"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Friday, 18 December 2015

Democracy and a response to Hopi Sen re Jeremy Corbyn

Didn't really know what picture to post here. So googled images for democracy and this seemed pretty good to me!:

For those who don't know about him, Hopi Sen, to quote his blog, ' After the 2001 election I moved to Party HQ, before becoming the head of campaigns at the Parliamentary Labour Party' to catch up with his career to date, please go to the 'about Hopi' part of his very interesting blog HOPI SEN a blog from the backroom

I enjoy his blog, sometimes agree with it, sometimes don't. That's called democracy, the freedom to discuss and disagree if we are so moved. I don't think I have ever felt moved to disagree, much less publicly do so, until this week and his latest blog: I can’t vote for Corbyn. I won’t leave the Labour party.

This is my slightly expanded initial response to the original blog and not to the later comments and Hopi Sen's replies. That I will do later and separately in my own personna!

Very many people left the Labour Party in the time of Tony Blair [and have returned with the election of Jeremy Corbyn] because Blair then, like Corbyn now was unpopular with some Labour Party members. Meanwhile many of us stayed whilst really, really disliking Blair's political views - in my case because I wouldn't let him drive me away - but we weren't so voluble as those who seem to dislike the idea of Jeremy Corbyn for PM . We stayed because we loved our party and wanted to preserve it. And in the principle of another little word: democracy. We had been beaten in a leadership election [if you must know I had voted for John Prescott] but were not going to throw our toys out of the pram just because our choice didn't win.

So I and others stayed and in local constituency meetings expressed our views but in public supported those elected because of that little word - democracy. We didn't write blogs [OK this was pre '97 and blogging wasn't the thing] knocking Blair and his colleagues. In fact I even defended him on occasion, when he did something I admired. In subsequent leadership elections I didn't vote for his followers, something I didn't hide but when those I supported [John McDonnell] didn't win the popular vote, I once more kept my toys in the pram and - because of democracy - flew the party flag. Even though I didn't like the red rose emblem and missed singing the red flag. I still sang it as a lullaby to my grandchildren as I had to their parents.

This year I was delighted to support Jeremy Corbyn for party leader. I have followed him for many years and when he rocked up and supported a campaign I was helping run from 2009 I was of course highly delighted. But he was again the man I had admired for many years, giving his support in a constant but unobstrusive manner. At some of our demos and rallies he would mingle with the crowd, unlike some MPs [from all parties] who would shoulder their way to the front and get in all the photos but not always turn up to the debates in the House of Commons on our cause. That campaign ran for 5 years, we were successful thanks to those who supported us like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell [and - to show how fair I am] others MPs from other parties. And massive financial help from Unite union. But I digress.

You may have gathered from this I have always been on the left wing of the The Labour Party Not a militant, or a 'trot', but actually a Pacifist, a member of groups like CND, Amnesty, HOPE not hate, even Stop the War [heavens forfend!] But suddenly I find myself in the press described as 'One of the Hard Left', 'An Extremist' and some less flattering titles.

When I was supporting Jeremy in the leadership campaign I constantly appealed to the 'opponents' to act, if he won, as magnaminous in their defeat as I knew our true supporters would be. You can see some of these appeals on my blog here. The comments of some since like Chuka Umunna have not been helpful, sadly, in my opinion. But in the face of democracy he is of course free to make them.

I can understand how Hopi Sen feels. It doesn't matter that he personally does not like Jeremy Corbyn's views. I understand that he is asking people not to leave the party because they can stay in the way he is staying. But I am asking him, in the name of democracy, to accept that Jeremy Corbyn is a man respected by a large part of our party. Individually we may not agree with every single thing he says either. Would it surprise Hopi to find that I part company with Jeremy over certain policy areas?  I can't believe there are any two people in the land who can agree on absolutely everything!!  

I honestly believe Jeremy is a good man who has been consistent in his ideas over all the time I have known him and I trust him. Those who know me will know what a big statement that last one is for me to make. And no, I don't know all the answers. And I would hate to be in his position at the moment. But I am really happy he is there! That is not to say that Hopi Sen is not a good man, just that we differ in our views. But in the interests of the party we obviously both love and to which we both wish to remain loyal please moderate the tone of your comments about Mr Corbyn. There are enough outside the party looking for ways to harm us. without us doing their job for them.

I have always been proud that our party has been made up of those who form almost a rainbow coat of political shades. Let's tolerate the different hue that may be the latest style and sees what will come of it!

Fraternally, Elizannie

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Was there a winner in the vote to bomb Syria?

This has been a very sad few days for those of us who as pacifists want to find better ways to reach a solution to the troubles in the Middle East. I was attending a Church carol concert this afternoon, with the images in the church of the Middle East at the time of Jesus, and all the messages of Hope, Love and Peace that this time of year brings. In my head were the thoughts that the vote in Parliament last night carried with it on a "Very dark night in Parliament. [I] Will never forget the noise of some Labour and Tory cheering together at the idea of bombs falling." - as described by the youngest member of Parliament, the SNP Mhairi Black.

Listening to news reports and the comments of others on the 'Labour Party Split' supposedly engendered by the vote, I do wonder about some of the prognostications and conclusions. The following was put on a FaceBook page to which I belong which discusses current affairs and I thought it so succinct that I begged permission to put it here:

"The government won the bomb Syria vote by a lot more than 66 votes. So ultimately the Labour 'free vote' did not lead to war. What it did do is let everyone know where our [individual] MP[s] stood on the issue. Useful to know at the very least. Also when Blair went to war in Iraq 139 Labour MP's rebelled and voted against and Robin Cook resigned. 66 pro-war rebels is nothing compared to that."

