Words for Friends #5

This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.

These living epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.

#5 Louise

Louise is a fairly new friend who I met through social media, but someone I already regard as a close and kindred spirit.

Emotionally we are similar souls, and we also tick all the boxes that makes someone a close friend.

She comes from my home area of Sussex, supports my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion, lives for music and books, is a former English teacher and now an editor, an ardent socialist and activist for Jeremy Corbyn, and a campaigner for Palestine.

And like me, for a lifetime she has battled deep anxiety and depression and the curve balls that life throws our way. She expresses those struggles with refreshing honesty.

But of all the qualities of friendship I admire the most, is her care for fellow human beings.

More than once she has been the first to ask how I am feeling, and more than once volunteered practical support. Thank you.

I am so glad we met Louise, I can see this friendship lasting a long time.

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Words for Friends #4

This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.

These living epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.

 #4 Jude

I met Jude by something in this life we might call divine coincidence.

Jude had read a couple of my blog and Twitter postings about the sexual abuse I suffered as a young teenager and soon made friends via social media.

She is an intelligent young married mum of three lively children and is in a constant battle with social services over her ability to care for them. You see, she too had suffered similar extensive sexual abuse as a child and like me was struggling to find ways to express her emotions. And like me, that struggle has sometimes relied on self-medication.

She too has resorted to writing poetry as an escape valve for her continuing angst. Her poems are epic and written from the soul.

For more than a year we have been swapping our poems and our stories. Now she is writing her autobiography and I have promised to edit and publish it for her.

Jude is a precious fellow traveller and now an equally precious friend and confidante.

I am sure that she will not only survive, but flourish.

Words for Friends #3

This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.

These epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.

#3 Andrea

Throughout our lives we meet true soul mates and Andrea is one of my most precious.

We met in the most extraordinary of circumstances in the winter of 1987, while we were both recovering from cancer surgery. Racked in pain with bone cancer, and at just 20 years-old she knew her chances of survival were slim. “But I’m going to fight it,” she urged, willing me to do the same. “I haven’t yet got my degree, I haven’t learned to drive… and I’m still a virgin. “I want to live a bit before I die.”

My memories of Andrea always remain, and have often been my driving force to live.

Her laughter as she beat me in a physiotherapy game of football in the hospital gym. At the end of the game we collapsed side by side on the floor guffawing at how silly all this was.

Then there was the Wednesday night visit to the local rugby club for a game of bingo and a half pint of beer. We walked slowly back to the hospital at 10pm. She rested her head on my shoulder as we walked and suddenly whispered: “I love you Nic… we are going to win, aren’t we?” And then there was the rainy December day when she returned from a Christmas shopping trip in Cardiff city centre laden down with presents and a £300 hole in her Visa card. Her pleasure was manifest and her guilty laugh echoes now as I remember her.

A year before her death in 1990, I visited Andrea again in a hospital in Birmingham, where she had undergone a hip replacement operation in a last attempt by surgeons to remove the seat of her cancer.

I sat and clenched her right hand and looked into her sparkling eyes.

I giggled: “Hey, you’ve got freckles and hair!”

“Yes,” she answered, “I have been off chemotherapy for three months to build up my strength for the op.”

I had only known Andrea as a tall, underweight, pale-faced girl stooped under a horrendous NHS wig, which at times made her look like an extra in the Addams Family.

But now, holding her hand, this was how I was going to remember her… and I still do.

Words for Friends #2

This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.

These living epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.

 #2 Helen

I first met Helen at a Fairport Convention gig nine years ago. She was the bass guitarist in their three piece support act.

At the interval in the music hall lobby, she cheerfully agreed to sign my copy of her band’s first album… and so began a precious friendship.

Her mass of multi-coloured dreadlocks, overt body piercings and a meadow of tattoos gave the first impression of shock and awe. She was a punk, a hippy, a rebel and an amazing bass guitarist.

She was also beautiful, and oozed genuine warmth.

I soon began overseeing the PR for her band and within no time a deep friendship and even deeper love developed. But this was no romance in any sexual sense. Helen was/is gay and together many times we would talk all night and share our emotional rescue – usually over a bottle of gin, which was invariably finished in time for breakfast.

Almost four years ago she was the witness at my wedding to Gill, and a year later was the first person Gill telephoned for help when I suffered a nervous breakdown.

Without Helen my life would be incomplete. The best and most loyal friend I could ever wish for.

Words for Friends #1

I STARTED blogging at www.seagullnic.wordpress.com in September 2013 as a form of therapy and catharsis following my nervous breakdown earlier that year.

Now some 462 posts and tens of thousands of words later I have reached the third anniversary of my leap into hyper space.

