John Fucking Harris – what does he know?

I wrote this email to John Harris after his latest piece of twaddle for the Guardian.
Who can rescue the Labour Party from irrelevance – a good question and one for which I suspect that you are unqualified to answer. I don’t know why you think you have some special insight into the future of the Labour party? Was it writing about Britpop? Was it growing up in a professional middle class household in affluent south Manchester? Was it being rejected by Oxbridge that did it or was it being involved in left wing politics when you were a teenager? Is it living in Hay on Wye (well known hot bed of Trot politics).

I come from a working class background (Dad was an lift engineer, mum worked at Sainsbury’s),lived in north Manchester, failed my 11plus, but nonetheless was the first kid in my family to go to University, came out with a good degree to find that Thatcher had removed all the jobs from the north so I went into nursing, did that until I couldn’t bear it any more, became a mum, then a travel writer of all things, local Labour councillor for a while and now run a small shop on a failing highstreet in the North. All the while I’ve been Labour, member or supporter. I reluctantly voted for Blair’s Labour even though I thought he was (frankly) a dick and his policy direction was the antithesis of everything I believed in (but he wasn’t Tory, I’ll give him that, not quite anyway) I voted Blairite Labour even though there politics were not mine, I stayed loyal even though I disagreed with the direction we were going in – even when the policy made me sick (Iraq – oh god Iraq) -I still voted Labour.
While I was a councillor the coalition started attacking local government and of course the Tories are now intent on removing Labour councils from the face of the country. Trying to do the best for your voters with a diminishing sum of money from central government was tricky but might have been less so if we had ever seen somebody from the PLP occasionally stand up and speak out on our behalf – they didn’t. In fact I had to unfriend Ivan Lewis from by Facebook page (he was then Shadow Northern Ireland secretary so presumably didn’t have much on) because we got into a row after I told him that he was as useful to Bury as a chocolate teapot (I’m paraphrasing). I met quite a few members of the PLP – very few of them garnered my respect because very few of them appeared to realise that radical policy, change, hope, a better future were essential for electoral success. I saw Ed Miliband and liked him –  but of course he was obliged to toe the PLP line and modify the tiny spark of radicalism that got him elected – I wasn’t surprised at all when he lost.
The Labour party – or rather the PLP – appears to believe that Blair held the only winning formula and it goes like this – oppose a deeply unpopular government, promise vague change, roll back from that over the years, stuff a bit of money at the poor (but don’t change anything that makes them poor) repeat until your electoral lead disappears. If you don’t have an optimistic alternative to the Tories (and the anti-Corbyn PLP don’t have appear to have the slightest clue) then people will vote Tory because the UK is naturally small ‘c’ conservative. (The Brexiteers knew this and boy, did they make the most of it)
Meanwhile I voted for Corbyn thinking he couldn’t possibly win, but knowing that I couldn’t vote in a leader who was another PLP certified dead-eyed clone of Tony Blair. I voted for a shift to the left, a chink of light and and change from ’same shit, different day’. When Corbyn won I was delighted. I knew that the PLP would struggle to get behind him, but I thought of all those years when I had supported Blair despite my misgivings, canvassed for Brown and Miliband despite my doubts and thought that eventually the PLP would shit – or get off the pot. Just like we had during the years when Blair and Brown had wilfully abandoned socialist policies to keep the capitalists happy.
I didn’t for one moment consider the possibility that they would put themselves and their petty arguments before party unity, jeopardise the future of Labour and continue to insist that the only way to win was to, well, invent a new messiah, turn the clock back to 1997 and stab their twice elected leader repeatedly in the back and in public.
I think that the Labour leadership now embraces policy I can get behind and the membership agree, and you are wrong in pretty much everything you say. No-one listens to people like me though – because I just vote Labour, am a Labour member, have been a Labour councillor and will vote for a Corbyn-led Labour again. I didn’t write for the NME, and cheer on Britpop – so what the hell do I know about Labour and its future?

too many deaths

As is usual on these occasions I will start out by stating my sympathies for the victims and families of the London attack – I can’t imagine the pain of loss.