So in the middle of the tragedy of war being declared, political gamesmanship is also being played out over whether or not the leader of one party is 'suitable' and whether X or Y will be the next leader. And the number crunching begins when in fact it is more important to look at the numbers of innocent people who may be caught in collateral damage from whatever side should be considered. And discussions should be ongoing in all political parties to find a better solution, not who will be more popular with the voters and who looks better on the TV and vox pop by the tv interviewers should be about the death and destruction which our representatives have just voted for not whether or not one man is popular with all those in the parliamentary party he leads. He is popular enough with the members of his party as a whole to have had an overwhelming vote to make him leader less than three months ago, and since all those who voted him - like me! - knew his views on military action once can be sure that they were in our minds when we voted. We knew the context. Read on.

Context is everything when quoting political speeches etc. Journalists know this. So always check the context when looking at a quote - the context of the time and place where the quote is made; the context of the speaker and the audience; and the context of those doing the quoting and where that quote is making its appearance. History is another important contextual fact. Looking at the actions of the British Parliament today in the light of the historical context of the last 2,000+ years gives one plenty of pause for thought.

Remembering the context that I am a pacifist in a - what I feel -is a more violent society, I expect some of you to dismiss my views. That is your right. But you will still allow me to believe I am right, I am sure. I hope and pray that the better way will be found and followed.

Anyone interested in my views may like to read more at: http://http://www.stopwar.org.uk//

Friday, 6 November 2015

White Poppies and Pacifism - again

I wasn't going to bother with my almost annual explanation about my wearing of the White Peace Poppy and my Pacifism. Those interested can still read my archive* articles after all and it has been a bad year for me, hanging on to my Pacifism in the face of all that has been going on around me [read on if interested!]


However attending a service at a church not of my own denomination this week, I was surprised to be challenged by another attendee as to why I was wearing a white poppy. I had forgotten it was on my coat but willingly explained all about the Peace Pledge Union, how long they had been in operation and selling the white poppies [since 1933] and my personal statement that by wearing a white poppy I feel that I am remembering all who suffered in all conflicts, military and civilians, of all nationalities. Working for peace is their best memorial. My questioner still gave me a very doubtful look, tinged with disgust and moved away, wearing her diamante studded poppy. Earlier that same day I had been accosted by an individual who said I should be ashamed of myself for wearing a white poppy.  For my whole conscious life I have worked for peace however I could, although always feeling I have not been able to fulfill my aims for myself by not always keeping my temper as I should.

This year has been difficult personally and politically. There have been family problems which I have tried to deal with in as placid and a pacifistic way as possible. It wasn't until I got nearly to a state of collapse and when a family member took me to one side and said that being 'such a bloody pacifist' was not a good thing! and I must allow myself to feel if not anger [such a negative emotion] at least - as a two year old granddaughter once said 'not happy' that I would be able to heal. So I now let myself 'feel cross' at those who are acting in a 'not good' way! And when the Estate Agent let me down in my property changes it was easier not to rant but calmly walk away.  I have had bigger things to fret about and their perfidy will not faze me!!

Politically I had a few insults from former activist colleagues who disagreed with my choice of Labour Party Leader, which was disappointing. But when I had the great pleasure of seeing my choice voted overwhelmingly into the position I couldn't feel triumphant because after all, my choice is, imo, better for the country so not for my sole benefit!

So my choice of a song to end this ramble may seem odd. Its not a hymn although we do sing it in my church. It is just a joyous expression of what I believe we should all feel. It is also part of one of my favourite fillms, Scrooged starring Bill Murray. As it is nearly Christmas you will probably be able to catch it on TV over the festive season. I dare you to watch it without crying!

Put a Little Love in your Heart Jackie Deshannon
Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart
You see it's getting late
Oh, please don't hesitate
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place
And the world will be a better place
For you and me, you just wait and see
Another day goes by still the children cry
Put a little love in your heart
If you want the world to know
We won't let hatred grow
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place
(And the world)
All the world will be a better place
(All the world)
For you and me
(For you and me)
You just wait and see, wait and see
(Just wait)
Take a good look around
And if you're feeling down
Put a little love in your heart
I hope when you decide
Kindness will be your guide
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place
(And the world)
And the world will be a better place
(And the world)
For you and me
(For you and me)
You just wait and see
(Just wait)
People, now put a little love in your heart
Each and every day
Put a little love in your heart
There's no other way
Put a little love in your heart
It's up to you
Put a little love in your heart
C'mon and
Put a little love in your heart

and to watch it performed by Annie Lennox & Al Green on youtube from the soundtrack of Scrooged click here

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Suffragettes and after

Warning: there is a 'Risque warning' on the penultimate paragraph

I went on a 'Females of the Family' outing to see Suffragette at the cinema this week. I thought it was a great film and would recommend it to you all, however this is not written as a review but as a musing upon the position of women in society since 1912, the year in which the film opens.

I have written before in celebration of the politically active women I am so proud to have in my family tree! If you haven't read it, Is Political Activism Hereditary? which I wrote in 2008 explains about these lovely women.

 My political activist Grandmother, the original Elizannie 
[and Grandfather, another politico] circa 1913.
So watching the film with my family, sitting with my 13 year old granddaughter who has already been on a political rally with me and been interviewed on television about the reasons for her attendance on that occasion, led to me pondering how far we 'working class' women have really come.

Obviously, remembering the way the working class women in the East End - portrayed in the film so ably by Cary Mulligan and Anne Marie Duff - were treated when at work and in their living conditions, 'working class' women and men are  undoubtedly better treated just over 100 years later. In the film men are expected to keep their wives in order, to behave and a good slapping if they 'misbehave'But I am also thinking about the way women are still viewed in society as a whole. Listening to & watching/studying lots of media programmes and reading lots of articles and books I have always been struck by how many women still complain that when they come home from work they are still expected to 'run' the home and family. And how many still allow their husband/partner to have the last word.

And it doesn't always apply to the view of 'working class women'. I remember reading a comment many years ago made by the actress, comedienne and writer Maureen Lipman. Her husband, the writer Jack Rosenthal was then alive and Ms Lipman had just published a book or an article and someone asked her if he had written if for her. An empty headed comedienne obviously could not have written something herself. I have found myself that when producing politcal stuff I have been asked if my then other half 'helped' me! Mind you, I was only asked that once. I once mentioned, very many years ago, to another [male] political activist I had campaigned with for many years, that I had started a degree course. He said 'What in, pizza making?'. He apologised later .....

