’s the only time all year that the sport is actually played, with the world’s leading players cryogenically frozen in suspended animation for the other 50 weeks. Similarly, say the word ‘The Proms’ to most people in this country and images of the Last Night will immediately appear – all that patriotic bluster, flag-waving, jingoistic chanting and…oh, hold on a minute; isn’t that what we get outside the Palace of Westminster 24/7 these days? Why do we need to rent the Albert Hall for it?

It’s only natural, I suppose, that the large swathes of the population with little (or no) interest in ‘Classical’ music associate the oldest and most prestigious musical festival these islands can boast with its annual finale. For one thing, it’s the only evening of an event that spans two months to receive live coverage on the nation’s most mainstream of TV channels, BBC1. BBC4 and – especially – Radio 3 are there from day one, but come the Last Night, the home of ‘Homes under the Hammer’ gatecrashes the party and takes credit for it. No wonder so many imagine the Last Night is all there is to The Proms when their sole exposure to it comes via the platform they lack the curiosity to look beyond.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Wood, prominent Victorian conductor and co-founder of The Proms in 1895. Inspired by a visit to the Wagner festival at Bayreuth, Wood joined forces with Robert Newman, manager of London’s newest and most impressive concert venue, the Queen’s Hall, to stage a ten-week season of ‘promenades’. Such events had their roots in outdoor performances given in locations such as the notoriously decadent Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, combining serious works with more lightweight popular material. By the late 19th century, indoor acoustics were regarded as superior and purpose-built arenas were also less likely to attract the kind of miscreants prone to wandering in and out of pleasure gardens. The intention, however, was never to make music elitist, but to keep it accessible to all; playing it indoors simply placed it in a more civilised and conducive environment.

Amazingly, Wood continued to be the main conductor and organiser of The Proms until just a few weeks before his death in 1944. By then, coverage on BBC Radio (since 1927) had expanded the audience for (and awareness of) The Proms so that its popularity enabled it to soldier on during WWII. At the height of the Blitz, the home of the event from its inception, the Queen’s Hall, was bombed beyond repair and Wood was forced to relocate operations to the Royal Albert Hall. The famous bust of him that is regularly seen on the Last Night was retrieved from the ruins of the Queen’s Hall. Despite the panicky BBC withdrawing its financial support (and orchestras) at the outbreak of hostilities, music – along with all of the Arts – was quickly recognised as a vital morale-booster, and the retention of cultural pursuits was promoted as one of the factors we were fighting for. The founding of the BBC Third Programme in 1946 was motivated by similar laudable aims.

After the War, gradual television coverage widened the audience of the event further, as did the arrival of the charismatic Malcolm Sargent as Proms Chief Conductor in 1947, a man who held the post for two decades. Traditionally, the Proms programme was to devote a different day of the week to a different venerated composer; under Sargent and William Glock (in the newly-created post of ‘Proms Controller’), the remit expanded to eventually embrace more avant-garde works in what was a contentious era for Classical as younger composers went off on something of a tonal tangent. By the end of the 60s, even the revolution in pop culture received the official seal of approval when experimental Jazz Rockers Soft Machine played, the first such act from outside the orchestral world to appear on the programme. The reputation of the event was by now international and it attracted most of the leading solo musicians, orchestras, composers and conductors of the post-war era; in the process, The Proms stayed true to its original aim, as TV and radio broadcasts gave far more members of the public than could be crammed into the Albert Hall the opportunity to see and hear the maestros and musical mavericks of the age.

I remember as a child that the front cover of the Radio Times was always given over to a painting of the Albert Hall either in the week the festival opened or closed; it was the latter, however, that served as a Proms introduction for those of us for whom Classical music was not part of the educational syllabus. And in a way, this was unfortunate, for the Last Night is an aberration in the Proms’ calendar, bearing little relation to the rest of the schedule comprising the previous couple of months. If the only time your average punter is exposed to The Proms is the Last Night, the impression given is not that of an inclusive, egalitarian celebration of the world’s greatest Classical works, but quite the opposite. I admit I was one of those punters once, recoiling from something that resembled a privileged, public school ball, midway between the Henley Regatta and the Tory Party Conference – lots of pissed-up posh people looking smug and begging for a punch.

