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


The murder of Jo Cox was politicised and weaponised within 24 hours of it happening, and that awful event continues to be a dependable default reference whenever a (usually) Labour MP needs a few re-tweets to stand out during a rowdy Commons debate. Therefore, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Friday’s grisly incident on London Bridge provoked a similar response with similar haste. Remainers have made a big deal out of the fact that one of the extremely brave members of the public to subdue the wannabe Jihadist with nothing more than fire extinguisher and whale’s tusk was Polish – thus apparently demonstrating the benefits of free movement; the Conservatives have blamed the presence of the killer on early release laws introduced by the last Labour Government; Labour have apportioned blame to Tory cuts in police numbers, the security services, mental health support, prison officers and…oh, I dunno…the weather?

In truth, it was probably a combination of all the factors mentioned rather than one isolated element. Just as hectic was the swift addition of further information in the hours following the attack that left two people dead – that one of those who held the killer down was himself a convicted murderer on day release; or that the presumed ‘ordinary member of the public’ seen holding a bloodied knife and urging pedestrians to move away was in fact an undercover member of the security services. And then there were questions over the fact what appeared to be a disarmed assailant on the ground was shot dead point blank by the police. Then it turned out he was wearing a suicide vest he was allegedly poised to detonate – a vest that was found out to be fake once it could be examined on his lifeless body.

I saw the ‘uncut’ footage on Twitter, though not through voyeuristic searching, mind; it was my first exposure to the incident rather than TV or radio and I didn’t know what to expect before I saw it. Yes, it was shocking, but before the MSM news became squeamish, such graphic images of unpleasant incidents used to air on bulletins, perhaps in order to show grownups the brutal realities of brutal events rather than the ‘I’m sure the viewers at home don’t want to see that’ approach in place today. Anyway, it wasn’t nice, but neither was what Usman Khan did in the name of Allah.

Of course, it’s not much more than a couple of years since the last General Election campaign was momentarily derailed by terrorist incidents and, lest we forget, Jo Cox was murdered just days away from the 2016 EU Referendum. It seems that such high profile political events are now viewed as a prime platform for any stray radicalised lunatic to have slipped under the MI5 radar to achieve tawdry immortality; and the fact these campaigns have become more regular than the World Cup or the Olympics over the past half-decade means there are growing opportunities for the deluded and deranged in this particular branch of showbiz. The Jihadi community must be looking forward to the prospect of a People’s Vote and another Scottish Independence Referendum.

The ramifications of London Bridge have naturally fed into the Election narrative, but it’s a sad measure of how normalised such attacks have now become that just as much coverage is still being given to the usual electioneering point-scoring. Boris won’t submit to an Andrew Neil grilling, Channel 4 replaces the absent Boris with a block of ice, then the incurably-unlikeable Michael Gove strolls into Channel 4 HQ accompanied by his own film crew in a desperately cheap stunt; Jezza is still being pilloried for his inability to apologise to British Jews for the anti-Semitic elements in his own party; and the electorate are still being cornered in vox-pops, only to express the same despair with the choices on offer as they expressed before the PM even announced the date.

When this General Election was called, there was a brief hoo-hah over the fact it was scheduled just a couple of weeks before Christmas – as though a two-minute detour into the nearest polling station to scrawl a cross on a piece of paper was a massive inconvenience to a populace who would be devoting every spare moment for a whole month to trudging up and down shopping malls. Who’d have thought you could buy the lot on Amazon these days, eh? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m quite happy about the timing. If it pushes the relentlessly tedious festive juggernaut out of the spotlight for a week or two, I’m all for it. Cut the ‘Christmas Month’ back to the ‘Christmas Fortnight’ we used to have and I won’t be complaining.

Last week’s YouGov poll placed the Tories on course for a 68-seat majority, though we should all pause before accepting this prediction as Gospel following the pollsters’ performance in 2017. Having said that, it’s difficult to see how – valid points re the NHS and Universal Credit not withstanding – the Labour Party won’t be indulging in one of its perennial soul-searching sessions once all the results are in. More so than last time round, it looks like this really will be the Election Labour lost rather than the one the Tories won; as stated in a previous post, it’s hard to think of an incumbent administration in power for almost a decade that has presented its opponent with so many open goals and yet still stands poised to be returned to office. Both Labour – in its belated realisation it needs to reclaim its Leave voters – and the Lib Dems – backtracking on their ‘Cancel Brexit’ brainwave – are now attempting to prove the pollsters wrong; though one can’t help but feel they’ve already missed the boat.

