Revolution 2017

HOPE BLOG

The time has come

We can take the flak

It belongs to us all

We’ve got to take it back

No more voting for the Eton elite

No more bowing at their polished feet

 

Poverty is a putrid cancer

Sectarianism is obscene

Take home your nukes

They are really not our scene

No more voting for the Eton elite

No more bowing at their polished feet

 

Can you hear it?

Can you smell?

Can you sense it?

Revolution is in the air.

 

It’s time to end the status quo

It’s time to grab the crown

Call an end to the upper chamber

Those in the Lords just look down

No more voting for the Eton elite

No more bowing at their polished feet

 

Take the power from the rich

Give that power to the poor

Don’t give shelter to the bankers

We don’t need them anymore

No more voting for the Eton elite

No more bowing at their polished feet

 

Can you hear it?

Can you smell?

Can you sense it?

Revolution is in the air.

 

Shelter for the homeless

And feed the hungry too

Education will unlock the door

We are many and you are few

No more voting for the Eton elite

No more bowing at their polished feet

 

Time to move as one nation

Time to speak with one voice

We the people demand justice

We now have a real choice

No more voting for the Eton elite

No more bowing at their polished feet

 

Can you hear it?

Can you smell?

Can you sense it?

Revolution is in the air.

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No Frontiers / Sans Frontieres

no_frontiers_EG

Andy is a plumber

He works from dawn till dusk

Barrie is a banker

Money fuels his lust

Colin is a carer

Looking after his old mum

Derek is a beggar

Seeking food to fill his tum

No borders

No nations

No warfare

No way

 

Edward is a baron

In a mansion cold and grey

Freddy is a homophobe

But he is secretly gay

Gregory is a millionaire

Funding international genocide

Harry is his best friend

Knowing how he lied

No borders

No nations

No warfare

No way

 

Indira is a seamstress

Making dresses for the rich

Jakinda she sews trainers

One rupee for every stitch

Kondo was a warrior

But HIV has made him sick

Leandro he is starving

Earning a dollar for a trick

No borders

No nations

No warfare

No way

 

Mendel is a Rabbi

Living in the Promised Land

Noam is quite pleasant

Though no one sees his hand

Ovadia he buys weapons

For the IDF to fire

Pesach is an agent

With 40 guns to hire

No borders

No nations

No warfare

No way

 

Qasim is a builder

He works to earn some bread

Radi is an Iman

Saying prayers for the dead

Saha she smiles bravely

While burying her mum

Tasnim lost her legs

In the heat of the Gaza sun

No borders

No nations

No warfare

No way

 

Ursula is the Scottish wife

Of a paedophile parish priest

Vanora owns a town house

On a street in Inverleith

Willie wants independence

From the bastard English rule

Yolanda says he crazy

And a brainless Indy fool

No borders

No nations

No warfare

No way

 

While bombs rain down aplenty

On helpless Palestine

The yanks they start to blitz

The bloody ISIS line

The rulers keep us under

With lies and racial fear

They sip their Pimms and cocktails

And serve us promises and beer

No borders

No nations

No warfare

No way

 

Think again Boris – a song for our Islington Herbivore

SONG for jc BLOG

Go ahead and smear him because he makes you doubt

Because he has denied himself the things you can’t live without

Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do

Remind him of the knives behind him when he comes walking through

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

Stop your conversation when he passes on the stairs

Hope he falls upon himself, no-one really cares

Because he can’t be exploited by media moguls anymore

Because he can’t be bribed or bought by the things that you adore

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

When the whip that’s keeping you in line doesn’t make him jump

Say he’s hard-of-hearing, as ridiculous as Donald Trump

Say he’s out of step with reality as you try to test his nerve

Because he doesn’t pay no tribute to the Queen that you serve

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

Say that he’s a loser because he uses common sense

Because he doesn’t increase his worth at someone else’s expense

Because he’s not afraid of trying, he embraces others with a smile

Because he doesn’t threaten immigrants, say he’s got no style

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

You can laugh at austerity, you can play your nuclear games

You think that when you rest at last you’ll go back from where you came

But you’ve pocketed your bonuses and you’ve changed since the womb

What happened to the real you, you’ve been captured but by whom?

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

(with thanks to Bob Dylan for the song pattern)

Eton Mess: education the election winner for Labour

schools blog

EDUCATION is the biggest dividing line in the General Election.

And it is one battleground where Jeremy Corbyn and Labour can win big time.

Education determines an apprenticeship, a university place, job opportunity, home, happiness, health, career, earning potential and a person’s whole life.

It also divides our country on class lines and underpins the status quo, where the rich get richer and the rest of us do the best we can with what is left.

On one hand Theresa May’s Tories offer SAT tests and selection at every level, privatisation of schools via the sinister academy system, grammar schools and private institutions such as Eton and Westminster, charging up to £36,000 a year for the very wealthy to educate their offspring.

On the other hand, Labour is offering a free and fair education system for everyone, where success does not depend on wealth, social class or exam results.

Ironic, because today, MPs questioned “how much of a grip” the Tory government’s Department for Education has on providing school places where they are really needed.