I didn’t connect my early love of Holst’s ‘The Planets’ to The Proms because all I’d seen of it for years was the Last Night. It wasn’t until around 1999, when a bout of bored channel-surfing was interrupted by stumbling upon a performance of ‘Mars’, that I actually sat and watched a concert halfway through the Proms season. ‘Oh, there’s more to this than those chinless wonders bouncing up and down to Land of Hope and Glory, then?’ Damn right. Thereafter – and ever since – I’ve regularly tuned in to The Proms from July to September and witnessed some memorable musical moments along the way; the 2012 season in which Daniel Barenboim conducted all nine Beethoven symphonies stands out as a particular landmark, but there have been just as many individual soloists that have caught my ears and eyes – and I have to admit the clad-in-black female members of orchestras do have a habit of looking especially alluring on such evenings.

For some, the end of summer is marked by the final crack of leather-on-willow; for others, it comes when the clocks go back in October; for me, autumn officially begins when the Proms ends. You know summer’s over then. Tomorrow’s Last Night threatens to put an additional boot in by opening with a ‘Woke’ symphony. But for all the recent innovations of trying to broaden the event’s appeal by staging complementary concerts featuring non-Classical acts under the ‘Proms’ banner, for me it’s still the joy of seeing and hearing both familiar and fresh non-vocal masterpieces on a nightly basis for eight glorious weeks at the Albert Hall that defines this most special of Great British institutions. And, as the veteran music journalist David Hepworth recently pointed out, the price of tickets for many of the Proms concerts in the season is staggeringly cheap, certainly when compared to the astronomical cost of watching a leading rock or pop act going through the motions at the nearest soulless aircraft-hanger named after a corporation. Makes one wonder if Sir Henry Wood was right; could be Classical really is the ‘people’s’ music after all.

© The Editor


A mate of mine recently indulged in a bit of cash-in-hand work roadying for – wait for it – ye olde Goth band Fields of the Nephilim (yes, they still exist); for those who weren’t regular readers of the music press in the mid-80s, the Nephilim were the Boyzone to The Sisters of Mercy’s Take That. Never major league players, the band nevertheless continue to attract a committed cult of hardcore followers on the road, some of whom have clearly experienced mental health issues according to the reports I received of the ones camped outside every venue on the tour. Acting as a makeshift security guard to keep said fans away from the band, my friend exchanged a few civil words with them and was a little unnerved by their stalker-like, delusional conviction they were on intimate terms with individual members; if they could just say hello, all would be well with the world.

I only thought of this because I noticed those bloody flags being waved once again outside Parliament yesterday; the brandishers of both EU and Union Jack varieties are now a seemingly permanent fixture whenever a live broadcast takes place from Westminster – and there have been plenty of those of late. The same old shouting in an attempt to drown out updates on Commons events has become a tedious accompaniment to the sight of the flags themselves. Yes, this is an issue that provokes passions (which is putting it mildly), but to be there apparently every day all day long takes either incredible stamina or simply reflects the same absence of any other purpose in life as evident in the Nephilim stalkers. At least that guy who set up a ‘peace camp’ on Parliament Square and lived in a tent there for years appeared quite chilled-out; this lot seem to be akin to noisy neighbours engaged in a never-ending back-garden barbeque.

Within the walls of the establishment they’re intent on besieging, behaviour was rather less dignified, however; and it started as it meant to go on. Confronted by the unprecedented protocol-breaking threat of the Tories planning to put forward a candidate to stand against the Speaker (still a member of their own party) at the next Election, Bercow bowed-out at last – or at least announced the date of his departure. The fact he chose 31 October was entirely in keeping with the relentless exhibitionism of his ego, eager to steal the headlines on a day he knew even the dependable vanity of his puffed-up posturing might not be enough to make him the centre of attention.

What followed Bercow’s announcement – delivered in the curious manner of an Englishman abroad trying to make himself understood to a native – was a nauseating outpouring of sentimental arse-licking listing the Speaker’s achievements in the chair, albeit praise that mysteriously overlooked recent bullying allegations or even Bercow’s membership of the horrible pro-Apartheid Monday Club back in his Young Conservative days. The standing ovation Little John received from the Opposition side of the House was in stark contrast to the sedentary reaction from the Government side, though both were equally stage-managed with all the childish petulance we’ve sadly come to expect from the tenants of this particular Palace.