Apparently, there was another one of those seven-way ‘leader’s’ debates on ITV last night, something I’ve only just found out about whilst writing this at 1.45am; mind you, I saw the similar one on the BBC last week and came to the same conclusion that prompted Andrew Oldham to axe ‘Sixth Stone’ Ian Stewart from the band in 1963 – that five is the absolute limit when it comes to any kind of ensemble. Any more than that and the audience are struggling to get a grip on who’s who. Mind you, I didn’t even know the stand-in for Boris who’s apparently a member of the Cabinet, but I guessed correctly that he’d defend his party’s immigration policy by mentioning his ethnic origins in true Sajid Javid style as soon as he opened his mouth. I see Farage was the cat amongst the careerist pigeons on the ITV outing, so it might be worth skimming through on catch-up to see how much he winds up the likes of Jo Swinson and Sian Berry. That’s entertainment.

Well, we have just over a week to choose between shit and shitter now. I was marked as a ‘don’t-know’ by the Labour canvasser who door-stepped me last week, and I think he was probably pretty accurate in his summary. I reckon I’ll probably continue to be so until the moment I’m in that bloody polling booth again. Come back, Screaming Lord Sutch. All is forgiven.

© The Editor


The (now) late Jonathan Miller, when appearing in the seminal satirical revue ‘Beyond the Fringe’ in the early 60s, refuted assumptions he was a Jew. ‘I’m not actually a Jew,’ he declared. ‘I’m just a bit Jew-ish.’ That the multitalented Dr Miller should pass away whilst anti-Semitism continues to hog headlines at the expense of the Labour Party is, I guess, just one of those serendipitous things; but as far as timing goes, it’s pretty good. By the time I got round to watching Andrew Neil’s grilling of Mr Corbyn on the iPlayer earlier today, I’d already been given advance previews of what to expect courtesy of Twitter. To be honest, I quickly became as bored with it as a viewing experience as Jezza appeared to be in his role of interviewee. Even after four years as Leader of the Opposition, he still doesn’t look comfortable in an environment he should be used to in 2019. Stick him on a stage before a crowd protesting about something or other and he’s in his element, of course; but that’s traditionally a treat for backbenchers unaccustomed to being noticed; he should have grown out of that by now.

I don’t think I can ever recall a party in government so ready for the taking being so let off the hook by an opposition. The eccentric charm that got Boris by for a good few years, even enabling him to be twice elected Mayor of London, evaporated as soon as Theresa May made him Foreign Secretary and exposed him as a character entirely unsuited for high office; like most, I suspect that was the then-PM’s plan. But what must Mrs May have felt when her own shortcomings were to play their part in promoting him to her job within three years? One could reasonably argue she was as wrong in that post as her successor, yet here we are – on the hustings with a Prime Minister disliked and distrusted by the majority of the electorate, and he’s comfortably ahead in the polls.

Whilst not quite approaching the level of intense, vitriolic hatred in voters that the Trump/Clinton clash of 2016 provoked, the choice of Boris or Jezza – and, let’s face it, the keys to No.10 won’t be falling into the hands of anyone else – is in its own way as dispiriting an advert for the political process as we’ve ever seen in this country. The usual scaremongering on the part of right-wing tabloids in relation to what Corbyn would do if elected is familiar enough; indeed, looking back just four short years ago (yes, hard to believe that’s all 2015 was), it seems baffling now that a moderate like Ed Miliband was being sold in some quarters as a virtual Dave Spart figure. Corbyn’s past is far more of an open goal for those who delight in such things, yet even that isn’t the main cause of the despondency his candidacy inspires.

