Wednesday, 27 April 2016


I never saw myself disagreeing with the late Tony Benn, a man whose principles I deeply respect.

As the European referendum approaches, both sides are ramping up their campaigns to persuade the British people in advance of June 23rd. Although I understand many of the pro-Brexit reservations, including opposition to unlimited immigration, I like many am generally in favour of unity: building bridges and working together for the greater good of a mankind without borders - not putting up walls to segregate, or keep out those we see as undesirable.

I was recently accused of being a "sensationalist" for saying the majority of those leading the Brexit campaign are some of the most odious, deeply oppressive and insidious people in our political sphere today, and provide more than enough reason for us to remain in. That may perhaps simplify a complicated debate, but I do believe the Brexit "clientele" speaks volumes.

However, today on Facebook, a friend named Marcello presented me with a conundrum. Marcello and I share a great deal of political sentiment, so I was surprised to see he'd posted a video encouraging Brexit - featuring a man whose ethics and beliefs I deeply respect. That man was the late Tony Benn.

Here is the video:

I believe when presented with a coherent pervasive argument that contradicts your own position, you must either bow to its reasoning, or argue laterally why you think it flawed. So I'll opt to attempt the latter.

In relation to the great man's comments, I think there are a few dimensions that need to be considered. I agree with his description of the EU as an "empire"; in fact I've philosophised for a long time that it's a modern day Roman Empire, albeit one conquered by trade deals and stock markets instead of testudo formations. It makes no difference to the conquered what nationality their conquerors are, or whose soldiers are slaughtering their families, a foreign emperor's or the local governor's. Violence is violence. In the same way, what does does the nationality of he/she who writes the laws really matter? Surely we should rather examine whether those laws are oppressive or fair and equitable, and judge whether we want them or not on that basis? I for one don't care if the laws come from Brussels if they're making the UK a better place.

This notion of empire-building only has such awful connotations because empires were historically forged by violence and oppression, at the point of a sword or bayonet. Long term though, ultimately the flip side to empirical conquest is that it's often advanced mankind as a species, and provided great progress and security for normal citizens. There is nothing to fear in a title alone, it's how that title is used. To be part of a greater union, much like a trade union, can affect better conditions for all within its fold. That's a principle I tend to agree with.

Britain faces a stark choice, as it has for the past century and more - to ally with its neighbours in Europe, or a superpower across the Atlantic. The difference is that now, unlike in the early 20th century, that superpower is now a completely corrupt entity. It's no longer "land of the free", it's a military industrial complex intent on global financial domination. What's more, that same superpower is in decline, and would be willing to do a deal with our neighbours and completely sideline us if it proved to their benefit. If a union or "empire" of financial ties and common markets can ensure peace in Europe where religions and colonial muscle-flexing failed for so many centuries, I really do consider it a small price to pay. So should we all. The younger generations of today may have never known a Europe at war, with death and destruction on the very door step, but my parents' and grandparents' generations certainly do.

If Britain abandons the EU, we will either be completed isolated (and most likely despised), or have no viable alternative but to jump into bed with the U.S, Russia, or China. We will be forced to do pretty much whatever it takes to guarantee good diplomatic ties with at least one (or perhaps all) of them: that's just "realpolitik". None of those powers seem to me to be any more "democratic" or "humane" than Europe, nor do they offer any geographical frontline defence to us in the UK either.

We have far more in common culturally with Europe - or we really should do, any way. I say that as someone who's spent a great deal of time in both Europe and the United States: I certainly know where I felt more comfortable, generally speaking. China and Russia are different cases entirely, and what worries me is our UK government have been bending over backwards to the Chinese for a while now, pursuing policies overtly detrimental to us but seemingly characteristic of "appeasement" to an aggressive superpower. It's almost like the UK is hedging its bets with regard to future alliances in a very uncertain world.

