As this decade limps towards its dying days, it appears television schedulers see little in it worthy of celebration or deserving of marking; there’s a glaring absence of reflective programmes looking back, the kind that used to be dotted throughout the listings at the climax of years ending in the number nine. But perhaps ten years defined by the likes of Trump, Boris and Brexit is seen by media types as akin to the embarrassing uncle who’s overstayed his Christmas welcome, and they just want it to hurry up and go with the minimum amount of fuss; this is quite a contrast with the way in which another decade on its way out was being commemorated exactly fifty years ago.

In December 1969, ATV produced a programmed titled ‘Man of the Decade’, an accolade shared by a notable trio – Ho Chi Minh, John F Kennedy and John Lennon. The latter profile saw Desmond Morris interview an upbeat Beatle strolling around the grounds of his Ascot homestead, reflecting on what’s gone and anticipating what’s to come. Touching on the subject of the Woodstock Festival, Lennon enthuses about the event as ‘the biggest mass of people ever gathered together for anything other than a war…Woodstock, the Isle of Wight – all the mass meetings of the youth – is completely positive for me…this is only the beginning; the 60s was just waking up in the morning, and we haven’t even got to dinnertime yet. And I can’t wait…I’m just so glad to be around.’

Lennon’s understandable awareness of society’s radical transformation was echoed across at the BBC. On New Year’s Eve, the startling journey of pop culture from Light Entertainment to Art – one of the decade’s most celebrated innovations – was represented by a curious collaboration between the BBC and the West German broadcaster ZDF. ‘Pop Go the 60s’ was presented by Jimmy Savile and groovy fraulein Elfie von Kalckreuth and looks like ‘Top of the Pops’ with a bigger-than-usual budget. Not only do The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks all appear in the studio, but they’re joined by the likes of Cliff and the Shadows, Adam Faith, Helen Shapiro and numerous other Hit Parade regulars from earlier in the 60s. In many respects, it’s a far more balanced presentation of the wide variety of 60s pop than some made with the misleading benefit of extended hindsight.

Quite an in-depth analysis of the 60s when it still had a few days left to live came via a two and-a-half-hour marathon screened on Sunday 28 December on BBC2. Titled ‘Ten Years of What?’, the programme was presented by Jimmy Savile (again), though this concession to pop culture’s pivotal role in shaping the decade was only one facet of the 60s examined. An intriguing dinner party guest-list included the likes of Malcolm Muggeridge, Mary Quant, Enoch Powell and Sir Francis Chichester, along with John Peel. Musing on the youth revolution in full contemplative hippie mode, Peel takes the viewer on a whistle-stop tour through the decade from the first stirrings of consciousness with the Aldermaston March, onto Beatlemania, pirate radio, Swinging London, drugs, Psychedelia, and the riots in Paris the year before; not only do the scenes of Parisian streets look uncannily similar to what has become a regular feature of the French capital over the past couple of years via the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ protests, but Peel’s summary of the reasons for youth’s abrupt awakening could easily be put in the mouths of today’s most vocal ‘influencers’.

‘Prior to (the 60s),’ says Peel, ‘everyone accepted, basically, what their parents said had to be right; and what their parents had been doing for the past couple of thousand years has basically got everything wrong.’ Now that we find ourselves at a moment when anyone over 40 is branded as responsible for everything from global warming to robbing their children of a future, hearing not-dissimilar claims from half-a-century before is a reminder that there’s nothing quite so new as the old. And what could be regarded as the defining aspect of youth in the eyes of the young – i.e. the absolute inability to countenance the fact that it isn’t eternal – is as durable a naive myth on the frontline of 2019 as it was on the barricades of 1969.

The contempt expressed for the parents who hounded the Stones and condemned John & Yoko is fuelled by a distinct ‘Our day is coming’ attitude; this sentiment has undeniable parallels with the contemporary adolescent Remainer mantra of believing all will be well once the senile citizens who voted Leave are dead and gone. The truth is that there’s no guarantee today’s generation will do any better once they inherit the earth than the 60s generation did when their turn came; just ask Bill Clinton – and he didn’t even inhale. But I suppose the one weapon his generation possessed that doesn’t appear to be in the possession of a generation that sometimes seems drunk on its own death-wish was optimism.

It’s easy to see why there was cause for optimism in December 1969; the fact that the Stones’ disastrous Altamont concert took place in California that month and has subsequently become lazy shorthand for ‘the death of the 60s’ doesn’t appear to have impacted on the overall positive vibes. One year later, maybe the loss of key cultural figureheads – whether The Beatles or Hendrix – in whom a great deal of those positive vibes were invested proved to be a bit of a party-pooper; but in the thick of such an invigorating epoch, anything probably seemed possible, with or without those who had lit the fuse and fanned such intoxicating flames. Indeed, that 60s spirit appears to have carried the western world on an optimistic wave that only really came crashing down to earth with the energy crisis of 1973 and everything that followed in its dispiriting wake. In this sense, John Lennon’s refusal to accept the 60s would end on 31 December 1969 was justified for a few years at least.

The baring of one’s soul that proved to be a turn-of-the-70s characteristic via the singer-songwriter boom was then a luxury for materially-comfortable rock stars. Today it has become second nature for everybody via social media, so perhaps the greater awareness of mental health issues, suggesting people are more f**ked-up now than they were fifty years ago, is merely a wider acknowledgement of something that has always been with us. Keeping calm and carrying on with the stiff upper lip – not to mention the threat of being carted off to the nearest asylum should that lip waver – probably prevented such painful honesty being common currency back then and helped optimism for the future remain the dominant narrative of that era in a way it hasn’t been in the 2010s, when the need to push pain to the forefront has become compulsory.

This is an age of anxiety that seems to demand the public expression of anxiety at all times – and this precludes optimism. Therefore, just as many at the calendar end of the 60s were convinced things could only get better, in the here and now it feels like they can only get worse. But, of course, that’s viewing everything collectively. Decades are only deemed good or bad if they are viewed either way en masse. Individually, the perspective depends on how one fared. Is the fact my own personal situation seems as bleak as the general air of despair mere coincidence or a symptom of the times I live in? No doubt some out there are saying goodbye to what has been (for them) a golden decade, though their voices are buried beneath the street theatre soothsaying of Extinction Rebellion and media crystal balls that are permanently tuned to the Ides of March. In 2019 it’s hard to face the future with a smile, and doing so almost feels like an act of treason; but what else have we got? See you in 2020.

© The Editor


Emily Thornberry looks like somebody drew a face on a thumb. Okay, got the childish insult based on physical appearance out of the way first – just in case it might appear my objection to Lady Nugee was solely down to not liking the look of her. Mind you, the look of a politician does make a difference, whether we like it or not; how they carry themselves in public and come across on TV can undoubtedly have an impact on the electorate. With or without bacon sandwich, Ed Miliband just never convinced as a potential PM – and neither did Jeremy Corbyn. Nevertheless, the former was clearly desperate to move into No.10 – hell, yeah! – whereas the latter has always given the impression he was fairly ambivalent on the subject. And now a fresh crop of contenders are vying to step into shoes sorely in need of a trip to the cobblers.