There have been past General Elections in which an unpopular PM seemed pretty much odds-on to lose office and the contender appeared highly likely to sweep to victory. 1997 is a good (relatively recent) example; I imagine many voters voted for Blair that year because they genuinely believed in both him and his party as an instrument of long-overdue change – and that includes Middle England Tories and Essex Man. Outside of the devoted faithful, however, it’s hard to believe that anyone will feel the same in 2019 about the current Labour Party and its incumbent leader. So many who do vote Labour this time round will probably do so either out of an unshakable antipathy towards the Tories or because they view Labour as the lesser of two evils. It’s hardly a unique situation, but to vote for a party not because you believe in them, but because they’re not quite as shit as the alternative, is almost enough to prompt one into abstention.

It’s difficult to picture what more the Conservative Party could possibly do to alienate voters and have them booted out of office by Friday 13th December. The blunders of Rees-Mogg and Cleverly when the campaign had barely kicked-off, the unbecoming (as Prince Andrew would say) attitude of Dominic Raab towards the parents of the young man killed by a runaway citing diplomatic immunity, ongoing accusations of institutionalised Islamophobia, the appalling state of the NHS, the broken promises over housing, the increasing influence of the ERG, Gove appropriating Stormzy lyrics – and then Boris ‘Get Brexit Done’ Johnson himself. I mean, what more ammunition does the Labour Party require to slaughter the Tories? And yet, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong – the prospect of Lady Nugee, McDonnell, Abbott and Starmer in positions of power is a frightening one indeed, let alone a dithering glove-puppet like Corbyn with the hand of Seamus Milne up his arse as Prime Minister. But such is the choice awaiting the electorate. Although we’re apparently barely a month away from a completely new decade, the 2010s hasn’t really felt like one – and we’ve been governed by the Tories for all-but five months of this so-called decade. They’ve had ample opportunity to prove things can only get better and have blown it. Their sole legacy is the issue beginning with B that we’re all thoroughly sick to the back teeth of. Nice one, Dave.

I guess, as with the already-present divisions Brexit spectacularly dragged into the spotlight, anti-Semitic sentiments in the Labour Party didn’t just appear overnight. And the leadership has had plenty of time to deal with it, so it can’t complain when the Tories and their media sponsors use it as a weapon against the opposition due to the failure or – maybe more accurately – the disinclination to expunge it once and for all. Again, not much more than four years ago, the party was led by the son of one of its formidable Jewish intellectuals; the Jewish tradition within Labour was something as intrinsic to the party as the Home Counties, blue-rinsed brigade was to the Conservatives. Yet, four years of his successor at the helm and we have the remarkable intervention of the Chief Rabbi calling him and the party out.

All of which doesn’t bode well for whatever kind of future we’ve got to look forward to in the new decade to come. At this moment in time, it’s hard to envisage anything other than a depressing continuation of where we are now, but even worse. The possibility of a Hung Parliament seemed more likely before Jo Swinson bombed on ‘Question Time’ last week, but few can see either a Tory or Labour landslide deciding this Election – and after nine ineffective years in office, the Conservative Party will be (and should be) grateful for any kind of majority the opposition is prepared to hand them.

© The Editor

PS: RIP Clive James too. They’re dropping like bloody flies today.


There’s been a distinct upsurge of activity this past week that has made even the most casual of observers aware it really is that time again – that time when honourable members suddenly cease to treat the electorate with contempt and want to be our friends. After two years of not merely reneging on promises but actively ensuring the major promise made in 2017 was discredited and discarded, there is an abrupt about-turn. For many who were happy to see out another three years tormenting and torturing a castrated administration in the insularity of the Westminster bubble without the need to attend to any actual business, a General Election was what they most dreaded; some reacted by jumping ship; those that remained onboard now have no choice but to submit to the firing squad and hope the bullets miss.

Both leaders of the main two parties have seen to it that their respective broad churches will now only contain an increasingly narrow congregation; many of the enemies within have opted out, and the approved replacements sing from a specific hymn-sheet. All Tory wannabes must be Brexiteers; all Labour wannabes must receive the official Momentum stamp as subscribers to the cult of Corbyn. Any deviation from the script will no longer be tolerated. Both Boris and Jezza have concluded that incessant questioning of their visions from the ranks of their own parties has been an inconvenient hindrance to the master-plan. Yes, the Lib Dems have benefitted from this Stalinist approach to internal criticism, but it seems the next Parliament could possibly contain a record number of independents no longer welcome in their former homes thanks to the purges. One might wonder why they don’t form a new party and…oh, I forgot; they’ve already had a go at that.