But, of course, despite Bercow’s desperation to be the lead story on the bulletins, the latest instalment in the exciting adventures of Boris the Prime Minister inevitably claimed top-of-the-bill status when the time came for debate. The resignation of Amber Rudd over the weekend has been portrayed by some as a catastrophic blow to the Government, yet her presence as a prominent Remainer in the PM’s Cabinet seemed incongruous from the off, especially when there was no room for a vocal Brexiteer like Penny Mordaunt. Rudd attempted to justify her survivor status as one of the few leftovers from the Maybot’s lot by claiming she had been converted to No Deal as an option, though few were convinced; she cited the expulsion of 21 colleagues from the party as the main reason for her walking, but her tiny majority at the last General Election suggested she might not be around to hold another Ministry come the next one.

Ah, yes – the next General Election; that was the main issue under the spotlight as Monday evening seamlessly segued into Tuesday morning and the Commons paid no heed to the clock. Considering Boris had begun the day sharing a podium with the Taoiseach over in Dublin, he didn’t appear sleep-deprived when stating his case for giving the electorate the opportunity to decide. That the Prime Minister even has to plead for the right of the people to elect or evict their representatives is a farce; that a majority of those elected last time round won’t sanction that right does far more to demean the standing of honourable members than the PM proroguing Parliament. The double-standard hypocrisy of Labour, Lib Dem and SNP members in decrying the decision to suspend proceedings whilst simultaneously refusing the electorate the chance to play their democratic part is rich indeed. Fine for the plebs to participate in a bloody referendum – whether on the EU or Scottish Independence (remember – those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunities?); but when it comes to determining the futures of their elected representatives, forget it.

The grandstanding stunts the opposition parties engaged in when the time finally came for the Speaker to relocate from one House to the other in the bizarre prorogation ceremony were further unedifying examples of their detachment from the voters. To an outsider following events live on BBC Parliament, their theatrical behaviour added to the surreal spectacle of the obscene, otherworldly bubble these people inhabit once they set foot inside that crumbling Gothic edifice whose decaying fixtures and fittings are more than an apt metaphor for the whole rotten institution. I almost felt I was witnessing a scene from the superb 1972 satirical movie on the madness of the British aristocracy, ‘The Ruling Class’, when the three wise peers solemnly sat before the gathered executive and officially announced Parliament’s slide into suspended animation. It was certainly a viewing experience straight from the imagination of Lewis Carroll, but as a portrait of Great British democracy in 2019, it kind-of said everything.

So, Party Conference season up next, and then we’re back in five weeks for the Queen’s Speech. Boris and his team will have hoped to have evaded a No Deal grilling by then, despite demands (and apparently legal requirements) for confidential correspondence on ‘Project Yellowhammer’ to be made public. The PM is insistent he can achieve a deal with the EU before Halloween, but remains adamant he won’t beg for yet another extension to the endlessly delayed deadline, regardless of the new law saying he must do so and the additional threat of a possible spell behind bars if he refuses. And even if the postponed General Election Labour have spent the last two years calling for won’t sort out a shambles entirely of Parliament’s making, it would at least give voters the chance to show the door to so many whose arrogant entitlement and superiority complexes have put us where we are.

© The Editor


When I was a kid, the only people I knew who lived on their own were a few old ladies. I assumed they were all widows, going by the sepia-tinted portraits of Brylcreemed young men I sometimes spied on the sideboard. They probably lost their husbands in the war; but if they were of actual pensionable age (rather than merely ‘looking old’, as anyone over-40 did back then), I guess some of them might have been widowed in the ‘14-18 bash as much as the sequel. It was a long time ago. I was given the impression the solitary life was reserved for a very narrow demographic; there was nobody in my wider family who lived on their own, for example. Aunts and uncles already out of their teens remained at home until they got married; that was presented to me as the natural order of things. None of them went to university either, so they didn’t even get to experience what now seems to be the routine route to liberation – even if returning to the nest as a debt-addled graduate with little hope of being a homeowner is the inevitable anticlimax to this adolescent interregnum.

