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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© The Editor


For most of us of a certain age, the first time we heard the name United Arab Emirates was when beleaguered Don Revie gave the press what they wanted by walking out on the England team manager’s job in 1977. However, rather than skulking into some poorly-paid coaching post in the Second Division, Revie secured his own and his family’s financial future by signing a lucrative deal with the UAE to coach the country’s national side; for his shrewd foresight, Revie was hung, drawn and quartered by the FA, yet he would have been a fool to turn down an opportunity that few in the English game had back then. Today, the likes of José Mourinho can be sacked by a Premier League club and receive a weighty redundancy package guaranteeing he’ll never have to worry about paying the rent ever again. That didn’t happen in the 1970s, and Revie – as ever – was thinking ahead of his times.

One of the numerous Ottoman leftovers scooped-up by the British in the wake of that ancient Empire’s post-WWI collapse, what became the United Arab Emirates constituted yet another conveniently oil-rich protectorate en route to India; but in the wake of our withdrawal from Aden in 1967, the Middle East was left to its own devices as far as Brits were concerned, and the federation of Absolute Monarchies that came under the UAE banner was free to capitalise on its natural resources free from European interference as of 1971. In the decades since independence from the UK, the UAE has blended Sharia totalitarianism with a Vegas-style crassness best personified in its premier metropolis, Dubai.

A friend of mine was unfortunate enough to once holiday in Dubai, and her descriptions of the place paint it as a hideous Sun City-style citadel where the population stats of the UAE itself (1.4 million Emirati natives and 7.8 million expats) are writ large, from the way in which the servant class are treated by the ruling class to the way in which western capitalism has created a grotesque Xanadu for visiting bling merchants seeking to show off their wealth. In the twenty-first century, Dubai has supplanted Monte Carlo as the playground of those desperate to advertise the status symbols they imagine will earn them envy and respect back home; those who measure their value as human beings by the size of their watches, cars or houses will find Dubai entirely conducive to their superficial bragging. But whereas Monte Carlo retains its quaint, old-school glamour, Dubai is all the worst parts of London (in terms of appalling architecture and gross wallowing in acquisitiveness) turned up to eleven.

Double standards are abundant in Dubai; the same kind of vulgar excess that a generation raised on ‘Made in Chelsea’ might foolishly imagine to be the epitome of style is combined with the severest form of hardline Islamic law and order to lure those too dim to differentiate between the UAE and Ibiza into a honey-trap of repulsive proportions that anyone with half-a-brain would avoid like the plague. Regular stories of British couples f**king on beaches or individuals off their tits on booze being nicked are a-plenty, and added to this roll-call of shame is the latest casualty of Dubai’s double standards – Jamie Harron, a Scot whose crime was ‘touching a man’s hip in a Dubai bar’.

A 27-year-old electrician whose profession has taken him all the way to the seemingly safer environs of Afghanistan, Mr Harron was on a two-day stopover in the Emirate of Dubai capital when he was accused of touching-up a businessman in a bar; apparently seduced by the tacky attractions of the city, Harron still faces charges of alcohol consumption, but it is the suggestion of homosexual behaviour that has earned him a three-month sentence. He was charged with public indecency, yet even though the man whose hip he allegedly came into contact with (‘to avoid spilling his drink’, claimed Harron) withdrew his complaint, the case proceeded and prosecutors pursued Harron. According to Detained in Dubai, the campaign group that broke the news of the sentencing, ‘key witnesses to the incident were not called upon to testify to discredit the allegations’. Mr Harron’s family didn’t visit him during the trial due to the fact that they themselves risked imprisonment under UAE laws forbidding criticism of the government there.

The revered music journalist Nick Kent once retrospectively wrote of the underage groupies that congregated around Rodney Bingenheimer’s infamous English Disco on Sunset Strip in mid-70s LA, claiming the girls there – including the likes of Sid Vicious’ future death-wish soul-mate Nancy Spungen – might have appealed to ‘the bass-player in the Sweet’, but anyone with taste would have been appalled by their behaviour and absence of self-respect. Often, environment inspires activity, and it would appear Dubai encourages the worst kind of ‘wannabe rich wankers’ (as my Dubai veteran friend described them) to big up their facile achievements, something that makes sympathy for any Brit sentenced under UAE law in short supply.

The distractions of gleaming skyscrapers and illusions of western debauchery that permeate Dubai are a seductive (for some) panacea to the more austere Middle Eastern rules and regulations that keep the Burqa-clad female residents walking several paces behind their male superiors; but as sorry as one might feel for the overseas visitor who falls victim to the realities of the Islamic ethics beneath the glam sham of bling bollocks, I find it personally difficult to shed a tear for anybody who doesn’t modify their approach to a night out in a country that is so clearly operating under false pretences.