During the ensuing time I have blogged about everything under the sun, including a navel-gazing exposure of my life, my family, politics, opinion, plus poems and songs.

I have also reloaded a score of pieces from my years in newspaper journalism, written extensively about my villains and heroes and published the first 12 chapters of my new children’s novel.

At this point, my blog posts have received 145,433 hits with over 460 comments and 214 regular followers.

Topping the popularity stakes is These MPs voted confidence in Jeremy Corbyn with 30,941 hits.

The Crippled Estate of BBC Spin  currently has 24,500 hits.

And Traitors’ Gate: 28 Labour MPs named as part of Coup has 9,179 hits.

About 85% of my readers are from the UK, while a further 6% are from the USA and there is a sizeable audience in Canada, Australia, Pakistan, France and Spain. My blog has been read in every country in the world, with the exception of Paraguay, Greenland, Kazakhstan and a few countries in central Africa!

Wow!

Thank you all for reading my missives and thank you so much for your wonderful support.

The writing journey now continues with a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough. Each piece I will endeavour to keep to 150 words or less.

These living epitaphs will be published in a random order as fancy takes me.

True friends cannot be measured by the length of time you may have known someone, but I will in tribute start with my oldest friend.

#1 Alex

Alex and I have been friends since we were 12 years-old, after my family moved house and I was parachuted into the local secondary school as the “new boy”.

Alex’s memory of my first week will always haunt me: “You turned up for your first swimming lesson wearing a vest!”

We were soon best buddies, sitting next to each other in class, cheating in maths lessons, playing and following football together, and he introduced me to proper music.

On leaving school he became a DJ and thanks to him, music has been the driving force throughout my life.

An abiding school memory is of Alex opening a carrier bag under his desk to reveal a pair of 32” loon leg trousers in school regulation grey. We dared him to change into them at break time. He did, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The fact that 45 years later he is still a friend, is more important to me than he will ever know.

 

The numbers Labour did NOT want you to see on TV this morning – and why

Read this: staggering!

The SKWAWKBOX

This morning I had the privilege to be at the special conference for the announcement of the result of the leadership contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

As you will know by now, the result was emphatic, with Corbyn gaining a decisive 61.8% share (313,209/506,438/654,006) of the votes in spite of the efforts to weed out around 250,000 mostly Corbyn supporters by suspensions, expulsions and simply not sending them a ballot.

But there was a significant little passage of events that you will have missed. I was seated directly behind deputy leader Tom Watson and party General Secretary Iain McNicol, within easy touching distance (if I had wished:

wp_20160924_001Iain McNicol looking positively underwhelmed at Labour’s overwhelming democratic choice

As he prepared to read the results, NEC Chair Paddy Lillis said he would read out the overall result but would also show the results by voting constituency (full members, supporters…

View original post 512 more words

Money doesn’t talk, it swears: the multi-millionaire who tried to stop Jeremy Corbyn

sainsbury

EXCLUSIVE

THIS is the richest and most powerful man in British politics whose money is behind every move to destroy Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And as Mr Corbyn is set to be re-elected leader, we can expose the true power of Lord David Sainsbury’s staggering £12million of donations to his opponents.

It is all part of his mission to stop the trade unions and Labour becoming an inclusive anti-austerity socialist party.

And it’s a mission which shows no sign of slowing.

David John Sainsbury, Baron of Turville is a multi-millionaire British businessman.

From 1992 to 1997, he was chairman of the Sainsbury’s supermarket empire, established by his great-grandfather in 1869.

He was made a Labour life peer in 1997 by Tony Blair and served in the government as the Minister for Science and Innovation from 1998 until 2006.

He joined the Labour Party in the 1960s, but was one of the 100 signatories of the right wing Limehouse Declaration in February 1981, in opposition to then Labour leader Michael Foot.

He went on to be a member of the breakaway Social Democratic Party (SDP).

After the 1983 election Sainsbury was by far the biggest donor to the party, giving about £750,000 between 1981 and 1987.

But along with David Owen, Sainsbury opposed merging the SDP with the Liberal Party after the 1987 election, and provided office space for Owen to help him re-establish the “continuing” SDP in 1988.

That party was wound up in 1990, and Sainsbury changed allegiance back to the Labour Party, rejoining them in 1996.

Between 1996 and 2006, when he stood down as a government minister, Sainsbury donated £16 million to the Labour Party, usually in batches of £1 million or £2 million each year.

But in April 2006, Sainsbury faced a possible probe into an alleged breach of the ministerial code “after admitting he had failed to disclose a £2million loan he had made to the Labour Party.”

He subsequently apologised for “unintentionally” misleading the public, blaming a mix-up between the £2 million loan and a £2 million donation he had made earlier.