I have always been an independent thinker and decision maker. I come from a family of independent women, as I as so proud to repeat. Possibly that is why Other Half became ex! However although that hasn't changed the way I run my life, it has noticably changed the way I have been treated by society! So much so that I find I have had to talk about my sons when asking for quotes from workmen or my boyfriend when buying goods to get taken seriously. When I had an Other Half lurking this didn't seem necessary and I find it totally annoying. When I discovered that my computer had been hacked I actually had expressions of disbelief from friends, especially males - who thought me incapable of such knowledge 'as a woman' but admitted that they would not know how to find such a thing. Well I did know, found it, sorted it and got the culprit to admit to it. Yes I am a woman. And incidentally know these things. Although I am not a very good cook. But I can set up a new lap top and email account when I have been hacked.

Risque Warning:
So always remember, we women have so much strength. As the old saying says, 'If men had periods they would go to bed and call their Mum. And their Mums would come .......'

Nb: 'Working class' is a term far more difficult to define in the 21st century when compared to pre WW1. So I haven't tried and leave it up to the reader to make their own decisions!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

On That Glorious Day!* Or grow up Tristram Hunt and Co

Jeremy Corbyn & Billy Bragg singing the Red Flag at
the pro-refugees rally in Parliament Square yesterday
photograph courtesy of The Guardian

Yesterday was a lovely day for those of us in the Labour Party who have been working and wanting Jeremy Corbyn to win the ballot for Labour Party Leader. Those of us who have admired him for years are so pleased that his/our principles are now in the public domain that it was, truly, a glorious day. And even the sun shone.

What saddens me are those - now proved to be the minority in our Party - who persist in name calling and besmirching Jeremy Corbyn and those of us who 'persist' in supporting him. As I have repeatedly said - on here and in other places - my views have not changed over the past fifty years during which I have been a member of the Labour Party. JC and I are contemporaries and the party to which we have both belonged changed over those years - I am sure he shuddered just as I did when our symbol became the red rose and the Red Flag ceased to be sung at conferences and rallies unless a renegade like me started it off! 'New Labour' was not my bag. However, I refused to leave the party because I believe that one should stay and try to change from within, rather than stand outside and criticise. 

On a personal note I would like once again to thank Jeremy Corbyn for the support he gave to a long-running union supported campaign in which I was involved for over five years. Without the support of MPs like him over 1400 retired workers would now be very much worse off financially.

Now I see people like Tristram Hunt standing outside the shadow cabinet and doing just that. He and his ilk really should grow up. If he believes that JC and his comrades are wrong, Hunt should stay and argue it out! As a political blogger in a small way I have abstained from criticising the critics, as it were, but someone has to take them aside soon and tell them they are behaving like spoilt brats who didn't win the pass the parcel at a kids party. If they stopped sulking and listened to what is to come they might learn something and, guess what, they might realise that they learnt something!!

Normally I do not criticise other party members publically, preferring to do so within the confines of party meetings. I believe in democracy and if my views are not in the majority I defer to them. I am asking now that those to whom I have deferred in the past to do the same now. They can, as I have done, discuss their views at all levels with party gatherings! And of course are free to say that they would have preferred a different outcome in the leadership elections. But to actively pillory and castigate the new leadership is, apart from bad manners, not the way to proceed.

From: A Labour Party member of fifty years standing. Also a Unite [retired] member. And lots of other organisations in common with Jeremy Corby - but that will not surprise any of you!

*Whilst it may seem rather facile to refer to  one of the theme songs of a '70s comedy [Citizen Smith] in the blog title, it is meant with love and great affection. Those of us who were young and idealistic in the '70s and have hung onto our ideals felt that yesterday was truly a glorious day for both our party and our country.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

An Open Letter to my Comrades in the Labour Party

I am so, so sad. What is happening to our beloved party? To which I have belonged for nearly 50 years, having joined the Young Socialists at the age of 15. Yes I have always been on the left of the party, but that's fine - like any democratic organisation we are an amalgamation of those with differing points of views and sometimes the votes at conference may not agree with our individual wishes. But that is democracy - or what I have always believed.

I voted for other candidates in the last few leadership elections, but supported those elected as I believe a loyal member should. I will do the same this time if my choice is not that of the majority of my comrades. However I honestly believe that Jeremy Corbyn will be the best leader for us and want him to win. I have followed his career for years and know him to be someone of sincere views. On a personal note he supported a long campaign with which I was involved with modesty and compassion. Just as I would expect.

The party introduced the £3 supporters 'ticket' to allow non-members to join in the election process. And are now complaining about the possibility of 'infilitration'. They are of course mentioning militant tendancy, communists and other 'far left' groups. My immediate fear on the announcement of this innovation was Conservatives and others joining to skew the votes.

Ed Miliband's election to the leadership ticked all the right boxes for the party hierarchy but he proved unelectable in this year's General Election. So the claims that Jeremy Corbyn could prove unelectable to the electorate in five years time are, seriously, laughable.

I do a bit of political blogging and normally would be out there giving it a go in support of Jeremy. However there are too many party members showing disloyalty and divisiveness to the country that it has taken me a time to even think about publishing this blog. I am not attacking those who oppose me and others who agree with me. I just ask them to moderate their voices a little.

I am going to do that boring thing that old people do. I am going to repeat myself and suggest that anyone wavering about the state of the country and what is the difference between Jeremy and the other candidates read a book. Not great literature [I was an Eng Lit lecturer in an earlier incarnation] but a reminder of why the Labour Party and the Trade Unions came into being. And why we need Jeremy Corbyn as our leader: 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' by Robert Tressell. Read it, weep and then vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

From a Labour Party Member, also a Unite Member.