© The Editor


Amidst the celebratory coverage of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act’s fiftieth anniversary, it is certainly worth being reminded precisely how limiting the freedoms contained within the ‘consenting adults in private’ law actually were, and how these limitations made it easily open to abuse by the powers-that-be. After the Act was passed, it’s surprising to realise that more gay men were prosecuted than before it. Perhaps the understandable precautions that had been crucial prior to 1967 were perceived to be unnecessary once decriminalisation came into force; the illusion of legality blinded many to the numerous areas in which homosexuality remained criminal; it also forced the police and politicians to focus on those areas with renewed crusading vigour in the years thereafter.

A timely reminder of this uncomfortable truth came via Peter Tatchell’s excellent and eye (or ear)-opening Radio 4 documentary, ‘The Myth of Homosexual Decriminalisation’, broadcast on Saturday evening; it documented how 1967 was not so much an end as a beginning, the start of the long road to abolishing discrimination, altering attitudes and achieving an equal age of consent with heterosexuals – none of which were dealt with in the imperfect Act that came into being half-a-century ago.

Scotland, Northern Ireland, the armed forces and the merchant navy – all exempt from decriminalisation in 1967; much anti-homosexual legislation remained on the statue book for decades after 1967 and queer-bashing was a legitimate police pastime well into the 1980s. For out and proud young men today, barely old enough to even remember the last century, all of this must seem insane. The prejudices openly unleashed upon gay men and largely unchallenged by the majority of society combined with the AIDS hysteria (AKA ‘The Gay Plague’) and Clause 28 to create a climate of moral panic that would unthinkable to anyone under, say, 30 in 2017. Perhaps the inability to comprehend how we used to live has played its part in a lack of perspective where those too young to remember are concerned.

The sins of their forefathers for allowing this state of affairs to linger for so long without challenge has undoubtedly fuelled a militant bullishness amongst the young; this reaction demands the law and society in general adopt the consensus they’ve developed to serve as a severe redress to the past. It comes partly from retrospective guilt and is not unlike America’s similar response to historical racism via the slave trade and segregation. At its most extreme, the new consensus is imposed with the same level of illogical fanaticism once employed by those who upheld and endorsed the previous prejudices this consensus reacts against, portraying anyone who is white as inherently racist and anyone who is heterosexual as inherently homophobic.

But the ironic outcome can often seem like less of a striving for genuine equality between the different sexual demographics – which is surely what should be aimed for – and more of a determined campaign to ensure the poacher is elevated to gamekeeper and vice-versa. The new consensus cannot alter the past, but the slightest sign of any attitude bearing a passing resemblance to the past – however mild in comparison – dumps the wrongs of the past on the doorstep of the present. The ‘gay cake’ saga in Northern Ireland a couple of years ago seemed indicative of this mindset; a refusal to countenance that there are many out there for whom homosexuality remains a difficult concept has created a climate of intolerance that excludes debate. If you don’t embrace this consensus, you are a homophobic bigot – end of. ‘Inclusivity’ does not include those who deviate from the script.

The clamour to be seen as endorsing the consensus by political parties and other establishment organisations that maybe weren’t viewed as so gay-friendly in the past resulted in the virtue signalling of the National Trust edict stating volunteers dealing with the public at Norfolk’s Felbrigg Hall (whose last resident, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer was recently posthumously ‘outed’) must wear rainbow gay pride badges. Those who weren’t comfortable with wearing them were to be relegated to the backrooms of the property. The case was taken up by certain Fleet Street tabloids and predictably labelled a right-wing cause célèbre by the likes of the Grauniad; but the sudden reversal of the edict so that wearing the badges is now optional rather than compulsory seems a more sensible compromise that recognises inclusivity should mean what it says.

Many of the archive recordings of attitudes towards homosexuality excavated for Peter Tatchell’s Radio 4 retrospective were as gobsmacking to hear as similar excerpts of unashamedly racist language from the same era; but whilst these attitudes survive on a smaller scale in private, the cheerleaders for our liberated society still turn a blind eye to one publically vocal section of it. Some of the vilest and most bigoted opinions on homosexuality expressed today emanate from Islam, yet the ultra-liberal left gives Islam the kind of leeway it won’t tolerate in any other faith, let alone secular discourse. Why? Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Muslims have been designated the left’s persecuted pets; they are above and beyond the kind of criticism others are fair game for.

Of course, not every Muslim is virulently anti-gay any more than every Christian or every person without any religion whatsoever; I think most people aren’t really that bothered, to be honest. It’s just a shame the person who retains a problem with the notion of homosexuality – usually down to simple ignorance and lack of education – is lumped in with the genuinely homophobic in a rainbow that has no shades of grey.

