Tag Archives: Tories

No Apologies, but This Latest Leeds Utd Failure Might Be MY Fault – by Rob Atkinson

MayBoJo

Get the Tories OUT

A quarter of a century ago, a general election loomed as Leeds United‘s league campaign headed towards an exciting, nail-biting climax. The exact same set of circumstances applies today and, now as then, United’s fate will be sealed a week early.

Although the situation today is identical, the outcome for Leeds at least is the polar opposite. Back in 1992, I told myself long before the end of the football season that I’d take a Tory election victory (it didn’t look likely at the time), if Leeds could only hold out and pip the scum to the last League Championship Title, frustrating the rest of football and the assembled media into the bargain. Some might say it was a bargain I made myself, with the devil himself. In truth, my joy at seeing Leeds become champions was only slightly tempered by John Major’s beating of the useless Neil Kinnock – but I was quite young and my priorities were perhaps not what they should have been.

I must admit, I had the same chat with myself just a couple of weeks back, when Theresa May showed exactly how trustworthy she is by calling a snap election – after having repeatedly sworn that she wouldn’t call a snap election. And now, the stakes are higher, for everybody, because now we have a government that is not only set on out-Thatchering Thatcher, it’s also committed to an austerity programme that hits only the poor and vulnerable, and has demonstrably failed to tackle the national debt (which has actually doubled since 2010). And it seems likely also that this incompetent and evil government was elected fraudulently in the first place. 

So the bargain I struck with myself when I heard there’d be an election after all, on June 8th, was a different one to that I agreed with whatever higher power in 1992. Now, my priorities are shaped by the bitter experience of what devastating damage can be wreaked by a Party without any conscience or compassion, driven by greed and an ideological hatred of socialist institutions like the welfare state and NHS. Nothing is so important as to matter more than getting rid of this shower, if at all possible, and despite the apparently gloomy (Tory-commissioned) opinion polls. I had no hesitation in telling my inner United fanatic that I would happily see Leeds condemned to at least another season of second tier football, if we could only have the truly socialist government that this country so desperately needs.

Whereas I unconsciously traded an unlikely John Major election success for The Last Champions triumph in ’92, now I’m begging for providence, fate, call it what you will, to allow a good and decent man in Jeremy Corbyn to replace May’s Ministry of fools, charlatans and liars as the ruling force in this country. Football is nothing beside that, and I’ll be happy to see Leeds United bottle it to fulfill my side of the bargain – just as long as the right result comes about on June the 8th.

I don’t know how superstitious you all are out there, though I’m uncomfortably aware that a sizeable proportion of Leeds fans are far and away to the right of me – so this confession is hardly likely to prove popular. I’m willing to engage in reasoned debate but, as ever, I’ll bin the mindless abuse. Still, on this occasion, unlike many of the times I’ve taken a stand on football matters, I’m stone cold certain that I’m correct.

Hopefully, Leeds United bottling this season’s chance at promotion will reap a reward in the shape of a brighter future for the whole country under Corbyn. If not, I have only the fates to blame – unless I choose to rail at people for being daft and crass enough to vote for a party hell-bent on destroying the NHS and killing thousands more hapless sick and disabled people through neglect and starvation. You see what I mean about high stakes.

I love Leeds United; I have done for well over forty years. But I will gladly see them fail if there’s anything in this mirror-image outcome as compared with 1992. It’s that important. For Leeds, there will be other years. For so many whose very existence is threatened by a continuation of this evil government, there can be no such guarantees – unless the polls are wrong, as they were a quarter of a century ago.

Leeds have done their bit, by failing, in their own inimitable style – despite a second-half rally against Norwich. As ever, it was too little, too late. Great, I didn’t really see them succeeding under Massimo Cellino – another liar and fraud – anyway. Now, all we need to square the circle, paying back the debt of conscience I owe from 1992, is a Labour victory in a few weeks time. I hope the more enlightened among you will join me in hoping for that, and in accepting it’s far more important than any dicey and probably heart-breaking football play-off place. Fight for what’s right and vote Labour. And let’s all have a fresh start from now onward.

Let June be the end of May.

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Labour Party Putsch: The Traitors’ Dilemma – by Rob Atkinson

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Jeremy Corbyn – serenely immovable

This article was previously published in the Huffington Post

The die is cast, the ringleaders are known, their motives are nakedly obvious for all to see. The Parliamentary Labour Party coup, conceived months ago to be hatched when the timing was right, has not gone well so far. Firstly, several previous anticipated opportunities have failed to materialise. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour was fancied to lose the Oldham by-election, but it held the seat and the plotters, poised quivering and eager to pounce, had to slink frustrated back into the undergrowth.