The most honest post-Election obituaries to have emanated from the Labour camp have been aired by those who either lost their seats or are long past leadership ambitions. A small handful of hopefuls intending to inherit the poisoned chalice have tentatively issued gentle criticisms of the Corbyn regime, but they’re too mindful of the grip Momentum has on the party to fully let rip; they realise any overt critique of Corbynism and actually saying out loud what a catastrophic effect it had at the ballot box could curtail a leadership campaign. No, anyone hoping to become Labour leader cannot publicly declare what everyone outside of the party knows to be fact. This means, of course, that all bar one or two expected to throw their hats into the ring are already doomed to lead the party to a fifth successive General Election defeat in 2024. Labour’s problem right now is that any ‘period of reflection’ is in denial from the off and thus further detaches it from the electorate that comprehensively rejected it a couple of weeks ago.

At the time of writing, only Thornberry and Clive Lewis have officially announced their intention to run, with Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy (and possibly Jess Phillips) expected to follow shortly. Thornberry embodies the London-centric mafia that have dominated the Shadow Cabinet during Jezza’s tenure – sneering, snooty Champagne Socialism of the worst order, contemptuously dismissing the traditional provincial Labour plebs in favour of chasing the middle-class, big city university graduates. But her enthusiastic embrace of the Second Referendum agenda should hopefully prevent her from being installed as the next Prime Minister-that-never-was; this arrogant misjudgement of the public mood typifies the insular narcissism of Lady Nugee and her clique, making her the last person capable of winning back hardcore Labour voters who switched to the Tories.

The loathsome Keir Starmer would be another disaster, though he has been sly and clever in a Mandelson manner to keep his seat on the Opposition frontbench throughout a period in which the wide divide between Corbynistas and the rest has dispatched so many into exile. Starmer’s chameleon-like ability to quietly blend into the Shadow Cabinet almost unnoticed is a by-product of his unnerving absence of personality as well as a blatant pointer to his leadership ambitions. As was noted in relation to Tom Watson – whose name would have been top of the contenders’ list had he not bailed out as soon as the General Election was called – the fact that Starmer can be regarded as a moderate voice of reason when he was so eager to thwart a democratic mandate delivered by such a large percentage of Labour voters speaks volumes as to the state of the party. And, lest we forget, this is a man responsible for overturning one of the foundation stones of British Law during his toxic stint at the CPS helm; for that alone, the man shouldn’t have been let anywhere near public office ever again.

Clive Lewis is perhaps the most anonymous of the names put forward – best known for being caught on camera using the word ‘bitch’ in a toe-curling, ironic ‘Gangsta’ fashion during a fringe event at the 2017 Labour Party Conference before being forced into the standard apology when it went viral. He is a close Corbyn ally and Remainer, both of which instantly alienate him from those Labour needs to win back to even stand a chance of being the largest party in a Hung Parliament – which, with such a severely depleted seat tally, is the best Labour can hope for next time round. But in a party so driven by Identity Politics, the colour of his skin may be the one thing he has going for him. If the new leader can’t be a woman, surely a black man would be the right box-ticking move?

Jezza’s anointed heir is Rebecca Long-Bailey, the double-barrelled northerner whose accent is about the only aspect that distinguishes her from the inner-M25 crowd she’s embedded in. She reminds me of an imagined Caroline Aherne character from ‘The Fast Show’ – if there’d been a ‘crap politician’ one. With Corbynism such a tainted brand in the mind of the electorate, changing the leader whilst sticking with the brand makes changing the leader a pointless exercise; and that’s precisely what will happen if Long-Bailey is elected as the chosen one of Corbyn, McDonnell, Momentum and McCluskey. Angela Rayner was initially touted as a prospective contender, being seen as ‘soft left’ and not as closely allied to the Corbyn master-plan as Long-Bailey; Rayner also has a back-story that serves as a refreshing alternative to the usual private school/Oxbridge/SPAD conveyor belt. However, it now appears she and Long-Bailey may engage in a pseudo-Blair/Brown pact, offering voters Continuity Corbyn and Corbyn-Lite in a bid to claim that record-breaking fifth-in-a-row defeat.

Lisa Nandy is mainly known through her appearances as one of a rotating group of Labour MPs sharing a sofa with Michael Portillo on ‘This Week’. Her Brexit stance, which was opposed to the People’s Vote smokescreen, may make her a more attractive prospect to Labour deserters; ditto representing one of the old industrial towns (Wigan) that the Corbyn crowd so casually disregarded; and the fact that she left the Shadow Cabinet in 2016, receiving abuse for supporting Owen Smith’s leadership challenge, makes her the only realistic candidate genuinely distanced from Corbynism. She’d also be more likely to attract Labour centrist voters than Second Referendum cheerleader and New Labour leftover Yvette Cooper. Whether or not Nandy is a strong enough personality in terms of taking on Boris Johnson at the dispatch-box is another matter, however.

Strong personality is one thing Jess Phillips certainly couldn’t be accused of lacking. In some respects, the MP for Birmingham Yardley is the nearest thing Labour has to the PM in terms of energetic bluster and putting her foot in it. A gobby long-time critic of Corbyn, Phillips often falls back on playing the ‘working-class woman’ card in the same way outside bet David Lammy constantly resorts to the race card; and she would need to up her game considerably to be regarded as a serious candidate. She’d also have to overcome the dominance of the pro-Corbyn membership to get anywhere near the leadership. If the party wasn’t so determined to carry on along the suicidal path that has made it unelectable, it might well decide to push Phillips forward as Labour’s Boris, just as the Tories pushed Cameron forward as their Blair. If that’s what it takes to get back into government, they could try it; but I suspect they won’t. Nobody in a position to alter the direction of the Labour Party appears capable of tearing up a bad script and giving this country what it so desperately needs – a strong, viable and believable opposition that can take the Tories to the cleaners.

© The Editor

PS Sincere apologies for the unintentionally altered appearance of the text. Afraid the ‘justify’ option for the preferred text allignment has inexplicably disappeared from the editing process (one of those unasked-for ‘upgrades’ that always contradict the old ‘if it ain’t broke’ maxim); unfortunately, from now on every post will look nowhere near as nice ‘n’ neat as it used to do. Nothing I can do about it, alas. The march of progress, eh?


It’s easy to forget, being on the other side of the world and all that, how different this time of year is for those residing in the Southern Hemisphere. Reminders are often necessary, such as sporting events beamed into British homes. I recall switching-on the TV one biting January morning a few years back to watch Andy Murray playing in the Men’s Final of the Australian Open; the court basked in intense heat and sunshine whilst heavy snow was piled-up outside my window. Similarly, whenever an Ashes series takes place down under, the scheduling of it seems so alien to someone accustomed to cricket as a summer sport – yet the Australian summer runs from December-February.

The idea that Aussie seasons are the wrong way round – or right, if you’re from over there – is a head-f**k to anyone raised in the Northern Hemisphere and feels especially strange when it comes to a season associated with a fat bearded man in a red outfit; the reality of Antipodean Yuletide completely contradicts the clichéd images of Christmas drilled into us from an early age. Mind you, most of them were also redundant relics to the Victorians, inspired as they were by Dickens’ childhood during the backend of ‘The Little Ice Age’ over 20 years before he documented the redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge. Nevertheless, so used are we to a specific visual representation of Christmas that re-imagining it as an event staged during the summer is a weird, topsy-turvy concept indeed.

If one is old enough to remember the UK’s Long Hot Summer of 1976, the thought of having a Christmas dinner and watching Morecambe and Wise in the middle of it is as bizarre a notion as planning to go sunbathing or swimming in the sea on December 25; but that’s the common experience down under – as is the dreaded bushfire. In Australia, Fire Danger Ratings are as crucial a component of a weather forecast over the festive season as warnings of blizzards, black ice or flooding are here. The bushfire is a potential threat throughout the year, depending on how extreme the heat happens to be, and can also vary depending on which part of Australia you happen to be in; but a look at some of the most damaging bushfires to have hit the country since records began shows the majority appear to have taken place between November and March, which encompasses the Aussie summer.