Even if we ignore wider geopolitical/financial repercussions of a Brexit, Tony Benn here talks about his love for "democracy". And the simple fact is, I doubt Tony Benn would EVER have predicted a British government would be as oppressive and dictatorial as to completely disregard any notions of democracy - certainly not in the way this Tory government have since 2015. The man sadly died in 2014 when Britain still lived under a coalition; he did not live to see the snake in the grass rear its head.

"In Britain you vote for a government and therefore the government has to listen to you, and if you don't like it, you can change it." 

These are Tony Benn's exact words, and his fundamental reasoning why our politics were supposedly superior to Europe's. Except there's one colossally large fly in the ointment: that being that the post 2015 Tory government doesn't listen. At all. They simply change the rules, and make jibes and run smear campaigns if they're met with opposition. They're taking steps to silence any and all dissent, including the power of trade unions. They are quite literally re-drawing the political map and rigging the democratic process to ensure a continued grip on power for generations to come. They've sold out the UK's assets and democracy to corporate/capitalist interests to a much much MUCH greater extent than the very European neighbours we now consider disassociating with. It's a preposterous hypocrisy. We of all countries are considered the nation of shop-keepers/merchants and bankers, even pre-dating Napoleon and his famous indictment. (Damn those pesky French and their notions of "liberté".)

Major changes to the social and political landscape of the UK since 2010 demonstrate despite pretences otherwise, a UK government clearly does have the power to alter our society and allocate funds when/where they see fit. It's exactly because they've done so, that we also know they cannot in any way be trusted to protect the less fortunate in our society, or uphold the best interests of the British public. Not their privacy, their justice, their health or education services, or the average household's financial security. What in God's name makes the Tories more trustworthy than the EU commission? Even if you're deeply sceptical and believe both entities to be oppressive in nature, surely some counter-balance is a good thing? Better that the Tories are accountable to someone? (Look what was unleashed when they no longer had the Lib Dems to rein them in.)

The EU, for all its faults, is government to a far greater and contiguous body of people. There's many more bodies to demand their rights are observed. Many of our EU laws imposed in the UK have been for the equitable protection of citizens, including civil and consumer rights. Those big and notoriously exploitative corporations that supply our housing, our energy, water, our communications and food (eg: the type typically with a Tory on the board of directors), do you trust them? Because most of them have only been put in check by EU laws, not UK. We are the realm more under the whip of big business and money than any other in Europe, if not the world. I definitely wouldn't trust these Tories to observe any human and/or civil right above the lure of corporate profit - after all, it's profit that usually ends up in their pockets.

On the contrary, I fear they'll send us all back to the workhouses if given the chance.

Monday, 18 April 2016


A lot of people are slagging off Axl Rose: joking his voice is in no way good enough to be performing with Guns N'Roses these days, let alone fronting AC/DC as well.

Please guys, don't condemn an aging rock singer for having a lesser vocal range than he used to, bad dress sense, a "dad bod", and an increasing propensity for personal injury.

Ahem. Just a thought.

If anything, take the piss for the fact:
1) he's a colossal bell-end, and split up a great band that should've had countless more albums over the past twenty years, and
2) he wasn't the greatest singer in the first place - just distinctive. Much as a chainsaw slicing through a live goat sounds distinctive.

I do frickin' love G'N'R though.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016


Dennis Skinner, you are an absolute hero.

I was genuinely moved to see this: an old man from the generation that saved this country from fascism, defying the angry fools and bullies chanting around him; risking his own career and defying a tyrant, all in the name of justice. I cannot applaud the man enough. What courage and conviction, how amazing.

Compare that to the snivelling subterfuge of our Prime Minister. (I certainly know which of them I believe the more decent, honourable man.)

I'd also like to point out the absolute vomit-stained hypocrisy of Skinner's ejection. John Bercow has sat back for almost a year, allowing the Tories to behave like jeering idiots: rambling on with their filibusters, shouting down and insulting those who would challenge them (most notably Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP), belittling them, and behaving in a way inconceivably inappropriate and unfit for leadership of this nation. But one seasoned politician dares to speak his mind (in his allotted speaking time), and he is literally thrown out of the House of Commons - for no more than use of a word that is neither particularly offensive, or in any way obscene.