Then, the Local Council elections. Again, there looked to be an opportunity, with the ever-obliging BBC prematurely reporting a night of disaster for Corbyn’s troops, only to be embarrassed as things turned out annoyingly well, with Labour emerging as the largest party. The EU Referendum was Last Chance Saloon – the final opportunity before the publication of the Chilcot Report, with all of its possible nasty ramifications for the Blairites of the PLP.

So, the script was written before the results were known, in line with furtive early preparations elsewhere pre-dating overt action. But yet again, the figures have not stacked up as desired. In the face of a brutal and mendacious Leave campaign, Corbyn’s Labour members voted almost two to one to remain – a highly respectable figure given the fertile territory the likes of UKIP and Farage have found among the disaffected and marginalised poor. Labour’s remain vote was only a percentage point or two short of that of the SNP – and nobody’s calling Nicola Sturgeon a referendum failure.

All of the pretexts upon which the anti-Corbyn movement hoped to base their rebellion have turned out to be duds. Despite their own professed agenda and the complaisant backing of the media, their motives are paper-thin and full of holes. But there’s that pesky Chilcot thing in the offing, and it’s imperative to get rid of Corbyn before he can use a damning report to start inflicting some long overdue justice. So, for the traitors, it’s realistically now or never.

But there’s another problem. The leadership challenge as such is probably not such a good idea. The incumbent leader would be on the ballot paper as of right, and looks set fair to trounce any and all opposition, possibly by a wider margin than even last September’s historic landslide. If Corbyn could be persuaded to stand down, that’d be a different matter. He’d then need to secure enough PLP backing to be nominated for a leadership election – which would of course be relatively unlikely, as demonstrated by the constitutionally impotent no-confidence motion. So a Corbyn resignation is decidedly the way to go. But Jeremy steadfastly refuses to budge, citing the enormous mandate he was given only nine months ago.

Hence the current impasse. The unedifying spectacle now playing out is a bitterly ironic one of deeply dishonourable men and women calling upon a decent man – that rarity in politics – to “do the honourable thing”, and resign. They seem eager to give him extra increments of time, hoping against hope he’ll “see sense”. The right-wing press throng the touchlines, oafishly cheering on these turncoats. But Corbyn knows that resignation would not be the honourable course. It would be highly convenient, for the would-be usurpers, but honourable? No way. So he carries serenely on, under immense strain, while his detractors seethe helplessly.

This is the classic Traitors’ Dilemma – act recklessly, or perform a humiliating retreat?. What are they to do now, if this inconveniently honourable and determined man refuses to fall on his sword? Skulk away again, with Chilcot waiting to explode in their faces? Hardly. Launch a challenge anyway then, and damn the consequences? Well, to be the means by which Corbyn increases his already massive authority in the Labour Party as a whole – that’s hardly the sort of history your average Blairite wants to be making.

Angela Eagle, who has shed tears of pure crocodile in the past few days, together with the rest of the opportunists thirsting for the kill, all of them are faced with the Devil’s Alternative. Whichever way they decide to act, they’re likely to plummet into an abyss of obscurity and ridicule. It really is a very problematic situation. But it’s one, let us not forget, entirely of their own making.

Top Ten Most Embarrassing “Celebrity” Spurs Fans – by Rob Atkinson

An Embarrassment of Spuds

An Embarrassment of Spuds

With undeniably cool fans such as Newsnight’s Grand Inquisitor Jeremy Paxman and Ralph Ineson (Finchy in “The Office“) behind the mighty Leeds United, it can fairly be said that we don’t suffer from an “embarrassing celebrity fans” problem. But, as I wrote just the other day, Man U certainly do – and on the evidence below, so do those other mid-table EPL also-rans, Tottenham Hotspur.

Celebrity fanship is a real phenomenon nowadays – much more so than back in the Eighties when being a football supporter was apt to have you marked down as a dangerous psychotic, fit only for a back-to-front jacket and the padded cell. But football is just so respectable these days – the social cachet is such that no decently self-promoting celeb can afford to be without his or her “lifelong love affair” with (insert name of club here). And whoever that club may be will come to be linked in the public mind with the celeb in question – so it’s a choice not to be taken lightly, and there’s some pressure to get it right first time or lay yourself open to charges of opportunism and infidelity – as with Zoe Ball who was a Liverpool fan but brazenly jumped ship to “support” Man U. Here are ten ‘celeb’ Spurs fans who, after another under-achieving season, might now wish they’d chosen more wisely.  Swift change to Arsenal, anybody…?