The system is “increasingly incoherent and too often poor value for money,” says the Public Accounts Committee.

And the government is spending “well over the odds” on free schools or academies while other schools are in poor condition, concludes the cross-party committee.

But Theresa May has already tied her education policy to so-called free schools and the failed grammar school system.

Last September she put grammar schools back at the heart of Conservative thinking for the first time since the 1970s.

For May, the return of selection is part of an attempt to redefine the Conservatives as a party of meritocracy and exam success.

Tory Ministers also say controversial free schools are key to meeting demand for school places.

The government pledged to open 500 more free schools, which are state-funded but independently run, by 2020 and has plans for a further 110.

It is a huge mistake, which panders to their friends in big business.

For the past three months I helped campaign against the academisation of a vibrant primary school in Hastings, in East Sussex.

I saw at first-hand how schools and children’s futures were being handed into the private control of multi-millionaire businessmen, who in turn had unhealthy links to senior politicians.

Those running the academies, or free schools, earn vast salaries while the education of the children often suffers.

One head of a primary academy chain took home a salary in excess of £200,000, after being handed a massive pay rise.

He also received £28,316 in pension contributions, which took his overall remuneration package to £229,138.

This is more than the Prime Minister and many city bankers.

Last year delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Liverpool, heard that growing numbers of academy heads were now also earning more than the PM’s salary of £149,440 a year.

“When schools were under local council control, it would have been unthinkable as well as impossible that a headteacher, of even a group of schools, could earn more than a director of education, let alone the Secretary of State for Education, let alone the Prime Minister,” Simon Clarkson from Leicestershire told the conference.

“We need to guard against the rot of greed.”

Mr Clarkson concluded: “Our state schools are paid for by the public. They need to be accountable. Let me remind you whose money is being used to do this… ours!”

Now the National Audit Office agrees that further academisation of schools is a “significant risk to long-term value for money”.

The Public Accounts Committee MPs say that having enough school places in safe, high-quality buildings, where they are needed, is crucial.

“Without this, parents may have less choice, pupils may have inconvenient journeys to school and the learning environment may be less effective, putting educational outcomes at risk,” they say.

They note that 420,000 new school places will be needed by 2021, many in secondary schools where provision is more expensive than at primary level.

“In the context of severe financial constraints, it is vital that the department uses its funding in a more coherent and cost effective way,” say the MPs, adding that too many free schools are in unsuitable temporary buildings, lacking outside space and sports facilities.

Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said the free schools programme was “diverting a lot of money” from school maintenance.

“What we want to see is a much more balanced programme of capital funding so that existing poor school buildings get the funding and investment they need and those new schools are built.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the report reflected head teachers’ concerns.

“Creating surplus places is an inefficient use of public money and damages existing schools where spare capacity is created,” he said.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added: “Free schools do not address the school-place crisis, often being built in areas of no need and often in unsuitable premises.

“This policy is not evidenced based and is nothing to do with the wellbeing of children or providing a sound education.”

Labour’s Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, says the free school programme was incoherent and inefficient.

“In the recent Budget, the chancellor announced plans that would only create one-sixth of the school places we will need by 2021, and even those plans were drastically underfunded,” she said.

“Tory academy plans are in complete chaos. 

“The impossible job the Department for Education has set itself in trying to directly run thousands of schools from Whitehall is fully exposed as we learn over half of existing academy chains have refused to take on schools and 70% of inadequate academies have been left languishing with poor academy chains.”

Labour’s plans for education are, in contrast, broad-reaching and inclusive.

Jeremy Corbyn made education a central theme of his campaign for re-election as Labour leader, lamenting the “commodification” of the education system.

Labour’s proposed national education service is impressive.

It starts with a principle that education is a public good. Learning should be provided from cradle to grave.

From there, it goes to universal free childcare, building on the success of Sure Start – something which has been dismantled by the Tories.

Next, Labour pledges decent schools for all, including class sizes of under 30, an idea so universal that the only question it raises is why it’s not already the case.

Labour also advocates free tertiary education and the abolition on university tuition fees.

Finally, the promise of investment in adult education is a huge vote winner – who could possibly want adults to be less skilled, less fulfilled, than they could be?

And today Labour pledged to bring back maintenance grants for the poorest students and restore the abolished financial support allowance.

Labour will reverse the decision to replace means-tested grants for university students with loans, announced by George Osborne in his final budget.

It will also reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance, a means-tested cash payment, for 16- and 17-year-olds from poorer families choosing to remain in education.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank suggested the EMA, which was worth £30 a week, helped boost participation among teenagers.

But it was abolished in 2011 as part of the Tory coalition government’s efforts to reduce the deficit and replaced with a much less generous bursary system.

Ms Rayner said the twin announcements: “Show that while the Tories continue to burden our young people with debt, the Labour Party is committed to investing in our young people.

“It is only by investing in education that we can ensure that all of our young people, whatever their background, are able to succeed in whatever they aspire to.

“When we can help improve the education of over a million young people with a small increase in corporation tax, it is an investment we would be foolish not to make.”

Labour says the policy could be paid for through a 1.5% increase in corporation tax.

Analysts say such a move would raise £3billion a year.