Records date from 1851, and running through the stats is a sobering undertaking. The Black Friday Bushfires in Victoria that year wiped out a million sheep and thousands of cattle, whilst 71 human lives were lost in the same State during the bushfires that spanned Christmas 1938 and New Year 1939; fire claimed 62 lives and more than a thousand homes in Tasmania’s Black Tuesday Bushfires of February 1967; 1983’s Ash Wednesday Bushfires in South Australia and Victoria killed 75 people and burned-down an estimated 2,400 houses, whilst the worst loss of life occurred during 2009’s Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria, when 173 people died. It’s an unavoidable fact that bushfires of this severity have increased substantially over the last 20 years; prior to the 21st century, each decade seems to have had around half-a-dozen of these major incidents, whereas 17 are recorded for the 2000s and 23 are listed for the 2010s, including the current crisis.

New South Wales began 2019 with bushfires that mercifully claimed no lives, but from September this year the State has been engaged in battling an ongoing inferno that is also being mirrored to a slightly lesser degree in South Australia. Record-breaking temperatures have served to exacerbate a situation that has resulted in a State of Emergency being declared in New South Wales; and to be frank, it’s hard to think what constitutes an emergency more than a relentless march of fire cutting a merciless swathe across the country and reducing everything in its path to ash. Fire-fighters and those forced to watch their homes razed to the ground are furious with the apparent inaction of federal government and the sloth-like response of the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has only just seen fit to cut short his Hawaiian holiday to try and offer some belated leadership.

Since returning, the PM has acknowledged the part played by global warming in the increase of bushfires this century. Last Wednesday, Australia recorded its hottest-ever day; temperatures reached 41.9C – that’s 107.4F in old money – and broke the record for the previous hottest-ever day which had been set as far back as 24 hours earlier. On Thursday, the country’s hottest-ever December day was recorded in South Australia, with the heat rising to an unimaginable 49.9C (121.8F). And whilst FIFA are probably thinking such conditions sound ideal for staging a future World Cup, in the meantime Australians are confronted by the unenviable position of being on the frontline of climate change. But it would appear to be an unholy union between man and Mother Nature that is responsible for the Hellish cauldron Australia has been plunged into – or as the manager of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology put it, ‘Natural variability and global warming are pushing in the same direction.’

Two of the natural forces that drive the Australian climate are known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM); this pair constitute nature’s role in leaving central Australia baking in its current unprecedented heat-wave. I won’t even attempt to explain the details of precisely what the IOD and SAM do; I’ve tried to absorb a quick-fire lesson in them and reckon only Michael Fish could come away with a full understanding lost on a novice. That aside, the connection between the extremities of temperatures and the bushfires are obvious; but the extra greenhouse gases clogging up the atmosphere don’t help either. This particular factor is being disputed in the Australian Government as much as it is in other circles around the world, but arguing over the causes is doing bugger all to put out the fires, let alone coming to the aid of both people whose lives have been ruined by them or the wildlife whose habitat has been erased from the landscape.

One New South Wales village with a population of 400, Balmoral, has been nicknamed Ground Zero by outsiders – a place where it is claimed 90% of the bush-land has been lost, along with 18 homes; fire-fighters even temporarily ran out of water supplies at the height of the inferno on Saturday, and locals are angry with the slow response of government at every level. In a situation that sounds all-too familiar, cuts to funding for services intended to deal with severe climate conditions in a country accustomed to them is being partly blamed for failure to extinguish fires that have been burning and spreading for three months now. As someone averse to high temperatures – even the pathetically low ones we experience here in comparison to over there – I can only extend my sympathies to the Australian people and hope autumn comes sooner for them rather than later – and their autumn starts in March.

© The Editor


There have been times when I’ve stuck up for the institution, often seeing it as an effective bulwark to the implementation of over-draconian legislation; indeed, when old Gideon was attempting to push through some of his worst Austerity measures, it considerably clipped his wings. Dave’s answer was to flood it with cronies in the hope the numbers would help; but doing so didn’t really do anything other than further highlight the undemocratic anachronism of a system sorely in need of either a serious facelift or absolute abolition. I’m talking, of course, about the House of Lords. The Beatles knew how many holes it took to fill it, and governments know how many life peers it takes to swing it.

At least the British Parliament only has the two Houses. The pre-Revolutionary Ancien Régime of France had an untenable trio known as The Three Estates. The First Estate represented the clergy; the Second Estate represented the nobility; and the Third Estate represented the commoners. Needless to say, the first two had a shared interest in preserving the status quo and tended to join forces to defeat the Third whenever a vote might be proposed to improve the lot of the common man at the expense of the aristocracy and the church. Perhaps it was no surprise the people eventually expressed such dissatisfaction with the system that they chopped off its head. On this side of the Channel – bar the brief period after the Civil War when the peers were kept out as the Commons conspired to kill the King – the real seat of power always rested with the Lords until belated reform plodded its way through the nineteenth century.

When Asquith introduced the Parliament Act of 1911 as a means of ending the Upper House’s power to veto Government legislation following the Lords’ rejection of Lloyd George’s 1910 Budget, peers finally seemed to accept their diminished status; rather than solely look after the interests of the gentry, the Lords instead sought to subtly temper over-zealous governments drunk on their own majorities. The dramatic reforms of the Blair Government that saw the removal of all bar 92 hereditary peers in 1999 were intended to create a more democratic chamber; but all this seems to have done is give Blair’s successors a freer hand in flooding the Lords with lobby-fodder programmed to vote with the Government. David Cameron was the worst offender, capitalising on the 1958 Life Peerages Act by creating an average of 41 peers a year during his tenure at No.10. And now an Upper House already bursting at the seams with unelected cronies is set to have its abundance of useless numbers swelled even further.

As soon as the General Election was done and dusted, rumours over a potential replacement for Nicky Morgan as Culture Secretary were quashed by the announcement that Ms Morgan would be keeping her job, despite standing down as an MP. Instant elevation to the Upper House dashed Penny Mordaunt’s hopes of a return to Cabinet and also gave the impression of ‘Tory-business-as-usual’ in the face of the Conservative Party’s overnight appeal to working-class voters. Not that this practice is unique to the Tories, mind; Gordon Brown, for example, had an unusually high number of peers in his Cabinet, enabling the likes of Lord Mandelson to stage a comeback without the need for any electorate involvement. The carrot of a peerage allegedly dangled before Shami Chakrabarti as an incentive for her whitewash on the subject of Labour anti-Semitism showed even ‘Corbynism’ is not immune to such patronage.

News of Nicky Morgan’s painless promotion was swiftly followed by the magical transformation of Zac Goldsmith from defeated MP (yet again) to life peer; and, not to be outdone, the Lib Dems are apparently toying with the idea of nominating their losing leader for the Lords, so rumours of Jo Swinson’s political death would appear to be greatly exaggerated. What this says about the democratic process in this country is something that certainly adds to the despair of those already disillusioned by first-past-the-post. Lost your seat because the people decided you weren’t up to the job? Not to worry – you can stay in Parliament, anyway; and the people don’t get a say at all! The necessity of the General Election in calling those to account who have attempted to thwart democracy for the last couple of years has a bit of a sting in its tail when a handful that the electorate booted out of one door immediately get back in through another.