Unlike my childhood, those who live on their own today aren’t necessarily ageing widows, and being the sole resident of one’s abode is no longer viewed as especially unusual or even a little suspect if you don’t resemble Ena Sharples or Minnie Caldwell. A 16% increase in the number of Brits living alone in the 20 years between 1997 and 2017 pushed the numbers up to 7.7 million; and whilst widows and widowers naturally still figure, higher divorce rates have played their part too; what used to be referred to as spinsters and bachelors are also far more abundant today than they were 40-odd years ago.

Interestingly, whilst there has been a 16% fall in the 25-44 age groups, the 45-64 demographic has seen a rise of 53%, with a higher proportion of both the divorced and the never-married filling the stats, reflecting changing social mores. Men living alone outnumber women – particularly in the 25-34 groups – until we reach the 55-64 groups, when the numbers even themselves out. The former groups mostly consist of the unmarried, whereas divorcees dominate the latter. All age groups, however, are less likely to own their home than married couples without children. Rented accommodation in later life can bring with it specific uncertainties and insecurities; higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness are also attributed to living alone when compared to couples.

Of course, being alone doesn’t necessarily equate with being lonely; as Bryan Ferry once so memorably said, ‘loneliness is a crowded room’. Indeed, for every Eleanor Rigby, there is someone quite content to own their own space, especially if they’ve experienced an unhappy marriage or have made a conscious choice to avoid matrimony altogether. One’s profession can also play a part in the success of one’s living arrangements; some jobs are conducive to domestic bliss, whereas others encompass antisocial hours or are simply designed for solitude. I can certainly vouch for the latter. Unless writers could work out a way to ‘jam’ in the manner musicians do – perhaps sitting in a circle hammering away at their laptops in synch – it’s very much something that is allergic to the communal and enhanced by the absence of company.

The creative process can last days, weeks and sometimes months, during which time a writer must be the least desirable spouse it’s possible to imagine. Married men-of-the-pen who managed to make a handsome living from it have at least enjoyed the luxury of a ‘writing shed’ at the bottom of the garden; both Dickens and Roald Dahl famously retreated to theirs when the muse struck, and their families understood this meant ‘do not disturb’. Rented flats on the top floors of houses aren’t quite as accommodating, though at least the solitary life in such circumstances ensures that which Virginia Woolf famously referred to as ‘a room of one’s own.’

Naturally, for every plus to living alone there is a minus. Whilst there are many solitary dwellers whose boy/girlfriends regularly sleep over and therefore enjoy a ‘part-time’ relationship that can work for both parties, there are plenty more bereft of that option. If one has nobody to come home to of an evening or wake up with in the morning, the opportunities to self-indulge in self-abuse (and I’m not talking strictly masturbation) are myriad. With nobody to watch over you or rein in your excesses, the temptation to overdo it can be tempting indeed. The problem is, unlike being an overgrown Macaulay Culkin, the novelty of the home alone scenario ceases to be a novelty if it’s the norm. It’s easy to slip into the mindset that nobody gives a shit, so why should you; and that’s a hard habit to break, one that fuels such self-indulgence. Drugs are a popular passport to personal oblivion; but when it comes to writers, the demon drink appears to be the most common excuse for not knowing when to stop.

Although a considerable stretch from being a ‘proper alcoholic’, I admit that until relatively recently I was well on my way to having a serious drink problem; and what had initially emerged as a psychological crutch following a personal tragedy quickly morphed into the clichéd components of the author’s armoury. I completely fell for the stereotype of the death-wish wordsmith with the bottle of scotch and packet of fags as his constant companions and suffered the consequences in terms of the damage it does to those around you. When I belatedly recognised the damage it was doing to me, I finally did something about it – even though I left it far too late to salvage what it had already cost me. My stint as Ray Milland interestingly had no adverse effect on the work – which probably made it easier to avoid addressing the issue – but its slow-burning impact on my life beyond the written word was devastating.