Meanwhile education trade unions have urged all parents to turn education cuts into the election battleground.

The National Union of Teachers says the General Election offers an opportunity to fight for better resourced schools and teachers.

Kevin Courtney told the union’s annual conference the snap election was an opportunity to challenge the funding shortages in England.

“In the run-up to this election, parents must demand of all politicians: will they invest in our country, will they invest in our children?” he told delegates in Cardiff.

“I don’t believe there’s a parent anywhere in this country who voted for their child’s class size to go up, or voted for their child to lose the opportunity to do art or dance or music.

“We can reach parents with this and we can make a difference in the general election.”

The NUT’s call on funding was joined by other unions, including those representing headteachers.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Our top message is that there is insufficient funding in the education system. We call on all political parties to commit to investing in education as part of a long-term economic plan.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his union would also campaign over the school funding cuts.

“There are crises, like teacher recruitment and the £3billion of cuts the government expects schools to make, that should not be forgotten during the election campaign,” he said.

The education battle lines are drawn and it gives Jeremy Corbyn and Labour its best platform to win the General Election.

  • If you are not yet convinced, read the words of one teacher, Rebecca Bee:

“Let me start by saying that I am not concerned about my pay. I don’t want more money.

What I am concerned about are the cuts that the Conservative government makes to education are huge, life-changing cuts that are having a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of a massive number of children and young people.

Michael Gove started his annihilation of the A*-G GCSE system back in 2010, and this year we see the first string of examinations take place.

“More rigour” was the battle cry. However, did you know that the new GCSE English Literature exam is a closed-book?

This means that no student will be given a copy of the text in their exam – not even SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) students, many of which have recall and memory problems.

The GCSE English Language exam uses extracts from heritage texts that carry a reading age of approximately 17.

The average reading age of a GCSE-level student is 14.

So why are we asking our students to read and analyse texts that are aimed at someone with a reading age 3 years above their own? Some of my students have a reading age of 9. They cannot in any way access the papers.

We still don’t know how the new GCSEs are going to be graded.

Schools are in disarray as they know one thing to be true – if their GCSE results are bad, Ofsted will swoop in, prepared to announce them as “requiring improvement”.

Excessive testing at ages 7 and 11 has led to children prepared for tests, but little else.

These exams are completely arbitrary and do not test the skills required for success at GCSE and in adult life.

I agree that students need to leave primary school ‘secondary ready’.

But, I do not think that testing students’ ability to identify grammatical items over their ability to compose a creative piece is the best way to do it.

I have a firm belief that testing students does not make them better learners.

We do not need grammar schools. We don’t. Not until all other schools are funded well, and equally.

If we increase funding to all state schools to a level reflective of needs, we allow teachers to develop a ‘grammar curriculum’ and give schools ‘grammar resources’ and invest in better pastoral care, then we won’t need more grammar schools.

Why do we need to build more schools when we can just give more money to existing ones? Why, at a time where funding is in crisis, are we investing in new grammars and not existing schools?

When I entered teaching in 2005, most classes had a learning support assistant (you may know them as a TA).

These people were incredibly important – they worked with SEND students, BESD (behavioural, social and emotional difficulties) students, assisted with students who had been absent or were having trouble accessing the curriculum and they did this on minimal pay, with minimal complaint.

This government has cut spending on education to the point where these TAs are rare, or simply don’t exist.

The excessive cuts to education also mean that many schools are now in a situation where they are considering making cuts in the curriculum and getting rid of specific subjects, usually the arts – the subjects that make them well-rounded thinkers, evaluative learners and creative, motivated individuals.

Why the arts? Well, because they don’t add “rigour”!

These decisions are being made every damn day, because the government have headteachers over a barrel.

You must succeed. You must get above average pass rates. You must push out students with E-Baccs. If you don’t, we will academise you.

Are we here to provide exam factories that churn out identikit students?

Don’t be blinded by May. She wants you to be blinkered and she wants you to ignore the massive demolition of education. Don’t give her what she wants.”

 

The right wing media billionaires fixing the General Election

newspaper-printing blog

THE Sun’s infamous claim following the 1992 general election that “It’s the Sun Wot Won it” is widely known. 

And in almost half of all general elections since 1918 one newspaper or another has claimed to have swung the result.

So has June’s General Election already been decided by the opinion formers within our national newspapers?

And if so, who has made these decisions?

Former newspaper editor Roy Greenslade says: “Sadly, one key question not asked of people interviewed by the opinion pollsters, is their prime news provider. It would be fascinating to know whether they read a daily national newspaper and, if so, which title.”

It is easy to see without looking too far that most of our press supports Theresa May’s Tory Government, and also backed Brexit in last year’s referendum.

The big sellers, for example, all backed the Leave campaign and in doing so defined what Mrs May is determined to make the banner for this General Election.

Their power to shape opinion is both sinister and immense.

The Daily Mail (circulation: 1,544,084) has been rabid right wing Tory rag since it supported Hitler and Oswald Moseley’s Black Shirts back in the 1930s. Since the EU sceptic argument began to surface in the late 1980s, it consistently urged Britons to “Believe in Britain” and vote to leave the EU.