Having an elected Upper House, which is usually promoted as an alternative to getting rid of the Lords altogether, would present its own problems, however; many believe most of those elected under such a system would either be beneficiaries of the same practice of patronage that already exists or would merely be drawn from the narrow gene pool that produces those who stand for election to the Commons – unless the formula for selecting peers is radically different from existing ones. And if the Upper House ends up becoming simply a mirror image of the Lower House, what is the point? Why do we need two of them?

Perhaps an elected Upper House should start from scratch by emptying the chamber of every current member and radically altering the process by which it fills up again. Maybe take it out of politicians’ hands altogether by giving every Parliamentary constituency around the country the chance to vote for the most deserving figures in each community – and anyone with any prior involvement in local government would be barred from nomination, as many of them just want to climb the greasy pole to Westminster as it is. Elect the kind of community pillars that often receive MBEs – lollipop ladies, care-workers, voluntary librarians etc. – the kind that actually contribute something to their neighbourhood other than seeing it as a stepping stone. Make the House of Lords the House of The People and make the House of Commons the House of The Political Class. There would then appear to be a valid reason for the existence of two chambers.

It goes without saying, of course, that none of this idealistic reform will happen. Why should it? What’s in it for them? Indeed, why would a Government that has just had a ‘stonking’ majority handed to it on a plate by an incomparably useless opposition feel any pressure to overhaul a system it can now exploit to its heart’s content without having to take minor parties into consideration? And why would a minor party such as the Lib Dems press for Lords reform when the Upper House contains enough Lib Dem members to at least fill a first-class railway carriage rather than the solitary taxi ferrying all of its MPs to the next party conference? As it is, we’ll probably just muddle along as per in the usual British way – or maybe wave a few pointless placards demanding reform now that the previous reason for a day out in Whitehall has been made redundant. No matter how broke it is, the need to fix it doesn’t appear to be on the ‘to-do’ list at the moment.

© The Editor


A US President is assassinated, elevating Vice-President Johnson to the top job – no, not JFK and Lyndon Johnson, but Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. It’s April 1865 and the last shot in the Civil War is still to be fired; but the one that killed the President is ricocheting across the political landscape as a seemingly ill-equipped individual inherits the reins of power. Even though the conflict that had set the nation against itself was officially over before the year was out, the aftermath dominated Johnson’s one term of office, and the strains it placed upon the various strands of government were something Abraham Lincoln’s unsatisfactory successor appears to have exacerbated. The unfortunate circumstances that led to Johnson’s capture of the Presidency after just six weeks as second-in-command would probably be his sole entry in the history books were it not for the fact that he is also remembered as the first American President to be impeached.

A Democrat who seems to have spent most of his time as President engaged in a tug-of-war with Congressional Republicans, Johnson was eager to bring the seceded States back into the Union as quickly as possible; key to his post-war Presidential Reconstruction was to pardon Confederate leaders and raise no objections to Southern legislation limiting the civil liberties of freed slaves (the so-called Black Codes). With Johnson opposing the Fourteenth Amendment giving those former slaves citizenship, he repeatedly attempted to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (who approved the Fourteenth Amendment); the President’s actions violated the Tenure of Office Act, which Congress had passed to restrict his powers to fire officials, and when Johnson eventually dismissed Stanton, the House of Representatives moved to impeach him.

Andrew Johnson’s ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’ were listed in eleven articles of impeachment that resulted in the President’s Senate trial, though a potential conviction largely centred on the illegal dismissal of Stanton. In the end, Johnson narrowly escaped conviction, and there were endless rumours that bribery and corruption saved the President’s skin and prevented him being removed from office. As it was, barely a year later Johnson was the ex-President, anyway, having failed to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. His sole achievement in office appears to have been the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire, though his main claim to fame is the one that is currently receiving renewed interest on account of rather more contemporary events.

Just over a century on from the inglorious episode in the career of President #17, the 37th holder of the office came within a whisker of finding himself in the same position. In 1972, Richard Nixon was re-elected by what was then the biggest margin of victory in American history, yet less than two years later he became the first – and so far only – US President to resign before his term of office was up. The Watergate scandal lifted the lid on the unsavoury reality of politics at the highest level and enabled a jaw-dropping public to be exposed to it for the first time; whilst Nixon’s dirty tricks were undoubtedly an extreme manifestation of the man’s paranoid persecution complex, it’s not as though Tricky Dicky was the first sinner in a long line of saints. Nixon’s crime was that he got caught.

Few politicians who climb to the plateau of power manage to do so without pissing a fair few people off en route, but how that resentment can maybe be turned into legal action that brings them down is easier said than done. Bill Clinton’s enemies were mainly female, most of whom he’d enjoyed extramarital dalliances with whilst – according to Christopher Hitchens, anyway – Hillary paid them off in order to prevent any future kiss-and-tell exposés. The 42nd President always made it clear these dalliances were consensual, though it was perhaps inevitable that the question of consent was destined to rear its ugly head by the time Clinton ascended to the Oval Office. Of course, it was in that very room that the ‘incident’ many both at the time and since attribute to the impeachment of Clinton in 1998 took place; the tawdry Monica Lewinsky affair, in which the President had lied on oath that he didn’t have ‘sexual relations with that woman’ before then admitting he had, served to exhume the ghost of an older allegation that sealed impeachment proceedings. Former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones accused Clinton of sexual harassment dating from his tenure as Governor of Arkansas, and it was the lawsuit Jones filed against the President that gave additional weight to the Lewinsky lie.

Nixon had evaded impeachment on account of resigning before the process could be completed and then receiving a pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford; but in January 1999 Bill Clinton went all the way and became only the second US President to stand trial in the Senate. However, like Johnson before him, Clinton was acquitted and was able to serve out his second term in office, despite his already-dodgy reputation being further besmirched by the whole sleazy saga. One could even argue Bill’s incurable philandering contributed towards the failure of the former First Lady to win the White House, as Donald Trump and his team were quick to magic up another accuser of her husband whenever the Democrats sought to bring Trump’s own dubious record to the fore during the notoriously nasty 2016 campaign.

And now we come full circle as a third American President has been impeached. Ironically, considering the rumours and whispers of Trump’s overactive libido that dogged (and ultimately didn’t affect) his bid for the Presidency, it is a purely political issue that will drag him to the Senate early next year. As the blueprint for the process, Andrew Johnson made a lot of bad enemies and it was then up to his enemies to find something they could nail him with; if the now-three US Presidents to have been impeached share anything, it is that the crimes and misdemeanours that formed their articles of impeachment were all their enemies could legally cobble together. All seem like minor offences when compared to the litany of alleged offences that couldn’t be proven; and the Democrats’ relentless pursuit of Trump just looks like partisan politics of the most desperate order.

Ever since Trump’s inauguration, most of the Democratic Party’s energies seem to have been devoted not to finding the right man or woman to beat the President in 2020, but to digging up any tiny scrap of dirt that would be strong enough to force him from office. It’s as though the humiliation of Trump being unceremoniously booted out was somehow more satisfactory than him actually being defeated in a fair fight, as if the President’s own lowly moral character has infected his opponents to the point whereby they’ve given up trying to be the better man. Indeed, if the Democrats had spent half of the time unearthing the perfect foil to take Trump on politically that they have rooting through the Donald’s underwear drawer, they might not be so determined to prevent a second term of office by stooping to impeachment.

