Saturday, 29 January 2011

Potentially libellous?

(No longer) Independent Jones has posted that the latest LibDem leaflet contains an allegation about the Labour candidate for Redlands ward in Reading, Jan Gavin, which he declines to reproduce because, he says, it is "potentially libellous". I think this is the one he means:

waswasere I'm wondering if the Labour candidate in Redlands has ever wriiten a truthful word on her blog. Can't find any apart from "The".
1 day ago

Ms Gavin, perhaps you would care to consult m'learned friends. No win no fee deals are available still for those who prefer. No? Jan? Jan? (sound of tumbleweed) Why might that be then?

Ms Gavin, perhaps you would care to inform your waiting public

(a) what was your role in the rather surprising removal from the headship of Highdown School of the late, Labour supporting, cyclist, Alan Furley? I went to see him and he had some
interesting things to say to me, and I certainly do not remember seeing you at his funeral.

(b) what was, or is, your involvement in the supply of nefarious substances (cannabis resin
mainly) to Martin Salter MP by your husband, Tory-supporting Chris Gavin

(c) what statement would you care to make about the electoral fraud in Redlands ward,
perpetrated in 2004 and finally identified by Thames Valley Police in 2005, described as "OK"
by the then chair of Reading and District Labour Party Stuart Singleton-White and as "it
didn't happen" by then Labour councillor for Redlands Peter Kayes,sometime treasurer of Reading and District Labour Party?

I think we should be told.

they've gone up in my estimation

yes I know the students are demonstrating in London today for THEMSELVES, they want Lots and Lots of Lovely Subsidy, but some at least can look to the wider world - and if you can't at that age then you are probably never going to:

they formed a human chain around the British Museum, a better place to do it than the Egyptian Embassy methinks

stand with the people of Egypt

you are going to, aren't you readers? For the first time in my life I watched Press TV, the Iranian propaganda mouthpiece channel, this morning, and interesting it was too. Egypt's foreign policy has apparently been run for decades by - you're ahead of me - Israel. But the channel stopped short of supporting the protesters. Democratic protest on the streets, now we don't want THAT sort of thing, do we? Then Guido kindly pointed out the following (see link for details) - Mubarak's National Democratic Party is in the Socialist International and is a sister party to the British Labour Party.  So, er, anyone? anyone? (sound of tumbleweed).

The UK Shadow Foreign Secretary is Dougie Alexander.

Oh please yourselves.  I know which side I'm on.

all-women shortlists 2

not Reading this time but Peterborough - named party officials are being quoted in the local paper saying they are pissed off that Their Bloke will not now be allowed to stand.  One of them, Ron Graves, who was on the Dark Side from 1997 on, says "We had it before and it didn't work".  Didn't it?  You had a Labour MP for eight years, arsehole.  You won't get one again.  But you'd like that, wouldn't you?  A Peterborough source calls those quoted "vegetable heads" and he is right.  Oh and as I have said before, there are too many people who think newspapers tell the truth, even that they are not allowed to print outright lies.  Not true.  They do it all the time.  This one has, saying that Their Bloke fought the seat twice (he didn't) and "just missed" winning (by nearly 5K).

The cutting I was sent refused to download properly, hence the slightly bizarre pasting below, but I thought readers would like to see for themselves.

W men-only for Labou · city
CITY Labour Party members are .considering to appeal after the na- tional party decided they can only
select a woman candidate to fight in the next General Election.
Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC)decided on Wednesday that its next General Election candidate for the Peter- borough constituency will be selected from an all-women shortlist.
The city was picked as one of 26 "mar- ginal" constituencies which the party be- lieves can be won from the Coalition when the country goes to the polls, probably in 2015. Of those, 12 have all-women short- lists.
It will mean Ed Murphy will not be able to stand for Labour in the next General Election despite competing for the seat at the last two elections.
Mr Murphy; who is also the local party's spokesman, said: "We welcome the move from the NEC to start the ball rolling early so we can start to fight for the election.
"However, we hope that the local party will be able to determine who is picked to stand.
"1 believe in positive discrimination to get more women into parliament but most of my colleagues in the Peterborough par- ty don't."
Mr Murphy added he would have been delighted to represent Labour in the next election but the decision made at a national level has infuriated some in Peterborough Constituency Labour Party (CLP).
Ron Graves, political education officer for Peterborough CLp, said he did not agree with the decision.
He said: "Some people would see it as to- kenism, as if saying any woman would do. "Wewant the right candidate for the job,
that's the most important thing. "My own opinion is all-women shortlists
don't do the job. We have had it before and it didn't work out.
"This won't cause a split from the na- tional Labour party but it will make for an interesting conversation.
"What 1would really like to know is why Peterborough? The NEC spoke to us before Christmas but nothing was decided."
Angus Ellis, chairman of the constitu- ency group, said a meeting will have to be held to discuss the NEC's decision.
But members do not know if they will be allowed to overturn the decision even if they want to.
Mr Ellis added: "1 don't want to give my own opinion on the matter. Ed was a bril- liant candidate who only just missed out last time."
City Conservative MP Stewart Jackson, who beat Mr Murphy with a majority of 4,861at the last election, said: "I have some sympathy with Mr Murphy. He fought quite a strong campaign but has been dumped by an outside body. 1 don't believe in all-women shortlists, they are a retro- grade step. Gender should not come into deciding the best candidate."
And Nick Sandford, who stood as the Lib Dem candidate, said: "As a party we don't really favour artificially increasing the number of women in Parliament."
A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "The National Executive Committee resolved that Peterborough would be an all-women shortlist.
"This decision followed a period of con- sultation with local Labour Party mem- bers in Peterborough.
"If people want a Parliament that is more open, plural and democratic then we need to make big changes.
"Labour has the most successful record of women's representation in comparison to all other political parties and will al- ways have equality as a core value."