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10. Warren Mitchell

Warren MitchellMitchell isn’t all that intrinsically embarrassing as he’s a pretty good actor both on screen and in the theatre, so he only just sneaks onto this list in the least-cringeworthy tenth position.  The point is, of course, that he is most famous by far for his portrayal of a West Ham fan as Johnny Speight’s brilliant satirical creation Alf Garnett.  Many of his legion of fans – or Alf’s legion of fans – think he’s a genuine loud-mouthed, bigoted, ignorant ‘Ammer. And all the time, he’s actually a loud-mouthed, bigoted, ignorant Spurs fan! Not that there’s any other kind of Spurs fan, of course – as we shall go on to see…but still.  How ironic is that?

9. Michael Fish MBE

Michael-FishMichael’s claim to fame is embodied in the letters following his name – which do not, as might be supposed, denote some anachronistic patrician honour. They actually stand for “Major Bloody Error”, and refer to the most outstanding meteorological cock-up of our times.

On 15 October 1987, Michael was quietly going about his business, guessing whether dark clouds might mean rain, when he mentioned that a woman had called in to the BBC, saying she’d heard a hurricane was on its way.  “… well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!”, smiled Fishy, reassuringly.

A few short hours later, the hurricane that Michael had failed to see coming hit South East England with a ferocity unparalleled in three centuries. Most embarrassing, of course, for Michael Fish – in fact he hadn’t been quite as embarrassed from that day till the times when “Hurricane Manchester City” and “Hurricane Arsenal” hit his favourite team Spurs and blew them away completely.

In later years, Fish fishily tried to excuse himself by claiming he’d been referring to a hurricane in Florida. Hmmm. It’s a shame Spurs couldn’t come up with so creative an excuse after that famous 0-6 debacle at the Etihad really – isn’t it?

8. Peter Purves

PurvesThese names are starting to get a bit cringier now, as we move away from the more mildly embarrassing end of the list. Peter Purves was of course one of the famous “Val, John & Pete” trio, still remembered by those of my generation as the quintessential, definitive Blue Peter team.  Sadly, Peter was best known for being neither John nor Val, inhabiting a sort of vague hinterland of anonymity as the other two made their names with sticky-back plastic or sky-diving. Poor Peter Purves was the least popular of the three by a distance, and indeed it is claimed that even Petra and Patch, the Blue Peter dogs, and Freda, the programme’s tortoise, got more fan-mail than he did. Purves is also reasonably well-known as an early Dr. Who sidekick, as well as for having a surname that sounds comically like “pervs”.

Speaking of which, in 2008, co-presenter on Blue Peter Val Singleton revealed that she’d had “a brief fling” with ‘Pervs’. Blue Peter indeed.  I’ll let you insert (fnarr) your own “Val’s knickers” jokes here.

7. Egil Olsen

Egil OlsenEgil Olsen is a man about whom quirky and diverse facts abound. He famously wears wellies to work, and was once sacked, partly for his scruffy appearance.  He is a fanatical adherent of zonal marking, and was seen after one match, head in hands, deeply despairing that his beloved system had been so ineffective – with atrocious marking leading to two out of three goals conceded by Wimbledon at Bradford.

He was sacked on another occasion, this time by mail, for being “too nice” – by the Iraqi national team, forsooth.  He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of geographical trivia, his nickname as a player was “Drillo”, and he was a player once and manager four times for a team called Frigg.  But most bizarrely of all, Egil is a Spurs fan.  Now explain THAT, if you possibly can.

6. Sid “RickAAAAAYYY” Owen

sid owenIt’s confusing about Sid. Some sources have him as a Spurs fan, others – like the ever-reliable Wikipedia, for instance – claim that he’s actually much more enlightened than that, following Arsenal.

I prefer to go with a gut feeling, and base my verdict on the verifiable facts. He’s a bit of a one-hit wonder as an actor, serving a long stint on “Eastenders” as “RickAAAAYYYY”, his character being mostly engaged in slinking away round corners as a foghorn-voiced ginger actress bellowed his name repeatedly. Such is the stuff of stardom, but Sid gave it all up in 2012 after 24 years, citing heavily traumatised eardrums. It is rumoured that Eastenders writers are still trying to come up with another line that Patsy Palmer can say convincingly.

All may not be lost for Patsy though, as RickAAAAYYYY may well be back – Eastenders seeming to be his refuge of choice after failed ventures, such as Strictly Come Dancing, elsewhere.  Looking judiciously at this record of poor decisions and embarrassing situations, the answer to Sid’s football-supporting conundrum appears fairly obvious: Spurs. As Jimmy Nail once said of suspected Tottenham fan Wayne on “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” – you can just tell.

5. Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton

BuntonEmma, the product of an unlikely union between a karate instructor and a milkman, has had a chequered life and career. She was making a reasonable impression as a wannabe actress, but showed signs of the direction she wanted to take when she turned down the role of a habitual drug-user, saying that she wanted to maintain a wholesome image – presumably she felt that the drug role on top of supporting Spurs would be just too much.