Photo: The old Labour Party Badge. Lovely isn't it.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Good Golly Miss Molly

To wake myself up in the mornings - never my best time! - I eat my humble cereal in front of the lap top, catching up with the news on the BBC web site, reading my emails and catching up with the latest from my contacts on social media. Where, on a good day, I can be having three or four 'conversations' at once: possibly discussing the latest new baby in the family/wonderful thing one of my grandchildren has achieved; a political thread; a bit of a philosophical debate and maybe something which comes under the general heading of 'culture'! On a really good day I could still be sitting at the keyboard when I notice it is lunchtime and once more the housework has mysteriously not been done. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Today's philosophical question was on the subject of Golliwogs*, should they still be on sale. To be honest, I didn't think many shops sold them.  I googled on amazon.co.uk and Toys 'r' Us and to my relief could not find any. Amazon did have some books but of the historical context variety. Oh and some very old knitting patterns! E bay and a google search provided a few for sale, but then sadly many undesirable and inappropriate things can be purchased in these places - I am told! [I saw a local shop selling small plastic golliwog models a couple of years ago and asked for them to be taken off display. They were]

When I was small, 60+ years ago, we didn't see anything wrong with them BUT kids also played with guns and parents thought nothing of teachers battering their kids in schools. Black and white minstrel shows were popular at the end of the pier and on TV. Times have changed. Hopefully we are now more intelligent and informed.

I think it is obvious that I don't think they should still be for sale. I am not a great fan of censorship but there are certain things we used to sell - across the board - that we realise are nowadays inappropriate. Nothing against dolls of different skin colours, these are obviously representative. Gollys [and I spell it that way deliberately] represent something altogether nastier. And yes, before someone says it, I would agree with the re-casting of Enid Blyton books. There is no suggestion she was racist including these characters at the time she was writing but there is no need to include them in new editions. And before people cry censorship hypocrite at me [!] I would point out that I was an English Lit lecturer in a previous life, specialising in 19thC novels. And many of those novels were written in what would now be considered politically incorrect ways with politically incorrect descriptions of characters and actions. I would always point out when introducing such novels that these were written with the words and mores of the times and although we deplore them now the works should be read and analysed in the spirit of contempory readers, not with our own enlightened views.

So the problem of giving this blog a subject line and headline picture. Well I wanted to include the word 'Golly' but without any fear of insult, so I thought I would celebrate the great singer Little Richard and to see and hear his version of his song please click here. The picture was a little more difficult. I like to think laterally. Or as others would say 'Elizannie lives in a world of her own. Thank goodness'. So as I have mentioned piers earlier in this piece, and I am a complete anorak about piers [honestly] I thought I would include a picture of Southend Pier. And indeed, why not?

This photo of Southend pier is one of the many times it has caught fire - this is is of the 1976 fire. And is dedicated to my children who, to their joint disgust, have been roused from bed or collected from school so many times over the years to see the Pier on fire or once - on a truly memorable occasion - to see a boat sitting in the middle of it due [I believe] to a wrong turn by its captain.

Well done, another morning and no housework done!

*For an interesting history of the origins of the name and 'history' of the toy, 
please visit here.

On a purely personal note and nothing to do with this or any other blog:
Sadly Other Half has now become Ex. But hopefully still friends.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Elizannie: Marching on the Anti-Austerity Demo and contemplat...

Elizannie: Marching on the Anti-Austerity Demo and contemplat...: Arriving early for the Anti-Austerity march and demo in London yesterday I decided to 'have an hour' in Westminster Abbey. On ref...

Marching on the Anti-Austerity Demo and contemplating British Hypocrisy

Arriving early for the Anti-Austerity march and demo in London yesterday I decided to 'have an hour' in Westminster Abbey. On reflection I may not have been in the right mood, especially after I queued for quite a time in the wrong entrance queue [online bookings and groups only] and had to start again.

So once inside the ancient walls the feelings of the history take over - for a while. But my feeling of the inequality of British society soon rears its head and I am off on the usual dichotomy that occurs when visiting such ancient piles: wondering at the history whilst growling at the imbalance amongst our people that it shows.

So I did a few anarchic things to address the balance. Well mostly taking photographs which are not allowed [but I am sharing them with you all so it was a kind of Robin Hood action] And ducking across blue cord barriers. Oh the thrill of it all. 

And on the day of an Anti-Austerity march this was a pretty good tombstone to start my reflections at:

Twenty years a leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister in the post war years - and if judged by the standards of today I doubt if he would be elected due to our cult of celebrity. Certainly he was not a publicity savvy chap, did not have the sort of 'presence' that seems to be demanded today if the media is not to pillory a politician. But what a leader and Prime Minister he was - first peace time Prime Minister after the 1939 - 1945 war, the Prime Minister of the Post War Austerity years whose government never the less saw the instigation of the Welfare State [care from the 'cradle to the grave'], the establishment of the National Health Service - many of whose present day employees were marching yesterday against the dreadful cuts and pay under which they are now expected to work. The new Education [ditto] and training provisions that the Labour Government of 1945 saw in, the housing programmes instituted and whilst the new builds were constructed at least returning soldiers had somewhere to live on the many 'prefab' estates that were quickly erected. Thought for the working people you see. By the party who really were the party of the working people.

I wandered on through the massive tombs and chapels that were erected for various Lords, Ladies, Kings and Queens. As a family historian I know where many of my ancestors are buried. In unmarked graves of course, some in multiple graves as 'paupers'. Just as mourned as these souls, but without the money behind them to be glorified. And looking at tributes to leaders of wars and battles, often erected by public subscription one cannot help thinking of all the 'ordinary' souls who perished in those battles never to have a memorial and never to be considered.

Of course the grave to the unknown soldier in the Abbey is regularly visited. But - to me - is so little for so many when - again to me - there is way too much for too few others.