© The Editor


‘Forces of anarchy, wreckers of law and order: Communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, neo-Trotskyists, crypto-Trotskyists, union leaders, Communist union leaders, atheists, agnostics, long-haired weirdos, short-haired weirdos, vandals, hooligans, football supporters, namby-pamby probation officers, rapists, papists, papist rapists, foreign surgeons, head-shrinkers – who ought to be locked-up; Wedgewood-Benn, keg bitter, punk rock, glue-sniffers, Play for Today, squatters, Clive Jenkins, Roy Jenkins, up Jenkins, up everybody, Chinese restaurants…’

The famous rant from ‘The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin’ by Reggie’s unhinged ex-army brother-in-law Jimmy (a man forever experiencing a ‘bit of a cock-up on the catering front’) is counteracted by Reggie himself, who points out the kind of people Jimmy’s proposed right-wing private army will attract – ‘Thugs, bully-boys, psychopaths, sacked policemen, security guards, sacked security guards, racialists, paki-bashers, queer-bashers, chink-bashers…rear-admirals, queer admirals, vice-admirals, fascists, neo-fascists, crypto-fascists, loyalists, neo-loyalists, crypto-loyalists.’

The figures of hate may have changed in forty years, but an equivalent rant could easily be penned today, whether one’s parting is on the left or on the right. The level of anger and awareness of his own impotence in changing the world for what he perceives to be the better that’s implicit in Jimmy’s rant forces him into contemplating a doomed military coup, albeit an unspecified idealistic one he knows hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of success; but he’s willing to give it a go, anyway, because there’s nothing else keeping him alive but hatred. It’s the sole emotion that makes him feel anything anymore. He’s been laid off by the army, the only profession he ever knew; he’s redundant and looks around at a society he doesn’t recognise, and hatred is the one thing he’s got. That at least retains its relevance.

There are a good few people in society today whose passions are fuelled by hatred in the absence of anything else, propelled towards extreme actions by the media message (or holy book) they decide supports and validates their viewpoint. There are many more that mercifully baulk at extreme actions but nevertheless focus on what they regard as the source of their misery with an intensity that is as illogical as it is understandable. John Lennon’s bitter recollection of the petty arguments that marred the ‘Let it Be’ sessions – whereby a bum note by one Beatle is responsible for why another Beatle’s life is lousy – highlights a simplistic blame game that appears to be the default mindset of many right now. Angry people in North Kensington blame government; angry people in Birstall blame immigration; angry people on London Bridge blame western civilisation; angry people in Finsbury Park blame Allah.

The gloomy prognosis of Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation counter-extremism think-tank is that both far-right and Islamic extremists threaten a virtual civil war if events of the past month are allowed to escalate further. ISIS-inspired or sponsored attacks are designed to polarise and Nawaz predicts they’ll continue to do so unless certain fundamental issues are addressed; and if trying to address them is greeted with cries of racism or Islamophobia (usually from non-Muslims on the left for whom Muslims are their pet Victims) then we ain’t get gonna get anywhere. ‘The desire to impose Islam and the desire to ban Islam are simply two ends to a lit fuse that can only lead to chaos,’ says Nawaz.

It doesn’t help that it’s so bloody hot at the moment either. Excessively warm weather doesn’t itself provoke chaos, but it can exacerbate simmering tensions; it did in 1976 at the Notting Hill Carnival, just as it did in Brixton and Toxteth in 1981; and, lest we’ve already forgotten, a host of cities across the country in 2011. All occurred during the uniquely claustrophobic cauldron of an urban English summer, when people are denied the need to breathe that the wide open spaces of rural areas afford their residents. The current heat-wave comes at an extremely perilous and unstable moment in this nation’s modern history.

The tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the indecisive General Election result, the weekly terrorist atrocities, the Brexit negotiations, the perceived indifference to austerity by those untouched by it – all ingredients in a combustible recipe that has the potential to boil over; and bringing in COBRA to keep an eye on the kitchen won’t necessarily turn down the temperature. Let’s hope we’re in for a cold spell, then.

ISIS destroying ancient monuments in Syria and a Momentum stormtrooper burning two-dozen copies of the Sun on social media may be worlds apart, but both are demonstrations of the same self-righteous arrogance and forcible imposition of a belief system that criticism of is forbidden. After the last terrorist incident – though I am losing track of them now, to be honest – I wrote a post I opened with a quote from Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919): ‘Freedom is the freedom to think otherwise’. That quote should be scrawled on campus walls, inscribed on the first page of the Koran, and carved into the front door of 10 Downing Street. The majority of people in this country probably agree with the sentiment, but those that don’t have the loudest voices. And they’re angry.

BRIAN CANT (1933-2017)

Only three weeks ago I penned a post in tribute to childhood giant John Noakes and mentioned how Noakes’ memorable persona was in the ‘daft uncle’ tradition so prevalent on children’s television in the 1970s. A name that cropped up in this post was that of Brian Cant; and now Cant too has gone. He was the same age as Noakes – 83 – and was held in the same affectionate esteem by those of us who watched him as kids.