Emma then joined a pop group named Touch, becoming one of five girls united by a common determination not to let a total lack of singing ability prevent them from ending up as stars.  A swift name-change to The Spice Girls, and they were on their way.  Bunton was dubbed “Baby Spice” due to her pigtails, her babydoll dresses and her “girly girl” image.

As someone who has made a little talent, some freckles and a great deal of window-dressing go a mighty long way, Bunton may be seen as possibly the most outstanding example of the archetypal Spurs fan – but she’s a fair old way from being the most embarrassing out there.  Read on…

4. Rupert Grint

Rupert-Grint-139019As an outstanding success in the Harry Potter franchise, playing schoolboy wizard Ron Weasley in all of the films, Grint’s embarrassment coefficient really depends mainly upon his being ginger, and of course a Spurs fan – a lethally-shameful combination. Grint had landed the role of Ron Weasley at the age of 11 by sending in a video of himself, rapping about his reasons for wanting the part. Despite his previous experience amounting only to local theatre groups and school plays, the casting team asked to see him – and the rest is history.

As with the other two of the three main characters, Grint grew up with his role, and became closely identified with Ron Weasley. Rarely can an accident of hair colour – though the ginger gene is extremely dominant – have led to such a successful and unheralded career.

Rumours abound, and what is known as “fan fiction” too, about Ron’s supposed romantic entanglement with the disconcertingly cute Hermione Granger.  All of this would not normally cause too much interest in the world outside Hogwarts – but in the context of Spurs’ pallid performances since they sold their only half-decent player, it’s positively riveting.  And, let’s face it – we had to have at least one ginger in an embarrassing celebs article.

3. Bruce Forsyth

brucieWe’re getting to the really queasy end of the list now. It’s time to contemplate Brucie, so clamp your jaws tight to stave off the inevitable nausea – and have a sick-bag handy, just in case.

The stance of this article could be summed up in Orwellian style, thus: “Arsenal fan good, Spurs fan bad”.  But Bruce has gone way beyond the pale, claiming to be a fan of both clubs.  This heinous position is comparable to that of a solider who claims to support both Confederate and Unionist sides, or someone who claims to be – and I shudder to even write these words – both Leeds United and Man U.  Grooogh. It’s THAT bad.

Apparently, Brucie – known as “Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom” at the start of his 75-year (and counting) showbiz career – originally supported Arsenal, but when the Gunners’ ground was requisitioned in World War II for air-defence searchlights, their home games were played at Spurs’ White Hart Lane – and this apparently led the then youngish Forsyth to support both teams – the act, we may agree, of an unnatural freak.

In a lifetime’s career as an old-style vaudeville entertainer, Brucie has never been anything other than in demand, proving that, for the type of people who like Bruce, Bruce is just the kind of performer they like. Latterly, his act has been mainly about catch-phrases, speculation around the health of his various toupees, and the increasing prominence of his chin. He will still eagerly essay the odd dance step here and there, even at the age of 106 – before tottering off to his bath chair with his latest blonde nymphet.

Bruce may claim to live on both sides of the Arsenal Spurs divide – but with a CV like his – he’s just GOT to be Tottenham.

2. Richard Littlejohn

LittlejohnWhat we have here is a real-life Alf Garnett, and not the cosy, satirical creation designed to heap ridicule upon an ignorant, racist bigot – but the genuine article; a man whose views are so disgusting that it is a national disgrace he has a platform of any sort to expound them.

Should anyone doubt the depth of Littlejohn’s prejudice and hate, there’s a clue in the fact that he writes a twice-weekly column for the Daily Heila publication that depends heavily for material upon the British Government’s many hate crusades, which they then faithfully preach as fact to their readership of nasty little suburban fascisti.  He previously contributed similar garbage to the Sun.

A count of the number of references Littlejohn makes to homosexuality in his columns has been recorded, in the Guardian‘s annual “Littlejohn Audit”. This stated: “In the past year’s Sun columns, Richard has referred 42 times to gays, 16 times to lesbians, 15 to homosexuals, eight to bisexuals, twice to ‘homophobia’ and six to being “homophobic” (note his scornful inverted commas), five times to cottaging, four to “gay sex in public toilets”, three to poofs, twice to lesbianism, and once each to buggery, dykery, and poovery. This amounts to 104 references in 90-odd columns – an impressive increase on his 2003 total of 82 mentions. There is, alas, no space for us to revisit the scientific study which found obsessive homophobes more responsive to gay porn. But Richard, we’re begging you: talk to someone.”