Now that IS obscene.

Apparently it's ok for our PM to label an entire political party as "terrorist sympathisers" though. It's ok for guffawing Tories to shout over the leader of the opposition, constantly interrupt him, making jibes such as "who are you?", "wear a tie" etc; it's also alright for John Bercow to actively belittle and insult a junior minister (as he does in this clip around 1:06), implying no less vitriolic a slur than Dennis Skinner has just been reprimanded for?!? It's utterly preposterous, and hypocritical to outlandish proportions.


Tuesday, 5 April 2016


"Parliament under a Corbyn government, May 2020"

Today it was announced that Jeremy Corbyn has accepted an invitation to speak at this year's Glastonbury Festival.

It's an interesting move, but I'm not convinced it's the most tactically sound.

Whilst it's great he's embracing youth culture and stirring those who might typically be disenfranchised from politics, it's also the Left's stereotyped association with artists/hippies/druggies and general bohemian-types that makes half the country vote Right!

There's really nothing in this world as synonymous with that bohemian spirit as Glastonbury. So when those voters see inevitable footage of thousands upon thousands of people (fitting that exact description) soaked to the skin in a concoction of mud, rain, sweat and their own excrement chanting Jeremy Corbyn's name and going bat-shit crazy in a mosh-pit, make no mistake - it will terrify them to their very core.

The Right wing media will use it to crippling effect. I can predict the headlines now: certainly there'll be pictures of revellers in highly compromising and inebriated states, dancing around like idiots or behaving recklessly (a bit like the one I've posted), splashed on a front page with a tag-line to the effect of "these are the people who vote for Jeremy Corbyn, you don't want to put them in charge, do you????"

Worse still, it will be quite effective.

The Labour Party should perhaps be careful that in the process of pursuing new voters, they don't totally alienate those who already do, or mainstream Britain as a whole. Even a traditional Tory voter finally wising up to the evils of this government might be very put off by the decision, and swayed back to the Conservative camp. (My late mum, an educated woman born in the era of WWII, would certainly have been one of them.)

Matters as personal as cultural taste and musical identity should perhaps be avoided in politics for that very reason. Picture an upper class politician, addressing the more privileged audiences who might attend something like the English National Opera or Ascot: would that not be equally loathsome for some? By showing specific allegiance to a particular group, you alienate those at the other end of the spectrum. At least, that's what happens when politics become irrevocably tribal. Effectively we're forced to support one of 2-4 competing football teams, and as with football, voters usually pick their team according to where they live, who their family/friends support, and who they more identify with. They'll then stick with that team, even if they consistently lose - or take on weak and unpopular players/managers. The last thing it's usually to do with is competence of the men on that particular team, or a genuine admiration of footballing skill.

In the same way, political identity is influenced almost entirely by instinct and social convention - as opposed to pesky concerns such as what's morally correct or prudent in any given situation. True democracy would be voting on governmental policy on a case-by-case basis, decided by a populous and politicians unencumbered of the title either "Montague or Capulet". Back in the real world though, Jeremy Corbyn will be construed as identifying with one against the other.

Not to mention of course, there may be a good many attending Glastonbury who have no interest or political stance whatsoever; people who actively want to escape tedious complications of the real world. That is their right. There might even be the odd Tory voter present - they're liable to be found in a VIP area somewhere away from the commoners, wearing a monocle and scoffing on pheasant pate. And one could possibly argue even misguided/pitiless agents of the damned have the right to not have politics forced down their throat at a music festival.

Therefore, maybe we should just keep it simple, and leave music festivals for music fans. They're one of the few sacred things left. I say that as both a devoted music fan, and a self-confessed Left-leaning political ranter.