And of course I laughed at a brilliant example of supreme British hypocrisy. I have always had a soft spot for Mary, Queen of Scots. Ever since I was taught that she lost her throne and eventually her life for the love of the Earl of Bothwell. Of course when I came in turn to teach history I taught a very much less simplified form! But I had to sneak in to see her magnificent tomb:

Only the [English in this case] could murder a Queen and then honour her tomb in this magnificent way! Originally buried in Peterborough Cathedral with great solemnity by Elizabeth 1's orders [odd that since Elizabeth had ordered her death! Hypocriscy?] but Mary's son James I brought her remains to Westminster Abbey for re-burial in 1612. And ironically the Protestant Elizabeth 1st shares a far plainer tomb with her half-sister, the Catholic Queen Mary who had reigned before her [and is often known as 'Bloody Mary']. More, well hypocrisy? So history is not only written by the survivors - but by their children too. Mary Queen of Scots had a son - Elizabeth the first and her sister Mary did not have children......

So nicely primed I rocked up for the march and joined the estimated 250,000 there. Lovely atmosphere although no doubt the media will show any small scuffles [ if they mention the march at all]; good tempered marchers; lovely polite policeman - I do wish 'though they wouldn't call me 'madam' as it offends my egalitarian principles!; brilliant signing on the speeches which should have helped when my hearing aid battery ran out but my signing is no where good enough!; brilliant speeches from too many to single out a few - but I must mention Len McClusky and Mark Serwotka just to get them in the same blog as Elizabeth the first!; Charlotte Church was really good!; good enough weather to sit on the ground to listen to the speeches and lovely service by the Underground services despite the fact that the District and Circle services were not running through Westminster.                                                    

So a day of contrasting hypocrisies,  and what may seem odd on such a full march but lots of time for thought whilst also space to make new buddies and have some good discussions [of course!] Sitting in the wavering sun listening to really good speeches is always a pleasure! Possibly a different march from many others I have been on because there were so many different organisations represented there but very effective. And maybe I will be leaving my rucksack packed for next time because we ain't giving in!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Song dedications to David Cameron and those who voted Conservative on the news that he David Cameron says "ministers must back any EU deal" *

*as quoted by BBC news 8th June 2015

Well I woke up this morning [Blues aficionados will recognise that line!] to the news that David Cameron has, again quoting BBC news as above, been
Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, he said he was confident he could secure sufficient reforms but indicated that ministers who did not support him would have to resign.

Nice one Dave, especially knowing that there are more than 50 Conservative MPs, including the Foreign Secretary,  threatening to 
vote to leave the EU unless David Cameron secures far-reaching changes to the UK's relationship with Europe bbc news

So my song dedication to Dave in the light of this and other statements since the General Election is that lovely Cyndi Lauper voiced song, 'True Colours':

And for all those general electorate who voted for the Conservatives on May 7th, I dedicate the lyric from Pete Seeger's Where have all the Flowers gone? When will they ever learn?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

What makes you ashamed to be British?

Surfing the social media sites this morning I came across one of those photograph that are meant to be shared, the provenance of which I always check before [a] I get too enraged and [b] before I 'share'!

Today's photograph was of Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd with the whole of the quote which he made in the wake of the Fox Hunting banning legislation of 2004:
I've become disenchanted with the political and philosophical atmosphere in England. The anti-hunting bill was enough for me to leave England. I did what I could, I did a concert and one or two articles, but it made me feel ashamed to be English.

To be fair - ouch - Waters later in 2005 also said 
I come back to the UK quite often. I didn't leave as a protest against the hunting ban; I was following a child in the wake of a divorce.

Anyway, this got me thinking. What would make you so ashamed to be British? [I am obviously not England-centric like Waters!] And before we get going on this I would just like to say to those 'patriots' [deep sarcasm] like Waters who would leave a country over one parliamentary bill that unless the lives of my family were threatened, I would stay and peacefully fight against those things that I think were spoiling the society in which I am living. As I have done for the past 50 years! So:

I am ashamed to be British when we cut benefits to the sick and disabled. When we deny drugs on a cost basis to the terminally ill. When we condemn children in poorer areas to inferior education. When we sell off our assets like the Royal Mail. When we allow zero hours contracts. When we attempt to ban industrial action by interfering with the voting system but allow parliamentary and all political elections to be run under the rules banned for trade union elections. When we suggest that MPs should get a 10% pay rise whilst condemning others to none or 0.5%. When we recklessly destroy public services like our libraries. When food banks multiply in our 'affluent' society. When 'rough sleeping' is criminalised. When we ignore the needs of asylum seekers. When we curtail the rights to demonstrate on the streets of our 'free country'. When we operate systems like 'the bedroom tax'. When our benefit systems are so complicated that some very legitimate claimants are actually starving and/or have committed suicide. And so much more, but I think my readers may have got the point. Please feel free to add to the list.

But, Roger Waters, I reiterate I am staying here to try to right these wrongs. Please don't come back if the only reason you left is because you weren't able to enjoy hunting. 

[If banning fox hunting is enough to get people like him to leave the country are there a few other things we could ask to be banned? I am only half joking]

PS This is not the place to discuss the pros and cons of fox hunting with dogs. But for an interesting overview this article in the Guardian is very good.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Royal Mail

Coming home to the news that one of the ways that the present Government is going to beat the deficit is by selling off their remaining 30% share in the Royal Mail led to these musings, which  I have noted down!

Over my lifetime there have always been one or more postmen in my family. So I truly know what a lot there is to the job. The old jokes about getting bitten by dogs are really not funny. Those people who wonder why postmen wear shorts into the depth of the winter are always surprised at the real reason - well would you like to wear soaking wet LONG trousers when doing a walk [round] on one of those days when the rain falls in sheets, non-stop?

One doesn't have to be a postman to recognise the horrors of awkward letter boxes: too high, too low, too sprung, too narrow, the ones where a dog leaps to trap your fingers. The remarks that customers make: 'Postman, take care not to scratch my car' [OK, you may own a Bentley, but why would a postman be more likely to scratch it than anyone in a public car park?]; complaints that although their property is flooded to a depth of four foot the householder really cannot understand why the postman is refusing to deliver. And more.