Littlejohn was forced to adopt a temporarily lower profile when, in December 2012, he wrote an article criticising teacher Nathan Upton for returning to the same school – after announcing gender reassignment surgery to become Lucy Meadows – instead of going for a different post somewhere else.  In March 2013, Lucy Meadows was found dead, apparently a case of suicide.  A subsequent inquest found press coverage of her sex change to have been “ill-informed bigotry” and that Richard Littlejohn (a nom de plume intended to deflect attention from his embarrassing real-life name of John Littledick) had “…carried out what can only be described as a character assassination, having sought to ridicule and humiliate Lucy Meadows and bring into question her right to pursue her career as a teacher”.  Petitions calling for Littlejohn to be sacked gained 240,000 signatures.

Richard Littlejohn: hack writer, bigot, homophobic bully, racist, pedlar of hatred and, last and least, Spurs fan.  Not a pleasant creature, is he?

1. Iain Duncan-Smith

IDSAnd now we have one of the very few candidates for a person who plumbs even greater depths of depravity and loathsomeness than Littlejohn. Iain Duncan-Smith is the discredited Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in Cameron’s government. He is also a failed former Tory leader.

In his current role he, too, has blood on his hands, with his hated and widely-criticised “Bedroom Tax” driving many to the brink of despair – and at least one person allegedly to suicide. IDS is not a man to take disagreement or contradiction at all well. He tends to dismiss criticism of his policies with an airy “I feel I am right”, despite anecdotal evidence mounting up in support of the contrary view. If pressed on any point where he feels some difficulty in defending his position, he tends to resort to snapping curtly at the questioner, having a tantrum and stomping off. He has, however, been caught bang to rights in misrepresenting official statistics with a view to supporting his claims that the policies he has pursued have been effective. In this, he has been shown to be, at best, incompetent and deluded; at worst, a barefaced liar without any scruples at all.

Famously, when Duncan-Smith was asked if he would be able to live on state benefits of £53 a week, he responded “If I had to, I could”. Immediately, a petition was launched by Dom Aversano, a musician, challenging IDS to do just that. After the petition went viral and collected thousands of signatures, IDS beat an undignified retreat, calling the petition a “stunt” and insisting he had nothing to prove, having subsisted on benefits earlier in his life. It later transpired that, in at least one of the periods when IDS claimed he was living on the breadline, he was knocking off an heiress and living rent-free in her flat. Mr Aversano’s petition eventually closed with 482,756 signatures, which is certainly quite a well-supported “stunt”.

Iain Duncan-Smith is a testy former Tory leader, who appears to relish the misery he is currently inflicting on thousands of people who can neither hit back, nor defend themselves. He is a bully, a cheat, pathologically fanatical about punishing the poor and succouring the rich, and a proven liar. He is also a Spurs fan – which, contrary to my usual views, might just be the nicest thing about him. Since the overdue demise of Thatcher, (the Iron Chicken or ‘Attila the Hen’) IDS has risen to the very top of many people’s “Party at my place when so-and-so carks it” list. Needless to say, he’s top of mine. Speed that glorious day.

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Tottenham-Hotspur-logoEvery truly big club has its share of celebrity fans.  And, as you’ve seen above, so has Spurs. But some are just embarrassing and – as the more reprehensible end of this list has shown – some are truly appalling. I’ve had the odd go at Spurs in the past, largely because – even though I’m Leeds through and through – I have a great regard and respect for Arsenal. But writing this article has given me a surprising feeling of sympathy for Tottenham.  Any club with Richard Littlejohn AND Iain Duncan-Smith among its aficionados merits our empathy, our understanding, even our pity. No-one deserves to be tarred with that brush – not even Tottenham Hotspur.

An Honest Tory Election Poster

Satire – a form of humour that only really works when there’s some truth behind it.

This really works.

Same Difference

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We need to talk about Ivan

There’s a growing discomfort over Camoron’s continual references to his late son; a feeling that the motivation is political, a mawkish attempt to shame opponents out of criticising his unelected government’s NHS and Disability Rights policies; “How dare you suggest I’d harm the NHS or Disability Benefits, I had a disabled child etc etc”. Here is that discomfort, brilliantly articulated by Alex on Sturdyblog. It’s painful reading, but I think he’s spot on with this.

I hope as many as possible actually do read it. If this man really is unscrupulous enough to use his dead child in an attempt to immunise himself from criticism in areas where he’s presiding over a great deal of harm and the infliction of massive hardship and misery – then it needs to be brought into the open. Just so that we know what kind of man the arrogant Etonian boy and Oxford Bullingdon Club member became. Because this is evil on a scale even Thatcher didn’t achieve.

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I beg your indulgence. Resist the urge to take the understandable, but impetuous, position that a dead child should not be the subject of conversation in any context. Hear me out.

Ivan Reginald Ian was born in April 2002. He was diagnosed with Ohtahara Syndrome – a rare and debilitating combination of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. After an all-too-brief life of six years, Ivan died at St Mary’s in Paddington in 2009. Ivan was six. He was also the son of the soon-to-be Prime Minister, David Cameron.