Last year The Sun (circulation: 1,450,523) told readers to “beleave in Britain” and back Brexit, arguing that a vote to Leave would allow voters to “reclaim our country”. It now tells us we must vote for a “strong leader” in Theresa May.

Its stablemate The Sunday Times (circulation: 777,834) also wanted Britain to leave. And today, along with its daily sister title The Times is backing the Conservatives in the General Election campaign.

Similar right wing newspapers: The Daily Express (circulation: 415,023), The Daily Telegraph (circulation: 490,800), and The Sunday Telegraph (circulation: 370,976), all supported a long-standing “crusade” to “get Britain out of Europe”.

And all now support Theresa May’s right wing Hard Brexit agenda.

Only the more left-wing British press backed the Remain campaign last year – The Guardian (circulation: 165,702), The Observer (circulation 189,091) and The Daily Mirror (circulation: 778,650).

They are likely to back Labour in the General Election, but all have been lukewarm to leader Jeremy Corbyn and sometimes have been downright hostile to his alternative policies.

But who is making these General Election opinion-forming decisions, and why?

Almost 80% of our press is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires.

And the political position of a paper is set by its owner. Our press barons wield far more power and influence than all but a very few MPs and have, unsurprisingly, used it to further their own interests.

Rupert Murdoch’s candour at the Leveson Inquiry was revealing. He said that if someone wanted to know his opinion on a subject they should just read The Sun.

So who owns what and why do they favour the capitalist status quo?

The Sun, Sun on Sunday, Times and Sunday Times are all owned by Rupert Murdoch, a US-based billionaire who owns 24.9% of the British press and has supported the Tories since 2010, after a brief cosy-toes with Tony Blair and his New Labour brand.

Journalist Anthony Hilton once asked Murdoch why he opposed the European Union. He replied:

“That’s easy, when I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”

Small wonder that David Cameron, George Osborne and latterly Theresa May are the first invitees to his swanky Park Lane cocktail parties.

The Daily Express, Sunday Express and Star newspapers are owned by billionaire pornographer Richard Desmond who has also supported the Tories since 2010.

“Richard Desmond was furious when, after a decade of greasing palms in Labour and the Tories, both decided not to grant him either a knighthood or a peerage”, writes media pundit Gavin Haynes.

The fallout from that colossal sulk was partly why he ended up giving a million pounds to UKIP just before the 2015 General Election. With May now in charge, he is set to revert back to the Conservatives.

The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Metro are all owned by Lord Rothermere (owner of 27.3% of the British press) who lives in France and is non-domiciled for tax reasons. He too is a strong supporter of the Tories.

Lord Rothermere is usually hands-off, preferring to let editor Paul Dacre run things, in his own cavalier way – remember his vicious attack on Ed Miliband’s late father, during the 2015 General Election.

The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph are owned by reclusive property billionaires David and Frederick Barclay – former close friends of Margaret Thatcher – who live on a private island near Sark.

The Barclay brothers certainly have enough experience in electoral manipulation. In 2008, the 600 people who live on Sark voted against the Barclays’ chosen candidates for the island’s governing council. As a result, the Barclays sacked vast numbers of workers at the hotels on Sark they owned.

As Bob Dylan once wrote: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

I believe we are witnessing a complete bankruptcy of freedom within our Fourth Estate.

And within that bankruptcy comes the manipulation of the electorate.

For the uninitiated, the Fourth Estate commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press”.

Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons.

He described the journalists’ role in representing the interests of “the people” in relation to the business and political elites who claim to be doing things in our names.

The Fourth Estate was a civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power, and provided the philosophical argument for defining the public citizenry and the nation-state as two separate entities with differing interests.

But this position has now been hi-jacked by corrupt big business ownership of our media and the aforementioned media moguls.

If we accept the premise of the Fourth Estate, we also have to ask ourselves if the “national” and the “public” interest are the same thing.

But in today’s capitalist world both are divided along class lines.

In this context, the national interest is about state secrecy and keeping things from us. On the other hand, the public interest is about disclosure and our right to know.

For instance, if we look at who trained and funded the ISIS terrorists and which countries now sustain them to carry out attacks, such as those on Paris and Beirut, the press has not been forthcoming in its reporting. Instead it focuses on Muslims, refugees, border controls, divisions within the Labour Party and the “need” to keep bombing Syria.

Sounds like Conservative Party rhetoric to you?

Well it is… formed and shaped by the same billionaires who own our media.

This separation between the people and the state becomes more important when the economic interests of the powerful so frequently dominate society.

The same interests being challenged so forcefully by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

Today, the state is the executive branch of the ruling class and its big business paymasters.

Our newspapers like to paint their own role as heroic – they are the brave defenders of democracy who hold our elected representatives to account.

But too often, far from protecting our democracy, our papers subvert it.

Since 2010, the press barons pushed the highly contentious argument that there is no alternative to Austerity and largely ignored the stories of the widening social divisions and the swelling numbers at food banks – the 21st century’s soup kitchens.

And editorial independence is a sham. Proprietors choose editors who they know share their views.