One of the longest-serving presenters of ‘Play School’ – for a staggering 21 years – Cant also starred in its more madcap Saturday afternoon incarnation, ‘Play Away’, for 13 years; but it was narrating Gordon Murray’s ‘Trumptonshire’ trilogy of ‘Camberwick Green’, ‘Trumpton’ and ‘Chigley’ that earned his reputation as the owner of golden vocal chords that remain music to the ears of anyone for whom those magical little shows were pivotal to the pre-school experience. Along with Oliver Postgate, Richard Baker, Arthur Lowe and Ray Brooks, the voice of Brian Cant is one guaranteed to instil serenity in a way few pharmaceutical indulgences can.

We need our daft uncles more than ever right now, and they’re leaving us. It’s shit growing-up.

© The Editor


Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish-German Marxist revolutionary of the early 20th century, once said ‘Freedom is the freedom to think otherwise’. One could argue the outsider is the embodiment of this philosophy, especially when outsiderdom is not so much choice as instinct. Being an outsider within society is often triggered by an instinctive response to the herd – a response that rejects them. For me, it began at school. The majority of my classmates wearing a certain item of clothing and a particular haircut or being into the same band made me want to go in the opposite direction. I don’t really know why; that’s just the way I am. It wasn’t a contrarian’s approach, spurning whatever was popular just for the sake of being ‘different’; it came from a place I trusted, one that had a deep-rooted aversion to uniformity, whether in terms of a dress code or opinions.

I appreciate for many people this is an alien reaction to the consensus; most feel comfortable belonging to a community of like-minds, all thinking and dressing the same, all listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows and movies, eating the same food, reading the same books, and choosing the same enemy. Authority particularly likes it when uniformity is embraced; control of a large demographic is far easier when that demographic embraces uniformity, when it unthinkingly complies with the rules that govern uniformity without question or complaint.

Being an outsider can undoubtedly be an isolating lifestyle, and the downside is that many outsiders’ natural antipathy towards the herd can sometimes manifest itself in worrying ways. Many of the perpetrators of high-school massacres in the US are long since detached from their classmates and grow to detest them to the point whereby the only way to achieve a sense of victory over them is turn up at school with an AK47 and slaughter them. The symptoms of alienation usually follow a linear train of thought in such cases, one that was exploited with sinister cynicism by a mysterious organisation in the 1974 movie, ‘The Parallax View’. A journalist played by Warren Beatty stumbles upon the clandestine Parallax Corporation, which is training political assassins by recruiting disaffected outsiders and appealing to their isolationist stance by telling them how special they are and how everyone else isn’t.

To dehumanise one’s opponent is, of course, one way in which a soldier can be persuaded to kill another human being in combat without being stricken by guilt at taking a life. Similarly, those that prey upon the lonely outsider encourage this separateness from the herd yet simultaneously offer an alternative community to the one they’ve rejected – as long as they’re prepared to submit to its ground-rules. Religion, generally one on a cult level or one that is perceived as a minority faith, is exceptionally skilled at exploiting this state of mind. It could be Jim Jones or Abu Qatada acting as the charismatic spokesman for the faith; but it can be sold to the recruits in possession of a persecution complex as a faith with a persecution complex; and the outsider now has an official seal of approval to punish the persecutors.

Of course, Islam is far from being a minority faith, and though it may now be the second largest religion in the UK, it still accounts for a very small percentage of the population; moreover, the percentage of that percentage that follows the most extreme and nihilistic version of Islam (the one that has its origins in the land of our good friends, Saudi Arabia) is even smaller. However, perhaps with only Irish Roman Catholicism in the 1950s comparable in the way it can exercise control over its followers in terms of demanding absolute submission to its doctrines, Islam can be a cradle-to-grave lifestyle guide encompassing moral, legal and educational needs that instil a sense of outsiderdom and isolation from non-Muslim Britain – whether deliberate or accidental – even if the majority of its followers are ordinary individuals who would no more contemplate blowing themselves up in a crowded room than you or I would.

But the outsider nestled within the secure parallel universe of British Islam is far more dangerous than the hairy-palmed teenage Twitter troll because he is prepared to step out of the bedroom and enact his fantasies. Many of us feel the material status symbols the west tells us we need are for those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing; but we don’t feel compelled to murder consumers because they don’t share that view. The extremist convert, on the other hand, already feels an outsider due to the separatist manner of his upbringing, and conversion to ‘the cause’ exacerbates his own personal sense of outsiderdom even further.