I remember vividly the first time I felt an uncomfortable knot in my stomach about Ivan. I was thumbing through a copy of the Guardian and came across an article in which Cameron explained how his experience with Ivan had given him a passion and love for the NHS and the professionals within it. It was accompanied by this picture:

And then, a…

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We’re a wealthy country… money’s no object…

Identifying a paradox? Homing in on Tory hypocrisy, more like…

Jane Young

Flooding I’m supposed to be writing an important human rights report, but the political messages around today have tempted me to blog – for the first time since the turn of the year, when my anger about poverty spilled into a much less measured blog than usual. My anger has now got the better of me again…

First of all I must say, very clearly, that flooding is terrible for those affected and my heart goes out to all those who have experienced the horror of dirty, sewage-contaminated water flowing through their homes. This blog is not directed against flood victims, but is a comment on the political message and reality behind the Prime Minister’s promises.

The floods have reached the home counties. Beautiful homes next to the River Thames are awash. This is archetypal middle England. Confirmed Tory voters are now being affected by the floods which have ravaged the…

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The Tory Approach to ‘Stock Management’ in Animal Farm UK

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The three Great Offices of State as represented by the current incumbents

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm“, written as an anti-communist allegory in 1943-44 at a time when, due in part to wartime alliances, Joseph Stalin was well-regarded in the UK, remains a classic of its kind. The allegory is a versatile literary device, and in the skillful hands of Orwell it painted a bleak picture of the events in Russia leading up to the Revolution of 1917 and those developments afterwards which brought about the Stalin era. Clearly, Orwell’s target had to be one easily identifiable through the clear vision of hindsight; he had in mind what had already come to pass and was making no predictions as to any future dystopia. But history has a way of reviving familiar themes and it is hard to look at the events that have been unfolding in the UK since the ConDem alliance of 2010 seized power sans mandate – and not to credit Mr Orwell with an uncanny prescience as his work assumes a new and chilling significance.

This coalition government assumed a power it was not elected to on the back of a welter of slogans and promises; those slogans have become sick jokes, perverted out of their original bright and shiny aspect, retailed now in the bitter coin of irony and disillusion. The promises, meanwhile, lay shattered into myriad fragments, reduced to dust to be blown away by the chill wind of austerity – while the original text of vows that became lies are being erased from political web servers, lest they be waved in righteous indignation at the lumpen Untermensch and thus perhaps foment rebellion.

The 21st Century reality of Tory-fabricated propaganda in ConDem Britain is, if anything, even sneakier than the crude tactics of Squealer, the mouthpiece pig of the allegorical Animal Farm. Where Squealer teetered on a ladder with a bucket of whitewash, the better to change the sense of the First Commandment “All animals are equal” by the addition of “…but some animals are more equal than others”, the Tory revisionism is unspoken, the whitewash job more subliminal. So, the internet records are abruptly wiped and old slogans or promises such as “We’re all in it together” are simply dropped quietly, used now only as satirical barbs by those who would counter the Big Lie. And meanwhile, the MP’s get an 11% rise while belts are being tightened among the hoi polloi, the bankers get their munificent bonuses while theplebs face the “heat or eat” dilemma and present themselves at food banks – because what were previously recognised as bare subsistence-level benefits have now been heavily cut from every direction – so harsh choices must be made courtesy of the Orwellian Pigs who banquet in the farmhouse, aloof and uncaring.

Some of the repugnant individual characters in the book hardly do justice to their modern-day counterparts. At least in Orwell’s work, the pigs – on a literal level – really are pigs. The farm stock, literally, are stock – cattle, sheep, horses; the unthinking, uncomprehending functionaries exploited all these years by humans and now hoping in their trusting way for a brighter future under an administration of their alleged peers. “All animals are equal”. But, lo and behold, in modern-day Britain, real life imitates the literal level of art. The Secretary of State for Work & Pensions no longer needs to bother referring to those under his benevolent care as human beings. To Iain Duncan-Smith, they are “stock“, we hear. So our deepest fears are realised: the ruling pigs really do regard us as dumb animals to be exploited for economic success and neglected to mitigate cost – the money saved to be devoted to improving the already lavish lot of the said pigs.

“These people”, trumpets IDS in response to murmurs of mild protest, “are referred to as “stock”. So, he’s emphatic about that, he can’t see that there’s any problem with it. It’s so hard to listen to for anyone who still retains any vestigial dream of a more equal society. People in caring professions are trained not to use terms like “these people”, because it sounds so pejorative, so demeaning – as if the human beings thus discussed are in a box labelled “Problem” or “Undesirable Element”. It’s almost too horrible for words, a litmus indicator of the contempt in which this privileged man, this latter day ruling pig, holds the millions of needy and vulnerable fellow human beings currently at the mercy of his incompetent tenure in office.