Likewise, the mechanisms through which owners can, and do, interfere with or shape content to promote particular viewpoints are not difficult to identify; they range from directly dictating the line a newspaper should follow on particular issues, to appointing senior staff with a shared political outlook, as well as forms of indirect influence over the ethos of the organisation which may prompt journalists to engage in ‘self-censorship’.

The Fourth Estate is now more powerful than ever, but it is no longer the once heralded “civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power”.

It is now fake news and spin to maintain the capitalist status quo and the power of the super rich.

Trust has broken down threefold, between people and politicians, media and people, journalists and politicians, with the latter now observing each other with deep distrust and mutual antipathy.

A vicious circle has established itself.

Do we want these people deciding out future?

We need real media democracy in this country to allow a diversity of voices to be heard.

We must help generate that informed consent by providing the public with high-quality, well-researched and incisive journalism…. by the people and for the people!

So get involved… support the work of new media organisations such as: Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, Manchester Mule, Salford Star and many more.

The right wing British press will do all they can to ensure a Conservative victory at the General Election… only we can stop them!

  • You may find these other blog postings interesting:

Paris, Isis, Syria and The Bankruptcy of the Fourth Estate

The Loaded Language of the British Press

The Crippled Estate of BBC Spin

So Who is Frying the BBC Fish?

 

 

Celebrities flock to provide new Red Wedge for Corbyn

celebsblog

THE right wing press loves to depict Jeremy Corbyn as a dour, out-of-touch “retired geography teacher” who is more at home pottering on his allotment than connecting with real people.

Oh, how wrong they are!

Corbyn’s leadership election campaigns in 2015 and 2016 gave the electorate a glimpse of the man’s universal appeal.

And anyone who has met him or heard him speak publicly, will attest to the 67-year-old’s contagious charisma and genuine human warmth.

Small wonder therefore, that celebrities from the world of acting, music, sport, and elsewhere, are flocking to support him in his bid to become the UK’s next Prime Minister.

An unlikely quartet of multi-millionaire snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, Welsh diva Charlotte Church and the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, are leading a 21st Century Red Wedge for Corbyn.

This new Wedge kicked off last December with the hugely successful Concert for Corbyn at Brighton’s famous Dome auditorium.

The People Powered concert was a real return to the days of Red Wedge and Rock Against Racism, when musicians publicly stood up for political causes.

In the case of Red Wedge, a collective of musicians spearheaded by Paul Weller, Jimmy Somerville and Billy Bragg, the aim was to support the left leaning Labour Party of Neil Kinnock in their battle against Margaret Thatcher and her far right Conservative government.

Red Wedge was launched in November 1985, with Bragg, Weller, Strawberry Switchblade and Kirsty MacColl invited to a reception at the Palace of Westminster hosted by Labour MP Robin Cook.

Red Wedge was not officially part of the Labour Party, but it did initially have office space at Labour’s headquarters.

And it organised a number of major tours.

The first, in January and February 1986, featured Bragg, Weller’s band The Style Council, The Communards, Junior Giscombe, Lorna Gee and Jerry Dammers, and picked up guest appearances from Madness, The The, Heaven 17, Bananarama, Prefab Sprout, Elvis Costello, Gary Kemp, Tom Robinson, Sade, The Beat, Lloyd Cole, The Blow Monkeys, Joolz and The Smiths.

It was mind-blowing in its style and political swagger – particularly with under 25 electorate.

But after the 1987 election produced a third consecutive Conservative victory, many of the musical collective drifted away and Red Wedge was formally disbanded in 1990.

Billy Bragg remembers the days clearly: “I suppose the Wedge came about because we all kept meeting at benefit gigs for Nicaragua or whatever. Those were the darkest days of the Thatcherite 80s, as well. There was a feeling that something had to be done.”

Paul Weller added: “The MPs we’d meet around the country were more showbiz than the groups. It was an eye-opener; it brought me full circle in how I feel about politics. It’s a game. I’ve very little interest in it. I’m not talking about what’s happening to our planet or our country, but about organised politics.”

But the last few years have seen an upsurge in radicalism in both music and politics as the economic conditions for the poorest in particular reach crisis point.

Now the people are hand-in-hand with celebrities speaking their minds about Theresa May, the Conservative government, austerity, homelessness, the NHS and the greater Establishment.

Last December’s Concert for Corbyn was organised by music journalist Lois Wilson and the Brighton branch of Momentum; and it persuaded Paul Weller, to take part in his first direct support of a politician since the days of Red Wedge.

The Dome was sold-out and the organisers smartly utilised both the bar area and main auditorium for a ‘revue’ type affair.

Edgar Summertyme Jones and Kathyrn Williams played to an enthralled bar; and later Ghetto Priest and his band delivered one of the sets of the evening; a superb concoction of dub, grime, percussive African-fusion, and rock, that had the audience tapping away, many with big smiles on their faces.

With many bands to get through and short turnarounds, there was very little time to relax before the quirky three-piece all-girl band Stealing Sheep took to the stage in fetching polka dot onesies.

Guitars dominated concert hall proceedings, beginning with The Coral founder Bill Ryder-Jones, who claimed on stage that he personally got the call from JC to appear.