The allegation that the President involved a foreign power in his attempts to dig some dirt of his own (on Joe Biden) is serious when compared to the articles that comprised the case against his impeached predecessors, but there appears to be little chance the President will be convicted, so what’s the point? And where does that leave the Democrats? The whole affair has the distinct ‘last throw of the dice’ look for a party dedicated to Trump’s removal by means that are foul rather than fair.

© The Editor


We were kind-of warned at the time that the financial crash of 2008 would have far-reaching consequences, so perhaps it’s no great surprise that we’ve just lived through a tumultuous period played out in its corrosive shadow. The post-2008 decade has easily been the most politically traumatic ten years (and-a-bit) this country has experienced since the 1970s. Four General Elections, two referendums, a Coalition Government, minority administrations, Austerity, Brexit, the expenses’ scandal, Hackgate – all of which have, in one shape or another, served to erode the confidence of the electorate in not only our elected representatives, but the entire system itself. Even the youth recruited to the political process after being galvanised by the cult of Corbyn must have staggered into Friday morning feeling just a tad disillusioned. And at the end of it all, who could have imagined the responsibility of stability would be entrusted to Boris Johnson?

A man who began the decade as London Mayor was still best known as a clownish toff hosting ‘Have I Got News For You’, yet he sees it out as a Prime Minister who has just delivered the Conservative Party its most comprehensive victory since 1987. Yet, the fact he has the numbers means the nightmarish shambles of the last two and-a-half years can mercifully draw to a close; that’s not to say we stand on the cusp of some imaginary ‘Golden Age’ – indeed, few would dare predict such a thing when the future is in the hands of a character as erratic as Boris; but having those crucial numbers means Johnson is the first PM since Tony Blair who knows he can effectively push through whatever he wants without having to scurry around currying the support of minor parties. And after experiencing five months of the problems his two immediate predecessors faced, Boris must be relishing the luxury of a majority.

However, the PM will be conscious that receiving the support of disgruntled ex-Labour voters isn’t something he can rely upon indefinitely; he has to deliver to retain it, and hope Labour’s soul-searching spans years rather than months. We all recall the Tories going through a similar scenario in 2001 and 2005, and their eventual solution was to find their own Blair; now Boris will have to be a little more ‘liberal’ and curb some of those typically toxic Tory instincts where the less fortunate are concerned in order to hold onto the Northern seats. The aforementioned stability is the fact that the whole ‘People’s Vote’ campaign is now finally dead in the water as a result of this General Election. Getting Brexit Done is the first pressing issue in Boris Johnson’s in-tray, and though the complex intricacies of the actual process when stripped of its simplistic slogan are something that will probably stretch way beyond his tenure at No.10, the majority his party can now boast will remove the obstacles that a minority administration couldn’t overcome.

There are, of course, other pressing problems closer to home than Europe – namely, Scotland and Northern Ireland – though both are bound-up with the Brexit issue. Thursday proved to be a historic General Election in Ulster, as more Nationalist than Unionist MPs were elected for the first time ever; and, lest we forget, Northern Ireland voted Remain in 2016 along with the Scots. Nicola Sturgeon may have expressed her most visible joy when Jo Swinson lost her seat to the SNP, but the wee one must have been praying for a Tory victory, giving her precisely the springboard to press for yet another ‘once-in-a-generation’ Independence Referendum she desired. But while the SNP may have returned to the dominant position it enjoyed before the blip of 2017, the impression given south of the border that every Scot shares Sturgeon’s fanatical obsession is a bit like saying Nigel Farage speaks for every Englishman. And it is a curiously masochistic situation that a Nationalist party whose entire raison d’être is self-determination should crave continuing subjugation under a union that denies it far more independence than the one it seeks to break free from.

Despite everything else, the fallout from the Labour collapse has served to claim most of the weekend headlines. Jezza himself has apologised for the party’s performance, though is characteristically incapable of acknowledging he and his middle-class Marxist cabal completely misjudged the mood of traditional supporters they regard with thinly-veiled contempt. In many respects, however, his legend as a martyr presiding over two heroic failures will now be secure where the faithful are concerned, having ‘won the argument’. John McDonnell has been largely left to carry the can alone in public – albeit blaming it all on Brexit whilst refraining from wondering aloud why all those voters Corbynistas have spent the past three years labelling thick racist bigots didn’t vote Labour.

Former Labour Minister Caroline Flint, who lost the Don Valley seat she’d held for 22 years, was refreshingly blunt in her appraisal. One of the few prominent Labour voices to oppose the party’s Second Referendum stance, Flint didn’t mince her words on the failure of leadership, let alone certain members of the Labour frontbench, namely Thornberry and Starmer. Her belief that replacing Corbyn with any of the Champagne Socialists who formulated the party’s disastrous Europe policy would extend Labour’s wilderness years long past the next Election is something many observers would find difficult to dispute. Yes, the expected blame game is well underway for Labour, though it would be unwise to take a leaf out of the US Democrats’ book by diverting all energies into a ‘Not my Prime Minister’ protest for the next four years, rather than finding the right woman to take Boris on.

It goes without saying that the Momentum bloc are not going to simply relinquish their grip on the party overnight just because their man led Labour to its worst electoral result since before the Second World War; and the rules governing Labour leadership elections are now weighed heavily in favour of Corbyn candidates. Electing a ‘Corbyn without a beard’ candidate (as Caroline Flint put it) would not improve the party’s chances of being returned to office; but there has always been a large section of the Labour Party that prefers being in opposition, anyway – almost as though being in government was ‘selling out’ – and Jezza, along with those that now control the party, is typical of this mindset.

With his humourless, funereal drabness and pious, lacklustre demeanour, he never really looked like a man who wanted to be Prime Minister. By contrast, Boris has never hidden his ravenous ambition; like Liverpool FC kicking-off the season with eyes firmly fixed on the prize, he was determined to be crowned champion and went for it. It’s too easy to evoke Cavaliers and Roundheads, but it fits. Perhaps, after such a miserable decade, the public didn’t want their misery mirrored in their potential Prime Minister; perhaps they wanted someone to come along and gee them up with larger-than-life bluster. As a result, the public have therefore given Boris one hell of a mandate; and now is the time for the man to finally show what he’s (politically) made of. If he blows it, he’ll have confirmed everything his critics have always said about him, and the country will proceed along the downward trajectory it’s been on since 2008. We can certainly do without that, but the jury could be out for quite some time.

© The Editor


Anger when it emanates from someone we’re not used to seeing express it can be a remarkable spectacle. Accustomed to former Labour Cabinet Minister Alan Johnson playing the avuncular sidekick to Michael Portillo on ‘This Week’, it was wonderfully unexpected during ITV’s General Election coverage last night to witness Johnson erupt as he was sat next to Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum. ‘The working-classes have always been a big disappointment to Jon and his cult,’ said Johnson. ‘Corbyn was a disaster on the doorstep. Everyone knew he couldn’t lead the working-class out of a paper bag.’ Johnson kept his composure, but his fury was unmistakable. ‘I want them out of the party,’ he said. ‘I want Momentum gone. Go back to your student politics.’ Words well and truly un-minced, Johnson added – ‘The most disastrous result for the Labour Party, the worst result since 1935 – people like Jon and his pals will never admit this, but they have messed-up completely; and it’s our communities that are going to pay for that. I feel really angry about this – that we persevered with Corbyn for this experiment of back-to-the-future.’

