A Far Fetched Resolution

I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council, a Labour council hiring taxis to scuttle round the city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers. I’ll tell you.. You can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services.

Monday, February 20, 2006

This much I know...

This is a long post, and I'd understand it if noone actually reads it - but I felt it was important to put my conclusions in context.

At 14 my grandfather was his workplace's trade union representative (he was it's only worker, being a leather worker's apprentice, but his boss, himself an old 3rd arrodissement Jewish Parisian leftie of the best sort insisted on him taking part in the sit ins and walk outs anyway) during the 1936 popular front in Paris. His elder brother was married and his father had passed away so he thus supported his mother, sister and younger brother through work.

In 1943 he, his mother and sister were deported along with thousands of french jews, from Lyon under the command of the infamous Klaus Barbie "The butcher of Lyon". His mother and sister never came back from Auschwitz, whilst he was lucky - masquerading as a carpenter he was able to secure a "job" under a lifesaving roof out of the worst of biting cold of the Polish winter. As a slave labourer building the chemical factory for the I.G. Farben Industrie company.

Before and after this life changing, almost shattering experience he has been a lifelong member of the French Communist Party, standing for election as Communist Party candidate for the French Parliament in 1956. He was last on the Communist list and was therefore proudly able to proclaim "If I am elected to the parliament you can trust me - there will already have been a revolution in France".

As a Communist and a proud Frenchman (albeit of Polish lineage) my Grandfather doesn't have the greatest of affection either for US foreign policy nor for the State of Israel's approach to the conflict in the Middle East. That's putting it mildly. But he has also been awarded the honour of Commandeur de la Legion D'honneur, in part as recognition of his work as a survivor and witness to the holocaust, but also his work as one of the leaders of MRAP a radical anti-racism campaigning organisation in France, founded in 1949, over a great many decades.

It is why, although after twice visiting Israel myself and the Palestinian territories my view and impression of the conflict is radically different from his own, I have the utmost respect for him, for his opinions and for what he has to say about the conflicts that blight those beautiful lands.

My grandfather is quite ill at the moment and therefore I can't have one of my regular lectures on life the universe and everything - and about that time he gave a really great speech about it. But I can't help feeling that, whilst we both sit happily at total polar opposites ends of the European left spectrum - we would both be able to share deep, deep unease at reading an article like this, from Paul Oestreicher, in today's Guardian.

I don't want to get into the whys and wherefores of the conflict here, nor do I want to challenge the central thesis of Mr Oestreicher's article, that Israel's policies are fuelling anti-semitism at, although at some point maybe I will. I just want to say a little bit about language, metaphor and analogies. I want to use two little examples from his text of which particularly angered me.

At one point Paul Oestreicher says: “Jews for Justice for Palestinians organises to give Jewishness a human face.”

I don't think it's being facetious to point out that Jews and Jewishness has a human face already. That Jews and Jewishness is not constrained by the need to apologise for the actions of the state of Israel before their race and faith can be properly accepted by the citizens of the world. As a secular Jew living in the UK I don't feel as if I should be contrained to take one side or the other in the Israel Palestine conflict in order to give me or anybody else "a human face" and I certainly won't be involving myself in any campaigns with such a premiss at their heart.

Later Paul Oestreicher makes the following observation: “Once, in the days of Hitler, there was another Germany represented by those in concentration camps alongside Jews and Gypsies, the martyrs who are celebrated today. There is such an Israel too.”

The Palestinian people are diverse like any other, there are those who want simply to live their lives peacefully and in prosperity and there are those who wish to see Israel and the Jews wiped off the map of the Middle East.

Sadly in a war things are done and said on both sides which are wrong, and which one would wish as a human being would never and should never have happened. The people and government of Israel are not saints. Were I an Israeli citizen at the next election I would not vote for the current governing party, nor would I have voted for the last 5 years of leadership. Israel's response to the situation in Palestine since the war of 1967 would not have been mine. Nor would many of the state's acts before that date.

But crucial to that phrase is the word "response". If you are to draw an analogy between the "response" of Israel and it's people to the situation they find themselves in (without taking a position on whether essentially the situation is of their own making - since Mr Ostreicher accepts the existence of the state of Israel) and the "response" of Hitler, the Nazis and large sections of the German people to the situation they found themselves in the 1930s and 1940s; then you need to talk about that word "response".

And my question is this - what is it that the Nazis were responding to? Were they responding to provocation from the Jews? even if that hypothetical provocation were in response to a legitimate grievance? Were they responding to immediate security concerns even if the security concerns were illegitimate? Were they responding to anything other than the pure genocidal hatred of a race, a people, who had done little else than to live peacefully (or at least attempt to) at their side, for centuries?