Friday, 28 January 2011

she's all woman!

the Labour candidate for Reading West that is.  I heard about this only last night, and being distracted by significant other's first night failed to post, but Cllr Willis has got wind of it too and done the job for me.  Naturally enough he is disappointed that Nasty Naz Sarkar, Labour's candidate last time, is thus not going to be eligible, as his embarrassing ineptitude did plenty to help the Tory who actually was elected.  This of course is what the Reading Labour boys wanted.  Now they are wheeling out Rachel Eden, and the mayor is putting the facilities of Reading Borough Council at her full disposal.  We'll see what happens.  I do not know Rachel Eden.  I can only be sorry that the excellent Mark Bennett will not now be eligible to compete for selection.  He is well connected, energetic, hard working and politically intelligent, and his family roots are in the area.  So obviously the boys had him carved out last time.  Mark has made plenty of waves in Lambeth, the last place I lived in the UK, and is probably well out of the corrupt snake pit that is Reading Labour Party.

So it's Alok Sharma MP for a second term then.

Now look East...

Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan (and Syria?) in 1989

this blog contains some of the best analysis of what is happening in Tunisia, Egypt, maybe Jordan and possibly Syria that I have read.  Not much in depth, but the comments are worth reading, and it opens up the issues to thought and debate, which is a good thing, hein?  The post I have linked to suggests that 2011 is this part of the world's 1989.  Nobody thought the Iron Curtain would come down, until Hungary opened its borders, East Germans went west, and it did.  Nobody thought there would be a democratic revolution in any country in this region, but it is happening.  Despite the verbal intervention of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the inevitable consequent arrest of its leaders in Egypt, I repeat that there is real hope.  Comments and views please.  Hat-tip Chris.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

here it comes...

Reading is a city to watch, or something like that, says His Master's Voice (so it must be true) and should have a "London-style" elected mayor.  Told ya.  This is going to happen.  Some potential candidates are already circling.  As is the one the Labour Group want for Reading West, who was wheeled out on Tuesday evening, as one who was there (Was) tells us:

Probably the most flagrant breach of etiquette, if not the rules, was when the Chair allowed Rachel Eden to ask a second supplemental question. Except it wasn't a supplemental question. This is what the constitution says:

"To clarify a reply to a question, any Councillor may ask a supplementary question. Only one supplementary may be asked unless the Mayor allows more."
So the constitution is quite clear on this matter. A supplemental question can only to be asked to clarify the reply to a written question and the original questioner had already asked a supplemental question. That didn't stop Rachel Eden being invited to ask second "supplemental question" which clearly was not to clarify a reply. That made it unconstitutional but who cares about standing orders, it was on the Labour script.

How cosy this is going to be.  A dream fulfilled.


previously unthinkable scenes in Cairo.  To this TV viewer it looks as though the Egyptian police are being a bit less heavy-handed than their counterparts in Tunisia recently, and a bit more conscious of the TV cameras, so that heads, if broken, will be broken in more secluded places.  But Mubarak and his family and henchpeople must be terrified, although unlike Ben Ali in Tunisia they are staying put, for now at least.  There is a little less coverage of Egyptian events on French media than there is/was of those in Tunisia, largely I think because francophones are a bit harder to find in Egypt.  And similarly we are not hearing from the Muslim Brotherhood (good), and the only place you find Hamas getting a platform is in the Guardian.  Which also publishes a letter from somebody called Ted Hunderich saying terrorism is OK if carried out against Israelis - he doesn't say if he includes Israeli Arabs, Christians or Muslims in that, but I think we can guess.  Despite the latter, the events in this part of Africa give me real hope. 


a popular uprising has taken place, and from what I could see on TV (saturation coverage on French media even now, largely because there are enough francophones in the country to ensure availability of French vox pops) the people in the streets are wearing jeans and T-shirts, and quite a lot of them are women - no beards and "Islamic" clothing, and the various Islamic groupings, which do exist in the country, are not much in evidence and are not making statements.  Good, whatever their ambitions are, because when a new government is formed the Islamists will not be in the driving seat.  So, Mr and Mrs Dif from Hammamet, your daughter can carry on going to school.  The French cultural weekly "Telerama" has this quote from an unnamed young man in Tunis about the new situation: "Celui qui veut prier, il prie.  Celui qui veut prendre l'apero, il prend l'apero."  ("If someone wants to pray, they pray.  If someone wants to have a drink they have a drink".) 

Shouldn't every country be like that?  Discuss.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

a voice for Reading West

apparently it is from here that Reading West is represented, according to its author.  I am sure she will work well with the future elected mayor.

speak his language

Vincent Tabak, the man charged with the murder of Joanna Yeates, has appeared in court without entering a plea, it is reported.  It is also reported that he had the services of an interpreter.  He is a Dutch national.  We have all met Dutch people, even if we have never been to the Netherlands.  Everywhere you go in the world there seems to be a camper van with a Dutch family in it.  We know that Dutch people are usually tall and usually fair complexioned; we know that they, or the ones who travel anyway, speak excellent English with a distinctive accent; we think they say "For sure" a lot.  This man has been working in the UK for some time, so it would be very surprising if he could not speak English, or was not fluent in it.  There has been some tabloid outrage that he has been provided with an interpreter.  I do not share the outrage.  I am reasonably fluent in French and can understand the language of the police and the courts in France without much difficulty.  But if I found myself charged with an offence here I would insist upon an interpreter.  And what would those same tabloids think if a British person was arrested in, say, Thailand (and how many Brits who visit that country do so with even a few words of Thai?) and was refused the services of an interpreter, so that they could not understand their trial?  Quite.  A very good use of public money, say I.

Oh and let's not forget that this man has not been convicted of any offence.  So he is INNOCENT.  OK?

And in related news, Jared Loughner, the perpetrator (according to many witnesses) of the Arizona shootings, has pleaded not guilty.  Make sense to anyone?

Monday, 24 January 2011

midnight in Moscow

which it approximately is at the time of writing this.  Thirty-five people dead and many more injured in what may have been a suicide bomb at Domodedovo airport.  The fact that it went off in the arrivals hall indicates clearly that it was planted by a resident or residents of Russia.  More than that I do not know.   I do not believe, despite reports, that anyone really knows.  And no-one has claimed responsibility.  Chechens, I hear you cry.  Maybe so.  They have done it before.  But let's, er, wait and see, peeps.  This is not the old Soviet Union.  We are reminded that it took Gorbachev three weeks to tell the world about Chernobyl.  Things have moved on.