The news that several far-right thuggish dimwits have been arrested for posting videos of themselves advocating murdering Muslims is hardly something that will cause any of us sleepless nights; though as BBC presenter Stacey Dooley discovered when she spoke to some of the Radical Islamic protestors marching through her hometown of Luton five years ago, equally vile messages being spread by those at the forefront of the demo were being tolerated without fear of arrest. But this has been happening for a long time; remember the public book-burning when ‘The Satanic Verses’ was published? Yesterday it emerged that one of the three perpetrators of events in London at the weekend had appeared in a Channel 4 documentary last year, playing the ‘in plain sight’ Jihadist taunting a policeman on camera without being nicked; perhaps Eddie Izzard’s beret had been knocked off somewhere down the road and the copper in question was en route to that emergency instead.

One of the Muslim voices heard on the national news in the days following the attacks in London came from a trainee female lawyer who bemoaned the lack of integration and increased separatism of Britain’s Muslim population; she made a salient point, yet contradicted it by being clad in full burqa uniform with niqaab veil, seemingly unaware that dressing like the Bride of Vader serves as a barrier to integration for many. Apartheid imposed either within or without cannot create for real the inclusive harmonious Britain on display in the arena housing last Sunday’s Manchester memorial concert. Most outsiders can reject it without the need to blow it up or attack it with machetes; but not all.

© The Editor


Yes, we’ve been here before, and not that long since either. As a matter of fact, the way in which I heard of events in London late last night was more or less identical to the way in which I heard of events in Manchester just under a fortnight ago, right at the point whereby I was winding down online for the evening. I won’t even use the word déjà vu because it seems such a cliché, but at the moment it feels as though we are living in a permanent rolling news channel, with atrocities on a loop; the media barely has time to get over blanket coverage of one incident before the next one comes along with all its attendant visual signposts recycled once again.

I actually avoided the real rolling news channels this time round because the manner of reportage is too close to the style I spoofed on a YT video a week or so ago. Part of me was also worried I was beginning to become jaded with it all, in the same way US television viewers did with the Moon Landings after Neil Armstrong’s one small step. But the pattern is well established now, as much for the media as for the perpetrators, and the worry is that we become so accustomed to terrorist attacks that they lose their power to shock. It would be sad if the kind of fatigue sets in that is often the response to the latest gun crime incident in the States, though incessant exposure to the same TV presentation and the same newspaper headlines can make this possible.

What happened on London Bridge and around Borough Market brought a disturbing new interpretation of the phrase ‘White Van Man’ to the colloquial table. Having been confronted by the considerably rarer tactic of the suicide bomber as a means of fast mass murder in Manchester, the public were reunited with the same haphazard approach to Jihadi brutality as occurred on Westminster Bridge in March – a vehicle deliberately driven into pedestrians, followed by knife-wielding lunatics emerging from it to wreak havoc in the name of Allah before being gunned down by armed police. What comes next we can already write the script for.

COBRA will reconvene; the PM will issue the same platitudes and promises from the Downing Street lectern; Fleet Street editorials will either preach tolerance or advocate internment; arrests around the country will be made; the terrorists will be named and FB profile pics of them will be unearthed as their road to martyrdom will raise few eyebrows; some on social media will question the timing of events and enter into conspiracy theories as to how they will benefit the Tories; we will be constantly reminded Islam is a peace-loving faith; and on and on it goes before the next attack.

Right now, it’s impossible to say if this is a co-ordinated sequence of assaults on the UK conducted by individuals in touch with each other at the planning process or if one attack inspires another in spontaneous copycat incidents, though the latter seems more likely; the chillingly clinical team effort that Paris experienced a couple of years ago was closer to a guerrilla operation; this still has the feel of DIY amateurishness. But it’s indisputable that after a decade of relative immunity to the bloodshed enacted on mainland European soil it now appears the twelve-year armistice since 7/7 is well and truly over. Are we in the thick of an Islamic equivalent of the IRA bombing campaign of the mid-70s or is it mere coincidence that all these attacks have taken place in such quick succession? Nobody knows yet; but whether the climate of fear one presumes the Jihadists intended to create will influence the thought processes of people going about their daily lives remains to be seen.

Of course, the timing of the incidents, so close to a General Election, means what began as the Brexit Election is in danger of becoming the Terror Election. National campaigning has been suspended by at least the Conservatives and Labour for today as a mark of respect for those who lost their lives last night, though business as usual will resume tomorrow; when we’re just four days away from the nation going to the polls, the campaign has no choice but to continue. It’s difficult to predict what kind of impact the current onslaught may or may not have on how the electorate decide to vote, for at the moment it seems whoever happens to be occupying No.10 on Friday is pretty powerless to prevent this from happening all over again.

I suppose it’s inevitable that the compulsory mouthpiece of social media is awash with opinions and reactions that reflect the confusion of the generations that have come of age with no memory of the last time this country was in a state of high alert. When the IRA were inflicting their own nihilistic ideology on mainland Britain, a large majority of the population had lived through the Second World War and didn’t scare easily. As far as the UK is concerned, the 1990s was a relatively peaceful decade to be born into when compared to the couple that preceded it; and even 9/11 as a game-changing event is something that now happened sixteen years ago; one would have to be at least twenty to have a clear memory of it.