In July 2006, he became the first government minister to be questioned by police in the Cash for Peerages inquiry.

On 10 November 2006, he resigned as Science Minister, stating that he wanted to focus on business and charity work.

He categorically denied that his resignation had anything to do with the Cash for Peerages affair, stating that he was “not directly involved in whether peerages were offered for cash”.

He was the Blair government’s third-longest-serving minister after Tony Blair himself, and Gordon Brown.

Because of his importance to the Labour Party as a donor, contemporary press reports described him as “unsackable”.

But now, thanks to the Electoral Commission filings, released on Tuesday, the continuing influence of Lord Sainsbury’s wealth and influence can be revealed.

 

For while Jeremy Corbyn has relied on £187,000 in personal and trade union donations since first standing for election as Labour leader in 2015, Lord Sainsbury has donated almost £25 million to MPs and political groups in the past 10 years.

Some £12million of this has gone to right wing opponents of Mr Corbyn. This dwarfs the donations of his Blairite contemporaries: property developer David Garrard’s £1.6million; hedge fund manager Martin Taylor’s £1.3million; and showbiz agent Michael Foster’s £470,000.

Of Lord Sainsbury’s donations since 2006, about £8million went directly to Labour (but that stopped when Ed Miliband became leader),  over £2.1million went to the Lib Dems (who may also be seen as opponents of Mr Corbyn) and £4.2million to various Scottish and Europe referendum lobby groups.

This left about £12million for cash hand-outs to groups vehemently opposed to Mr Corbyn and to individual Blairite MPs: Alan Johnson, David Lammy, David Miliband and Tristram Hunt received £227,329 between them.

These figures only include those submitted to the Electoral Commission. We have no way of knowing whether Lord Sainsbury may or may not have donated through other companies or agencies.

His favourite group is Progress, which has received £4.22million of his cash since 2004.

Progress is the Blairite power behind the core group of MPs plotting, since last year, to oust Mr Corbyn.

Progress runs on £282,000-a-year funding from Lord Sainsbury. Its income since 2010 is about £1.85million.

Tristram Hunt MP is a particular Sainsbury favourite — he was Lord Sainsbury’s personal spokesman before he became a Labour MP.

Hunt was working for Sainsbury when Progress was formed out of the money left over from the original campaign to make Tony Blair leader of the party.

Progress is deeply committed to pro-privatisation and pro-corporate policies. It has also steadily campaigned to reduce trade union influence in the Labour Party and latterly to do away with one member one vote for the Labour leadership.

Progress is vehemently opposed to Mr Corbyn and his left wing policies.

It is chaired by Alison McGovern. Vice-chairs are fellow Labour MPs Jenny Chapman, Stephen Doughty, Julie Elliott, Tristram Hunt, Dan Jarvis, Liz Kendall, Seema Malhotra, Toby Perkins, Lucy Powell, Steve Reed, Jonathan Reynolds and Nick Smith.

Prior to 2015, Progress was chaired by John Woodcock – the same MP who has viciously attacked Jeremy Corbyn on a number of issues.

Current members of the Progress strategy board include: Baroness King of Bow, Gloria De Piero MP, Nick Smith MP and Phil Wilson MP.

But there are other more shadowy groups besides Progress.

The right wing Movement for Change kitty of £1.75million has been almost exclusively funded by Lord Sainsbury.

The Movement for Change grew out of Citizens UK, the community action group established by Neil Jameson, former director of Save the Children and the Children’s Society, and Lord Maurice Glasman.

The organisation – which was a strong supporter of David Miliband – has a strong base among a diverse range of faith communities, which in turn has a strong influence over its culture and agenda.

But there is a political ambiguity to its aims which many in the Labour Party find troubling as it seems anti-trade union.

Maurice Glasman said: “The unions are the great silent, awful fact in all this. They are the self-organised wing of the Labour movement. They are dominated by a narrow crust of progressive activists, they are disengaged from their members.”

Peter Mandelson’s Policy Network & Communications Ltd has also been funded to the tune of £291,349 by Lord Sainsbury.

Policy Network is an international right wing progressive think tank and lobbying group.

Its president is Lord Mandelson, who has consistently briefed and spoken against Jeremy Corbyn, often in derogatory terms.

Other directors are Lord Roger Liddle, former special adviser to President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Tony Blair, is its chairperson.

Other anti Corbyn groups, the soft left Owen Smith supporting Labour Together, received £85,000 and the Blairite Labour Tomorrow received £453,000, largely from Martin Taylor.

  • An excellent piece from 2015 on donations to the Labour Party can be read here. But interesting that little of no mention is made of Lord Sainsbury!