Chechnya tried for its own sovereignty in the 1990s and early 21st century.  The Chechens lost.  Russia cracked down with unimaginable brutality, and as far as we can tell is still doing so today.  Young Chechen men are still being disappeared.  It does not follow however that today's atrocity was perpetrated by Chechens or their sympathisers, or that if it was it is "understandable" or "justifiable" by the actions of the Moscow oppressors.  What is clear is that whoever and whatever did this intends the Russian public, and the wider world, to understand that Russia is not safe.  And if we fear, in Russia or anywhere else, the men of violence, as they used to be called, have won.

We who are English had IRA bombings for many years.  We got used to it in the cities of England.  Most of us were never bombed.  But we got used to the warnings, and the evacuations.  Who remembers now that clothes in shops have their pockets sewn shut because in 1970s Bristol a female shopper looking at clothes on rails in a department store was dropping explosives into their pockets?  Northern Ireland is at peace, more or less, today.  A peace achieved through talks, and through vision.  I credit the late Mo Mowlam, Tony Blair, and also John Major, for that peace.  Why not a peace commission for Chechnya?  Why not an international group of wise people to try to achieve a measure of self-determination for the Chechen people while saving Russia's face?  Just asking.

Oh and my previous post on "Blair the war criminal" reaped the harvest I expected.  I said I would publish all on-topic comments, even if the language was extreme.  I didn't get any.  No comments at all.  Well, just the one, and my response.  Just goes to show.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Blair the war criminal

things you thought I'd never say, hein?  Well, I haven't said it, but it appears that most of the UK chattering classes and so-called liberal media, and especially the BBC, are saying precisely that.  For those, like most of the media who promote this view of the former prime minister, who profess themselves very keen on international law and its observance, here is an international legal definition of a war crime which has served its purpose well for 60 years now.  John Rentoul says, or suggests, that the BBC has breached its impartiality charter in allowing, on its Big Question programme, the notion that a reasonable person might take the view that Tony Blair is a war criminal, rather than simply allowing discussion of the rightness or otherwise of the Iraq war.  I am not so sure.  It seems to me that the BBC could suggest on any of its programmes that, say, there was no massacre in Rwanda, or that Hitler did not die in the bunker in Berlin, or for that matter that Elvis Presley is alive and working in a chip shop in Walthamstow, and could invite guests to promote those positions, all of which are manifestly ill-founded, without breaching its charter.  It is when the BBC itself takes, or appears to take, the view that such a scenario may be factually possible that the ice on which it treads becomes thinner.  It is perfectly OK for it to invite guests on to its programmes who say that Tony Blair is a war criminal, even though he quite obviously is not.  And (sigh) there could never have been any UK military involvement in Iraq without a vote in Parliament (still the only time Parliament has ever voted to approve military action, or been asked to),  so if supporting action in Iraq is a war crime then those of us who voted for it in 2003 are all war criminals too.  Arguably those MPs who voted against, or who abstained, could be war criminals too, because the decision based on the vote was a decision of "this House" and not of a bunch of individuals.  But in any case the whole proposition is nonsense.  Read the Nurnberg text I link to above and see why.

I will, exceptionally, allow all on-topic comments on this post.  Even if they incite racial hatred, so make the most of it.

Take me to The Hague in chains.

Friday, 21 January 2011

hate fest

is what today's appearance by Labour's leader who won elections and gave us decent government in the UK is being treated as by the tedious Guardianista chatterers. I have never really understood why there is this hatred, but there it is.  Some git at First Post has this, actually saying that Tony Blair should be, judicially or otherwise, murdered.  How do these people get away with this stuff?  Haters.

taken out of context

possibly, says one whose name I cited in this previous post on the conviction by media of Joanna Yeates' landldord Christopher Jefferies.  This is what he has to say:

Your blog has come up on my Google listing.

Can I just set the record straight about what I have said about CJEJ and his involvement in the Joanna Yeates murder case? I was doorstepped at my home by a gentleman from The Mail On Sunday at the end of December, who wanted to know about CJEJ and Clifton (He had found my name in The Old Cliftonian). At no point was I derogatory about CJEJ or Clifton, although I did say that CJEJ was a little eccentric in his methods - I also said he was an excellent teacher and an inspirational figure. The Mail On Sunday reporter was particularly interested in the films that CJEJ showed at Clifton - some of these were a little dark and experimental, but I also said that one of CJEJ's favourite films was LP Hartley's The Go-Between, a mainstream classic starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates and Edward Fox. In no way did I denigrate CJEJ or Clifton - in fact the whole tone of the interview was to praise Clifton and the education one receives there.

I do hope you may be able to let people who read your blog know that I am not anti-Clifton or CJEJ. Like many of his former students, I was shocked to hear that he had been arrested, and my reaction remains that he is not guilty.


Tony Lewis-Jones

OC (1972-1976)

The comments have been coming in thick and fast on that post, mainly about what the media can do to people.  Yes, so if we sup with them we should use a long spoon.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

springtime for Bashir

women in south Sudan waiting to vote in the referendum
title of this post stolen from Mick Hartley via Norm, thanks to both.  I do rely on others to point out to me when items which may be of interest are published in the Guardian, as I do not consume that organ.

Both refer to a disgusting piece in the Guardian by someone called Simon Tisdall, who describes the situation in Darfur as "much-misunderstood" - wtf?  what about attempted genocide is hard to understand?  South Sudan has voted to secede from the north, and there will be elections.  Good.  I do not anticipate sharia law being introduced in the south any time soon.  Also good.  But (weary sigh) here is the Filth apologising for the regime in the north - it looks good next to the uprising and overthrow of president in Tunisia, with copycat demos in Egypt, they say.  Should not be called a bad boy.  Oh no.  Oh yes.  By contrast the Parti Socialiste Europeen, to whose branch in Strasbourg I have the honour to belong, has just put out a statement saying the party is walking with the people of Tunisia on the path to democracy, and calls upon the French Socialist Group in the European Parliament, whose session across the river from where I sit is just coming to a close, to speak out for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Tunisia.  How I loathe the Guardian. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