Therefore, as easy (not to mention lazy) as it is for someone of my age – as well as slightly younger and slightly older – to react and respond differently to each incident, with less sense of feeling the world is going to Hell in a handcart, it’s worth acknowledging there are a lot of people out there who have no precedents to fall back on. These are indeed unsettling times, but they don’t alter my own personal outlook on the good, the bad and the ugly inherent in my fellow-man. Let’s just keep buggering on.

© The Editor


I’ve never been in a mosque, but I’ve never been in a synagogue either. Although I was raised in a secular household, I am familiar with one branch of the House of God on account of having to attend endless childhood weddings and christenings; these were churches of the austere Protestant variety, however, rather than the camp Catholic model. I’ve no idea if the ambience is as chilly and, frankly, boring in the showrooms of other denominations, but with all my C-of-E education coming via the dullest lessons at school, I think my agnostic outlook was sealed from an early age. Drawing a picture of Pinky and Perky at the Crucifixion in the infants was probably a telling indication that I recognised a fairy tale when I heard one.

On last night’s edition of ‘Question Time’, a member of the audience brandished a leaflet he swore blind he’d been handed at an open day at Didsbury Mosque, at which the father of Salman Ramadan Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was once a regular. What he read from the leaflet sounded like classic Radical Islamic propaganda, denouncing western immorality in a language that implied such immorality was deserving of severe punishment. A veteran of the same mosque sitting a few rows down denied he could have received such literature at Didsbury, but the man was adamant.

The general impression given is that there does seem to be something of an ‘It weren’t me, guv; I weren’t even there’ culture prevailing through many of the mosques that have harboured the hate preachers and fundamentalist shit-stirrers in the UK over recent years. Either nobody saw or heard anything or their eyes turned blind through choice; however, not knowing the interior structure of mosques, I’ve no idea if the guilty parties retreat into special recruitment rooms. But the climate of fear when it comes to informing in many Muslim communities seems almost reminiscent of Sicily or even Belfast during the Troubles; events in Rotherham and Rochdale appear to back up this Mafia-like control the worst offenders have over the populace and why the police steer clear.

Then again, it has emerged that Salman Ramadan Abedi’s extremist views and support for ISIS had aroused enough suspicion within his own community that he had been reported to an anti-terrorism hotline, something I imagine would put those who reported him at considerable risk should they be identified. As a result of these calls, Abedi was known to the security services; but police manpower being deployed to keep an eye on potential Jihadists would severely stretch the police manpower required for historic fishing parties into the sex lives of dead celebrities and politicians, so it’s no wonder the likes of Salman Ramadan Abedi could further his ambitions free from surveillance. Many police officers may have been laid off in the wake of Government cuts to the country’s forces, but deciding the priorities for those that remain is something the police themselves have to answer for.

The internet has also resurfaced in the blame game this week. Online outlets such as Facebook and Twitter certainly operate on curious moral grounds. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had her FB account suspended after posting a photo of herself holding a Supertramp LP over her chest; the sleeve of said album featured nothing but a pair of tits on it. Similarly, the entertaining Twitter ‘Whores of Yore’ account initially had a profile pic which was a portrait of Nell Gwyn showing a nipple; the painting hangs in the National Gallery for all age-groups to see, but was evidently too outrageous for cyberspace, and the offending nipple had to be removed for the account to continue. On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter don’t appear to have similar problems with inflammatory language or violent videos promoting opinions that somewhat contradict the Utopian New Age worldview shared by Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow visionaries.

So, yes, mosques and websites have been under the spotlight yet again this week, though few have mentioned HM prisons, which seem to be the real recruitment centres when it comes to home-grown terrorists. The escalating convictions for those planning terrorist attacks since 7/7 means many prisons have a far higher Muslim population today than has been the case in the past, and the brutally alienating regime behind bars means birds of a feather naturally flock together.

A young Muslim prisoner who may be serving a sentence that has no Radical Islamic element to it is befriended by another Muslim prisoner who recommends one way to stay safe from the psychos, the druggies and those who take a shine to a pretty face is to spend his time exclusively with other Muslim prisoners. Segregation and indoctrination ensue, and said prisoner is released with a head pumped full of Paradise and those oh-so alluring virgins.

Armed police and even bloody soldiers – both of whom have had their numbers severely depleted by the same Government that now requires their services to enhance ‘Project Fear’ for the public – are currently highly visible on the streets of Britain; but they’re guarding the stable door when the proverbial horse has already bolted. No wannabe Jihadist would contemplate an ‘incident’ when there’s such a show of force; better to strike when nobody is looking. No matter how heavy an armed presence Bobby and Tommy present this weekend, the only strike I expect to see at Wembley tomorrow will emanate from the foot of Diego Costa.