I can take a less-than nourishing crumb of comfort from the fact I was a ‘funny’ drunk rather than nasty (like my father) or violent (like those found in Saturday city centres); but it’s not much in the way of solace when I reflect on what a selfish, nihilistic dickhead I was. In truth, I am profoundly ashamed of the way I behaved and no apology to the injured party can ever be good enough. But at least I’ve narrowed down my consumption from an average daily intake of two bottles of wine, a dozen glasses of whisky and half-a-bottle of vodka to a solitary Chardonnay one evening a week. I might drink it wholly alone, but at least it’s all I drink.

Food can be another casualty of the solitary life. The appeal of a hearty meal doesn’t necessarily escape those living alone, but the lengthy preparation can feel like an immense demand on both time and energy when there’s only one mouth to feed; the easy alternative of some microwaveable plastic that can be unsealed, heated and scoffed in barely five minutes reflects the fact that solitude sometimes breeds hostility towards the ceremonies reserved for couples. In contrast to the instant meal for one, preparing, cooking, stirring and serving a proper dinner for two is a ritual that can span an hour or more, albeit a ritual that – if shared – can be as exquisitely intimate an experience as any that two people can enjoy with their clothes on.

Living on your own, as with sharing your life, has the potential to be either a blessing or a curse depending on the circumstances; both arrangements have their advantages as well as disadvantages, and both should be tried at least once. I’ve known many a miserable soul trapped in a loveless relationship, just as I’ve known many a life and soul for whom the thought of having to share their space is anathema. Ironically, when one examines the statistics, one is very much not alone in being alone.

© The Editor


‘They won’t let it happen, y’know’ – so spoke a shrewd Leave-voting friend of mine two years ago, back when the farce to block Brexit was barely twelve months into its record-breaking run. I doubted her word then; I doubt it no longer. Yes, we’ve all come a long way since 2017, let alone 2016. And this week has seen such an action-packed chapter in the saga that it’s something of a challenge to issue this brief summary of events as an up-to-date bulletin because it’ll probably be superseded by other events by the time it appears. From what I can work out at the moment, Boris Johnson has offered the Labour Party precisely what they most desire on a plate – but will they take the bait? This is like Tom popping a slab of cheese before Jerry’s hole-in-the-wall, and Jerry wrestling with the demands of his appetite, knowing from the off that his feline nemesis has set yet another trap.

So, the most vocal Second Referendum proponents won’t consent to a genuine ‘People’s Vote’ after all; no, they won’t let the electorate have their say if there’s a risk that by doing so they themselves might lose their seats. Jo Swinson has gone on the record that she won’t accept the result of another referendum if it ends up being the result she doesn’t want, anyway, so why should we be surprised by this latest surreal development? The Fixed Term Parliaments Act, one more contributing factor towards David Cameron’s candidacy as the Prime Minister with the most damaging legacy on record, is an irrelevant encumbrance to getting things done that should have been repealed the second the Coalition ceased to be. It is entirely responsible for yet another impasse when the loss of the Government’s tiny numerical advantage over its opponents demands the traditional resolution.

We now have the bizarre situation whereby a Prime Minister without a majority has to go cap-in-hand to a hostile Commons, seeking permission to dissolve Parliament – and being refused permission. Of course, Boris’s motivation for doing so is not quite black-and-white (to put it mildly); but the power to call a General Election without recourse to Parliament should never have been stripped from the resident of No.10 – especially when we currently have a Parliament that cannot agree on anything. Well, a majority can agree on something, and that will be demonstrated when the bill to block a no-deal Brexit is fast-tracked through the tortoise marathon of the Lords.

Another episode in this gripping chapter came with the 21 expulsions from the Conservative Party – numerous grandees (including the Father of the House himself) and recent Cabinet Ministers all deselected overnight, rebranded as Independents and prevented from standing as Tories ever again; never before has rebellion against one’s own party been so ruthlessly punished. Boris’s own brother Jo, a serial quitter – how many times has he walked out of the Cabinet now? – has resigned as an MP today, adding further minus marks against this administration’s numbers; the PM has already experienced the choreographed stunt of a dishonourable member crossing the floor of the House in the middle of a speech this week; and while the instant dismissal of the 21 rebels may have been a promised reprisal the Prime Minister was faced with no alternative but to carry out, the authority to govern based on a greater proportion of seats has been completely obliterated now. No Government in living memory has ever been so swiftly diminished, and yet for the electorate to be denied their say as a consequence seems to be one more example of the elected’s blatant contempt for those who elect them.