language and politics in Tunisia and elsewhere

we all know what has been happening in Tunisia, and we should welcome it.  No matter (almost) what happens next.  I read with interest this blogpost which referred to the use of language by Tunisia's new (temporary) leaders.  Most of them are of an age where most if not all of their education would have been through the medium of French, but some use the two forms of Arabic in use in Tunisia (the formal and the demotic - most languages other than, to my knowledge, English and Japanese, have two forms in this kind of way) more fluently than others do.  This may say something about their cultural background, their switched-on-ness, or it may say something else altogether, or nothing.  I do not understand or speak Arabic, so cannot assess their language use in that tongue, but I was struck by the immediate seizing upon language use as an indicator of what kind of politician we have.  English of course barely has a demotic form, although there are many kinds of English in use in the world.  In England itself class is the main informer of language.  "Patois" is a French word, without English equivalent.  Of the many kinds of English, one I have to tussle with on a daily basis is what might be called ELF, or English as a Lingua Franca, which is often to be found in international organisations.  Debate is ongoing as to whether such English ought to be corrected if there is no risk of misunderstanding.  "I proposed him to participate to the meeting" will not be misunderstood.   But should I, as a native speaker of English, correct it when I know the response will be "Always we are saying this way since long time, why you change?"

Well, should I?  And what is your favourite kind of English, native or not?  My personal favourite is the English spoken by educated people in India, closely followed by that spoken among themselves by elderly ladies from Barbados who no longer live there.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

who let the dogs out?

still on Joanna Yeates - remember that her landlord, one Christopher Jefferies, was held and questioned for quite a long time, then released without charge?  I saw footage of him on TV and thought, as I am sure many did "He looks a bit strange."  Probably this is what the police thought too.  But being eccentric does not make you a murderer.  As the police have presumably had to accept.  I have been contacted by someone who used to know Mr Jefferies quite well and who has been a guest at his house, which is next to the premises in which Joanna Yeates was killed or from which she was abducted and killed elsewhere, we do not yet know which.  This person also describes Mr Jefferies as eccentric.  This person also knows a number of those people who have made comments to the media about Mr Jefferies, namely Stuart Andrews, Tony-Lewis Jones, Tom Gover, Irving Steggles, Douglas Henderson, Richard Bland, Dudley Fromant

more than one of whom referred to Mr Jefferies as "Chris", a name by which I am told he has never been known, always "Christopher" or "CJEJ".  What nonsense they do talk.  And Mr Jefferies, who has not been charged with any offence and is most unlikely ever to be, has had his life and reputation ruined.  And the person who actually did kill Joanna Yeates is walking around, quite probably pretending to grieve for her.

I hope they are happy now.

I am so disappointed that so many people see something on TV and just believe it.  Even if it is a member of the public looking for a moment in the media spotlight, and knowing that they can make up any old rubbish.  Members of my own family do this.  Believe the media I mean.


bridge toll

I wasn't going to blog about the Liz Jones piece in the Daily Mail, especially after it went viral on places like Twitter, largely because I couldn't think what could possibly be said about such a horrifically misguided effort.  But I like Liz Jones's writing.  I like her, although I have never met her.  She does appear to be a bit bonkers, yes, but in a good way, and it makes her stuff interesting.  At first I thought the article was taking the piss - Liz was not impressed by the pub, the Bristol Ram, where Joanna Yeates had a drink on the last night of her life, apparently because they couldn't spell "Laurent Perrier" correctly, and Joanna must have been aspirational because she bought a top-of-the-range pizza from Tesco.  I was laughing at first.  But Liz Jones does not do irony.  And a murder is nothing to laugh at.  And when Liz Jones wrote that she put a button in as payment of the Clifton bridge toll, I knew she had lost it.  You might try not to pay the full amount in a place like that, if you had no change and were in a hurry, we have probably all done something similar - but you wouldn't write about it in a national newspaper.   And even so, do these people not have editors?  What were they all thinking of?  Liz Jones wrote that if measures were taken to improve the safety of public spaces this might mean, unfortunately, that the nice antique street lamps would be replaced by ugly modern ones (irrelevant anyway, because Joanna Yeates was apparently killed in, or abducted from, her own home by someone she opened the door to and therefore presumably knew).

Lots of people have had fun with this piece.  One tweet I enjoyed pretended to be Liz Jones in Anne Frank's attic, saying "hmmm, I would put in a master bedroom and wet room here".  But it is not fun.  If I were Joanna Yeates' family I would at the very least be getting the Press Complaints Commission involved.  No-one has yet been charged with the murder.  And it is time someone was.  The Mail claims, mostly correctly, to have its finger on the pulse of Britain.  Not this time.  Of course not every murder victim attracts public sympathy.  Women are murdered and the media take no notice, often because they are poor, black, prostitutes or all three.  But not this time.

You have got it very very wrong, Mr Mail.

Monday, 17 January 2011

that social network

Mr S is on Facebook.  Who knew?  He has got five friends.  I have just sent him a friend request to be No. 6.  Who is No. 1?  "holds breath".

Saturday, 15 January 2011

reading chronicle wrong on so many levels

my little poll closed not long ago, and while a very few (Martin S and his boyfriend voting more than once each I fancy) said it was fine to continue referring to "Martin Salter MP", the clear victor was "Chronicle are stupid arseholes".  The correct result.  Now perhaps the Chronicle will take "Martin Salter MP" off their website and especially stop publishing stuff by him with that title.  Anyone?


Have been, as they say, glued to TV this past two days as events in that country unfold, and as today there is widespread looting and destruction, taking advantage of the apparent power vacuum.  I do not know Tunisia, having spent a short holiday in Hammamet in 1998 does not I think count.  Sig other was ill for most of that time, and I was around the resort hotel for several days, and was interested to see that quite a number of middle-aged, well-preserved women holidaying there, either alone or in pairs, mostly German or Swiss it appeared, regularly bought the sexual services of the Tunisian waiters.  They were not particularly secretive about it either.  Anyway.  The Tunisian opposition (which has never been any kind of an official opposition) is in "exile" in the UK, or some of it is, the Islamist bit.  Rachid Ghannoushi in particular has lived in asylum in the UK (France didn't want him, although he is francophone and did his Master's at the Sorbonne) since the 1990s.  He cites his influences as Sayyid Qutb,  Hassan El-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, and an approving profile of him was published in 1998 by Azzam "Kaboom" Tamimi.  So I think we know where he is coming from.  Will he now return to his native land?  I think we should be told.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Keef Life