The undeniable feeling that the campaign is now well and truly underway has been accelerated by the television debates of the last seven days. The first head-to-head on ITV was unique in that it gave us something British viewers have never seen before – the Tory leader and Labour leader alone, bereft of the little siblings demanding the same level of attention. But the constrained nature of the format, cramming everything into a time slot that can’t have amounted to much more than fifty minutes if one takes the two ad breaks into account, didn’t do either man any favours.

Whenever both Boris and Jezza appeared poised to either expose their inadequacies or emphasise their Prime Ministerial credentials, the host would cut them short and move on to another question. Granted, the incumbent PM attempted to overcome this by engaging in his regular habit of continuing to speak even when asked to stop, but it meant the viewer came away from it no better informed than they were before it began. Boris seems to have adopted ‘Get Brexit Done’ as his equivalent of ‘Strong and Stable’, whereas Jezza dodged the question of where he would stand in the event of a second referendum on each occasion. There were also uncomfortable moments when both men inadvertently provoked laughter from the studio audience. The only impression most watching at home probably received was how poorly-served the electorate is when it comes to the party leaders.

A similar impression must have been made following the special edition of ‘Question Time’ on Friday, when the franchise was extended to the Lib Dems and the SNP. The latter was an obvious inclusion if we are to be reminded this is a nationwide Election and not solely restricted to England; but the presence of Nicola Sturgeon is always a tricky issue. The SNP are not a nationwide party. Sturgeon may well be queen of her own castle, yet voters south of the border cannot vote for her or anyone standing for her party. Nevertheless, as a seasoned campaigner, Sturgeon was probably the most polished performer during the QT debate; she was also probably relieved that enough years have passed since she succeeded Alex Salmond, thus sparing the party the kind of curse that the private life of Jeremy Thorpe placed upon the Liberals for years. Ultimately, however, it matters not if Sturgeon impresses viewers in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, for her message is largely irrelevant outside of Scotland – with the exception of any under-the-counter deals done in the possible event of a Hung Parliament.

Boris and Jezza had a little more breathing space in this debate than they’d enjoyed in the first; the two-hour timeslot meant each leader had thirty minutes to sell their respective parties to the public. This campaign so far has been marked by the PM attempting to come across as a serious statesman – something he spectacularly failed to do during his stint at the Foreign Office; but he’s clearly struggling to play the straight man after successfully playing the clown for so long, and were the Tories not in possession of such a comfortable lead in the polls, the thought that party members might just have elected the wrong leader could be putting them through what Labour members went through in 2015.

Jeremy Corbyn at least finally came down off the fence and declared he would be ‘neutral’ should Labour get into office and rerun a scenario we’ve spent the last three and-a-half years languishing in the miserable shadow of. We all know where his true feelings regarding Brussels lie; but his dithering over this particular issue and doomed, deluded hope that he can appeal to enough voters beyond the faithful to form a majority Government could cost him more than any ineffective TV appearances.

And talking of ineffective TV appearances, the QT debate will perhaps best be remembered for the way in which it finally exposed Jo Swinson to the British public as the clueless charlatan she is. If Nick Clegg momentarily charmed an electorate tired of Labour and mistrustful of the Tories back in 2010, this Lib Dem leader couldn’t even manage to convince in the half-hour she held the platform. Perhaps imagining her relatively recent election as the bright young replacement for an old dodderer might airbrush her part in the worst austerity excesses of the Coalition, Swinson hadn’t bargained that both host and audience hadn’t forgotten. She struggled to justify her actions when confronted by them, and equally struggled to justify the anti-democratic intention of cancelling out the votes of 17.4 million members of the electorate.

After raising their profile by moving from a People’s Vote policy to an all-out ‘Scrap Brexit’ mantra, the Lib Dems are now beginning to realise not everyone sick of the Brexit saga necessarily believes we should just act as if the last three and-a-half years never happened; many believe that concluding we went through all that for nothing isn’t that great a strategy. There has to be something at the end of it. Jo Swinson’s sixth-former-at-the-debating-society delivery and unconvincing arguments just made her look out of her depth, and quite possibly condemned the Lib Dems to collecting not many more seats than they have already.