And if you agree that it is the latter of these that is the true description, how can you, as someone who is a descendent of victims of that hatred, like myself, say hand on heart that you believe it is right to draw the analogy that you have drawn between this unparralleled hatred and deliberate slaughter, and the sad, sad, situation in the Middle East?

Another babyshambles

I know that to some extent this is old news and I know I've already posted on the baby issue, but I though I'd mention this amusing little thing wot I noticed.

David Cameron (or rather one his spin doctors - not that he's not perfectly capable of being his own spin doctor) told the world that he heard by text message whilst in a shadow cabinet meeting that his wife had gone in to Labour:

here's ITN's report at the time which faithfully repeats this heart warming story of a modern young family.

However, my mum (who as a mum is clearly a bit more knowledgeable about these matters than I am) having heard the text message story was a little surprised when she came to visit yesterday when I mentioned this (from the same PA story which mentioned Cameron's bizarre casual dress numerous shopping trips before lunchtime, which presumably coincided with the arrival of different tv cameras outside):

"He ... was delivered by Caesarean section, since Mrs Cameron suffered difficulties when she gave birth to her first child...."

As she pointed out indignantly, when one has a caesarian birth it is usually before the mother goes into labour - especially when it is a planned caesarian for pre-existing medical reasons. In such circumstances of course there would be very little need for David Cameron to be notified by text message that his wife had gone into labour - not least because she never would have done so, and secondly because he would have known a few days in advance of the planned operation.

Of course I'm not saying the nation's favourite spinning chameleon might have had the whole thing "embellished" a little bit to accentuate the modern, compassionate side to his character. But well, it does seem a little odd.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


"A casually dressed Mr Cameron emerged from his home several times to go to the shops, then at lunchtime to take children, Nancy, aged two, and Ivan to the park" [Cameron names new baby, Arthur Guardian/ Press association]

"Emerged several times to go to the shops"? Before lunchtime! what's wrong with a shopping list? Can't he remember a few simple items he needs to pick up from the shop? This guy's supposed to have written the "timetable for action" [That's 1. Immigrants bad, 2. Tax bad, 3. um... Poor people bad 4. errrmm... Georgie was it drugs good, bad or none of your business this time? 5. War bad, except this one, although if you're a Liberal Democrat you're right it's awful... 6. Was there supposed to be six? I thought it was five? 7. Baby wipes]

I'm sure Sandra, or Ffion or Tabitha or whatever the lucky lady's name is again must get frightfully frustrated with him...

"Oh...you said nappies! I knew you'd said that, but then when I was on my way I realised, changing nappies is not the future, although they may have been the future once. In our future we should BE the change we want to see in the world, y'know, like Ghandi? But then I decident to be the change that changed my mind again and thought no, nappies really reflect the modern, compassionate parents I want us to be in the 21st century. But then I thought about it again and by the time I got to the shop I'd forgotten whether we'd had a boy or a girl and the nappies weren't unisex ( I mean HOW last millenium, Dude) , so I bought some baby milk instead. But then, on the way back, I realised it was Nestle babymilk so I phone Zak, MON, and asked him what I should do, and he said I should throw it at Tony Blair in protest at not being able to see my kids, I don't think he was taking me seriously since I'm taking paternity leave so I'm sure I'll get to see my kids in between trips to the shops, and photoshoots and stuff so I rang Bob since actually dodgy baby milk is more his areas, y'know Africa and things. But by then I couldn't remember whether I was in favour Africa or not, so I decided to call it a day. Do you fancy Tapas tonight?"

I hope he didn't go by car each time - that's not carbon neutral either "Dave"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I hate Journalists

when they come up with a headline that makes out that the story is about one thing...and then you read it and they've totally contradicted themselves....

See here:

Top up fees a "turn off" for students.

You'd think from that headline that fewer students were going to university this year than before top up fees were introduced wouldn't you? from the headline. Or indeed from the first few paragraphs if you read them.

But, wait! Did you say the reduction in the number of applications this year was 3.4%? and...what was last year's increase?

[due to gap year students applying early to avoid paying the higher fees - obviously the wealthier ones who were happy to pay up front and forgo the grant]

It was "at least 8%" your honour, you'll see it in paragraph 11.

Paragraph eleven. So the fact that demonstrates that approximately 5% more people are applying for university this year than applied the year the bill was passed is, at best implied, included in paragraph 11 of your article about how the bill has deterred students from applying for university.


I also dislike it when journalists print stuff that is completely made up about friends of mine.

This evening I will mostly be reading

Edmund Burke - Reflections on the Revolution in France

"No experience has taught us, that in any other course or method than that of and hereditary crown, our liberties can be regularly perpetuated and preserved sacred as our hereditary right."

What's really depressing is that conservatives still think this speaks to them. That's why it really doesn't bother me that I (Heart) DC is flouncing about the place trying to look all trendy with his red fleece (when was red fleece EVER cool?).