The sole beneficiaries of the crises eating away at the heart of both the Conservative and Labour Parties are the Lib Dems; having gained a Tory this week, Swinson and her anti-democratic cronies have now secured a former Labour member, albeit one who took the Umunna route from Labour to TIG to CHUK to Lib Dem. Luciana Berger famously quit Labour after well-documented and sustained anti-Semitic abuse, so her decision to walk seemed to be more understandable and worthy of sympathy than some of the colleagues who followed in her wake. But it appears the Lib Dems are now very much the Battersea Dog’s Home for MPs unloved and unwanted by their own parties; the fact that many of them represent Leave-voting constituencies is pure coincidence, of course. No wonder Jo Swinson is so against a snap Election when the sudden boost to her number of seats could be wiped out all over again if the polling stations are reopened for business tomorrow.

Justine Greening, Education Secretary for a while under Theresa May, announced a couple of days ago that she won’t be defecting to the Lib Dems, but will stand down altogether; possibly jumping before she’s pushed, yes, though it’s a sign of these turbulent times that Tory MPs who would previously have been regarded as future prospects with plenty more to offer are deciding their party is no longer conducive to their worldview. The cliché often trotted out about the Conservative or Labour Parties being ‘broad churches’ capable of encompassing a variety of opinions appears to be utterly redundant now.

Reluctant as I am to agree with the Lord of Darkness Peter Mandelson, I actually thought he had a fair point when he reminded people how Tony Blair never expelled Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party despite Jezza’s serial rebellions when in his backbench comfort zone; today, whether Labour or Tory, so narrow has the focus of the leadership and the leader’s advisers become that any deviation from the script will not be tolerated. In the end, it is the two parties themselves – whether represented by Labour’s Momentum takeover or the Tories’ capitulation to the ERG – that will suffer as both begin to resemble single issue pressure groups rather than wide collectives capable of addressing all the problems that need sorting instead of just the ones reflecting the interests of the elites at the pinnacle of the pyramid.

So, Boris will apparently put the call for a General Election to the Commons again on Monday, following the anticipated assimilation into law of the bill to block a no-deal Brexit. The majority of Labour’s leading lights want to hold back an Election until yet one more extension to D-Day has been secured, thus preventing Boris from repealing no-deal legislation. That’s what they say, anyway. More than three years after the event, we are where we are because they actually don’t want to do what the majority told them to do; and for all her faults, at least Jo Swinson is being honest. Maybe they won’t let it happen, y’know.

© The Editor


Around three years ago, this here blog inadvertently began to take on the shape of a broadsheet obituary section; a remarkable number of famous names fell like dominos in a short space of time and each had made a significant enough mark on me to warrant my noting their passing in a post. No idea what was in the water in 2016, but the legends that shuffled off this mortal coil at the time would’ve been better advised not to drink it. Anyhow, the pace of passing away thankfully seems to have slowed down since then and I only feel compelled to devote a post to the loss of an important figure now if they’d contributed in some shape or form to the person I am today. Bearing in mind what I do for ‘a living’, there’s no way I can let this day go by without paying tribute to Terrance Dicks.

Now, whilst I appreciate his is not a name universally acknowledged, to those in the know – and whose childhoods existed in that surreal cultural bubble called the 1970s – Terrance Dicks was an alchemist of the imagination as much as Lewis Carroll or Kenneth Grahame had been to previous generations. Not only was he ‘Doctor Who’ script-editor during one of the programme’s greatest purple patches (from 1968-74); he also authored the essential novelisations of the show’s stories that were the only method of reliving them or visiting them for the first time in a pre-VHS, DVD and On-Demand era. The first-ever ‘proper’ book I read that didn’t have more pictures than words in it was penned by Dicks – ‘Doctor Who and the Web of Fear’; I wrote my first-ever ‘proper’ book after reading it. Terrance Dicks therefore prised open doors to me that have remained at the very least ajar ever since.