Postmen get up early. They don't complain very often. They get complaints over things they can't possibly help - like senders of letters not putting enough stamps on the envelope so the recipient needs to pay a surcharge. The improperly wrapped parcel/package that has not arrived in good condition. The improperly wrapped parcel/package which 'burst' in the sorting office one Christmas and showered [deliberate pun] all the parcels and packages below it in the 'cage' with bath oil.

Postmen nowadays particularly don't like getting complaints about all these new delivery service providers who are not as fastidious as Royal Mail and don't give such as good a service. Its useless explaining that these companies are nothing to do with the Royal Mail, that the sell off that the Coalition Government authorised means that these companies can now operate to their own rules -which may not be as stringent as those of the Royal Mail. 

F'r instance today I received two parcels at different times, delivered by two different delivery providers. Some days I have received four parcels delivered by four different delivery providers. It doesn't need much wit to realise that all these vans chuntering up and down my road are using four times as much fossil fuels and polluting the air four times as much as necessary if only the one delivery system was used. A lot of the delivery drivers not employed by the Royal Mail are [a] not trained [b] on zero hour contracts [c] due to [b] do not have a pension plan. These companies have to make savings if they are to offer their clients a cheaper, if not as good, service than Royal Mail. Despite this, in the past year the City Link delivery service company was put into administration, which employed over 2700 people. Furthermore, and just last month, a mail delivery firm, Whistl - which was formerly TNT post - was reported to be in difficulties. So are we to gather that running a cheaper service than the Royal Mail is not only undesirable, it is also unprofitable?

So, backtracking a bit, let's go to the first 'go' at Privatisation of the Royal Mail by the 2010 Coalition Government. This took place in 2013, under the aegis of the then Business Minister, Vince Cable, who was subsequently accused by the National Audit Office of selling the Royal Mail shares too cheaply, losing taxpayers millions when share prices rose 70% higher than their original 2013 sale price.

If the remaining 30% is to be sold, those of us who deplore privatisation are going to voice our concerns. My biggest concern is that when any public service is privatised we can be sure that less profitable parts of that service will be quietly dropped or made out of all reason expensive. So those post boxes in far flung post codes may find they have to pay a surcharge to get their mail delivered, for instance. Post code lottery may assume a different meaning.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Who are 'they'?

One of my political greats, in that he made such a dignified exit on being ousted from his seat, and incidently the man for whom I voted in the Labour Leadership ballot in 2010, Ed Balls:

You may have noticed that we now have a Conservative Government. Some of us are not happy about it. I refer to the Tory Party as 'they' because it takes the sting out a little bit. And also, as an oblique reference to a comment by Youngest Daughter: 'Who voted for them? I haven't met anyone yet who will admit to it. Who are they?'

We are not quite three weeks into this new government and of course 'they' are still getting used to the fact, as indeed are the general electorate. The size of their majority was unexpected. It may surprise some of you to know that I did not vote for them. Like many like minded friends I posted on various social media sites 'awful warnings' of what I feared 'they' would do if 'they' got into government. Those fears may have been the subject of a few blogs on here too. I went out and worked for my local Labour party parliamentary candidate. The night of May 7th into the morning of May 8th was truly horrible, not helped by the fact that I had dropped my smart 'phone down the lavatory on the morning of May 7th and couldn't quickly text friends and family when the lamentable results began to roll in.

Now, when I eventually wake in the morning, I tend to think - not necessarily my first thought, but high on the list of early thoughts - 'I wonder what 'they' are going to do today?'

Because [never start a sentence with a conjunction but this is permissible when politically grieving] now 'they' have the permission of the electorate to carry out so many 'promises' they had headlined in their manifesto and campaign speeches 'they' will. Because the electorate have ratified their promises. Promises like cutting the welfare spending by £12bn, without detailing what and where these cuts will be. [Don't worry about this too much all, those people who voted for this government. Because the kindly man who is again in charge of this is that sympathetic figure, Ian Duncan Smith. Sarcasm alert]

Of course 'they' have given plenty of encouraging sound bites since their election victory. Like the pledge for a seven day National Health Service. The same pledge that they gave in the last Parliament but for which we are obviously still waiting. As Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, comments: 
David Cameron’s plans for a seven-day NHS are simply not credible without the extra resources and staff the NHS needs – particularly in areas like general practice, where the Tories have created a GP workforce crisis.........  
to read full comments please go to  http://www.labour.org.uk/pages/news

So a bit of consumer advice here, buyer beware. Election/manifesto promises are not covered by trading standards/consumer law. It is up to the electorate to complain. And those who voted for the Government - or didn't vote at all -aren't really in a position to do that. I didn't so I can. And I will. Watch this space.

Best moment of the Election results: Nick Farage NOT being elected:

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mea Culpa - I like discussing politics

So today is apology day as I understand that some people are complaining about my use of facebook [and other social media] as a platform for my political views. So I would just like to apologise for expressing my fears for the old, the sick, the unemployed, the poor, the vulnerable and the dispossessed in not only our society but across the world. I have probably annoyed many people during the General Election campaign for upping my output of 'propaganda' [aka known as the truth] about my perceived political opponents who were - in my opinion of course - determined to make the lives of so many worse if they took power after the election. And of course since the election I have been such a bad loser that I have vilified unfairly the new government by suggesting that they may not care about the groups I have identified. 

But as an explanation for my  bad manners I would like to offer an explanation. I thought that we joined facebook to connect with our friends, family and make new friends. After all as it says in the small print: 'Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open & connected' .  I thought that we shared our interests and discussed what is important to us. That's why you will find on my timeline lots of pictures of my gorgeous children and grandchildren, places to which I have travelled, bits about books I have read and music I love. Oh and occasionally maybe [!] politics. I trust that those who are linked to me ignore the bits they don't like. The politicos and journos probably are not in the least interested that Eldest Daughter lives in the house that my father [another political activist] bought in 1961, although I must say that Peter Hain was last year. 