They are the party that grew out of opposition to changes to the settlement of 1688, right down to boundary changes from the orginal constituencies, having only reconciled them to even this after the event.

They remain, and will always remain, the party that stands for minimising the role of democracy, minimising the role of ordinary people in running their own lives, and minimises the right of the people as a whole interfering in the rights of the few to hoard property - purely on the basis that it has always been thus and that some mythical stability is maintained by some mythical tradition.

So the electoral map has shifted slightly with a flick of an old Etonian quiff. Davey =C= has four years to keep up the pretence - the mask will slip, he doesn't believe the people of Britain can or should be given the platform to achieve their full potential, in his heart of hearts he never will.

This year we remember it's a 100 years since the Labour Party was founded - on the simple principle that working people should be entitled to play a full role in the government of their country. That is our founding creed - what is the Conservatives and David Cameron's?

That ultimately there is something "Dangerous" in allowing people to

"1. Choose their own governors,
2. To cashier them for misconduct
3. To Frame a government for ourselves"

History is on our side on this one - and whatever shade of blue the PMQs tie is this week we'll be ready for you DC.

Congratulations on the new baby boy - I trust he'll be making full use of the "right" he has to the "Acquisitions of his parents". And their parents. And their parents before that.

How much did grandad's paintings go for in the end?

I never used to think Steve Martin was funny...

But this is courtesy of Ol' eyebrows himself:

``Vice President Dick Cheney, while hunting wild geese in the Rose Garden, accidentally shot President Bush twice, once in the heart and once in the head. 'I didn't really shoot the President twice,' said Cheney. 'The second time I shot him, I was president.'''

Sunday, February 12, 2006

And Tony thought his deputy was dangerous

According to the BBC associated press are reporting that Dick Cheney has shot a man.

Puts prezza in perspective really.

Thursday, February 09, 2006



I know how freedom of speech, religious tolerance, islamophobia, the war on terror, cartoons, and so on and so on are like, you know, really important.

But why do we have to spend most of this week and probably next talking about this cartoon issue?

The way I understood arguments/discussion/debate/general inter-human communication was that we used our energies chewing over issues the solution to which is a. controversial or b. unknown

This whole cartoon of a guy with a bomb on his head is clearly something that raises passions - I'd be a fool to deny that.

But really - I'm yet to meet a single soul who doesn't have share this one very simple view on the matter:

"Newspapers have a right to publish what they want - that's freedom of the press, but they have a responsibilty not to gratuitously offend - that's common decency. "

So what is the controversy? If anyone disagrees with that formulation I'd like to know why and on what basis - if you agree with it I really don't want to know your particular spin on it. If that's all there is to it (and i'm yet to read anything to make me think it's more complicated than that) then I just wish this issue would go away - it's yet another forum for people to ramp up conspiracy theories and rabid speculation.

I don't want to hear how insensitive the danish/french etc press are - I KNOW

I don't want to hear how the press has the right to publish what it wants - I KNOW

If I spent my days going round shouting POO! and WEE! at people eventually people would start questioning my right to freedom of speech - does that constitute a major philosophical fracture in the 21st century liberal consensus? Err. No. It just means that if you have a right to something and you gratuitously abuse it some people might get upset. Big wow. It's called being a grown up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

An amazing double life...and some thoughts on justice

A quick Google looking for an old friend's blog accidently revealed two street slang words for the club drug ecstasy.

Apparently both "Adam" and "Hug drug" are commonly used synonyms. The seemingly respectable Adam Hug has a bit of a sideline it would seem.

I am also reliably informed that Liverpool slang for the same pill is "Gary" in honour of Gary Ablett ('Tablet' gerrit?) the jobbing defender for both Liverpool and Everton during the 1980s and 1990s.

All of which brings back the memory of a young man who was recovering from drug addiction coming to talk to my class at school about the dangers. He proudly told us that there were 24 words for marijuana and could we name some of them? 57 different slang terms later (some of which the more mischieveous members of the class had clearly made up to labour the point) he gave up and starting trying to scare us with implausible stories about his friends.

The truth is that teenagers are always going to be one step ahead of whoever comes in to -school to tell them about the dangers of real life - because real life happens to them whilst the meetings discussing what people can and can't talk to them about rumble on in the background. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try but let's be honest with ourselves - teachers telling kids how to live their lives is never going to solve society's problems on it's own.

David Cameron says he's sat at the back of the class and seen the impact recovering addicts talking to children have but this is just so much fashionable nonsense. Here's Cameron waffling at the "Centre for Social justice" the disingenuous excuse for a think tank set up by "mister social justice" IDS;

"You cannot have a smaller state unless you have bigger, more responsible people. Growing levels of social breakdown are creating growing demands for welfare and other forms of government intervention. Limited government is impossible without renewing the forms of behaviour and social structure that prevent poverty and create community. Communities are not created from the top down, but built from the bottom up."