Away from the TV debates, the manifesto fairy stories are tumbling down from the magic money trees like bird droppings from branch to bonnet. For now, the parties are Lucy inviting Charlie Brown to kick the football and promising not to move it before his foot makes contact. But we all know they will move it; and we all know we’ll end up flat on our backs. Good grief.

© The Editor


A good deal of what has constituted headline news over the past few days has been covered here before, and even if a story develops and takes on a different shape, a commentator can struggle to add something new to what has already been said. The nature of the Winegum – preferring to put most of what needs to be said on a subject into one post or perhaps a handful spread over several weeks – means there has to be a dramatic development in order for a fresh perspective. I suppose I could’ve written something about Prince Andrew; but I did that back in August.

Granted, HRH’s unprecedented act of television hara-kiri on Saturday night perhaps warranted a post; but social media spent most of the weekend doing what social media does best when it responds to a story by putting its most waspish hat on. I didn’t feel it was possible to top the endless spoof reviews of the Woking branch of Pizza Express. There were references to a surprising absence of sweat when enjoying an especially spicy pizza, a pizza that made such a deep impression it remained engrained on the memory whilst all around it utterly vanished, including meeting pretty young girls and having one’s photo taken with them. And at least we all now know what to do when ending a friendship – simply ceasing contact and ignoring their calls is not the way to do it; instead, you spend four days as their house-guest. Oh, and if you happen to be one of the world’s most recognisable public figures, with guaranteed Paparazzi snappers on your tail, you go for a stroll in Central Park. Stupid or arrogant? From everything I can gather it seems Prince Andrew is an unappealing blend of both.

Whether or not he enjoyed an intimate moment with a 17-year-old girl – an ‘action’ (as he would put it) that even US law (unlike the media) recognises as the action of a pederast rather than a paedophile – Andrew came across as a little boy who had done something naughty and would not take the George Washington route by owning up to it, instead digging himself a hole that grew deeper with each denial. Unlike Diana’s self-pitying confessional back in the 90s, Andrew didn’t come across as someone wanting the world to feel sorry for him – more someone who imagined the audience to be even stupider than him by believing him; and there’s nothing quite so funny as someone who thinks he’s smart and blatantly isn’t.

Just over 20 years ago, not long after Andrew’s equally nauseating ex had been exposed as a toe-sucker, brother Brian was present during the gift-wrapping of Britain’s final Far East imperial possession for its nearest neighbour. Despite Prince Charles’ scathing observations on 1997 events in Hong Kong, the transition itself was a smooth one; arranged well in advance, it had none of the spontaneous drama that had redrawn the map of Europe eight years earlier. Yes, there were bloody moments in Romania, though the brutal reprisals were mercifully brief; in East Germany, the armed enforcers of the system stood by and let it happen because they knew they were beaten. Just a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, there had been a reminder that people power can be ruthlessly crushed on the very streets it sprang from – a watershed that exacerbated nerves over the prospect of Hong Kong being absorbed into Mother China’s suffocating bosom.

A memorable episode of ‘The Simpsons’ in which the family accompany Marge’s ugly sisters to Beijing in order to adopt a baby sees Homer wander into Tiananmen Square and come across a plaque that reads ‘In 1989, nothing happened here’. That was probably not far from the official Chinese line for a long time, but the shadow of the student revolution that never was has no doubt lingered at the back of revolutionary Hong Kong minds ever since. Hong Kong youth born after the Handover, let alone the Tiananmen Square Massacre, know the potential risks involved in standing up to China, yet it would appear that many of them spearheading the current insurrection in Hong Kong now feel they have nothing to lose. There certainly appears to be a strain of nihilism governing the actions of some, and it’s difficult to see their brave stance ending in anything other than tears.