Paul Weller, ever the rebel, puffed on a cigarette beside the stage, ready to go on with a collection of musician friends, put together for this occasion, including an exceedingly rare live gig for the wheelchair-bound Robert Wyatt.

He, Weller and Steve Pilgrim alternated songs, based around keys, guitars, drums and the double bass of the legendary Danny Thompson.

A personal highlight was Steve Pilgrim dedicating his anthem Explode the Sun directly to Jeremy Corbyn.

Meanwhile, Wyatt, like Weller, opted for a series of lesser known songs, such as Mass Medium, which originally appeared on his 1985 Old Rottenhat album, a song that Wyatt introduced saying the whole press had turned into gutter press.

Jeremy Corbyn followed them on stage and delivered a short speech; a mix of his politics and the importance of music in general.

The final words were left for The Farm front man Peter Hooton who said if he had to plant a flag in a field, he would want Corbyn on his side.

Prior to playing the Dome gig in December 2016, Weller said: “When Red Wedge came to an end I said I would never get involved in party politics again.

“’I’m doing the gig because I like what Corbyn says and stands for. I think it’s time to take the power out of the hands of the elite and hand it back to the people of this country. I want to see a government that has some integrity and compassion.”

Billy Bragg is with Weller on this.

Last August (during Corbyn’s second successful leadership campaign) he accused the Murdoch owned Times of twisting his words in a report claiming he thought Jeremy Corbyn was unable to reach enough of the electorate to become an effective political force.

In response to the Times article Bragg said he had “joined the long list of people stitched up by the Murdoch papers”.

“Don’t believe the bullshit about me in the Times,” he said, “I’m still supporting Corbyn.”

He then urged his followers to “stay calm”, adding, “don’t let Murdoch sow discord”.

He later said: “I’m a socialist which means my glass is half full. I’m encouraged by the young people being mobilised.”

But while the support of veterans, Weller, Wyatt, Bragg and award-winning film producer Ken Loach may be taken for granted, it is the new celebrity supporters who have caught the eye.

Snooker superstar Ronnie O’Sullivan has been positively verbose on Twitter about his support for Corbyn.

Recent Tweets include:

“I love paying tax. As long as it goes to the right people who need it, like the NHS and education”

And taking a swipe at Donald Trump and the Tories he tweeted: “Everyone should boycott the USA and any other country. Also the bankers who stole the tax payers’ dosh for fiddling the books.”

Ronnie Blog

In an interview last month with the Daily Mirror, O’Sullivan said people should give Jeremy Corbyn a break.

“Jeremy Corbyn is a man of his word,” he added. “He is unwavering in his beliefs whether he is criticised for them or not. I’d like to be his friend.”

And step forth Harry Potter to lend some magical support for Corbyn.

Actor Daniel Radcliffe energetically praised the Labour leader saying it was “just so nice to have people excited about somebody.”

“It seems to be more or less because they are excited about sincerity,” he said. “I think we all suddenly realised that we are so used to politicians lying. Even when they are being sincere, it feels so scripted that it is hard to get behind them.”

Singer and activist Charlotte Church is a well-known Labour supporter and is also 100% behind Jeremy Corbyn.

She called Corbyn: “A cool-headed, honest, considerate man”.

In a post on her blog, she said: “He is one of the only politicians of note that seems to truly recognise the dire inequality that exists in this country today and actually have a problem with it. There is something inherently virtuous about him, and that is a quality that can rally the support of a lot of people, and most importantly, a lot of young people.”

Shia LaBeouf, the actor from the universally acclaimed Transformers films normally delivers lines such as: “Not so tough without a head, are you?”

But for Corbyn, LaBeuf speaks plainly: “I like Jeremy Corbyn. I like him in every way.”

Former Roxy Music keyboardist Brian Eno wrote a whole opinion piece in the Guardian on his support for Corbyn, saying the Labour leader has spent many years sticking to his principles.

“He’s been doing this with courage and integrity and with very little publicity,” Eno said.

“This already distinguishes him from at least half the people in Westminster, whose strongest motivation seems to have been to get elected, whatever it takes.”

Turner prize winning artist Grayson Perry he would back Jeremy Corbyn, as he was “doing something interesting for the political debate.”

“I think he’s gold,” he added.

Comedian Josie Long has shown her support for Corbyn from the start of his 2015 leadership campaign.

“I think people are voting for Jeremy Corbyn because they like and are excited by him,” she said.

“There is so much excitement and so many people are desperate to get involved in a positive way.”

Pop star Lily Allen, is also an ardent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and has worked hard to highlight the plight of the refugees.

She strongly supported Mr Corbyn’s campaign to remain Labour leader in 2016, stating: “He seems to be the only dignified person in Westminster.”

At a Corbyn rally in Manchester, former Corrie star Julie Hesmondhalgh said she’d left Labour after it “parted company with its principles”, but that recently she’d “started to smell something that smelled like hope”.

She spoke at the event, telling supporters: “Welcome to the vibrant, mass movement of giving a toss about stuff.”

And Maxine Peake, star of Channel 4 drama Shameless, and The Theory of Everything, wrote in The Morning Star, that Corbyn has put Labour “back on track”.