"Here, I don't think the voluntary sector has an important role to play. I believe that the voluntary sector has the crucial role to play."

Haven't we heard all this before? The deputy editor of Conservative Home, Sam Coates, who says he joined the Tories as an 'idealistic scouse teenager' (obviously can't have grown up in the same Liverpool I grew up in) thinks we have heard it all before - and he can't get enough of it;

"This is the kind of government our country desperately needs. We need Reagan-esque optimism now more than ever, not the cynicism British Conservatives can be prone to"

Well I know what Reaganite optmimism can lead to - and Mr Coates should too. It was Reaganite optmimism that led Maggie to "trickle down" and unemployment being a "price worth paying". He should know what that quack economics did to our city - and he should know that without state investment - in the New Deals, Objective one funding, Excellence in cities, our schools and hospitals and without the minimum wage and sure start and working and childrens tax credits and the regional development agencies the regeneration of Liverpool would have been held back for a generation.

The people of Liverpool do have the talent, skills and motivation to rebuild their city - we've shown that in the past few years. But as recently as 1997 parts of my local ward had unemployment of over 40%. (Some "golden economic legacy" eh, Gordon?) How is that a platform to build on? How can a city start to think about it's future when there's no hope for the present for so many of it's citizens? The voluntary sector plays a vital role in regeneration and in tackling social problems - but when Tories start talking as if it can somehow take over the role of government in tackling head on the major problems of today's society I start thinking about the last time they used this language and I shudder.

So bring in the ex-addicts and the teenage parents to tell the scare stories- but they'll never seem scary next to a life without a future. Take that hope away and all you're left with is a nervous teacher trying to explain how to put a condom on a carrot. Nothing but patronising words and phrases - and nothing will change, yet another generation will be lost and we'll just carrying telling them we told them so.

The majority of that class who could name 57 varieties of ganja, spliff or toke, left school that year - 1997, aged sixteen and many with barely a GCSE to their name.

Social Justice isn't some buzz word you can pick up and drop whenever you stop needing to rebrand yourself. I'll believe David Cameron is serious about tackling poverty and all of the ills that come with it, drugs included, when he starts recognising that there are real injustices in life that can't just be put right by some warm words and bit of a tax break for the charity sector. But when he realises that he'll realise that a lick of paint won't make up for his party having no real answer to poverty and injustice other than a few soundbites and a vain hope that it could all be sorted out without government, or the better off in society, having to lift a finger.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Food for thought..

I wouldn't normally link to an evil Tory website but I was looking through these little vignettes of Tory lifestyle and I couldn't help but be a little bit depressed by the pretty miserable state of the lives of this gaggle of Tory hopefuls,

The predominance of fast food and takeaways in the favourite meal list is probably to be expected in today's 21st century society (but what on earth would Alan Clarke had thought of it all?). Greg Hands "Pizza from Papa Ciccia in Fulham.", Christopher Grayling "Take away Chinese or Indian", Phillip Davies "Curry" are all sad representatives of the break down of the British class system.

John Penrose ("Anything that doesn't take long to prepare") and Angela Watkinson ("Anything that takes less than 3 seconds to prepare – ryvitas and marmite are pretty quick.") betray a certain desperation, and there's something a little sad about the idea of the member for Upminster chomping alone on crackers n' spread. According to her website she enjoys "dining with friends". On this form I suspect the feeling isn't mutual!

At least Stephen Crabb ("Something Mediterranean with the appropriate beverages.") and Justine Greening ("I like cooking Chinese food - haven't given anyone food poisoning yet!") sound like they've got some life outside of acting as chorus for choir-boy-Cameron, but it's all a bit cosmopolitan for the Tories isn't it?

Especially since the member for Preseli's Pembrokeshire used his maiden speech ("There have been Crabbs in Pembrokeshire for centuries, and not just on our beaches" BOOM BOOM) to have a side swipe at the superkarkets (ALDI, NETTO) in his constituency for not stocking enough "local produce". What could he mean? Sun Dried tomatoes? Pesto? Hummus? He might mean local as in Notting Hill. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

So It's left for Eleanor Laing ("Smoked Salmon") to stand up for traditional Tory values ... whilst there's always been something a bit scary about Michael "I'll eat anything" Gove

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Monkey Money

Comedy mis-type:


Nick Robinson: "What though of his [Tony Blair's] desire to get us into the singe currency?"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The simple bear necessities, yer maj

This otherwise pretty uninteresting article contains one totally bizarre paragraph which for some reason caught my eye....

"The Queen is hosting the tea party in the Palace gardens to celebrate Britain's favourite children's stories. Much loved characters from both traditional and more modern books will be there such as Tracy Beaker, Paddington Bear, Mowgli, Winnie the Pooh and the Gruffalo."

Surely not? Does the Queen even serve Marmalade? What does Debrett's say?