Sig other bought this book because I told him some extracts from it I had read in The Times behind Paywall Of Death were good reading, and also because we were both rowing with Waterstone's and WH Smith, who both now decline to sell us ebooks because we live outside the UK, and he thought he would see if one of them would sell him a print book - and they would.  We have both been hugely entertained and interested by the book.  It was written "with" a journalist, James Fox, whose name I didn't know, but apparently he has been following the Stones for decades, and writing about them too, so Keef trusted him.  Good move.  The book is not only very nicely written, it sounds like Keef's real voice.  I was never that much of a Stones fan in a "mania" kind of way, and there are many songs of theirs I don't really know, but that doesn't matter.  Some of the reviews of the book said that if you were not interested in, or knowledgeable about, guitar stringing and types of chords and country and blues guitarists from decades ago you would not be interested in the book.  Au contraire, a little to my surprise.  I am no guitarist, and not very knowledgeable about this stuff, but I was fascinated by this material.  I loved knowing that he uses five strings not six, and that he was best mates with Gram Parsons, one of the ones, unlike Keef, who died.  I loved knowing that he calls Mick "Brenda" or "Her Majesty".  I heard the voice of outer London, the place I was born, though at the other end of it (Keef and Mick are both from the Kent end).  There is plenty there about addiction, something Keef knows about, though many of us also do who were never rock stars.  I was a smoker for many years, and giving it up seven years ago was the single hardest thing I have ever done.  Prior to this one of the better books I have read which treated on addiction was by Anne Robinson (yes, that one) called "Memoirs of an Unfit Mother".  Anne was drunk for about 15 years.  The big contrast between the drug of choice of Keith Richards and that of Anne Robinson (heroin in his case, though others too) was that on heroin you can stay focused.  Unless you die of course.  Anne cannot remember a whole chunk of her life, because alcohol does that.  Keith can remember all of his.
Keith Richards (wasn't there a time he was called Keith Richard?  I'm sure I remember that from some of the Stones' singles in the 1960s.  The book says nothing about it) knew them all.  And he is still here.  And can remember it all.  As the back cover says, in his handwriting.  They said (someone did) "if you can remember the 60s you weren't there".  I was too young for that, but I knew it was rubbish.  Keith was more there than just about anyone was.  He is a war baby not a boomer, so his perspective on life is not mine.  But he seems to have been kind to the women in his life, despite the casual misogyny of those times, and he has children he loves (one died, an unimaginable tragedy) and, surprisingly to me, he is a home lover and an animal lover, and always has been.  He is very interesting on the creative process too, and how he and Mick worked together on songs.  Even if Lennon and McCartney were both still here (you knew that contrast was going to come up sooner or later, didn't you) you would not find that stuff out from either of them, I fancy.  I really liked that for certain episodes in Keith's life he gave the voice to someone else to describe it, at one point the son Marlon he had with Anita Pallenberg, acknowledging that another person might have a better and clearer perspective on the episode than he had himself.  All in all, impressive.  Thanks Keith for this, and for the way you can play guitar.  And don't fall out of any more trees.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Barry O rises to the occasion

yes I know I have been disparaging about President Obama in the past.  I know I did not support him as candidate (and oddly got a lot of nasty pornographic comments from his alleged supporters).  I know I thought, and think, that he has character issues and is flaky on policy.  I know I think that he has not followed through on the promises made, and hence on the hopes of many.  But I also know that no elected representative can keep all the promises they make.  And I know that President Obama, in his speech after the Arizona murders, did the very best thing.  He told us what was best about America.  I hadn't known, until I read the speech, that Christina Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl who was murdered, was born on September 11th 2001.  But I remember the solidarity there was in Europe after those terrorist murders with the people of the USA.  My American niece visited me in Reading exactly a year later and we went to a special church service  (at Greyfriars church as it happens, the views of whose congregation are not mine) where they draped the American flag behind the altar.  (My niece was a little shocked to see the flag draped incorrectly and with one corner trailing on the floor, but how were they to know).  Much was made of my niece, simply because she was American.  Well, that didn't last.  Only Israel is more demonised than the the USA by the chattering classes these days.  But read President Obama's speech here  and think about the best of America.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


rally in Karachi this week AGAINST reform of blasphemy law
I have posted before on this topic, and it is no secret that I am strongly against there being any law against blasphemy, anywhere.  The UK had such a law until 2008, shamefully, blasphemy there only being illegal against the Christian faith, and a number of countries still do, notably Pakistan (which retains the death penalty for blasphemy) and Saudi Arabia.  I am not a Catholic, but I do admire the present Pope for speaking out against Pakistan's blasphemy law in his annual address.  Of course, we know the context.  The governor of Punjab Province, Salman Taseer, publicly wanted reform of the law, and defended a Christian, who was, worse still, a woman, so he was murdered by one of his own bodyguards.  It gets worse.  His killer was showered with rose petals in the courtroom.  I don't think I can even comment on this.  What could be said?  It's, er, a Bad Thing. A VERY BAD THING.  How can these laws be got rid of?  I promise you there are moves away from this kind of obscurantism, although it doesn't always look like it.  Twenty-one Coptic Christians were killed in their church in Egypt recently, and last week, when the churches were full again for the Coptic Christmas, thousands of Muslims turned out to protect the Christians and their church, and to show that not all Muslims think being a good Muslim means burning Christians.  There is a Jewish cemetery here in Strasbourg, and it has been desecrated more than once in my time here.  But most Muslims don't do these things, nor do they approve of them.  So governments of states, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, should know that their people can be good Muslims, if that is what they believe, without the law stifling freedom of expression.  Judges in Pakistan should be able to pronounce verdicts without fear of being murdered.  And they can't.  There is a huge Pakistani-heritage community in the UK and in other countries, and we do not hear from them about this medieval barbarism.  What are they teaching their children in Bradford and Leicester and Reading?  What are they preaching in the mosques?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

or Watford

whose football team is the most loathsome in the world.  However, that town, and also Reading, have been mentioned as places which need to be won back from the Tories.  While the erstwhile MP for Watford, Claire "Slapper" Ward, will not be missed, one Iain Martin, who says this below, is not wrong.  He is cited by the excellent John Rentoul, who provides the only reason I can think of for going anywhere near the Independent, which was a LibDem comic last time I looked at it, admittedly some time ago.