Denied the means of replaying favourite episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ over and over again on a screen, children of the 70s had no choice but to replay them in their heads – something that would have been considerably more difficult had not Dicks painted the Time Lord’s landscape with such vivid and dynamic descriptive expertise. Free from the restraints of a BBC budget, the worlds the Doctor visited (and the creatures that inhabited them) could be visualised on the page of a Target paperback in ways today’s younger fans can’t possibly comprehend. As much as I would’ve loved to have been able to access any Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker adventure on TV whenever I felt like it as an eight-year-old, looking back I’m glad I couldn’t. What the novelisations did was to really facilitate the means to re-imagine them, means that have enabled me to see other worlds and inhabit other imaginary lives from then on, not to mention creating my own – something I couldn’t have done had not Terrance Dicks showed me how.

After co-writing a handful of episodes of ‘The Avengers’ in the late 60s, Terrance Dicks joined the scriptwriting team on ‘Doctor Who’ at a point when the series was faltering in the ratings and beginning to seem as though it had run its course. The exhausting work schedule for all involved in a show that was almost on all-year round (in the manner of a soap) pushed the Second Doctor Patrick Troughton into retiring from the role, and with British television’s monochrome era coming to a close, many figured ‘Doctor Who’ would be just another casualty of the change into colour. Dicks had other ideas. When Dicks was promoted to script-editor, Barry Letts took over as producer and the combination of their respective talents saved the series; the inspired casting of Jon Pertwee undoubtedly played a major part in the transformation of the show’s fortunes, but the men behind the scenes were the ones who rerouted the direction of the programme and took it to unprecedented heights of popularity and success.

The Doctor was now exiled to earth by the Time Lords, which was handy on account of the increase in alien invasions of the south-east poised to take place. With the Tardis temporarily out of action, he was forced to work alongside a military organisation called UNIT; specialising in the unexplained, UNIT was led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a character played in consummate officer-class style by Nicholas Courtney; the ‘Brig’ became the Watson to the Doctor’s Holmes. Letts & Dicks then thought it right the pair should have a Moriarty, so they created the character of The Master, played with sinister charisma by Roger Delgado. Augmented by female sidekicks such as Katy Manning’s Jo Grant and Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah-Jane Smith, the UNIT ‘family’ provided the Doctor and the viewer with a solid foundation for repelling the forces of evil and proved a winning formula throughout Dicks’ tenure as script-editor.

Dicks also assembled a formidable team of talents to pen the stories that enraptured millions every Saturday teatime; the likes of Terry Nation, Malcolm Hulke, Robert Holmes, Robert Sloman, Bob Baker and Dave Martin may have severely tested the patience of set designers and monster manufacturers in Shepherd’s Bush, but they gave children with latent imaginations permission to imagine. Some of us have never stopped imagining.

After five years at the helm, Letts & Dicks decided to time their departure with that of Jon Pertwee; but just as the leading man passed on the baton to an actor who pushed the bar even higher, the most successful double act in the programme’s history to date handed over to Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes, confident the series was in very safe hands indeed – which it was. After writing the adventure that inaugurated the Tom Baker era, Terrance Dicks finally left ‘Doctor Who’, though in a way he never really did. Not only did he contribute a further handful of stories to the show in the late 70s, but his authorship of over 60 of the Target ‘Doctor Who’ novelisations through the remainder of the 70s and into the 80s ensured his involvement with the series remained a source of income as well as a means of regularly exercising his storytelling talents. He later became a permanent fixture on the generous extras accompanying the DVD releases of ‘Who’ adventures from his era.

If, like me, your time at school was more a case of learning how to survive a beating than learning, the inspirational teacher archetype as portrayed by Robin Williams in ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ or Richard Griffiths in ‘The History Boys’ was pure fiction. You therefore had to find that inspiration elsewhere, looking to individuals operating in other arenas to fire the imagination and stoke the curiosity for genuine education. Television was once abundant in such towering tutors: James Burke in the field of science, David Attenborough in natural history, and – through his stewardship of ‘The South Bank Show’ – Melvyn Bragg in the Arts. When it came to an introduction to the written word, for me Terrance Dicks played that part. I’ve travelled far and wide in terms of that word since, but I wouldn’t have been on such an invigorating journey had not Dicks packed my rucksack with paperbacks and sent me on my way. I owe him.

© The Editor