During the darkest days of Theresa May’s premiership, it seemed Brexit was destined to destroy the Conservative Party, yet it is now clear that it has contributed more towards the destruction of the Labour Party. The result of the 2016 EU Referendum was the worst thing that could have happened to Corbyn’s Labour; the fact that so many diehard Labour areas of the country voted Leave completely contradicted the stance of Jezza and his London-based team, highlighting an uncomfortable truth Labour had turned a blind eye to even before Corbyn seized control – that the PLP and the old Labour heartlands had become completely incompatible. This was a divide that widened even further once the Labour Party fell under the control of middle-class revolutionaries, or what the Guardian (no less) has labelled ‘the sectarian left’.

Not only did the Referendum result further alienate the provincial party faithful from the Corbynistas; it exposed the ‘Champagne Socialism’ of the anti-Corbyn faction within Labour ranks as equally detached from the concerns of traditional Labour voters – none more so than the opportunistic, party-hopping Chuka Umunna, whose eviction from the political landscape was one of the undoubted highlights of the evening. Smarmy Umunna was perhaps the ultimate embodiment of the arrogance and sneering contempt for the electorate that has been displayed at Westminster over the last couple of years.

For Umunna and his allies, the result of the 2016 EU Referendum was such a seismic shock to their unchallenged righteousness and superior sense of entitlement that their only way of dealing with it was to pretend it never happened. How many times have we been told of late that the electorate – including ‘many of those who voted Leave’ – were ‘coming round to our way of thinking’? Umunna, Soubry and the rest reacted to Brexit like a tone-deaf contestant on a talent show being told he cannot hold a note; a shake of the head, a refusal to accept the facts. ‘No,’ says the man confronted by Cowell. ‘You’re wrong. I’ll have a million-selling record to my name one day – or maybe I’ll become Prime Minister.’

And on and on they went – throwing down obstacle after obstacle in the way of May and Boris after promising to honour the referendum result on re-election in 2017, recruiting the wealthy businesswoman Gina Miller to try and thwart the Brexit process in the courts, proposing a People’s Vote, crossing the floor of the House to form a Remoaner alliance and eventually announcing their aim to scrap Brexit altogether. Those who suspected not all Leave voters might have changed their minds and fallen into line with the Remainer consensus didn’t want a General Election because they had an inkling of what could happen; most of those promptly declared their decision to stand down once the Election was announced.

Those unable to see beyond their unshakable, delusional, narcissistic egos fought on, somehow imagining the proles would by now have seen the error of their ways and would reject Brexit altogether. Jo Swinson seemed to epitomise this attitude better (or worse) than anyone else, and now she has paid the price for her blinkered refusal to accept not everyone thinks overturning a mandate delivered by 17.4 million members of the electorate is fair play. At least when Nick Clegg lost his seat in 2017, he’d already quit as leader; Swinson didn’t even have that option, becoming the first sitting leader of a major party to lose her seat at a General Election since the Liberals’ Archibald Sinclair in 1945; and now her party is only three seats better off than after the wipeout of 2015. The heady days of Charles Kennedy seem a very long time ago indeed.

Swinson’s ousting is as emblematic of the gaping chasm between how Westminster Village sees the rest of the country and how that perspective works the other way round as Labour’s decimation. The result of this General Election is also a comprehensive rejection of the Woke/Identity Politics agenda propagated by both Labour and the Lib Dems. Because the majority of its promoters are encased in a London bubble and are over-represented in media circles, they cannot comprehend it means Jack Shit outside the more privileged corners of the capital. Even when venturing beyond its London comfort zone, Corbyn’s Labour focused exclusively on the big ‘metropolitan’ cities made in London’s image and utterly ignored the former industrial towns that had loyally seen the party through many a lean decade. Hiring Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan to further remind the plebs that they didn’t know what they were doing in 2016 was a suicidal move that nevertheless reiterated the regressive left’s utter inability to understand the mood of the nation as a whole.

Yes, there are many millions in the country who have suffered under a decade of Tory rule – and I’ve no doubt their suffering will be extended as a consequence of this General Election; but whose fault is that? Is the fact that the Conservative Party have just scored their biggest victory since 1987 a vote of confidence in Tory policies or a wholesale rejection of a pitiful opposition that had dozens of open goals to capitalise on yet shot the ball over the bar or hit the post on every f***ing occasion? Labour’s better-than-expected 2017 campaign was achieved on the back of promises to implement the decision of 2016; and Labour Leavers have spent the last two years watching their party wilfully prevent that decision being implemented.

The collapse of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ in the Midlands and the North wasn’t remotely surprising; seats it was once unimaginable ever turning blue, such as Sedgefield, Bolsover, Workington, Blyth Valley et al, have all fallen into Tory hands, yet they’ve been Labour in name only for a long time. If the US Democrats are responsible for Donald Trump, responsibility for the man who can now look forward to at least four more years as the tenant of No.10 lies with the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, Change UK, and all the independents who failed to win back seats they held before reneging on their promises and quitting their parties. But hey, if you sow it, you reap it.

© The Editor


It does seem rather quaint now, a polite hangover from less violently polarised times; one can almost imagine Rupert Brooke incorporating it into his wistful celebration of Albion, ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’. I’m talking about the fact that on the day the nation votes, the mainstream broadcasters don’t mention the War until the polls close. After weeks of bombarding viewers and listeners with wall-to-wall 24/7 General Election coverage and shoving the warnings and waffle of the party leaders down our throats, TV and radio suddenly instigate a surreal ceasefire. It’d be nice to picture the respective Tory and Labour frontbenches shaking hands and engaging in a friendly kick-about in No Man’s Land for the brief duration, but the cessation of hostilities has its limits. And, lest we forget, this temporary armistice isn’t recognised on the real battleground of 2019, social media.

I won’t say ‘out there’ in social media; ‘out here’ is more accurate. Like many of you reading this, I’ve probably followed the events of the past month closer online than on television, let alone the dear old print media, that aged grandparent regarded with fondness despite the senility that occasionally causes him to behave in a highly inappropriate manner. Mind you, at least he can blame his age on his behaviour. Out here in the Wild West of cyberspace, anything goes – and it regularly does. Yes, there are persuasive arguments for inconsistencies in the MSM’s ‘impartiality’ stance, and I’m sure we can all cite examples where favouritism is blatantly obvious; but when one is presented with the enforced restraints of balance during a campaign on TV, it can actually be a relief to wander over to Twitter or Facebook and spend a few hours in a partisan’s paradise.

Ironically, I tend to listen to voices emanating from both sides of the argument on social media too, almost as if I’m programmed to be automatically impartial. But the voices here are far more passionate in their vitriol than any you hear in the MSM, so whilst I’m exposed to polar points of view, I’m getting the full force of the arguments without any editorial interference. Maybe for me it’s also a side-effect of being utterly disillusioned with mainstream political parties – the compulsion to experience ‘Warburtons’ politics, i.e. opinions ‘wi’ nowt taken out’, as an alternative to the bland TV pontificating. Nobody has highlighted anti-Semitism within the Labour Party on television or radio with quite the same level of vociferous disgust as they have on Twitter, and the story of the sick child on the hospital floor that has dominated the campaign this week was Twitter reportage in a nutshell – becoming the defining symbol of the decline of the NHS under a decade of Tory stewardship from a Labour perspective in a matter of a few hours.