Martin professes himself baffled by Miliband’s answers at his news conference yesterday:

Offered the chance to say that there could have been a little more caution exercised when it came to spending towards the end of the boom years, Mili E instead lashed himself to the Brownite mast. It was all perfectly sustainable, says the Labour leader, and then the bankers blew up the world.
His loyalty to his friend, mentor and former master is touching. But I am at a loss to see what is in this line of attack electorally for Miliband. I can see what is in it for David Cameron — he’ll love it.
Martin explains why:
Miliband could say that, on reflection, whilst he was proud of much of the investment (code for spending money) he has learnt that there is such a thing as the business cycle. That there will always be fluctuations and it is best to proceed sensibly on the spending front knowing that government tax revenues can go down as well as up.
This is not the position Ed Miliband has picked. At the next election one wonders whether there will be much of a market, beyond parts of the Labour core vote, for a policy which runs as follows. High spending is always good and it is sensible to say that boom will never turns to bust. And if the boom does go boom-banga-bust, then you can just spend even more, which other people – many of them floating voters – will have to pay for in higher taxes, cuts to services and lost growth. In Reading or Watford (the kind of places Labour needs to win to stand a chance) is that argument going to sound credible and be the key that unlocks the door to a parliamentary majority and the premiership for Ed Miliband at the general election? I’m struggling to see how.

Quite so.  Happy now, boys?

poisonous rhetoric

much has been said in recent days about the violent language and gun-related imagery used by many on the American right, and much of what has been said has been linked in some way to the Arizona murders.  Well, possibly.  Though unlikely.  Twisted white-boy loners don't usually read political websites, more likely nutty conspiracy ones, and anyone who would read those for more than two seconds has got plenty of problems before you even begin.  Gun-sight imagery is irresponsible when used by a politician, but that is another matter.  There are plenty of hate-filled websites and other media, many of which directly incite violence and murder, and not many of them are promoted by mainstream politicians.  Anyway, the prevailing discourse seems to be that the cyber-right in the US has a share of responsibility for the murders.  I beg to differ.  Or if I do not, then I must also agree that suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks committed in the name of jihad may also have been incited by the many hate preachers who glory in slaughter, rather than by Bush'n'Blair.  Hein?

Saturday, 8 January 2011

chintzy? wtf?

a correspondent helpfully forwards to me the text of a reply to a question to council made in 1994 by Dictatorship Dave Sutton, remember him?  This is what Davey boy wanted the "moronic members of the public" to hear.  He forgot to tell them that concreting over Kings Meadow was and remains the policy of the Labour Group in Reading.

Arts & Leisure Provision - Victorian Values
"Would the Chair of Arts & Leisure consider applying Victorian values in any way to Arts & Leisure provision in Reading?"
REPLY by Councillor Sutton (Chair of Arts & Leisure Services Committee):
"The question is intriguing.  Of course, the Thatcher-Tebbitt spellcheck please notion of Victorian values was based on a biscuit-tin-lid view of history, and it was easy to tease barmy Thatcherites with the Victorian values of child labour, prostitution on a scale comparable with US-ruled Saigon, or 13 as the age of sexual consent (presumably Conservative MP's "assistants" were younger in those days).
But there were other Victorian viewpoints and debates which are still remarkably topical today - in particular, the nineteenth-century debates on public parkland and on spending ratepayer's what, there was only one? tsk money for the benefit of the community.  I think that we in the present administration of Reading have something in common with the Victorian city fathers, who were so dedicated to creating new parkland and to preserving it in perpetuity and who (like George Palmer) devoted years of their lives to pressing the case for spending public money on the Manor Farm sewerage scheme.
There is a continuity between those who created and covenanted fine parks like Kings Meadow over a hundred years ago, and our own successes in bringing new open space into public ownership - at Kensington Road, the Coal, King's Road Garden, Circuit Lane woodlands, Dean's Farm and King's Meadow Extension.                                   
And there is a continuity between the thinking which finally led to decent sanitary provision in the town in the 1870's (after decades of neglect and epidemic) and our own commitment to the provision of the highest quality of public services for the benefit of all the community, but especially for the benefit of the disadvantaged.
There is also a continuity in the mean-spirited opposition to this sort of commitment. As Councillor Sulley knows, for much of the time on the Arts and Leisure Committee the opposition could easily be replaced by a parrot trained to squawk "It costs too much". This is the recent response to the excellence of almost any of the services that we provide - whether in children's play, in the arts, in the maintenance of our parks, in our programme of festivals, our theatres, or our museums. It would all have sounded very familiar to poor old George Palmer, who had to labour for decades against the so-called "economizers" of the 1850's and the 1860's. These Victorian economizers preferred to have the poor dying of cholera in the courtyards of Silver Street and London Street rather than invest in municipal sanitation.
I see a miserable continuity between Reading borough elections in 1858 and 1859 in which, notoriously, three "anti-sewerage" candidates were returned, and the elections in Minster and Kentwood Wards in 1992, which brought our own niggardly parrots back here squawking to roost.
Victorian values as a whole were squalid, sexist, racist, hypocritical, prurient, oppressive, brutal, warmongering, chintzy, huzzah! let's all go to IKEA, that'll learn 'em bourgeois, mean-minded, and well worthy of Mrs Thatcher's support - but there are a few aspects of Victorian thinking which we still value today."
Comments please peeps, I am having too much fun to stop now.

let's hear from this man

a deranged individual calling himself "Manzoor" has decided to comment on my blog.  I have not published it as a comment, but reproduce his words here, in full, with my usual fisking.  Enjoy, and ponder on the nature of the corrupt little clique at the heart of Reading Labour while you do.