The “stock” is not to be trusted. They must be kept penned up and fed on rations, lest they gorge themselves and exhaust the farm’s resources. Any gorging to be done shall be done by the ruling pigs, because some animals are more equal than others. The stock cannot be trusted to have a work ethic, and so quotas are set (we call it Workfare) and sanctions are applied to those who are unable, for whatever reason, to make their contribution. These sanctions do not apply to the pigs, because the pigs are the sort of chaps who can be trusted to work given sufficient fiscal encouragement – so it’s all about incentives there. A bushel of apples in Orwell’s book – a seven figure bonus in 21st Century Britain – if, of course, you’re “one of us”. Incentives for the few – sanctions for the masses. Carrots and sticks – the Tory pigs find it easier to rule with the latter than the former. Easier – and cheaper too.

In Orwell’s book, when through sickness or age productive work is no longer possible, the consequences depend on whether you’re stock or stockman. Faithful servant Boxer, the once-mighty workhorse, is therefore taken away when finally exhausted, to be slaughtered and boiled down for glue, amid fanciful lies about a hospital bed and a peaceful end. The ruling pigs retire to the farmhouse, don the trappings of humanity and live the high life. As a parallel, in 21st Century Britain, thousands who have been found fit for work – when they clearly are not – have either died of their condition or have committed suicide. They have become “economically neutral” in official jargon; this government don’t like to talk about people dying as a result of their policies, so have rather conveniently stopped providing statistics relating to such matters as well as making it much more difficult to uncover such statistics. But Mark Byford, on the other hand, the former Deputy Director of the BBC, was paid an eye-watering £1 million over and above his contractual entitlement because – in Orwellian terms – he’s a pig. Certainly not “stock”, anyway. The ruling animals look after their own. Some animals are, after all, more equal than others.

It’s difficult to say what the future may hold – and it may well be that we’re faced with a sort of Devil’s Alternative, looking for the least bad option the next time we go to the polls – if, that is, such quaint and old-fashioned ideas as elections aren’t done away with in the next batch of nasty little surprises the ruling pigs have for us. I am speaking allegorically, of course. But to say we’re at a crossroads is to show a huge talent for wild understatement. At the moment, official figures are being manipulated to show what the government wants us to see – if they want us to believe that the threat of sanctions, or the effects of Workfare are helping people into jobs, then that’s what those figures will say – with an utter disregard for the truth and the casual brushing-aside of any peeps of protest from those who are aware of the truth. The mainstream media, also, can be relied upon to perpetuate the Big Lie, in all of its loathsome forms – and sadly, people appear happy to swallow this bilge as long as they themselves are not directly affected by the more swingeing examples of government policy. To the despair of those who wish to see transparency in government, and the interests of all strata of society advising policy – the opposite is happening, and that trend remains on the up and up.

What seems certain is that now is no time to be thinking of a new way, or some ballot-box chicanery based on the provision of a “none of the above” option. Nothing would be better calculated to succour our current rulers than such idealistic measures; instead, what is now needed is emergency pragmatism in the quest for that “least bad option” towards the desirable end of ushering out this unscrupulous and incompetent regime. So much damage has been done already, unwittingly forecast in uncanny detail by George Orwell in the mid-forties – and in such a relatively short time – that it’s too horrible to contemplate what might happen post 2015 if Napoleon, Squealer and Co actually manage to get elected next time around. More Workfare, more poverty for those at the bottom, more ostentatiously obscene wealth for those at the top – that could be the least of it.

And ultimately, there will be many thousands more poor, sick, disabled or simply old who will die for want of fair government for all. Perhaps they will reflect as their lights go out, on the essential truth of an old Latin tag: “Qui mori didicit, servire dedidicit” (Who has learned how to die has learned how not to be a slave). For many, that might quite literally be the only way out.

Grim Christmas ahead for fifth of people who can’t buy food

The Tories are determined to get back to the Good Old Days, when Christmas conformed to that traditional picture that’s on Christmas cards everywhere – leaded windows throwing candlelight out onto a snowy street as rosy-cheeked traders do a roaring trade in hot chestnuts ……. and Bob Cratchit tries to feed his family on £1.50 while those even less fortunate starve in the gutter, orphans wake up to just another day at the workhouse and a thin helping of gruel, Tiny Tim wastes away as he sinks towards an early death because there’s no medical treatment and no help with his disabilities.