Again we have seen a angry man, consumed by hatred, justified by his beliefs and encouraged by the notion that its okay to kill, maim or die for some cause or other. In this case its a criminal from Essex with a substantial history of violent offences. He’s attracting a lot of attention at home because the UK doesn’t usually witness this sort of event, he’s getting a lot of notice abroad because he converted to Islam a few years ago and his new name is Khalid. Inevitably his crimes are therefore being reported as terrorism and getting a lot more media attentioninternationally than they probably warrant .

But really he’s just another angry killer: a wee bit older than your usual terrorist (who tend to be in their middle to late 20’s)  but for all that, still just a man with a grudge. This is not to minimise the effect this will have on his victims, which will be terrible, but we should keep our reaction to the perpetrator sober and realistic. Each year around 500 people are killed in homicides in the UK.

Meanwhile, we have thousands of  people employed to go to war to kill  under orders, sit in the cinema and you will see plenty of violence, much of it presented for your enjoyment, and TV and literature loves a murderer. The US has a love of guns and violence – so much so that the NRA (National Rifle Association) is possibly more powerful than the president and using weapons to ‘defend’ yourself is enshrined in law. Worldwide ISIS and various other terrorist organisations (some loosely adherent to a bastardised version of Islam) commit violent crimes which they justify as some sort of fight against the West. In the recent past, violent men and a few  women have killed countless people because of their love of country, a hatred for their country’s current government, because they wish that they had a different government, because there is too many socialists or capitalists, too many Jews, too many blacks or just because they wanted a brief moment of fame.

We have experts that parade onto television at times like these to tell us what has gone wrong and how we can fix it – some people think that violent oppression of one sort of another is the answer, others that violent intervention abroad will do the trick.

Over time violence and death are indeed becoming less frequent in global terms, but you know what has fixed it? Prosperity, trade and civilisation – meaning increased respect for women and children and other races and for those who follow different sexual paths too. Better education and more cash to spend will protect your loved ones better than any amount of guns in a hall cupboard.  Ask the US – so many guns, so many deaths.

What has never worked? The glorification and justification of violence. Its about time we stopped viewing violence as entertainment, stopped believing that violent intervention was ever justified by governments or those opposed to them, and that violent oppression was ever going to be justified by your god, your ideology or your boss.

And the news should report soberly and minimally about these incidents because somebody somewhere is getting a kick out of seeing the attention this madman garnered and wondering if they could be the next martyr to the cause of minimally justified violence.

flossy

I’m so fed up of politics – aren’t you?  I know I’ll vote Labour at the next election because I couldn’t vote for anybody else, I’d be sick in the polling booth at the merest thought of voting Tory or LibDem. So let’s move on to a much less controversial arena – sexual politics.

Big knickers/pants are so comfortable. They sit on your natural waistline, keep your rude bits covered and well, they’re pants and we all wear pants.

But women are encouraged by clothes shops to choose from a range of pant styles (as are men of course but I’ll engage with that shortly). They can surely opt for big knickers but they are also offered a choice of alternatives which range from slightly smaller than waist high, down to bits of string that presumably floss your nethers. As a woman I have tried most of them at times and I can safely say that big knickers are the ones that work.

As mentioned, men are offered a choice too, but for the most part their’s are variations on a theme of maximum coverage and comfort. I just had a quick look at M&S and the very smallest man’s pants are effectively the equivalent of the mid-level ladies.

Funny that – or is it. In fashion history, women have frequently (some might argue invariably) been obliged to wear clothes that are uncomfortable, unpractical, revealing or the equivalent of human curtaining.  Men’s clothing has usually been primarily comfortable and practical with occasional excursions into exuberant colour and cut. Women have been corseted, had their feet broken and bound, worn lead based makeup that slowly poisoned them, tottered on high heels, been publicly shamed for short skirts, lampooned for leather trousers and men have occasionally been obliged to shave.

Why don’t women wear comfy stylish clothes over big knickers like men do? In the UK at least, women can wear whatever they like, but frequently they choose to wear things that are either uncomfortable, impractical or mandated by men. If you feel obliged to wear self-flossing thongs and heels, or a burka, can you seriously tell me that feminism is no longer necessary?