I have a feeling Boris Johnson wouldn’t have been able to get away with chickening out of a grilling from Andrew Neil had there been no social media; as it is, the whole Neil saga ended up as a minor footnote in Boris’s election adventure rather than being a crucial plot development. In a way, Bo-Jo’s no-show probably had no more impact on voting preferences than the silly ‘hiding in the fridge’ story that briefly hogged headlines yesterday. Even Jo Swinson’s ‘learning curve’ (as she herself put it) has arguably done less damage to the Lib Dems’ chances than the ill-advised pledge they made when the campaign had barely got going; that sealed their fate long before their new leader was shown up on TV as the amateur out of her depth that she really is.

There’s a distinct sense that TV interviews or debates during a campaign are now staged solely for the many millions in this country of a certain age who aren’t online; and chasing the older voter matters on account of the fact that this is one demographic all-but guaranteed to turn up at the polling station, whatever the weather or ‘inconvenient’ time of year. Perhaps twenty years from now, most leading politicians won’t even bother with television appearances to entice the electorate, and it won’t make the slightest bit of difference to their chances of re-election. They only do it now because they still have to; reduce TV’s power to the lowly level of influence now exercised by Fleet Street and don’t expect them to make any further concessions to viewers. But this campaign has been marked by few concessions, anyway, as the major parties have stuck to their perceived strengths; the PM hasn’t been the only one avoiding other issues.

When John Major staged his ‘standing on the soapbox in the market square’ stunt back in 1992, it was viewed as a novelty method of electioneering even then; but it’s interesting to contrast that approach with Jeremy Corbyn’s evident thrill in stating his case during one of his beloved outdoor rallies. This is undoubtedly Jezza’s comfort zone because such an environment was his political university; and he loves a school reunion. But to the wider electorate beyond the Corbyn faithful, I suspect it has the opposite effect to the one Major’s had. Whoever came up with the Tory PM’s gimmick during the ’92 General Election positioned the antiquated simplicity of the gesture against the slick Presidential campaign being run by Neil Kinnock, one that climaxed with the infamous Sheffield Arena event; it had the effect of making Major seem to be more in touch with the people than simply preaching to the converted. I get the feeling it’s the other way round with Corbyn; it gives the impression he can only truly be himself when facing a friendly audience; but it’s a hard habit for him to break.

Mind you, as a media commentator remarked yesterday, we appear to have been experiencing two parallel campaigns – a Brexit one from the Tories and an NHS one from Labour; there doesn’t seem to have been any common ground, leaving the electorate in a difficult position. Every Leaver doesn’t necessarily want to see another ‘crisis winter’ for the NHS, even though it’s an annual event; equally, every hospital worker doesn’t necessarily want us to remain in the EU. But the parties naturally like to present their messages in basic black-and-white, whether a vacuous ‘Get Brexit Done’ slogan or relentlessly promoting the dubious mantra that the Tories will have sold-off the NHS to Donald Trump by the middle of tomorrow afternoon.

I suppose one of the worst aspects of being utterly disillusioned with mainstream political parties is the ominous inevitability that you’ll end up voting for one of them come a General Election. Yes, you’ll hate yourself in the morning, but you’ll feel you were presented with a rotten choice courtesy of an electoral system that makes it almost impossible for a vote to really count unless it’s either Labour or Tory; you know the system’s f***ed when so much energy goes into encouraging the ultra-cynical practice of tactical voting. Throughout this campaign, I’ve felt like that Paul Whitehouse character from ‘The Fast Show’, the one who agrees with every conflicting opinion aired before him, swinging back and forth, unable to decide where he stands. In a way, being confronted by this (lack of) choice feels emblematic of my life, really; but I’ve done the deed now and I’ve no doubt I’ve made absolutely no difference to the overall outcome whatsoever. Ain’t democracy great!

© The Editor


I might be wrong, but I think it was the last Conservative Party Conference just before the 2001 General Election; a Daily Mirror front cover highlighted some of the famous names gathered on the podium to give their support to William Hague. Of the motley crew featured, I can only recall Bill (Ken Barlow) Roache, half-forgotten ‘New Faces’ winner Patti Boulaye, and veteran Radio 1 DJs Mike Read and Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart. The inference was this group of has-beens were the best the Tories could do in terms of celebrity support. It was quite a funny montage of yesterday’s men and women, but I suppose the point being made was that the ‘cool’ celebs were hanging out with Tony.

Political parties seeking celebrity endorsement – as long as they’re the right celebrities – is, of course, nothing new at all. In America, Hollywood stars and showbiz icons have always actively campaigned to get their man into the White House; but US politics have tended to be a tad more ‘showbizzy’ than their British equivalent, anyway – just think who currently sits in the Oval Office, after all, let alone one of his predecessors who was elected way back in 1980. Over there, the marriage between showbiz and politics seems perfectly natural; whenever we try and do it like that, though, we get it spectacularly wrong – see Neil Kinnock, Sheffield 1992. Awright!

Any association between entertainment and politics works better over here in a more low-key fashion – and the history of it goes back a long way; the original edition of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, for example (published 1859), was dedicated to Lord Russell, Whig Prime Minister (1846-52 and 1865-66). There is no evidence Dickens went out canvassing for Bertrand Russell’s grandpa, but dedicating one of his novels to him was still a pretty powerful endorsement. And whilst some public figures voice their support for their chosen party or politician simply because they’ve been asked, the politician approaches the issue from a different angle.

Politicians being the canny opportunists they are, a photo op with the man or woman of the moment is one way of showing the electorate how much in touch they are with their tastes – just ask Harold Wilson, AKA ‘The Fifth Beatle’. But posing beside a famous face at some social gathering is different from persuading said star to commit to campaigning on behalf of a party. The rise of television as a powerful tool of persuasion in the 60s saw the likes of Honor Blackman at the height of her ‘Avengers’ and ‘Goldfinger’ fame appearing in a party political broadcast for the Liberals, and Humphrey Lyttelton being recruited to do likewise for Labour. Some household names, such as Glenda Jackson, Sebastian Coe and Gyles Brandreth, took this one stage further and eventually ended up being elected as MPs; others, such as Eddie Izzard, have so far mercifully spared us that. But for most celebs, lending public support is the extent of their contribution to the cause.

Last time round, Jeremy Corbyn’s unlikely marketing as a rock star saw him receive the endorsement of Stormzy – who is, I’m confidently told, popular with ‘The Kids’ – but in 2019 the Leader of the Opposition seems to be attracting the support of those who became famous when the parents of ‘The Kids’ were kids themselves, most notably Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant. From what I can gather, both these two 90s men appear to have pushed themselves forward on account of the Brexit factor rather than any passionate commitment to Jezza; even if they’re true believers, they might have just remained in their gated communities for the duration of the campaign had it not been for the B word overshadowing all other issues this time round. However, in a way, this is far riskier a strategy than simply nailing their colours to the Labour mast.

When prominent Leavers are coming across as rich, detached metropolitan elitists patronising the provincial masses, the likes of inner-M25 luvvies like Grant and Coogan resurfacing to remind us how stupid and/or racist we are if we don’t vote Labour is bound to backfire when there are so many out there who are already sick of being put down for voting Leave in the first place. As it is, a celebrity publicly declaring their allegiance can have the effect of altering the public’s opinion, anyway; Clint Eastwood denouncing Obama or Michael Caine bigging-up Cameron probably didn’t surprise many, but might possibly have introduced a disclaimer amongst film buffs, praising the art whilst condemning the artist. Moreover, recruiting stars to do your work for you isn’t a sure-fire formula for electoral success; if one already dislikes said celebrity, it may not prompt a tribal voter to abruptly change sides, but it could make the mind up of a fair-weather floater.