Looking back on my timeline for the past few days to see what dreadful things I have shared, they includes comments made by Boris Johnson and Charlotte Church; worries about the repeal of the Human Rights Act; Douglas Carswell on Nigel Farage; a quote from the late lamented Bob Crowe; ditto Malcom X; lots of adverts for my political blogs. Oh and a link as to how quickly make whipping cream; a photo of my new 'phone case; a 'cheeky' [in more ways than one] photo and quip; and - guess what - photos of one of my grandsons.

So in breaking news, if you don't like it, don't read it. I love a good discussion and have enjoyed the crack with a lot of social media contacts during the election and will keep it up. 

I don't put pictures up of my latest craft production because usually when I have worked on one for so long I am unsure as to how interesting it will be. But you will find a photo on here just in case.

Monday, 11 May 2015

History Lessons. Why really all should have voted for the Labour Party on May 7th.

This blog is a joint production of the terrible twins Elizannie and Clarice and appears on both their blog sites. If that seems a little odd, well so do the events of May 7th to the writers.

As Elizannie has have been having a bit of a blog overload in the aftermath of May 7th, she has decided to let Clarice help out for this one. After all she should know more about History and English Lit having lectured for the WEA on both subjects [plus Popular Culture] for many years.

In a discussion with their cousin about what may come next after the May 7th result, it was decided that now history is not a compulsory subject on the school curriculum, perhaps not enough voters on Thursday realised what it was like to live in the patriarchal, capitalist society of the 19thC where money said everything about an individual down to the fact that the poor were showing God's disapproval by being poor and the rich his approval by their riches. This was further extended by having the 'deserving poor' - allowed to receive the charity of the rich [quite often the leavings from their table] and the undeserving poor. The rich were morally bound to reinvest their business profits/wages and by becoming even richer  showed even more God's approval of their life style - which included of course their treatment of the poor and this would extend to the minimum wages paid to employees [dare I add zero contracts?] If an employee became ill/unable work, well basically hard luck. Obviously some sort of sinning somewhere along the line as God once again is showing his disapproval. [An awful lot of sibulance in that sentence. A bit more effort could do something with that]

To reinforce this 'God Given Right', think of the words of the third verse of 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' by Mrs Alexander. Now no longer sung in our churches, it was sung by rich and poor alike in churches up until the 1970s/80s:
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

This blog is also a homage to the wonderful singer and socialist, our mate Roy Bailey and his 'gigging mate' the equally wonderful but sadly late Tony Benn . They used to perform a wonderful 'gig' which we saw on many occasions, singing along in our cracked voices, which was basically the history of dissent with songs provided by Roy and narration by Tony. Luckily everyone can still enjoy and learn from their inspiration by following this link .

So it was decided that perhaps a reading list should be provided of 19thC and early 20thC novels which would provide a fictional but accurate overview of the differences between rich and poor in this country, which was becoming more affluent in the light of the industrial revolution. But that affluence was not shared by all who produced it. To make a profit three parts are needed: production; investment; labour. The suppliers of the first two were enriched exponentially, the suppliers of the third actually became worse off it their living conditions and welfare is taken into account. And because there was an ever increasing pool of labour [sound familiar] due to the agricultural revolution with workers flooding into the newly growing industrial towns from the countryside, any industrial revolt would be pretty pointless.

Clarice has been awful lazy of late. So she promises that she will go through the list and 'review' each novel in turn in a socio historical way. And so she should. You will notice no Marx is included. Although he may be referred to in the footnotes... but only as are other 19th/20thC commentators and politicians.

So this is the list, no particular order, no particular preference:

19th Century
Mary Barton                         Elizabeth Gaskell
Shirley                                 Charlotte Bronte

A Christmas Carol                  Charles Dickens
Felix Holt                              George Eiliot
Sybil or Two Nations              Benjamin Disraeli
Hard Times                           Charles Dickens
The Nether World                  George Gissing
A Child of the Jago                 Arthur Morrison
Dombey and Son                   Charles Dickens

20th Century
The Ragged Trousered             
Philanthropists                        Robert Tressell
Love on the Dole                     Walter Greenwood
Tono-Bungay                          H.G.Wells
People of the Abyss                 Jack London 

Some, more modern, but giving a good historical overview:
Rape of the Fair Country           Raymond Cordell
How Green was my Valley         Richard Llewellyn
Animal Farm                            George Orwell
Fame is the Spur                      Howard Spring


Blog dedicated to all those Labour Activists who worked so hard in the weeks leading up to 7th May 2015 including Roy Bailey and Elizabeth Ann Mills. It was not in vain.

That's called Democracy! But it doesn't always supply a government fit for the vulnerable......

The picture above just appeared on my timeline on facebook, posted by the facebook group 30th anniversary of the miners strike . I shared it onto my own 
timeline for others to see with this comment:

I just know I am going to get loads of opprobrium for sharing this! I loved this guy although I didn't agree with everything he said. He probably wouldn't have agreed with everything I said. That's called democracy. What he says about becoming a trade unionist I endorse as my reasons for becoming both a trade unionist and a political activist for the Labour Party nearly 50 years ago. And I ain't giving up now just because we failed to win the election last week. That is also called democracy. But living in this democracy means I can start campaigning again tonight for the 2020 election! But only if we can all make sure that there will still be a democracy worth fighting for then. And by 'fighting' please remember I mean this in the pacifist sense!

And to all the media who are writing off the Labour Party, often 'interviewing' party heirarchy by not letting the individual finish a sentence please remember that we have been here before and come back to sort out the country. Just hope that too many people from the 'have nots' won't die when their welfare benefits are cut, they cannot afford to heat their homes or buy medicines they need. Or the bright but poor youngsters who won't get the education they deserve fail to get the 'good' jobs in the future and won't therefore get the wages to pay the taxes to support the welfare system that their parents and grandparents need. Because sure as hell the 'haves' won't be doing it.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Answering the comments that the 'Defeated' in the General Election are not taking it well! And the Vilification of Ed Miliband

I have been mulling this over since I have heard it said/read it in the media. That people like me, the so called 'defeated' in the electorate stakes are bad losers and 'won't let it lie'. After any election there will always be 'post mortems' whatever the results. And people like me who are very involved in politics will also make comments in the media, on meeting friends in the street, on their status pages in social media groups just as we have been making comments and canvassing our views during the election campaign expressing our discontent at the result. 