© The Editor


mooreThe regressive left must think all of its Christmases have come at once. How tedious it would have been had Britain voted to remain in the EU and Hillary Clinton had won the keys to the White House. There was precious little opportunity to raise a placard and embark upon a march when Martin Luther Mandela-Obama was President. Mr Charming could slaughter as many innocents as he liked with the odd drone, promise to close Guantanamo Bay without doing so, and bar citizens of certain Islamic nations from entering the US; but all of that could slip under the left’s radar because he was cool – a finger-snapping Jazz Dude President. Plenty of style on the surface and plenty of unpleasantness beneath it that goes with the office, whoever holds it; as long as the latter is carefully obscured by celebrity sheen, all is well with the world – though wasn’t that kind of superficial salesman-like take on politics the very thing we wanted an end to?

Twitterati who know no better (and plenty others who should) have been proclaiming the Apocalypse for the past seven days, having the time of their lives whilst doing so. Helium-inhaler Laurie Penny Dreadful blamed the resumption of her menstrual cycle on Trump’s inauguration; another woman claimed she was going to abort the baby she discovered she was carrying on the very same day because associations with the Donald would damn the child forevermore – though with a potential mother of that mentality, the unborn baby was at least spared a lifetime of being saddled with a new twist on the old Original Sin concept.

In case you missed it, Donald Trump isn’t merely a charmless, boorish bruiser who views his country as a failing business he intends to turn around and make a handsome profit from; no, he’s Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Lex Luthor, Ming the Merciless and Doctor Doom all rolled into one unappetising package – and he must be exterminated! Posing as those who care for their fellow-man, some openly advocate his assassination while a cowardly punch delivered by a masked thug to the head of an admittedly repugnant white supremacist on the streets of Washington is apparently something we are supposed to admire. Not for the weekend anarchist the Christopher Hitchens approach of destroying your enemies by destroying their argument, of course; that would require brains rather than brawn. Lest we forget, however, Black Panther H. Rap Brown once said ‘Violence is as American as cherry pie’, so I guess the current method of dealing with the problem makes sense.

‘We will repel bullies!’ cried actor David Harbour (who he?) at the Screen Actors Guild awards, the latest in the ongoing round of ceremonial self-indulgent back-slapping Hollywood vomit-fests leading up to the ultimate golden bucket of puke, the Oscars. ‘We will punch some people in the face!’ he screamed with characteristic humanity as the rest of his rant was submerged by a tsunami of rapturous applause. Peace ‘n’ love, eh? Violence is okay as long as it’s directed towards individuals the consensus has decreed worthy targets. Funnily enough, ISIS regards anyone who doesn’t subscribe to its nihilistic dogma in similar terms. There used to be a word for that, along with imposing views upon a populace and silencing dissenting voices. Oh, yeah – Fascism.

On this side of the pond, double-barrelled activists have been creaming their jeans at the prospect of a state visit by the Donald; it goes without saying there’s already a petition. Minor invites of the same nature to the leaders of Saudi Arabia or China don’t quite provoke the storm this one has, despite their abysmal human rights records surpassing America’s; and who was our PM cosying-up to after holding (little) hands with Trump? President Erdogan of Turkey, a man who has overseen a ruthless purge of anybody brave enough to question his regime; I haven’t heard many protests about that summit meeting from the usual suspects.

UKIP’s Raheem Kassam isn’t exactly the shy retiring type; his regular Twitter pronouncements appear to delight in provoking a vociferous response, yet his gleeful rejection of the perceived wisdom on Trump has inadvertently laid bare one important aspect of the regressive left’s attitude to multiculturalism. Yesterday he was accused of ‘betraying his culture’ by not frothing at the mouth over the news of Mr President’s ban on selected Islamic nationals entering the US; a lapsed Muslim, Kassam is a brown gentleman who refuses to submit to the nice little stereotype of a British Asian, and this upsets the multicultural model somewhat.

By spurning a Holy Book that, as with many, condemns the kind of personal practices the regressive left demands as a right, Raheem Kassam is a Bad Man rather than a mildly entertaining, attention-seeking contrarian. The left may imagine white guilt over our colonial history is eased by advertising its tolerance towards Islam whilst simultaneously overlooking hardline Islamic countries’ far-from tolerant suppression of women, gays and dissidents; but the toe-curling and patronising approach to Muslims who adhere to the victimised minority mindset, unable to defend themselves and therefore in need of kindly middle-class white Brits to come to their rescue and speak up on their behalf (their mastery of the English language is quite basic, you understand), is a head-patting exercise of a kind even our imperial forefathers would find appallingly condescending.