Whether the motivation is genuine when a star comes out in favour of one particular party, it nevertheless invariably serves to emphasise an Us and Them divide between star and electorate in a way that doesn’t happen whenever a new movie featuring the actor in question is showing at the local multiplex. The nature of cinema, blowing up human beings into giant unreal Gods and Goddesses living their lives on huge screens, places the stars in a different stratosphere from mere mortals, and cinemagoers accept this. When they come down to earth and suddenly walk among us, however, the stardust swiftly evaporates; this is why a series such as the fondly-recalled ‘Stella Street’ was funny; the idea of so many famous faces residing in an unremarkable suburban neighbourhood alongside the plebs was so ludicrous that it worked as a joke. They don’t have to live like we do, so when they start wagging their fingers and lecturing us from a position of unimaginable comfort and luxury, our backs are instinctively up.

What impact, if any, the latest group of Jezza cheerleaders will have on the result come Thursday is questionable. It could well have no effect on don’t-knows whatsoever, but it might make them think differently about certain celebrities. I doubt any careers will be placed in peril as a consequence, especially with the stars endorsing Remain and its party political affiliates, for the industry they work in and the media as a whole are so overwhelmingly pro-Remain that they can sleep safely in their beds knowing they’ll still receive a script through the post the morning after polling day. No chance of any 50s-style Hollywood blacklisting being on the cards there.

Plenty artists give their names to various causes and plenty, such as Bob Dylan or John Lennon, have produced ‘political’ work. That said, neither Dylan’s association with the 60s Civil Rights movement or Lennon’s dalliance with the American Radical Left in the early 70s necessitated embracing a mainstream political party. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer it that way.

© The Editor


Talk about false dawns. Those invigorating in-between times – those by-elections and local elections and European elections – always fool us into believing they’re the harbingers of political earthquakes rocking the foundations of the two major parties; and yet, the real threat to the red and blue corners’ century-old monopoly of power, if it comes at all, tends to come from within rather than without. The Labour and Conservative Parties are more than capable of destroying themselves without any assistance from outsiders. Give them the exclusive right to elect their respective leaders and look what happens. Having said that, however, their joint ability to overcome these internal disasters is either a tribute to their admirable capacity for survival or a damning indictment of not only the other parties snapping at their heels, but the first-past-the-post system – and possibly even the electorate itself.

Two and-a-half years ago, pre-General Election talk was of the death of two-party politics; come polling day, the nation chose to give Labour and the Tories the biggest share of the vote they’d had since 1970. This time round, pre-General Election talk was of the death of two-party politics; and now, just days away from polling day, all focus has shifted back to the usual suspects. The first half of this year was dominated by the formation of TIG and the overnight Euro success of the Brexit Party, yet as we approach its end all talk of a major break with the old politics seems as deluded as putting money on an unlikely club winning the Premier League simply because they topped the table after the opening weekend of fixtures. Regardless of unrealisable spending plans, anti-Semitism or born-to-rule arrogance, like the Old Firm poised to do battle in today’s Scottish League Cup Final, it’s the same teams playing for the trophy once more, with everyone else relegated back to making up the numbers.

Naturally, nobody was expecting anyone other than Boris or Jezza as PM from the kick-off; but perhaps the unique, if unenlightening, head-to-heads the pair have taken part in on TV have served to remind voters that when it comes to deciding who runs the country there’s only ever a choice between two – even if the two on offer are the worst two in living memory. The quick-fire format of those debates doesn’t promise much more than the enticing prospect of a heated argument to make for good television, anyway; even if the electorate had faith in either man, it’s doubtful watching such a programme would make up the mind of a floating voter. Viewers come away remembering Jezza’s wonky glasses or the laughter greeting Boris’s theories on trust in politics – whereas ‘the message’ is lost somewhere along the way, buried beneath instantly forgettable catch-phrases and vapid sound-bites.

Lest we forget, one issue continues to dominate discourse, and I suspect without it the Tories would be toast, even up against such an unpopular opposition; the Brexit factor will save their skin, for when Leavers look around and are confronted by wall-to-wall Remainers, there’s only one party that can (in theory) ‘get Brexit done’ – and that won’t be Nigel’s barmy army, something even he acknowledged when announcing his decision to pull out of several seats where his party’s presence could split the vote. On the eve of the campaign, the Leave/Remain votes appeared to be spread evenly, yet the defection of four prominent (ish) Brexit MEPs to the Tory cause last week suggests most Leave voters will probably back Boris; similarly, the Remainers now seem to be favouring Labour more than the early frontrunners for the pro-EU vote, the Lib Dems. And so, the traditional equilibrium is restored just in time for polling day.

Outside of General Elections, it’s as if the electorate are a philandering husband who repeatedly tells his Lib Dem and Brexit Party bits-on-the-side he loves them and will definitely leave his wife for them; then, as soon as a General Election is called and the reality of the gamble hits, he heads back home to the familiar certainty of the marital bed. Characteristically overconfident, premature bravado on the part of Jo Swinson having now been quietly swept under a carpet once belonging to David Steel, the Lib Dems have slipped back to recognising their realistic place in the scheme of things; as with both the SNP and DUP, they can cling to the possibility their presence might count for something in the event of a Hung Parliament; but that’s the best they can hope for.

If the smaller parties serve any purpose beyond their own interests, one could say they exist to give the big two a rejuvenating kick up the arse; any by-election drift away is swiftly addressed as the factors that tempted previously loyal voters to look elsewhere are absorbed into the Labour and Tory machines, luring the faithful back home. It happened way back in the early 60s, most dramatically at the Orpington By-Election of 1962; the appeal of Eric Lubbock and the Liberal Party to the red-brick graduates was noted by Harold Wilson when he took charge of the Labour Party a year later, wooing the Liberal voters by presenting Labour as the only modern, dynamic alternative to the Conservatives – and the only party capable of ousting them from office. And what did the Tories do when the likelihood of haemorrhaging votes to Farage on the biggest stage of all threatened to scupper their chances of victory? They allowed the ERG wing to take control and Boris purged the party of dissenting voices, thus presenting themselves as the ‘real’ Brexit Party come this Thursday.

Corbyn’s cabal have taken a similar path by forcing moderates out of the Labour Party and ensuring all new recruits are loyal to the leader’s vision, though Labour don’t have a Brexit-like issue that will attract the floaters, regardless of how much everyone professes to love the NHS. The big two are now controlled by what used to be their respective lunatic fringes – and if it wasn’t for the good fortune of all the other parties promoting the Remain cause, the Tories would be as buggered as the opposition. But what of those who voted for Tony Blair in 1997, 2001 and 2005 – or even David Cameron in 2010? Where do they go now? Even the traditional welcoming harbour for voters lost at sea – the Lib Dems – have undoubtedly been tarnished by having a crack at their own version of extremism; and they’ve left it too late to repair the damage and offer the usual bed-for-the-night to the politically homeless .

It’s hard to see any ‘good’ outcome to come here; whoever is declared winner on Friday or spends next weekend cobbling together a coalition, it’s nothing to look forward to. Whichever candidate receives my cross next to their name on Thursday, there’s no way I’ll be able to walk out of that polling station without feeling an overwhelming sense of shame and embarrassment having momentarily endorsed a party boasting more I vehemently disagree with than agree with. There’s no pride in 2019.

© The Editor