After months of disruptive protests, the siege of the Polytechnic University in Kowloon has taken events onto a scary new level. Watching scenes shot behind the campus barricades on TV, I was reminded not only of the improvised rebellion that marked the outbreak of the Northern Ireland Troubles fifty years ago – echoes of the DIY petrol bombs hurled from rooftops at the RUC; but the use of catapults recalled medieval sieges. So bizarre was the sight, I half-expected the protestors to launch a dead cow at the Hong Kong police from the battlements in the manner of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’. It was both darkly comic and disturbingly frightening, for you can foresee the awful outcome – and I suspect the 100 or so still rumoured to be holding out can too. It’s all so horribly inevitable.

Many have attempted to escape the fortress since the siege began on Sunday, but few have managed it; the police have completely encircled the campus and claim that over 600 of the protestors have surrendered. This was after police retaliated to the catapults and petrol bombs with tear gas. Around 20 years ago, I remember a resident of the shared house I lived in charging indoors in the middle of the night having evaded arrest (for what, I cannot recall); unfortunately for him, before he slipped their grip the boys-in-blue had sprayed some mace-like substance to disable him. He’d still managed to get away, but his face was on fire; as I watched him furiously splashing water on his pained countenance, I moved a little too close and was smacked in the kisser by a stinging force-field that caused me to immediately pull back. If that’s just a miniscule taste of what tear gas can do, its employment in Hong Kong shouldn’t be seen as the police treating the protestors lightly.

Of course, the constant fear throughout all of this has been the anticipation of reprisals from mainland China, though so far China – probably mindful of international opinion – has shown remarkable restraint, leaving the Hong Kong police to handle things. It’s possible the ending of the siege at the Polytechnic University could be the beginning of the end of this current wave of protests, though if it isn’t one wonders how much longer China will allow the situation to go on. And when one looks at the Kowloon campus and the fate awaiting those still there, it does tend to put the pathetic, privileged complaints of western students into perspective; this is real life or death stuff, not quibbling over the offensiveness of bloody pronouns.

Probably having one eye on post-Brexit trade deals, the response from the British Government over the chaos in the old colony has been somewhat muted; however, despite our intentions to uphold the ‘one country, two systems’ promise of the Sino-British Joint Declaration we were party to, there’s very little Britain can do. Besides, there are other political distractions over here at the moment. We have the first televised head-to-head of the General Election to look forward to on ITV this evening, restricted to a strict Boris Vs Jezza clash, with the High Court having rather amusingly denied Swinson and Sturgeon the chance to add some anti-democratic Scottish spice to proceedings. So, once again, it’s dumb and dumber. And if that prospect is as depressing to you as everything else hogging the headlines, let’s lighten the mood with two pictures of a kitten that sleeps like a human. Spread the love…







© The Editor


I suppose it could be viewed as a subconscious purchase, for the timing of it certainly wasn’t consciously intentional. Mind you, a 1976 drama about an aspiring Labour MP from the far left of the party is undoubtedly a fascinating near-factual snapshot of times that continue to resonate down the decades. The drama in question is called ‘Bill Brand’ and it aired on ITV at the beginning of the Long Hot Summer we all remember (if we’re old enough). It stars Leeds-born Jack Shepherd, an intense actor whose face is as familiar to those who binge on 70s TV via DVD as most of the supporting cast of what I’ve found to be pretty compulsive viewing.

The title character (played by Shepherd) is a principled, committed socialist of the old school at a time before it was regarded as such. I guess he has more than a touch of how I imagine a young Dennis Skinner might have been, but it’s also tempting to speculate this is a series that could well have been must-see TV for a certain Comrade Corbyn back in the day. Actually, this is a series in which grown men address each other as Comrade or Brother and manage to keep a straight face; it’s easy to forget this was a common courtesy within great swathes of the Labour Party when the programme was produced. It just sounds vaguely comical now.

Brand is from working-class, back-to-back Manchester stock, and I suppose represents that first generation which benefitted from the educational reforms of the Attlee administration. It’s made clear he made it to university, and is evidently a scholar of socialism committed to ‘the struggle’. His commitment to the cause isn’t paralleled in his somewhat messy private life, however; separated from his wife and two young children, Brand is shacked-up with his right-on girlfriend (played by a young Cherie Lunghi), who is rather amusingly called Alex Ferguson. His relationship with her is kept quiet during the by-election campaign that puts him in Parliament, something that serves as a reminder of how ‘living in sin’ was still frowned upon by the middle-aged and elderly members of the electorate Brand has to charm.