Jane, You and you're Reading Labour orthography Councilor lover true, I have had lovers who were councillors at the time - and your point is? at the time both famous drunk stragglers around town oooh!. I mean you and you're see above husband Andrew Tatters this is not his name, do check your facts supported us for the grant of a development worker indeed I did, for development work, not Koran classes and medieval theology with council funds, since you agreed that as tax payers the Muslim community was entitled to the regeneration money for the Oxford Road SRB agreed no such thing, the community in general was entitled to benefit from regeneration work, I have never supported allocation of public funds to religious groups. In fact you and you're see above lover Andrew also supported the Mosque project in Oxford Road supporting a project is not the same thing as corrupt land acquisition, as perhaps you will find out one day, since most of the Muslims in Oxford Road came under your and his ward. For me, I personally never needed anyone's money jolly good, you have a private income, excellent stuff and have been donating money and time for various community activities across the board for Muslim and Non-Mulsim causes. Your other untruths, I don't remember reading any campaign leaflets by Labour calling for the destruction of the State of Isreal in urdu the one that did was in English, and signed by David Sutton, Martin Salter and Tony Page. I understand that you are a supporter of this racist state of Isreal It's not for me to support or not support any state.  The democratically elected government of Israel does not need my support.  For the record I do support a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine. It wouldn't surprise me if join a racist party? Do you mean me?  The two racist parties I am aware of in the UK are the BNP and the LibDems, I would not be minded to join either.  Here in France we have the Front National.  The same applies.  Since you seem so disaffected with your previous paymasters and party. Paymasters?  I have never had "paymasters", I have always earned a salary.  As workers do.  And I am not disaffected with the Labour Party, or with the Parti Socialiste in France, of which I am a member, where did you get that idea?  Condemning corruption is a good thing, would you not agree?  My main differences with you were for supporting the wars you were never my constituent, so your views on anything are a matter of indifference to me, but you were none the less at liberty to express them to me.  Which you never did.  , which most people now agree that in particular Iraq war may have been illegal "most people" agree nothing of the sort.  There have been three independent inquiries re Iraq and all of them have concluded that there was no illegality. You my dear the impertinence agreed to the slaughter of thousands of innocent people, including our young men who went to fight I voted as I believed was right, unlike my Reading West colleague at the time, who said he had voted against when in fact he had abstained. I hope you are not proud of that? I certainly am.  I have never taken heroin or been convicted for it Please take this up with Mr Salter, who loudly informed anyone who would listen that you had been a heroin addict.. You are not only just sour grapes but a liar as well Jane! substantiate please, legal action may well ensue.  It is good thing that the Labour group got rid of you oh it was the Labour Group was it?  Not something they have ever admitted.  Thanks for making this public at last., when they did! Manzoor

Whether or not the above was in fact written by Manzoor Hussain I do not know.  what i do know is that Mr Hussain is on public record as supporting the Taleban and Hizb ut-Tahrir, and that he does not believe girls should be allowed to go to school in Afghanistan.  He has said the last in my hearing.

Keep it coming peeps, this stuff brightens my day.

Friday, 7 January 2011


this post by a Reading Labour councillor shows the Howarth curse is still there.  "Librarys".  The rafters ring with derisive laughter.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


Hungary to you and me.  I have spent much more time in that country in the past week than I intended to.  I visited Budapest in 2003 at the start of the European Capitals Project.  It is memorable to me for excellent food, beautiful buildings, the Statue Park we went to by train, which is where the Soviet-style statues go to die, and also for being locked out of our hotel room, unintentionally, by significant other for FOUR HOURS, which time I spent sitting on a sofa outside the room and reading "Great Parliamentary Scandals" by Matthew Parris, most entertaining.  And also (which I knew already) Hungarians all speak v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, whatever language they are using.  Anyway, they have taken over the presidency of the EU, and the spotlight is on their newly restrictive media law.   I have been at home today with a throat infection, and so have had more time to look at media stuff, but the only report of this I found was on the German public channel, and as my command of German is not fantastic I did not get the full story in detail.  Later I found the story on Euronews in French and English, more accessible to me anyway.  Whatever you think of his policies, and I am inclined to take a dim view, Viktor Orban is an interesting politician, and one I suspect will be remembered better once he is gone.  But for now he is in charge.


this blog award has been going for an amazing 10 years - I have been blogging for five.  Do nominate any blog you think deserves recognition - several of the better-known blogs around are barred from being nominated because they have already won at least three times.  This does not include yours truly.  You have to nominate at least three blogs, all of which must have published at least one post in 2010, and there are quite a lot of categories, including "Topical" for a blog about, say, teapots, which does not fit into any of the other categories.  I do not mind saying that I have nominated Mr London Street and Norm.   Just a bit of fun...

thank you Christine

Former councillor Borgars that is, for posting honestly, mostly factually, and not anonymously, see comments on previous post. It is actually helpful to debate and to understanding, unlike most comments on most blogs everywhere. The link below

is a little bizarre and may amount to personation, which in some places is a criminal offence. What is the Chronicle playing at? Have they unilaterally decided that MPs are like US presidents, in that they retain the title for life? If so then I eagerly await my offer of lucrative employ as Jane Griffiths MP, a title I have not held for well over five years. What else? Margaret Thatcher MP? John Major MP?

Or maybe the Chronicle are just being stupid arseholes. You decide.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

they're catching on!

Was cites a Reading Labour leaflet, as follows, fisking mine, in red:

delivered in April 2008 in two versions, Urdu and English, but strangely enough only to Muslim voters or apparently Muslim, sometimes embarrassing mistakes are made, as when in one case a Jewish person received one of these leaflets, which called for the destruction of the state of Israel  . In it they value the support of the Muslin community and that Labour and they have acheived "much together", including:
Labour provided premises for the Pakistani Community Centre
Labour enlarging Park Hall for the Pakistan community
"Your Labour MP and councillors hold special advice sessions at the PCC."
Labour "helped with planning permission for every mosque in Reading"
Labour got sites for the Abu Bakr and Jamme Masjid mosques.
Labour acquired the land for the Green Road mosque.
Labour paid the salary for a year for a Muslim Development Worker in west Reading. known Taleban supporter and former heroin addict Manzoor Hussain 
Labour paid for elderly luncheon clubs and youth clubs for the Muslim Community
Labour funded courses at the WEA Asian Women's Learning Centre
Martin Salter is also organising a visit to Kashmir and Pakistan taking former councillor and PCC commitee spellcheck John, spellcheck member Christine Borgars who denies ever going to Pakistan, so vehemently that she posts her comment on Was' blog twice, and oddly denies having a "UK passport" - does she have another one? [who according to the PCC website "remains active in Reading Labour Party including managing their campaign database."]
All the above is true so far as I know and, as Was says below, it was not the Labour Party but the council which paid for all these things, many, including some who are still councillors, thought the two were the same.
Was says:
Of course, it wasn't Labour who paid for these things, it was the council. As this was an election leaflet for Katesgrove, the recipients didn't have a Labour MP who could hold advice surgeries in East Reading at the PCC. Ah, don't start me on this.  Salter always insisted on holding surgeries at the PCC, despite the fact that it was in Reading East as was the vast majority of Reading's Pakistani-origin population.  When the newly-elected Tory MP for Reading East protested about this in 2005 he was told (overheard on a train and reported to me soon afterwards) "This is not negotiable.  I'm going to carry on working in Park and with the Stanis as I've always done". Alongside the clear inference of bribing the Muslim electorate with council cash not an inference, an acknowledgement, there is what appears to be a clear case of Labour admitting to predetermining planning decisions did Was know about the pre-meets for planning committee, involving officers and Labour councillors, at which the decisions were pre-determined on anything thought to be politically sensitive or important?  Do these still happen? Ask Alison Bell.

Was says:  I'm indebted to the members of the Muslim community who saw through their motives, gave me (and translated) these leaflets and voted them out of Katesgrove. :)

At last the corruption at the heart of the Reading Labour Group is being seen through.  Too late for many.  And we know what happens to those who blow the whistle.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

In The Kitchen

In the Kitchen, Monica Ali, Random House 2009

I missed this when it came out - I had read Brick Lane soon after it was published, and while I found it interesting I don't think I liked it much.  I am going back to it now though.

This is a book about identity, about Britishness, about London, about England, about  family, and about what it means to be an immigrant, an exile, illegally where you are, or on the run from those who want to kill or arrest you.  It is also about madness.  It is set in the world of work which is done while most people are asleep or entertaining themselves: the world of the mostly immigrant hotel and restaurant workers of London, though it shifts at times to a mill town in northern England and briefly to rural Norfolk.  It is a detective story, and it is a history of a part of England.  It is dense, tense and exciting.  Its hero is the improbably named Gabriel Lightfoot, and he is the head chef in a London hotel.  Much of the action takes place in the hotel kitchen.  It contains some of the best writing about work, and people at work, that I have ever read.  I immediately saw the book as a stage play, and while I have no idea whether Monica Ali intended this, it would work beautifully that way.  Let me adapt it for you, Monica.

A theme is "This is who I am.  This is what I am." (p. 291).  Statements like this are made regularly throughout the book, almost like a chorus.  It is set some time between 2003 and 2006 (Troops Out Of Iraq, smoking still allowed in pubs).  It begins with a body in a cellar, and it ends with a family in which a father is dying, a grandmother has dementia, and a brother and sister talk.  And the finality is a coruscating depiction of a bipolar man going utterly over the top.  Ali is not able to resist certain obviosities, such as noting that the things whose disappearance is bemoaned by the elderly white working-class of the north of England - large, close families, home cooking, people clubbing together rather than  getting in thrall to the banks, everyone knowing everyone else's name and family business - are all to be found today in the Asian community in Britain, whose arrival is believed by those same elderly white people to have destroyed their own communities.  Here the elderly father of the family says laconically that everyone knowing your business wasn't always good, especially if you were different.  He is referring, though no-one mentions it, to his dead wife's mental illness, and mental illness is feared by all the family, for their own reasons.

Much here is timeless: an exiled Russian, debating power and identity in words that could have been used at any time in the past 150 years; the hero's girlfriend sings torch songs in a nightclub that would not have looked or sounded that much different a century ago.  This is England seen, not quite, from the outside.  Next time I go to a restaurant in London I will think of this book and its kitchen characters when I see a door marked "Staff Only".

People trafficking is one of the plot themes here.  I asked the opinion of someone else who had read this book, to be slightly surprised by the remark that "In The Kitchen" is "not Guardianista".  It is not, and it had not occurred to me to think of that particular strand of thought in this context.  Even the most idiotic or deranged contributors to "Comment is Free" don't tend to blame Bush'n'Blair for people trafficking.  But I could see the point.

Read it, and I defy you to put it down during the chapter on Gabriel's odyssey.  Inside a chef's head, looking out at England.

Monday, 3 January 2011

the official typo of 2011...

is the one it has always been - look at this, from one of the official (identical) publications of Reading Labour:

Reading and District Labour Party We have two tickets remaining to the Alastair Campbell Fundraiser tomorrow. Tickets are £25 per person. E-mail if your interested.
Il y a 19 heures ·  · 

Can you see what it is yet?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy 2011

Well, what a silly old Hector I have been.  I left  home on 27th December for Cyprus by way of Basel and Gatwick, where a night was to be spent, and indeed was spent, in the Pod hotel known to the uninitiated as the Yotel Gatwick. which is my home from home on many occasions.  That however may well have been where I left my iPad charger and three-pin adapter.  Whether it was or not, by the time we got to Budapest (delays, I'll spare you the TRAVEL CHAOS AND MISERY bollocks) I hadn't got it, so rapid and I hope temporary death of iPad and extremely limited opportunities for online activity without it.  All I can say is that it has been character building to have to go without.  Sig other has a netbook, which in fact I bought him for Christmas 2008 and which he let me use from time to time during our lovely few days in (mostly) sunny Cyprus, an island I love very much and which is MINE, but I do not like it (the netbook).  Screen too small, and how am I supposed to manage without all that lovely finger activity (hem hem).    So, anyway, thank you to all the bloggers who have given me fun and pleasure in 2010, most of you know who you are, but if not then I am sorry I did not tell you, you were always on my mind, really you were.

So, have a wonderful 2011, wouldn't it be nice if the media, especially the Guardianista wing of it, did not flip a stupid button in otherwise sensible people's brains.  I will leave you with this.  Elections, democracy, all of that jivin' around (prize for the song reference there) apparently BAD.  Yes, really.  So let's put a stop to them.  Yes, NOW.  Before The People start getting Ideas.