“He has inspired a movement of young and old to fight for education, health, welfare, peace and justice and we will quickly organise and mobilise ourselves in his support”.

But let’s leave the final words to three veteran celebrities

Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters has nailed his colours firmly to the Corbyn mast.

“I think it is fabulous that somebody has risen to the surface who could describe themselves as being heir to Aneurin Bevan or Tony Benn or Michael Foot or one of the genuine left wing Labour Party leaders,” he said in a BBC interview, before almost vomiting the word “Blair”!

Celebrated playwright Alan Bennett – the man behind The History Boys – said he “very much approves” of Corbyn.

“I approve of him. If only because it brings Labour back to what they ought to be thinking about,” he said.

And Star Trek’s captain Jean-Luc Picard (actor Patrick Stewart) believes Corbyn can “Make It So” for a Labour victory in the General Election.

“I think that Jeremy Corbyn has begun to find a voice that’s clearly authentic and passionate,” he states with conviction.

“I’m beginning to have a feeling that there’s a route for Labour that might be very exciting for the country. I carried a placard for the first election after the war in 1945, when Clement Attlee got in, and those principles remain my principles.”

Jeremy Corbyn: unfashionable and out-of-touch?

Think again!

  • Further Concerts for Corbyn were planned for Liverpool and Manchester this summer, but Theresa May’s ‘snap’ General Election has delayed those gigs, at least for the time being.

The face of innate racism

SAFFBLOG

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”

Elie Wiesel

THE subjugation of one human being by another is something which has eaten at me for as long as I can remember, and is the main reason why I am a socialist and a pacifist.

That abuse of power shows itself in so many ways in our ever expanding world and not least by the innate racism that exists in white Western society.

Here in the UK, UKIP and many Conservative politicians contrived to make the 2015 General Election and the Brexit referendum of last year revolve around the issue of immigration and fear of foreigners.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage, in particular, singled out Romanians, and immigrants from other former Warsaw Pact countries, as “scroungers” and “criminals” who are taking “British jobs from British people” and putting pressure on our NHS and housing supply.

And more recently, across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump has daily blamed Muslims and Mexicans for every conceivable problem in the world.

It is the sort of racist scapegoating we have witnessed time and again in this country since end of World War 2.

Racism is the belief that characteristics and abilities can be attributed to people simply on the basis of their race and that some racial groups are superior to others.

Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and during economic downturns.

You only need to look at the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s or the atrocities meted out today by Zionist Israel to Palestinians, to see the dire consequences if racism is left unchallenged.

But here I am not talking about the overt racism exhibited by Bibi Netanyahu, Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, or even the so-called ‘institutional racism’ within some of our national institutions, such as the police. But I am looking at a deeper racism which exists within almost all of us born white and British.

It exists due to 800 years of our collective history as a colonial and Christian power, hell-bent on exporting our values, religion and control on other nations.

And it exists because our collective media does nothing to challenge it.

In 2001, I was working as chief investigative reporter on The Chronicle – a daily tabloid newspaper in Newcastle upon Tyne. On 11 September, I returned from a routine job in the town to watch in horror – on the newsroom TV – the atrocities of 9/11 unfold in front of our eyes, some 3,000 miles away in New York and Virginia.

The next day, the newspaper’s senior management determined that all employees should stand and observe two minutes silence for the innocent victims of the terror attack.

I refused.

Not because I did not feel pain or sympathy for those victims, but because my company had never observed even one minute’s silence for the hundreds of thousands killed by Allied military action in Iraq in 1991, the one million murdered in Rwanda, or the thousands killed in Bosnia, just a few years earlier.

Instead I went to the newsroom toilet, sat in a cubicle and cried.

The newspaper’s reaction to 9/11 – and the wall to wall media coverage over the ensuing months – typified everything I had witnessed in my previous 16 years in journalism.

Now, 16 years later, nothing has changed.

If I take Bosnia, Iraq and Rwanda out of the equation, a few other examples may clarify what I mean:

  • Three French skiers are lost in an avalanche in the Alps. The next day there are lengthy reports in most UK national newspapers. Each of the victims is named and in-depth family stories are written.
  • A lone gunman goes berserk and kills children in a US high school. The next day it is front page news in almost every newspaper in the UK and Europe. In depth analysis of the gunman and tributes to each of the victims and their families ensues.
  • A mad man kills hostages in an Australian restaurant. It is front pages news in every newspaper in the UK, USA and Europe. Extensive coverage about the killer and each of his victims finds itself across western media.
  • An earthquake in Northern Pakistan kills thousands of inhabitants. Over the ensuing weeks there is barely a mention in any UK or western newspapers.
  • Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are murdered by US and UK bombing in Afghanistan and Syria. But there are few reports of these atrocities in UK and western newspapers.
  • Flooding in Bangladesh kills thousands of people. Over the following weeks there are just a few lines in UK broadsheet newspapers.
  • Almost weekly we read of reports about African and Syrian refugees drowning the Mediterranean. There is often news about how the accidents happen and who is to “blame”, but no attempt by any British newspaper to name the migrants or find out a little about who they were and the grieving families they leave behind.