Once he makes it to Westminster, Brand is confronted by the disappointing realities of a Labour Government when seen from the perspective of radical lefties from the provinces. The series features a gallery of characters that are thinly-veiled portrayals of prominent Labour Ministers of the era, including Michael Foot, Barbara Castle and Roy Jenkins. There is also a memorable one-episode turn by Arthur Lowe as a Harold Wilson-like Prime Minister name of Arthur Watson. As someone who was addicted to ‘Our Friends in the North’, Peter Flannery’s landmark 1996 BBC series, I immediately realised the character played by Arthur Lowe in ‘Bill Brand’ shares it with another ageing Labour MP in Flannery’s epic, implying he too was a viewer twenty years earlier.

It’s interesting to see Nigel Hawthorne briefly appear as a pre-Sir Humphrey civil servant, for as with the authors of ‘Yes Minister’, it’s hard not to conclude that the writer of ‘Bill Brand’, Trevor Griffiths, must have had the assistance of an ‘insider’ or at least a few former insiders when researching the series. The way in which we are educated in the Westminster Dark Arts by seeing them through Bill’s wide eyes seems a pretty accurate portrayal of how a fresh honourable member would encounter the compromises and mutual back-scratching that make the whole institution function. It’s also a sobering insight into how so many newly-elected MPs who arrive in the Commons with such high hopes of changing the world are quickly battered into submission by the system.

The often-humiliating rounds of constituency politics – judging beauty contests, opening shopping centres etc. – are familiar enough to anyone who’s ever caught regional media; but the detailed dullness of parliamentary committees and so forth are represented in a manner characteristic of 70s TV drama – i.e. long, drawn-out scenes that nevertheless suggest a level of realism at odds with the quick-fire cutting of contemporary television. To begin with, Brand makes enemies of some fairly sinister and cynical whips, especially when he has yet to curb his habit of siding with ‘the workers’, such as when he publicly supports a strike at a textile factory; but as the series progresses, his rapid awareness of his own impotence fuels his disillusionment.

Considering ‘Bill Brand’ began its eleven-episode one series-run just three months after the surprise resignation of Harold Wilson, it’s amazing that one of the major storylines in the series concerns the surprise resignation of the Prime Minister and the battle between left and right to control the Party. In reality, Michael Foot lost out to Jim Callaghan and Roy Jenkins was eliminated from the contest in the early rounds; in ‘Bill Brand’, it is the Jenkins character who ultimately triumphs – though I would imagine many fancied Jenkins to succeed Wilson at the time the series was written. As I haven’t finished watching the complete series yet, I don’t know how it ends for Bill, though I have a feeling he doesn’t go on to eventually become Labour leader.

As a period piece, there are some aspects that inevitably date it. The working-men’s club network in which each major political party had its own members-only drinking dens – something that once thrived throughout working-class communities and survived well into my own childhood – is represented in the constituency scenes, mainly by mild-supping, gruff old northerners in flat caps. Although Bill is progressive by the standards of the 70s, he treats his wife fairly appallingly and his proto-PC opinions are regularly tested by the archaic values his background drilled into him. However, there are uncanny echoes in the series that have a relevance to 2019 – especially the constant emphasis on the dire economic situation and the crisis the country is in, not to mention the jaded cynicism of voters towards their elected representatives.

Bill’s ‘brand’ of socialism probably seemed hopelessly naive even when the series was made, and the fact that the wider electorate outside of idealistic Labour activists didn’t believe in it then inevitably forces today’s viewer to ponder on the aims and ambitions of the current Labour Party. It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to see Jeremy Corbyn as the real-life equivalent of Bill Brand 40-odd years on; I suspect Bill in Jezza’s shoes would also have stuck rigidly to principles that hadn’t altered in four decades, even if the prospect of power had forced him to keep schtum on some (membership of the EU, for example). As a fascinating barely-fictional slice of 70s political life, ‘Bill Brand’ is worth investing in for those who like that sort of thing; as a comparison between then and now, I can’t think of a better time to watch it.

© The Editor