The Opinion Polls got it wrong, surprising/shocking so many. Although I did hear a representative of pollsters explaining that  [1] They got it right at the exit polls [2] They hadn't really got the pre-poll figures wrong, they just hadn't allocated the votes around the constituencies correctly. So that all good then.

There is no excuse for anyone, either in a private or public capacity, to make scurrilous personal comments about how people voted or the personalities of voters or the politicians. Personally I feel that a lot of people have been mistaken in their reasons for voting how they did - but then I would say that wouldn't I and I am sure no-one is surprised at my feelings!

I don't actually give much credence to most of the media's outpourings except to note its bias - this from the daughter of a political journalist who worked in the press gallery of the House of Commons in the days when there was a lot more honour in journalism. I am also very upset about the loss to the country of many very good politicians across all parties. There have been some ridiculous conspiracy theories floated but then that has happened at many times, including large sporting events and moon landings so we needn't even discuss those.

The vilification of Ed Miliband by the media is disgusting, I did not vote for him as party leader, but my union backed him and when he was elected as party leader I supported him and honestly don't feel he made a bad job of it. No need for anyone to take me up on this - I am not going to change my mind so don't waste your typing fingers energy! We are very lucky in the Labour Party that we have so many excellent politicians in the party very well qualified to take on the leadership of our fantastic party. We are bloodied but not bowed to quote the poet.

As for the worries many of us have about the NHS and for which we are being rather mocked at the moment: Yes many of us feel that it is under threat for its existence under a Conservative government. The reasons for this we have laid out during the campaign. Although I know the NHS has problems they can be fixed. I have lived in a country where if one did not have enough money for life saving drugs you wouldn't survive. My ex-husband is proof of this, not improving from a life threatening illness until money was thrown at the drugs issue. I really, really hope I am wrong and the NHS in five years time is even better than it is now. 

If I say that I honestly feel that this is not the government for the old, the poor, the sick or the vulnerable please accept that is how I feel. Like the delivery man who knocked at my door with a parcel on Friday morning, and seeing my Labour placard in my front garden told me that he had been crying all night as the results rolled in. I know others may disagree with the hundreds of thousands like us but we all have the right to our own opinions as long as we express them honestly and decently. Just as those who are happy with the result and say so! But for now I am making my activism plans for the election in 2020 and all the elections inbetween!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

A letter to my Godson on his joy at the Conservative election win in May 2015

My Godson sent me a message to say how glad he is that the Conservatives have won the General Election and maybe Labour would have done better with a more liked front man. Godson knows me so well that he surely would not have been surprised when he received my answer as shown below.

"Firstly I hope you and your lovely family keep well and that none of you need to use the health and welfare services which will surely now slowly disappear. Secondly, I hate the fact that the 'cult of celebrity' may be deemed responsible for Labour losing the election. As a Labour Party member, I didn't vote for Ed in the leadership election, but when he became our leader I naturally supported him. I actually think that there was huge media slur campaign against him, but that is btw. We vote for the principles of a party not whether someone can eat a bacon sandwich neatly. [Ask Youngest Daughter about Ed because she worked with him in Westminster when she was there] A party is a conglomerate [ especially the Labour Party] where even the very 'ordinary' member votes on policy through their local meetings.

You and I will never agree about politics and that is not a problem. But it is the Socialist ideals that I have always believed in that have - strangely enough! - never let me down throughout my life. The 'free' National Health Service that saved my life on a couple of occasions and that of more than one of my children. [Remember we lived abroad for a time where it was only by throwing more and more money at the problem that Other Half's life was saved when he nearly died' If the money had not been there, neither would the life saving meds]; 'Free' universal education gave my children university degrees and got them good jobs - they have 'paid back' the money the State spent on their education through the tax system ever since then, of course. Having never claimed on the Benefits system for unemployment benefit as luckily there have never been employment problems in our family [a lot of the reason for that of course was the help given by the Trade Union movement over the years.More on that later], I must admit I have been a bit profligate on having children so have been a bit of a drain on the Family Allowance system. After all in 1971 when I had Eldest Daughter I was 'rewarded' by the promise of 7/6d [371/2p] Family Allowance that I would get for the Eldest Son when he eventually arrived in 1975. And the suceeding children. And all that bounty was more than repaid in the tax system. Now I receive my State Pension [I know. I just don't look old enough!] and that and some of the other benefits I get [bus pass, free prescriptions, winter fuel allowance] are often begrudged by the younger generations. Conveniently ignoring the fact that I have been 'paying in' and promised these all my working life.

Back to the wonderful Trade Union movement, who just over 100 years ago were amongst the founding fathers of the Labour movement. When I had a severe problem with the failure of my work pension, their financial backing of a very long campaign ensured our success and thousands of us would have lost up to 50% of our pensions - paid for over a 50 year working life - without them.

So we will agree to differ but you know how stubborn I am and I will never turn my back on those who have helped me and so many others. And although Hugh Gaitskell said it in a completely different context about the Labour Party in 1960, I will 'fight, fight and fight again to save the party that [I] love' - but as you also know, this will only in a pacifist way.

I honestly believe that the election results were a disaster for the old, sick, poor and vulnerable. The rich will be OK. I care about the first group. The second will look after themselves as usual. I am typing this sitting on the settee, wrapped up in a blanket with a viral infection. It has done me a favour to get this enthused to write as it is helping me 'sweat it out'! Writing is also my therapy. I have a feeling a lot of this will appear as a blog later on today. Don't take it personally! Or rather do and don't vote Conservative next time!"