You don’t need a microscope to see the differences in the reaction and news reporting. It has nothing to do with distance from our shores. It is all to do with white western values.

So our news media – even enlightened newspapers like The Guardian – value the life and story of an English speaking suited, white, Western person quite differently to that of an African black or Urdu speaking Asian person.

We give ‘ours’ names, identities and lives, but the ‘others’ just nationality, religion and race. It is so much easier to avoid reporting the lives and deaths of these people if we don’t identify them as human beings the same as us.

This innate racism runs deep and has been entrenched more deeply with the Islamophobia which has perpetuated within Western society since 2001.

The white mass murderer, Norwegian, Anders Brevik is reported simply as a ‘madman killer’ – despite the fact he was a zealot Christian with a white supremacist agenda.

In contrast any killing carried out by a person of even dubious Muslim faith is reported as the act of an Islamist Extremist!

Sorry for the pun, but it is clear black and white racism.

But we have 800 years to overcome.

Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Portugal have been colonialists since the so-called Holy Crusades to Jerusalem in the 13th century, the colonial exploitation of the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries, to the dissection of Africa, South America and Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Our imperialist ancestors conquered peaceful countries, imposed western values and Christianity upon them, murdered millions and took millions more into slavery.

And over the past 100 years we have been joined by our ‘allies’ the USA, which since the end of World War 2 has bombed: China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Belgian Congo 1964, Guatemala 1964, Dominican Republic 1965-66, Peru 1965, Laos 1964-73, Vietnam 1961-73, Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Lebanon 1982-84, Grenada 1983-84, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1981-92, Nicaragua 1981-90, Iran 1987-88, Libya 1989, Panama 1989-90, Iraq 1991, Kuwait 1991, Somalia 1992-94, Bosnia 1995, Iran 1998, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia – Serbia 1999, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003, Libya 2011 and Syria 2014-2017.

Our nations have sown war and hatred all over the world – now there is a heavy harvest.

As a white English father I despair for the future for my children and the children of Palestine, Africa, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen and anywhere that is deemed by a Western government to be a target.

At the core of any working definition of racism is the unspoken ingredient of fear.

People around the world all belong to the same human race; they share the same tendencies to fear, domination, and subjugation.

We need to let everyone know, we are the same, no matter what language we speak, whatever the colour of our skin or the religion we follow.

Maybe, I am lucky.

I live in Wolverhampton in the English West Midlands. It is a city which basks in multi-culturism. It was the bed of much Afro Caribbean immigration in the 1950s. This was followed by immigration from Pakistan and India in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now decades later, those with black, brown and coffee-coloured skin mix, work, play and even marry those with white skin.

Currently there are 22,000 Sikhs, 11,000 Muslims and 7,000 Hindis in Wolverhampton. But there is no racial or religious tension.

Within a mile of my house there is a Hindi temple, a Buddhist temple, two Sikh temples, a central Mosque and at least nine Christian churches of various denominations.

Most of those with Asian or African ancestry are now third or even fourth generation immigrants and speak English as their first language, often with a thick Wolves’ accent, that Noddy Holder would recognise as his own.

But, I am not pretending it has always been like this.

I live in the parliamentary constituency which was once the seat of overt Conservative racist MP Enoch Powell (1950-74), and there has been a later history of National Front and BNP activity in the area.

But most of their racial fear, or as Powell put it: “the rivers of blood” of immigration, has now passed.

Now most inhabitants of our city realise that under the skin and religion, we are all the same… we are all human beings struggling to make a living and make sense of our lives.

Then suddenly last week something quite wonderful happened… one young woman brought all these struggles into the light.

Her name is Saffiyah Khan and in the past 10 days a photograph of her smiling bemusedly at an incensed English Defence League (EDL) protester Ian Crossland has been seen by millions of people across the globe.

Her smile has become everyone’s totem of defiance in the face of racism and the far right.

Hands in pockets, Saffiyah, intervened during an EDL rally in her home city of Birmingham after members of the fascist group threatened Muslim woman Saira Zafar, who was wearing a hijab.

The two had never met before, but Ms Khan said that when she saw that Ms Zafar was surrounded by people and looked intimidated, she felt she had to step in.

Ms Zafar explained: “They were saying, ‘You’re not English,’ ‘This is a Christian country, not your country,’ and ‘Go back to where you came from.’ I was alarmed and worried for my safety.”

“I was born and bred in this country so for these people to be saying these things was very wrong.

“There was someone behind me putting an Islamophobic placard above my head and resting it on my head and another person was shoving an EDL flag in my face.”

Facing violence with a smile, Saffiyah said she was ‘not scared in the slightest’ as she faced down Ian Crossland.

“There’s no excuse to be doing nothing,” she said later.

“Even if it just means calling the police and saying I just witnessed this. Even if there’s no violence … just reporting it to the police means it comes up on their stats and they can look at it all and start working on ways to combat it.”

And to add greater hope to this one woman beacon of hope, even our right wing press – such as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph were embarrassed into calling her a hero.

Maybe, just maybe, the ugly face of innate British racism is beginning to unravel.

So thank you Saffiyah… and watch this space.