For a traditional Tory Christmas, you see, you need the cheery gaslights and the pretty fall of snow as the local mill-owner presides at his sumptuous family feast. You need Father Christmas showering the little ones in the nursery with gifts as the fire roars in the hearth and Mama hands Papa his hot toddy. But for a Tory Christmas, reviving those long-ago good old days, you also need unlit cellars with no heating and nothing to eat so that the poor can be reminded what the “shiftless” deserve out of life according to Victorian morality. For every feast for the workers, you need a character-building famine for the “shirkers”. For every Father Christmas handing out gifts to the lucky children, you need a workhouse overseer to make sure there’s no extra helpings of cold mush for parish paupers. For every Santa, you need a Scrooge.

This is where we’re heading in 21st Century Britain as Christmas rolls around again. Back to the Good Old Days, the Poor Law, the workhouse. Back to feasts and fortune for the lucky few and crumbs and despair for the rest. Back to hypocrisy, casual cruelty, oppression and greed.

Merry Christmas.

Metro

About 20 per cent of people have gone hungry in Britain this year because they couldn’t afford a meal.

More than 40 per cent of households have seen their situation worsen over the past 12 months, and one charity alone expects to feed 20,000 children over the Christmas fortnight.

Chris Mould heads the Trussell Trust which runs more than 400 food banks nationwide.

‘We’re already meeting parents who are choosing between eating and heating and rising fuel prices mean that this winter is looking bleak for people on the breadline,’ he said.

Research commissioned by an alliance of charities reveals the extent of food poverty, even among working families.

The survey of 4,000 adults showed a third of those going hungry are doing so to feed their families.

And 20 per cent of the population is worried about how their relatives, friends or neighbours will feed themselves this winter.

The…

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Leeds United’s Search for Right Winger Over as Haigh Stands for Tories – by Rob Atkinson

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David Haigh – Tory Boy?

I have to declare an interest here right away.  I’m not well-disposed towards Tories, nor yet to the Tory philosophy (which as far as I can see boils down to “Sod you, Jack – I’m alright”).  So the news that somebody well towards the top of the hierarchy of Leeds United is to seek the nomination for what is considered at the moment to be a safe Tory seat does not gladden my heart. Neither does it inspire me with any confidence in the man’s tendency to tell the truth and shame the Devil (who is currently occupied in litigation against Leeds United under the name K. Bates – bad cess to him).

Another slight niggle is that, if Haigh gets elected to Parliament – by no means a certainty if the Tories reprise their 1997 electoral meltdown – he intends to combine that role with his day-to-day running of Leeds United.  That’s two proper, grown-up, full-time jobs of a very demanding nature – is the lad up to it?  At 36 he is, after all, nobbut a bairn as we say hereabouts.  It’s difficult to forecast Haigh’s chances at the 2015 election, even if he should secure the Tory nomination for the seat concerned, Northampton South.  The majority of just over 6,000 at the last election would be a fairly slim buffer against the kind of swing opinion polls are currently suggesting.  It may well be that in 2015, Haigh will be involved in two tussles in widely differing fields if Leeds are going for promotion at the same time their MD is aiming for a seat in the Commons.  Under those circumstances, I’d be wishing him all the best in sport and all the very worst in politics.  There’s nowt personal either way, all’s fair in football and politics.

It’s not as if Haigh would be the first Tory at the top of Leeds United, anyway.  There’s always been a knot of reasonably successful businessmen running the club, from way back – and most of those lads didn’t get where they were by espousing a liberal or socialist agenda.  It’s just that, politically, they tended to remain in the closet, as it were, and concentrate on applying their zero knowledge of the game to running a football club. So whilst it may not feel all that comfortable – not for someone of my rabidly anti-tory persuasion, anyway – to have a declared Conservative seeking to advance his political ambitions whilst involved in my beloved Leeds, it’s hardly anything all that new.  As long as his deluded notion of what makes for good government doesn’t reflect badly on Leeds United, I’m fine for him to get on with it.  Live and let live, and all that.

Meanwhile – all jokes and weak puns aside – we still really do need that right-winger. And in the interests of political and sporting balance, we could do with a chap on the left, too.  So get weaving, David – forget all that political nonsense for now – concentrate on what’s really important and let the Tories get on with grinding the faces of the poor without you.

‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets?

The latest symptom of this country’s inexorable slide back into the dark times of squalor, chronic ill-health, poverty and deprivation for a despised underclass of hopeless, neglected and helpless people: the poor, the sick, the disabled. Rickets has made a return much to the shame of one of the richest countries in the world.

For the Tories – rejoice! The Good Old Days are coming back!!

Vox Political

David Cameron’s quest to bring the Victorian era back to life in the 21st century reached a new milestone this week when the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of a disease long thought banished from these shores: Rickets.

The announcement brings to fruition a prediction made by Vox Political almost a year ago, when we said: “As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase.”

According to the NHS Choices website, rickets “is a condition that affects bone development in children. It causes the bones to become soft and malformed, which can lead to bone deformities.

“The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D comes from foods…

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