The marches and protests we’ve already been treated to, and will continue to be for the next few months, are the regressive left’s World Cup; they love ‘em, that’s why they’re so quick to take to the streets and chant as though they were in a stadium, announcing to a global TV audience that the referee likes playing with himself. It’s a wonder the whole spectacle isn’t presented live on BBC1 by Gary Lineker, ably assisted by Simon Schama and Lily Allen as pundits.

It’s time to get a grip and put things in perspective; and look at it this way – if Hillary had been elected, we’d have more U2 albums to endure. As it is, Saint Bono has threatened to release no new material until Trump is out of office. Here’s to two full terms, then. I say that not because I especially want it, but because the entertainment quota is virtually guaranteed from both camps on account of them being as unpleasant as each other.

© The Editor


VictorianA society that imposes a dress code upon its citizens would be one we’d probably regard as far from democratic. The spectre of Peter the Great, the reforming early eighteenth century Tsar, hovers above sartorial legislation, banning the beard in order to drag his medieval nation closer in line with the Western Europe he was exposed to on his travels; and autocratic feudal Tsarist Russia would hardly constitute a democracy in anyone’s books.

Dress is so subjective that personal opinion could only ever render attempts to introduce laws censoring a particular item of clothing utterly biased. I imagine it’s easier to do so today than it would have been, say, forty years ago in that there is now a greater public consensus on dress; there remain tribal factions, but the so-called ‘alternative’ is as conservative in its mindset as the modest apparel of the masses, with anyone not adhering to the tattoo & piercing uniform mocked behind their backs. It goes without saying that there have always been a small and select few bucking every trend, but the gauntlet they have to run as a consequence is limited to insults on the street and, on occasions, the fist and feet of the mob. The law may not approve, but it does not effectively censure.

The images that appeared this week of armed policemen forcing a woman to disrobe on a French beach took sartorial legislation to a new level, however. Any dress code dictated by religion as opposed to State presents the State with a problem, particularly a secular State like France. For a country once so entwined with the Church of Rome, France post-1789 has consciously taken a step back from the severest edicts of Catholicism and perhaps earned its reputation as a far more easier-going and less uptight nation than its old enemy across the Channel. The convulsions of the Revolution for the traditional State religion were even more traumatic than the Reformation had been here, and Church and State were eventually formally separated in 1905. Secularism may be a choice in the UK, but in France it’s practically State policy. In order to maintain this, a faith with such strong visual insignias as Islam has given the laissez-faire attitude France revels in a genuine challenge. And one could argue France has made a bit of a mess of the whole business.

Personally, I find tracksuit bottoms or crop-tops far more offensive than the Burqa, but we’re back to subjective opinion again. The French Government thought differently when it decided to ban the Burqa five years ago.

Whenever ‘security’ is employed as a reason for any new law that concerns the individual rather than an institution, my suspicious hackles are raised, and France came to the conclusion that the face being covered in the name of religion constituted a security risk. Whilst naturally viewed as a law specifically relating to Muslim headgear primarily worn by women, this also extends to anyone whose face is covered in a public place – though obviously not on a motorcycle. Breaking the law can result in a fine and the threat of ‘Citizenship Education’ (how very Orwellian), and if anyone is found guilty of forcing another to cover their face against their will, a prison sentence of twelve months is on the cards.

Interestingly, this law came into being long before the Islamic terrorist attacks that have struck France over the past year or so, thus proving that exposing the faces of Muslim women in public since 2011 clearly worked as a security measure to prevent such acts. In the wake of recent events, France couldn’t really add to a ban that predated them, though that obnoxious, corrupt midget Nicolas Sarkozy has been stirring it again in his attempt to return to public office, exploiting the understandable paranoia surrounding Islam in a way that allies him with the likes of Marine Le Pen. In response to external pressures, the government of incumbent and under-fire President Francois Hollande has raised no objections to the controversial bans of the so-called Burkini by several French holiday resorts, resulting in this week’s images of police enforcing the ban by ensuring women wearing it remove it.

Ironically, a glance at photographs of late nineteenth and early twentieth century female bathing suits shows a distinct aesthetic connection between those and the Burkini. If a woman’s modesty was considered worthy of preserving on the beach a hundred years ago, why should a woman have to have everything on display in 2016? The problem with the Burkini is its close association with Islamic dress, which is evidently a delicate issue in France today, especially considering that Nice, one of the country’s top seaside resorts, suffered the most recent Islamic-related terrorist atrocity.

However, imposing a ban on an item of clothing that doesn’t even hide the face and therefore doesn’t contradict the Burqa ban of 2011, seems a rather ridiculous way to respond to a State of Emergency and appears even more ridiculous when one compares the Burkini to the virtually identical wetsuits worn by some members of the French Olympic swimming squad in Rio this summer. Context is apparently everything where clothing in France is concerned. And here’s me, a repressed Englishman, thinking the French, who gave the world Brigitte Bardot, were so much more laidback than that.

© The Editor